A Blank Slate

Now that we've cleared the garden it's time to start thinking about what to put in it. Bernie sent us a list of about 30 different plants that would work well in our yard based on our preferences and the climate.  That's a lot of plants to choose from!  I spent a good hour or so just looking up the common names for them and finding pictures. I have them all organized in folders so I can reference them and play with ideas.  While I am doing that I have begun to pay closer attention to the plants growing in our neighborhood. There are some that I don't think are on our list, but I want to include.  I have been busy with my iPhone taking pictures. I think this process is going to take longer than I thought and it has me thinking. Do I choose all my plants and plant them all at once, or do I plant them as I go?

Our New Yard

Holy shit Honey!

That's what my friend Carla said when I showed her the pictures. I couldn't agree more. In fact I said the same thing again this morning when I looked out my window. Joey and I have been doing remodeling and decorating for the past year and I have to say that this is the first time I was blown away by something. I am not saying that our kitchen isn't wonderful or that the floors aren't amazing, but this - this took my breath away. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. I have to go do some gardening.

(Click on the photos to see larger versions.)

View from our Music Room

View from upstairs before

View from upstairs after

View from the top of the stairs

From top of stairs before

From top of stairs after
Our apple tree

Apple Tree before

Apple Tree after

Apple Tree before

Apple Tree after

Our lemon tree

Lemon Tree before

Lemon Tree after

Our beautiful garden!  A blank slate just waiting to be filled.

Roses Are Red

The guys from Dirty Hoe Landscaping are coming tomorrow and I have to decide what to do about the rose bushes in back. Part of me just wanted to get rid of them and start fresh but there is another part of me that feels like they deserve to stay. 

Here's what I am thinking. I really enjoy taking care of the roses in the front yard. Every day when I come home a new rose has blossomed.  It's very rewarding.  However, rose bushes themselves are not very pretty and they are really high maintenance.  If anyone says they are not then they must have a secret I don't have. While I am really enjoying them I am not sure I want to have them in the backyard.

On the other hand, the bushed in the back have survived and proven themselves to be hardy.  They produce beautiful flowers as you can see above. (Those are from the backyard.)

So, what do I do?  My friend, Sabrina, suggested I move the bushes to a little corner and have a rose grove. That is a thought. It kind of would be the best of both worlds. I could keep them but not have them throughout the garden like they are now. There is an area of the garden that would be perfect for this.

Maybe that's what I will do. My own little rose grove.

Caccia Plumbing to the Rescue

One of the biggest differences between living in an apartment and owning a home is having to pay for your own maintenance.  On top of that, finding the right people to do the service is tricky.  Luckily when it came to plumbing a friend recommended Caccia Plumbing.

From the moment you call, you know you are in good hands with them.  Their staff is so nice and helpful.  Our plumber, Angelo, has been to our house several times.  Today it was to help me figure out why I occasionally smelled gas downstairs. This has been going on for a couple of months, but it wasn't constant - just every now and then. We could go weeks without smelling anything then suddenly there would be this little whiff or gas. Or was it?  We didn't know.  We don't use the downstairs room very often and I hardly go in there.  What was even more strange was that the smell was isolated to this tiny hall down there.

Of course I was concerned and placed carbon monoxide detectors all over down there. They never went off.  I wanted to call someone, but the smell was impracticable. I tried everything to recreate it. I turned on our stove upstairs and left that going.  Nope, no smell.  Oven. Nope. Maybe it was the hot water heater. I ran our water and waddled down the stairs. No smell.  The laundry machine?  Not that either.

The other day the smell was a bit stronger than usual so I called Caccia and asked if Angelo could come over and look at it. You know what? He figured it out right away. Our a valve in our furnace was slightly leaking in our garage. So why didn't we constantly smell it?  Well, it seems that it only went into the spare room when we had the back door of the garage open. Mystery solved!

What I really appreciate about this whole process is that Angelo showed me what was going on and explained it so thoroughly. He never makes me feel stupid or talks down to me. Angelo fixed the leak and all is good.

I really appreciate having someone that we can call that we trust for these kinds of things. We have been conned in the past and it's nice to know we don't have to worry about that now. Having a house is enough work. Who wants the extra worry of not trusting people you bring into it?

Thanks Angelo! I always enjoy seeing you, but hope it won't be too soon!

Dirty Hoe's Proposal


Yesterday we got our proposal from Bernie at Dirty Hoe Landscaping. Joey and I had kind of estimated what we thought it would cost and we are spot on. You never know with these kinds of things and since we are very new to this it's good that there were no surprises.  For a very fair price they are going to do the following:

  • Remove weeds from garden beds
  • Remove roses, except for climbing rose on arbor, and other undesirable plants
  • Prune Apple and Citrus trees as needed
  • Remove debris generated from above work

We are also going to have the soil amended for an additional fee.  (Look at me using my fancy new gardening phrase.)  We are also going to have him set up two raised garden beds.  Joey them for me for my birthday and our anniversary.  In addition to having a pretty garden, we are going to try our hand at growing food, too.

Bernie sent us a questionnaire about what we wanted in our garden.  It contains ten questions about the importance of various things in our garden.  Joey and I are going to go through it tonight.  Once it's completed and our yard is cleared Bernie will start working on the plant list for us.  So exciting!

A Dirty Hoe In My Garden

I have not done a very good job at documenting the progress on our home remodel.  We have everything in pictures, but I have been horrible about putting it in my blog. For me, it's really hard to take the time to write something when I am right in the middle of it.  Now I find we are almost done with the exception of one thing - the backyard.  That remains pretty much untouched.

Our backyard is not very large as you can see from the picture, but it's a pretty good size for the city.  We have a nice lemon tree that gives fruit all year long, an apple tree and several rose bushes. All horribly overgrown. A lot of the garden is paved and there are beds surrounding the perimeter.  The beds are filled with weeds and spiders.  Lots of both.  I don't like weeds. I am terrified of spiders.

A few weeks ago I decided to go tackle the garden and pulled about three feet of weeds while dodging hundreds of little spiders. It took me six hours. This was certainly not as fun as cleaning up our little front yard!  I really want to garden, but pruning the trees and pulling all those weeds is rather daunting.  Then I had a eureka moment.  Why not have someone else do that part?  I should probably call this a "duh" moment.  Why I didn't think of this before?!  I went to Yelp and starting looking for gardeners.  The one that caught my eye?  Dirty Hoe Landscaping.  The name alone was almost enough, but after reading the reviews and checking out the website I decided to email them.  The owner, Bernie, replied right away and we set up an appointment.

Yesterday Bernie came over and I liked him immediately. I have a really good feeling about him.  We looked around our yard and he asked us lots of questions about what we wanted for our backyard and gave us a lot of advice on what we could do.  We have decided to clear out everything with the exception of the trees and the rose bush on the gazebo. After that Bernie and his team is going to analyze our soil and do whatever they do to fix it.  Finally he will give us a list of plants he thinks would work well in our yard and we can either plant them ourselves or they can do it.  Perfect!  He said clearing out the yard should only take a day! Sure beats my pace and no spiders!!!

We get our quote early next week, but I am pretty sure we are going with Dirty Hoe. With a name like that how can we resist?

Cooking Up Whatever the Heck I Want

The past twelve months or so have been chock full of change for me. New city, new home and a new mother-in-law when you think about it!  When all this change hit me I was smack dab in the middle of this personal growth thing that I have been working on, well my whole life. However, recently I have really been trying to apply myself. Things like how I react to people, keeping my thoughts positive, setting goals and accomplishing them. You know, easy stuff like that. Ha!  If only.  I have accomplished many things I have set out for myself and for that I am really proud. I quit smoking. I stopped drinking. I am losing weight. I am even working on my reactions to things and not being such a drama queen! For all that I give myself one big pat on the back.  The one thing I haven't bee able to get a grip on is my blog. That is one big challenge for me.

I started by blog way back in 2008.  I started it as a way to share recipes with my friends. I had just discovered cooking and Rachel Ray and just started her 30-Minute-Meals show. I was cooking up a storm and my friends and I were sharing recipes a lot. This was a perfect way to do it. I really didn't think much of it. I just got on blogger and set one up.  I never posted all that regularly, but that was enough for me and at least my friends could get my recipes.

A few years later a friend of mine, Shelly, jazzed up her blog Momfiles.com and I was motivated to jazz up mine as well. I found a great template and figured out how to implement it with the help of this great developer from Spain. It the same one I have on there now. I like it. Still, however, I was a bit irregular in my posts.

As time has gone by tons and tons of food blogs have popped up on the internet.  With all these foodies posting recipes for things like Wild Boar with Simmered Napa Kale and Brazilian Lime Infused Creme Fraiche my recipes for things like Pudding In A Cloud seemed pretty pathetic. I became really self-conscious about my writing. How could I keep up with these people?  To make matters worse someone decided that my blog would be fun to attack and left some really nasty comments about a recipe I posted. That really hurt me and pushed me further into my shell. I just started thinking that I had nothing to offer.

The last few months I have been making some feeble attempts to post on my blog. I actually have been forcing myself to do it. You see, I do write every single day. I have been for over a year.  I have written for 300,000 words for 378 days straight.  If I can do that, why can't I write in my blog?

Well, I will tell you why. I am self-conscious. I feel that I don't have anything to say that anyone will be interested it.  Also, I don't want to just write about food anymore.  While I may poke fun at those folks that can turn Pudding In A Cloud into a 25 ingredient recipe with every ingredient in the title, I do admire them and I am learning a lot from them. I can't compete with that.  Aha! That's the key. I don't need to compete.  This isn't a competition, it's a blog.  It's MY blog. I can honestly write whatever I want to.  Cooking with Sean & Joey can be more than cooking in the kitchen. It could be cooking up life.  Cooking up design.  Cooking up adventure.  Right now I am into celebrating my life and I want to share it.  I do have something to offer - my experiences. I am only going to be on this road once. I might as well keep a travel journal.  Who knows? It might even help someone.

So, starting Monday there is going to be a new twist on Cooking with Sean & Joey.  Each day of the week is going to be a new different theme.  I am going to keep my themes a secret right now and I intend for them to grow in their own way. Who knows what I will cook up. I do know one thing. I will be cooking up whatever the heck I want and I am going to have fun with it!

Happy 8th Anniversary!

Last Sunday Joey and I celebrated out 8th Anniversary.  We went to Blue in San Francisco where we went on our very first date.  This year I got Joey the mosaics above.  They are even more beautiful in person. 

I was going to write a long blog post about how we met, but I realized that I have done that already several times.  All I really need to say is that I consider myself very blessed to be spending my life with such a wonderful person. Every day I get to see my very best friend in the world.  How lucky is that?

So here's to 8 years and to many, many more!  I love you, Joey!!!

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About Sean & Joey

Joey and I are just a couple of guys living in San Francisco. I love cooking and we both like trying new things. Planning our meals is one of our "together" things. I hope you enjoy our blog! - Sean


This blog is dedicated to the two most important people in my life - my mom, Ernee Jean O'Brien, and my partner Joey Concepcion. They both have showered me with unconditional support and love and have always encouraged me to be myself. I will always miss my mom and I don't know what I would do without Joey.

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