9.28.2012

Habitat for Humanity: ReStore


I think one of my favorite places is our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. It's a generous thrift store for house and garden cast-offs. Contractors and home owners have filled our local store with items of all types. From doors and windows to bricks and tiles, lamps and doorknobs, sinks and faucets.

It's the place to find supplies for a remodel or other project. My gorgeous mirrored door is a ReStore find. This heavy solid old door was perfect for the task and filled a blank wall in my bedroom perfectly. I just leaned it against the wall, added a few old hooks for acessories and it was ready to go! (It didn't even need paint, since the old white on it was exactly right).

ReStore is also the best place to remember when you need to clean out your garage: paint? outdated fixtures? yes, they can all go there, instead of the land fill, and that's a nice to know about, isn't it.

Find your local ReStore HERE

9.25.2012

Walking the Arroyo Seco



After a recent long hot day, we decided to stretch our legs and air out our house-bound brains with a walk down the old Arroyo Seco. Here in Pasadena it's a nice slice of nature that cuts down through the city on its way to the Los Angeles river. At one time this canyon had a boulder strewn stream bed, but after WWII, the Army Core of Engineers were brought in to save us from floods by creating a cement channel for the seasonal water run off. You can see the effect by the chain link fence along our dusty gravel path. Oh well, it's still a great walk in the early evening as the cooler canyon breeze starts flowing in the bottom of the arroyo as we ramble along.

The bridges are simply awesome, and inspire a bit of a shiver as we walk beneath their aged arches overhead. We like to walk down along the east bluff through the old Busch garden estate (no longer there) and cross a foot bridge near there that lets us come up the opposite side of the river channel. That side has more trees and bushes since it's closer to the bluffs. Suddenly the setting sun drops and the canyon quickly darkens as we finish up our evening in the wilds of a city parkway.

Directions: Take the entry road down the slope and park at the bottom of the canyon in the gravel lots. This gate is on South Arroyo Blvd, close to Norwood Dr and just south of Arbor Street. Walk south to the foot bridge and then turn and come back. If you kept walking south there are horse stables and a golf driving range.

9.24.2012

Camp Steve: Retro Style Travel Posters


CampSteve is one heck of a fun website, especially if you love graphic posters with a vintage flavor. The gorgeous retro style travel posters that fill this site would be perfect framed on a sunny wall or den, and the outdoor themed graphics might be exactly what someone you know might like as a gift.

While primarily poster style artwork is shown here, there is so much more. You can even commission a portrait of your home in a poster style layout (how cool would that be?). Looking at each image here can send me off into a timeless place, not unlike the effect story books had on me when I was a kid. The talented CampSteve illustrator is Steve Lowtwait, a graphic artist now living in Boulder, Colorado (that is pretty obvious once you start scanning the website) who owns the cute jeep pictured on his opening page.

find CampSteve here: http://campsteve.com/

9.22.2012

Fall, again

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Some time ago, I started to welcome each fall with a pumpkin pie. While nearly 100 degree temperatures aren't really the best weather for pie making, it is time again to kick off autumn with a pumpkin sacrifice. Here is my little baking pumpkin, ready to become a wonderful pumpkin pudding for desert.

Pumpkin pudding: This can't be easier to prepare, since it's really a pumpkin pie filling without the crust, baked alone in a dish. I have made this so many times that I've gotten it down to a few easy steps and a very simple set of ingredients: spices (allspice, cinnamon), brown sugar, egg (well, egg whites actually).

First step: cook the pumpkin. There are several ways to do this. I cut my pumpkin in half and cleaned out the seeds with a big spoon. Then each half was cut into about 3 big pieces (btw: it takes a super sharp butcher's knife to do this). These pieces were set in a big soup pan with several inches of water in the bottom. This was covered with a lid and brought to a boil. I think it takes between 30 minutes and an hour to cook the pieces, depending on the pumpkin. You'll know yours is ready when a fork can pierce the chunks easily. Drain these in a collander or set them out on a dish cloth. When cool to the touch, use a spoon to scoop out the soft pumpkin from the skin.

Second step: make up the batter. I put about half of the pumpkin in my food processor, along with about a 1/2 cup of the brown sugar, and several 'dashes' of cinnamon and allspice. This was whirled until blended. This is a good time to take a taste in case you need to add more spices. Next add 1/4 cup of the egg whites and whirl. Repeat with the second batch then stir both batches together well.

Third step: cook. It was too hot for the oven, so I used a micro wave to cook our pudding. I found one of my cute vintage corning baking dishes and poured the batter into it. I cooked it in 5 minutes sets, checking with a fork to see how it was setting up. When a fork can pierce it cleanly, you're done.

This pudding can be served warm with any topping, such as ice cream, but actually I like to have it plain.

This happy pumpkin pudding is our 'good bye' to long days and evenings spent outside. We have already begun to notice the glow of fall's earlier sunsets, but I also know our weather will continue to stay warm for a month, or even longer!

9.19.2012

Gates



I have been noticing gates lately. Whether wooden, wire or iron, these portals into both small and large places are like a fashion accessory to the building they embrace. I would like to have a few small gates into my yard that both protect and invite, hide and reveal. I am collecting ideas and looking for inspiration.

9.18.2012

Summer Wedding


A recent wedding reception was set in a large Mediterranean style patio surrounded by trees and Italianate rooms. The large patio is bordered by an arcade on all sides and framed with arched pillars. For the wedding, this open space was draped in soft white fabric that billowed in the early evening breeze. The gathered curtains gave an illusion of privacy while protecting the diners from the sun as it set behind the bride and groom at their table under the arches.


Overhead, wide banners of canvas were stretched across the patio above the diners, creating a softly flowing awning that shaded them from the late day sun. In keeping with the sunny Mediterranean theme, floral arrangements of warm colors were accented by cool toned succulents. The effect was stunning!



9.15.2012

Musing over Lunch



It's nice to have a favorite place to go to for lunch. One with a table for two outside, in case I plan to meet a friend there. I prefer something not too busy or crowded, so we can share thoughts without shouting. If I am alone, I bring my journal so I can spend the quiet time jotting notes, sketching ideas and making plans. It's a good time to stop and reorganize, writing a list and crossing off what isn't really that important or drawing an idea that is floating around in my head before it evaporates.

Meanwhile, our soup and salad will arrive. We set aside our notes to contemplate lunch. Often this is my main meal of the day and it's fun to see what the cook has prepared. Maybe it's something I can try to do at home by guessing what is in the soup or how the salad was put together.

Finding new ways to prepare our daily meals can be so creative and compelling. On the way home I pick up a new cheese for my own version of that salad later in the week. Do you find yourself doing that too? I get my best ideas from great meals I have had--both at friends homes and dining out. Although I don't think I can ever copy something exactly as it was prepared, the influx of a new element is always a great way to change up a classic or revive my interest in some dish that I might have forgotten about. How do you find new cooking ideas? Keeping our meals fresh and exciting is so important and starting with a creative lunch is a great way to begin.



9.08.2012

Fresh Produce



Summer mornings are the best time of the day to be outside and in the sun. Here the weather is still full of summer warmth, where the mid-day heat can wilt our spirit and we take shelter inside. Going out to the farmer's market in the early morning nearby is a delight. There in the blue-tinged light under the cool of market awnings, fresh produce seems so much more inviting than its cousins in the chill of a market.

At first I am overwhelmed by the selection: what was it that we needed? After surveying the greens I am reminded that our salad selection has specific openings for new crunchy greens and any exotics to add flavor. Back on task I wander through the vendors, seeking out firm fruits to last the week and soft tomatoes for tonight's dinner.

I love that it's possible to find both 'ready to eat' and 'wait for this to ripen' varieties available. This is where I have to be careful not to buy more than we need and it takes some consideration. I pause at the grape vendor and over-hear a mother and daughter discussing their plans for a family barbeque. Their ideas sound delicious, and I am inspired to re-think my own menu for our weekend too.



Back home in the kitchen, I set out the fruit in a basket to ripen where it will be seen and we won't forget to check on the progress of each piece as it makes its way from firm to ripe then far too quickly, on to over-ripe. When it comes to fresh fruit, sometimes you just have to drop what you're doing and eat a pump nectarine over the sink, since its freshness won't wait until tomorrow's lunch time comes around.

9.07.2012

Landscape Design Guides



I love taking long walks through neighborhoods with creative landscaping. Stopping to see how the plants, hard scapes and details in the yards are arranged against the backdrop of the home and fences give me a wealth of ideas to take back home.

Recently I found a great web site with landscaping ideas packaged around the home style called Landscaping Network. Each architectural type has its own page which includes paint swatches, yard accessories and planting (my collage here is taken from the page on Craftsman landscapes). I like the idea of planning a landscape with an eye to overall color, and that's easy to see in these pages.

There are 21 sets of Landscape Design Guides and each has a pdf file for you to keep as reference.

Download the complete garden design landscaping styles in PDF format HERE.  I hope these guides help and inspire your home and yard!


9.06.2012

Harvesting Rosemary



This week I walked through my herb garden and harvested some of the rosemary that had become overgrown during the summer. I try to keep them trimmed and in check before they start to sprawl across the walk way. Cutting back the older rosemary a bit gave me a good sized bunch to dry for cooking. After it has been washed I like to set it out in a basket in the shade to air dry. This crop of dried rosemary will be fresh for holiday cooking, not only for myself, but there will be plenty to pack into little glass jars and give to friends about the time Halloween comes around.

9.05.2012

the Little Black Dress





A fiery red head I have watched grow up will be getting married soon. The location is lovely, with both inside and alfresco venues. It's close to the date and I need to come to some decision on what I will wear. At one time I would have taken this as an opportunity to sew up a new dress to add to my 'collection'. Then again, shopping for something new would be fun with shoes, accessories and lunch at a cafe? But somehow that shouldn't be necessary. Don't I already have a great dress that will suit the occasion? Yes, of course. The little black dress.

And there it is as always. Simple silhouette worthy of a daytime or evening event. Flattering matte finish crepe fabric. Clean lines, clean look. Easy to pair this up with any of several heels on hand. Find the right necklace or earrings and we are out the door.

My classic dress isn't new. But it is still wearable. I'm lucky that this past decade hasn't seen any monumental spikes in silhouette shape, hem length or other hard line definition of fashion. It's a good time to shop our own closets. Probably you'll find something to wear to your next special event, especially if it's a little black dress.