30 May 2008

Decisions, Decisions...

Today, I'm thinking about the choices we are faced with when we take on an old house project. The possibilities are endless, and it can be a lot of fun. So long as you don't make a job of it.

Some decisions are easier to reverse than others. For instance, if you don't like a color of paint, you can always go back to the store, and get another color. But if you don't like where the P.O.s moved that dining room wall, and you want to move it back to its original location, well, that's a decision you want to be sure of before you jump right in.

Some of us are more decisive than others. Take me for instance. Sometimes I can't even make a decision about what to wear, so I can get out the door in the morning. Brown socks, or blue socks? The pink tee shirt, or the blue tee shirt? Or bigger decisions. To paint, or to stain? Latex, or oil-based? What shade, out of the millions on the Sherwin-Williams charts? Do I stick to the tried-and-true Arts and Crafts palate, or branch out and try something different? (I opted for different, and it is okay, but if I had to do it again, I'd use the A&C colors.) Carpet, or hardwood? Cork, tile, or linoleum? Vintage, or reproduction? Too many choices sometimes.

On the other hand, some of us know just what we want, and we go straight for it.

29 May 2008

Sawhorses, Oliver and the Figure Eight

I got the final coat of color stain on this basement screen door yesterday. I'm ready to be done with this project, but we have to put a finish coat of some sort on it yet. Guess I'd better see what we have on the paint shelf in the basement.
Oliver wasn't paying much attention to me and my project, so I got started. Don't you know, as soon as I had stain slathered over half the door, here comes Oli, sniffing, wagging, shedding, and weaving his rope between the legs of the sawhorses. There was a tense couple of minutes where I had to tell him to sit and stay, because he had made a figure eight around the legs. He really couldn't go anywhere, and he refuses to unwrap himself by going back the way he came. After I finished the final wipe down and got my gloves off, I was able to lift the sawhorses and free his rope. Then I asked him to please sit on the glider while the door dried, so we don't get golden retriever hair in the wet stain (we did anyway) or get get white stain in his hair (he did anyway).

22 May 2008

Granny Hobbies

Did I tell you? I've taken up embroidery. Now I can add this to my other granny hobbies: reading, gardening, genealogy... It's no wonder my friend Marc calls me Tupperware-Party-fun.

How can you resist all those fabulous colors of thread?

I'm pretty pleased with my first project, a towel for Lewis' guest bathroom. I matched the thread to the towels exactly. Unfortunately, when I finished I tossed it in with a delicate load of wash. With something red. Oops. So I've just kept washing it, in nearly every load since, and now the pink has almost completely faded.

This was my next project. It is a baby bunny, from the book Doodle Stitching by Aimee Ray. I'm not overly impressed with my stitches, but I've got to keep in mind that I'm still learning the basic stitches. It might help if I would iron these things.

Then I picked up this little cross stitch project, which is meant to be framed. I'll get around to framing it someday. It is also for Lewis. I have to tell you, I'm really good at the cross and half-cross stitch now, but I don't think I'll be doing another one of these for a long time. I just don't have the patience. I wanted it to be finished before I was even halfway through. I'm gonna blame some of that on the label on the package claiming this was a weekend project. They just didn't say how many weekends!

Now, I'm working on a set of pillowcases. I think I'm going to keep these for myself, because I'm learning the lazy-daisy and stem stitch here. It isn't looking too bad so far. The pillowcases are actually white, I just couldn't get a better shot with my camera. I think it needs fresh batteries. The finished project should look something like this, only I've used variegated color thread.

19 May 2008

Basement Screen Door

We hauled the sawhorses out to the front porch again last week.
Mom and I got busy staining the new screen door for the basement. This one is pretty basic. Bill built it because the basement's back door is pretty low, under six feet I believe.

The door frame is painted, but we chose to do a white stain on the door, for two reasons. One, I already had the can of stain, and two, because I don't want to have to repaint it every couple of years.

So we started out by giving it a wipe down with tackcloth, since it has been sitting around for about a month. We got two coats on each side before it was time to call it a day. I think it needs one more, then we can put some kind of clear coat on the door, call Bill and tell him it is ready. Bill is going to put the screens in and he also bought a metal mesh grill for the bottom section, because he knows what doggie noses can do to a screen.

As an added bonus, the modern screen door tension bar thingy and the modern hinges that came with the new front door's screen door/storm door will be just fine for the basement.

18 May 2008

Rainbow plates

These beauties arrived on my front porch earlier this week. They are salad plates in the Iridescent Moonglow pattern by Federal Glass. I've never seen the salad plates before, I didn't even think they existed because I have never seen a guide that referred to them. So, boy was I excited when I spotted these on eBay. The seller stated that they were 7 1/2" plates. I almost doubted her, but I bid on them anyway, figuring even if she was wrong, I still need a couple more dinner plates. When I saw the box, I knew it wasn't big enough to hold dinner plates.
I have a special love of these; there is a story. When I was little, my grandparents had a cabin in the woods. It was about a half hour's drive from where they lived (and now about a half hour for me, too, the other direction). This was not meant to be a residence, but a little getaway for them, and friends and family. My grandfather was the ultimate scavenger, and built this cabin with mostly found objects, and with the skills he and friends had. Unfortunately, it wasn't really built to stand the test of time, and is now in a serious state of disrepair. It makes my mom sad. She loved it there when she was growing up.

The property belongs to my mom now, since my grandmother died, and it is just more than we know how to deal with. Many people over the years have suggested selling it, but we have no intentions of doing that. At one point when I was house shopping, I even considered building there.

But back to the plates. The kitchen had a hodgepodge of plates, cups, utensils, etc. that had been left by different people over the years, and there were a small handfull of pieces of this pattern; two or three dinner plates, six vegetable bowls, three or four cereal bowls, and several saucers, but no teacups. Well, I just loved these when I was little (and still do). I named them rainbow plates because of the way the iridescent colors shifted when you tilt the plates. I always insisted on eating from a my rainbow plates.I've since added to the cabin's odd pieces, and now have quite a collection. I'd ultimately like to have service for twelve. Minus the teacups and saucers. I don't need those. I only have the ones I do because they came with a set I got at the local antiques barn. Now I just need to make room in the cupboard.

17 May 2008

Citrus Smoothie

I have a packet of these pretty little things: Pot Marigold Citrus Smoothies. I've been debating where to plant them, but I think I'll put them in containers on the porch. So pretty.

Digging in the Dirt

Oliver and I worked on two flower beds Wednesday.

First, we started on the bed to the left of Oli's door. This is what it looked like a couple of days ago.
We carefully raked the surface of the exposed soil and pulled weeds and grass coming up in the bed. I make a game with Oli out of shaking the dirt off the roots. Usually the dirt goes everywhere but back in the flower bed, but it is great fun.

Then we marked out the different sections with a thin line of sand, and planted these seeds.
The tall plant with the white plumes, called liatris, should get to about three feet, and is a perennial, so I chose that location carefully. The liatris is in the triangular section, the cosmos was planted in the two inches along the very back, and the nasturtium should fill in the space between the hostas and the liatris.
The empty circle is reserved for a hosta which I need to buy. Soon. I bought a bare root host a couple of weeks ago, but when I took it out of the bag, it looked dead. I planted it anyway, and watered it, but I think it was a lost cause.
Next, we got to work on the flower bed next to the porch. I've had all this debris piled on the soil in hopes of killing the weeds. It seems to only work where something heavy completely smothered the weeds, like where the bags of soil are, or under the bricks. The weeds under the old plastic shower curtain were weak, but still there. So, now we know.
We used the same approach as before: rake soil, pull weeds, mark with sand, plant seeds.
Oli can't quite reach this flower bed, so he just got as close as possible, settled in the cool grass, and watched me work.
Again, I planted a row of cosmos across the very back, next, in the center some German chamomile, and two different varieties of blanket flower on either side. The blanket flowe did really well for me last year, but I had a single plant, so hopefully they will do as well started from seed. I have not had much luck with chamomile in the past, but I had this packed left over, so I figured I'd toss them in there and hope for the best. I think even if they don't make it, I can get a chamomile plant from the nursury to put there. If I even need it. The next plant in the center, the gazanias, might just take over the whole area. Following that, there is a row each of seed tape zinnias, then seed tape alyssum ( have them reversed in the seed packet photo).
Then I popped a couple of marigolds that were already started into the divider between the two beds.
By now, with all the rain we've had, it is probably time to weed. That's my least favourite part of direct-sowing; I'm never sure what is a baby plant and what is weed.

15 May 2008

Indelibly Stamped

I had a couple of days off work this week for the thyroid testing, and nothing else planned, so Mom and I got going on some projects that have been waiting for nice weather.

I collected all the screen and storm window frames that Bill left by each small square window and carried them to the front porch. This is where we do most of our dirty work, and that is why the porch always looks trashy, but it is a great place to work. We decided to mark each window and both frames with a little number.
I borrowed these neat little stamps from my dad. Just give them a little tap, and you have an impression.
And in no time, all fourteen frames were done, stacked, and ready for staining.
Now, we'll just wait for Jack's specially mixed stain...

14 May 2008

Something I Far More Afraid of Than Any 'Ole Bear

I also spotted this while I was mowing today:
Evil poison ivy. I can't even look at it without breaking out; I have a seriously allergic reaction to this stuff. So now that I'm done in the yard, it is off to the shower with the Burt's Bees Poison Ivy Soap for me. It seemed to help last year, so keep your fingers crossed. I don't know what I'll do if I have a reaction. Because of this silly heart flutter thing, the doctor had banned me from all medication, tea, and chocolate. This has so far been inconvenient. I've even managed through the allergies, but, poison ivy? Different story. That usually includes a shot of prednisone, and much benadryll, but that's certainly out of the question right now.

Bear Tracks?!?

So, I'm outside mowing just now, and I spotted this:
Now, knowing how close the bear was last week, could these be bear tracks?

11 May 2008

Dogwood in Bloom

The dogwood trees in this area are spectacular this year. They are all really full. So pretty.

10 May 2008

Bright Idea: LED bulbs

I think these are really cool. But, they are also a little too expensive for me just yet. Hopefully, they will soon come down in price.


I don't use the compact fluorescent bulbs because the flicker can cause migraines for me. So you'll only find halogen or traditional incandescent lighting in my house. I know they aren't very green, that is why I'm so very interested in the LED bulbs.

09 May 2008

No, I didn't see the bear...

...but Oliver might have.
This is big news in our small town. On Monday someone spotted a bear. The news reported that it was seen somewhere in the township that surrounds our borough, but in fact it had actually been right in town.

Monday around 10 a.m. someone spotted the bear and reported it to the local police. They searched for it, then called in the local game officer, who also searched for the bear. No one encountered the bear.

Later Monday evening around 9 p.m. my backyard neighbor's wife saw the bear right out her front door, digging through their trash.

Oliver and I got home around 9:50 that night, and I put him outside soon after we got home, because I figured he might need to go after the long car ride. He was quiet outside for a few minutes, then he started barking and growling. Now, Oli barks at everything, but this was different than his usual bark. I called him in immediately, only thinking that it is late and I'd hate for Oli to wake the babies next door. His hackles were up when he came in, so this was more than a bunny. I really didn't think anything more of it until the 11 o'clock news gave their brief report, just saying that a bear had been reported by residents.

Then I'm thinking, "ooh, a bear. I'd better watch Oli when I put him out for his last time out tonight. Hmm, maybe that's what he was barking at earlier. Nah. That bear wouldn't have been anywhere near here. That's a big township, with plenty of wooded areas. What would a bear want with town?"

So we went to bed. I had a bit of a sinus headache, which woke me up in the wee hours, so after I was able to fall asleep again, I decided to sleep in.

It was my late Tuesday at work, so I didn't get up until around 10. I put Oliver out, checked on the laundry, and he started barking up a storm. So, again, I call him in, and he makes a beeline for the front door, still barking. Oh. There are two ladies on the front porch. With cameras. Well this is odd. What are they doing? I hope they don't want to take pictures of the house or something dumb like that. The place is a mess. So I get the locks undone, and I ask them "can I help you?" Like I'm at work. They tell me that they heard there was a bear sighting. I said, "Yeah, I heard that too. On the news last night." So we talked for a few minutes, they asked me if I saw it, I said no, but Oli went kind of nuts barking at something last night. And they asked me if I was afraid, and I told them, not for me, but for Oli yes. Actually, my exact words were "well, sure." And that, my friends, it the quote that made it into our local paper. Wow. Do I sound like a bumkin, or what? So they took my name, and asked Oli's name. I actually forgot to ask what paper they were with at the time, the whole thing kind of caught me off guard. Not to mention that we had this whole conversation while I'm hanging on to Oli's collar and standing there in my bathrobe. Nice.

So, on Wednesday evening mom and I are out front giving the forsythia its annual trim, and she tells me that she heard the bear was spotted at the intersection of my street and the side street a half a block away. Wow. That's close. Now I am starting to think maybe Oliver did see something.

We never did get the trimming done because we were interrupted twice. First, by random people driving down the street, looking for the bear. They wanted to know if we saw it. And second, by our neighbors across the street when they came home. I have a feeling if I try to do any yard work this weekend, it will be more of the same.

Then on Thursday, when our local weekly paper comes out, I finally learned just how close the bear had been. Our back yard neighbor told the newspaper that her dog must have scared it off, and that it was last seen running across our street. Which means it had only two avenues: between my house and the neighbor with the babies, or between the house with the babies and the next house. Either way, that bear was practically in our back yard.

This is the photo from the newspaper. It was taken from my back yard neighbor's house, and you can see the side of our bungalow between the porch posts. Very, very close.

08 May 2008

World's Largest Dandelion

Some weeding of the flower beds occured on Monday.

That is when we found this: the biggest dandelion I've ever seen. Compare to the size of my gardening glove.Oli was interested in it as well.Too bad I didn't know then about the market for organic dandelions.
After he tore the dandelion to shreds, he became more interested in my glove. He refused to return my gardening glove until I gave into the ransom he demanded: one doggie biscuit.

07 May 2008

Organic Dandelion

I almost fell over when I saw this in the produce department at the Giant grocery store last night. Clearly, I'm not taking full advantage of my resources.
Lewis said "tell them to come to my back yard and I'll only charge them $50 to clean me out."

06 May 2008

Yard Work and Bed Planning

Boy, have I got my work cut out for me. I really thought I would be out in the yard earlier this spring. And I was. Several weeks ago, then I got sick, and I have been trying to take it easy. I'm not allowed to take any allergy medication until the doctor figures out what is causing my heart rate to go all wonky, so I've been hesitant to get out there in all that pollen.

Anyway, the plan for the yard goes like this:

I need to patch and repair the grass in the front here. It is spotty for three reasons: one, Oliver (need I say more?), two, the new grass seed is coming in patchy where we pulled the shrubs out, and three, we kind of got heavy clay mud all over the place the day we planted the purple-leaf plum tree, and it has smothered the grass in those patches.

The other thing I want to do here is make a circle of bricks around the new tree, so we don't get too close when we mow. I have a small stack of bricks for just this purpose. I think I want to plant some kind of ground cover inside the brick circle, at the base of the tree. Maybe vinca or alyssum? I'm not sure if that would be okay for the tree though? Any thoughts? I don't really want to put tan bark down because diggy-dog seems to think this is an invitation, and he chews on big pieces, and a lot of that stuff is treated. Ew. Stones are also out, for much the same reason. And I don't need Oliver breaking his teeth on stones and needing to see the doggie dentist.
I had my marigold bed in this crescent last year, but this year I have something different in mind. I have several packets of seeds of flowers in dark purples, whites, and yellows. I can't remember all of them off the top of my head but I know I have johnny jump-ups, violets, and white cosmos. Tallest stuff at the back, shorter to the front. That mess of tarps, empty pots, pavers, bricks and mats it trying to kill all the weeds coming up, but so far it looks like the weeds are winning. The last two years I had cucumbers growing on the L-shaped lattice, and it really thrived, but I'm not sure if I should keep planting the same thing there year after year. Maybe I should give it a break, just plant flowers, or maybe plant a different climbing or vining vegetable?

I'll probably dig up the rest of those hyacinth and tulip bulbs (I thought I had gotten them all last year) and relocate them. Also, Lewis' frog-belly plant is doing very well under the drain spout. We had nearly killed it while all the major construction was going on, but it has come back almost to the size it was five years ago. I have no idea what the real name of this plant is, so we call it the frog belly plant because Lewis says if you break a leaf off and blow air into the pocket (it is a double-sided leaf) it feels like a frog's belly. I wouldn't know.
Again, we are trying to kill weeds here, under the plastic tarp, bags of topsoil, and various containers. We seem to be having better luck in this spot. I would like to plant blanket flower and gazanias here.This bed has already seen some work. The hostas you see here are the last two survivors of my digging last year. Oops. Oh well. I tried to get another started by the door, so they would be evenly spaced, but the bagged bare-root thing I bought from Home Depot didn't look good from the start. I really need to stick to my rule. No plant purchases from HD. Nothing ever lives. So, I think I'll go to a local green house (with a photo) and get a matching hosta that is already growing to about the same size. Then, in the spaces between the hostas, I have seeds for liatris. It is a tall perennial with big white plumes. Any space remaining will be filled with nasturtium. The first year I planted them, nothing came up. Not one spindly plant. Gardener's favourite, indeed. So last year, when I found a leftover packet, I just threw the seeds in this bed, and to my surprise, they really took off.
My garden bed needs so much weeding, I'm dreading it. Maybe I'll do the others first, then try the tarp trick. Maybe it is too late. Much of the stuff growing in this bed is grass, not weeds, though, so, it could be worse. (It could be raining.) Last year I had tomatoes, and I think zucchini here. I had a net suspended from the kitchen window's knee braces for the zucchini to climb, and once it got going it looked really good. Again, I'm wondering about crop rotation, but this is really a terrific spot for veggies.Mom, this is for you: I don't want to overdo it with the vegetables this year. Again. Too much to keep after.

1 Sweet Millions tomato plant
1 Big Boy tomato plant
1 cucumber plant
1 zucchini plant

01 May 2008

Meet Madame Lemoine

I am so excited! This is the first year my lilac has bloomed. It is a Madame Lemoine Lilac. I got this scrawny thing on clearance at Lowe's two summers ago. I nursed it, first in a pot, then when it looked like it would recover, I planted it in the ground next to the porch, but just out of reach of Oliver's rope. And now it has three lovely, fragrant white blooms.

I've been eyeing up the Lilac Primrose, which is yellow. And, the Volcan Lilac is really stunning, too. How many lilac shrubs are too many?