Saturday, June 30, 2012

Small Tree

 This is the only tree in the back yard now.  It is really cute -- and it is never going to get bigger than this again.  Previously, it was up into the second story.  Pear trees are meant to be cropped and it would appear that this one hadn't had that done in many years.  Rather than prune it back a little at a time, we gave it a full haircut.  It doesn't seem any worse for it.  We will top it every year.  My bias against trees in a small yard is evident. If I were doing it, this tree would never have been planted here.  But I will say that now we've trimmed it, it looks sweet.  There are a few things around it, but the plan is to leave it open at the bottom.
 Left over Unilock stones from the garden wall make a nice border against the soldier-course pavers. This keeps the pea gravel in on the hard surface sides, but allows it to blend with the flagstone side.  Our new approach to our environment does away with lots of fussy stuff, so we plan to keep the ground relatively clear -- hence the pea gravel for ground cover.  It also wouldn't kill us if a dog used the area.  Also, the fish ornament seems to have found a home here -- although Jimmy has warned us if he can find a way to secure it to the roof, he might be tempted to do that.  Let's hope it stays here!
There were a few odd planters left and a couple of spare plants, so they ended up here.  This is about as "cluttered" as any part of this plan will become.  There are probably two or three other planters in the yard and that is it.  The less that has to be watered, the closer we are to sticking to the low-maintenance plan.

This is not going to be one of those bursting gardens boasting a variety of lush plantings, loaded with interesting detail.  This is going to be a minimal space and the goal is for it to look big and be easy to maintain.  Turning the big pear tree into the small pear tree was a good first step.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Home Stretch...

This is the flagstone we have left over.  Some of it is going to Jim over at the Art of Gardening and some will be used in a few more odd spots in our yard.  We used five pallets of flagstone and I am thinking we probably spent about $1500 on on that and gravel, etc.  That doesn't count around 1K for the pavers used in the dining circle.  Most of the cost of the project is in materials.  We saved money by designing it ourselves, using some salvage and by helping with the labor.  While the yard has been a large expenditure -- we had some sound reasons for doing it.

The side walk in the back had to be fixed because it was a tripping danger.  Water was also puddling against the foundation because of it.  The rest of the yard was a big muddy mess that didn't look great but we could have probably lived with.  We opted to do it over because right now we have the funds -- and in the future we might not.  It's one thing to save for a rainy day, but it's another to never do anything nice for fear of a storm that might never occur.  We also believe the project has added to the value of the house.
The house also had some really nice things in the yard that we didn't have to pay for.  Plants like this, for instance.  Right now they are looking ragged because of trucks, pallets and stone coming up and down the driveway.  But they will be taken care of when everything is done.  We didn't have to pay for the myriad of interesting perennials that grace the yard -- and now we can really enjoy them.  It was expensive to take down the maple tree -- but that was an economic decision.  We knew the tree would either cause damage or need to come down in the future. We opted to take it down while we had the funds and before it got any bigger.  After seeing the roots. I am glad we did.

The design of the yard and the way we are moving forward in the new house is a real departure from how we lived in the old place. I  bet it seems hypocritical when I post that I am now aiming to live small -- yet here I am going on and on about a big project.

However, I think the yard is a good way for us to eliminate work and other problems in the long run and that is why we chose to do something this big in order to start scaling back.  It might not make sense now... but I promise in the future it will!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

We Got Stoned!

This blurry pictures is of the boys finishing up the stone.  All of the flagstone is down and the pea gravel is filled in.  Today is TBGs birthday and for his big day, he wanted this part of the job done.  So he pitched in.
Here is a close up of the last segment.  Over the rest of the summer, the gravel will set in.  Tomorrow night the plants will go in and there will be some tidying up.  The stone will get sealed so that it retains this dark/wet look.  While we go away to camp, the house is getting power washed and scraped.  Bad boards are being replaced.  They'll probably start painting before we get back.  I think it will take over a week.  Then the fence will be repaired and painted and the finishing decorative details will go up.  From that point in, all we will have to do is water the border every few days and pick up our empty beer cans.  This was a huge undertaking and the end is in sight.

 We will be spending a few days at camp and so there will be less posting going on.  But don't worry.  There will be plenty to show when we get back!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Not so Small Sound

 I am hoping this big boom box will solve a couple of small problems...  First, TBG has wanted a "sound solution" for the house and yard and I'm just not sure what is practical.  We have spent a substantial amount on the yard -- and we need sound out there.  We are also about to drop $$$ on painting the house.  He's also expressed a desire for satellite radio at some point.

I had considered a Sonos system -- but that would just be too much to spend right now.  As a result, I decided to make an economically conservative decision and go with giving the guy this for his birthday -- which is tomorrow.  There is an aux jack he can plug his Walkman into -- so he can put together a playlist before a party.  He can play CDs -- along with CDRWs too.  It also has a cassette player -- this is actually cool because way  back in the 80's a buddy of my was a professional DJ and made me awesome mix tapes.  I used them when I gave aerobic classes.

This box will put out plenty of sound for our small first floor. It can be taken downstairs for working out in the basement.  We can take it to camp.  We can play it in the yard.  It can also work with satellite if we get a receiver.  As a result, I figured it was a good interim choice.  I hope he likes it!

It was too dark last night to get a good shot of the yard but this is where we ended then.  No work tonight as Tommy gives a Spinning class on Wednesday nights and he's now meeting our guy to buy the house paint.  I'm making him a gyro pizza on naan bread with onion, tomato and feta.  We'll probably go out to dinner to celebrate while we are at camp.

It really must be a sign of our age that I'm not totally appalled by the size of that box.  Those of us who came of age in the 80's don't expect everything to be small -- especially not music.  But once again, I am showing my age.....

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Pattern is Set

 All of the flagstone is now on the ground.  This is a picture of it all put down, but it is not all filled in.  From this angle you can see there is a distinct set of stones forming a visual path to the dining area.
 The area from the circle out to the drive way was filled in with pea gravel. There is just one small boulder in place in front of the garage in this picture, but now we have four.  The are spaced far enough out so that any pee aimed their way shouldn't hit the garage itself.
 This is what the stone looks like wet.  It is how it will look once we put the glaze on it.  We like how it brings out the color and will re-spray the glaze every three years or so.

I took a picture from a window upstairs, but it was too dark to show anything useful.  Our days are long and my final task is to feed the men and do the dishes.  But this is how it has all come together.

There will probably be one more day of filling in with gravel and then it will get all washed down.  We'll get some plants in the walled garden.  The house is going to get a power wash and it will then be painted.   The fence will then be finished and baskets hung.  By next month it should all be done!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Boys....

 Tonight more of the area between the dining circle and the conversation area got filled in.  When the yard is all done, this is getting a coat of sealer.  That will make it look a little darker/glossier and it will really  bring out the colors of the stone nicely.  It will also keep the weeds down longer.
 More of the walkway to the dining area was put down.  We had a visitor -- a young man was helping out with the pattern and his father wanted to see it.  He was very impressed with the design and asked if he could come back when it is done.  We'll have to have a christening for it!
 Teddy's "Business Center" has been filled in and she's used it three or four times.  We are bringing her to it and telling her to do her business -- and she's peeing on in it.  She ran out and used it one time on her own.
It occurred to me that at times she would have a boyfriend over, which means we'll need a suitable vertical surface. I do not want boy dogs peeing on our garage wall.  We are going to have a few boulders set in this corner.  It will help hide the down-spout and keep water from puddling there -- and I am certain her male friends will be drawn to it for more basic reasons.  Grown men are always invited to use the loo in the basement.  Maybe in an emergency they can go behind the garage...

TBG wasn't getting the fact that I felt we needed to plan for this, but I know dogs.  I don't want them peeing on the nice wall where people will be sitting and I don't want them peeing on the siding.  My friends and family are good enough to pay attention to requests when they bring their dogs over -- but realistically, once one dog uses it, the rest will want to contribute!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday is No Day of Rest at Chez Petite

The boys kept working on the flagstone.  Luckily, the pond store is two blocks away -- an additional pallet was needed and an employee drove it down the street on their forklift!  Frank's farm stand is next to the pond store, and Jimmy negotiated a deal on a bunch of perennials.  I picked up donor Hostas from Jim over at The Art of Gardening.
TBG helped move stone and put together the dining set and conversation pieces.  What a job!  He was recuperating from doing his 104 mile fund raising ride for Roswell Park Cancer Institute.  He raised $1300 for cancer research.
I made the boys a breakfast pizza as a morning snack.  This has a wheat crust, bacon and cheddar -- with an egg on top.  I cracked the egg over it when it was done baking and put it in the oven for a little more time.
We had a good sized part of a cabbage left this week and half a bunch of parsley.  Two pound containers of strawberries are on sale at Weggies and Teddy got the tops along with the cabbage and parsley.
This is our progress so far.  The area is turning out better than I could have imagined.  The flagstone colors look great.  The Unilock circle ended up being the perfect size.  The fact that the end chairs swivel means you can get in and out of them without have to  move the chair itself.  It is a good thing we ordered extra pieces to increase the size.    This plan makes our small yard look much larger.

We've re-used some of the old square pieces for the grill area and more of those will go around the garage and in the pea gravel border along the back fence.  The area right next to the garage that has no flagstone will get more gravel -- that's Teddy's business center!

Today was a super productive day and we've got a lot to show for it!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mondo Flagstone

 This is a pathway of large flagstone that goes from the stairs around the pear tree.  TBG and I stopped into the pond supply store down the block last night and noticed that they had huge pieces of flagstone.  I really liked them but figured it was too  late to add them to the design.  Then this morning, our guy Jimmy shows up announcing "change of plans, I found this really cool large flagstone at that pond store and I'm using it."  I told  him (as I so often do) "Dude, you complete me!"

Here it is from another angle.  Today was spent getting pea gravel delivered, picking up the flagstone, leveling the rest of the yard (which meant pulling out more roots), finishing the garden wall and setting out the large pieces of flagstone. 
Here at the back of the yard is where we'll set the fire pit and place our conversation area.  There will be a love seat, two chairs and ottomans plus a table.

I fed the boys an awesome pizza at lunch -- eggplant, mushroom, bacon and provolone with a pear and jicama salad on the side.  I gave them a snack of cold strawberry almond pancakes and whipped cream.  I find if you feed them steadily in small increments, they can continue to work nicely all day...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Small Meal - Big on Veggies

 Dinner tonight.  In foil.  All layered up:  Chicken, tofu, onion, feta, half a red pepper, face down on it all, crammed full of cherry tomatoes.  Cooked on the grill.

Served with a salad of Romaine and veggies, topped with sliced pears, jicama, mushrooms, onions, sesame seed in a strawberry balsamic vinaigrette.  There was a baked potato on the side.

I'm making it a point to use up all the food I buy, so it means cramming meals full of ingredients.  I like cooking in foil because that means I can get a meal done using a minimum of utensils, containers, dishes, spices, etc.  Foil locks in a lot of flavor.

This is one way I am getting by without having to rely on numerous spices, staples and cookware.  TBG is sick of chicken, so I'll be making pizza tomorrow.....

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Garden Wall

This is where we are tonight in the yard.  The new garden wall is up.  The original plan was to make it only two bricks high, but there was enough left to start a third.  We are about fifteen pieces short of filling in a full third level and want to go for it.  Any extra dirt that comes out from behind the garage and in the main area will be dumped into this area.  More plants will be put in once all the stone is done.

We did not opt for regular Home Depot stock for the pavers or the stones in the wall because we wanted better quality.  For that reason, we could rationalize spending a little more for the extra pieces to complete a third level.  The value is there.  Also, there are no plans to cement/glue the stone in place.  This way, if we ever want to change the design, it will be possible to take it apart.  However, the pieces are heavy and the construction is sturdy enough for people to sit on it too.  Of course we are not planning on selling any time soon, but this project should add nicely to the value of our property -- but even more important is the enjoyment we'll get from it.

This is what that run of fence looked like before we started.  Saturday, the pea gravel is going down.  Flagstone is supposed to be delivered in the afternoon.  I still think we are a week or so away from completion but the whole project is coming together nicely.  It will be such a treat to have a nicely landscaped back yard.  It may be small, but it's going to look like the big time!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


 This collection of pavers came from salvaged/left-over scraps from other jobs.  In order to tie it together with the main circle, we bought extra pieces in the center/circle pattern. There were fourteen wedge pieces and six half circles.  This is brick pattern is what is called a "soldier course."  The red makes for a nice border and it worked out to the same width as the  bottom step.  There is a piece cut out of the bottom step -- and it was that way when we bought the house.  The top layer of cement sidewalk had sunk and was a tripping hazard and was removed.  There was a deeper sunk level of sidewalk beneath that!  It was leveled with gravel and then dirt. 
Once the main course was put down, the patterned pieces were put on top of it and then outlined.   Each piece underneath was then removed and cut with a tile saw.  
 The pieces were then fit back into place and only a few minor adjustments had to be made.
Everything was tamped down hard and a layer of sand was poured over it.  I then closed the windows in the porch and a big old machine that pressed it all done was run over it.  The actual part of putting out the pavers took four hours -- and I think that's fast for the great result!

Afterwards, I fed the boys dinner.  TBG was late getting home (but still able to participate in the job) because he had a vehicular mishap.  He was pulling out of a parking lot in the right lane, in the right turn lane, when the lady in the left turn lane suddenly decided she wanted to turn right and plowed into him.  There is a message on the answering machine now from her insurance company indicating they have determined liability but I didn't want to be the one to call back because I'd have a fit if they tried to claim it was his fault.  When he realized she was going to cut him off, he hit the breaks -- but she hit him standing still.  At least that is my interpretation based on his account.  I really hope she mans up on it and doesn't try to dodge responsibility.  We have a $500 deductible....

The story of the walkway is far more interesting and satisfying than the saga of the car!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Eating Big

I don't show much restraint when it comes to buying produce.  This week, I was jonesin' for plantains.  They are very healthy and the plan was to make a casserole with them.  Price Rite has a lot of Mexican/South American produce offerings.  In addition to the plantains, I grabbed a jicama, which I will slice for salad and just to have for a munch here and there.  I tried a weird kinda of Mexican yam/sweet potato that was great too.

My casserole had 1.5 boneless skinless chicken thighs, a third of a brick of tofu (cubed), fresh corn (scraped from the cob), mushrooms, red pepper, plantains, black beans, onions, garlic, cilantro and molasses.  For moisture, I had a mixture of three oils -- avocado, sesame and olive with chicken stock.  For spices I used Adobo and Jamaican Jerk.  This was enough to feed three -- two of whom were hungry men.  I also have two portions for lunch.  I have a thing for fresh and healthy ingredients and this was a power-house of a meal.  If only I had remembered to add sesame seeds!

I have to admit that the chuck was for Teddy.  Now that I know about "pink slime," she's not getting any more ground beef.  And her apples and produce are getting cleaned with vegetable wash to remove more pesticides.  Turkey necks are a bargain at Price Rite and the prices is what gets me in that store every week.  Since you have to walk through produce to get to the meat, my inability to pass it up is a foregone conclusion.  I make sure to bring in at least four re-usable bags!

This is what was accomplished in the yard tonight.  Our guy did an awesome job "customizing" the path which used to be an ugly uneven run of concrete.  This has been sprayed with water to show what it will look like when it's stained.  Tomorrow I might post progress pictures of how it came together.  I am so happy with the color of the pavers that I think we'll stain the foundation of the house the same color.  And speaking of the house, that's going to be painted during the week of the fourth. 

I could not be happier with the progress of this project -- or with the great produce I am finding for cheap.  It will be awesome to enjoy many summer meals al fresco on our new patio.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Weekly $20 Asian Adventure

It seems that whenever I go into the Asian supermarket, I spend twenty  bucks.  I buy my Asian "staples" -- stuff like tofu, sesame oil and dumpling sauce.  Then there are the "adventure" items that I want to try because they are available.  This week, I chose lamb dumplings -- $4.99 a bag.  Then I tried two kinds of rice/sushi-type rolls.  One is rice, beans and nuts.  The other is a radish/veggie type roll.  Each packages was $3.99 which is a steal compared to what you pay for these in a restaurant.  The radish roll is the long yellow thing. I don't even need to cook it, just slice and serve!

Tonight we will be grilling chicken breast in a terriaki sauce.  I'm steaming up veggie dumplings and two of those bean and rice rolls.  I'll slice up a little bit of the radish sushi too. We'll have a salad with freshly made dressing of sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and fresh orange and lemon juice.  We'll have plenty of sushi type stuff for appies during the week too.

This is one of my new forms of amusement.  I guess it's a "small pleasure" for this small life.  For twenty bucks I get to go on a little Asian adventure each week.  It's really fun!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Back to the Yard...

 The boys got the circle done on Saturday.  Jimmy likes to put the fish on whatever he's finished working on so it's proudly sitting in the center of the dining circle.  He took a lot of time getting the area prepped and then he and Tommy put the stones down in the afternoon and evening.  They finished it around 8PM!
 Here is a detail of the design.  We purchased a circle kit and then some extra stone to make it a foot and a half larger.  It will be stained so that it perpetually has a darker/wet look to it.  Everything is completely in place but he's going to tamp it down for good measure.
 This is root material that had to be pulled out. I can just imagine how the area would  have eventually started buckling if we left the tree in and the roots continued to grow.  I'm glad we took the tree down.
 Jimmy also ordered extra stone to make two small medallions. 
 This is the Unilock that will be used to make the small garden wall on the right side of the yard.  We've got plenty of sand and gravel to keep all of the areas leveled.
This is the sidewalk area where we pulled out the concrete that had settled.  He has re-leveled it.  This will get pavers too.  The two medallions pictured above will be put in here as a nice little focal point too.

This was a lot of hard work that I was pleased to not be a part of.  We're  maybe 1/3 of the way there... stay tuned!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fun in the Sun!

I don't have any pictures to post because I don't have my camera software set up on the laptop I am using -- but I got wireless to work at camp. Alas, my connection to the domain at work won't go.... so I guess I can't check in there!

The weather is gorgeous and I've been sticking with all the food I picked up for the weekend.  So far...  I'm enjoying strawberries on waffles with coffee for breakfast, fish cake sandwiches on rolls for lunch, shrimp and corn with a baked potato on the grill for dinner.  Wine and chips too.

I can generally drop about $30 bucks for supplies and that will last three to four days.  I don't think that is extravagent for a weekend away. Or course I need to factor in about $25 or more for gas.  The rental for the site is about $175 per month.  This means our weekends are not cheap.  But they also aren't bad when you factor in the cost of a mini get-away -- which we can have any time we want for six months of the year.

We went out to a really nice dinner last weekend because we had a $100 gift certificate.  With tax and tip, the meal came to $140.  I kinda prefer my camp weekends to one nice meal out.  This is really our only major form of entertainment since we don't go to the movies and we don't have kids that participate in events.

Teddy and I were in town for her to have swim this morning and we'll go back in the afternoon. I think I'll go in the bay with her.  The weekenders are begining to show up -- but I like the quiet weekdays the best!

Now, I'm going to make a fish sandwich and look at the lake!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Camp and Technical Question....

 I'm off to camp with the dog for the next four days! While I'm going to see if I can get wireless reception, it's not likely. The yellow dot shows how close I will be to the shore. 
The dot here shows where we are on the lake.  It's pretty obvious that it's a big lake and since we are on the edge of it, there aren't any cell towers real close.

TBG will be working on the yard.  The ducts are being cleaned tomorrow.  Lots will be happening.

I do have a question for some of my more experienced readers. I need to clear out my Picassa albums because I am out of space. I deleted the old blog posts and also deleted the old blog itself.  I can't figure out how to get rid of some of my old pictures.  I can bring up the albums but the delete option is not active. I don't want to have to delete each picture.  Argh!  Anybody got a couple of quick tips?  I will not be paying for storage, that's for sure!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Inside Tonight

 I went out at lunch to buy drawer pulls and cabinet knobs.  I also wanted to buy one solar landscape light. Of course while I was out I had to run into Dots because I've wanted another pair of black flip-flops.  They had leg warmers marked down to a buck.  Even though I'm scaling back, I stock up on leg warmers. One pair is lined with terry cloth. I am going back to get more!
I have a strange outdoor lighting idea..... TBG got the thread, clamp and brackets at work, I plan to have a bunch of these mounted to fences and on the garage wall.
The solar lights will be set into them like torches.  That will provide lots of ambient light but not require any wiring.  These lights are three bucks a piece -- so I can put up ten for about thirty bucks.
 I grabbed a pack of ten brass knobs.  These have a copper accent, which I thought would look nice with the chandelier.  These set me back about 22 bucks (including tax).
 Here's one mounted on the door.
The picture of the drawers turned out a bit blurry.  I liked these pieces because they were plain.
The towel hooks went up in the kitchen.  These are by Kohler.  TBG got them at cost and we ordered them when we ordered the cabinets.
 We had two put in.  Now I have plenty of space to hang towels!
The chandelier is in.  It took the boys longer than they expected to get it hung. I made them take a break for salmon terryaki over rice noodles.  The bulbs are 60 watts and the picture I took with the light off didn't end up on my camera!  I want to put in a dimmer switch -- and we'll probably go with 40's too.

The fixture came from Home Depot and this is what it looks like.  There is a five light fixture but I thought the scale of the room would be better with three. I had a $70 budget because it was a gift, and this one came in at $69!

It rained tonight so the plan was to get stuff done inside.  We didn't get to everything... but this was enough to make me happy!