Nov 14, 2018


Winter in all its forms has come early this year around here. Illness season, darkness season, cold-gray-snow season. In late October we had pneumonia in our house (ugh) and I felt like everything was on hold the whole time (is it just me or does everything stop when the kids are sick?). Then we had the time change and the kids schedules are still wonky. And all I want to do is SLEEP. It's hard to give up that hour of evening sunlight. Then there's the forecast for tomorrow... SNOW. Like they are estimating 5-8 inches as I write this! We hardly ever get snow in November here in NJ. Even in December snow was rare for most of my life. I hate winter, so having it come early in combination with such a late spring makes me a little grumpy.

So we need to make our own sunshine around here, now that winter has arrived early. Here's a few things that are bringing sunshine into my life these days around the house.

A felted flamingo head mounted on wood from a friend who totally gets me.

I was really loving this print from minted, but then I remembered I had some old wallpaper samples that were very similar. Boom. Fresh art for the walls in a couple of spots that needed it.

Seasonal soap in our bathroom that looks pretty and smells so good (this is pomegranate and downstairs we have redwood forest... both smell like Fall in the best way).

This beach bag from my sister's Wellfleet wedding.

Where's Waldo coloring book that I've totally kept for myself with a big box of fine-tip markers to live out all my 4th grade coloring book fantasies.

Liberty of London tea towels from Anthropologie (from my sister who also totally gets me).

Saving a couple extra flowering pots from the garden. They might not survive the full winter, but for now they are providing some much needed color indoors.

Hearth & Hand clearance succulent stems from Target for more much needed winter greenery.

This turkey, made by entirely by Oliver, to decorate for Thanksgiving.

The way this candle smells like summer.

A succulent terrarium with monster candles in it for greenery + whimsy.

Oct 29, 2018

Slates for the Garden Path

My dad had several old slates from an old walkway stacked behind his shed. They were too nice and too heavy to get rid of, but he didn't have a use for them. We have two of them already on the side of the garage. We forgot he had more until we were planning our garden and path redo project and he offered them to us - we were thrilled. They are way nicer than anything we could afford.

Each slab weighs A TON so we could only take a couple over at a time in our cars (and even then they weighed down the back!). It took several trips to get them all over - 8 big rectangular slabs total, plus several pieces of broken slabs that were perfect for the curved end of the pathway.

Here's what the pathway looked like when we first created it, with curved lines. It hasn't changed much in since then.

We cleared the pathway of pea gravel first in wheel barrow loads. Then we pulled up the plastic weed blocking fabric, then the plastic line divider so we could re-level the path for the slates and change the layout from an organic curved path line to a straight one to better fit with the slate shape. Once the path was level and the line straight, we re-installed the divider line and started laying down the slates. They were placed 8" apart, starting at the front of the garage to the back where the future gate will go.

Once the slates were in and leveled so they wouldn't rock back and forth when we walked on them, we cut up the weed blocking fabric to go around the slates. We didn't have enough to cover the wider path, but going around the slates worked out perfectly - we had just enough fabric and it was fast and easy to do.

From there we added the gravel back in around the slates. Done!

 Morgan certainly likes the new path....

I'm thrilled with the results - isn't it dreamy? And with these large slabs, less path weeding! (Weed blocking fabric is great at blocking weeds from growing in from UNDER the path, but we get plenty of weeds growing on top of the fabric.) I can already see the future garden in my mind's eye with the white picket fencing, a charming little gate...

Oct 22, 2018

Raised Bed Garden Plan for 2019 (or 2020)

I love our raised bed garden, but it's falling apart. As I mentioned in my August garden recap, Morgan has destroyed the fence and the gate. I've given up on replacing the deer netting, Morgan Mayhem shreds it (in fact she thinks its her personal set of dental floss). And then with full garden access she indulges in digging and destroying in the beds. Worse, the raised beds themselves are at the end of their lifespan - the cedar is soft and rotted. They are going to fall apart anytime now. All the rain this summer made it even worse - I accidentally kicked one while cleaning up the dead tomatoes and vine beds and my foot went through. Another one started to crumble under Morgan's weight. Sadly, these are done. I don't think they will make it another season.

So it's time to start planning garden #2 to replace our first garden. New beds, new fence. And of course use this opportunity to fix the issues we've had with our first one. There's no better template for improvements than 8 years of experience.

I'm hoping we can implement this plan in the spring... but it's a BIG project. We might not finish in time for planting. It might not get done until next summer, next fall, or even next spring. In the meantime the garden will be paused. As sad as I would be to skip the garden next year, I would rather do that than deal with the frustrations of this year all over again - better to do this right.

First and foremost, the new beds will be made of composite this time instead of cedar. The composite kits I found online cost about the same as cedar in NJ (cedar is very expensive here) but of course should last much longer. I'm keeping them the same size - 8' x 4' was great for our needs. Plenty of room for the plants, but I could reach everywhere in each bed. I also really like having four big beds for crop rotation and variety.

We also need to replace the fence with something sturdy that can't be shredded by Morgan. It doesn't need to be tall - we haven't had deer in our backyard since our neighbors put up their 6 ft privacy fence. It also needs to be low maintenance and let light through. I think that 3 ft vinyl picket fence with wide spacing (like this one from Home Depot) would be the best fit. It will look pretty, never require painting, and will let in a good amount of light through. Morgan won't be able to shred it and the points on top will deter her from jumping. If we do a little cement around the posts, she won't be able to knock it over either. I think we would keep the semi-buried chicken wire, putting it in the inside of the garden fence wall. This would help deter chipmunks and rabbits (though they are much less of a problem now that we have a big hunting dog patrolling our yard).

Other Improvements:
  • Wider paths. The paths on the outside around the beds are too narrow and when the weeds grow in and the plants grow big, they feel even more crowded. We made the whole thing the width of the garage originally and divided up the space, but it needs to be wider. If we widen the whole garden imprint by 3.5/4 ft, the paths overall will be more comfortable. 
  • Moving the garden gate to face the house at the end of the path. The fence gates that come with the vinyl fence line are 3.5 ft wide, which is where we came up with the 3.5/4 ft number for widening the overall garden. This will help blend the new wider garden width blend into the overall yard layout and look nicer from the house.
  • Adding a trellis over the garden gate at the end of the path. Originally I wanted to add a trellis at the beginning of the path near the driveway, but I think with the garden changes it will not only look better in the back, but will help make the new extension look intentional and designed (plus I've wanted a trellis since we bought the house). 
  • Having a gate on both sides - it's a little annoying to have to walk all the way around the garden when the ground is wet or all the way around the garage. Having a gate on both sides would be very convenient. 
  • Combat weeds. Adding a perimeter around the fence with pea gravel and/or pavers about 6" deep will help with encroachment. While it will be much easier to weed whack the weeds with a real fence in place (vs. netting), this will also help even more by allowing the lawn mower to get closer. 
  • Pushing back the length of the garden imprint by 3 feet. Making the garden a little deeper will give us more room. Which I will use for...
  • Adding in two narrow beds at the back for non-rotating items, 2 beds that are 8 ft wide and 2 ft deep. I don't mind moving the oregano, thyme and rosemary every year, but if we are making all these improvements, we might as well make this garden the best it can be. And that would include a non-rotating herb garden in the back and moving the strawberries in here too. As much as I like the strawberry bed on the side of the garage, it's no match for Morgan Mayhem and her love of berries. In the long run we could even espalier a couple apple trees back here.  
Here's the plan laid out:

I would also like to add in 16" square patio pavers in gray (before we used leftover patio pavers, but those were a little too small and we had to relocate  them to keep Morgan from going under the fence). We might have to order more pea gravel to fill things in, and we definitely need to order new compost mix in bulk. We plan on emptying the existing beds to fill in low spots in the yard (instead of ordering dirt now) - after 8 years it's time to start fresh.

While we're at it we should fix/straighten the path leading to the garden along the garage. My dad offered us several big slabs of slate (like the ones we have on the side of the garage) which would be perfect for the path along the garage surrounded by pea gravel. I love the look of gray stones and pavers surrounded by pea gravel.

So that's the plan. It would make the garden AMAZING. No more rotting beds, less opportunities for Morgan destruction. Fewer weeds. Easier harvesting. There would even be room for pots where I could have peppers, even the citrus trees back here.

Here's how it would fit into the overall yard plan - it's an easy change to make and it won't effect the usable yard space.

Oct 16, 2018

Halloween Decorating

Our neighborhood loves Halloween. We get really into it. Each year we add a little more to our decor... while some of our neighbors go all out. Across the street they do a new theme every year - this year's includes a 6 foot tall giant dragon that could seriously be ridden by 3 children at once. And of course it blows "smoke". Naturally.

This year, we've expanded our graveyard with more gravestones (12!). And a french bulldog skeleton from Target (yes we do have a sick sense of humor) that we added a dog collar to. At night there are purple lights over the graveyard fencing so no one runs into it in the dark.

As always, ghouls and bats haunt the graveyard from the tree.

From the mailbox:

On the porch railing we have our orange lights, the giant spiderweb, bugs and bats... and now even more rats. I couldn't help myself, I loved the idea of a bunch running up the railing. Over black gauze of course.

On the bench, the skeletons. We were given a new tub of Halloween decorations from my childhood that included sea creatures and snakes, so of course we added them to the skeletons as if they came from the bottom of the sea. Add in a few more rats and it's quite gruesome. 

We have a creepy Halloween wreath for the front door (finally, because my inner 90 year old lady hated not having a proper Halloween wreath). 

Inside we have Halloween everywhere inside too. The boys are SO into it. Pumpkins, rats, spiders, skulls, ghosts, rats and more pumpkins. Gel clings on the back sliders. Witch's hats. Eyeballs in random places. It's fun, festive and spooky. (And definitely not blog-worthy, but I'm keeping it real here... this isn't pretty but it's fun!).