Rearranging Shrubbery

Rearranging Shrubbery

Feeling empowered!
I’ve discovered I can rearrange some of my shrubbery.
It’s no small job.
So I’m darn proud of myself for tackling the task this week.
 In the seven months we’ve been in this house,
I’ve been chipping away at a ginormous house-to-do list.
Repairing or replacing broken things.
Painting out the ugly.
Making things fresh.
Creating our home.
Round one is done.
But new things are continuously added to that to-do list.
The nature of home ownership, right?
For example:
The warm and exceedingly wet winter has resulted in mold growing all over the back of our house.
Nothing I can do about that right now.
The weeks of heavy rains have also left the soil damp and soft.
Which created the perfect conditions to yank out a couple of bushes.
Started with these two gardenia shrubs.
They were planted smack in front of the house.
Right under the dining room window.
I think gardenias are great.
But these two just were adding nothing to the house’s curb appeal.
When the sun came out this week, 
I grabbed my shovel, clippers and hand tiller and extricated these guys.
 It was tricky, sweaty work.
Because of the irrigation lines and low voltage electrical wire threaded around and through the roots, 
I couldn’t just use a shovel.
Instead, I got down on hands and knees and sort of combed the soil away from the roots.
Best tool for that job was my hand held tiller.
A little bigger than a hammer.
Sort of a cross between a pick ax and a giant fork.
Coaxed out as many whole roots as possible.
Clipped the ones too stubbornly ensconced.
Gashed my arms a couple of good ones before I wised up and covered up more carefully.
But I didn’t compromise irrigation line or electrical wire.
Jumped up and gave a loud victory cry when I finally freed both shrubs.
(Giving the neighbors more reason to think I’m a little… different…)
Got plans for that spot under the dining room window.
But had to replant the gardenia quickly if I wanted them to survive.
 Dragged my circus act around back.
I knew exactly where I wanted those gardenias to live.
But first, those stupid knock out roses of the grasping vicious thorns had to be evicted.
Ok, sorry for that last comment if you’re actually a fan of these roses.
I thought they were pretty when I was first introduced to them.
But frankly, they’ve reached out, grabbed and wounded me one too many times…
They are no longer welcome in my yard.
 Clippers and shovel were my tools of choice this round.
Once I located and moved the drip irrigation lines,
I clipped the rose bushes down to ground level and then unleashed with shovel.
Wow, that was satisfying.
And then it was just a matter of replanting the gardenias.
Feeling absurdly tickled that I rearranged shrubbery like it was furniture.
Got my fingers crossed that the gardenia will survive my rough love.
It’s all sort of an experiment.
But that’s really the best thing about gardening and growing things.

Garden in Winter

Garden in Winter

The garden in winter.
Fall in the garden was gorgeous.
But messy.  
Horribly messy.
All those trees dropping leaves everywhere.
The first red and yellow leaves wafting down felt special.
After that, it was the leaf blower and me versus massive backyard debris.
I like winter ever so much more.
My favorite days are the brisk sunny ones.
Then I slip on garden clogs, grab my basket of tools and head outside.
Bare trees mean I can finally see the bone structure in our backyard.
There is an unexpected beauty in the winter starkness.
Digging out some bushes.
Transplanting others.
Marveling how the baby lavender plants of last summer have grown so hearty.
Still harvesting and enjoying the rainbow chard (in January no less!).
Always weeding.
Wondering if I should put in a fire pit?
Wishing I had a bench to sit on in my favorite corner of the yard.
The corner I call my “garden of misfit plants.”
Once spring hits,
I expect everything to once again bloom and grow like wildfire.
But in the meantime,
I’m thoroughly enjoying this interlude.
Cozy Winter Porch

Cozy Winter Porch

 My favorite spot in our house is my ultimate craft room.
That’s where I hide out when I’m in “mad scientist making mode” – as my husband calls it.
My second favorite spot is the front porch.
Since it’s covered, it’s somewhat sheltered from the elements.
Shady on sunny hot days.
Dry on drizzly rainy days.
A perfect spot to take a break from chores and to sit & watch the goings on around me. 
To add a bit of silliness,
I’ll occasionally rock in a rocker with binoculars in hand.
Come on.  Let’s be real.
Of course all the neighbors are watching each other.
Why hide it?
Here, let me hold my binoculars to my face so you know for sure I’m watching you.
Sometimes, I sip a glass of wine and rock.
When I can lure her from her mom-duties, my neighbor will join me awhile.
I crochet there in the afternoon.
And watch for my boy to come running home from the bus stop.
It’s a cheerful inviting spot.
Only natural to dress it up each season.
Currently, going for a cozy lodge feel to celebrate winter and the fast approaching Christmas.
 A row of medium and small live Blue Spruce trees.
These remind me of the giant spruce trees that surrounded the home of my childhood.
How happy I was to build forts between them.
And to pop out to see what my Dadio was working on in the garden.
A single strand of Christmas lights adorn the trees.
It doesn’t have to be fancy to be festive.
A metal “house” I indulged myself with on a shopping expedition with a friend.
Warm plaid throws resting across the rocking chair backs.
Some seasons it’s fashionable.
Other seasons, not.
Trendy or not, I will always love plaid.
That vintage red truck from an antique mall in PA.
Pine cones piled in the truck bed.
And the coolest thing on the porch right now?
This freshly upcycled TV cabinet.
Reimagined into a faux “fireplace.”
Nestled on the wall just left of the front door as you approach the house.
Tucked out of sight.
A unique something that’s already surprised a smile out of more than one person.
I’m awfully proud of this piece.
A little light on a dark night.
A little twinkle to add to the season.
A few fuzzy warm throws should the temperatures turn chilly.
Cozy little porch.
Halloween Porch

Halloween Porch

My neighbors are decking their homes out for Halloween.
Everyday, someone adds something new to her house and lawn.
I’m decorating for the season as well.
My self imposed rules slow the process down.
But that’s ok.
The process is where all the fun is!
This weekend, I started playing with my front porch.
Started by dragging my guy to a local nursery.
I needed him for the $20-all-you-can-carry pumpkin special.
We were pleased he made it to the register with five whole pumpkins.
Then we found out some young man before us manged eight pumpkins without dropping any.
(Oh honey, you’re still my hero… ha…)
Next, I put together a witch’s broomstick.
This “craft” took less than 5 minutes.
I tied 2 cinnamon brooms to a stick I pruned off a bush with three lengths of jute twine.
If it’s this fast and this easy, can I even count it as a craft?
By the way,
I’m really digging these cinnamon brooms.
I found them for just $4 each at the grocery store.
They are great for fighting off damp musty smells in our house.
I just flip on all the ceiling fans, then walk from room to room gently waving my brooms in the air.
Dragged the rocking chairs closer to the front door.
Arranged and rearranged the pumpkins.
Added a favorite witch’s hat.
Leaned my new broom against the wall.
I’d love to add some creepy crows and a big antique birdcage.
But that would mean buying more.
I dunno… 
Should I?  Shouldn’t I?
Pondering what to add next.
But I think this looks pretty good so far.
I can grill!

I can grill!

I’m ever so proud of myself.
Know why?
‘Cuz I can grill!!
 I can grill without setting the food, myself or the house on fire.
And the food actually tastes good.
This opens up so many new cooking options.
Momsy bought me a gas grill as a housewarming gift.
As always,
So generous & thoughtful.
Thanks Momsy!
But I have to confess:
I was scared of it.
“No worries!”
A friend assured me.
“It’s just like broiling food; only you’re outside.”
Not reassuring.
The one time I tried to broil something, 
I set the food on fire.
Then, in an act of sheer idiocy,
I turned the fan on.
Little flames suddenly grew big ones.
Black smoke billowed out of my oven.
Luckily, we were in a full service condo at the time.
I called the concierge.
Porters & security guys came running to my apartment to rescue me.
Now it’s just my little family and me.
And this big old empty house.
I bet it’s quite flammable.
Couldn’t let my fears bog me down, though.
We’ve invited friends & family to visit over the next few months.
And I’ve promised to grill for them all.
So it was time to grit my teeth and get grilling.
I decided to start this whole grilling thing with veggies.
Big meaty portobello mushrooms.
Crisp asparagus.
A fleshy purple egg plant.
Two zucchini.
Two yellow squash.
Half a red and half a yellow pepper.
Olive oil, pepper and salt to season the vegetables.
Balsamic vinegar to splash on before eating.
And, of course,
A glass or two of red wine to fortify myself.
 Before grilling,
I coated all the vegetables in olive oil.
Then sprinkled with salt and pepper.
I also decided to try out my brother-in-law’s special potato recipe.
Parboiled potatoes.
Chopped bacon & onions (I sauteed these beforehand).
Olive oil, salt & pepper.
Packaged in foil.
 Once the food was prepped,
It was time to grill.
Stationed my bigger boy on the deck for moral support.
He was also assigned the jobs of:
1.  Reading the detailed grilling instructions my brother, Andy, sent me.
2.  Setting the timer when necessary.
3.  Being ready to run for the fire extinguisher should I do something really stupid.
He ended up performing only tasks #1 and #2.
For future reference, here are Andy’s veggie grilling instructions:
1.  Preheat all three burners on closed lid to 400 degrees.
2.  Open.  Reduce heat to medium.
3.  Scrap any carbon off grill surface.
4.  Place veggies on grill.  Cook with closed lid for 3 minutes.
5.  Open lid.  Check.  Turn veggies.  Cook with closed lid another 3 minutes.
6.  Plate it all up & drizzle with balsamic vinegar before serving.
And here it is.
My first grilled dinner.
All in all, everything turned out really tasty.
Next time I grill vegies, I need to:
1.  Figure out how to coat the oil on everything more evenly.
2.  Cut the peppers in half only.  These were chopped too small and a few fell through the grill.
3.  Leave the potatoes on longer.
Next food item to practice grilling?
Did I ever mentioon how raw meat freaks me out?!
Simply Cushions

Simply Cushions

We’ve turned the corner on working on our house.
The original must-deal-with list has been dealt with.
At least one new thing still goes wrong each week.
(This week’s unpleasant surprise was bats in the crawl spaces)
But we’ve survived the initial overwhelming home ownership learning curve.
I’m moving onto the fun stuff;
Making our house into our home.
And happy, happy me,
This involves crafting, shopping and decorating.
 A big decorating challenge for me is the sheer size of the house.
We’re accustomed to apartment living.
Efficient use of limited space.
Suddenly, we’ve swung to the other extreme.
Big sprawling house.
It swallowed our furniture in one gulp.
And still looked empty.
The temptation is to go shopping and fill up the echoing spaces.
I’m fighting it.
My goals are:
1.  To NOT junk up the house.
2.  To NOT break the bank or be wasteful with my purchases.
3.  To make what I can make.
4.  To buy only what we really love and can use.
5.  To take my time.
6.  To enjoy the process of transforming our space into something uniquely us.
Of course, I have a long find-buy-make list.
But just as with everything else,
I’m tackling it one item at a time.
This week’s project was simply cushions.
I wanted some colorful cushions to liven up the neutral walls, floors and furniture. 
Luckily, I had just thing on hand.
I’m wild about these two gorgeous fabrics.
Bought them at  Mood right before we moved.
Ah, Mood… one of the things I’m missing about NYC…
I also had three 20-inch by 20-inch cushions I wanted to recover.
I didn’t want piping.
Nor did I think zippers in the cushion covers were necessary.
For each cushion, I simply cut two 21-inch by 21-inch pieces of fabric.
Pinned them right sides in.
Sewed the sides together using a quarter inch seam allowance.
Left 14 inches open on one side so I could easily fit the cushion inserts in.
Flipped the fabric right sides out.
Pushed the corners out.
Tucked in the cushion inserts.
Slip-stitched the remaining side closed.
I love it.
Now what shall I make next?