Oh, Kale!

IMG_2197In late January, we created at tiny raised bed garden.  The only place that gets sufficient sun is on the south facing side of the house, next to the driveway.  Over the spring months, it produced a head of cabbage or two, but it has finally matured into a fully functional and productive space.  The tomatoes have just offered their first fruit of the season.  Juicy golden little gems.  Rare enough Continue reading


The Importance of Flowers




My garden has a mind of its own. We didn’t plant it, it came with the home, and it has a natural wild beauty to it. Whomever planted it, however, really understood the seasons. It always has something new spouting as the seasons change. My favorite is spring. Each March, the very back of our yard explodes to life with vibrant orange Clivias. I don’t proclaim to be a green thumb… I rely on Alex to keep the living things around me alive (herbs, veggie garden, plants, flowers, dog). I feed Alex the caretaker. And, I’ve fed him well, because the garden continues to flourish. That first spring in the home, I couldn’t help but bring the outdoors in. I placed a cutting of Clivia in the front entry and it just made me smile every time I opened the front door. I had some left over scented diffuser bottles, so I used those as bud vases and put them all over the house. Once the Clivia season had ended, I missed the flowers, so I restocked the front entry with an orchid. A very good friend came over for dinner one night and commented that flowers in the entry were good Feng Shui, good Chi. Apparently the orchid is a symbol of the quest for perfection in any areas of one’s life. It is also associated with abundance, spiritual growth, beauty and purity. Orchids now greet each of my visitors before my dog does and you’ll find fresh clippings from the garden all year long scattered throughout the house. I’ll take any help I can get from the flowers and even if my life isn’t perfect, I’ll take the smile that comes along with them.

How to be Neighborly: Greet your visitors with a flower and a smile.

Brazilian Hospitality

IMG_1586We are fortunate to have a couple chefs in our neighborhood. When we became Membership Directors of the neighborhood association and were responsible for creating a welcome basket for new neighbors, I wanted to create a basket of locally produced treats. I reached out to one such chef, the Brazilian wonder Chef Mila, to see if she might contribute her “Chocolate Sauce for Adults.” Kinky? No. Delicious? Yes. It’s a rich Kahlua chocolate sauce that is good on everything. She sells it in high end boutiques, and at our neighborhood events. She graciously agreed to supply the sauce, and a friendship was forged.


One night, Mila and her wine aficionado husband Richard invited us over for a dinner party with two other couples. Mila and Richard live in one of my favorite homes in the neighborhood. It’s actually the home I had always wanted, from the moment I became aware of Floral Park. Fortunately for them, they beat me to it. It is a 1920’s craftsman masterpiece that was totally restored by the couple that lived in the home before Mila and Richard. It is a 2 bedroom home with lots of built in wood cabinetry. The kitchen has generous storage and the most adorable O’Keefe & Merritt stove. Upstairs, there’s an artist’s loft with square windows on all sides that make you feel like you are in a treehouse or an old fire lookout. It’s perfect for Mila, because she is a gifted painter. Out front, Mila has created a California native garden and in back is a perfect kitchen garden with herbs, peppers, tomatoes and more. The chimney is the most striking feature of the home, with stacked limestone rising high above the second story. Perfection.

The eight of us sat down to a dinner of small plates Mila had worked on all day long. It was a typical Brazilian experience where food, wine and stories are shared over multiple courses. I can’t even remember how many dishes we had… it just kept appearing from the kitchen. Bruschetta, quiche, short ribs, and of course her famous chocolate sauce for dessert. Richard paired the chocolate with a vintage port from 1992 that was divine. He generously gave us a bottle from his collection to take home. As good as everything was (and everything was amazing), there is one item that was so simple but so divine that I HAD to have the recipe. Thankfully, she shared it and has allowed me to share it with you.

How to be Neighborly: Share your stories and recipes.

Beware- once you try this, you will NEVER look at tomatoes the same way. I always double or triple the recipe because I go through these so fast (*). Obrigado, Mila and Richard for a wonderful evening.

Chef Mila’s Oven Roasted Tomatoes

  • 4 lbs ripe roma tomatoes
  • 10 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 c olive oil
  • 5 sprigs rosemary, per pound
  • 1 tbsp crushed red pepper
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees for 10 minutes. Cut roma tomatoes into halves and remove all the seeds (!). Place tomatoes face up on a baking sheet. Add salt, pepper, rosemary, garlic and drizzle oil on top of every tomato. Bake tomatoes for about 3 hours until well roasted. If you have the time, bake at 250 degrees for about 4 to 5 hours.

Reprinted courtesy of Chef Mila Payne, One of a Kind Cookbook

Delicious on sandwiches, in pasta dishes, added to salads, or as appetizers on sliced baguettes. Keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks (*). I like to serve these on toasted bread with goat cheese.

Hint: Go with the LONG COOKING version.  You will be rewarded for you patience.

(*) You can freeze these so you always have a handy appetizer ready to serve.

(!) You can squeeze the tomato halves into a bowl and the majority of the seeds will pop out.

The Driveway

We were very fortunate when we bought this house, it required very little in the way of remodeling. She does have a few scars which show her age (we call that “character”), but all in all, she is an elegant and well preserved old home. The same couldn’t be said about the driveway. For about a year and a half, we rolled over, stepped in, and tripped on our resplendent “original” driveway with all its “character” filled potholes and cracks. It was clear we needed to replace the old driveway. The driveway is the kind with a ribbon down the middle that is characteristic of old homes- either because the old cars would form “ruts” without a driveway, or because the ribbon would catch the oil of the older cars. You decide why it was there, almost every house on our street has one. To preserve the look of the original driveway, we decided to keep the ribbon.cropped Our old neighbor from our last home just happened to do concrete work, so we called up Sergio to help us with the driveway. He and his crew installed our new and improved driveway and left room for the ribbon in the middle. Countless neighbors would walk by and ask, “So, what are you going to do with the ribbon.” Here’s where Alex and I had to get our hands dirty. It’s about a 50 foot strip about 1.5 feet wide that traditionally would hold grass. Unfortunately, we don’t have any irrigation there, and California has a draught situation at the moment, so turf was out of the question. We opted to go with a synthetic grass strip around the exterior (about 6 inches on each side) and river rock down the center. Design in hand, we headed to the home improvement store to purchase the supplies. Oh, the engineering that went into this…. 150 feet of pressure treated redwood, three pallets of gravel and stone, and three rolls of synthetic turf later, we were ready to get to installation. It just happened to be one of the hottest days of the year that we chose to embark on this effort. First was gravel, on neighbor had let us borrow their tamper to even everything out, then the wooden strips with synthetic turf, and then finally the river rock. Half way through the day (1/2 way through gravel, that is), our neighbor Alisha drove by. She was headed from a pool party to her house to pick up some snacks. On her way back, she stopped in front of our house- weIMG_1507 thought to check out our progress. But no! A most wonderful thing happened. She pulled two red Solo cups from her center console, and proudly presented them to us and said “You two look like you could use a drink.” In the red Solo cup was the “house drink,” the specialty of the house at that fabulous home that resembles a Cabo San Lucas oasis.

How to be Neighborly: We all get by with a little help from our friends.

Never have I felt so refreshed. It carried us through to the river rock, and the sense that Alex and I had accomplished something great, with a little help from our friends.

The “House Drink”

Fill a tumbler with ice and add:

  • 2 oz Vodka
  • 2 oz Club Soda
  • 3/4 oz cranberry juice
  • 3/4 oz 7 up, Sprite or other lemon/lime soda
  • 1/2 key lime, squeezed




The Other Bidder

IMG_1546 (2)When Alex and I had decided to make an offer on our home, we knew we had to stretch our budget. The home was listed higher than we had originally wanted to spend, but it was the only home we had found that had all the features we wanted. So, we considered our options, decided we could stretch a bit, and sent in our offer just under the list price. Happily, our offer was accepted. During our home inspection, we learned from the seller’s real estate agent that a backup offer had been made on the home. Above our price.  Alex and I knew we couldn’t compete with that, so all negotiations from that point forward landed squarely in the seller’s favor. Fortunately, they were a lovely couple and the home had very little to negotiate over so it was a smooth process and we moved in about a month later.

IMG_1544 (2)About 10  doors south from us is a grand white colonial home. Its two story façade is reminiscent of a southern plantation home. Joanne and Kelly moved in about 6 months after Alex and I, so we are both discovering the neighborhood at the same time. The colonial has been a labor of love for Joanne and Kelly for about 2 years. They are restoring the home which had been poorly maintained over a number of years and through a couple rentals. We first met Joanne and Kelly at a neighborhood mixer.  Turns out, Joanne & Kelly were the other bidders on our home. Kelly was disappointed he didn’t get our home, but we now laugh about how things might have been different for each of us had Joanne & Kelly been selected by our seller. Certainly, Alex and I would not have had the courage (or finances) to take on the restoration of the white colonial, but we are happily maintaining ours. Two historic homes saved.

Turns out, Joanne and I not only have a common interest in old homes, but we also love to decorate for the holidays. There are three homes on our street which go all out for holiday décor- us, Joanne’s and Judy’s (two doors north of Joanne). You can tell the season by looking at these three homes.  I was talking to Joanne about her Easter décor and complimenting her on her burlap banner with a cute little Easter bunny on it. It was from Pottery Barn and I had seen it in a recent catalogue. Turns out Joanne works there part time- apparently it helps with her decorating habits. Lucky gal, that Joanne.  One week later, Joanne was knocking at my door. She and her daughter Jenny were dropping by with a little Easter gift for me- a Burlap banner of my own!  Sometimes the generosity of my neighbors astounds me.  Now we match. Two historic homes, decked out for the Easter holiday.  Adorable!IMG_1573

How to be Neighborly: Home is where you hang your banner.

Easter evolves as follows at our place: 1) decorate, 2) eat chocolate, 3) make Easter eggs, 4) head to family brunch.  Here’s step #3.

Easter Eggs

My husband figured out how to boil the perfect egg- no gray edges! He shared his tricks with me, so I can share them with you. There are lots of variations on deviled eggs, and everyone has their favorite. This is mine. Many people use mayonnaise in their eggs, I don’t because my husband hates mayonnaise. I put the oil in its place to keep it from drying out too much.

  • 6 eggs
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp mustard
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp olive oil
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Smoked paprika

IMG_1564Put eggs in pot with ½ tsp salt, cover with water, and bring water to a boil. Once the water starts to boil, turn the heat off, cover the pot and let sit for 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, submerge eggs in ice water. Peel eggs and slice in half. Wipe your knife on a paper towel after each egg for clean whites.

Put yolks in a bowl with mustard, Dijon mustard, red pepper, oil, and ground pepper. Mix until smooth. Put the yolk mixture in a plastic bag, and snip off one corner. Pipe the yolks into the whites. Sprinkle with paprika.  Enjoy!

The King House


As mentioned in a prior post, you must always be ready to share the history of your home.  So, come on in, let me tell you about the history of my home which I’ve discovered by researching historical archives, ancestry.com and newspapers.com.

History: In 1929, CF Millen sold the land for the King House to Lee and Jennie King, under the stipulation that a home valued of at least $5,000 must be built on the site. Lee (born 1867) and Jennie (born 1874) were originally from Ohio and moved first to Utah, and then to Santa Ana in about 1920. Lee was a contractor. It is unclear if he was the builder. In 1930, construction of the home was completed.

The King’s chose to build in the French Norman Revival style. The French Normandy design style came into popularity following the first world war. With a growing middle class population in America, French chateaus became a model of inspiration in building their homes on a smaller scale, thereby creating a more affordable French styled home that came to be known as French Normandy. From the French chateaus, borrowed elements of steep roof pitches, high ridgelines, and dormers suggest the notion of a grand scaled estate. French Normandy and French provincial architecture details are often combined to create a style that is simply called “French Country”. While formally listed in the Historical Registry as Tudor, the style of the home has clear French influences.

Lee King was a car enthusiast and purchased a rare 1928 Locomobile 8-70 which remains in mint condition today. It is as well preserved as the home he built.  Lee King lived in the home until his death. The King family lived in the home until 1956 when it was sold to the Baxter’s. Clifford (born 1915) and Esther Baxter purchased the home in 1956. Clifford was a Santa Ana resident, and a parole officer. He ran for City Marshal in 1947 but was defeated. While he was a parole officer, Baxter led raids and testified about CA State Assembly Speaker Sam L. Collins’s involvement in a gambling ring. Baxter later admitted perjury and destruction of evidence in the case. He went on to become an attorney at Mize, Larsh, Mize, Hubbard & Baxter, and was the lead defense attorney for People v. Saterfield, where the jury verdicts found the defendant guilty of two counts of first degree murder and ordered the death penalty. After Clifford’s death in 1971, the Baxter family remained in the home until Walter Urie and Susan Fleming purchased the home in 1989, and they lovingly cared for the home for 23 years. Walter Urie is a commercial photographer and Susan is an artist. The home was sold to its current owners, Summer and Alex Martinez, in November 2012.

Features: The entry features the original chandelier and unique arches which appear though the entire home. The main floor features original hardwood floors throughout. Living room features original Batchelder Tile on fireplace, wood closet, and custom Iris stained glass. Both living room and dining room feature original mahogany windows and trim which have never been painted. The home still has the original glass knobs on each door, only one is missing.

The chandelier in the Dining Room is original and is hand painted to mimic Loetz Glass, a contemporary of Tiffany glass. The home has matching inset arched casings with original mahogany shelves. Vintage china adorns the shelves and is the Royal Worchester pattern (Princess Diana’s pattern), and was the owner’s grandmother’s set. The dining room table is from the 1940’s and was used by the current owner’s grandfather as a drafting table until his retirement. Vintage fruit labels decorate the dining room and are all vintage. Each has a special meaning to the owners.

Throughout the home, the lighting has been upgraded. The previous owners were artists and added spotlights to highlight their collection. The current owners placed their artwork to match the lighting.IMG_0900

The downstairs office features paneled walls and a desk that the prior owners left for the new owners.

The guest bath features original tile from 1930 on the walls and shower, and a reproduction floor. The wallpaper was chosen for its art deco feel, but modern touch. Notice the original glass pulls which adorn the built in cabinetry.

The master bedroom features the original closet, now a dressing room, and a remodeled master bath. The totally remodeled Master Bath has period tile work, large tub looking out to private courtyard, and walk-in shower with glass pony walls.

The Professional Kitchen features a 48 in. Thermador range, stainless steel appliances, custom birch cabinets, soapstone counters and travertine floors. The owners have maintained the French country feel despite having all the modern conveniences of a professional kitchen.

Upstairs, there is an office/loft, craft room, guest bedroom, and half bath assumed to have been added in the 40’s or 50’s. Out back, there is a 1200 sq. ft. game room (a.k.a “the Tap Room”) and workshop. The current owners use this space for parties, brewing beer and storage. It was built by the Baxter family who were also car enthusiasts and used the space as a garage.

I see you…

A funny thing happens when you live in this neighborhood- people point at you. Well, not you, but the house. I spend a lot of time in my living room, which has a huge window. It’s a big arch of vintage plate glass about 7 feet tall, and just as wide and it frames a big pine tree that has to be at least 100 years old. Under the tree sits my old white wooden bench where I change the pillows to reflect the season. My neighbors know my house based on the pillows out front. My living room couch faces that window. Despite the fact that we have a beautiful dining room, Alex and I eat dinner at our coffee table in front of the TV, and that huge window. Alex sits on the floor, and I sit (yes, in my PJ’s) on the couch, and we eat dinner while watching Mythbusters, or Modern Family, or some other show. When we first moved in, we started noticing that people walking by would be riveted to what was happening behind this big window. It was as if we were the TV show, and people couldn’t take their eyes off of us. They would walk from one side of the window to the other, and just stare into our living room. Drivers would noticeably slow down, and point at our house. For some reason, it seemed as though they thought we couldn’t see them. As if the window were one of those one sided police interrogation type mirrors. You could only see in and not out, which let’s face it – makes no sense at all. Yet, every day, people continue to stare. Eventually, Alex started to wave at them, as if to say “Yes, we can see that you are staring at us.”

How to be Neighborly: If people stare, just smile and wave.

We wondered- what are they pointing at? Were we special? Was it because we were new to the neighborhood? No, it had nothing to do with us. We found that we started to do the same thing when we would take our dog Wiley for a walk. Drivers wouldn’t just slow for our house, they would slow at several houses. And it got noticeably worse during the holidays- when our neighborhood erupts with Holiday Spirit, Christmas trees appear in those giant windows, and home owners carefully highlight the historical rooflines with twinkling lights. It is as if we are all transported to a different time when we walk or drive along these streets. You are immersed in history, beauty, and all you can do is stare. We understand. Just ignore my PJ’s, please.

Perfectly Clean Windows


FullSizeRender (2).jpg

Where you can see out, and neighbors can see in.

  • Newspaper
  • Mix of 50/50 Distilled White Vinegar and Water

Spray on vinegar, wipe clean with newspaper.