Updates + Favorite Things

May 27th, 2015

Midweek greetings everyone! Today’s post is a little bit of everything, a smorgasbord of what’s happening in my life and favorite things since I have no projects or spaces to share this week. Let’s start with home improvement. My aunt will be moving into the Las Vegas house in July, she’s my mom’s best friend and sold her house in southern California so she will be living there while searching for a house to purchase, she may stay as little as three or as long as six months which is totally fine with me, I could use a break from the back and forth trips. 

Before she arrives, I’m under pressure to finish the kitchen and bathroom that are halfway done. On my latest trip the countertops were installed hooray! I’m so very excited about the Caesarstone quartz countertops and the faucets are in too (not shown). Next up is backsplash tile and lighting for both spaces and appliances in the kitchen, it all must be completed by the 4th of July so I’ll be spending a few weeks out there in June to make sure it all happens. Much to do!

caesarstone countertops in kitchen


master vanity top

I also styled an outdoor room for hayneedle – the space will be featured on their blog in June, I’ll share the link when it goes live, here’s a little peek.

outdoor pillows

On the topic of fitness, I’m started making it a priority in my life last summer and it’s the new normal for me which is a great place to be mentally and physically, especially since I was far more sedentary before. I work out almost every day by setting aside one hour for activity and always mix it up to avoid boredom. When people ask me what I’m training for my response is always "for life!" although I’m talking with some friends about training for a Tough Mudder next year.

I’m in pretty good shape, stronger than I’ve ever been in my life. Matt bought me a new bike for Mother’s Day, I take relaxing rides around town once or twice a week. I lift weights at the gym at least twice a week for stronger legs, chest, arms, and back with weights, kettle bells, and medicine balls. I mentioned before I also take fitness kickboxing classes, those are my favorite. I’ve found there’s nothing like beating the hell out of a punching bag to make you feel great. I also find myself watching more action movies with tough chicks that kick butt. Coincidence? I think not.

fitness kickboxing

The sweat a ton and it really tightens my core, the class gives me that feel good euphoria that comes from an intense workout. I never thought I’d get to a place where I actually crave that feeling but it’s happened. I also started taking bikram yoga once a week if I can squeeze it into my schedule, it’s more challenging due to the heat but the stretching poses feel amazing. A note of encouragement: whatever it is that gets you moving and makes you feel good, do it. Your body will thank you with results. 

We all know how hard it is to find a great pair of jeans that fit right. Last year I discovered that the White House Black Market petite jeans fit me best, but then I discovered jeggings, yes jeggings, for women and the clouds parted. What’s better than the stretch of a yoga pant but look of jeans, I ask you? My favorite are the American Eagle brand and I have them in dark wash and black and wear them so much I may need an intervention.


For skin care, I’ve been using more oils on my face lately, they’re moisturizing and help fight those pesky fine lines. Whatever Helen Mirren is using, I’ll have what she’s having. Meanwhile, the three I rotate are Josie Maran Argan Oil Light (nighttime), Ole Henriksen Pure Truth Youth Activating Oil (daytime), and Suki Nourishing Facial Oil (anytime).*

good facial oils

My two favorite daytime moisturizers are Ole Henriksen Sheer Transformation and Mario Badescu Cellufirm Moisturizer. At night the anti-aging battle continues with the facial oils and Mario’s Peptide Renewal Cream. I recently invested in a Clarisonic Cleanser tool and it’s soooo great for deep cleaning and exfoliation. *affiliate links!

skin care

On the topic of travel, we have no big family vacation plans for the summer other than two separate weeks in Las Vegas in June. I’m taking a trip to NYC with my sister in September, she lives in Salt Lake City so I don’t get to see her very often but we made a pact to take a trip together every two years and just love Manhattan. We had the best time on our last trip. I’ve seen all the touristy stuff, I’m more interested in hidden neighborhood gems and the best of Brooklyn. Suggestions?

We are officially booked for our three week trip to Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia in November. I’m SO EXCITED to be journeying to these countries. 4 nights in Fiji, 6 nights in New Zealand (South Island), and 12 nights in Australia. Thank you so much for all of your amazing suggestions on where to go, what to see, what to eat. In Australia, we will spend time in Brisbane/Gold Coast and Sydney, but we’re torn whether to go south to Melbourne for a city experience or north to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef, but we’re leaning toward Cairns. Thoughts? 


I haven’t traveled internationally by plane in ten years so I welcome any travel tips you have for navigating airports and cities on that side of the planet. Any tips you can share on long flights over the Pacific to foreign countries with kids? And how do we stay alive while driving on the opposite side of the road because this looks very strange to me.

driving in australia

That will be an adventure.

What’s the latest with you? Discovered a great beauty product or pair of jeans lately? Enjoying a new fitness routine? Traveling anywhere interesting this summer?

Green Walls: Trellised Vines + Espalier Trees

May 26th, 2015

I was pruning some bushes over the weekend and reminded how years ago I greened up our plain retaining wall with an invisible wire trellis, I wrote about it in one of my early blog posts. I planted bower vine and allow it to grow random and wild, only trimming it or tying it to the trellis when necessary to control it.

trellised bower vine

The trellis is constructed of wire and screw eyes and with the addition of bower vine has disguised the plainness of the wall, adding a welcome element of greenery. The leaves remain in winter and it blooms May through October with pink jasmine flowers.

eye hook and bower vine

I spied a similar wire trellis at my local Whole Foods, the technique used to achieve the same effect, this one constructed with diagonal wires instead of in a grid like mine.

diagonal invisible trellis

It’s a simple construction, this one also used screw eyes secured to the wall and galvanized wire, and turnbuckles which allow you to tighten the screws and wires.


The wire trellis is an alternative to a structure you can purchase online or in a garden store, those are limited in shape and size and more expensive. The wires can be used to support any meandering vine as seen above or more formally by clipping and training vines into geometric patterns.

trellised espalier vine


trained jasmine vine

homelife / hedge garden

The art of espalier (pronounced es-pal-yay) is a favorite gardening technique for many people. It dates back many centuries, and was perfected by Europeans. Wineries and wine growers use a version of espalier to support grapevines, we also train our Pinot Noir vines each year, although less formally.

Whenever I see it in its most formal application I admire it very much because it takes patience and control, but the result is worth the wait, just like this tree I spied on a walk through Pacific Heights in San Francisco last year.


Espalier is the process of manipulating tree branches by forcing two dimensional growth along a constructed trellis on a single plane instead of allowing the branches to bloom outward in all directions.

There is a beauty to espalier but also a practicality, it is a clever way to add botanicals to tall walls or narrow outdoor spaces. The technique can also be used to create living fences or arbors as well.

espalier fence

source unknown

Fully trained, espalier trees are a focal point and work of art whether they’re ornamental or fruit bearing. It takes many years to train a tree and you can do it yourself with research, patience, and careful pruning or you can purchase an established espalier tree at a local nursery from specialist.

There are several defined types of espalier, the most recognizable is traditional horizontal Cordon.

espalier apple trees (2)

espalier apple trees – horizontal cordon

The fan shape known as Palmette Oblique maintains a central stem and trains the branches on the diagonal, it works well for crabapple trees or trees with pits (cherries, nectarines, etc.)

fan style espalier

fan shape crabapple espalier

The Palmette Verier allows for a middle branch then the offshoot branches are trained to grow horizontal then vertical in a fork shape.

espalier pear

  susan cohan gardens 

A criss cross design is referred to as Belgian Fence and also takes careful training.

espalier apple trees

apple espalier

The informal style is just as beautiful, trained only to grow flat against the wall and nothing more.

espalier tree bhg


espalier tree informal

better homes and gardens / source unknown

How have you trellised your vines in your yard, formally or informally? Have you ever tried espalier with success?