Black Thumb

I love green. It means so many things: eco-friendliness, newness, fresh living plants. It’s my favorite color, and in fact it’s my eye color. What’s not to love about green? Well, for the plants I haven’t had luck with, apparently lots.

When we moved into our house a few years ago, vegetation was the last thing on my mind. I was much more focused on the interior “let’s make it ours” aspect of being a new homeowner. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still concerned about our view around the joint. And, we’ve had two years of quasi-successful (our first year was definitely better) herb and vegetable growth. But, I’m dying to create an exterior space to be proud of – while keeping it, hopefully, relatively low-maintenance. Since, y’know, I’m all about making things easier (a new take on simplification) as life gets a tad more complicated around here.

Last summer, we said a sad goodbye to the honkin’, troublesome, older-than-God tree that made it near impossible to grow much in the front border around our house. Some deep roots are still underground (and, at times, viewable at the surface), but we feel a lot safer when strong storms hit the area.

Let’s just say that I’m pretty ignorant about all this stuff. I’ve discovered that we’ve got plenty of early-season bulb flowers (daffodils, tulips) that pop up this time of year, but the organization of it all is pretty haphazard and not attractive in the least (and half of them don’t bloom – the biggest challenge here is the angle of the house; our east side gets an okay amount of sun (I’d say partial) while our west gets damn near nothin’). I’ve tried adding some annuals each year, getting rid of the hostas (after we had success with one and major failure with two others), putting in some ferns (also haven’t done very well), and a couple of boxwoods and a hydrangea – which I’m clearly not advanced enough to master. *sigh*

So, while it seems that I can handle growing edibles, my green thumb ends there. I’m going to do some more research and find some blogspiration, and ask that anyone reading who may have a bright green thumb (I know some of you must!) for any low-maintenance plantings that work well in Upstate New York, feel free to blurt it out! The biggest challenge, ultimately, is the fact that we don’t have much (or equal) sunshine, so it’s difficult to keep things symmetrical. Here are some pictures from a) FOREVER ago and b) the best the space has ever looked (after I transplanted hostas, added solar lights and mulched)

Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.com
Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.com

The ivy below the windows on each side of the foundation has started causing some problems, so I’ve been working on digging it out for good over the past year – ‘cuz goodness knows it keeps coming back. Some opinions that I need:

– Paint the foundation a deep tan (and the shutters glossy black)? The roof is hunter green and I hate it, but hey, it’s a roof…and our front door is a bright, cheery red. The porch needs some paint to let it blend in more, but I’ve gotta have “the men” in the family take a look at its stability first.
– Red cedar or plain ol’ chocolate brown mulch? Or none of the above?
– Ditch the stone border? We’ve got lots of brick floating around (that I’m considering Craigslisting) but I feel that it would probably also look kinda ghetto. So, just go “sans stone” or work with it?
– What plants have you had luck with, or do you think might work for this space? I’d like to add a few different levels for the eye to look at, but of course the ultimate goal is just to have a space that CAN grow. 🙂 I’m up for greenery like bushes or dwarf trees OR a variety of perennials. Any ideas would be great!

On a side note, another “just need the money first” project that I’m dying to take care of before we ever try to sell this place is having the driveway done (it’s been decades), which would include amending our sidewalk situation. Seriously, if you look down the street (a very long street, at that), the only “break” in the sidewalk is where our driveway takes it over. Silliness! It drives me crazy. Plus, the unevenness of our driveway can’t possibly be good for our cars. Every time a visitor comes, I feel ashamed that they have to pull into this crappy “whatchya think of me now?” first impression. So, clearly we won’t be DIYing that undertaking – but, man, will I be a happy camper when it’s done!

Windows, Windows, Everywhere…

We have a pretty small house, for the most part. For its size, it has a pretty decent number of windows. My mother speaks often of the amount of light brought into our kitchen (ie “the best-lit kitchen she’s ever seen”, and it’s not due to our lighting situation). Sure, the bedrooms each have one or a set of two windows, but, again, they’re tiny. The office only has one. But, our front room…our front room wins the window prize. It’s got seven, and we’re lucky enough to have double french doors that let the light into the rest of our first floor.

We’ve been replacing these windows, one or a few at a time, since we moved in. We’ve purchased them through my father-in-law, and he has kindly put them each in (with a few snags here and there – the surprises that come with “old home” ownership). The windows help with energy use, seem a heck of a lot safer, and can actually open and close nicely. Not to mention, they’re pretty snazzy to look at. Oh, and cleaning is easier – although, let’s be honest here, I never got outside on a ladder to clean the original windows or anything so reasonable.

We’re down to the last handful of windows in the front room, AKA the sun room, AKA the three-season room (although I’m not sure if any of these terms is altogether accurate). We currently have sheers hanging from cheap-o white rods that were here when we bought the place. I’m actually surprised that ANYTHING not bolted down was left behind. The sheers are okay, but considering their lack of privacy (and the fact that they’re the length of the windows…no longer), I’m pretty much over them.

Another little ditty that gets stuck in my head and drives me crazy? The fact that two of the rods will NOT stay TOGETHER. I’m using the proper hardware (although the previous owners rigged together some homemade contraption utilizing WOOD SCRAPS and, I believe, a button or some such nonsense for one of them), but the middle extender finds itself slipping out a lot. It could be due to the fact that the furry boys love looking out into the world beyond the windows, so I find myself frequently sliding the curtains – but this shouldn’t be such a darn problem! Here’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout:

Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.comThat’s what I call “too short”, young lady. You may not leave the house wearing that.
Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.comBroke-a$$, evidence number one. (Hi, Mr. Neighbor!)

Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.com

Broke a$$ evidence number two. Much more obvious. And, in case you’re uber-snoopy, that’s a window waiting to be hung on the left, leisurely laying against the wall.
So, what do I want to do? I want a nice, fun visit (when the gas prices aren’t so high…RIGHT!) to our about-an-hour-away Christmas Tree Shop. It’s the best place (price-wise) I can find to stock up on window rods and hardware – and I’m planning on going way more heavy-duty than what we’ve currently got. I MAY also search for some clearance fabric to sew some slightly-less-sheer curtains, but I’ve gotta search around on Pinterest to see if there are any inspirational SHORTER ideas out there. One thing I’d definitely like to do, since I’ll be “custom making” them, is to make the panels narrower. I want the privacy, but also want the boys to be able to sneak a peek at the birdies and squirrels frolicking on the front lawn – I think this’ll help us achieve both goals (I don’t have to slide an entire curtain over, exposing our leisurely living room selves, but they’ll still be able to see out).

Oh, and a window post certainly wouldn’t be complete without our champion window-watcher, Mr. Winston, utilizing his new favorite thing — a slightly opened window with a screen (which freaks Dave out, but I only do it when I’m home and can keep an ear open for sneaky pushing).

Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.com

Window, Windows Everywhere…

We have a pretty small house, for the most part. For its size, it has a pretty decent number of windows. My mother speaks often of the amount of light brought into our kitchen (ie “the best-lit kitchen she’s ever seen”, and it’s not due to our lighting situation). Sure, the bedrooms each have one or a set of two windows, but, again, they’re tiny. The office only has one. But, our front room…our front room wins the window prize. It’s got seven, and we’re lucky enough to have double french doors that let the light into the rest of our first floor.

We’ve been replacing these windows, one or a few at a time, since we moved in. We’ve purchased them through my father-in-law, and he has kindly put them each in (with a few snags here and there – the surprises that come with “old home” ownership). The windows help with energy use, seem a heck of a lot safer, and can actually open and close nicely. Not to mention, they’re pretty snazzy to look at. Oh, and cleaning is easier – although, let’s be honest here, I never got outside on a ladder to clean the original windows or anything so reasonable.

We’re down to the last handful of windows in the front room, AKA the sun room, AKA the three-season room (although I’m not sure if any of these terms is altogether accurate). We currently have sheers hanging from cheap-o white rods that were here when we bought the place. I’m actually surprised that ANYTHING not bolted down was left behind. The sheers are okay, but considering their lack of privacy (and the fact that they’re the length of the windows…no longer), I’m pretty much over them.

Another little ditty that gets stuck in my head and drives me crazy? The fact that two of the rods will NOT stay TOGETHER. I’m using the proper hardware (although the previous owners rigged together some homemade contraption utilizing WOOD SCRAPS and, I believe, a button or some such nonsense for one of them), but the middle extender finds itself slipping out a lot. It could be due to the fact that the furry boys love looking out into the world beyond the windows, so I find myself frequently sliding the curtains – but this shouldn’t be such a darn problem! Here’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout:

Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.com
That’s what I call “too short”, young lady. You may not leave the house wearing that.
Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.com
Broke-a$$, evidence number one. (Hi, Mr. Neighbor!)

Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.com

Broke a$$ evidence number two. Much more obvious. And, in case you’re uber-snoopy, that’s a window waiting to be hung on the left, leisurely laying against the wall.

So, what do I want to do? I want a nice, fun visit (when the gas prices aren’t so high…RIGHT!) to our about-an-hour-away Christmas Tree Shop. It’s the best place (price-wise) I can find to stock up on window rods and hardware – and I’m planning on going way more heavy-duty than what we’ve currently got. I MAY also search for some clearance fabric to sew some slightly-less-sheer curtains, but I’ve gotta search around on Pinterest to see if there are any inspirational SHORTER ideas out there. One thing I’d definitely like to do, since I’ll be “custom making” them, is to make the panels narrower. I want the privacy, but also want the boys to be able to sneak a peek at the birdies and squirrels frolicking on the front lawn – I think this’ll help us achieve both goals (I don’t have to slide an entire curtain over, exposing our leisurely living room selves, but they’ll still be able to see out).

Oh, and a window post certainly wouldn’t be complete without our champion window-watcher, Mr. Winston, utilizing his new favorite thing — a slightly opened window with a screen (which freaks Dave out, but I only do it when I’m home and can keep an ear open for sneaky pushing).

Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.com

Built-In Beauty

Organization can be a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a “before shot” on this project because Dave had started working on it before I even realized what was happening. Before I knew it, every item in the upper cabinets was on the floor. I can’t really complain about that initiative, can I? That’s what I really call a “dude, get on that already” project!

Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.com

The built-ins at the end of our upstairs hallway made me want to buy our house in the first place. It sounds silly, but we each had something about the house that made us realize that it had to be the first official “us” space (we had lived together in my apartment for only a short time before finding our house). Dave loved the front porch-slash-3 (or 4, depending on how warm you like to stay)-season-room, so to each his own. 🙂 Either way, the uniqueness of a craftsman-style house is hard to hate.

I try to reorganize this space once a year, but somehow some pills that we had accumulated were REALLY expired, so Dave put a bag together of medications that we’ll dispose of when a pharmacy holds a proper disposal drive.The same goes for lots of beauty items that had been compiled. I always figured that I’d just use them up, but I’d always purchase an eco-friendly option (and want to try it out) after running low on shampoo or body wash. I hardly even USE conditioner. So, after some thought and conversation, we realized that we could donate the un-used beauty products to a local facility called Evelyn’s House (which helps out young mothers and their children). I was ecstatic that, not only could we find a use for our items that were never going to be used and taking up way too much space, but that they could go to help out such an inspiring cause. Win-win!

Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.com
Here’s the whole shebang, well, way improved. Sheets on top, towels in the middle, random larger items (like a tote holding all of our travel-sized items, my “clothes shaver”, and Neti-Pot), and all toiletries (organized accordingly) and first aide items in plastic containers on the bottom. Seriously, the “before” was craziness.

So, after some moving around…followed by still more shifting…followed by lots more finagling…we figured out how to utilize the space. And, who knows? Next year, it may look completely different. But what I’m most excited about is that we emptied some of the lower drawers for more storage. Y’know. Like for seasonal clothes…or baby stuff. 🙂

Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.com

How’d we empty drawers? Well, one way was by getting absolutely brutal about what we need. Seriously, how many semi-complete sets of sheets do folks need? Then, we found space to pile the towels and sheets (which, by the way, don’t look any nicer utilizing the “Martha Stewart – put all sheets into one pillowcase trick”…just sayin’) on the shelves rather than hiding away in the drawers. I kind of like that it makes the space look a little airier rather than “stuff laden”. I’m sure a cute basket or two will help add some more storage prettiness, eventually.

On a side note, this project occurred well over a week ago (more like two or three weekends ago). LAST weekend, we did some more organizational work…but there’s still lots more to do, so I won’t bug you with it. Not yet. 😉 And the ultimate goal with all this craziness is to create more usable space in our home to make a new baby’s arrival slightly less stressful than it already will be. We’d much rather focus on learning how to parent; not where to fit stuff and having our home AND minds cluttered. Not a very positive way to live, is it? So, every little bit of work that we’re doing – from Drylok-ing the basement to cleaning out a built-in to filling bags for Goodwill – bring us one step closer to the “more fun” baby stuff (nursery decorating, etc).

Built-In Beauty

Organization can be a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a “before shot” on this project because Dave had started working on it before I even realized what was happening. Before I knew it, every item in the upper cabinets was on the floor. I can’t really complain about that initiative, can I? That’s what I really call a “dude, get on that already” project!
Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.com

The built-ins at the end of our upstairs hallway made me want to buy our house in the first place. It sounds silly, but we each had something about the house that made us realize that it had to be the first official “us” space (we had lived together in my apartment for only a short time before finding our house). Dave loved the front porch-slash-3 (or 4, depending on how warm you like to stay)-season-room, so to each his own. 🙂 Either way, the uniqueness of a craftsman-style house is hard to hate.

I try to reorganize this space once a year, but somehow some pills that we had accumulated were REALLY expired, so Dave put a bag together of medications that we’ll dispose of when a pharmacy holds a proper disposal drive.The same goes for lots of beauty items that had been compiled. I always figured that I’d just use them up, but I’d always purchase an eco-friendly option (and want to try it out) after running low on shampoo or body wash. I hardly even USE conditioner. So, after some thought and conversation, we realized that we could donate the un-used beauty products to a local facility called Evelyn’s House (which helps out young mothers and their children). I was ecstatic that, not only could we find a use for our items that were never going to be used and taking up way too much space, but that they could go to help out such an inspiring cause. Win-win!

Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.com
Here’s the whole shebang, well, way improved. Sheets on top, towels in the middle, random larger items (like a tote holding all of our travel-sized items, my “clothes shaver”, and Neti-Pot), and all toiletries (organized accordingly) and first aide items in plastic containers on the bottom. Seriously, the “before” was craziness.

So, after some moving around…followed by still more shifting…followed by lots more finagling…we figured out how to utilize the space. And, who knows? Next year, it may look completely different. But what I’m most excited about is that we emptied some of the lower drawers for more storage. Y’know. Like for seasonal clothes…or baby stuff. 🙂

Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.com

How’d we empty drawers? Well, one way was by getting absolutely brutal about what we need. Seriously, how many semi-complete sets of sheets do folks need? Then, we found space to pile the towels and sheets (which, by the way, don’t look any nicer utilizing the “Martha Stewart – put all sheets into one pillowcase trick”…just sayin’) on the shelves rather than hiding away in the drawers. I kind of like that it makes the space look a little airier rather than “stuff laden”. I’m sure a cute basket or two will help add some more storage prettiness, eventually.

On a side note, this project occurred well over a week ago (more like two or three weekends ago). LAST weekend, we did some more organizational work…but there’s still lots more to do, so I won’t bug you with it. Not yet. 😉 And the ultimate goal with all this craziness is to create more usable space in our home to make a new baby’s arrival slightly less stressful than it already will be. We’d much rather focus on learning how to parent; not where to fit stuff and having our home AND minds cluttered. Not a very positive way to live, is it? So, every little bit of work that we’re doing – from Drylok-ing the basement to cleaning out a built-in to filling bags for Goodwill – bring us one step closer to the “more fun” baby stuff (nursery decorating, etc).

Rain, Rain…You Know the Rest

Black Thumb - image  on http://megactsout.com
In our neck of the woods (depending on who you ask Upstate or Central NY), spring is a luxury. It usually lasts a month, tops, before hitting the gas and speeding into summer. While we’ve had some humidity and high-ish temperatures this year, we’ve definitely had a SPRING. I write that in all-caps because we’ve had an ungodly amount of rain.

Aside from some flooding and already a few tornado touch-downs (which is rare around these parts), we’ve generally been subjected to just lots ‘n lots ‘n lots of rain…or at least warnings of rain. Some days we had “chances” of rain, so we made plans accordingly, only to see a mostly sunny, gorgeous day. Looking at the 7-day forecast has been enough to make you cry, especially when you’re dying to get your garden going.

So, rather than bitch about things that we cannot control (but, sigh, isn’t it good to do that from time to time?), I shall focus both this blog post and my general mental state towards the projects that I’m itching to complete…once the forecasts for rain (and tornado waches) taper off.

My list includes those things that I’ve look at while holding Winston for his once-and-awhile “outside time” (gotta hold him tightly, that cat is FAST), thinking to myself “I should….” In other words, these may be summer projects…or autumn projects…or….

– Stain and paint the deck (which has had a year to “cure” since it was built – and, yes, I’m both staining AND painting the thing. Don’t judge. It’s gonna look fab.)
– Actually put furniture and the grill ON the deck!!! (Clearly have waited to do that until the above is completed.)
– Finish weeding.
– Prep last year’s veggie bed and build/fill/prep the new one (and mound a “pile o’ dirt” for the zukes ‘n taters). The building can’t be accomplished ’til a weekend since the hubs and I enjoy building stuff together. Gotta keep things fresh and exciting, ya know!
– PLANT both veggies AND flowers, finally.
– Get the front porch fixed…and stain/paint accordingly when done. It’s fine, really, just not regulation. Whatever (ahem, holding my tongue) individual built the thing originally before selling/dumping the house built the porch part without measuring the proper height for the stairs, so there’s a mini 1″ step up at the top. Not so safe. Silly.
– Take tree pictures. Gonna miss that sucker, especially with its wildlife and shade…but it’s just too dangerous and half-dead. Bittersweet. The cats will hate us for getting rid of their #1 place for entertainment. (It’ll be taken down in late June.)
– Finish digging out the rest of the intrusive ivy plants.
– Get the windows wrapped… (This one’s kind of out of my hands, but they look bad so it bugs me. Oh, and I’d just like to brag that we have almost all-new windows. Almost.)
– Power wash the house. Hope that the siding doesn’t lose any color in the process. Paint the whole darn thing if it does damage. *sigh*
– Paint the foundation, side door, shutters, and possibly scrape ‘n paint the garage. Yeah, you know this isn’t all going to happen this summer. A girl can dream, right?
– Speaking of “ain’t happenin’ this summer” (there IS such a thing as $$$…wait, does that make me an adult now? Crap.), one compound word: driveway. It’s N-E-V-E-R been re-done since it was first put in well over 50 years ago. Can we say “ruts”?
– Spray paint my clearance matchstick blinds. Yeah, there’s no other place to do that without asphyxiating myself, and we wouldn’t want that, would we? All I can picture is the cats saying, “But but but who will take us outside? And clip our nails? And punish us LOUDLY? Oh, wait.”
– FINALLY Drylok & paint the basement, then organize. Yes, that’s inside, but the walls and floor need to be completely dry before we Drylok, and right now we’re experiencing seepage. Hee hee. Seepage. Love that word!

I’m guessing there’s more, but I just don’t have it in my head right now. But, guess what! Here are some things that I CAN do INside while I wait for the weather to change:

– Turn my sights back to the bathroom. Why is it that whenever I get the motivation (sorry, but the ceiling work makes my hernia act up, very uncomfortable…TMI?) it’s at a moment that I have plans coming up and probably shouldn’t show up to them with drywall dust and paint all over my head and face.
– Clean. That includes the fact that I probably should go down to the cellar and condense stuff so that things are easier to work with when we DO finally get to the painting.
Reupholstery.
– Work on plans for my sister’s baby shower. (Excitement!!!!!!!!!)
– Redesign the blog. Somehow, this gets me nothing but more frustrated.
– Actually FINALLY order professional-ish prints from the wedding. Ka-ching. 😉 But, this could help with adding some art to the house. This is another thing I should ppprrrrobably do with Dave.
– Draw/paint.
– Read.
– I’d bake bread, but it’s sooooooo humid and hot lately!!! Okay, okay. I’ll crack out the bread maker that my mother-in-law so graciously let me take. Oh, but that means I’ll have to look up baking instructions online. There. That’s on the checklist.
– Research some grants for the theater.
– Start planning for the next show we’re doing.
– Determine a final color scheme for the living room/staircase. When this rug is finally pulled up (oh, what a happy day that will be! Er. I hope. God, I can picture something horrible happening and my going nuts just tearing this sucker out. *shivers* Okay, let’s hope that doesn’t happen), that will change the entire ball game as far as design. Currently, the living room feels okay but slightly outdated with dark tan, sage green, crimson and cream (the dining room is crimson and also neeeeeeeeds to be transformed)…but things seem to be leaning towards the tans/browns/creams — too monochromatic. Eh. Clearly need more thinking on this point. Any suggestions are welcome.
– I’m sure my husband has a handful of friendly reminders. There are far too many “to do” lists when one owns a house. But, we’re lucky.
– Ah! Sleep!! You can SLEEP inside. Nice. A thousand points for me.

Did I miss anything I should add?? Do you have any projects or overwhelming (or even underwhelming) tasks on your radar? Feel free to vent.

As a post-script, I’d like to send my condolences to those who have lost everything, from belongings and homes to loved ones, in the tornadic events of the Midwest. I can’t imagine and am lucky. Period.

She Speaks!

Sorry, after I finished shooting this video, I was reminded of the whole rigmarole over Greta Garbo’s appearance in her first talking picture. Random.

Anyhoo, just for fun, I thought I’d give you all a glimpse into our home to give you a visual of things that I talk about, the cats in motion (or not, which is generally the case with Beardslee), and so forth. After watching the lengthy clip, I’m reminded as to why I’m much better at typing my thoughts than ad-libbing them. We’ll see what you think. Here’s a tour of our home, in segments…

I’m pretty critical of myself, but a couple of fun, shall we say, reflections upon what I could possibly do better. 😉

– First of all…I will say that my uniform on weekends, unless we’ve got something pretty snazzy happening, is a sweatshirt. So, for that, I won’t apologize, although I somehow feel underdressed just watching it. Oye. However, I do think that I should’ve at least done my makeup. In the future, I shall. 😛
– That lisp. The dreaded lisp. It’s back! It haunted me as a child, and only seems to pop up when I’m drinking. I swear I wasn’t drinking during the making of this video.
– When did I start sounding remarkably like my sister?
– Who cares about a door?
– Apologies to anyone who might have experienced motion sickness while watching.
– Those random boxes belong to the cats. They won’t allow us to be rid of them.
– How many Beatles items can you spot?
– How many superheroes can you spot?
– Yeah, I said “plethora”…

– I don’t remember actually waving at George across the way…
– Do you NEED to now about my migraines?
– OMG I forgot to show the fish!!
– Those silicone mats are Martha Stewart. Spoiled kitties.
– …is this a little long-winded to anyone else? Just checking…
– “Kinda got along”. Yeah, I was mean to him. We were nice, but not friends by any means.
– I do kinda like when I get Dave’s text.
– “I’m a really bad wife that I don’t remember all this stuff.” Hee hee.
– Antique driving gloves. Why do I have them? Weird gift. Cool, but weird.
– Mommy’s talking to…himself?
– Lamp. It’s a lamp. How hard is it to think of that word? Same with dresser. Sheesh.
– Seriously, can someone come up with a sign-off for me or something? What a weirdo.

But, after watching it again, I realized that I actually had some fun making it. Hope it wasn’t too much of a waste of time for you to watch!