[Project] Joy of Being Grandparents

After the arrival of their first grandchild and another one on the way, the clients felt it was time to renovate their home built in the 1950’s to become a gathering place for the growing family.  The goal was to enlarge the dining room and open up the kitchen.
After surveying the property and studied the clients’ desires, I suggested reducing the size of the intended addition for better use of interior and exterior space and flow of the roof line. The open kitchen would have a eating bar and flow with the enlarged dining room. With the new sliding doors in the dining room, and the enlarged window in the living room, the outdoor area would be connected with the indoors.

Preliminary Design Sketches

Upon finalizing the design, I proceeded to creating the documents both for obtaining the building permit and interior details. Once the plans were approved by the city, and we discussed my recommendations and resources for products and materials, I was off the project. With provided guidelines, the clients were happy to do their own shopping and purchasing. The general contractor is a family friend. Nothing for me to worry.

Interior Drawings

For City Approval

I was invited back when the project was finished. I was not surprised with the outcome because it followed my design. The joy on my clients’ faces were priceless. They enjoyed every part of transforming their home. They had a large crowd of over 20 people for the holidays, and it did not feel cramped. The clients are looking forward to spending time with the grandchildren in the ‘new home’.

The Art of Gift Giving

It is not always easy to know what to gift to show our appreciation. I try to choose something that’s meaningful and suits the recipient. And within my budget.
Arts and Crafts:
Luxurious home fragrances. All the fragrances work with each other beautifully.
These soy candles are soothing. The simply white color doesn’t compete with any decor. 
Beautiful leather flower accessories.
Robot illustrations
Charming leather creations.
Handmade Creations under one roof!
Monthly pop-up shows throughout Southern California
Cultural Experiences:
Museum memberships
tours to local places/events
concert/performance tickets
magazine subscriptions
Food & Beverage:
Le Vert thé (available through White Peony Style in the U.S.)
High quality tea from Taiwan.
Baked goods and desserts from local bakery.

Cake, macarons, and cookie from Belwood Bakery Cafe in Northridge, California.

Time Together:
This is the ultimate gift. The best part is you give and receive at the same time!
No matter what I decide to gift, a handwritten card or note is always a nice touch.

Moss Wall Art

We know adding plants to an interior space can add to visual interest and make the space livelier. In recent years, living walls have become popular. However, maintenance for live plants on vertical surfaces can be an inconvenience. I have found something that would add greenery and interest to walls and does not require light or water! Emerald Coast Plantscapes now offers custom wall art made with real moss preserved.

I asked my friend Kevin Urquhart, owner of Emerald Coast Plantscapes for more details about this new product:

M (Michelle): Since it is preserved, I assume it doesn’t attract bugs, right? 
K (Kevin): It will not attract bugs. Bugs are attracted to live plants for one of two reasons: 1) they eat the actual plant, or 2) Gnats gather when there is excessive moisture so they can breed and lay their larva. In the case of the preserved moss we use this is not an issue.
M: How about dust? Can it be vacuumed?
K: To dust I would recommend a light feather duster or condensed air held at a distance, like the kind used for electronics.
M: Are there any spaces you would NOT recommend? Restaurants? Hotels? Medical facilities? Classrooms? Are there loose pieces that can fall off?
K: If you were to use it in a restaurant I would recommend placing it as far as possible away from the kitchen as there is usually a lot of grease in the air that sticks to everything then dust sticks to the grease and creates a real mess. Other than that, the only thing I would keep it away from is direct sunlight as this could fade the color quickly. There are loos pieces that could fall if the moss is bumped or rubbed up against.
M: Anything you want to add?
K: Each piece is custom made; shape size etc. We have made them as small as 2’x2’ or we can cover an entire wall. The frames are made to our specifications by a local cabinet maker and we can custom color the frames. Each piece takes on a character of its own making no two pieces are exactly alike. We have just completed a project with a piece measuring 2’ X 7’ in which we placed the client’s metal logo right into the moss.
We can add many elements to the moss such as manzanita branches, driftwood, preserved leaves etc.
We love this new form of creative expression in botanical art. As popular as live vertical wall plantings have become, we have found there are many problems associate with living wall plants. Problems such as expensive installation, maintenance issues with watering and plants outgrowing their space creating high replacement costs. So with the preserved moss you still get a very unique botanical expression with more versatility and less cost and less upkeep.

“We are very excited about the uniqueness of the moss art and the high level of interest we are receiving for custom pieces. Of course, we are also very engaged in delivering the life, warmth and beauty of live plants and services to offices from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica.”

Kevin can be reached at:

Office Decoration

A manager of a medical group was seeking some advice on re-decorating one dental clinic without spending a fortune. The areas she was thinking included the waiting area, hallway, and individual patient “cubicles”. 
Without seeing the actual space and the surrounding areas, I could only give some general ideas as guidelines. My suggestion was using images of the nature. And not buying from big box store to avoid getting something too common.
Framed botanical prints are versatile to fit the size of room/wall. A group of the prints work for a bigger area, and a single print is great for individual “cubicles” and have a theme.

Moonlight Fern – Set of 6 Z Gallerie

Liz Williams Interiors

Other ideas for art can be abstract, still life drawings, floral, music, dance,…  Besides framed or canvas art,  wall decals are inexpensive and give impacts.

Jane Malinina


My last idea was to group small frames with photos or postcards. This is inexpensive and can be impressive. You can be creative with the composition. IKEA has this collage frame that already did the thinking for you.

IKEA Vaxbo

I am happy to report the office manager took my advice and had a satisfactory result!

What I Ate in A Week

Just for fun, I tracked (most of) what I ate in a week and took photos that I managed to take. The photos are quick snapshots. I did not track much of drinks and snacks.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Dinner: Pan-fried tilapia, bean sprout salad, cucumber salad, sauteed spinach, and rice.

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Snack: Strawberries with caramelized condensed milk.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Lunch: Rice with meat sauce, spinach, bean sprout salad, and cucumber salad.


Snack: Strawberry short cake


Dinner: Vegetable soup, tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet), sauteed zucchini, bean sprout salad, and rice.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Breakfast: coffee

Lunch: Vegetable soup, pan-fried garlic port chop, and rice.


Snack: Dairy Queen small vanilla cone

Dinner: Spaghetti with meat sauce


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Breakfast: coffee

Lunch: Spaghetti w/meat sauce

Snack: Oriental Beauty tea, and a piece of cake

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Dinner: Vegetable soup, corned beef, cabbage, and rice.


Snack: Drumstick

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Breakfast: coffee, and spaghetti with meat sauce

St. Patrick’s Day lunch with a friend: Iced tea, mulligatawny soup, Irish beef stew, sausages, Irish coffee, & sticky toffee pudding w/ice cream

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Dinner: Ginger & scallion pork chop, kale w/carrot, cucumber salad, beansprout salad and rice.


Snack: A piece of cake, hot yuzu honey drink.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Breakfast: coffee & a piece of cake

Lunch: Instant seafood noodle soup with egg and cabbage.

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Dinner at Black Angus: bread, appetizer sampler, baked potato soup, and prime rib with onion rings.

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Saturday, March 119, 2016

Breakfast: coffee, a piece of cake, and instant noodles.

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Lunch: Corned beef, cabbage, and rice.


Dinner: Braised beef with daikon & carrots, cucumber salad, pan-fried eggplant, and rice.


Dessert: Mud pie with Pearl Dew Oolong tea.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Breakfast: coffee & a piece of cake

Lunch: Spaghetti with meat sauce and Buffalo wings


This was an interesting experiment. Remember to take photos before I eat was harder than I thought. If I do this again, I should take photos of EVERYTHING I put into my mouth.