One of the purposes of this blog is to document the process for perpetuity.  You had to know it wasn’t going to be sexy marble tile and gleaming kitchen appliances all the time over here at Via Corona.  Heck, even the Jackson 5 occasionally let Tito or Randy have a solo.  So, welcome to the master closet.

There is give and take in choosing an older home over new construction.  Older homes often have more character and better bones (though the jury is out if Via Corona is anything more than Eddie Haskell with osteoporosis).  Unfortunately older homes can also mean lower ceilings, narrower hallways and a serious dearth of closet space.  I can’t for the life of me figure out how people in pictures from 50 years ago always look so put together while having teeny tiny closets.

To give credit where it’s due, Via Corona’s reach-in closets were actually quite nice in their original state.  But, there was no walk-in in the master and, in today’s market, a closet the size of a  NYC studio apartment is de rigueur.  That’s why in a decision akin to grabbing a package of peanut M&Ms off the rack at check-out, we decided to add a walk-in closet.

Luckily, the master reach-in and the reach-in in the small bedroom next door shared a wall.  As the smallest bedroom in the house, we knew that would be TD’s office.  Offices don’t really need closets and with three other bedrooms we decided to make the conversion.

We were very proud of ourselves for having done the “demo”  on the wall between the closets (we knocked down some wafer-thin plywood).  Turns out this was gateway destruction followed by the foyer ceiling, culminating in that marathon day with Via Corona’s exterior and a jack hammer.

The only thing we’re destroying now is our retirement.

The existing closet geography wouldn’t have been deep enough to include the “walk” in “walk-in” so we borrowed additional square footage from the office.  This also meant moving the door and the air vent.

As with most things Via Corona related, one thing lead to another.

But, all that trouble did help to create a modest walk-in closet about six feet wide and ten feet deep.

In an attempt to re-coup a little of the dough spent on vent moving, we decided we could install the organizational finishes ourselves.  Oh the hours I spent dreaming and scheming with graph paper and an Ikea Pax catalog.

TD will claim otherwise, but I really did have the best intentions of making this a his and hers closet.  But, when we lost some square footage to a vent that couldn’t be moved, I made my move for a mistress only master closet.

TD here . Dear Reader, please note that the upper right-hand part of the drawing above (the part that looks like an “L”) is where the vent is located.  So, unless I was planning on cramming one consistent Jim Harbaugh-inspired daily outfit into the corner, my threads were never going to see the inside of the walk-in.  I knew this pretty early on — like when we were destroying the wall between the two closets and Shannon lay down in the middle of the space and whispered “precious…precious” in a creepy voice I’d never heard her use.

Like the special place Cardinals Baseball, Rocky movies and the entire Stevie Wonder catalog occupy in my life, this closet (and the D-Day-like planning of same) makes my wife indescribably, incomprehensibly, blissfully happy.  I assume if I can’t find her it’s a safe bet she’ll be found luxuriating in her closet grinning gleefully and whirling daintily like Maria from West Side Story.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 4.43.14 PM

I’m totally cool with that.  Miss America can just resign and all that.

I’m told my clothes will reside down the hall in a Gronkulla or Dagstorp or some other ridiculous sounding, 51% correctly-assembled Ikea furniture.  And just like your fantasy football team, your kids and any hand of Texas Hold ‘Em poker you’ve ever played in your life I’ll pretend like I care if you want me to.

Shannon has also informed me that the “Precious” in the title of this post is in reference to a series of J.R.R. Tolkien books I’ve never read and movies I’ve never seen (as my friend Marv would say, “I have seen the book though”) and not the movie Precious based on the novel Push by Sapphire (which I’ve also never seen nor read).  So there’s that.

Shannon here. Lest anyone think I’ve kicked TD out of the closet without consequence, allow me to show you the price exacted for total closet domination:

The 98 pieces of Ikea closet fixings currently residing in our garage aren’t going to build themselves.  And TD has just informed me that he will be washing his hair in his EIGHT FOOT SHOWER for the next two weeks.  That leaves the kitchen Gods and they refuse to wear safety googles (and don’t have thumbs), so I’m not counting on them either.

It’ll just be me, my Allen wrench, and a power drill. Pretty much exactly how I like things.

Want to read more about our renovation adventures? Go here: Via Corona

Via Corona’s secret weapon

Not to be confused with her super power.  We’re pretty sure that’s making money disappear.

Last week I mentioned our super secret storage weapon: the laundry room/appliance garage.  Today we’ll take a deeper dive.  Warning–this is a post about a laundry room.  This post is ridiculous.  It’s most likely as boring as it sounds.  I won’t be offended if you decide to click away and watch cat videos.

Below is the best picture I could find of the laundry room “before. ” In it I (your friendly photographer) am standing in the entrance to the garage.  Your eyes do not deceive you, the floor to this room used to be about three inches lower than the kitchen.  Apparently, like seat belts and smoke-free environments, level flooring was more of a suggestion than requirement in the 1960s.

In the original layout, the steps to the  doorway  to the garage ran across the entire width of the room (see below).  There was also no security door between the garage and main house…just a flimsy hollow-core door with a privacy lock like you’d find on a bathroom door.  Also in the original, the doorway next to the washer and dryer was the hot water heater and the one opposite was a built-in cabinet.

In the new and improved version, we moved the door leading to the garage to where the cabinet was previously.  We closed up the old entry to the garage along with the door to the hot water heater which now has garage access.  By stacking the washer and dryer, we create about 58 square feet of storage via shelving units.  No detail too small, we’ll also have pet supply storage and feeding space (Kitchen God Command Center).

Alas, there is no design board for this room.  Don’t interpret that as a signal this room isn’t important.  Considering we’ve spent every fourth Friday night since we sold our house at the laundromat, we actively fantasize about when this room will be completed and we can stop scrounging for quarters.  Like jury duty or the DMV, the laundromat is a great equalizer of humanity.  If you need one, you better have quarters and enough laundry soap…doesn’t matter who you are.  We’ve met some very interesting characters along the way.  But, I’m tired of defending my laundry against over-eager wash mistresses (and misters) and stressing about whether there will be enough dryers when the time comes (and yes, I recognize that having anxiety over laundry speaks to an issue greater than not having a laundry room…at this point the laundry is just the tip of the anxiety iceberg).

The washer and dryer we purchased are giant.  Like, could serve the entire Duggar family giant.  Like, we’re kind of embarrassed because there are only two regular members of our household giant. Okay, in reality, they’re just normal large capacity appliances but our recent time at the laundromat has us very motivated to never, ever have to go again.  This meant purchasing something that could do king-sized linens.  I can’t wait to get crazy with a set of sheets and some Oxi Clean in the privacy of my own home.

As for the storage, this is where the small kitchen appliances will live.  It will also serve as a sort of butler’s pantry housing  oversized platters some of my more exotic baking knick knacks.  Oh, and it’ll house my rather large collection of vases, vessels and candlesticks.

I told you this post was ridiculous!

Want to read more about our renovation adventures? Go here: Via Corona

Via Corona floor plans

Lost in the maze of room specific posts?

Want to map out where you’d like to stay when you come visit?

Potential burglar who is trying to figure out the address so you can come over and realize there is nothing but an old bathtub and demolished cabinetry to burgle?

Let us help you understand the lay of the land.

Via Corona, downstairs, at move-in:

Via Corona, upstairs at move in:

Via Corona, downstairs plans:

Via Corona upstairs plans:

Where the magic happens


The kitchen!

You knew I was going to say the kitchen right?

Of all the rooms in Via Corona, the kitchen was the most updated and functional.  We seriously considered simply resurfacing her: changing out the appliances, countertops,  backsplash and calling it a day.

Except.  Except that darn cooktop

If you look closely at the picture below you’ll see that the cooktop is right in the middle of the peninsula.  While the size of the kitchen and the storage were fine, that five burner interruption meant the counter space was terrible.   Making matters worse was the box and exhaust fan the mortgage company required us to install directly above the cooktop before closing on the loan.  Goodbye line of sight if we wanted to keep the smoke detectors from going off every time someone fried an egg.

And then we completely lost our minds and decided that a rational multi-phase project over several years was silly when we could simply drain our savings and have it done all at once.  It didn’t hurt that when we were making this decision, the market was pretty volatile.  We figured Via Corona  was probably as sound of a place to invest as any other.

Unlike the cramped bathrooms and too-small living space, the kitchen already had a lot going for it.  First, the size was right relative to the scale of the house.  As we’ve mentioned, the finished space will be just over 2,000 square feet with only about half of that as living space.  Including the kitchen.  While we’ll steal a little from the powder room, we’re basically keeping it the same size.

Renovated, Via Corona’s dimensions will be about 13 by 12 feet.  Shocked?  Well, you know what they say, it’s not the size of the kitchen, it’s the placement of the spacement.

And to that spacement I said challenge accepted!  First, it meant I could totally ignore the open-shelving and no-uppers trend that’s so popular with kitchens right now.  Please, do any of those people actually ever cook in their kitchens?   With that out of the way I spent hours with my inventory of kitchen items (yep, nerd alert) and my trusty graph paper.  Buckminster Fuller couldn’t have planned that space any more efficiently (well, actually he could and would have but, you know).  By deepening the peninsula, we’ll gain some super sneaky storage–and counter space.  And then there is Via Corona’s secret weapon:  a reconfigured laundry room.  The laundry room will get its own blog post but the outcome will be a 6X8 space with an appliance garage and  butler’s pantry storage–in addition to the laundry.

How. Do. You. Like. Me. Now?

Another thing going for the kitchen space?  The light.  You all know I spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  Having natural light is a luxury.  What’s more, because of the angle of the house (and a generally persistent marine layer), the light is diffuse.  There’s lots of it but not a lot of shadows or glare.

And there there’s the view.  Were going to trim that tree. Who doesn’t want to look out over the City of Angeles or catch a glimpse of the Pacific while doing the dishes?

So let’s talk appliances.  Designing my own kitchen is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity.  But, because we’re basically replacing everything in the entire house, blowing the kitchen budget could mean we spend the next few years with an unfinished addition or…heaven forbid…no walk-in master closet.  It was clear from the start that my friends Subzero and Wolf would not be playing starring roles in Via Corona’s command center.

Which didn’t bother me a bit.  Know why?  Have you seen the kitchen I worked in for nine years?

The photo above is with the new appliances we had installed right before the mini-renovation, right before we sold the place.  For the first eight of those nine years, I worked with builder’s grade appliances to what I would argue were pretty decent results.

That’s four burners and a single oven (and two turntables and a microphone).

Wolf.  Schmolf.

Knowing that we wouldn’t be going fancy for every appliance, I focused on need and performance.  Here were my parameters:

  • double electric ovens with convection capabilities
  • generous but no larger than 36″ gas cooktop
  • vent hood that does more than push the air around
  • counter-depth fridge, no external water dispenser
  • as deep and as large as we could afford single vessel stainless sink–undermount–not apron
  • pre-wash faucet
  • water efficient dish washer that actually cleans the dishes
  • microwave that will fit in the laundry room

In the name of research, TD and I spent a very enjoyable afternoon at Pirch in Costa Mesa (I may have gone back on my own while TD was traveling just to spend some quality time in shower testing room).  If you are looking for a Japanese ice maker for your shower, this is the place to go.  If you easily suffer from cool stuff you can’t afford envy, it isn’t.

We also took no fewer than half a dozen “scouting” trips to Pacific Sales.  And the internets research?  Have you met me?  I’d start with Consumer Reports and then vet their recommendations against any and all other reviews I could find.   When all was said and done I ended up with the United Colors of Benetton in terms of kitchen appliance brands.  Each one is different. And each one better kick some appliance ass.

Second only to our wedding, ordering those appliances might have been the happiest 20 minutes of my life.  So far.

Now lets talk design.  Via Corona’s kitchen was always going to be white.  In fact, any kitchen  in any house we purchased whether West Mesa Way or Vicksuburg Avenue or 91st Street was going to be white. Don’t get me wrong, I love the painted cabinet look that is so popular right now.  I recently saw a kitchen with kelly green cabinets that made me weak in the knees.  But,  kind of like my secret desire to have a nose ring, while I admire it,  it’s just not me.  So, white cabinets. Appliances in stainless.  White subway back splash in a bisque finish with a light grey grout.  Black hardware.

But, wait.

Before you label Via Corona’s kitchen milquetoast, take a gander at her counter tops.

They’re an Italian slab porcelain in  bianco venato extra.  Really, you should click on the link to get the full effect.  And seriously, who doesn’t want a little Italian in the kitchen?  Before meeting bianco venato extra, I hadn’t considered  porcelain for the countertops.  In fact, I was completely committed to some form of quartz or quartzite or caesarstone before I walked into Cosmos and went all hearty eyes for this Italian stallion (you knew that was coming).  While I’ve always associated porcelain with tile, the slabs measure something like 60X120 inches making the countertops  a continuous surface–no grout (except when joining the slabs–just like granite or marble).  Apparently, porcelain slab is kind of like frosted mini wheats.  On the practical (wheatie) side, it is heat and scratch resistant, more durable than granite and non-porous.  On the delicious icing side, it’s, well, delicious.

At this editing (first weekend in September), Via Corona’s kitchen remains the empty space you see above–minus the toilet.  Or, maybe it’s still there and we’ve just grown accustomed to seeing it.   We’ve finalized the kitchen design and ordered the appliances, tile and counter tops…so rumor has it that some day soon she’ll be a reality.

And then, no pastry will be safe from the Misanthropic Hostess.

Want to read more about our renovation adventures? Go here: Via Corona



Three signatures

I think we’ve been pretty transparent that our renovation expertise level is neophyte at best.  And, if it hasn’t also been abundantly clear, what started out as the senior special at Red Lobster has turned into a multi-course dinner at Trois Mec (the powder room is definitely the amuse buche).  Dear friends, we are way, way out of our depth.

As such, we have taken on projects ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Mostly the latter.  Case in point, our latest adventure with approval of our architectural plans.

TD Here.  I looked up the myriad ways to get city approval on expansion plans here in Torrance-by-the-Sea (I didn’t).  Rather than recount policies and procedures you don’t care about (and I didn’t bother to read), allow me to summarize:

1.)  You submit plans to the city and in six weeks (if you’re lucky), you gain approval and/or notes on what must be changed in order to receive said approval.  I envision these notes are the result of some hybrid of a high-school-with-money popularity contest and a clandestine gathering of the leaders of Torrance’s five families (and yes, I will continue to make Godfather references until my wife sits through at least one of the films).

2.)  Something called over-the-counter.  This is a little more like an American Idol audition.  You show ’em what you have and they tell you on the spot what’s wrong (it was a little pitchy, dawg).  You make the changes and bada-boom-bada-bing, you’re approved.

We (or rather our architect) opted for Door #2.  The verdict from the Torrance elders was, and I swear I’m not making this up, if we could get three of our neighbors (as selected by Tattaglia’s – the man lost a son after all) to sign off on our plans, then (and only then) the groundhog will see his shadow and there will be 8 to 10 more weeks of renovation.

Tangent Alert!  Somewhere in our jam-packed storage unit there’s a photo of 2 or 3-year old me prior to the first time I ever went Trick-or-Treating.   I seem pretty nonplussed by the whole experience.  I’m indoors sitting on my empty Trick or Treat bag, decked out a red windbreaker with the hood up because my costume was . . . wait for it . . . Little Red Riding Hood!  Many years (yet surprisingly no therapists visits) later I asked my Mom why she cast me as the heroine in a fairy tale about a cross-dressing wolf.  She said, “Well, we had the jacket. And you were 2, so you were only going to your grandmother’s house anyway.”

Mom’s meta Halloween story aside, I’m still not entirely convinced the city elders (Hyman Roth, Moe Greene and Fredo, of course) aren’t hazing us.  But, we “had the jacket” so to speak, and, with rolled up plans in hand and limbs akimbo, we set about our task.  We traipsed through our new neighborhood like humble missionaries in search of candy from strangers ranging from practical to complete, knocking on doors prepared to ask,  “Good day, have you heard the good word that we’re remodeling Via Corona?” .


The first autograph sought was that of our next door neighbors – the ones who were so entertained by the mini-jackhammer fiasco.  They are the publishers of School Transportation News (yes, that’s a real thing).  It was a slam dunk.  Good thing too because we had no counter-argument planned if they played hard to get.

Next came our neighbors from across the street.  He does some kind of consulting for Ferrari (again, not making this up).  Once more it was the Chocolate Thunder Flying, Robinzine Crying, Teeth Shaking, Glass Breaking, Rump Roasting, Bun Toasting, Wham Bam I Am Jam.  RIP, Chocolate Thunder.

darrylThird came the neighbor below us and across a street as the crow and/or house flies.  If the big one ever hits, Via Corona will roll off its hillside perch and come to rest in his back yard.  Fortunately, the owner is a surgeon (Shannon stalked him online in case we needed to ambush him in his place of business), so talk about right place, right time, huh?  Anyway, the good doctor lives at the terminus of a winding uphill driveway that I summited once on foot, only to find he wasn’t home.  Probably just as well since I had no sherpa alongside to ask for the goods while I was doubled-over, wheezing from the ascent like an expiring burro.

On a subsequent trip (I drove up the hill this time), he offered little to no resistance to my request.  As I glanced around his Miyagi-esque back yard while mentally prepping for the perfect 97-point turn I was about to execute to begin the descent, he did ask, “If I have plans, will you sign off on them?”  To which I replied, “Dude, I can’t even see your house from mine.  Absolutely.”  Pretty sure that was the only time he’d been called “Dude” that day.  Maybe ever.

We now present the sum total of our expansion plans:  184-square feet of living space, an updated and expanded deck and a Juliet balcony off the master.

That’s it!  That’s the list of permit-required hassle that’s taken far more than the anticipated “couple of weeks!”  Talk about a long run for a short slide.

Thanks to Shannon’s sparkling budgeting skills, we have yet to encounter a major cost overrun on this project.  I fear the micro-expansion may be our Waterloo.  The existing deck must be destroyed to build a foundation for the expansion and the new deck also requires sinking another caisson 18-feet into the Earth’s crust.  Of course, the Juliet balcony requires two Italian teenagers from warring families before the inspector will sign-off, but that’s not important right now.

Destroying stuff is fraught with potholes and obstacles.  This may ultimately be where the other shoe drops, starting with “you’ll never believe what we found under there” and ending with me spending nights on end saying, “Hello, and welcome to Wal Mart” to pay off the debt.  If not, we might just be home free.  And since nothing about this home can be connected in any way to any modern definition of the word free, what I mean is we’ll only have given up the GDP of a small municipality to make Via Corona habitable.

On the plus, side there are some positive developments:

1.)  As of today, we’ve entered our move-in month.   Now, before anyone gets too excited, let’s be clear.  We are moving in to what will presumably be the finished upstairs.  Or, more likely, a bathroom with a flushing toilet and some place to put our bed (we can always shower with the hose in the front yard).  This means we’re about literally to live through the kitchen, room addition and deck construction.  And then there is the exterior work.   We’ll be lucky if the house will be finished by December.  At any rate, prepare your excuses now for the weekend of September 24.  “Gee, I could help, but I don’t want to” is a completely acceptable answer in this case. We feel the same way.

2.)  Presumably because of #1, we are seeing visible progress which we will share with you in the weeks ahead instead of spending 1,000 words talking about 3 people signing their names.  It’s happening people.  It’s actually happening!

Or so we’ve been told.

Want to read more about our renovation adventures? Go here: Via Corona

Better than pink peppercorns

No Via Corona today.  But, keep an eye out on Instagram for photographic updates: @tmhostess.

It’s been on my list to try out the following recipe for several years now.  I can’t remember how it first crossed my radar, it’s been so long.  But recent digging around has me suspecting that I probably read about it on David Lebovitz’s blog.  The recipe is in his The Great Book of Chocolate.  This handy little reference book was published in 2004 and it wouldn’t surprise me if I read about this cake way back when he was doing press for it.  Anyhow, somewhere, at some point I read about David Lebovitz talking about Maida Heatter making a chocolate cake with.

Wait for it.


Part of the reason the idea has stuck with me is, of course, the ick factor.  Which with me is generally followed by the desire to try it out (unless it involves fish and dairy…then I just leave it at the ick).  At first blush the idea of fermented cabbage (sans the Persian cucumbers) and chocolate sounds about as unpalatable as a tuna casserole.

But, when you think about it, it’s really no more strange than adding zucchini, coconut or carrots (though I’ve been pretty vocal about how I feel about carrots in cake…not a fan). You don’t taste the sauerkraut.  It just adds moisture and a little zing.  Kind of like buttermilk.

I went searching for an origins story on why anyone would ever think of adding something you most often think of as complementing meat in tube form.  I found a variety of recipes including one that, in addition to sauerkraut also included mayonnaise and cherry pie filling.  You have to wonder if it was a dare.  Alas, no definitive answer on the sauerkraut.  Which leaves me wondering if there is a gap in the literature on baked goods origin stories like this or Germans chocolate cake.  And should I maybe attempt to fill it? Folklore and Funnel Cake?  Jealousy and Jello Molds?

Speaking of ick, I’ve been reading Mary Roach’s most recent book Grunt.  I am a huge Mary Roach fan.  She’s proof that excellently researched and intellectually sharp science writing is even better when balanced against the occasional fart joke).  It’s been a fun, informative and often sober, if not gross, read.

But, as usual, I digress.

You know what isn’t icky?  This cake.

Chocolate Sauerkraut Bundt Cake

slightly adapted from The Great Book of Chocolate, David Leibovitz


for the cake

  • 2/3 cup sauerkraut
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 ounces (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan (if using an articulated bundt pan, you may want to use a starch-laced oil spray like XX.  I didn’t and the extra flour was not attractive on the baked cake)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup low-fat milk, cold

For the glaze

  • 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Butter a 12-cup Bundt or tube cake pan.
    Dump the sauerkraut into a bowl filled halfway with cold water. If you happen to accidentally buy the kind from Trader Joes with persian cucumbers (like I did), now is the time to pick them out.
  2. Toss the sauerkraut with your finger tips a few times  then drain it, pressing the sauerkraut to remove most of the water. Dump the drained sauerkraut on a cutting board and finely chop it with a chef’s knife or in a food processor.
  3. Sift together the cocoa, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla until combined. Slowly dribble the egg mixture into the butter mixture while beating.
  6. Gently stir 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and mix just until combined, then stir in 1/2 the milk and stir just until combined. Alternate dry and then wet, mixing between each step until just combined.
  7. Add the chopped sauerkraut and stir again.
  8. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, then invert the cake onto a serving plate.
  9. To make the chocolate glaze, heat the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a small pan over low heat, stirring almost constantly, until melted and smooth.
  10. Let stand until room temperature.
  11. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake, allowing it to dribble down the sides.



Master and commoder

See what I did there?

TD here.

Have we mentioned that the previous owner was a tile layer (tile setter?  tile mason?)?  We have?  Multiple times?  Well,  as you can see, there was no shortage of his chosen medium in the master bathroom (or anywhere else in the house for that matter).

No doubt the work was beautifully done, but the space was poorly used.  In fact, the shower was so small that the one time I tried it out, I knocked nearly everything down just by turning around.  Picture Andre the Giant in a phone booth.  In their defense, the couple who previously owned Via Corona topped out at about 5’3″ each.  So, the shower probably felt cavernous to them.

While we’re on the subject, allow me to say this about tile.  Tile is vile.  Not only do you have to determine the color of your tile, but also the material, size, shape and pattern. The makers of tile (BIG TILE if you will) greatly overestimate my interest in their product.  And have I mentioned that every piece of tile looks exactly like every other piece of tile?  Or that tilers?  Tile smiths? get paid like drug kingpins?  Pablo Escobar had a smaller profit margin.

Luckily, Shannon relieved me of my tile showroom duties, patiently listened to my vague ideas of what I might hypothetically like if I cared and then took care of the rest.  All I know is that shot in the dark I took just to get her off my back was expensive.  Like it should have a street value expensive.  Who knew I had such good taste?

Take a gander below at the old layout of the master bath.  What you are not seeing in the drawing is  the commode, which was strategically placed right next to the window for maximum visibility to and from the street.

And below you’ve got the new layout.  Double sinks, ginormous shower and a throne that, while still near the window, is now somewhat hidden.  We’ve opted for a street view of the shower rather than toilet.  Discerning taste and all.

Originally this is also where we were going to install a pocket door with which, God help me, I have an unnatural fascination.  Alas, budgets (I’m looking at you, tile) and construction realities necessitate a standard (read: boring) swinging door will be installed in its stead.  Goodbye pocket door.  We hardly knew ye.

On the plus side, let’s take a look at this shower, shall we?  We’re talking wall to wall here.  Giant rainfall shower head above.  Handheld doohickey to the side.  Rest assured I will likely never use the handheld for its intended purpose, unless that intended purpose is turning on all available outlets full blast and pretending I’m the captain of a submarine that’s been hit.  In that case, I will use it as intended both frequently and religiously.  At least until Shannon catches me, reminds me that California is in a state of drought and walks off shaking her head and murmuring something about being raised on a five-minute shower. Killjoy.

I will readily admit that, when it comes to design and aesthetic, the best I can hope for are small victories.   Typically the answer to most of my suggestions is, “that’s not the look we’re going for here.”  For my Midwestern friends, this is akin to “bless his heart . . . ”    With most of my suggestions, Shannon sees me coming down Broadway with the doors open.   I propose a thing or two – some real ideas and some because annoying her is fun – then I sit back and see what the network censors will allow.

Tangent Alert!  This strategy all started in the run up to our wedding.  Once I told a particularly snooty wedding planner-type that I wanted molded butter in the shape of Yoda’s head.  Suffice it to say I didn’t get the Yoda heads (although that would’ve been boss) but I knew I’d found a solid running mate when Shannon played it totally straight while the wedding plannery-person clutched her pearls in horror.  Its the little things.

So, here I sit with what will be a rainfall shower head and some jazzy-looking woven tile on the floor (Did I mention that tile costs more than 4 years at SIU?).  Puts my record at about 2-726 on this particular project, but, as I say, small victories.

So, there you have it.  I’m sure Shannon will, do a deep dive on the  greater gravity, influence and significance of her design choices and how the space will evoke a spa-like elegance and an uncommon tranquility when tied together with decorative soaps and accent towels that I will never, ever be allowed to use.

As with everything in our marriage, Shannon plays chess.  I play checkers.  Works for me.

Shannon here.

First, we have never had nor ever will have towels, soaps, dishes, blankets or other home goods that are not allowed to be used. We’ve never owned an accent towel.  There are things that have certain purposes and using them for purposes other than those is frowned upon.  But everything gets used.  TD is confusing me with a Blondie cartoon.  Or maybe June Cleaver.  Or more likely, he’s simply assigned an antiquated belief about gender stereotypes because he thinks it sounds funny.  Whatever.

So.  Dude knows about the marble basketweave tile for the shower floor and the size of the shower.  That’s about it.  I’ll fill you in on the details.

In addition to the 24 square feet of marble basket weave tile, we’ll also add  6X24 inch marble tiles to the shower walls and wide charcoal porcelain tiles for the floor.  To take the edge off of what started to feel a little bit like a granny’s bathroom (classy, but granny), we’ll use  contemporary fixtures and some walnut accents.  Finishes in polished chrome.

And a shower timer. Remote controlled.

Want to read more about our renovation adventures? Go here: Via Corona




Excuse me while I powder my nose

Ah, the powder room.  That one room in the house where denizens of wanna-be designers get a little jiggy with it.  Your host is no exception.

Tucked away between the foyer and the kitchen,  this little room was an oddly-sized masterpiece of unnecessary tile.  Like its upstairs siblings, it also possesses an unfortunately placed window.  Or maybe that was just an excuse to install those super-fly metallic brown and pink curtains.  I’ll let you be the judge.

The layout won’t change much.  We’re trying to steal four linear feet from side that shares a wall with the kitchen (vanity side), taking the once palatial 6X4 space to a cozy 5X4.  It’s a powder room, there are very few things a person needs to do in here so why waste space–especially if it means more room in the kitchen?

Just have to throw in another shot of how terrible this space looked after demo.

Design inspiration for this bathroom began with a single sink and console made by the Italian company Antoniolupi via the blog Le Femme du Bucheron .  How gorgeous is this piece?

Seriously.  Go back and look at it some more.  Or maybe you shouldn’t.  Sometimes, it’s liberating to know that having to ask how much  means it ‘aint in the budget.

But, I like a good challenge, especially one born of inspiration.

Eventually, my research lead me to this very well priced sink and console by Duravit (in distressed oak rather than the walnut pictured here).  Not quite as elegant or sexy as its Italian counterpart, this German piece of furniture is spare and efficient while keeping the feel of the Antoniolupi console.

I’m still patting my self on the back for this find.

Originally I wanted to do the wall facing the hallway (and where the sink and toilet will call home) in floor to ceiling encaustic tile.  However, no matter how fantastic it looked in the pictures, I couldn’t get the idea to sit right in my gut.

Right before hitting send on the tile order, I decided to attempt one more look around for an alternate.  I’d dabbled a bit with in wallpaper but previous forays found me  quickly overwhelmed.   This time I got lucky.  When Abigail Edwards’ Seascape paper popped up in my search results, all three cherries lined up and  bells went off in the design portion of my brain.

Subtle nod to Via Corona’s location?  Check.  In line with the neutral and black scheme I have going?  Check.  Edward Gory inspired?  Bonus check.  In stock at Walnut Wallpaper  in Hollywood meaning I didn’t have to pay  $40 in shipping?  Check.

Black fixtures including a cool wall sconce, towel hook (remember, there is only one rack in this house and you can’t hang towels on it) and TP holder by  Onefortythree round out little party.  I mean potty.  Wanna come over Mickey?

I know I’m a cliche.  People like to get a little frisky in the powder room because the stakes are low.  And I’m no different.  And now you know my idea of frisky.

Next week TD will bring you the master bathroom.


He’ll bring you the lead-up and I’ll deliver the plans.  I’m pretty sure he has no idea what it is supposed to look like when it’s done.  Styletatorship has its privileges.

P.S. Somehow that haute couture mirror in the original powder room was saved in the demo.  We’d be more than happy to donate it.  Perhaps Sotheby’s would be interested.

Want to read more about our renovation adventures? Go here: Via Corona

I Had A Hammer


TD here.

Marvelous Marvin Hagler is one of my favorite boxers of all-time.  Left-handed, relentless, great chin.  Head like a giant Milk Dud.  He reigned as the middleweight champion (that’s 160 lbs.) for almost seven of my formative years in the 80s.

He was also famous for wearing this super awesome (if not grammatically challenged) sleeveless t-shirt you see above emblazoned with his mantra: destruction and destroy.

Now that I’ve lost a good 50% of readers, let’s talk about my own little destruction and destroy mission this week – getting rid of the dopey river rock clinging onto Via Corona’s exterior like so many barnacles.

IMG_1323As with all things Via Corona, intrigue lies around every corner, or under every rock as the case may be.  At times she reminds me of a song my Dad used to sing:

“Same song, second verse.  Could be better, but it’s gonna be worse.”

IMG_1722Case in point, earlier in the week, a few bashes with a mere mortal hammer revealed that the river rock facade was actually covering . . . wait for it . . . a brick facade.  Belt. . . meet suspenders!

Quite literally any numbskull can swing a hammer and blow a rock to smithereens (as I’ve proven), but can any numbskull rent a 20 lb. demolition hammer to speed the plow?  Well, it turns out the answer to that question is also yes, provided said numbskull has a drivers license and like $70 bucks.  (Not really even sure the license was mandatory.)

Anyway, 20 lb. Makita mini-jackhammer to the rescue!  Or so we thought.

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 4.15.47 PM

(Note:  the product above has some kind of side handle apparatus.  This was not a part of my rental unit.  I relied on what’s commonly known as Death Grip.)

The mini-jackhammer caper is actually an adventure in two parts.

First was the part where the stupid river rocks were affixed to stucco.  This was the case for about 10% of the job. Those rocks slid off like Via Corona’s exterior the French in battle.  They offered little resistance and were all too happy to cede their homeland, which was, in this case, a lustrous mint green (yes, mint green) stucco.

DSC_0170The second part, where the accursed river rocks were affixed to brick?  Those were more akin raising a small child (I surmise) – relentlessly challenging, occasionally impossible, intermittently rewarding, and the end result looks different than what you imagined but hopefully you didn’t screw it up so completely that it’ll refuse to take care of you when you’re too old and jacked up to do it yourself.

Now, if all of the hated river rocks had been of the vichy variety, the job would have taken about three hours tops – but Via Corona is a diabolical mistress.

It took nine hours.

Even Kendrick Lamar on Spotify crapped out at the seven hour mark.  Et tu, Kendrick?

In hindsight, this probably should have been a two-day job, but I only had a 24-hour rental and when the clock is ticking you’re duty-bound to swing it in the morning . . .  and the evening . . . all over this land.

Destruction and destroy, indeed.

I believe it’s key in any home improvement project is to add a level of complexity that borders on the ridiculous.  Bonus points of it’s dangerous.  For the 20 lb. demolition hammer adventure, we added a ladder (thanks, Tom P.) and two gawky teenage juniper bushes (you see me taunting one in the photo below).


The ladder assured just the right amount of instability when hoisting an awkward, vibrating power tool overhead.  The juniper bushes, while making me otherwise thirsty for a gin and tonic, were mostly just in the way.

We fixed that . . . eventually.

IMG_1785 (1)

In case you’re wondering (or scoring at home), I only had one “unscheduled dismount” of the ladder.  It was fairly early in the process and I held on to the hammer all the way through the landing.  With the degree of difficulty, it was easily a 10.0 if not for the Russian judge.  Your move, Simone Biles.

IMG_1791 (1)As in all things, the day wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable, complete or frankly necessary without The Misanthropic Hostess herself.  She placed the rocks in pristine piles in the unlikely event House Beautiful sends a photographer for their Gobs of Useless Rocks edition.  She also hobnobbed with the neighbors (who pleasantly and repeatedly reminded us that cheap labor can also be found at Home Depot), made sure I stayed hydrated and generally kept me from dying which was, and is, appreciated.

In the final analysis, the wall actually looks worse without its ludicrous rock overcoat, but in the fullness of time, and with a new coat of stucco and/or HardiePlank siding, TMH has promised that it will look (and act) like a home.

IMG_1772 (1)She hasn’t been wrong yet, but in case she is, I think we can learn a thing or two from Marvelous Marvin Hagler after his controversial loss to Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987.

He moved to Italy.

Finally, since this blog is mostly about recipes, here’s mine:



Want to read more about our renovation adventures? Go here: Via Corona




Be our guest, be our guest…

…you know, Beauty and the Beast is probably my least favorite in the Disney princess franchise.

My favorite?  The Jungle Book (in the original).  I know it’s not right to anthropomorphize animals. And, don’t get me started on the geographic misrepresentation of fauna.  But man, who doesn’t like a scatting orangutan?

Anyway .  . .this post is a joint effort.

Currently, Via Corona doesn’t look much different than she did a couple of weeks ago.  We’re at what TD calls the John Cazale Stage of the renovation – it’s the necessary stuff that no one notices because it isn’t super sexy – you know, plumbing, electrical, and the like.

TD here.  For the uninitiated, John Cazale appeared in five films in six years, all of which were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.  The Godfather, The Conversation, Godfather Part II, Dog Day Afternoon and The Deer Hunter.  Cazale wasn’t the star of any of those films, but he did a ton of heavy lifting in each.  Can you imagine Michael Corleone without Fredo?  Of course, you can’t.  (Except Shannon can because she’s never seen the Godfather. There’s something wrong with her.)  So, here we sit with new copper plumbing, LED can fittings and a freshly hot mopped shower.  Fredo stuff.  RIP John Cazale.

Lacking anything cool and new to show you,  we’ve got plans.  Literally.  Starting with the guest bath.

At the top of the stairs just off the linen closets, the original layout of the guest bathroom was pretty unfortunate.  Like a limo with a hot tub: long, narrow and inefficient.


It also hid some of the most hideous wallpaper in history, which is saying something in the storied history of wallpaper.  Actually, last week we found new wallpaper in the ceiling of the powder room–that stuff is currently in a sudden-death shoot-out with this for most hideous wall covering.

Nothing says “I’m an exhibitionist” like having a window in the middle of your bathroom.  Come to think of it–all three of of Via Corona’s bathrooms are like this.  We played with the idea of doing something about it but ultimately did not want to compromise the symmetrical look of the windows from the exterior. Luckily the upslope of the hillside and the occasional visitor with poor timing are the only potential witnesses to TD’s morning gun show.

With that pleasant visual dancing around in your noggin, let’s explore the guest bath as it used to be.

The tub-shower combo was tucked into a dark corner behind the door.

While long and technically spacious, the vanity area was not very efficient.  It was also 29 inches high.  No joke, TD could bang his knee on the countertop.  To borrow from the great Steven Wright, perhaps the old owners posed for trophies.

And  I know they call it a throne and it is generally integral to the successful functioning of a bathroom, but having the toilet front and center wasn’t much fun to look at.  Of course having it sit in the middle of what used to be the kitchen isn’t a much better place (we’re assuming this is just an ornamental stopover on its way to the dumpster).

Changing the size of the bathroom was not an option.  So, we rearranged everything (except that window).  We added a door to the guest bedroom to make the bath an en-suite.  This not only created another form of entry but added a little privacy to the commode area.

Neither TD or I really cared about having a bathtub but we knew we needed to keep one in the house for resale value.  And the one currently sitting in our front yard doesn’t count.  Also, TD likes to quote former 49ers running back Roger Craig who once told him, “you can’t make the club in the tub.”  If I heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.  I’m not kidding.  He says it all the time. I still have no what it means.

Alas, life is about compromise and in this case we gave up vanity space.

As for the look, we’re keeping things pretty neutral and clean with a couple of interesting touches.  The flooring is a warm grey chevron limestone tile.  I originally wanted to use dark charcoal fan-tiles but when the estimate for the hand-made pretties came in at $10 per tile…PER TILE…I changed my tune.

To play off the warm grey and to offset the more masculine fixtures (TD: Which is a misnomer because no man ever has cared about the look of a fixture. TMH: It’s a description not an assignment of interest.), we’ll go with an almost-there shade of pink for the walls.  The color is Benjamin Moore Opal…yeah, I know…you read the May issue of House Beautiful too.  I also think the pink will make a nice contrast to the bright white glazed subway tiles in the shower/tub.  We’re going with a white shaker vanity with a marble countertop and clear lucite hardware.  The fixtures are all in stainless steel.  Oh, and I am very anti-towel rack.  You won’t find a single one in Via Corona.  It’s all about the hooks baby, and this guest bath will have a couple of cool ones topped with sliced agate.

While designed as the guest bath, this lovely space will be mine (TMH) for everyday use.  TD and I have very different schedules and there are plenty of bathrooms to go around with just the two of us in the house so–why share?  TD gets the master bath.  The master bath has an eight-foot shower.  Just remember that when he complains in a future post about how my inability to share got him kicked out of the walk-in closet..


Want to read more about our renovation adventures? Go here: Via Corona