Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Backyard of Doom

Hi guys!  Thought I'd introduce my backyard situation to you.  Backyard of doom is a bit dramatic but that's what it feels like sometimes.  I've been in the house for almost a year now.  I moved in at the end of August and it was hot as blazes!  I got a little over zealous about gardening and planted some shrubs before I got the drip irrigation installed.  That ended up being a mistake...
As you can see, there's a significant hill at the back that is a PAIN in the keester to mow!  I decided immediately that I needed to make it a non issue when I'm in my 60s mowing my own lawn!  I'm well into my 50s and it kicks my butt!  I didn't do any close ups but there are some shrubs along the back that I planted last year.  I had a 50/50 survival rate on my late season shrubs.  The ultimate goal is to have the little hill covered in shrubs/ ground cover so that I don't have to mow.  So far, I have Sweet Spire, Lilac, a couple hydrangeas, and a Black Lace Elderberry.  When I moved in, they had tomatoes and strawberries planted in all that shade...
A former owner was a 'concrete guy' according to my neighbors... he produced this little monstrosity.  Last weekend, I started operation 'Cover-Up'.  The plan is to have the coneflowers grow and spread, eventually disguising the platform.  I can't lift the cement planters, so I'll probably fill them at some point.  Now that the irrigation is installed, I should be able to keep something alive. 
Someone told me that flamingos are a symbol that Swingers use to announce they are open to sexy-time shenanigans.  Please note, this is not the case for me...  I love flamingos and I won't let the Swingers own the rights to my tacky little pink friends.  One is currently missing an eye.  A problem for another day.
I got a couple of pots for the patio.  I can finally get begonias and caladiums now that I have a shady backyard.  I remember seeing these giant begonias in Ireland and wishing I had some shade to keep some of my own alive.  Currently have more shade than I know what to do with.

There was a hastily thrown together fire pit in the middle of the yard.  I was able to get rid of the brick and pile of branches for the most part.  The house was sold with a pile of branches in the middle of the yard.  Under the pile of branches, I discovered a 'fire pit' that I didn't want.  Mowing around that was so obnoxious.  This is at least easier and less trashy, even with the big bald spot.
They had a brick ring around the tree with a few flowers planted.  And this white rock EVERYWHERE.  I was confused about the rock.  But, I think it's because the Squirrel Mafia live in this tree.  I number of my plantings, in ground and in pots have been dug up and discarded by the Squirrel Mafia a-holes.  Literally, they just dig my stuff up and toss aside.  Is the rock meant to prevent the Squirrel Mafia from digging?  Shawn did some research for me and suggested to sprinkle cayenne around my new plantings.  So far, so good with the cayenne.  
I started removing the ring last summer, got over heated and decided there was plenty to do in the house where I have air-conditioning.  I promised myself I would do it in the spring.  As you can see, that did not happen.  They used brick blocks and plastic ring.  A couple different types of brick... there was considerable effort made to ring the tree.  A Spanish Oak, in case you're curious.
The awning was complete when I purchased the house.  I lost a couple sheets of covering during some wind storms over the winter.  The big question is what to do about it.
I think we can all agree that the green sheeting isn't very attractive.  Not to mention, do I really need more shade?  That giant Spanish Oak plus my neighbors' giant trees mean the yard gets fullish shade for 85% of the day.  Especially in the afternoons.  I'm thinking of doing a trellis type covering?  Maybe.  Something that would allow more light into the dining room.

There you have it friends.  Another incomplete project by Heather Mantz.  It took weeks to properly install the drip irrigation.  At one point, I bought a defective timer.  So, it's been a slow process but I can see the potential.  Now that things are getting water without my constant supervision, I think it'll be a lot easier moving forward.

I've given myself until Labor Day Weekend to finish the kitchen.  The old cabinets need refinishing and I keep running out of shelf liner.  I had a couple quotes from electricians for the electrical craziness that is going on.  Now to decide when I have 2 free days that I wouldn't mind sitting in a house with no electricity to get the work done.  I've also decided to re-paint the bathroom.  And, I still need to finish baby Lilah's baby quilt.  It's 90% done...

Hope you're having a great summer! 

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Birthday 52 - Philly Trip Episode 4

I took absolutely NO pictures on day 4!  It was super fun and busy, too.  On a lark, we decided to drive into a number of neighboring states, just because we could.  First we crossed the river into Camden, NJ.  Nothing to report there.  We skipped the aquarium and battleship.  Our legs were ready to drop off as it was.  Then we drove to Wilmington, DE.  In Delaware, we drove the wrong way on a one-way street in Little Italy.  That was fun.  Then it was decided that we should grab lunch on the Chesapeake Bay in North East, Maryland.  We ate at Woody's Crab House and dessert at North East Chocolates.  Both were fantastic.  Then up to Lancaster, PA.  We stopped at Kitchen Kettle Market to stretch our legs and do some shopping.  I had a pretzel and bought some art.  We stayed at a very cool remodeled Cork Factory turned hotel.  Loved it there.  The restaurant downstairs was not amazing.  Chicken and Waffle Soup isn't as fun as it sounds.  Good Crème Brule, though.

Then day 5 was the purpose of the whole trip.  Let me give you a little back story.  Back around '01/'02, I would watch Samantha Brown's travel show on PBS when the kids were napping.  And, I'd dream about going to those amazing places.  One trip was to Hershey, PA and the Hershey Spa!  I couldn't think of anything more decadent than a chocolate spa day!  I'd tell myself, "One of these days, girl!  We're doing it!"  So, as I was trying to think about what would bring me the most joy for my 52nd birthday, I remembered that episode and started planning.
First order of business was a Hershey tour and lunch.  BTW, Hershey has always been my favorite chocolate.
It was cute.

Then my Cocoa Massage.  It was magical.  They requested no photos in the spa for obvious reasons.  No one wants to be in a stranger's picture while naked under a robe.  Okay, so some people wouldn't have a problem with it.  But, the rest of us would be weirded out.  It was basically a massage with cocoa infused massage oil.  And, I got unlimited chocolate muffins and Hershey Kisses while I was there.  So, that was fun and yes, I pocketed as many Kisses as I could manage.  I'm classy like that.
The grounds were gorgeous.  Very pricey place.  If you can afford it, more power to you.  The cheapest massage available was all I could pull off.  And, I skipped a lot of other souvenirs to make that much happen.
Hershey has the cutest street lights.
The whole town smells of chocolate.
When we were done there, we drove to Harrisburg, the state capitol.  That night, we went a tiny little independent movie theater to watch Blackberry.  Dinner was at a fairly awful café.  It was inexpensive and quick.  So it met most of our needs that night.
The next morning we went to the Broad Street Market.  Loved it there.  Much like Reading Terminal but on a smaller, less overwhelming scale.
Harrisburg wins the street art competition.  Hands down.

We were in the State Museum when Shawn mumbles, "Not sure how far we are from Gettysburg.  That would be interesting."  The answer was 45 minutes.

The Capitol Building is beautiful.
My absolute favorite street art!  St Louis could really benefit from more street art.

Off to Gettysburg, we went.  The best part is that it's an Auto Tour!

Shawn is not saluting with the wrong hand... he's fixing his sunglasses.
We spent the afternoon driving around, hanging out the window for pictures.
It was the best day for not getting out of the car.  The temps were in the 90's with no breeze.  Did I mention how beautiful PA is?  At least the parts that I saw.
This is the spot where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.  Rich would have loved to see all this historic stuff.  He would have HATED Philly, though.  Hated it.
As a side note, Shawn's grandparents used to dress up in Confederate costumes and go to Civil War battlefields when he was a child.  It's equal parts adorable and horrifying.  He had is own little soldier outfit & hat. I'm pleased to say as adults, our political ideologies mesh very well.  
We finished off with a dinner at the Farnsworth Tavern.  A little historical place.
Their Chicken Pot Pie and pumpkin fritters made me rethink my own pot pie recipe!  Delicious.

 And, that wraps up my bucket list trip to Pennsylvania.  For the most part, everything went as planned.  Shawn and I seem to have equal amounts of energy and spontaneity.  It's basically a food tour with some history thrown in for good measure.  Just the way I like it.  In July, I'm planning a weekend in Louisville.  Then in November, we're going to Italy & France!!!  I'm so excited.  If I'm smart, I'll keep exercising so I can walk the streets of Europe without dying.  I don't get accused of being smart that often, so we'll see how things pan out.  

Thanks for following along!  Next week is our guild's big quilt show.  Then, I've got a baby quilt to finish.  A kitchen to finish.  A back yard to start.  It's a long list.

Birthday 52 - Philly Trip Episode 3

We got a pretty late start on Tuesday.  I definitely had a birthday power and cake hangover.  Imagine my surprise when I walked into Reading Terminal Market only to find a bronze statue of myself.  Something tells me I'm not the first person to make a pig of themselves in Philly.
Shawn was really looking forward to having a pork sandwich that was featured on Somebody Feed Phil, if we're honest, I think he was disappointed.  We added some of my pastrami sandwich to it and it helped.  Sweet heart of a man NEVER complains.
This place is REALLY cool but overwhelming.  There's a lot of pressure to make the right choice and there is SO MUCH to choose from!  You could eat every meal here for a month and not repeat your choices.
More street art.
We drug our tired little selves to the Betsy Ross House.
I took this for my cat loving friends.  You're welcome.

So, turns out Betsy & I have a lot in common.  Both love to sew.  Both widows.  Both did what they could to move forward with life.  

The stairs here were crazy steep and narrow.
Elfreth's Alley is one of the oldest continually occupied streets in America.  It's super charming but I could not handle having strangers roaming around my house all day.  And, you know not everyone is going to respect your property/privacy.
We stopped for refreshments at The Franklin Fountain.  We had a Cherry Lime Phosphate because we were hot & a little dehydrated but I really wanted the ice cream.  The lady in front of us got an ice cream bigger than the small child that was with her.  I had dessert envy, big time.
On the way back, we stopped at the US Mint.  Totally forgot to take a picture out front.  Shawn collects coins, so I thought he'd like it.  I thought it was interesting too.

Sure, the money mechanics were interesting but I was more into the architecture.  Also, no pictures were allowed in the actual production area.
This might be my favorite street art that I saw.
We ended the final day in Philly at Trattoria Carina.  It was just a few blocks away from the apartment but on a really cute & peaceful neighborhood.  We had to wait an hour for our food but were outside on a beautiful evening, so we weren't that upset about it.  And, the pasta was homemade.  Yum.