Tuesday, September 23, 2014

dot dot dot


I think I need these new pendants from Rejuvenation for my dining room

What do you think?

Also, this luddite finally joined Instagram

You can follow me here:


 Please excuse lack of punctuation in the form of periods   One of my daughters dumped a glass of water on what will now be the third laptop -- and now the period no longer works (dot dot dot)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Building a Breakfast Bar

The above photos were taken in our kitchen before we moved in.  You can see that a good third of the space is completely empty -- and some of that had to be filled with the fridge we had not as yet purchased.  Other than the fact that the right window is lower than counter height, I have no idea why that small wall exists.  It's an odd little nook -- not quite big enough for table and chairs.

 You can see the counter-depth fridge we purchased sitting on the far right of the formerly blank wall.  Because I needed more storage in the kitchen, I put a metal shelf next to the fridge as a temporary fix. 

In addition to lack of storage, I also have a very small amount of working counter space.  So, I have resorted to using our portable dishwasher as an island. (Topped with a piece of butcher block and towel bar to hide the hose/cord slot.) This small rectangle is pretty much my sole area for food prep, but frankly, it's just not enough counter space.  

You might remember this post, where I mulled over different options to extend counter space.  There were plenty of options and I think I changed my mind a million times.  I had really tried to resist having anything covering the window in the corner until I saw this photo on Pinterest.  A few days later, I noticed the below at one of my favorite Berkeley breakfast spots:

My girls had just left on a trip with their grandparents, and so I felt the fates had aligned. 

Building a breakfast bar suddenly seemed to be the only solution -- and I had time on my hands to do it.  Not only would I gain more counter space, I'd also have a bit of in-kitchen dining, and a place for guests to sit while I cook.  (Because as we all know, guests like to hang out in the kitchen.) 

So here is the area before I got to work:
Shelves are 1x12 common boards trimmed with 1x2s nailed to the front to give the illusion of thickness.  The breakfast bar rests on stainless steel brackets while the shelves in the nook rest on 1x1s screwed into the sides and back of the nook.
Here is the freshly built and primed (but not yet painted) breakfast bar which extends over the window and wraps around the corner.  I also built-in shelves behind the curtain to store my twins' art supplies and the stuff I had previously stored on the metal shelf next to the fridge. 

Weeks have passed, we are all home from our various vacations, and the paint on the breakfast bar and shelves have had time to cure.  The yellow bar stools arrived today and my girls immediately put them to use.

Forgot to take the packaging off the feet!

I'm feeling pretty proud of myself, despite the fact that the guy at the local home improvement center was dubious I could build anything like this without the help of a man!  But that's a story for another day.  

I'm thrilled to have gained an additional 10 linear feet of counter space AND have a spot for friends to sit AND have a place for my girls to do homework while I cook -- they start kindergarten next week and I'm not feeling very excited about losing both my babies at once.  But that too is a story for another day. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Matchbox Photo Craft

Later this summer, our girls will be going on a trip with their grandparents.  We will be separated for eleven days, which is a lot of time when you are 5 years old.  And when you are the mother of two five year olds.  (And especially when you are the grandparents of two five year olds.)

While our girls are super excited about their trip and talk about it endlessly, there is a tiny bit of anxiety at the thought of such a long separation. One girl in particular has been asking if she can take a picture of us with her.  She is worried she will forget what we look like. 

Which reminded me of one of our favorite books.  You can tell we've read it A LOT.

Angel Child, Dragon Child is about a Vietnamese family who immigrate to the United States, but have to leave their mother behind for lack of money for her fare.   Ut is given a gift by her mother -- her picture hidden inside a small matchbox.  It is a way for Ut to remember her mother until she can be brought to the U.S.   I bet you can guess how the book ends. 

But onto to the matchbox photo project...

This was a fun and easy craft to complete with my girls.  Simply cover an empty matchbox in decorative paper using a glue stick.  We took a selfie on my phone for one matchbox and printed out a previously taken photo of their dad for the other box.  My computer has an option to print photos in a "contact sheet" form, which turned out to be the perfect size.  We cut the photos to fit and glued them to the inside of each matchbox.  One of my girls wanted to add ribbon, so we used packaging tape to stick a small pull tab to the inside of one box.

While I don't normally share crafts on this blog, I thought that this was a fun idea to pass along to those of you who have kids going off to camp, to visit family, or even to college this summer.  Come to think of it, a grandmother might love to carry a photo of her grandchildren in her purse as a sort of "brag box." 

When it's time for my girls to leave on their trip, I'll be sure to tuck a little gift inside.  Cash, candy, or maybe a little pebble with a red painted heart on it.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tiny House

TINY: A Story About Living Small - International - Trailer from TINY on Vimeo.

I happened upon this documentary this last night.  If you are at all curious about small space living -- tiny space living really -- I think you'd enjoy it.  You can watch Tiny House streaming if you have Netflix.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Kitchen Updates

 In my original post about the kitchen, this wall was blank other than the small ledge on which the glasses sit. 

I was going to put up a huge mirror on that wall, but it felt odd to have the glasses sitting there alone.  And since I couldn't remove the ledge without damaging the lath and plaster walls, I decided to run with it and put all of my everyday dishes on this wall.   Because I knew the shelves would protrude over the stove a tad, I felt it would be safest (and cleanest) to stick with stainless steel.  You probably recognize these from Ikea.  

 The porthole mirror is from Ashley's etsy shop.   She recently posted her new listings on Pinterest, and about five minutes later, this mirror was mine!  (I am a sucker for round mirrors.)  You can see the 3M removable hook I used to hang the mirror peaking out from the top.  I find that's a good way to try things out without putting holes in the wall. 

This kitchen is now at risk of becoming theme-y, what with the whale print and one or two other nautical details.  So, I'm making a conscious decision to stop now.  :) 

Have you ever used dry wall screws?  I use them to hang absolutely everything -- the heads don't strip and while nails tend to crack the plaster walls, a drywall screw drives neatly through it without the need to pre-drill holes.  However, I do feel I need to get after those visible black screw heads with a silver paint pen.  And get that mirror properly hung on a drywall screw.... 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Kitchen Design Discussion


I'd like to point out several interesting design features of this kitchen.  The first is that the sink is not located under the window, as is standard.  Instead, the sink becomes a focal point by placing a round window above it, surrounded by open shelves.  It's hard to say whether that round window is actually a window into an interior room (note the curtains) or whether it is a mirror.   Who knows why the sink was moved away from the window.  Perhaps the view isn't wonderful -- maybe the window looks into a window of a neighboring house.  Or maybe it was easier to create a working triangle using the length, rather than the width of a room.  Definitely food for thought when it comes to kitchen design. 

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Also notice the wall mounted faucet.  It is actually mounted on a sort of box sitting on the counter top.  Why would this be?   We also have a wall mounted faucet in our kitchen.  When we had our house inspected before we bought it, the inspector mentioned that wall mounted faucets can be a problem because when they leak, there is no way to know until the leak has done major damage.  Mounting a faucet on a box that juts out from the wall allows access to fittings under the sink, rather than having to tear into the wall to get to pipes.

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What else?  I like the wood table mounted to the island not only because it introduces the visual warmth of wood into the kitchen, it also would feel warmer to the touch than stone -- something that would make a difference in the winter during mealtime.

Last, the rounded back Louis XVI chairs offer a bit of repetition in the room as they mirror the shape of the window above the sink. 

Wish I knew where the fridge was located.  If this were your kitchen, where would you put it?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

California Cooler (Not the Drink)

In my post about vintage kitchen, I mentioned our California Cooler and promised to talk more about it.  The California Cooler is the the little door built in to the wall to the left of the sink in the above photo.


Here is a better view.  I am not using the California Cooler for its intended purpose -- a way to keep food cool and fresh in the days before refrigeration.   

A California Cooler is not an old-fashioned icebox as it does not depend on ice to keep perishables cool.  Instead, it makes use of air circulation in California's temperate climate.

If you look at the above photo, you'll see a vent at the top of the cabinet with light coming through.  That vent leads to the outside of the house. There is another vent near the bottom of the cupboard (not pictured in my photo).   The idea is that when the air in the cupboard warms, it rises and escapes through the top vent.  Cooler air is then pulled in through the lower vent to create air circulation, thus keeping perishables fresher for longer. 

California Coolers have been enjoying a resurgence lately.  Here are two photos of remodeled kitchens where the homeowner decided to keep the California Cooler intact.
Above:  You can see the dual vents in this California Cooler, where the homeowner keeps fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

This is a newly remodeled kitchen also makes use original vents with a new cabinet placed over them.


 The key is to have slatted shelves (or wire) which allows the air to move through.  This California Cooler belonged to Trina of In the Fields (formerly A Country Farmhouse).  Her former  farmhouse was in Oregon, but the early technology was being used there too.

You can see that the slatted shelves in my California Cooler have sadly gone missing.

This is not the first place we've lived with a California Cooler.  The first apartment we rented after we got married had one, and I remember being completely perplexed by the slatted shelves in our pantry.  One day in winter, I felt a cold draft after opening the pantry door.  Upon further investigation, I found a piece of painted cardboard covering wire mesh, which in turn covered an outside vent near the top of the pantry. It took me more time than I care to admit to figure out that this was an early refrigeration system.  The cardboard was there for insulation against the no-longer-needed cool air and the wire mesh underneath was to keep critters out.  

The majority of the houses in the Berkeley/Oakland area of San Franciso's East Bay were built in the early 20th century, when California Coolers were often included in a home's design.   As a fun (and nosy) game as I'm walking or driving around town, I often look for the sets of stacked vents.  It's interesting to see where the kitchen is placed in any given house.  

There was evidence of a California Cooler in the previous apartment we rented before buying our current house.  The stacked vents can still be seen from the outside, but the cabinets to the right of the sink now cover up what would have been the California Cooler. I often wonder what that older kitchen would have looked like before the 80s kitchen was installed.  (And much later painted by us.)


 Some California Coolers were vented to the basement instead of the outside of the house, as is shown in the above pamphlet.  This idea would work better in places where there are hot summers and freezing winters.

I've since done quite a bit of research on the California Cooler, but there's not a ton of information out there. Much of the information I found can be accessed by clicking on the above photos, which will take you to various sites discussing the California Cooler.

Oh, and if you are wondering about the drink...

Here she is in her former 80s era wine cooler glory.