Jun 16, 2018

Life Update + Morgan + Things

Our lives feel like they are going a million miles an hour these days, I feel like we came out of winter hibernation at full speed ahead. Our to-do lists are still miles long, our calendars ridiculously full. But that's family life right? Juggling schedules, appointments, lessons, activities for 4 people and a dog. Homework, childcare, work. Maintaining and improving an old house. Having fun. Planning for big trips and big events.

So many happy things. My sister is getting married this summer and I have privilege of being her maid of honor. We threw her a bridal shower a few weeks ago and it was so much fun. Her bachelorette is a girls' weekend in Brooklyn and the wedding is on Cape Cod this summer (one of my favorite places on earth); we couldn't be more excited. We're also going on a cruise with Mike's side of his extended family this summer (a generous gift from my father-in-law to celebrate his retirement)... it's going to be a blast. Our pool opened and Oliver is now obsessed with the giant water slide they have there. Our local zoo has lions and hyenas now. We're planning his birthday party.

Mike also changed jobs. We are SO HAPPY that he found something new that fits our needs better. The new job is doing more of the technical stuff he likes to do and less of the managerial drama that was weighing him down. The hours are steady, he can still work flextime to be off one weekday each week (for childcare cost savings) and the pressure to be available to work 90 hours a week is nonexistent there. It's also much closer to home - his commute has changed from 1 hour each way to 20 minutes each way 3 days a week and 5 minutes away 2 days a week. He's even started riding his bike to work when he's in town. It's been great!

We are over the moon for Miss Morgan Mayhem. She's settled into our home and our hearts and we can't imagine life without her. She is such a good puppy and ADORES the boys (and they her!). Morgan loves to snuggle, play and get into mischief. She is a digger and an escape artist, and she steals the garden strawberries. She lets the boys do pretty much anything without batting an eye except getting her wet  (she hates water). We still miss Georgia, but Morgan's affections have really helped.

Overall the kids are doing great. Oliver's almost done with kindergarten. He has nice fiends, he loves his school and teacher, he's learned so much this year. This summer he'll be doing a local day camp in our town in the mornings and be with his grandparents in the afternoons with Matt. Matthew overall is great too - he's such a happy toddler! He is affectionate, smart and loves to play. We're not going to send him to preschool until he's 3, so he has another year at home with our much loved nanny and wonderful grandparents.

Of course not everything is rainbows and unicorns. On top of all the illness, worries and craziness this year, both kids have (minor) obstacles to overcome that we're working through. Oliver has been having trouble with his vision. We ended up getting him glasses in a very extreme prescription - it's helped him see a lot better (and we've seen huge strides in his reading since), but there have been side effects. Motion sickness on swings, rides and in the car and overall being prone to bouts of nausea that has been incredibly frustrating for him. And then Matt doesn't talk. We ended up having him evaluated by our state's early intervention program and he's now in weekly speech therapy. It's nothing cognitive (thank goodness), but he has a lot of catching up to do. We are very grateful to live in a state with such great EI programs!

So that's where we're at. Lots of good things, busy schedules, plenty of calendar juggling... but I think things are going really well and hopefully will only get better from here.

Jun 14, 2018

8 Years

8 years. Wow. 8 years of home ownership, 8 years of blogging. So many projects. 2 kids, 2 dogs. This month also marks our 10 year wedding anniversary. Time flies!!!

While I haven't posted a lot this year, we've spent a lot of time working on our house and making improvements. Not necessarily things that are photo-pretty or blog-worthy, but they've made a big difference for us as a family of four and the way we live. I feel like we're in the phase of fine-tuning things to work better until we have the opportunity to do something big.

It's been a year of fun experiences and some tough things too. We said goodbye to Georgia. There was a lot of winter illness, stress and an uphill climb of life. But overall it's been a good year, a great year. Our family is happier and stronger than ever and I think it's only going to get better from here.

Here's to year 9!

Jun 5, 2018

Mulching and The Start of Seeing the Gardens Fill in

The weather has been really wet lately, I swear the month of May had more rain than sun. It makes it really hard to finish the patio and porch projects when staining/painting is involved. I swear this week we've had rain every night.

Between storms I've been able to mulch and weed however. So the giant mulch pile in the driveway has dwindled down significantly and the beds are looking good. The black mulch really makes all the plants and flowers pop.

One thing I'm taking note of during all this mulching are the gaps in my plantings from the big project last fall. Most things came back, some very strongly like the hostas, day lilies and astilbe- you'd never think those had been split... and the rhubarb came up in the new spot and the old spot!) Some plants will need a couple of years to catch up - like the anenomes, hydrangea, sedums and echinachea will expand to full size in time. The new stuff needs time to take root before spreading out - last year we added black eye susans and more echinachea.

However, some things didn't fair so well and didn't come back. While the white-purple irises all survived, only two dark purple did and none of the pink (darn!). It's a much thinner showing than I expected, though the gladiolas are sprouting and they will help fill things in for the summer. And hopefully next spring the irises will fill out a bit more (I just wish with more colors ... maybe I'll have to add in more variation in the fall?). My primrose came back but it was tiny, sickly and not blooming. Two out of three lavender plants are toast from the winter weather. The original butterfly weed I planted last fall didn't come back, but I added two more from seed this year (started indoors) as well as two apricot blanket flowers from seed to help fill things in where the lavender was. If those take it will help fill in a couple of the gaps. I also have planted my dahlia bulbs and some annual seeds as a temporary filler in some of the other gaps I'm not sure what to do with yet long term... will the plants fill in?  There's a much bigger gap than I expected between the irises and the delphinium, then between the delphinium and the hydrangea. Will the hydrangea fill out the gap? Will the gladiolas?

I know these things take time and I need to see how things go this summer and take the mature size of the plant into account before I do much more. But its still fun to think about... more short echinacea plants in the front row? More black eyed susans by the fence? What about next to the tree? Could I squeeze in something new?

Already in my plans for this fall's plant list are more tulips - they were a riot of color in the early spring and I know that more bulbs will be spectacular. And I want to try more ranunculus bulbs too...I only had ONE ranunculus bloom, but something ate the flower buds off the other ones that sprouted, so I'm wondering if it's worth adding a few more next year and trying again. It might have been the chewy puppy, or it might have been a critter that is not yet afraid of the puppy... either way next year having a big hound dog next spring should take care of that.

And the garden paths have been weeded too! It's such a pain, but I'm glad it's done. I do it with a child's sand rake, hunched over by hand. It's very effective though and uproots everything that's made its home in the pebbles. We still need to trim back around the fence (grass and weeds with the weed whacker), but it's big progress. The garden is looking good as the plants take off (full June garden update coming in a couple weeks).

The forecast is for rain on and off still this week, but hopefully soon enough we'll get a stretch of sunshine that coincides with some time to do some staining and painting.

Lastly, my new honeysuckle on the obelisk is blooming! It smells AMAZING.

Jun 1, 2018

Porch Bench

We have a new bench for our porch, a lovely birthday present.

It looks amazing - the style and color compliment the porch style beautifully and it fits perfectly. We love that we now have a place to sit out here. The best part is that it folds up too for easy storage in the winter. And of course it's much nicer and sturdier than anything I would have built!

I move a couple of plant pots around to make room and I think it's really working - so much color and so many flowers on our porch. It's going to look AMAZING once I get the rails repainted and the floor oiled (we just need some better weather - it's been raining pretty much every day on and off).

It blends so well - it's like it was made for our porch. Now excuse me while I go make a pitcher of iced tea and wait for the school bus out here...

May 22, 2018

The Garden is Planted

Spring was late this year, and my raised bed garden out back is late this year too. Better late than never though. Hopefully we'll still have a good season. While prepping the beds (weeding, turning the soil, raking, etc.) I found a bunch of alyssum seedlings from all the white alyssum I planted last year in the herb bed. I ended up transplanting them to other spots in the yard that could use some low ground cover - always love free flowers!

Things not done yet... weeding the garden paths and the fence area around it. Please ignore all the weeds, one thing at a time.


The tomatoes were started indoors from seed. There are sweet millions, yellow pear, plum, big boy, bloody butcher, green zebra and zapotec. I started them later than usual so they are still on the small side, but I think they should really start to take off now that they are in the garden. As always I've added marigolds from the nursery here to this bed to ward off pests.

Herbs, carrots, etc. 

The oregano and thyme are the same plants I've had for years, they are transplanted from last year's bed since every year I do crop rotation. I've added in rosemary and basil from the nursery. In my original plan I was going to do a few radishes, but I changed my mind at the last minute and put in a small row of rainbow swiss chard seeds instead. Then there's a full row of carrots from seed. On the pole tower (yes I used leftover rainbow yarn this year for the win) there's malabar "vine" spinach on one side and green beans on the other, both from seed.


On the black trellis in back I have cucumber seeds planted. On the new teal obelisk I was going to do just spaghetti squash, but when I realized how big it was in real life, I realized I had room for more than just squash. So on the other side I added in pumpkins just for fun - we have the leftover seeds from the pumpkin experiment a few years ago and I thought it would be fun to do again. Lastly I planted musk melon seeds on a small green wire trellis.


In the flower garden it's a mix of zinnia seeds, a heirloom flower seed mix and wildflower seed mix. Half the bed will be zinnias since those always do so well, then the other half will be a fun surprise. Originally I was going to also put a few dahlias in here, but I ended up using them all up in the yard filling in gaps of the garden beds as the new plants and split plants grow to their full size.

Everything Else
Elsewhere the strawberries are blooming happily in their new little bed next to the garage. They are much happier away from the crowded peony bed.

The blueberry bushes are COVERED in blooms this year. I'm hoping for a good harvest.

The rhubarb survived the transplant to a sunnier spot, but it's small. I'll need a couple of years to get it back to size. The raspberries and blackberry bushes all seem to be coming back nicely, though it's too early for them to bloom. The fig trees are juuuust starting to come back - spring was so late this year I'm not sure we'll get figs before an October frost.

May 18, 2018

Lattice! Shade! Cushions! Color! Flowers!

Project "make the backyard an enjoyable relaxing place to be" is shaping up. We left off a couple weeks ago with a long to-do list, the flower pots half planted and a few new things for the deck (new umbrella, new seat cushions, new rail planters, hanging baskets).

Since then we've been tearing through the to-do list. Mulch was ordered and delivered, I've started spreading it but have a long way to go. I built two obelisks for the garden. We bought lattice/trellis pieces from Home Depot and cut them to a manageable size for the pergola shade project. Staining them was a huge pain (so many sides and edges), but we had gorgeous weather last week and I dove in. I'm so glad to have them done - it provides lovely shade. You can see it up above the pergola in the second photo.

The cushions for the patio chairs that were on order arrived. We also finally got outdoor curtains. Before we were using old indoor ones and I would hang them when we were using them, then take them down and wash them when we weren't. But finally we have aqua curtains to provide much needed morning shade on hot days and can just leave them out.

My dad gifted me with a honeysuckle vine for my obelisk. I'm so excited about it! It's hard to see in the pictures but it will grow about 8 feet tall and this particular variety has sweet smelling blooms all summer that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The sweet pea vines were having trouble growing up the obelisk but will provide nice ground cover.

Plus our yard - all the work we did last fall is already showing up and paying off. The additional daffodil bulbs, the tulips are just gorgeous pops of color. The spring plants are coming up and starting to fill in and bringing in green. The trees are blooming and it's just SO pretty back here. The grass is green, the weather has been beautiful and there's no place I'd rather be.

I finished planting the flower pots and we have extra ones this year. Two new ones where the porch meets the driveway, the hanging baskets, the deck pots and two large ones by the gate. I love having all this extra color.

Next up:
  • The under-deck area next to the patio - cut and stain the lattice pieces to wall off the under-deck area next to the patio and make it feel more like an outdoor room. (You can see it unstained and uncut in the patio photos at the top of the post)
  • Mulching, mulching and more mulching
  • Plant the raised bed garden (this weekend... late spring means late planting)
  • Weed the raised bed garden stone paths
  • Do the painting/maintenance on the front porch