Friday, December 16, 2011

Last Christmas . . .

  . . . I gave you my heart, sang stubbly George. 

In my case, last Christmas I tore down a house (not the Ugliest House in California - we kept that one  - but instead the spare house, with more right-angles, less beige and, crucially, no building permit.)

Gasp, by all means, but note two things:

1.  It was made of wood, not stone or brick.
2. I didn't do it single-handed - there were six of us for one day, four of us for one day, and then two of us for the rest of the time.  Even so, it was the heaviest, least rewarding, stinkiest (the carpets fermented in the rain) job I've ever done and I'm never doing it again. 

You know that bit in Die Hard when Bruce is crawling along a duct, bleeding and filthy, and remembers his friend saying "Come out to the coast, we'll have a few laughs"?  Well, that was me last Christmas, dressed in yellow raingear, shovelling wet sheetrock/plasterboard into a dumpster/skip and remembering the undergardener (but head shoveller) saying "come to California with me, live in the sunshine and eat lotus blossoms".

Here it is in photo-form.  These are the Christmas pictures I took, in order, just as they came off the camera:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

There's a moose (and and an elf) loose about this hoose.

So, Catherine Lepreux, is my oldest friend.  We've known each other since we were babies too small to know that we knew each other.  See what good friends we are.

That was Mondavi Winery, Napa, on the 2nd of December.  Now see how tenuous the friendship became during two and a half weeks of constant contact and design decisions?

Just kidding, the photographer wanted to get the wee boat in.

My living room (a pretty weird-shaped room even for a ranch house (but right at home as part of the Ugliest House in California)) looked, last month, like face with no eyebrows and too much lipstick.  Lots of colour round the bottom and lots of nothing round the top. 

But now, it's got brows:

It's got lashes:

And it's got a beauty spot -

 - a wee mouse,hiding a bracket that was on show thanks to the wonky - make that organic - shape of the eucalyptus log.  And isn't that just about the funkiest vintage barkcloth in all of eBay?

Not only that either.  Catherine was roving the halls with a needle in hand and mouthful of glass-headed pins.  There was no stopping her.   Every dull corner of the U-est H in C has been spruced up.

The U-est thing in the U-est H - the aircon return pipe - has disappeared.

Spot the difference in this corner of my study.

Unfortunately the house-elf is on her way home now.  But when I get back from dropping her off at SFO this afternoon, she'll still be everywhere.

Friday, December 2, 2011

101 things to do with a dead eucalyptus

Well, okay two.  Three - just thought of another one.  Four.

To start with the last one: you can use a dead eucalyptus instead of a gym.  God, it's hard.  Here is the undergardener, peching like a bull mastiff, after sawing up a wheelbarrowful.

And once it's sawed and split and your arms have turned to jelly, it lights with one match and a barely scrumpled style section and burns hot and bright for hours on end.  Here's a picture of the first fire we lit after moving in.

You'll have noticed what it's burning in.  That, folks, is what we call The Flinstones' Memorial Fireplace.  Or sometimes The Climbing Wall.  Occasionally we call it The Ugliest Fireplace Ever Built (Also The Largest).  And yet, and yet, I've grown to love it over the last year in the new house.  I love it like you would a one-eared, three-legged cat with halitosis.  Protectively.  In spite of yourself.

So we decided to honour it with a mantelpiece.  After a year of having nowhere to put a clock or prop an invitation, it was back to the cuddy for the undergardener and his boss/father-in-law.  I somehow managed not to get any pictures of them actually working (funny that) but here they are doing the almost-as-important sitting down with a beer afterwards.

And here is the fruit of their labour.  The Jim McPherson Mantelpiece, with clock.  As fine a dod of eucalyptus as was ever hewn and oiled and placed atop a bracket or two.

It was no mean feat, thanks to the idiosyncrasies of Fred the Fireplace.  There was a bit of trigonometry involved in getting it to fit.

And now there's no stopping him.  Curtain poles?  Pah.  Curtain poles are for wimps.  Crack out the chainsaw and get some pelmets worth the name.

If only I could sew I could match the effort with something to hang from them.  I can't sew (or knit, or crochet, felt, quilt or tat)  but luckily I have a friend who'll fly from Edinburgh to San Francisco to sew stuff for me.  And she's a professional designer.  Catherine Lepreux, my oldest and dearest friend.  

Next week, I'll show Catherine's part of the project.  By then, I'll still have the ugliest house in California on the outside but the inside will be dripping with original craft and design genius (and all I did was open the beer and make the tea).