Posts tagged ‘Exterior’

June 16, 2013

The Year of Ugly Money

If 2012 was the Year of the Exterior (which, in actuality, will really span several years), then 2013 must be the Year of Ugly Money. It started back in February, when we had an unchecked slab leak. In March, the slab leak turned into upgrades to our floor duct and insulation situations – unseen but still very important. During that process, our air conditioning unit was checked and it was brought to our attention that it may not last through the summer.


Our A/C in this house has never worked properly, and every summer there has been something to address with it. We didn’t know why until a couple weeks ago when… you guessed it… the A/C went out again. Turns out, most air conditioners need to be replaced every 10 years or so. Our air conditioner was installed in the 80s.

So more ugly money spent, but hopefully we will be reaping the rewards by having a more efficient system that will lower the electricity bills.

Have you spent any ugly money lately? Or did you spend it a while back and are now seeing the benefits? Tell me about it below!

May 19, 2013

The Garden

I’m a little obsessed with it. I stare at pictures while I’m at work. I peek outside at every opportunity. I love my garden. And now I’m going to obsessively write about it.

Earlier this month, I shared the new garden bed in this post, but I didn’t give you the details on what I planted in it. I did include this colorful, yet cryptic landscape plan to better illustrate my plan for the garden.

Before elaborating on where we are now, though, I’ll have to walk you through how we got here. Last year we dug out the shrubs that blocked the view from the dining room window and planted Miscanthus Adagio (‘A’) ornamental grass and Red Yucca (‘Y’) in their place. That summer, the Adagio grass grew nice and full and the Yucca each gave me a stalk of flowers. It got me so excited that I began thinking about what I wanted to do with my remaining front yard. Knowing full sun, low maintenance, and drought tolerant plants did well for me in this spot, I contemplated forms and colors to incorporate into the design.

I adore ornamental grasses because they are very low maintenance, provide wonderful movement on breezy days, and winter interest in an otherwise forgotten landscape. I had to have more. I chose to add at least one more Miscanthus Adagio and Miscanthus Gracillimus (‘G’), which can reach heights of 5 feet, to anchor the bed.

My favorite color for flowers in the garden is purple. There is just something about the green and purple color combination in a garden that feels both lush and modern to me. I chose my two favorite purple flowering plants, Walker’s Low (‘W’) and Lavender (‘L’), to fill in the garden. Last, but certainly not least, I chose to include Echinacea ‘Julia’ (‘C’ for its nickname of Coneflower) for both its bright orange flowers and the beautiful winter interest it provides when left upright until spring. Next year, I plan on adding a third ornamental grass,  more Walker’s Low, Coneflower, and Red Yucca to the garden.

But enough talk, here are some pretty pictures of my young garden.

To the right of this picture is my now year old Miscanthus Adagio and Red Yucca. Both have grown like crazy on very little water and lots of sun. In the lower left corner of the picture, you can see the new and still tiny Walker’s Low and ‘Julia’ Coneflower. Both will grow wide enough to almost reach the sidewalk.



This is a bit of a better image of the Red Yucca. I love how they lean so gracefully towards the sidewalk.



Red Yucca Flower Stalks



This is the Miscanthus Gracillimus that is only 2 feet tall yet and in a bit of curly-bladed transfer shock. Because of this, it may not get as big as it could this year.



Lavender and its blue foliage.



The Walker’s Low has grown the most of the new plants.



And this Coneflower gives me such a thrill with its vibrant orange petals.

May 3, 2013

April Showers…

… Only seem to bring more May showers. Supposedly, it’s springtime. But 34 degrees and raining doesn’t really feel like spring. So my week old plants are covered for protection against the freezing wind…

Covered Plants

What’s that? A new garden bed? OK, let’s take a few steps back. You may remember this landscape plan that I drew up for my front yard.


I created this plan almost a year ago after ripping out the shrubs in front of our picture window. My main objective with this change was to remove the overgrown grass that was impossible to cut and choking out pretty daylilies. Oh, and, ya know, to look nice.

Front Yard Before

But once I started really thinking about it, I realized I wanted to go BIGGER. And I came up with this plan.

Yeah. And I wasn’t scared AT ALL. So two weeks and two freezes ago, I started building a new garden in my front yard. The first day I spent laying out the shape of the bed, which took all of 15 minutes, and digging out 5 square feet of grass, which took 2 hours. It was not happening and I was in over my head. Luckily, there are things called Home Depots and they let you rent large pieces of equipment like sod cutters to help in times like these.

Here I am with the sod cutter whipping around my front yard for another pass at ripping out some grass. I look swift, don’t I? I was not, not at all, swift. I am walking at a speed of about .000000025 miles per hour in this picture. This sod cutter was a beast. The next day, and for 3 days after that, I felt like I had been rowing myself around the Atlantic Ocean. But the majority of the grass was out.

That’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears right there. But the fun part was coming…


There was so much fun to be had that Rob even got into the spirit of things.

He rigged up a time lapse session to document the less labor intensive bit of this whole project.


November 19, 2012

I’ve Got Swag

Well… I have A swag.

I’ve been working on holiday door decor since the townhouse days and could never get it quite right. I think I’m a little closer this year.

The difference has definitely been the fondness I have for our new front door.  These are our first holidays together (yes, I’m talking about me and my door), and I want to do it up right. I knew a swag style design would work better than a wreath next to our linear doorlite, so I started searching Pinterest for swag arrangements that I liked.

image courtesy of

source unknown – please contact me if you know the source

image courtesy of

All arrangements seemed to have few elements with some emphasis in the center. I have some sort of weird obsession with eucalyptus, so I decided to start there. I did a bit of window shopping, but ultimately found myself in the dried floral aisle of Hobby Lobby. They had several different colors of Eucalyptus, but purple stood out to me.

The purple was dark and moody, just the way I like it. Plus, I’m a huge fan of purple with orange and green – a triad color scheme. I grabbed the Eucalyptus, some barely green Dune Grass, and then paced back and forth through the Hobby Lobby aisles looking for the perfect centerpiece to my swag. Grapevine orbs? Faux bird’s nests? Faux Forsythia branches? All good options, but I ended up taking home a couple nameless faux tropical flowers that were dusted with purple and green. I also grabbed some deep navy ribbon that was so close in color to my moody purple that I could hardly stand it.

Once I got home, I spread all my goodies out on the dining table and started arranging. Jin helped by chewing rouge grasses and promptly vomiting them up.

My first step was cutting down the stems of the nameless tropical flowers and tying them together using twist-ties.

Then I laid out my Eucalyptus and Dune Grass, while Jin sniffed some fake flowers…

Then plopped my tropicals on top and called it good.

I tied it all together with a rubber band and began wrapping the base with my ribbon. I tied one end of the ribbon in a knot around the rubber band then wrapped until I could wrap no more and tied a knot in the ribbon on to itself.

I then knotted one end of the hanging ribbon onto the  knot of the base ribbon. You follow?

The last step was to holler at Rob to hold the arrangement against the door while I stepped into the front yard to eyeball exactly where the arrangement should be hung. Nail ‘er into place (on top of the door) and call her done.

Errr… no. The witch’s broomstick was not what I was going for. I let the swag hang for half a day, just to be sure of how much I hated it, then took it down and fussed a bit with it.

Ahh… that’s better. Simple is always better.

Now to clean up that cat vomit.

June 16, 2012

Les Iris

Weekends’ activity via Instagram.

Last weekend, I helped my mom divide her irises with the agreement that I could take some and plant them in my own garden.

Four years ago, my mom planted ten irises taken from a family garden in Louisiana. Irises typically need to be divided every two to three years and will not bloom if they have become too crowded. So we dug them up.


We methodically divided the irises by snipping off the old, spent rhizomes and dead leaves. We also trimmed the leaves into a chevron to ensure that all leaves receive light and are encouraged to grow.

We were left with 124 divisions. My mom and I were both very surprised. I thought for sure we would have 40 new plants. My mom guess 70.


We wrapped all 124 divisions up with roots in a damp towel and sealed in ziploc bags and rolled in newspaper.  My mom kept 20, I took 30 and we gave the rest away to family and friends.

This weekend, my mom joined me in planting my 30 irises. I dug a trench almost the entire width of my backyard and my mom plopped in divisions every 18 inches or so.


I am too excited about the plants. For one reason, they were free! Aside from a little elbow grease and paying it forward, these divisions cost me absolutely nothing. And if all goes well, they’ll continue to produce more plants for me to plop throughout my yard and share with others.

They’re also extremely tough. I won’t need to baby these plants like some others I have *cough*hostas*cough*. They don’t even need mulching.

But best of all, they’re gorgeous. And I’m not even talking about the blooms. I have discovered myself to be a “leaves” person. I don’t mind much if my plants can’t or won’t bloom as long as the leaves are green and healthy. I especially love architectural leaves – those that have uniquely simple shapes and even better if they’re evergreen, which these are!

Here’s what I’m hoping to see next year.

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June 16, 2012


I had a great post started about adding address numbers to my house complete with paranoid blurred-out pictures. Just when I was going to add the final evening picture, I realized my mishap.

My original plan was to have “floating” house numbers (mounted on spacers) that hung below my porch light. I envisioned illuminated numbers that could clearly be seen from the street. I did not get that. Instead, I got a jumble of shadows that only mucked up the look of my porch.

So I had to start over. Pulling out screws that have already been glued was… tricky. So tricky I’ve been left with a bruised up chin. Fortunately, the house numbers I had could be converted to flush mounted numbers. Unfortunately, the difference was negligible. The porch light still casts shadows, although less so. At this point, I’m ok with it. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than it was.









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June 8, 2012


After being more than pleased with my front bed makeover, I couldn’t wait to start planning the rest of my front yard. I’ve come to realize that planning is a very important step in the process, so I thought I’d share it with you.

But first, let’s take a look at my existing yard.

As frequent readers will know, we’re currently in the “Year of the Exterior” and attempting to finish painting the house by the end of the year, thus the funny old paint color areas. The empty bed in front of the big picture window was filled with Adagio Ornamental Grass and Red Yucca this spring and the teeny tiny red bud tree was planted in 2010.

The three divided areas in front of the two narrow windows has always been a challenge for me. Two of the sections have Day Lillies planted in them, but grass inevitably grows into those areas and I end up weed-wacking the entire thing. Plus mega-ugly watering hose. It’s all just an eyesore. So it has been decided that area will be my next to tackle.

So where to begin? I knew I would have to dig up the grass and create a bed, which I loathe. I did this in the backyard and it was miserable. Granted, that was a 60 foot bed, while this will be a 15 footer. I also new I wanted an evergreen anchoring plant. One that would add permanent architecture to the bed. Unfortunately, I’m just not the evergreen type. I tend to lean towards plants that are either more tropical (Hostas and Ferns) or arid (Yuccas and Ornamental Grasses), go figure. Because I knew I wouldn’t have quite enough shade for tropical plants and since I already swayed my front towards the arid option with the Red Yuccas and Adagio, I figured I’d just stick with it. Plus, although Ornamental Grasses lose their color in winter, they hold their shape until spring (when they should be trimmed back for new growth), providing that consistent architecture I’m looking for.

various ornamental grasses – image courtesy of

So which plants to use? I already favor a handful of plants, most of which are either green or purple in color. With that, I now have my color scheme. Funnily enough, our courtyard at our last house had the same color scheme. It’s probably not a coincidence. The purple plant will either be Russian Sage or Walker’s Low. Both have pretty purplish-blue blooms and I can buy one of each to see which does best in my front yard.

russian sage – image courtesy of

walker’s low – image courtesy of

For the Ornamental Grass, I knew I wanted a show stopper – something tall that would stand out against the green grass of the lawn. After seeing several around town and furiously googling to find it’s common name, I settled on Morning Light.

morning light – image courtesy of

I figure I can decide on the filler plants later, though possibilities include more Red Yuccas.

red yucca – image courtesy of

On to the plan! I put a quick plan together laying out where I’d like each plant to go. As you can see, I have a larger third bed planned, but will wait on that undertaking. The ‘L’ shaped bed was actually designed by a real-life landscape designer as he was inspired by the lines of the house and its new front door.

I’m obviously not a landscape designer and do not draw or render like one, but I thought this plan was fun just the same.

June 3, 2012

Picture Window

One of our better decisions regarding the house on Penny Lane was placing a bird feeder in front of the picture window.

May 3, 2012

Door Matting

Long time no post.

Rob and I have kept ourselves busy with the great exterior painting of 2012, but there’s not much progress to show. I can show off a new $15 purchase, though!

It took us a couple years to replace the front door mat that came with the house. When we finally did, we replaced it with a $7 IKEA mat. I liked how it looked – natural jute that blended in with the concrete – but it did not function well at all. When it rained, the mat would stay soaked for days. To make matters worse, leaves and other debris would cling to the rough jute texture.


What our $7 IKEA mat looked like on a GOOD day.

I finally became fed up and decided to do a little door mat switching. The back door was mat-less and didn’t exactly require curb appeal, so out went that jute mess and in came the nice, clean $15 Target mat.


I’m slightly concerned about how small it is in comparison to the door, but I am looking forward to an easily cleanable mat.

April 9, 2012

Even Some Free Mulch!

In addition to the work that took place in the front bed, some maintenance was done in the back over the weekend. Some mutant weeds were pulled (I’m talking almost as tall as me and freakishly proportioned) and the existing plants were mulched. Last summer was a real scorcher, so I was pleasantly surprised to find 9.5 out of 10 plants that I planted last spring greening up and some even flowering.

Last summer, my fern was a brown, crispy mound, so imagine my surprise to stumble upon this guy:


The Hostas were also a bit wee compared to last year, but obviously doing well.


The Mexican Feather Grass, on the other hand, thrived during the summer heat and even stayed beautiful through the winter. The Azalea is also doing well with some new blooms. The stick with some leaves on it in the upper right corner is what’s left of my hydrangea. As disappointed as I sound, I’m quite happy with it considering it looked an awful lot like the fern (dried to a crisp) last year.


But here’s the show stopper. As soon as the temperatures got into the 50s, the Clematis went wild. I counted several buds in early March and by the end of the month they had opened to reveal why so many people love this vining plant. Needless to say, I plan on planting more this year.


My backyard plants have turned a year older. Their mulch has been refreshed for free from my mom’s aging stock and from my dad’s vigorous yardwork. Now to feed and wait patiently for an even better showing next year.

Oh yeah, here’s the .5 out of 10 that didn’t make it to the new season. The Gardenia never had a chance. It has some green leaves, but I’m fully planning on replacing it with a Clematis.

… Unless some green thumbs out there want to talk me out of it…