Palo Verde – Desert Museum

It is almost hard to tell in the image above, but we have a tree in the front yard! I chose a desert tree that I won’t have to water once it is established. It is a Palo Verde, they grow naturally in Arizona and I think parts of Texas. It has delicate fern like leaves and pretty and plentiful yellow flowers. When I visited Palm Springs I saws lot of them and since our house has a bit of Palm Springs modern vibe I thought it would work nicely.

The desert museum variety is nice because it blossom most of the year and does not have thorns like other varieties. It was difficult to locate the tree in a San Diego nursery. I predict that 10 years down the line this won’t be so.


Here are two examples of mature Palo Verde trees. I took these last fall and there are no flowers, but you get an idea of how nicely they fill out.



Here is my friend Nancy as we wait for our table at cheeky’s for brunch. This is actually the patio bar for the Alcazar hotel.

Aloes in bloom

It is hard not to notice aloes in bloom everywhere I’m Southern California this time of year. It seems that most of the year these structural plants are quite unassuming but when they bloom they can easily triple in size and boast bright, showy blooms that almost look other worldly. It is a winter treat (I use the term winter loosely as for the past month we haven’t gotten rain and the temperature has been averaging 75 degrees).


Yellow front door


I have painted the front door a very bight yellow and my husband and I adore it! We think that it has done so much to freshen up the front of our house. While we were at it we removed the old light and the mailbox. I took our mailbox with us when we moved and finally mounted it.

The light I bought from lamps plus. It was on clearance for $10. The base was black so I spray painted it silver. I am not in love with it by any stretch but it is an affordable upgrade for the time being.

We also had to purchase a new door handle since the firemen decapitated our old one. We opted for a handle set. I have always liked the look of them. It seems to give the front door a more dignified look.I purchased the Schlage F58 CEN 619 Century Exterior Handleset with Deadbolt in Satin Nickel from lowes because I needed it ASAP since we had no door handle, but it seems to be quite less expensive from Amazon.


I like the no VOC paint and so I purchased this cal spar paint. I have to say though that I was shocked at the price. I think that it was nearly $20 for a quart. I still needed at least two coats of paint, although I did three. After the first coat, I left the door propped open and blocked with a stool and our dog buster had shimmied through. He had a yellow streak for a week. Ha! So I needed three coats.

Swatches for the door

paint swatches for the front door

We had an incident where I left a pot on the stove and ran to the store for some bread. The pan burned, smoke filled the house, and the smoke alarms went off. our neighbors called 911 and the fire department broke down the door and took the smoke out of the house. I arrived home to three fire trucks in front of my home. Thankfully there was no fire.

Because of this we are taking on a new project, the front door. The security door was cut through and is now unusable. The door handle to the actual door was removed and the door had some damage where it closed. I took some wood putty and sandpaper and fixed that though. Here it is primed and waiting for me to pick the door color. We’ve decided to go for a bold color for no other reason than because we’d like to try it. I have a whole front door pinterest board filled with ideas and inspiration.

Which one do you like?

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My new rain barrels are installed

rain barrel set up in San Diego
My now working rain barrel!

I mentioned a while back in this post about the Water Smart San Diego Program that I was thinking of installing rain barrels. My dad came into town for less than 24 hours in December and while he was visiting he helped me set up my rain barrels. I ordered them from a site called hayneedle. I realize that I could have made my own, but there is a program offering $75 for each rain barrel that is installed and I needed a receipt to get the refund. I really like that they are up-cycled from previously used food shipping containers. They are incredibly strong and decently made, but not the nicest to look at. I think if I were putting them in an obvious location I would have sprung for something nicer.

After they arrived I realized that I needed to alter the spouts as well. The way this works is that most of the water goes into the barrel (a little goes through), but once the barrel is full, it mostly keeps going down the spout. I researched a few and for my needs (having the barrel off to the side) and the price, I opted for the Mystic Rainwater Collection System.

I started by leveling the ground where the barrels would sit. I didn’t want to mess with them tipping. Then I placed two cinder blocks under each barrel that I already own. The website with the refund requires that the barrels be at least 6″ off the ground. I am assuming this is to make it easier to distribute the water later without a pump.

Before setting up the downspout, but after leveling the ground
Before setting up the downspout, but after leveling the ground

Next we measured how much of the downspout to cut off and we used a hack saw to cut it. I ended up slicing my hand on the cut downspout so please watch out. It can be really sharp.

The cut downspout. In retrospect, I wish that I had painted that.

Attaching the Rainwater collection system was simple enough, but my downspouts were old and they needed a little bending and finessing to get them over the plastic. Then we slipped the two parts together and tightened up the screws that held the downspout in place.

connecting the two ends of the downspout
connecting the two ends of the downspout

I am happy to report that it is working well and after one very small rain and one big one I filled up the entire barrel. I installed two on the other end of the house and nearly both of those are filled as well. I’m hoping to get another one to attach the the one shown in the picture.

Creating forms and pouring cement for our new walkway

This past weekend we got a new walkway! Our guests would previously have to make there way through our parked cars on the driveway to reach our front door. My parents came down to visit and my father, who is a contractor, helped us put in a new walkway.

I had no idea that there are so many steps to creating a walkway. Thus I broke it down into two posts. This one will document the prep work.

Weeks (months?) ago my husband spent the bulk of a very hot morning digging out most of a path for a walkway. Still though when it came down to it there was more to be dug and because he dug so deep and it is only supposed to be 4″ deep, there was also a bit to fill in.

1. We started by putting the forms where we thought they would look nice. We wanted a nice wide walkway that two people could walk on side by side.    iphone10-30-2013 055

2. Next we needed to make the walkway level from the sidewalk currently leading to the house and to the street. (the string is that line.  We also wanted to take into account the slope of the driveway as to not make either look odd.  iphone10-30-2013 060 iphone10-30-2013 061

3. With that line out as a guide, we staked in one side of the form and then used a board a top both of them with a level to make sure that the form was level on both sides (or slanted if you’d rather water run off one side, as long as it is consistant. iphone10-30-2013 062 iphone10-30-2013 063 iphone10-30-2013 064 iphone10-30-2013 065

4. As you might notice from the picture above there is quite a bit of dirt under the form. So our next step was to fill back in the dirt. We did so leveling as we went and measuring so that it was around 4″ deep the whole way.iphone10-30-2013 066

5. Once that was complete and it was all level the prep work was done. We sprayed it off with a hose a few times to help it compact on itself and then tried to find cement.iphone10-30-2013 067

6. We had difficulty finding a yard of cement and we ended up paying a bit more and getting it from a truck. That was much easier, but  because of the difficulty it ended up coming really late in the day.  Here it is starting to be poured in the form. iphone10-30-2013 078  

7. As the cement came out, Michael with the help of our dads tried to fill the form evenly with shovels. iphone10-30-2013 080

8. After the cement was all out they scraped the top with a 2″ x 4″ to even it out. iphone10-30-2013 084  

9. Then they filled in the low spots with extra cement. iphone10-30-2013 086

10. The next step is to tamp down those rocks. It  previously looked really bumpy and this process made it start to look smooth and settled. iphone10-30-2013 088

11. Then my dad went over it with what appears to be a large cement trowel. It made it really even and it started to look finished. iphone10-30-2013 090 12. At this point they measured half way down the side walk and put a break. Using a board as a guide, they used the tool to create a divot in the cement. iphone10-30-2013 092  

12. They then used another hand tool to finish the outer edges of the cement. I did this process as well and it required firm slightly angled pressure. iphone10-30-2013 094

Our son became really excited as well because he also got to help with this step. iphone10-30-2013 099   iphone10-30-2013 102

13. Because we got such a late start pouring cement we were working into the night. This isn’t a great picture, but at the end it gets smoothed out again and then my husband added brush strokes in for texture. iphone10-30-2013 103

We waited a day before finally running on it. iphone10-30-2013 108

Pink Muhly Grass – Seen at the San Diego Zoo

We have zoo memberships and frequent the San Diego zoo. There is a reason that it is famous as it really is an amazing zoo. The animals and enclosures are well done. The breeding and conservation programs are quite impressive. One thing that I do enjoy about going to the zoo is seeing the plants there. The Zoo has created each section to be representative of what might be seen in nature. As you walk through one area, it feel almost like a rain forest, where other parts feel more like dessert.

One of my favorite places to look at the garden is the elephant exhibit. It has many plants that grow really well in San Diego and when I go there I often take pictures of plants and trees that I like.
On my last visit thw Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) was in full show. The spring boasts flowers from many plants, but this grass is ahoy in the late summer and fall then little puffs of pink are on display. This plant is low maintenance and drought tolerant.

Height: 3 ft. tall
Spread: 3 ft. to 5 feet apart
Sun: Likes full sun but will tolerate part shade

Rare Orchids at the San Diego Zoo

By chance I happened to be at the San Diego Zoo on a 3rd Friday at 10:30am, walking toward the elephant area. I noticed that the sign said open (not pictured). So I strolled behind the buildings into a rather small room (large greenhouse, but small for the zoo). There were two volunteers and dozens of rare orchids. It was a delightful treat to see the different varieties.