Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weekend of June 18-19 2011

Happy Birthday Mom and Happy Father's Day Dad!

Last weekend was my Mom's 29th birthday and Father's Day... I was up at the hill house because I knew I was going to see them this weekend. I did go to Madera this weekend and attended a lavender class with Mom in the morning. We learned how to harvest lavender and make things with it. It was actually a fun class and then later I finally got my hair done! We went to dinner and had a really fun time.

Anyway back to last weekend at the house... I left work early friday the 17th because frankly, work has been just eating away at me. I felt like I was going to just shut down on Friday if I didn't leave and my boss (who is a saint) took one look at me and said "go home". I really didn't do a lot up there but I did put some effort into weeding the veggie garden. I was able to eat some peas, onions and potato.. yes singular from that garden when I was there. You see a gopher has moved in and they like to eat potatoes too. They eat them from under the ground so you just see your plant dying and you go to pull it up and there is the potato half eaten...sigh... let's recap the critters that want to eat my garden shall we?
1. Deer- ate all the sunflowers (nick wants to shoot them)
2. Squirrels love greens!
3. Gophers eat the potatoes
4. Turkeys - eat everything
5. Birds tear at the leaves 
I don't know how I am ever going to beat these guys but hopefully something will work. I actually don't mind sharing as I planted way more than I need so that they could have some and I could have some. Doesn't seem like they want to share with me though!
The gopher is driving my dog Casey crazy.. she has an incredible nose and can smell them so she just starts digging. She dug one trench in the morning and found the gopher's den but he/she wasn't there, of course. Then later we went out in the evening and that darn gopher had dug up a new tunnel like it was challenging her and she went bonkers! Here is the outcome..
Casey on a mission to destroy a gopher!
I let her go until she started getting close to the plants and then made her stop.. and washed her off. She is getting older now, 13 years old but man! Give her a gopher trail to follow and she will not stop!

My garden has some pluses though.. Corn is doing good and my peas and tomatoes are just going crazy! I planted the tomatoes too close together now that I can see them growing... but oh well. The beans are running up the fence and over, but something really likes them as well. Eating my green beans before I can and I am pretty sure it is the squirrel. The corn has a cob on one stalk and the others are growing. The asparagus is coming along and some of the squash/canteloupe is trying...the watermelon and the peppers don't seem to be able to stand a chance. But hey! I have 1 pumpkin plant that has survived and is doing good! We might get a decent jack-o-lantern out of it yet... I want to get my niece and nephew some really big pumpkins this year. I know they would love it.. they are just at the right age.
Corn doing well!

Green beans are climbing the fence and getting eaten by some critter...


Peas are doing awesome! I ate all of these and my baby potato and it was just the best!
Woohoo! One of the giant pumpkins survived!

that is a group of the 6 tomatoes.. note to self.. spread them out next year

Baby Granny Smith Apple from that one tree.. you really don't want to try and eat it..
Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) in my yard

Other news... July 18th I will be at the house all week getting my siding put on the house.. one more time for those of you who don't think I need to do it. Here is just one small picture to show you how damaged the house is..  Also, my veggie garden still has dozens of ladybugs and new surprise. The tiny California tree frog loves my garden. Probably because of the water and the bugs there.. a couple of them posed for pictures below. They are not longer than 1 inch.
By the front door, woodpecker holes with their stash of acorns.
frog #1 in my yard

Frog #2 in my yard
How can you tell an organic garden? Does it have weeds and bugs and frogs and such? You got an organic garden without having to do a soil test!
Next week is Fourth of July and I hope if you want to to come visit, you let me know! My family is coming and we should have a great time!

Ciao!
Julie

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Remodeling a bathroom – Answers to the questions I get asked.


When I started posting this blog I never expected anyone to read it but my family, now lots more people are reading it then I thought. I am always caught off-guard by the questions people ask me that reveal they are reading my blog, and I didn’t know it.
Since I have been fighting my personal battle with Nick’s bathroom tile floor, several people have stopped to ask me questions about bathroom remodeling and how to do it. Most of the uncertainty people have about the project is not if they should do it, but what to do and how much to spend on it. I have talked to a couple people in different situations and here is what I have come up with. 

It is much harder if you are married.

Not surprising it seems that men and women don’t want the same things in a bathroom. My advice is to go towards a masculine neutral scheme with some special touches such as glass tile that are lighter and prettier in color to appeal to women.  Why do I say masculine neutral?  Because that is the color scheme that appeals broadly to both sexes without offending either.
Where to start? One person told me that his wife and he couldn’t agree on a paint color, but they hadn’t even started the remodel yet. Don’t worry about the paint color.. it is the most transient thing in the room.  Start with the permanent fixtures like the shower, tile and furnishings. When all those are in, you can decide on the paint color.

Review the layout and functionality of the bathroom to see where improvements can be made. I have a master bath with an angled wall that stopped one half of the sink vanity drawers from opening, so they were nailed shut. What a waste! When I designed my vanity, I made that side with open shelves, allowing me to slide stuff in and doubling my storage. Also, since I am freakishly tall, I had the vanity made a bit taller than normal without appearing odd. (see below)


For the master bath, if you have the room, create a separate tub and shower which seems to be the gold standard in bathrooms these days. If you don’t I would suggest making a large walk-in shower and forget the tub over shower combo. (This assumes that you will have at least one other bathroom with a tub in the house.) Most adults don’t take baths regularly anymore, and really the shower experience is changing to be one of luxury in the few minutes we use it. If you go this route, find some way to make some small splurges like a really nice shower head or combo shower head. My favorite thing I did was to put a “solartube” with a fan over the shower that lets in diffused light, and works to remove the steam.  Also, since I wanted to make the room feel larger I used a fixed clear glass shower wall. Think creatively so that you can make the shower special but within your budget.



For the toilet, keep it white. There is nothing that dates a bathroom more than a toilet that is other than white… if you have gone to an open house with a bathroom from the seventies and have seen the mustard gold toilet, you know what I mean.
Tile – I believe that tile is absolutely the best material for the bathroom. You can use a sealed ceramic or porcelain or splurge on slate or other natural stone.  Since my master bath was on the small side, I used the same tile on the floor as in the shower. Once again this was a neutral creamy tan color that will never go out of style. But since I had a chosen a green granite top for the vanity as the “star” of the bathroom, I put some glass tile in the shower as an accent to break up the field of tan.  


The effect of continuing the floor tile to the shower also made the room feel larger.This is a sealed porcelain tile with a bit of texture to make it safer. It will wear forever and when I sell the house will not make anyone think, oh I have to rip out the tile. The paint color I chose is called raspberry ice, so it is actually has a faint pinkish hue. It works really well with main tile color and the green granite and has the added benefit of making your skin tone look nice. (Stay away from yellow or green hues on the walls if you can… makes your skin look sickly. Especially when using CFL bulbs in the light fixtures, this is not a good look!)

If I had to outline the steps to follow in remodeling a bathroom it would be these:
Function – how does the bathroom work now for you? Is there something that is great? Or do you have something annoying like my nailed shut vanity drawers? How do you want it to work? What about storage, does it have enough or do you need to create more? Live with the room for at least 3 months but better to be 6 months before deciding on what to do. (Assuming the bath is functional as it is and is just ugly.)

Fixed elements – bath or shower, toilet and vanity.  Can you keep any of them, like the toilet? How do you use them? Remove a cramped shower over tub for a large walk-in shower? Or maybe you have room to put in a reasonably sized Jacuzzi tub? 

Materials – Are you planning on staying in the home for a long time? Then choose the highest grade materials that you can afford. They will last longer and make you happy. If you are thinking you are going to move in a year or two, use mid-grade materials that show you care about the house but don’t break the bank. (Lino on the floor is totally acceptable for instance instead of tile or something pricier) If you are planning on moving soon,  I would suggest one stand- out item to draw attention. A fancy shower head and sink fixtures. A small bit of accent tile or granite… something folks would remember.

Budget – Bath remodels can get you back about 65-70% return when you sell. You need to stay in budget especially if you are planning to sell anytime within the next few years. That being said, kitchens and bathrooms sell houses… they really do. People remember things like hardwood floors in the house, but if it really comes down to making a choice between your house and someone elses, the kitchen and baths will tip the scale. 

Do you love it? My bathroom here in Moraga makes me happy, even 4 years later.  On weekends when I get to take a shower when the sun is up, standing under that "solatube" just brings on the endorphins. I am not joking! What is the point of remodeling if you don’t love it? You are spending a lot of money and time if you do any of it yourself, you should love it.

There you are, some simple steps to a complicated process… don’t rush the remodel unless your floor is collapsing on you. Take your time, research your options, make sure you appeal to both genders and that the end result is something you will enjoy. For all those married couples who can't agree on anything, remember this is just a bathroom and it is not worth getting upset over.Chances are that you have at least 2 bathrooms in your house so if you really can't agree, you can each remodel one bathroom the way you like and just call it a day. (Hey! I never said I gave good marriage advice!)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

July 4th - Party at the Hill!

Mokehill has a tradition for the 4th that goes back at least 20 some years that I am inviting everyone to come see! Yes Everyone!

It takes place on main street in mokehill with people showing up around 10am with their lawn chairs. They set up on the street there for a good view of the parade that starts at 11am. Before and after the parade, they have actors doing skits dressed up in period garb as trappers, gold miners, outlaws and hussies. All the little shops are open, some town people have booths they sell their local wares at, and the bar is open. Yes, you can drink beer at 10am on main street and no one cares...

The parade goes and goes, about 90 mins and includes every group and club from around the area. And just random people who want to be in the parade.. it is really a hoot!

After the parade you all can come to my house for a bbq and fun with my goofy family!
If you are interested in coming, please send me an email. If you want to stay overnight let me know that too so I can figure out where to put everyone. I have lots of room! So no worries!

Julie

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend 2011 ~ Rain? In California?

Hi

I was up at the house Memorial Day weekend with Nick and it was a very busy weekend. Saturday I had a couple people coming out to the house. One was Home Depot to give me a quote on replacing the siding on the house. If you remember from some of my other postings, my house has probably 200 woodpecker holes in it, with acorns inside. (One guy asked me if a tree was growing out of it yet!)

Since these holes allow water in, it really needed to be done. I was hoping to get the fiber cement siding but that is about 30% more expensive than the top of the line vinyl that I am getting. It is attached to a rigid foam core and is warrantied for as long as the house is standing.. no joke. It is called craneboard and it is really nice. Here is the link to the website, I picked the cypress green color..
http://www.exteriorportfolio.com/EP/products/CraneBoard/CraneBoard7/color_overview.aspx

As I am sitting there talking to the estimator, the sky opens up and it starts really raining. Then as I look out the window, I can see my neighbors goats. They always stand at the corner of our property hoping for some carrots. Well... this time some of the smaller ones are in my yard. You see PG&E came during the week and trimmed up trees near the power pole, and damaged the fence. I yelled for Nick and he went out there to try and convince them to go back... and he succeeded with one of the babies. One of the older ones thought differently and took off down my driveway, out to the street. All the while the Home Depot guy is still there... so we jump in the truck and race down to the neighbor's who own the goats. They were not really concerned that one of their goats was loose, but they did go look for it.
I wish I had the flipcam going because it was hysterical... pouring rain, goats, Nick and the home depot guy.
Julie