We Have A Backyard

[Sub-titled: The Big Dig Ends… And Not A Moment Too Soon]

Today as I reflect upon the inability of the 112th US Congress to do anything constructive about job creation, I am happy to report that our backyard project is complete.

As you may recall, in mid-August we began a very involved and expensive backyard landscaping project which happened in three parts.  To sum it up, in Phase One we had trees knocked down and dirt hauled in.  In Phase Two we had a concrete wall built to create two levels in our backyard.

And now, here is the rest of the story.  Welcome to Phase Three.

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Below is a photo of the stone steps in process.  These large steps allow us to get down into our lower level.  Without them we’d be slip sliding away every time we went down there.

Here’s a photo of our deck and the newly formed backyard taken from the second story of our house.  This project was massive. 

And here is the finished product.  The oval that you’re seeing down there is about 12 feet x 9 feet.  It is large enough for a full size picnic table or a medium size fire pit with chairs around it.  We haven’t decided exactly what we’re going to do with this space yet.  

One last photo of the side of the house where many of the machines came around to the back of the property.  The replanting of Pachysandra looks good and will fill in the area quite nicely.

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While the results of this project are wonderful, the process was stressful.  In total about 30 men worked on this backyard.  They showed up [usually without warning] when they felt like working on it, anywhere from 5:30 am to 7:00 pm on any day of the week.  Some weeks the weather made it impossible to work back there.  Other weeks the landscapers were too busy elsewhere to bother with us.  So we waited.

And with that, I’m signing off on talking about this project here in my blog.  It’s been something good to share with the world, but now it’s time for me to go down into The Spoon and enjoy communing with nature.

After all, that was the original reason we did this to begin with.

A Garden Wall Worthy Of Fred & Wilma

[Sub-titled: So You’re Really Going To Do This, Huh?]

Last week while the stock market was on the roller coaster ride of our lifetimes, we decided to do something a little bit different with our money.  Why not invest in something stable, said we.  How about finally getting the back of our property to look like something resembling a backyard, said we.  So…

We had this concrete wall built.  It’s very Flintstone-esque, don’t you think?

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What I Learned About Having A Garden Wall Built

√  Unlike the land excavating guy who said that he’d be at our house at 8:00 a.m. on Monday and arrived at 3:15 p.m. on Wednesday, when the concrete guy said that he and his crew would there at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday, they were.  With lots of battery-powered lights.  Trying to work quietly, not succeeding.

√  It took 5 hours to create the 2.5′ x 4′ footers.  Two of those hours involved the crew sitting around on the ground, listening to music, laughing among themselves, eating snacks– waiting for the footers to become solid enough to continue on with the wall.  We paid for them to do this, of course.

√  It took about 3 hours for 9 men to build this 30′ x 4′ free-form concrete wall.  A truck in front of the house pumped a foamy kind of concrete through a 90′ hose to the backyard. Two men positioned the concrete, which looked like toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube, along the wall line by slowly walking back and forth; they stopped when the concrete was 4′ high. Then the rest of the men, each holding a trowel in one hand and a paintbrush in the other, shaped the wall.  It was the darndest thing to watch.

√  After the wall was stable and had air-dried for about an hour, a man stained it to look like naturally formed rock.  He used two different colors of paint in sprayers, a water sprayer, and a paint brush dipped in stain.  It took him maybe 45 minutes to do this.  He told me that he wanted the wall to look like “God had put it there.”

√  It takes about a week for this concrete to cure.  So until that happens, the land excavator guy can’t fill behind our wall with dirt to create our yard.  Meaning… there will be more to this story.

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[Please note: This is Phase Two of a three-part project.  Phase One is here.  Phase Three is here.] 

Keeping Up With The {Energy Conscious} Joneses

We’re getting a new front door– or more accurately: a new Entry System.

[One must use the jargon that one encounters when one is working with individuals in a new and different industry, mustn’t one?]

Three times during the last few week we met here at the house with the sales rep from the door and window store.  While our windows are fine, our front door is older, wooden, and because of sun exposure, impossible to keep properly refinished.  Many of our neighbors have replaced their Entry Systems with more energy-efficient/visually pleasing doors and sidelights.  So after talking with the sales rep, we decided to do the same thing.

Our new Entry System will be a six-panel American cherry-stained fiberglass door with no glass in it.  Half sidelights and an arched transom with beveled glass and gluechip glass complete the Entry System.  Pretty and private.

Of course, it’ll be weeks until this door is made;  having a special order arched transom slows production down a bit.  And then who knows how long after that until the door can be installed.

Nothing is fast in the world of home improvement.  But that’s probably a good thing.  It gives me more time to practice saying Entry System out loud– without rolling my eyes as I say it.  Lord knows, I wouldn’t want to use the wrong term for our new front door.  😉

Blogging: Then And Now

Subtitled: In Which I Explain How I Came To Be A Blogger

Sub-Subtitled: Blame It On The Dirt

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I read my first blog in the summer of 1997.  I was searching online {pre-Google} for info on gardening in clay dirt when I stumbled across this unique website by a regional gardener/college prof.  The website was called a weblog and I was amazed to discover that this weblog was updated on a weekly basis.  I could return to the site every week and learn something new!

I was smitten: info, updates & a bit of personality.  Yes!  This was my kind of place.

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But then my life got very busy and I forgot about weblogs.  In the fall of 2002 I read an article in a newspaper that linked to these new things called blogs— which I instantly realized were more advanced versions of the gardening weblog that I’d loved years before.  According to the newspaper article people were writing personal blogs that they filled like a diary or a scrapbook.  Then they shared their blogs with the world– and encouraged their readers to leave comments.  

Comments, I wondered?  What might this be?  So I followed the links in the newspaper and discovered that people were indeed now keeping daily blogs– and that readers were leaving their 2¢ on the blogs in a place called comments.

I was re-smitten: info, updates & a bit of personality combined with the ability to talk with people all over the world.  What was not to love?

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Soon thereafter I jumped into blogging.  First, I commented and emailed with bloggers I found {mostly by spending hours surfing the pre-Blogher net}.  Then, on the advice of a blogger friend, I started my own blog– which turned out to be a huge challenge to create and a great deal of fun to keep.  However, after about four years of being a daily blogger, I was tired of keeping a blog so I let it go and walked away from the blogosphere.

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Fast forward to the winter of 2011 when I decided that it was time for me to get back into blogging.   Much had changed in my life– and in the blogosphere– so I decided to start this blog with the understanding that I’d not post on a daily basis and that I’d write about whatever interests me in the moment.  Just because I could.

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IMHO, the coolest thing about blogging is– and always has been– that with a bit of desire and gumption anyone can have a blog.  That’s what hooked me on blogging in the first place.  Personal expression + instant connection.   

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Blogging has changed along the way into something more polished and more organized than the early versions that I fell in love with.  Having recently re-entered the blogosphere, I see four things about blogging that surprise me.  Whether they are idiosyncratic to my experiences or the norm, I could not say;   I’ll leave that for others to figure out.  All I know is that things are not as they once were– and I’m cool with that.

  1. Blogs all look very pretty now.  In fact, in the process of setting up this blog I have not once used a piece of code.  Amazing.  I spent hours & hours & hours working on the code to get my first blog to look passible.  Now, pretty is a given.
  2. Blogs are all classified into niches.  I’ve found very few generalists like myself.  Instead, everyone who keeps a blog is [or wants to be] an authority on one specific subject.  I see nothing wrong with this, but realize that connecting with other bloggers is more difficult because of it.  Blogging is not as open and free-form as it once was.
  3. Most blogs are monetized now.  That was a new concept when I left the blogosphere, but today it is ubiquitous.  I understand the reason why people are trying to make money off of their blogs.  However, adverts and product placements put a different vibe into the blogging mix;  one that wasn’t there years ago when people blogged just for the fun of it.
  4. Many blogs do not seem to want commenters– as much as followers.  I see a shift away from the comment section as a cocktail party {with everyone chatting it up & discussing all sides of an issue} to the comment section as standing in line at the coffee shop {with casual, polite encounters & indifferent shrugs}.  It’s a different take on what it means to connect and communicate with others.  I get it, but it has taken me awhile to adapt to this more reserved approach to commenting.

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I feel fortunate that I discovered blogging early on and allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to give it a try.  It has evolved so far from my first encounter with it in 1997– and I couldn’t be happier.  Yet different as it is now, the basic concept remains the same: info, updates & a bit of personality.

Yep, I’m still-smitten… after all these years.    

Shopping For Furniture

A brief overview…

We wanted to buy two comfy chairs and an ottoman for an upstairs bedroom that we’re turning into what I call a sitting room– or as Zen-Den refers to it, the un-bedroom.  [The man is very literal.]

Because the bedroom is up the stairs, around a corner, and has a small doorway, the size of the chairs was our primary concern.

After much… much… much searching online and on foot, we ended up with three possible chairs that would fit into the room.  One was at Crate & Barrel.  The other two were at Ethan Allen.

The Top Five Reasons Why We Bought Our New Furniture At Crate & Barrel… And Not At Ethan Allen 

Number 5 –  Crate & Barrel was less expensive than Ethan Allen.  Not by much, but a little bit.

Number 4 – Crate & Barrel had a better selection of fabric than Ethan Allen.  Fewer choices, but more current colors.

Number 3 – Crate & Barrel allowed us (encouraged us, even) to take fabric samples home so that we could see how our chairs/ottoman would look in all kinds of light, night and day, in our house.  Ethan Allen wouldn’t let us have even one sample to take home and required us to make an appointment with one of their designers who would bring the fabric samples to our house for one hour; during which time we were to decide which fabric to use on our furniture.

Number 2 – Crate & Barrel sales associates were knowledgeable about the furniture on the sales floor as well as all the items online and in their catalogues.  Our request to see certain chairs that I’d researched online before going to the store confused the Ethan Allen designers;  they couldn’t find one of the two chairs on the sales floor (or in their catalogue) to show us.

Number 1 – Crate & Barrel sales associates were friendly, hip, and encouraging with lots of good decorating ideas.  Ethan Allen designers were uptight and high-handed.  They seemed weirdly disinterested in selling furniture to us– or anyone else in the store, for that matter.  So, we walked out the door and didn’t go back.

[Hello FTC!  I know that posts like this worry you, so let me assure you that I/we have received no money or other compensation for the above endorsements.  This is just my take on what happened to us when we went shopping in these stores in our city.  Feeling less worried now FTC?  Good.] 

And Then Good Things Began To Happen

I’ve said more on a personal level this week than I usually do in this blog [or anywhere else for that matter].  I’ve been detailed and intense, not my usual light-hearted self.  Talk about going outside your comfort zone.

But you know what?  I’m really glad that I did.

Within 48 hours of publishing– what I will always think of as– my adios posts, I received five messages from friends and family who I haven’t heard from in months, or even years.

Not one of them had read what I said in the blog, but all had suddenly thought of me– not to get something from me or to put me down— but to say “hi!”

On top of that, five people who I don’t know but seem rather pleasant,  just kind of appeared in my corner of the blog-o-sphere/twitterverse to say “hi!”

So here’s what I’ve learned this week: for me it is difficult to put personal relationship stuff out there in the world, but it’s worth the risk.  Life balances.  Out with the negative and insincere.  In with the positive and authentic.

Wonder why it took me so long to figure this out?

Just grateful that I did.

You Have To Latch On To The Affirmative

You’ll be happy to know that the physical therapist, recommended by my doctor to evaluate my lower back strength and flexibility, has established that I have the hamstrings of a Rockette.”

This is a good thing.

You’ll be equally happy to know that said physical therapist, who is the epitome of tact and grace, did not mention my Mama Cass Eliott thighs.

Not once.

Reflecting on the above I have concluded that: 1) I’ll take good news, no matter how unique, wherever I find it;  and 2) it’s time for me to get walking on a regular basis again.