Friday, August 18, 2017


The inevitable summer wind down may already be in the works, but end of season outdoor sales have me dreaming of ways to extend the feeling of summer through a quick refresh of our outdoor decor. Our loungers that we purchased when we bought our house 6 years ago finally gave way and made it to the curb. So, I've been on the hunt for replacements and in the process, uncovered the best patio furniture and accessory deals. Today, I've rounded up a few of my favorites and I'm sharing them with you here. I admit that it's always a gamble to wait and see what inventory remains at mid-August. That rug or dining set you had your heart set on in April may no longer be available. My own indecision (or lack of allocated budget) earlier in the season meant I missed on a couple of things this year myself. But there are still some good design options to be had - and many are being offered at steep discounts as retailers make way for holiday inventory.

In this round up, you'll find many of these items reduced by 50-60% off. Retailers are also extending additional discounts through coupon codes so your savings may even be far greater than what you see on the product page. Personally, I'm thinking hard about that sectional and 2pc lounger featured here. Can you believe it? The geo rug you see below - it's just $22 on clearance right now. 

2017 summer end of season patio clearance products
Find them here:

2017 summer end of season patio clearance products
Find them here:

2017 summer end of season patio clearance products

Find them here:

2017 summer end of season patio clearance products

Find them here:
Find them here:
25. Play Teepee   26. Chiminea   27. 3pc Dining Set

See any favorites? Are you in the loop on other sales hitting the web this week? Do tell! 


Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Quick and Easy Refrigerator Pickles by Holtwood Hipster Blog

Around here, we're always on the lookout for ways to step up our foodie game and it doesn't always mean patronizing a new restaurant. Finding a way to craft our own version of a common store-bought item can be so satisfying - even if it means some extra time in the kitchen. Take these easy to make refrigerator pickles for example. In no time flat, we made use of that extra bounty from our garden and produce piling up in our refrigerator drawer and had a full on pickle parade to snack on for weeks to come. Trust me once you make your own pickles, you'll reconsider that jar of grey, lifeless cucumbers on your next trip to the grocery aisle.

Quick and Easy Refrigerator Pickles by Holtwood Hipster Blog

Truth be told, our upcoming camping trip gave us further motivation for prepping our jars of beans, cukes and carrots. Camping (or any gathering really) is serious food business amongst our group. As we typically do this time of year, we're making preparations for the camp Bloody Mary bar we host each morning during our stay. It's always a good way to circle up the troops before kicking off the day's festivities and we are always working on something new to bring to the table for those who swing by on site to take part. This year, we're stocking the bar with our very own handmade pickled garnish accoutrement (you know, if we can keep from eating them before we get there). I even designed some labels to further personalize our offerings.

Quick and Easy Refrigerator Pickles by Holtwood Hipster Blog

Of course, you don't have to make a caseload at one time like we did. It's easier - and quicker than you might think to prepare a jar or two of your favorite variety.

Quick Steps

It's a simple preparation equation: wash, cut, boil and fill.

Wash. You'll want to give a good wash to all your veggies and jars.

Cut. Prep all your vegetables by chopping well before you make your brine. You may find you need to double your recipe like we did given the volume you wish to bottle up. We used green beans, carrots, onions, turnips and cucumbers. My husband also made a batch of pickled eggs. But you'll also want to prep cuttings of fresh herbs like dill and thyme and even extra onion, peppers and garlic cloves. You'll be layering those extras into your jars around your veggies.

Boil. There are many brine recipes out there. In all, we whipped up 5 different brines for this round. But don't be intimidated. There are a lot of recipes available out there with enough flexibility to satisfy all tastes. If you like them on the sweeter side, add a little extra sugar and use cider vinegar vs. the common white variety. I also whole-heartedly recommend using other types of vinegar like champagne, white wine, red-wine and even rice-wine as alternatives to the more pungent common white.

Fill. When you fill your jars, you will want to layer in your herbs, garlic and onion amongst your cut veggies. Leave an inch at top (so if you need to cut your vegetables down, do so). You can always go back in and add after the brine has been poured in.

Quick and Easy Refrigerator Pickles by Holtwood Hipster Blog

My Tips

  • Use kosher salt - not table salt in your brine. 
  • Jars come in all shapes and sizes. Its fun to mix and match. I like to use these quart size and these smaller ones.
  • Change the hue of white veggies like turnips and onions by adding a couple of slices of beet.
  • Stray from the common pre-made pickling spices and use other things like mustard seeds, coriander seed, dill seed and caraway.

Recipe Links

Here are some links to recipes I personally like. I typically stick to the published ratios of water-vinegar-salt-sugar in these recipes, but I do take some liberties with the herbs and spices to suit our personal tastes. Not all use boil brines, but that's my preferred method.

Feasting at Home gives a great foundation for brines (with really pretty pics!)
Baked at Midnight features a non-boil, half-sour brine
Leite's Culinaria has a good recipe for a sweet pickle
Dinner Then Dessert has a recipe for the pickles I can't get enough of at my favorite Lebanese restaurant

There are a ton of recipes out there. Do you have any hot tips or personal favorites to share?

Care to see what we're cooking up this time? Our culinary camping adventures are well documented over on Instagram (@holtwoodhipster). Click the link to follow along!


Friday, August 11, 2017


Rose Wines to Drink Now, Best Rose Wines

I get it. By now, it's mid-August and your thoughts are already drifting to a pumpkin latte. But friends, the weather is still warm and you're well ahead of Labor Day weekend. From where I sit, there is still plenty of time to fill your glass with a refreshing rose. Not sure which one to pour? Fear not. I've spent the last couple of months sampling them all (trust me...) and I've narrowed it down to some rose picks that are easy to drink, easy to find and easy on the pocketbook.

Rose Wines to Drink Now, Best Rose Wines

AIX Rose 2016 ($17) // I might have been drawn in by the label, but was very happily surprised with the drinkability of the AIX Rose. I picked up mine at Whole Foods and paired it up with a platter of cheese and veggies (go here for some ideas!).

Saved 'Magic Maker' ($14) // The label design got high marks from Forbes back in 2014, but this limited CA production wine also deserves praise. It's been my pick during concerts this year at both the Bowl and the Greek and I've found it consistently stocked at our local grocery chain store.

Whispering Angel ($19) // I picked up a couple of bottles of Whispering Angel for a family pool day and quickly understood why I've seen this one on so many bar and restaurant menus this season.

Listel Grain de Gris ($10) // Our local walk-up fish counter serves this one and its another one that is just so light and drinkable! Not sure and want a second opinion? Wine-searcher lists this one as climbing in popularity over the last year. Its also affordable enough to serve to the masses while entertaining.

JCB #5 Rose ($19) // I've seen this one priced as high as $29 a bottle which might fall into the splurge category. Catch it on promo right now at or your local BevMo.

I've declared pretty much anything by winemaker Gerard Bertrand a good choice. There are some pretty tasty bottles of bubbly made by this wine house. But I say, start with the Cote de Roses ($13), as its easily found on your grocery store shelf (and at Costco!). Then branch out and sample the Chateau La Sauvageonne ($20) and Gris Blanc ($12) found at chain outlets like BevMo or Total Wine. All three bottles are solid tasty options to drink now through the official end of summer.

Am I missing any of your favorites? Drop me a note in the comments section! There's certainly plenty of time left in these last warm weeks for me to adopt a new favorite.


Monday, August 7, 2017


What we loved and didn't about our Modern Farmhouse Kitchen Remodel

Well hello there!

We are fast approaching the 90-day mark on the backside of our Modern Farmhouse Kitchen reveal for the One Room Challenge (can you even believe it?!). As far as room makeovers go, I know I often wonder how the people living in the space feel about the "after" once the buzz of renovation activity has waned. Would they do anything differently given a second chance?

In that spirit, I thought I'd be a good time to circle back and let you know how things are holding up with our own kitchen remodel, what we're loving and if there are any things we'd reconsider if I had to do it all over again.

A quick reset to catch those of you up with our primary goals for this project.

Improved functionality in our smallish kitchen workspace
Durability across our selection of upgraded surfaces
Lots of layers and textural details
Creative use of space to maximize our what we have
Project an overall brighter background in a shady area of the house
Design it to flow and function well for entertaining
Ensure the update is complimentary with other areas of house

You can see what we started with [here] and what became of the adjoined kitchen / dining areas after in the reveal post [here].

So, let's break it down. Are we loving the changes we made? In short yes. Are there things we'd do differently, well maybe.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Farm-house Kitchen; One Room Challenge

Just 6 weeks ago, we embarked on a long awaited kitchen remodel, complete with new countertops, tile and appliances for our 1960's era kitchen.  Throughout this time, I blogged weekly about our progress and shared some of the triumphs and challenges encountered as a guest participant in the One Room Challenge along the way. For this redesign in such a crucial area of our home, we chose not to move walls or replace cabinetry, but instead transformed these well loved bones with a contrasting paint and materials scheme that also complemented new white oak flooring replaced at the same time throughout the entire house. 

Wanna see a really good before and after? You can catch up and see where we started HERE


Thursday, May 4, 2017


It's Week 5 of the One Room Challenge and I have a brief progress update for you on my ranch-style kitchen makeover. It's busy times over here! Afterall, I have just one week to go to make sure all the puzzle pieces come together for my design before revealing the final look to you all next Thursday! I actually plan on shooting the room over the weekend, so that means I'll be burning the midnight oil at the end of my real work day for the next couple of nights. 


Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Week 4 of the One Room Challenge always seems to sneak up on me. This is my fifth round as a Guest Participant in this bi-annual makeover event and just when I think I've figured out some sort of formula for balancing the work and progress reports efficiently, Week 4 sneaks in to remind me that I'm past the half-way point now and it's time to stop concepting and buying and just kick it into high gear and finish this room up. 

But I do have progress to report and actually when I look at it here, it's not a half-bad place to be. 

The biggest win - the counters are in and we have a sink. Guys, a kitchen renovation is no joke. We had set up a makeshift kitchen in our living room just to feel as if we had a home base of sorts, but for the most part we've been eating out for nearly every meal. The temporary loss of the sink was the biggest inconvenience though. We underestimated just how often we use the kitchen sink for hand-washing, rinsing out of cups, wiping down surfaces and so forth. So you can imagine how glad we were then when the sink finally arrived and we were able to install it along with these beautiful Silestone countertops. 

 Early on, I mentioned a farm-style table re-do and today, I'm happy to finally share more details on this makeover with you. If you are following me on Instagram, you may have already seen some of the transformation. But you need to see what the original table looked like to truly appreciate the impact of the before and after. Our table was quite dark and thickly layered in a brown town stain and lacquer finish. I was so worried that underneath all of that there would be some awful veneer that I could not do much sanding with. But to my happy surprise, this table was solid wood and stripped down to a very light natural wood - much lighter than what these pictures could capture.

I refinished the top in a weathered oak look, putting my own spin on a tried and true stain mix created by prettyhandygirl (see below for more details). I've actually used this same custom mixed stain previously on a couple of other projects and I knew it would get me close to what I was hoping for with this one.

The legs and accompanying bench were painted out in Valspar's "Tomcat" in Satin - a true, but just slightly softer black. I love the contrast and how the lighter table top brings both warmth and airiness to the dining space within the kitchen now.

As you can see at the top of my post, we also removed the over-range microwave and cabinet and started to build out a range hood with insert. This will open up the space above the range like we were hoping for and let a little more of that tile backsplash show through. The peninsula also got a wrapped lumber treatment to create a more solid and streamlined look for that part of the kitchen. 

As I mentioned in the last post - we decided to refinish our existing cabinetry in lieu of buying new. So one day, all the doors finally came off and my Pops took them home to sand them down and pretty them all up. We're so lucky to have him step in and help us (again) on this project! 

In demoing and prepping, we had to confront some bad drawer liner decisions (and I'm not referring to the 1970's daisy print you see going on there above). Guys - the sticky rubber shelf liners - don't do it. It's such a mess to get off and completely ineffective in areas like a pantry where liquids can seep through.

Because of built in niches within the cabinet fronts, we had to keep our existing copper hinges. So we sprayed them black for the lowers and white for the uppers so they would better blend into the face of the cabinet. 

One of the happiest moments of Week 4 for me came with the installation of white oak pantry shelves made by my husband and I. These are solid, pretty and super functional. I can't wait to show you how these turned out. Game-changer for us when we finally move back into the kitchen and hunt for that box of pasta or can of soup.

I'll have just one more week to show you my progress before the nail-bitting final reveal in two weeks. Until then, please check out all the amazing transformations taking place by other One Room Challenge Guest Participants over at Calling it Home.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


It's Week 3 of the One Room Challenge and I am finally sharing a look at my design plan with you all for our soon to be modern ranch-style kitchen. 

You guys, this one has been a long time in the making.  I've been dreaming up this kitchen for many years, collecting inspiration from far away places we've visited, restaurants we've enjoyed meals in and designer kitchens I've admired. My mainstay neutrals of black, white and woodsy accents will come into play for the foundation, but I think my design will really take shape in the composition of lines, textures and mixed materials that will be put to use in the room.

For visual inspiration here, I am sharing four designer kitchen concepts above - a modern-rustic amalgamation of dark and light, each - a cook's kitchen to be sure. That vibe is ultimately what I want to achieve with my final reveal in 3 weeks.

I should stop and mention that I sort of dislike pigeonholing anything with labels. In the end, I'm hoping my design will stand on it's own and be a collective mix of several styles I admire and ultimately something appropriate to our home. 

But I'm hoping that by calling my design scheme "Modern Ranch Kitchen", that the moniker will resonate with someone out there searching through the 200+ guest participants in the One Room Challenge and pinpoint something they are looking to achieve in their own home - and that there is an aspect or two here that might work as inspiration for them too. I feel like that's how it's done best - we all get a little something from each other creatively to turn around and make it our own.

So with that out of the way - let's talk paint.

Budget always comes into play when renovating a room - or as we are doing at the moment - several in our home. So it was no surprise that we resisted temptation to move walls and install brand new cabinets and instead, opted to doll up the ones we already have. I don't look at this as a compromise though. I know the power of paint and I have one of the best painters in my back pocket. Yes, my Pops has returned for another round of the One Room Challenge and will be painting our cabinetry out in a two-toned scheme - light uppers, dark lowers.

I've tested paint samples for months by the way - knowing our kitchen looks different in the Spring than it does in the Fall. The five that got slapped on our pantry cabinet a couple of weeks ago made the final cut and ultimately - we had a winner and I have to say, it was completely unexpected.

They call it "Astronomical" and it really is to me. This dark grey cures with some khaki green and I've even seen some blue in there at the right time of day.  It will play nicely with our "house white"- White Dove featured just above.

We went with a slab of Silestone to withstand the wine and coffee beatings our peninsula will surely take on a daily basis. But you'll also find some beautiful wide plank Acacia wood countertops pulled in on the other side of the kitchen. These wood slabs are truly butter you guys and defy any of my old reservations about wood countertops. 

I'm also really excited by the irregular shape of our backsplash tile, though I'm sure it will present a couple of headaches in the installation process.

 Things will warm up in the adjacent dining area, where a textural mix of striped textiles, mixed metallics and woods will collide. There will be acacia and white oak, stripes on stripes and dark, matte hardware on detached cabinetry - much different from the chrome baubles on the kitchen doors.
I'm making over many of the pieces that already exist in this space to save on budget and well, honestly I couldn't find alternatives I really wanted to invest additional budget in. New paint and fabric finishes will make old new again.

Next week's post will be jam packed with progress pics. While I've been dilly dallying with "concept" posts here, we've actually been hard at work with tear down and the great "build back up" on this space. We hired a contractor to help us out this time and we've had a steady crew of construction guys and electricians to schedule around each other. I thought well ahead on this one and ordered up materials and yes, appliances (!) so we're tracking right on schedule for this 6 week project. 

Did I mention we also decided to tear out and replace the floors throughout the whole house as well?
It just happened, it really, really did.

See you back here next Thursday! In the meantime, please be sure to check out (and lend some support to) the other participants in the One Room Challenge over at Calling it Home.

Inspo image sources: [1] Devol Kitchens [2] Amber Interiors [3] BHG  [4] Blair Harris

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


It's Week 2 of the bi-annual One Room Challenge, a 6-week room makeover event created by Linda of Calling it Home.  For those of you visiting my blog for the first time - a quick introduction! My name is Erin and I've been moonlighting as a sometimes design blogger here Holtwood Hipster for the last 6 years. I've posted my design perspective (clean lines, black and whites as neutrals, California at the heart of it all) and largely focused on the seemingly never ending renovation of our 1967 So Cal rancher - complete with plenty of landscape projects, paint jobs, tile work and redecorating. This is my fifth One Room Challenge as a Guest Participant. You can link to see the other rooms I've completed below.

For this round, I'm wearing my contractors hat again and remodeling our kitchen - taking it from a Phase 1 makeover (which tied us over for the last 6 years while we focused on updating other areas) - to a more polished place to cook, dine and entertain. 

Last week, I shared a look at what we walked into when we bought the place and the updates we made that modernized it for the short term. Today, I'm pulling you in closer to see some of the challenges we are facing with the redesign and the areas we plan to focus on.

The kitchen peninsula is one of the first areas you see when you enter our home and becomes a multi-utilitarian player when we cook and entertain.  This is a focal point we use a lot and the already well worn tile and grout has become a highly visible eyesore that no amount of scrubbing and cleaning can seem to improve. We had carried the floor paneling up to make it a little more durable to bar stools bumping up against it. But we are hoping to walk away with a cleaner, more streamlined look in this area at the end of the 6-week project.

This second area is where the bulk of our cabinets are currently installed. There is also a 42" countertop here that we will need to figure into our square footage when selecting a material upgrade. These are the original cabinets, sanded down and painted 6 years ago when we moved in. They've held up pretty well, but are in need of some repairs and a new paint job if we plan to keep them instead of changing them out. It's been a controversial topic. Modern cabinets provide functionality that these unfortunately in their current state and lay out do not. But new cabinetry would certainly stretch our budget and derail other plans. 

A wider view here spotlights a couple of areas that will need to be addressed in the remodel. As a whole - certainly not a bad place to start from with a makeover. The appliances were updated within the last 6 years, as were the hardware and fixtures. Living in the space has shown us we would like to see this area opened up and the microwave relocated to allow for more height on the cooktop- you know, for that spaghetti pot we are always taking out. Open shelving was also discussed, but having once lived with open shelves near the stove in our former home, we know that the dust and stickiness that just naturally comes with that is not something we want to deal with anymore. So the redesign will have to be creative on how we afford additional breathing room in this well used corner.

The kitchen opens up onto the main dining area, formerly used as a home office/TV area by the previous owners (see last post). We chose to outfit this area with a large farm-style table with benches and use this space as overflow for the kitchen when entertaining. It is is a critical area for us and the plan is to unify the two spaces with a more cohesive design so that in effect, the two rooms become one. 

To that effect, I've done you wrong guys and neglected to take a proper "before" shot of the whole area. Suffice it to say that beyond the wallpaper installation, what we have going on there now is all going to be changed out in some fashion anyway. You can see a glimpse of changes already in progress down below (#4).

So as we wrap up Week 2, we are already underway with our project work - deep into demo mode and already headed toward transformation. 

The built in bar cabinetry in the dining room has been taken out completely, exposing some electrical areas in need of safety upgrades. Scary what you can find behind the walls of an older home.

Those counters and tile backsplash are history! The bulky under-cabs also came out and will eventually be replaced with a modernized, cooler running LED option.

Remember that fire on the peninsula I mentioned earlier in this post? With the sink removed, we got a better look at the culprit. A lot of the damage had already been cleaned up, but that hanging wire with plug on the end of it actually powered the outlet on the side of the peninsula. Yes, the outlet was plugged into an outlet (it was actually plugged into an adapter plugged into an outlet). Who knew? Imagine my surprise when I plugged in the vacuum and saw the electricity surge followed by the smell of an electrical fire. All of this old plumbing- and electrical is on the list for an update.

So now a better shot of the dining area. I jumped the gun one rainy week here a couple of months back and started a re-do on our farm-style dining table. The original finish was a dark, manufacturer grade stain top to bottom. I sanded this sucker down to bare wood (which was surprisingly very pretty!) and took it a bit more rustic with a two-toned finish - weathered oak up top, black legs below. We will likely keep one of the two benches that flanked the table, but ditch another in favor of some mixed look seating. 

More to come next week with my vision for the re-design. I'll also give you the scoop on that table makeover -  and of course, more progress shots as we build out a prettier, more functional kitchen and dining area.

In the meantime, please be sure to check out all of the other designs in the works by 200+ talented design enthusiasts and bloggers over at Calling It Home.

>>>> Check out previous designs completed for our guest bathmaster bedroom, my husband's home office and my own home-based workspace.<<<<<

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Good news. This before also has an after - before the after. 

Welcome to Week 1 of The One Room Challenge, the bi-annual, room makeover bonanza created by Linda of Calling it Home. This virtual event takes the design community by storm - and unites bloggers and design enthusiasts alike - inspiring, motivating and creating virtual friendships all around. All eyes will be on the twenty design bloggers hand-picked to lead the charge in making over a room of their choice over the course of 6 weeks, all the whilst blogging and photographing their progress on Wednesday of each week. 

How do I fit in? I'm throwing my hat into the ring each Thursday as a guest participant after a two-season hiatus from the event- and frankly, a much, much too long break away from the ol' blog. 

I've really missed it. 
I've really missed you- and my hope is that this event will bring me back around to doing something I truly love - connecting with you all about our homes and the big (and even not so big) things we do around them to make life more comfortable, efficient and most certainly pretty. 

This round - I'm completing the long-awaited remodel on our kitchen.

This will be the fifth space in our home I've tackled thanks in part to all the moral support I've received from so many of you throughout previous ORC seasons. Check out previous designs completed for our guest bathmaster bedroom, my husband's home office and my own home-based workspace.

So let's get to it.

These are the current bones I'm working with:

But it hasn't always looked like this. This is actually the transitional "after" that has served us well for the last six years while we planned and plotted for the eventual overhaul of this space. When we moved in, we assumed a clean, but dated kitchen area from the original homeowners - complete with tile counters, cabinetry and layout circa 1967. We gussied it up and made it work for us for the short term with some paint, shiny new appliances, hardware and fixtures. But functionally speaking, it has had some modern day challenges for us that I hope will be solved for under the redesign.

Wanna see what it looked like when we moved in? 
 Fast forward to today's landscape. We actually have utilized the room off the kitchen as sort of the eat-in area, complete with built in-bar. So this makeover will include both the immediate cooking and dining areas.

This is the most lived in and traveled room in our house. We cook big family meals here, entertain around our bar and open the slider to wet pool guests running in to use the bathroom. It's a critical space for us and one we want to make work more efficiently. 

Next week - more about our current state, the things we hope to change over the next six weeks and the plan to get us there.

In the meantime, please be sure to check out all of the other designs in the works by 200+ talented design enthusiasts and bloggers over at Calling It Home.

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