Sunday, June 29, 2008

Accepting defeat

So I went to Little Rock this weekend, and when I got back, Simon had torn out most of the remaining four o'clocks. Before I could do anything else about it, he dug another 3 or 4 feet into the bed. Adam and I are going to try to devise some sort of "permanent" barrier. He's old enough that he won't want to jump over something, so as long as he can't pull or push it out, it should work. For next year, at least. As for this year, I've admitted defeat. (Update: Mom says seeds might still have time to take hold!!) I had a picture, but I couldn't bring myself to post it. I already threw a crazy childish tantrum over the issue. I'd like to forget the whole thing ever happened. The good news is, the bed just on the other side of the fence is going gangbusters:

These lantanas and four o'clocks should be blooming any day now. That bed is only actually a couple of feet wide and maybe three feet long, but the plants really overflow. It's sort of wild and secret gardenish.

Now, what was I doing in Little Rock? I think I mentioned before that my best friend bought a house. I wanted to see it in person and spend a little quality time with a bottle of wine on her front porch. We did all that and ate some yummy food, too. We also rearranged her dining room and talked shop-- colors and walkways and passthroughs. At the end of the weekend I made a special request. Could I please PLEASE post pictures of the ugly, nay-- heinous-- lights in her house. Pretty PRETTY please? She's a good friend. She said yes.

So I'll start you off with an easy one. This is inconspicuous, located inthe stairwell:

Next, we have the entryway.

Now it gets harder: The dining room-- shiny brass...

And the coup, lighting the breakfast nook--

But just so I don't leave you with a bad impression of her house, here's a quick pic of my favorite thing-- the dining room table that belonged to her grandmother. The table is stained dark, and the leaf is left a light honey oak. It's the best runner ever; no kitties pulling it off the table.

And meanwhile, back in our dining room...

Somebody's enjoying the fountain.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My reno inferiority complex; otherwise known as rambling.

Sometimes I look at all these houseblogs and ogle the beautifully staged spaces. In the first place, many of them lack clutter of any kind. I could never be so neat and tidy. It's not in my nature, and I'm sure some of you relate. I take detailed notice of things all over the house, and generally know where somebody set something down while passing through the dining room, or where I watched someone else put the unopened jar of pasta sauce; I'm even particularly OCD about weird things, like how the towels hang in the bathroom, and the way the kitchen is cleaned after cooking with chicken. But if I go on a massive spring cleaning, I'm stumped. And frankly, I've let my life get to the point where I'm not sure I could ever get completely decluttered and remain employed.

And I also often take note of whether someone hired out the work or did it him or herself. I have been known to get a little discouraged when I hear how quickly some project or other got finished-- until I realize that the work was hired out to someone who didn't learn how to do the job off the internet (coughcough like we did coughcough) while we pitifully muddle our way through. I feel a little better about my snail's pace. I'm in the midst of a learning curve!

But today I noticed this: a lot of the After pictures that look so professionally staged? Those houses contain "nicer" stuff than I have at the moment. I'm still slowly weeding out the college furniture and collecting the heirlooms, so I've got a ways to go before my stuff looks polished. Oh hell. It'll never looked polished. I don't have polished taste. Not to mention, by the time I get through replacing the crap stuff, the initially nice things I bought or the antique I inherited will be ready for replacement or refinishing, respectively. And actually, I prefer to live in that kind of mismatched space. The few times in my life where I have made the place immaculate, I spent all my time getting a stomach ulcer over everyone else's inability to clean after themselves.

So while this was an initially depressing thought-- as in an, "I'm not sure I'll ever have the money to have nice things AND fix up the house"-- I've decided it's actually a comforting thought: It's not because I suck at this! It's because I'm still not a grown-up yet. I like lots of quirky things with sentimental value; I still like to sleep in my clothes on occasion, and hang pictures on the walls with pushpins.

Not one for polish, I suppose.

And you know, maybe that leads to a larger theme-- that there's a pretty big difference between renovating or remodeling, and interior design. I like to try and separate the two, at least initially. I know that the design dresses up and theoretically shows off the reno, though really, it ultimately comes down to taste. But it's such a fun part of the project...

So props to those of you with beautiful, polished spaces-- I envy you. I still love to ogle your finished projects and use them as a bar toward which to strive. I'm just content knowing I'll likely never quite get there!

On the eve of destruction

Exhibit A: The Destroyer.

Exhibit B: The crime scenes.

This is the edge of the patio. Granted, the bricks were kind of falling off there in the first place, but this is after I've filled it back in. As you can see on the right, he's gone well below the paint line on the brick. And sometimes he kicks the bricks out into the yard.

A spot I haven't had to fill in a few days.

Can't see where the patio ends and the dirt begins? Not surprised. Another favorite makeshift bed.

Sigh. The infamous four-o'clock bed. The lawnchair propped up against the wall-- that's where he dug further into the bed killing the plants that were there. I'm rather hoping for a come-back.

And then there's the monkey grass, which he used to lay on. We have to keep the chairs on it:
So he occasionally does this:
Thankfully, this morning I found him sleeping here with the cat:
Between the tree and the bench. That is a location I can live with.

I also noticed a couple of blooms on the four-o'clocks across the patio. This means the plants in the bed aren't far behind.

I'll take what I can get.

It's gonna be a cold, lonely summer

I had dinner with my girlfriends last night. One of them is moving to Chicago; another is spending the remainder of the summer in Illinois. My best friend already lives a few hours away, and my sister is moving to Boston. Those of us left behind are going to have to rally together.

I'll tell you what's likely to happen. I'll end up spending too much money shopping, that's what I'll do. Maybe I'll single-handedly revive the economy! In fact, it's already started. I've been looking for an affordable salt mill and pepper mill set-- not a pepper mill and salt shaker. Mills. Both. I finally found these:

I've been searching for years.

The only other homefront news I think I have is that we have a tomato growing. I was starting to think the 2 liter bottle thing was a failure...and I still think it mostly is. We should have bought patio varieties and/or planted them in 5 gallon buckets and hung them from the carport. We'll try that next year.

In the meantime:

Now, if we can just keep the slugs off the strawberries, we'll be golden. We've had a constant stream of blossoms on the strawberry plants, but the slugs and snails just keep eating them! Since I sprayed the aphids away, I haven't seen them come back; however, the slugs are more than picking up the slack. So I'm gonna research some organic repellent. Since we tend to want to eat our own crops with just a rinse of water, I'd prefer to not spray chemicals if I can help it. Any tried and true solutions are welcome!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"Why aren't puppies reasonable" or, "Understanding imminent domain"

What a shitty way to start the day.

I was able to keep the dog out of my flower bed long enough to let the four-o'clocks grow nice and bushy. The corner where he dug the most never grew up, but that's ok. I'd resigned myself to putting a bird bath sort of between that spot and the rest of the flowers and letting him have the corner under our window.

In the meantime, he's found other places to dig, which I refill once every day or two, raking dirt back in them, or buying cheap topsoil when it somehow (??is he eating it??) disappears. I'm ok with that. It makes him happy. There weren't any flowers or grass, or much of anything really there for him to have ruined. But while I was in Florida, he got back into his flowerbed corner. And I thought, "It's ok. I've given up anyway. He can have it. I'll find a nice bird bath."

And what did I find this morning? He's dug another two feet into the bed and killed another four-o'clock plant. Grrr. I was trying to compromise with him. We had an agreement and then he goes and claims more for himself! Can't he see that that's a violation of the terms of our treaty?

I contemplated the idea of giving him designated digging areas, but he's not digging to expend energy or to catch bugs. He calmly digs out a spot and nestled in it up against something-- the patio bricks, the garage, the house foundation. It's how he likes to sleep.

So anyway. I guess this means I have errands to run between work and dinner: a new birdbath and landscaping rock to try and prevent further unauthorized encroachment.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Our best laid plans

We tried to get things done this weekend. We really did. Unfortunately, I enter the new week with nary a picture to show for it.

Adam has been working. A lot. Some on the weekends, even. So I have to say that the hours diverted to financially viable endeavors and the sleep needed to keep up with such diversions, has certainly put a dent in our progress. Add to that my Florida work trip and illness, it's been hard to get anything done.

Once I got over the cold, I spent Friday night in bed with debilitating stomach cramps. But Saturday morning I felt pretty good, so I tackled some of the boxes that were still lingering in the dining room. I got 2 walls of the room cleared and unpacked (the poor dining room table has rings of boxes surrounding it on all sides...well, now on 2 sides). I even set up my fountain on the broad windowsill and set up accessories (!!). And then after lunch, the stomach cramps hit again. But by Sunday I felt better... good enough, in fact, to spend all afternoon helping the kiddo finish her unpacking and cleaning. And wowsers-- does she ever have a room!
I'm waiting to post before and after pics until she has all her posters-- including the van Gogh Sunflowers that she requested for her birthday-- on her wall, and cushions for the window seat. I'd have gnawed off my right arm with my own teeth to have a window seat in my room when I was that age. Still might, come to it...At any rate, she can actually get to and use her papasan chair now, enjoy the one houseplant we have which is perched in her window, and best of all, she has ample space in the middle of her room for her yoga. I'm really excited to finish up this room...

We did make valiant attempts to get the kitchen counter trim into its final stage, as well. We needed a ten foot piece of red oak trim, and at least a 6 foot piece. They've been out of the longer lengths every time we've been lately, so we rushed out Sunday morning and tried to get 2 matching less-warped lengths. We were willing to buy 8 foot pieces, too, instead of 6 as long as we could get a good match.

And then we got home. And realized that we'd left the store with a 6 foot and an 8 foot piece. But it was just as well; our cabinets are redder than the pieces we picked, so we'll just have to start all over again one evening. Sigh. We can't say we didn't try.

It's really hard, you know, when life gets in the way. Besides the usual work and family, I'm joining the gym today to get back to yoga classes and this Saturday I'm hoping to make it to Little Rock where my best friend has just purchased a 1920s Spanish mission style 2-story stucco house. It's so cute and she has the absolute, hands-down best taste of anyone I've ever known. She takes things no one could ever possibly think would look good and makes then fashionable and cozy-- the best part is that no matter how polished she makes it look, I still want to wrap up in a blanket on the couch. I haven't seen it yet, and I'm so excited to see what she's done with the place...

So for now, the long and short is that I suppose I have to be satisfied with the little things-- happy with every little box that gets emptied. And I am-- seriously; that one half of our dining room looks awesome.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Back from Florida

But home sick. Not homesick-- Home. Sick. Bleh.

I caught a nasty cold several days ago that's just hanging on. Probably doesn't help that I worked through my fever and traveled all yesterday. I score AP exams, which is only once a year, 7 straight days. Staying home under the weather isn't an option, really.

But I managed to push through and enjoy myself for the most part. And while I never made it into a swimsuit, I did make it onto the beach most mornings for a stroll. Critters and plants galore.

But I was ready to come home. You can only look at so many essays and eat so many reconstituted powdered eggs before you realize how good you have it. And it really was time to stop eating. They feed us buffet breakfast, candy, candy, cakes or muffins, candy, candy, buffet lunch, dessert, candy, snacky things like Chex mix and ice cream, candy, buffet dinner. More dessert. Every single day. And coffee running out our ears. They like to keep our caffeine and blood sugar levels up up up. After all-- we wended our way through 300,000 exams this year; that's almost a million essays total.

So it was good to be back. Adam is working full time now so my mother picked me up. We pulled into the driveway and I was greeted by this:

No, not all the cars-- those are always there. The canna lilies are finally FINALLY in bloom full force. They're outside our bedroom window:

Lovely thing to wake up to when I finally did wake up for good. At around 1 am, the dog started barking feverishly, so I went outside to check out what it was. If any of you out there have ever heard a trapped possum, you understand that it is an unearthly noise that they make. I couldn't get him to leave it alone, and when I saw that he had it in his mouth, I assumed its days were numbered. I've seen what he's done to other possums so, well, I simply found solace in the fact that he recently had his rabies shots.

But then he started barking again, right outside my window. I went outside to see what was going on this time, and he had moved the possum's lifeless little body to the patio. And was just standing there barking at it. I moved him into his pen so he didn't tear up the little guy and so I could have an easier time of, ahem, removal in the morning. And then I saw that it was breathing. Of the hundreds of possums I've ever come across, I've never actually witnessed one playing dead. After it was sure the dog was gone, about 20 minutes later, it slowly twisted its head around and crept away. I think the other possums that Simon's killed are ones that he's shaken. In this case, playing dead would have meant the end of this poor little fella-- Simon wants to play with them, and when they stop playing, they're fair game. Unfortunately, I didn't think to take a picture, like some other blogger we know...But it was a very cool, if upsetting and sleep depriving, event.

So now I'm going to continue my efforts to sit on my ass and try to shake the cough and fever fatigue that seem to be lingering far past their expiration date.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Negative Nancy strikes again

Yesterday was Adam's birthday, and I made him build a fence.

I helped, too. Mostly I threw a tantrum that we weren't getting anything done on the house because we are lazy. I like to call this "motivation." This fence sections off a portion of the yard exclusively for the dog on days when the meter is being read and other sundry events. Considering we put it together from scratch, I'm extremely pleased. This fence also hopefully marks our return to home improvement from weeks in exile.

I should briefly note that I had my first planned gathering on the patio Friday night. We've had my mother or the odd friend here and there stop by to have a beer. But I actually invited my girlfriends over, we made daiquiris (girly. I know.), played cards, drank beer, and ate lovely snacky things to go with my tomato with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil sandwiches. It was simply all-around great.

But now, because it wouldn't be a Monday without something painfully annoying...emphasis on the "pain"-- I burned my elbow. Badly. On the iron this morning. It was one of those cartoon delayed reaction moments where my arm sort of sizzled on the cotton setting for a second before I realized what was happening. And I'm leaving tomorrow morning for Daytona to work for a week, so I'm now really looking forward to the SALT water. Here's hoping it's curative and not hurtful.

And just to make this an even more Good Old Fashioned Monday, it piss-poured rain a good portion of my way in. Still, I couldn't help snapping a few blind, hold-the-camera-up-and-hope- it-catches-what-I-want shots of the journey into the storm.

And that makes the drive completely worthwhile :-)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A request for reviews...

I'm just wondering if any of you out there have some words of wisdom regarding Ace Hardware brand paint, particularly exterior paints.

I've been collecting paint chips around town and I'm wondering if it's even worth considering the ones I've picked up from them. Our store does not carry Benjamin Moore, although some Ace stores sell that brand. And yeah, I know I could take Ace paint chips elsewhere and have them analyzed and recreated, but I hate doing that for any kind of lasting project. If I was painting a porch swing, no problem. But painting something a delicate color like red, something that I may need to touch up or repaint down the road? I like to have a stock color for that. There's a better likelihood that I can get more that matches perfectly at a later date. Not to mention, I've seen some of those color match systems that are less than perfect-- and a red that swings to pink or too purple is no good to me.

So...any experiences you'd be willing to share?

Monday, June 2, 2008

WANTED: Motivation; Cure for Malaise

It's been a while since we made significant progress on the house itself. I could blame it on the "so much going on" excuse-- family in town, my sister's graduation, cleaning for the family in town, hemming and hawing over the possibility of an investment property (one of the considerations for that one being that it might slow down our "progress" on our house; psh), signing up for the library summer reading program, summer camps for the kiddo. It's felt a little like Sisyphus around these parts, which also means I'm not too motivated to post about what little is getting done here. Do I deserve a cookie for doing laundry? Dishes? Dinner? We're the kind of people who sort of let it go all week and play catch up over the weekend in between "well-deserved" breaks. I think we need a change of lifestyle.

I have bought 3 new strawberry plants that are doing well, and I've continued my quest to keep the yard free of too many dog holes. We've put our new fence posts in concrete and sawed the dog ears to the right height. Our tomatoes are super:

See? Blooms! Tomato basil mozzarella sandwiches, here I come...

And our basil is providing us with the loveliest pesto ever (a little trick I've learned? sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts-- considering the fact that we always have parmesan, oil, garlic, pasta, bread and now basil on hand, a bag of salted roasted sunflower seeds, at $1.83, makes several rounds of pesto-- we're talking 60¢ meals here).

But I can't say much is going on around the house besides that. All I want to do is sit on the patio next to my citronella torch and read. I like hot weather. It's been great. And on days like yesterday, with a cool breeze, I just don't want to do anything. We worked on the house every weekend for 8 months. And we figure we've deserved a break. The last few weekends have had more than their fair share of beer on the porch. But we have to get back to work. We HAVE to. And it's so hard to motivate. So hard to get things in order, ducks in a row and all that.

Where's that fire under our asses I was looking for a few weeks ago?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Global warming sucks

This spring has been nuts. I don't think I've ever seen a spring/summer that has had as much severe weather in my whole life around here. We had big plans to get stuff done today, work on the kitchen, maybe the fence. Make a big fat trip to Lowe's. But while Adam and I were on the front porch having coffee, the dog came to the side of the house and started scratching on the porch in a panic, which is weird for him. But he was acting crazy, so I brought him inside. And while I was getting the cats' litter box out of the mudroom, and setting it up with his bed, the weather went insane. Sixty mile an hour winds and torrential rain-- I went out the front door and saw this:

Yeah-- it's noon and the street lights are on. There's hail in the surrounding communities. This is getting scary. We've had 2 bouts of damaging hail and another half-dozen threatening storms with significant flooding or winds. Not to mention some normal rainy days. I mean, it looked like it might rain, but not like this. It happened so fast. And even creepier? Here in about 30 minutes, it's supposed to be sunny and warm.

I guess we'll make that Lowe's trip after all...and maybe even get some work done. But this weather is scaring the shit out of me, to be perfectly honest.