Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bring me a shrubbery!

What was going to be a lazy day quickly turned out otherwise, when I got a bug up my butt to get rid of the bushes around our three-season porch.  I've had a love-hate relationship with these bushes since we moved into this house eight years ago.  I love that they've provided some privacy on our porch that's all windows, but I hate how overgrown and outdated they are.  Unfortunately, I didn't snap a before picture, but here's the aftermath.

That's only half the bushes.  The charming little house in the background is our neighbor's.  The house at the very right side of the photo is the Handyverger home, at least a tiny sliver of it.  No pictures of the areas around the porch yet.  It's a mess of dead leaves, a few scraggly bits of foliage poking up and the trimmed stumps.  Also, highlight of my day, I found poison ivy growing under there.  AWESOME.  Fortunately, it's very small, and I don't think I came in contact with any of it.  It has to go, but I'm not quite sure how to pull it out without ending up a giant itchy mess.  Suggestions are most welcome!

While I was out there, I took some pictures of the garden in progress.

This little niche is near our garage, which is down and to the right from this angle, and it's right behind stone steps that lead up and (in a meandering way) to the front door.  There used to be an arborvitae of some sort growing there, but it fell down during a particularly bad ice storm in 2008.  We were actually thrilled that it did, once we got the near-tree out of the way and got power back (after 5 days without it).   I love that we gained more space to landscape, particularly right where visitors approach the house.

A few years ago, I planted a single foxglove in this area.  It comes back every year, and it has now spread throughout that little patch of soil.  I think foxglove is so elegant looking, in a very old world sort of way.  I also love that it's a plant that has been used to make medicine to treat heart disease.  Digitalis (foxglove) is used to make digoxin, though we don't use that medication so much any more.

You can also see the cute little succulent in the foreground that I planted three or more years ago.  It somehow manages to come back every spring, even after New England winters.  In the background, you can see my lovely 'Caramel' coral bells.  I didn't get a chance to get these in the ground last fall, with Pippin getting sick, but they wintered over in their pot and perked up beautifully with a little TLC!

And here's another foxglove in the same spot.  You can see some wild thistle growing in back (I'm scared to pull it out!), along with my chives right behind it.  You might also note my little black kitty statue peeking out.

Once you climb the stairs, the path takes you past our little patch of perennials.  It's largely coneflowers and black-eyed susans, but you can see yarrow just starting to bloom in the back.   Our little family of bunny statues is tucked in there, too, amidst some woolly thyme and creeping thyme that's been slowly growing and spreading throughout the patch.  There's also a dusty miller that's way overgrown from last fall; it somehow made it through the winter in a container, and Mr. Handyverger insisted on trying to save it.  We'll see...

If you swing around toward the front door past our perennial patch, you'll be greeted by our steps and the container garden I've started there.  This is one of our lettuce plants, clearly flourishing (which reminds me, I need to pick some before it goes too wild).  The other plant there is a viola.  Also, as you can see, I have a thing for cute woodland animals.

This is the other lettuce. The picture's a little out of focus (sorry), but do you see the pollen all over the lettuce?  Ugh!  I'm so sick of pollen!  It's wreaking havoc on my allergies.  The other plant in the pot is lemon thyme, which is just about one of the hardiest little plants I've ever grown.  This one has been growing for three or four years now, moved from the ground, to a pot, to a different pot, outdoors in the winter in New England... and still, it keeps growing.
Every year, I make sure that I grow basil - there's nothing better than fresh basil, if you ask me!  Here, I have it planted with alyssum and pinstripe petunias.  These petunias are even more amazing in real life.  They're such a dark purple that they're nearly black, with lighter purple veining.  They look like they're made out of black velvet.

I saw these in a container done up by my local nursery, and they were only selling them as a part of a very large, very expensive basket.  Erk!  So I asked what variety they were, and through a little googling, I found Garden Harvest Supply.  The price was incredibly reasonable, though shipping was a bit spendy - but it still ended up being substantially better than what I would have paid for the basket.  ($4 for the plant, and $11 for shipping with two other plants.)  The plants looked a little battered when they arrived, but I potted them immediately and watered them thoroughly, and they perked right up.

The other two plants I ordered are here.  On the left is a Phantom petunia.  I had ordered a different variety, but they substituted this one.  I was a little disappointed, but they've been great so far in trying to work out a solution to make it better.  On the right, is a 'Superbells Blackberry Punch' Calibrachoa (Million Bells).  Aren't they just darling?!  

The larger plant in this planter is pineapple sage.  It always grows wonderfully into a very large plant, and when it finally flowers, they're a beautiful scarlet.  Also, it's yummy.

 I'm infatuated with Million Bells this year.  I have three other colors.  You can see a red one behind the lettuce above, but I also got a pink and a very pretty yellow with an orange throat.

These are planted in with a dahlia and some more alyssum.

The glass dragonfly was made by a former coworker for me.  He does fabulous stained glass art.  I feel privileged to own even a little piece of it.  If you'd like to see more, check out Monte Verde Art Glass Studio.

I just thought this dahlia was glorious.  I couldn't resist!

What's growing in your garden?

Sharing at Feathered Nest Friday - French Country Cottage.
What's Cluckin' #13 - Chicken Scratch


Hello, everyone!

I wanted to apologize for being so sparse in posting for the past couple weeks.  Mr. Handyverger has lost his job (the whole darn company closed), so things have been a bit stressful, to say the least!   I'm positive that things are going to work out well, and we're fine for the time being, but I haven't been doing much decorating or DIYing in the meanwhile.

I hope, though, to get outside and get some pictures of my pretty container garden today, now that I have a day off, so expect that soon!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mini-Office, you complete me

Well, complete me might be putting it a bit strongly.  Because the newest kitty is our longest term guest in the guest room, which is also my office, I thought it might be nice to have an alternate space to work in in the meanwhile. I generally don't mind working when Lancelot's in the room with me, but since he's still very much a kitten, I often get pounced on and become a chewtoy.  We're working on it...

So for now, I created a little office space in our (fortunately substantially sized) master bedroom.  I shopped my home, and took a small table from the kitchen that was really not doing much more than taking up space, one of the old dining room chairs, and worked a little magic.

I moved the wicker chair and Jane the Ottoman out of the corner, but kept them near the sconce for a nice reading nook.  Notice my hammered copper vase that I wrote about in my Spray Painters Anonymous guest post for Living Savvy?

Princess Willow, of course, had to get in on the action.

I reupholstered one of the chairs in a brown and cream zebra print that I bought in April.  Reupholstering a chair like this one is a super-easy project.  It took me about half an hour.

Kinda sexy, right?  Well, for a chair.  Before, on the right:

I put a few pieces of artwork on the desk, including my newest painting:

Finally, a little kitty porn.  Lancelot, being cute and snuggling his new toy.

30 seconds later, eating the phone...

Yes.  That is the gaping maw of doom you see there.  Thanks, Lance. Thanks a lot.

Sharing at Trash 2 Treasure Tuesday at Kammy's Korner

Friday, May 18, 2012

Spray Painters Anonymous

Hi, folks!  I just wanted to invite you to stop by Living Savvy today, where I'm guest posting in Tiffany's fabulous, funny and timely series:

I'm showing off a couple projects there, including a cute wicker basket makeover and my new-found love of Rustoleum's Hammered Copper spray paint.

I also share the one cardinal rule of spraying painting in the Handyverger household.  Pop on over to Living Savvy to read it!

Thanks so much, Tiffany, for letting me share my addiction!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Guest Room Quick Change

I got tired of looking at the brown comforter on the bed in the guest room yesterday, so I decided to do a quick change up using a couple of microfiber sheet sets from that didn't quite meet with Mr. Handyverger's finicky taste in fabrics.  His only approved sheet fabric is flannel - which means summertime is quite interesting in the Handyverger home.  In fairness, he tends toward dry skin, so I can't blame him.  That's neither here nor there, though, but this left me with some extra sheets, and shipping back to was quite pricey.

The first thing I did was use a fitted sheet to make a poofy valance, as you see in the great tutorial on In My Own Style.  There are two windows in the guest room, so once I get my sewing machine out, I'll make a second one using that fitted sheet and a second plain white fitted sheet.   After that, I used the flat sheet from the set as a bedspread.  That gave me lots of overhang, which I like in a bedspread, since it's a king sized sheet and a queen sized bed.  Finally, I used pillow cases from other sets I have to make the bed look nice and pretty.

The guest room has two closets, and with my desk in here (which you can't see from the picture, but it's right behind the spot I'm taking the picture in), there's not a great spot to put a queen-sized bed.  Until we have a better solution worked out, the bed lives in front of one of the two closets.  It's not the most convenient, but we put things that we don't use very often in that closet.

I plan, also, to use different ribbons on the valances when all is said and done.

What do you think?  Not too bad for using what I already had around...

Sharing at hFive Days, Five Ways Feature Friday Free-for-All

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

I hope everyone has had a fantastic Mother's Day.  Even though I'm only a pet-mom, my husband was sweet enough to bring me coffee in bed and cards from him and the kitties.  The one from the kitties said "Happy Mother's Day - you're in my chair."  Hee!

I had a busy day today, but in a relaxing sort of way.  I worked on some spray paint projects I've been putting off for a while now, since the weather finally cooperated - and wow, did it cooperate!  What a beautiful weekend.   Yesterday, I had gone to our local garden store and picked up a bunch of plants, so today I got them in planters and the ground.  Our most amusing plant purchase was a giant catnip plant, which now resides next to the oregano bush.  The oregano bush, incidentally, started out as one tiny plant three years ago... And let's not even get into the mint patch and the interesting places I'm finding mint growing, now.  Again, all from two little plants.

Mr. Handyverger and I cooked dinner together, and since we couldn't come to a consensus on what we wanted, he made burritos and I made this:

It's amaaaazing.

Anyway, hopefully, I'll get to post about the quick guest bedroom redecoration I did today.  Time to relax and head to bed!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Feline Overlords - In Celebration of Pet Week

I didn't realize this, but it's National Pet Week this week (May 6-12).  Thanks to Sharla from The House at Bluebird Lane for letting me know!  She and Charming Zebra are hosting pet week link parties - I'll provide the links at the end of the post - this week, and I thought this would be a great time to share the best of my feline overlords - er, assistants.  They've cropped up in many posts, so you may have seen some of these pictures already, but it seems like a good time to gather them all together and officially introduce them.  I'll share a little bit about how each kitty came to be with us.

This is Karma.  Karma has been with us for six years now, and is the alpha cat, at this point.  Karma came to us through a series of unfortunate circumstances.   He'd been living as a stray outside the house of a friend-of-a-friend, and there was a terrible dispute with their neighbor over him. The neighbor let their dog out without a leash or a fence, and he chased Karma across the road.  Unfortunately, the dog was hit and killed by a car.  The neighbor blamed Karma, and told the person who was feeding him that when he saw the cat, he was going to "catch it and throw it in front of a car."  Karma then disappeared for two days.  When he came back, he was dragging his hind legs and he could barely walk.  The people brought him inside, hoping he'd improve, but he just got worse.  They had a few other pets of their own and couldn't afford veterinary care, so in a last-ditch effort to help Karma out, my friend emailed a bunch of people asking for help.  My husband and I stepped in, and we drive two hours to pick Karma up.   We took him to the vet the next day and found he had a dislocated hip and an abscessed claw on one of his hind feet.  I was already in love with him.  They couldn't get the hip back in the socket - it had been too long - but after an orthopedic vet saw him, it was determined that he'd probably heal up and walk with barely a limp.  It turns out the orthopod was right!  Karma limps once in a while now, and if the other cats play too roughly, he'll limp a bit more for a day or two, but he's just as active as can be.  He jumps up on the table, up into windows (high windows, at that!), plays, runs around the house - he's a very healthy, happy cat.  I'm so very glad he's in our lives.  I still remember holding him on my lap for that two-hour car ride home that night, with ten pounds of stripey orange cat curled up in my lap.  He was in pain, but still so sweet.  He snuggled right up to me and purred.  I cried most of the way home for what had been done to him.  Karma and I are, obviously, closely bonded.  I'm his girl, and woe betide anyone who tries to hurt me!  (Seriously.  He has quite a protective streak.)  He was amazing when Pippin was sick, and stuck by my side day and night, particularly when I was most upset.  They just know.  Explaining to Karma that Pippin had died was one of the hardest things I've ever done.  They were good buddies.  I don't know if he understood or not, but I still felt like I should - he was searching for Pippin.

Here are more pictures of the orange beast in action.

 Karma helps us construct the kitty castle.

 Karma and Pippin used to pretend they didn't like each other, but they were never far apart.  Boys.

 See what I mean?

Karma inspects the newly uncovered hardwood in the bedroom.

Karma helping with photographing the redone ottoman.  He wouldn't stay out of pictures, yet he wouldn't stay still long enough for me to take a picture that wasn't blurry.
Karma and Strider, helping us prep the carpet to be removed.

 This fiesty little black cat is Strider.  Strider came to us five years ago, when my husband and I wandered into Petco one night and saw a couple of ladies with a tiny black kitten in their cart.  Of course I had to go say hi to him!  It turns out that they found him while they were out walking one night, and he kept following them and mewing.  They brought him all around the neighborhood trying to find out who he belonged to, but no one claimed him.  So they brought him to Petco to find some food for him, while they looked for a new home.  They had a couple cats of their own who wouldn't have done well with a new family member.  Suckers that we are, Mike and I couldn't resist.  He came home with us.  Strider is a spunky little guy.  He's all of 9 lbs of long legs and attitude.  We adore him, of course!

When he was two, he was diagnosed with asthma.  It was really, really scary to see our cat coughing and barely able to breathe, but after a few trips to the vet and one scary trip to the emergency vet in the middle of an ice storm while we were staying with the husband's parents because we had no power for five days... his asthma is well-controlled now.  We give him a Flovent inhaler twice a day, with this nifty little device called the Aerokat.   Strider's great about it.  he jumps up on the table and begs for the inhaler (and the treats that follow).

This obviously isn't Strider, but he's even more mellow about it than this particular cat.  If you have a cat that's coughing persistently, know that it might not be hairballs - it might be asthma or heart failure.  Take your cat to a vet for a proper diagnosis.  And please, don't hesitate to contact me if you have a cat diagnosed with asthma - I'm not a vet, but I know how overwhelming it can be, and I also know how very treatable it can be!  Strider's life is so much better now that he's being treated for asthma.  He can breathe!

Strider helps with the carpet removal process.

Strider and Earl Grey inspect the new chairs.

Earl Grey is one of our newest arrivals.  Shortly after Pippin died, the husband and I stopped at Petsmart to get kitty litter.  We normally go to Petco, but we'd just been there the night that Pippin took his last turn for the worse, so it was a little to raw to do so... so we went to Petsmart.  Petsmart has adoptable kitties, and we just happened to look at them.  Much to our surprise, we saw three cats curled up in a row: the first one, at the briefest glance, resembled Pippin.  The second one resembled our dear (also departed) Horatio. The third one looked a lot like Mr. Karma.  And then the grey one - who looked like Horatio - rolled over onto his back and showed us his giant fluffy belly.  We couldn't help but go meet him.  We played with him (and all the other cats there) for a while, then went home.  When I looked on the shelter's website, it appeared he had already been adopted.  I thought to myself, "Good for him. It's not meant to be."  But then I randomly checked back three days later, and he was back up on the site - two adoptions had fallen through on the poor guy!  I took that as a sign from the Universe, and Earl Grey came home the following weekend.  Much to my surprise, he has integrated quickly and easily.  He has the sweetest, most gentle nature, and the other cats adore him.  Earl and Strider are, in particular, besties.
Earl also gets in on the carpet removal project.

Earl helps with my bud vase project.

Earl checks out my Rub N' Buff tiger.

And here's Princess Willow.  She's the only girl, and although Karma's the alpha cat, she rules the roost in her own very feminine sort of way.  We brought her home when I was a few months from graduating from nursing school, when she was all of eight weeks old.  Strider was just a kitten then, and he would not stop molesting poor Pippin - who was twice his size!  We decided another kitten was probably wise (I now believe in adopting them in pairs), and with perfect timing, a nursing school friend's neighbor had kittens.  And so Willow came home!  She's a little shy, but very affectionate in her calico cat sort of way.  She's incredibly tenacious, as well.  She'll scratch at the bedroom door to be let in for, literally, an hour or until we let her in.  She's very much a Daddy's girl.  Above, she's also helping with the Rub N' Buff project.

Willow helps with the apple blossom wreath.

Willow investigates the changes to the master bedroom.

I think this means she approves of the new decor.

Willow, helping with moving the mattress out of the way during our bedroom overhaul.

And let's not forget the newest addition, Lancelot!  He was a stray that our vet's head tech found near her grandmother's - he kept trying to escape INTO her grandmother's house.   He was a little wild, so he needed a home with patient cat people. Enter the Handyvergers.  Introducing him to the other cats is still in progress.  He and Karma continue to butt heads, but I'm confident we can make it work.

All the boys outside Lance's door, waiting to meet him.

Lance hasn't yet had the chance to help with many projects, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time!

And finally, a space for the kitties who've gone to the Rainbow Bridge.  Sad stuff below - but I can't talk about the cats that are here, without remembering the ones who aren't.

Pet Week Link Parties here - will add pretty buttons later - must run to work.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Adding Storage to the Bathroom

I was browsing through the Better Homes & Gardens website the other day when I found a slideshow on ways to add storage to a small bathroom.  The master bath in the Handyverger home is relatively minuscule... as a matter of fact, I hope that someday we can find some way to enlarge it. For now, though, I'm happy to have ways to carve out space and to continue to make it feel more "me."

One of the suggestions in the slide show was to use a DVD or CD shelf for additional storage in the bathroom.  I had an ah ha! moment, because we have a set of DVD and CD holders in our living room that really don't need to be there.  They're black, and while they're not high quality, I thought the black would look nice in the master bath.

The little holes along the sides drive me a little nuts, but I'm working on a way to make them less obvious.  I'm happy, though, to have a fun place to display a couple of my previous projects.  Remember my little bird?  You can see it on the lowest shelf in this picture.   And directly to the left of the shelf is one of my bud vases.

I also took the opportunity to reaccessorize my bathroom.  It feels so nice to have a pretty space!  I'm also happy to have found a home for my elephant.   He's too shiny not to have out.  You can also get a better look at the overall aesthetic of the bathroom. I'm thinking of painting the vanity a glossy black, and painting the gold on the glass cabinet knobs silver.  I do, however, like the hexagonal tiles used on the floor.  (I'd also like to add, in my defense, that the stain at the bottom of the sink will not go away, no matter how much I scrub!  Any tips on removing hard water stains?)  The silvery tray is a wedding gift from my lovely cousin Lauren, so it's quite dear to me.  I love having it somewhere that I get to look at and use every day.

I wanted to get a better picture of a few things.  The clear bowl here (and the turquoise one in the previous picture) are dessert cups from Walgreens - they were 2/$1.  Woo hoo!  You can't do much better than that.

The peacock earrings dangling from the front of the dish should look vaguely familiar, as well.  They're the inspiration for my peacock painting.  I'm also particularly fond of the capiz shell egg in the background.

The little painting is from the Jim Smeltz Gallery.  I bought a small painting from him, and he included a small print and a thank you card that was also printed with one of his works.  Naturally, I framed those in addition to the painting I actually bought - sorry, Jim, but they were too pretty not to display!    The matte behind the painting (yes, I know they're supposed to go in front, but I'm too lazy to cut things out) is a little DIY project that I'd be glad to share, if folks are interested.

Finally, at the very bottom right is a Charming Tails figurine given to me by my mother.  I think mice are adorable, and this one is of a papa mouse fishing with his kiddo.  It reminds me of my father, who's no longer with us.  We used to go fishing all the time, when I was a little girl.

Also, there's just a glimpse of the wallpaper the upper half of the bathroom is covered in near the top of the photo.  It coordinates wonderfully with the pink toilet and bathtub.

Sigh.  Pink.

Sharing at:

Kammy's Korner Trash 2 Treasure Tuesday
DIY By Design's Swing into Spring Party
Debbiedoo's Newbie Link Party