August 30, 2011

The Difference a Summer Makes…

I thought it was time for a stroll through the backyard.  After all, a summer makes a huge difference, and for any plants on their second season, it’s an even hugeR difference!

Let’s just get to it, shall we?

But first, here are a couple “way before” pictures - from 2 summers ago, when we moved in:

Backyard before 2Backyard before

And now, starting from the gate:

(The plants are looking a little more tired than usual because 1) we’re still about 10 degrees above the usual temperature for this time of year and 2) my usual trimming and upkeep has fallen a bit to the wayside due to the pregnancy.  My watermelon of a belly just isn’t engineered for gardening I guess.)

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Remember the Karl Foerster grass divisions I got from my mom earlier this summer?  I planted two here along the south (HOT) wall of our house, and they’ve grown up pretty nicely to help camouflage the rain barrel.  I’m pretty sure they’re not Karl Foerster grass, too, but we don’t actually know what they are, so Karl it is!

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Back in May or so, this bed looked like this:

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Since then, it’s obviously grown… the lily (to the left of the watering can) now needs trimming, and I managed to (probably) Round Up  one of the three scabiosa (pincushion flower) you see there in the corner.  This bed has terrible weeds, so it’s also the subject of this summer’s Operation Annihilation, and it’s possible the flower got a little too much poison and I wiped it out.  I discovered earlier this spring that the particular weed in question has DEEP, SKINNY roots that don’t come all the way out when pulled…so Round Up is the next best thing.  Almost every weekend!  I will win this war…

As we round the corner of the deck:

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On the right we have a pink rose bush in need of deadheading, a strategically placed pot that is supposed to get hit by the sprinkler but needs to be moved again because it’s still parched, the massive PITA climbing rose that’s never bloomed and refuses to be trained to its trellis, and the Beast clematis.

To the left is our red twig dogwood, which is in need of serious cutback this fall, a Mongolian Bells clematis (a perennial, not a vine), some adorable shasta daisies planted this spring, and what I know to actually be a Karl Foerster grass (now you can see how different actual Karl Foerster looks from those divided plants!)

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Now we’ll head around the deck:

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How ‘bout those empty flower pot holders on the railing?  Yeah classy!  Like I said, it’s been SO HOT here, I finally took the petunias out of those holders and put them down on the ground where they’d get hit by the sprinklers.  I just couldn’t keep them watered enough. 

Here’s the collection of planters back in oh…June?

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The white flowered bush is a hibiscus (love that thing!), and next to it is a pink phlox.

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Around the corner is a Sweet Autumn clematis on a homemade trellis.  I planted this guy earlier this spring, when it was about 6 inches tall.  Next year should be fun to see what it does!

This is also a great shot of our partially repaired rotting deck that I keep whining about.  It’ll get rebuilt in the next couple of years.  Until then, I’ll just keep whining because – seriously – who builds a deck without using treated lumber? What a great feature on a house…to have to tear out and rebuild.  GAH.

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Starting from the left in this bed is a cute red and yellow columbine planted this spring (next year again should be much more fun!), next to a perennial geranium and our motion activated sprinkler.

Then comes a deep purple salvia also new this season, a balloon flower in front of the trellis (pretty tough to see, but also pretty tough!  Nick dug this guy up and reburied it six inches under the surface without realizing it, I accidentally found the root and repositioned it when I planted the salvia, and later Nick mistakenly Round Upped it…and it still lives!), a euonymus bush with ridiculously tall lilies in front of it (they will be transplanted this fall – “border lilies” my butt), and the white clump is just annual alyssum. 

This bed is also the hiding place for a pot of dead petunias Smile  Pregnancy takes no prisoners!  And it doesn’t hide the bodies very well either, apparently…

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And now we head to the back of the yard, hose and all.  (I’ll make sure the gardener isn’t such a slob next time…or not)

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The gigantic plant in the front is our summer squash.  It’s busy creating its own army.  The bamboo is alive and against the fence – thirsty as usual, so it’s splayed out a little more than it normally would be.  We also haven’t trimmed the winter topkill out of it yet (since part of the bamboo’s function is to keep kids from hopping the fence right there), so those straw colored stems are a bit of an eyesore as well. 

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Priority next summer will be a manual-hook-up drip system to try to get better water to the plants back there.

For some perspective, here’s an early-Spring shot of this corner of the back bed:

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The rest of the back bed is then taken up with the raised veggie bed and the perennials planted behind it.  Here are some random angle shots of that area:

First, earlier this spring (the plants were a little perkier then!):

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Backyard

And now:

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The tomatoes have some kind of issue and look terrible, but they’re producing like crazy, so I’m not worrying about it.

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Zucchini plant late summer

And the zucchini is obviously getting a little worn down as well!  Good thing, because I’m running out of recipe ideas for zucchini…

So concludes the tour of the backyard Smile  Like I said, it’s perpetually thirsty and baked from this heat, so it could look a little better, but it’s still a nice improvement from two summers ago, and it’ll just keep getting better.

Autumn Joy Sedum late summer

As I type, the Autumn Joy sedum is just barely starting to turn pink.  In another couple of weeks, it’ll be a beautiful deep red – perfect for fall!

I plan to replace some of the spent petunias etc (especially on the front porch) with mums, so we’ll be due for some general fall sprucing up here soon.  I’ll keep you posted Smile 

Meanwhile, one of these days, I’ll do a quick tour of our front yard as well.  The mums look fabulous, the planters are limping along, and we recently learned how great a sickly spirea can look after it gets doused with a bag full of ladybugs.  Stay tuned!

August 24, 2011

Baby’s First Furniture…a Crib!

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Stinkin’ adorable!

It seemed a little small until I remembered the last time I saw a crib I was probably still in daycare – so my perspective has changed a  bit!

Next up:  window treatment, finding a dresser, wall d├ęcor, storage …

August 23, 2011

A Blanket for Baby

Back when we decided on a black and white nursery, (actually, a black and white and teal nursery), we had no idea what we’d find out in retail land which would or wouldn’t match.

Homemade baby blanket

Now we know:  nada.

But luckily for us, we’re not really into the premade bedding sets and coordinating nursery themes, as ADORABLE as some of them are, so we weren’t too disappointed.  After all, most baby things come in white (score! half our color palette!) which makes decorating a little easier and laundry – no doubt – a little more interesting when the time comes.

A little decorating challenge is a small price to pay for a neutral nursery color scheme that’s still fun and vibrant.  (Yes, vibrant…because “pastel” isn’t in my repertoire.)

Anyway.  Soft goods like baby blankets, bedding, and window treatments just didn’t come cute enough or in the right colors from the store….so I’m making my own.  The exception is the bedding, since we’re only doing a decorative fitted sheet and a white mesh bumper – no pillows/quilts and probably no dust ruffle either.

Blanket Binding Pinned

Good thing my mom recently gave me a sewing machine (thanks Mom!)….and good thing I have sewing experience making her a “WOW” pillow when I was 7 (it was supposed to say “Mom” of course…and it’s pretty dang cute in a “what did the sewing machine upchuck today” kind of way) …..because I can TOTALLY make my baby’s first blanket now! 

And in the right colors to be a cute accessory for the nursery!  Jackpot.

Back of baby blanket

(Quit snickering.  It only took 3 weeks, one mid-fabric-store freak out, several long calls to Mom to figure out which end was up, a ton of white fuzzies all over my house, and a YouTube video tutorial.)

But it’s totally done. 

I will admit that the “teal” portion of the blanket looks a bit on the turquoise side, but it was the closest I could get without special ordering fabric.  I did special order fabric for the window valance, and it was so easy and a reasonable cost, I’ll probably do it again for future projects that require certain colors etc.

So what, exactly did I make?  I used this pattern:

Baby blanket pattern

Along with some fuzzy white fleecy stuff, plain black fleece, and the teal/turquoise flannel daisy print (sorry Baby - if you’re a boy, you’re getting a flowery blanket).  I also got my first exposure to “batting” and “blanket binding”.  Thrilling, I know.

I cut out my squares of fabric using this tried and true method (which resulted in, um, not perfect squares):

The "cutting table"

And then I wrestled around for a while with the flannel, trying to straighten the grain like a good little seamstress, until I finally decided Baby will be totally cool with a crooked grain on the back of his/her blanket.

Finally, I sewed.  I tried to keep my seams straight (fuzzy fabric makes it tough to line up edges, just sayin’) and spent an evening on the couch dutifully basting out from the blanket’s center to theoretically keep the pieces lined up to sew the front and back together.

Not surprisingly, my checkerboard pattern still turned out a bit wonky, which posed a tiny problem for sewing “in the ditch” AND having straight seams…so the back seams don’t make a perfect checker pattern either. 

Then Nick and I both tried to figure out the instructions for sewing the binding on….until I went to YouTube and found a FAB video showing me how to do it.  (Seriously, the pattern instructions were awful!)  I’m not entirely sure I did it correctly, because the front side of the binding looks *amazing* and the back looks….not amazing.  =(

And now, minus the goofy satin rosettes which don’t seem comfy for a baby to lie on anyway, here’s the finished product:

Black and white baby blanketBlack and white baby blanket frontBaby blanketBaby blanket flannel backing

I originally intended to sew ribbon tabs in place of the rosettes, but I couldn’t find my black ribbon until it was too late.  So no ribbon tabs for Baby unless I do it by hand – which probably won’t happen! Smile

As you can see, the crib is in a partial state of assembly.  Nick spent most of the evening last night working on it, and then he put in a special request that “if” I get a wild hair today to try and finish it before he gets home, “please don’t”.  Awwwww Open-mouthed smile 

He wants to do it himself! I’m more than happy to let Daddy put together his baby’s crib – too cute. 

Tomorrow: the CRIB!  I must say, it’s shaping up to be one adorable crib – perhaps even a “must see” Winking smile

August 22, 2011

And Then There Were Moldings…

Hellooooo!  I am so happy to report that the beautiful black moldings in the baby’s room are DONE!

Of course, it’s all the little finishing up that takes a while, like getting around to filling nail holes and touching up paint, but we finally got there.

Two weekends ago we actually put UP the moldings with the help of a new pneumatic brad nailer and compound mitre saw…and in the evenings last week we finished up bits here and there.

This post was actually supposed to be done last Friday, but my computer didn’t want to read the card from our new camera until Mr. Computer TwinkleToes could blink at it and make it work.  (That would be my husband.)

What can you do? 

Anyway, the nursery is still bare bones.

We do have a crib….in a box…in the basement…. and a glider has been ordered so we’re getting there Smile

But in the meantime….here’s the room in its bare-nekkid glory:

Neutral nursery, black crown molding, black chair rail, teal, black and white

Tree decal in nursery

Black crown molding and chairrail

Black crown molding and chairrail

For some reason, the phone jack in our new office doesn’t work, so the modem and router have to live in here.  Gorgeous, right?  At least it gives me an opportunity to find a creative way to hide them.

Black moldings with two tone walls

I don’t really dig the trim color (dinged up Dover White, anyone?) but all the upstairs trim and doors need to be repainted, so I’ll tackle that all at once…..someday!  After seeing how awesome amazing easy it was to use the new nail gun, I’m actually considering redoing all our baseboards (way) in the future.  We’ll see.  (Door casing does not a baseboard make, after all). 

Sandra over at Sawdust and Paper Scraps can be blamed for my fantasy of perfect trim; she just makes finish carpentry look way too easy for my own good.

Next up – the crib is getting assembled tonight!  And my sewing project is almost done as well (I actually had to look up a YouTube video on my lunch hour today to figure out how to do the last step, but now I’ve got it!) 

Here’s a little peek at the progress:

First sewing project with a pattern!

I think it may also be time for a late summer garden tour one of these days, and maybe even an update on the garage.  Nick got some more Fasttrack rails and a shelving system put up over the weekend, so it’s looking pretty durn (yes, DURN) organized out there. 

Thanks for stopping by! 

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