Progress in the yard

I finally got some gardening done. Some of it is working, some of it isn’t. So it goes.

This hanging basket came with the house, so I filled it with a mix of annuals.

I love the combination of purple and orange flowers. They seem to be doing well.

I’m trying a pot of basil again, which I’ve never had success growing here. So funny since I always used to have so much more than I could ever use.

I got two cherry tomato plants. They seem to do better than full-sized tomatoes, which thrive in warmer weather, too.

I got new chives, thyme and lavender plants. Mint ended up in the ammo box. I wanted it to have plenty of (contained) space to grow.

It’s happy there, and we’ve already used it several times!

I’m so happy to report that 1) the orange tree has several oranges on it,

and 2) the little potted orange tree seems to be coming back to life. After looking nearly dead for a long time, new leaves are growing and I spotted one tiny orange.

About half of the first strawberries I planted keeled over, so I bought 6 more and made a little patch. Had to dig up a big plant to make room, but that’s OK.

The blueberry bush I bought looks pretty droopy, though. I’m not sure what it needs. I think I need to do more research.

I think I am going to end up removing these overgrown geraniums to make room for more berries.

I don’t really care for the red ones and we have a bunch of pink ones elsewhere in the yard.

I was thinking of planting something in this bare spot, but Sadie loves it so much I can’t do it.

I managed to kill all three zinnias I planted. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to separate them.

I don’t want to give up on having zinnias, though. I really love them. The dahlias I bought look great.

I think they’re really too big for their pot, though. So maybe I’ll plant them in the ground and get more.

There are some pretty little marigolds scattered throughout the yard that I might transplant once the workshop construction is gone.

I’ll at least clean up the weeds and try to give them a dedicated space.

I’m happy to say these pretty mums are doing well after getting cleaned out and watered.

And my fave fucshia plants are happy as can be.

Overall, I don’t think I can expect too much from the yard this summer, but it’s fun to get started on it. 

Skillet meals

Skillet enchiladas, so good.

These days I’m a big fan of dinners that come together in one pot, pan or skillet. It’s kind of the Hamburger Helper concept — saute meat and maybe some onions or other veggies, add in pasta or rice plus water and seasonings, put the lid on and let it simmer until the pasta is cooked through. Top with cheese (no cheese powder needed…) and serve. Usually the prep is under half and hour and you only have one pan to wash. My kind of dinner!

Here are some of my favorite recipes. They are getting me through life with a toddler, that’s for sure:

Chicken enchiladas skillet

Cheeseburger mac (I always use less paprika and add more cheese)

Mexican taco bowl spaghetti, great with macaroni pasta too

• Southwestern chicken and rice skillet, topped with cheese 

Skillet lasagna (I add sweet red peppers)
All-veggie options:
I’m surprising myself at how many of these recipes I have! Hopefully it helps if you need a quick recipe.

Funny DIY

Had to share this because I’m so surprised it actually worked! I had this pair of Tom’s cordones that started out grey and eventually got covered in brown splotches I couldn’t wash out (See: toddler adventures).

Since I often dip things in grey dye for my work, I figured I could re-dye them to cover the spots. But that didn’t work at all. They came out looking exactly the same.

So, one day the idea just popped into my head to color them with a Sharpie marker. I was going to trash the shoes and buy another $78 pair in black anyway, so I figured it was worth a try. I even floated the idea to Mike and he said I should not do that. But I am stubborn.

So I colored the shoes. And it totally worked. They came out looking kind of denim-ish. Given Tom’s weathered style, I don’t think you would know they weren’t that way to start. So, if this happens to you, give the ‘ole Sharpie a try!

Toddler adventures

At 16 months, Harper is one adventurous toddler. She’s figured out how to climb up onto chairs and then stand up. So I’m constantly going, “sit down!” while she teeters on a chair. 

While Grandma Corey was here, Harper picked out a talking dog named Violet. I think she carried Violet around, constantly pushing her paws for new songs, for about 48 straight hours.

We also got her a water table, since she was constantly trying to get into her little pool with clothes and shoes on.

She loves to scoop out the water and try to drink it (gross!), but she’s also started watering my plants and refilling the dog bowl.

I think she’s at the age where she’s very big on trying to imitate what we do. I’m constantly surprised at what she can understand even though she doesn’t really talk yet.

The other day she fell off one of the deck steps and scraped her forehead. Then she got a scrape on one knee, then the other. I think she’s going to go through childhood with constantly scraped knees. She’s a very curious soul who kind of charges through life. I have to admire her for that (even if it scares me).

Despite the vigilance required to parent a toddler, I’m finding that I’m able to enjoy parenthood a lot more these days. She’s more independent, less cranky, and a much better sleeper. Though her schedule still swings pretty wildly, she has been sleeping much later in the mornings and taking some long naps. She only wakes at night if there is something unusual going on, like houseguests, or if she has a dirty diaper.

The other day I was at the dentist and the hygienist was telling me about how she had a 1-year-old who didn’t sleep through the night. I told her about how much Harper had changed in the last few months, which seemed to make her feel a lot better. Like so many hard things in life, it gets better!

Home improvements

We’re all moved in and my in-laws are here to help with the workshop remodeling and some other projects, so I finally have some time for a progress report on the new house. Here’s what the front looked like before. 

After many attempts and a trip to the local tool library, we were finally able to take down the ugly awnings. Woo hoo!

We also got some new house numbers, which Mike mounted on a plain board painted white.

Definitely better than the old ones!

Here is the old doorbell.

And the new one, which is lighted and easy to see at night.

Remember the ugly front-door handle?

We actually replaced all the exterior doorknobs and locks.

We obviously have some painting to do on the front door, but since I still haven’t decided what to do about the screen door, that can wait.

We replaced two exterior doors that were in terrible shape, one in the garage and one in the workshop. This was the workshop door before.

And now.

Inside, the biggest, most dramatic change is definitely the floors. All but our bedroom had ugly brown carpet.

Here’s what the living room floor looked like after the carpet was removed and the oak floors were sanded.

They looked brand new! The flooring guys did an amazing job bringing those 60-year-old floors back to life. We also painted the walls a buttery yellow color.

Here’s another shot of the carpet in the hallway.

And the wood floors now. The board patterns are kind of cool, and they’re repeated in every room.

The electrical work has been completed, so that’s a big weight off our shoulders. We still have some outlets to change over, but they are going from this:

to this:

Plus we’re changing all the light switches and plates over to new white ones. But that’s still on the to-do list!

Another big difference came when we took down the frumpy drapes.

They took a house with huge picture windows and made it super dark. We got some simple curtains and rods from IKEA, which while dark grey still let in a lot of light.

We still have to take down the awning on the side of the house, which will make it even lighter.

The kitchen was really the big bear of a project. Here’s a good before shot.

We liked the style of the cabinets and they were in good shape. But we didn’t love the brown color with copper handles. It made the kitchen feel too small and dark. So we decided to save money and just paint the cabinets white ourselves.

One of us would go to the new house at night while the other watched Harper, or I would use my “work days” to paint. It took forever! The surfaces just seemed to grow as we worked. And in the end the paint is somewhat uneven and cracked in a few places.

However, the kitchen does look much better now.

Here’s the ancient microwave before:

And with the new microwave now:

I’m trying not to let it bother me too much that the appliances don’t match. 😉

One interesting thing — we bought new hinges to match the new drawer pulls, but they didn’t fit correctly. So I ended up buying metallic spray paint for the old hinges and it worked really well.

Oh, and I almost forgot the drawer liners! Those old nasty ones just about killed me. They were on every shelf in the kitchen and it took me a week to get them off. But the new ones are great.

When I needed a break from the kitchen, I decided to tackle the hall closet, which had been full of mismatched shelves before.

I tossed some of the plywood shelves and kept the nice ones. Then I painted the whole thing white. Big impact for not very much work.

The bathroom still needs a lot of work, but at least I got rid of the shower doors and mini blinds.



Harper’s room got a fresh coat of green paint and a new blackout roller shade. She sleeps a lot better in there now.

We also replaced the mini blinds in our room with roller shades, but other than that we didn’t do anything in there.

The next big project is the workshop.

Now that it has electricity and lights, Mike and his dad are putting up the drywall. It should really be a huge transformation. I’m also planning to make a painted peg board and fix up the cabinet. So excited!

Outside we also have some landscaping to do. I bought a bunch of new herbs and flowers, which my mother-in-law is going to help me plant. I keep making new discoveries in the yard. These calla lilies opened up, and it turns out we have an orange tree!

So, tons of work completed and lots more to do. We are all exhausted, but proud of all the improvements we’ve made. It’s just so satisfying when it’s your house.

Summer chill

It’s hard to really capture with a camera, but you know it’s summer here when the fog starts to roll in at night. It sweeps in really quickly around dusk, and then all the sudden a perfectly clear, warm day turns grey and chilly (they call it June gloom). But the crispness in the air and the way the clouds sit on the hills like they’re just resting there — it’s a little bit magical. 

There is an incredibly consistent rhythm to summers here. Cloudy in the morning, clear by noon, and then grey by 7. Karl the Fog is so notorious, he has his own Twitter account

Having spent so many summers in Kansas and Iowa, I feel like this is a different season altogether. To me, summer is blasting heat and drenching humidity. It’s bare feet on hot pavement and shaved ice stands opening in empty parking lots. It’s intense, violent even, with all the thunderstorms and tornado warnings.

I definitely miss the familiarity of 90 degrees at 9 p.m. and crickets chirping outside an open window. But I don’t miss being miserably hot, not at all. It still makes me shake my head, but I’m kind of enjoying getting out my sweaters and teacups. Because that’s what you do when it’s summer in San Francisco.