Tuesday, May 31, 2011

House Full

There is something so comforting about the hum of an old air conditioner..the louder and older the unit the better. It takes me back to childhood when central air didn't exist in our house and anytime we weren't in the pool keeping cool- we'd be huddled in front of the AC. Just the sound of it makes me think of summer freedom; late nights in the back yard chasing fireflies, sleepovers and vacations with the grandparents. I'd love to go back...just for a week and remember what that kind of freedom feels like, but instead I'll just appreciate the sound of our little AC unit and the fact that at least one room in the house is cool enough to live in.

This more than warm weather has kept us busy- 3 barbecues, late night bonfires, a trip to the beach, a full and green garden and of course a broken refrigerator and central air unit to add to the joy.

Friday was my 28th birthday- and if I had to give up being my favorite number (27) at least I was surrounded by friends and family in my own home. It was so amazing to have 30+ people in my house enjoying food and a gorgeous evening breeze in the backyard.

Mmmmm...so glad there are leftovers. 
Mike the "Grill Master" 

Lovely people <3

Me and my sister <3

It was so nice to have the house full- we even had overnight guests who were in the area for a wedding- I was so happy I started thinking about opening up a bed and breakfast. ha!

Mike continues to impress me with his home repair/building skills and I am really happy to show off my new two-tier, raised bed garden.
It's already filled to the brim with tomatoes (cherry, big boy, roma), peppers (green, jalapeno, banana, sweet),  eggplant, squash and onions. And when it comes time to store the delicious fruits of my labor I now have a fully functional fridge to store them in.

We noticed a lot of condensation in the fridge the past week and at my party my dad mentioned the door seemed lose. Sunday evening the door completely fell off...leaving all our precious left overs vulnerable to the heat of our non-air conditioned house. Luckily Mike was able to diagnose the problem and with a little hard work got the door back on track and saved the day!

My hero <3
That is the latest from the home front...just really thankful for a great weekend and looking forward to many more here at 119. <3

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

in the ground

My precious seedlings traveling to their new home...
I spared my facebook friends this year- hundreds of pictures of my growing garden.

They should thank me.

Last year I was not so kind and I kept an album of my "precious babies" updated all summer.
I couldn't help it- it was thrilling to watch each seed peek up through the soil as a green stalk and then grow into something tall, gorgeous and productive.

I'm just as excited this year and happy that my precious seedlings are now planted in the Smith Garden. Thanks to Lauren and Joel for going in on a garden together in their beautiful (green/grassy) back yard.
I'm excited to harvest:

  • peas
  • cucumbers
  • squash (yellow and green)
  • beans 
  • corn 
  • eggplant
  • cherry tomatoes
  • steak tomatoes
  • jalapeƱo peppers
  • red peppers
  • sweet peppers
  • basil
  • oregano
  • cilantro 

The grand plan! 

The lovely raised bed

The proud gardeners :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

the joys

People always warned me about "the joys of home-ownership."
Never about the real joyous things like the fact I can paint the walls orange if I want to, that I can choose when (or if) to do the dishes or the fact that the washer and dryer are always free...oh no- the "joys" they spoke of were scary, horrific and devastating to bank accounts.

Today we were inducted into the "joy of home-ownership club," it only cost a decent chunk of savings and it came with a 6 month guarantee!

Its only been a few weeks here at 119 but we noticed early on that the drains emptied pretty slowly. We tried some home remedies- but the slop sink downstairs was almost continually full and doing dishes in the kitchen was pretty tricky. We managed to rotate our use of the sink, shower, toilet, slop sink and washer but it was no way to live. We called in the professionals and hoped for the best...
Snaking the pipes...multiple times!
Our new buddy Rich snaked the pipes at least five times before sending a camera down to take a look. The camera didn't find any breaks but it came out covered in cooking oil and grease. It would seem that the sweet owner before us (famous for her Italian cooking) must not have known about the no oil down the drain rule. There's probably a good 60 years of oils down there lining the drains like fat in arteries.  Yum. Roto Rooter prescribed an enzyme treatment that will work to break down the clogs and hopefully we avoided a much larger problem.

As I stood on the porch...my porch and penned a check to my friends at Roto Rooter I joked with Rich- "so these are the joys of home ownership everyone told me about huh?" He laughed and said, "Sure are...and after 10 years I'm about to get back into it myself."

Because as tough as things get there is still a certain, unforgettable, foundational joy that comes with having a home...having a roof over our heads, walls to keep us warm, pictures and orange paint on the walls.

Speaking of paint...we've had our fair share of that in the last week. Check it out:
Mike and his fantastic color choice in the dining room

A sophisticated grey in the office

Its all one big continual project- but I really do love this place and don't want to get so lost in "the joys" that I lose my joy. 

*if you find yourself in a similar plumbing situation Roto Rooter has a 40$ off coupon on their website- be sure to use it!

Friday, May 13, 2011

dreaming of green

I own a piece of the world...a tiny, overgrown little corner of the city and I couldn't be more obsessed.
I currently have 4 gardening related books from the library and I bought two more from goodwill just the other day. I have a dead tree's worth of post-it-notes littering the pages and more scribbled notes about soil, shade, heights and widths than I know what to do with.

Planning a garden is so much harder and more involved than I ever thought. Gone are the days when I could just stand in Lowe's garden center and get excited by all of the possibilities- now I just worry about what the plants will look like in the winter, will they survive the dreadful GC soil, will they grow too big or too small, will they do well in the shade of the neighbor's oak tree...plant overload!

To simplify and get my thoughts out on paper- I dreamed up this plan:
At my expert gardener friend Rosemary's suggestion I just measured out the yard (and what a quirky yard it is) and then just drew out what I'd like it to look like and then researched which plants could make my dreams come true. I have a few must haves for the backyard...

1.A wall of privacy- since the left side of the yard is only separated from the neighbor's (unkempt) yard by a chain link fence I'd like a privacy wall of plants. I want to avoid the ugly, wide shrubs we had before and build a sleek wall that grows tall but not wide. Rosemary suggested Sky Pencil Holly trees- and she was so right on!

sky pencil holly-"If you are looking for a sleek, updated, stylish look, use these Japanese Hollies with their tall, narrow, columnar shape." 

2. An apple tree- in memory of my beautiful, favorite apple tree at my parent's house (that the neighbor recently butchered). There is nothing quite as amazing as walking to your backyard, filling up an apron with apples, going inside and baking a pie...and I make a mean apple pie if I do say so myself. I'll be looking for a dwarf variety which should do just fine in partial shade in the back left corner- my only concern is I have to find a tree that doesn't need a partner to cross pollinate. Did you know they make apple trees now that grow different kinds of apples on one tree? 

This is the back of the garden- the apple tree will be in the left corner surrounded by some low growing greenery. To the right of the tree I'd like to have some varying colors and shapes of evergreens- like clumping bamboo, blue star junipers, arborvita rhingold and hydrangea 
3. Adequate vegetable garden space- I started vegetable gardening 3 years ago and I look forward to spring and summer every year because of the hope, promise and wonder if brings me. Planting seeds, watching them break through the soil and grow into tall, productive plants breathes life into me that I just can't explain. I wish I had the space for a full farm (my dream is to be a farmer one day) and a greenhouse but for now a 4x18 skinny little raised bed should hold enough plants for a decent spread (besides I have a much larger shared garden at the Smith's so I'm not too worried about planting larger crops like corn and squash). 

I'd like to build some sort of trellis at the end of the raised bed to finish off the space- I might grow something evergreen on it to keep that corner looking interesting even in the winter. 

Well- I think I've spent enough time dreaming of green for the day (and thanks to me...you probably have too). I'd love for ideas/help so send them my way. Now I've got to organize the office to get ready for painting tonight and Ikea furniture on Sunday! 

<3 Kate 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Before & After: bathroom, boxes and bread

Small projects and delicious food pretty much sum up our last few days here at 119...a fabulous life it is.
While pulling out random weeds from the "patio" last night I turned to Mike (as he was bundling branches) and said "I love that owning a home means that there is always something to do." He agreed- kind of.

We have a few large projects that need to be spaced out over time...
1- Plumbing (possibly need to snake the pipes-hoping this isn't too expensive)
2-Electrical- we need some lighting in the living room and up-to-date/additional outlets upstairs
3-Landscaping- front yard needs to be graded and the backyard needs new plants/garden space
4-Refinish the hardwood floors

So while I continue dreaming about those larger projects (and saving every pretty penny) I've been keeping myself busy with smaller/cheaper distractions like this bathroom organization project:
Bathroom BEFORE (how did I collect so much stuff?!)

I am also currently enthralled with window ledges and plants so when I found these widow boxes for 1$ I bought two and couldn't wait to make them pretty and fill my front window ledges with flowers. 

AFTER! I used a left over paint sample (still might paint the kitchen this color). 

While painting these lovely flower boxes our friend Sherry stopped by to see the place and she brought us this amazing piece of heaven on earth:
BEFORE: Homemade parmesan, rosemary, garlic bread

AFTER! (Note: this was actually taken the day we found out we got the house...but it should express to you how excited we are about this bread...thanks Sherry!).

<3 Kate 

Monday, May 9, 2011

There's a lesson here...

 The day we closed on the house we ran right over and started ripping up carpets. We were covered in dust and crawling on the floor pulling up staples when there was a knock at the door.

I immediately thought we were in trouble...maybe the previous owner came back to change his mind or we were too loud for the neighbors. I opened the door and there stood a strong looking older gentleman (in my mind he was wearing suspenders) and he was not smiling. "Someone move in here?" he barked. I recognized him as the gruff neighbor who we'd passed by during inspection. " Uh...yes. My husband and I" I stuttered. Immediately his face brightened and the scowl lifted. He was Lew- the neighbor next door, a retired teacher who had lived in the city for 50 some years. He rattled off the names of all the other neighbors, warned us about parking violations and educated us about trash pick up and the woman who owned the house before us. He reiterated what I had already known (from researching her and reading her obituary- more on Marie in a special post) that she was a praying woman and everyone loved her and her welcoming home.

Lew welcomed us that first night and hasn't stopped since- so far he has mowed our lawn, washed our driveway, given us advice and if that weren't enough- yesterday I found an envelope on my porch. It was addressed to us "from Lew and Mom- Welcome and God Bless." Inside the envelope was a picture of Lew and his mother and this sweet story typed on green paper.

"There's a lesson here. In a sense, people are like the giant sequoias. Family, friends, neighbors, the church body and other groups should be havens so that when the strong winds of life blow, these people can serve as reinforcement and can strive together to hold each other up."

2 years later...
July 15, 2013

The picture of Lew and his mother has been a fixture on our refrigerator door for years now. I like to keep it there to remind myself to pray for his Mom who in her 90's is losing all memory. It also helped keep me in perspective when Lew would passive aggressively (or not so passively) confront us about parking too close to "his side" of the driveway. Lew passed away on Saturday. I wasn't expecting it.

 I knew he had a stroke a few days earlier and was in the hospital, but his sister told us what we already knew, "he is strong." I had planned for days to grab a get well card from the store, but travel for work and general busyness got in the way. Saturday morning I was in the middle of four different projects, but I couldn't stop thinking about that card. I tried to finish a painting project (which would make him laugh because he couldn't believe how many pieces of furniture I painted) but couldn't. I searched every desk and drawer in the house looking for a card to no avail. Finally, I just scribbled a quick note to "our favorite neighbor" offering our prayers and support if he needed anything and slipped it in the mailbox. Lew never got the note...he passed away around the same time I was penning that message.

I miss him already.

Lew was the added bonus feature they failed to include on the MLS listing of our home. Maybe they chose not to list him because of his gruff exterior, scary yelling voice (if a car alarm wouldn't stop, or if the neighbors hid 200 chickens under their porch) or his absolute obsession with enforcing the invisible boundary lines of his driveway...or maybe there are laws against adding people to real estate listings. All of that to say, Lew was as much a part of my home as my front porch and I truly loved that. He taught us about the history of our neighborhood, he was forgiving of our slow renovations, encouraging of our lives and forever offering prayers and poems and on a good day...laughter.

All throughout my life, my neighbors have become family and I am so blessed that in my first home of my very own I gained my Uncle Lew.

It only makes me miss him that much more.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"what the..."

Mike decided on the title of this post- while wrestling with an unruly shrub in the back yard today...after I decided 4 pm on a slightly rainy Saturday was the perfect time to make a mess of the yard. I figured seeing some progress would make me feel better about all of the unfinished/unfunded projects scattered about the house. Digging up the yard=free and that made me happy. 

Here is what we started with:    
Yard in all its shrubby glory

Lauren said it reminded her of a "grandma" yard with its cheap stone "patio" and boring yet out of control greenery. Being that the last owner was a sweet 80+ year old woman she was right on. 

I really hated to take the life of living plants but they weren't healthy and were filled with bugs. So we pruned our little hearts out and Mike easily dug out the two shrubs on the left. 

"the boss" 
The strangely shaped shrubs in the back really didn't want to come out. Mike and Joel spent a good amount of time trying to wrangle the roots out of the ground but "the boss" was far too stubborn and the Phillies game was calling our names so we gave up for the day. 

the aftermath 

We made some progress which feels really good and I'm already sketching up ideas for a sweet little garden and dreaming of barbeque's and bonfires. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

finally home

I am a journal-er. I have kept a journal since I was a 13 year old little girl (back when I'd use a diary lock to keep my siblings from reading my secrets). Every few months or so I pull out the pages and read about myself- and somehow still manage to be surprised or moved by the stories...I swear I'd forget my entire life if I didn't write it down. So I'm writing it down. Here. 

I bought my first house one week ago today. 

Owning a home has been a dream of mine since childhood- in fact I wouldn't be surprised if some of the oldest journals I've kept hold sketches of dream homes or room layouts (I know- I was an odd kid). Seriously- as a kid I used to dream about marrying an architect simply to have him build me my dream home. I ended up marrying for more than just blueprints and landed a pretty fantastic guy who just happens to now dabble in the construction business and together we are going to turn this 100 year old brick twin into something fabulous. I want to share this story with you- friends/family and other like minded yard sale enthusiasts/home renovators/dream home makers.

I can't tell you what a dream this is, how long we've waited for a place of our own. But I really want you to know how much this means to me so I'll give you a secret glimpse into my most recent journal and I'll read to you my thoughts exactly one year ago today:

May 5, 2010 "I'm smitten with green these days. I can sit and stare at my growing garden for hours. Its one of the few places I can see growth, change and hope. I literally rejoice with another seed becomes a green stalk. In my own personal life (on the outside of my garden plot) things are dry, dreary and depressing. It has been a year since we first decided to put our lives in storage and move west. We took a leap of faith and it landed us in the basement of my parent's house. We are stuck- with no way of moving until I get a job. My hopes are low, frustrations are high and its eternally exhausting. We desperately need growth. We need to break out of these seeds and stretch out into the sunshine. Its beyond time for us to be planted in new, good, rich soil...its time for green." 

Friends- I have found my good and rich soil and it feels so good to put my roots down.