a little southern charm

May 21st, 2012

On a whim, I bought an Ashe Magnolia, or Magnolia macrophylla var. ashei, about this time last year. It’s a rare, native understory tree now endangered in its home state of Florida. Huge leaves — nearly 2′ long — are what drew me to it. But I was really looking forward to the 10″ flowers.

This spring, my gangly little 4′ stick of a tree rewarded me with a single blossom…

Ashe Magnolia blossom




















The next morning…

look, it’s opening!




















and a little bit more




















have a peek inside




















And then today…

she’s fully open today




















The petals curl up about an 1″ underneath, so it really does measure about 10″!

honest to gawd, it really is 10 inches across!




















The scent is intoxicating!

omg you smell so good!




















Our backyard now smells like a pricey brothel.

so how’s it going?

May 21st, 2012

With the tile, I mean. Like so…

measuring where the tile will fall




















And thusly…

tile now wraps around another wall




















The tile now wraps around another wall — the wall opposite the shower where the wall-hung toilet will be. The yellow bits in the back corner are plumbing related. Above the yellow bits, that square will be the flusher. In the foreground, the pipe is where the wall-mounted faucet will go above the sink. Trying to maximize our space here wherever we can.

tile check-in

May 18th, 2012

Mark was back at it yesterday, tiling those walls in the bathroom downstairs…

mark at work




















That shot doesn’t really show off his handsome side. I apologize for that. By the end of the day, tile stretched across the full width of the room…

tile by the end of the day












Eventually it will meet the ceiling and this will really start to look like a bathroom. Thanks, Mark!

tile time!

May 16th, 2012

Not too much to show yet but this should give you an idea of how the downstairs bath is coming along since we last checked in. First, Mark “mudded” the walls of the shower — mud is basically a sand and cement mix used for setting our porcelain tiles

walls with just mud




















I’m sure there were steps that I didn’t catch on camera through most of this time-consuming and exacting process. It’s a tiny bathroom with tiny tiles that require a bit of concentration… I don’t like to interfere too often.

After the mud dried, the first tiles went on…

walls not too far along yet




















And by the end of the day yesterday, a roughly 3′-band all the way around was set…

walls at the end of the day




















Nowhere near finished but it’s well begun. Thanks, Mark!

what’s new, pray tell?

May 14th, 2012

I suggest you click this image so that you can see it slightly biggified…

praying mantis babies




















On Saturday, I went to the Casey Farm sale and met up with my friend John, who somehow lost a praying mantis egg case in his Honda. With the warm temps, they hatched, of course. DOH! So we chased them around the car with containers. Managed to wrangle 15 to 20 to bring back to the rancho.

Hopefully a few will survive to help rid the garden of aphids, moths and whatnot. Welcome to the family, mantid kids!

In the meantime, I’m busy planting my veggie haul…

my haul of veggies




















shower with appreciation

May 9th, 2012

I bring up our recent trip to Palm Springs yet again. Last time it was the use of concrete at our vacation rental. This time it’s the tile in the bathroom of the casita next to the pool. Here, the owner took a better photo than I did…

fabulous casita bathroom, from rental site










Swank, eh?

Here’s my shot. A bit dark but you can see the tile better. Don’t let the reflection of me in my swimsuit frighten you… it was 115 degrees by the pool, you know…

lousy shot of a gorgeous shower




















I’m sharing this for Mark, our tile superhero, who’s got the downstairs bathroom prepped and has thus far politely entertained our aspirations. By this Friday, the finished cork will have had its full 10 days to dry, and he’ll be back at it again.

So what do I like about this bathroom? It’s light. It’s minimal. The aluminum strip is a nice detail…

beautiful tile




















And I like the way they used the aluminum as edging around the shower shelf inset, even if the grout could be a little neater…

aluminum edging on the shower inset




















And the edges of the shower stall step…

aluminum edging on the shower base












And the edge of the end tiles…

minimal shower glass clip




















I’m not suggesting we add an aluminum strip everywhere, no. But I did think this was a nice detail and solved some of the issues about how to deal with the corners around the shower shelf inset. That is all.

That, and nice tile.


May 9th, 2012

The painters are here again! The painters are here again!

paint in progress




















Rejoice! For the problem is being corrected.

something concrete

May 7th, 2012

You may have missed it but I mentioned a week or so back that we had just returned from renewing our 10th anniversary wedding vows in Palm Springs…

renewing the vows




















… with besties Lupe and Matt, who were with us on the very same spot a decade ago. Both times at dawn, no less. Very good sports, I must say.

But this post isn’t really about that. It’s about my appreciation for the use of concrete at the recently restored midcentury modern rental home we stayed in…

the MCM house in palm springs












I know that sounds strange but bear with me and see if you don’t agree.

First of all, it looked as though tile had been removed from the floors to reveal the concrete underneath…

concrete floor view




















The owners scored it and polished it. Nice detail…

scored concrete floor




















Kinda looks like terrazzo! So jealous. FYI, polished concrete is really difficult for a rattlesnake to move across… not that that will stop it from trying.

concrete floor with rattlesnake












No worries. It ended well.

There was plenty of concrete outside the house, too. Around the pool…

concrete with stone around the pool area












I love this look…

concrete with stone closeup




















Around the sides of the house…

concrete with stone along the side of the house




















Along the driveway…

concrete walk alongside the driveway




















There was a cozy little concrete patio out front, too…

concrete patio












A peek over the wall (sorry, I couldn’t resist) at the house next door tells me it was likely remodeled by the very same owners. Similar patio design…

more concrete and stone next door












Yet another nice pool. The front driveway, which is on a slope not too dissimilar from ours in Providence, is concrete and gravel, something we’ve thought might not be possible…

driveway on a slope












We keep thinking the gravel may want to travel out from between the pads but it doesn’t seem to be doing so here. Hmmmm.

This house had an awesome scored sidewalk to boot…

driveway with complimentary sidewalk












Hard to tell from my early evening shot but that’s a gorgeous Corten wall in front of the house (click to biggify it and you’ll see it better).

Be still my beating heart.

mystery solved

May 5th, 2012

Back to the deck. The other day, it was taken apart. And the findings? Tell us all about it, David…


So. Exploratory surgery has exposed the truth about the deck…

the deck wall has been removed




















Some is ugly… well, all of it is ugly. But we kind of knew that going in.

Insects had their way with the original deck and it’s apparent that in the early ’80s the deck was rebuilt. Unfortunately not by craftspeople, or in fact by carpenters. In any event, we will now repair what’s there as well as build it to the original ’70s design, as intended by architect Irving Haynes (click to biggify)…

architectural rendering of our house, circa ’70 | Haynes and Associates










Cantilevered. Which means we’ll be taking out the three spindly support posts currently there.

Our engineer provided us with drawings of an ideal situation (click to biggify)…

engineering drawing | deck, 04/02/12











The plan:

  • A pair of LVL beams (same as we used to support the living room floor/downstairs ceiling) will carry the deck load across the front of the house.
  • Two steel corners will tie all the wood together at the outside corners.
  • Two long steel straps bolted to each framing member they cross will support the outside corners by spreading the load across the sides of the house.
  • And with slight modification of the steel corner, we will proceed. After the building department gives us a permit, that is.


Once the framing is all sorted we’ll add some nice new decking, an affordable teak alternative called Garapa Gold. But that’s a story for another day.

In the meantime, everyone can see us from the street…

please don’t go out on the deck

the highs, the lows

May 4th, 2012

Want to see something that turned out perfect? The floor and ceiling, finished. TA-DAAAA!

the highs: floor and ceiling look fantastic!




















the highs: still looks great from this angle




















It’s so great when a project turns out the way you hope it would.

And now that that’s out of the way, want to see something that turned out craptastical?

Sure you do…

the lows: paint peeled off




















Yup, when the plastic held on by the paint-friendly blue tape was pulled down, it took the brand-new paint job with it. All. the. way. around. the. room.


Why did the paint fail? Who knows. But one thing is for sure: it’s not a simple fix. It probably means sanding and another full coat. Kill me now.