Cardamom Snickerdoodles

This recipe is a forehead slapper of a “why didn’t I think of that?”

These cookies were also a surprise hit and more than a couple of  people have asked for the recipe (I can never guess what people will fall in love with which is part of the fun).

Think snickerdoodle base with the beautiful bouquet of cardamom and dried currants for a little depth and texture.

These cookies are exotic enough to be interesting but familiar enough that even the xenophobic will like them (though I’m not sure why we should give them cookies).

 

Cardamom and currant snickerdoodles

recipe by fiveandspice via Food52

Ingredients

  • 1 C unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2C packed golden brown sugar
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 3 C all purpose flour
  • 1tsp ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground, or at least fresh)
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C dried currants
  • 3 TBS granulated sugar (for cookie coating)
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom (for cookie coating)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the sugars, flour, 1 tsp. cardamom, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs into the melted butter, then stir in the vanilla.
  4. Fold the wet ingredients and the currants into the flour mixture, stirring just long enough for everything to come together into a dough.
  5. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the 3 Tbs. sugar and 1 tsp. cardamom for the coating.
  6. Roll the chilled dough into 1 ½ inch balls then roll each ball in the sugar coating, and place onto ungreased, parchment-lined cookie sheets with about 2 inches of space in between.
  7. bake for 8-9 minutes, until they look golden and cracked on top but still a bit doughy in the middle.
  8. Transfer immediately from the baking sheets to a cooling rack and allow to cool.

 

Guest bath reveal

I’ve begun to think renovating Via Corona is like running a marathon (or driving to Vegas).  While the distance has been long and we’ve endured considerable chafing in parts I won’t mention, our attitudes for the first 21 miles (in this case, first 8 months) have been mostly chipper.  If our builders are to be believed (eeeehhhhh?), we’ve just rounded the corner on mile 22.  Or as runners call it: the wall.  The downstairs is currently a disaster:  I can see the guts of the fireplace (and the accompanying spider webs), the protection cardboard covering the hardwood has been on the floor so long its begun to curl up at the (no longer taped) edges and there is so much dust everywhere that everything looks like its been run through an instagram filter.  We may only have four miles…or four weeks to go but it’s the cruelest distance.  So, this week I’m sharing something that’s pretty close to being finito: the guest bath.  All sources are listed at the bottom of the post.

As you might recall from the plans, this gem of a washroom sits at the top of the stairs and it is meant to be shared by the three non-master bedrooms.

At move-in, this bathroom offered an array of charming attributes including wall-to-wall carpet, an extra low vanity (with white fixtures), and a front and center commode.

It also had only one point of access.

One of the main reasons for getting ourselves into this mess was so that we could have a comfortable place for guests to stay when coming from afar: foreign countries, other states and the occasional nomad from the valley or Pasadena.

With this in mind, we basically flipped the entire layout so the main guest bedroom had direct access. Before I show you the goods, one word from the war-torn.  If you are renovating and can avoid it, you don’t want to move around your plumbing.  It is shockingly expensive. You could almost get in an entire renovation without moving the plumbing for what it will cost to move the plumbing alone.  We learned this lesson not once, but twice.  We are nothing if not committed to our own folly.

Because design inspiration had to come from somewhere, I started with the floors.  As I explained in the plans post for this room, I originally wanted Moroccan fish scale tiles.  However, unless I wanted to make my own, the mermaid scales  were very much out of my budget.  Honed marble herringbone isn’t a bad compromise if you ask me.  I paired this with polished white subway tile and brushed stainless fixtures.  But then I got tired of all that stainless and threw in some brass (sadly, it wasn’t from Tijuana.  But, we are going to have a sound system where you can play Tijuana Brass while in the bathroom if it’s any consolation).

While the result is significantly more feminine and…pink…than I imagined, it’s a pretty decent improvement over what was.

The once shower-nook now provides tidy access from the guest bedroom (and a more discreet potty locale).

Like every other room in this house, the space is just a little tight.  We’ll warn guests about closing the door completely before using the privy if they don’t want to get hit in the knees with it.

The main compromise (other than the flooring) was the loss of vanity geography.  In retrospect, I wish we had pushed the builder a little harder to do a custom vanity and gain a few inches.  I’m not in love with this fixture, though changing  knobs helped. I think the full-scale shaker styling on the smaller piece makes it look clumsy and I should have gone with plain-fronted drawers.  Oh well, too late to go back.

The good news is that while a petite 36 inches, there is plenty of space to do bathroom things.  Even when one or both Kitchen Gods are supervising (which is most of the time).

When we first started this project, I was naive to the number of bits and baubles required for a bathroom.  From TP holders to sconces, bathrooms have got to be the most accessorized rooms in the house.  I will say I am particularly fond of this little lighting find.  No one will ever notice (or care), but it matches the curtain rod exactly.  When I first found the piece it was way out of my price range.  But I dug around the interwebs enough to not only find it in my budget but also snag free shipping. Alas, victories like this were few with Via Corona.

After site-stalking these hooks for weeks, I finally pulled the trigger and ordered a couple.  I loved the look of one but not the other.  This resulted in trips to five different Anthropolgie locations to find just the right agates (I’m pretty sure it’s really resin but am not going to look too closely).  Yes, someone has control issues.

Though we’re lucky to have natural light in this bathroom, the window is inconveniently placed (unless you want to recreate Amsterdam’s red light district at home–if so, we’ve got a house we’d like to sell you).  For now I’ve hung a curtain that provides coverage but still lets in the light.  This is actually the third curtain I’ve tried out in this space which makes me think drapery may not be what this window needs.  Alas, I’m out of inspirational steam and so this will have to do, pig, until we come up with a better solution.

This room is still missing a piece of art–but that’s in storage and who knows when it’ll be liberated.  Maybe I can start thinking about it when we hit mile 24 and are suddenly inspired with a last burst of home renovation energy.

Wanna see some bathroom guts? This is a slowish loader because I don’t know how to  crunch it…I apologize in advance.

Sources:

Vanity: Acclaim Vanity
Bath Tub: Mirabelle
Faucet: Delta Ara
Shower/Tub Faucet: Delta Ara
Shower Head: Delta Two-in-One
TP Holder: Delta Ara
Mirror: CB2 Infinity Mirror
Vanity Sconce: Feiss 4 Light Tonic Vanity Strip
Vanity Knobs: Geometric Glass Knobs
Agate Hooks: Anthropolgie Swirled Agate Hook
Towel Holder: Brushed Steel Wall Mount Towel Rack
Flooring: Similar: Tilebar.com 
Pain: Benjamin Moore Opal 891
Curtain Rod: West Elm, no longer available, similar: The Curtain Rod Shop
Curtain: Anthropologie Stripes Curtain
Buddy the Cat: not for sale

Is this the end?!?

Mama told me one day it was gonna happen

But she never told me when

She told me it would happen when I was much older

Wish it woulda happened then

– Ricky Bell, New Edition, “Is This The End?” (1983)

See what I did there?  It’s BOTH a pertinent question and the title of a New Edition song!

TD here.

On Monday, January 23rd we met with our contractors for the expressed purpose of finding out just when our long national nightmare would finally come to an end.  As a reminder, we took ownership of Via Corona on April 19, 2016, we hired the builder a week later and work began in May.  We began chronicling the adventure in early June.  We ran out of things to talk about months ago, but now “sh*t’s getting real” so to speak.  Or, maybe not.

Back in June we were wide-eyed optimists who were dumb enough to actually believe it when we were told the house would be complete and the end of October.  Today we are hardened, first world problem veterans with the thousand yard stares to match.  It’s now clear that we, as my friends in Southern Illinois would say, just fell off the turnip truck as it relates to this project.  To be clear, I’ve never actually seen a turnip truck and have no idea why falling off it confers a sort of dull wit, especially when its second cousin, falling off the wagon seems like a pretty awesome strategy.  At least in the short run.  Make no mistake, I would willingly jump off of a moving vehicle before eating a turnip, but I digress.

Back to a couple of Mondays ago.  With our trusty spreadsheets at the ready, we walked the house stem to stern and talked in detail about the final touches in anticipation of their estimated completion date.   After, a brief conference, it came.

“Four to five weeks,” they said.

“Bull$%*&,” we replied in unison, although silently enough so as to be drowned out by a passing turnip truck.  (The driver most likely had stopped to use our outhouse.  This is a thing we’ve observed.  It seems our porta potty serves the same function of most urban public libraries.)

If you’re stuck without a calendar, their due date is March 6.  A hair over three weeks until our world is no longer covered in gypsum dust.  This is just enough time to decide whose side you’re on, dear reader.  Are you all in for Team Shirley Make It or are you ride or die with Team Betty Won’t?

shirleybetty

Feel free to base your judgments on current photographic evidence and place your bets on the official end date in the comment section.  Winner gets a dozen cookies from me which truly makes us all losers doesn’t it?

Let us begin . . .

Here’s our spreadsheet as it existed on January 23rd.  You can see there are a few things marked complete.  A few.

DSC_0840

Starting on the exterior.  We have stucco and trim here that needs paint.  Also outdoor lighting, the new mailbox, some tweaks to the siding and shutters and a doorbell for the expected seven trick or treaters we will have in the next decade.  True story:  A friend who has lived his whole life in Torrance recently said of Via Corona, “I rode my bike down there when I was like 11, realized it was a dead end and thought that was lame.  Haven’t been back since.”  

DSC_0834

We also are in need of stucco on the new addition.  Then you’ve got paint, installing the exterior lights, replacing a tiny amount of decking and 86ing the old dishwasher.  Have we mentioned that the larger deck is no longer in the works during this phase?  Yeah, there’s that.  A casualty of mission creep.

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Now we’re on the inside.  It’s a small thing but, the garage needs drywall.  Obviously this previous effort gave new meaning to the word insufficient and no meaning to words like craftsmanship, aptitude and effort.  Someday soon this is where the old refrigerator will live amid what Shannon rightly believes is a growing colony of radioactive spiders (seriously, she volunteered to be the one who parks on the street because the garage is, and I quote, “spidery”).  The rest of the garage is a project for later.  Much, much later.  Think 3rd Trump Administration later.

DSC_0838

The aforementioned new addition sits in a medium raw state.  Here we still need paint, lights, flooring, the all-important TV install, a fireplace redesign that I will never fully understand and some kind of ceiling decor design element thingy that I’m assured will be “sick” (as described by the builder).

DSC_0839

A new TV and a totally boss speaker system sit ready to make this room an oasis for the insane amount of quality sitting and napping I’ll be doing very soon (once the non-stop construction sounds dissipate).  I truly have a great napping ability.  Everyone agrees that I am a terrific napper, so there’s no concern about my napping, believe me.  And when I awake from a blissful slumber, this will be my view.

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Or this . . . actually, mostly this.

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There are exactly 77 other jobs great and small (paint touch ups, pieces of trim, minor electrical, patching holes in drywall) that could be accomplished by one handy person and a Thermos of coffee, but that streetwise Hercules has yet to show up to fight the rising odds.

So, there you have it?  Is this the end?  Are you my friend?  It seems to me we ought to be free . . .

Place your bets in the comment section as to when we will be officially complete and earn yourself the treasure of a lifetime.  Who knows?  This could be the greatest day of your life, but only if you follow the words of the immortal Navin R. Johnson.

Take a chance and win some crap.

 

Inspiration on the 110

I spend a lot of time on the 110 freeway.  My daily commute is 22 miles each way: 40 minutes in the morning, 60 in the evening.   This is a statement of fact, not a complaint.  As La La Land so melodiously exposits: if you live in Los Angeles, you commute (unless you are TD and then you just walk down the hall).

[Tidbit: the opening scene takes place on the 105 E expressway transition to the 110 N which is odd because that ‘aint how you get to Hollywood.  Normally this wouldn’t mean anything except this movie is a tribute to the industry which means everyone included in the homage knows exactly where that scene takes place.  Another inaccuracy: Hollywood peeps don’t slum it in the South Bay–no matter how good the jazz.  LA’s South Bay is to LA’s mid-city as  LA is to New York.  Apparently beach living is too easy for the actor set.  Venice being the exception for some reason. And yes, I realize that I may be the only person in LA…nay…the entire country who isn’t totally gaga over La La. For the record, I didn’t like the English Patient either so, there you go.]

But back to my commute.  On the way in, I listen to the radio.  Usually a combo of KROQ and KCRW.  It’s dark and I want to know what’s going on in the world (okay, KROQ isn’t super great for the latter but it’s an institution).  One the way home I usually listen to audible and podcasts.

I don’t know about you but I categorize my podcasts.  There are the ones to which I subscribe in order to learns new things.  There are ones that entertain me.  And then there are the ones that I listen to when I actually just want to think and there is something about the host’s voice that helps me to tune-out and tune in to my own brain.

One of the things I like to think about are new recipes (I’ve never claimed the thoughts were deep).  I find it very enjoyable to think about flavor and texture combinations.  I’ve come up with some really great ones over the years.  The only problem is that about 90% of the time whatever it is I’ve been thinking about immediately flits out of my noggin’ upon arrival at the gym, or home or wherever my after-work destination that day happens to be.

Luckily, this one stuck: basil and citrus in a cookie.  And then I had to sit on it for four months until I had a kitchen.  Mwah mwah.

The original idea included basil and candied citrus zest.  However, when it came down to it, I got lazy and subbed-in fresh tangerine zest for the candied.  To get the flavors really infused, I added the zest and chopped basil to the sugar and allowed everything to mingle for a couple of hours (this would make a fantastic sugar scrub).

The results were a surprise hit!

Basil and tangerine sables

adapted from the French Vanilla Sables in Dorie’s Cookies

makes about 30 cookies

Ingredients

for sables

  • 3-4 large basil leaves
  • 2 oranges or large tangerines, zested with juice set aside
  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, on the cold side of room temp and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 C (100g) sugar
  • 1/4 C (30g) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I used sea but kosher would be fine)
  • 2 large egg yolks at room temp
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 C (272g) all-purpose flour

for icing

  • juice from the oranges
  • 1.5 C confectioner’s sugar

Directions

  1. Chiffonade (thinly slice) your basil leaves.  In a sealable baggy or small container, combine citrus zest and basil. Close container and shake to combine.  Let sit for at least an hour.
  2. In a standing mixer, cream butter for 60 seconds.  Add-in sugars and salt, beat on medium for 3 minutes.
  3. Reduce mixture speed to low and beat in the egg yolks one at a time.  Add vanilla.
  4. Turn off mixer.  Add flour mixture and pulse on low until the flour stops flying (alternately, cover top of mixer and bowl with a clean dishtowel so that the flour doesn’t fly and turn on low).  Mix on low until the flour just disappears.
  5. Give the dough a few turns with a stiff spatula.  Turn out onto a clean surface and divide in half.  Roll each half into a log about 1.5 inches in diameter.  I find the easiest way to do this is to start the log and then roll it back and forth over a piece of parchment paper by holding the ends of the parchment.  This helps create an even log.
  6. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and let cool in the fridge for at least 2 hours or freeze.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Remove dough from plastic and cut into disks (I like them about .25-.125 thick but cut to desired thickness not to exceed .5 inches).  Place disks on baking sheets with 2″ distance between.
  9. Bake for 16-19 minutes until they are firm to the touch and slightly golden around the edges.  Be sure to rotate sheets halfway through.  Allow to cool on sheets for a couple of minutes and then transfer to cool completely.
  10. Slowly add citrus juice to confectioner’s sugar until you reach desired consistency.  Above I’ve mixed it thin to cover the entire cookie but icing could be mixed thicker (less juice) and drizzled.  Ice cookies and allow to set-up.
  11. Store in air-tight container.

Store it. Store it good: laundry/butler’s/appliance pantry and linen closet revealish

Seriously?  You made it past that title?

Hey–if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a 1,000 times: infrastructure is sexy!

Let’s start with the laundry/appliance garage/butler’s pantry.  If you want the full 411 on the plans for this room, check out the Via Corona’s Secret Weapon post. Otherwise, here are the Cliffs Notes version.

Warning:  I had a heck of a time trying to photograph this room.  Size and light were not my friends.

The laundry room inhabits the space between the kitchen and the garage.

As the drawing shows, originally there was a door between the kitchen and the laundry with two steps down to the garage that took up the entire wall (Exit) going to the garage.

We moved the entryway to the garage and added a fire door because, you know, safety!  We also turned the hot water heater so that we could move access out of the laundry and into the garage (the original can be seen in the lower left of the plans above).  This bought us some more wall space.  Finally, we moved the washer and dryer outlets so that the appliances could be stacked.

New tile.  It sure was hard to give up that old linoleum.  This floor makes me chuckle.  We used a really great tile store called Cosmos for nearly all of our tile needs.  However, Cosmos is up in Hollywood and has normal business hours which means at least an hour’s drive and a weekend trip.  We got tired of doing that and so just went down to Home Depot and picked these out.  I love Home Depot.

The original plans included an actual door between the kitchen and this room.  However we had to lose it when the cabinetry guys realized we wouldn’t be able to open the ovens with the door frame.  Oops.  Like every place else in this house, the space is tight so losing the door opened things up.  It’s also great incentive to keep the space tidy.

As soon as the paint was dry on the baseboards, TD and I built the storage using Pax units from Ikea.  If you are playing along at home, the Via Corona Pax unit tally is currently at 10.  We’re pretty sure we’ve exceeded our lifetime allotment and would prefer to never have to build another one again.

When I originally mapped out the space, I knew fitting two of the 29″ units alongside the stacked washer and dryer was going to be a squeaker.  But, with some good math and a little luck, the three units fit side-by side with one-and-a-half inches to spare.  Smooth.

I organized the space so that all of the heavy small appliances could be pulled off the shelves at waist-level (for me).  This way I don’t have to pull-down or pick-up the heavier items like the standing mixer or food processor.  We also put the microwave in this space on a pull-out shelf.  There is more to the microwave story but TD won’t let me tell it because it makes him cry (let’s just say this isn’t the original microwave that we bought for the space).

The PAX units we’ve used are nearly 23 inches deep which allows for ample storage of serving platters, big bowls, footed dishes and my not insignificant collection of vases, hurricane lanterns, candles and such.  Please ignore the fact that they haven’t finished framing the door and sheet-rocking the walls on garage side.

The wall opposite houses our mail and communications command center.  The idea is to keep mail and lists out of sight.  The hooks below are for wet dishtowels (again, to keep them out of view) and below (not pictured) are the kitty dishes.  All the bits of blue tape are spots that need touch-ups.

I’m still playing with the organization of the room but its been pretty incredible to have everything in one place.

On to the linen closets.

Our last house did not have a linen closet.  This means I had linens and towels stashed all over the house like nuts.  Just call me old linen squirrel.  While it feels a little Betty Crocker, the prospect of a designated space for towels, sheets and blankets was embarassingly exciting to me.

Of the hundreds of photos I’ve taken, this was the “best” I could find of the linen closets in their original.  Some of you might recall, this is where, after we’d owned the place for a couple of weeks, we discovered a pair of men’s boxers.

And then TD tried to sell them.

At first we naively thought we’d just have the doors replaced but keep the existing structure.  Interestingly, it would have cost more to have new doors made than to replace the whole unit.

So out they went. Along with the carpet and low-ceilings.

The builder used four pre-fabricated linen cabinets with the doors oriented so that they look like two.

Rather than faking-out a wall above the installed cabinets, we left it open and added baskets for texture and more storage.  Those who know me won’t be surprised that I’ve decided those baskets are also most likely spider attractants and now I’m super scared to store things in them.

Movable shelves in the upper cabinets allowed me to customize fit for sheets and blankets.

While I’m pretty sure these babies could store the linens for an entire household, the master bath has its own storage.  Which leaves me with a couple of empty shelves.  I know, nature, especially in the form of storage, abhors a vacuum and sooner than I’d like, these cabinets will be filled.  But for now, they’re orderly and neat.

The drawers are genius–I mean the people who design these things must be experts or something.  I can actually fit my entire collection of pillow cases and shams organized by size.

I can’t believe I just said that out loud.

Lots of storage for cloth napkins as well.

Please don’t tell my mom I haven’t lined the drawers yet…she’ll report me to the WASP police.

Their fines are hefty and we need our last few pennies to finish up Via Corona.

 

Forget the fairways and greens

First things first: the Via Corona kitchen (and Misanthropic Hostess world headquarters) is 98% complete.  The crew “finished” it on December 23rd.  It was the Christmas miracle that was meant to be a Labor Day deliverable.  I’ll do a fully sourced kitchen reveal later this month.

This kitchen was designed to be ridden hard and put away wet so I got right down to business.  In the first 36 hours after we’d moved everything in,  I made 5 kinds of cookies, 2 kinds of bars, a layer cake, cinnamon buns and a batch of madeleines. I’d also fired-up the slow cooker, made and froze half a dozen base recipes (shredded chicken for tacos, chile verde for tacos, soy honey turkey for Asian tacos, turkey bolgonese for the kind of tacos you eat over spagetti…we eat a lot of tacos).  Oh, and Thanksgiving dinner…on Christmas…because we missed it on Thanksgiving.

If you give a girl double ovens and five burners there’s to limit to what she can do.

I am at a loss to describe what a pleasure it is to have an organized, fully applianced and working kitchen.  While I’m of the “have oven, will bake” sentiment (way back when I used to make pie dough in a blender) and the Hermosa Beach rental had its charm, it’s good to be back.

The first thing I made was a batch of chocolate chip cookies for Tom.  I figured I’d if I distracted him with fairways and greens, he wouldn’t notice that I’d immediately and enthusiastically left the course starting with these blue cheese and honey madeleines.

They are from Dorie Greenspan’s new book, Dorie’s Cookies and I was so excited to be reunited with my specialty baking pans after nearly a year and a half, that these were an easy first bake.

This recipe walks the line between sweet and savory, rich little cakes with the zing of tart cheese and depth of honey.

Madeleines come with the added benefit of getting to bang the pan to release the little jewels.  I find this practice very satisfying.

While generally best if eaten in the first 24 hours after being made, they do freeze well.  We enjoyed these with some dry California sparkling wine on New Year’s eve as a late night snack.

Honey and blue cheese madeleines

from Dorie’s Cookies, Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients

  • 3/4 C (102 g) all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt (I use kosher)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper (or more to taste if you are a pepper-fiend like me)
  • 2 large eggs at room temp
  • 2 TBS sugar
  • 6 TBS (3oz,, 85 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 oz (57 g) bleu cheese crumbled or cut into bits

Directions

  1. Coat the madeleine molds with softened butter (I like to use the inside of the butter wrapper), dust with flour, tap-out excess (or use baker’s spray).
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.
  3. In a medium bowl, energetically whisk eggs with the sugar and honey until well blended.
  4. Add flour all at once and gently fold-in with spatula.
  5. Fold-in the butter in three to four batches.
  6. Fold-in the cheese.
  7. Divide batter evenly among the molds.  The batter won’t be smooth and might not cover the mold–don’t worry, it’ll even-out during cooking.
  8. Freeze for at least an hour.
  9. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and center rack. Place a baking sheet on rack to pre-heat.
  10. Place cold madeleine tin/mold on preheated baking sheet and bake for 11-13 minutes or until the cakes are golden brown (don’t undercook).
  11. Remove pan from oven and if mold is metal, grab and end and tap it on the counter, the madeleines should pop right out.
  12. Best if eaten the same day or frozen.  Warm briefly in 350 degree oven once thawed.

The New Addition Edition

For those who are unaware of our genesis story, TD and I met at a Halloween party.  I was dressed as a cat.  TD was a chicken.  And he was dressed as one.  We spoke briefly (apparently there was some interference from a guy in a diaper, but I don’t really remember that part) and the next week he asked me out.  There’s more to it than that but I’m trying to be brief in my nostalgia waxing.

For those of you who know him, you also know that roughly 75% of what comes out of Tom’s mouth is utter nonsense.  For example, on our first date during the “where did you come from and how did you get here” portion, he revealed that he’d gone to, and I quote, “SIU . . . The Harvard of the midwest.”  Oooo-kay.

He also showed me a video (yes…an actual VHS tape) of his Klement’s Sausage Race victory. That’s right, he invited me to his place, sat me down and had me watch him run around Milwaukee’s County Stadium dressed as 9-foot tall, lederhosen-clad bratwurst.  For those of you who read this blog regularly, you’ll know that we also went through the voting booklet cover to cover.    By the end of the first date it was pretty clear to me that he was either really funny…or really…special.

Turns out, he’s both.

But anyway.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-1-56-37-pm(TD Here.  We have long disputed what did and didn’t happen on our controversial first date.  To wit, I have exactly ZERO recollection of showing the Sausage Race video in this instance – or where that videotape is now in case you want to relive the glory.  Not saying it didn’t happen, because it probably did.  I mean what better way to show the ladies your bona fides as a genuine American winning machine, am I right?)

In those early days I sometimes had a hard time telling when he was serious and when he was yanking my chain.  And while most of the time the joke was on me, occasionally, I’d misread the situation.

Enter New Edition.

So there we were.  Heading somewhere in his kickin’ bronzite Oldsmobile bravada.  He puts in a tape (yes…a tape) and in a blast of over-synthesized cacophony from the car speakers comes this:

I started laughing.  I seriously thought he was joking.

In my defense (though really, I don’t think I need one in this instance), I didn’t know who New Edition was.  By the time I was paying attention to music, the band formerly known as New Edition were known better as Bobby Brown the solo artist and Bel Biv Devoe.  Poison I got.  Mr Telephone Man?  Not so much.  And yet here was this 6’2″ white dude singing and car dancing to: “Candy Girl, you are my world, you look so sweet, you’re a special treat” way, way before carpool karaoke.

Dude loves him some New Edition.  Seventeen years later I’m still waiting for him to admit it’s a joke.  I probably wasn’t sensitive enough at the time to read whether I’d offended him.  Then again…New Edition…does it really matter?  Special indeed.

But anyway.

(TD again.  Allow me to say, without a hint of irony or sarcasm that there are two types of people in the world.  1.)  Those that like New Edition and 2.) Morons.  We will not debate this.  If you’re not at least tapping your toes by the time Ralph gets to “Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky & Mike, if I love the girl who cares who you like?” you are dead inside.  Dead I tell you.  Also, be sure to catch a 3-night television event, The New Edition Story Tuesday, January 24th at 9P/8C on BET!)

This was a very long and not very related introduction to Via Corona’s own new edition: the addition.  A few months ago, we shared the addition plans in a very general way.  But let us refresh your memory.

In the original space, the living and dining rooms were sort of kitty-corner to one-another.

(TD here.  The use of certain nonsense words and phrases like “irregardless” and “orientated” has always bothered me.  Don’t even get me started on “buck” vs. “butt naked”.   I was going to correct Shannon’s use of “kitty corner” in favor of “catty corner”, but I looked it up and it turns out she was right.  I guess you should expect a certain command of the language from someone holding a PhD from UCLA, but her correctness in this instance annoys me still. 

This expression, meaning “diagonally opposite,” was formed from a misspelling in English of the French word quatre (“four”) prefixed to “corner.” Although the word has nothing to do with cats or kittens, in various dialects all three spellings are acceptable: “catty,” “cater” or “kitty.”  Unless you have somebody holding your golf clubs permanently stationed in the corner of your room, you shouldn’t use the spelling “caddy corner.”  For the record, I’ve never heard anyone say “cater corner” but would instantly consider that person to be a psychopath.   Now, in the words of the estimable Casey Kasem, on with the countdown.)

As you can see from the schematic, a doorway separated the two making for a very undersized living area.

And an over-sized formal dining space.

So we decided to reconfigure the main living space by bumping out the space off of the living and dining rooms to make a kind of continuous L-shaped area.  We’ll have new 12-foot french doors off-of the bump-out leading to the deck.  What was the living room becomes a dining space (next to the bay-window), the new space becomes the living room and what was the dining room becomes a sitting room off of the kitchen.  Got that?  There will be a quiz.

Speaking of kitchens.  You’ve heard the drama about how long it took to get the permits for this just under 200 square foot edition.  So, we were pretty enthusiastic that that two days after we finally got this:

They started in on this:

That’s right folks.  As I type, I’m looking out through the Dexter-style plastic at a portion of the house currently secured by plywood and a couple of two-by fours.  The floor is open to the crawl space.  We’ve got no insulation and any man, woman, child or raccoon can just walk right in.  Sensing opportunity for adventure, the cats immediately started looking for gaps in the plastic through which to escape.  They found one pretty quick and had some serious cobweb-fueled adventures under the house.  They’re now on semi-permanent house arrest in the guest bedroom.

At this point, the foundation has been poured and they are currently working on replacing the old headers with new ones (hence all the scaffolding).  Official looking people have come through and inspected things.  It’s been very loud.  But, stuff is getting done.  We think.  If not, there are are 4 dudes presumably named Ronaldo, Roberto, Ricardo and Miguel who’ve killed about a week listening to a endless stream of tejano music and smack talking to one another in Spanish while not working on our house.

It should all be done by the end of February.  So, you know, May.

Which brings up an important question related to our new addition. If Via Corona were a band, who would she be?  Crowded House?  House of Pain? Bad Company?

Definitely not New Edition.

(Finally, not that anyone should have to defend an appreciation for the only boy band since the Jackson 5 that didn’t suck out loud, but allow me to point out that this freaking song was on a Now That’s What I Call Terrible Music! CD in Shannon’s car when we met.  If you make it through the first :30 without wanting to jam a meat thermometer in your ear, you’re likely someone who would say “cater corner”)

I knew that was coming.  It’s what he hangs on to whenever we talk about New Edition.  The year was 2000.  The Vitamin C song was on the Now That’s What I Call Music 5 compilation.  There were 17 other artists on the CD. Vitamin C was joined by  Third Eye Blind, Sonique, and Hanson  and he chooses to single-out Vitamin C?! She was the misdemeanor of my musical crimes at that point.

A bad idea poorly executed

Hey there!  Shannon had the stellar idea that I should take photos of the many wacky things I see from my office at Via Corona and write an equally madcap send up of said various and sundry items.

A terrific idea in theory if say, a.) all (or any) of the critters would stand still for photos and b.) I were even a passable photographer (hint:  they wouldn’t and I’m not).

A lesser man probably would’ve chosen a different (easier) topic, but I come from a long line of frontiersmen and outdoor types to whom quit is a four-letter word.  So, as we begin 2017, this is exactly the idea I will now ram down your throat in one of those annoying listicles that everyone reads like 2016’s Hottest Waffle Toppings.

Before we get started, a quick photo quiz from a shot taken at Rocketship Park in Torrance.

Q:  What is this? (Scroll down for the answer)

fullsizerender

Quiz answer:  An attempted murder.  Get it?

Top 6 Airborne Things

#6 Fireworks – If you know me even a little, you know that I’m not exactly pro-fireworks.  My stance has nothing to do with safety mind you.   In fact if you want to blow your hand off a la Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Google it), be my guest. Those things are like Darwin’s dynamite. My issue is more with fireworks shows.  Specifically, why I must I make any effort to attend them since they are free  . . . and in the sky.  Generally speaking, I kinda prefer to stay a respectable distance from crowds, traffic and people saying, “Ooooohhh!” while marveling at a “technology” that hasn’t advanced one second in my lifetime?!  I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts if I played you a fireworks show from 1974 this 4th of July and told you it was happening live you could not tell the difference.

I say all that to say this.  Because my wife has heard this rant for nearly 20 years now (actually almost exclusively because of this), we can now enjoy the South Bay’s finest fireworks shows from the Via Corona deck.  The Manhattan Beach holiday fireworks pictured below are a proof of concept.  You’re all more than welcome to visit the heated Via Corona back deck and watch the fireworks with Shannon.  I’ll probably be off yelling at some kids to get off my lawn (once I get a lawn).  I can’t wait to see what the 4th of July has in store for us.

#5 WWII Planes – Growing up my older brother was always fascinated with WWII aircraft.  Oddly he would torment me by asking me to name WWII planes by sight, passing out noogies for every incorrect response.  Needless to say I got pretty good at it – and that’s a weird thing to be good at.

One day I was running near the beach when an old war plane came roaring overhead flying low over the ocean.  It was a restored B-24 Liberator like the one flown (and crashed) by Torrance native, and 1936 Olympian, Louis Zamperini.  Could I get my phone out of my pocket for an out of focus snap?  Not on your life.

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Louis Zamperini is something of a local legend in these parts.  He’s also the subject of the book and movie Unbroken.  The locals renamed Torrance Municipal Airport to Zamperini Field in 1946.  We have a prime view off the airfield off the back of the house.  Now and then you get to see cool WWII planes flying in and out of Zamperini Field and, like a dork, I can name most of them when they fly by the window   . . . B-17!  P-51 Mustang! Whee!  I’m told Torrance also has a WWII store that I’ve never visited but here’s a link in case you want to sing Happy Christmas (The War is Over) and/or just get your Axis on: http://www.wwiistore.com

Tangent Alert!  Before we move on with the countdown, can we discuss what the odds are that Paul McCartney and John Lennon, the collaborators and genius musicians who gave us scores of great tunes would also came up with two of the absolute worst Christmas songs ever recorded?  If I live to be 1,000 I will never understand this.  Happy Christmas (The War Is Over) AND Wonderful Christmastime?!  Sure, I expect this kind of dreck from no talent hacks like Elmo & Patsy and The Waitresses, but 50% of the Beatles?  I swear if I had any musical ability whatsoever I would record a Christmas song first so I could live on forever.  Case in point, we’re still listening to Happy Christmas (The War Is Over) and Wonderful Christmastime and those songs suck.

Moving on to solid holiday fare, you probably know that the great Johnny Mathis did voiceover for our ESPN documentary ’51 Dons a few years ago.  Because he is one of the nicest guys on the planet, he relayed this story about his first Christmas album Merry Christmas (the one with Winter Wonderland, White Christmas, etc.).  For background, that album dropped on my Mom’s 22nd birthday and it’s a classic (so was she), so I had to ask how it came to be.  He said when he finally became a star in 1958 the suits at Columbia Records asked him what he wanted to record.  He said, “I want to do a Christmas album to thank my parents for all they did for me.”  Shortly thereafter a freak dust cloud kicked up in the booth and my eyes watered some.

You might think I don’t have a terrible, grainy picture to commemorate the experience  . . . and you would be wrong.  This is the only selfie I’ve ever taken.  And it shows!img_0848

#4 Helicopters – Zamperini Field is also the home of the Robinson Helicopter Company – the world’s leading manufacturer of civil helicopters.  Apparently Robinson also makes the most crashed helicopter in the game.  One model has 78 crashes in the last 22 months.  They’ve been grounded in New Zealand.  They’re pretty cool looking when they’re airborne here of the good ol’ US of A though.

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#3 Peacocks – If you head just a few blocks due south of Via Corona you can hear the – ahem – love dance of the population of peninsula peacocks.  There seems to be some debate on how the peacocks got there in the first place which also seems like an awful waste of breath.  My favorite story is that they were stolen from chewing gum magnate William Wrigley’s estate on Catalina Island in 1924.

In a controversy so white it should be snowboarding, the peacocks are actually a major source of partisan bickering amongst the residents of the four towns that comprise “The Area Where No Really Bad Stuff Happens”  Will the people of Flint, Michigan please sit the f&@k down, we’ve got peacocks ruining our hydrangeas here on the penninsula!

Apparently the birds are as destructive as they are horny and loud, so much so that the city of Rancho Palos Verdes passed an ordinance that calls for up to 150 birds per year to be shipped off to a mysterious, unknown location (read:  probably the same “farm” where you’re childhood dog lives).  This was in response to – I swear I’m not making this up – a string of 47 unsolved peacock murders in nearby Rolling Hills Estates.  Yes, we have a serial peacock killer in our midst!  Your move, Mannix.

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#2 Hudson the Hawk – Much to my delight, there’s an adult red tailed hawk living in a tree just outside my office.  He takes wing pretty regularly to practice his awesome hawk scream while ruling the skies like a boss and wreaking havoc on any and all unsuspecting neighborhood mice, squirrels, bunnies, peacocks, lambs, sloths, orangutans, Robinson helicopters, fruit bats and breakfast cereals (If you’re one of the 4 people who will get that reference, I salute you).

hawk

There is also an owl we hear in the evenings but have yet to see.

#1  The Goodyear Blimp – Growing up on the gritty streets of Carbondale, Illinois, I realized pretty early on that there was more to life than what I could see out my window.   As a kid, the Goodyear blimp was always the symbol of the big time.  On New Year’s Day I’d see it flying over the sunny Rose Bowl and think, “Man, how do I get to where the blimp is?” before going back to staring out the window at snow piled knee high to a tall giraffe.

The short answer is, you eventually move to Via Corona.

Here’s a shot of the blimp (Wingfoot Two to be exact), based in nearby Carson, California on its daily rounds, showing its precious cargo of cheerleaders and supermodels the sights of the South Bay.  Flights on the blimp are by invitation only and I would kill to get one, so let me know if you know of anyone of the non-peacock persuasion who deserves a little dirt nap.

Here’s a blimp shot from some excited fanboy.

And here’s a professional shot of the blimp in action over the peninsula, no doubt in search of the elusive peacock serial killer.  That’s Malaga Cove down below and  Catalina Island in the deep background.

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That’s it.  That’s the list!  Next week we’ll return to our regularly scheduled ranting about our 33rd month of renovation including progress being made on the the addition.  Speaking if which, guess who showed up at 8:45 AM New Year’s morning?  Not sure where they were the Wednesday, Thursday or Friday of the week before but for some reason even the builder couldn’t explain, they decided to install headers first thing 2017.

‘Round here

 



Step out the front door like a ghost
Into the fog where no one notices
The contrast of white on white.

TD Here.    I never was much of a Counting Crows fan (much = not at all), but this was the title Shannon gave this post, so here we go.  Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think you can trust a suburban white guy with dreadlocks no matter how jaunty his bowtie. [TMH:  Much of my marital contribution is teeing them up so TD can knock ’em down.]

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-12-39-45-pm

As the year comes to a close, we’re pleased to report that Via Corona is finally rounding into shape (silly readers, segues are for kids).

As you can see below, her crumbling exterior was replaced with shiny, new HardiePlank(R) siding – “the most popular brand of siding in America” and a fresh coat of sparkly white Cool December paint to boot.

Her lower half also got a slathering of rough coat stucco.  In the fullness of time it will be Cool December as well – a color that looks for all the world like white, but Shannon assures me is not, in fact, white.  Did you also know there’s more than one kind of white?  I know, right?!  Apparently the corporate goons at Crayola sleep on a bed of lies.

A Cool December and there’s reason to believe

Maybe this grey will be whiter than the last

I can’t remember the last time I could lock my front door

Let us hope this addition is done fast

[TMH: and now you know where the title of the post came from.  Having Adam Duritz stuck in your head is some kind of torture.]

Have we mentioned the permitting process in Torrance is broken like Joe Theismann’s femur?  We have? Oh yeah, that one time.  Alrighty then, here are the first visible signs of progress on our “addition.”   First they build the foundation, then they bring the walls out, then we add the doors and you’ve got yourself a family room.

NOTE:  The City of Torrance comes out to inspect and (presumably) approve each stage.  Buckle up, this might take a while.

Welcome to our museum exhibit powder room – now with fixtures [TMH: minus the mirror and cool accessories]!  Mind you, I am forbidden from using the sink because of the potential to splash water on the precious wallpaper [TMH: it’s because the mirror isn’t up yet and TD washes his hands like an alligator taking down a water buffalo].  You might rightly ask, “then why in the name of the sweet chocolate Christ is the wallpaper near the sink?”  Oh,  you can ask.  Just don’t expect an answer that makes any logical sense.  Indeed, let this be a warning to you, potential visitor and/or harried traveler, you may freshen up but do so at your peril.

Oh, and when you’re freshening up, everyone in a nine mile radius will be able to see you through the conveniently placed bay window!  I swear this house was designed by chimps . . . or exhibitionists . . . or maybe the rarest of all – exhibitionist chimps.  [TMH: the only one who is ever going to see you is that neighbor down the street  who inexplicably stops to use the porta-potty in our driveway both coming and going while walking his dogs.  Every day.  WTF?].

We’re going to frost the glass in here and maybe add some kind of window treatment.   I will undoubtedly be restricted from touching the window treatment any way, shape or form. For now though, enjoy the nice view of our construction dumpster.

Speaking of, doesn’t window treatment sound like something that’s much cooler/more important than it really is?  Look up souffle cup . . . box tent . . . desire path . . .  then imagine my surprise/disappointment when I realized the “digital rectal” involves the use of exactly zero devices with digital readouts.  You win this round, doctor. [TMH: What is you talking about?]

As you can see, the kitchen now has a backsplash.  Hell, the wall has a backsplash.  Whereas using the powder room faucet requires the calm resolve and icy precision of a Marine sniper, in the kitchen you can be Red Adair with a firehose.

Not to get off on a rant here, but it’s not lost in my consciousness, or bank account, that we replaced a previous overabundance of tile in the kitchen with an overabundance of different tile in kitchen 2.0. [TMH: Overabundance? By my calculation TD’s shower includes no less than 136 square feet of marble tile.  It makes the kitchen look restrained by comparison].

Someday soon you’ll see we also did this with our replacement shutters which, save a barely noticeable arch at the top, are the exact same shutters as the ones now taking up permanent residence in Davy Jones’ Locker!  Notably, the new ones are black. God forbid we buy a $3 can of spray paint when there are exact replicas for sale at 21st century prices.  Imagine the horror when Architectural Digest comes to Via Corona and we have reused humpback shutters!?  This will not stand.  Good day, sir! [TMH: This from a guy wears athletic slides held together by duct tape.  Those shutters – like the complainant – were 50 years old.]

Ok, now I feel better.  Where were we?  Oh, the kitchen.

Here I’ve asked Santa Trump for an H2B visa – Temporary worker performing other services or labor of a temporary or seasonal nature.

No question I’m an interloper here, so I’ll treat it like a Cleveland Browns QB and try not to get too comfortable.  Then again, Shannon keeps asking me about a home security system.  Maybe it’s just for this room.

I’m being told this is the court-ordered safe distance I am allowed to inhabit while Shannon is doing that voodoo and that she do so well.

The stools in the photo are, to use a technical term, comfort adjacent.

The master bedroom is in a state we like to call “mostly complete-ish”.  At this point it’s just missing the art which is currently so deep in storage that we’ll be lucky if we don’t have to pay a customs tariff for re-entry into the U.S. when we finally retrieve it all #wedontdogooddealsanymore #Chinaiseatingourlunch.

It’s a bit hard to tell from the photo, but there are 12 effing pillows on our bed.  I have no idea exactly when or how this happened.  One day I had one drool-covered place to lay my head, and the next thing you know I’m bedding down with enough pillows to outfit the entire Duggar clan.  We use exactly 1/3 of them nightly.  The rest are chucked haphazardly about the room so I can trip over them in the dark on the way to the bathroom. [TMH:  the remaining pillows are so that I have options when I finally decide to smother you in your sleep].

To be honest, when we got married nearly a decade ago I had no clue how much of my life would be spent shopping for, buying, placing and discussing pillows.  Needless to say terms like “throw pillow”, “pillow fight”, and “pillow talk” bear no resemblance to visions in my head  [TMH: funny what a guy will do for health insurance].

Make no mistake, our pillow game is STRONG.  So strong, in fact that we now have custom pillows like the one Gracie the Seasonal Reindeer is resting her tiny noggin upon. [TMH: This snap?  Not staged.  The cat actually sneaks into the guest bedroom, snuggles under the covers and naps, Goldilocks and the Three Bears style.]

Shannon has also spoken a great deal about a furry pillow that I’ve yet to see . Not exactly sure when or where it will make its debut (largely because I don’t care), but rest assured it will be feted with Winfrey-level fanfare.

You get a pillow!

And You Get A Pillow!

AND YOU GET A PILLOW!

[TMH: the pillow is hairy not furry and it goes on the couch in the room that hasn’t been built yet.]

Via Corona and me

Look into the future

Yeah, we stare at the pretty vi-ew

She’s lookin’ at downtown

I don’t think so

She’s looking at Malibu

Standing on the back deck

I bought myself a train wreck

When she is finally done

I will never use her powder room

I will never use her powder room

Said Shannon won’t let me use the powder

room

 

Want more?  Go here: Via Corona.

 

 

Sometimes it is what’s on the outside that counts: Concogalow

I think we’ve made it fairly clear that the photo above is basically Via Corona’s version of a mall glamour shot.  What you think you are seeing is a nice white house vaguely fashioned after the Colonial Revival school.

Up close is a different story.  Good from far.  Far from good.  Pull off the Barbara Walters soft-focus lens and what you thought was a peppy if not plain version of Ariel, The Little Mermaid is really Ursula in her many-tentacled glory.

That was before we literally took a jackhammer to Via Corona’s exterior.  In our attempt to save money, and thumb our noses at nearly every standing OSHA regulation, we created Ursula with cystic acne.  Or, if you’ve never seen The Little Mermaid, we fashioned ourselves a butterface.*

*Slang for “but her face” as in, “Via Corona has a nice body, butterface.”**

**Shannon isn’t so keen on this phrase.

For those unfamiliar with Colonial Revival, allow Yale’s Vincent Scully (no, not that Vin Scully) to summarize, “Colonial Revival got started during the Grant Administration, when America feels corrupted by Grant. There is nostalgia in it, and properly so, in the sense that once things were done better.  And out of it came some of the most important developments in American architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright and everybody else.”

Luckily, the scope of work includes a full makeover of Via Corona’s facade.  To be clear, this facelift is both Alpha and Omega on said list.  The hillbilly dirt patch we call a lawn?  The white tile walkway from Yanni’s beach retreat circa 1982?  The artisanal gravel thrown hither and yon?  No, no and no.  They will remain at least for the time being – just in case Yanni comes over.

Originally we thought we’d pull off the siding and replace it with new siding from top to bottom.  This is a pretty popular look in our neighborhood and we were digging it.

Alas, adding siding all the way down proved to be cost prohibitive (think a PhD from beauty school).  So, we pivoted to siding on the second story, stucco on the first.  Party on the top; business down below.

Luckily, this is also a popular look in our neighborhood (it’s Southern California–there is no continuity in housing style among neighborhoods).

Here is the Via Corona exterior task rundown:

  • Replace upper siding with new, indestructible Hardie-board siding
  • Pull off fake rock downstairs, replace with stucco across entire front of house and garage.
  • Replace front door
  • Replace all shutters
  • Replace garage door
  • Reframe windows and doors
  • Power wash, patch and paint wall (sort of like lipstick on a pig but replacing that wall costs the same as a year in beauty school)

Via Corona is an architectural mash-up, like the Colonial Revival style itself.  What with its reliance on decorative crown pediments, fanlights, sidelights and symmetrical windows.  She’s also a little Cape Cod and a dash of Saltbox.  But mostly, she’s just rectangle.  As such, we are continuing with the theme.

The front and garage doors are a nod to the craftsman and shaker details we’ve got going on inside via the cabinetry, interior doors and trim.  We’re keeping the more traditional levered shutters but going straight top rather than cathedral (I love myself an arch but there isn’t a single one to be found anywhere else in the house).  All in black.  We’re also throwing in some other details in black via the lights and accessories that hint at the Beach Plantation style so popular in the South Bay right now.

To summarize we’ve got a white house with multiple textures and black details.  We’ll bring in more color later on when we landscape the yard (hint:  that color will be green).  I like to think of the sum of Via Corona’s parts as a sort of Contemporary Colonial Bungalow.  You know a: Concogalow.  

Yanni seems pleased.

yanni

NOTE:  I assure you, this is an actual Yanni quote.

Want more Via Corona?   Go here: Via Corona.