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What we’ve been doing all this time…

March 28, 2013

I think it’s safe to say this blog is dead. Sadly (or happily?) I have been busy with far too many other projects to maintain it regularly (read: at all), but on the off chance that any of those 50 daily hits that it’s still getting (still? seriously?!?) are live readers and not spambots, here’s a quick update on what we’ve been up to. Moving forward, I plan to use this space for occasional updates on specific projects, happenings, or other things I want to write about that maybe someone somewhere wants to read about, but don’t look for a return to regular posting any time soon (in case the two-year hiatus didn’t clue you in on that front).

Here are a few posts about what’s been keeping us busy, though.

First up: The kitchen!

1. We finished the kitchen! Huzzah! And it only took 29 months. (Okay, in fairness, it was functional far sooner than that, but the last few bits and pieces have dragged on and on, so we finally gave up and sought some help to push it over the finish  line.)

Here it is, in all its glory (albeit with some wonky lighting):

Remember what that used to look like? (Yeah, I know, I’m cheating because these are the night-before-demo photos so there’s no sunshine or accessories to spruce it up…but it really wasn’t so hot.)

I’m quite pleased with the first-time tile and flooring jobs we (by which I mostly mean D.) pulled off! The walls are actually a soft lime green; for some reason they look accurate on one computer screen and day-glo green on another, but rest assured that we did not save money by coloring them with highlighters. Someone described the color to me as looking like a lime daquiri, and that’s a pretty good approximation. (It’s Benjamin Moore Wales Green, for those who care about such things. The trim is Acadia White and the cabinets are Sea Haze.)

That was great before too:

I love love love my cookbook shelf! And didn’t D. do a nice job with the wood counter? Someday we’ll also get a new refrigerator so that’s why this one looks a little lost in the space, but for now it’s chugging along so we’ll see how many more years we can eke out of it first, especially since it (very surprisingly) turned out to be as energy-efficient as the new (but, granted, bigger) one will be when we cracked out the Kill-o-Watt. Ignore the undersized IKEA cart in the foreground; that’s one of the last few things we have to replace with an appropriately-sized kitchen work table. This photo was also taken before the shelving and shoe bench were in, so you’ll have to scroll down to get a glimpse of those.

I’m personally a big fan of the new-and-improved kitchen entry.

Here’s what we used to walk in to see:

And here’s what we see now. One of my silly goals of this project was to restore the through-the-house view of the gardens that was part of the original house plan, and I’m ecstatic that I can now sit in our living room and see our beautiful fruit trees! When we eventually get a new refrigerator, it will sit flush with the cabinets, so we’ll have an even better view.

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D. also tuned up the swinging door with a new hinge once we discovered the original one had been sawed and hammered beyond repair in an unsuccessful attempt to remove the door at some point. Turns out the hinge was bolted to the subfloor, so that’s why that didn’t pan out for whichever past owner was trying to get it loose… Note that it now opens into the kitchen, as it was intended to. (Pre-renovation, it only opened out into the dining room because that ceramic tile was too high for it to clear, which meant it blocked the door to the hallway that leads to the bathroom and bedrooms. Good thinking, past owners!)

The breakfast nook, still with its garden view, but with newly restored and trimmed windows. (Don’t look now, but this photo was taken before we installed the door thresholds! So pretend you don’t see the left corner.)

We restored the California cooler!

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We got a new-old back door from Ohmega Salvage that was a perfect fit for the opening, a new Douglas fir screen door, and I finally got my shoe bench and coat rack. (All that junk in the photo is not, in fact, what is supposed to go on these shelves, but right now we can’t store anything heavy down low.)

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We still have a little painting left to do here and there, but it’s pretty much a wrap. It was a long time coming—we demoed the old kitchen the first week of November 2010—but I’m loving the wonderful new space, and we even finished it on budget! Everybody around here loves it.

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Next up: other things that have been keeping us busy (Hint: we are rocking that 2011 resolutions list!!)

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Updating the blogroll

March 8, 2011

In the last year of neglecting this poor blog, I haven’t been paying much attention to the blogroll. But since many of these blogs are the same blogs I read on my own feed (which I’ve also not been paying much attention to), I realized recently that it’s woefully out of date. Many of these are gone or on hiatus, and there are a bunch of new ones that ought to be on this list, too.

So this month, I’m going to try to clean up this list. What’s missing? Any favorite Oakland, house, or garden blogs you’d like to see included? (I can’t list everything, but I know there are lots that I haven’t discovered or have forgotten to add, so I’d love some help on this!) I’ll also take off any blogs that have gone dark, so there will be room for some fun new ones.

Ideas??

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Restaurant Report: Winter 2011

February 25, 2011

Wow, look at what happens when you take a few months off! Last time I posted on neighborhood restaurants was last May (good grief) and there’s been plenty happening since then. Here’s a very quick rundown of what’s opened or is opening soon in the ‘hood…

Temescal/Pill Hill

  • Homeroom, a new macaroni-and-cheese restaurant, is now open at 40th and Shafter. We have yet to try it but it sounds tasty and has been met with great fanfare—even my sister in Denver heard about it (though in fairness, she does work for the American Cheese Society, so it’s her kind of place!) Full report once we make it there.
  • CommonWealth has been open at 29th and Telegraph for a while now. Check out the details here. [Side note: One review of CommonWealth describes its location as "where Uptown meets Pill Hill." Discuss.]
  • Remedy has been open since forever at Telegraph and 43rd, but I realized I forgot to include them in the last list. Which is bad, because they’re awesome!

Piedmont Avenue

  • Shimizu Sushi is now open at Piedmont and Echo. Haven’t been yet, but have heard good things!
  • It’s actually been quite a while since I’ve wandered down Piedmont, so I have a feeling I’m missing some changes. (Or maybe it really has been quiet?) Updates after we get a chance to walk down that way!

Grand Lake/Lower Grand

  • Ikaros (Greek) on Grand and Caña (Cuban, with a cabaret license, it looks like?) on Lake Park are both open as of this month. Yum! [Yes, I know the Ikaros link doesn't work yet, but hopefully it will soon...]
  • Lin Jia Kitchen has been open on Lakeshore for a while now in the old L’Amyx space; still on the list of new places to try!
  • Room 389 opened this fall where the Golden Bear used to be.
  • Mimosa (at Santa Clara and Grand) has closed again after a brief revival, and is reportedly going to reopen under a new owner as a larger Ethiopian restaurant later this spring. Hopefully the third time’s the charm!
  • Sadly, Di Bartolo Café has closed, but happily,  Boot and Shoe will be taking over their space, expanding to include a patio and reportedly opening for brunch and lunch. Mmm doughnuts…
  • The Flip Side on Lakeshore, a project by the owners of Flavors of India, will be serving up gourmet burgers. (This is the old Adam’s location.)
  • Restoration of KwikWay on Lake Park is well underway at long last! Hoping they’ll be open by the summer, but that might be overly optimistic. Last I heard, the plan was still to do an upscale version of the old burger joint, but we’ll see.
  • Zoey’s Afghan Bistro has sadly closed, not too long after it opened.

Uptown/Upper Broadway

  • 3000 Broadway is now open at, umm, 3000 Broadway. Still haven’t been, but very curious!
  • Plum has been open for a while now, and is slated to open a bar soon. We checked it out when they first opened and are headed for a second visit soon, so I’ll write that one up soon.
  • Next door to Plum, the Punchdown opened quietly last fall in Franklin Square Wine Bar’s old space. Still need to check this one out too!
  • Next door to Mua, Nex is open. Check out the review here. (Can you tell how long it’s been since I’ve done one of these updates?!?)
  • Café Randevu is open too, just across the way from Mua and Nex. They have an eclectic menu spanning a number of cuisines.
  • Bar Dogwood, a new venture by the former owner of the House of Shields, is now open for  “cocktails and cured meats,” which is definitely up my alley! It’s at 17th and Telegraph.
  • Shuga Hill, the soul food truck-turned-restaurant that was originally eyeing a location at 29th and Broadway, has instead settled on a location at 27th and San Pablo that seems to be coming along nicely.
  • Xolo, the new taqueria from the Dona Tomas/Flora crew, is still under construction. Still. They’re also working on a bar in the space between Flora and Xolo.
  • Just up the street at 18th and Telegraph will be Oakland’s own branch of Brooklyn’s Weather Up. They’ll also be serving up cocktails and snacks.
  • Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café is opening its second location next-door to the Fox Theater. Apparently my wish for cocktails and brunch (no, not together…well, sure, why not together??) has been heard!

I think that’s it for now. I’ve undoubtedly missed a few openings and closings in these neighborhoods since I’ve been a bit out of the loop this fall and winter, so feel free to add them in the comments. And I promise to update this in a more timely manner next time around!

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2011 House Resolutions

February 15, 2011

A little late, but hey. Setting the bar a bit lower on these this year given the total lack of progress on the 2010 list…so this one is short ‘n’ sweet.

1. FINISH THE KITCHEN.
This will actually get done, for no better reason than that is has to or we will go nuts! Still to do as of February 2011: painting, range hood vent, shelves, breakfast table and benches, shoe bench, backsplash tiles, butcher block counter, and rehanging the doors. Really not so bad considering where we started!

2. MEDICINE CABINET & BATHROOM PAINT.
Leftover from 2010.
We will install the medicine cabinet and paint the bathroom. No, really.

(I’m not getting too overly optimistic on the “To Do” list, though, so I’ll leave re-plastering the bathroom ceiling, which is currently threatening to come tumbling down, for 2012 or until it actually falls, whichever comes first.)

3. GARAGE SHELVES AND BIKE RACKS.
Leftover from 2010. Yeah. We will also do this in 2011, I swear!

4. CHICKENS FOR THE ‘HOOD.
Leftover from 2010. We’ll keep trying to get this together! Ever hopeful.

5. FRENCH DRAINS IN OUR FRONT YARD.
Because we need something new to do. The previous owner of our house did a lot of drainage work before selling it, but we still have one little section of the basement that gets water in heavy downpours. Unfortunately, this is also where we put the new furnace (there were good reasons for moving it and also some miscommunication on exactly where the designated spot would be, but it is what it is). So now we really need to fix the drainage. D. has been running test pumps this winter to try to pinpoint where we need to dig to get at the major problem sources, and I think he’s finally found it, or at least found a magic spot that seems to help a lot. So this spring, we need to get digging and route that water back down the hill and out of the basement. If we really get on a roll, this might expand to include tearing up the path in the backyard, digging french drains there too, and putting the path back. But really? That’s more likely to be 2013 or so…

6. ORGANIZE THE OFFICE (AKA THE SPARE BEDROOM)
We got really lazy about this one, and never got shelves for the second bedroom, so for the last few years everything’s been all over the floor in boxes. Which is kind of ridiculous given that we’re coming up on four years in this house in 2011! So sometime this year, we (by which I mostly mean D., since he uses this room as his office) will actually get some shelves and put some stuff on them.

…and that should keep us busy for most of the year, at least at the rate we’ve been going for the last year or so!

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Dine About Oakland: CommonWealth

February 14, 2011

Yeah, yeah, yeah, still here. And our kitchen is still not done, so still no time for writing. But one of my new year’s resolutions was to try to shake the dust off this blog and get it up and running again…though given that it’s already February, I’m not doing so well on that front! I’m going to try starting with some bite-sized tidbits in the interim, though.

So for now, here’s a happy Valentine’s post on CommonWealth, one of Oakland’s newer restaurant pubs, which is rapidly becoming one of my favorite neighborhood haunts (and that’s not just because we still have no working stove and they have shepherd’s pie!) CommonWealth opened last summer not long before our wedding, so although we sent some of our wedding guests there to watch World Cup games, we didn’t actually go ourselves until many weeks later. For most of 2010, they had pretty limited hours, and were often closed when we wanted to go. (This is, incidentally, one of the biggest frustrations of living in an up-and-coming gourmet hot spot in the shadows of downtown; lots of restaurants debut with weekday lunchtime hours, which I understand but which we can never make, so I get all excited and then have to wait for weeks for nighttime or weekend hours…augh!) But happily, with the arrival of 2011 came expanded hours so that CommonWealth is now open every day of the week, and every night except Sunday! In recent weeks, with no easy way to cook, we’ve headed there for all sorts of tasty goodness. (They also now have a gorgeous new façade, so if you haven’t been to go check it out, go take a look!)

The little storefront CommonWealth is in used to be a coffee shop, and it’s very tiny for a bar. But they’ve packed it with tables and lined the windows with stools, so we’ve never had a problem finding a place to sit (though I will say that they are more and more crowded with each passing week…) On the drinks front they just serve beer and wine, but they always have a great and largely local selection of those (plus interesting sodas, coffee, breakfast, and lunch, too). They also offer wifi, so there’s usually a small laptop contingent.

There’s a basic menu of sandwiches, salads, and soups, but the real treats are usually the specials. Shepherd’s pie pops up regularly, and a few weeks ago they even had a veggie haggis version. We’ve tried mac and cheese, pasties, sandwiches, and my favorite, their excellent beet salad. Dessert was also delicious: a chocolate stout float with cookie ‘n’ caramel sauce on the side! Really, how can you beat that? Beer on tap is often local and always interesting and varied; it’s never been the same selection twice, even when we’ve been there two nights running. There’s also a bottle list that is pretty consistent, plus an assortment of wines, sodas, and other drinks if alcohol isn’t your thing.

My favorite thing about CommonWealth, though, is that they are also an exceptional coffee shop, something that our immediate neighborhood is sorely lacking. (Yeah, I know we can walk to Piedmont or Grand Lake or Telegraph, but the nearest coffee shops on each are a mile away, and even Farley’s East is a ten-minute walk. Need an indication of just how much our ‘hood needs some good local coffee shops? Just go take a peek at how packed Whole Foods Café is from opening to closing every day! ) So it’s good to have coffee a bit closer to home. We’ve taken the dog over a couple of times, and you can either sit outside when the outdoor table and chairs are there as long as you don’t take the alcohol out, or have one person sit inside at the window, since the window sill is a perfect little counter. They have excellent currant scones, and they actually know how to make scones, which is not to be taken lightly. (Okay, I admit it, I’m a scone snob! My mom made us wonderful traditional cream scones growing up, and now I really can’t stomach what many coffee shops, particularly certain national chains, try to pass off as “scones.” But these are terrific!) They also have great coffee—they use Oakland/Emeryville-based Roast and also sell beans. And they make perfect Gibraltars—also not to be taken lightly! (Random factoid: I only recently learned that Blue Bottle invented the Gibraltar, which is named after the Libbey Duratuff rocks glass it’s served in. Granted, a Gibraltar is really just a true short cappuccino—that is to say, not the “short” cappuccino you can order at Starbucks, which is actually what the rest of the world would consider a normal cappuccino—or a tall cortado, which no one but the one barista who briefly worked at the Peet’s by my office two years ago seems to know how to make. But still, both D. and I have happily embraced this new coffee development—it’s a much easier way of ordering a not-too-milky espresso drink without having to specify “a cappuccino with an inch less milk than you were planning to put in.”) There’s also a brunch menu on weekends and a lunch menu on weekdays, though we haven’t ventured into that territory yet.

So, in a nutshell: local beer, local coffee, shepherd’s pie, scones, no wait, and six blocks from my house. What’s not to love?? If they had outdoor seating where you could have a beer too, it would be practically perfect!

Grade: A
Price: $-$$

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Floored!

February 10, 2011

For a while now, actually, but I’m doing an extraordinarily bad job of keeping this blog updated…so I’ll play catch-up with some kitchen photos as we inch closer to finally wrapping this thing up! Here’s what we accomplished in December (along with some other fun but less photogenic things like electrical and plumbing work).

This is our shiny new Marmoleum Click tile from Anderson Carpet & Linoleum on Broadway, installed in December by D. (with a little bit of help from me!) The Labradane is a fan, or at least he became one once he got used to slip-sliding on it! He’s perfected the art of stopping mid-kitchen and sliding the rest of the way to the back door—but remarkably, two months later this stuff has yet to show many scratches to speak of. So that gets it a thumbs up from me!

Next up: What we did in January

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2010 House Resolutions Check-in: Jul…no, wait, December!

December 6, 2010

Whoops! In the chaos of the wedding, I somehow missed the June mid-year check-in on our house resolutions….which is just as well, since we are making very slow progress on them. But here’s a quick run-down of where we are with just days left to go:

1. A DISHWASHER.
Getting delivered this week! Actually, we’ve made lots of progress on this one, and with a little bit of luck, we will squeak in under the wire, with a working dishwasher (and kitchen!) in time for New Year’s Eve. !!!

2. HONEYBEES.
Done…for now. Hmm. So I took a great class at Her Majesty’s Secret Beekeeper in San Francisco to learn a little bit more about beekeeping…and I have to say that I’m not so sure it’s the right thing to add to to the mix right now. I did get a book that D.’s been reading, though, so if he gets excited enough about it to compensate for my trepidation, we might still give it a spin. But right now I’m thinking that (in the words of the class instructor!) I’m more interested in being a “bee haver” than a “bee keeper.” Time to plant some bee balm!

3. MEDICINE CABINET.
Halfway there. Well, so I have the medicine cabinet at long last…but it’s not installed yet. Also, painting the bathroom? Not done either. Argh. However, I think this one is getting close, since we now own the saw(s) needed to hack through the wall, and I now know how to drywall. Kind of. Bumping this to early 2011 at this point, since I don’t want to tear up the bathroom before we’re back in the kitchen.

4. LAWN LANDSCAPING.
Done! The grass is in! Still growing a bit slowly in spots, but it’s definitely grassy now.

Grass growing (a little!)

Grass growing (a little!) It's grown much more since this was taken.

5. HEAT REGISTERS.
Almost done! We ended up stripping and powdercoating the original registers (or rather, having someone else do this) after replacing them turned out to be trickier than I imagined. Now, to find the right size screws to put them back in the wall, since it turns out these aren’t readily available, and I should have kept track of the rusty stripped ones. D’oh.

6. GARAGE SHELVES AND BIKE RACKS.
No progress. Boo. This should be an easy one, too…bumping to next year, but inspired to get rolling on this as soon as the kitchen is done! On the upside, we got a new furnace as part of the kitchen remodel (yeah, don’t even ask…) and took the opportunity to move it to a side room in the basement, which means we now have a huge open space to play with in the main basement. Bike racks, here we come!

7. CHICKENS FOR THE ‘HOOD.
More talking, but still no action. We got as far as walking the space where the coops will go in our neighbor’s yard, but then the project stalled again. A friend of our neighbor’s is on board to help design it, though, so it’s looking promising for 2011. We’ll get there one of these years!

So, yes, it’s been an appallingly pathetic year for any project or activity not related to a) the wedding, b) work, or c) the kitchen. *sigh* There’s always next year…

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