Thursday, January 2, 2014

Second Chance

Since I apparently think that I can do anything now, no expertise needed, I drew up some plans for a headboard and started pricing the materials.  And discovered that the posts that I want to have on either side are EXPENSIVE, way too much for a worthwhile homemade project.  If it's going to be homemade, it's not worth it unless it's cheap - that's my rule.

So I remembered hearing about this place in Baltimore called Second Chance.  It's basically a huge warehouse stuffed full of parts that were rescued from torn down beautiful old houses and other construction projects.  They have mantels, furniture, old lumber from back when a 2x4 measured 2x4, millions of doors, and all kinds of other amazing things.  We could have saved a ton of money if I'd known about this place when we were building our house.

It's kind of an exciting place.  I found the posts I needed, non-pressure-treated 4x4s.  And they even have a top carved in which I could use instead of the round finials I was planning on.  I have time to decide.  For now I'm planning to wait on this headboard project until I get around to it.  I was actually looking forward to taking a break from all of this messy stuff after I realized that I wasn't going to be able to afford to buy my posts from a regular lumber place.  But that didn't work out, now that I have these posts.  They were only twelve dollars each, so I've spent $24 on my new headboard so far. 


Uh-oh!  They had pickets with carved tops in the shorter length I was thinking about for a little picket fence out front between the sidewalk and the crape myrtles.  Most of the things I think about, I don't actually want to do, so I put off doing anything about it until I can't take it anymore and need to suddenly jump in and do it.  My little picket fence is definitely in that non-urgent category, but they had a bunch of brand new pickets that were probably leftovers from someone else's project and they were only a dollar each.


I didn't buy them the first day that we went, partly because there's a schedule of price reduction on the tag that says they'll be 50 cents each on March 16 and also because I don't NEED to have a picket fence out front, and also because I know from personal experience how annoying it is to me when there are construction materials lying around around all over the place.  So I was, in fact, okay with not buying them yet.

However, when we went back the next day, I went off to grab my posts because there were a couple of guys looking at them with interest.  Doug had gone off to get a cart, and when he didn't show up, I dragged the posts off in the general direction of Doug and the cart he was going to get, and there he was, loading pickets onto it.  The exact person who had adamently said "I think you should wait" about the pickets. And it's a good thing, because there was a woman there who ended up taking most of the rest of them.  I'll be glad I already have them when the time comes.  They are neatly bundled and don't take up too much room.  And since Doug made me buy all those pickets, he'll probably want to help me build the fence too, right?

The real reason we went back the second day was because we saw an amazing door surround that was in relatively excellent condition and would exactly fit the door opening between our foyer and the main part of the house.

Our foyer is a little added on section that I decided would be a good thing to have to soften the inside corner between the front gable section and the main part of our house.  It sort of creates the effect of a closed-in porch and I had always envisioned that we would do something a little more grandiose with the trim on this one door leading into the main part of the house, so that it would perhaps look like it had at one time been an exterior door.

The one fun thing about building a house, for me, is planning it, mulling over ideas, and creating imaginery scenarios, which is easy to do when you love old houses and are trying to pay homage to the age, if nothing else, of your beloved former house.  The main thing we've done in that direction is to copy the window and door trim style of our now-deceased house.  Doug even got Smoot lumber to mill an exact copy of the crown moulding from our old house.  It's all down in the basement waiting to be put on.  I hope I live to see that eventually happen.

Anyway, we saw this amazingly intact door surround, measured it, took pictures, and went home to see if it would work.  The overall shape was exactly right, even though it's in a somewhat different style than the rest of our trim.  It's quite a bit frillier than what I'd had in mind, with the fluting and the scallops, but it's supposed to be the fancy doorway, so what the heck.  And it was only $160 and we wouldn't have to do anything except for clean it up, paint it, and slap it up there on the wall.


So we went home and took a look and decided it would work, and then went back the next day to get it, and the posts, and suddenly also the pickets.  We spent all day outside with it yesterday, scraping and sanding and removing loose nails, and firming up the structure, and making it a tiny bit shorter to match our doorway.

When we took it in and propped it against the opening, it sort of took my breath away.  I'd been thinking "I don't know about those scallops, they look a little silly" to myself the whole time when suddenly I noticed that the scallops on this door frame totally tie in with the scallops on all of our light fixtures and it all looks completely integrated and like it was planned that way.  What a lucky accident!  We weren't even looking for door trim.  So now I'm excited.

It needs some work, but not too much.  It's basically in great shape except for some nail holes and a few gouges here and there.  But those are all on the flat parts so they'll be easy to fill in.


I'm not thrilled to be doing another painting project in the living room, but this way I won't conveniently "forget" to work on it. I think I'll be able to get it all ready within a few days, and then if Doug is cooperative, we'll be able to install it pretty quickly after that.





Saturday, December 28, 2013

Night Stands

After I finished the armoire, the little IKEA nightstands we had gotten after the fire looked so puny and white, which is kind of strange for me to be saying since my go-to color for painted furniture has always been white.  Although recently I've been painting stuff blue, so who knows anymore?
 
Anyway, we had a pair of unfinished chest-of-drawers that at one time were our night stands, and I was going to paint them white, but somehow that never happened.  After we started our addition and had to cram our bed into the porch room, there was no longer room for these, and eventually they ended up being stored out in the unfinished addition, which meant that they were not in the fire.
 
So they've been sitting up in the purple room all this time since we've been back in our house, and now that we have a big old brown armoire in our temporary bedroom it seemed like the thing to do would be to stain these things to match.  So I did.  I used the General Finishes Gel Stain, started with "Georgian Cherry" so that it would have a red undercurrent like the armoire did, and then over top of that I put "Antique Walnut" followed by a few coats of satin finish wipe-on polyurethane, and here's how it turned out:
 

I've been dying to use these handles that came with our kitchen cabinets (which we ended up not using) for something in our house, but everything else I've done recently looked better with knobs.  You can't really see them in the photo above, so here's a close-up:


This staining business has turned into a disease.  Next I want to make a headboard and stain it, since apparently I'm actually capable of doing this sort of thing.  Ughh..... I absolutely HATE getting all yucky and dirty and sanding things and getting stuff all over my hands - HATE IT!!!  And yet I'm sitting here thinking of more things to do.  Well it's fun to see the end product so hopefully my luck will hold out and I'll end up with a nice headboard too!  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

An Armoire!

I had secretly been hoping, for several years, to eventually find an affordable antique armoire to use as a linen closet since we somehow forgot to include a linen closet in our house plans.

So about six weeks ago, we finally did stumble upon one for an extremely low price.  Since that time it's been mostly out on the back porch where Doug and I have been working hard to sand all of the dirt and cooties and paint splatters off of it, and to let it air out.  We also thoroughly cleaned it with mineral spirits.  Old furniture sort of creeps me out because of the potential for old mildew smells and the smells of people I'm not related to, but I've always liked the idea of old furniture and I love how it looks.  So I decided to suck it up and get over the ick factor and make this potentially beautiful piece of furniture my own.  Fortunately it had no mildew smell whatsoever, and no cigarette smell either, and none emerged.

When it got cold we brought it inside and I've been busy refinishing it ever since.  As I was working on it I started thinking about who might have owned it and how such a magnificent piece of furniture had ended up in a thrift store after all these years.  I started concocting various scenarios based on what I smelled and what I saw as I was working on it.  And now that it is back in a caring home I feel like I am a part of its history too.

The first smell that emerged as I was sanding it was kind of a perfumey rose scent.  It was pretty disgusting.  I had told Doug that if it ended up smelling any kind of way that I found to be intolerable, we were going to have to get rid of it.  I'm really sensitive to certain odors and it's kind of a random assortment - I never know what's going to set me off.  So when I first got a whiff of the rosy smell I immediately thought that someone had sprayed something in there to mask some other icky smell.  That didn't turn out to be the case, so I moved on to the idea that it was the perfume in the clothes of some nice old lady from the 1930s or 40s who was using the armoire to store things rather than as an active day-to-day closet.  And I was okay with that.  I imagined that she lived in a nice old house in a pleasant neighborhood.  I think I was definitely tilting in the direction of my grandmother's house in my various imaginings.

There were tiny white paint spatters all over the outside, as if somebody had been painting the ceiling with a roller and hadn't bothered to cover it up.  I thought maybe it had been passed along to an unappreciative daughter or son, or grandchild, who didn't care whether it got messed up.  And then they couldn't sell it because it was so beat up and had paint spatters on it and it was so huge that it wouldn't fit in the next place they moved to, so they just dropped it off at the thrift store.

By that time I was feeling really sorry for it, with its sad history of abuse and neglect.  And I was also becoming more attached to it as I attempted to bring it back to its former glory, hoping it would feel better after I finished making it look good.  There's something about grooming an old piece of furniture or an old instrument or an old anything - once you start taking care of something you start to care about it more than you otherwise might.

I got one more whiff of something or other when I started polyurethaning the inside, in my attempt to seal in all the cooties, so that I wouldn't have to worry about the germs of a stranger anymore.  It had stopped smelling at all, so I was feeling really hopeful that it would work out for me.  Suddenly, I guess from the wetness of the polyurethane, another kind of sweet smell emerged that sort of reminded me of pipe tobacco (before it's been smoked).  So there was a husband too!  He probably hung his suits in there after smoking his pipe down in the parlour.  He was probably using it before his wife was, because her scent went away with the first sanding, and his got activated by the polyurethane.

And now there's no more smell because the polyurethane has dried and sealed everything in.  That's kind of sad in a way, but now I'll be able to enjoy it for the rest of my life.

I forgot to take a "before" picture, so all you'll get to see is how it looks now.  It was lighter, and redder, and really beat up.  I used the leftover stain from my parents kitchen cabinets to get it to the color I wanted and then gave it two coats of polyurethane, so it will stay looking good for a long time.  Doug did a few little structural repairs and now it is as good as new!



Saturday, December 14, 2013

Framing Fun


It's arts and crafts time here in Foam Core Fantasyland!  I figured I might as well do something to make my house look more like a home while I'm waiting for basic things like window and door frames, baseboards, doorknobs, etc. to happen.  I discovered that hanging pictures is very therapeutic and makes the house look a lot more "done" even with all the ragged wallboard edges everywhere.  Sometimes you have to put the cart before the horse I guess.

I'd previously had some fun adding squares of moulding to some rather plain doors, which really perked them up quite a bit.  So I decided to try the same thing with some plain picture frames from Michael's.

For my first one, which I did back in January, I glued the moulding around the perimeter and painted it with some black Polyshades that was left over from our desk projects to match the black frame.  Then I smeared Rub'n'Buff all over it and buffed it until it was shiny.  I had to be careful to not get too much of the gold caught in the crevices because that would destroy the effect of the black.  It worked out okay on the frame below.  I used Grecian Gold, which is a browner and less bright color than the bright gold you often see on frames.  I love the way it makes the frame look old, especially with the added moulding.


The picture below is actually a photo of the Renoir painting "By the Seashore" which was printed on a piece of canvas to make it look like a real painting.  Cheesy, I know, but it looks great in our back hallway, especially after I made a frame for it.  I picked up this "painting" at an estate sale - it was in somebody's basement and it was FILTHY!  It only cost me 50 cents.  You can't beat that.  So the frame below is made out of a piece of moulding called "picture frame" and I got it at Home Depot.  I painted it black with the Polyshades and rubbed on the Grecian Gold Rub'n'Buff.  I think you can see where I accidentally got too much caught in the crevices on this frame.


Fast forward to Thanksgiving weekend.  It was too cold to work outside anymore and I had some posters and and a few newly acquired watercolor paintings that I wanted to frame, and it just so happened that Michael's was having a crazy sale on frames - 3 frames for the price of one, plus 25% off your entire purchase.  It was time to make my move and throw myself into getting it all done.  I bought a ton of frames for an unbelievable price, and I've used them all.

I actually wasn't able to get started until a few days later.  It took awhile to plan everything, and once I got started, I didn't want to stop.  So it was a huge marathon of making frames fancier, inserting the pictures, and hanging them up, and it took several days to complete because of the quantity.  I think you could actually do one or two frames all in one day pretty easily.

First I assembled my materials:


I decided to try a different approach this time, so I started by spray-painting several of the big frames.  I wouldn't recommend doing this indoors, and after getting some residual paint spray on my face and in my mouth I WOULD definitely recommend wearing a dust mask and goggles.  I was in too much of a hurry to fool with that though.  I brought them inside to dry (in my living room) because it was so cold outside.

I used a Rustoleum "paint and primer in one" product in a hammered finish in a greenish silvery gold color called "Rosemary" for two of the frames, and did two more in a more normal gold color.  I like the hammered finish because it has some color variation and leaves an interesting textured finish for the next things I was planning to do.


This time, instead of having a black base, I decided to use the Polyshades to get a glazed effect.  I discovered that you must wipe it off immediately because it dries really fast.  I like the way some of the black got caught in the texture of the spray paint, in addition to the crevices.  I didn't move fast enough on this first one so more black paint was left behind than I actually wanted.


I didn't have to add mouldings to these frames because they already had a nice shape.  After the spray painting and the glazing with Polyshades, I brightened them up with some Rub'n'Buff in "Goldleaf" which I thought would look better with the greenish yellow walls in my living room.

My friend Jennifer's mother gave me those beautiful watercolors this past summer.  She had inherited a ton of paintings, many more than she could do anything with, and I am really enjoying them now that they are up.  They look perfect in the room and I like knowing where they came from.  Thank you Edna!  I was very happy to find a frame size that worked without a mat, because I think a mat would detract from these particular paintings.


For the next painting I wanted to use a plain black frame with some moulding around the outside, so first it was cut and glued on.  I got the moulding at Home Depot for less than ten dollars - it might have been five.


Then I spray painted it with the Rosemary colored hammered Rustoleum.


And then I smeared and wiped the black Polyshades in the cracks


After that I decided it needed to be browner to complement the trees in the painting, so I used Grecian Gold Rub'n'Buff.


And then I put the picture in and hung it in my bathroom where it perfectly matches the wall.  The lighting caused this picture to look weirdly bright. The walls and the painting are actually a much softer and lighter version of the color you see below.


The next big thing to frame was a poster that I picked up at the National Gallery of Art earlier this year.  I decided to use a tiny beaded moulding to go around the outside of this one.


So here it is, spray painted, glazed with black, Rub'n'buffed, and ready to go.


And now it's hanging in my foyer.  And yes that is a well used bass flight case, also in my foyer because the garage is packed too full of Doug's stuff for it to fit in there.  Needless to say, there are no cars in the garage either.  And yes, that is a raw edge of wallboard on the side of this photo, typical of what you'll see throughout our house.  But there are now lots of pretty pictures on the walls so who cares, right?


I think it's important to have a "fun" bathroom, so I have a tiny powder room that is packed full of framed old cat-themed sheet music and some music-themed pictures from the book "Pre-Raphaelite Cats" by Susan Herbert.  I go (and "go") in that room when I need a laugh.


I bought this framed print on the Eastern shore.  It was old and decripid.  I cleaned it up and replaced the paper on the back, which was DISGUSTING and gave the frame a little dab of Grecian Gold.  I think I've seen this picture in the National Gallery of Art but I don't know what the name of it is.


I bought this print for $3.00 last summer, thinking I would use the frame for a different picture and just toss the print because it was in really horrible shape.  But then I decided that I really liked the print, so I painted the frame and got a mat cut for it.  It looks a million times better now.


Last year Doug had a cruise gig and I got to go along, which was great, because I got to live in the lap of luxury on the same ship where I had formerly worked as a crew musician.  So I took full advantage of all of the various activities, one of which was a daily afternoon art class.  It was really fun, and I even talked Doug into coming with me one of the days.  This is what he painted.  I smile whenever I see it, thinking about him doing that art class with me because that's not really his thing at all.

I had a leftover mat that came with a frame I had used for something else.  It has "fancy" metallic plastic beading going around it, so I took a cheap frame, mixed some gold and silver Rub'n'Buff together in a cup to get a color that matches the pale gold beading, and here's how it came out:


So there are all kinds of different ways to get a pleasant variety of framing effects, without spending a fortune on it.  That Rub'n'Buff is amazing stuff!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Fall Projects 2013


WARNING:  If I sound cranky, it's because I'm exhausted.  This is a blog - an online diary where I pour out my innermost thoughts for all to read, so I am generously sharing all of my house-related innermost thoughts with all of you now.  I hope you at least feel lucky you're not me, hahaha.  And on a more cheerful note, I'm actually looking forward to my least favorite time of year - winter, because it'll be too cold to work out in the yard for a few short months.

"So......how's the house coming along?"  That's the question that people who perhaps get some sort of sadistic pleasure out of seeing my personna immediately transform from moderately cheerful to bitter and depressed seem to like to ask me.  I know some of them don't mean it, but the same ones always ask, so what am I to think?  Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, nothing significant beside getting gutters has happened in the 3+ years since we've been back in our house.  We are still without baseboards and window and door trim throughout the majority of the house.  Those things have not been worked on at all.

I have been focusing my energy on the outside of the house because it's less expensive and a better match for my skill set.  Eventually I might have to break down and learn how to do finish carpentry and finish destroying my hands, knees, and back that way, but for now I am going to enjoy damaging my poor fragile self with activities that take place out in the fresh air and sunshine.

Sometime in August, I gave up on the weeds on the liriope hill and decided that the peeling front steps were starting to be a much greater source of embarassment, so I redirected my energy towards getting them painted.  Now these peeling risers were supposed to have been covered with Azek a long time ago so that they would never need to be painted.  That was the plan.  I don't know why that didn't happen.

Anyway, with that in mind (them being covered with Azek) I figured that a coating of primer would be sufficient until the Azek happened, supposedly within a few weeks at the most, especially since they were primed and ready to go, right?  So five years later the primer-only coating is peeling, and it looks horrible.  If I'd done a topcoat, which would have been wasteful considering the imminent covering of the risers with Azek, there would be no peeling paint for at least another few years.

So as I get down to work scraping it down to bare wood in preparation for painting it right this time, somebody says to me "Maybe we can put the Azek on there this fall."  Maybe, as in yeah, right.  So I said "I'm just going to paint it so that it doesn't look ugly any more and you can take as much time as you need to put the Azek on and I won't have to worry about when you're going to do it, and in the meantime the steps will look nice instead of ugly."

I am now completely tired of this topic.  The steps are painted and they look great, at least from the front.  Doug was extremely helpful (probably due to guilt) as the fall progressed and I am once again hopeful that his intentions will become reality next spring.  Here's the before picture, actually the "year before" picture, and I don't have an after picture, because, big deal, they just look like normal painted steps that aren't peeling.




Sometime in there some chatter occured about the eventual under-the-porch lattice.  Sometimes, but not always, the best way to get help from Doug is to ask for advice about something I plan to undertake myself.  I was figuring that we'd just have the same kind of lattice everyone else has, except I wanted the square openings instead of the diamond shaped ones because it would be a better match for our porch trim.  So it comes in 4x8 foot plastic sheets that never need painting and you figure out what shape of frame will work best with the contour of the ground and cut the lattice sheets to fit the frame.

Now previously, sometime during the more than several years I had available to spend time looking forward to eventually having lattice under my porches, I saw a porch somewhere that had wide vertical slats instead of lattice and I thought that looked pretty cool.  But I realized that it would be a lot more work, and they'd have to be painted and maintained, so I decided it would be better to just admire the lattice on that one house and be more practical with mine.  Because what's wrong with having the same kind of lattice that everyone else has?  Normal lattice is perfectly nice.  I'd been wishing I had some good old normal lattice under my porches for years.

So in August I went out of town for a few days with my roommate from college.  Sometimes Doug fixates on some of my not-that-weird ideas and finds a way to make them weirder.  This has happened several times during the course of building our house.   And he seems to enjoy conducting these experiments when I'm away.  This time while I was gone he suddenly decided to present me with his own design, based on what he thought I had in mind, and he included a special little touch of his own.  Apparently he had forgotten, or chose to ignore, the fact that I had bagged the idea of vertical strips and wanted to just have normal lattice.  So surprise surprise, he emails me this picture:



And this one below - look how cute it is with the little picket tops.  Except the strips he got are really skinny and that picket top business is kind of strange looking.  And why in the world is he suddenly so interested in porch lattice when I'm not even there?  But I did appreciate the gesture and was able to successfully (this time) encourage him to follow up on his good intentions.  There was still a lot of waiting involved, but we actually got some significant work done for a change.


So he talked me into the much more labor-intensive, but way cooler looking vertical lattice, instead of the low-maintanence, easy to assemble, plastic stuff.  But I told him that it needed to look the way I wanted it to look, and those pickets needed to be wider and not have pointy tops.

Doug put up some framing and I did an initial calculation of how many of the wider pickets we'd need and started painting them.  And then Doug went on tour so it looked like this for a while:


And now it's time for me to bitch and moan about the cinderblock.  It looks a whole lot better since I had a chance to borrow a power washer this summer and clean all of the disgusting brown mud splash stains off the front of our house that happened as a result of not having gutters for several years.  It's still pretty ugly though.  If the long ago promised stone veneer doesn't happen pretty soon after the last bit of lattice is finished, I AM going to paint it.  It's ugly.

This is the back porch before anything got started.  My friend JoAnn's beautiful hydrangea bush, which got split into four sections, is doing very well, except for the fact that the flowers have switched over to pink in my soil.


I bought a bag of soil acidifier but I haven't gotten around to using it yet.  I don't really want to mess with nature too much, but I DO want those hydrangeas to be blue again, so I'm kind of torn.  Maybe I'll sprinkle some of this stuff around them the next time it's warm and see what happens.


So back to the pickets - he put up the supports for the eventual pickets.  Meanwhile I spent all of my spare time painting and painting and painting and painting.  It was unbelievably tedious and took absolutely forever.

Doug actually ended up doing all of the cutting and attaching.  But that only took about a quarter of the time the painting took.  And then I had to wait for the paint to dry so that I could put on another coat, and another - one coat of primer and two top coats.

Since I had time to kill in between coats of paint I decided to paint the hideously ugly charred bookcase that had been in the fire.  It was the only other piece of furniture besides our dining room table that wasn't completely destroyed.  I don't know why Doug saved this bookcase - it was a homemade yardsale bookcase and it was all burned and filthy, but the structure of the wood was still there, so I guess he figured it was worth saving.  It's been sitting out on the back porch with all of the other junk we don't need.  Anyway, between the three coats of paint and the many batches of pickets, I managed to get it painted and it's all clean and white and shiny now.  You'd never know that it was once in a fire.  It's in the house now, and it's MINE.

Our back porch stretches for most of the length of the back of our house, so towards the top of the hill there were many short pieces to cut.  This section reminded me of a marimba, especially with the unpainted pieces.  I did all of the initial painting while they weren't attached, so that the coverage would be thorough.  Doug was just checking to make sure all the lengths are correct before he took them down to be painted.


Finally, you can see the finished product in the back.  Well almost - hopefully we'll do the sides in the spring.  But in the meantime I am thrilled at how this turned out.  It's a nice clean look - and not nearly as fussy as the regular lattice would have been.


There was lots more time to kill in between coats of paint after I got that bookcase painted.  It's always a problem when you're outside, all dirty and sweaty, with maybe some partially dried paint in unknown places on your paint-spattered painting clothes.  I can't bring myself to go inside and sit down and potentially mess up my house with dirty, sweaty, wet paint-spattered clothes, so it makes sense to keep painting other things while waiting for the main stuff to dry.

So next up was another item that Doug had saved.  He saves EVERTHING.  Originally this old cabinet was in the laundry room of our old house before we started the addition.  Then it was hanging out in the basement, serving no purpose whatsoever when the fire happened.  Of course it didn't get tossed.  So I decided that it would be really nice to have a cabinet to store all of the smaller gardening stuff in.  Eventually I would like my back porch to actually be attractive instead of ugly and trashy.  So I painted it the same color as the back door, and now I can hide all of that gardening clutter inside it.  WIN!


It started getting to be too cold at night to leave it outside to dry between coats, so I ended up putting some tarps down in the living room and painting part of it inside.


I had time for one last little painting project in between the pickets.  This little chest of drawers was in the as-is section of IKEA.  I paid a grand total of $17.00 for it.  It's all wood except for the masonite drawer bottoms.  I put new knobs on it and painted it blue and now it looks cute.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Scilla Spring Beauty



These flowers are called Scilla Spring Beauty and they are the largest of the Scillas.
This year they bloomed about two weeks later than usual.
Our two rhododendron bushes will not bloom this year because the deer ate all the buds.
So far the roses have not bloomed, but the bushes grew quite a bit over the winter.
The crape myrtles have all leafed out earlier than usual.
And that's all I've got for now.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hydrangea Report

I've been very excited to see how my new hydrangeas would survive the winter, especially since they were transplanted, divided, and pruned late last summer, which is exactly when you aren't supposed to be doing any of those things to hydrangeas.

Originally this was one huge bush that inadvertantly got split into four smaller bushes when my friend JoAnn decided to dig it up to make way for some new landscaping in her yard. I decided to go ahead and prune them rather severely because I figured what was left of the root ball(s) would have a hard time supporting the plants if left as is. I knew that I'd be removing most of the pre-formed flower buds but figured it would be worth it for the eventual health of the plants.

I got exactly three blooms on two of the four bushes. I guess that's a lot better than nothing. And instead of the regular solid hydrangea blue, they were sort of a variegated lavender.  Maybe the cement piers under the porch are making the soil more alkaline?  Anyway it will be interesting to see how many blooms I get next summer and what color they'll be.   So here is this year's batch of blooms:

Hydrangea Bloom #1
 
Hydrangea Bloom #2
 
And on the other bush, Hydrangea Bloom #3
 
 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Foundation Plantings

Last fall we saw some plants on sale for cheap at Home Depot and decided to go ahead and get a little bit of foundation planting happening, now that we finally have gutters.  These were sort of impulse purchases and we'll move them somewhere else if they don't seem suitable in a few years.  We have to start somewhere though so we might as well put in some pretty ones.
 
 
I can't remember the name of the rhododendron on the left, but it has the potential to become rather large, which I think will look okay at the corner of the house.
 
 
In the middle we have three knockout roses in the pale "Blushing" pink color which will hopefully grow together into one large mass. They are supposed to bloom all summer long. I think the pale pink looks nice against our gray siding.
 
 
Doug saw the rhododendron below and on the right in the upper picture and he just had to have it.  It's a very pale pink with darker pink edges.  It will hopefully stay on the smallish side - it's supposed to be a dwarf variety.  We'll see.
 

So far they've survived without the deer munching on them.  But we did use deer spray over the winter.
 
The hill by the fence used to have a retaining wall instead of a hill.  We planted a nice row of azaleas that were mostly in the shade of our former house.  Then the house got torn down, the retaining wall got taken out, the liriope got planted, we got busy building the new house ourselves, and the hillside got completely overgrown with weeds and vines and the azaleas have suffered from a combination of too much sun and strangulation by weeds.  I've been pruning the dead wood to see if they'll perk up, but I'm not too hopeful.  They look pretty sad.  I guess I'll leave them in for now and see how they do now that the weed situation is lessening.  I can't wait for the liriope to finally take over! 
 

I'm sure I'll be pruning them some more, but I think I need to do it in stages for now.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Liriope - April

I've made good headway on the liriope hill this spring - it's all trimmed, mulched, and ready to go.  And that's a far cry from where it was when I started clearing out the 2-3 foot high weeds last summer.  I'm really ready for this liriope to fill in and beat the weeds.  We'll see how that goes.



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A little bit of decorating...


 
I haven't done any blogging in a   L O N G  time, much longer than it might seem by the date of this post (because I post-dated it).  I have spent so much time these past several years totally focused on construction stuff that when it stopped happening I became rather frustrated and discouraged and annoyed and I really didn't want to share all of that negativity here.  The ever-present well-intended question "So how's the house coming along?" with its subsequent non-answer from me would inevitably bring on a temporary bout of  depression.

So to review, the last thing that has happened with the house, construction-wise, was when I stained and polyurethaned Doug's basement steps while he was out on tour in early 2011.  Although to be fair, other things have happened since then, on the outside of the house.  We put in a little wall by the front steps, and Doug FINALLY put all the gutters on the house (after five years of not having them) and took down that ugly tree stump.  We planted my friend JoAnn's hydrangeas by the back porch, and I started the still unfinished process of getting the long-neglected liriope under control.

Inside, I wander around, looking at all of the raw edges of wallboard around all of the door and window openings and ask myself  "When is this ever going to get done?"  That's one of the reasons I've been spending more time working outside than in.  Most of what needs to be done inside requires Doug's skills and participation, in addition to my own.

Even though I don't really consider myself a do-it-yourselfer, I guess I've become one of those people.  It's really true that anybody can do just about anything if they put their mind to it.  So I suppose I'm going to eventually have to teach myself how to do finish carpentry if I ever want my house to be finished.  But this wasn't how it was supposed to be.  We were supposed to have a builder do this work.  It was supposed to take (OMG, how awful! people would say) a whole entire year.  So after the five+ years went by, I am especially grateful that we finally got to the point where we were allowed to move back in.

In spite of all this griping, I'm not as depressed as I was during the really awful (dirty, physically grueling, injurious to the hands) parts of the construction process - all that sanding, vacuuming, nailing, installing insulation, sweeping, lifting absurdly heavy things, wallboarding, painting, flooring, etc.  I'll do it, but I'm not someone who likes getting dirty.  So spending time not doing messy work is actually kind of uplifting.  And this year I can honestly say that I felt happy most of the time!

Anyway, we spent a few days at my friend Jennifer's house in Connecticut, both before and after our China tour in December and January, and it felt absolutely wonderful to be there in her beautiful home.  She has spent years and years combing antique stores and junk stores and auctions for fantastic bargains.  Her house is so tastefully decorated, yet fully of personal flair and pizzaz, and just about everything in it is a gorgeous antique that she got for practically nothing.

Since this is something she loves to do, she took Doug and I along to one of her favorite places and whenever I admired anything she would of course say "You should buy that!"  So I bought some things - a few pictures and other odds and ends.  Since my mind had been on other things for so long and I lost pretty much everything in the fire, I really didn't have much stuff of my own to work with, physically or mentally.  And in case you can't tell by now, I'm sort of a first things first kind of person, so decorating an unfinished house had been kind of the last thing on my mind. I still haven't unpacked most of my boxes of books for that very reason.  But those two paintings and a print that I picked up while I was up there pretty much got me started and I've been decorating my walls ever since!  It makes a huge difference to be able to live in pleasant surroundings instead of bareness or clutter.

So when I got home I got busy.  I finally decided that I wanted to hang that leaded glass thing that I doctored up over the TV instead of in the stairwell.  I think it makes the TV a lot less noticeable.  I painted the bench behind the couch a slightly darker color to match the fuzzies of the couch fabric.  The rocking chair and those other two chairs under the window will eventually live out on the back porch when it stops being a lumber storage area.  The two pictures on the right are oil paintings that I got for a good price at a "vintage" store when I was visiting Jennifer.

What I especially like about my living/dining room is that I can easily shove the bench and couch towards the TV to make plenty of room for larger chamber music groups.  I've had as many as nine in here at one time and it's fine.  And people have mentioned that the sound is good in here too.  It's really great to be able to have people over to play after all this time.



Between the couch and the kitchen is this rather unattractive wall (below) with the pass through to the kitchen.  It will look good one day.  The two blue areas are supposed to have built-in bookcases, but that hasn't happened yet.  As I said before, I have not unpacked most of my books yet.  I figure that the longer they stay in boxes, the easier it will be for me to get rid of most of them, since I apparently don't really need any of the stuff in there.

However, the longer they stay in boxes in that location, the easier it will be to not do anything about getting those bookcases finished.  So I guess I need to do something about that.  At least the majority of the room looks halfway decent now.



 I sort of chose my wall colors by feel.  First I picked colors that I knew would make me feel happy to be amongst, and then I tried to make it so that you could see a different color through each doorway.  And then somehow I ended up with pictures that had colors from the preceding room in them.  It was sort of a happy accident, but I'm pleased with how it turned out.  There's still a lot of makeshift stuff going on, like that Aerobed in the front foyer, because it's the darkest and most private room in the house for an overnight guest in the morning.  Although it doesn't have curtains, the windows are high enough that no one can look in.  And there is a door between the foyer and the living room.


 This picture in the foyer is an old print from an antique store in Connecticut.  It has some of the same yellow-green that's in the living room.


I picked up this print of an etching of St. Cecilia at Savage Mill.  It was really nicely framed and in excellent condition.  The naked cherub doubling as a music stand is a nice touch.  I looked it up a while back and found out that the original oil painting was done in 1620 by Domenichino Zampieri, and 100 years or more later someone in France did the black and white etching of it.   And mine is a print of that so I guess it's kind of a third hand version of the original.  And that's just fine with me.

 
So things are looking up.  Who knew what a difference a little interior decorating would make?  It's nice to be pleased by your surroundings.  I highly recommend it!