Wednesday, July 14, 2021

July in the garden

When I first started blogging I often featured the garden, but as the years went on I wrote about it less and less and focused on house projects more. And then I pretty much stopped blogging and I didn't garden as much either. But my garden has been a place of peace and relaxation for the last year and I've become passionate about gardening once again.

So let's see what's blooming this month for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, shall we?

front bed

July in my garden means a coneflower explosion. The coneflowers dominate every border, especially the front bed, which makes this old post about how I struggled to finally grow a coneflower pretty funny. Now I'm to the point where I need to remove some to make room for other plants. 

These all came from just a few plants, which I distributed the dried seed heads throughout the garden over the years. While coneflowers aren't my all-time favorite flower, I admire their stamina. They withstand the heat, humidity and dry conditions we often have and bloom from mid-summer until frost. Not to mention that they've been a great bargain for my gardening buck!

the side bed

They're all purple/pink except two plants of White Swan coneflowers that popped up in the side bed. I plan to move those to the front this fall and plant some more white coneflowers via seed next year.

The bees and other pollinators certainly love them. There are so many buzzing the front bed that I can't even count them all.

I also have Zinnias. These were grown from seeds that I planted throughout the garden.

There are more Zinnias in pots on the deck, along with some nasturtiums and some elephant ears that I've lifted and overwintered for three years now. There are some lemon cucumbers growing on the side.

A couple of hostas are also in bloom.

I love my large elephant ears so much that I couldn't resist adding these cute little pink ones this year.

This container of lantana and calibrachoa looks great and I love how it contrasts the new garage door color. Most of my large container flowers are past their prime. Anyone have tips for keeping petunias looking good throughout the summer? 

I'm also excited about this Dwarf Queeny Hollyhock that I grew from seed. Only one of the two that survived bloomed, but I'm going to try growing more next year.

And although it's not hardy in my zone (6), these snapdragons I grew from seed and planted last year returned and I love them.

What's blooming in your garden?

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

A cheap and easy way to revive plastic pots

After many years of hard use, my large plastic pots were looking worse for the wear. While still perfectly functional, they were stained and discolored to the point that it distracted from the beautiful flowers they contain.

While some might have just tossed them, I hate to throw away plastic that still serves its purpose if I don't absolutely have to. The pots weren't broken or cracked, they just looked unsightly. New large pots, even plastic ones, aren't exactly cheap. 

After remembering a tip I read online about spray painting plastic pots, I decided to try it before throwing them out.

After thoroughly cleaning the pots with bleach, I used this Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch spray paint I found at my local home improvement store. This color, London Gray, looks like a gray brown and complimented the deck color while still being neutral enough to go with any color of flowers.

Pot before (right) and after (left) being cleaned and spray-painted. 

One can of spray paint covered two pots, so for a couple of hours and less than $12 total, I revived four large pots. Best of all, the pots I sprayed last year still look great, so this isn't just a short-term solution.

Nothing like a cheap and easy DIY fix!

Do you do anything to keep your pots and containers looking fresh year after year?


Saturday, September 12, 2020

Squeezing an office in a small space

Like many people, I've been working from home since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For the most part I prefer it. There's no commute, fewer meetings, fewer distractions. Plus, it's quiet, which I need since my job involves a lot of writing.

So instead for the first 4.5 months I worked on a laptop from the couch and kitchen table. The window views were nice, but the cats didn't seem to appreciate having to share the table (it looks out onto the birdfeeder and is their favorite window hangout). Eventually the lack of ergonomics took a toll and in early August I knew I had to make a change.But there was one issue--lack of a proper workspace. Because I live in the 740-square-foot house, I don't have the luxury of a separate home office. The spare room used to be set up as an office, but gets much more use as a bedroom. I didn't want to set up a desk in the living room, where I'd see it all the time, or the basement.

My new co-workers do not enjoy sharing their space.

I measured a corner of the spare room and it was big enough for a small desk. I shopped for desks online, but everything I liked in my budget was out of stock. Plus, I wasn't sure I'd like working in a separate area, facing a wall no less.

I went up to the attic and measured the old IKEA desk to see if it would work temporarily, but it was even bigger than I remembered. The boyfriend insisted it would fit if we'd rearranged all of the furniture in the room, but it was going to be a tight squeeze and that's what I'd been trying to avoid.

Office with bookshelf, desk and chair
Office circa 2007

Luckily I found another solution--my old kitchen table that first belong to my great-grandparents. My mom said my great-grandpa Gordon used to clean fish on it. So it's hardly a priceless antique, but I like it anyway. 

A table with two cats sitting on it.
This old table has been well--used for generations.

Luckily the boyfriend had already refinished and restained it, so it was ready to go. I repurposed a chair and rug I already had and--voila--a free work from home space. The only new thing I added is a chair pad, which was a gift. 

My new, repurposed work space.

It's advice we've all heard, but having a dedicated work space really has made a difference. It's easier to sit down, focus and be productive. Then at the end of the day, I can pack it up and leave work behind.

A large cat sit on the desk next to a laptop
Of course the cats still insist on "helping" me work at times.

Best of all, the rooms doesn't feel crowded at all and still functions as a bedroom. So if you too are struggling to find work space at home, try carving out some room for a small desk. It might be just what you need.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Farewell, Garden Kitty

This is Garden Kitty, GC for short. He lives down the street, but spends most of his time outside.

He's extremely friendly and sweet, and seems to crave attention even more than food. So we gave him both. 

I didn't know his real name, but started calling him Garden Kitty because he liked to keep me company while I gardened. He would hang out and occasionally come over to be pet or to pounce on something that moved enough to catch his attention. He loved to play and would chase sticks, or vines or even long plants. He was great company and made chore time more fun. Often he would be on the deck waiting for us first thing in the morning and would come back after we returned home from work. 

He was extremely curious and before locking the garage up we had to make sure he wasn't still in there exploring. He had no fear. There was the time I went outside to scare away the deer that GC was slowly creeping up on as if he were going to pounce on it. Or the squirrel that he came *this close* to catching and instead swatted on the behind as it leaped away.

Sometimes he was a bit of a pain. Like when I was trying to hoeing weeds and he kept trying to rake against my hoe and pounce where I was working. I was afraid I would accidentally hurt him, so I stopped and petted him instead. Or when he camped out on our deck and stressed out our sensitive kitty, possibly contributing to his recent cystitis flare. Or when he scared away the birds from the feeder we hung from the deck to provide entertainment to our three indoor kitties.

But we couldn't be mad at GC. And we couldn't stick to our resolutions to ignore him. He was too sweet of a soul.

We debated if GC was neglected. He was outside most of the time. Early in the morning and late at night. Even on heat warning days when the temperature was 95 and so humid it felt like 105F. He was thin so when he cried for food we started feeding him. So did some of our other neighbors. One down the street called him Friendly Kitty, also an apt description. 

Our next door neighbor worried that he wasn't good around cars. He didn't always look before crossing the street in his excitement to come visit. And unfortunately on Friday, August 2, this habit is what led to his far too-early death when he was hit by a car. 

I know there can be extenuating circumstances that lead people to let their cats outside. But there are so many risks--cruel people, cars, other animals--and their lives tend to be so much shorter than indoor cats. I question if it's worth the risk considering the alternatives of letting them out only with supervision or on a leash or in a catio. 

We miss him and mourn his early passing. I question if I should have done more for him. I know some of our other neighbors have the same thoughts. He deserved more than he was given at home, but he was loved by many.

Farewell GC, you were a very good boy. We won't forget you.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

When is it time to upgrade?

It's July 3, the evening before our Independence Day, and many are out celebrating or attending the big fireworks celebration downtown. I however will be asleep soon. Stress wears me out.

What am I stressing out about? My stupid car. It's latest issue is a busted radiator. Lucky for me, the parts are less than $100 and the boyfriend can fix it. So it could be much worse. But it wasn't fun seeing the heat gauge max out this morning. It was even less fun trying to drive it home and pulling over three times on the five mile ride home to let it cool off. Not to mention the boyfriend had to come check it out mid-way because I was freaking out thinking my car might explode.

Photo: Carlyle Ellis Photography/Human Quotient
Having the radiator go out isn't unexpected given that my Honda Civic is 19 years old. I mean, how long is a car supposed to last anyway? It does only have 135,000 miles, but as a mechanic friend warned me a few years ago, all of its parts, gaskets, seals, etc. will fail start failing soon.

A lot of things have already broken and already been replace by the boyfriend. He's saved me tons in labor and aggravation over the years (thanks, honey!). So when should I just call it quits?

I came close to doing so last summer. I went car shopping. Narrowed down the make and model to a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord. But I was underwhelmed and if I'm going to spend $15-20k, shouldn't I be a little excited about what I'm buying?

I'm also overwhelmed by the options. SUV or car? If I care about the environment, does that mean I should invest more and get a hybrid or electric?

Another problem is I want the latest safety features for a three-year-old-car price. Not gonna happen. In the meantime, my boyfriend spruced up the Civic, painted the peeling trim and plastic hubcaps, and found a deal on tires.

Suddenly it didn't look so bad.

Plus, there's the cost. I haven't had a car payment in 16 years and pay $280/year for insurance. I definitely like that part.

However, I don't like worrying about how I'm getting my broken down car home or how long it will be out of commission. Or having the boyfriend have to spend time fixing it on his limited time off or in winter. And taking long trips in it feels like a gamble.

He says this isn't a big deal and there's not much else that can go bad since most things have been replaced ... except the clutch.

So should it stay or should it go? I can't decide.

What's the oldest vehicle you've had? How do you decide when it's time for a new one?

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Finally, curbside recycling!

I found this finished 2018 post in my drafts and decided to go ahead and post it,hopefully it will inspire me to post more! Although recycling has gotten even more complicated these days due to falling demand for materials.

photo: Igor Mazic, flickr
It's 9F and I'm excitedly bundling up to take out the recycling. Why such excitement for a routine chore? Because this is the first time in almost 14 years that I've been able to take recycling to the end of the driveway for pickup instead of having to haul it away

I've been a devoted recycler ever since a college boyfriend inspired me to begin. My little hometown with a population of 35,000 had curbside recycling service way back in 2003, but when I moved to the "big city" of Columbus I had to kiss that service goodbye. That didn't stop me from recycling though. I dutifully saved my recyclables in the basement and then hauled them out once a month or so to pack up the Civic and take them to a drop-off location.

At some point curbside service was offered to city residents, first for a monthly charge and then the free in 2012, but by then I had already purchased the house. While my neighborhood is in the middle of the city of Columbus, we're part of a township. The township has its own trash services, sans recycling. So I continued schlepp the recycling to a drop-off location a few miles away or the boyfriend would take it to the recycling location at work. But it was a pain and something we always put off as long as possible.

Then a few years ago a resolution to add recycling to the township's waste services for less than $10 per year per household was up for a vote. Hooray! For less than $10 per year to each household's trash costs, but to me that was well worth it. Apparently I was soundly in the minority because the measure was soundly defeated, twice.

Then a few months ago, finally good news: our trash contract was being renegotiated to include recycling at no additional cost.  I called the day I received that letter to request a bin and have been counting down to January. Last Saturday I realized said bin had never arrived and I disappointedly figured I'd have to wait a bit longer, and then, what did I see on top of the three inches of snow at the end of the driveway Saturday afternoon but a lovely green recycling bin.

The only bummer is that when I went to collect my bin I looked around and didn't see another one on the street. And today when I deposited my overflowing bin back at the end of the driveway, it was still the only one in sight. Hopefully that will change tomorrow on pickup day or in the weeks to come.

But the apathy of my neighbors in this working-class neighborhood has got me thinking. If people won't recycle even when all you have to take a bin to the curb, what chances are there that people will make the real changes necessary to avoid environmental disaster?

I can't help thinking back to my time in Denmark in 2000, where it was common place to separate compostable trash from the rest of the rubbish for weekly pick up. Glass and plastic bottles were returned for deposits. Aluminum cans weren't sold there, although you could buy them in neighboring Sweden. Everyone seemed to gladly return, separate and recycle. What would inspire more Americans to do the same?

I know recycling isn't a panacea, but in the meantime it seems much better to recycle what we can instead of filling up the landfills.

Is recycling popular in your area? Do you recycle? Why or why not?

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Organizing Drawers the KonMarie Way

There's not much decluttering going on these days, but today I decided to finally try organizing my drawers the KonMarie way.

Most have probably heard of Marie Kondo by now, author of The Life Changing Magic of Cleaning Up. I read the book years ago and while I didn't follow it to the letter, it did inspire me to declutter even more.

One thing I didn't try at the time, but have been increasingly intrigued by is her method of folding clothing into small squares. With my drawers feeling increasingly stuffed, I finally decided to try it today. So I watched a few YouTube videos to fully understand folding method and dove in.

First I tackled my t-shirt drawer. I neglected to take a before photo, but here's my stack 'o shirts that filled the drawer.

It does take more time to fold the KonMarie way, but you quickly get the hang of it. Plus, I'll only have to fold the freshly laundered clothing each week.

Here's the after. I purged four shirts. While the 30 remaining shirts still fill the drawer, now I can easily see all of them instead of just the top three. Big improvement.

I'm even more pleased with the progress of the other drawers, which are much more shallow than the one above. The MarieKondo method works very well for these.. First up is a jam-packed drawer full of work shirts and sweaters. 

And the amazing after. Look at that empty space! I purged one top and moved a t-shirt to the t-shirt drawer, everything else is still here and completely visible.

My pajama drawer has always been a mess. I used to roll my PJ pants and tops, but they still barely fit in here.

And after, with lots of new empty space here too, which is truly amazing. I relocated a curling iron, but kept everything else. My hair straightener lives here, because I do my hair in the bedroom (with only one bathroom, ya gotta do some things differently). 

I also organized one of the half-size top drawers, which is full of work socks. I should probably purge everything on the right side of this drawer, because I hardly ever wear them, but for now I'm keeping them. Even so after refolding everything and tossing a few singles, there's empty space in here now and I was able to add a small box to store my extra Fitbit bands neatly.

I'm definitely a fan of all of this new space. In fact, I'm feeling inspired to tackle my remaining drawers and the closet next.

Do you use any special organizing or folding tricks on your clothing drawers?


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