christmas-in-july-2014I’ve been away for the last week or so hosting my family for the fourth annual Christmas in July celebration. As usual, the event was a success. We had some of the regulars who attend every year, and a few newbies too. There were plenty of brats and burgers, yummy finger foods, margaritas and a whole lot of fun to go around.

the-groupAfter our group photo and filling up on food, everyone scrambled into the tiki lounge for the main event — the ‘dirty Santa’ gift exchange.

whitneyExcitement was in the air!

wine-corksSome of the mystery gifts were happily received…

laughing WINE-MARKERS…some gifts were questioned…

not-sure…some gifts were not appreciated. Jim!

crystal-clockAfter being ‘lost’ in a closet during the celebration last year, the dreaded crystal clock made a return. (see the ‘crystal clock shock’ from 2011 and 2012)

muffin-topsMy dad wasn’t sure what a muffin top was until we explained it, then he seemed to understand…I think….

sucksOur friend Elise was not too excited about receiving an ear wax vac…but dad was entertained.

GOOD-ONEProbably the strangest gift of the day was opened by my Mom…

somethingsmellsgoodFrom the beginning, Leo was a little more interested than normal. She should have known something was up.

ham-pate…and before too long, we all realized why. Mom opened a can of ham paté with pimentos. Most of us thought that was kinda gross, but Leo was totally digging it. I’m betting the canned ham will be back next year.

Did anyone else celebrate Christmas in July this year?

See our past celebrations:



messToday marks four years ago to the day that we closed on our 1962 retro ranch. In some ways, it feels like it couldn’t have possibly been four years already, but in other ways it seems like we have been living here happily for longer than that.

The last four years here have been filled with a whole lot of yard work, painting walls, a gut remodel of our master bathroom, painting the kitchen cabinets, and generally making our house feel more like a home. It also marks four years of this blog, which I started as a creative outlet, a visual journal of our quest to make our house a home, a way for far away friends and family to “visit” our lives without having to travel and what ultimately led Pam to me, which in turn helped me get my current job as Managing Editor for

Now let’s all take a walk down memory lane with some before and after photos that show the progress made over four years.

The yard:

Above: Front yard before.

yard-today-2Above: Front yard today.
before11Above: Front yard before.

yard-today1Above: Front yard today.

wheresmailboxAbove: Side yard before. (Our mailbox was hiding in there)

yard-today-3Above: Side yard today.

nofence1 Fence3 Fence4Above: Vegetable garden before.

gardenAbove: Vegetable garden today.

The Kitchen:

Kitchenday1Above: Kitchen before.

retro-red-and-white-kitchenvintage-mint-kitchen retro-red-and-white-kitchenAbove: Kitchen today.

The master bathroom remodel:

retro-master-bathretro-bathroomretro-vanityAbove: Master bathroom before.

retro-pink-bathroom midcentury-bath-vanityAbove: Master bathroom today.

We’ve come a long way in four years, but there is still more to be done — especially out in the yard. I’m starting to get the feeling like its nearly under control after four years of hard, backbreaking work and a whole lot of tree trimming and weeding. Of course a house is never truly finished, and the journey is part of the fun. Thanks for tagging along on this journey with us.


kate tiki drinkI’m not entirely sure what happened to the last month. It sped by at warp speed and I suddenly realized I hadn’t posted anything on here in what seems like eons. In the last month, I’ve had my focus set on so many different projects and experiences that it is no wonder I haven’t written anything this blog in a while.

When I last posted, I had just returned from a weekend away at a friend’s wedding. Since then, these are just a few of the things I’ve been up to:

  • My adorable husband Jim was away on a business trip and the evening he returned home, my best friend and her husband flew in for a long weekend visit at the Retro Ranch — loads of fun!
  • The following week I set off for my annual trip to visit my parents in Tennessee and was gone for 5 days
  • I attended a party at my neighbor’s house that lasted until after midnight
  • Met a good friend for dinner and catching up on life
  • Went to a memorial service for another longtime friend of mine, an artist and mentor who passed away at age 87
  • Put up our screen porch tiki lounge for the summer
  • Pulled countless weeds in our yard and gardens
  • Planted my raised bed vegetable garden for the year
  • Mulched everywhere
  • Put down lots of grass seed
  • Cleaned up and spray painted my new, old patio set
  • Went to The Hukilau
  • And much more!

You might imagine that I’m exhausted from all of this, but in fact, the opposite is true. Sure, there were points during this long string of activities that wiped me out big time — but our yard is really starting to come together, our veggies are growing and The Hukilau was so much fun (and a much needed vacation to the beach) that I’m feeling pretty good right now.

In the next two weeks, I have tons more to do to prepare for our 4th annual Christmas in July celebration and hosting my family for their week or so long stay — not to mention a few other projects I am trying to get done before then. I’ll try my best to give you all updates on the many projects I’ve been working on and neat new stuff I’ve found in the last month, but for today, let’s just check out a few pictures from my trip to The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Pam was nice enough to let me come with her and help with our Symposium: Create You’re Own Suburban Savage Paradise! Even though she did most of the talking. I got to meet a lot of awesome people, sample many fruity, rum-filled cocktails and spend lots of time ogling both the decor at the Mai Kai Restaurant and the beautiful beach in Fort Lauderdale. There will be plenty of stories over on Retro Renovation detailing everything, but I thought I’d share a few photos from Jim and my personal experience that wouldn’t be shown otherwise.

beach grassbeachft lauderdale beachkate in oceantiki mermaid katebeach rocks

kate oceanI hadn’t been to the ocean in about ten years, so I was like “a kid in a candy store” according to Jim. All I wanted to do every night and in all our spare time was go for walks on the beach. Being on the beach floods me with memories of my childhood trips to the beach with my Nana and Bob, who used to live about a mile from the Gulf in Mississippi. Every childhood visit to see them involved a whole lot of time spent building sand castles, splashing in the waves and walking on the beach. It felt good to be back.

jim beach jim the beach bum Jim mai kai sign kate and jim matching tikijim mai KaiKate Mai Kaijim mai kai jim mai kai gardens jim gardens Mai Kai jim tiki katetiki jim tiki friend kates tiki friend kate with drinkThe Mai Kai was amazing. I’ve never been to any place quite like it before. Jim and I sampled numerous drinks while we were there (over several days of course) including: The Mutiny, Jet Pilot, Zombie, Wahine Delight, Mai Kai Swizzle, Shark Bite, Shrunken Skull, 151 Swizzle, Special Planters Punch, Deep Sea Diver, Zula, Chocolate Snowflake and a sip from the Mystery Bowl — a large cocktail that arrives in a bowl, accompanied by a special dance that serves 4-6 people.

kate jim hukilauYou can check out the first post about Pam and my experiences at The Hukilau on RetroRenovation – and tomorrow am, check back on RetroRenovation for another post about the Mai Kai and it’s fabulous decor.

I promise I’ll be back here again soon! Aloha!


little-houseThis past weekend, Jim and I made the trip down to DeKalb, Illinois to attend the wedding of our close friends — which is why we are all dressed up in this picture. To my delight, just outside where the wedding reception was taking place, was the most adorable miniature house. Of course we had to get our photo taken in front of it!

KateJimWeddingThe house was used as a playhouse for the children of the wealthy family who originally owned the historic Ellwood House, which has now been turned into a museum.

katekathieweddingThat’s my mother-in-law and I trying to look cute in front of the cutest little house we’ve ever seen! After Jim took this photo, he retreated to the car to change out of the uncomfortable dress shoes that came with his rental tux (he was in the wedding) and my mother-in-law and I snuck around back.

katelittlehouseThere was a very nice man sanding and painting the exterior of the house and he told us we were welcome to go inside. I was thrilled to say the least.

kathielittlehouseThe house had a few small rooms, all of which were painted white. Though the doorways were a bit low for adults, the main areas of each room were tall enough for us to comfortably stand up. I know this playhouse is more of a Victorian style than midcentury, but what I wouldn’t give to have one of these in my back yard — I’m not too old to have a playhouse right? If given the opportunity, I would gladly spend a day hanging out in this adorable little building, wouldn’t you?



rocks-beforeHigh temperatures in the 50s and 60s over the past weekend plus a sale on river rock at Menards put me in the mood to get the outdoor project I started last summer finished. The space on the other side of the basement doors was nothing but mud, especially since the gutter downspout and sump pump drain line run through this area, sometimes dripping into the dirt below. Once the mud pile has formed, Leo likes to walk in this dirty area obsessively, because every time the sump pump kicks in and shakes the drain hose, he thinks there is an animal running around in there.

theressomethinginthereLeo, there is not an animal in there, it is the sump pump kicking water out!

ibetitsthechipmunkOh brother.

Leo has this ongoing feud with a chipmunk that sometimes likes to take siestas in our wood pile. Don’t ask.

Anyway, before I could put down the rocks to cover up this mud pit, I had to remove several wheelbarrows full of dirt. The last owners of the house had put so much extra dirt in this garden bed, that it was piling up against the metal basement door, causing it to rust. Not good. When you do that much digging, you never know what you might find. Suddenly, I shrieked. Is that a dead fish?

dead-fishOk, so maybe it wasn’t a dead fish, it just looked like one. The fish was actually a plastic toy, but it sure scared the heck out of me when I hit it with the shovel. Once the fish was removed and the dirt leveled out, I put down some landscape fabric to keep the weeds at bay and then laid down the rock.

landscaping-rocks-pebblesLuckily the ten bags I picked up were just enough to cover the area. I also busted out the rain barrel I bought two summers ago that I hadn’t yet used. The year I purchased the rain barrel, it never rained, so I didn’t hook it up. Last year I was too into the bathroom project to even think about rain barrels, so I forgot about it. I made myself a promise that I would use it this year. Now I just need to modify the gutter so it diverts rain into the barrel. Let’s see how many years that takes me…

landscaping-rocksI think the finished area looks great, but I’m most excited about there not being a huge mud pit for the dog to walk into and then subsequently track into the house.

rocks-and-pavers all-rocks-inWhile I was admiring my work, the sump pump kicked on and Leo jumped into action, trying to “chase” the chipmunk — but — no muddy paws this time. Yay!

illholdthis notachipmunkThat’s one scary looking fish toy, don’t you think? Definitely not a chipmunk.

The day was still young and I decided to tackle another eyesore in the back yard, this mass of buckthorn:

buckthornIt doesn’t look like much now, because the buckthorn have no leaves, but trust me, this clump of invasive shrubs becomes a real mess once things start to grow. This area has also been known to harbor a few rabbit nests, which Leo ultimately discovers and destroys. Let’s just say I’m removing their temptation and saving myself some serious bunny body clean up work in the future.

buckthorn-goneAfter another hour or so of work, the area was free of buckthorn. Unfortunately, I had also created another mud hole for Leo to run through. Le sigh.