Archive for May, 2012

Mailbox Makeover

Posted on May 30, 2012. Filed under: Gardening, Home |

When we moved into our house last summer, these two gargantuan bushes flocked the driveway at the street. They were our sentries, letting no car veer off of the driveway as it reversed. If it did, it would have a giant, ugly bush to deal with.

You can barely see the bush on the right in the picture above. It was just as big as its companion on the other side of the driveway.

In the fall, Adam went to war with the bush on the right. He lopped it, chopped it, and dug it up. The bare spot got a nice dose of fescue seed in the fall and another round this spring. It’s looking pretty good, especially with our trimmed crepe myrtle watching over it.

A few weeks ago, Adam took down the bush on the left near the mailbox. He used the same technique: basically going crazy with an axe and then digging up the root ball. There were river rocks making a bed around the mailbox. We have these rocks all over our yard in random places. I was surprised to find them under the bush in a pattern that made sense.

I measured the space and we went to Lowe’s to get some plants to fill ‘er in as well as some pine straw. It was pretty ugly before we started. Check out the rootball/stump of the ugly shrub crowding this shot.

We also found a friend:

This is what we picked up at Lowes:

Here are the after shots. I added dahlias and gerber daisies once it warmed up a bit.  Everything has had a few weeks to grow.

Dwarf Nandinas in the back – these grow at a fast rate. They were super small when we got them. Still, they won’t get very big – about a 2 foot spread – which is what we wanted. We already chopped down a big bush. We don’t want a big bush again, let alone 4 of them. This particular type of Nandina is heat and drought resistant – nice for being out by the curb. It’s leaves vary in shades of green, purple, and red.

Dahlias and Gerber daisies in the middle – annuals are more fun than perennials if you really want that splash of color. It’s a shame that they don’t last too long. These should be fine for the summer.

Blue ground cover – I cannot remember the name of this stuff. It will spread out more. It has cornflower blue blooms on it and it’s a perennial.

It looks much better out here, don’t you think? I plan to plant some bulbs and mums this fall and some ornamental cabbage for the winter.

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Mason is a Lover

Posted on May 18, 2012. Filed under: Dog |

We’ve had Mason, our Labradoodle puppy, for almost 2 weeks now. All in all, it’s been a joy. He makes us smile. He reminds us to have fun and play every once in a while. And he is just a bucket of love in the morning. (Adam and I are not morning people, but you can’t help but be happy when you see that tail wagging and get showered with puppy kisses at 6:30am).

Sure there have been not so glamorous sides of parenting a pup: 3:30am potty walks, cleaning up pee, 7:15am being our new sleeping-in time, getting nipped by needle-sharp puppy teeth, having to pick up and carry a stair-spooked puppy whenever we travel to another floor of our split-level house (that’s a lot). But it’s so worth it.

We picked Mason up from the breeder on Saturday, May 5th. She had given him a bath, so he was tuckered out and in a deep sleep when we arrived. He sat in my lap on the way home. We didn’t hear a peep from him. He just panted and drooled, most likely due to anxiety. We brought him through the house and out the back door to his potty spot as soon as we came home and lavished praise and treats on him when he went to the bathroom. He responds so enthusiastically, even still! We played with him in the yard for a few minutes. He loved it!

As soon as we started to go back inside, you could sense his hesitation. We had to pick him up and carry him, and his little body kind of froze and he closed off. He was fine outside – it was recognizable. But he knew that this house was not his house. After some timid exploring, he eventually settled in and fell asleep at our feet for a few hours.

I was lucky enough to take a few days off to spend with him. I’m so glad I did. We got to spend some quality time together. He is so smart. He knows how to “sit”, “shake”, “down”, and is learning to “stand”. He is learning what “ow”, “off”, and “drop it” mean. He is out of his shell now and completely comfortable. He bites a little too much, but it’s all in play. He is a puppy and we have to remind him that it hurts when he does that.

We put his crate next to my side of the bed the first night and it was pretty rough. He downright wailed for 30 minutes straight. We played Jazz on NPR and then brought out the iPhone sound machine app. We’ve fallen asleep to babbling brook every night since. He loves having background noise. If you want to know what’s happening on Days of our Lives or what Kathy Lee and Hoda are up to after 9am on the Today Show, Mason could probably tell you. We leave the kitchen TV on for him. He had to get up 3 times a night the first 3 nights. The 3rd night I followed the advice of our vet tech and put his crate in the kitchen. Bad idea. He cried all night. I called the breeder the next day – who is awesome by the way – and she told me he was way too little to be by himself. Her pups are very pack-oriented and need to be with their people. We basically ostracized him. I felt awful. I failed him as a doggie mommy. So the fourth night we put him back in our room and miracles upon miracles, he slept from 11:30pm to 6:30am straight. Hallelujah! He is regularly sleeping through the night now.

He doesn’t even bark in the morning when he has to go out; he scratches at the plastic bottom of his crate. How polite of him! He has gotten in his crate on his own several times and taken naps. It’s awesome.

Leaving treats in his crate, encouraging him to enter on his own the first few days, and never physically removing him from the crate really does work. He feels like it is his safe haven, his den. I haven’t heard him cry yet when I’ve left him, but I tend to get out of there quickly so I don’t have to listen to him. It would break my heart.

Mason is growing so fast! He is already much bigger than he was 2 weeks ago when we got him! He’s navigating the stairs – going up, not down. He can practically jump on the couch – a no-no for us.

The first day we got him he could easily fit under the coffee table, not so much anymore… The breeder expects he’ll be around 35 lbs. His dad is about 30 lbs and his mom is a little over 35 lbs. His mom was 18” tall at the shoulder and his dad was 17” tall at the shoulder. He looks so much like his dad it’s uncanny. He’s going to be a great dog and we have absolutely no regrets about bringing him into our family. Sure he’s a lot of work, but he makes us incredibly happy!

In anticipation of any allergy questions… I have not had any reactions to Mason yet. So far he doesn’t shed and I’m not allergic to him! Woo hoo!I think it’s the poodle in him. But speaking of allergies, I recently discovered that I am one of the few people in this world that react negatively to contact with Virginia Creeper. We have a ton of it in our yard in various places. I realized that every time Mason brushes up against it and I handle him, I develop these hives that look like bug bites and scratch marks. They feel like a chemical burn. I googled it and sure enough, looks like me and Virginia Creeper do not get along. I cannot even pull it up with gloves. My husband is going to get out there this weekend and rid our backyard of it. My hero! In the meantime every time Mason has contact with V-creep, I rub him down with baby wipes when we get back inside.

But because of my rash (I am not ashamed), I had to give Mason a bath. It was a traumatic experience for both of us.

The look on his face, combined with his panic attack and the image of him sopping wet almost had me turning myself in to the ASPCA. Washing this puppy is not for the faint of heart.

Be back soon with mailbox, backyard, and fence updates!

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Stencil Tunnel Syndrome

Posted on May 2, 2012. Filed under: Home |

Oh Lordy! Somebody save me! Stenciling is pure agony. Don’t ever believe anyone that tells you it’s a piece of cake. They’re LYING!

But rewind to August. Yes, August. That’s when I painted the whole living room all by my lonesome. Adam was doing yard work or working or something. I don’t remember. And he hates painting. Sometimes it’s just better to split things up and tackle them alone, especially if one person loathes it. See, I’m learning how marriage works! This blog isn’t called the Newlywed Narrative for nothing!

If you’ll recall, the living room was a baby blue when we moved in:


It was pretty, but not what I wanted.

So I painted it cream. I got Lowe’s to color-match Valspar to Behr’s Parchment Paper in Eggshell. It took two coats and I finished it in spurts because I needed a lot of natural light to see. This room doesn’t have an overhead light fixture. Thank goodness this was back in August. The sun was setting around 8:30 then.

We thought long and hard about wallpapering one wall for the look we wanted. I even ordered samples and perused websites for hours. You know they don’t really have wallpaper stores anymore? I guess the 1980s and 1990s really are over. We couldn’t find any wallpaper we liked in our price range. Imagine that. Us? Expensive taste? Noooo…. We were both leaning toward subtle tone on tone all-over patterns in damasks, Moroccan geometrics, and even some floral designs. So after much research and wallpaper sample acquisition, I decided it would be more economical to get the look we wanted with an allover wall stencil. More economical yes, but also more painful. The things we do to save money. Now I know why people fork over $200 a roll for that wallpaper. But more on that…

We purchased a $50 stencil at Royal Design Studio. While I was getting the cream paint for the living room walls, I had them mix one quart of interior semi-gloss that is 50% lighter than the main wall color for a nice tone on tone effect. (And I have to put it out there that Adam and I came up with this idea back in August before the Petersiks posted their stencil project. We must be channeling each other and probably a lot of other people that have done the same thing. Google tone-on-tone wall stencil. It’s not a novel idea. But I am ever greatful to those Petersiks. At least I knew what I was getting into when I read about Sherry’s experience.) Adam and I wanted the finished look to be subtle, but contrasting. We decided that pairing the cream eggshell paint with a slightly lighter paint color in a different sheen would give us the effect we wanted.

In the first week of October, things had calmed down enough I’d built up my courage enough to try my hand at this stenciling thang. I should add that I picked up some stencil adhesive spray and stencil sponge brushes at Michael’s before I started. I sprayed the back of the stencil with adhesive and stuck it to the wall at the very top and in the center of the wall. We have crown molding in here so it definitely took some finagling to get it in place without bowing up. A lot of tweaking, actually. The first one is the hardest. I also used painters tape on the sides to secure it even more. The rest is straightforward. I dipped my sponge brush into my paint and made sure to dab a lot of the paint off before filling in the stencil at a 90-degree angle. Once I was done with one square, I peeled the stencil off the wall moved it down and lined it up with the stencil above it. I also made sure it was level.

4 hours later… I had one stripe going from ceiling to floor. I’m a slow learner. And stenciling is the most tedious home improvement project I’ve done so far. It’s worse than ripping out all the Old English Ivy we have in the backyard. That’s bad, folks.

So there was one little stripe in here for oh, about a month. And then two little stripes for a few more weeks er months…

We did yard work. I made throw pillows. I made a table runner and a wreath. We went on an anniversary trip. I switched clothes out of closets. I painted a masterpiece. I went to Nashville with my girls and played a part in helping my big bro propose to his girlfriend. I went to Birmingham to see my pregnant girlfriend. That sounds weird. My friend that is (and now was) pregnant. I made kitchen curtains. We hosted a dinner party. We raked and raked and raked leaves. We decorated for Christmas. We celebrated Christmas and New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s. I was busy, but I was also procrastinating.

Adam asked me if I’d consider stenciling the whole room. I almost started crying.

So after 2 more long sessions and about 20 total hours of pain, agony, paint-caked fingers, back aches, gray hairs, getting stuck to the drop cloth because of spray adhesive build-up (read: DIY problems), here you have it, people: a stenciled accent wall (that doesn’t photograph very well).

It looks really good in person. It was exactly what we wanted. Thank God. What a travesty it would be if I spent all that time, risked the health of my median nerve, and it turned out all bad. You can really see it with daylight. At night it becomes much more subtle. We like it.

This room needs the most TLC of all the rooms in the house, mainly because it was empty when we started. We’re slowly starting to acquire furniture. I’ll keep you updated on its progress.

Speaking of progress, the chair and ottomon I ordered in February was finally delivered. It’s very comfortable. The coloring in this picture is off though. It’s cream-colored. It is not as dark as the picture portrays. I’ve already spent hours reading in this chair. I’ve taken some naps in this chair. And one of us usually sits in it “on call” while the other one is cooking in the kitchen around the corner.

All in all, our living room is slowly becoming more livable. All right.

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