Archive for the ‘Housekeeping’ Category

Creative Space

November 17, 2009

About a year ago we started renovating our tiny little garage, which is more of a shed than a proper car-storing garage, into a creative space for me.  Prior to that I was set up in our office, but it was right next to Oliver’s room and because he is such a light sleeper, I’d often wake him up if I was sewing.  So it ended up that I would be afraid to use my space.  Off to the garage I went.

Since then I’ve received a few emails requests to see the final renovations on my Studio and about the machines I have and use.

This is a before shot looking into the garage from two doors that swing open.

Garage Doors Open

Looking deeper into the mess garage.

Shelving Before

After tearing out the messed up drywall on the upper walls and ceiling and having it repainted.


A closer look at the curtain that divides the back (a 6-foot or so section with shelving for storage of gardening equipment, bikes, etc.).  I used an Ikea curtain and inserted the patchwork panel from Amy Butler fabrics.  (Word to the wise: don’t trust that the curtains are on-grain and use the fabric is the guide to insert the patchwork or you could end up with crooked curtains just like me.  DOH!)


My main work table which was made using the old desktop from the office, cut in half lengthwise and propped up with filing cabinets.  We installed kitchen cabinets from Ikea above for more storage.  The quilt on the wall is a gift from my dear friend Joansy.  We installed mirrors on the back wall to give a sense of space, for more light, and for me to be able to keep an eye on Oliver even when my back is turned to him.  (Notice the Evil Eye thingie in the entrance?  No bad spirits can enter here!)


Looking in from the side doors.  These are currently solid doors but will someday be French doors.  The rods hanging from the top of the doorway are to hold hangers (on the left) and freshly ironed shirts (on the right).  My cutting table is just inside the door in front of my ironing table.  To the right is an antique Chinese apothecary-type chest.


Looking out from the back of my studio to a small patio area.  Behind the green (bouganvillea) is Oliver’s Jungle Gym.


A shot out the side doors into our garden.  I was quilting my birthday present from Joansy.*

My Quilting "Station"

This is my combo embroidery and sewing machine, a Brother PC 8500.  I got it last year from an Angel.


This is my serger, given to me by my dear friend Joansy.  It belonged to her mother so it’s very special to me.


I don’t have a photo of my other two machines, but my backup machine is a Husqvarna Lily 545 that I bought a few years ago (actually, 7!  Just as Dear Hubby and I started dating).  My backup backup is a POS Singer.  Don’t buy new Singers, they suck (which is why it’s the backup backup!).

And that my friends is my creative space!

*Speaking of my birthday present, here’s a shot of it on the daybed in our office along with a couple of matching pillow cases I made.  There is one more pillow done and many more in the works to make it into a comfy, loungy space.

Day Bed

More Weekend Progress

March 22, 2009

And again, none of it because of me!

Yesterday we hired a painter to spray the inside of our garage.  After spending WAY.TOO.LONG when we tried to use brushes, we decided to hire someone (AND it cost half what we thought it was going to cost!) to apply two coats of primer.  We thought perhaps that would be enough to give us a clean, fresh look.

Unfortunately, most of the wood is really, really old and has never been primed.  So it sucked it up, even when it was sprayed and in some places gave it a yellow cast.



It’s a HUGE improvement over what it was before.  The lighter color helps to make it much brighter in there, even on a cloudy day like today.

DH spent most of today assembling a set of metal library bookshelves in the back of the garage and then unloading containers of stuff.  It sill looks like a pit because there’s a lot of things in the garage that are going in the Community Yard Sale we’re having next Saturday.

We’re getting closer!  Can you sense the anticipation?!😉

In The Backyard

March 19, 2009

Spring has mostly sprung here, with ocassional bouts of summer (it was in the 90s on Tuesday!).

And with Spring comes the blooming of our wisteria (which was only planted a year or two ago, but is taking off!).


Wisteria Close 2

Wisteria Close

Unfortunately these beauties don’t last long; they’re already starting to fall to the ground. 😦

Apparently Spring also brings opossums, because we saw this little guy scampering around the backyard this morning!



I guess that explains why the neighbors dog is barking at all hours of the night!


March 18, 2009

I have been bouncing off the walls with excitement since last night when DH and I figured out the floor plan and details of my sewing studio.


Isn’t it loverly?!

Let me explain more (humor me).

Starting on the left (or the back of our garage) is where tall shelving units are going to store the contents of our garage.  I found some great shelves (yay Craigslist!) that were in a library that will fit back there perfectly.  It comes with lots of shelves (that used to hold books, so they’re very strong!)  so we can eliminate most of the dead space.  The shelves will make an upside down L shape and will mostly go from floor to ceiling.

Curtains/drapes will block that space off from the rest of the studio.  (I found a 25yd roll of muslin (yay Craigslist!) for $20 that (if it’s still available) I’ll use to make curtains (after I dye them at the laundromat).

In front of the curtains will be our current Ikea Expedit shelving unit, filled to the gills with fabric.😉

Along the wall at the top of the drawing will be a countertop that we’re making from the huge desktop in our office.  It’s about 7-foot by 4-foot at present, but after we saw it in half lengthwise, we’ll have two pieces that are 7-foot by 2-foot.  Those will be placed end-to-end against the wall on top of three 2-foot by 4-foot, 2-drawer filing cabinets (the grey rectangles on the drawing), with the one at the right end sticking out into the studio to preserve some leg room for when I am sitting at my machines.

Above the countertop will be narrow shelves for me to store sewing notions, put my picture frames, tchatchkis, etc.  Hanging over my workspace will be the light that is currently in our office.

In the center of the floor will be a 36″ high, portable, folding cutting table that’s been languishing in my garage and has been moved three or four times and never used since I got it over 7 years ago!  The great thing about this 3-foot by 5-foot table is that when I don’t need it, both of the ends fold down to a compact fourteen inches wide!

In there somewhere will also be my humongous Michael Graves ironing board, Rowenta iron, and Rowenta Steam Generator!

Sigh, I can’t wait…

Totally Worth It

March 17, 2009

I’m not sure if y’all know this, but DH is an interior designer (Yes that’s why our home is so beautiful and No I don’t very much say about what goes where, unless I do it on the sly, which he eventually notices and changes anyway.  Much like The Borg, resistance is futile.).  Other than the aforementioned parenthetical annoying part of living with an interior designer, there is an upside: he’s well-connected with trades people.

Case in point: he told me that we could have our garage painted for $200 plus the paint!

I almost fell over.

Because 1) my time on the weekends (or any time really) is worth far more than $12.50 an hour (presuming the two of us were to work 8 hours, side by side), 2) there is NO.WAY we’d ever finish the primer and likely two coats of paint in 8 hours, and 3) I wouldn’t even consider selling a quilt for $200!

So hopefully our garage will get painted this Saturday!

Weekend Progress

March 15, 2009

Despite not feeling well this weekend, DH and I (mostly DH, not so much I) started the transformation of the garage from a storage space into a combined storage and sewing/creative space.

The garage is more the size of a large shed.  These are the doors facing the driveway.

Garage Doors

This is with the doors open.  Geesh, there’s a lot of stuff in there!  (The metal cabinets in the front are leftovers from when DH moved offices.  We’re thinking of using them to rebuild the garage storage.)

Garage Doors Open

These are the shelves that we’re remodeling.  Our plan is to put them in the back so they don’t take up so much square footage and space.

Shelving Before

This is the side door that opens onto our patio.  We hope to replace it with french doors.

Side Door Before

This is our patio, um, with what used to be IN the garage.  SO.MUCH.STUFF!

Too Much Stuff

DH starting the demolition.


Demolition done.  DH took all the dry wall off the walls and ceiling.  The light coming through the back is from missing slats on the back wall.  Clearly those will have to be replaced.  Although the natural light it provides is nice. 😉 We’re going to keep the ceiling open to help it feel larger and more spacious inside.

And notice our little helper!

No More Dry Wall

Here we’ve started to prime.  Unfortunately our social calendar got in the way of our painting (and the old, unprimed wood was just SUCKING.UP the primer!).  So we had to clean up after having gotten very little primed.

Starting To Prime

Dh and I were a little bummed out that the priming was taking so long (not to mention we only got two gallons of primer and are going to need about twice that!)

So I took these two shots, to remind myself of how BEAUTIFUL it’s going to be when it’s done, with the light and view of the bougainvillea.

Looking Out

Eventually we hope to put a jungle gym to the right of the bougainvillea (the view of which is currently blocked by the metal cabinets) so Oliver can play outside while I’m creating.

Looking Out 2

Anyone know a painter who’s willing to barter for a quilt? 😉

Menu Fixe

January 6, 2009

Last night over a reheated dinner, Dear Hubby and I were talking about the challenges of working full-time (which we both do), having a child in daycare, and maintaining a household.

Thankfully, I work not far from my two favorite places to shop: Trader Joe’s and CostCo so I can usually run to either one on my lunch.  Actually, yesterday I hit CostCo and today I hit Trader Joe’s.

Unfortunately I’m usually a meal-on-the-fly kind of guy which often requires frequent trips to the grocery store for meal ingredients.  And despite my best efforts I haven’t really been able to plan a menu for the week in advance.

So in last night’s discussion DH said we should just get into the habit of having the same meal each weeknight.  At first the thought of eating the same foods week in and week out didn’t sound appealing, although it would clearly save me time and probably money at the grocery store.  But what we came up with instead was to have the same food each weeknight but vary the actual meal.

Saturdays and Sundays will be times I can usually make more time-intensive foods.  Typically Saturday will be a homemade soup (at least in winter) and Sunday will be a roast or something.  Although this Sunday is going to be Ina Garten’s White Pizza from her new book Back To Basics (Thanks Mom!).

Mondays we’ll have pasta of some sort.  Off the top of our heads we thought about pasta with jarred sauce and pasta with crème fraiche and smoked salmon, although clearly there are many variations possible.

Tuesdays, my late night at work, will be reheated soup from the weekend.

Wednesdays will likely be reheated leftovers from Sunday.

Thursdays will be salad night, of which there were many options.  I’m having a hard time with this one because salad doesn’t feel very fulfilling in winter to me.  But we’ll try it and see.

Finally, Friday will be frozen food night.  Surprisingly DH suggested the fish fillets and frozen taters from Trader Joe’s, which I’m fine with.  But there are so many great options at TJ’s that I’m sure we’ll have lots of variety.

So hopefully having a fixed menu (menu fixe in French) will save me time in both shopping and food preparation during the week.

If y’all have any suggestions for any of these nights, please let me know.  It was great hearing your ideas about making chicken stock!

Just Leave Them Alone, I Guess

August 31, 2008

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love orchids (I totally thought I posted photos from when we visited the orchid farm when we were in Thailand last year, guess I was wrong. Regardless, IT.WAS.BEAUTIFUL!)

I also love Trader Joe’s.

And as luck would have it, Trader Joe’s sells orchids for dirt cheap (like $15 for a huge moth orchid plant).

So between me buying them and receiving them from well-wishers, we have turned into an orchid farm in our own right.

The only problem is that after the flowers have dropped off, we’re left with straggly looking foliage that downright refuses to rebloom. Case in point:


This is despite my best efforts at watering once a week, fertilizing once a month, and just general giving a crap about them (maybe it’s because I don’t talk to them?). All the effort with such little returns (and the fact that we can get them for so cheap) helped me to make up my mind just to toss the obstinate bastards in the yard waste container and buy new ones.

I meant to do just that before I went into the hospital when I noticed that the moth orchid (in the white pot) was getting some blooms on it. And upon coming back from the hospital, this is what I found:


I’m not sure if it realized it was running out of chances or what (or perhaps it’s because I was talking to it, well, cursing may be more accurate), but there you have it. A beautiful moth orchid in mid-bloom with amazing flowers.

I guess I just need to leave them alone and let them do their thing.

I also need to start give our grass an ultimatum.

Before And After

August 3, 2008

Before I I talk about what we did this weekend, let’s talk about the cost of a nearly three-week hospital stay.

According to the insurance customer service rep I was speaking to, they had received two bills, one for services and one for facilities. He didn’t say which was which, but one was for $117,000 and the other was $119,000 (for a total of $236,000).

So the winner is Sharon who guessed $234,000. There is a small prize making its way to you tomorrow Sharon!

Thanks to everyone for your guess! If I find out a grand total I’ll let you know, but honestly, I get anxious talking about it for fear that I’m going to jinx it and I’m going to end up getting a bill that’s been lost in the mail or something.

Since we’ve moved into our house the backyard has been an eyesore. Due to the remodeling we did (including putting plumbing and gas in the backyard and garage) they had to dig up the backyard which ruined the grass and made the ground all uneven.

Also due to the remodeling (and a careless contractor) we haven’t had the money to hire someone to redo the backyard and have slowly been redoing it ourselves. Finally, this weekend, My Partner and I laid the sod.  (Of course, when I saw “we” laid the sod, what I miss is all the work he did to make the ground ready for the sod, like rototilling the ground to 6″ deep, raking, raking, and raking some more!)

Left Side Before

If you look closely you’ll see Oliver partaking of his breakfast bottle.

Middle Before

There’s a small, bubbling fountain in the corner of the rocks that is kid-friendly.

Right Side Before

My poor hydrangeas that are hating life in the Southern California afternoon sun.


One thousand square feet of sod (we ended up overshooting by about 150 square feet but the apartment next door put it in their front lawn so we still benefit!).

Left Side After (from kitchen)

Looking out the kitchen french doors.

Middle After

Right Side After

There’s Theron peeking his head out!

It was a lot of work (and I hardly did any of it except for carrying sod on Saturday) but it is so worth it. I know it’s not environmentally friendly and I rather regret that, but there’s also a part of me that wants a yard for Oliver to run around in.

Oliver Hating The Grass

Now if we could just convince him that grass is a good thing!

Ringing In The New Year

January 2, 2008

The day at Chez Frank began with taking down the holiday decorations. I don’t know about all y’all, but I was SO HAPPY to get everything down and to reclaim my home from all the holiday cheer. When I called my mom to wish her a Happy New Year and told her what I was doing, she retorted with, “Already?!” If you’ll remember, she likes to keep it up so she can enjoy it for a good, long time.

(Clearly, this apple was flung from the family tree. And yes, the lights came off the house too. I am unlike my mother in that regard as well in that I don’t leave them up until the summer months.)

I’m not sure about the rest of y’all, but I am a very predictable person. Every year I can’t WAIT to get my Xmas decorations up and to vomit spread holiday cheer everywhere. I prefer the smell of a real tree and resist the temptation of buying one of those fancy pre-lit artificial trees (read: too frugal to pay full price before the holidays, and too sick of it all to look for them during the clearance sales after the holidays!). So I spend hours wrapping the lights onto the tree. I like a well-lit tree, so I use about 10 strings of lights and like to wrap the lights from the inside to the outside of almost every branch. Makes for a lovely tree. Every time I pass the tree I move around the decorations to make it just perfect.

Then, after about three weeks, I try to block out the decorations for the most part and if it weren’t for the timers, I’d forget to turn the lights on at all.

Finally, normally the day of Christmas, I am itching to take it all down and get on with my life. I try to wait until New Year’s Day, at which time I bound out of bed in the wee hours like a child on Christmas morning anxiously looking if Santa has arrived. I then spend three hours cursing myself as I gingerly attempt to take off the decorations and lights FROM EVERY BRANCH of the tree only to have more needles on the ground than there are left on the branches. And, predictably, I SWEAR that I will NEVER put up another real tree, regardless of the price of artificial, pre-lit trees the next year.

Eleven months go by, and I repeat the cycle. Sigh.

One trick I have learned to help make taking down the tree easier, is the “Cut As You Go” Method. Here in the big city, we have a green bin that we put our yard waste (grass clippings, etc.) into. It gets collected every week just like the garbage and recyclables. Unfortunately, they won’t take it if the lid isn’t closed (hence, putting eliminating the option of putting a big ole Xmas tree right into the container).

So instead, I begin by taking off all of the decorations. After those are removed, I begin taking off the lights. Years of practice has taught me begin putting on the lights from the bottoms and in sections (NOT wrapping around and around in a spiral. That would drive me to tossing out the lights with tree.). Starting from the top, I take off the lights from a few branches and then cut off those branches and put them into the recycling container (which I have wheeled into the house, thereby eliminating the Trail of Tears Needles.) This is what it looks like in-process:


Rather effective. And it’s so nice having our house back!

Our dear friend, Marguerite, has her mom and aunt visiting from the Ivory Coast. We’ve been fortunate to spend a fair amount of time with them, including getting to eat their scrumptious cooking. To reciprocate, I decided to make them a “typical” (for me) American meal. I made meat loaf, twice-baked potatoes (How-To at the bottom), corn on the cob (yes, we can get it here in Southern California, although, truth be told, it didn’t taste very good), and for dessert, an apple and cranberry crumble over vanilla ice cream.

We also invited our friends Cat and Paul and their two kids, I. and S. Cat brought homemade chili (I know, I don’t know what I was thinking. It was WAY too much food. But everyone ended up taking a fairly good-sized take home container with them when they left!).

As soon as Makende walked through the door and saw her pal, I., she started screaming his name. They quickly settled into a chair to watch some vintage Popeye (one of my gifts to My Partner for Xmas).


After an appetizer of the most delicious brie (which I melted in the oven and served with warm french bread), we made our way to the table.


My Partner, Marguerite, Makende, Roger, Mami Emilie (Marguerite’s Aunt), and Mami (Marguerite’s Mom).


Paul, S., Cat, and I.

It was a really great meal and a wonderful way to ring in the new year.

*Twice-Baked Potatoes Ala Frank

I’m not really a recipe kind of cook, so I’ll apologize in advance. But to make these, I begin by wrapping russet potatoes (1 for each guest) in aluminum foil and baking for about an hour or until a fork pierces them with the least bit of resistance. You don’t want them too soft otherwise they won’t hold their shape. Too hard and you won’t be able to scoop out the insides.

After they’re baked I let them cool. Then I take a knife and cut off the top 1/3 of each potato.


I scoop out the inside from the top 1/3 (toss the rest of the top) and the insides from the bottom part, begin careful to leave a shell that’s thick enough to maintain its shape. I normally bake a few extra because I will inevitably mess up one or two. These are what they look like once they’re scooped out.


As I’m scooping, I’m putting the insides into a bowl, being careful not to get any of the skin in the bowl. After I’ve got all the potatoes scooped, I mix in some cream cheese, sour cream, and milk (I know, it’s annoying that I don’t have a measurement, but really, I don’t measure! For 12 potatoes I used about 16 oz sour cream, about 8 oz of whipped cream cheese, and a splash (1/4 cup?) of milk). I also add seasonings including garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Taste (frequently) to make sure it tastes good and that it has a creamy consistency.

Then I scoop the mixture into a large piping bag with a star tip and pipe the potato mixture into each of the shells making sure to pile them nice and high. Sprinkle with chives, paprika, or some such to give it some color.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes (or until the tops get browned) and voila! Twice-Baked Potatoes!


Meatloaf Ala Frank

Again, this is gonna frustrate the hell out of most of you.  But I normally use 1/3 ground turkey, 1/3 ground beef (98% fat-free), and 1/3 sweet italian sausage.  Sautee an onion or two, throw it in with the meat.  Add a couple of jiggers of Worcester Sauce, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and some chopped, fresh rosemary (kiped from the neighbor’s bush), an egg or two, and 1/2 sleeve of saltines (today I used butter crackers borrowed from the neighbor!).  Mix (usually with my impeccably clean and well-manicured hands) until it’s all well-blended and will hold the shape of a ball (not too stiff, not too runny).  Put into a loaf pan, level it out, dump gobs of ketchup on top and bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour.


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