We are campers. When we think of camping, we think of Joshua Tree. It's good for two important reasons. In terms of proximity to Los Angeles, it happens to be one of the closest places available. It also happens to be the best place to camp anywhere in Southern California. The only challenge with this beautiful and forbiddingly arid place is that there are no reservations accepted and there are not many sites in the Park. So, plan to get there early to claim a spot.
We arrived at Hidden Valley campground on a Sunday afternoon and selected a spot with a shade tree, which is extremely rare in the park. This was our first time camping at Hidden Valley, as we normally prefer Jumbo Rocks campground. Both of these campgrounds offer access to boldering, where you can spend all day looking at cool rock formations and discovering unique vistas in every direction. More experienced climbers come here for exceptional climbing on the larger rock faces.
We like to visit twice a year, once in the Spring and once in the Fall to take advantage of the best weather. Even still, it gets pretty hot during the day. Daytime highs were around 95 and lows around 60 in May. Ice melts quickly on days like these, so we spend a lot of time moving the coolers around to keep them out of the sun!
We're super happy with our (new) LightSpeed tent, which we bought at Costco 2 years ago. It's the easiest setup and takedown we've ever seen. We also got a chance to use our new camping cookware from REI. We found the set to be a super-versatile and space saving addtion to our gear. Can't wait to go back again in September!
Have a great memorial day weekend!
I'm always amazed to discover what simplification and standardization can do to a space. Wether it's using color, shapes or just getting rid of clutter, reduction is always the key to a lighter, happier and generally freshened place.
Our little south-side patio started looking a bit cluttered and hap-hazard (at least for my taste).
Although I really liked the square planter and generally liked the orange color, it just threw everything off balance. It was clashing with the old red pot, the blue chairs and the new green bird feeder. My original plan was to add a hanging planter next to the bird feeder, maybe in orange, to try to unite everything. The string of pearls in the red pot really needed to be transplanted or at least moved from the little side table since it started to touch the floor (thanks, Jan, for the string of pearls starter hand delivered from Texas!) But then I started to feel that the bird feeder just looked odd there and no birds every really showed up, so I decided to move the feeder to the backyard.
I had purchased two silver hanging planters at IKEA for only $4.99 each - great price. Since I really liked the bright green of the bird feeder, I decided to spray paint the orange box green, drill drainage holes into it and finally plant the succulent arrangement (a housewarming gift from my folks) that was just sitting inside the planter on top of a brick in it's original container. I taped up the silver hanging pots with masking tape and an old newspaper and sprayed them along with it.
Instead of re-planting the string of pearls, I was able to just place the red pot inside of the IKEA pot. Lazy but effective, since it hangs above the sight line ;) It's a much more relaxing area now. Next on the agenda is to replace the old blue chair covers (one of them has a hole) and to give our recycle bin a make-over.
Out with the old and in with the new! Just in time for the patio-perfect weather, we are now the proud owners of an "adult grill". After shopping around and looking at the monstrosities they call grills these days, we finally settled on a classy, practical number. We upgraded from a portable single burner Weber Q 200 to a two burner with a warming rack.
Our CharBroil Tru Infrared grill can't compete with the 4 burner models that will handle 64 burgers at a time. But as the packaging says "it's small in size, but not in features". Dual temp gauges, electronic ignition, folding side shelves, pedestal door, storage and professional stainless steel grates.
Best of all, its a dual fuel grill. So, we converted it to natural gas to take advantage of the pre-existing gas supply valve in the backyard. We'll never have the hassle or worry of filling a propane tank again ;) It's awesome. We've created lots of fond memories with our Weber Q over the past 5 years and Keith was sad to banish it to the garage. But I'm sure it will be put to good use again on one of our camping trips this summer!
This used to be a twin headboard. I found it almost ten years ago at a garage sale in Santa Monica for $10. Made of solid wood, awkward in size and very heavy, we've stored and moved this beast no less than four times. We considered just leaving it in the alley each time. But there was something special about this piece. I intended to use it as a canvas to paint on, but I could never visualize the style of painting for it. I always knew it had potential for something very unique, but I just couldn't figure out what it would be. Meanwhile, I've been yearning to create a chalkboard paint wall in the kitchen to write down odds and ends, lists and such. Finally, my husband Keith came up with the idea to make the headboard into a chalkboard.. Bingo, it had a prupose...
Overall, it was a pretty easy project. I started by sanding the outside frame, since I wanted to remove the dark brown stain. Originally, I wanted to paint the frame white. After removing most of the stain, I really started to like the distressed look and the natural wood underneath. Just saved myself a whole step ;) To add a little bit of distress to the main area, I sanded down the flat surface in the middle and around the edges. After taping off my paint area, I applied the first coat of the chalkboard paint with a brush. It was a pretty warm day and it took less than an hour for the first coat to dry. After two more coats it was done.
To give the chalkboard area a vintage look to match the frame, I used my cordless sander again, going over the freshly cured paint extensively.
We're both very excited to have found a use for this old piece and even more happy to finally get it out of our garage. Currently, it's leaning against our kitchen wall next to the trash can, awaiting its final hanging spot...I'm still struggling to figure out where it should go... and so it continues.
Do you have something special that needs to break free from the garage? Something that you keep, you know that it's special and you want to love it but just don't know what to do with it? And no, I'm not talking about your husband!
Feeling empowered by this "fast" transformation I decided to tackle the built-in book shelves. I just knew that under this glossy white paint, I would find a chunky, warm, original piece of wood. Soon, I discovered that I wasn't dealing with just one layer of paint - the house was built in 1927 after all! Over the course of the next six months, I painstakingly removed five layers of paint, including lots of lead-based pant. I experimented with every technique and tool that was available to me. Trying to be "eco-conscious" I first used an orange-based stripping agent. But that was very slow-going. So, I moved on to the super-duper strength toxic stripper. Still slow going. After that I bought a heat gun, which proved to be the best for the job. Finally, I sanded and applied a light wax.
All told, it was the longest-lasting and most dreaded project by far. But I am so thrilled with the outcome. Not only does it add more depth to the room, it also makes me feel really good that I was able to restore the bookshelves to their original form. The hard work really paid off. What was the hardest and most rewarding project you've done?
Since our garden can only feed us partially at the moment, we signed up for "Beachgreens" a couple of months ago. Beachgreens is a Long Beach, CA based company that delivers sustainable, organic produce direct from local Southern and Central California farmers to your residence or workplace. It's super convenient, affordable, healthy and fun. The best thing is that I receive veggies that I wouldn't neccessarily choose at the store and some that I've never actually eaten before. This keeps us busy trying out new recipes and learning new cooking techniques, which generally broadens our palette. Of course, we can customize our order online to omit items that we absolutely do not like (sorry, beets!). Beachgreens offers several different crate sizes, from a studio to a family box and weekly to monthly delivery schedules. We're signed up for a studio box ($29.99), which is being delivered to our door step in a reusable crate every two weeks. So far, that size has been working for the two of us since we don't cook dinner every night. You can also choose to receive veggies only, fruit only or both. I don't think you can find an easier or more affordable way to buy organic and local produce. I wish I could find the same service for meats, eggs and bread...
Not long ago, our backyard was a sparse landscape. Some basic furniture, a lonely rescued palm tree and a few hand-made, but empty raised vegetable beds. In less then two months, our boring backyard has been transformed into a vegetable oasis. We filled the planter boxes with seven different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, garlic, onion, summer squash, a selection of herbs, lettuce, spinach, carrots, celery and brussels sprouts. I definitely over-planted! But, since this is my first stab at home-grown veggies, I figured we'd lose some and I would rather have too many than too little. I can always give over abundant tomatoes to the neighbors, right ?! So, dear neighbors, speak up and leave a comment if you would like to be on the receiving list ;)
This headboard was put together about 2 years ago, when I couldn't find anything this simple with natural, canvas fabric. Everything back then was brown or black faux leather. Not my style... Now, you can find a piece like this everywhere: Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, Overstock, you name it. And luckily, they have also come down in price a bit, however, still not as affordable as making your own. We spent about $150 on materials, including the foam, which was the most expensive part of this project. I made sure to wait for a 50 % of coupon from Joann's fabrics before I bought all of the materials ;)
I am using this as inspiration for a new headboard in our guest house. However, this time, since we rent the guest house out a lot through airbnb.com, I think I will choose a darker color. Maybe a soothing green ?!
We have this messy gap between the fence and our concrete walkway. Leaves and dirt constantly gets stuck. So I wedged a bunch of river rocks in between the fence and walkay. And since I've had the rocks laying around in the garage, I didn't have to buy a thing. Much better, it's the little things :) Have you done a similar, no cost, project lately?