Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Things in our house that are environmentally good choices:
  • Compact fluorescent bulbs 90%

  • One TV

  • ~930 sq feet for the two of us

  • Recent furniture purchases: antiques from Craig's List (bookcase, dining table, chairs, antique stove, Hoosier cabinet), garage sale (small wooden desk that's on our front porch), local antique store (bookcase).

  • Used our old linens til tearing, replaced w/ ones made of organic cotton

  • Frequent shopping at the local farmer's market

  • Choosing certified organic products

  • Choosing meat from humanely raised animals

  • Not eating meat daily

  • Planned garden to include fruit trees, vegetable and herb beds, and native plants as opposed to lawn

No so green:
  • Oak floor installed in kitchen and kitchen nook

  • Purchasing a new TV (wall-mounted LCD) (the new TV will be passed on to friends, rather than dumped)

  • Dave's XTerra

  • My Subaru

  • Eating meat as often as we do

  • Not bicycling as often as we should for transportation

  • Enjoying our central heat (our old house didn't have it) (though we keep it at 68 or lower)

I'll add more to both categories as I think of them.

Not surprised, just disappointed....

...in the news I got from Richard regarding the Mills Act.

Apparently the City Council is dead set against the whole idea of the Mills Act. They don't want to lose any tax revenues, and fear that, once one house gets ok'd, EVERYONE is going to take advantage of the Mills Act and the city will lose too much money.

Hey, haven't they looked around?

So many original houses have been torn down so people can have their huge fake pseudo Mediterranean monstrosities that there's only a handful of houses that could even possibly qualify. And you know what? They're the CHEAPER houses, that don't bring in as much in taxes ANYWAY.

We're still going to restore our house as best as possible of course.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mills Act

Last week I contacted Richard from the City of Hermosa Beach regarding the Mills Act.

The Mills Act (related info here, here, and here) is a piece of legislature designed to promote the preservation of historical buildings/architecture including homes. Homeowners enter into a 10 year contract that dictates the house must not have anything done to it that isn't intended to restore it to its original state (i.e. no additions, no vinyl windows etc) while promoting restoration (i.e. taking out the vinyl windows and replacing with wood windows like the originals). In return you get a tax break (which you are supposed to apply to projects for restoring and maintaining your house).

Hopefully our house will past muster.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


I ordered a bunch of fruit trees (all low chill varieties) from Trees of Antiquity -- they're shipping this week so this weekend will be a tree-planting one.

  • Desert King

  • Black Jack

  • Pink Lady

  • Pettingill

Stone Fruit
  • Peregrine peach

  • Snow Queen nectarine

  • Gold Kist apricots

  • Satsuma plum

  • Mariposa plum

  • Ollalie (blackberry)

  • Williamette raspberry

  • Misty Southern Highbush blueberries

  • Sharpbush Southern Highbush blueberries

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Coffee Stories

Regarding coffee: for the longest time we've simply used a french press for our coffee. Easy, fast, really tasty if you want a thick strong brew.

It required (in my mind) the purchase of a good quality grinder -- I bought a Gaggia MDF off Amazon, and, between the sale they were running on housewares, and finally getting an Amazon credit card, got it at a good price. We could tell the difference in taste between the Gaggia and the simple blade grinder we'd been using before.

Several months ago, after years of french press at home and lattes out, I decided I wanted to make my own espresso drinks. I bought a Rancilio Silvia (aka Miss Silvia) from Whole Latte Love. It has a pretty steep learning curve, but I've pulled some lovely, crema-rich shots off it. And I can froth milk better than 95% of the so-called baristas at Starbucks, if I do say so (though one woman at the Peets in Costa Mesa impressed me with some nice latte art -- the only time I've even gotten a latte with latte art from a chain coffee place).

However, I was noticing that, after opening a recently roasted bag of coffee -- even the awesome stuff from Intelligentsia -- that, though everything was great for a few days -- lovely shots, not requiring too much adjustment on the grind, tamping, etc -- four or more days later I just couldn't get enough out of the coffee for good shots from Miss Silvia. It was still fine for the press pot, and generally, we'd finish up a half pound within a week, but....we just didn't drink enough coffee to use it up fast enough.

So I got a home coffee roaster (an iRoast 2) and some green beans from Sweet Maria's. (If I'd thought Miss Silvia was loud while working -- well, she was quiet as Rigel basking in the sun in the afternoon compared to the louder-than-a-hair-dryer roaster.

Roasting too has a learning curve, and I'm not as far along it as I'd like. But now I can roast 1/4 lb or so at a time and have deliciously fresh coffee of whatever varietals I have on hand (and since green beans keep a long time, I can have a nice little selection).

Getting into all this coffee stuff meant of course surfing the web and discovering CoffeeGeek.

And their silent auction for Coffee Kids, a nonprofit to help people in the coffee-growing areas of Mexico and Central America. I couldn't resist bidding on something -- it's a great cause, silent auctions are fun, and heck, I'd read a little about stovetop vacuum coffee brewers and was intrigued.

Thus I ended up with yet another way of brewing coffee.

It really does look like a chemistry experiment (which gives me hope my Physics teacher husband can master it -- he's not even tried Miss Silvia). The coffee brewed is a little clearer and brighter than with the press pot -- it does taste different.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

$12k later the roof is done.

The nice thing about coastal California is that there aren't too many nasty bugs. A bly once in a while gets in the house. Maybe a line of little ants, trekking who knows where. Nary a cockroach.

The bad thing is we do get one bug in spades: termites.

And unseen termite damage, hidden by the roof, and no way of knowing until the roof is ripped off.

At least it's fixed now.

On another note, we have the paint for the walls and the cabinets, and the black milk glass repro knobs and pulls, but we've made no progress on painting (i.e. we've not yet even started).

Next weekend we're going to Santa Barbara (I'm getting my second tattoo, we'll go bicycling, probably go to Santa Ynez for wine tasting -- especially at the wineries to whose wineclubs I belong, like Andrew Murray and Zaca Mesa and Consilience)....so no painting then.

The following weekend we're doing a half marathon in Carlsbad. Obviously no painting then.

The weekend after.....we'd better paint SOMETHING.

I've also ordered fruit trees (white nectarines, a couple low chill apples, plums), raspberries, figs, blackberries and blueberries to start transforming our yard. Our choices are limited because we're in a decidely low chill area....plus it doesn't get hot. Ideal climate for all our fun outdoor stuff but not so good for variety in the home orchard.