Saturday, June 13, 2015

Channeling My Inner Velma

Those who know me well know that despite having an eerie resemblance to my mom, I seemly did not inherit any of the genetic wiring that enabled the gardening gene to bloom and flourish.   I do love flowers and pretty gardens, but I do not particularly care for gardening nor do I have much success with it.  I'm sure Velma would weep copious tears if she knew how many azaleas I have murdered in my lifetime not to mention the two rhododendron bushes that are supposedly native to the Northwest and flourish here...
It took me a few years to figure out that there were such things as "shade" plants and "sun" plants.  After unsuccessfully planting some of both in the wrong spot I finally figured it out.  So while I freely admit that the gardening gene is sadly lacking in me, there must be a glimmer of it buried way deep down inside me that has been surfacing lately.
Now in this first picture on the left I cannot take credit for the robustness of the top plant with the tomato, basil, cilantro and little yellow flowers (whatever they are).  That was a birthday gift from my co-worker buddy, Dana.  I take great pride in saying that it has not withered away and died.  It has actually grown...AND I have enjoyed to basil on salads I take to work.  Now the sad little plant at the bottom (which I can't remember whether it is a petunia or a geranium) was viciously attacked by cutworms.  This I found out after taking it to the local nursery when it looked like a stick plant and asked "What is doing this?" and found out I needed not just slug bait (which I had previously purchased thinking they were the culprits) but a special, more expensive slug bait that included cutworms.  The little stick plant has made a remarkable recovery and is slowly budding new leaves.  Stupid I don't already have enough plant problems without them getting involved!
These plants on the right are an ode to Velma.  In fact I believe both pots were originally hers.  And yes, when I inherited them they had some beautiful geraniums or petunias (I always get the two mixed up)  in them, lovingly grown and nurtured by Velma.  Determined to do right by the originals I read up on how to "winter" geraniums and successfully kept them going into the next summer.  Sheepishly I have to admit that the 2nd time I "wintered" them I forgot they were in my basement and didn't remember them until summer was almost over.  Needless to say there were no survivors.  But since technically geraniums (or petunias) are really meant to be annuals and get a little leggy over time, I plant them each year now in memory of Velma.
 This is a successful corner of the brick garden box that lines the front of my three living room windows and around the corner to the fireplace.  I say successful corner because the whole rest of the way to the left is just dirt and the plants around the corner look a little sad right now.  But we take successes where we get them.  Right?  The planter box is a little hard to know what to put in it because it is under the eave and gets hardly any water at all so is it pretty dry.
 I don't recall at all what this plant is, but I remember that the flowers turn blue or pink depending on how acidic or full of iron your soil is.  Naturally I wanted one that would turn blue and ended up with pink (which I think means my soil is acidic).  One year I buried some nails around the base of the plant hoping to boost the iron content and for a few years some of the blooms turned a brilliant purple color.  The big fern next to it got a "haircut" this spring and looked a little sad for awhile but is really coming in now.  It is the 2nd time I have given it a "haircut" and I think it is the trick to keeping them looking nice because the branches or leaves (not sure what you should call them - fronds?) die off each year.
 So this little corner of my yard was recently mostly covered in grass.  In one of my weeding marathons, which is how I tend to weed (one big day devoted to weeding no matter how much it kills me) I dug out all the grass, relined it with the bricks which were buried under grass and dirt and worked until my hands were shaking and I could hardly move.  Oddly enough the pain did not last into the next day or even the next.  I expected not to be able to get out of bed the next day but was actually fine...go figure.
 This was another area that was part of the marathon weeding Saturday.  There used to be two tall evergreen bushes here that I absolutely hated.  There was all this beautiful area but nothing could be planted in it because of the evergreen needles.  Dennis finally had them both cut down for me (that's why I love him...he will pretty much do what I might take a little time, but we get there).  As you can see I have staged some plants for planting.

The next picture is of another garden box that sits between the two sets of stairs that go up to the front doors.  You can see that I have quite a bunch of day lilies.  A friend recommended those years ago as something quite hardy and easy to keep alive.  Boy was she right!  They have thrived though I guess you are supposed to thin them now and again.  I have only done it once.  Probably should do it again soon.  Now the bleeding heart plant (yes, that IS one I remember) I have had for a few years.  I did at one point have two, but I think I accidentally dug up the roots one year because they die down to nothing every year.  Now the impatiens (another plant I know the name of) are one of my favorites, though Spencer questioned the usefulness of annual plants when we went to purchase them stating why would you buy a plant that you have to plant every year??  Why indeed?  Because they are cute and colorful and they grow in shade, which I have alot of on the front of my house!

Speaking of impatiens this is one of my favorite places to plant them.  Though I haven't done it for a few years.  These big rocks are at the bottom and between my my two sets of stairs that go up to the house.  There is alot of shade on the planter box in front and then of course the pesky pine needles from the evergreen above, but the impatiens seem to get along fine here.
Now this leggy, bushy thing which might be some form of azalea (I haven't the slightest idea for sure) has to be cut back every year and grows like crazy (that's why I love it) with these brilliant red flowers.  I always forget how big it gets each year so sadly those impatiens I planted in front may get a little grown over before the summer is over.  Oh well.
So the big news of the year is that we had a "rain garden" put in last fall.  This is something the city of Seattle is encouraging people in our particular neighborhood to do to help reduce run-off going into the city drains.  The idea is to capture water from your gutters before it gets to the streets and into the city drains.  And being the big "green, environmentalists" that we are (NOT) we signed up.  We also got this lovely cistern that Dennis absolutely loves.  Personally while not necessarily attractive, I think it is kind of cool looking and it has generated lots of positive comments from people walking by (almost always when Dennis is out there which is poetic justice I suppose).  Anyway, during the winter months the majority of our gutter water is diverted to this lovely cistern and flows from there to "Miste's pond" which is part of the rain garden and the next picture.  From April 15 to about October 15 you shut the valve off so the water doesn't go to the pond and you can use the stored water to freely water your plants!  Which I think is pretty awesome though since the water is gravity driven it takes a long, long time to get everything watered!

This is one corner of Miste's pond.  You can see the red pipe on the right which is where the water from the cistern goes into the pond.  A contractor built the rain garden and did all the plants, which are native, hardy and low maintenance which was what I requested.  The city basically paid for us to put this all in.  I think it cost us a couple hundred when all was said and done.  You put in the rain garden and the city reimburses you for the cost.

So these are a couple of plants I am going to put in the area where I dug out all the grass.  I kind of ran out of steam today so I only got part of the planting done.  
This is a shot of the whole rain garden.  You may recall that we had probably a 10 foot or so hedge right there next to the laurel bush you can now see.  It was between the laurel bush and the flag pole basically.  Obviously it is gone and the two evergreens that were south of the laurel bushes...gone as well.  It certainly exposes the house more but over time some of the stuff will grow taller and fill in a little.  Just today I put up the Great Wall of Miste with the bricks.  Originally the fence that went around our other side yard (a cement slab) was built with brick support "posts"--needless to say, when we took it down we were left with alot of bricks!  Oma even made a whole brick path across the front of her house with bricks she got from us.  I set up the second row of bricks because I still had alot more and didn't know where to put them.  I thought it would be a temporary solution, but I like the way it looks so I will probably leave it.

Since the post is getting a bit long winded (and my internet connection is not working so great tonight for some reason) I will just finish with another picture of my favorite little flowers.  I hope that mom is smiling down on my attempts at gardening and maybe sending a few positive vibes my way (for the survival of the new plants I hope so).  This is two weekends already this year, close together I might add, that I have spent gardening.  Maybe the gardening gene does exist in me and it just need a little kickstart to blossom (no Dennis pun intended).  

PS - I remembered the name of the plant with the pink flowers from above - hydrangeas!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Downstairs Bathroom Remodel Before & After

We decided to remodel our bathrooms this winter.  We started with the downstairs one because it was easiest and needed it the most.  This was the shower before.  It was three sided and the door opened out and hit the bathroom door which opened in.  The floor is painted concrete--the paint didn't last well.

 The vanity and mirror.  Probably the the think that looked the best in the bathroom originally.  If you can't tell very well, the walls were yellow.  Just to make it cheery because the bathroom was kind of dark.
 This was the commode and the shelving behind it.  Notice that it is all open.  The top shelf used to have these wooden shutter doors on that we took off several years ago.  Right behind the toilet it used to be wood paneling which I painted yellow a long, long time ago.
 This is where the shower was.  The bathroom was torn down clear to the studs.

 This is the side wall before.  

 This is the side wall after.  A bit similar but does look better.
 This is the shower before the tile was put up.

Note the cement floor has been stripped down to the bare base.

These are new lights we put in above the sink.

This is the new tile that was put up in the shower.

 This is the base of the shower and and the floor tile that we picked out. We changed it to a circular shower stall instead instead of the sharp cornered one.
 This is the new vanity.

 The new shower looks pretty amazing I think.  Neat glass stall the door slides inside so there isn't a conflict with the door into the bathroom.
 We used the same towel rack and toilet paper dispenser because it fit into the style of the bathroom.

 New shower head in the new shower.  It's like a rain shower.  Really love it.
 New lights above the vanity.  
 New cupboards above the toilet.

 New mirror above the sink.

So all in all it turned out pretty spectacular--at least compared to what it was before.  We went without a ceiling in this bathroom probably for about 2 years.  It has been really awesome to have it it redone.  We love it.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Annual Christmas Tree Hunt

Our Christmas tradition always has been to go our for our tree the weekend after Thanksgiving weekend, which usually the first weekend in December.  For the past couple of years we have driven up to Stanwood to a tree farm near Douglas and Lara, though we have never done our tree hunt with them until this year.  This year we went together.  We started with a really nice pancake breakfast that Douglas made for us.  Then headed to the tree farm.
This is Spencer with Kevin who is the youngest of the Chandler grandkids and a pretty awesome kid.

 Spencer is holding the saw, but he didn't actually assist in cutting down the tree or even helping with it.  Cooper is the one who did the sawing this year.
 The tree farm is just that an actual farm.  This is one of several horses that was in the field next to the place where we found our tree.
 Coop did help with the sawing and carrying.  He is frowning because he didn't like the tree we picked.  He thought it was too small.  We had to get a smaller tree because we currently have two sofas in the living room--a new one and our old one.  We haven't quite figured out what to do with the old one and won't until after Christmas.  So there is less room so we needed a skinnier tree.
 Here is the whole gang.  Oma came with us (Opa was not up to it).  Douglas and his boys and then us and Coop & Spencer.  Tucker won't be home until near Christmas.
 You can certainly tell that Douglas and Dennis are brothers.  They both look pretty good here I think.
 So this is the last year we will be able to go to Alan Acres.  They are no longer going to have their tree farm.  Technically they weren't even open this year.  There is a young boy in Stanwood with cancer and the owners of the place let a group of people raising money for his treatment sell off the trees.  So 100% of the money earned went towards the boy's medical treatment.  So here's the boys and Oma taking a last ride on the Alan Acres train--complete with Santa and an elf in the background.
So here is the finished product.  It is a little skinnier than trees we have had in the past, but it is still really nice.  Nothing like a fresh cut tree.  Love this part of Christmas!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Graduation & Promotion

Spencer graduated from Ballard High School last Friday, June 13th.  
 Walking to Memorial Stadium.  We got lucky and found parking right on the street.  We had been on the road for about 20 minutes when we realized that the "no parking" time was 5-7pm and it was now 7:04pm--so we parked right where we were much to the chagrin of the people behind us!

 Spencer in the sea of faces.
 This Cailey from the Prom pictures in my last posts.
 These are two girls who went to elementary school with Spencer.  Carissa the girl in black was his best friend in Kindergarten.  She went to a different high school but came to the graduation because she knows lots of kids from Ballard.  Natalie in the red has also been with Spencer since Kindergarten.
 Cooper was promoted from middle school to high school today, June 17th.  The ceremony is outside the school in one of the parking lots.  It's low key because it's a promotion NOT a graduation.  This is us hanging out before the event.
 This Cooper and group of his middle school buddies after the ceremony.
 The other ginger boy besides Cooper in this picture is a boy named Jayden that always calls me mom at school.  Funny kid!  The tall boy in the blue polo shirt in both pictures is his best buddy Jack who has been his friend since pre-school.  Hard to believe but they have stayed friends all this time.  Jack is on the waitlist for Ballard next year and will hopefully get in, otherwise this will be their last school years together.
None of the pictures from the actual ceremonies for either one are that great so I didn't post them.  A big couple of days in the history of the Chandlers.