Archive for the ‘nesting’ Category

Sometime toward the end of last year (the day after my day-after-Thanksgiving shopping spree, maybe?), my clothes stopped fitting in my closet.  For the past 3 months, I’ve had a nice little stack of folded sweaters sitting on my dresser, unable to squeeze anything else inside my over-stuffed closet.  I did pick my prettiest sweaters to sit out, and folded them extra-neatly, and told myself they were just part of the room’s decor, but really, who was I kidding?  I just had too many clothes.  And so yesterday, unable to stand it any longer, I sprung into action and pulled every single thing out of my closet – shoes, handbags, clothes, all of it, and told myself that the only things that could be put back in there were the items that 1) fit well;  2) have been worn in the last 3-4 months (summer wear exempted).  I got an ironically-timed email from La Verne yesterday morning as I had just tossed the last pair of pants onto the bed, asking if anyone wanted to take advantage of her one-day-only 50% discount at Banana Republic.  I wavered for a moment, being someone who hates to turn down a good deal, but self-restraint won out in the end, and I decided to fore-go an afternoon of acquiring for an afternoon of de-cluttering.  I abided by a strict “When in doubt, throw it out” policy, and ended up with a pretty hefty stack of give-aways.  Eight pairs of shoes, four handbags, two coats, five skirts, a couple of pairs of pants, and roughly 15 tops will be coming soon to South Seattle’s Goodwill (with a few special things set aside for my next quarterly ladies’ clothing exchange).  Feels good to strip out some of the excess.

Closet before:

Closet after (ok, so it looks almost the same, but I promise you, there is less in there!):

The trick now will be in keeping it pared down, and so I’m going to be much more intentional about my purchases from now on – no more incidents of  “Holy Cow!  This sweater doesn’t really fit, but it’s only $13, marked down from $75!  Must get it!”.  A couple of ground rules:

1) No more black turtlenecks.  I know that black sweater/black pants is the unofficial architect’s uniform, but I really don’t need more than the four black turtlenecks I already own.

2) No more than three new items of clothing per month.  I shared this new rule with Shane and he guffawed – he hardly buys more than three new items of clothing per year.  But whatever – I like to shop, and am keeping my goals realistic.

3) Make a list of things I’d like to have, and stick to the list.  Yes, the occasional too-good-to-resist deal will pop up, and then I’ll stray from the list, but as a general rule, if I decide I have plenty of jeans, I should not shop for jeans.

Next weekend, I tackle the abyss that is my sock drawer.  And I can hardly wait.

And…ta-da!!!  Operation Dining-Room-Makeover is now complete.  And we’re thrilled with it – the table fits in the space perfectly, the color on the walls is bright-but-not-Whoa!, and our new blinds add a clean, crisp finish to the nook.  I’ve mixed in some new accessories (we scored that clock on the wall from a cool little shop in Bellingham last weekend) with a couple of sentimental items (the candle-holders were used in our wedding ceremony, and the vase was bought on our last trip to Paris).  I’m working on a couple of drawing/collages that might look good on the walls when they’re done, but for now, the encaustics are a good fit.  Next step: use it!  We’ve had a long-time resolution to eat more home-cooked dinners at the table, and our new cozy little nook will be good incentive to do so.

Before:

After:

The breakdown:  table: Grace dining table from West Elm;  chairs: Klismos dining chairs from West Elm;  rug: House Pet tiles in Gerbil from FLOR;  paint color: October Bronze by Valspar;  accessories: Maxie Wall Clock from DigsPorcelain Tealight Holders and Wood Tray from West Elm;  artwork: encaustics by me.

When Shane and I moved into our house nearly four years ago, I was quick to slap some paint on the walls and scatter them with photos and artwork, overjoyed to have a place where we didn’t have to answer to a landlord.  For the most part, we’ve been pretty happy with the decorating decisions we made in the midst of our new-homeowner eagerness.  But now I find myself getting a bit antsy, ready for a refresh.  With very minimal arm-twisting, Shane has jumped on board, and we’ve decided to to tackle our little dining nook.  I no longer love the light green color of the walls, our old rectangular dining table has never fit quite right in the space, and the rug isn’t large enough for four chairs to rest on it.

So we’re doing a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling update (a belated Christmas gift to each other), with a new table, new chairs, a new rug, new paint, new window coverings, and new artwork.  Whew!  Thankfully, it’s only a 9′ x 9′ space, so this can all be accomplished with relatively minimal time and money.  I’ve been scouring our favorite furniture stores for a round dining table and new chairs, I’ve ordered a slew of rug samples from FLOR, and have tacked several paint chips on the walls.  Here’s what we’re thinkin’…

table: Grace dining table from West Elm;  chairs: Klismos dining chairs from West Elm or Norvald dining chairs from IKEA;  rug: Feelin’ Groovy tiles in Earthen from FLOR;  paint color: October Bronze by Valspar;  accessories: Liquid Organic serving bowl from CB2 and White Wall Clock from West Elm;  artwork: ‘Porto’ by yours truly…

‘After’ photo coming soon!

Our p-patch plot, planted 10 weeks ago with tiny little plants in neat little rows, has recently turned into something of a jungle.  We’ve had boatloads of lettuce, summer squash that seems to double in size overnight, and crisp, sweet snap peas that are usually munched on as we make the walk from the garden back to our house.  Just call me Farmer Kelly…

The tomatoes and strawberries aren’t yet ripe for the pickin’, but they show definite promise.

All in all, we feel like we’ve done pretty well in our rookie year of veggie-gardening.  But there are definitely things we’ll do differently next year – a couple of words to the wise:

– Don’t assume that one of those dinky little 2-foot stakes is all you need for your peas – our vines outgrew those things in a matter of minutes, and everything would have been much simpler if we’d built a trellis from the get-go.

– 12 lettuce plants is far too many for a two-person household.  I’m sick of salad.  I was actually relieved when some of our plants started to bolt and needed to be removed.

– Squash and zucchini plants grow freakishly fast and get freakishly big.  Just sayin’.

– Gardening is rewarding and fun, but watch out – it can cause marital tensions; I got very defensive last week when Shane accused my squash plant of crowding his strawberries.  How dare he.

Keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be seeing more signs of red next time we go out there!  I’m ready for a good, juicy tomato.

After spending a year on the waiting list, Shane and I found out on Thursday night that a plot had opened up for us in our neighborhood’s P-Patch.  We debated for a moment over whether or not we wanted the added responsibility of another garden, but after thinking about the pros and cons, and then realizing that several of the cons were actually pros (having to take a 10-minute walk out to the garden a few nights a week to water it is in fact a very good thing for us), we snatched it up.  And so 80 square feet of fertile soil was ours, for a ridiculously small annual fee and the simple commitment to ‘actively garden’ our plot (in other words, make a reasonable effort to grow something other than weeds).  Today was planting day, and after a trip to Lowe’s and our favorite local nursery, we were ready to roll.  In the space of a couple of hours, we dropped in tomatoes, strawberries, snap peas, lemon cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, three kinds of salad greens, cilantro, and a row of carrot and beet seeds, left over from our April backyard planting.  When the weather warms up just a little more, we’ll plant a couple of different peppers.  I am thrilled by the possibilities of fresh salads and homemade salsas, so I’m hoping we’ll start off Farm Schnell with a banner crop.  We’ll see…  If nothing else, this will be a great opportunity for us to get outside together in the evenings and connect with our neighbors who are growing their own gardens right next to ours.  Alright – that’s not completely the truth – the promise of quality time isn’t quite enough:  GROW, little plants, GROW!!!

After nearly a year of planning, budgeting, and coordinating with our neighbors, our big backyard renovation is nearly complete.  We still have some planting to do and some patio furniture to purchase, but we are thrilled to say that all of the major work is done (just in time for the rainy season – grrrr!).  We’re really happy with the results and can’t wait until next summer, when we can roll our grill out onto our new patio and enjoy a glass of wine in our new adirondack chairs.

These are the before photos – our largest issue with the original design of the yard was the steep slope that led from the driveway to the back door, leaving us without a nice space to put a planter bed or even set up a chair.  The grass was in horrible condition, due to poor soil and the tendency of water to run off the slope, rather than soak into the ground.  The pavers that served as the pathway up the slope were also a little treacherous in winter weather – I slipped on those things a couple of times when we got all of that snow last year.

20091108 backyard before1 small

20091108 backyard before3 small

20091108 backyard before2 small

We worked with our neighbors to come up with a solution that would include planter beds, a flat place to put seating , and stairs that would make up the rise from the back door to the driveway.  Getting all of this done within the budget we established was tricky, but ultimately do-able, after a couple of rounds of negotiations and substitutions with the contractor.  And so, Voila!

20091108 backyard after1 small

20091108 backyard after3 small

20091108 backyard after2 small

We’ve been planting things bit by bit, including a beautiful Japanese Maple tree, a bright green smoke bush, and several tulip bulbs.  I am so looking forward to watching things grow and blossom over the seasons and years to come.  Now all we need is a little sunshine (I won’t hold my breath…).

20091108 backyard maple small

20091108 backyard smoke bush small

20091108 backyard tulips small

I’ve often wished that Shane had more of an interest in meal preparation, and yesterday I discovered the secret to stimulating his enthusiasm for cooking.  We’ve been talking about buying a grill for a couple of years, and yesterday we took the plunge and picked up a great four-burner gas grill to call our own.  The fact that Shane was up until midnight last night assembling all 4000 of the grill’s pieces told me that he was excited about the prospect of playing the role of backyard chef.

We decided to take the easy route for our first grilled meal and threw some bratwursts on the grill for lunch.  I wrapped a couple of ears of corn in foil and put them on as well.  Grilled meal #1 was a success.  For dinner, we stepped up our game a bit and put a nice thick filet of beef on the grill, along with some potato wedges brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with rosemary, and wrapped in foil.  This was trickier – a steak is so easily under or over-cooked.  We decided to err on the side of rare, but after we’d brought the meat in, let it rest for a few minutes, and then sliced into it, we found we’d erred too far – the steak was far too rare in the middle (“still mooing”, as some would say).  But the edges were perfect, so we at least got to enjoy a few tender, juicy bites.  Lesson learned.  Tomorrow we try pork, then fish later in the week.  Looks like this is going to be one heck of a meat-filled summer – I better start Googling those recipes for grilled vegetable skewers…

20090614 grill small

20090614 grill brats small

It’s amazing what a little paint and a few small touches can do. We had grown tired of the aqua blue that we had chosen when we first moved in, and since I am constantly looking for things to add to my to-do list, we (by “we”, I guess I mean “I”), decided that we should give the bedroom a little update.  I love the way the gray turned out – Shane and I were a little nervous as we were painting, as the paint looked much more lavender than gray when it was wet, but it dried into the perfect balance of cool and warm.  For a pop of color, I bought new pillowcases and did the small painting that hangs over the headboard.  The painting was done over a page that I tore out of an old French paperback, which makes a nice background for the simple graphic.  The lamp was an old Ikea purchase that I was no longer in love with, but I wrapped the base in gray yarn to give it a totally new texture and color. We’re still working on a couple of small finishing touches – a new lamp for Shane’s side table, and maybe a new duvet cover for the bed, but it’s coming along.  And now it’s on to the next the home project…

Our front yard has been getting progressively shabbier these past few months, as our grass was browning blade by blade.  Poor soil and a lack of water had resulted in this patchy, dry mess:

We decided this week that it was time to take action and get rid of our dying grass altogether.  I never realized what a maintenance headache grass can be, and we much prefer the look of plants anyhow, so we went to work yesterday afternoon pulling up all the grass in our front yard.  Shane was resistant to taking this project on this weekend, since we hadn’t done much planning, researching, or budgeting, and things certainly got off to a bumpy start yesterday morning (me dramatically crying “Why don’t you ever want to do anything around the house?!”, Shane accusing me of being impulsive and illogical…), but we eventually re-opened the lines of rational communication and really started to get things done.  Shane did the hardest part, in actually ripping the clumps of grass out.  I assisted by shaking the dirt from them and hauling them around to our yard waste bin out back.  Within a couple of hours, we had our very own little grass-free dirt patch.  We got up this morning and headed straight to Home Depot and our new favorite local nursery to pick up compost, mulch, and plants.  The installation of the plants took some time, as we wanted to dig big enough holes to surround each plant with a decent amount of compost.  We also ran into quite a few rocks and chunks of concrete – with soil quality like this, it’s not surprising that our grass wasn’t doing well.  Anyhow, nine big holes, six bags of compost, and two bags of mulch later, we were the proud owners of this nice little yard:

We’re pretty pleased with the results.  It was tempting to overplant, as things look a little sparse right now, but many of our plants have doubled or even tripled in size in the past year (hence the lavender forests that you see in the foreground and background of the photo), so we will just have to wait patiently for things to fill in a little bit.  I’m excited to watch the plants take shape, bloom, and (hopefully) fluorish.  There’s so much satisfaction to be had in a completed home improvement project – I keep looking out the window, appreciating the progress we made today.  We’ve had several neighbors come by and comment on how nice things look, which feels so good for a novice gardener like myself.

And cheers to my husband for a job well-done!  He was one tired, dirty, sweaty, blistered man by the end of the day.  I’m off now to pour him well-deserved glass of wine…

Shane and I have enjoyed spending the last couple of evenings working out in the yard, doing some weeding, planting, watering, and general clean-up.  We are completely new to the yard maintenance game, so we’re asking our neighbors for advice and making the rest up as we go.  My little back porch herb garden isn’t quite thriving, but it is at least surviving, which is enough to keep me happy.  I did break down and buy a full-grown basil plant from Trader Joe’s, since the basil I grew from seed still hasn’t really taken off.  But my dill, on the other hand, is going crazy and has produced these beautiful firework-like flowers.  The trick now is to figure out what to do with all these herbs, since my cooking skills are as rough as my gardening skills…