Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mail, Mail and More Mail...

I am having such a time keeping up with my mail since I can not read personal email at work and hate reading it via my phone.  As a result, I generally don't have time to check my private accounts and have to make sure that I set aside a day a week just to clean the three different mailboxes I use out.  Actually, I have a reputation at work for mailbox clean-up too.  I do not like a cluttered inbox and spend time each day parceling my mail into folders.  Once you lose control of your inbox, you lose control of your focus.  At least that's how I see it.

While email is supposed to be such a convenience, it's so easy to get overloaded and there are often times when I avoid doing things on-line because I don't want to generate more unsolicited email.  For instance, tonight I got together a check, stamp and envelope to mail a charitable donation.  I just don't want to give anyone my email address and if I donate on-line it would be required.  Even if you say you don't want to get email, you get more anyway.  The extra money in postage is worth it to me so that I don't get annoyed further down the road.

Well, I don't have much interesting to post today except that things are going well in the yard and at work, Teddy's skin is looking pretty good and TBG is feeling better each day and is back to work full time.  I hope everyone else is doing well too!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Destruction...Day 2!

All of the fence is now down.  Today was the most difficult day and the boys hard work is really visible.  The fence at the back was repaired and repainted when we first moved in but that was not a long term solution.  The yard sure does look big all open like this.
The weeds and foliage along the foreclosure house is gone too.  It was yucca, ivy and other stuff that just got overgrown.  If we had time to tend it, it could have looked nice -- but we have no time for that.  The backyard next door is a mess -- but then again, it always is.  We are taking advantage of the vacant state and this was the perfect time to do a job like this.
Here's a closer shot of the area we cleared.  The ground is now regraded and I will eventually want benches and planter boxes here -- but I don't want to go crazy until we know what will be going on with that house.
The fence and poles are gone from here but there is still a serious root system that has to come out.  We're not spending all of this money just to have the wisteria grow back.    It's clear from looking up close that the vines had been trying to get into the neighbor's garage.  We'll put an ice shield against the bottom and plan to do the same along the fence.  That should keep that wall looking good.  
This is the area in back of the garage.  It was clear on our side but very weedy on the foreclosure side.  Some of the grape vines we had pulled out year one had started to come back. Now I am thinking they are completely gone.  We really like having the area in back of the garage clear -- Teddy uses it and we can clean up after her and we can fully inspect the garage at any time.

The fence will actually be built using Tyvek composite board.  That's very durable and weather proof and we don't have to worry about individual fence boards coming loose.  It will set us back an extra $640 but over the life of the fence that won't be much.  That was ordered today and tomorrow the small clean up details will be taken care of and the rest of the roots pulled up.  Fence construction should start on Friday.  We plan to let it cure for a month and then stain it.  My vision is for a nice rich cedar color stain with a darker green for the posts and supports.

Seeing the yard clear of wisteria and the house next door without ugly shrubbery is so nice.  We love spending time inside our house and also have enjoyed the yard.  The phase of improvement we are on now is just going to increase our enjoyment and cut down on our weekly work load. I can't wait until it is done!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Day of Destruction!

This is what I came home to this evening and am super delighted the unruly hedge on the foreclosure property is gone.  I mean, who is going to complain that we had it ripped out?  No one trims it but us and it scratches our cars.  The bank had the lawn mowed just once.  I think the yard looks better with the patch of dirt and flattened grass.  I believe the neighborhood will be thanking us as it makes the house look 2% better.  My guess is the bunnies aren't too happy.
The poles are out on one side of the yard and when we're all done, this foliage will be gone too.  That is behind our fence so we take care of it but it is a pain.  We'll eventually put boxes here and probably a bench or two built in to them.  Until we know what is going on with the house, we don't want to go crazy fitting something in here.
When we first bought the house, the fence here was covered with grape vines that had to go since they can be toxic to dogs.  Some vines try to regrow and it's a battle.  One good thing about the vacant and delinquent state next door is that we don't feel guilty abusing the lawn.  Our property takes enough abuse from stuff falling off the house and the lawn isn't mowed any more unless we complain to the town and they pester the bank.  It will be nice to block that all out with a 6 foot privacy fence.
This is the bear of the job.  James had one hell of a time just getting this much of the fence and wisteria down.  The garden bed will probably suffer a lot for it but the root and vine system is so serious and the fence post sunk so deep and firmly that it's very slow going.  Our new neighbor asked if we could ram the Bobcat into his garage a few times to knock it down.  It is pretty ugly but we'll be looking at the left side of it and will have to make it pretty.  I do think that with the new fence, the garage will look nicer.
The driveway next door was not in good condition to start and it is taking a beating.  Dave doesn't seem bothered by it but we will have to do something to make this right.  He wants to pull it out and re-pave and we can work with him on that.  His house needs more work than we thought. Our old neighbor fancied herself a house flipper and had the price at a ridiculous point.  Tommy went inside today and said it actually needed work and nothing she did really "renovated" it.  I think our neighbor will take care of it and be in it for a while and he's also very nice and friendly.  We'll have to buy him a few cigars and a good jug of beer when this is done.

So this is where we are day one.  Clearing out the mess is a big part of the process -- probably the hardest part of all.  We will save time for sure by not having to trim the hedge next door.  My back will be so happy when winter comes because I won't have to lift snow over it.  We'll also save time because the wisteria won't need to be managed.

This is a pricey project but we have to pay someone to do it.  We don't have the time or strength to do a project like this on our own.  Those landscape shows on HGTV make it look easy with time-elapsed filming, lots of folks on their crews and bigger budgets.  The reality is a bit slower and dirtier.  I can't wait until it's done!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hearty Dinner and Large Slabs of Stone

I'll start with the large slabs of stone... This is the load dropped off in our yard today which will be part of our Phase II backyard renovation.  This kind of flagstone is not cheap but it really looks nice.  The larger pieces will make for firmer footing -- and fewer weeds!

Jimmy and I sat down together and I told him what materials I wanted and how I envisioned the fence.  The goal is to make the area look like a courtyard. I don't want it to look like a back yard.  I want it to look like a court yard.  We also went down the basement and I showed him the old front door that I want on the front of the garbage can shed.  We'll shave a foot and a half off of the top and a half foot off the bottom.  With some distressing and white paint plus the shed painted blue, it will match the house nicely.  Phase three of the project (some day) will be a new poured concrete driveway with flagstone stamping.
This barley was the basis for dinner tonight.  It has mushrooms, onion and celery in it with a half squeezed lime.  The stock was a mixture of home-made chicken (from thigh bones we ate the in the last week) plus the remaining carton of seafood stock.  Near the end, I added in left-over barley from the other night.  After I spread it on the plate, I topped it with freshly grated parm.
The plate was topped with a portion of salmon grilled in foil with garlic and more freshly squeezed lime.  I topped it with sunflower seeds and EVOO.  I could not finish this plate!  A single size of salmon seems small but when you pair it with a hearty base like barley and a veggie laden salad, it fills you up for sure!

There's plenty of this left and I think it will make two lunches during the week.  As the week wears on, I'll start planning meals for us plus Jimmy and James who will be working in the yard.  Hard working guys deserve hearty meals!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday is Not My Day of Rest

I have needed to wash this new set of micro-fiber sheets that I bought from HSN and finally got to it today.  They are now on the big bed.  We needed to get more sheets for that bed and I wanted to see if these would be lighter and cooler.  They weren't very expensive so I'm willing to see if it makes sense to move beyond my 100% high fiber count cotton philosophy.  I also washed the sheets for the second bedroom which I mostly sleep in due to snoring and other considerations.   This was all fit in with a couple of loads of laundry, one of which I managed to line dry.
I did some grocery shopping tonight and stopped at the Dollar Tree to get a couple of boxes of stock.  It is hard for me to resist bargain beauty supplies.  The boxes of supplements (for hair, skin, nail) usually sell discounted on Amazon for twenty bucks a piece.  I'll probably go back to see if they have more.  There are a few eye make-up goodies too.  If I'm going to wear the stuff I might as well try some fun things like purple glitter eyeliner.  And yes, I'd wear that to work.
My clothes for the week are lined up.  It looks a mess so I will try to break it down.  One goal is to never repeat an outfit the next week.  That works well with the laundry schedule too!
This purple Simply Vera dress caught my eye at a thrift because I knew I had pumps that would go with it -- of course, I have not verified this and I am color-blind so I could be wrong.  I think my new glitter eyeliner pen will work well too.
This is another outfit -- I think I'll wear it Tuesday.  This silk tank is really nice and it might seem like a winter/holiday type of thing but I think you can work it into summer with lighter colored accessories. 
This is a "push the dress code" ensemble. It will be within the rules because it will hit my knees -- but it has a longer netting under-layer that makes it a little saucy. I plan to wear it with these black pumps and my net stockings.  I'll tone it down with plain pearls.

Well, that's it for my exciting Sunday. I managed to get in a power walk/trot and also used the shedding rake on the dog.  She had a visitor whom hadn't seen her since she was a pup and it was also a "Teddy Trifecta" day -- a swim, a walk and tosses in the field.

It was a good weekend for sure!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Free Ideas!

It is Buffalo Garden Walk weekend! While I only got to tour a few of the 350 gardens, the first one I walked into had my dream fence.  This is the fence I'd been unable to accurately describe to The Big Guy and Jimmy-Jam.  They just weren't getting the concept of me wanting it framed in and that included the top.  Being able to take a picture and have something to show them is a huge help.  This particular garden was in a sort of carriage style brick city home and it will be the site of the owner's wedding next weekend.
This is what the framing looks like from inside.  I like it because it is neat and it makes for a very even line at top.  There are a few other ideas popping around in my head but one of them is to hang a huge mirror within one set of the frames -- and I have the mirror in our basement.  While we don't do a lot of fancy planting we like having cocktails at night -- so cool lighting and reflecting surfaces are on my list of "wants."  We've already done well with lighting but I hope to improve on that.
This is one idea I really liked.  A wood screen with baskets.  These could easily be made using pallets and that's something I'm going to try to work in.
This is another cool idea.  That is actually a ceiling light mounted on top of some decorative scroll work.  I am going to use this somewhere for sure.  This was the porch of a lovely Victorian and the light just added to the charm of the porch.

The best part of this walk and the ideas is that they are free.  My friend Jim over at the Art of Gardening just relinquished his seat as president this year but has worked very hard with a number of devoted and passionate volunteers to make our garden walk an International tourist event.  I only made it to a small number of the gardens and there are many other events related to garden-tourism here.  It's a great way to steal great ideas and it's free -- what a bargain!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Three Pigs...

Every one at Chez Petite has the same problem.  We've all put on 15 pounds since I went back to work!  Maybe we should call the place "Chez Oink!"

We took Teddy to the vet tonight to deal with her hotspot once and for all.  She has gained 15 pounds this year!  Last year the two of us were out every day and taking swims and long walks.  Now that I am working, we just get about 20 - 30 minutes together a night.  I've missed swimming laps due to The Big Guy's hernia and he hasn't been able to exercise at all.  It's shameful, really!

As for the dog, she is now on a cycle of expensive vet antibiotics, steroid/antihistamines, and she got a steroid shot.  We were told that the ear wash we use can be put on her sores.  Then we did a full wellness blood panel and fecal test.  He told us that we can let her back in the water and that he didn't think she needed the cone of shame at this point.  We paid for an extra supply of the steroid/antihistamine pills because it's probably going to be a long summer.  If we need the antibiotics again, I'll ask for a script and fill it at Wegmans where they have special pricing on the stuff.

We did score a good "freebie" today.  TBG had his car inspected in February and we just noticed this week that they didn't change his sticker!  He had the receipt and the bill was on the computer at the shop.  So in order to get a new sticker he had to bring it in for another inspection -- which was free.  Now we have gained an extra five months on the inspection.  It's actually strange that we hadn't been ticketed because the police are vigilant here.  But it also shows you how observant we are!