Rooting Out

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One thing I’m still getting used to with home ownership is the ongoing stream of projects and maintenance.  Having rented for the vast majority of my adult life (12-13 years), I’m familiar with reorganizing and cleaning, but landscaping and painting – among others – are new ventures.

After a couple of years of living here, we decided it was time to tackle the outside of the house in a meaningful way.  The first year we lived here, we mostly just watched to see what plants came up in the yard and beds.  Last year, we evicted The Shrub That Ate Our Front Window, put in some new beds around the patio, and placed fresh landscaping fabric/pebbles around our firepit.  This year, we realized that the gorgeous silver maple tree in the backyard was planted just barely far enough away from the house and we also didn’t particularly like the Norway spruce in the front.

We called in an arborist to evaluate the silver maple.  Silver maples have shallow, invasive roots – the kind that can crack foundations and get into sewer lines.  The minimum distance to plant these trees from a house is around 20 feet, and ours is 21 feet from the base of the house.  The tree was actually one of the things we loved about the house when we bought it.  It’s one of those perfect trees for bird feeders, for climbing, and for shade.  I hoped it didn’t need cut down, but if it was a choice between the tree and our foundation, it was a no-brainer.

The arborist came out, looked at all of our trees and, happily, told us he could save the maple with no major issues.  In the fall, he’ll come and prune the roots to prevent them from reaching the house and take a limb off that’s starting to stretch up to the point where it will eventually grow over the roof.  He told us that the spruce in the front yard wasn’t going to invade the foundation since spruces apparently don’t have those kinds of roots, but that it’s planted too close to the house and showing signs of stress.  The arborist advised taking it out, and since we didn’t like it anyway, we’re looking forward to having it down sometime this summer.

One of the things the arborist noted in the evaluation was that when the spruce comes out, the stump grinder would damage the yucca plants at the base.  Well, the yuccas had gotten entirely overgrown and weren’t really in my vision for what I eventually want in that bed.  We decided to take them out.

Turns out, yuccas grow thick, fibrous roots that are an absolute nightmare to hack through.  What we thought would take one person about an hour took two of us about two and a half hours of hard work.  One of us grabbed the top of the plant and pulled, the other dug the shovel in over and over to break the roots.  The end result was worth it, however, and it all looks much neater.

House Before Yuccas

Before, with the yuccas in place.

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After – we didn’t even realize there were landscaping rocks under all of that!

Next up is getting rid of the bush behind the pine.  Having pulled a similar one out last summer, I know what we’re in for there.  Eventually, we’ll get to the fun part: figuring out and planting the landscaping we actually want.

This post is a part of Microblog Monday.  If you want to read more posts or submit your own, head over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

One Step at a Time

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When we decided to repaint the finished section of our basement, we knew we had to do something about the steps.  The entire basement was painted a blue-grey that just felt dark in a space with no windows, but the steps were an even darker shade of grey with an unpleasant texture. We tossed around the idea of replacing the treads entirely, but realized fairly quickly that this was going to run us more money, time, and trouble than we wanted to spend.  That left us with sanding and painting.

Steps Before

About halfway through the project.  The original paint felt really dark.

It took us a couple of weeks to get the steps patched with wood filler and sanded.  Then we realized we didn’t want to lose access to the basement for 24-72 hours at a time for painting, so we wound up painting every other step during one round, then doing the second batch (that way, if we were careful, we could get step over the painted steps and still reach the bottom).  It took three coats of paint on most steps and four on a couple to cover the dark grey.  We ran out of paint with one coat on six steps left to go and had to buy another quart.

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Finished with the paint!

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Treads on.

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Sea-glass green risers to match three of the basement walls.

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From the basement, the sea-glass green walls and cream wall visible.

It’s nice to have that project finished.  Next comes saving up and eventually replacing the carpet with vinyl plank flooring, but that will probably not happen until fall.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want more or to join in yourself, head on over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

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It’s weird how time passes – the minutes or hours often seem long, but then suddenly, I’m in the middle of a new week or a new month.  What I’ve been doing with those minutes and hours is a mishmash:

  • Finished painting the basement. I have cream paint down the stairwell and along one long wall, then a sea-glass green to the other three walls (Benjamin Moore Windswept and Robin’s Nest if you’re curious).  It feels much lighter and airier than the blue-gray color that was there before and while I was a little worried – as always – that I wouldn’t like the colors, I love them.  I had wondered if my “anti-accent” wall would be too much (and thus should paint the whole basement in the sea-glass) or if the three colored walls would feel oppressive (and thus should paint everything cream) but the balance turned out nicely.
  • Now we’re on to the basement steps, which involves sanding the rough lumber that’s there. I’m pretty sure these were originally carpet-covered, but for some reason the carpet was removed and a dark blue paint slapped down. Not great looking and, because I have some sensory issues, I hated the texture on my feet.  The trick now is to sand enough to make them feel decent underfoot but not so much that the paint doesn’t stick.  We bought stair paint in the same cream and sea-glass green as the rest of the basement.  The steps themselves will get the cream, while the risers will be sea-glass.  Then we’ll throw some thin microfiber treads on the main part of the steps.  Hopefully it will look good (at least better) once it’s done.
  • I read Ariel Levy’s memoir The Rules Do Not Apply and Sarah DeGregorio’s Early: An Intimate History of Premature Birth and What it Teaches Us About Being Human. Both made me tear up for different reasons, both were excellent, and I’m hoping to delve into these with a more in-depth review here soon! (Content note – Levy’s memoir involves a stillbirth and DeGregorio’s also delves into neonatal loss.)
  • Started the paperwork to register E for kindergarten. This is awesome and honestly, pretty emotional.  Kindergarten was the thing I used to hang onto in the hospital and the NICU and as we went to specialist appointments and PT/OT/ST sessions, as in “someday, she’s going to be in kindergarten, we are going to make it…somehow”.  I’d picture her getting ready for her first day, beyond the terror that a simple cold would kill her, beyond the bradycardia episodes, and the monitors.  I really cannot believe we’re now so close.
  • Managed to finish a project for work on condensing some “good points” from continuing education course I did for the rest of my unit. It’s not a huge thing, but I’m really pleased with how it turned out.
  • Confessed to my choir director some long-term and (to me) embarrassing deficiencies in my music reading abilities. He was totally non-judgmental and basically told me that if we don’t admit what we don’t know, we never learn.  I’ve been meeting with him to remedy those and I’m excited because I’m actually learning how to do some of these things now!
  • Because we bit the bullet and went for the Dis.ney+ subscription service, Arthur and I decided to start watching the Marvel/Avengers movies as it feels like a lot of people talk about these. Have now seen “Captain America”.

What are you up to these days?

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to read more or participate yourself, head on over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.  

Good Gracious, It’s 2020

After a decidedly mixed-bag Christmas (a post for another day), I’m happy to say that I’ve gotten the lift in spirits I sometimes get in January.  Some of that probably has to do with the daylight getting slightly longer, but this time, the somewhat arbitrary “life reboot” of New Year’s Day fits well with my needing to move into a new phase of life.

  • In the last month or so, I’ve stepped up my gym routine. I started with classes back in July, but also had a foot out the door mentally because of the FET in October.  However, I’ve realized how much fertility treatments, bed rest + various activity restrictions, and c-sections/surgeries have destroyed my core and abdominal muscles.  I’ve spent the last several years with an old back injury flaring up regularly because of my lack of core.  In August, I noticed after doing class for about a month, I was having a bit less pain.  Since the FET fail, I’ve worked on adjustments to my workouts to continue that progress.  While I still don’t have the rock-solid abs and core I’d love to possess, I’m definitely noticing that my back is better yet.  Hopefully that progress will continue!
  • Arthur and I made plans to turn our spare room into a craft/quiet/art/music room for the kids. Crib will become a desk and changing table a set of shelves to store art supplies.  It’s nice to figure out a way to re-purpose these items in a way that fits our lives now instead of having them sitting in the room, a silent ache every time I walked past.  E graduated from physical therapy (hopefully for the final time).  Plan is to step up preschool to three days per week once the school has an opening to prepare E for kindergarten in the fall.  Both girls are taking low-stress/strictly for fun gymnastics lessons for the next couple months.
  • I finally spackled the place on the kitchen ceiling that had an ugly water spot. I resealed the upstairs tub over a year ago, suspecting this was the problem, and since I did, no more dampness to that area.  Definitely time to repaint and make it look nice!  I also broke down and sprang for good re-chargeable batteries to use in the flame-less candles in the living room.  Put them on a timer so that they come on around 4 pm daily and it’s rather amazing how much that simple change makes me smile every time they light.
  • For Arthur’s Christmas present, I got him a short-term subscription to a box that sends ingredients + recipes from some of the top bartenders working currently for custom cocktails. It makes a good “stay in” sort of date night, allows us to try some different things without committing to large/expensive bottles of ingredients that might only get used once, and is just good fun.  We made “Pommes Bandes” last night (pineapple juice, lime juice, allspice cider syrup, Angostura bitters, and rum on the rocks with a garnish of candied ginger).  Definitely not something I would have made for myself normally (or picked off a menu at a bar/restaurant) but absolutely delicious.
  • Journeys and quests (hmmm) have been the theme of the last couple of books I picked up. Finished William Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land, a re-telling of “The Odyssey” set in Depression-era Minnesota and absolutely loved it.  I also read the four books of “The Raven Cycle” by Maggie Stiefvater (credit to Jess) and enjoyed those as well.  As a little bit of a departure, I was able to pick up Bitten By Witch Fever: Wallpaper & Arsenic in the 19th Century Home by Lucinda Hawksley from the library (another Jess pick) – totally fascinating.  As someone whose favorite color happens to be rich emerald to forest greens, I am pretty sure that if I’d lived in the centuries where arsenic dyes were in widespread use (apparently not just in wallpaper, but in clothing/textile dyes as well), well…I don’t know that I’d have much expectation for longevity.

 

  • Pommes BandesPommes Bandes and a good book – perfect way to spend an evening!

Happy New Year, all!

The Happy Kind of Boring

We’ve been in that pleasant, uneventful in the large sense, busy in the small sense state for the last few weeks.  I find that I tend to sort of overlook these time periods in life because nothing major is happening, but in a lot of ways, they’re really the ones that make up the bulk and reality of life.  As someone who tends towards impatience, I’ve tried to challenge myself to slow down a little and savor the moments that do come.

  • Since we moved, because of various issues, it’s been a bit of a challenge to develop community. At this point, we’ve bought a house and plan to stay for a while, so I’ve been looking for some opportunities to find and hang out with people.  This, as you might imagine, is not the easiest thing – for a world that is hyper-connected by the internet, it’s surprisingly hard to meet people in real life.  Especially since we’re also searching for a new church community.  So I took a cue from Loribeth at The Road Less Travelled and checked into the local library offerings.  Happily, they have an adult book club that meets near my house on a weeknight that I can attend!  First meeting is next week and we’re reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.
  • We’ve been watching “Big Dreams, Small Spaces”, a British show about gardening/landscaping. It’s pretty soothing and I like the fact that people are realistic about the labor and financial costs of putting in a dream garden.  Budgets range from “almost nothing” to “over $25K in US dollars”.  What’s most fascinating are the things people find when they start digging – usually some form of concrete or stone, but in the most extreme instance, a live, unexploded WWII hand grenade (the bomb squad and then military ordnance disposal had to be called).
  • Having watched too much gardening, we decided, in a rash of wild overconfidence, to dig in a couple of mulched beds around our patio area where the grass looked horrible and patchy. It’s mostly shady, so the lovely garden/wildflower meadow/herb garden I had in mind was quickly shot down by my (botany minor) mother.  Instead, we’ve got a couple of mulched beds with coral bells and hostas (also known as plantain lilies).  It’s not real gardening but I’m happy to report that so far, the plants are alive and thriving and the area looks much better.  In true “Big Dreams, Small Spaces” fashion, we found seven large pavers buried in the area, along with a bunch of gross plastic.  Probably explains why the grass refused to grow there…
  • Nice as the back now looks, the front needs work. We have two bushes next to the house that we neglected to prune properly and have metastasized into oversized disasters.  There’s probably no saving them, unfortunately, we’ll probably have to go ahead and take them out.  This gives us through the fall and winter to plan (and save) to replant the bed in the spring.
  • As final item in the plant department, I am also happy to report that I bought two hanging baskets for the porch a few weeks ago and both are still alive (no one is more surprised than me). They look lovely and give me a little pop of happiness every time I see them.
  • Currently doing swim lessons with the kids, thankfully in an indoor pool. We are not having a warm summer so far – last week we had a day in the 50s-low 60s.  It’s also rained a ton.  I am so ready for nice weather!
  • I really can’t believe it, but we’re starting to talk about kindergarten and working on settling a pre-K plan with daycare. E won’t go this fall but the plan is for fall of 2020.  It’s a little wild, mostly because I still have a tendency to think of her as 2lb 8oz (1190 g) baby, but in reality, she’s actually a pretty typical 4-year-old with lots of opinions who loves “Frozen” and “Moana”.  She’s progressing in literal leaps and bounds with riding her balance bike, climbing on stuff, and doing somersaults off the couch.  I’m often torn between pointing out that we don’t do somersaults off the couch and wanting to cheer because it’s obvious how far her stamina, balance, and strength have come.  M loves climbing as well.
  • Saline infusion sonogram at the RE’s office on Monday.

DIY

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About two weeks ago, I looked into the living room and decided I didn’t like the brick fireplace very much.  My room is starting to come together, first with a light, sky blue paint for the walls, then a salsa red couch, a painting that my maternal grandmother bought years ago and I inherited and re-framed, as well as the rugs and throw pillows.  It’s a north-facing room and I love the way the colors pull the limited outdoor light into the space.

I knew we did not have the time or money to redo the masonry and I’m not a huge fan in most instances of opaque-painted brick (I’ve seen a few examples where it goes right but wasn’t comfortable with the high probability that it would go wrong).  Enter whitewashing: it lightens the brick but leaves the variation and texture intact.  I spent a lot of time browsing DIY and decor blogs and sites, figured out a general plan, and tried to figure out a time to complete the project.

Then, one day, I randomly decided to go ahead and prep the area with tape and tarps.  I’d planned to just do a test strip, but about two hours later, sent Arthur a text message with this picture:

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I may have gotten a wee bit carried away.

So that evening, I finished the brick and painted the first coats on the mantel.  By the end, what had originally looked like this:

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Instead looked like this:

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I’m still figuring out how to arrange everything on the mantel and such, but it really does brighten the room considerably.

It’s weirdly therapeutic to create a space for myself after so many years living in apartments and rentals.  It’s also a huge change to start and finish a project where I have a fair amount of control over the outcome.  I hadn’t realized how much the randomness of infertility treatments and the NICU (and the corresponding lack of control) had messed with my mind over the years.

Taking joy in creation is a wonderful new feeling.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  To read more or participate yourself, head over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.