Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Colorful Tribal Rugs at Target

I've been on a mad hunt for the perfect kitchen rug that would not break the bank for the past several months. I scoured flea markets and Craigslist, stalked eBay and Overstock and was just about to throw down on my favorite West Elm kilim, until one day, I happily stumbled upon some colorful new offerings over at Target. 

I ended up snagging the olive green and lavender beauty above right from the shelf, but found some brighter hues worth consideration offered online. Have you seen these babies?

one / two / three / four / five

Monday, July 30, 2012

{Make This} Broiled + Buttery Avocado Goodness

We skipped town last Thursday for an extended weekend on the Colorado River with our group of friends. A river trip gives good occasion for a little fun and excess every now and then, not the least of which was this amazing avocado preparation I was introduced to one evening when the boat docked back at the house we were staying at.

Bags unpacked and back at home last night, The Mister and I had a craving for it again- sort of a last hurrah before we returned to some good ol' fashioned work week discipline.

But just because I'm in need of a little discipline doesn't mean you can't be a little naughty this week. Do it. Make this broiled and buttery, avocado goodness for dinner. I promise. It's worth the guilt.


Half avocado, remove pit.
Fill the empty well (where the pit once was) with a pat (or two) of butter.
Sprinkle with fresh garlic, parmesan (or your favorite) cheese, salt, pepper.
Toss some bacon bits over the top (optional).

Throw these bad boys on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler until browned and bubbly. I heard you could also throw them on the grill as well.  Just be sure to place them on a tin foil boat to catch any drippings.

Warmed and "marinated" in the butter, the avocado develops a richer, creamier texture that is just as tasty as the seasonings with which it's topped. We just grabbed one and scooped the insides out with a spoon.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Off the Wall Design: Herringbone

It's no secret I love a good herringbone pattern. But it's ubiquitous use- mostly in textiles- has me searching for some fresh and more classic ways to incorporate this design into our home. We are laying out plans for a new backyard project that will make new use of this beloved pattern and in doing research for that project, I happened to stumble across another amazing way herringbone is zig zagging it's way into design.

Behold. Wood tiles laid out in a herringbone pattern.

Queen Astrid Park House, Singapore by Aamer Architects Via
Architect Alison Brooks Via
Stylist Susanna Vento
Showroom: Decorative Materials, Denver
D'Espresso Bar, NY Via
This last one is a triple threat. It's got herringbone walls in wood tiles, that fantastic floor with pink accents and the front of the bar also uses mirrored tiles for a third herringbone effect. 
The result: happy herringbone heaven. 

 MIM Design for Tabcorp


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Mid-Summer Night's Dream

I have a tried and true recipe you must try this weekend. The Mister and I just can't get enough and have been whipping it up like crazy around here. Adapt to your own tastes as needed. 


Monday, July 23, 2012

Last Night I Dreamed of Peacock Chairs...

They were literally litter, piled up and broken, lining the streets with mounds of trash and items people no longer wanted as in some grainy, apocalyptic scene.

I mean it. I dreamed of this all night long and I was going around, begging friends to borrow their trucks so I could scoop them off the streets and bring them back home with me.

Clearly it was a dream.

And clearly this is something still high on my wish list.

Welcome to another work week [and no, that unfortunately is not a dream].

Let's make the most of it shall we? Another weekend will be here before we know it.

Have a great one.

*Image Sourced Here


Friday, July 20, 2012

Weekend Activity

I've learned that sometimes the only activity you plan for a weekend around the house is this.

Photo of Bambi Northwood-Blythe Taken by Tim Barber for Muse Magazine, September 2011


Thursday, July 19, 2012

House Scents

My girlfriends and I recently stayed at a famous LA hotel for the weekend and one of the things I think I'll remember most about our stay there, is the fragrance that greeted us in the hotel lobby and around every hallway. I actually have several vacations punctuated by a particular scent that was seemingly piped into every room of the hotel in which I stayed, sort of imprinting the relationship between that particular fragrance and the wonderful memories I made during each vacation.   It's similar to the way certain songs can take me back to high school or my childhood as a kid riding in my parents car.

Similarly, when I'm out and about, there are certain scents that remind me of home. A sweet tomato sauce simmering away on a stove, jasmine combined with freshly cut grass and lets be honest, these days- paint and sawdust, all remind me of our little corner of the world. One of the reasons I set my heart on Holtwood House was because that despite the fact that it sat empty for our viewing, it still smelled like a place I had spent a lot of time at during my childhood, a place where I felt safe and happy.

It's a little primal I guess, but like animals, we tend to infuse our homes with other signature scents as a way of making them ours.  The candles, air fresheners and even cleaning products we use are as personal as the perfumes we put on our bodies. I often get asked about the products we use here at Holtwood House, so I thought I'd pull the veil back a little and share the combination of flavors that make up the signature scent in our home.
Long a fan of Voluspa candles, this relatively new scent called Laguna is probably the most dominant smell in our home. I mentioned in an earlier post that I'm scent-sensitive and when I find something that works for me and does not induce a migraine, I tend to stick with it. This is my go-to candle, the one that reminds me of life in coastal California, replete with notes of Coppertone and sea spray. It's light and heavenly and if I could, I'd pipe it through our air conditioning vents.

Once in a while, I switch things up and introduce another candle- usually in the Fall. Voluspa's Golden Cypress is a little sharper on the nose, but clean. It reminds me of a shampoo I used as a kid while staying at a relative's house.

I found this hand soap on one of my shopping jaunts to Home Goods (you buy all your hand soaps there too, right?) and never looked back. It makes the rounds most frequently in our bathrooms and it's a sad day when I run out. I've recently found it online and decided to order it in bulk. What can I say, when you find each other you just know.

Let's face it. Cleaning can be boring. They don't call it a chore for nothing. But Meyer's Clean Day in Basil came to my rescue one day and turned my weekly cleaning day into a happier event. I love the way our house smells by the end of the day. It is pricier and I'll be honest, it's not the only brand of cleaning products I use. I'm guilty of cleaning with the heartier soaps and scrubs and then giving everything one last wipe down with the good stuff.

So combined with our personal perfumes and cosmetics, these are the things that make up the distinct smell you'd notice when you walk through our front door.

I'm curious to know what smells remind you of your home. Are there certain products you use regularly that have become part of the whole sensory experience in your own living space?


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Current Fixation: DIY Ping Pong Table

Jonathan Adler's Greenwich Village Duplex 
With all the backyard fun of late, I find myself fixated on new activities that we might add to the mix. For the past couple of weeks, I've been stalking Craigslist for traditional fold and store variety ping pong tables. But based on what I'm finding out there, I'm leaning more and more towards a custom solution inspired by one of these magical set ups.

If we went the DIY route, I think my heart is pretty set on a black and white table top with a wood base, stained to coordinate with some other wood highlights we'll be sporting in and around Holtwood House. The James Perse version up top is sort of the end all be all ideal as far as I'm concerned. But, the table would need to disassemble easily- both for portability and storage (we like to change things up a lot around here). I'm not gonna lie. The Saarinen table bases used by the one and only Jonathan Adler up top sort of floats my boat too. If we went in that direction, perhaps we could swing a knock off using the Docksta bases from IKEA? Meh... too expensive for what we want to achieve I think.

No matter what, our table will be topped off with some playful accessories. How chic are the matte black ping pong balls and paddles? Ok, maybe the Chanel paddles won't fly with The Mister, but there are probably some more understated options to be found.

I'm convinced. Let's add this one to the Fall Projects line up. As much as I want a table for some quick-turn Summer fun, I have to remember that Rome wasn't built in a day. Sometimes the best kind of fun is preceded by a little elbow grease.

Original images sourced as follows:  


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Patterned Flip Flops

I haven't always been a big sandal wearer. In fact, I'd say I was well into my early 20's when I ditched the sock-shoe combo more regularly and became a little religious about weekly pedicures and open-toed footwear. I blame it on my job at the time (Grocery Checker) and the fact that I was part of the Dr. Marten generation. But even all these years later, I'm still not someone who typically runs around in bare feet - even in the house.

Though I still prefer less exposure and something a little more refined when I'm out to dinner and the like, more often than not these days, you'll find me flip flopping around the house or running errands in one of these pattered pretties. 
The last couple of seasons have seen an explosion of color and pattern. I've always preferred plain black Havaianas for price/wearability. But I'd have to say that Tory Burch cornered the market early on with her chic designs and made me re-think patterned flip flops altogether. I sort of refuse to toss the first black and white pair I purchased back in 2008 for my honeymoon.  I have my eye on that candy-striped pair at the moment to help me ride out the second half of summer.

Do you have a favorite go-to summer sandal?  Which one of these caught your eye?


Monday, July 16, 2012

Stretching Into a New Week

I read recently that sitting more than three hours a day will shave two years off your life. As someone who sits in front of a computer screen all day to earn my living, that's pretty unwelcome news. I've never really been a couch potato in my off time (I can honestly say that our living room couch gets more action from the dog than The Mister and I). But instead of turning off my monitor to run about the house and clean or do projects every night like I'm prone to do, I'm working to integrate a little more "me" time into my standard routine and try better to take care of the old bod. She's been pretty good to me thus far. Tonight, that means I'm headed out to my first yoga class. I know millions of people world-wide are out there stretching and posing all day long, but I find myself a little intimidated. Trying something new is always a little scary. But I can't even touch my toes.

So I gave myself two short term yoga goals to help me stay motivated.

ONE. // Use this time to breathe fully and decompress from the day. 

TWO. // Touch toes.

I aim high, don't I?

Wish me luck!

* Image Via

Friday, July 13, 2012

I'm Reclaiming My Kitchen This Weekend

I have a a bit of a confession to make. I'm on edge, like really on edge. All these dramatic little setbacks here at Holtwood House in just the last month- namely the gas leak and the electrical fire- have had my stomach in knots, considering all the "what if" scenarios had we not been quick on our feet to address them. I find myself passing through the hallway or rounding the corner into the kitchen, sure that I smell gas or a fire breaking out. I've been scared to fully use the kitchen and plug in any appliance to powered outlets in areas that were no where near our wall fire. As someone who loves to cook, it's a little tortuous to fear the one room in the house I felt the most at home in. Trust me, I know things could have been so much worse and that we were oh so lucky. But I think seeing actual flames in my kitchen was shocking enough to send me over the edge.

Perhaps it's all because things remain unresolved following our fire last weekend. We are still anxiously waiting on our Electrician's visit on Saturday afternoon. We have no garbage disposal, putrid water we can't drain and we're not entirely sure our new dishwasher won't need replacing. The smell of burned electrical still hovers among the mess under the sink.

A similar bout of anxiety happened last year when we had a bat fly in late one balmy evening and take over our house. Can you imagine walking half asleep down a dimly lit hallway to encounter a bat flying directly towards you? Trust. It happened. For weeks I anticipated a bat coming towards me every time I stepped foot in that hallway.

All of this anxiety has worn me down. It's worn me down enough to say I'm taking my kitchen back and with it my life as I knew it. Perhaps you dear reader might not have reacted the way I have to these actually in the grand scheme of things pretty uneventful events. I envy your ability to let things roll. But I'm a worry wart. Always have been. Despite some real work on the matter, I think it's just part of my fabric. I'm always waiting for the rug to get ripped out from under me. It's really happened-  several times.

One thing I've learned about that rug getting pulled out from under me is that life is freakin short. We need to make the most of everyday and I refuse to worry my life away. Fridays were meant for fearlessness and the way I see it, Friday the 13th is a perfect opportunity to look fear in the eye and say- you are not going to win.

One of the best parts of any weekend around here is my time spent in the kitchen. So I'm gonna put on those gloves, clean up this latest mess and reclaim my kitchen. Come Sunday morning, I'm planning on firing up (no pun intended) the ice cream machine and that shiny new oven to whip up a few of those recipes I've been dog-earing. I love to cook, I love to eat and I love to entertain friends from our kitchen. I plan to do all of that before I see you back here Monday morning.  Hold me to it, will you?

Till then...


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Watermelon for Dinner

We've been eating a boatload of watermelon around here. I mean, we just can't get enough of it. It's easy finger food, perfect for all the swim parties we've been hosting. I buy one a week, slice it, platter it up and we have a pool full of very happy snackers.

Lately, the afternoon heat has left us wanting little else, even for dinner. But what we originally bought as snack food begs for a little something extra to make it a proper meal.

Here are three alternative preparations to this summertime favorite that we've been using to bolster each bite.

The warmth of the grill really revs up the sugars. But sliced up thick, the texture almost mimics fish or a juicy steak. I like it tossed in a salad with my favorite dressing. Be sure to season both sides generously and if possible opt for a crustier sea salt.

If you frequent Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, you will certainly find a bottle easy to come by, but you can buy a ready-to-drizzle, bottled balsamic reduction in most regular grocery stores these days.  Got a bottle of good old fashioned balsamic vinegar and some honey laying around? It's also easy to make your own. The deepened tang of the vinegar interacts nicely with the sugary crunch of ice cold watermelon.

This is perhaps my favorite preparation of late and there are a lot of variations you could do here. Drizzle watermelon slices with chili oil or sprinkle them with pico de gallo seasoning. I mix up a blend of chili and french sea salts and then sprinkle it generously on top of cubes. Feeling like something a little spicier? Grab one of those peppers you've been growing on your patio, dice it up and throw it on top. The cold juice of the watermelon will help put out that fire you started in your mouth.

1 / 2 / 3 / 4

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

{Exploring} Walnut Canyon Reservoir

Though I'm a So Cal native, I've been a resident of my current hillside community for less than two years. There are times I still find myself turning down a road I've never been down before or spotting a new place to eat or shop. I'm still very much a newbie. In my previous community, I had it all down- where to shop for a the perfect birthday gift, where to pick up last minute party supplies or the best Mexican food. Truth be told, I am still more comfortable jumping on the freeway to shop and eat in our old neighborhood than I am here.

I'm working to change that and embrace the new town in which I live. Just as the sun was setting last night, I found myself on a little adventure, staring straight into the scenic reservoir that actually supplies the drinking water to the tap in my home.

Nearly 1.7 miles of paved and landscaped walking trails wind around the perimeter of Walnut Canyon Reservoir. Along the way, there are swaths of homes who's backyards butt right up to these paths. There is this bucolic co-existence between the residents wading just over the fence in their swimming pools and the walkers and runners who take to the trail each night after work. The balmy weather last night had everyone out sharing the view of the water below.

I snapped these photos in order as I wound my way along the path, with each turn a colorful new surprise set off by the disappearing sun. I started to imagine how beautiful this place would look at dawn, fresh cup of coffee in hand. Looking forward to the weekend so I can find out.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Old-Fashioned Milk Delivery

As soon as the alarm went off this morning, I jumped out of bed and ran to the front door. I knew today was the day- the first day of our old fashioned milk delivery from the local dairy.

While visiting our Farmer's Market a couple of weeks back, we decided to sign up for this weekly service, delivering milk to us fresh between 3-6 each Tuesday morning from one of the many family-run dairies that still operate in our area. It was a decision we made just as much because we want to know more about where our food is coming from these days as it was for the nostalgia of it all.

See for quite some time now, we've been purchasing a national brand of milk labeled "organic" from the supermarket shelf. While at first the unusually long expiration date was a selling point, lately The Mister and I have become increasingly uneasy drinking "organic" milk that is often good for a month after purchase.

Sure, we'll pay a premium for milk delivered right to our front door- roughly $1 more than if we purchased at the grocery store. But we know we're getting hormone free milk from cows grazing on alfalfa, hay and grain, brought to us by a family owned and operated dairy that has been in business since 1927. They've even partnered with local produce growers and will deliver a mixed box of fresh veggies comprised of whatever bounty is being harvested that week.

I love that we can conveniently order additional products like cheese, half and half and even a freshly baked pie through their online ordering system (though the dispatcher prefers a good old fashioned phone call the day before) or leave a note on our doorstep requesting any extras the truck may be carrying. We also pay our bill by check once a month- no debit or credit card. Though some dairies do, our dairy does not charge an extra fee on top of the listed product price. The price is what it is on the photo-copied menu we received (no fancy brochure here!).

It's a solution that sort of feels good all the way around. Slowing down the pace a little to enjoy the simple things, wholesome food fresh from the source and supporting a local family owned business.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The One Where I Tell You About The Fire We Had At Holtwood House This Weekend

There were a number of things I learned this past weekend. Above all, I learned that I'm probably not the first person someone should pick to help man their life boat.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. It actually all started out quite typical of a weekend morning around these parts. We were preparing for a big swim bash and had spent the previous day and night, shopping, cooking and arranging for a house full of guests by noon on Saturday. By ten-thirty, we were just making our last run to the store for extra ice and running the vacuum through the house one more time. I hit the patio carpet last and noticed that when I plugged the vacuum into the outlet on the side of the nearby kitchen island (like I always do), that the power surged on and off and then completely off on the vacuum. It appeared that there was something wrong with the vacuum and not the outlet actually until I remembered that we had tried to plug something into that same outlet a couple of weeks back and briefly experienced something similar with a kitchen appliance. I thought to try another nearby outlet and to my relief, the vacuum worked fine.

As I wound up the cord on the vacuum, The Mister was walking through the door with some extra grocery bags. Very suddenly, I smelled it.

"Electrical fire! Electrical fire! We have an electrical fire!," I yelled. "Shut the breakers off at the box!"

The distinct smell of burning plastic that singes your nose, the smell of fire so different from your BBQ or fireplace, was becoming stronger by the second as I stood in our kitchen.

"I can't open the box! It's painted shut!," I hear from the side of that house between my screams to "hurry up!"

I'm on my hands and knees at this point, crawling all over the kitchen trying to find the source. The bad electrical outlet on the kitchen island did not show any signs that there was a problem there. Finally, I threw open the doors under the kitchen sink to find not smoke but FLAMES coming from the outlet where the disposal was plugged in.

"Fire! Fire! We have a fire!" I stood there screaming bloody murder, visions of our beautiful little dream house going up in flames. It was surely a goner.  Dylan came rushing to join in, barking and jumping at me while I stood there screaming, frozen.

I snapped out of my hysteria briefly enough drop to my knees and rip out all reachable bottles of cleansers and microfiber rags beneath the sink as I searched for the extinguisher we have long kept there. It was not there. Had it been there, I surely would not have known what to do with it anyway.

The Mister came bolting in from outside and went straight to the garage, returning with the extinguisher to pull the pin and put the flames out.

We stood there in shock, the kitchen just minutes ago all arranged for our party, now in complete disarray with the contents of the extinguisher all but reduced to a cloud of dust blanketing everything in the kitchen and adjacent dining room. A follow up 911 call later and we had a truck full of firemen, sirens blaring, pulling up in front of our house.

We were told to wait outside, while they checked for hot spots, finding several sources of heat still within our walls. The Mister had successfully broke open the electrical box and cut power to the house during all of that chaos. But they were finding some heat still within the wall.

Eventually- and truth be told very quickly, the Captain emerged to explain the cause of fire to us.

When we bought Holtwood House, we knew two things:

- The garbage disposal worked
- The house had been successfully passed a safety check

We also had changed out 90% of the outlets and wiring in the house, having been told that the old aluminum wiring was a safety hazard. There were a couple of outlets we forgot to switch out- all in secondary usage sources. The outlet for the disposal and dishwasher under the sink, the outlet on the other side of the wall in the adjacent covered patio were among them.

What we did not realize were a couple of critical things.

- The single outlet powering our dishwasher and garbage disposal also was powering something else- the outlet on the side of the kitchen island.

- That kitchen island outlet was deriving power from the outlet under the sink via a three- socket adapter. Yes... it was an outlet that was rigged to plug into another outlet!

You can imagine our horror when the Fire Captain handed us this:

Then he proceeded to explain why we should NEVER, EVER have one of these in our home. He explained that the power bars with a surge protector are fine, but anything like the three socket adapter that so many people use at Christmas time or to extend power to their computer equipment for example is no bueno.

He also showed us how the previous homeowner had rigged the extra outlet on the side of the island to plug into that adapter. The entire line of romex was actually visible once the silverware drawers had been pulled out.

We've spent months making our house beautiful, with just the right lighting fixture here and piece of furniture there, but somehow neglected to notice something that was a clear fire hazard in the area we frequent most.

So there we stood in our backyard feeling shocked, foolish and anticipating a fully damaged electrical system in the house we have painstakingly wired up with beautiful lighting and speakers over our last year of home ownership.

The adrenaline started to give way to tears. We had no power and the guys were starting to pack up and leave the house. Honestly, I was scared to stay there myself and just wanted to go with them. Suddenly, the Captain looked over to his guys and said, "Hey, let's try and isolate the breaker so we can get power to the rest of the house and get these guys up and going for their party."

Are you kidding me?

And they did.

And yes, we did.  Sometimes the show must go on, even with a fried garbage disposal, black walls and frayed nerves.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Miss Independence

It's one of my favorite days of the year.
Off to indulge in a little Americana. 
Wishing you all a very happy Fourth of July wherever you are!


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

One Track Mind

I really want to be a good Blogger and post about my latest home improvement project, inspirational interiors and what I hope to be wearing in celebration of tomorrow's holiday here in The States. But my vacation hangover has left me day dreaming about one thing and one thing only... 

*Images originally sourced here

Monday, July 2, 2012

{3 Things} I Did On My Summer Vacation

So it's back to work Monday and right on queue, I'm battling the "I can't believe my vacation is over" blues. To be truthful, I'm sort of grappling with mixed emotions. What a glorious week of fun in the sun I had. I just didn't want it to end. At the same time, I think this stay-cation did everything it was intended to do. I feel rested and recharged and ready to dive in to some of the things on my list- and that includes some projects back at work. I also feel resolved to continue the outdoor dinners and poolside folly- even on a work night. Who says that's just for vacation anyway?

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