joy of nesting

joy of nesting
Shiree Hanson Segerstrom Design and Wellness for Women with Arthritis and Other Chronic Pain.

Foodie Fetishes California Style

  I have food fetishes.  There, I said it.  I have been known to be difficult if a menu doesn't have sufficient produce type dishes. I'm not a vegetarian, I'm a Californian. Need I say more? Californians are the worst kind of food snobs.  

While traveling last fall with my good friend cum design client Charlene, she saw the Food Beast come out at least once. We had just arrived after about 10 hours travel time to Cape Cod. I'd had nothing substantial to eat and was getting panicky. She took me to her favorite little breakfast place.

If you travel quite a bit and you have food fetishes you can size up a restaurant within 60 seconds of walking in the door.  My antenna sent signals of calories and carbohydrates. The sweet and patient waiter told me in his Boston accent that because it was late in the season there wasn't a single melon or berry in the kitchen. How is November "late in the season"? I don't get this. November is melon season, how can you not have cantaloupe in November? Ugh! There it is...that Californian sense of produce privilege.

On this particular morning my menu acumen wasn't working. I ordered oatmeal feeling it was the safest alternative.  Wrong.  This batch had been sitting on the stove for a few hours and was a glutenous blob. I sent it back and ordered eggs. This time I was successful. With my hissy fit behind us, Charlene took me to the grocery store where to my supreme delight, we found produce.  The week on Cape Cod was saved...I could go back to being mannerly.

Sometime ago I started training my taste buds to enjoy fruits, vegetables, and salads. Colorful foods are high in nutrition and antioxidants. Among the best are broccoli, red bell peppers, asparagus, beets, vine ripened tomatoes, cucumber, leafy greens like spinach and arugula, oranges, mango, berries, and cantaloupe.  Combining sweet and savory ingredients in salad is a current favorite with fantastic taste. My friend Olivette declared me the salad queen and I wear my title proudly.

Local farmers' markets, probably thanks to Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, have gained a lot of popularity. Thankfully we are getting back to basics...this from someone who's never grown a tomato! Me that is. Alice has been bringing to us the philosophy of using seasonal, locally grown produce for over twenty years.  She has also been a terrific advocate for the organic movement. I love that her dishes are so simple using the best, freshest ingredients and allowing the produce to take center stage rather than using fancy preparations. My menus today are...


watermelon, raspberry, banana smoothie with soy protein powder
and a whole grain Ezekiel English muffin with butter.  

Broiled chicken breast and a salad of red beets, Pt. Reyes blue cheese,
fresh figs, and toasted walnuts with balsamic and olive oil.

 Aidell's chicken portobello mushroom sausages and a large artichoke.

celery and sunflower seeds.
(I am low on fruit so the smoothie and figs will have to do.)

No dessert today. I did a homemade fresh strawberry tart with creme patisserie on Sunday, had two pieces and sent the rest home with David. He can afford the calories. I can't. And my triglyceride count can't afford it either...405?  Really?

Sunday night David and I grilled the wild halibut I had splurged on at Whole Foods. For those few of you who haven't shopped at Whole Foods, it's also known as Whole Paycheck. We grilled white corn on the cob and I made the previously mentioned tart and a wonderful, perfectly delicious salsa of peaches, red onion, lime juice, cilantro, avocado, and tomatoes. I've put peach salsas with fish before and it is so satisfying. There it is, that sweet and savory thing again.

To pass my Foodie Fetish test a food must look good, taste extremely good, be relatively easy to prepare, and be extremely good for you. I haven't read the Mediterranean Diet but I know it consists of fish, nuts, beans, and colorful fruits and vegetables. I like to imagine myself on the Greek or Italian coasts in summer, eating a Greek salad outdoors, lingering late into the night over a glass of cold white wine.  My renditions of Mediterranean food include my roasted red bell pepper soup which is in the archives of this blog; a lovely shrimp cocktail with fat shrimp, lime juice, cilantro, red onion, cucumber, and avocado served in an over sized wine goblet;  

and a favorite dish Jim would make us, a fresh pasta sauce of vine ripened tomatoes with garlic and olive oil.  You quickly blanch the tomatoes with boiling water and remove the skins and seeds, drain, and heat gently with the olive oil and garlic. You can add a little fresh basil to this. The sauce is also fantastic over polenta.   Dishes like I have mentioned today take prep time but not a lot of technique. The ingredients can be expensive but if you use seasonal produce you can shave costs. Trader Joe's has wild salmon in the frozen section for $8 a pound. Also, shopping at farmers' markets removes the middle man and allows more savings. Don't over buy. Produce, particularly in the summer, goes bad quickly. Plan to buy produce once or twice a week.

My shopping list...

Wild salmon
organic free range chicken
Diestel free range turkey, ground
shrimp in moderation

fish I want to buy more often...
sea bass

raw spinach
butter leaf 
red onions
beets, in moderation
sweet potatoes, in moderation
bananas, in moderation
red bell peppers
green beans
carrot juice, I don't love raw carrots

sunflower seeds
toasted walnuts
toasted pecans
raw almonds
peanuts, in moderation

black beans
garbanzo hummus!
pinto beans
red beans

brown rice, in moderation
whole wheat pasta, in moderation
whole grain breads


olive oil
variety of vinegars
lemon juice
lime juice
calamata olives

Mix ingredients well. With love and good intention, Shiree'. 

Photography taken from


Boxwood, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.  And rosemary, and bay, and thyme. 

Gardening for me began as a necessity. I wanted the outside of my house to present itself well to the world.  I love all plants and garden paraphernalia such as statues, iron gates, and trellis. But when I first started out as a gardener and Jim, Christian, and I were in our first little starter house, my yard was mostly deck.

I had no idea what went into gardening or hard scape. I knew about tulips, daffodils, and half barrels. Pouring in the soil pretty much comprised my gardening skills.  Some three houses later I have more garden than I can manage alone.  I started tending to my Hillcrest garden before we even moved in. The house was in excellent condition for its age but the gardens needed a little help.

A lot of plants and the huge magnolia out front had to be removed. The ivy was in bad shape but the roses and mature azaleas were thriving. My dear friend and neighbor Mary watched in horror from the street below, hands on hips, as the tree service cut the magnolia down. It was over 75 feet and I think Mary felt it should have been left alone. Unfortunately it was uprooting our foundation.   

Melba and Lewis built the house in 1931 and lived there until about 1990. Melba was a real gardener and this garden looks the ways it does largely because of the designs she implemented early on.  I put some thought into the plants I chose as replacements, thinking of Melba and what she would have liked. I wanted it to respect her era and also reflect the Spanish style architecture.

What I "saw" in my mind was a garden with lots of greenery year round. I need greenery. It makes me feel healthy. I believe it's nourishing to the soul. I planted lots of olives, more ivy, strawberry trees, English bay, Carolina laurel, bay standards, and several varieties of euonymous. My favorite greenery in the world being boxwood, I naturally have accumulated them throughout the yard. 

And I love what they do for your patio. My patio is concrete painted Timber Box Red from Kelley Moore and it looks better and feels better when "planted". Melba's peonies are beautiful this time of year. I also was thrilled to find a Lenten rose way up in the back yard! It's the light chartreuse variety. And there is a camphor tree, lots of cotoneaster, a large mahonia, and woodwardia. I planted hydrangeas for arrangements in the summer.

Time for a little gardening, below.

My good friend Peggy decided she didn't want Steve to have to maintain the fountain any longer and I'd always admired it's special sound. She offered it to me recently and David did a beautiful job of installing it.  So grateful!

Even though the garden is minutes from our bustling downtown, it feels soft and protected.

Most items were purchased at my store S.S.Home. Topiary by Schubert's Nursery. Iron daybed and muslin mattress by Comptoir de Famille. Long back cushion in striped ticking Two's Company. Paisley down throw pillows by TAG. Coffee sack down pillows by Pottery Barn. Wicker furniture by Comptoir de Famille. Stone urns by Barreveld. Iron candelabra and red suzani style pillows Pier One Imports. Moorish style black metal hanging lantern by Lazy Susan. Rustic shutters custom designs by
Spring Moss.  


Thank you Baby.


The last of the old timers, my buddy Spreckie. He is an indoor dog but just loooves being outside with the people.


Boxwood Junkie. With evergreens, particularly those in pots, it's really important to prune and feed. Potted evergreens especially need this because they don't have as much new growth as deciduous plants and they don't get as much nourishment from the soil like plants in the ground. I prefer to trim my evergreen topiary way back and feed right around Mother's Day but it differs in other parts of the country. You want to trim when the danger of frost has passed but also before it gets too hot! Right in between. As maintenance feed them every other week, leaf feeding too, and trim them before they get too out of shape. 


My fiance' David has been wanting to go to Yosemite and I have been dragging my feet because the weather has been less than fantastic in California this year.  He took Tuesday after Memorial Day off and we finally made the trip. We got up early, dressed in layers, and packed a picnic lunch with Diestel's (a past design their stuff) smoked turkey sandwiches, cherries, and some type of orange fleshed melon.

It took us about an hour and a half to get to the valley floor and as we were coming into the park we saw two big bears, or is it bear, in one of the meadows. It was a first for me...seeing a bear in the wild that is. I was pretty excited! To say they're powerful is an understatement. We all know the damage they can do to cars and ice chests.

David thought hiking to Vernal Falls would be the most realistic hike for us that day. It turned out to be quite a workout as it's uphill all the way. I was surprised to see how many people were braving it. A lot of them were resting along side the trail.  I have been going to Yosemite since I was seventeen and had never hiked in to Vernal. You could feel the spray I am guessing a football field distance away from the falls. The sound was tremendous. I shutter to think I let Christian go on this hike on a school field trip without Jim or me along. So many hazards! I can't remember when the field trip was exactly. Maybe it was in high school when he was older and and wiser (ffmmmph)! Teasing.

David has more energy than two twenty somethings together. Put a camera in his hand, and you have what my mother likes to call a "buzz saw". I posed for pictures literally every 40 feet. He doesn't like to miss even one photo op and Yosemite is nothing but! He always reminds me "you will love having them later, trust me."  And of course he is right, but I did have to put a limit on the amount of pictures with me in them.


Seeing how huge the water was, I kept wondering what Jim would have said. My husband was the foremost authority on white water training in the world.  A lofty claim, but true. He developed the first swift water rescue technician program (and coined the phrase) from which all others have evolved. Google Jim to find out more.  Our companies, Rescue 3 International and Special Rescue Services Group trained quite a few Yosemite park employees and search and rescue team members.

I don't know about you but I get a good, strong feeling when I go hiking. It elevates my mood and feelings of healthiness. It makes me want to eat, or take a nice long ninety minute nap in the car while David does all the driving. Sorry Babe. It must have been a blood sugar drop from those M & M's you made me eat.

The canyon is one of the many beautiful photo ops in Yosemite.

This is as close as we got to Vernal Falls. The rest of the hike, about another 400 feet required rain gear.

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The Psychology of Color

Color is a broad and fascinating least it is to me!  It obviously fascinates others as well. There are certainly enough books written about it. I feel the need to control color in my own home. When you work with color, at the end of the day you just want to come home to something soothing. This bedroom below is anything but soothing and yet I find it interesting.  It is more for a teenage girl's room really, not an adults. 


The trick to using color is in knowing color psychology. There are cool colors, warm colors, and colors that can go either way. Generally, cool colors are blues, greens, and purples while warm colors are reds, yellows, and oranges.  Cool colors are restful and warm colors are exciting.

If you are trying to make a room more intimate, smaller, or mysterious warm reds, mustard's, and terra cottas are your best bet. If a calm environment is what you are going for, cool shades of blues and greens will accomplish it.

The above room is one of my favorite of Michael Smith's designs. On my website bio I list Michael as one of my inspirations. I always mix eras in my designs. I don't care for the static look of a home with all new furniture! This living room has a few warm touches but it's mostly blues and browns which is very comfortable on the eye.

Red on a sofa or chair or any piece of furniture for that matter enlarges it. And when you paint a room red, it visually makes it smaller. This seems to be contradictory until you realize that red visually advances, or comes towards you. If its on walls, the walls advance make the room seem smaller. If it's on a chair, the chair visually advances make it seem larger. 

I am not sure if this wall color above is chartreuse or yellow but I think it's yellow. The black and red make great color counterpoints don't they?

Combining the same color with a different color makes a big change in the look and mood of the space. Here is same yellow, black, and white theme but with turquoise added. See the different effect the turquoise has on the room?

The view of this Jonathan Adler room is artistic and moody. It's a multi-color theme with touches of orange, turquoise, teal, green, and brown. Jonathan was a ceramicist initially who went into interior design. The variety of colors gives it an art school look.


Stephen Shubel has been a favorite of mine for years. The view of this bedroom appears to have a blush color on the walls. It is so soft and restful! It appears to be the color of baby skin! So sumptuous! I love the punctuation of black and white with just a touch of red, velvet no less.
Color psychology is offered through most college design curriculum's.
Each color has two or three corresponding effects.

Psychological Effects of Color...
Pink-light hearted, healthy, feminine; playful
White-clean; can be sterile
red- warm; sexy; can be vulgar
orange- warm; creative; can be tacky and cheap
blue-calming; patriotic when mixed with red and white
teal-a color of resorts and other vacation destinations
green-cool and/or warm depending on the shade; can remind you of hospitals
yellow-cheerful, friendly, can denote feelings of illness or jaundice
turquoise- exotic; multi-cultural
brown-restful; nature; boring when overused
black- crisp, classic, the color of death

The Tools That Build Beautiful Rooms

Balance, rhythm, emphasis, proportion, unity, light, color, space, form, line, texture: If you were to explain why a space is appealing to the eye these would provide you with a language.  I call them tools but design course manuals call them the principles and elements of design.  

The picture of my garden roses in a vintage vase portrays color and vertical line. Vertical line imparts formal feelings and drama.


So much of what I do is instinctual, for instance I would be loathe to put skirts on client sofas and chairs in a small room. I know instinctively a small room needs an airy feel to enlarge it visually and that can most easily be accomplished by using seating with out skirts. The above room is a good example of that. What is clever is that the designer used draperies in the doorway which provides a vertical line thus imparting a feeling a drama and formality. The choice of colors is also very imaginative. Photography often changes a room's color but it appears that this room has blue walls, gold curtain panels, and a pale lime green on the sofa.  

Don't you love all the multi-color rooms we've been seeing this year? They bring to mind European design greats such as Jacques Grange and Alberto Pinto.


The room (above) is a great example of line and balance. You see symmetrical balance on the fireplace wall with it's flanking built in shelving which imparts formality, yet the lines of the room are mostly horizontal which gives the room it's restful and casual feel.

The room above is very simple. No doubt the designer meant it to be restful with the taupe and white color scheme and lack of color contrasts. It has mostly horizontal lines (sofa, chairs, low tables). The zebra print chair is a nice touch and I love the sofa and occasional table.  I could recommend built in bookcases when time and budget allows. And perhaps a little more scale in the desk and it's chair.

The foyer above has a simple yet dramatic appeal. This is an effective design scheme when you are "playing up" dramatic architecture, art, or furniture. It's a good example of why dark colors can sometimes work in small spaces. The lack of light gives it a mysterious, moody feel as opposed to the light filled foyer below which is open and bright with rustic touches. I love the textures: slate floors, oatmeal woodwork, white washed table, and linen slip covered Parson's chair. It's like an Anglo version of Axel Vervoordt's style.

Color, light, and symmetrical balance are evident in the view of this room above. You also see vertical line (formality) in the candlesticks and horizontal line (restful, casual) in the sofa and cocktail table.

Color is in. Neutral color schemes are not as popular as they once were but are still hanging on. The good neutral room designs rely on texture,scale and sometimes contrast for oomph. They are much harder to design than rooms with color. Color is an easy, often inexpensive way to provide excitement to commercial or residential projects and visual display installations. A few red accessories in this neutral color scheme keeps the design from becoming boring. The million dollar view doesn't hurt either.

The room below has good examples of space, form, proportion, and unity. Proportion can be seen in the ceiling height and architectural molding. Unity is seen in the classic furniture and fixture and how it relates to the room. I love this update of traditional and classic. Many of the elements of this room are obviously from another time and era but the way it's been put together is very current.

I love the Moorish feel of the built-in unit, the Moroccan tea table, and the Indian inspired print of the chair. Mind you the elements in this room only hint at Morocco but they give the room style. The view of this room is subtle in color and is relying on line, proportion, and scale for visual interest.

The outdoor room below has a crisp feel with the striped pillows and raffia seating. It's relies on texture and unity. Texture from the trees and plants and furniture, unity from the coordination of the various furnishings. 

The appeal of this room is in it's texture and proportion, or scale.  I love the height of the cabinet which fills up that large wall nicely.

This scheme is appealing because of light, contrast, and proportion. Color was not needed: the flooring and wall divider make bold statements without it. I love the sheen on the stone and lacquered dresser! This foyer has a modern yet retro style, a very popular look right now. 

I think what makes my breakfast room appealing to me is the warmth of the colors. The custom made valances mimic the arches throughout the house. That's a Ralph Lauren floral I've used in several colorways in various client projects. The antique light fixture was refinished by my good friends Van and Melanie.


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