The Kitchen: Before & After

I'm excited to share our kitchen today. This is the space where David and I cook our favorite one-pot meals together every Sunday, where we share the quick "how was your day?" and where Hoku appears at the drop of a hat when he hears the sound of vegetables being cut on the chopping block. If you want to see the before pics first, close your eyes and scroll really quickly to the slideshow at the bottom, but I just couldn't help but to start off with the AFTERS. So without further ado, put on your sunnies and I present to you our blindingly white kitchen. 

Our goal with the kitchen was to give it the best facelift possible without breaking the bank. David and I aren't crazy chefs and all we really wanted was a space that was clean and comfortable. The old kitchen had these large red Spanish floor tiles that I absolutely loathed because it had dark 1" grout lines, but I convinced myself that I could live with it. One of the things we absolutely needed to remove, however, was the old dishwasher because it was just smelly and unsanitary. But get this...they had installed the dishwasher, then literally tiled it in. Like, permanently. So in order to remove the dishwasher, all the offensive tile had to go. (Not great news for the budget but sorry, not sorry?) We ended up continuing the hardwood into the kitchen since we were refinishing the rest of the house anyway and I'm so glad we did because, it looks soooo much better now. And where the dishwasher was, we turned into a drawer for trash and recycling to declutter our floor space.

The kitchen cabinets are all original as is the butcher block and cooktop. The cabinets got a fresh coat of paint, new hinges and hardware. Stripping  four layers of cruddy old yellow paint off the cabinets was probably my least favorite part of the process as it involved two full weekends of breathing in heavy fumes and applying a strong stripping agent that came close to burning the skin off our hands. But it was worth it...I think. We also got rid of all the dark green 50's style square tiles, replacing it with a 2"x8" marble subway tile backsplash and white quartz countertop.

Shopping for appliances was another ordeal. We had no idea how difficult it would be to find appliances to fit small 50's kitchens, namely the fridge and the gas wall oven. After extensive research, we literally found the only fridge in existence (that was available in the US and wasn't some super fancy expensive appliance that had to be imported from Germany) that would fit our shallow 24" counter depth and other very specific old school kitchen dimensions. It was one of those scary big purchases that we had to just buy blindly from an appliance store in New York without seeing the actual thing in person because it wasn't available locally, so we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. Luckily, it all worked out perfectly. So, thanks Summit, for being the brand that no one's ever heard of that also looks out for those of us with tiny kitchens!

Secondly the gas wall oven. Did you know that the gas wall oven is basically obsolete? Seriously they are all electric now. If you've ever searched for wall ovens on homedepot.com, you probably started off with like maybe 300 options, but after selecting "gas" and 24" widths, guess what? You end up with ONE option. A couple weeks before we were to install our oven, homedepot.com gives me the biggest heart attack by announcing that our only oven option in existence was discontinued and no longer available. (The alternative? Pay $3000 to upgrade our circuit breaker box to handle an electric oven, which was not an option.) I panicked and cried and scoured the Internet to no avail. Luckily our handyman was kind enough to call a local appliance store on our behalf only to find that they had one unit left. It was a bold stroke of luck and we made a mad dash to the store to pick it up. So yes, for all intents and purposes, we feel like we got the last 24" Maytag Gas Wall Oven with Delayed-Start Control ever. 

In the end, we couldn't be happier with the results. Is it the ultimate chef's kitchen to end all kitchens? Not really. The drawers aren't those amazing soft close drawers, let alone have any tracks at all. The "vintage" cooktop is impossible to keep clean. The glass cabinet doors were a DIY job by a previous owner which has a ton of scratches and doesn't even align with the inside shelving. But you know, it's a little thing we like to call "character." And after living without a kitchen for months, finally having a kitchen at all and one to call our own just feels like a dream. 

Fridge: Summit  //  Faucet: Delta  //  Sink: Vigo  //  Light Pendant: Schoolhouse Electric  //  Water Kettle: Smeg  // Toaster Oven: Breville  //  Cooktop: "Vintage" Kenmore (original to the house)  //  Gas Wall Oven: Maytag  //  Microwave: Panasonic  //  Backsplash: The Tile Shop  //  Cabinet Pulls: MyKnobs.com

And finally, this is such a small detail but I have to mention it...we added an outlet to the counter area to make it a more functional space for working and charging devices! Did you know that you can replace any traditional outlet with a USB outlet? It's so brilliant and saves so much space. Definitely one of my favorite updates.

And now, I present to you, the BEFORES...enjoy!

A Snow Adventure on Mount Baldy | 10,046 FT

Distance: 11 Miles  |  Time: 5.5 Hours  |  Elevation Gain: 5000 Ft

On Super Bowl morning, we headed out with grand plans to hike Cucamonga Peak for the second time. We parked in a nearly empty Icehouse Canyon parking lot and got our packs, gear and permit together before noticing two rows of yellow "Do Not Enter" tape blocking the trailhead entrance. The sign from the USFS mentioned a fire, which we thought was strange for this time of year, but nonetheless we weren't going to take any chances. So without skipping a beat, David looked at me, shrugged, and said, "Baldy?" "Baldy," I nodded. We were bright eyed and bushy tailed and God forbid that we woke up at an ungodly hour and drove all this way to just turn around. It was about 6:45am when we finally parked at Manker Flats and hit the trail, a little later than we wanted to start to avoid crowds, but thankfully it was surprisingly quiet for a weekend morning. (Thanks, Super Bowl.)

The trail quickly became icy as early as halfway up toward the ski hut. It was our fourth winter hike up Baldy and our first time seeing this much snow cover at these lower altitudes. To be cautious, we strapped on our miscrospikes and continued upwards, crunching our way along an increasingly snow-covered trail. 

The first sign of the Sierra Club's iconic, green Mount San Antonio Ski Hut is always a welcome sight for sore legs. We veered right off the trail and found our usual spot on the hill above the hut for a quick water and snack break.  

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↑ The view from our favorite spot at the ski hut. 

As we continued past the ski hut and began making our way across Baldy Bowl, we met some serious hikers attempting to hike straight up the bowl to the summit. Can you spot two of them below? Apparently this is only possible when there is heavy snow cover and as tempted as we were to try a new route, we decided to stick to our guns and follow the trail. 

 Shameless husband and wife selfie.

I think it was at this point on the trail where it started getting CRAZY windy. Like, why is Hoku suddenly walking sideways windy. I think there was even one section where we were almost crawling on all fours just so we wouldn't get blown over. For that reason, I don't have too many photos of this part of the hike. Safety first after all. 

 Here we are almost to the summit. We always look for this tree to know that we're headed in the right direction. This time last year, we were sitting under the tree eating lunch. With all the snow cover, it's looking more like a bush.

The snowy summit of Baden-Powell to the north! We were there just two weeks ago looking in this direction.

With the Baldy summit pretty much all to ourselves for the first time EVER, we let Hoku run around freely until other hikers started arriving. But for a few minutes, it was our very own magical, snowy playground above LA.  

As the wind chill started getting to us, we started down the mountain and David became worried that Hoku was getting cold and held him in his arms for a few good minutes. It was one of the warmer days we've had recently so I didn't think to bring Hoku's coat. I had forgotten to take into account the crazy wind chill factor and felt like just the worst dog mom :(

Once it got too steep and slushy, we dropped the leash and let Hoku walk on his own most of the way until we got back down to Baldy Bowl. It was the first time we've trusted him enough to hike by himself and surprisingly he was a really good boy and followed us closely. I wonder if his pack mentality is stronger in the wild.

↑ His "Enough pictures already, can we go now?" face.

We made it back down safe and sound, and in record time (5.5 hours!) which may not sound like much for more hardcore hikers, but it was our best Baldy time yet! It was our fourth snow summit up Baldy and our favorite to date.

On a scary note, we found two deer ticks on Hoku's cheek fur and one on my jacket after making it back to the car. Mostly likely from the trail below the ski hut which is slightly more overgrown and warmer than the trail at higher altitudes. We were surprised because it seemed very early in the year for ticks to be an issue, but upon further research, adult deer ticks apparently become active after the first frost and any winter day the ground is not snow-covered or frozen, which fit the timing of our hike perfectly. Dog people, please check yourself and your pup all over for ticks after hiking (even between their toes and in their arm pits). Read more about that and how to safely remove a tick here.

On an even somber note, our thoughts and prayers are with the two hikers who lost their lives climbing these mountains recently due to the extreme winter conditions. Please exercise extreme caution and do carry/ know how to use the proper gear if you plan to venture up any time soon. 

Hoku explores malibu

Even though we're total homebodies at heart, we love it when family comes to town because it's the perfect excuse to explore a new part of our city. This past Saturday, we drove all the way out to the ocean and up the Pacific Coast Highway to the scenic, coastal town of Malibu, passing surfers and other early risers along the way. First stop, pup-friendly* Malibu Farm for breakfast on Malibu Pier! (For parking, you can pay the big bucks to park in the convenient lot next door or just find street parking on the highway, like us.)

The eatery has two parts, Malibu Farm Restaurant located at the beginning of the pier and Malibu Farm Cafe located at the end of the pier, with a 180 degree view of the ocean. We made our way down the pier to the Cafe and headed up to the second story dining area to take in the views before settling for a shadier spot at the side of the restaurant on the first level. 

↑ Can you tell that Hoku really loves stairs?

We enjoyed the Swedish mini pancakes with whipped cream and berries, the fried egg sandwich and the multigrain pancake with maple syrup and bacon bits, along with coffees and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Hoku nibbled on arugula leaves and entertained himself by keeping a watchful eye on the seabirds flying by. To be honest, we tend to be skeptical of the quality of menu located in primo locations like this, but let me tell you, this one little cafe has seriously amazing food AND atmosphere. The fact that they welcome dogs is just the icing (er, maple syrup) on an already delicious (pan)cake. 

↑ The view from our table. 

With breakfast in our bellies, we continued our drive up the coast to Leo Carillo State Beach, where pups are allowed on leash. We explored the rocky cliffs before heading down to the beach to walk along the sand and waves. It wasn't the sunniest of days in LA, but being near the ocean always feels like home. 

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*Malibu Farm is technically located on a State Beach that does not allow dogs. However, the restaurant itself welcomes dogs so bring your pup at your own discretion. 

Getting Ready for the Holidays

We're in full swing getting ready for our first Christmas in the new house! Family will be flying in from Hong Kong and New York next week and the pressure is ON to get our kitchen ready. Sanding and painting the cabinets, installing baseboards, replacing the cabinet door hinges, among a million little things! It's been stressful thinking about whether we can make it, but hey, Christmas isn't about having a beautiful, kind-of-newish kitchen, but spending time with loved ones and a warm puppy, am I right? (Though having a beautiful, kind-of-newish kitchen to cook and bake our favorite Christmas foods in wouldn't hurt one bit!)

Here is the prettier of side of what's been going on so far: just hanging up the stockings, wrapping presents, driving to the tree lot and grabbing one of the last trees because we procrastinated, trimming said last-minute tree with our small collection of ornaments and discovering that a 6-foot tree requires at least 4x as many ornaments as our 3-foot trees from previous years...all to the tune of "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" by N'Sync because after all these years, it is still one of our faves and we're not ashamed of it. #liveauthentic

How To Survive A Remodel With A Dog

If you haven't been following us on Instagram lately, our big news this past summer is that we bought a house! A small, old cottage-y house with problems galore, but with great bones and a wonderful, walkable location. 

We focused first on high priority things like the faulty electrical, leaky plumbing and rat problem in the attic and then some nice-to-haves like refinishing the white oak floors and giving the place some new paint. For the sake of our budget, we'd suck it up and live with the ugly floor tile in the kitchen with its 1" monster grout lines and the Easter-themed pastel bathrooms. They say that renovations end up taking three times as long and twice the budget and that, ladies and gentlemen, is just the cold hard truth. The more layers of house we unveiled, the more problems we found and before we knew it, we had ripped out the offensive kitchen tile and gutted both bathrooms...among a number of other things we weren't originally planning on doing. 

As you can imagine, trying to adjust to a new place while dealing with loud noises and watching strangers walk in and out of your house on a daily basis can be stressful for a pup, but thankfully Hoku has been handling it well. Here are some things we've been doing to make the renovation just a little more comfortable for him.

1. Establish boundaries. Before any crew started their respective job, I made them well aware of the fact that there would be a dog in the house and asked them where they would need access. I made barriers out of things like boxes and suitcases so that my curious pup wouldn't be able to stick his nose near dangerous tools, toxic chemicals, sharp nails, etc. Also, with the front door being opened and closed constantly, I needed to make sure he couldn't run out while I wasn't watching. Despite my best efforts, he did manage to escape once but just ended up following one of the guys back in the house. (And scaring him pretty badly in the process since the dude probably thought that Hoku, collarless at the time, was some kind of wild fox or baby coyote.)

2. Create a safe retreat. That space ended up being my office, which was a huge relief because it needed the least amount of work and was located in the quietest corner of the house. It was the one room that was always clean and orderly and essentially a retreat for the both of us amidst the chaos. I kept the radio on to drown out the loud noises and Hoku had access to his water bowl, bed and favorite toys here.

3. Take breaks and stay on schedule. It was important for us to be able to get out of the house and escape from all the work going on inside, whether it was just going for a short walk or playing in the backyard. Making sure that walks and food times stayed consistent day to day was also key in creating some sense of normalcy. 

While we feel extremely blessed to have our own place to call home, living with a remodel is starting to take its toll on our sanity. We've been taking baths with a bucket, brushing our teeth in the kitchen sink, constantly rummaging through boxes to find things, and no matter how many times I swiffer, the house is always always covered in a layer of dust. (Yes, I am aware that the world's smallest violin is playing our sad song.) I am thrilled to announce however, that if all goes swimmingly, we will finally have a shower this week. A glorious, working shower. 

Here are some iPhone snapshots from these past few weeks. I'll be sharing more photos along the way as things start taking shape so stay tuned!