New, Bigger, Better Upstairs Bathroom


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Here is a refresher on how our house used to look! I will be slowly giving the before and afters since we finished the remodel in January 2015. 

The original, and main bathroom(!), of this split level house is upstairs for the two bedrooms and was one of the tiniest 3-piece bathrooms I can remember stepping foot in. The photo below is from the listing and is taken from outside the door. I’m not sure it does justice to how dang close that toilet is to the tub.
There was a cabinet above the toilet for extra storage and for the toilet’s plumbing but it moved the toilet out from the wall several, valuable inches. There were also plenty of finish issues when the previous owners must have at some point done something to the plumbing/ lighting  but tried to keep the original tile in place. The layout just didn’t work. Did I mention it was tiny!? Just out that window, there was a sort of light well and then the kitchen wall.

Here’s what I mean when I say kitchen wall, below. Right above that nook is where the bathroom is.  Because the house is split level, the top half of this wall is “upstairs.” In fact, in the doorway on the left, the drop in the ceiling actually is reflected by a step cut out of the closet right above it. This kitchen wall was the best option my husband and I could think of to move out and gain more space upstairs. If we moved it, and that stairway to the garage, toward you (if you were taking this picture), then we’d gain a few square feet.15newhouse That’s exactly what we did. You can actually still see the “step” from above in the stairway but since the stairs start further out, you don’t nearly crack your head when you use the stairs. You can also tell where the floor extends a few inches along the stairs where they used to be. That couldn’t be avoided due to the away the raised foundation is, so it’s just a funky little ledge. And now we have a full size, 30″ wall oven in addition to our antique stove (yes, we kept our antique stove!) and a bit more storage. Now, if you can picture a bathtub right over that stove on the other side of the wall…IMG_4706.2015-04-26_010234 First there was demo, my favorite part.IMG_3619.2014-08-19_005518And now a bathroom that feels twice as big with a much nicer layout! 
IMG_4401.2015-01-19_233950 Essentially the whole tub and nook area was never part of the upstairs before our remodel. The nook was introduced since even a longer tub wouldn’t fill that whole wall and when we opened up that space, we learned there was a vent for the whole house anyhow that came up from the garage and would have been such a pain to move. The nook isn’t as wide as the tub so it accommodates the vent plus additional storage! We since have added baskets in that space.

I am so happy with this paint color. It’s “Alaskan Husky” by Benjamin Moore.IMG_4148.2014-12-13_215512
Why yes, that is a towel warmer. And it is amazing. After having these in many of the places we stayed at in Italy, I had it on my wishlist. During cool weather we set it up to go on/off with a timer so when we shower before work, we have toasty towels. The best. Also, if you checked out the original house tour, that vanity should look familiar. It was from our downstairs bathroom and was the perfect size to work up here. I had grand ideas that I would paint it navy blue but never got around to it and now I think I like it better in white.

Lastly, we got rid of a window and backed the wall up to an existing wall so there wasn’t enough space to put a new window on the wall. Instead, it was better to use a skylight in here so we put a nice, big one above the tub. It doesn’t open/close or have a shade but I’m so happy with that decision. It lets in plenty of light and aside from airplanes that fly overhead, no one can ever see in. 😉
One of the things that isn’t being recorded by doing these updates 10 months after completion are the issues we had or the indecision we (okay, mostly me on this one) had for things like tile choices. Our downstairs bathroom was completed first and we used basic white tile with white grout. And then I picked a white tile for the kitchen in a different finish and shape with gray grout. If we had gone with white subway tile with more gray grout in here, I thought it would be too much white tile in the house. Luckily, the tile shop we picked a few items from had this porcelain tile that looks very much like marble in a subway size. We paired it with a gray grout and our contractor installed it with metal trim. It looks amazing. The floor tile was supposed to be a gray-washed, wood-like porcelain tile from the same store but it was backordered. We ended up finding this taupe version from Lowe’s at a great price and used a brownish grout with it. Ultimately, I’m glad we brought a warmer tone in to balance all the cool tones in this room. You also can’t see the shampoo nook in the tub space, I can’t believe I forgot to grab a picture! My husband and I are somewhat minimalists in our soap selections so it’s just enough space for all our toiletries and a cool little accent.

The shelves are cherry wood and we later had them finished with wood conditioner and then a clear stain. We have a couple natural wood items in the bathroom and have even since hung my aunt’s ceramic totems to bring this room closer to completion. A few more hooks and art are needed and then I’m calling this one officially done! What a big transformation for us, though. We are so glad we had this work done!

Hello, there.

Sometimes life interferes with this whole blog writing thing and for the first time in many years I dropped completely off the map with it. The last several posts were starts and stops so let’s see if this one sticks!

If you are reading this post and you don’t already, follow along on Instagram where there has been plenty going on with tomatoes in the garden and a very big dog now. I know people are still arriving at the site to read about 10-Minute Microwave Artichokes and how I will never, ever, try making Italian chicken sausage ever again (despite some encouraging comments!).

Since we left off a year ago, Lucy has now become a 78-pound pooch that my husband and I are still madly in love with:
2015-08-22_002020579_422FC_iOSOur house construction has been finished, we had our backyard landscape done and my husband built a shed with my dad’s help. I need to take more pictures to share but the whole decoration/ buying furniture thing is going very, very slowly so things are still a work in progress. I’m sure this is more of a “real life thing” versus the fantasy blog/ Pinterest world so maybe it helps to share more of this with the internet than to pretend like once you spend a whole bunch of money on major renovation that everyone can just turn around and buy new furniture and accessories. Certainly not the case here!

The garden is full of almost 50 tomato plants. I may have gone overboard.


Part of the new landscape was having three raised garden beds installed which are a little more fancy than the version my sister and I built at the previous house. After taking a tomato seedling class from Love Apple Farms I ended up with almost 150 seedlings to hand off to friends, neighbors, family, enemies. 😉 With some creative thinking and a little begging with my husband, I was able to fit in almost 50 plants. We had a very rough start but ultimately things took off and there have been more tomatoes than any one couple could ever need. And one, single zucchini plant. Because I’m not totally crazy.

There are other things going on that I will get around to posting, hopefully, but I don’t want to spoil everything all at once! Maybe posting some of the house projects we have on the to-do list will be just the accountability we need to start getting some done! Looking forward to posting here again and recording some of this crazy journey.

A door for Lucy


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The construction on the “garage” portion of our home is in the phase where nothing exactly looks like it’s changing even when work is being done on it. I took a few pictures a week or so ago now that the drywall is up and today is day two of mudding and taping everything to get it ready to be painted. But before I share those, Lucy demanded I show one new feature that we’re adding just for her (and yes, I know it’s annoying to act like Lucy cares about what pictures I take, but I’m obsessed with her so I can’t help it).

This little pup learned to use a doggy door during a trip to Southern California and it’s been on our list of things to add during construction since we got her. When we’re home we have to leave the door cracked open or remember to take her out every now and then for a potty break (or she’ll bark to remind us!) but once we done with construction Lucy will be able to get in and out of the house on her own! The door has a panel to slide in and lock for night and when we aren’t home (plus we have a security system) so we don’t worry about critters — the four or two legged kind– getting in. If Lucy could talk, I think she would echo my sentiments and ask, “Are we done yet?”

If you’re looking for more regular happenings (more Lucy, more food shots, more vacation shots) make sure to add me on Instagram as well!

Under Construction (finally)


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Somehow it never occurred to me that with this construction project we’d be “those people” — the ones with the porta potty in the driveway. It’s a really good look, we may need to keep it there. 😉
The portion of the project that started in early May is just the demo of the garage space that had been converted by the previous owners into a finished living space. When my husband and I saw the house, we knew that for us, it would be more useful to have a garage and not a room with very low ceilings. In the past few months it’s worked out to have that space when people stay with us, but we’re looking forward to the storage a regular garage provides. I couldn’t find a shot of the garage taken from the garage door side, so here’s one facing the other direction (behind that door, about six inches away was the garage door).
The HVAC ducts made the ceiling in this space much, much lower. They were about six feet tall so it was a little claustrophobic. The mirrored doors on the right concealed more storage space, the water heater and HVAC unit. On the other side of the room, facing the backyard, there was a nice bathroom that we will be re-doing to meet code and be a little smaller. Here it is before:
And here’s a shot looking from the stairs that went from the kitchen into this space. From the very far left corner of this picture, you see the door that heads outside, the bathroom door, the garage door isn’t visible and then a glass pantry door. The previous owners must have had a stacked washer/dryer in that corner on the left but we have side-by-side units so we had a washer there and the dryer on the other side of the wall. I’m happy to report that they have been reunited, for the first time ever (they were on either side of a door at our old house, too!) in the garage. This space will be revised to be office/mudroom and then bathroom.
Here’s a shot from the open garage door into the space. You can see the back door to the yard and the window that’s in the bathroom. The kitchen stairs are going to move back a little so the “used to be pantry” space is where I’ll have a desk nook area. This way, our second bedroom can be the husband’s office and guestroom. Right above the “washer/dryer” and “HVAC” note below you can see a dark space, that’s the under the stair space for the stairs in the house. You’ll also notice there’s no tank water heater here…
In order to efficiently use the garage space our contractor asked if we would consider a tankless water heater. I was easy to convince as I had looked into upgrading to one at the old house when our tank water heater went out, however at the time, it was double the price of replacing the tank unit with a newer tank unit and I knew that we wouldn’t be in the house long enough to realize the cost savings. The husband was convinced (also easily) and we went for the tankless. We love the space saving but have had to get used to the hot water coming to the taps a little slower. My husband is thrilled, though, that I can no longer complain about him using all the hot water with a long shower!
We finally saw some real progress over the weekend after delays due to waiting for our first inspection and checking to make sure that some of the changes that were made to the plan were acceptable. On Saturday we saw drywall go up, had all the outlets in our bedrooms updated to three-prong (and added some!), and finally had our washer/dryer hooked up after a month of going without. It was a big day for us because when your house is half packed up and a demo zone, you learn to appreciate the little things. Soon we’ll be ordering tile and picking a sink for the bathroom downstairs which will make it feel like we’re getting so much closer! Maybe we’ll do another poll like I tried in 2009 for choosing a bathroom floor!?

I love Lucy



We’re still alive around here. And there’s still been things going on like house projects (construction started!), lots of cooking (some new favorites), and gardening (seedlings, baby fruit and a tomato!). But I just haven’t felt like writing about it. There have been other more important things going on in our life and one of them is our new family member who joined us on February 1st, Lucy.
The birthdate that Lucy and her siblings were given was December 12th, but because they all ended up at a shelter with their mother when they were approximately four weeks old, we’ll never know her actual birthday. Luckily a “foster family” took in all 10 puppies and mom to be cared for until they could be found good homes. At the end of January my husband and I took a family trip to Maui and had already found this litter, we interviewed with the Pound Puppy Rescue organization when we got home and learned shortly after that we would be adopting a furbaby!

Lucy came home with us when she was about eight weeks old and while it was presumed that the litter was “sheperd mix,” when we did a DNA test it said it’s more like husky/greyhound mix. I’ll try and share the test results at some point, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Our little one is now almost six months old and it 50 pounds, a long ways from the 12 pound mushy little thing we brought home.
My husband and I are madly in love with this creature and couldn’t have been more fortunate in getting the perfect dog for us. She hasn’t destroyed anything but dog toys, has always been well potty trained, loves ALL people, is great with kids, other dogs and cats (when they let her near). Our senior dog (broken image in that link, sorry!) was a character for better or worse but this puppy fits right in with our family.

We have a lot of catching up to do but I wanted to start with the most important! The house stuff, garden stuff and cooking stuff pale in comparison to this beautiful new doggy!

Catching up and cutting a Christmas tree


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Christmas tree cutting
So Christmas is about a week away. How did that happen? I left off in October enjoying a warm weekend in Palm Springs and all of a sudden it’s frosty and freezing — yes, we get cold weather and frost in Northern California, it may have finally finished the citrus tree in that I butchered with a trim a few months ago. But you didn’t miss much around here. Our first house closed escrow in the middle of October and was officially sold (yay!), my husband and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary (with no trip for the first time), I had my hair chopped off again, I hosted a baby brunch (don’t call it a shower) at our house for a close friend, then took her maternity photos (then she delivered on Thanksgiving four days later.), hosted Thanksgiving and then cut down our first Christmas tree. We’ve also been spending time with friends and family, stressing about the plans for the house, and working our butts off at our jobs.

Christmas tree cuttingWhile my parents were visiting for Thanksgiving I coerced them into coming along to cut down a tree. There are tree farms near us that hand you a saw and let you loose to choose a noble fir or Monterey pine of your choice. I sought out a tall, narrow tree and this Monterey pine fit the bill.

Christmas tree carryingMy dad, all business when it comes to Christmas trees. 🙂

Christmas tree carryingThis really feels like our first Christmas tree since we’ve only ever had teeny, potted ones if we had one at all. We didn’t even have ornaments despite this being our seventh Christmas together.

Christmas tree carryingI feel fortunate that we will be spending this Christmas with family and friends.

Christmas tree on the carNow if only these guys could fix our house’s heating system as easily as they can cut down a Christmas tree!

Christmas tree on the carBelieve it or not, we’re still waiting to finalize our house construction plans, hopefully we’ll know more in the new year. I’m still working my patience muscles and the holidays are a welcome distraction.

Have you ever cut down your own Christmas tree or are you a fake tree family?

Drawing Inspiration in Palm Springs


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My mind was blown this past weekend. And just so I don’t start rambling, I’ll start at the beginning: Somehow my husband and I were invited to join in on a weekend in Palm Springs at a friend of my aunt’s newly renovated vacation rental. Now, I’ve been to Palm Springs before and the Coachella Valley vacation destination in Southern California has always been good to me. I’ve been a handful of times for the Coachella Music and Arts Festival and a handful of other times for the warm weather and a pool to sit by. This time was an invite for the latter that sounded wonderful. But this time, when I thought I knew what to expect after having stayed in several “vacation rentals” before, I was stunned when I clicked on this link for the rental and saw basically the house that was in the Mad Men Palm Springs episode.
Once I picked my jaw up off the ground I made sure to bring my camera because there was sure to be some good inspiration for our upcoming renovation. We may not be able to include a blue palm in a courtyard like the one above, but the midcentury modern home was a stunna that had beautiful details to be absorbed.

While there was plenty of gorgeous tile to be petted, this was probably my favorite because of the texture and color.
Love the application of that textured tile in a mostly non-wet place above the tub but I could also imagine it around a fireplace. Somewhere where ease of cleaning doesn’t matter, obviously! I also want to point out the white tile that is used in the rest of the bathroom which you can see a little bit of above and more below. It has a sort of natural texture like wood grain or linen and I absolutely love it. I drooled all over it and will be on the hunt for something similar for our master bathroom.
The bathroom in “our room” (aka “master #3″… WHOA) was no less impressive. Besides loving the subtle wall color I again loved the big, white, textured tiles used with an accent tile. This time the glossy tile had an almost basket weave pattern to it and you can bet that I got my face all up in its business to check it out. I also loved the color of the mosaic tile and maybe something in a little larger scale would be a good fit for our house?
I unabashedly borrowed a tape measure to take some measurements to compare what was going on in the house to what we might be able to fit in ours. This vanity was SEVEN FEET WIDE. Huge! We won’t be able to fit one quite so large but we definitely reveled in not stepping on each others toes while getting our mirror time in.
Master #3 wasn’t too shabby. If I could pick my favorite thing about this room (and all rooms in the house) the remote controlled window shades would have to be at least in my top three. The views and artwork throughout are probably also up there. And yes, that is an outdoor fireplace right by an outdoor dining space right by the pool.
The kitchen was big enough to get lost in and while I didn’t take any inspiration pictures, I was inspired. We cooked six dishes from the new Ottolenghi cookbook for the six of us. And I’m still patting myself on the back a little for somehow miraculously timing everything and everyone’s help to get them all done at precisely the same time. Helped that this kitchen was more than big enough for many cooks!

The only thing missing from the luxury home was Don Draper floating in the pool.
Besides the impressive interior design, there were some sights of the great outdoors that weren’t too shabby, either. I’m ready to go back already!

sceneryDo you ever take inspiration from hotels, vacation rentals or other places you visit?

The Waiting Game



The question everyone has been asking my husband and I lately now that we’ve been in the new house for seven weeks and three days: “How’s the house coming along?” The usual response for most people posed the same question in a new home would be, “Oh, unpacking boxes, painting walls, putting up window treatments and pictures. It’s going great!” But for me it’s been, “Uhh… good?” Not much unpacking, no painting of walls, except for the one window pictured below that didn’t have a window treatment, I haven’t touched the stained cellular blinds and except for a fishy towel holder nothing has been attached to the walls. Here’s our second bedroom/ office today, almost two months after moving in:
For reference, here it is with the staged furniture when we bought it:
9anewhouseWe have the house at a point where it’s relatively functional for us to live in and then we stopped unpacking. Why? We’re working on plans with professionals for a major house change  which is where our budget will be going which means we can’t afford to do some other things or it makes sense to do them once the other construction has been finished. And one of those big things is refinishing all the floors in the house which means at some point the whole house will be repacked and moved out of the way so if we can leave a few already packed boxes untouched, it’s one less we have to pack in a few months. It’s a little frustrating but looking at the silver lining, in a few months the house is going to be transformed! Once that’s done, lookout walls, I’m coming for you with a paint roller in hand!

Also in house related news, we should be closing next week on the old house which will generate a heavy sigh of relief from my husband and I. Having more than one house to worry about isn’t really as fun as you might think. 😉 We’re excited that a young, engaged couple will be buying it as their first home.

I am meeting with our architect this week to finalize house plans and then I may eventually share them. Lately I’ve had a lot of “first world problems” like trying to think of designs and layouts for more than one bathroom all at once. It’s a very exciting process but it’s also very time consuming especially for a novice like me. Any one have any recommendations for working with an architect?

The jam giveaway winner has been announced. Jump over to that post to see if you won!

When do the seasons really change?


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Warm Bed Creative Commons Image courtesy of jbhalper on Flickr

In our house, the seasons officially change when I switch out the light cotton blanket on our bed for a feather duvet. That means it’s fall. When I add the heating blanket and the duvet cover, that’s winter. When the duvet cover comes off but not the heating blanket or the duvet, that’s spring. And eventually I relent with enough prodding from my husband and switch back to the cotton blanket.

Yesterday after I washed the blankets and switched out the light summer blanket for the cozy cooler weather setup, I baked pumpkin cheesecake bars (a recipe I created and will share soon!). Yes, it’s fall. It still can get warm during the day here but the temperature dips at night, the days are shorter and the grape vines in wine country will soon be showing off their colors.

How do you know when the seasons change? I’m hoping it’s not when the Christmas decorations show up in the stores! Is it when you see the first frost or when you bring home the first pumpkin to decorate your stoop? Maybe it’s the first snow to really let you know winter has arrived? Tell me what makes you know that it’s time to embrace the season.

The Vision for Your Home


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When you move to a new home– be it apartment, condo, house, or whatever — do you start thinking about how you’re going to make that space the best space for you inside and out? Maybe you can picture exactly where your couch should go or a new wall color that would really make things feel more “you?” We talk about a space or a building having “potential” and I think what we really mean by that is that we are able to see the vision. The vision that makes that place a home but it might take trying the couch on a different wall or updating light fixtures or maybe some new landscape outside. And sometimes, it’s hard to even know where to start or you have to make a few attempts to get it right.

Our first home was a fixer-upper that needed so, so much updating. Some folks told us when they first saw it they thought my husband and I were crazy for buying it, but we had a vision. It took a few years to make that vision a reality, but once it all came together I think it was hard for people to believe how far we had come. We’re back in that position, with a house that maybe is a little bit of an easier pill to swallow, but it’s still a long way from where we envision it ending up. I’ve been working on the new house plans with an architect and our general contractor (and our kitchen guy, and a structural engineer, and anyone who will listen…) so we have some big changes in the works on the interior but we also are thinking about the exterior. Here’s the street view of our house currently:
currentHouseThe paint is new because it was painted before we bought it, but it was obviously a crappy rush job. The roof is about six years old but it appears that they chose the cheapest shingles possible so it doesn’t look to hot already. The trim is lacking a bit between the roof/side of the house and though the front of our house is stucco, the whole rest of the house is wood siding so it’s not exactly consistent. Not to mention there’s a few cable, phone and other wire lines running to odd places on the exterior. So from far away, not that bad, but up close she’s a little rough. Which means we talk about our vision in the long term: What paint color? What type of roof? How would it fit into our neighborhood? Front and garage doors? And then I use Photoshop to give a rough makeover. Our house has a few Spanish style homes so this was my first idea since we love Spanish style:

SpanishStyleBut when we talked to our contractor he reminded us that tile roofs (besides being more expensive to install) actually affect your foundation because it’s much heavier than a standard roof plus you can’t walk on it to do things like clean gutters unless you know specifically where to step and it can be more dangerous to walk on in general because it can be more slippery. That effectively talked us out of that idea. Not to mention in the above image that I envisioned the vinyl window trim not being white but that’s not very realistic. Basically this one wasn’t going to happen so it was nixed.

Once our dreams of a Spanish home were nixed, we decided we needed to embrace more of our home’s original features. I don’t know what exactly you call a California split level home, but where we’re leaning is still bringing in some of the Spanish influence with the color, maybe adding a pergola over the garage to add architectural interest, having a darker roof since we are leaning toward a light, warm color, and maybe a door that’s a pop of color but still within the Spanish exterior colors. Still new garage doors but maybe in white so they match the vinyl window frames.

CaliforniaHouseThe vision of your home should continue to change otherwise you may end up with orange shag carpet and avocado appliances that were “on trend” when you got them but not so anymore (I’m looking at you chevron trend… ). But you have to have a starting point.

Tell me, how do you refine the vision for your home? Do you use any online tools to edit your home or an example home to choose paint colors? Or maybe just look to magazines or websites for inspiration until it clicks? I need advice, so let me have it!