Sunshine on Orange County's Shoulder?

photograph image Salt Creek Beach, Dana Point, Orange County, California sunset with palm trees by Caroline Gerardo

With inventory of new homes being listed at a record low for Orange County California and Data Quick reporting big percentage gains for Laguna Niguel (up 31%) Newport Beach (up 40%) and Newport Coast (up 41%) residential real estate in South County is looking rosy. Sellers appear reluctant to list their homes and Realtors are reporting sellers taking houses off the market to wait for more gains in the spring.

Are we really out of the woods? I believe the trough, big dip decline is behind us but my crystal ball predicts a rocky Sisyphus climb ahead. Employment is our biggest problem in Southern California. The Bay area is seeing recovery in San Francisco proper as a boom because of tech jobs heating up. Multiple offers and offers bidding up prices are the talk of the town.

Mortgage rates are at all-time lows, approaching what happened in Japan with near two percent interest rates. It seems that Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, will do anything to keep those rates down. In a recent news conference following a Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in Washington, D.C. he encouraged Americans to buy a home and live the American dream.

This leaves me with questions about our future. Is it really a great idea to buy a home when it no longer seems to be an investment and home buyer tax deductions look to be on the chopping block? Without job growth will we sustain these short term residential real estate value gains? Or does everyone hurry to buy before the spring deluge?
I hope it will be "Sunshine On My Shoulder," don't you?



Thanksgiving Family Fun

 Nieces, nephews and my children setting up for Risk marathon game after dinner. We enjoy the fun of our family being together. All the kids sleep over. We went to the trampoline jumping place, played baseball, and football...
Thanksgiving fireplace and table during the day. Sweet gum leaves -wash in cold water soak in 1 part water 1 part glycerin on cookie sheets with weight on top. We tried melting crayons and they were ugly. We also tried hand lotion and the result is crumbly leaves. String leaves with jute

Platter with fresh vegetables by my daughter Blair in shape of a turkey. We're big game players after Thanksgiving dinner- Monopoly - and Risk

Table setting in process earlier in the day. I used old quilts as folk art tablecloth. Sprigs of rosemary and thyme were arranged, cut from my organic garden. These are placed low so guests may talk. Candles and flowers were added last minute

View from upstairs
Thanksgiving at my house for twenty two guests. I pace myself and start three days in advance. Menue includes: roast turkey with herbs brined in salt and herbs the day before. Elle's Mashed garlic potatoes, beets with grapefruit and feta chees, salad with five vegetables, corn muffins, rosemary gravey, quiche with artichoke, Jen brought sweet potato cassarole, stuffing, roasted chestnuts and green beans, pumpkin and squash Indian spiced soup in pumpkins, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, apple pie, fudge, pumpkin cheesecake, lemon and tangerine bread, and snacks before and after.

Daughter Blair made individual place cards for all family members



Potting recipe for colorful spring yard


I'm planting winter seeds in South Orange County California. Time to get into the dirt:  lettuce, chard, wildflowers, sweet peas. Sharing a tip with you that is easy. I save seeds from last year but I also buy new not Monsanto seeds. First I solarize the area to plant (cover with black plastic tarps and let the sun cook the weeds and bugs for about 2 or three weeks, 2 if the weather is warm, 3 if cooler).  Next I pick out any survivors and toss not compost. Dig and loosen the soil and add some rotted compost. Mix the seeds with used left over coffee grounds to allow more even spreading. Put the seeds into the cool used grounds and stir well for 10 seconds. Spread to the depth required and sprinkle soil fairies on top. Water well for the next ten days keep wet. A recipe for sturdy beautiful spring flowers and food right here in Laguna Niguel

Gorgeous potting bench arrangement by Tiffany Hunter check her amazing staging for homes to sell on 1588 Monrovia Avenue Newport Beach


Crow Prevention with Kindness


We have a problem with crows being overpopulated in South Orange County. They are rather intelligent birds and work in family groups. Crows can be noisy, aggressive and I believe they recognize human faces as individuals. I have an organic garden that I don't want them stealing produce and I don't want to use chemicals. Here are some strategies to deal with these guys.

I have a neighbor in Wyoming who decided to try and shoot at them (not actually hunt them) to scare them off his property but this action brought the wrath of the crows. First they proceeded to poop on his truck at every opportunity, then they would scream before dawn on his roof. They even tore the rubber lining off his front pickup truck windshield (pecked at the whole lining until the glass would rattle). I believe it is illegal to hunt crows in residential neighborhoods of Orange County. They are protected as migratory corvids.

The crows pull up lawns in Laguna Beach and Laguna Niguel during the Fall months looking for these white moth larvae. The damage is pretty ugly and no amount of lawn poison seems to kill off the grubs that attract the birds to come rip panels of grass up. I read that the grubs do not like clover so my lawn in the front is now predominantly three kinds of clover (red white and pink). Planting the variety keeps the lawn green year round.

When I saw the damage this year the crows were starting on my neighbors lawns I decided to take a new attitude and befriend the crows rather than shoo them away. For a week I took the heel of a loaf of bread, some peanuts, or sunflower seeds and randomly tossed them in a very showy gesture not at the crows but on my driveway. Then I waited and did my weeding. They were very suspicious of me at first. The first two days the birds did not come down until I went back into the house. On the third day the largest bird hopped down waiting for me to spin the food into the air and called his buddies to join in the meal. Now three weeks later I feed them randomly twice a week, and they have left us alone.

Maybe making peace is easier than prevention. In the photograph is an apple and a persimmon tree that a neighbor is using brown grocery bags and paper clips to keep the crows away from stealing the fruit. Perhaps it’s also to keep the south side from sunburn, we’ll see if it works. Don’t start calling me Tippi Hedren...

Update to story 4/9/2013 here: more to follow