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Yep, we’re still here…

November 12, 2010

…though our kitchen isn’t!

I have had absolutely zero time to write anything (or even think about writing anything!) this fall, with a bad combination of kitchen craziness kicking off just as things at work suddenly ramped up quickly. And while I had every intention of carefully documenting our kitchen remodel, I discovered on the morning of demo that we didn’t even have a working camera in the house—aaah! I am still trying to carve out some time to post more regularly, but right now that looks iffy through the end of the year. Fingers crossed for things calming down a bit in 2011!

However, I did find a working camera, and will be better documenting it moving forward and writing some small bits on our kitchen as we finish chunks (but not in the midst of the work, out of respect for the many contractors who are hard at work on our kitchen). We’re also having lots of tasty meals out (and at our friends’ and neighbors’ places–thanks guys!) so with luck there will be a few more restaurant reviews coming soon, too.

So, for now, I leave you with some terrible iPhone before and during photos of our kitchen. We had the crew from the Reuse People in East Oakland come out to deconstruct our kitchen, so they saved what they could and took it off to to be, hopefully, reused.

Here’s one of the last “before” shots, just before the demo crew arrived…

See ya, Wall o' Cabinets!

See ya, Wall o' Cabinets!

…and here’s what it looked like when they finished pulling off the cabinets and the old stove flue. Yeah, who needs walls when you’ve got some plaster and putty to stick things on!

Goodbye, flue!
Goodbye, flue!

This is the old laundry porch, which had been integrated into the breakfast room in the 1940s. Turns out the wall  behind the cabinets had never been plastered—it still had the original beadboard, and in that remodel they just covered it up with our breakfast room built-in sideboard. We haven’t decided whether to take the beadboard off and plaster it or just leave it along (though leaving it be is complicated by the fact that the old plumbing hookups stick out of it, and still need to be removed). The old laundry sink vent was, happily, our only demo surprise—it wasn’t connected to anything, so it just got sawed off and hauled away.

Beadboard!

Beadboard!

We discovered this little drawing behind the built-in. Someone had apparently been sketching out the plan before they started!

'kay, build me this please...
‘kay, build me this please…

…and here’s what the built-in actually looked like. Came pretty close! (Though I actually like the drawing layout a bit better…)

Breakfast room built-in circa 2008

Breakfast room built-in baking area

Because we didn’t do the demo ourselves, we probably missed out on some other fun historical finds (and D. was bummed to discover, a week later when we finally took a look at the roof, that the demo crew accidentally trashed the antique chimney cap for the stove flue, which we’d asked to keep. *sigh*) We did find snippets of a newspaper; the Penney’s ad had no date, but probably was from the 1939 remodel based on other examples we could find online with similar styles and prices.

With any luck, we’ll do the rough inspections next week, and then it’s on to plastering and a weeklong painting-and-flooring marathon so that the cabinets can go in the week after Thanksgiving. And that’s the news for now…

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Kitchen Chronicles: Bungalow layout inspiration

July 16, 2010

One of the fun things about living in a 1915 bungalow is finding other similar homes and looking at what others have done with the layout over the years—and boy, are there a lot of them! As we started thinking about the kitchen two years ago, one of the most interesting things I did was to start browsing the MLS listings to take a look at other bungalow kitchens. In Oakland, it’s surprisingly easy to find them, too. While our house isn’t a kit house (that we know of) and we have yet to find a twin other than its actual next-door twin, there are still a lot of strikingly similar variations on the layout. If I set search parameters to include houses between 1000 and 1500 square feet that were built between 1900 and 1930, it’s a pretty good bet that I’ll turn up at least one or two similar kitchens on any given day. And if I only look at the two-bedroom houses built between 1914 and 1925, my odds quadruple.

The telltale signs of a similar layout are the door placement (right up against the wall on one side, sometimes still a swinging door) and the double windows over the sink. For most houses of our variety, the dining room is just outside the kitchen on one side, and the backyard or a porch on the other. Occasionally, I’ll see a house that still has a separate breakfast room and back porch, often converted into laundry rooms or half baths. (Our house had these rooms until a 1939 remodel modified the wall.)

Here are a few kitchens I’ve found over the years and saved for layout notes. (A few disclaimers: these photos are all from EBRDI and copyrighted accordingly. Also, these are all from the ‘hood, so it’s entirely possible that the people who now live in these houses might stumble on this blog; if one of them is your kitchen and you want the photo removed, just let me know and I’ll gladly take it off. Alternatively, if one of these is your kitchen or very similar to yours and you want to share anything about the layout, please do! Finally, many of these listings were originally accompanied by websites with floor plans, so in some cases I know the layout is similar not from the photo, but from looking at a floor plan or even dropping by the open houses.)

First, here’s our kitchen’s MLS photo, for context:

Look how clean it is!

Our kitchen, prettied up and staged for sale. Look how clean it is!

Here’s what our blueprint originally looked like:

1915 blueprints of our kitchen (flipped from our neighbor's copy)

1915 blueprints of our kitchen (flipped from our neighbor's copy)

And here’s what some other folks have done with roughly our layout. Interestingly, almost all of these kitchens also break the work triangle, with the exception of a few that either never had or have removed their coolers and have the refrigerator located there.

This kitchen sacrifices corner counter for a longer run to the right of the stove.

This kitchen sacrifices corner counter for a longer run to the right of the stove.

This was helpful to get a sense of what counters on the right side might look like. It also convinced me that we don't want our refrigerator where this one is, since it creates too much of a wall as you come into the kitchen.

This was helpful to get a sense of what counters on the right side might look like. It also convinced me that we don't want our refrigerator where this one is, since it creates too much of a wall as you come into the kitchen.

This is roughly what our corner will look like, except we may have shelves instead of an upper there, and our drawer banks will be a bit bigger.

This is roughly what our corner will look like, except we may have shelves instead of an upper there, and our drawer banks will be a bit bigger.

This is the same kitchen, but gives a glimpse of the breakfast nook. This is my model for ours.

This is the same kitchen, but gives a glimpse of the breakfast nook. This is one model I like for ours, though our kitchen is a bit longer than theirs, so it would be a roomier layout.

Another approach to the fridge dilemma. We could do this, but I don't like the resulting counter space configuration much.

Another approach to the fridge dilemma. We could do this, but I don't like the resulting counter space configuration much. They also seem to have a peninsula to make a "U" shape, something a couple of the designers we talked with suggested for our space.

This is one of my favorite kitchens. You can't tell in this photo, but the door is just to your right, and there's actually a cut-through to the dining room over the counter on the right. We would need to sacrifice the cooler to get a U like this, though.

This is one of my favorite kitchens, though it's not quite the same as ours (but quite similar if you look at the full layout). You can't tell in this photo, but the door is just to your right, and there's actually a cut-through to the dining room over the counter on the right. We would need to sacrifice the cooler to get a U like this, though.

Yet another approach to the corner. Not sure where the fridge is in this kitchen, as the photos don't include it.

Yet another approach to the corner. Not sure where the fridge is in this kitchen, as the photos don't include it.

This kitchen pushes the chimney into the corner, which is pretty common. They also wrapped around a peninsula, and seem to still have their cooler, too.

This kitchen pushes the chimney into the corner, which is pretty common (and much smarter than ours, where it's dropped into the center of the room!) They also wrapped around a peninsula, and seem to still have their cooler, too. This kitchen is either a wee bit wider than ours or laid out differently as far as the doors go, since we can't quite get a peninsula in while keeping a 42" aisle against the wall. Ah, well.

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Dine About Oakland: Nex

July 14, 2010

This weekend, I wasn’t up for a real night out, but we still wanted to show our support for local restaurants. So, with some friends, we headed out to a brand-new spot that we could walk to: Nex, the latest venture from Hi-Suk and Sanju Dong, the husband-and-wife team behind Mua and Soizic. We had high hopes since we like Mua’s food a lot, but often find it too loud for a weekend dinner. Nex has been billed as more restaurant and less club, but with a similar vibe, which sounded perfect. And though I never made it to Soizic, which is now closed for “reinventing” as someplace new, D. was a fan in its heyday. Nex is at Webster and Broadway right next-door to Mua, in the space that was briefly the short-lived Café Noir. While Café Noir was trying to juggle the coffee shop-pizza joint identity, though, Nex is a bit more upscale and decidedly a dinner spot.

On its first Friday night, the place was pretty quiet, which was also a nice change from Mua, where you can sometimes wait well over an hour for a table on the weekends. That’s not to say it was empty, though: clearly people are beginning to hear about it, and a number of people popped over from Mua to peek in and see what was happening. Interestingly, the crowd had a slightly older leaning; we were probably the youngest people there, which was a funny shift from Mua, where I sometimes feel pretty old. (One of our friends guessed that this might have been the Soizic crowd checking out the new place.) And on a fun side note, about half an hour into our meal, in walks Jerry Brown. Turns out he and his wife are pizza-and-wine fans too. (They also live a couple blocks away in the other direction, so I imagine they had the same walk-to-dinner idea we had.) This also led to a funny exchange at the door, when a group came in to check the place out and decide whether to stay for dinner. As one guy examined the menu, the other kept poking him, saying “Hey. Hey! Isn’t that the governor? Over there?” Finally the first guy, who was more concerned with the pizza list, responds, “Oh. Nah, he’s not the governor right now.” A pause. “Well, then are we eating here or not?” Shrugs. “Let’s keep looking.” And they leave.

Too bad, though, since they missed some good food! Since there were four of us, we gave the menu a good workout, trying:

  • Grilled asparagus with bacon and a poached egg: Excellent. We added this in the end at the advice of the server, who clearly knows what he’s talking about. Egg was perfectly done, and asparagus was just right. Highly recommended. Mmm!
  • House salad with butter lettuce, nectarines, and goat cheese: Also great. D. was initially pushing for the farro salad (which looked great at the table next to us) but after a few bites of the house salad, conceded that it had been a good pick.
  • Gnocchi: Meh. This was the one weak dish. The sauce was a very simple, sweet tomato sauce that overpowered the gnocchi. This turned out not to be bad, though, since the gnocchi were mushy and glutinous. We couldn’t decide if this was a preparation issue (undercooked, one of us wondered?) or a recipe issue (I’ve made gnocchi at home before, and I know that the delicate balance of flour and potato can make all the difference between tender little dumplings and mushiness, so possibly this dish can just be written off to a new restaurant still getting its bearings; they were also listed as being made with mascarpone, so possibly that was contributing too).
  • Nex pizza: The house specialty, this pizza is topped with anchovies, goat cheese, caramelized onions, and olives. We had an anchovy-lover among us, but even he thought this was a little over the top. The cheese, anchovies, and olives are all super salty, so if you got a bite with all three, it was just a bit much. (In contrast, the bites with just one or two and the onions were delicious, so I might order this in the future and ask them to leave either anchovies or olives off.) The crust was good, though, which is our big criterion for good pizza. I had high hopes since we’d liked the crust at Café Noir, and they’re using the same oven. While the pizza isn’t as good as spots like Marzano or Pizzaiolo that specialize in wood oven pizza, it was up there with the crusts at most of the other places in town. Crisp with bubbles…yum!
  • Forest pizza: This was a daily special pizza that featured fiddlehead ferns, hen of the wood mushrooms, and a cheese I’m blanking on (fontina, maybe?) This was probably my favorite, but I also love fiddleheads since you don’t see them too often around here.
  • Roasted cauliflower: D. really wanted to try this, so we threw it into the mix, and were really glad we did. While the dish is simple, it was excellent, and really showcased what a wood oven can do with vegetables.
  • Tarte tatin: Okay. This apple tart was quite tasty, but it was not a tarte tatin in the slightest, which was a bit of an issue for D., who’s a connoisseur of tarte tatins and has been through about a dozen recipes over the last few years trying to make the perfect one. A traditional tarte tatin features apples caramelized in butter and sugar until they’re a deep caramel color, covered with a pastry crust, baked in the same pan until the apples and crust meld, and then inverted and served like an upside-down cake. Nex’s version has lovely baked apples sitting delicately atop puff pastry, but there’s no caramelizing to be found. My vote: keep this on the menu—it’s yummy, especially with the cream alongside—but change the name to “apple tart” to avoid deeply disappointing tarte tatin fans. Meanwhile, our search for a great tarte tatin in Oakland continues…
  • Funnel cake fingers: This was probably the most interesting dish of the meal. Essentially, it’s sweet french fries made of funnel cake batter, served with chocolate (listed on the menu as spicy, but the chocolate we got seemed not to be) and fruit sauce. This is a variation on the fritter/doughnut theme that so many restaurants around town feature right now. We order it every place we see it, too, since both D. and I love really good doughnuts. I didn’t love this version simply because there’s more outside than inside to the treats, and I love the soft inside of bomboloni and zeppole and the like. However, these got points for being creative and unusual, and they really did taste like funnel cake, which was fun. So basically, we probably wouldn’t get them again, but were glad we ordered them once.
  • Cocktails, wine, and beer: We were pleased with the lists for all three of these. Beer is only in the bottle, but they have a great selection. Manhattan was similar to (though not quite as sweet as) the version served next-door at Mu, which I like a lot. Prices on par with most other spots of this flavor in town.

Overall, I was pleased with our first meal at Nex, especially since we were there just days after they opened, so it’s likely to keep getting better. The most exciting part is that the mood is pretty mellow compared to Mua; while we really enjoy Mua (and other spots like Shashamane across the street), these places start spinning music by 10 on weekend nights and become loud and hip. And, well, we’re old! (Okay, not really, but we’re not twenty-somethings anymore and sometimes Mua is just too loud for what we need on a Friday night.) So Nex is a great addition to the neighborhood. I have a feeling as they refine the menu in the coming weeks and months, they’ll get the few kinks out, and it will be the perfect spot. The server (who was great, and even IDed some of the fabulous 80’s they were playing to settle some debates) also reports that the owners are exploring adding outdoor tables, too, which would be great. In fact, the only slightly bittersweet part is that we’re back to having no coffee shop in the immediate neighborhood (unless you count Whole Foods Café, which I don’t, but apparently half the neighborhood does since it’s always packed!) Won’t somebody please open a coffee shop here??

On the opening front, though, I was excited to see that Café Randevu is on the verge of opening across the street from Nex, too. Our little corner of Oakland is slowly turning into a culinary hotspot!

Grade: A-
Price: $$-$$$

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Kitchen Chronicles: The plan!

July 12, 2010

Bet you thought we’d abandoned this project, huh. It does feel a little like that, since I’ve had to redirect energy to several other big projects this spring….but we’re still hoping for a summer start on our renovation. My original goal was to be in our new kitchen in time for our third anniversary of being in the house in September (which is now looking a little on the optimistic side, but hey). We do finally have a close-to-final plan, though. This has been through a lot of iterations, and as we started to get bids on the structural work, we realized we’d bitten off a little more than we could chew with our original visions of pocket doors and grand entrances. So instead, we wound up with Kitchen 2.0, the new-and-improved version of what we already have.

As a reminder, here’s our current kitchen (but imagine it upside down):

Our kitchen

And here’s our new plan. Update: Here’s a diagram that includes the hypothetical furniture, too (not to mention a few tweaks, since this is a work in progress).

Kitchen with furniture!

It’s not so different, but it fixes a lot of the critical flaws. It also creates a few new ones, namely breaking the work triangle rule by placing appliances a little too far apart and across a major corridor. We haven’t figured out a good way to avoid this, though, short of some serious structural work that would blow our pretty modest budget. The vast empty space will house some sort of breakfast table, plus a little bench and space for shoes, coats, and dog-related paraphernalia. I’m also still fiddling with the refrigerator wall to try to consolidate that cabinetry without completely blocking the view from the doorway to the backyard…we’ll see.

Anyway, the next step is to refine the plan a bit more as we try to pick out cabinets that will respect the style of the house and also respect our meager post-wedding bank account…we’re inching closer, but still not quite there yet!

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What we’ve been doing: Dining about Downtown Oakland

July 9, 2010

This weekend, many Oaklanders are trying to organize eat-outs in support of Downtown and Uptown Oakland restaurants to help support our local businesses in the wake of last night’s violence following the Mehserle verdict. So in the spirit of that effort, I’ll share some of my favorite downtown eating experiences from the past five months. (These restaurant reports are so overdue that I’m not even going to write them up on their own; when we make repeat visits to these spots, they’ll get their own posts, since things may well have changed in the past six months.) But in the meantime, here’s a little taste of the spots we tried this spring.

Please go out and eat this weekend!

TRUEBURGER (Uptown)
D. still hasn’t been here, so this is just my take; my parents and I stopped in during a visit in March, not long after Trueburger opened. We had milkshakes, burgers, and fries, in classic form. Overall, our take was that Trueburger is good, though not the best burger-n-fries we’ve ever had (but then, that’s a pretty high bar!) Burgers were tasty, but they’re only cooked one way and the day we visited, this was well-done (though I think it’s typically more like medium, so I’ll try again at some point). Fries and milkshake were both tasty; next time I’ll try some milkshake mix-ins. My parents thought it was a bit pricey; I thought it was just right given the restaurant’s commitment to using sustainable meat, dairy, and produce. I’d probably still rather get a burger at Wood Tavern, where I can have it alongside a Manhattan and pretend I’m having a fancy meal. But Trueburger isn’t trying to be Wood Tavern; it’s more like a high-end version of In-N-Out. As someone who doesn’t eat fast food meat because of issues with its questionable sources, I love that there’s now a spot in my neighborhood where I can finally satisfy the burger-and-shake craving. Yay! They are apparently in the process of getting a beer-and-wine license, too, so we’ll check it out again after that’s in place.

Grade: B+
Price: $-$$

HIBISCUS (Uptown)
Okay, so it’s been so long since we had dinner here (just after they opened!) that I almost shouldn’t include this report at all. But it was tasty, and I hear it’s gotten even better since then, so I’ll put this in for now, and write a real report once we’ve tried them again. We tried Hibiscus the week after a friend who knows her Caribbean food had given it an overwhelming thumbs up (one of the only places in the Bay Area that passed muster for her!) So we gave it a pre-Fox run one Saturday. Tasty spots included the split pea fritters, the seafood and grits [it’s crab now, but I seem to remember it being shrimp when we visited, though that may be my memory playing tricks on me], and the fried chicken, although I remember thinking that in the future we should try not to load up on quite so many fried dishes. The fried plantains, which I ordered on a whim, were good but a little much with all the other food. Ah, well. And while the salad was good as simple green salads go, it seemed inordinately expensive for lightly dressed greens. (I don’t think the version we had is on the menu anymore, though.) The only really odd spot was the phone call we got with five minutes to go before our reservation. It’s the restaurant, wondering if we’re coming. I assure the woman that we’re outside locking up and will be there in a moment. Weird, but I’d made the reservation online, and maybe people flake out on online reservations a lot. So I head inside, where the woman behind the bar is telling someone that she just talked to me and I claimed we were parking, but she’s sure I was just saying that and we’ll be late. Err…?? I pipe up that yes, in fact I’m here. She just looks at me for a minute and then seats us; service was lovely from there on out. But so strange. Still has me wondering!

Grade: A-
Price: $$-$$$

LAKE CHALET (Uptown/Lake Merritt)
Oh, Lake Chalet, how I long to love you! I was so excited when this spot opened: housed in the historic city boathouse and renovated as part of the Measure DD project along the lake, it’s gorgeous, with a drop-dead beautiful view. The drinks are excellent. But for some reason, it’s plagued with inconsistency on the food front. We first tried Lake Chalet a month after it opened, and had a bizarre mix of fabulous and pretty blah dishes, so we hadn’t made it back. But this spring, D.’s mother and sister hosted my bridal shower there, and Lake Chalet did an outstanding job. The food was wonderful—I’m still dreaming about the fish and chips!—and the meal convinced me that they had finally figured things out. In fact, we were collectively so impressed that several of us independently made plans to go for dinners and brunches in the weeks that followed. And sadly, we all had the same experience: decidedly mediocre meals. Overcooked eggs, cold soggy french fries, ingredients that just didn’t meld. It just wasn’t there. It’s odd, because generally special events are taxing enough that an otherwise good restaurant might falter; it’s not usually the other way around! I’m now thoroughly convinced that Lake Chalet can do exceptional food; they just need to figure out where the hangup is, whether it’s in the kitchen or in the menu planning. Notably, the restaurant is huge, with 450 seats; that’s potentially a challenge. (The funny part is that almost everyone said “well, I guess I’d still come back here anyway, since the view is so good and the drinks were great.” C’mon, we can have a higher bar than that!) But fair enough. I’ll jump on the bandwagon: I still recommend this spot for drinks with a view, and hey, try the food and you might luck out. (Honestly, I hesitate to even make a list of the things we liked there, since the preparation can vary from visit to visit. So just explore the menu and see what happens.) Fingers crossed that in the months to come, they work out the kinks, because I think this spot has the makings of greatness. Update, 07/13/10: Lake Chalet’s chef has left, and the Chalet empire, which also includes Park Chalet and Beach Chalet in San Francisco, has hired a new executive chef to oversee all three restaurants beginning this summer. So watch for some changes…

Grade: B [A based only on drinks, views, happy hours, and special events]
Price: $$-$$$

COCINA POBLANA (Jack London Square)
I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that, although I’ve eaten at Cocina Poblana in Emeryville a couple of times, I had never set foot in the Oakland restaurant until last year, when bizarrely I went to two group events in quick succession there. Both were excellent, and when D.’s family wanted to plan a welcome dinner for our wedding earlier this year, we got in touch with owner Lito Saldana. He suggested we all come by for a tasting, so we did. Now, we went to several tastings over the course of wedding planning, and usually “tasting” means “sample a few of our strongest dishes.” At Cocina Poblana, it means “sample everything on our menu and see what you like!” Quite literally. We had food for four at the tasting, and then they packed up the leftovers and sent it home with us to make another two lunches and four dinners. Insane! And amazing! The restaurant specializes in food from the Puebla region of Mexico, home to mole sauces and other tastiness. Lito described each of the moles the restaurant offers, including its history, as we tried each in turn. (We each had different favorites, too, so you should really try them all.) The chile relleno was one of the best I’ve had. The pork melted right off the bone. The homemade tortillas? Fabulous. We did host our dinner here in the end, and we’re still hearing about how amazing the food was. I offer this little review with the very big caveat that I have still never eaten a normal meal here, but we plan to do this soon, since Lito and his team can clearly cook! And the margaritas are to die for (I love the cucumber and tamarind, but really, you should taste them all to find your own favorite!)

Grade: A
Price: $$-$$$

MISS PEARL’S JAM HOUSE (Jack London Square)
This is another spot we tried for the first time as we were debating where to host a dinner for friends and family staying at the Waterfront Hotel. I’ve been intending to check out Miss Pearl’s for a while, so it was great to finally make it there. We had a late weekday lunch here, so the restaurant was relatively quiet, with only a few people left. We tried the catfish po’boy, the cubano, the crab cakes (no longer on the menu), and the steak sandwich. All were good; the po’boy was especially tasty, as were the sweet potato fries, which they brought in abundance. The service was pretty strong except when they forgot about us near the very end of our meal (but in fairness, it was well beyond the lunch hour at that point, and they were clearly transitioning to the dinner staff). The dinner menu is a bit different, so we’ll have to go back at some point and see what the vibe is like then, but I’d definitely go back for lunch.

Grade: B+
Price: $$-$$$

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What we (finally!) did with our lawn

July 8, 2010

Yes, nearly two years after I first asked the interweb what we should do with the lawn, we finally did something!

Under pressure from a looming wedding brunch, I finally got my act together and chose the EarthTurf grass seed mix for our lawn. EarthTurf is apparently made by Hobbs & Hopkins in Portland—or at least it shares a physical address and is sold through the same site as their seed—and as far as I can tell is roughly the same as the Rough & Ready mix that H&H sells, so it may just be the same mix rebranded. It’s similar to the Fleur de Lawn mix that everyone overwhelmingly picked on my little poll a couple years back, but without the flowers. (I had read stories of Fleur de Lawn that noted that the flowering plants tended to attract slugs, which are a HUGE issue in our yard, so I decided we didn’t need any more of that, as nice as the flowers would have been!) Instead, EarthTurf mixes white microclover with creeping red fescue, hard fescue, sheep’s fescue, chewings fescue, dwarf perennial ryegrass and smooth stalked meadow grass, all drought-tolerant types of turfgrass. In theory, when the lawn is mature it will need little water and the clover will help fix nitrogen so that it self-fertilizes. The few reports I’d read of people who’ve grown it also noted that it was especially resilient to dogs. We’ll see!

Yard pre-grass

Yard pre-grass

The new garden path!

The new garden path!

We’ve gone back and forth on whether to put grass back into the center of the yard over the past two years, but in the end, we decided it was important to have some turf for the dog to run on. We did ring the grassy area with a three-foot path all the way around, though, and encircled the baby avocado tree with rocks to set it aside, so we have far less grass than we did to start with. Still, it’s been slow-going. Growing grass from seed turns out to be hard and somewhat unfulfilling work. I like the EarthTurf mix a lot where it’s come up, but seeding a lawn has turned out to be far more difficult than I imagined. In addition, while it’s easy to tell mature microclover and oxalis apart, it’s not so simple when they’re seedlings, and we might have had better luck exterminating the oxalis had we used sod instead. If I had it to do over, I think I’d just get the sod and deal with having a less-than-ideal mix of grass types. By the time we seed and re-seed to fill in the bald spots, we’ll probably have spent about the same amount, and sod would have been much faster!

Grass growing (a little!)

Grass growing (a little!)

Grasses and microclover

Grasses and microclover

For now, the plan is to keep watering the grass that did come up as it matures, and then when the rains start in the fall I’ll reseed in the areas where nothing happened. Hopefully we’ll have a lush lawn by next summer! In the meantime, I’m also pleased to report that the Labradane has taken to the new paths with flying colors, and is now pretty adept at jumping the fences that are supposed to keep him off the grass and running around the yard on them (except when a squirrel is in play!)

EarthTurf

In theory, our grass will someday look like this. (Photo from http://www.earthturfco.com)

I’ll post an update after the next rainy season to see how this stuff weathers a California winter. (Since it’s designed for the Pacific Northwest, I have high hopes that it will thrive here too, since our weather isn’t so different, but I couldn’t find anyone in the area who’d tried it, so I guess we’re the guinea pigs!)

(Oh, and for those who don’t remember my little garden plan from last summer, we’re actually making nice progress on it! See?)

Update, 04/02/2013: Many months ago, someone asked what software I used to create the plan for our yard. It was a tool called Garden Planner by Artifact Interactive. I used an older version for Mac, but they now have an online version that looks pretty handy too. It’s free to try and relatively inexpensive to buy (it’s good to support small software developers–plus the guy who created it has a very cute baby!), and very easy to use.

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What we’ve been doing: Getting married!

July 7, 2010
Ceremony at Oakland’s Lake Temescal (Photo from Steve)

Ukelele vows!Ukelele vows! (Photo from Oliver & Nicole)

Exchanging the ringsExchanging the rings (Photo from Oliver & Nicole)

Among the many things we’ve been busy with while this blog has been on hiatus for the past five months is, of course, our wedding! A very big thank you to everyone who made our wedding day amazing:

  • Our wonderful friends and family, of course (and especially our fantabulous parents, siblings, and friends-turned-officiants, who really went the extra mile to make the weekend incredible!)
  • The East Bay Regional Parks District staff and Lake Temescal Regional Park, home to the Beach House, which turned out to be a practically perfect venue
  • Carrie Dove Catering in Emeryville/West Oakland and especially Kelly and Adam, who not only did a terrific job running the show before and during the reception, but even left a goodies basket on our doorstep a few days beforehand to get us through the last hours of planning
  • Pizza Politana and especially Joe, who cooked us tasty pies that we’re still hearing about (and remembered to bring anchovies for D!)
  • Moonbaby Cakes in San Francisco, who baked up a beautiful sea of cupcakes
  • Oak Barrel Winecraft in West Berkeley, who hooked D. up with his homebrew supplies to make half the beer, and Drake’s Brewing in San Leandro, who handled the rest
  • Slanted Door in San Francisco and their amazing sommelier, who handled the wine (thanks J!)
  • Fran Guidry, who serenaded the crowd with his slack-key guitar
  • DJ Tim, who not only jumped in on an eleventh hour recommendation (thanks J & K!), but managed to please just about everyone…and all without playing the Chicken Dance!
  • Christina Richards, who took an amazing number of photos (with an impressive array of cameras!) that we can’t wait to see (Update: first pics are posted here!)
  • Western Sun Floral at the Grand Lake Farmers Market, who supplied the beautiful flowers and bouquet (which my parents, aunts, and uncle turned into incredible arrangements!)
  • The Wedding Party in Rockridge, where Clara and Jennifer hooked me up with a lovely dress
  • Philippa Roberts on Piedmont Avenue, where we found the perfect rings (made by Carla Caruso) and jewelry (from Philippa’s collection)
  • Entourage Spa in Orinda, who not only handled our bunch of girls with grace, but also got bonus points for letting us watch the U.S. battle Ghana at the same time…
  • The Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square, where our friends and family had a great stay
  • Cocina Poblana in Jack London Square, where D.’s parents hosted a delicious welcome dinner (with amazing margaritas!) for friends and family, and where we may have convinced at least a couple of people to move to California for the food!
  • The Claremont Hotel, where we successfully pretended to be a million miles from home on the wedding night thanks to a wonderful gift from D’s parents

Thank you, thank you, thank you—we love you all!

Trivia prizesCeremony trivia prizes! This is what happens when your best friends are artists… (And it was awesome—thanks J, N & D!)  (Photo from Steve)