Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Admittingly, I always feel a little guilty putting out any sort of "wish list".  In the grand scheme of things, life is pretty good and I'm content - in fact, in some ways I'm trying to live better with less stuff. But inevitably, I will be asked by people in my life who are so very good to me what it is I may need or wish for this year when I blow out my birthday candles. So with three weeks still to go until the big day, I've pulled together a list of stuff I will probably get around to buying at some point anyway. There are a few nice to have goodies, but most of them will be replacement items for those truly needed for my adventures in the garden this year. I also have this little romantic daydream of building out a collection of stag horn ferns from those I might receive on special occasions like my birthday or an anniversary. On the surface it may seem silly, but I'm looking for deeper meaning or to make better use of the "stuff" I do accumulate. 

1 (or available locally at exotic plant nurseries like one of my favorites) / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Go Here // Flora Farms, Los Cabos

I came across Flora Farms some time ago and I recall that it immediately struck me as one of those perfectly mythical places, the kind I daydream about owning and running should my lottery windfall ever come to fruition. But in fact, this 10-acre working farm actually exists in the mountains above Los Cabos, offering visitors a farm to table experience through their on-site bar and restaurant.  A lucky few have the opportunity to own a part of it through one of several "cottages" that also dot the property.

The farm began 10 years ago, serving local chefs and hotels through the weekly farmers market. Eventually, it opened its doors to the public with its own kitchen, serving up a gourmet brunch, lunch and dinner menu with fresh fruits and vegetables grown on-site in fields still worked largely by hand. Meats served at the restaurant are humanely raised on a nearby ranch also owned by Flora Farms.

In addition to the kitchen and bar, which serves up carrot margaritas and other organic concoctions, visitors can also pick up fresh produce from the grocery to enjoy back home. Farm tours are also available to patrons, providing a holistic look at the history and hormone/pesticide free farming methods the farm is committed to. 

There are 10 luxury culinary cottages that dot the property, offering an upscale stay right on the farm with privileges that include a private harvesting privileges from the farm, pool and spa, private beach club and a family pond for swimming.

Properties have been sold, but some offer rental stays with all the privileges of ownership extended. 

What I wouldn't give for an extended stay, with time to cook in that kitchen!  For now, I'm content to long for the day when I can visit the Field Kitchen restaurant and sample homegrown and hand-prepared dishes like radish ravioli and Neopolitan style pizzas prepared in their authentic brick oven. Authentic Italian food with a beach view in Mexico, the stuff my vacation dreams are made of.

Monday, January 12, 2015


I took the photo above while on a whirlwind visit to Paris last November. It was early morning, wet and biting cold as we sat aloft a hop on / hop off bus circling around the city. We had arrived just the evening before for what was my second trip and decided to jump on the bus just to get our bearings. I can tell you that even all these months later, it's easy to remember the pure joy and exhilaration I felt finally getting a good look in the daylight at this majestic place I loved so very much. As we wound through the route, I was anxious for the perspective I finally snapped with my camera when the bus momentarily stopped behind the Trocadero. I remember I turned to my husband and remarked that we had been given an extraordinary gift in that fleeting moment, a sunlit pause in the downpour that allowed us to get a clear glimpse of the Old Lady.

There were of course many extraordinary gifts encountered during our time in Paris, a trip we worked hard and fought for over many preceding months. These are scenes and moments I still carry with me every day. I can tell you that walking that great city only reaffirmed to me that I am a citizen of the world. 

I typically focus on other topics here on the blog, but in that spirit, I felt compelled to pause and reflect on the unfathomable events that unfolded last week in France. I will choose not to discuss politics, freedom of the press or religion here - though arguably, it all does matter. But I simply won't because I've realized in the days that followed, whats at stake is really about something entirely bigger and inclusive of us all- regardless of where we are born and what we are born into. At its finest point, it's humanity that is being victimized again and again. Its all I can think about when I turn on the nightly news to see the headlines of the day, something I feel like doing so less and less. Its appalling what we as the human race do to our own beyond any justification.  I'm not insensitive to the arguments related to marginalization and socio-economic disparities that we also have a hand in creating and do exist in this world of ours.  Life is not an equal playing field - it just isn't and you know what, it's not fair. We all need a closer look at our world and collectively, we absolutely must do better. But there is nothing that rationalizes what took place in France, Syria, Nigeria or the US last week - nothing.

What are we doing to ourselves? It just hurts to the depths of my soul. It keeps me awake at a night when I realize just how complicated it has become to go to work, to go to the market or take a jog down the street, to remember that we are all one in the same - even if we are not. 5,000 miles away, I am affected by the terror and violence that took place in Paris - not just because I realize it can just as easily happen here or because it happened there, but frankly because it happened at all. 

Similarly, I am just as moved by the millions that took to the streets of Paris on Sunday, a show of humanity in its finest hour. I actually set an alarm and woke up early on a weekend morning to witness it, even if just as evidence that there is still good among us. I know there are many that may disagree, but that is what #jesuischarlie is to me at its heart - beyond the magazine, beyond freedom of the press, beyond France. It's a way of supporting, recommitting and binding us back together in the modern age, beyond race, religion or border.  What a cost though for such a reminder. May it not be in vain.

Honestly, I have more questions than answers and so much still to learn. But in the midst of such a profound sadness and alarm, I just could not pretend I'm going about my business with recipes, renovations and pretty pictures and not say something about what is happening. 


Thursday, January 8, 2015


Throughout my web-travels during the back half of last year, I came across quite a few online boutiques I think everyone should know about. One of the things I hope to do more of here on the blog is share these little retail treasures I come across with you. I'm a big believer in small business and have a special affection for handmade goods and Etsy in particular.  I have so much respect and admiration for folks who put their talents out there for the world and nurture and grow something they love to do into a full or part time business. 

One of these finds speaks to my current state of mind. A new year has me seeking all sorts of new adventures both stateside and abroad. There is little I love more than to put a map in my hand and walk unfamiliar city streets, discovering and observing the landscape and architecture of a place not previously visited. I always marvel at how cartographers can capture even the smallest details of a city and make it easy for a traveler like me to find my way.  Even more interesting are views into older maps and city structures. It's amazing to see a city grow over time on paper. 

I came across Etsy boutique GeoArtShed while searching for some new art for a future project here at the house and was mesmerized by the simple, black and white city grids they turned into bonafide works of art. No buildings or icons needed. Here, the lines, curves and waterways forge a fingerprint of sorts for many of the world's biggest cities - places like my beloved Los Angeles, but also New York, Dallas, Tokyo, Paris and others. 

They offer both a black or white background for most prints which come affordably priced and ready to frame in several sizes. The date listed below the map identifies the historical view depicted, a special detail that provides context, while adding a vintage feel to a modern interpretation. 

The shop owner Joey is based in Los Angeles and his bio hints at a childhood spent moving about and exploring new cities as his parents rehabbed homes, a personal detail that endeared his work even more to this serial renovator.

 So go check out GeoArtShed and look for your favorite city. There are many others not featured here. Each listing includes informational tidbits on the corresponding map date which make them even more interesting. Adventurer, map-lover or maybe just homesick for a city you once visited or lived in, there's quite possibly a print deserving of a place in your home or one that can be framed and wrapped as a gift for a beloved traveler.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015


To kick off 2015, we skipped the big midnight fete and opted instead to host an informal New Year's brunch for friends and family. While there was some pre-party prep involved, for the most part this was one of our easiest gatherings yet - made simple by two build-your own stations we set up in the dining/bar area of our home. Our best parties are always those where guests participate in some form or another and to be honest, my favorite celebratory activities have always been - food and drink.

You guys, set up and clean up was so seamless and the cost was so minimal,  I had to share our strategy with you so that you too can host an impromptu party you will have the budget and energy to enjoy.

No rules really apply here. Just keep in mind that the more options you lay out, the more fun it will be for your guests. Remember, we eat with our eyes first! Much of what we displayed we already had in our pantry or fridge. We did some chopping and prepping of garnishes, but the most difficult part of this set up was organizing the condiments and toppings to allow easy access for all. 

A Bloody Mary bar allows non-drinkers to build their own cocktail as well, though we had other non-alcoholic options on hand also. 

Be sure to keep a trash can close at hand for discarded drink garnishes (everyone likes a fresh glass!) and periodically check ice both in the bucket and on any seafood you have at the bar. We like to use highball glasses when making Bloody Marys, so that is what we offered. We also used our stack of ceramic dinner party plates still unpacked from Thanksgiving and Christmas. As a suggestion:  empty the dishwasher before guests arrive and encourage them to toss their plate in the dishwasher when done. I ran a load mid-party and had very little clean up as a result.

One of the things that added to the fun was seeing all the clever creations our friends would make from what we had laid out for them. There were competitions and dares (and of course, Instagram photos to prove it) to see who could come up with the most loaded glass (and then drink it all down). The bagel buffet was replenished when needed and was well preserved on a cool California morning, while we all sat fireside, visiting and talking about vacations and plans for the upcoming year.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Painted Works in the Kitchen

I'm always drawn to the unexpected element in design; a bold accessory in an otherwise neutral space, a fussy light fixture amidst modern furnishings, tattered among pristine. My eye seeks out the one thing that seemingly does not belong. Such is my latest infatuation with artwork in the kitchen. I'm not talking about poster prints or photography, but rather the nubby textures of painted canvas sans glass hanging in a space more akin to spills and splashes than gallery displays. 

Perhaps it's because it begs tension between functional and pretty. I think we often categorize rooms in our own well lived homes - not the highly styled homes of magazines - where certain things are off limits. It's true: artwork that might be damaged in a room used for cooking does seem a bit reckless. But a canvassed painting hung above a work counter, sink or cook top always feels deliciously daring and rebellious as well. Maybe I'm really drawn to the bold personalities that feel confident enough in their skills to know a beloved piece of art will survive any potential kitchen blunder.  I don't know that I'm that brave.

Maybe it's not confidence after all. It might just be the idea that nothing is truly so precious that it should not be enjoyed anywhere that I'm truly in love with. 

Artwork also infuses personality into a kitchen that no fixture, hardware, paint color or appliance really can. It can elevate a rental with builder grade hardware and make it a little more special just as much as it can balance a showier kitchen and make it seem well... lived in. 

While perusing flea markets and shops, I'm always stopped in my tracks, struggling with making a purchase on a small piece of art I love because I fear I'll have nowhere to hang it. I like the idea of opening up to a new room in which to showcase some of my beloved finds, outside of rules and convention. I may not have a list of formal resolutions fleshed out for the coming year, but perhaps its time to follow my heart a bit and color...or rather, paint outside the lines when it comes to my decorating strategy around Holtwood House.

photo credit: 
1. Vogue Living Australia [May 2013] featuring home of Wendy Paterson [spotted on English Muse]
2. Livingetc [March 2012] featuring the Parisian kitchen and home of designer Josephine Gintzburger [spotted on DesiretoInspire]
3. Lauren Liess perfectly designed and styled her own kitchen
4. House Beautiful featuring the home of David Kleinberg, photographed by Christopher Baker
5. Little Green Notebook featuring Callie's home tour
6. House Beautiful featuring design by Chris Barrett, photo by Victoria Pearson

Monday, January 5, 2015

3 Holiday Habits I'm Taking With Me into 2015

It's always hard to say goodbye- to people and places loved, to leisure time away from the office, to a season that was suddenly over when it feels like it only just began- and even to a calendar year that may have presented some personal challenges. Admittingly as I type this post, we still have the bulbs and ornaments hung on the tree and the lights still strewn about the eaves. This year, it all came and went so fast and I have had a hard time parting with the pleasures of the holiday season.

So just as I always try to plan another vacation when one is ending, I decided to follow suit and pick out a couple of holiday habits worth hanging on to in the coming year. 

I've never really been a napper. I'm not a late sleeper and taking a break in the busiest part of the day always felt like a waste. Leisure time really brings about some new perspective and I found that a short break to watch a favorite movie on the couch by the fire didn't necessarily slow me down after all. It felt good to let my mind wander a bit with the scroll of channels on the remote and my feet up on the ottoman. With all the focus on clean eating and exercise in the New Year, it's a little curious that one of my resolutions is to sleep and lounge. But part of being healthy is also learning to respond to queues from your tired body and taking time to rest and recharge. It will not happen everyday, but instead of running on empty each weekend and dreading the workweek to come, I am looking forward catching up on some Netflix under a warm blanket in 2015.

I've talked about my renewed interest in fresh house floral recently here on the blog and plans to re-incorporate this habit into my weekly routine. Over the holiday, I again spent some time at the flower mart and played with colorful arrangements set against dark wood or clothed backdrops. It was fun to hone my skills and challenge myself a bit to create something modern and fresh for our holiday tables. There was a time when I'd shop every Saturday for flowers to display around the house and I'm not sure why I ever stopped. It may have been time or money but in 2015, I decided to make room in both my budget and routine for flowers once again.

I spent the better part of the last 8 weeks huddled over my kitchen counter and I have the dishpan hands to prove it. Among my voyage back to seemingly self discovery during the holidays came a renewed interest in cooking and baking (but definitely not dishwashing). We are a two-person household with different tastes and dinner interests and quite often we "make food" -not a formal meal. It's just been easier on our budget (and my nerves) to approach dinner this way. Eating out is always the easiest solution. But I had a bit of an a-ha moment over the holiday that helped me find my way back to something I love. It may not always translate into a "meal", but I decided to challenge myself to experiment with creating something in the kitchen a couple of times each week - be it a loaf of bread, a much loved family recipe or even a cocktail. 

As such, the coming year will likely feature more posts on food and flower arrangements here on the blog, in addition to dishing daily on design. I've already got a few projects in the early planning stages so stay tuned for continued work here on Holtwood House as well. 
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