Thursday, August 28, 2014

It will indeed be a weekend of labor.

I've got all kinds of projects going on, both indoors and out. This Labor Day weekend, which starts right now for me, I plan to just throw myself into the work.
I saw an ad for a company that sends this kit for $6.95 and then, after you compare them two at a time and rate them, they send you a wine profile and monthly boxes of wine tailored to you. I opted out before the first shipment (I'll pick my own wines, thanks), but enjoyed the game and was unsurprised to hear I like full-bodied, fruity red wines. And hey, now I have a set of cute little bud vases.
Dinner with a friend at a bistro downtown. After dinner the waitress asked if it was separate checks and he said, "I'll get it - it's her birthday." We both laughed because that was not close to the truth. I turned to the waitress to tell her it wasn't really my birthday but she was already saying, "Then you get a dessert!"  nd would I care for their dark chocolate torte with raspberry sauce?  Well, heck yeah- it's my birthday!
I also had a couple of nice dinners out with someone else, one of which included this amazing architectural version of tuna salad: raw ahi tuna, lump crab meat, romaine, roasted red peppers, avocado, pineapple, mango, tortilla straws and a citrus-soy glaze. We had a dozen PEI oysters on the half shell as an appetizer and a bottle of rioja. I just don't get tired of food like that.
A friend visiting last night, who paints and sculpts, sat in my living room and said, "You have a very particular aesthetic, and stay true to it. I can't believe you aren't a painter." Then he looked at me and said, "Or maybe you are and you just don't know it." There was something about that way of thinking about it that I loved.

But now, the yard is calling me.  I have work to do.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

No real "before" on this project.

As this house has only a single car garage, I decided to have a gardening shed made. It's one of those Amish-built, made-to-order companies. Well, mostly made-to-order. When I was sitting down with the guy, we had this conversation:
Me: "I want a shed that is 10 by 8 feet."
Him: "We don't make 10 by 8.  But you can get 8 by 10."
Me: "You do know that's the same thing, right?"

Turns out, it matters in terms of door placement. So I went with an 8X8 shed because I didn't want it to intrude onto the neighbor's property. With this company you pick things like number and size of windows, type of door, roofing materials, paint, shelving and so on. Most people go with a barn style or a windowless utility shed. Me, I wanted one that looked like a little cottage. Once made, it was delivered on a big truck and maneuvered into place, carefully avoiding a couple of small dogwoods. The delivery guy was exceedingly careful with the low hanging hemlock boughs. He gathered the rhododendron limbs and pulled them to the side and said, "Will you hold her back for me?" Her.
The inside was unfinished wood, so I used paint I'd found in the garage to make it a light yellow inside. I had a work bench built with a shelf under it and I brought the enamel topped table I found at my last house.
I ordered windows on all three sides plus a door with a window for maximal light. The three windows in the walls open and are screened. I added a clip on fan after these pictures to move air around when I'm working in there. And the hemlocks keep it nice and shaded. I also had the electrician run a wire to the shed and add an outlet. I put in a light over the bench and added a remote battery-operated light switch at the doorway. On that shelf, the batteries for the mower and weed whacker are kept charging. That wooden sign used to hang on my pig's pen when I was a kid. I had an American Yorkshire named Rosie because I wanted a pink pig like Wilbur in Charlotte's Web.
Hooks and so on hold various gardening tools. I made some sheer curtains that can be closed when I am not in it so the tools aren't an invitation for a break-in. And hung up the little Tibetan prayer flags.
Bird-feeding station is right by the front door, with bins of seed and corn for the squirrels.
Today I transplanted two gold mop false cypress bushes from the front bed because I don't like yellow plants in sunny areas. I also put down some flagstone and will fill in with dirt and plant some groundcover (moss, maybe) in between the stones. I bought and painted numbers that match the ones on the house and added a 1/2. I felt like the shed needed a number of its own. One little ceramic tree frog later and I think you'll have to agree it's the cutest little gardening shed in the world.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Nearly wordless weekend.

Last weekend was so odd (and NOT because of taking my son to school) that I'm still just quietly processing. And retreating to beach photos while I sort it through. I'll try to get back to normal next week.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I may be moping for a while.

Saturday my younger son and his father arrived to pick me up to head over to the University so my son could move into the dorm. It's located in a pretty part of the campus but on this day it was all about traffic. As we watched the hordes of new students go by my son said, "Where are all the kids with skinny jeans and tactical side buckles? They don't look like college kids."  I asked where he'd gotten his idea of what college kids look like and he said uncertainly, "Movies?"
We were instructed to unload at the dorm and then park somewhere else, so I waited with the pile. I watched as families carried load after load in, but my son had packed everything he needed in a box, duffle bag, and a backpack. Add to that his violin and guitar and a bag of goodies I'd brought for him, and we were able to make it in one trip. At least, we made it in one trip after my son and his dad trekked over to the student health center to straighten out a glitch with his vaccination records that was keeping him from being allowed to check in to his room.
After we got the bed made up and some of his stuff stowed away, I sat down and started crying. I just can't help it.  I did the same thing with my older son. And he was a little anxious himself about this new life. But it didn't stop him from horsing around when I was trying to get pictures. He said he was going to make sure he was bent sideways in all his photos and then gradually straighten up over the years he was there. Then, when anyone looked at his pictures from college, they'd say, "Wow, his scoliosis really improved!"
His roommate was absent but had already moved in. All we were able to discern is that he's from Colombia and loved the Kennedys. In addition to this poster, he had small busts of JFK and, oddly, Woodrow Wilson.
I started crying again when we headed out. I know, I know, I'll see him again. I tell you, I can't help it. I left him with the reminder that he was free to come home whenever he wanted to, for any reason - to do laundry, for a meal, or if he just needed a little break from his roommate. But the house suddenly seems bigger and quieter. As happy for him as I am, I'm not altogether thrilled about that.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Another before and after.

Before: I really needed my room to be a retreat from the chaos that is moving in to a new house and it was actually the first room I tackled. The room I chose wasn't actually the master bedroom. It was the middle-sized bedroom being used by the former owners as a study. The master bedroom faced both the street and the neighbor's house on the side. This is the only one that faced only the back yard, and it had the most closet space.
The view was the main reason I picked it - I like looking out on the back yard. The former owner slapped a coat of latex paint over oil-based paint on the woodwork, so it's peeling like crazy. I am planning to sand it down and re-prime and paint.
I tore out the built in bookshelves, which was a surprisingly difficult task. They'd been securely nailed in and then caulked, so I had a lot of patching to do. I couldn't really see the point of them and they just made the room look boxed in. Looks like the room was a bright pink before they painted it to sell it.
The walls in almost the entire house had been painted a light yellow prior to the sale. An inoffensive color, to be sure, but not me. My method for choosing a paint color is to tape up several paint sample cards and then, as the light changes, take down one at a time until I'm left with one I like in all lights. It's really hard to tell in the rest of the photos, but I went with peach shades.
I tried for sort of an ombré effect, with graduated shades. I bought a gallon each of the darker and lighter shades on one card, and then mixed a couple of batches in varying proportions as I painted upward. It may not be to everyone's liking, but I find it soothing.
I replaced the old vinyl mini blinds with room darkening shades (for nighttime) and floral sheers. All three doors in the room have the original cut glass door knobs, so I got a curtain rod with cut glass finials to go with them.
Although I'm going for deeper colors in the rest of the house, I like my room to be lighter and more serene. Not frilly, but still feminine. Those little carved gourd lights reflect in the dresser mirror, which makes the room glow.
After: The view that matches the before photo at the top. It hardly looks like the same room.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The other reason I've been too busy to blog.

I have moved into a neighborhood where landscaping matters. All around me people pour time and energy and not a little money into their yards. The former owner of the house, however, was not one of those people and the yard is mostly plain. I'm changing that. I started by ordering a pallet - nearly two tons - of flat field stone. And I set about building a little wall to outline a bed.  It curves from the driveway all the way down to the edge of the other side of the front yard. My neighbors stop by now and again to survey my work and comment that I'm already way ahead of the previous owner. Did I mention that in this neighborhood, it matters?
Next up, I had a truckload of compost (6 scoops) dumped in my yard and started covering the grass with cardboard. You'd be surprised how much interest this project has elicited. Neighbors I've not met yet pause in their walks to ask about what I'm doing. This is my earth-friendly approach, which I learned at a permaculture workshop. I cover the grass with cardboard and newspaper and then compost and then more cardboard/paper and then mulch. Over time the paper all decomposes and the grass is starved of sunlight and dies. I hope.
I had a second truckload of compost brought in when it was clear the first one wasn't going to be enough and accidentally buried the water meter cover. Oops. After a lot of digging, I found it again and put rocks around it to form a a little barrier.
And then the mulch step. This is all hard work and my across-the-street neighbor commented that I still had a lot to do and suggested I use his landscaping guys. But no, that's money I just don't have. What I do have is my own driven self. So a wagon-full at a time, I'm distributing the mulch.
I've done this lower part of the bed so far. By the time fall rolls around it should be ready to plant. I still have the better part of two truckloads of mulch to distribute and another bed I want to build. I have a little time and I'm confidant I'll get it all done.
Because I happen to have a little weakness. Before I moved out of my old house, I carefully dug up 48 daffodil, tulip and hyacinth bulbs and packed them away for this fall. I also uprooted a big peony, a silver lamium, two tubs of hostas, a tub of lily of the valley, another of irises and some blue star creeper. They are all waiting to go into the garden here. And in the meantime, off and on I’ve ordered plants on-line which will be shipped in the fall. And then forgotten them, and ordered others. These include tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, lilies, gladioli, crocuses, rosy bells, and snow glories. Also a fig tree, a hibiscus, a second blueberry bush, a weigela, a couple of buddleia, some hyssop, sweetbox, sage, bee balm, speedwell, Joe Pye weed, dwarf mondo grass and another peony. On the deck I have some swamp milkweed temporarily housed in a pot and there’s a mystery unmarked bag of bulbs in the shed. Some quick math… and in September and October I will have to plant about 300 bulbs/rhizomes and twenty shrubs/plants. And there are some larger trees and bushes I will almost certainly buy at that time, too, to go in the ground.  I know. You don't need to tell me, because I already know. I'm a plant addict. And I don't think it's an addiction I want to break.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Beach trip overview.

It's taken some time to get back to blogging after our trip to the Georgia coast, the land of live oak trees draped in Spanish moss.
The kids and I stayed at a different place on St. Simon's Island this time, in the upper apartment on the right.
From the living room, and also from my room, we could see the ocean. Occasionally, we'd look up to see a big Russian cargo ship passing.
As soon as we got there, we changed and walked across the street to have a look at the water.  But it was high tide, so we headed down to East Beach instead.
No matter where it is on the tide schedule, there is always plenty of sandy beach there to walk on.
My sons made their usual sand castles, and also took long walks together so they could talk.  I know they miss each other, and I was happy to see them deep in conversation.
And I enjoyed the time with my own thoughts as I walked. Sometimes, there would be no one else anywhere in sight.  We were on the beach every morning and evening, when the sun wasn't as intense.
Mostly, we had our mid-day meals out. Always seafood of one sort or another. Even at the Mexican restaurant, I had a salmon and goat cheese quesadilla.
To escape the heat we also looked around in the various shops on the islands. I got some books to read while I was there and in one store we took this very serious selfie.
My older son has little tolerance for the heat. Even with the AC on, he wilted. At one point, he collapsed under the fan and said dramatically, "It's too got-dang hot in this state."
No trip to the coastal South is complete for me without a stop at the farmer's market to pick up some hot boiled peanuts. There is something blissful about having them with an icy beer out on a balcony overlooking the warm waters of the low country.
We were only there for 5 days, but it was a welcome respite. My sons are as tight as brothers can be, and both were reluctant to have the vacation end.
And me? I'm thinking maybe a second career as a life guard.