Outdoor Globe Lights

Magical lighting idea. Designed by Smart & Green these cordless, rechargeable, waterproof, durable globes are perfect for lighting your backyard in style. Three intensities of white light as well as a candle effect these globes are available in 6 colors : blue, green, orange, pink, turquoise and white.  With up to 12 hours in a single use they are rechargeable as well as programmable. There is an optional remote control unit that can control up to 100 globes.  Transportable you can easily move them to the deck or indoors and display them with their handle and magnet components.

Available at Ylighting for $299, remote $33.


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 ( www.costvsvalue.com)

Tavern on the Green is back!

Shuttered at the end of 2009, this quintessential New York restaurant has reemerged as the elegant establishment it was originally conceived as in 1934 by Englishman Calvert Vaux, one of the designers of Central Park. Philadelphia-based restaurateurs Jim Caiola and David Salama took over the iconic building in 2012. “We were faced with how to transform a space with the structure of a barn into a restaurant that isn’t too rustic,” says Salama, who is also an artist. “We wanted it to look like it had always been there, and we researched Gothic Revival style and consulted books on medieval style for the design of the interior paneling.”

Tavern on the Green Restaurant

Tavern on the Green’s new Bar Room.  Photo: Robin Caiol

Tavern on the Green Restaurant

The dining area and open kitchen in the Central Park Room. Photo: Robin Caiola

More popular for it’s location, the restaurant was never known for it’s fine cuisine.  Katy Sparks, new head chef, is setting her sights high to change the past reputation for lack of culinary diversification.  “Her focus will be on high-quality local and seasonal foods—a passion that stems from Sparks’s upbringing on a farm in Vermont. The menu includes such dishes as Heritage Breed pork chop with roasted rhubarb and fennel and Vermont quail with grits, homemade chorizo, and wood-roasted grapes.”




Remodel or Move?

Faced with low housing inventory,  homeowners are choosing to remodel their existing homes in numbers that  reached over $130 billion in 2013. As reported by Kris Hudson in the Wall St Journal, this is a 3% increase over last year with a prediction to become a 5% increase in 2014 as reflected by the pending home construction permits issued. One of the facilitators for the increase in remodeling is the once again available Home Equity Loan which almost disappeared after 2007. Property values have increased in some areas of the Bay Area by over 25% in the last year which increases the equity required by lending institutions to issue this loans.  Economically speaking the increase in remodeling is welcomed by the contractors, architects, designers and suppliers by keeping their industry strong in these uncertain times. Tempered with the memory of the last housing market downturn, all parties appear to be cautiously optimistic that the return on the “re-investment” in their home is a better financial choice than facing the low inventory housing market which includes overbidding, multiple offers and asks the proverbial question, “Do we sell before we buy?”

If you are thinking of remodeling but don’t know where to begin, call me for a list of professionals that I have worked with, lenders and contractors.

Garden & Home Accents


I have a few of these Antique Urns in my garden at home and I love the pitted patinas that they develop over time.  If you leave them in a shaded area the porous nature of the urn will grow a beautiful green moss on them.  Whether you put globes in them or greenery they add a dimension to your landscaping similar to what a sculpture would elicit, a bit of artistry outside. You can also bring them inside and use them to accent your dining room table with Hurricane Lanterns like these shown below. Using a Linen runner on the table under the urns I’d place the Faux Topiary Containers on the table and then scatter  small 4 ”  Topiary rounds around the display.  Finish off with antique glass tea candle holders and you have a terrific table scape with romantic lighting ideal for dining.  If you want to add color to the muted tones of the table, small glass vases with the flower of your choice will make the table pop with color.

Boxwood Ball Artificial...



Sunny Rum Punch!


Seaside Sunrise

Seaside Sunrise Rum Punch

  • 2 cups pineapple juice
  • 2 cups orange-mango juice
  • 2 cups passion fruit–flavored rum
  • 1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
  • 2 tablespoons grenadine
  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle sparkling water (optional)
  • Garnishes: orange and lime slices

Combine first 5 ingredients and chill.  Serve with sparkling water floating on top.

Cocktails for a crowd. Here are 7 other Summertime drink recipes from Coastal Living.

Photo: Jennifer Davick





Demand down for Home Loans & Refi’s

With the recent policy change announced by the Fed in regard to reducing it’s bond purchases, interest rates have gradually ticked up in anticipation. For the first fiscal quarter of 2014 mortgage lending declined to the lowest level in 14 years with the largest decline measured in the refinancing market. Loans for new home purchases were for the most part unchanged during the first part of 2013 but did dip down during the 4th quarter.

According to Inside Mortgage Finance as reported by Nick Timiraos of the WSJ, lenders funded $235 billion in mortgage loans during the period January – March 2014 which is a dramatic 58% decrease from the same period last year and a 23% decrease from the last quarter of 2013.

The sluggishness of the housing market could very well be an indicator of the anemia of the economy in general. When the housing market is strong GDP growth begins to improve. The softness in the housing market could be indicative of low wage and job growth. Consumers are unwilling to purchase homes at higher prices with money that is more costly than it was 6 months ago. When your dollar buys less the consumer stops buying, especially the investor.

If the Fed envisioned the housing market as it’s initial catalyst to boost the economy these figures might be cause to reconsider. Refinancing fell 75% during the first quarter of 2014 in comparison to the same period of time in 2013 according to Inside Mortgage Finance. “Refinancing has made up on average more than 40% of all mortgage lending since 2000,  it fell to 47% of all mortgage lending in the first quarter, compared with 78% a year earlier.” Nick Timiraos, WSJ

Lenders facing this challenging market, in an attempt to bolster numbers are restructuring the requirements for new home loan qualifications by easing the standards they had recently adopted after the Fannie Mae Freddie Mac fiasco. Loosening underwriting however might not ease the mortgage decline if consumers buying power has been decreased due to damaged credit, insufficient income due to job loss or cut backs.

The decrease in loan purchases and refinancing however might be indicative of a broader picture of economic uncertainty and true unemployment figures.
* Excerpts from WSJ article by Nick Timiraos and Eric Morath

Luxury Home Rentals in Santa Barbara!

Somerset – Montecito

Paradise Retreats, a luxury vacation rental agency, was founded in 2006 by Theo Kracke a Business Economics graduate from UCSB. His business philosophies of integrity, innovation, and value have launched his company to the forefront of private home vacation rentals in the area of Santa Barbara, Montecito and surrounding communities. A resident of Santa Barbara since 1981, Theo began his business experience founding Techstyles, a resort apparel company. Propelling this business into the lead within a matter of years he then sold the company to explore the vacation rental demand in the Santa Barbara area. Once again he hit success. With the company’s representation of high end, beach and country home rentals the variety to choose from is limitless.

‘Paradise Retreats offers unsurpassed service to Guests and Owners of the vacation homes we represent.  Our properties are beautiful and well-maintained, and have all the amenities you would expect in a luxury home. We specialize in satisfying the needs of the discriminating customer, who expects the best in service and quality.  Each of our properties offers a unique and special experience.”

Here are just a few of their available properties.

Butterfly Beach – Montecito

Mesa Oceanfront – Santa Barbara

Vista Del Valle – Santa Ynez