The Artistry of Sweet!

Photo: Starting to think about those holiday gifts? Place your order with Kollar Chocolates today and we will get your items delivered just before Christmas for the freshest and tastiest chocolates!

One of my favorite choices for beautiful edible treats. I have long followed Kollar chocolates, not only are their creations artistically designed but they taste as wonderful as they look. From Bark to Truffles their chocolates are available in gift boxes and bags for shipping anywhere. Perfect hostess gifts and stocking stuffers!

Here’s the link to their store:

Local Farmers’ Market – Winter Hours

Winter Hours have begun at our local Farmers’ Markets with Winter fruits a plenty! Smit Farms has several wonderful apple varieties for eating, baking and sauces. Citrus fruits have arrived from Sunrise Farms featuring Satsuma Mandarins, sweet Pomelos and Persimmons. The Fuyu which is wonderful in salads and the Chocolate Persimmon perfect for baking.

Portola Valley Farmers Market Hours – Thursdays 2- 5.

Woodside Farmers Market Hours- Sundays 10 – 2. 

Menlo Park Farmers Market – Sundays 9 -1.

Palo Alto Farmers Market – Saturday 8 – 12.


Here is a great, quick, go to recipe for my Apple Galette. The Galette pictured here does not have the topping on it. I recommend finishing it with either the crumb or crisp topping. Not only does it taste so much more wonderful but it looks festive and ideal for a Holiday Party!

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

3 apples (1 1/2 pounds), peeled, halved, cored, halves cut into 6 1/2-inch wedges

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon flour

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup chopped pecans

One 8-ounce frozen puff pastry sheet, thawed

All-purpose flour, for sprinkling

1 large egg, beaten



For the galette: Position a rack in the center and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the apples and sprinkle with the salt. Saute, tossing occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Whisk the sugar, spices and flour in a small bowl until no lumps remain. Sprinkle the spiced sugar, cranberries, pecans and lemon juice over the apples in skillet, and toss to blend. Cool to lukewarm.


Place a large sheet of parchment paper on the work surface. Unfold the pastry sheet on the parchment and sprinkle both sides lightly with flour. Roll out the pastry to 12-inch square, lifting, turning and sprinkling with more flour to keep from sticking. Cut off the corners (with a rounded cut), making a 12-inch-diameter pastry round.


Brush the pastry all over with some beaten egg. Starting 2 inches in from the edge (to leave wide border), arrange the apple wedge mixture close together in a circle on the pastry. Sprinkle half of the topping on the apple mixture then fold the pastry border partially over the filling, pleating the pastry in loose folds. Brush the folded-up pastry border with some beaten egg. Sprinkle with the remaining topping.

Slide the galette with the parchment onto a heavy baking sheet. Scrape the juices from the skillet over the apples. Bake galette until pastry edge is deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.


Sometimes I like a crisp topping and sometimes a crumbly one. I’ve included both so you can choose!


Crumb topping:

2 ½ c flour

1 c brown sugar (I like to use Muscovado but any good brown sugar will do)

2 sticks of butter (melted)

1 ½ t cinnamon


Crisp topping:

1 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal

1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced



Blood Orange painting by Georgia Reid, Woodside.


Buy vs Rent ?

That old question deserves a new look….not that there is much change in the answer though. Here are some thoughts and stats that might help. With the trend in home prices increasing the thought begs asking, ” do I rent and wait out the market or jump in and buy?”. With mortgage rates  still at all time lows, combined with the tax advantages of home ownership – which so far are still protected – this is an excellent time to turn your dream of owning a home into reality. So the next question is, “can I afford to buy?”.

Does it cost me more to rent? No matter what you are currently paying for rent, your total cash outlay over a period of several years will add up to a higher total than you may have realized. The following chart shows what your rent payments would add up to with an appreciated 5% interest rate of investment. On average for the past 10 years our home values experienced an average 10% increase in value per year. This year in many cities of San Mateo and Santa Clara County our property values increased  as high as 25%. Although not always a reality it does beg the question,  “why would I not want to own a home when it provides a permanent roof over my head and returns a rate of appreciation that high?”.

With the money you are currently spending on rent,you could be building equity in your home. Keep in mind, too, that over the years your income most likely
will increase faster than any increase in your mortgage payment. Rent payments, on the other hand, tend to increase – right along with your paycheck. Ask your loan officer or mortgage broker for financial plans that are available to you.

Homeowner Tax Advantages
When you’re figuring out how much you can afford to commit to monthly mortgage payments, don’t forget the tax advantages of homeownership. Both property taxes and interest payments on a mortgage for an owner-occupied home are currently tax-deductible. In the early years of a typical mortgage, all but a small percentage of each monthly payment is used to pay off the interest on the loan. This means that as a homeowner, your annual taxable income could be
substantially reduced by deducting the payments you make on property taxes and yearly mortgage interest. Ask your CPA (certified public accountant), attorney, or tax preparer how buying a home now would affect your tax situation.

Home Value Appreciation
In addition to tax advantages, you can also benefit from any increase in the value of your home through appreciation and improvements you add for your own comfort and enjoyment.

You Can Make Home Ownership a Reality
Take a good look at your personal financial situation in comparison to housing price trends and mortgage plans available in your community. You will probably discover that you are closer to homeownership than you had realized. Buying a home is probably one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make. And when it’s your first home, it is especially important that you seek qualified assistance. Call me I’ll find and help you purchase – the home of your dreams!

Here is a link to a chart that the NY Times recently published that actually plots the financial advantages.  It’s easy and absolutely right on the money!

What not to store in your Garage!

Always striving to educate my clients with all things house related, I stumbled upon this article advising what to not store in your garage.  Having just finished garage purging for Fall 2014 I thought, great, now that my garage is spotless I should pass this test with flying colors….not exactly….I have all of the 6 items one must avoid storing in one’s garage sitting predominantly (although I must add neatly) featured in mine! So here they are:

1. Paint
Leftover color from the last time you redecorated won’t last long if subjected to high heat in summer (or falling temps in the winter). Plus, cans stored on cement floors will rust faster than those stored on a shelf. We are fortunate in this area as many of our local cities feature dates and places for paint drop offs which make disposing of paint virtually painless.

2. Propane
We barbecue year round and I hate seeing the spare propane tank sitting by the barbecue. So I make my husband store the extra canisters in the garage. Who knew this was number 2 on the list of don’t do’s. They must be stored where it’s well-ventilated or you risk igniting the fumes when you start your car. Don’t want to do that!

3. Canned Food
A stockpile of canned tomatoes, beans and more has a shorter shelf life in a room that gets hotter than 70 degrees (and when temps reach 95 degrees, the food will spoil quickly). With limited space in my kitchen, I store my extra canned goods in a wonderful set of  built in cabinets in our garage. They house everything from sets of china to pantry items. The other day my husband brought me a can of tomatoes that had no were near reached it’s expiration date but whatever was inside was eating it’s way out through the can and the label. Learned that lesson first hand!

4. Refrigerator
Yes, by definition, fridges control the temperature in your food’s environment. But as the heat rises, your fridge will need to work harder to keep your food cool—and you’ll feel the burn in your energy bill. Plus, a fridge won’t keep food cold enough when the surrounding temps drop below 60 degree, since it will run less when it gets chilly. Fortunately we use the outside fridge for ice cold liquid refreshment storage only…so it stays!

5. Open stacks of linens or paper goods
Mice and other pests love to make nests in bunches of fabric or paper (like that pile of cardboard boxes from your recent move). Store paper cups and plates in your pantry instead, place linens in plastic bins if you have to put them in the garage, and purge recyclables often. Not so hard to do around here with Recycle cans supplied by our local garbage collectors. Don’t forget to use them.

6. Electronics
DVD players, televisions and computers you’ve been meaning to donate or recycle could get damaged in extreme heat or cold. I might add I just found a box of no less than 12 old remote controls for the TV, VCR, et al! Routinely as with the paint drop off our supporting cities feature days to bring in old equipment for recycling.

So back to the job of garage purging with a new flurry of purpose! Last note…garages by definition are suppose to house cars, not what doesn’t fit in your home.

Traditional Garage And Shed by Beverly Interior Designers & Decorators Siemasko + Verbridge

Original article excerpted from Good Housekeeping.


Home Remodeling Costs

Rough Estimates for Mid Range Home Remodeling

Cost vs Resale Comparison and Percentage Value Recouped

PROJECT Job Cost Resale Recoup
Attic Bedroom $47,919 $34,916 72.9%
Backup Power Generator $11,410 $6,014 52.7%
Basement Remodel $61,303 $43,095 70.3%
Bathroom Addition $37,501 $20,569 54.8%
Bathroom Remodel $15,782 $10,295 65.2%
Deck Addition (composite) $15,084 $10,184 67.5%
Deck Addition (wood) $9,327 $7,213 77.3%
Entry Door Replacement (fiberglass) $2,753 $1,813 65.9%
Entry Door Replacement (steel) $1,137 $974 85.6%
Family Room Addition $79,006 $50,013 63.3%
Garage Addition $48,806 $31,091 63.7%
Garage Door Replacement $1,496 $1,132 75.7%
Home Office Remodel $27,292 $11,911 43.6%
Major Kitchen Remodel $53,931 $37,139 68.9%
Master Suite Addition $101,873 $64,390 63.2%
Minor Kitchen Remodel $18,527 $13,977 75.4%
Roofing Replacement $18,488 $11,633 62.9%
Siding Replacement (vinyl) $11,192 $8,154 72.9%
Sunroom Addition $72,179 $33,529 46.5%
Two-Story Addition $152,470 $99,674 65.4%
Window Replacement (vinyl) $9,770 $6,961 71.2%
Window Replacement (wood) $10,708 $7,852 73.3%

As compiled in the Remodeling 2014 Cost vs. Value Report (

Ready to Sell? Here’s your assignment!

Prepping your home for showing can be a painful process. However it’s also a perfect time to pare down and start to pack up personal items. Look at it as the beginning stages of your move and it will be much easier to tackle.  Lordes Arbuscato recently published a list she compiled by interviewing top stagers depicting the seven things you should do to give your home the polish it needs for a first impression. I’m paraphrasing for the sake of time.

1. Detach from your personal items and pack them away. Pictures, mementos, personal stuff that just adds clutter. Remember less in a room translates into more space.

2. Don’t walk out of the house until it’s perfectly clean. First and foremost have your home professionally cleaned. Carpets washed, blinds dusted, windows cleaned, etc. Once the heavy stuff is done…maintenance is of paramount importance.  On a daily basis leave your home pristine,  make sure the kitchen and sink are clean, pick up all clothes and shoes and put them away, bathroom towels should be fresh and neat, beds are made, etc.

3. Scentologists will tell you, not only is the visual important but a homes scent, if it’s bad, can be a deal breaker. Not everyone has time to bake bread or chocolate chip cookies (two of the best smells) but you can air out your home, avoid strong cooking odors, get rid of the cat box. Common sense type of things.  If it smells it goes!

4. Remove “sight-line” impairments.  This means pull up the area rugs and the bathroom mats that can make a room look choppy. Long lines and less clutter. No toys, knickknacks, dish towels, portable appliances that stop the eye from the bones of the home. Clean and mean!

5. Improve traffic flow. Take out the excess furniture that might inhibit a comfortable flow through a room.

6. Create the perfect climate.  Not to hot, not to cool, not to dark. Pleasant ambient noises are soothing to buyers soft and subtle music, birds singing from open outside windows, waterfall running.

7, Leave out what you want them to walk away with. Home flyers and pertinent information should be in the foyer for easy accessibility. Put away what you value, jewelry, medicines, financial papers, portable electronics






Weekend Blueprint~

After reading an article written by Laura Gaskill about a timeline for the weekend and the rejuvenation benefits recouped,  I was prompted to add my own editorial comments on how to get the most out of your two days of bliss! I’ve highlighted her subscripts and then elaborated with my own thoughts. After thinking about it overnight I realized that without the balance of work and life we really can’t reach our full potential for both our families and our workplace. We need the time to stop and smell the roses so we can afford to buy them during the week!

1. Kick off the weekend right by hiding all things work and stress related. In other words on Friday night don’t go through the list of oh my god I’ve got to take care of ….start to think about things to do over the weekend that you love to get lost in…gardening, cooking, nesting, riding, etc.

2. Saturday morning indulgence. Now for some that might mean sleeping in or reading a great book in bed. Others might enjoy an early morning run, riding your bike to the ocean and surfing, hitting the golf tees with a hot coffee and a granola bar, setting off on a bike trek or getting to the barn with the early morning sunshine steaming from the rails of the turnouts. Whatever your “go to” passion is, indulging in it once a week is such a wonderful thing and tremendously rejuvenating. After all the first thing to do on Saturday morning should be what we work so hard during the week to enjoy.

3. Save up for Saturday treats.   For me that would be a hot apple fritter! Who said once a week would kill you? Corned beef hash with poached eggs, chocolate milk oh – la – la’s, lox with bagels and cream cheese, pancakes with syrup…anything food related starts the day off with a smile for your tummy and makes your heart happy!

4. Schedule Serenity.  Meditation…hmmm…maybe. A quiet walk on the beach, sitting in the sun and thinking about absolutely nothing but how lucky you are (no matter what is going on). Connecting with that little voice that pushes you through the rest of the week and making a deal with him or her to give you a break for 10 minutes! Seriously, leave me alone and let me relax.

5. Set a home-work boundary.  It’s all right to schedule some work time in the late afternoon right before you have a glass of wine. That way you will keep it short because a new vintner’s special is waiting for the uncorking.

6. Pick a weekend high point.  A project that will give you the sense of fulfillment once accomplished. Whether it’s planting a new garden, reorganizing the garage or cleaning the drawers in your closet. Sometimes it’s those little things that make you feel at peace with the rest of the world because you have cleaned your clutter and can start another day fresh and ready to go.

7. Cook a double dinner.  I love to do this all the time. When I can make one meal and morph it into another I feel terrific. It’s like recycling, being green and saving money all in one dish! Who wouldn’t feel great when you can clean the refrigerator and eat something tasty at the same time.

8.Sunday evening checklist.  All right now you’ve had your enjoyment for the weekend and you have to start gearing up for Monday morning. Whatever you need to do to psychologically prepare for the week, by Sunday late afternoon you need to kick it into gear. Papers ready for a meeting, suit pressed, shoes shined, appointments confirmed, emails returned (the ones you’ve been avoiding)…it’s time to check back in, gently! Get ready and then relax for the rest of the evening with a lovely family dinner and a great movie which moves us into….

9.Weekend closure.  In our family it’s Sunday night dinner, which more often than not has been on the stove or in the oven all day. With smells that fill the home, for me it’s always a time to be thankful we have each other. Embracing the ups and the downs, the joys and the sorrows we come together this evening to share.  We light the candles and sit down this night to remember how special we are to each other. And now with a full tummy, dishes done and movie ordered…we move into…

10. Set a positive intention for the week ahead. This one I was in total agreement with Laura. Before heading to bed on Sunday night, give a little thought to what you hope for in the coming week. Think of something positive to look forward to, plan to wear something new or fun to work and have every intention to enjoy and appreciate all that your life is!

If you would like to see her analysis, here is the link: w=300

Packing made easy!

Tips for the DIY Move

This is  great timeline, written by Anne Simpson, beginning 4 weeks out for a smooth, successful move.   The only thing I would add would be to take a photo of whats in the box so you have a visual inventory. It’s not so easy to remember what is in all those boxes once they’ve been taped shut, they all look the same.  If you have a photo to jog your memory it makes locating items that much easier.  I named and numbered my boxes by room and then correlated them to the photos that I printed out and put in a folder.  It makes remembering sooo much easier!


Horse Properties for Sale

HorsesIf you are looking for Horse Property anywhere in the world, my go to site is masterfully designed and executed by Heather Fogarty. Designed by experienced horse people that know what each Equestrian discipline requires the website provides a detailed specific search for amenities you need.  For instance how many stalls in the barn and are there in and outs, how many pastures and paddocks are available and are they irrigated, what type of footing is in the arena and are the arenas covered, trail availability, tack room and grooming facilities, the attention to detail is refreshingly thorough. Please visit her site @ or give me a call if you need assistance.