Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Scoff at Five!

And move on to six!  I think I am liking the really dark green, which sort of scares me.  But my livingroom does sport very bright sunlight -- especially in the morning.  And I think a dark color could complement my brown dining room well.  My (ugly) painted window trim would certainly pop!

The lighting in these photos is terrible -- it wasn't the height of the sunshine-y day when I took them.

Ah, yes, the poor painted mirror frame.  That will change!
Here we have "soothing green tea" then "buttercream" and then "truly olive."

I've thought briefly about picking up the more turquoise-y color in the fabric instead of the green, but I don't think there is enough of it to work. Maybe turqoise will be seven... I'm becoming good friends with several Home Depot paint department employees. Maybe they will give me my own orange apron...

If you dare to form opinions from poorly lit photos, I would love to hear your thoughts!  I am in a quandry.  And I really want to finish this project over the coming long holiday weekend.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Butterflies on Christmas Eve

I just read Dominique Browning's post -- amazing. 

If you have time...


The Cutest Thing!

Have you seen anything cuter than this?  It's like a little pumpkin! 

Santa brought me this compressor and a set of three nail guns (among a couple of other projects that I will post when they are done...)  I am positively over the MOON.

When my steps are installed, and I can figure out where my outdoor dining table will go, and then I can build some of these platforms:

(Do you watch Jamie Durie?  I love his stuff!)  I want to build a handful of those platforms that you see in the center of the photo.  I can use them for yoga, lounging areas... places to sit and pot plants... I can walk on them to avoid mud when it's raining... not to mention they are much better than grass.  Anyway.  Can.  Not.  Wait.  And the nail gun will make them go in SO much faster!

What's in my head today?

I haven't gotten a telephone call from my steel fabricator yet, calling to schedule my back steps installation.  I am antsy.   My head is full of backyard project dreams.  I have tried staring at various telephones, willing them to ring.  Alas.  The holes for the recessed footings are filling up with leaves.  They are like backyard booby traps:  if you didn't know they were there you could easily step in and break an ankle ...  although really they are knee deep not ankle deep.  Can you break a knee?

I do still need to clean off the tops of the steel plates; they have a little concrete residue on them.  I'm told it will scrape off with a putty knife, and then to use the garden hose and a dish scrubber.  But it's too cold to do that task these days.  For me, anyway.  Now if installation was scheduled, you can bet that I'd be out there in rubber gloves.

The colder weather has made the wild birds that I feed a little demanding.  They are plowing through the seed in my feeder.  I have chickadees, a pair of tufted titmouse, a female cardinal and sparrows.  Yesterday I had a huge ladderback woodpecker on my squirrel-proof seed feeder.  He could sit on one perch, and crane his neck around to the other side where his weapon-like beak would spear a nut.  Sort of a feeder hog.  I put out my spiral in-the-shell peanut feeder for him, but as long as I watched he didn't see it and figure it out.  I forgot about it this morning -- the squirrels will have a field day with it today! 

The water in my birdbath was frozen this morning.  As I waited for the dog to come in I saw a little sparrow sitting on the rim -- pecking at the ice.  Suddenly cold wasn't an issue for me.  I got a pitcher of water and went out without a coat to pour in the fresh water.  Scampered back in the house and watched and waited.  It didn't take the little guy even 2 minutes and he was back, drinking thirstily.

From the pouring of the footings, I have a large area of exposed dirt in my yard -- of course, right outside my back door -- that is where back steps go -- that has become a mud slide.  Yes, we had rain this weekend.  We needed it, and I am grateful for it.  But oh the mud.  And the large mud loving dog.  And the hardwood floors.  La la la la la!  I have had to just close the virtual door to my kitchen in my mind.  Until the mud dries, there's no point in mopping.

I did spread out my last bale of straw over the mud yesterday, in an attempt to contain it.  Wouldn't that have been a smart thing to do the day before it rained??  It's not as though I didn't know rain was coming.

And because all conversations about rain turn to rain barrels... of my five rain barrels, two of the backyard ones are currently not even under downspouts!  Oh the horror!  They have been cast aside... waiting for their fabulous steel supports.  The hose on the front barrel had come loose but I have repaired it -- so theoretically it should have caught rain.  I haven't checked it.  And the two huge blue barrels from the Earth Day workshop are steadfastly working.  It will be okay.  There will be more rain.  :::grin:::  Seriously, if these are the worst of my worries...

Monday Morning Sun

Poor lighting, but you get the idea...
In the bright Monday morning sun, I can see clearly:

I am headed to  f i v e.

Christmas Cactus

It only blooms once a year.  How does it know?

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Four.  Which could be counted as five if you really wanted to be pessimistic, which I choose not to be.  So, four.

This morning, in my fleece pants, luxuriously sipping a soy latte on my newly available* window seat, I decided it was finally time to paint my livingroom.  My motivation?  A party I am hosting here January 29th.  I am worthless without a deadline -- so I am grateful to have one.

And now, at 5:15 on Sunday evening, f o u r  is the number of paint colors I have tried on my walls.  Alternated with coats of Kilz.  That is one trip to Sherwin Williams.  Two trips to Home Depot.  Nine test spots on my walls -- you know how light plays -- testing one color in one spot is inadequate...

I think that I am trying to coordinate too many items, those items being fireplace brick color, mirror frame color, wood floor hues (see how artful I've become?  I'm speaking in hues) and my sofa.  Today through my trials and errors ("failures" seems too harsh) I was reminded that the color palette has warm tones and cool tones.  They do not necessarily play well together.

I even painted the mirror frame (FAIL) using one of the colors that didn't work on the wall.  "Oh!  It matches the brick so nicely but doesn't look good on the wall -- I'll paint the mirror frame!  I am brilliant!  Artsy!"  Yes, I will be repainting that.  Color TBD.  But in a fit of optimism, I did buy a can of satin spray on polyeurathane:  evidence that I believe I'll find a color for the frame worthy of sealing.

I started with a taupe-y gray.  Gray is trendy now, I hear.  Apparently I am not trendy enough, because I didn't like it.  (And neither does my mirror.)

Then I tried Buttercream yellow.  And a Humble Gold.  The buttercream was brutally boring, and the humble gold?  OH!  Talk about an elementary school days flash back to when mom let me choose my own bedroom paint color.  Let's not have that make an encore appearance in my 40's shall we?  I did leave a patch of the buttercream up for further evaluation...  A testament to my... what?  Boringness? 

So now, I am in the sage-y greens.  The current swath painted on my wall (in four places of course -- soon I'll have painted my entire livingroom with a coat of Kilz) is called Soothing Green Tea.  I could use some soothing about now... It's possible that I have a winner, but now it's too dark outside to have proper light indoors, so I cannot tell for sure.  I remain optimistic, but strongly reminded of why I prefer outdoor projects.  (I need an on-call interior decorator.  Why don't they offer 60 minute single project consults?)

* previously occupied by my Christmas tree, which made it's final Hallelujah Chorus into the backyard last night.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Prancer from the North Pole

Elf March

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Bay Laurel
Today is the solstice (hard to believe as it is 80 degress here in Dallas today!) and it seems appropriate that day before yesterday I put my garden boxes to bed for the winter.  The soil can rest, and be ready for Spring.  I tucked  in my remaining plants with a nice layer of mulched leaves and a layer of straw on top.  All snuggled in for the winter.


I was able to get the year stamped into the footing concrete before it totally set.  Words would have been fun to do too, but there was no time!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Rain Barrel Footings & An Empty Wine Rack

These are the small footings for the rain barrel that stands alone on the opposite corner on the back of the house:

 They are 8" square, and 4" tall.  They will support a small steel table upon which the rain barrel will sit.  They will be embedded into one large concrete pad, as opposed to 4 small ones.

I'm a little bit twitchy these days about my rain barrels.  Two of the 5 had to be emptied so that Vic could move them.  A third one, when our weather got cold, the hose came loose and the whole thing drained.  I knew the connection was bad, but had been procrastinating repairing it, so I suppose I am to blame for that one.  But I am down from about 275 gallons of water to 110.... for some reason that's akin to not having enough good books in the house to read, or having a wine rack that is less than full...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Footings: Day Two - Evening

Vic got the first four of the seven large footings poured today.  They look picture perfect:

Here are what the embeds look like:

That's one upside down (left) and one right-side up.  These large ones are 12" square and 4" high. When they are embedded into the concrete, 4 of them need to be 3'1" below the finished floor of my kitchen, and 3 of them need to be set 4'11" below the finished floor of my kitchen.  Tricky.  Some of the holes are quite deep -- 3 feet or more.  Vic said he would look for China-men when he was digging.  He's a funny guy...      The holes are lined with rebar for support.  He made the footing that will be under the portion of steps holding the rain barrel extra stout, since that will be 417 pounds of extra weight.  All in all -- some fairly serious footings.

Footings: Day Two - morning

So today is Day Two of footings construction.  Vic arrived during morning coffee, causing Red and I to scurry.  I threw on some street clothes -- thinking I'd just briefly be outside to greet Vic and get him set up.  90 minutes later I gimped back into the house, my fingers and toes little pink blocks of ice.  I should have known better.

I did learn how to use a plastic tube -- like a garden hose type of tube -- with water in it as a level... and I learned about double headed nails... so there's that.  Twice during the 90 minutes he threw out the old familiar phrase, "oh yah, I have a tool in the van for that."  And he did.

He says he'll have the 4 footings against the house poured today, and he hopes to dig out the remaining 3 holes down to their necessary depth. 

Footings: Day One

Yesterday was Day One of Vic & the Magic Van.  James the steel guy called me last night and we worked out the measurements question.  "Worked out" means that James said to do our best and call him with the measurements when we are done, and he'll cut the steel to fit.  Sort of what I expected him to say.

So here's what my back step area looked like when I got home from work:

I should have taken a photo from inside the house, looking out/down, but I didn't think of it.  It is an odd view, though, looking down into seven holes.  I stood in the kitchen with a firm grasp on Greta's collar and opened the doors.  She did the beginnings of a lunge out the door but then realized the steps were gone.  She stretched her neck out... sniffing... perplexed.   Yes... yes, something here is different.

She of course thinks its a party to get to go out the front door (on a leash -- I'm not crazy-- ) all the time now.

And then there's this view of supplies, stacked in my carport:

Bagged concrete.  And I think that is only about half of what he needs; I'm not sure.  What I am sure of, however, is that it definitely looks like work!

The last vestiges of the old wooden deck lie in the foreground of the second photo.  Fortunately bulk trash picks up on Monday, so I don't have to have that around for long.

Once again I was surprised by how much Vic can accomplish in a day.  I mean, he's just one guy.  Although, he does have the Magic Van.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Elfin Magic

The elf costumes are evolving... these are for the neighborhood party.  Our goal (well not mine, but someone had a great idea) was to imitate the style from the movie Elf:

So a very talented neighbor loaded a bunch of us in her car and off we went to JoAnn fabrics.  Fabrics were selected, measurements were taken, and jackets were sewn.  Here is my jacket:

I struggled with the fabric selection -- and in the end chose a color similar to the movie poster.  (Sometimes I lack imagination.  The fabric store seemed so overwhelming that day!)  Note the embroidered name on the lapel... you can't see it very well, but my assigned elf name is Crackers...

Tights color became a major issue.  I tried on my jacket and felt like I needed more red.  I wanted some candy cane swirl tights (not the Wicked Witch of the West horizontal stripe -- who needs horizonal stripes on their thighs??) but couldn't find them to buy anywhere.  I ordered gold tights as a fall back.  Then I got the bright idea (was it really bright?  You decide...) to paint white tights with a candy cane swirl.  The process was  q u i t e   memorable... but here's the end result:

Yes, I know -- the white socks and shoes -- not to mention the men's boxers -- REALLY make the tights.

So then... elf shoes.  Because if you are an elf, your toes MUST curl.  We had fabric left over from the jackets, so I decided to craft some shoes:

I still need to add a bell, bow, or pom-pom to the tip of the curve... and if I have time I may add a fun border around the ankle.

And then there's the hat selection.  I don't have photos of these, but I have a traditional Santa hat.  I have a gold lame' hat with white fur.  I have a 4' long Santa stocking cap, and I have a traditional Santa hat with a spiral around it that dangles a piece of mistletoe over my head.

I have a black belt, but I can't decide if it looks good or not...

Someone recently asked me if I have elf ears!  I DON'T!!  I hadn't even thought about them!  That's on my must do list... and at this late date I suspect it will be a challenging purchase.

I'll have to have a fashion show for Red to decide on all my options...

A Foundation to Build Upon

Vic and the Magic Van arrived my house this morning to begin work on the concrete footings for my back steps!  We still have one question about height, so I'm waiting for the steel fabricator to call me back... But when I get home tonight my rickety old wooden back steps should be demolished  -- (leaving me with a 4 foot drop off out my back door -- )  and I should have about 35 bags of concrete stacked in my car port.

The fabricator tells me that installation can happen 3 days after the concrete is poured, so I am hoping installation will happen next week!  I'll be about a week without back steps, which is sort of a hassle dog-wise (she could jump OUT the back door -- down the 4 feet -- but getting back in... a little more difficult!)

The layout of several other items in my backyard has been on hold until the steps are in; I am such a visual person that I just can't tell what it will all look like until they're in -- so hopefully in a week or so I can start making decisions on where my outdoor dining table will live, and where my permanent garden will be, and, and, and -- oooo it's all so exciting!!

Here's what that area looked like when I bought the house:

Here's the July 2010 architect's rendering of the steps:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Time Gets Away

I took this photo of my fireplace and partially decorated mantle Sunday evening with intentions of posting it yesterday along with a photo of my decorated tree. 

I guess you've noticed there's no tree photo?  Yes, well.  That's because my tree still only has lights on it, although this morning I did unearth the red velvet tree skirt.  Wow!  Visually that made a big difference!  I have all of the tubs of Christmas decor in my livingroom.  Some of them are even open.  And I did get the stockings hung by the chimney with care (with care mostly because I don't want them to catch on fire, family heirlooms and all.) 

I had high hopes for last night.  Wrap presents, decorate the tree, put the tubs back in the attic, oh, and sew two pair of elf shoes.  Because you know, that will only take me a minute.  Alas, I did get one pair of elf shoes nearly complete.  They are quite charming, if I do say so... they aren't done, so I cannot post a photo -- but they are on my must-do list for tonight, so TOMORROW.  Tomorrow -- a photos.

Of course also on the list for tonight is grocery shopping for ingredients for the famous "big salad" to take to a girls' dinner Thursday night.  I'm wishing that I could score some extra hours in my days this week.  Of course, what did I do Sunday night in front of that toasty fire?  Put my feet up with Red.  But that's one of the most important things I've done this week.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Progress, Progress -- Or is it?

I don't have any huge news, but a few things are progressing...

I got the embeds.  I was correct in thinking they were the steel toppers to put into the concrete footings.  They look like tiny little tables.  I have 7 that are 12" square for the steps, and I have 4 that are 8" square for the one rain barrel.

I've had one concrete guy out to give me an estimate to pour the footings; I thought Red and I could do them ourselves, but yikes no.  (Well, maybe we could, but not on such a short time frame.)  A wee bit more involved than I had originally thought.  Then I had Vic (and the magic van) out to give me an estimate, and of course VIC -- found errors in the design.  That led me back to the steel fabricator, and a design change.  I am still waiting on him -- I should probably call him -- to clarify details so that I can get that project started.

Along with the embeds, he gave me a color wheel to take home and choose what color I'd like the whole thing painted.  I consulted Red and some neighbors and decided on a brownish black color.  If you put black (roof)  next to it, it looks black.  If you put brown (wood) next to it, it looks brown.  He couldn't match the copper gutter color (bummer) and I didn't want to choose something crazy that would tie me down with regards to house trim color in the future.  Ultimately a pretty basic color.  Too bad that when I mailed it back to the steel guy, the P.O. ripped the mailing envelope and then delivered an empty envelope.  Helpful, no?  I don't know what is happening on that.  Sigh.  Onward and upward.  S L O W L Y.

I don't know if I mentioned here that my washer was flooding my kitchen when it drained.  The hooked hose that goes into the wall behind the washer?  That drain was clogged.  Apparently not the first time, since the sheet rock in the wall under the drain is basically shot.  JOY!  I dug deeply into my bravery bag and called Roto-Rooter.  Truthfully, when you have an 81 year old house, you just really don't wany anyone tinkering with the plumbing.  [Shove fingers into your ears and repeat, "La la la la la" and poof!  All problems dissipate.  Yeah, no. 

But, it wasn't bad news.  The guy just snaked the drain for the washer and kitchen sink and I was good to go.  And VERY educational!   He showed me the ins and outs of the issue, as it were.  He may have thought I was going to leave him alone to do his job, but no, I tromped out into the shrubs with him and peppered him with questions.  He shined his flashlight into the cleanout and gave me a thorough explanation of what we saw, and what he was going to do.  Basically there was just this gelatinous goo in the line, likely a combination of neglect and colder temperatures/galvanized pipes.   I don't know, call me weird, but I thought it was interesting.  And I scored a new clean out cover.  I mean, really.  My Christmas is complete.  It's all silver and shiny and everything.  I probably should have snapped a photo, because I KNOW you are interested, too.

Christmas is showing out all over the 'hood.  I have some of my lights up, but I haven't done the roof outline yet.  Tick tock because the lights contest is next week.  HA.  I don't really anticipate winning.  But the horse drawn carriage rides on the 18th do go down my street, so there is a bit of pressure.  A neighbor stopped me last night on my dog walk to make sure I (and my next door neighbor) are planning to light up our eaves. I told her yes, we just hadn't gotten to it yet.   She said, "But you're GOING to do it, right?  Because, well, you know, because there's been talk."  Apparently we are behind.  Time to snap to it, Ladies!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Drawings & Embeds

I got an email from James.  He says my "drawings and embeds" for my back steps are ready.  No, I am not sure what embeds are -- but my deductive reasoning puts them in the category of steel for the footings.

I'll get both today or Friday.

Baby steps.  Marching towards the fabulous back steps.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Little Seedlings

The Hairy Vetch has sprouted!  You can see where the blank spaces are... there could have been a romping dog re-dispersing the seeds... (Oh!  And there she is in the photo -- I didn't even see her at first!  LOL)

Our weather has been so warm -- although windy -- it's been supreme for the seedlings.  I can only hope the raspberries adjacent are equally happy underneath their layers of compost and cedar mulch.  I've been dutifully watering them by hand with buckets of rain water.

I mulched quite a lot of leaves this weekend.  I spread them over my raspberries, and down my side yard.  When they decompose they'll provide great nitrogen for the soil which is hard to come by in the winter.  I don't think my side yard has ever had any love, so any soil amendments I can give it before I start working that area (hopefully next year) will be beneficial.

I sat in the back yard this weekend having morning coffee and updating my garden journal.  I don't think I had written in it since May!  Oops!  I was able to write follow ups on plants that I had planted in the Spring -- did they thrive or not, what were their issues, etc.  I'm still learning what my sun and soil are at this house, so I hope that documenting will help me out in the Spring, when my brain is addled from hiding under an afghan all winter.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Potential "Event"

One of my neighbors who is particularly gifted at decorating and arranging things once told me that as you walk through your house or garden that you should have "events" -- random items in random places -- to catch your eye and guide you along your path.  I was taken with the use of the word "event" and of course wanted some, and immediately began thinking about potential garden "events."  (As per typical with me, I see my house merely as a portal* to my backyard.  That is probably why I can't really get any decorating going on in there, much less any events!)

Looking at photos I've taken and magazine pages I've ripped out, I realize that I have already been thinking of events, I just didn't know that was what they were called in decorating parlance!  Whew.  I haven't totally missed the boat I guess...

One item I have been keeping my eye out for (and who came up with that saying?  And did they have a glass eye they carried around in their hand??) during my many excursions to thrift stores is a grouping of 5 balls, about the size of grapefruits.  In my mind they are painted bold colors -- probably each a different solid color, and they would have a shiny luster to them.  They would probably have to be something fairly unbreakable.  They would rest in a grouping in the grass.  Does that sound eventful?

And then the other day I came across these in the Uncommon Goods catalog (which I dearly love):
They are described:

The Golden Globes
Elegance goes eco-friendly with this set of six hand-blown, solar-powered string lights. These artisan-made glass globes feature beautiful swirling colors of sea green, blue, gold and purple. Perfect for decorating arbors, archways, trees, umbrellas, railings or eaves. The solar panel is designed to orient 360 degrees for optimum solar collection. The panel can be staked, hung or mounted. Powered by the sun, these turn themselves on at dusk and off at dawn. Hand blown in China. Each is one-of-a-kind and will vary.

Aren't they great?  I wouldn't hang them up; I would cluster them on the ground, maybe in a re-purposed copper bowl, or a grouping of branches fashioned into an oversized bird nest on the ground.  And they would glow at night!!  Ohhhhh.  I really must start buying lottery tickets.

* An unconscious shout-out to Harry Potter


Who knew that one could be in love with a refrigerator?  Since mine was delivered Wednesday evening, I'll admit to standing, leaning against the sink and just staring at it.  Is that wrong?

It's so shiny and beautiful that so far I have been unable to bring myself to put my magnets and paperwork back up.  I.    Just.    Can't. 

Last night I went and picked up a few essential groceries... again, somehow, I can't quite bring myself to clutter up the shelves just yet.

I told Red we are eating in tonight -- no going out, no delivery, cooking and eating in.  Ahhhhh.  I see sweatpants and Netflix in my future.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I realized today that several of my posts had your ability to comment blocked... oops.  I've gone back through several old posts, and I'll continue to go further back and enable comments.    I'd love to hear from you!

Is there a chill in here?

Not yet -- but if all goes as scheduled, there will be tomorrow.  I give you the Samsung RF266AE[WP]:

And I'll just add that if you have your refrigerator model number memorized, you probably need to stop looking at refrigerators.

This has not been a fun process for me.  I'm cranky: 

#1, I am not a shopper.  I generally do not enjoy shopping.  Add in having to compare reviews, decipher minute model differences and hunt down floor models for viewing all over town... mmmm hmmm.  Yeah.  Not fun.  Oh, and then since this is a fridge that upon which Consumer Reports bestowed glowing reports, it's sold out and back ordered in many places. La la la la la la!

#2, I feel financially hijacked. Despite the fact that I got completely reimbursed for my old refrigerator, I did not exactly break even.  Apparently the refrigerators that DON'T burn your house down cost more!  Who knew?

#3, I am soooo weary of eating out.  The first few days it was sort of a novelty:  "Oh, gosh darn, I guess I have to eat out again tonight!"  Yesterday marked the beginning of week 3, and the novelty wore off, well, weeks ago.

#4, Due to all the eating out, I feel fat.  And doesn't that make one cranky?

#5, This lack of cooled space has had me changing my dog's home cooked meals diet, and we all know what happens when you do that.

And so, hopefully the delivery folks tomorrow will be reliable, and I'll be chillin' again.  Of course, I'll have nothing inside to chill -- no salad dressings, no condiments, no butter -- nada.  Which brings me back to the financially hijacked feeling.  Yeah, I know.  I'm sort of whiney today.

But on the upside, which I do generally choose to look at:

#1  I will not have one single thing in my fridge that is out of date.
#2  I will no longer have the guilt of that bottle of salad dressing that I didn't really like, but couldn't allow myself to throw out.
#3  It is indeed a beautiful refrigerator.  And I have a lovely home in which to plug it in.
#4  I like organizing things -- do you see all those little bins and drawers??  They are adjustable!
#5  I think the data sheet on this fridge said it has its own filtration system built in.  That means Red and I can cross "ice maker filter systems" off our Home Depot shopping list.  Score.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hairy Vetch

It sounds unattractive, doesn't it?  Hairy Vetch.  Who names these things anyway?  Although it sounds like a skin condition or a medical ailment, it's actually a cool weather cover crop used in organic gardening.  I'm told that it is a succulent, so when you till it under in the Spring it decomposes rapidly, leaving behind soil rich in nitrogen. It should also prevent weeds from growing where you plant it.

Since I had the rented tiller this weekend for 4 hours and the raspberry patch only took about 2 hours... You can imagine that more tilling was going to happen.  Somewhere.  Perhaps somewhere that didn't even truly need tilling.  Because when you have a tiller ...

I had an area along my carport where grass wasn't growing.  I haven't decided what will be there -- the outdoor dining table, or landscaping... but given the opportunity to enrich the soil in the meantime, it seemed like a good plan.  Here's a tiny photo of what it looks like -- sort of like a fern with blossoms.  Let's hope it takes off.

Fall (Just Say No to Winter)

Fall is here -- mostly I can tell because I am already ankle deep in leaves in my yard.  No pecans yet ... I wonder what type of year for pecans it will be.  I look up at the tree and I don't really see any up there. 

Red got up on my roof this weekend and swept the leaves off for me, and threw down some tree branches that had fallen down.  I must admit that while I have been under my house twice (once without a zoot suit even!) I have not been up on my roof.  It's precarious -- the front pitch in particular is very steep.  I'm really grateful that he was willing to climb up and do a little fall maintenance for me.  And my dog was pleased to get brand new dried sticks to chew on -- they just fell from the sky!  Dreams do come true, Toto.

My lawn doesn't need mowing, but I sure do have leaves that need mulching, so I'll probably run my mower over the front yard tonight.  The leaves will be so good for the lawn.  (And it would be nice to be able to see my sidewalk again too...)

In anticipation of cooler temps and winter winds, I fussed with door weather stripping in the last week.  The front door still needed some attention, and Red attended to that yesterday morning.  I still have a bottom door strip (brush?  I don't know what you call it -- it goes under the door) but I need help taking the door off the hinges to install it.  I've got time... it's not winter quite yet.

I swapped out my jack'o'lanterns for solid pumpkins, and added my wooden pilgrims to the bale of hay.  I don't know if I will get any mums this year or not; they never seem to last long.  They are beautiful, though.  The day after I put the pilgrims out in the yard we got 3.25" of rain in 24 hours.  Poor Grandpa pilgrim couldn't take the weather and he's doing quite the backbend now.  It's really funny.  I'll have to take a photo to post...

UPDATE:  Pilgrim Limbo

Raspberry Canes

You may recall this post
 http://my1929tudor.blogspot.com/2010/04/they-will-be-berry-berry-good.html from back in April wherein I posted about planting raspberry canes.  I'm sad to report that only 4 of those canes appear to have lived.  (I hold out hope that some are dormant and will sprout back to life in the Spring.)  My excuses are that we had summer heat very early this Summer... and I didn't water them enough.  And when I got the new fence I miscalculated the increased amount of sun in that part of the yard -- too much, I think. 

But!  Good news:  I am fortunate enough to have another chance -- my sister visited from Minnesota over Halloween weekend, and for my hostess gift she brought me 18 raspberry canes from her garden.  Awesomeness!  They are the from the same canes that are at mom and dad's, the ones that were brought over from Finland.

When my sister arrived we liberated the canes from the giant Ziploc in her suitcase and put them in a bucket of rain water from my barrel.  They had been in there for a week so this weekend it was time to get them in the ground.   Project time!  (I have so many projects in my head right now it's insane...)

Red and I went to Home Depot and rented a rototiller -- I was positively giddy about it -- frankly nearly purchased one but was able to divert -- and toted it home.  The guy at the rental counter was knowledgeable and helpful but yowser -- he tracked about 2 conversation topics behind the entire time.  

Next I took Red's truck and went to Redenta's to get compost.  I love the Living Earth Technologies organic compost (http://www.livingearth.net/) and Bucky at Redenta's advised that for the square footage I was working with that I would probably need 6 bags.  I added a bag of Bed Prep to that, which includes earth worm castings.  Gold, baby, gold!  Toted all that home.

When I got home, Red had already started tilling.  He'd done the most difficult part, which is making the first passes through ground that had not ever been tilled.  It didn't have grass growing on it  -- bonus -- but it was fairly well packed.  I did a pass through it, and then dragged the tiller aside to start adding soil amendments.

In went the following:
3 bags of LET Organic Compost
2 wheelbarrows worth of my very own compost from my compost tumbler
1 bags of mulched dry leaves (great nitrogen, which raspberries love)

And then we tilled again.  We reminisced about the similar equipment rental at my lake property... laughed...

Then I added the three remaining bags of compost, another batch of mulched leaves, and the bag of bed prep.  Talk about some beautiful soil!

I was so pleased that my home made compost was successful!  I had just said to Red earlier in the weekend that I needed to do a better job on my compost tumbler, and that maybe I would get an earth worm farm for my kitchen scraps instead.  But then I opened it up and found I had some great compost.  I know I could still improve my method for it, but it did look great.  It's also nice to have the older barrel empty going into winter.

I staggered the canes about 2 feet apart, stuck in flags so I wouldn't lose any, and hand watered each plant with rain water, and  topped it all off with 6 bags of cedar mulch.  I vow to do better on the watering, plus the cooler weather will help.  As I was kneeling in the dirt, planting, Red shouted from the driveway, "You look happy."  It was an awesome day.


Aren't they beautiful?  The photo doesn't do them justice... totally organically grown poblano and jalapeno peppers from my garden.   You can almost smell the heat from the photograph, can't you?  The poblanos are the perfect pepper for making chile rellenos -- YUM!  (Too bad I am majorly handicapped in the kitchen at the moment... ahem.  But that is being remedied soon.)  Instead, I shared them with neighbors.  I meant to bring some to work to share here today, but I forgot!  Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The thrill is in the hunt . . .

I've hit a lot of thrift stores recently for Halloween costume items.  After being in several of them I remembered that I wanted to get mis-matched crystal candlesticks for my dining room table.  I'm sure that I missed all kinds of them -- darn it!  But the last 2 stores had these three that I liked:

I'll keep watching for more, although I will always want an odd number of them.  I added the bobeches to catch drips, but unless I want to pay close attention to them while they're lit, I'll probably still want to put something underneath the set to be safe.

I actually had bought a 4th candlestick in another thrift store, only to come home and see that it matched one of the ones I already had!  How random was that?  But, apparently meant to be, because I pushed too hard when I put a candle in one of them, and the crystal cracked and fell apart!  But then, the matching one was in the drawer!  Hmmm... what are the odds?

The mini pumpins are a seasonal addition... I'd like to figure out something non-seasonal that is a mixed texture to have out all the time.  Something rustic to mix with the crystal maybe?  I expect that will be a "I'll know it when I see it" item.

My New Favorite Magazine

I haven't looked to see how long this has been in publication, but -- !  How have I missed it?
There are a variety of titles that may have been appropriate for this post:

It almost made me want to cut my hair!

I have company coming!

Procrastination: It can be Productive!

Read on, and I’ll let you choose your favorite…

Let's get this out of the way:  There are several note-worthy things about today:  One of my sisters has a birthday today.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY sister!  And another one of my sisters is flying in to visit me today for the weekend!  DON'T BE LATE FOR THE AIRPORT, sister!  And because we like to play fair in our family, a shout out to my middle sister who has been working really hard lately (not to say the others have not --!  remember, we are fair here -- ) HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND, sister!  And last but not least, to my sister currently enjoying the Greek version of Tapas in Crete, Greece -- HAVE ANOTHER GREEK OLIVE, sistah!  It's also FRIDAY -- TGIF and -- drum roll -- according to a late night telephone call that I received last night, the IRS is going to close my file today and deposit the remainder of my first-time-home-buyers refund into my account.  T O D A Y.  Thank you, Ms. B in Ogden, UT for working late.

Airport.  Company.  Weekend.  Frivolity.  Yeaahhhh!  Bring it on.  But first, let's review the things-to-do spreadsheet.  It's part of the ritual.  I did a post here a long time ago about living by lists.  I do love lists.  Also, as per ritual, as the deadline approaches, I go off list.  As in tangents.  Rabbit trails.  Off track.  Okay, if you must:  p r o c r a s t i n a t i o n.  It's a trait that I share with my best girlfriend.  One morning when trying to get out of of town for a business trip she called me --from the back of her closet.  She had decided that THAT morning was the time that her closet positively had to be sorted through and organized.  I so get that!  Did she have time for that?  No!  Was it even ON her to do list?  Of course not.  (Yes, she loves lists too -- ahh a friendship is born.)  Nonetheless, there she was.  And calling me to tell me how ridiculous but compelling it was.  Was calling me on her list?  No -- but I digress.

I was rather pleased with myself Wednesday night.  I proclaimed that I really only had a few things to do -- clean my car and bathe the dog.  I sat with my feet up all evening with Red, watching baseball.  Bliss.  I wasn't even twitching. 

Yesterday I got off work early.  I wanted to get the least pleasing items off the list first:  Car wash.  Check.  Garden hose dog bath.  Check.  The house was tidied... and then oh right, spot clean in the bathroom.  Scour tub.  And then --

My tub has been draining slowly lately.  Hey, it's an 81 year old house with some prior DIY plumbing that counters basic laws of gravity in key areas.  Not my work, mind you, but well, now I guess it is mine.  I know about it, but... well, old house?  Plumbing?  That's a can of [I cannot say worms here, tempting fate] that I do not care to open until I am pretty much forced.  So some slow draining drains?  I've got nothing but time.

But, when a tub drains slowly, sometimes soap bubbles linger.  Maybe they dry on slick surfaces.  Maybe your morning shower becomes a twisted version of the ice capades.  Okay fine, call it a hazard.  Call it a broken neck waiting to happen.  Fine.   I look at my newly polished tub.  I think about my impending house guest.   I give in. 

Ironically the sister who is visiting is like minded in the "I can do anything" category, and accordingly as a house-warming gift last year (just last year??) she gave me the very large hard bound newly revised 2005 version of Reader's Digest's Complete Do It Yourself Manual.  I've broken it out before, and I must say -- glowing reviews.  It's fab.  Color photos, great instructions...(make a note) great house-warming gift.  Especially if you house is, oh, on the downside towards 100 years old. 

So yeah, I spent the next who knows how many minutes dismantling my bath tub drain and stopper mechanism.  Let's just say that it revealed original parts.  Vintage.  But functioning, I'll give them that.  (Look!  It lasted longer than SIXTEEN MONTHS!!  Rock on!)  A flat head screwdriver, some baking soda, a couple batches of boiling water ... It was a total breeze and not even very gross.  (I had an accumulation of Bon Ami -- easily taken care of.  "Five Simple Ingredients!"  the label proclaims, which easily rinsed away.)  Quite pleased, I scoured the tub.  For a second time.  Returned to my list to cross off "clean tub" and resisted the urge to add to the list and immediately cross off:  Dismantle and clean bath tub drain and stopper."

I turned around, and the sink mocked me.  Suggested to me that it, too, needed a little love.  You can guess what happened here.  The same routine... and here you can choose the title, "It almost made me want to cut my hair."  I'm certain that men who live alone do not have this issue.  Oh my gosh!  How do I even have any hair left on my head??   That's all I'll say, because I think you are a nice person and you may or may not have recently eaten.  But my sink also now drains beautifully, thankyouverymuch.  List crossed off.  Reference book back on shelf.  Cost?  Maybe an hour of sleep.  There is a sense of satisfaction that comes with problem solving. If the solution doesn’t cost you anything but time, the satisfaction is even greater!

Alternating between my two crowns Queen of Rationalization and Queen of Procrastination (those close to me will attest that I do my best work under a deadline) I currently stand at my laptop at 5:45 a.m. in my fleece pants drinking coffee, and typing.  I am not vaccuming.  I am not at the store buying flowers and limes.  For that matter, I have not showered for work.   But I'm pleased -- I really only have a few things to do before I have to go to work and on to the airport.  I'm not even twitching.

Coming to Dinner?

Yes, I know I haven’t posted in a while.  I haven't been doing any big house projects!  Little things, but they don't seem worthy of a post.  Instead, I offer you the following... and no, I didn't get my new steps yet -- the most exciting house project on the horizon – but there is the smallest bit of intrigue involved. I know. I love intrigue too.

Let's get the not post-worthy posts out of the way:

Front door exterior refinished (beautiful, photo worthy, currently obstructed by webs)

Porch doors:  new handles and hooks and eyes.  Redeeming, but boring.

My week began Monday morning with the discovery that over the weekend my refrigerator had died a slow death. Not the freezer mind you – it was frosty and healthy – but the fridge? Mmmm. Not so much.

Exhibit A:  Note the  f a b u l o u s  tangerine orange Kitchen Aid on top!

This is a post-mortem photo of my old friend, Fridge. Fridge is 16 months old, and was born at the Whirlpool factory. It's nearly a one-of-a-kind. (Backstory, not that interesting, another time.)

Last week, determined to return to old habits, I scoured my recipes (and some of you have seen my very voluminous recipe pile) for a few that I wanted to try, and drove myself to Kroger. Yes, Kroger. Not Wholefoods. (Further evidence of the old habits.) I bought great ingredients, and even made 2 of the 4 recipes, and had leftovers in the fridge. Also with the leftovers were the ingredients for the remaining – and what I can only presume would have been – stellar recipes.

Alas, Monday after work I filled and toted three garbage bags of (possibly warmer than) room temp groceries to my dumpster. (It seems fitting to tell you here that my garbage pick up day is Friday. Uh huh. Which is good, because at the time of the demise my city dumpster was empty. What’s bad is that today is Friday again. I’ll let you make that very aromatic deduction.) The bottom line? Money, time, anticipation of great meals and a feeling of accomplishment – Poof!  Murphy is alive and well.

I won’t torture you with the details of back statements from my friends (they are, really – I do love them) at American Express, the hunt for that 4 foot long receipt from my acquaintances at Lowe’s, and the eager anticipation of an email from the Lowe’s archive department. (Who even knew? I didn’t. But I hope that it entails more than one employee on dial up in a cubicle. If not, I am going to lobby on their behalf for better working conditions.) No, I won’t go there. But I will say… I think my fridge is going to be famous. Uh huh. F A M O U S. It appears that very soon I will say “farewell, friend” and send it on a cross-country trip alone, never to see it again. (Wake up – that’s the intrigue!) Today I cannot divulge details. But if you are an insider and you know what Red and I do for a living, maybe you can hazard a guess. And if you catch us on the phone or in the bowling alley? Stroll right up and ask us.

At any rate, for the next we-don’t-know-how-many-days, there will be one less large appliance in my kitchen. A neighbor was kind enough to loan me a little cubic dorm refrigerator (bad memories – bad!) that she had in her garage. So kind. I look at it, and it’s lovely. But what could possibly fit in there? Say I do buy say, salad stuff. And when I say salad stuff, I mean the stuff for that Red calls "the big salad."  The two types of dressing. The eggs to hard boil. The fantastic pepperocini peppers. (Thank you, CA sister!) Olives! And – and… and then I look at the little fridge. Hmm. Yeah, probably not. Not to mention I would have to sit on the floor to get all that stuff out. So you know what’s in there? Brown rice, for Greta. Red’s Italian take out leftovers. And 2 beers. Hey, c’mon, a girl has needs. I can’t feed you if you come to dinner, but I’ll give you my last beer. That’s love, baby.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

One Step at a Time...

This past Friday I drove out and met with James, my steel fabricator.  The meeting was short and sweet; he looked at the shop drawing edits and proclaimed that he "got it."  I gave him the Ipe samples, and the color sample of my gutters to match.

He is going to have new shop drawings made; he wasn't sure of the timing. He told me to poke him by email on Wednesday (tomorrow) if I hadn't received the detailed drawing for the footings. They will tell me where to put the footings, and how deep he thinks they should go. He said I'll need to "get moving" on the footings. That's encouraging, time-wise.

He is having trouble finding a powder coat paint place that has an oven large enough for the assembled pieces. He said he may end up painting it in his shop. He said if he does it in-house, not to worry, the paint will still last longer than I will be around to care about it. He said actually him painting it in-house is better, because if they nick it at all during installation he can match and patch the paint. If its powder coated they cannot touch up any nicks.

Paint color: If he does powder coat, there will be a set batch of colors that I can choose from. If he paints it in-house he can match my gutter color exactly.  He'll keep looking and let me know the results.

He also said if I want any holes drilled that he needs to know where before he assembles. That will require a little thought.  For hooks, I can come out to his shop after assembly before painting and point out where I want hooks added. Sweet!  It will be really fun to point out where I'd like hooks for garden clogs, garden tools, maybe hanging plants... 



Halloween has long been one of my favorite holidays -- I don't take the origins too seriously -- and it's a fun excuse to be silly and dress up.  My neighborhood, specifically my street, really gets into decorating for all the Fall holidays.  My friends just laugh and tell me that I moved into the perfect neighborhood for all my geeky craftiness.  And they are right!

Accordingly, Halloween decor has sprung up on my street.  I had Red and his daughters and the good doctor over Friday night a few weeks ago for dinner, decor and s'mores over the firepit.  It was really fun!  And despite the protestations of "I've never done this before" and "I'm not very creative, you'll have to tell me what to do" the result was smashing.  Smashing!  Here are some photos:

And then, my next door neighbor spied a new type of web in a nearby neighborhood that she said we MUST SEE.  We piled in her car and off we went.  It was spectacular.  I was nominated to hop out of the car and scamper up to touch it, to see what it was made of.  (Basic clothesline rope.)  The old mantra, "Oh, we could MAKE that!" returned.  We went straight to Home Depot to procure supplies.  We had also stopped at Walgreens of all places, and bought the huge furry spiders.  By dark, two gigantic webs had been spun.  Then this past weekend, Red helped me spin mine:

Isn't it great??  (Note the third spider above the porch in the photo above...)  The best part is, we can use these webs again next year.  I'll try to remember to take photos of the neighboring webs tonight and post them.  I was going to try to connect my web to my next door neighbor's web, but I couldn't quite wrap my brain around how to do it.  Maybe next year.

A man and his son walked down the street while Red and I were making my web and the little boy shouted, "Dad!  This street is freaky!"  Priceless.