Gunga Galunga (Via Corona yard update)

After writing the final check to our builders in early 2018, we laid low with Via Corona for most the year.  It was nice to just hang out, let her settle (literally) and, you know, not hemhorrage money.

Our one major task for Via Corona in 2018 was to address the remaining strip of dirt that was our front and side yards.

Lest you have forgotten just how awful Via Corona’s yard began, allow me to refresh your memory.  Though there isn’t much to it, when we moved in, Via Corona’s yard was derelict.

Though we encountered its destitution every time we visited the house, we somehow completely forgot to include it in our renovation plans.

Which turned out to be okay since TD and I watched a ton of YouTube videos and learned how to do some yard stuff.

You can see the entire madcap adventure (montage included) in our Working Har Har Hard on the Yard Yard Yard post.

We gave ourselves some serious back pats for our landscaping accomplishments and have continued to do so while we’ve kept everything alive.

YouTube learning (actually, let’s be honest, TD and I) has its limits however and alas, a significant portion of the yard remained, shall we say, au natural.

A couple of things were keeping us from moving forward.  First, we needed an irrigation system and we needed to figure out if we could do it ourselves.  I’ll cut to the chase tout suite.  The answer was no.  Like, NO! With that out of the way we had a second obstacle: our neighbors.  We’ve got a leaning wall between the two properties.  They’ve got a leaning fence.  We wanted to pull down the wall and have a nice redwood fence built.  They had some “concerns.”  After several months and unsuccessful attempts at understanding their concerns in a way that would cost us less than $50,000, we gave up on that version of the plan.  We’ve got bigger, badder ideas for that wall down the road and have decided to play the neighbor long game.

Obstacles out of the way, we had the irrigation and sod installed in something like 48 hours. Almost over night we went from “dirt patch alley” to “pass me a beer, where’s the corn hole?”

Cool slider alert:

While we may have conceded (temporarily) on the long wall battle, we did win some view.  We’re quick learners and when it came to the short wall, we didn’t consult with anyone and had the nice professionals open things up a bit for us.

Another cool slider alert:


Via Corona has wrap-around grass.  All my life’s wishes I didn’t know I had have been fulfilled.

Final cool slide alert:

Of course, no good deed goes unpunished.  The sod had been down less than a week before the gophers moved in.  And then the skunks and raccoons started taking advantage of the worm-rich soil and regularly aerating the sod.

So, we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

Want more Via Corona renovation stories?  Of course you do: Via Corona The Remodel

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

Seriously?  You made it past that title?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to the linen closets.

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

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

And then TD tried to sell them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of storage for cloth napkins as well.

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

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


The New Addition Edition

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

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

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

Turns out, he’s both.

But anyway.

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

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

Enter New Edition.

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

I started laughing.  I seriously thought he was joking.

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

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

But anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And an over-sized formal dining space.

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

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

They started in on this:

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

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

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

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

Definitely not New Edition.

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

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

A bad idea poorly executed

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

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

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

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

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


Quiz answer:  An attempted murder.  Get it?

Top 6 Airborne Things

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Here’s a blimp shot from some excited fanboy.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the Via Corona exterior task rundown:

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

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

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

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

Yanni seems pleased.


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

Want more Via Corona?   Go here: Via Corona.