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.




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.

Episode 11: Master and commoder (master bath plans)

See more Via Corona posts: 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:


Up next–Episode 10: Powder room planz

To see a listing of all Via Corona posts: 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..

Episode 9: I had a hammer

All the Via Corona guts and glory (mostly guts): Via Corona



Not just for 4th of July

This is a “holy cow I can’t believe I’ve never shared this recipe” post.

Fourth of July Salad is my mom’s recipe.  And it is festive–crisp romaine, bacon, blue cheese with artichoke hearts and hearts of palm (which I think give it a kind of 70s cocktail party vibe).  It’s perfect for a summer cookout.  And, because none of its ingredients are seasonally dependent, this salad is pretty perfect for any celebration–or any excuse for a celebration.  Over the years my mom has served it at most major holidays and birthdays.

I have no idea where it came from–and I could ask–but why mess with the mystique?

I’m kind of a bacon purist and not a huge fan of it “in things.”  This salad is the exception.  There are so many other delicious ingredients in this salad that I bet a healthier substitution of turkey bacon would work just fine.

The dressing is super simple: apple cider vinegar for acid, brown mustard for kick, a little sugar, salt and vinegar and grapeseed oil (or your choice of vegetable oil) for emulsification.

I love hearts of palm.  I also love artichoke hearts.  For this recipe I like to use only the heart-meat.  I don’t like the way the edible marinated “leaves” squeak against my teeth.

Perfect with the grilled meat of your choice and a glass or two of rose.

And maybe some fireworks.  Or Easter eggs…or Thanksgiving turkey…

Fourth of July Salad

As written, this salad is made for a crowd.  You could easily half everything but the dressing to serve 2-4 as a main dish plus protein.  Don’t bother halving the dressing–if you don’t use it on this salad, you’ll want to use it on another.  Or as a marinade.

For the dressing


  • Shallot, diced
  • 3 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 t spicy brown mustard
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1 C grapeseed (or other vegetable oil)


  1. In food processor or blender, blend shallot and vinegar.  Add mustard, sugar, salt and pepper.
  2. With the motor running, slowly add oil.
  3. Store in an airtight container in the  fridge until use.

For the salad


  • 2 bunches of romaine
  • 1 7.5 ounce can of hearts of pal,
  • 1 8.5 ounce can of artichokes, packed in water
  • 4 ounces of bleu cheese
  • 1.2 lb cooked and crumbled bacon


  1. Cook your bacon.  Try not to eat it all before it goes in the salad.
  2. Wash, dry and cut romaine.
  3. If it’s in the fridge, pull dressing out to come to room temp.
  4. Crumble bleu cheese
  5. Slice hearts of palm
  6. If your artichokes come whole, quarter
  7. Add all ingredients to a large bowl
  8. Add and toss dressing just before serving.


Appetite for destruction – Part Deux

“Do you know where you are?  You’re in the master bathroom, baby!  You’re (probably) gonna diiieeeee!!”

-W. Axl Rose 

TD back again, check it to wreck it let’s begin . . . 

Today I have the enviable task of showing you the “progress” on the upstairs – recently home to abandoned underwear, 7-foot ceilings in the hallway and shop lights in one of the bedrooms.  Someday soonish (betting on December) this area will also be home to the World HQ for my thriving little business, Caught Looking, Inc. and a walk-in closet that I will not be allowed to use.

Remember that scene in Lean on Me when Paterson, New Jersey’s East Side High fell into disrepair before your very eyes only to later be redeemed by Principal Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman) using unconventional methods that showed he really did care?  If not (don’t worry, Shannon has no idea what I’m talking about either), the following short film will probably make little sense to you but watch it anyway.

Warning:  If you don’t like Guns N Roses (or you happen to be my Dad*) you might want to kill the volume.  Rest assured it will not ruin your appreciation of the “art”.

*Just kidding, Dad.  Love you!  But, seriously, turn the music off.

Via Corona Upstairs

(Disclaimers:  1.)  Now you can see why I hire some of the best editors in the world to do my bidding.  2.)  Sorry for the abrupt edit on the ending, but if you thought I was going to do a full-length video you’ve greatly misjudged how much effort I’m putting into these posts).

Today we’re also introducing a new segment:  The TMH Mail Bag!

Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 6.57.24 PMOn the heels of our treasured items raking in exactly zero million dollars at auction comes this article from the hoity-toity New York Times, sent in by eager reader Sarita D. from Hawthorn Woods, Illinois.

TL;dr – Sometimes people leave stuff and it’s worth something more than the steaming pile of jack squat we were left with.  Here’s the money quote from Gerard “Captain Obvious” Splendore . . .

“It seems to me that sellers always leave something, and buyers are usually appalled,” said Gerard Splendore, an associate broker in the Brooklyn Heights office of Halstead Property. “They don’t see it as a windfall. They don’t want somebody else’s stuff.”

Thanks, Sarita!  Keep the info coming.

Finally, our parody of The Who’s My Generation inspired songsmith James P. C. from Scotch Plains, New Jersey to pen this little ditty to the tune of The Who’s 1978 hit, Who Are You?  Please enjoy and keep The Who parodies coming as well.  No one has yet covered I Can See For Miles, Baba O’Riley or Eminence Front – which is one of my top 10 favorite songs of all-time.

What’d we do?
Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools!
What’d we do?
Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools!

What’d we do?
Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools!What’d we do?Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools!

I woke in our Redondo beachouse,
The Pacific knew our name
It said “You must go sleep at Via Corona tonight”
“You bought it, must be insane”

I staggered back to that f*cking dump
And tripped on a broken stair
I remember it needed new plumbing & electric
And a million other repairs

Well, what’d  do? (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
I really have no dough (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
Tell me, what’d we do? (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
‘Cause we really have no dough (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)

I took the 5 back out of town
Arrived at my condemned house
Felt a little like crying, man
Our dream home dream was doused

I walked in and banged my head,
Why are these ceilings so fucking low?,
Put my foot through this broken floor,
This whole house has got to go
Well, what’d  do? (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
We really have no dough (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
Tell me, what’d we do? (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
‘Cause we really have no dough (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
What’d we do?
Ooh wa ooh wa ooh wa ooh wa …
Well, what’d  do? (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
We really have no dough (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
Tell me, what the f*ck did we do? (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)
‘Cause we really have no dough (What’d we do? Fools, Fools, Fools, Fools)

Thanks, James.  It’s only rock n’ roll, but I like it.  Great to hear from readers in New Jersey.  Hopefully Mr. Richard Feder from Fort Lee will drop us a line sometime.  For the 7 of you that get that joke, please explain it to everyone else, or just click HERE.

That’s it for me.  Next week we’ll be back to the usual fare.  TMH explaining how to make a time machine out of a DeLorean and/or an edible concoction with quinoa (pronounced QUEEN-oh) and lentils (Hint:  liberal use of frosting).  
Leaving you with an architectural drawing of the house in case you want to storm the compound with Seal Team Six.
Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 6.49.26 PM
In case you’re still baffled by the Lean on Me reference.  Click HERE.
For all Via Corona posts: Via Corona

Appetite for destruction: Downstairs edition


Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.

Pablo Picasso

If what my friend Pablo said is true, Via Corona is on its way to being the next Dora Maar au Chat.  Except…you know…with all the parts in the right places.

It felt like it took forever for the “actual work” to start on Via Corona.  There were architectural plans to be drawn up and preliminary engineering stuff to be done (and we are still working on secondary and tertiary plans).  But finally, about a month after we hired our builder and and nearly an eon after we closed on the house (at least six weeks), demo was a go.

Today I bring you Via Corona “during”–the downstairs addition.  I’ve included what the original spaces looked like as reference.  I’ll let you be the judge on whether Via Corona in her state of current undress is an improvement over her original state.

Here we have the 6’8″ entryway ceiling.

Minus the floor tile.

We didn’t do much of the demo ourselves but TD and I did take on that ceiling.  Destroying it was deeply and viscerally satisfying.

Ceiling removed and support beams gone.  It’s an old house and eight feet of ceiling is all we could hope for–but man, it makes a huge difference.

Remember our lady of the wall?

She’s now our lady of the wall no more.

Downstairs powder room in her brown and pink prime.

Tile and fixtures: history.

And so is most of the wall and flooring.  We knew from the inspections that Via Corona had a termite problem.  Now that most of the house has been demoed, we know that much of the wood-eating party was in this bathroom.

This part of the house is so disgusting and scary that we’re afraid to go in it for fear of falling through the floor.  We just stand in the doorway and gawk.

Kitchen before.  We felt a little bad about this one.  The cabinets were custom and we could have easily lived with the whole setup for some time.  But blood was already in the water so…

So. Much. Tile.

Cabinets: gone.

Flooring: gone.  All that remains is the soffit and that comes down as well.  To gain a little space we’re going to borrow from the powder room on the left wall.

Yep.  Toilet in the middle of the kitchen…Via Corona working on chanelling her inner Picasso.

Now you see the dining room.

Now you see the subfloor.

You’ve seen this shot before.  Let’s just say that we have yet to walk around in this house with bare feet.

The mantel was actually the first thing TD and I destroyed.  The scale of the mantel was far too large for the room–and would have been even after the addition to the left.

“End of life” carpet removed.  You know it’s saying something when janky plywood subfloor is categorized as “an improvement.”

Prom stairs before.  The carpet was so old that it disintegrated as we pulled it up.

TD and I spent a surprisingly therapeutic afternoon pulling out nails and staples after discovering hardwood under the carpet.    Unfortunately the wood we’re using for flooring isn’t a close enough match to save what is on there.

We gave ourselves an A for effort as consolation.

Not satisfied with making the foyer regular ceiling height, we also decided to take the upstairs hallway 21st century standards.

We are still waiting for the permits for the downstairs addition and new deck…another day another post.

On Thursday, TD will put on his docent’s badge to give you a tour of the upstairs.  Bet you can’t guess which one of us produces film in real life.

Episode 7: Appetite for destruction, part deux

For all Via Corona posts (so far): Via Corona

Zhushing the rectangle


This week’s post is all TMH.  

There is no way to sugarcoat the following truth.  When it comes to the design approach on this project, there has never been nor will there ever be any pretense of style-ocracy.  I am the style-tator.   I make the style-cisions.  Luckily, TD trusts my judgement.  And when I say trust I mean doesn’t really care.  The formula works for us both.

A few years ago I started throwing pictures of architecture, interiors and design elements I liked onto a Pinterest board.  I reasoned that if I collected enough information about the things that “spoke” to me, I could figure out my style.  I mean our style.

I was also hoping it would help to divorce me from the “pick something someone else would like” rule I used for the mini-renovation on our last house. Hundreds of saved photos combined with several years worth of subscriptions to House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Dwell and Sunset and some clear patterns emerged (yes, dear former colleagues…and I know you know who you are…I can hear you saying ‘and now let’s put on our nerd hats’).

First the good news: my design-centered grounded theory approach worked (still wearing that nerd hat just to be obnoxious).  A clear aesthetic emerged.

Now the bad news for my ego: that aesthetic is not very original.

I’m calling it California-Scandanavian-pinch-of-eclectic-grown-up-comfortable. You can call it “the most popular pins on Pinterest.”  You know the look: light walls, white kitchen, mostly neutral furnishings with maybe a rattan accent chair or faded kilim rug to send the message that you’ve been places (IKEA) and know things (mostly from Instagram).  I love this look.  So does everyone else.

Source: Amber Lewis Designs

I have long been a stalker…I mean fan…of Amber Lewis of Amber Lewis Designs. Her approach is contemporary but laid back, super rich on texture without being overwhelming and so, so Californian.  I even thought for half a second that we might be able  to hire her firm for Via Corona.  But, budget limitations and some kind friends convinced me that I could do the design work myself  (well, and I couldn’t even work up the courage to send her an email inquiry).  A fool’s errand indeed.

Source: House Beautiful  also, One Kings Lane

Some houses  are a tabula rasa while others tell you what they need.  Part of the draw to Via Corona was that from the minute we stepped in the living room, her message was clear: view, location and light. We’ve talked about the view ad nauseum.  In terms of location, the house is about a mile from the beach.  The house gets a great ocean breeze and is subject to the early morning (and late afternoon) marine layer.  As for light? It’s beautiful in nearly every room in the house.  Light was something we really struggled with on the first floor of our old house so this was something we took note of during the house search.  And there you have it:  our golden triangle–view, location, light.

Source: Camille Styles

Focusing on this triumvirate  has made many of the design decisions easy (except for the part where the Stark antelope carpet I’d been coveting just didn’t make sense in this space). So has the fact that once the addition is complete there will be very few walls in the common space and lots of windows and french doors.  The idea is to keep visual distraction to a minimum while creating a super comfortable and functional place to hang out.

Source: My Domaine also, Amber Interiors

We’re also picking and choosing our luxuries and bargains.  TD’s television and sound system for the entire house were purchased before we even met Via Corona (in his defense it was purchased for the ugly but mean girl house).  I’ve chosen wide-plank oil finished hardwood for the floors and crazy (for me) Italian porcelain countertops in the kitchen.

Source: Tessa Neustdat

On the flip side, we’re going pre-fab and semi custom for the kitchen and bathroom cabinetry, lots of my favorite white subway tile where tile is needed and carpet in the bedrooms.  We’re also doing the closet and pantry/laundry shelving installations ourselves (I know this is peanuts to all you seasoned DIYers out there but it’s a big deal for us).

We’re also keeping to the golden triangle when it comes to furniture.  Because of the way we are opening up the downstairs, the result will be a kind of L-shaped great room.  Dining will blend to living will blend to sitting will blend to kitchen.  After trying many configurations via pen and graph paper it became clear that a sectional was the way to go.

At first I was very disappointed.  Sectionals are SO suburban.  At least that’s what I thought.  Luckily they’ve come a long way from my early 80s memories of  rust-colored plush monstrosities complete with cup holders and dueling recliners.  With the sectional and our existing dining room table serving as the anchors, the rest of the furniture will be collected over time.  You can bet that at some point, this chair, or more realistically, a version that I can afford, will call Via Corona home.


Source: Design within Reach

While we joke about the exterior as “rectangle,” the house ever so subtlely suggests colonial and cape cod styles.  In keeping with many of the houses in the area, we’re planning to stay simple with a clean white exterior from top to bottom and black accents via the shutters and doors.  And some crown stuff.  There will be some crown stuff…like a weather vane or maybe a door knocker.  You know, classy.

Source: Charm Design

Hardscaping and landscaping will come next year after we’ve lived in the house for a few months.

No detail too small, we did not forget about the feline contingent of our domestic unit.  TD has made an aggressive lobby for a cat tree or two.  This suggestion has been repeatedly denied.  Style-tatorship has its perks.  However each cat will get a brand new groovy litter box.  Gracie has already called dibs on the orange version.


Source: Modko

I hope the cat in the picture is included.

If you follow-along on Instagram (@TMHostess) you’ve caught a glimpse of the destruction brought down on Via Corona in the last few weeks.   She’s gutted my friends. So, next week we have a double post of “during” pictures.  Tuesday we cover the downstairs while Thursday is up.

Episode 6: Appetite for destruction: Downstairs edition

See all Via Corona posts (to date) here: Via Corona

Sometimes you feel like a nut

And now we break for pie!  No house stuff this post.  We’re kicking it slow jam style with some actual baking.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, we are renting a small apartment while Via Corona undergoes her transformation.  The apartment isn’t much to look at, but she’s safe, clean and in a great location.  I wasn’t kidding when I said we put 80% of our stuff in storage.  They say you don’t miss your stuff.  I miss my stuff.   I also miss baking.

I know, your closet is bigger than my rented kitchen.  But, if I’m being honest, I could probably bake anything in this kitchen just as well as I could at our last place.  Time has been the issue.

Recently though, I had a thought about pie.  And as I’m sure you know, once you start thinking about pie, it’s hard to stop.  During my TMH tenure I’ve made lots of fruity pies but not much in the way of custardy pies.  The reason is simple: I far prefer fruit pies to the rest of the pie catalog.

This technically began as a fruit pie.  Coconut is a fruit.

Coconuts made me think of chocolate and almonds.  So, a crust of almond meal it was. With coconut oil in solid form serving as the fat source (it totally worked).

The take on the crust in this picture was too thick.  The recipe below allows for a thinner crust.

I determined the chocolate should come in the form of ganache.  It’s easy to spread and saying ganache annoys TD.  A lot . Ganache.  Ganache.  Ganache.

For the coconut cream filling I replaced three-quarters of the dairy in the original recipe with full-fat coconut milk.

Almond crust, ganache liner, coconut cream filling.  You with me?

I lined the crust with ganache.  If you want less chocolate, don’t.  But.  Please.

Next up: coconut cream filling.  This is a custard that thickened up so quickly as I was whisking it over  low heat that I didn’t have a chance to photograph it in-process.

Top with another layer of ganache.

Add a final layer of whipped cream.   I used whipping cream because I had it but you could also use coconut cream (like from the fruit…not the filling) for added coconuttiness.  Top the whole thing with toasted coconut and almond slivers and Bob’s your uncle.

Because I was losing my light, I only let the who shebang chill in the fridge for about an hour.  I got good light but smeared pie.  Not sure if that’s better than pretty pie in bad light.

By the time I was finished making the pie I wasn’t interested in trying it.  Then, the next evening I had some after dinner. As I was eating my sliver (it’s ridiculously rich), I caught myself thinking, ‘man, this is really good.’  Make it.  I know it looks like there are a lot of steps–but they’re easy and can be spaced out over a couple of days. You’ll thank me.

Almond Joy Pie

Almond Flour Crust

adapted from Fountain Avenue Kitchen


  • 1 1/4 C blanched almond flour or almond meal.
  • 2 TBS granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 TBS coconut oil in solid state (throw it in the fridge if need to firm-up)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 9-inch pie pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  Toss or whisk to combine.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and mix.  Then scatter-in bits of the coconut oil.
  4. Toss mixture using a snapping motion with your fingers until you can press the mixture together into a ball.
  5. Press dough firmly into the pie pan carefully working it up the sides.
  6. Prick with a fork all over and bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache


  • 1 C whipped cream
  • 1 C bittersweet chocolate chopped (chips will do in a pinch)
  • 1 TBS butter
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt


  1. In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat cream until little bubbles form around the perimeter.
  2. Remove from heat.  Add chocolate, swirling cream until chocolate is covered.
  3. Sit for 5 minutes.
  4. Whisk cream and melted chocolate until smooth.  Whisk-in butter, vanilla and salt.
  5. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate until cool (at least 60 minutes)

Coconut Cream

adapted from Epicurious

  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk
  • 3 TBS all purpose flour
  • 1 C whole coconut milk
  • 1/2 C whole milk
  • 1 1/2 C sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Whisk together 1/2 C sugar, eggs, egg yolk and flour in a medium bowl.
  2. In a medium heavy-bottomed sauce pan, bring milk, coconut milk and coconut to summer over medium heat.
  3. Starting with 1/2 cup, gradually add hot milk mixture to egg mixture, whisking constantly,
  4. Return to saucepan and cook until pastry cream thickens and boils, whisking constantly, about 4 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and mix-in vanilla.
  6. Transfer to a medium bowl, press plastic wrap directly on to the surface of the cream to prevent skin.
  7. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.



  • 2/3 C sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/2 C slivered almonds
  • 1 1/4 C chilled whipping cream
  • 2 TBS sugar


  1. Toast coconut in a small skillet over medium heat until lightly browned.  Cool completely.
  2. Using an electric or stand mixture, beat cream and sugar until peaks form.

To Assemble Pie (finally)

  1. Spread layer of ganache over pie crust.
  2. Carefully layer pastry cream on top of ganache layer.
  3. Top with a layer of ganache.
  4. Top ganache with whipped cream.
  5. Sprinkle toasted coconut and slivered almonds over the top.
  6. Store in the fridge.