19 October 2011

Ode To A Cottage Gate (La deuxieme)

When we were at the tail end of the completion of our cottage remodel our mission was to design a front gate for the entrance to the courtyard which leads to our front door.

For design inspiration we went on many-a-walk about in the neighborhoods surrounding our cottage and in neighboring towns, checking out all the varied and inspirational gates people had designed.

 There were designs with wooden pillars.

 Designs curving up like happy faces.

Sweet designs that had peep holes or a trellis for plants to blossom.

I've heard it said that, you only have one chance to make a first impression, and the front gate is the first chance you have to enter the courtyard to the cottage.  I probably weighted it with more importance than it actually has; but that's the OCD way I do.

We wanted our gate to blend in with the arch we designed over the entrance to our home. The arch is an architectural detail present in many of the historic buildings in our little beach town.  The train station has one, several homes and restaurants have them; our art district which used to be an agricultural district of quonset huts has them but, the most riveting fact is that, The Belly Up, (where my husband took me on our first date) has one.  So, we decided it would be meaningful to us to arch our entry, cause we're just romantic like that. 

(Addendum to post: Prince Harry recently visited The Belly Up with some friends.  He is stationed here in San Diego for a time, and by all accounts he is enjoying himself immensely!)

For us, the arch is a welcoming site and protects the front porch from sun and rain as well as gives it grace and beauty, (in my humble opinion).   Our desire was to have a gate which would be sturdy and strong while at the same time be as low maintenance as possible.  We hoped that it would look like it has been there forever.

Remember (before) when the cottage used to look like this?  To tell ya the truth, I loved my little cottage just as it was.  But, man oh man, do I really love it now.  There wasn't a gate at all then which, wasn't safe for my puppies.  Now they have a secure spot where they can lie out and sun themselves without me worrying that they will run out into the street after a dog or a mail truck.

 The process was a long, frustrating and arduous one.

Dealing with construction is never easy believe me.  It's how my husband makes a living and it seems that we have always been in some stage of construction the whole of our married life.  We have built and remodeled several homes doing much of the work ourselves.  Mercy, I do believe we're too old for this anymore!

It gets my Irish up a bit when I talk about construction after so many arduous months of living amongst it, and nobody wants to see that!  Mostly I like to think I've moved on.  This is a blog of light and blessings and good things.  I'd rather we celebrate the glorious outcome which we are relishing today.

Can you believe this is what the cottage looked like only a year ago?

What a difference a year makes!

I think all our hard work was worth it, don't you?

This was the first gate built.  You can't see it in the photo, but none of the wood matched up at the angles.  It was flimsy and despicably and poorly built.  After the guy who built it had his shot, my husband tried to revive it and spent about 100 hours in the garage, rebuilding, reinforcing, sanding and painting it with special marine paint.  I wanted the top panel removed to we could put glass in it because, I felt too isolated from my neighbors and passerby with it being a solid structure. In a beach community whenever people walk by your house they smile and say hi.  Almost always they are sporting at least one canine and at first you get to know each other by introducing your dogs.  Soon everybody knows your name and as for me - I always look forward to those smiling faces, familiar or not, who say hey when they walk by.  

So my handy hubby used a skill saw and removed the top panels.  We ordered some really cool glass to replace the panels which although see-through, was thick and had a beach wave etched in the glass giving it a custom vibe all its own.

When the glass arrived (8 weeks later), it was warped and didn't fit properly or look right. Arghhhh. At that point I had designed a completely different gate in my imaginative little head.  So I used all my feminine wiles to persuade my husband to let me have a shot at making the gate something we could love and live with forever.  Yes, I did say, live with forever.  I'm very dramatic like that.  I may even have said, live with until the day we die, or until eternity or death do us part, or that I wanted it to live on for our children and our children's children.  Anyway, when that didn't work, I whined and cried, even squeezing out some real sad salty drops for effect, and that apparently did the trick.  Because here my friends, is the end result.

Bye, bye, you old, time sucking, bad memory making, piece of junk of a gate.

Hello new gate, you gorgeous piece of work art which makes my heart sing.

I designed this gate and commissioned an awesome company called "Edwards Ironworks," in Escondido, California to build and install it for us.  They were amazing.  They listened to my every request and they made my gate the work of art I wished for.  They did it all in a timely fashion, unheard of in the construction field from my perspective, but they restored all my hope that things can be done correctly and on time and even turn out better than you'd hoped for!

I used my mailbox for inspiration.  The symbol on it is the Irish symbol for eternity.  I love my mailbox.  Seriously love it.  The arch is represented, as well and some of the linear aspects present in the house.

I love the first impression my gate makes now.  It says, I'm a little cottage by the sea, with a cobblestone entrance and an old (well, new but made to look old) gate, that everyone is welcome to peek through and say, "Hi neighbor."  I LOVE living here, and I LOVE the cottage where I dwell with the people whom I love, and I want to share it with you, so come on in!

 My pup is not happy when we are on opposite sides of the gate.

Please excuse him, as he is howling here.  When I photograph him he howls, something about the camera stealing his soul.

Isn't she a beauty?  Everything I'd hoped for; strong, sturdy, beautiful, and durable.  She looks like an old iron gate that's been there forever and will be there forever.  And ever and ever and ever!

And now I can sit in my courtyard and say howdy to my neighbors when they walk by.  I can soak up the sun and the smiles all at the same time.  Have I ever mentioned that I can hear the surf roll in and out from my courtyard?  

So when are y'all coming over to have a cuppa or a glass of wine on my patio with me?  I'll be waiting, just give me a holler over yawn gate there.

Are you doing anything to spruce up your house for summer?  I'm linking up to The Lettered Cottage so you can go get yourself inspired too.  Go check out Layla and Kevin's summer mantel and all the other great links.  Get goin' now!  

The Lettered Cottage

Love you more than I love my new iron gate.
P.S.  If you are just reading this, you may find that it's a revised edition of a previous post.  Being incredibly UN blog savvy, when editing the post in order to link it to one I just wrote, I couldn't figure out how to edit without reposting, go figure.  If anyone has an answer to that dilemma let me know, mmmkay?



15 October 2011

Playing Hooky

Today it is a balmy, gorgeous, 85 degrees at the beach.  The sky is the bright Cerulean blue we often see down here in the Fall, and there's not a cloud in the sky.  The day couldn't be more perfect to lie on a bright yellow and white stripped Cabo beach towel with a good read and a tall glass of iced tea, alternately watching the tide come in.  I can smell the salt air beckoning through my windows and the open top, of my Dutch Door.  I can hear the waves lapping gently on the cliffs below.  I think they're calling my name.

I think I'm feeling a wee bit dizzy.  I suddenly feel a terrible pounding in my head.  And what are those groans coming from my tummy?  My bones are creaking and there's a twitch in my right eye.  But no, I have no time to be sick.  I have so much to do.

I guess you could say, even though I live here every day, every day is not a day at the beach.  I have a feeling the only thing I'm going to see today is the inside of my washing machine.  There's so much to do around here I can't even find my own dog!

"Bailey, Bailey, where art thou?"
Yep, I think I'm sick.  Sick of laundry and house work and yard work and wedding planning and long to-do lists.  I think I need a mini-vacation.  What do you think my lovies? What would you do if you were me?  Should I stay on task and catch up with my chores?  Might it be better to ignore the sea and the shore and get my laundry sorted?  Or dare I play hooky and take a mini vacation in my own front yard?

 I have been really good lately.

 Life is short and you only live once, right?

  And I think I should take care of my health and breathe some salt air, and that reminds me, anybody else ever read this poem by Shel Silverstein?  It was a favorite of mine to read to my kids when they were small.


by Shel Silverstein

"I cannot go to school today,"

Said little Peggy Ann McKay.

"I have the measles and the mumps,

A gash, a rash and purple bumps.

My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,

I'm going blind in my right eye.

My tonsils are as big as rocks,

I've counted sixteen chicken pox

And there's one more--that's seventeen,


Don't you think my face looks green?

My leg is cut--my eyes are blue--

It might be instamatic flu.

when I
sneeze and gasp and choke,

I'm sure that my left leg is broke--

My hip hurts when I move my chin,

My belly button's caving in,

My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,

My 'pendix pains each time it rains.

My nose is cold, my toes are numb.

I have a sliver in my thumb.

My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,

I hardly whisper when I speak.

My tongue is filling up my mouth,

I think my hair is falling out.

My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,

My temperature is one-o-eight.

My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,

There is a hole inside my ear.

I have a hangnail, and my heart is--what?

What's that? What's that you say?

You say today is. . .Saturday?

G'bye, I'm going out to play!"

Seeeeeeeeeeee ya later!

Love you more than all the hooky I'm playing today.

Blessings from the beach,


07 October 2011

Sliding Into The Weekend


o Humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you.  Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.
1 Peter 5:6-

May good luck be your friend in whatever you do and may trouble be always a stranger to you.” (Irish Blessing)

It is a blessed secret this, of living by the day. Any one can carry his burden, however heavy, till nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however heavy, till nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, until the sun goes down. And this is all life ever means to us — just one little day. 

B It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moonless

My wish for you.  A calm, peaceful, joy filled weekend filled with love.



04 October 2011

Sauce Night Sunday

"You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind, (and) you shall love your neighbor as yourself."  (Jesus words as recorded in Matthew 22:37-38)

My neighbor's take this commandment seriously.  They are a true example of simply, totally, without reservation or expecting anything in return, loving each other. 

And they call it, SAUCE SUNDAY.

So let me tell ya how it is around here -

When the host and hostess of Sauce Sunday, Chris and Joe, were first married they lived  in New Haven, Conetticut, where they both grew up.  This is where Sauce Sunday originated some 25 years ago, but at some point they didn't want to freeze their butts off anymore wanted to live somewhere different warm.  He wanted to move to California, she wanted to go to France.  They ended up in San Diego, and finally settled in this little community.  I think they made the right choice.  (For me.)  Period.

First some introductions and a little back-story so I don't mix you up more than you already are.

You might remember my daughter Maggie.  Even though I'm guilty of not posting on this here blog for a long, long, long, time I've written about her often. Like here, Where I wrote about her Junior Prom.  Or, you can see a little more of Maggie over here where I enlighten you to the new  holiday "National Maggie Day".  Since she's the youngest in our family, and all her brother's and sister's are married or gone away to school, she gets the most attention these days.  If you want to trade places with her, just apply here______________.   She hates being an only child.  Makes it much harder to slip under the, parental units radar, if you know what I mean?

This is my youngest son, Dylan.  He's usually away at school or down the beach with skim board, boogie board, surf board, flippers, basketball or frisbee.  He checks in by phone or runs in to take a quick shower and grab a pepper jack turkey sandwich, (his favorite), every now and again.  It's hard to keep cereal, waffles or milk in the house when he's home but, according to him, I serve most of my meals when the surf is best so he's no where to be found.  I know it couldn't have anything to do with my cooking.

Dylan is my: always in a good mood, quick to forgive, full of quippy humor, boy. I guess I can't call him my boy anymore, at eighteen he's a young man now, seemingly finished with his surly teen years and extremely enjoyable to have around. But, most often you can find him over here where Sauce Sundays occur, with his adopted family, the Crocamo's.  Nobody is sweeter to our son than the Crocamos are.  Every time we see them they say, "we just love Dylan."  Ya gotta love it when somebody favors you with a compliment about your kid like that.  We sure do!  Anyhow, Dylan's a handsome devil, don't ya think?

Well, there you have it.  It's through our two youngest kids that we met the Crocamos and have had the honor to share in Sauce Sundays.  So as you don't get too mixed up inside this  l o n g  post of mine, I would now like to introduce you to our Sauce Sunday hostess, Christine Antonelli, (the beautiful blonde serving cupcakes which you see here).  Her grandfather, Silvio Antonelli had an Italian restaurant on Wooster Street in New Haven, Conneticut. So you could say that good cooking and entertaining are in her blood.  You could, and you should, because as you're about to see, it's very true.  

After we moved here to the beach and wasting no time, my kids made haste to find friends in their new hood, and soon found that all the "cool" people with kids their age lived on the streets around ours. On our particular street, most of the families have already raised their kids or just come for the summer season.  It's a bit too boring tame for a couple of teenagers looking for excitement someone to play a video game with.  Just over the next street though, you never fail to see a passel of kids on skate boards, or in their wetsuits carrying their surfboards down the beach to catch a wave.  There are pogo sticks bouncing, balls flying, and lawn wrestling going on at any given time. 

 As an aside, Important note:  As I've taught my kids to drive, the most crucial lesson I teach them is this: When you are driving down a street and you see a ball roll into your path, S T O P.  Because, when there is a ball rolling into the street, there is sure to be a kid or a dog right behind it.  That's the most important rule of driving, so don't forget it because that's the way it is.  And it is most definitely true on the street where they have Sauce Sunday.  Lecture complete.

Precious cargo.

Amen and you're welcome.

When we first moved to our new neighborhood six years ago now, within a couple of days complete strangers sweet and friendly people stopped by to invite us for a meal, or cocktails, to welcome us and to get to know each other.  Everyone was so, well, just so neighborly.  Being that I am kinda shy, actually loathe to leave the sanctity of my own house  this threw me a bit off my bearings.  I don't usually venture out much on social outings or at least, I haven't in the past, unless I take my whole entourage family with me for what I like to think of as, social security.  You know, to hold my hand in case somebody were to try to speak to me or something otherwise terrifying:}

Well, the folks I have for neighbors here at the beach, including my son Dylan's adopted family down the road, have made me feel so at home.  I actually ventured out to "Sauce Sunday", without an engraved invitation, with the only invitation being that sign on a child's art easel, written haphazerdly in bold red paint.  Well that, and my son repeatedly assuring me that, "yes you are invited, all the neighbors are invited, and you won't look like a 'big ol Goober' just showing up!"  Now, when your own kid tells you that, it's just as good as an invitation to the Royal Wedding right?  So guess what?  I pulled up my big girl panties, did a couple of asanas, took in a lung full of deep breath, exhaled slowly and went.  I'm sure glad I did too, because I met lots of people who weren't scary at all  just made my day, and made me glad I went.
I kinda think that Chris got a wee bit of her wish regarding her desire to live in France.  On Sauce Sunday one kind of feels like they live in the South of France.  Lots and lots of Sunflowers bedazzle the tables.  Some come from the garden next door.  Others are scored with the help of a sweet teenage neighbor girl, Stella, who goes to our local Sunday Farmer's Market and uses her buyer's finesse to get a good deal. Keep your eye on her, I think she has a promising future in sales and marketing.

Around here there is not a neighborhood that isn't a joy to walk in.  For a dog lover who finds nothing more enjoyable than to hook the pups to their leashes and wander around discovering new flowers popping up in someones yard or a beautiful mosaic of art being installed, the scenery is as I often remark, idylic. You may remember when I wrote a post titled, "Can We Keep Her" You may want to check out that post because it's a good example of the serendiptous kinds of things you might find when you wander around our streets. The conversation between my son Dylan and I was pretty memorable too.  Oh, and for anyone interested, that particular home, sculpture included is for sale right now.

As I was saying, there is nothing more fun than to gather up the pups and take a walk-about.  You know how in the old television sitcom "Cheers", the theme song reads, "where everybody knows your name?"  Well, 'round here everyone knows you by your dog's name.  Someone might say something such as, "hey, aren't you Bailey and Kieran's mom?"  Or, your dogs are so cute, and it's so funny that you named them after booze"!  ?  !  :) What?

So first and foremost, I recognized lots of dogs I knew.  This put my agorophobic issues to rest, making me feel so much more comfortable. It gave me the doggy loving security to venture on and soon I stumbled upon this welcome sight.

Why, isn't that Nash?

And glory be, I believe that's Brady there looking dead on the sidewalk. No worries, he's not actually dead. This is actually Brady's usual stance.  Except for the drool coming out on the sidewalk.  That was because after two days of following cooks around his kitchen he was in a food coma.

Then I saw this sight right out of some al fresco scene from Tuscany!
Then, on one of the tables I discovered Silver!  After a lengthy interragation  polite inquisition of our hostess, I learned that she  does not like plastic cutlery.  She, as do I,  prefers her meals served with real forks.  Only how, oh how I asked, did you come upon this many real silver forks (at last count over 100 of them)?  I'm gonna tell you what she told me.

Chris was actually searching for a piano in the paper and ended up finding a guy who sold her these forks for an awesome price.

True Serendipity, yes?

Not only that, she uses her good China dishes, and sets everything out on tables covered with white cloths.  I love to set a beautiful table as much as anyone, and I don't save my good china for special occasions only, however, we're talking about 80 to 100 neighbors, lots of them under the age of 12, eating dinner on a sidewalk spanning the entire block!  Ohhhh shiver me control freak tendencies.

I've hosted many a rager in my day, but I've never, never, ever, been so completely mello about it as Chris and Joe are on Sauce Sundays.  They are what I would refer to as, grace under fire.

Uh-oh.  People I don't know.  Deep breath in; slow breath out.

This is is how you bring the inside - out.

Folks bring coolers full of water bottles, soda, and vino. Chris has a sweet sister Diane, who has three boys, and they live just across the street.  Her brother John, his wife and their two little ones live just over by the train station.  I'm talkin' a Grande Familia Italiano.  She has two brothers and four sisters and most of them live practically next door!  They just fill their kitchen with  family and friends and c o o k their hearts out.  But it's Chris that is the power house behind all the shenanigans.  She desiginates where kids should go and what they should do (be they hers) or any strays (like mine) hanging around.  She blasts around her kitchen at rocket pace whipping up tasty treats and an Italian feast that Ceasar Augutus himself would be proud of.  There are no rules. Anyone can help, they never seem to run out of ingredients or food, and there are always people helping to set things up and take things down, although there's a rumor that her husband Joe does all the dishes.  (God bless a man who does dishes.)

Have I made it clear that nothing's black and white?  There are no cheat sheets posted, no rules set in stone.  Blast my best efforts not to cave in to my ocd!  Although you didn't ask, you really ought to know, there's a difference between being a perfectionist and having obsessive-compulsive disorder being a tad overly organized.  Perhaps you keep the floors in your house so clean that you could eat off them.  Or you like your knickknacks arranged just so.  Maybe you have a need to know exactly how many place settings to set and, never mind.  I'm just sayin'.  None of that at Sauce Sundays.  It's just a big, pure, love your neighbor, give back.

Neighbors are happy to contribute to the feast, bringing Ceasar salad with garlic croutons; plates of  fresh Caprese Salad which are artistic wonders unto themselves and could rival any of Italy's top chefs, and chairs and furniture so there are  plenty of places to sit yourself down for a spell.  But Chris and Joe supply the Sauce and the Meatballs, the bulk of the appetizers, and the desert!  To say nothing of those beautiful silver forks and place settings which make you feel like you are eating at the nicest Italian restaurant in town.

Somebody a couple of Sauce Sundays ago, brought this cool old VW pop-up van and parked it out front for entertainment.  It made a whole new kind of playground for the kids!

A real fort on wheels!  You may have noticed from my last brief post on Wordless Wednesday, that we have some pretty artistic and talented fort builders around these parts. Check out this teepee.

Pretty cool huh?

Soon enough, Chris exclaims, "food's on," and leads the way to the tables laden with her famous meatballs, sauce, and other delectibles.  Have I mentioned that there are hundreds of meatballs? For Joe's 50th birthday there were 450 of them!  It takes an army to carry it all outside.

Somehow not only does everyone ingest so much delicious food you can hear gratified moaning for hours afterward, everyone gets a seat with a china plate and a silver fork!

Well pimp my ride. The canopy of a double stroller does a fine tabletop make!

This is the kitchen where all the magic happens.  The Crocamo's began Sauce Sunday in their home town in Conneticut but, continued it when they moved here to the beach.  When I asked our gracious hostess how all this began, she told me a story about the neighborhood.  I may not be relaying it exactly right, but I get all chocked up when I tell it, which is one example why I am too awkward to be let out on the streets alone.  So here goes.  Chris and some of the neighbors were enjoying a little dinner al fresco one summer evening and an old lady (even older than I) strolled by and took Chris aside.  She whispered something to the effect of this, in her ear - "sweetie, you have no idea how special this neighborhood is and how precious this will be to you in the future.  Appreciate and hang on to it!"  And so she has.  She and her husband Joe resurrected Sauce Sunday from the East Coast to the West and for the last sixteen years they have been showing and sharing their appreciation in a very special way.

At last count Chris made 450 meatballs for one Sauce Sunday.  All of them were consumed!  For those whom only eat vegetarian, she serves the pasta and the meatballs on separate platters.  On top of every thing else that is cool about Sauce Sunday's, how awesome is that!

You should see how hopping this place is all the time.  Sometimes Joe just invites all the kids over to make their own individual pizzas.  He makes a bijillion pounds of home made pizza dough and then sets out everything from gummy worms, (yes I did say Gummy Worms) doesn't everyone put GW on their pizza for hecks sake? to pepperonni and lots of fresh veggies and cheese, to concoct their own pizza creations.  Flour flies, sauce explodes everywhere, and there are smiles as big as the sun on every kid's face.  My son Dylan is no dummy, he made the Crocamo's his adopted family for a reason!  Turns out the way to a teenage boys heart is the same route as a mans - through his stomach!

This is Chris working her culinary magic.  She even sports a darling little black dress while she cooks!  It's official.  She's my hero.  These are some of the scrumptous and delictible edibles from which we get to imbibe on Sauce Sunday.  Calzones stuffed with roasted bell pepper, sweet sauted onions, mixtures of pork and beef and sauce and well, you can see them in the top left baking pan and they're just bulging with yummy ingredients straight from the fresh vegetable co-op they belong to.  Whatever is in season is what you get that week.  It's all locally grown and freshly picked.  If you don't know what to do with an Okra, just Google it!

On the last Sauce Sunday I helped make Calzones.  When I showed up I asked Chris what I could do to help and she casually pointed in the direction of several bowls of grilled veggies and sauce and said, "you can finish those."  Luckily she'd already made several which I used as my guide to figure out how much stuffing was needed and how to roll those suckers. I had plenty of dough, as Joe made 8 lbs of it just for this party! In the past I've been a: read the recipe and hope it has step by step pictures, kind of gal. Chris sorta just threw me to the wolves  pointed in the right direction  and I did my best and kind of unwrapped Chris's already made ones and figured it out winged it.  Shhhh, don't tell her.  Then she handed me a beet and told me to make a salad.  Umm, do you peel a beet first, I thought?  How about chunk style, sliced or julliened?  Ohhhhhhh my.  I had never even tasted a beet in my life at that point, more-less made a salad with one so... I proceeded and people actually ate it.  But,  FYI, I don't plan on tasting another one soon.

Hold me!  Cute, precious, delicious, adorableness doesn't even come close to describing this baby.

And now, here it is in all its GLORY -

Voila!  The Sauce. 
COME AND GET IT!  Don't ya wish you were here?

Chris happily looking over her neighbors feasting on her front lawn.  I think I see a satisfied women here.

Have I introduced the other half of this dynamic duo?  This is Joe, Chris's husband, and their children.  Well, you can read their names for yourselves. Hehehehehehh!  I promised I wouldn't tell who is who.  (You're welcome Casey.)

This is the motto we try to live by at the beach.

"Love your neighbor",  I Jesus said, and all other hulligans too.  Well, Jesus may or may not have said the hulligans part, but I'm sure that's what he meant.

Sauce Sunday isn't always about raising money for a good cause although, this particular Sunday saw excellent results in a draw to make dreams come true for special atheletes.  A couple of days later this sign was still up and the donations in red had risen all the way up to the very tip top!  As all the best chef's say, BAM!  And that's how it's done.

Have I told y'all how priveledged I feel to reside, in the most awesome country, in the most idylic city, on the most picturesque street, in the whole wide world?  I most certainly do. And I am blessed that my neighbor's take their Commandments seriously.   Life's too short, so never, ever forget to - 

My neighbors sure do.

Love ya more than all the sauce at Sauce Sunday!



P.S.  Check back here soon because I'm going to do another post on how much fun the neighborhood dogs have on Sauce Sundays.  I have some seriously adorable photos of neighborhood dogs that will make you smile.  After that, if you can bear the sweetness I also have pictures of Sauce Sunday desserts that will melt your taste buds.  Like I said before, "BAM!"