Monday, December 17, 2012

Finally....the hall way

I've been really busy this past month or two -- trips to Florida and Indiana and New York, and then having to get everything else all caught up after I returned, so home upgrades have had to take a back seat.  We are leaving this week for another trip as well, so this will be the last upgrade we'll be making in 2012!

Although we got the bathroom all finished way back in spring, we never quite finished the outside part of the wall where the pocket door fit.  To get the pocket door frame in, we ended up having to partly demolish the hall wall.  We also had to remove a light switch from that wall and relocate it across the hall, which actually was a great thing, since it was hard to get to the switch in the dark hall!

This is what it's been looking like for the past year:
obligatory cat pose

and with the pocket door closed:
I have to remind you that the whole house was painted this tan with creamy white trim.  They had paid professional painters to come in, so although I hated the color, it was nicely done.  But I can't take all this tan.....
So - to replace this section, we had to temporarily screw a board to the opening that matched the level of the existing hall wall on the other side of the massive hole.  Then it required 3 coats of plaster, the first brown coat over metal mesh:
That dried for about a week, then the next coat, the brown coat over that scratch coat:
 That took another week to cure (well, it probably didn't need a week in between each coat, but with the mess and all, we only worked on the weekends).  Luckily, Dale is a plasterer with over 20 years of experience, so he knows what he's doing.
Then this week, a finish plaster coat that brought it up level with the wall:
Then it's my turn to sand, prime and paint.  And also put in crown molding at the top and new baseboard at the bottom.  And now it looks like this:
so smooth and nice!
I painted this hall the same color as the front hall -- I really like how cheerful it is.  I added some silhouettes I had in a previous house onto the wall across from the bathroom:
But I have a large, blank wall to finish.  I had originally planned on putting this wall graphic I bought - it's a tree with birds in it -- but when I got it out to work with it, it is WAY too small.  I will probably move my Chinese checkerboards over here after the start of the new year, because we will be taking down the wall that has them on it.  So -- it will have to remain blank for a little bit!

I am so relieved to have this done!  It's been an eyesore for so long, and we have some friends coming to stay while we're out of town, and I was a little embarrassed that they'd see our unfinished wall!

So - January will begin with a trip to Hawaii (a conference, but really we're turning it into a vacation, too!), and then getting started on our biggest project, a complete kitchen remodel!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A trip to St. Petersburg, FL

I just got back from a quick jaunt to St. Petersburg, Florida for the FAEA (Florida Art Educator's Association) Annual conference, where I was one of their keynote speakers.  I also presented a workshop on creating books with a coptic binding.  I love going to art educator's conferences, art teachers are such fun! 

While I was in the area, I looked online to see what attractions I should check out.  I did visit the Dali Museum, which is where one of the evening events for the conference took place.  This is a new building that houses a large number of Dali works.  Above is the central staircase that is modeled on a DNA strand.

Another thing on the list was the Sunken Gardens, which is a historic 100 year old botanical garden over 6 acres.  The gardens were well tended and full of lush, tropical plants.
The bamboo were clacking together in the slight breeze, a charming sound.
There were so many beautiful plants.  But almost none of them had labels on them, which was a disappointment!
And little lizards were everywhere!

This was an interesting tree - I wish I knew what it was!  It had large fruits hanging, the picture on the right shows what they look like with segments missing.

I loved the dense greenery.  The garden was really well tended and I enjoyed my visit!

 After visting the Sunken Gardens, I went to a local city park so I could see some alligators (I saw a really big female with two of her little babies, and a medium sized one sunning itself), and then went to Tampa to check out some manatees.  So I did manage to squeeze in some interesting trips during my 1/2 day that was unscheduled!

Monday, November 05, 2012

one year later

These are just a few shots of my yard, comparing the pictures I took when we bought the house a year ago, and the change since then.  Lots of these are fairly recent changes, but taken as a whole, it helps me to see the progress we're making.  Step by step....

The first is the front flower box.  The mums that I bought at the dollar store burst into bloom this week - just in time for Halloween.  It's cheery to drive up to at the end of the day!  I took the iris on the far left of the 'before' picture, chopped it down into smaller bits and alternated it with the mums.  There's a climbing black eyed susan vine that I thought was done for a month ago, climbing up the post.  It was looking dry and leggy, I pushed it back down the post and it seemed to appreciate it.
This was the first section I cleared out and planted, and it's the most established.  This area gets sun all day.  Almost all of these are freebie plants I picked up from Craigslist.  A couple were moved from the front flower box (the aloes).  Everything's looking happy here.
The planting strip on the other side of the house, it gets early morning sun and then shade the rest of the day.  The plants here are filling out nicely.  I took out the evergreens (which did not look as nice as they do in this picture, above right), and the grass, and added some gravel and stepping stones since this is where the neighbor gets into their car every day -- no point in planting up to the edge.

This is the last part planted, and it's not even done yet. I have a gaping hole in the bed where I intend on putting in some steping stones.  I also want to remove the rest of the brick walkway and change the steps into something more artful and less -- well, less a straight line across the strip.  You can also see here how bad the ivy was on the tree and how it looks like a normal tree now. This winter, we'll take the remaining grass off the strip and get the rest of the plants moved so we don't have dead grass along this area.

Getting ready to hit the road again this week, off to Florida for a conference.  This is a busy month!  I'll be traveling later to spend Thanksgiving with my daughter in Chico, that will be a fun break. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

happy Halloween -- and happy anniversary to us!

It was one year ago today that I was making multiple runs of the rental truck, bringing all the final boxes, furniture pieces and odd items over from our rental to our home, making it the official move in date.  We actually spent the night and moved the kitties over the night before, but Halloween is the day I feel is our official move.

Last year, I remember getting done handing over the keys to the rental house, dropping off the moving truck and sinking into a chair, surrounded by boxes, grateful to be not in motion, when it occurred to me that within the next hour, we'd have trick or treaters visiting and I'd better hustle off to get candy, light a couple of candles and sit on the front porch.

I met a lot of our neighbors who came by to welcome us to the neighborhood. Dale was working late so he missed a good portion of the kiddos, but the cats were perched in the window watching all the little ones stop by.
This year, we actually got some decorations up (we have TONS of Halloween stuff), and have the candy all ready to go.  Dale worked last night so he'll be home, but I have to teach tonight and so might miss all the fun. 

In the last year, we've gotten quite a few things done in our house, and although we have many more to go, we've made some big leaps towards making this house home for us:
  • remodeled the bathroom (huge job!) total gut job and added new drywall, tile, floor, ceiling, vanity, toilet and shower
  • reworked the guest room, replacing the closets, adding crown and base and paint
  • redid the front entry, removing paneling from walls and doors, adding crown and baseboard, refinished the doors and painted everything
  • worked a lot in the yard - tore out and replanted the north side of the front yard, removed 6 trees, cleaned up the front yard and began replanting the curbside strip.  Planted succulents along the south side of the front yard.  Cleaned out and trimmed the trees in the backyard along the south wall.  Moved in a lot of plants while clearing out a ton of weeds.
On the agenda for the upcoming year:
  • finish the crown molding and baseboard in the studio
  • finish the crown molding and baseboard in the hall
  • remodel the kitchen
  • add a swimming pool
  • continue working on both the front and back yards
We are getting started on the kitchen in the new year - we have several trips between now and mid-January, so after those are done, demo begins in the kitchen!  I hope next year's list of accomplishments is even better than this year's!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mission San Juan Capistrano

Although I just got back from a week in New York and Indianapolis, two days later I had a one day conference in San Diego.  We took the opportunity to stick around a little and explore some of the sights, and on the way home, stopped in to check out some California history by visiting the Mission in San Juan Capistrano.
The Mission is undergoing some construction - they are building a new entrance area (you can see the fenced off area to the top right above), but the gardens were in full flower.

I love this variation of Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha) - with its white accents.  We have a large Mexican sage, but it's not looking as  lush as this.  I think we need to transplant it to a sunnier area - I notice that these were in full sun (ours is in the shade before noon).  I might have to get one of these strains as well - ours is plain purple.  I love the touch of white.

We enjoyed strolling through the grounds, listening to the audio tour.  The buildings are in various states of conservation, restoration or a total rebuild.  We enjoyed looking at the artifacts and listening to the stories.  The audio tour was really great.

So many beautiful vistas!  The mission has two courtyards, the one in the first photo in this post, and the larger, more formal one shown in the left.  The gardens here are more reserved, and planned.  The ones in the first courtyard felt more exuberant and spontaneous.

Loved these beautiful lily pads with their striped pattern!  There were large koi in this central fountain.

While we were enjoying the garden, we were surprised to hear the bells ringing. Each bell has a strap that is pulled by the bell-ringer, playing a specific pattern of notes for each occasion.

The Missions had a working ranch along with crops.  This is the brand that the San Juan Capistrano cattle were marked with.  There was a chart that showed the brand for each mission.  This is a small station so that kids can take a rubbing of the brand for a souvenir.

There were a number of different themes for the gardens - I really enjoyed wandering through.  These are some cacti and agaves from the desert section.

The most stunning specimen was this amaranthus - or "love lies bleeding" -- it has vibrant red stalk and stems, and the cascading soft was really striking!  I wouldn't mind having one of these in a pot!

It was such a lovely trip, and nice to get to know some of our adopted home's history!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Visiting New York

I've just gotten back from a whirlwind of travel for various reasons: the first of them being a conference I presented a paper at in New York City at the School of Visual Art's annual conference on the Humanities and the teaching of artists.  I was on a great panel, we had great audience feedback and discussion, AND I got to go to visit my favorite museum, The Cloisters.

The Cloisters is a medieval reconstruction of several buildings from 12th-15th century.  It houses a medieval art collection, and two of my favorite artworks reside there - the whole of the Unicorn Tapestry series:

All seven tapestries hang in this room (sorry the picture is so dark and blurred).  Here's a decent shot of the most well-known of the seven, the Unicorn in Captivity:
Besides the Unicorn Tapestries, the Cloisters also is home to the Merode Altarpiece - also known as The Virgin and the Mousetrap by Robert Campin, the Master of Flemalle.

Several reasons to love this -- the carpenter Joseph in his workshop making the most mundane of household objects, a mousetrap,and the central panel of Mary reading a book, which is one of my favorite activities, too!
What's not to love about her chubby neck, seen as a sign of beauty in that era?
What I was really looking forward to was seeing the gardens - I wish I could visit in summer, but it was a lovely weekend in New York, it was 75 degrees in October, and although it rained in the morning, it was nice for me to step into the gardens.
This is the Bonnefont Garden, where kitchen plants and a variety of interesting plants of lore live.

I loved the set branches all dark and gnarled.
The woven wattling as fence.
 The view of the river beyond.
There are a number of plants in the "Magic Plants" garden - you can read about them here.
I believe this is a pear - espaliered.  

I love the building - lots of wonderful vistas, corners to peek around, and lots of  beautiful medieval works of art.  

 Illuminated manuscripts, statuary, jewelry and funerary pieces.  I love the raw emotive power of the medieval period, often called "the dark ages", but to me, it's a real bright jewel.

One of these days, I'd love to visit on a sunny, warm day so I can visit the enclosed garden - closed off during the winter.

In home-related news, yesterday we picked up 8 sago palm pups free off Craigslist.  We trimmed the fronts that were already grown, and are giving them a week to harden off before getting them potted and rooted.  Dale's been wanting one of these for ages, so he's pleased to have so many to get started.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fiddling around in the yard....

This has been a great weekend, weatherwise:
and I hated wasting it sitting inside watching Season One of Homeland in some kind of TV watching binge (but I did it anyway), so I took periodic breaks to go out and do some yard work here and there.  I'd been letting the front parking strip (a.k.a. the Hellstrip) dry out, to be sure all the ivy was gone as well as the St. Augustine grass (it's tenacious), so I worked some manure into the soil and transplanted some of our miscellaneous plants there.  I have high hopes but right now, I just wanted to keep the dust down:

There are a couple of bare spots there - I am going to be putting in some paving when I get the right materials - I've got my eyes open for some broken concrete, just lurking about on Craigslist until someone posts some for free.  All the stuff I planted was free, so I only needed to pick up some mulch to keep it moist while it roots.  Also - everything here should be low-water, low maintenance once it's established. 

As a reminder; here's what it looked liked before:
I also scored some plumeria branches on craigslist for free.  Whenever these are offered, they're snapped up right away, so I was lucky to be the first to respond.  They said "large branches", which in my experience, means a piece around 18" long.  We went and they weren't kidding, very large branches, around 6' long with multiple areas for replanting.  This is the flower that plumeria produces - they're used in lei making in Hawaii:

 So we planted one in the front yard near the corner of the house, one in the backyard where we'll be able to admire it from our future pool, and then we have one in our "holding area" behind the garage, and the remaining 3 pieces of the trunk went there, too.  We'll see if they actually root (supposedly, they root easily and will grow within 90 days).

Here's one of the larger pieces:

Also in the backyard - hummingbird feeders!  We had visited my brother in Los Angeles a few weeks ago (where we got the two attenuatas above that are flanking the plumeria), and he has scores of hummingbirds flitting around his yard.  His wife, Lisa, has hummingbird feeders all around, and we loved the atmosphere of birds zipping around, so we picked up one hummingbird feeder to add to our previous one that no birds went to -- and tried a new location.  Before we knew it, we had two hummingbirds visiting.  So this weekend, we picked up two more feeders and placed them around the yard.
One thing we noticed is that one hummingbird had been chasing others off, so we figured if we put them all over the yard, we'd increase the number of chances for them to be successful in avoiding the bossy one.  There's a picture of a hummingbird I took at the Huntingdon gardens, too.

So that was it, enjoying the late warm weather, catching up on Homeland, and getting the yard a little more habitable. 
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