Jul 20, 2017

Sea Shell Wreath for Summer

I made a seashell wreath for our front door with scallop shells from all our trips to Cape Cod. We have so many from all our lovely beach trips, and I’ve wanted to do something with them for a while now. I know we don’t live at the beach and some people will think that this is tacky anywhere that isn’t at the shore… but I don’t care. I’m at a point in my life where I want to do what make me happy and some rules are made to be broken. And I love this wreath!

Other than a burn on my knuckles from a hot glue gun accident (ouch!), the wreath was easy to put together. I used a leftover styrofoam wreath form from Michael’s as the base. I glued on a ribbon loop as a hanger. I started with smaller shells on the sides (inside and outside) and then did the front. I tried a couple of different shell layouts but in the end my favorite was a circle of shells in varying sizes around the center.

I’m very pleased with how this looks on our front door. The shades of light gray and cream are lovely on the dark gray paint. Every time I look at it I’m reminded of dozens of happy memories beach combing for seashells.

I’ve also decorated our shelves with our sea shells for summer. We have several containers from beach trips we’ve taken - Cape Cod, Florida, The Jersey Shore, Virginia Beach, The Outer Banks of North Carolina, Washington State. Lots of happy memories. It feels very summery here!

Jul 17, 2017

7 Years!

I completely missed the anniversary of our house and our blog, but this past June we hit 7 years for both! Time moves so fast these days, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised at all.  But still... 7 years is a long time! To "celebrate" we replaced all the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in the house. Turns out that they all expired at the same time... at 7 years and a few days, they started beeping to be replaced and wouldn't stop! It makes sense from a safety perspective to force us to replace them, but it was still annoying.

And for those of you who still read this old thing, thank you!

I know for the past year I haven't been posting very consistently, but I really appreciate everyone who has checked back and stuck around. We're slowly getting back on our feet!

Jul 14, 2017

Other Backyard Updates

We’ve been working on the backyard as much as the weather allows. It's really coming together now!

I finished mulching everything. The left side of the yard is totally done all the way back from the blackberries to the raspberries to the line of thuja bushes along the fence to the river birches in the back. In the way back we discovered a TON of poison ivy growing on the fence from our neighbor’s yard. Mike pulled half of it up since I’m very allergic and he never had a reaction before… until later that day. His arms turned red and itchy and only got worse over the course of a week… eventually it was so bad he had to go to the doctor because his arms were swollen from the inside! He had to get shots and go on huge doses of prednisone. Luckily he’s feeling a lot better now but it was awful. And there's still a ton of poison ivy back there! I'm so worried the dog is going to rub up against it or the kids will find it. I hate using herbicide spray but we don't know what to do. The roots are on the other side of the fence and our neighbors are not interested in doing anything about it. Mike doesn't want to touch it again, I can't touch it (even covered up I seem to get it).

On a happier note, we had a break in the weather where I had lots of time outside! The garden paths in the back have been cleaned up and weeded. It looks so much better. You can refer back to these photos to see how green and weed-full they were. It took HOURS but was worth it. I thought my arms were going to fall off, but it looks so nice now!

Since getting the big job done it's just been a little spot weeding here and there - so much easier!

The pots I kept the citrus trees in were splitting, the plastic turned dry and brittle, I had to replace them. I considered getting two beautiful ceramic pots from Home Goods (they are like ¼ the price of the local nurseries), but I decided against it due to the weight. The trees and dirt are already heavy - I couldn’t imagine more than doubling that weight with a big heavy ceramic pot and then lugging it in and out of the house over and over in the spring and fall when it’s warm during the day but cold at night. I ended up picking up two inexpensive black plastic pots from Target that were just slightly larger than the ones we already had. I was going to transplant the trees but first just wanted to see what they would look like in the new pots before fully committing (and drilling drainage holds in the bottom)... so I popped the old pot into the new one… and really liked the look. The old brittle green plastic pot suddenly looked like matte ceramic. The black was new and shiny. And the two plastic pots were stronger together than apart. At least for now, this works!

When we were staining the new fence gate, we also stained the pergola where it needed it. It wasn’t a full restaining, more of a touch up job, but it was still a huge pain since it’s high up. Mike spent a few hours moving and climbing a ladder over and over. I’m glad it’s done though - the pergola looks brand new again.

Our backyard looks and feel so nice these days - it’s a pleasure to be back here! Just ignore the plastic jungle of toys...

Jul 12, 2017

New Driveway Gate

It was time to replace our driveway gate. I could have sworn I took a decent picture of the old gate but suddenly I can't find it anywhere.

It was bad though. Broken posts, sagging supports. The whole panel on the left has warped. The weight of it has forced the wheels into divots in the driveway. It’s really hard to open, even for adults. And the panel was so warped that Georgia only needed to hit it with her thick bulldog skull a few times and it would open enough at the bottom for her to squeeze through! The fence pickets were soft and starting to rot. It was overdue for replacement.

The panels barely survived being removed! They were literally falling apart in our hands. Granted we made this gate way back when we were true DIY novices 7 years ago. It wasn't even pressure treated wood!

Things we liked about the old gate: the height (4 foot fencing), the color (blends well with the neighbors fence and matches our deck/pergola), the hinge hardware style.

Things we didn’t like about the old gate: the weight (too heavy), the small wheels that couldn’t handle the weight, and the fact that we had to move a huge fence piece/panel to enter the backyard.

To remedy the weight issue we are using a different kind of fence panel with spacing - fewer planks mean less weight. We realized a privacy fence here wasn’t really important - when we’re home in the backyard the view from the street is blocked by cars and the trash can shed anyway. We looked into vinyl and composite as well, but color and cost weren’t ideal. I’m hoping the pressure treated panels we bought will hold up a little longer.

The new gate is also a new design - three panels with three larger wheels (that can lock!) and three hinges. The latch is on the right side middle with handles on the front and back so we can open the gate in multiple ways (and keep people from using the fence panels as handles, which broke several of our old gate planks off). We can open one segment for people, two pieces for the wheelbarrow, or all 3 panels for a car.

It took a couple of days to build, but Mike was totally back in his element making something again. The pressure treated support pieces were still in great shape so he was able to reuse some of them.

The finished gate before it was stained:

We had to wait a few days to stain it due to rainy weather and thunderstorms. It looked so good though once we got the whole thing dark brown!

And here’s the gate closed:

We can have one panel open for people, two panels for wider loads (like the wheel barrow), or three panels for a car. All we need to do is unlock the wheels and the gate panels roll easily!

It’s pretty great. And it’s SO much easier to open this way. It swings either way and just rolls so smoothly. The latch is tricky enough to stymie Matthew, but Oliver can get in and out with his friends. Georgia loves being able to see through and we love that she can no longer escape.

Jun 30, 2017

Garden Update: June

Our low maintenance plan for the raised bed garden in the back is pretty low maintenance so far. We’ve had a lot of rain and cool weather so we’ve barely needed to water. The seeds have sprouted, things are growing. We got the deer netting up and the gate is fixed, but please ignore the weedy pathways in the photos… it’s on the list!

The first tomatoes are already growing! We have a big early girl and two smaller ones coming in. The plants are growing well so far, but all the wet weather will cause blight if we don’t get a break soon. I swear it rains more than half the week (at least some showers or a storm).

The herbs are doing well, the cucumbers are small but growing. Considering the late start they are doing well. We have lots of radishes. Oliver loves digging them up, even if he doesn’t like the taste. Mike and I have been eating them in salads - I'll be sad when they're all gone!

In the back the alyssum is sprouted and growing, the impatiens are struggling a little (too much wet weather?) and the zinnias are about to take off.

In the yard
The figs died back to the ground again (as they seem to every year ), but last year when this happened we still got Chicago Hardy figs in the fall so fingers crossed this happens again!

The blueberries are wrapped in netting and the fruit is starting to ripen! Blueberries from the garden are seriously amazing.

The blackberry bush is blooming all over. And we have a new blackberry growing next to the tree along the fence I’ve also decided to let grow for now (let’s just see what happens?).

The old raspberries are doing just okay next to the blackberry… but the new raspberry canes on the other side of the forsythia are going crazy. Last year we noticed that the raspberries had started growing there next to the mint (probably from seeds dropped by birds). Since the raspberries have always struggled next to the blackberries (we get a few but the harvest is the same each year, they aren’t thriving in that spot) we decided to let them grow in the new spot to see what happened - I’ve always wanted to have a small raspberry bramble in the backyard. And wow… the raspberries love it over here. It’s a great spot for maintenance too because the canes are contained between the large bush and the lawn, and on the other side of the fence our neighbors also are enjoying raspberries. It doesn't look pretty in the pictures, but it's big and thriving. The raspberries have been ripening this past week in abundance and it’s the best kind of treasure hunt. So much fruit!

Other plants… The citrus trees are coming back after another rough winter of aphids. They bloomed and had little lemons and limes on them that some awful bold chipmunks tore off (I am NOT happy about that and nothing seems to deter those little monsters!). The strawberries are pretty much gone. I tried to save them last summer, but it didn’t work. They need a new bed somewhere else, I need to start over. The peonies are just too big, hogging sun and water. I have other transplant plans as well… a post for another day. But for now we are strawberry-less.

Jun 22, 2017

New Porch Mat

When we stained the deck I realized it was time to replace the doormat by the sliding door. It was shedding to the point where the birds were stripping it to make nests and it was making more of a mess than preventing. It was time to replace it and I realized that it was also time for the front porch mat to get refreshed as well... The bicycle mat looked faded and worn instead of cute.

The old porch mat dresses up the refinished deck - it's still back door cute even if it's worn and faded.

Also... the stained deck... it's so much better. No more peeling. No more splintering. Just smooth dark brown deck planks. It's repelling water like a dream. The deck is a lovely place to be again.

Then the porch! It needed something new and fresh. I love the doormats at Target. Especially when they are on sale and I can order them with free shipping and the red card discount. This year’s bicycle design is super cute and the natural background color looks great with our yellow siding.

I need to clean the porch floor and we want to oil it this summer (another thing to add to the list), but the porch really looks lovely these days. The flowers in the pots, the new mat, the updates we’ve made - I feel like it’s such a welcoming space this summer.