Saturday, May 30, 2009

Renovations and Meeting the Neighbors

So we are down in Cedar Ridge near Sonora doing some renovations on Kyle's cabin in the mountains. I always love it here because there are no neighbors, completely quiet and peaceful and just off of Rte 108 where there is so much to do and is so pretty.

We have completely gutted the bathroom and kitchen, just the first of a long list of jobs to do on this house before we rent it out.

The other weekend I was driving down to the Bay Area to meet "the girls" for Bay to Breakers. Unfortunately I never made it because I got a flat tire a few miles from my house. So there I am on the side of the road changing my own tire, when pick-up after pick-up truck full of men drive by and no one stops. Not that I can't change a tire myself, I can and I did, but you would think someone would have stopped, I even had a skirt on, obviously it wasn't short enough.

Well, just as I was finishing the tire change, an older gentleman did stop to see if he could help. Turns out he lives just up the road and though their farm is for sale (anyone want to buy 5 acres in the Sierra Foothills covered in fruit trees?) he has some gorgeous fruit trees and a blooming blueberry patch. Kyle and I went over this last Monday and checked it out and learned all about growing your own blueberries and all that goes along with it.

This got us thinking. We have all this land and have wanted to make the property pay for itself. We have looked into a lot of different things, lavender, vegetable garden etc... but blueberries are VERY intriguing, not to mention lucrative. Now we are pursuing more research and see where it takes us...who knows, maybe we will end up being blueberry farmers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More Tubs

I truly horrified most people when I fell in love with the idea of using a water trough as a bathtub, it was tastefully done (I thought). But I have a new love. Since we decided to build our own house ourselves we are really pushing to most of the work ourselves. Of course the foundation work and all the glass work will be done by professionals, I couldn't even begin to imagine doing that, plus foundation is kinda important so we don't roll down the hill one night and the windows are important both for efficiency and because they are the eyes of the house.

Anyway, I spent most of last summer taking concrete classes to learn how to do decorative concrete, countertops, sinks, fireplaces etc...a few times I have seen concrete used to make bathtubs. Its always stunning but knowing the ins and outs of working with concrete and the horrors of a leaking tub, it is quite a feat to undertake, not for the feint of heart, but seeing this tub, it may be a challenge I need to take on, my heart goes pitter patter for this baby....

I also love the floor on the right, those little pebbles on your feet in the morning, like you are walking through a riverbed on your way to the shower, love it!! Just wonder how hard they are to clean.

Monday, May 25, 2009


An amazingly cool concept - Papercrete is a mx of newspaper, junk mail, magazines etc.. with either sand, clay, cement, fly ash, glass fibers or anything similar. It is wetted and blended in a big milk shake mixer type thing. Then it is set to dry in the sun in the shape of blocks which are then used to build something, anything.

This is a picture of a papercrete house from Barry Fuller's website - Check it Out

Pneumatically Impacted Stabilized Earth or PISE is another type of material, its basically the French name for Rammed Earth but can also have its strength enhanced with cement. This also gives the softer look, much like papercrete or straw bale.

We will have site built walls in between the containers so we are deciding what we should use for those walls, papercrete, strawbale, rammed earth, cob, or SIP (Structural Insulated Panels). SIPS give the more angular, traditional wall look.

Though we aren't quite at that point where we need to make a decision, it won't be long and will just be one of the many decisions we will have to make. I will leave you with a pic of a gorgeous kitchen I saw today. As we go through this process we have an enormous binder full of magazine clippings and electronic folders full of save pics from websites. All great ideas!!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Long Wait Is Over

Okay, you have all waited long is the basic idea of what the house will look like. There is still some tweaking to do and some little things aren't shown on here, there will be some changes to the front elevation of the house with the roof line on the left been carried over the front door to provide a covered walkway from the driveway area.

Anyway, here is the first official reveal - drum roll please..............................

Hehe - you thought I had forgotten to post it

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

So Close Now

Well, we have a was emailed yesterday, we really like it.....I will post it soon, I bet you all can't wait to see these stacked containers...........

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

They're Baaacccckkkk

Wildfires have already started in California - therefore the wildfire season is underway. As of yet Kyle has not been called up, they are long weeks for these guys when they do get called and its always stressful and a logistical headache.

One of the reasons we are building with containers is to minimize our risk with wildfires. Metal shell and roof will be less likely to catch is a fire comes close. Of course interior fires are another issue.

One of the big pushes here in CA is the 100ft defensible space. Which as you drive by most houses, no one has. But this is so if a fire comes by it has a harder time getting close to your house to ignite. We are working hard on our place to create that but its very lush, green and grassy around the house, which is odd in CA. So we are looking at various native, fire resistive landscapes for the future. We want to utilize lots of rock and stone and native, drought tolerant, less fire fuel plants.

Here are some great shots from one landscape designer - I got these off of Michelle Kaufmann's website, the creator of the stunning and gorgeous Breeze House, she is brilliant.

How cool would this house be -

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Pool

The property at one time had a lovely in ground pool on it. It was very nicely done (probably cost more than the house itself) but at some point they filled it in, completely.

We came and took out the pump and filters in the little pool house which became the doogy cottage. Kyle re-roofed it, added interior and exterior lighting and gutters. The pool itself has grown grass and though not perfectly level, isn't too bad. Right now its incorporated in the doggy oasis as the concrete is nice and cool for the Yeti.

In the future we are hoping to turn this area into the parking area with a solar array above as it has lovely, perfect southern exposure. And though we aim to keep the majority of the property natural and as is - this area needs some attention for those odd occasions when we ladies are teetering around on high heels, stalking through grass doesn't work.

Therefore I am thinking that permeable pavers are the way to go as this little area has a slight downhill leading into it so drainage is a must. The funny thing is how they advertise these things. Talk about buzz words being bandied around by people who don't really know - one site said "Sustainable Drainage" - do they really understand what sustainable means?

Anyway, I digress - here are some great shots of some types out there, though I love the ones that can grow the grass up between the pavers and of course there is the old English Cottage Path that always works, though maybe not that well in drought ridden CA!

There is a company called VAST that makes permeable pavers out of recycled material - now that is what I am talking about.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

OMG - pee my pants funny

a Fire Pole in the House

Here is a question - Kyle would like a fire pole in our house, like the one they have at their Fire Station in Emeryville. Here is a cool one that is nicely done....

But my question is - at the bottom of it, would we look like we have a stripper pole in the living room???

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Look Ma - no Doors

You know when you are little and you run around completely naked all the time, free as a bird with no inhibitions...well, some of us did.

Uhum, anyway - even sans real house design yet, I have (in true girly fashion) jumped ahead to decorating the inside of our new house. Just collecting ideas etc.. and one of the big things is "what are we going to put in the kitchen". Now, our lovely architects keep bandying around $90k kitchens - UH NO!

Plus I am more in the mix and match mood but one thing I am adamant on is to have open shelves instead of cabinets up top. I don't know why I want this freedom, I want to be uninhibited by doors (much like clothing) and get rid of the need to trap all my things behind little walls. Which is weird as I am an organizing freak (Jen G - remember the safety pins!) and I try to have storage containers for EVERYTHING! But when it comes to the kitchen I want open shelves.

So this leads to two issues - one is the dust. And with the puppies, there comes dust so I will have to be vigilant with the cleaning, okay, I can handle that. The other issue is that not everything you keep in the cupboards is attractive – who wants to see a tub of Quaker Oats out on display.

Well, I think my dishes are fine to be out, they haven’t embarrassed me yet. So for the food storage I am now on a container binge. I scour everywhere finding cool stainless steel and glass jars to house all the Quaker Oats!! Of course each one is labeled and even the labels are starting to get extravagant. So I think this open shelf thing might work after all.

This openness definitely seems to be a theme, the entire house is going to be open, pretty much one big room and the nice thing is, where we live, we don’t need curtains on most of the windows, just on the back of the house to filter out the bright sun. One less thing to have to pay and worry about.

Here are some pics of the shelf idea that I love….

Last Minute Addition

So just as I am gazing at all my little saved pics on my computer at work of the pretty kitchens I want instead of running our end of quarter financials.....

This picture gets posted on AT - it is a restaurant but it is my DREAM!!! I love everything about this kitchen...Sighhhhhhhhh

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kansas City - here come container homes

Now Kansas City is plagued with a shipping container home, Missouri got two now, oh poor them. Hmmm, wonder what they will say when that sucker is left untouched and all those matchsticks homes are in pieces on the side of I-70.

Its a lovely house built by a native of the city who is also a toy designer (the coolest job ever). Very neat design, the only thing that bothers me as she touts the enviro friendly aspects of the home, is she designed the containers and had them built in China and then brought them here which goes against EVER single aspect of sustainable. She is not re-using, the cost and impact to ship them from China (just for her house, not in traditional import activities), not utilizing local labor to retrofit them, I could go on, hmmmm, sorta disappointing but we can still enjoy her design and the fact that she did it, she lives in shipping containers!!

There was another link but it got removed so trust the fabulous Apartment Therapy website to have covered it already - Love them!! So check out the house HERE!

This HOUSE is actually built in the foothills of Richmond, CA where I used to live. It utilizes 3 refrigerated shipping containers and the third one is cut in two and stacked on the right side of the house. We have been inside this house and its lovely, all open and light and flowing. They have a fabulous cat walk across between the two sets of containers that is open to below and the center part is site built. I love the greenhouse style jutting out windows that they use...

More Links

Monday, May 11, 2009


We all have them. Those days where nothing seems to go right!! Well, we just had a whole weekend of this.

Thursday Kyle bought a brand new weed wacker. A fairly basic piece of equipment - nothing state of the art, they have been around for many, many years. We even went high end and got a Stihl, not cheap but supposedly a work horse....NOT! Friday evening I began, just the grass around the house, set it up, filled it with its special gas/oil mixture, actually read the manual, started her up and off we went. Had to stop to refill once and to fix the line - those things never work right, there must be a better solution there other than little bits of plastic string.

Halfway around the house (its a mobile home so its not that big) and stops. And doesn't start again. Saturday a phone call to the store where we got it - oh, probably nothing major, bring it in and I will fix it. Its over an hour away one way - the whole reason we spent this exorbitant amount of money was to avoid having to run to the fix it with smoke coming out of my ears I am off to take it to be fixed today. NOT HAPPY!

Then we got the mower attachment for the tractor - poor Kyle spent about 6 hours getting it put together and hooked up. Who writes these manuals, because the words that come out of them are the complete opposite of the accompanying diagram or picture. It was absurd at how difficult it was to get it going but we finally did and he got a good portion of the grass bcut to a manageable level.

Add to that we get in my car on Saturday night to go to dinner two doors down and the ignition won't stay on and the car keeps dying...hence I had drive home with my hand holding the key in the "on" position - DOES ANYTHING WORK!

Rant is over - off to the weed wacker man and the german, automotive specialist, let's hope something works by the end of the day!

Of course just when you are at your wits end with ridiculous mechanical devices you realize  that it could be much worse and things could be tougher, I rant in jest - I know we are fortunate and I appreciate all we have.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Views of the Hood

I bet you didn't believe me when I said we were growing hay -

Oh yeh, we are baling soon. Here are some other shots from the property or our "hood"....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Had to Post

I don't think anyone likes plumbing, even plumbers but its pays the bills and pays them well. Kyle and I are no exception, more so Kyle because he is the one doing the plumbing, I just sit by and listen patiently to the tirade.

Well, finally here is an invention that is LONG overdue (apparently innovation isn't popular in the world of plumbing).

You can adjust the dial to move clogs through, do regular maintenance to avoid clogs or in the event of an emergency reroute through the top. Its brilliant and is an application that can be applied to many drains to aid in rerouting appropriate gray water for reuse. Also useful for those girlfriends whose hair is endlessly shedding and seems to somehow always end up down the drain...Oooops!

Oh, new birdie pics - they are SOOOO cute -

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Birdies and Kitties

After I hung a little candle lantern on our front porch, a lovely birdie decided it would make a great house for her babies this year. She wasted no time in making her lovely nest (though didn't use any of the useful tools I left for her, dryer lint, dog hair, little pile of lovely soft twigs) and apparently we missed the entire egg period and went straight to the arrival of the fluffy babies.

I guess 'tis the season of birth - we went down to Twain Harte, CA to where Kyle's first house is. We are in the process of renovating it to rent it out (anyone want a lovely, secluded cabin in the Sierra Foothills???) We are having a big onslaught of it at the end of May but this weekend we needed to go and pick up the tractor and some of Kyle's heavier equipment as we are growing hay at Shoo Fly and are in desperate need to get it cut!! So we traveled down and on Saturday night the doggies were going nuts trying to get into the old blocked up fireplace. We muted the movie we were watching and heard little Meows....oh boy.

The following hour was spent with Kyle trying to shimmy down the chimney (Kyle is skinny, how the heck does St. Nick fit!!) and use kitchen tongs to grab the two kitties that were about halfway down the chimney. After that failed we bust open the fireplace, rescued the two of the kitties that had fallen there and Kyle was able to reach up and grab the kitty further up the chimney. At this point mom had taken off so we put the kitties (days old, their eyes were still closed) together in a big cushy box all decked out for them and placed them high up in the garage with some Fancy Feast kitty food for momma and hoped that she would come back and find the new location of the kitties.

The next morning, Fancy Feast gone but so were the kitties. I guess she didn't like our makeshift home so she relocated them to a place she liked. We had already blocked off the chimney altogether so she wouldn't make that mistake again. I just shudder of what would have happened if we hadn't gone to the house this weekend, at least 2 lost kittens and maybe 3 and mommy. We are just glad that they are all together again and we now have 4 feral cats around there...good thing there are lots of mice!

Friday, May 1, 2009

to all those NYC lovers

as posted on re-nest - Grand Central Station is finally green -

This past Tuesday, workers removed the last remaining incandescent bulbs in Grand Central and replaced them with compact fluorescent bulbs — thus officially completing the transition to "greener" lighting that began in the mid-1980's. The last remaining bulbs were on one of the ten 96-year-old Beaux-Arts chandeliers hanging in the main lobby.

So how much money will switching to CFL's save? According to Marjorie S. Anders, a spokeswoman for Metro-North Railroad, replacing the roughly 4,000 bulbs in the public areas of the terminal will save an estimated $200,000 a year.