Monday, April 21, 2014

Our (Now) Lovely Yard

I really wish I had a good "before" picture of our backyard. It had three years' worth of dead leaves stacked about two feet deep over a layer of hard-packed but dusty dirt. 

When we first moved in, Richard started tackling the depths of the leaves, one section at a time. He hauled away three FULL loads of leaves and general debris in the first few months. He also had eleven trees taken down in order to allow more sunlight to reach the ground and improve grass-growing conditions. 

Over the course of the summer and into late fall, he worked on clearing away the leaves and prepping the yard. He tilled and fertilized and seeded and weeded and loved the yard. And now we have lush, green grass to show for all of his hard work. It's a little patchy in areas, but Richard says that's because this is only the first pass at seeding that area. It will get better and better each year. 

Our front-yard tree, which also happens to be my favorite of our trees. 

We also now have a dog who loves LOVES the backyard. She likes to dig up a nice spot to lie down in. She likes to chomp on the grass and pinecones and sticks and any yard supplies left lying around. She likes to dig up potted plants. And she likes to run hard and make sharp turns in the soft ground. 

And for Lola, our sweet Lola, we recently had an invisible fence installed. It took a little getting used to on her part, but she knows her boundaries now. So we can now leave her outside unattended -- for short intervals, at least. 

How inviting, right?
Side note: that scraggly, sad azalea bush in the foreground? It's gone now.

Eno weather is the best weather.

Since the weather has been so nice the past few weeks, Richard has been able to make even more improvements. He just planted some vegetables along the back fence line (just on the other side of Lola's invisible line, so the most she can do is some insistent sniffing). He planted broccoli, cherry tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, bush beans, celery, bell peppers, sweet peppers, early girl tomatoes, and one jalapeƱo plant -- that one's mine :). 

We have small space between the last step from the deck and the edge of the driveway. We threw out a few ideas of what to fill it with (one clean line of bricks set in flush with the ground, mulch, stones, etc) and landed on getting a nice ground-cover plant to fill in that space. Richard found these little cuties and decided that they would be perfect since you can step on them, and the plant won't take over the yard (fingers crossed). 

We also have an awkward space where some of the asphalt chipped away and leaves us with a crooked missing chunk instead of a nice, clean line. We hope that the ground-cover will help disguise that area since repaving the driveway isn't currently in the budget (or even necessary anywhere else). 

Notice the cute, little helper off to the right of the photo.

Notice that adorable planter that says, "Erin." (That was going to be a question, but I changed it to a command to avoid the question-mark-inside-the-quotation-mark thing that tends to be confusing.) Richard made that for my birthday gift when we were first dating. I love it. :) And him. 

Well, that planter used to hold my basil and rosemary every year -- and some garlic that just stays unharvested. But now that the herbs have a new home (mentioned later), we decided to plant some of the leftover programs from our wedding. They were printed on biodegradable paper full of wildflower seeds. 

When he salvaged the wood to use for the farmhouse table, he also snagged a few intact items -- an old door, a "rustic" bench, an old trough/bathtub, and some other pieces. He put the old trough in our one, defined mulch bed under a tree close to the deck and used it as a planter for herbs! Yay! We've got basil, chives, rosemary, parsley, oregano, and garlic in that great big trough. 

And we have some mint, but it's in its own planter lest it take over the whole yard. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

In the Billiard Room...

It was Colonel Mustard in the Billiard Room with the wrench. That's kind of how I feel every time I reference that room. As house-layout-room-names (official term, I'm almost certain) go, that room is the formal living room. Originally we talked about putting dark-stained built-in bookcases along one wall and giving the whole room an "old world library" feel. I talked about getting a nice, rich leather couch that would span most of one wall. Richard talked about having heavy, antique pieces in there along with the beautiful round table that we acquired through family friends. 

And I definitely wanted to paint the walls a deep, dark teal. That was the only paint color that I already had in mind for any of the rooms in the house. I talked and talked about the dark teal and how it would change the whole feel of that room. The paint color idea made its way into conversation in every one of those early-homeownership house tours. Somehow, when talking about it a few weeks after moving in, Richard referenced the dark red walls that we would have in there. To this day, I have no clue how that miscommunication happened. 

Then I went on Craigslist and found a pool table. In excellent condition. For an absurdly low price. And it was so close to Richard's birthday. 

So we got a pool table. 

It really does go so perfectly well in that room. But, of course, that changed our whole plan for that room. The built-ins no longer make sense, nor would there be room for them. Definitely no room for a couch or other antique-y pieces. But the dark teal walls. Those can stay. :)

When we picked out our paint color options for the den/kitchen walls, we picked up a couple of choices that could potentially be the right one for the pool table room. I already had Plumage from Martha Stewart in mind, but a couple days before we went paint hunting, I came across this photo and subsequently checked out the entire post

And that color, Benjamin Moore's Dark Harbor, looked like my dream color. Then while we were at Home Depot purchasing the paint samples, Richard pulled a paint swatch of Glidden's Totally Teal. Of course, I wanted to test them all out on each of the walls and view them in different lighting before deciding. 

Dark Harbor
Totally Teal

These colors are surprisingly close to how they actually appear on the walls. We painted a square on each of the walls, and Dark Harbor is my hands-down favorite...during the day. At night, it seems overwhelmingly dark. When it's dark out and we have the interior lights on, Totally Teal seems to be the better option. 

Dark Harbor (sloppily painted with a foam roller since all of other small rollers were in use)

L to R: Dark Harbor, Plumage, Totally Teal

So, ultimately, we're still deciding. Maybe we'll paint bigger sections of the two front-runners and see where we land. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Finished Farmhouse Table

He did it! He really is the best, and this latest feat helps to show that off. Richard has finished the Farmhouse table. 

It is a hefty 9' x 4' so it should be able to seat quite a few people. 

Cue angels singing.

First meal at the table! Meagan and I made flambeed chicken with asparagus, spring green salad with quick-pickled vegetables, and homemade ricotta gnocchi with asparagus, peas, and mushrooms. Mmmm...

Please disregard the ironing board, beer bottle, recycling, and still unhung artwork.
A couple of weeks ago, Richard finally got the table just right and then added the two end pieces which run perpendicular to the main part of the table. Then he tweaked it and got it just right again. 

Originally we had planned to stain it a dark walnut color so that the wood color wouldn't look too similar to the hardwood floor. But when I saw the finished table with that gorgeous unfinished-wood look, I changed my mind. I figured that once we have a rug down under the table, you wouldn't really be able to tell if the wood colors were too similar. Or at least, you wouldn't really care. 

The bottom piece shows the gradual progression in stains to choose from. I originally liked the second from the left, but then changed my mind to finally rest on the one on the far right. 
The winning stain, which isn't even a stain -- just a clear, protective finish.

Perf, just perfing away.

Here you can see the table top halfway finished. 

The second meal at the farmhouse table: orecchiette with asparagus and feta (we just subbed the pasta and didn't use shrimp -- pertinent only if you click the link), balsamic skirt steak with parmesan polenta (again, one minor recipe omission -- the tomatoes)
And clearly, the pitcher of daffodils is part of the table. Those are two different bouquets -- I promise. I just can't help it. They're my favorite flower, and they only bloom for a month or so. I gotta scoop them up and enjoy them while I can. 

One last look at the lovely table.

As for chairs, we've planned to have a bench along one side and then chairs on the ends and on the other side. My parents have an old church pew that they've offered to us, and we can't wait to try it out. Now just to haul it back from SC. 

Here are some chairs that we've thought about, but I think we're leaning more towards a light gray color -- definitely something light and neutral. 

I've also been regularly checking Craigslist to try and score a set of inexpensive chairs to fit our needs until we can afford to buy the eight chairs for the table.