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When I posted in the late spring about some of our exterior upgrades, I got some nice compliments on the beautiful bushy green flower strip along our foundation. I wanted to give you a little update on those beauties.

When I moved in, there were 6 or 7 rosebushes planted there and they managed to struggle along by themselves in the mostly-shade on that side of the house.  Now one of my pet peeves from years of growing roses in Michigan is naked rose legs. I believe that roses are made to live with other plants growing around them, particularly herbaceous perennials!  Ahem, I may have strong feelings on this topic.  My garden in Michigan looked like this.

SO in my newlywed brokeness I bought a single $2 packet of nasturtium seeds, sowed them, and watered them into life.  And they looked great for a year and a half!  Well, mostly.  Well, at least in the cooler months of the year.

See, it turns out that nasturtiums (which I had never grown before, neither here not in MI) thrive in cool weather but sulk themselves to shreds in the heat… even in the shade.

Here’s a closer look at how they were doing about three weeks after the pretty shot at the top of the post.

But wait, let’s move in even closer…

And closer…


NASTY nasturtiums!

Yes, those plants were all bug eaten and half wilted by mid-May, and they weren’t going to perk up again until about October.

So we pulled them all out.

Right now we’re going to leave it that way to make it easier to paint the front of the house.  After we get that done, we might plant it, or we might wait and pave part of it in as we redo the porch.  We’re not sure yet!

I’d say it was a successful temporary garden to add some green while we were doing other things, and I liked the red, orange and yellow colors of the nasturtiums and roses enough to continue that with whatever we plant next.

Has anyone else had a garden where they had to make do for a while until the real thing comes along?  Anyone else like Billie Holiday songs like the one I just quoted?  How about some good ideas for things to plant super close to the house in Southern California? (Hint: junipers and cypresses are NOT in that category!)


Jules over on Pancakes and French Fries recently posted about the tyranny of her to-do list and how she realized that she doesn’t look back enough to give herself credit for all the things she’s completed.  I think this is sadly common to most of the human race.   I commented on her post and said something like,

“Oh man, our house project list is so important to our morale! It lives on the refrigerator and gets redone when it’s mostly completed. When we do something on it, we make a ceremony of crossing it off and cheering! For really major things (i.e. replacing plumbing) we open a bottle of cheap champagne.  Celebrating the little victories makes it easier to notice all the stuff we’ve completed, rather than just focusing on all the stuff that’s still not pretty around here.”

It’s good advice and I wish I lived up to it every day.  This seems like it’s a huge area for do it yourself types, a kind of subconscious pressure on our brains, and even more so if you’re supposed to produce things to blog about.   We enjoy fixing stuff up and DIY-ing and decorating at least partly because we enjoy the end result.  But I bet I”m not the only one who has a bad habit sometimes of finishing one project and feeling impatient or discouraged when I look ahead to all the other things that need doing.   There is always something to add to the project list.  But know what?  I am blessed with work to be done!  I would hate the lack of house projects if everything was done and fancy and tweaked to perfection.  And things are getting visibly better week by week.

How about next time you finish a satisfying large project or a series of little ones, you stop and turn to your spouse, friend, cat, dad, neighbor, or God and raise a toast.  Brag about what you’ve accomplished – go ahead!  Drink something nice.  Stop from time to time and admire your work together – “Remember when the garage door was a rotten and poorly functioning wooden death trap?  Man, we were awesome when we put in that slick new automatic door.” [real conversation, sort of.]   It’s going to make the process of getting to your goals so much more enjoyable.

Ever find yourself looking for something you know you’re not really in the market for yet?  Yeah, this.

I’ve started window-shopping for a new living room rug and am leaning toward an oriental one.  Did you know that an ideal place to start decorating a room is with a rug?  It’s much easier to pull colors out of a great rug than try to find a rug that goes well with all the various hues you already have going on.  (Thanks, Bossy Color!)  It will give you that certain je-ne-sais-quoi “finished” look to your space if you can decide your accent colors and neutral undertones based on your fabulous rug. 

I’m lucky (wow, never thought I’d say THAT!) to have old black sofas that I do not intend to keep, because this means I can get a rug first and furniture with the same undertones later.  My living room colors are partly in place, being cobalt blue, rust red, and a touch of aqua against some warm woods.  Luckily blue and red are pretty easy to find in oriental rugs.  My living room walls, though, are open to paint!  I can choose something that is absolutely lovely next to the rug that I end up with.  And it will be amazing. 

There are not too many times when I want to post pretty pictures of stuff to buy, but these rugs… well I just saw them and drooled as my heart fluttered and my breath went hyperventilating.   I traveled in Turkey for a month one summer in college and saw some gorgeous rugs.  These measure up.  The size I want is about $800, and they are all from Safavieh’s Turkistan collection.  Did I mention my future rug budget will be around $200?  I think most young people have champagne taste and a beer budget.

For your viewing pleasure:

Gorgeous, aren’t they?

I’m hoping to find my [perfect, affordable, beautiful] rug this fall, probably at a tent sale or Home Goods.  Wish me luck!

Where have you found good oriental rugs in the past?

When we put in the shiny new red door a couple weeks ago, I mentioned that we would be framing it later this summer.  Well as seen in the last post, that plus a lot of windows got done all of a sudden, bam!  The Chief can work like lightning when he’s on a roll.  Frames on everything!

I once heard a friend explain that she wore makeup because things like eyeliner and lipstick worked to frame beauty that was already there.  So, does framing in windows and painting the door red mean my house is putting on eyeliner and lipstick?

Let’s talk about where this house came from.  When the Chief inherited it, it was in bad repair.  Among other things, one day he had a chance to use a paint sprayer for about 20 minutes and painted the whole front of the house (but just the front) with a bucket of mixed leftover paint.  He also updated most of the windows that were falling to pieces and stuck new ones in.  Then he got on with making the inside of the house more livable. The end.  This is the Chief living in the house:

If this house were a person, I imagine that she fell on hard times and got down.  One day, along came a friend who brought her hope with his energy and enthusiasm and she straightened her posture, started washing her hair every day again, and maybe even put on some lip gloss in the mornings.   She spent the next few years doing some inner healing work, sorting through the old garbage and letting in the light.  Now she’s got energy again, and life in her, and is starting to feel prettier every week.  She’s started to experiment with bright lipstick and wearing classy outfits.  She says hi to the neighbors and might even start sharing homemade cookies with them.  It feels good to be where she is!

Here’s the exterior before the window on the right extension and the front door were framed.  It’s not glaring, but there’s something missing.  No framing on that right-hand window (or the door)!  There’s just a 1″ gap between it and the siding.

Here’s the Chief getting ready to cut the channel wider so he can tap in some 1×3’s.

A closeup of the corner in all its guttery glory:

And the raw wood framing the window after nailing in 1×3’s for a simple frame:

And here’s the final product!  After the Chief did his magic with the saw and nails and caulk, I came in to prime and paint till it was all shiny and white.

Niiiiice, huh?  Yes we know the house needs painting and that is coming up on the list.

Front  door before:

Front door after:

And a nice wider angle exterior shot that shows both areas framed out… You can just make out the white frame on the door: it is nearly impossible to get any definition on that deep, overhung, north-facing corner with the limited photo tools I have.

Doesn’t the house look like Michigan in winter in this late light?  Oh, and maybe also because THERE IS NOTHING GROWING in the flower bed!  That’s right, we took out all the flowers in the front garden bed.  Looks like a house in need of a little painting and landscaping, doesn’t it?  And that, my friends, is exactly what it’s going to get, and is also a story for another post.

By the way, do you have any suggestions for a good Photoshop-basics type of photo editing program?  I’m just getting my toes wet with photography and would love some suggestions!

Anyone else make up personified stories about their houses?  I think you can tell I have fun with that :)

My husband sure can get stuff done.

This weekend, while I was busy napping or something, he ran ahead of the camera and stuccoed in the gaps that ran all around the bathroom and bedroom windows.  He also thought of and executed a brand new idea in about 2 hours –  nailing siding over the extremely disreputable looking plywood-enclosed patio out back.  AND framed its window.  I’m telling you the man can work.

Bathroom Window

Bedroom Window

Enclosed Back Patio

I sure wish I had a “before” on that back patio room because it previously was covered in plywood that looked more or less like this, with strips of tar paper and insulation foam flapping in the breeze:

I’m so proud of him!  Doesn’t the back look amazing?  It actually looks like house instead of an afterthought shack.  We are VERY CLOSE to being able to paint the house now.   In my next post I’m going to show you the shiny new trim we installed and painted around the front door and window… with a little surprise having to do with the garden bed!  And yes I did get “before” shots of those things.

What about you?  Does the summer seem to make your house projects take off like us?  Are you busy doing other things?  Anybody else in the midst of some high-impact exterior upgrades?