Curb Appeal

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Our yard is weird.

Our house is built into a cross slope, which means . . . we have a steep, downward slope -- in two directions.  Because of the hill, our front yard is completely dominated by this (rather extreme) hill.  To manage the sloping front yard, we depend on retaining walls.  There are two:  A long, high stone wall that moves across much of the front of the yard, and then a two-tiered timber wall up at the front of the house along one side.

In the nearly 30 years since our house was built (we've been here for 14 years), the original retaining walls have gotten a bit . . . tired.   These two retaining walls have been evolving into, well, eye-sores for a while now.

(Just as a side note . . . I don't garden much in the front of our house.  The gardens I spend most of my time growing and tending are in our backyard.  Where the slope is less extreme, and where we spend most of our time.)

Here's a photo of our front wall taken early last spring as Tom was . . . considering and assessing the situation.  Which wasn't good.

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English ivy (planted by the former owners) had taken over the rock wall.  Should we pull it off?  Would it look better?  (No.)
Weed-trees had rooted themselves between the boulders.  Impossible to pull them out, though.  The only option was to cut them back.  (Ugh.)
Boulders were dislodging and rolling off the wall and into the lawn below.  (Landslide waiting to happen.)
Ground bees had nested behind the boulders.  (And there were likely snakes comfortably sitting behind that ivy.)
Plus . . . the whole thing was just not attractive anymore.

And up at the house?  Things were no better.  The timbers were ugly -- and rotting.  There were gaps.  And weeds.  And bees.  Plus, the wall was no longer . . . retaining!  Soil was washing out, and our front porch was collapsing.

Tom - always willing to tackle a challenge - watched a few You Tube videos about building retaining walls.  But with a job of this scope, he knew right away that he was out of his league.  So we called in a landscape architect last spring.  He gave us options and designed new walls for us.

And then we waited.  With the wedding and other summer vacations and plans, we asked to be put on the schedule for fall.  Knowing that we were going to be tearing the front yard up come fall, we just let everything go, garden-wise, up front . . . all summer long.  (Which was kind of freeing, y'know?)

Here are photos from the morning the work began (and after we had rescued the few plants I wanted to save).  

Before:

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The work itself took about two weeks.  Two weeks of mess, noise, and WAY more tearing up of our lawn than I anticipated.  (Because I just failed to realize what two bobcats would do, y'know?)

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The project is finished now, though.  And I must say . . . it turned out better than I ever imagined!  

After:

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We love it.

(And . . . look at that blank gardening canvas, would you?)

If you're ever in the neighborhood, be sure to come around front, okay?

 


Sometimes Mondays

. . . just feel so hopeless.

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The news.

Horrible.  Overwhelming.  Relentless.  Piling on and on and on.  Day after day.

This morning, I stepped into my shoes and headed to the gym.  For kickboxing.  Punching.  Kicking.  Sweating.  Things I can control.  It helped.

Sometimes Mondays feel hopeless.  
That's when we need to dig even deeper.

 


TGIF

We're back from our trip.  And it's Friday. . . just in time for TGIF.

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T - Thinking About

We just spent a week in Colorado -- half of our time in Boulder, visiting Brian and Lauren, and then I spent the other half in Fort Collins, getting together with my sister while Tom visited his family in Cheyenne.  Tom and I lived in Fort Collins for several years in the early 80s.  He was in grad school at Colorado State University; I worked there.  We got married when we lived in Fort Collins.  Our life together . . . began in Colorado.  But visiting now?  I have to really search to find The Familiar!   So much has changed in 30 years . . . Every now and again, as we were driving around, my "spidey-sense" would tingle, and I'd know I was close to something familiar.  If you want a sense of time-marching-on, well . . . there's nothing quite like a visit to your old stomping grounds.

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G - Grateful For

Spending time with people I love!

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I - Inspired By

While in Fort Collins, my sister and I made a visit to The Loopy Ewe.  I've never seen a more organized, neat yarn shop!  So. Much. Yarn.  We had a great time.  I ended up with enough Wollmeise to knit a sweater (soon. . .), and my sister cast on for a Churchmouse Easy Folded Poncho that very afternoon.  If you're ever in the vicinity, I highly recommend a visit.

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F - Fun

While in Boulder, we had a great time playing disc golf with Brian and Lauren.  Tom is a long-time disc golf player - starting with his grad school days at CSU (and he actually introduced Brian to the game years ago, back in Kalamazoo), so this was a real treat.  (Disc golf . . . really needs it's own blog post; maybe next week. . .)   We also sampled lots of Colorado microbrews and played pinball -- so there was plenty of fun!

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TGIF!
Enjoy your weekend, everyone.

 

 


Rolling My Eyes Here

Marketing campaigns and materials are carefully designed to connect with consumers on an emotional level -- to tug at heartstrings or trigger guilt; to create hunger or desire; to appear to have your best interests at heart.  At the very least, marketers want to catch your eye.

Sometimes, though, they just make me roll my eyes.

Three instances:

1 - From a tube of Aveeno Positively Ageless Firming Body Lotion we have . . .

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Shiitake mushroom complex.

What IS that?  And why would I want to slather it on my body for "firming looking skin in just 2 weeks?"  I have no idea, but I roll my eyes everytime I use the lotion. 

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2 - From a promotional mail piece Tom received from Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises we have . . . 

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Welcome to the Crystal Yachting Lifestyle.  (Which is trademarked, apparently.)

And then it gets even better.  Complimentary butler service.

Are you kidding me?  They're targeting my husband for this?  Rolling my eyes that the "yachting lifestyle" is even a thing.  And that it might actually appeal to . . . someone.  (And if you ARE living the "yachting lifestyle" already, I can't imagine that you're going to sign up for one of these cruises.  Because I'm thinking the "yachting lifestyle" is kind of . . . well . . . independent of a cruise.  Y'know?)

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3 - From my bottle of mint Listerine, we have . . .

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Everfresh Technology.  (Also trademarked.)  

Everfresh technology?  You mean . . . super strong mint flavor that makes your mouth tingle and feel like it might make your head explode?  Is THAT the Everfresh technology at work?  They're blinding me with science!

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There you have it.  Three things on a Thursday.  To see what three things (eye-rolling or otherwise) other bloggers are sharing this week, click here.  (And while you're at it, be sure to wish Carole a happy birthday when you're there!)

 

 

 

 


Ready-Aim-Fire: An Unraveled Post

I'm happily knitting away on my "arrows" project . . . 

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After a summer of knitting that included lace and mosaic and beads and all the attention and counting that kind of knitting entails, I'm just thrilled to be working on a projet that is free-form and open-ended and not restricted in any way at all.  (It's kind of like knitting dishcloths, but with much nicer yarn.)

I love just being able to follow a basic recipe . . . while just riffing with color and texture.  This kind of project is very forgiving.  If I don't like what I see, I can just . . . end it.  Try something else.  Grab a different color instead.  Throw in a garter ridge or two.  And if I make a mistake of some sort?  Well, I can just work it into the project and no one will ever be the wiser.

I also like creating such a colorful, bold accessory for myself.  Because I love looking at the bright and the wild . . . but I don't really like wearing it.  Unless it's an accessory!  So perfect, non?

Finally, though, I have always love the symbolism of arrows.  Movement.  Direction.  Strength.  Grace.  Power.  Give me an arrow anytime!

So, basically . . . this is just what I need to knit right now.

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As for the reading, I've just started Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (one of my favorite authors) (this one was on the Man Booker long list).  Over the weekend, I finished Autumn by Ali Smith (another of my favorite authors) (this one made the Man Booker short list).  I loved Autumn, although I'll readily admit that it won't be to many readers' tastes (so be warned if you like your books strong on plot with few holes by the end of the book) (just sayin').

How about you?  What are you knitting and reading?

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This post is part of Kat's Unraveled Wednesdays.  To read more knitting and reading posts, click here.


Inspired by My Refrigerator

Earlier this summer, the inside of my refrigerator reached The Danger Zone.  No longer functioning as an efficient storage place for cold foods, my fridge had become home to partially-used jars, uneaten leftovers, and god-knows-what lurking in the far corners.

Something had to give!

I spent a couple of summer afternoons pulling everything out of the fridge, assessing, dumping, recycling, cleaning, and reorganizing.  (It's a shame I took no photos, because the task was Herculean - and would have looked very impressive.)

In the end, I dumped a whole lot of uneaten, wasted food.  Much of it came in partially-used jars.  Things I bought to make a specific recipe.  You know how it goes . . . you need half a jar of some exotic ingredient and a couple of teaspoons of some specialty mustard and almost - but not quite - a whole jar of some sort of marinara sauce.  Anyway.  Being frugal, I always save the leftover stuff -- because I'll just use it next time I make the recipe! 

What always happens, though?  Well ... by the time I make that recipe again, I forget I have the stuff in the back of the fridge.  Or it's been in there so long it's now a Petri dish.  Or I remember I have it . . . but don't have enough, so start the cycle all over again!

So.  There was a lot of wasted food in jars.

There were also quite a few leftovers of uncertain origin squirrelled away in the depths of my refrigerator.  Now, Tom and I have gotten much better at regularly building leftovers into our weekly dinner menus, so this situation has improved quite a bit over the last year or so.  But, still.  Leftover waste -- and plenty of it!

I'm happy to report that my refrigerator is clean, organized, and functional once again!

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But.

I remain disgusted by my own food waste -- and I am all the more determined to buy only what we need, use everything I buy, and eat leftovers!

One thing I've stopped doing is weekly grocery shopping.  I used to have a system where I planned out all of our meals for the week in advance (based on what our schedule looked like for the week).  I made a big list based on that meal plan, and I shopped on Sunday afternoon.  Filled the pantry and the fridge every week.  This system worked quite well when the kids lived at home because our schedules were busy and predictable.  Back then, I was working and needed to be super organized.  (Besides . . . I had growing kids always looking for more to eat.)

When it became just Tom and I at home, though, everything changed!  Our schedules were much more apt to include spontaneous dinners out.  We had more leftovers.  We tried more exotic recipes that required more exotic ingredients.  Our lives and eating habits had changed -- but my old system of weekly shopping excursions had not!

To discourage food waste here at home, we changed two things:  First, I let go of the weekly shopping and now make several quick runs to the grocery store to just pick up what we need for dinner.  Second, we've made a commitment to eating our leftovers.

It's been working . . . but there is still food waste.  Mostly from partially-unused jars of ingredients -- so that's my next target!  I'm trying to be more discriminating about recipes I make -- really considering if I need to make something that requires me to buy several exotic ingredients that I wouldn't normally store in my pantry.  This is harder than expected -- because I really like trying new recipes, and the "exotic" always appeals to me.  But I'm working on it.

I decided to try one of the online healthy meal delivery services, too.  (Here's a quick run-down of some of the services out there.)  After doing some research, I signed up with Blue Apron.  Three meals per week.  Fresh ingredients.  Original recipes.  Perfectly proportioned meals -- so no waste.  

Our first box arrived last week.

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I was totally impressed to find . . . real, fresh ingredients packed into my box of three-meals-for-two-people.  Everything was pre-measured and packed (when packed) in recyclable materials . . . right down to a single farm-fresh egg!

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The recipes are clear and easy to read, and include photos, cook prep/timing details, and step-by-step instructions.  Because everything is pre-measured and included in your box, all you need to do is . . . cook.  (The only things I've needed to grab from my own cupboards are olive oil, salt, and pepper.)

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So far, I've prepared two of the three meals - steak and fish, each with a fresh vegetable side dish and some sort of potato. Both have been excellent -- really tasty.

But.  I would also say that both meals have been a bit more . . . fussy and involved. . . than I would normally prepare for a weeknight meal.  Lots of pots and pans and bowls.  Lots of overlapping steps.  Prepping one thing while cooking another.  Yes . . . everything was THERE and available -- but there was still prep and staging and managing to be done.

I actually found it to be a bit stressful -- and I'm an experienced cook!  (I was considering giving a Blue Apron subscription to Erin and Keith -- but decided against it because it would just be too overwhelming for them at this stage of their cooking lives.)

I'm going to give it another try -- now that I know I need to plan my own prep-steps -- because the quality was great.  The ingredients were fresh, the recipes were interesting, and the meals were really good.  I also really like having just enough to prepare a meal for Tom and I.  We have plenty to eat -- and no leftovers.  It really is perfectly proportioned.  And . . . it's super convenient to know exactly what you're going to cook for dinner --AND that you have everything you need to cook it.

How about you?  Have you ever tried one of the meal delivery services?  Do you have any suggestions for avoiding food waste?

Because I want to keep my refrigerator looking like that. 

 

 

 


TGIF

It's Friday.  And that means it's time for some TGIF.  

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T - Thinking About

I've been thinking a lot about trees this week.  See the blooming black lace elderberry in my photo from last spring?  I've always loved this tree in my back border.  It added such nice contrast and was perfectly suited to it's location.  Perhaps you're noticing I switched into the past tense there?  Because . . . that tree succumbed to a borer this summer, and slowly slipped away.  Tom dug it out last week, so there is a big hole in my garden.  There is also a hole in my front garden border because I lost my lovely star magnolia earlier in the season to a nasty case of scale.  So.  Trees.  It's time to stop grieving and get serious about replacing both trees!  (But . . . with what???)

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G - Grateful For

The photo above is a peek inside my bullet journal/planner for tomorrow.  There is . . . nothing on it!  And Sunday looks just like that, too.  I am grateful for an open weekend.  I haven't had one in a long time, and I am looking forward to enjoying a wide open weekend.

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I - Inspired By

Right before the wedding weekend, I went to my local Subaru dealership for an oil change (because of a "lifetime deal" with the purchase of my car a few years ago).  It ended up being an exercise in frustration (for reasons I won't even bother with, but rest assured I let them have it on the post-service survey), BUT . . . I did see this sign sitting on a table in the Hyundai showroom (because I had plenty of time to walk ALL around the dealership that morning - more than once).  I love finding "words in the wild."  They always inspire.

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F - Fun

Yesterday was a busy day, and by dinner time, both Tom and I were too exhausted to think about making dinner.  So we headed to one of our favorite local brew pubs for beer and dinner. . . and a bit of pinball.  I am terrible at pinball, but Tom played a lot of pinball as a teenager -- and he is very, very good.  He can play for hours on a couple of quarters -- because he wins free games all the time.  Anyway, he had a lot of fun with this particular game last night -- and I had fun just watching.  (Eventually, he had to walk away from his next free game . . . because #mygodwe'dbethereallnight.)

TGIF, everyone!
Enjoy your weekend.

 


Meeting My Goal

My daughter, Erin, has always been . . . her own self.  Unique; imaginative; smart and creative.  And totally out-of-the-box from the get-go.  It's been fun - and always a bit of an adventure - to watch her grow up; to watch her unfold.  

When she went off to college, she met her match in Keith.  The two of them just . . . fit together from the start.  And it's been a delight to watch them grow and unfold  . . . together.

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No one would ever use the word "conventional" to describe either Erin or Keith.  They do things their own way!  Always have; always will.

So when it came time to plan their wedding, I knew we'd have fun with it.  As the mother-of-the-bride, my biggest goal was to make sure Erin and Keith had a wedding day that was perfect . . . for them.  That their wedding turned out be just what they wanted -- even if it was a bit out-of-the-box; a day that would make them happy.

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Sometimes, they embraced tradition.  (Tom walked Erin down the aisle, for example.)

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And sometimes, they did not.  (They had a cake as part of their "dessert buffet" -- but no "wedding cake" and no cake cutting ceremony.)

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The wedding was small and intimate, with a venue only blocks from the beach.

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There were games to play and costumes to try on.  A friend performed a poem (poetry-slam style) that she wrote just for Erin and Keith (so powerful and moving that there was not a dry eye among the women at my table).

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There was jazz and some spontaneous dancing and cornhole match-ups and even an appearance by Party Duck (because friends can surprise and delight).

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But mostly, there was love and joy.

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I feel like I met my goal:  The day was lovely and relaxed and fun . . . just the way Erin and Keith wanted it to be!

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(And - just because I'm sure you're all dying to know - I wore the silver sparkle shoes!)  (Both of them.)

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