Winter Maintenance, Preparing for Guests & Outdoor Updates

Sorry for the radio silence over here. As a part of my recent design update I’ve also been working on transferring host servers and, long story short, the site rolled back to a version from three weeks ago. Argh! It took a few days to pinpoint the issue but it’s happily fixed now thanks to the folks over at Bluehost :).

And, in case I forget, Happy New Year’s Eve! 2015 here we come.

We had such a wonderful Christmas with lots of family visiting. We’re also expecting our home to have a bit of a revolving door over the next month with Liv’s 4th birthday and the new baby. Timing has coincided itself well with a lot of winter maintenance projects that we’ve been meaning to tackle so I thought I’d share a few photos and a little on what we’ve been up to.

Our Renovated Backyard |

It’s such a great feeling to get much needed work done (despite how much I’d love to be going to the zoo or spending a Saturday morning at an awesome brunch spot). But those precious weekend hours over the last month or so have been put to valuable use! We have maybe 20 days of rain a year, which I definitely won’t complain about, and we (and here I mean mostly Kevin) try to tackle some of the bigger power washing/staining/sealing projects come each November/December just before those twenty days arrive. It helps to keep the outdoor patio, new deck and entertaining area in ship shape, especially come spring when it’s really time to enjoy this space again.

Here’s a peek at the before:

Our Renovated Backyard | Winter Maintenance |

Looking a little dusty and sad. The after is quite a bit better, right? Ready for guests and outdoor entertaining (we actually had Christmas brunch out on the deck – the weather has been beautiful! And fingers crossed Liv’s birthday party can be held outside, too).

Our Renovated Backyard |

A few new updates since the last time I shared on our backyard include my Christmas presents from Kev (those awesome iron planters on the outdoor table! and a new coffee table for the sectional that he built – more on his new welding hobby soon). I also found that S marquee sign (above) at HomeGoods for Kevin’s birthday earlier this fall, it looks great lit up at night and matches the globe lights we have around the yard.

Our Side Yard |

The new iron succulent boxes look awesome.

Also, new pillows. I keep finding cool throw pillows and I keep incorporating them into the mix. Really digging pattern at the moment (found this guy and his brother across the way on the other side at a consignment shop) and they’re super comfy for hanging out by the fire.


Also new to this space is an Ikea chair from the as-is department. It’s not technically an outdoor chair, but I’m hoping that because we don’t really have harsh outdoor weather here it will be okay. It’s filling a nook that really needed a seating spot and I love how the black rattan looks.

Our Renovated Backyard |

But back on to that maintenance…

The first maintenance project was to power wash everything. There is nothing like grime-free stucco or tile!

Our Renovated Backyard | Winter Maintenance |

The second was to reseal the outdoor furniture (namely the beautiful outdoor dining table Kevin built three years ago out of reclaimed wood and the slab bar table that he put together last year as a buffet/drink station for outdoor parties).

Our Renovated Backyard | Winter Maintenance |

Winter Cleaning: Staining Deck |

Our Renovated Backyard | Winter Maintenance |

Our Renovated Backyard | Hairpin Legs Bar Table |

The third was to reseal and condition the saltillo tile (which is pretty popular/common here in San Diego). The girls were both really wanting to help at this point (picture eager little faces pressed up against the kitchen glass doors) so Kev acted as supervisor. The sealing of the saltillo tile and the sealing of the deck were quite a few days (maybe even a week or two) apart and we kept them inside for the latter because of fumes.

Our Renovated Backyard | Winter Maintenance |

Our Renovated Backyard | Winter Maintenance |

The fourth was to reseal the deck. Kevin used TWP, an oil based sealer that doesn’t require any sanding, just power wash and scrub on.

Our Renovated Backyard | Winter Maintenance |

Plant updates for around the yard were high on my list, especially finding a new ‘pop’ of color to sit right in front of our sectional as you’re leaving the kitchen.

Our Renovated Backyard |

I found this big green guy at Lowe’s (plastic, too, so it wasn’t too expensive). It’s the same version that we have on the side deck in purple.

And to go in that planter, something that would add more color and that might crawl its way up and out of the container. While out in Arizona earlier this fall I fell in love with these beautiful, vibrant green sweet potato vines that Kevin’s aunt has growing all over her yard. She shared a clipping with me and I had plans to help it propagate roots (by soaking the cleanly clipped vine) and replant it in our yard, but I lost that fight despite decent root growth. Off to the nursery for two more plus a flax to add contrasting color.

Our Renovated Backyard | Winter Maintenance |

This shot was taken about a week after transplanting, he’s still getting used to his new home (don’t die on me, sweet potato vine).

Our Renovated Backyard | Hairpin Legs Bar Table |

More on that new coffee table soon, but here’s a sneak peek. I added a colorful rectangular planter and a few clippings to see how well they’d do here.


And those new iron planters for the bigger outdoor table? They are looking awesome with succulents salvaged from my previous geometric wooden planter box project and from around the yard.

Our Side Yard | Iron Planter Boxes |

Our Side Yard | Iron Rectangular Planters |

These guys over by the bbq area were repotted:

Our Backyard |

And these guys just needed a little filling in:

Our Backyard |

This year I added one more update to our list and that was to replace the outdoor lightbulbs with energy efficient LEDs. This has been on my house list for ages (one: because I hate to replace lightbulbs and light fixtures both inside and out will go with burnt out bulbs for months before I finally unscrew, drive to store, match bulb at store and replace, and two: because it’s costly and time consuming to stay on top of it). When Cree reached out about a partnership to swap out our bulbs I was 100% on board.

The benefits of Cree include: lasts 25 times longer than your average lightbulb (1,000 hours vs 25,000 hours), saves $135 over that life time (times however many bulbs you switch out), they’re dimmable if you have a dimmer, plus they glow warmly (instead of that bright white harsh LED look). I really, really dig them. You can purchase them at Home Depot and read more about them here.

Hint: lesser wattage required with LED bulbs than regular. For example, we used to put 60 watt bulbs outside and now we’re sticking with 40 because we like the look better.

Our Renovated Backyard | Winter Maintenance |

There’s that pregnant belly doing just a little more work than that of the  self-deemed photo taker :).

Our Renovated Backyard |

Yay for a very fresh feeling backyard! Day or night, we are ready to rock.

Our Backyard |

One awesome Christmas down, at least two more big events this coming January, and now the perfect spot to gather all of those friends. On to the count down! Happy New Years Eve!!

This post is sponsored by Cree, creators of a really fantastic LED lightbulb. Thanks for letting me share more about the companies that support this site :). 

PS the transformation of this space from jungle to favorite family spot chronicled here.

A Festive Holiday Punch, & a Merry Christmas to You!

Merry Christmas! Hoping you and your family have a relaxing and restful Christmas break as we celebrate the reason for the season. We are staying close to home for Christmas (no expectation of an early baby but just in case) and are excited to welcome family to our home this week. Here’s to everyone enjoying plenty of sugary sweets, special cuddle time in front of a fire, the magic of twinkling lights and LOTS of family games.

May I take a moment to offer a heartfelt thank you for visiting this site. I am beyond grateful and humbled that you stop in to say hello, especially around this busy, merry time. Thank you for allowing me to share part of what makes me whole.

Before I sign off, a delicious Christmas punch for those family and friends who might be stopping in this week to visit and share a cup of cheer.

Holiday Punch | Christmas Cranberry, Orange & Lavender Cocktail Mocktail |

Cranberry, Orange & Lavender Holiday Punch
Serves: 20-25
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups whole cranberries
  • A large bunch of lavender sprigs
  • 3 oranges sliced
  • 3 liters cranberry cocktail juice
  • 3 liters blood orange Italian soda (or any other alcoholic or non alcoholic sparkly/bubbly alternative)
  • 3 liters bourbon or whiskey (optional)
  • Ice
  1. Simmer sugar, water, 1½ cups whole cranberries, half of lavender sprigs and 2 sliced oranges in a medium saucepan for about 15-20 minutes or until mixture is reduced to a simple syrup (cranberries should be soft and tender). Let cool.
  2. In a large punch bowl, mix ice, cranberry cocktail juice, Italian soda (or alternative) and bourbon/whiskey. Pour in cooled cranberry syrup and stir.
  3. For garnish, bake 1 orange sliced on a bed of foil in the oven for 10 minutes at 450 degrees or until the peel blackens a bit on the edges and the juice caramelizes. Float orange slices, ½ cup cranberries and extra lavender sprigs in the punch bowl.


This recipe is very similar to the simple syrup handmade gift idea shared here, but on a mass scale to feed a party. The bourbon is optional, we let guests add their own to their liking for our Christmas party this past weekend (and because of all of the pregnant ladies in the house!).

Holiday Punch | Christmas Cranberry, Orange & Lavender Cocktail Mocktail |

As an alternate to roasting fruit, you can also try broiling with just a bit of sugar (higher temp and juicier effect). Here’s another tip for creating a sugar-rimmed serving glass with simple syrup.

Speaking of our holiday party this year, did you get a chance to see the sneak peek of setting up? More on the diy table runner, miniature tree centerpiece and party decor over here. Food-wise, we served these EASY two ingredient brown sugar sausage bites, roasted butternut squash & ricotta crostinis and lots of yummy cheeses, fruits, nuts and olives on my new gold tray (which I scooped up in store for less than $13, suddenly the favorite holiday purchase). All other delectables were brought by our awesome guests.

Our Home for the Holidays | Christmas Party 2014 |

Merry Christmas and see you in a few days.

xo Morgan

PS I’m trying out the Easy Recipe plugin for my new Foodie Pro Plugin theme. More to come on that big migration (started the conversation on choosing a hosting site last month) to come.

Handmade Gifts: Leather Bracelets & Necklaces

If you have a Jo-ann’s, Michael’s or craft store near you you are in luck. Here’s one last handmade gift project that can be made with just a few supplies.

Handmade Gifts: Two Step Leather Bracelets |

These bracelets are so simple, fresh and easy to make. They look great stacked together or solo loosely peeking out of a winter sweater sleeve. I love that they sort of drape and hang so casually on the wrist.

Handmade Gifts: Two Step Leather Bracelets |

They are also super simple to assemble with just a few knots and three sets of supplies: 1mm leather cording (8″ ish per side), a bezel set stone with connectors on each side (that’s those little gold o rings that stick out of each end) OR a ring center piece, and a clasp system (I chose a hook clasp).

Step 1: cut two pieces of 8″ leather cording and create a lark’s head knot on either side of center stone/piece (steps 1-4).
Step 2: create a standard knot to secure clasp system in place (steps 5-7). The knot shown below will leave you with the ends of the cording facing back towards the center piece, which creates a cleaner finish.

Handmade Gifts: Two Step Leather Bracelets |

The centered stones can be found in most beading sections at any craft store, I purchased several of mine from Etsy as well: green chrysoprase (that pretty translucent green), red jade (the round red stone above), a turquoise stone, and gold flat circles.

I was initially inspired on this little jewelry kick by my friend Cassie over at Kent Heartstrings. She led a Kreative class back in November where we made a series of handmade leather statement necklaces (mine below) and it was such an easy and fun project! Head over to her website for the full tutorials.

Handmade Gifts: Two Step Leather Necklaces |

Perfect stocking stuffer or under-the-tree surprise for mom, sister, best friend…

Happy creating :). And happy two days until Christmas!

More diy jewelry ideas (wooden bauble necklaces, cloth bead & leather cording statement necklaces) and four more last-minute semi-diy gifts!

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