Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Nine Months Pregnant, Crazy and a Renovation Update

I can't speak for all crazy pregnant women; ones who are smart enough to know not to mow the lawn and things like that. I can actually only discuss the crazy things I do, and actually I haven't been that crazy lately. I'm too tired.

I had really hoped that before the baby arrived, the upstairs of our house, which was originally an attic, built out in the 1960s or 1970s and gutted by us, would be completed and the kidlets sleeping up there. We're very, very close, but it isn't looking likely to happen now.

For a long time, one of the major things holding us back was a railing on the upper half of the stairs and around the landing. When my dad came a month or so ago, he and Justin built that and solved a major safety issue.

After my father left, Justin put the base shoe in one room and then set about working on the attic access doors. Because the roof on our house is a pyramid shape, there is attic space around the sides of each room. When we framed and drywalled the rooms, we weren't sure what we were going to do with these areas exactly, so we left them open 60" wide and ignored them for a while.

Then Justin framed out the space for a 30" doorway, drywalled the rest, built jambs, doors and hung them up, and put up trim.

My dad is back helping us out again and standing by should the wee bairn decide to arrive. While Justin was working on trimming out the doors, he's been putting up more base shoe. We had enough for 2 1/2 rooms, but we needed to buy more for the last bedroom and half of the bathroom. Yesterday, during all my errand running, we bought the necessary trim and last night started putting shellac on them.

You can get into all the enviro reasons to like shellac, but mainly I find it very handy for things like this because it dries fast and adds color to the wood at the same time as the finish. I'm all about being lazy. Today, I gave the trim a light sanding and put on a second coat. That's where the crazy pregnant part comes in, although I worked outside and finished up quickly, so I don't think it was that crazy.

The trim for everything but the last part of the bathroom (that trim will be painted) is now ready to put up. We're waiting on our final HVAC and electrical inspections. We've passed the final plumbing inspection and I think all we have to do for the final, final inspection is get all the doors hung. Of course, hanging doors isn't exactly what one would call simple when one is dealing with old doors and not pre-hung ones, but we are awfully close.

As much as I'd have liked to be finished before the baby arrived, at this point I would rather be done with pregnancy than have the upstairs finished first. Physical discomfort can change your mind like that.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Potted Plants

As much as I like gardening and although I seem to wind up with plants in pots every year, every year most of my large pots wind up being a disappointment. The reason for the disappointment varies. Sometimes I've tried a mixture of things and one plant died, or they just didn't grow the way I wanted them to. Sometimes I've tried keeping it simple and using one sprawling, flowering plant. Those years I usually forget to water the pots and wind up, if not killing the plant, leaving it looking pathetic for the rest of the summer, until I rip it all out in the fall and stick in mums.

There have been two exceptions to my potted plant failures. I have always had lovely and abundant basil growing in pots. This is probably because I've pinched it, plucked it and taken very good care of it. Or maybe basil just likes me. The other plant that has done well consistently for me in a pot is hosta. Those I have totally ignored, not watered for weeks, stuck in full sun when I knew they are shade plants and they do beautiful things for me, sort of like the puppy that will lick your hand even after you yell at it.

Hostas fill in pots well, overwinter in the well and generally give me a nice bit of potted plant life with very little work. Paired with some vinca, which also can survive a lot of abuse and you can have a very interesting pot without much effort.

This year, this formula for pots has been especially important for me. I don't have extra money to spend on a lot of plants thanks to renovations, our trip to England and all the other things that are costing money this year. Not only do I have a tendency to find my potted plants looking pathetic by mid-summer, but then I tend to want to go buy even more plants to hide the shame of my plant abuse. I just can't do that this summer.

I had four pots I wanted to fill in my front yard. Several more in the backyard got herbs, which although tiny, I've already been putting to work in meals. The four in the front yard are purely decorative and I want them to be pretty, but I just can't justify spending much on them right now.

So I started hunting around the yard. I already had some potting soil left over from other years. I divided up some hostas, ripped a little vinca (for flowing out of the pot) out by the roots and stuck vinca and hostas in all of the front yard pots. It might have been more interesting to try something different for the other two and lamb's ear might have been interesting. Some variegated hostas would have been pretty, but I was working with the first stuff I laid hands on. For the two pots on the front porch, I splurged on a small pot of million bells. They and their bigger cousins the wave petunia are fairly unkillable and even if I do kill them, the hostas and vinca should keep the pots looking nice.

So far I'm quite pleased and especially that I managed to fill four pots with something attractive for well under $10 by using what I already had and what I knew would work well for me.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Garden Talk

It's been over a year since I really had any garden news. Last year, before we closed on our old house, I was busy dividing, moving and replanting stuff anywhere I could find room. The buyers agreed to my taking plants out of the garden and my only regret is that I didn't take more, because they are not gardeners and the things I left are looking mighty overgrown. Sigh.

But moving on -- last year I didn't have the time or interest to do more than water things to keep them alive (and I didn't even do that well at that -- I lost a blueberry bush, a Japanese maple and a few other things).

This year we are living in the house and I have more time, if not more energy, for taking care of the garden. I'm definitely slowed down by the third trimester belly more than I thought I would be. All my other children were due in the fall and so during planting time I was just beginning to show. With this baby due to arrive in the middle of the summer, I'm already big and my back hurts when I dig, bend over or do just about anything plant related for too long. So I have to wait for my husband or the more competent of the children to help me out.

Still a lot of last year's moving of plants and some strategic bulb planting in the fall have really paid off in the spring garden. A long straight bed by the side of the driveway is filling out nicely with things that are pretty drought tolerant and require little care (irises, day lilies, creeping phlox to name a few of the things in there). The front flower beds are filling in nicely with many of the same things, along with bleeding heart, peonies, lambs' ear, and lots of tulips and daffodils. Both front and driveway beds have also been sowed with easy seeds like zinnias, nasturtiums and sunflowers. I can find the seedlings from those pretty easily, but a few things or a few things in a few places either seem to be in hiding or slow to germinate.

At the end of last summer I started a new bed as a continuation of one of the beds in front of the house, laying down thick layers of newspaper and mulch to kill everything underneath. The grass is fairly dead, but violets and wild onions laugh in the face of such things and are sprouting up everywhere, leaving me little choice but to go after them with my trusty weeder (if only in short spurts before my back starts hurting).

In the backyard, we're working on a vegetable and berry bed. Ideally, I would have either started it last year with paper and mulch or cut out all the existing soil, weeds and grass or made raised beds, but for this year at least we went for the quicker tilling up the soil. Naturally, it's already full of weeds, but as I get a chance and when I get more mulch, I'm laying down newspaper around the plants and mulching over the paper (so far I've gotten the berries and down to the tomatoes finished). It's not perfect, but works pretty well at keeping the weeds at bay and I much prefer the newspaper method to permanent weedblocking fabric). The garden back there is my most ambitious. I've now got five blueberry bushes, several strawberry plants, and raspberries, plus tomatoes, squash, zucchini, bell peppers, okra and beans. I've also planted herbs in pots. I just hope I haven't taken on more than I can deal with this summer with a new baby added to the mix.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


We've passed our upstairs electrical, plumbing, framing and insulation inspections on the first try. The drywallers start next week.

More Ways to Tell You've Been Renovating Too Long

Your children get out the brushes and mops and play "polying the floor."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ways to Tell You've Been Renovating Too Long

When your daughter gets a pink play silk for Christmas, she uses it to play "insulation" rather than "fairy" or "princess."

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Moving In

Imagine piles and piles of boxes everywhere. I'd show you, but my camera isn't on me at the moment.

Actually, it's gotten a lot less ugly. On January 1, we actually slept in our own house. It happened to be one of the coldest nights so far this season and we didn't have insulation, so in the morning it was 51 degrees in the house. It's only gotten better and warmer as we've unpacked, the temperature outside has risen and as of today we actually have insulation upstairs.

So here's to a warm new year in our own home and figuring out how to properly thank people who have taken you in for 8 months.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cleaning Up...

Thursday morning I drove the kids down to my sister-in-law's. Then I drove back to the purple house, where my father-in-law and two brother-in-laws were helping Justin clean, move things and get the house into better shape. The plumber was there installing my clawfoot tub and the painter was finishing the kitchen walls. I ran errands for people, got lunch and stuff like that. By the end of the day, my father-in-law had vacuumed and mopped everything. We'd moved a lot of the furniture back into place and it was actually sort of looking like a house.

Then Justin and I got cleaned up and went out for a nice dinner to celebrate our anniversary. We've made it ten years and hope for many more decades to come. That was lovely and it was nice to come home, go to bed and not have to deal with the horde of children.

In the morning, we got up, went to breakfast and then did a few things at the house. We got the fridge moved into place, so the plumber could hook up the water line. The plumber came back in to finish hooking up fixtures in the powder room and do a few other things, which actually took most of the day. Justin did various stuff, I'm not sure what all.

I had to go pick up the kids and that involved a trip to the ER, which is never a fun way to end a potentially productive day.