Making Our Garage Door Great Again

TD here.

On October 16, 1793 Marie Antoinette found herself on the business end of the guillotine.  You can look it up.  Just about 173 years later Via Corona’s one and only garage door was installed.  This week, some 223 years after the Queen lost her head, Marie the Garage Door slipped the mortal coil as it were.


Having turned 50 back in March, I share the sadness of similarity with the deceased.  Marie, like many our age, has seen better days.  Creakier and heavier than you’d expect and, if I may be so indelicate, it takes at least two people to get it up.

img_1315img_1316Marie was old school.  By conservative estimate she weighed in at a sturdy 7 tons.  A broken spring in April put her on the Physically Unable to Perform list, alongside Via Corona’s fireplace and Jaime Garcia.  In recent weeks she’d adopted the temperament of today’s stereotypical college sophomore.  Raised carefully and with great effort, she was entitled, petulant and demanding.   And because we never knew when a whisper, an errant breeze or the simple force of gravity would cause her to come unhinged; crashing back to Earth with guillotine force, any and all immediate surroundings were declared safe spaces.

A brief scan of the Interwebs left us with two replacement options.  Local Mom & Pop garage door shops and the faceless multi-national corporate titan known as BIG GARAGE DOOR.  Hoping to add to Torrance’s local economy, we first opted for Mom & Pop.  Unfortunately, that experience was eerily similar to this scene from Hell or High Water (which is a very enjoyable, highly recommended movie incidentally).

Alas Mom & Pop offered only the T-bone steak and a baked potato (read: crummy basic garage doors without windows).  Wanting a bit more variety and pizazz, we were pushed into the clammy grips of BIG GARAGE DOOR.

Unlike the Johnny One Note’s at Mom & Pop’s location, the Glory Boys over at BIG GARAGE DOOR came to the house in a sports car with multitudes of catalogs under their blue blazers .  For a price, they can make even your wildest dreams come true.  Provided you dream of garage doors.

After giving Marie the once-over they declared her a relic.  A “danger to herself and others” they sniffed.  “It’s high time we trade her in on a younger model.” they said.

After a brief fling with the first catalog available, we settled on the model you see below.  As expected, she’s younger, sleeker and sexier than her predecessor.  Constructed overseas, she understands only basic commands, but fully comprehends where her bread is buttered.  Unlike Marie, she offers no resistance, operating with the vacuous efficiency of a Stepford Wife . . . wrist, wrist, elbow, elbow, smile, turn, smile.

We’re calling her Melania.

Want more Via Corona?  Visit her home page: Via Corona




We promised pictures this week.  And so we shall deliver.

The floor guy finished laying the wood parts of the stairs.  Of course they are under cardboard (hence the blue tape) but we’ve been assured that it’s there.  We also had the banister installed.

Gracie the cat loves the stairs.  Or more appropriately, this is where she believes her plot to kill her captives and finally gain freedom will go down.  Silly cat doesn’t understand that crunchies don’t grow on trees.

Working with the iron guy was very cool and I feel unnecessarily proud of the outcome.  I didn’t actually do any of the forging but I did get to visit the workshop.

This doesn’t look like much but for those of you who have been in the house, you understand the gift that is a level sub-floor.  And yes, those two pieces of wood are keeping the boogeyman out.  The haunted house front doors have slowly deteriorated during our tenure.  They no longer close completely and the handset decided to stop working earlier this week.  Good thing we don’t have any thing to steal.

There has also been progress in the powder room.  No more exposed termite guts.

And progress in the laundry.  The room still needs baseboards and another electrical outlet before we can do the full install.  But we have a functional washer and dryer.  Game changer.

Upstairs things are a little more finished.  The floors are in.  Marble in the guest bath.  Oversized tile in the master.  Carpet in the bedrooms (whah whah).

And oil finished oak in the hallways and down the stairs (and someday soon, throughout the downstairs).  When you are living in a construction zone–where all you see is what needs to be done, changed or fixed–it’s easy to lose site of what is beautiful.  These floors are beautiful.

Our current bedtime digs aren’t bad if you ignore the unfinished electrical outlets, face-plateless switches and door frames that need to be sanded and painted (again).  This is also where future guests will lay their heads.  The bedroom features its own en suite and a one of a kind Buddy-the-Cat sleeping companion.  The bad news is that he’ll dig in your hair if you aren’t up by 5:00 AM to feed him.  The good news is that after his first morning meal, he’ll go back to bed with you, lie on your chest with his little fluffy head as close to your nose as possible and share the after vapors of his Royal Canin “aging cat” vittles.

The Ms. closet.  I spend more time here than I should.  I think it’s because this is the only completely finished, clean and organized area in the house right now.  Despite TD’s continued insistence and certain habitual tendencies that support his argument, I am not on the spectrum.  However, I openly admit that the Ms. closet is my version of the Temple Grandin’s  cow hugging machine.

If I had to guess how far along we are in this catastrophe of a project, I’d speculate about 40%.  We’ve owned the house for six months.  They’ve been working on it for five and some change.  We’ve lived in it for going on a month.  And we’re less than half way there.

Stu. Pen. Dous.

In fact, allow me to share with you the status of the rest of the house.

Bombed-out shell of a kitchen with toilet in the middle has been transformed into a  bombed-out shell of a kitchen with old dishwasher in the middle. That box and the mirrored closet door are the second part of our home security system.  Every night we block the way to the laundry room (and garage) with the door and enforce it with the box.

Decorating for Halloween to the tune of Stranger Things is in big this year.  Someone send me a string of lights and we’ll be good to go.  I suspect the upside-down world is Via Corona and it wouldn’t surprise me to find Barb hanging out in the attic.

Speaking of Stranger Things, I need to digress for a moment.

Wheeler household:

Via Corona after we pulled off the river rock:


Moving on.  Dining room.  I think the boarded up fireplace gives it that extra special abandoned house je ne sais quoi. Artwork c/o Sloane Blum.

Charming isn’t it?

TD and I are attempting to accept the reality that despite funding this little expedition, we are not (and never have been) in control.   We are well beyond the original estimate of three-to-four months of work.  And for those of you keeping track–still no freakin’ permits on the addition and deck.

Ginger apple cake

I spent the last couple of weekends before we moved into Via Corona attempting to bake-through all the ingredients I had on hand.  While none of the recipes I played with were technically difficult, everything turned out.  And some were even worthy of sharing here.

Like this one.  To be honest, it took me a couple of tries.  The first was in that lovely bundt pan I used for this chocolate sauerkraut cake.  As sometimes happens with fancy pans (and pants), the goods didn’t make it out of the package in one piece.  But, the cake was delicious so I decided to make another attempt using humble loaf pans.  The briefly cooler weather in Southern California had me thinking of fall.  Which of course meant apples and cinnamon.

And some crystallized ginger.  Because remember, trying to use up my supplies.

While it didn’t seem to make much of a different in the outcome, I layered the batter and apples.

Three batter layers and two of apple layers.

All those layers baked up moist on the inside with a nice crunchy skin on the outside.

The crystallized ginger sort of melted into the cake but gave it an extra little something.

I brought a loaf in to work and it was gone by 10:00.

Next week is a smorgasbord of photo updates.  A veritable potpourri if you will.

Also.  It’s October 13, 2016.  Still. No. Permits on the addition.

Ginger Apple Bundt Cake

adapted from Amanda Denton, Bon Apetit, December 1999


  • 3 medium Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 5 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (TMH note–I like grapeseed oil)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4-1/2 C crystalized ginger (depending on your spice threshold), chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil and flour 12-cup Bundt pan or 2 5X8 (or 9) loaf pans.  If using loaf pans, line with parchment.
  2. Mix apple pieces, 5 tablespoons sugar and ground cinnamon in medium bowl.
  3. Combine 2 1/2 cups sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, orange juice, orange peel and vanilla extract in large bowl; whisk to blend.
  4. Stir flour, baking powder and salt into egg mixture.
  5. Stir in chopped ginger.
  6. Spoon 1 1/2 cups batter into prepared Bundt pan (use 1/2 C for each loaf pan). Top with half of apple mixture. Cover with 1 1/2 cups batter (again, 1/2 C for each loaf pan). Top with remaining apples, then batter.
  7. Bake cake until top is brown and tester inserted near center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 1 hour 30 minutes for bundt, 40-60 minutes for loaves.
  8. Cool cake in pan on rack 15 minutes. Run knife around sides of pan to loosen. Turn cake out onto rack. Cool at least 45 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Freezes very well when double wrapped in plastic.


An update in five scenes

TD on the ones and twos.

In case you missed it (and you probably did), after the most exhausting build up in renovation history, we finally moved into Via Corona on Monday, September 26th.  More specifically, we moved into two rooms upstairs.  The downstairs still looks like sunny, downtown Aleppo.

Here are some general updates from previous posts . . .

Scene I: Three Signatures 

Our traipsing through the neighborhood in search of signatures for our expansion plans turned out to be – and I think I’m probably understating it here – a complete and utter waste of time.  In their infinite wisdom, Torrance’s five families decided our plans needed to undergo a “full review” which means approval will be granted sometime between Monday, October 3rd and whenever the hell they feel like it.  It’s now October 6th…still no permits.  I prevaricate here because there are no actual answers.  The approval process was, is and remains opaque, abstruse and much, much more depending on exactly what some of those words mean.  Thus, if there are to be eight more weeks of renovation, we should be shooing workmen out of our house just as Santa slides down our cracked and inoperable chimney.

We could whine and cry I suppose and belabor the point (I mean, more than we have to date) or we could allow Don Corleone summarize:

Scenes II & III: The Week Long All-Nighter

Just days prior to our move in date it was fair to say that Via Corona was not accepting visitors.  No flooring, no paint, no baseboards, no electricity, no running water.  At these points if you’re like me (and I know I am), the inclination is to go on a rant reminiscent of Howard Beale in Network – raging against the machine and all that.  Feel free to watch this in case you are unfamiliar. (Also, true fact – Peter Finch, an Australian, won a posthumous Oscar for Best Actor for this performance here.  The only other actor to win a posthumous Oscar was Heath Ledger for one of the Batman movies – also an Australian.).

Of course, channeling your inner-Peter Finch does no good because in the contractor-contractee relationship, power is illusory.   Complaining only makes it worse.  It’s basically the DMV covered in gypsum dust.  And to keep our Via Corona omelette spit-free, and to keep this tortured analogy moving, we must think happy thoughts and maintain a pleasant persistence.  Mustn’t we?  TL/dr: Know your role and shut your mouth . . . lest you anger the monster and end up in a cornfield in Ohio.

Scene IV: It’s Not What I Want,  It’s What I Can Give You

Thus far in our residence, we’ve met two new neighbors.  Both were nice enough, although each came with an agenda.  One wanted our workmen to stop parking near the turn off to our street.  The other wanted us to cut down some trees (which we may or may not own) so as not to obstruct their view of the Southland.  Time was, neighbors welcomed you with apple pies and invitations to block parties.  Instead we’ve gotten the smarmy rebel without a clue from Die Hard.  Suffice to say my reaction to both “neighborly visits” was similar to the befuddled look below on the face of the late, great Hans Gruber (RIP Alan Rickman).

Scene V: Dig If You Will The Pictures

Finally, it seems cruel, Dear Reader, after you’ve come this far, to not reward you with a few photos.  I warn, there isn’t much to see at this point–from a stuff to look at standpoint we’re only about a third of the way through the game (but trust us, the new plumbing and electrical are top notch even if you can’t see them).  Suffice to say we’re happy in our new home and looking forward to life in the Hollywood Riviera.  Of course, you’re all welcome, just not anytime soon unless sleeping in a cardboard box is your thing.

Guest bath (currently everyone’s bath): Just pretend there is a cool frameless shower door already installed and finished baseboards.  Squinting helps.

Floors and doors: Behold the splendor that is an eight-foot ceiling (they started at 6’8″)!  Cool new doors, hardware. LED lights and European oak floors.  Filthy attic hatch.

Al fresco dining: Haves:  fridge, grill, view.  Have Nots: kitchen, any means to prepare food other than the grill.  At this point the haves are the clear winner.

Views:  Speaking of.  This was shot off the deck on the day we moved in (quite possibly the hottest of the year).  Shannon doesn’t have a long lens so this is pretty much as the naked eye sees it.

There you have it. Us, living the dream. Or more appropriately, the cat nap.