Category Archives: La Casa

All about our home life.

Forty Days of Lent: Fifteen Minute Project – 15 and Quit!




Not sure if this falls into the 15 minutes Surface project or the Spend fifteen minutes and then quit one!

One of the joys of living in Southern California, is that your washer and dryer are often located in a closet outside the house. And no one likes to talk about it, but when it rains or the weather gets cooler, all kinds of critters make their way where it is warm and dry. Hence, rat poop on the shelves in my laundry closet. I know.


I had a 45-minute gap between work and picking up Tau for karate. So I donned disposable gloves, a face mask, and went at those shelves with my vacuum cleaner and disinfectant.


I also purged the piles of old towels and assorted pool toys that we store in that closet, and will wash (in hot water) the remaining pile before putting it back. I stopped with three minutes to spare, and just enough time to change my tee, wash my face and hands, and head out to karate!



Forty Days of Lent: Fifteen Minute Project – A Kitchen Cupboard

Catching up on a couple of 15-minute de-clutterings. You can find out more and play along here.

For my birthday in late February friends gave me a set of beautiful new Crate ‘n Barrel champagne flutes. Other friends gave me a new set of martini glasses.

Either my friends think I don’t drink enough or they know the new glasses will be well used!

Anyhow, this led to me purging our glassware cupboard last week. Out with all the nasty plastic kidware — keeping only what we USE — and the Mexican glass goblets we probably haven’t used in a decade, and in with my pretty new glasses.


Turns out the beautiful new flutes are too tall for our shelves, so I’m displaying them on top of the cupboard.


Forty Days of Lent: Fifteen Minute Project – A Corner


The second in my series of 15-minute declutterings. You can find out more and play along here.

This is the spot in Tau’s room where toys that are not played with go to die get tossed aside. But he had a friend coming to sleep over and so we tackled his bedroom together.


I know the before picture doesn’t look that bad — a plastic bag containing small gifts and stocking stuffers from Christmas (!), his stuffed animals in their pet bed (yes, we had to buy them a real pet bed from the store), and a pirate’s treasure chest, which contains at least five years’ worth of plastic birthday-party and fast-food crappy giveaways.

But consider that this project also involved purging and reorganizing the books and toys on the THREE bottom shelves, and making the floor so that you could walk on it again … at least until Tau’s friend arrived, and then 30 minutes later, it was covered in Beyblades and Lego all over again.

It was clear for those few moments — I have the picture to prove it!


Forty Days of Lent: Fifteen Minute Project – A Table



I decided to play along with Beth Woolsey’s 40 Days of Lent: 15 Minute Projects. My intention is to do at least five of these 15-minute purges throughout Lent, in the hopes that our home will be less messy and my mind feel less cluttered!

Maceo’s room doubles as my craft area — he’s too young to care! And the craft table and shelves, of course, become the dumping ground for anything that doesn’t fit in his closet or that I don’t know what to do with just right at that moment.


Truth told, this was more of a 25-minute project than a 15-minute one. The purging and neatening took a wee bit longer than 15 minutes. I then spent another 15 minutes after the tidy up framing those four little pictures you see on the wall below — the frames have been sitting on said craft table for at least two years, waiting! It feels SO good to get this done!


Fabric-by Fabric Sew Along: Paired Table Runners

Squeaking in just under the wire for this month’s Fabric-by-Fabric Sew Along.

I chose to make place mats because we needed a new set that we could easily chuck in the washing machine whenever they got grubby. I wanted to personalize them with our names, and when I saw this rich chocolate corduroy and fun pink and orange cotton print, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Two long runners, corduroy on the one side, embroidered with each of our names. On the other side, the cotton print that we can use when we have dinner guests.

Yes, they used four yards (!) of fabric, but they stitched up quickly, the fabrics look lovely together, and the embroidery turned out just as I’d hoped!

Only downer was that I didn’t pre-wash the fabrics, and the cotton-print side shrank slightly. Boo!

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Spring Has Sprung … In Our Bathroom!

Remember my resolution to focus on each room in the house this year and see where things need freshening up?

When we moved in some seven or eight years ago now, the bathroom that Dave and I share had the most hideous black, grey and gold wallpaper border a couple inches from the ceiling. We were only too glad to rip it down and give the whole bathroom a fresh coat of white.

We’ve lived with the white, grey (floor tiles and granite counter top) and utilitarian glass sliding shower door all these years. It looks fresh and sparkly when clean and very uninspiring when not.

A month or so ago, I had an hour to kill at Cost Plus and $50 birthday money burning a hole in my pocket. Dangerous, I know. I spotted this lovely shower curtain on sale, a matching blood red bath mat, this Indian-inspired frame and, lo, a new bathroom color scheme was born!

Add to that a few details: a sweet little ceramic elephant to hold incense, a photo of Dave and I on our 20th anniversary in the bold red frame, a pretty green-glass candle, some tongue-in-cheek British bathroom humor and—ta-daa!— a pretty, spring-has-sprung bathroom!

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Resolutions Old and New


So it’s March. Lets talk about new year’s resolutions! At the beginning of  2010, instead of resolving to lose 15 pounds, be a nicer person and work for world peace, I settled on a single word: APPRECIATE and also five simple, practical to-do’s for the year.

1/  Organize the kitchen and laundry closets better, throwing out unused gadgets and optimizing space.

Well I’m one for two on this one. The laundry closet did get a total makeover but the kitchen cupboards I haven’t touched. In a whole year, you’d think I’d find time to clean out my kitchen cupboards. This will be #1 on my 2011 list for sure.

2/  Craft strategically, making useful, beautiful things as gifts.

I crafted like a crazy woman last year and had a fun time doing it. You only have to look at my crafting set on Flickr to see the insanity. This year, I will slow down a bit on that, and focus my sewing, knitting and crafting on projects that need doing around our home and for my immediate family. Be warned, no handmade gifts this year — you’re all getting gift certificates and store bought birthday cards!

3/  Take a two-day silent meditation getaway. Alone. Somewhere where I don’t have to talk and I have time to read, sleep and do yoga.

Yes, I did. And it was wonderful!

4/  Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize! Wear jewelery and scarves more, and dress with a bit more attitude.

Last year I enjoyed dressing up a bit more. I added scarves and rings and bracelets, and had fun mixing and matching. To be continued this year for sure. Today, I’m wearing brown slacks and shoes, paired with a turquoise wrap top, animal print scarf (I am cougar, hear me roar!) and a funky gemstone pendant.

5/  Have lunch once a month alone with Dave. Preferably at the beach.

I think we did have lunch together more often than we have in past years. And it’s good to take time out of our work days and chat together over lunch sans kid. The one time we met at the beach, though, I drove around for 10 minutes trying to find parking, then walked a half mile to where Dave was parked at the beach, and then we froze our buns off in the wind that was whipping up the beach.

I also focused this past year on APPRECIATING all that I have. My health and happiness, Dave and Tau, our home, which, though small, is happy and filled with support and laughter and great comfort. It was a wonderful year!

For 2011, my focus is on seeing things with fresh eyes and responding accordingly. On being cognisant and agile.

Is Tau trying to tell me something and I’m just not listening? Stop, look and see what’s really going on, and then act accordingly.

Clutter in the kitchen driving me nuts? See that we need to take stock, chuck out stuff we’re not using, and reorganize the cupboards. You get the idea. It’s all about clarity.

On the home front, that means I plan on focusing room by room, figuring what’s working and what’s not. Tidying out, redecorating where necessary, cleaning up and out. Here’s to a calmer, clearer 2011.

Cocooning Over the Holidays


After a very busy 2010, and Thanksgiving spent away at Solvang, CA, we decided to spend Christmas at home this year.

I had the week between Christmas and New Year off, and Dave only worked a few days, which gave us all lots of time for sleeping in, leisurely meals and playing with all those gifts from Santa.

A few highlights from December:

We spent New Year at home also with a quiet but yummy meal, and have been slowly easing ourselves into the new Year.

For more pictures, take a look at our Christmas and New Year 2010 set on Flickr!

Lego Technic 2-in-1 Rally Truck

Will post more about Christmas in a day or two but I wanted to share the Lego project Tau and I worked on yesterday.

This is his first set from the Lego Technic 2-in-1 range, models that focus less on bricks and more on building with levers and gears. This particular model builds into a monster truck with suspension and working front-wheel axle to turn the wheels. You can also rebuild it into a truck/trailer. The slideshow pretty much says it all — enjoy!


Organize Laundry Closet? Check!

One of my intentions this year was to clean out our outdoor laundry closet.

The good thing about having your laundry room outside is that it doesn’t take up space in the house and it’s only a few steps to the laundry line!

The bad thing about having your laundry outside is the dirt bunnies (larger and far worse than dust bunnies), the mouse poop (!), and the mess of cleaning rags, blowing bubbles, pool gear and jugs of detergent that pile up there:

So today I got in there with a duster, vacuum, soap and a scrubbing brush.

Also, some shelf paper I had lying around, a stack of white plastic totes I picked up at Target, and three small prints I’d framed in $1 frames covered in decorative paper.


These quickie collages don’t do it justice. Better pictures on Flickr.

It’s clean, sparkly and even a bit retro cool!

Case in point, the picture that now hangs over the washing machine!

Roughing it at Lake Poway

A couple weekends ago—I know, it takes me a while to get to these things—we took advantage of our neighborhood’s annual family campout at nearby Lake Poway.

We haven’t been camping with Tau since he was tiny. Really tiny. And we figured it would be a good way to get our feet wet again.

It was rough, I tell ya …

Late Saturday afternoon, we drove the three miles to the lake and backed into a parking spot. We then erected our pop-up tent on the grass, a few feet from the car, and settled down in camping chairs to read, laze and enjoy the sunset.

At dinnertime, we jumped back in the car and went out to a local restaurant for Thai food. Seriously, why pack a camping stove and pots ‘n pans when you are three miles from home?!

The hardest part was waiting for S’mores time, which was laid on by the good  folks at the city’s Community Services Department.

Tau was over excited for S’mores, not to mention overtired from waking up extra early Saturday morning. Eventually, he got to roast his marshmallows on a coathanger, squish them with chocolate between two Graham Crackers … and then crash, fast asleep between us, in the tent.

At seven the next morning, we had coffee, bagels and fruit, all laid on as part of the event, and we were home before 9:00 A.M.!

Laziest camping ever!


While the Cat’s Away …

If you tally up all the hours, minutes and seconds Dave and I have spent deliberating (negotiating) over paint color over the years, you could add them all together and take yourself a nice little vacation … a week or two in Costa Rica, lying on a beach with a good book and a fruity drink in your paw.

So while he was away in Argentina a couple weeks back, I decided to paint the kitchen counter. Because I’m sneaky that way.

The counter wall was scuffed, dirty white and I thought it would look great in a rich chocolate brown. Turns out we had a can in exactly the right color languishing in the garage — I didn’t even need to drive to the paint store!

Ta daa!

Too Much of a Good Thing

This year I’m participating in a sew and cook along hosted by Africankelli and Finny Knits.

Why? Because I’m loving sewing again after so many years away from it. That and this monthly challenge gives you the option to do EITHER the sewing project OR the culinary project.

Up this month, either this sassy little cap or a spicy garlic dressing. I opted for the dressing because I’m just not a hat person — and looking at all the measuring and interfacing and stitching work that goes into that hat (one of MANY gorgeous projects in the amazing little book One Yard Wonders), I realized I wasn’t about to stitch it for anyone else!

So last night was a regular Tuesday night. On the menu, soup and salad. Ho hum.

Not so when the soup is Alessi’s Zuppa Toscana (a very tasty white-bean and pasta packet soup that tastes like you’ve spent all day at the stove). And definitely not when the everyday green salad is dressed with Kelli’s spicy garlic salad dressing.

First thing I wished was that we’d already replaced our ex-hand blender, which died some time back. The only blender I had to work with was the big old beast we use for making smoothies and bulk homemade pesto.

So I had to make a TRIPLE batch of Kelli’s dressing just to have enough to cover the blades. No problemo — the recipe scales quite well.

The only problem I had was that I was out of fresh limes. OUT OF LIMES!

** Insert story here about how my husband thinks I’m a FREAK because I always have to have lemons and limes in the fruit bowl **

The lime juice bottle said the juice was “natural strength” so I estimated the average lime could probably generate about two tablespoons of fresh juice.

Guess not. The finished dressing was flavorful with a good kick to it. And it would have complemented any salad, vegetable or meat dish had it not been for the WAY TOO MUCH LIMEyness of it! I added more olive oil and then some more to balance it, and that helped but not quite enough. Next time round, I’ll add just a squeeze of citrus.

That said, the mid-week soup ‘n salad were definitely elevated by the spicy garlic dressing, hunks of soft French bread and a nice glass of red wine. It was a satisfying MEAL on a winter’s evening for sure.

But I’ll be trying the rest of the dressing as a fish or chicken marinade!

Two Things I Learned Before 8:05 This Morning

  1. “Mom, eggs are very FRAGILE.”  As if he was telling me something I couldn’t possibly know. “That means that they can break very EASILY Mom.”
  2. That in the 20 seconds (I exaggerate not!) that it took me to charge up the stairs to check that I hadn’t left a light on in the bathroom or walk-in closet, my three-year-old boy child can open the garage door by himself.

Yes, THE ROLL-UP GARAGE DOOR — the one that opens out to the street.

In 20 seconds flat, he carried a pine stool from the dining room into the garage, climbed up on it and pressed the button, which is WAY up the wall.

I heard the squeal of the garage door rolling as I reached the bottom of the stairs, and my whole body ran COLD. My face must have said it all because he immediately blurted out, “Sorry, Mom!”

Whereafter proceeded a very stern lecture about NEVER opening the garage door. Not until he was at least 26 years old.

Easter Visit from Dad and Sybil


We had a great visit with Sue’s dad and step-mom over the Easter weekend. They were booked, with Sybil’s brother Ron, on a two-week Panama Canal cruise and so spent a few days with us before heading out on the seas.

The last time they’d seen Tau, he was three months old, so they had lots to catch up on – riding the Poway train, playing soccer at a nearby field, laughing at a seaside park, and making us all smoothies for breakfast. Grandpa is an excellent smoothie maker, so got to pass on the tricks of the trade to Tau.

On Saturday, Ron arrived from Toronto, and Dave fired up the BBQ to cook up some outstanding tri-tip, which we had with salad and rosemary oven potatoes.

Before heading downtown to put them on the boat on Sunday, we had not one but TWO visits from the Easter Bunny, who brought a total dud of a bubble-maker (fortunately, the Easter Bunny shops at Target, so I was able to return it), a new soccer ball and a load of the good stuff (our bunny has a habit of leaving Lindt for the grown-ups).

Their boat, the Celebrity Infinity was ginormous and very stylish. As I write, Dad, Sybil and Ron are almost half way through their cruise and, I believe, doing a hike in the Costa Rican rainforest today. We hope they are having a ball!