kriselkeeper

kriselkeeper

Friday, November 14, 2014

50 Spots of Shade

We are now in full fall and gearing towards winter. The temperatures have dropped quite a bit by now but not too long ago it was incredibly hot.  I started writing this over the summer and am finally getting back to it now, so keep that in mind as you read on. 

Our electric bill in the summer is usually crazy expensive!  I hate being in the San Fernando Valley when it's hot.  Our house was built in the mid 1950's. People must have been more tolerant of being uncomfortable back then. We had no insulation in either the ceiling or walls making it difficult to stabilize the inside temperature.  No matter how long the AC runs it never cools down.  Then we made some changes to the house and the bill and my hatred have both been tamed!

First we added insulation!  That was a big move!
Next we added more shade to our back patio by doing this:
We used sailing sails. I shared more about it here.


We covered the area between the house and the carport with shade sails. I shared more here


And we used exterior curtains which I wrote about here.  

The entire back wall of the house which is usually fully exposed to the sun is now shaded!  The electric bill went from $1000-1200 every two months to the $700 range!  The house has on many occasion been TOO COLD in the summer. We've had to turn the AC off!!!! I can't even believe I'm writing this! 

Before the changes, during the months of June, July, August, September and part of October the AC ran non-stop!  Now we don't turn the air on until noon on a 100 degree day and 2-3pm on an average summer day.  It stays on until around  6-7pm. We get in the pool so we turn it off again and then we turn it on when we are getting ready for bed.  Three out of four of us need it cool to sleep well.  Majority rules.  

I've noticed that even when it's 80 degrees inside the house it's tolerable because it's shady. But if it's 80 degrees with the sun hitting you then it's unbearable.  The shade has helped tremendously!  


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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Potted is Celebrating 10 Years!


Potted is one of my all time favorite stores in all of LA.  They have unique things and their store is so well done and inspiring that you want to linger and then take it all home. Which is one reason why they are celebrating 10 years!  

Potted also happens to be co-owned by Mary Gray, one of the few people who gave me a break when I first came to Los Angeles. Mary was an established and successful set decorator when I was trying to break into the film industry.  She took me on without knowing anything about me and let me shop for her.  She was also kind to me. It is so rare to experience kindness when you're starting out in the industry.  

As time went on Mary gave me another huge opportunity. She let me decorate a set by myself. It wasn't just any set. It was a big commercial with multiple sets. Barbara Ling was the Production Designer and Bob Richardson the DP.  I remember holding my breath as they both walked in to look at the set for the first time. But, I figured if Mary trusted me it should be ok and it was.  Since then, and after, me leaving the film industry Mary has been a role model and mentor.  Her store doing well is not surprising.  She is incredibly talented with impeccable taste and a heart of gold. Why would she not be doing well?  

The LA Times did an article on Potted last week.  We happened to be passing by on our way back from downtown so we stopped in.  It's not just my favorite store, it is also P's.  She loves it! She's developed an affinity for air plants and the unique pots that suit them best. Potted has plenty of both.  We bought a few things including this lovely planter by Esther Pottery from here in Los Angeles. I'm absolutely in love with it....along with everything else in that store! 

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Monday, November 10, 2014

A Mid-Century Renovation




I see a home renovation in our neighborhood and I can't help but be politely curious. However, if it's a Mid-Century home I am an all out stalker.  This house is about 5 blocks away from us.  I've been watching it for a while. It went on the market for about a day and then the for sale sign came down and the chain link fence went up.  I feared it would get demoed because the house has no back yard. Zilch. Seriously the house is about 20ft from the neighbor's fence.  But it does have a massive front yard which was filled with loads of trees and thick ivy.   I figured someone would prefer to reconfigure the large corner lot. But instead it's getting what seems like a marvelous redo and a major extension to the sides. I'm guessing the square footage has doubled. The ivy is gone and the trees have been thinned out. The front is getting some sort of exterior living space that looks to be blending well with the house's Mid-Century lines. I'm dying to go inside. I'm actually dying to see the plans and drawings.  If only I had some sort of architectural press pass, was taken seriously and allowed to do an interview.  One day... Anyway, the house is looking beautiful and I'm excited to see it develop!


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Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday Night Lights


"And God said let there be light"!  That's how I felt when we turned on the new backyard lights for the first time! It was magical!  Now that we're into fall, with shorter daylight hours, I'm very happy they are extending the use of our pool deck.  

HOWEVER....there's one problem in this picture.  Thank God I have smart, kind friends. And thank God I post lots of pictures to Facebook.  When my friend Lonnie saw this picture he sent me a private message. In the kindest way he pointed out that I had an electrical wire running right over our pool.  And in the kindest way he pointed out that electrical and water do not mix.  Anyone else would have said "hey dumb ass do you plan on electrocuting your kids"?   And he was the one and only person to point out this grave mistake despite the picture getting quite a few "likes".  So I am very grateful to Lonnie.  Since then we've repositioned the lights at a safe distance around the pool, not over it. I like the configuration in this picture better but aesthetics must take a back seat in this situation!  



I learned a few things while doing this project, besides fully understanding the fatal combo of water and electricity.  Here are a few tips if you are looking to string your own lights. 

  1. First these lights are called "carni" or "carnival lights", "globe lights" or "bistro lights".
  2. I bought my lights on sale at Target. I didn't know exactly where I wanted them or how many sets I'd need so I didn't plan this entirely through.  After I bought 6 sets of lights and had them somewhat in place I read the fine print on a sticker attached to one of the globes. It said these are not intended for long time external use, 90 days max.  So, I would suggest buying permanent, exterior lights from a place like this.  They have lights meant to stay outside and they have them in varying lengths. The Target lights only allow you to string 2 sets back to back so you are limited in how far you can go from an outlet. 
  3. If you are stringing a big section like what I did you need galvanized steel cable to hang the lights from.  You'll need this kind of kit or you can get your cable custom cut at the hardware store with the hooks and adapters that best suit your needs.  You have to consider what your lights will do in a windstorm. You don't want glass globes cracking all over your patio floor. 

I'm so happy to have these lights up. They really make the backyard feel special. If you've been tempted I say go for it!  And for the record, Friday Night Lights is one of my all time favorite TV shows.  Love Coach Eric Taylor!

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hose Reel


We were in desperate need of a hose reel for the back yard.  Our 100ft hose was constantly snaked around all over the place. This was the hose on a good day:


Everyone tripped over it because it's in a high traffic area.  However, I didn't want to settle for a cheap plastic reel from Target or Home Depot. I wanted a nice one that would last for years and not degrade every summer.  I wanted an industrial looking, wall mounted, pivoting hose reel. And so I found this one at Gempler's .


I've loved it!  The pool area and side yard are in two different directions; the hose unwinds easily either way. It's effortless to reel out and reel in.  I would love to have a bright yellow hose to contrast against the grey wall...one thing at a time.   

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Vertical Garden


It's been so long since I was last on here.  We had many projects come together during the summer. But, then the girl's started school and I was overwhelmed.  Both girls are now going either full time or part time. You'd think it would give me more time to write.  But to be honest, I needed time to focus on me. Time to hike and go back to yoga. Time for our poor dog Penny who gets whatever time I have leftover from the kids. She is patient but her sad face tells me when she's had enough. Also with the girls being in school comes 40 hours of mandatory volunteer time.  I love being a part of their school community but it doesn't come without it's additional commitments.  Anyway, here I am. I'm back.  I've missed this outlet. 

One project I complete was starting a vertical garden. As I've mentioned before, our west and north walls are very sun exposed.  The only plants successfully growing on the west side are succulents, and not all succulents can take the heat.  My plan, or dream, is to successfully grow edible plants vertically along the entire west wall so when I look out I'll see a wall of green. Here is the beginning of my adventure! 

I think part of what's harming the plants are the ceramic pots they're in. They only intensify the heat. So, I thought what if the plants are "hanging" and not coming in contact with the hot floor? I started looking into Wooly Pockets, which I've been eyeing for quite some time now. But, I wanted a product that was better priced. I want to cover a large space.  I found these on Plants on Walls.  They're 3'x2' and they have a drip irrigation line already running on top so you can plug it in.  I decided to start with one of these. With twelve pockets I could do an entire herb garden.  

Next, I had to figure out how to hang them.  To avoid damaging the fence I thought I'd configure another option.  I saw these palettes below at Whole Foods. It looked like a good way to go. I pulled out my tools and Dave picked up a palette I saw on the curb about a block away.  



I got to use my new Kreg jig and I love it. Can't wait to do more with it!



Construction finished! Mission accomplished! Now time for the gardening. I left that in P's hands which she took care of very well!




The finished product is up and running and doing well. Some of the plants aren't too happy in this spot. Others, like strawberries, are very happy campers. I'm considering doing this section with just strawberries. 

 

I like how the plants look pool side. It's much nicer to glance out from our dining table and see green, green we can eat.  This is the beginning of a good direction.


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Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Art Studio

When P was around two years old I wanted to get her a canvas to paint.  The work of small children is so ....real? I can't think of an all encompassing word to describe it.  I had the luxury of focusing on just P when it was just us two. I loved going to Create Studio and watch her paint. I could study the thoughts behind her process. Then P turned 3, then 4, then I had G.  My focus became divided. They are growing fast. They're now 6 and 2! That was it! I couldn't let another day go by and not capture their art properly.  It was time to Carpe Diem!

Summer arrived. Goal #1: buy a large canvas and let the girls "Jackson Pollock" it.  June came and went. Other goals got done. July came and went. We were crazy sick for three weeks. It's now August and the girls go back to school in two weeks. Carpe Diem! 

Two days ago I finally bought a 36x48" canvas. Yesterday I bought acrylics and supplies at Dick Blick in Pasadena while Dave and I were on a date night. This morning I tarped up part of the garage to protect the walls and create an "art studio" where the girls could freely paint.  The process was pretty spectacular but exhausting.  It was controlled chaos to let a 6 and 2 year old go to town with paint. 

We will definitely have more "studio days" ahead of us. It was a blast. However, I will never forget that the day I "Carpe Diem" was the very same day we lost "O Captain My Captain".  The day will always be marked in my heart. The final product is pretty impressive, if I do say so myself. It will remind me to always Carpe Diem with my girls and our dreams. 

The process went like this:
It took me a good chunk of the morning to clean up, clear out and tarp a space in the garage. By the time I was done the girls were hungry so we ate before painting. 


Mixing. I bought primary colors with black and white so they could create even more colors. The mixing began but it took a lot of explaining and me constantly say "Wait! Wait! Not yet!" But color creation is part of the education.

P got the first brush stroke.

G joined in pretty quickly.  My biggest challenge was keeping my mouth shut and letting them do what they thought looked best.  I wanted to art direct BADLY.  On the flip side, allowing them to create but also keep in check that there are limits to what we can paint was a challenge. Or, to be more exact, there's a limit to how much paint a canvas can take. 



It was special watching them be "in it", focused, driven, creative. 

Then P got her Jackson Pollock on!


It got kind of aggressive and fun. We had music playing. Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers were setting the tone at this point. 

The canvas was moved to the floor. Big drips were ON! Without supervision, all of the containers would have been completely used up!  Walking that fine line of freedom with supervision is hard and exhausting.  

The Jackson Pollock technique didn't go too far because P would drip and splatter and G would brush it together.  Then P gave up and joined in the smearing. At this point I'm thinking, this is not going up on our walls. I had to step in finally and art direct...a little.  I took a very wide brush and brushed in one direction over the canvas. P took over from there. She continued brushing top to bottom. Then she took a wooden dowel and pushed all the paint to the middle of the canvas, creating a mound while uncovering some of the colors beneath. Next she ran the brush horizontal through the mound of paint and the project was finished. I did have to say "You're done! Don't touch it anymore!" I knew from the beginning I'd have to use my editorial eye to know when to walk away.  



The painting has great texture.   It's going to go up in our bedroom. I also have plans to glam up our boudoir!  G is now big enough to raise the bed back up off the ground. 

Later, P was staring up at the sky. I asked her what she was looking at as I looked up myself and saw Altocumulus clouds, the kind that have a repetitive pattern across the sky. P said "I"m looking at brush strokes". She is seeing the world in a different way. My project was a success. That's all I ask for; opening up the mind and changing a perspective. 




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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Feeling very South Beachy


Our back patio faces west.  In other words, we get beamed every afternoon by the very hot sun.  Plant some trees and give yourself some shade you say?  I wish...

The layout going east to west goes like this:
Sliding glass door, covered patio, open patio, pool, fence.  There is no space between the house and the fence to plant a tree without cutting into the concrete.  I worry...about roots invading our pool and cracking it.  I worry...about dropping leaves that cause havoc on the ph balance of the pool.  I hear pine needles are deadly with all their oils.  And we're already having ph balance issues after the pool man kindly obliged to my request of lowering the chlorine.  I making the pool green!

For almost seven years I've schemed on how to give us shade without having to do a complete overhaul of the back yard. There is no way to shade the house without completely shading the pool.  Finding a solution while taking into consideration shaded areas, cost, impact on the pool and style has been daunting.  

Meanwhile, inside in our living, dining and kitchen areas we feel the heat through the windows. We sweat and bake, specially in summer, where it honestly feels as if the sun has her face smooched up against our back sliding glass door! Even after adding insulation to the house we continued to feel the heat a great deal. It was miserable....until I had an idea!  

A very long time ago I remember being in South Beach for a business meeting.  We met at a bar (because that is where business takes place in cities with the word "beach" in their name). We sat in low, white sofa like lounge chairs and the entire outside patio had long, flowing, white curtains. They were useful to block the sun, add privacy and looked romantic yet regal. That was the solution!  Long, flowing, white curtains hung on the outside of our covered patio! And to Ikea we ran! 

We bought 5 Merete curtain sets. I used 3 panels per patio section. So in between each post I used 3 panels. I wanted a very industrial looking set of hardware to hang the curtains. I was thinking pipe and cool looking yacht hooks. However, the rings on the curtains didn't slide smoothly on the test pipe.  The cost was a bit daunting to.  Those cool looking yacht hooks can run $20-50 each.  I kept it simple and used the Hugad rods, the thicker of their rods, in silver and the Betydlig brackets in silver as well. The rods are $4 a piece and the brackets $1.50.  You just can't beat that!  We'll see how they hold up to exterior weather conditions but at these prices I don't mind having to replace them every 2-3 years.  



The idea has been a success!  In the mornings the curtains are pulled apart and we get our view of the pool.  As soon as the sun makes it over the house and starts peeking in which happens around 2pm we draw all the curtains.  The sun is completely blocked.  It's still very bright.  The drop in temperature inside the house is amazing!  Instead of hiding away from the outdoors in the afternoon we now use the patio.  The temperature is tolerable now and we've gained not just our living and dining areas back but our patio as well!  








I think the house has a resort feel to it now.  I feel like I'm back in South Beach.  Dave predicts we'll take the curtains down in the winter but I feel we'll use them during the cold months as well.  I think they will make the patio warm enough for us to want to spend more time out there.  Rain is the only kicker.  They get pretty dirty from the water on the ground. But it's nothing a run through the washing machine won't get rid of. 




We've really loved our new curtains outside.  They even make a pretty cool back drop for pictures as you can see in the top picture!


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Friday, August 8, 2014

Blueberries


Blueberries. The girls eat them by the fistfuls. Organic blueberries are not cheap. I'm going broke!  I decided it was time to invest in blueberry bushes. I bought two. I had no idea you could grow blueberries in Southern California. I thought they needed cool places like Oregon and Washington.  But a friend of ours has blueberries. She told me there are varieties that require less "chill period".  And her's were in wine barrels to supply the bushes with the right soil. And so I did the same. 

As I mentioned before, the area surrounding our pool has no shade.  It's an ideal spot for growing lots of edibles that require lots of sun.  The bushes are now hanging at the end of the pool.  My plan is to do a vertical, edible garden on the west wall of our property. That pallet in the corner of the picture is the beginning of hopefully something wonderful.  

Food prices are climbing. I'm focused on eating clean, without pesticides or GMOs.  That gets pricey. I'm also tired of wondering if the label on my food is real.  And, I also want to teach the girls about gardening and plants and where our food comes from.  Growing our own food seems like a good next step.  We'll see how it goes. 

When I bought the berries and barrels and a few other seeds and stuff a man was behind me in the check out line. He says to me "you must have a really green thumb".  I cringed. I don't....really.  I told him so and I said I hoped my $300 investment was't going to turn out to be a waste.  I've feared doing an edible garden for years. All the gardening I've done on our house has been a "learn as I go" method. I finally decided it's time to try this.  I got the courage. 


I bought a little organic basil plant back in March. That little baby has grown and supplied us with all the basil I need to make our pesto sauce every other week.  I use to buy so much basil and waste so much basil. No more!  It's always fresh and delicious. I've saved at least $50 since I haven't bought a bunch of basil since March!  

Here's an interesting article from the LA Times about blueberries for Southern California. 

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Compost Bin


My compost bin has been one of the summer's best acquisitions... in my opinion anyway. I love this thing!  I got it used from someone we knew here in the valley.  It needed some adjustments and our friend Juan, helped me by adding missing boards and chicken wire to keep it rodent free.  

We juice regularly and the pulp that comes out is ideal for a compost bin.  The girls half eat bananas and leave other fruit laying around.  Before I felt guilty for throwing it all away but now I feel that it's going into the compost bin and serving a purpose.  

My mom added to my fun by getting me this super glam pitch fork from Crate & Barrel.  It's the perfect height and weight to move the compost around.  I feel so city slicker/farm girl when I use it!  


Composting has it's science. I knew some of the rules from growing up with my mom semi-composting. She didn't exactly use a bin.  To this day she digs holes next to her plants and buries her kitchen scraps.  She has always had some pretty healthy and delicious fruit bearing plants.  Gotta love her unconventional methods. Anyway, I know the no dairy, no meat rules.  I also know the layers need to alternate between wet and dry. When I dump in the wet kitchen scraps I know I have to dump in some dry leaves to balance it out.  I am mostly learning as I go. I'd love to know more about the worms you can add to brew a worm poop tea or something! Google and YouTube have been very educational.

I must say though, when I churn the piles it smells delicious.  It smells like a good, deep, oaky/earthy red wine.  It smells so good I crave a glass when I'm done.  I was warned that moving the bins around was going to be hard work.  I admit, it is a bit tough.  However, I'll take churning my yummy smelling earth to doing a bunch of bicep curls at the gym any day.  My guns are getting back in shape just with my decomposing banana peels and snazzy pitch fork!


I love looking out the window and seeing my bin out there.  It could use some sprucing but I know I can't paint or stain it. I plan on using this future soil in our edible garden so it has to have natural organic materials.  Dave suggest I coffee stain the boards. Not a bad idea! I have big plans for an edible garden on our property.  Due to lack of space in the sunny areas the garden will go vertical!  I have plans, we'll see how they go!  Until then I'm making some yummy soil for my future tomatoes from my old bananas. From earth you come and to earth you shall return.....
  

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