Monday, August 29, 2011

Front Yard Design and Implementation (REVEAL)

Hello everyone!  I thought it was about time to share my "new" front yard.

My husband and I are the gardeners (a rarity in Orange County-doing your own yard, that is) and we were having great difficulty getting our front yard grass to look nice.  We considered replacing all of it, but then decided to go with a low water, low maintenance front yard instead.  This required help, as well as approval from our neighborhood association (I wonder what they think now since our yard is very different from that of all the other track homes...). 

Right now the yard it is in a "baby" state.  Since we live in SoCal and nothing ceases to grow EVER, my hope is that it will all fill in nicely and soon. 

Honestly, at times I miss my grassy front yard, but we were always struggling with it to look nice.  This new yard is more cottage-y in feel.  To view the old front yard, you may click here.

We had a pretty but too large ficus tree in the front that needed to be taken out.  That was the hardest decision for me...taking out a large tree that provided a canopy for many hydrangeas.  We even consulted an arborist just to make sure it needed to come out.  In it's place, we planted an Olive tree, which looks awfully wimpy at this stage...but it is what it is and I know it will be beautiful one day!  It's just hard to wait!  With interior design, there is instant gratification once the elements are all in place...but with a garden even more patience is required.

Here is where we started:

The yard is tiny (it's SoCal...) so a cottage garden works okay. 

First the existing yard was completely dug up...

(note the tiny space and how close we are to our neighbor, all for a crazy price tag!!!)

And then plants began arriving (yay)...pictured here is a red Crepe Myrtle...

white roses, agapanthus, mexican sage, liriope...

The first stage...

The second stage...

I do like the Crepe Myrtle and it's look against the exterior of my house...

The final (time to grow!) can click any photo to enlarge them if you wish...

Here are a few photos of some of the plant material...

lambs ears and hydrangea...

Mondo grass in between the newly painted pavers...

purple verbena...

New lights....the yard looks fabulous now at night with low voltage uplights on the trees and a few lights to the front door.  Lights had been a big issue for me-I have always wanted a grown up yard with real lighting!

This new urn sits in the yard. For now, I have planted it with white kalanchoe, sweet alyssum and some ivy...

Here is a look at the Olive tree....

The groundcover is rosemary, which I am hoping fills in soon!

Front door (basically the same!)

I added some new pillows to my bench near the Olive tree...and nearby planted about 4 lavendar plants (not pictured)...they do very well here and smell wonderful.

Here is another look.  I will update as it continues to grow.  :) 

Thanks for reading!

I will be sharing this project at the following sites:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Last Day of Vacation

This morning my eldest son and I took a beautiful beach walk.  Before we began, I snapped this photo with my Blackberry.  Sigh.  I am now officially off of summer break and will be rejoining my colleagues in school psychology on Monday.  This promises to be a challenging year for me on many levels, but I am ending summer break with a good attitude and I am looking forward to seeing my co-workers once again.  This year my goal is to be ultra organized both personally and professionally.  My hope is to continue a blog post each Monday and I will keep up with the million-n-one blogs I have been reading over the summer as best I can.  There are some amazingly creative people out there!   YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!  :D

Blessings, Steph. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Look at My Kitchen


I thought I would share a quick look at our kitchen for a change.  The photos should enlarge if you click on them.  This really was a design on a dime project and I so wish I had "before" shots of it.  When we bought our house, the kitchen was living smack dab in the 1970s with ugly yellow-brown wood cabinets and harvest gold tile with white grout.  The appliances were black which did nothing to improve the space, either.

Initially, I lived with the ugly wood cabinets and wallpapered the small portions of wall in a check that I thought would be cheerful and fun (big, big mistake!!!).  We also replaced the lovely gold tile with simple white tiles since I was pregnant and could not bear to look at the gold everywhere without feeling nauseous! 

Shortly thereafter, we replaced the hardwood flooring with a more traditional variety.  Later we painted the wood cabinets white and replaced the appliances with their white equivalents.

The all-white look worked well for a while and we ripped off the wallpaper and painted the walls a simple yellow.

It took some convincing, but I had my husband put oil rubbed bronze door pulls and knobs on all the cabinetry.  That made a big impact to me.

I realize I am picky (to say the least), but when the tile grout got yucky and was cracking, I began looking at granite to replace it all.  I found this gorgous piece and had to convince the owner of the slab shop that it would look wonderful with white cabinets.  He did not believe me until he came when the job was finished to take photos!  :)

The backsplash is travertine and I had small squares of the granite mixed in...

Oh...a comment on this cooktop...BAD IDEA.  The original kitchen had a Jenn-Air range with a downdraft and thus this is what I went with again for replacing it.  Initially the beautiful white glass cooktop seemed!  I will never recommend a white glass cooktop to anyone!!!! 

By the way, if anyone is wondering, the layout of the kitchen and patio directly behind the kitchen does not permit me to have a gas stove!!!!  UGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!  This will be one of my requirements for the next house (which I am planning to make a beach cottage)... A GAS STOVE!

The coffee bar below....I purchased the silver tray for $2 at a consignment store...

One thing I do like is the huge window overlooking The Little Backyard which gives a serious feeling of openness to this space.

Accessories....I used to have a lot of red going on in this room (hence the toaster...), but I am over that phase and moving onward to something else...

Does anyone else have one of these crazy pigs?   I guess I am glad that I still love him.  :)

 Hard to get the paint right on camera, but it is basically a butter yellow called Ivory Coat from Dunn and Edwards...

So...I have this open space going on between my kitchen and a drop down family room.  Years ago I had a shelf made above it which stashes my teapot collection...only now the last thing I want to look at are teapots so they need to retire somewhere soon.   

On the right is a large pantry which has served us well (I have 2 teenage boys!).  Kitchen table and chairs from Pottery Barn. 

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen!  How about some coffee?  :)

I will be sharing this post at the following sites:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Temecula Wineries

This past week was to be our family vacation in Northern California; however, a very sick Miss Bear forced a STAYcation this year. Fortunately, one emergency vet visit and a barrel-full-o-meds worked wonders on our 13 year old precious Golden Retriever. Thank God.

One of the STAYcation activities was wine tasting in Temecula. Our 18 year old son was pronounced the Designated Driver and we had a grand time. We visited Stuart Cellars, Wiens, and Renzoni. I purchased a beautiful print at Renzoni which I have framed for the dining room. Lunch was had at Harry's Pacific Grill prior and was very tasty.

Some scenes from the day trip...

I loved this beautiful old arbor...

Designated Driver seated on a reclaimed wine barrel wood chair... 

The hubs tasting...

I swear he did not have any wine....

I liked these boxwoods in barrels and plan to replicate the idea with some modifications ;)

I am a bit of a Napa/Sonoma snob even though I am not much of a wine drinker, but this little trip was fun and only about an hour away.  We will be returning soon.  :)



I will be back to work in 2 weeks with what promises to be a very full schedule working an 80% contract.  I work as a School Psychologist-slightly longer hours than most teachers but still a wonderful schedule to have as a working mom, although the job has a fair amount of stress in all honesty.  To keep my family happy and my own self sane (and so that I don't lose the small fitness gains I have made), I actually made up a small schedule in an effort to see how it might all come together.  I thought I would document it here so that I can refer to it as needed. 

**caveat:  my boys are now 15 and 18.  I would never proceed with this schedule if they were not so independent unless I absolutely had to.

Here we go!

SUNDAY:  morning spin cycling class, grocery shopping, help kids with projects/college apps, rest (church is on Saturdays), husband cooks 
MONDAY:  DAY OFF= exercise, gardening, cleaning, blog, errands, cooking, carpool 
TUESDAY:  WORK, spin class (make a crockpot dinner), laundry
WEDNESDAY: WORK, carpool, make dinner, walk
THURSDAY: WORK, pick up my CSA box and do extra grocery shopping, spin class (make a crockpot dinner)
FRIDAY:  WORK, yoga (one Friday night per month I will have admin. prep. class), older son makes dinner, laundry
SATURDAY:  one Saturday a month I will have admin. prep. class all day and then walk for exercise afterward.  For the other three I will do a cycling class or ride Blue Gal in the morning, catch up on errands, and attend church in the early evening.  Husband cooks.

As you can see there is not much room for much else.  I would like to be able to tackle some more design projects around the house but they look like they may have to wait at least until I get my older son through his college applications.  I have my basic design for the master bath and that is likely the next huge project.

Also-I don't know if I can manage doing laundry only twice per week!  I am going to practice and see how it goes the next two weeks-it may be completely unmanageable (envisioning mountains of laundry piling here...).

Any thoughts?  I would love any helpful suggestions.

Thursday, August 11, 2011



(preview of my new front yard...)

I have been on holiday so to speak for the past couple of weeks.  I thought a bit about this little blog of mine and decided upon a better title for it.

When I think about what I like to achieve in my life I always come back to BALANCE.  For me, balance equals peace and harmony, work and rest, discomfort and pleasure, symmetry in design, rough with smooth, cold with warm, sweet with savory (though not necessarily at the same time...).

Many bloggers engage in blogging as nearly a full time position (with pay) and they do a terrific job at it.  Their projects, photos, and seemingly endless creative ideas and written expression often leave me mouth open, jaw-on-floor inspired. 

And then there are little blogs like mine with small ideas and not much time to tackle design projects, much less photograph them and write about them.  I can't have a blog like those others if I am to be balanced.

For as far back as I can recall I have believed that balance is the secret key to a life well lived.  As a psychologist I have become acutely aware of it's importance.  As a working mom, I've tried to live it as best I can, usually failing miserably.  If anything, balance is often an elusive goal for me.  This fall I will surely be challenged in this area as I continue to work hard, raise two teenage boys, and go back to school for an administration credential!  I am weary just thinking about it.

Balance, then, is a lovely state of being for which I attempt to strive.  Since my little blog is a small and humble expression of myself, I will call it Balanced Style.

Welcome!  :)

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