Thursday, July 28, 2011

How do I Love Thee?

You might have noticed from my yard inspiration pics here that I have a soft spot for hydrangeas. Particularly light blue ones. This is probably because they featured heavily in our wedding plans. I even made my own light blue hydrangea bouquet

and the park where we got married (you can read all about that special day here) had some GORGEOUS blue hydrangea bushes

Ever since we started looking for a house I have been dreaming about planting my very own blue hydrangeas but I haven't found any at the nurseries that were the right color. This is what I'm hoping the backyard will look like

What do you mean that doesn't look realistic at all? Ok, I don't have much any photo shopping skills (or Photoshop for that matter) but this is my best approximation of what I want. Wouldn't it be lovely to have huge bushes of hydrangeas in the back? I think so. I can't wait to get this back yard going but I know It will be awhile before it is as lush as I'd like. Here's to hoping!

Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend! We're working on getting the fencing up and I have a few little projects I worked on this week that I still need to write tutorials for.

What's Next? Backyard Edition

Now that we are done with the terracing we have been taking a little break and figuring out what is the next step on our to do list. That being said, I thought I'd share it with you. Don't you just love lists? I've got like 5 going right now.

Back Yard Makeover To Do:
  • Clear brush 
  • Build terracing
  • Put up/build fence
  • Plant grass
  • Build a shed
  • Paint and re screen screen door
  • Paint back door
  • Take out AstroTurf on back porch and refinish
  • Decorate porch
  • Put in lighting along the walk way
  • Fix porch light
  • Plant upper planters
  • Plant Laurel hedge
Akk! Writing it all down makes me feel all overwhelmed again. Let's just look at some pretty planting inspirations instead

Hydrangea Walkway, Santa Cantarin, Brazil
 photo via Lajacaranda

See that's why I am doing all this work. This will be a yard to be loved for years to come. Positive thinking people!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

You Can't Have Too Much Privacy

I have never liked that the first thing I see as I come up the stairs to my front door is this

That my friends is my neighbor's bathroom window. This is what I get for living in the city. Here is what I see leaving the front door.

They just added that lovely new balcony that can now see in my living room windows. **sigh** Luckily I love my house and where I live so I decided to just block them out! We were already buying lattice for the back yard so I grabbed an extra sheet to use for this project.

First I measured the bottom of the opening and cut the lattice down. Then I stuck it up in the space

and traced the archway. After I cut that down I did the same thing with the little bit on the top (I used just one whole 4x8 lattice for this project).

Next I pulled out a leftover can of white trim the previous owners left behind and got to painting

Like my state of the art tarp? That is the old shower curtain from the downstairs bath that was here when we moved in. It was easier to paint standing up so I moved it around to work that way. I'm working on the front porch because I didn't want the dust from the back yard all over my paint job.

Once everything was painted and dry (it took two coats for full coverage) I attached it to the space with some L brackets. Here are some before and afters for you (so you don't have to scroll back up)



Now the other way



Much nicer! I does make the space a little darker but it is worth it to have the privacy. We are planning on getting something to grow up it to make it even prettier.

You can see I've spiffed up the entry way and changed the old pennant banner that was there before. I found that rusty metal ring in the back yard and thought it was neat. Since the paint was free the total cost of this was 23$ for the lattice and 3$ for the brackets. A nice 26$ makeover if I do say so myself!

What about you? Are you a big privacy freak like us? (this isn't our first privacy screen, see that here) Or do you just let it all hang out?


Weekend Bloggy Reading

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Where'd Those Rhododendrons Go?

Remember these before and afters?

You'll notice we hacked a few things everything down. But, up until this weekend two plants were still holding steady back there. Two weeks ago (before we started terracing) the yard looked like this

That big bushy bit is an unhappy rhododendron. Here it is with it's even unhappier friend in the far corner there.

Whomever planted them didn't read the tag very well (but they did leave it attached so I could) and planted it in a mostly sunny area (it says it likes shade). They were healthy enough that I didn't just want to get rid of them but they don't really fit in to my plans. So I decided to relocate them to a shadier spot, the front yard. It is still a work in progress but there were some nice big empty spaces that needed filling.

Here it is pre-planting (see the empty spot?)

That big ugly thing in the foreground was throwing off that whole balance of the place so it got trimmed and I filled in behind it. Now you can see the little Rhododendron next to the fern and the big one by the Cedar.

Norman thinks it looks pretty good too. Just a quick transplant but now I have a nice blank slate to work from in the back yard. Now to just figure out what to plant.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Why Does No One Talk About the Dirt in Your Nose?

You never hear Martha telling you how to get the hot pink boogies out after spray painting or how to clean dirt out of your teeth after an afternoon of landscaping. All the magazine and blog world shows you is the beautiful afters. I should have gotten a picture of my nose... Well, maybe not. But I am pleased to say that we have finished terracing the back yard! (cue choirs of angles and heavenly light) A few fights and a lot of digging took us from this

To this (You can walk through the progress of this here, here, here, and here)

Excuse me now while I go collapse in a corner (dramatic much Emily?). Honestly, for our first big project in this house (we've only been here 2.5 months) I'm pleased with our work. We took our time and didn't stress too much about getting it done fast. This is only the first part of the project but it was the biggest part. For now, I take pleasure in a job well done.


**Update: I woke up to thunder and lightning this morning so now our yard looks like this

I can see I have some leveling still to do but hopefully this will help pack down the levels even more making it more stable. Now I get to work on some of that neglected house work.

**Check out all the fun Garden Projects at Centsational Girl's Garden Party!

Good Eats Challenge Week 5: French Onion Soup

This week we took a departure from the proper order of things and skipped ahead to the French Onion Soup (technically there are three between last week's and the soup but we felt like soup). Boy was I glad we did! Seriously, the best soup ever. My theory on why it was so amazing was that we bought the proper equipment (an electric skillet) and were patient. 

For anyone who has made French Onion Soup before you know the key is getting the onions caramelized properly. Mine never did. I would either burn them or leave them under cooked because I wanted to be done. This time however, I was a good chef and waited.

Here's the recipe:

Take 5lbs of sweet onions and cut into thin slices. Meanwhile, melt 3 tbs of butter in a 12 inch electric skillet set at 250. Toss your onions in the skillet in three batches seasoning with 1tsp of salt between each layer. Sweat onions until they have caramelized and are a dark mahogany stirring occasionally. This is the tricky part, knowing when they are done. I started with mine looking like this

After about an hour they looked like this... but I kept going

Ahh, patience my friends. See how nice and caramelized they are? Yum!

Once they are reduced add 2 cups of white wine and reduce until syrupy (about 5-10 min). Then add the rest of your liquid (3 cups Beef Consomme, 2 cups Chicken Broth) and reduce to a simmer. Toss in 2 sprigs of thyme, parsley and 2 bay leaves. Leave them whole so you can fish them out later.

While that cooks (20 min) toast up your bread and cut up some Gruyere.

Once your soup has simmered you can add some Cognac for a bit more flavor (Add a bit for yourself too)

Then ladle into bowls (don't forget to remove your herbs) and top with your toast and cheese.

Now, melt that cheese! Since our broiler is so small I use a creme brule torch.

MMM Toasty!

We are happy cooks!

Quite a tasty soup if I do say so myself. I really liked the electric skillet too because I could go into the other room and work while the onions were caramelizing and just pop back in every once in a while to stir. No fuss.

Next week: Key Lime Sorbet! Yum!

***Side note: in the official Food Network recipe they include the apple cider that he uses in the show but since the book doesn't include it we left it out too. Personally, I like it better this way.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How's it Hanging?

Still making slow progress on the yard but I am using the down time to get all those little things done that have been sitting around for the last month. This one in particular has been bugging me since it was the first thing I saw when walking in the front door. How many of you still have pictures leaning against walls? Well now I have at least one of them hung! This is what you see when you first walk in the front door now.

I got the picture a while back at Target (before we had even put an offer in on our house) and it has been waiting to be hung since. I absolutely love it. We have a really classic living room so it is nice to have a few pops of modern.

So here it sits with my button billy balls and those fabulous free parsons chairs (which need to be recovered). The chart itself has special meaning to us. Any Monty Python fans out there? Give it a read.

"Always look on the bright side of life". Isn't it a great motto for a household? It is Daniel's favorite song and always makes me think of him (bonus!). Now our entry way looks a little more put together and we are slowly making this house ours.

Hope you all have great weekends! If you are in Washington, Ruffles and Rust in Snohomish is having a sale that goes along with the street fair.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

One Step, Two Steps, Three Steps, Four

Well, we're only on three but hopefully by the end of today we will be done with the fourth and second to last step in this terrace. There is still the fence to make but that will be easy compared to this (so she says now).

A far cry from this isn't is (taken 2 weekends ago)

We've definitely come a long way from the original state of the back yard but we still have quite a bit to go. Send us hard working thoughts!


They're Here!!!

I was very happy to take a break from the yard to recieve this package. My house inspiration pillows came!  This all started with Sherry at Young House Love's Sue the Napkin. They had found a napkin who's colors just spoke to them and decided to use it as inspiration for their whole house color pallet, so when we were first buying our house I started looking for my own "sue".

The simple idea of it is to find a set of colors that all look good together to help keep your home looking cohesive without being staged. It also is nice if you are color challenged like me to know what will be complementary to your house. The easiest way to find a good pallet is to pick a picture, piece of fabric, anything really that you think looks good and pull colors out of it. Design Seeds is another great place to find color pallets. Isn't this one just fabulous?


My house inspiration started it's life as a napkin from Pottery Barn but they don't seem to have them any more. They do however have the pillow covers and when they did their big sale a few weeks ago I had to jump on them.

Wanna see? Of course you do!

I didn't have large enough inserts for them so I just put them on top of the shaggy pillows I bought from Target a while back (here) that were already there. I plan to have them either in the library or in the breakfast nook in the long run but at 16$ each plus free shipping and a 10% off coupon I couldn't pass them up (I just checked and they are still on sale!).

I like having something tangible as a color pallet because I can tuck it in my purse and bring it with me when I shop for linens and pillows and paint and it helps keep me from going to wild with my color choices. The napkin features more of the blues, greens and golds than the pillow but I love the pop of coral. 

One has taken up residence here and I have to say I like it.

Yard update to come. We are working steadily away (Daniel has had a quiet week so he's been lots of help this week)


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Well Deserved Night In (And a New Use for Paint Chips)

As I mentioned before (here) Tuesday's Wine and Cheese tradition is the highlight of our week here and after getting another level of the yard terraced we both deserved it. Since we have been having such long weeks with this project I went all out and put together something extra decadent.

Notice a theme? What can I say, after all those weeds I pulled up I was feeling a bit goaty. (seriously?) Whenever I put together a cheese plate I like to have a nice rounded menu with fruits and meats to go along. (Centsational Girl has a good post about this too if you are in to cheese) I like to have 2-3 different cheeses (no more because it gets confusing) with different textures. Usually something hard, soft, and spreadable. Other than that I don't get too fussy making things "go" together, I just pick out what I like. Today I got fancy though and stuck with the goat theme the whole way through. (btw I got everything from Trader Joes).

The Goat Brie wasn't as smooth and creamy as some brie is but it was tangy and delicious all the same. I'm really fond of Brie with a little raspberry jam for sweetness.

The Goat Gouda was nice and firm like a good aged Gouda should be. You could definitely taste the goat.

This was my favorite of the lot (and according to my local TJ's is only around for a limited time). It is really good smeared on a slice of Pear.

I thought it was too cute paired with the "goat" wine which was pretty tasty for a 6$ bottle of wine. I like the red better than the rose but both were quite drinkable (they also have a white which is good).

I don't normally make labels for every wine and cheese but I thought I would for you all. They were pretty straight forward to make.

I took one of my random paint chip strips cut it into three and punched holes in the top and bottom (I have a hole punch that is really tiny that I use for scrap booking but I am pretty sure a regular sized hole punch would work too). Then just write the name of the cheese and thread a toothpick through it (hopefully you have better handwriting than me. When I do this for parties I print them out so they don't look like something a second grader would have written) Like so

It didn't bother me that you could tell they were paint chips but you could cut them down more if you want.

Now lets have one last look at that cheese....

MMMMM... I could eat you right now. The most difficult thing about Wine and Cheese is not having it every single night, which is why it is so much fun. It lets us have a night together that is fun and decadent but little to no work which means we can just focus on each other. We have been having a weekly Wine and Cheese for the last 5 years and we don't plan to stop. I love that we have a night a week where we both put down whatever we are doing and dedicate an entire night together no matter how crazy life is and this week we definitely needed a good break.