February 28, 2011

February, Wrapped Up With a Bow

Happy last day of February!!!

Tomorrow is MARCH!  That means the bulbs will start coming up soon!

Signs of life from last year

It also means…we’ll probably get a blizzard, because we always seem to get huge blizzards in March.

But no matter – March is here, and that’s all I care about! 

Despite being cold, gray, and dead, we did manage to get a few things done this month.  My productivity is directly related to the weather and the amount of green on the ground outside, so I’m looking forward to more projects in the next couple months.

This month…….

First we revealed the master bath renovation results (when I discovered how crazy-hard it is to take a decent picture of a small space):

Master Bath Reno

Then I talked a little more in depth about the master bath finishes (you know, the fun stuff!)

Delta Victorian faucet

I recreated a Pottery Barn art idea for the new bathroom

Pottery Barn knock-off art

I showed our newly spacious closet:

Newly expanded closet!

I revealed the new name of the site!  We went from “A Chirp in the Forest” to “Burb Tales!”


I played around with some supercheap spring-ish décor, using cool feed sack dish towels my aunt made for us:

Feed sack dish towel decor

And finally, because I’m starting to feel the spring-cleaning itch, I shared a tip for cleaning laminate floors without spending money on Swiffer refills.

Substitute for swiffer refills

Now I’m looking forward to March!  Nick is stopping by ReStore sometime this week to see if he can find what we need for a couple new projects we came up with over the weekend Winking smile

Did I mention we found a new saw (with several brand new blades) at ReStore for $25 this month as well?  And some milk crates?  Excitement!!  I’ll have to tell you about those later. 

Have a great Monday!


February 25, 2011

Just Call Me Ethel

So I like to garden.

What OF it, yo?

Our neighbors don’t garden.  They look at me funny when I’m edging the front lawn….or planting a hundred bulbs…or inspecting my plants every afternoon.

My husband looks at me funny too.  But he still helps out Smile

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I have an “uncool” hobby to most people, and that I’m a somewhat unusual case of a non-granny gardener.

But the truth is….

I’m young.

I’m totally hip!

I dig plants. (No, really…)

And you can just call me Ethel.

Now that I’ve justified my geeky hobby….the rest of this post is dedicated to planning, because that’s what gardeners (or gardener-wannabes) do in the crappy months of late winter/early spring.  And boy howdy, crappy they are.  Yuck.

The vegetable garden:

The veggie garden is a 6x12 foot raised bed smackdab in the middle of our back bed.

Here it is looking extra lush a year ago:

raised bed

Last year, I planted two red bell peppers, four cherry tomatoes, a trellis of pole beans, two Anaheim peppers, and two jalapenos.

veg garden last year

I wasn’t impressed.  It didn’t help that I forgot to fertilize….at all….(whoops)….but this year I’m going to do something different anyway.

Yellow tomatoes

This year in the raised bed, I’m going to do 3 cherry tomatoes, 3 “regular” tomatoes, a trellis of cucumbers, and zucchini. 

Veg layout

I’m also going to plant summer squash in an open portion of the flower bed.

summer squash

Whoop! Whoopity whoop! 

But I’m not done yet….

I have some plans for the back flower bed too.

The Back Bed:

I’ve never had sunflowers, so I’m going to try them in the far back corner.  These puppies (Gurney’s “Mammoth Grey Stripe Sunflower”) get 9-12 feet tall in 100 days!  Holey buckets, I canNOT wait.


I also discovered this gem of a plant recently: the “Sweet Autumn” clematis.

Supposedly, this thing grows super fast, blooms in late summer and smells wonderful, which sounds perfect for 1) the railing on the boring side of our back deck and 2) the side fence (and perhaps an arbor over the gate? ho yeah!)  Plus, here in Zone 5, I doubt it would get out of control.  I only have two other clematis vines, and they’re purple, so I think I could use a few more Winking smile

Sweet Autumn clematis

One of these (Karl Foerster grass) is also on the way and will get a spot along the back fence:

Karl Foerster grass

And finally, I’m a SUCKER for lilacs, and I did buy one last year on sale…but it’s a white one.  I have to have a traditional purple one too.  This one’s not a dwarf, so this variety (President Grevy hybrid) will eventually get to about 12-15 feet tall if I let it.  It’ll take a while, though (hence the tall sunflowers and Karl Foerster grass in the meantime.)


And actually, I haven’t ordered them quite yet.  I’m sitting here staring at my online shopping cart, waiting for March 1st to place the order.  <SIGH> 

I also plan to put some Shasta daisies out there, add a coral bell, hosta, or both to the front yard, and maybe even plant more clematis (yeah, I like them) on trellises against our garage wall along the front walkway.

Oh the plans.  Smile

And, oh the snow. Sad smile

snowy garden


February 24, 2011

How Would You Handle It?

I have a little problem.

You may recall that the neighbors’ trampoline is right next to our shared fence.  Their kids are out there all the time.

One of their favorite games is to have one person on the ground throw a football “high” to the person on the trampoline, who then has to jump to catch the football.  This game was posing a problem, because the football often ended up in our flower bed.  It was irritating to see a football sitting in the middle of the rhubarb, or to see broken stems that I knew I hadn’t caused…but we didn’t say anything about it.

Not too long ago, the game changed.  One of the basketball hoops was dragged from their front driveway to the side of the trampoline, and now the game is to jump around and "dunk” the basketball through the hoop.  It actually looks pretty fun, and I was happy to see the basketball hoop placed in the way of the football-throwing path…but now we’re seeing basketballs in the flower bed.

Looks fun but...

A consequence of these games has been two “broken” solar light stakes so far and broken plant stems. I say “broken” solar lights because I was able to put one back together and the other one I just shoved the broken stake deeper into the ground.

I’m concerned that any new plants this year as well as the second-season plants will take more damage this summer as they get larger.  And I’m hesitant to put any other decorations or a drip system back there for fear they’ll get clobbered by a basketball/football or stepped on when the kids retrieve their balls.

We also don’t have a relationship with the parents because we never see them, and the kids seem to have a bit of a grudge now that we’ve asked them multiple times to stop jumping the fence (to use the gate instead.)

So……I’m a little apprehensive about how to deal with this.

My plan is to ask the parents if they could put up some kind of barrier to prevent the balls from coming over the fence as often.  Something like a net, or tall pieces of lattice or something, between the trampoline and the fence?

Does that sound reasonable?  I don’t want to rain on their parade or imply that they need to stop playing games like that…I just don’t want anything in our yard damaged by their games.  And I certainly don’t want the adults to feel we’re being unfair.

I could use some wisdom here from folks more experienced than me. 

What would you do?

February 23, 2011

Cool Freebies Etc

Today I’m feeling a little uninspired.  I was messing around with some of our wall art and I’m just not feeling it.  And I decided our wall art selection is pretty woeful.

I think it’s just the late-February blues.


So because I like saving money, and I think you do too, here are some cool freebies and/or giveaways I’ve seen lately.  And pictures of flowers from last year. 

Nothing’s up yet – not even my crocuses =(


FREE Kindle books (reviewed):

The Choice, by Suzanne Woods Fisher

This is the first book in the “Lancaster County Secrets” series, and it’s an Amish romance.  I’ve only recently started hearing about this “new” genre of Amish romance novels, and I was intrigued.  I was pleasantly surprised - I could hardly put this book down.  It was so fascinating to read about Amish life, the characters were inspiring, and it kept me wondering how things would turn out.  The book is definitely Christian-values based, so there’s no violence or lurid love scenes.  I really, really enjoyed this book, and it got me looking for more of the Amish romance genre.

And Only to Deceive, by Tasha Alexander

This is Book 1 of the “Lady Emily Mysteries.”  I’m only 25% or so into this book, but it’s shaking up to be an interesting mystery having to do with the somewhat naïve “Lady Emily” and her forays into her deceased husband’s Greek art collection (and what look to be some shady dealings surrounding it).  This one may prove to be a little less “clean” than the Amish romance mentioned above, but it’s written in an eloquent, perhaps Victorian fashion, along the lines of a lot of the great literary classics.  I tend toward this style of writing because it seems to contain less of the “Law & Order” type scenarios than some modern fiction does.  We’ll see. 


Awesome-Possum Giveaway:

Whoop!!!  There’s a Silhouette SD giveaway going on over at The DIY Showoff!

I’m a total ignoramus when it comes to vinyl, etc, but I *know* I could find a ton of things to do with a Silhouette….and I’m betting you could too Smile

Happy Wednesday!


February 21, 2011

The non-swiffer Swiffer: A Quick Tip


Happy President’s Day!  I have a lovely day off from work today, so naturally, I’m going to clean the floor.

Yeah, my life is glamorous.

Maybe I’ll class it up by putting on some makeup first….

Ha! Um, no.

But…I do have a little “trick” (if you can call it that) for cleaning our hard floors, though, so I thought I’d share.

I used to use the green-handled Swiffer sweeper, until we put down laminate flooring in our house, and then it wasn’t up to the job.  (Plus, there’s nothing more annoying than a product that ropes you into buying more of that product (ie “refills”) on a regular basis.)

So I found another option.

I picked up a larger swiffer-type-sweeper from Home Depot one day.  It’s about twice the size of the original swiffer, and that means cleaning the floor suddenly takes half the time.  I can’t use the little one anymore – it’s too annoying.


The big one also came with a washable cloth, which is great….but I usually dry swiff once (and then the cloth is really filthy) and then I go back over the floor with the wet swiffer.


I needed another cloth, and I went digging around the house to see if I could find something that would work.

The dollar store to the rescue, again.

The dollar store sells microfiber cloths for $1 each, and I already had one in the cleaning kit…


It turns out, they work *great* with the sweeper!


I use them on a diagonal and tuck the extra fabric into the holes on the top of the sweeper.


When I’m done, I throw it in the wash and put on a clean one to do the wet swiffering.  (I’m still using the actual Swiffer WetJet with the washable cloths.)


Moral of the story?

1.  If you have anything larger than a bathroom to “swiff”, the bigger one is MUCH nicer and makes the job quicker.

2.  Use a washable cloth like the $1 microfiber to save money on those stupid pricey refills.


And now….back to actually cleaning the floor Smile


February 20, 2011

Decorating with Dish Towels

I’m sick of February.

Is it spring yet?

The countdown is on for the end of February…and then it will be on again until about March 10th, when I expect to see some bulbs pushing up out of the faded mulch.

But until then, I felt like a change, and the buffet was the perfect spot for it.

I started with some dish towels.  These aren’t just *any* dish towels, though.  They’re special – handmade in fact, by my aunt, and given to us as a wedding shower gift.  I’ve never decorated with them, but they turned out to be perfect.

contrast stitching

They’re made out of feed sacks.

feed sack detail

I have four of them, and since some are more faded, I picked out the three with the least-faded writing and arranged them as a sort of runner across our buffet. 

dish towels as a runner

I folded them diagonally to let the buffet’s pretty wood-grain show a bit. 

Diagonal arrangement

And I added a few glass accessories (the mason jar hurricanes included, which are ridiculously versatile) as well as some folded cloth napkins with pretty spring colors. 


Glass accessories


Dish towel decor

Dish towel decor 2

I get a lot of questions about that framed prayer on the buffet.

Norwegian prayer

It’s a Norwegian table prayer, also a wedding gift to us from an aunt.  My mother’s side of the family is Norwegian and Swedish, though they identify most with their Norwegian heritage.  This table prayer is becoming a traditional wedding gift in our family. 

The prayer translates as:

In Jesus’ name, we come to the table.

To eat and drink in his name.

To God the glory, to us the gain,

So we eat in Jesus’ name.

Now is it spring yet?

And there you have it – a few feed sacks, some glass jars, and a prayer.

Thanks for stopping by!


The crazy neighbor digging for bulb sprouts in her front yard.



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