Sunday, February 28, 2010


As I mentioned in Spring Cleaning, our block filled out a request to get trees from the city to put in our planting strip (the area between the sidewalk and the street). Well, the trees (15 in all) were delivered on Thursday and we had a neighborhood planting on Saturday. We had six varieties delivered: Red Maple, Sugar Maple, Oregon White Oak, Golden Locust, Silver Linden, and Jacquemont Birch. Of course, there are already quite a few trees on the block to add to species diversity such as redbuds, holly, some other ancient (and gigantic) maples, and some other trees whose names escape me.


The trees were a lot bigger than we were expecting. We had to attend a tree planting class the other weekend and the demo tree that was planted was maybe half the height of the trees we received. The Red Maples were the tallest by far, but all the trees were surprisingly substantial.

It was a lot of hard work planting and, who-doggy, was my upper body sore later that night. The hardest part, by far, was cleaning off the root ball and making sure the roots were not tangled around each other. We learned at the planting class that if you plant the tree as is from the container the roots may not know that they out of the container and will continue to wrap around instead of traveling out and creating a supportive structure. In 10-20 years the tree could just- BOOM- topple over one day because the roots had kept that original restrictive ball.  

IMG_4778 Here are the roots of our Silver Linden after some extensive work.  We had to cut away some of the roots that were too tangled;  that is okay though, because the cuts will support new growth.

IMG_4783 Here is the Silver Linden all planted and ready to grow. One day it will look like this:

We also planted a Jacquemont Birch on our strip. Our first choice was a Chinese Paper Birch, but I guess they were not able to get one so we wound up with our alternate, the Jacquemont.  

IMG_4787Here I am working on the birch’s root ball while Bill puts the finishing touches on the hole. The birch’s roots were much easier to seperate than the linden because the birch had been kept in a bag container that had quite a bit more give and flexibility than the regular plastic container.  

It will be so nice when the trees have matured a bit. We now no longer have a treeless lot! So exciting. Now we will just have to go and purchase trees for ourselves to plan in our front, back, and side yard.

All in all our neighbors planted 8 trees on Saturday. We have 7 more still sitting in our side yard waiting to be planted… This was a nice neighborhood activity which will benefit us all for years to come.

It sure will be lovely as our trees grow and one day we will have a gorgeous tree lined street like the image above.

Inspiration Weekend

Last weekend Bill and I made an impromptu trip down to Portland.  We had a great time seeing family and friends (we saw about 30 people in 48 hours- not too shabby). Besides getting to spend some quality time with loved ones we also did some house research. You see, I’m calling it research only because we resisted the urge to actually buy anything (well, anything for the house… I definitely made some purchases for me. How could I not? With no sales tax it is like everything is 10% off!).

On Sunday Bill and I hit up a couple of different inspiring stores. The first was Anthropologie. Their clothes are fine and all (okay some things are absolute fug and some I covet a bit too much), but their home goods make me ache. I love the colorful, hand crafted look, which has roots in traditional/vintage style but with just the right touch of contemporary. Plus, their window dresser (or whatever the official title is of the person who does their in-shop and window displays) has the keys to my heart. Such pretty and eclectic design, but does it really count as eclectic if it in a national chain?

Anyway, I their current window display is flowers made of painted recycled (repurposed?) plastic bottles. I am going to try to figure out how to make them and then put them up this summer on our backyard fence to add some whimsy and color to our yard.


Our trolley was about to arrive so I didn’t have time to get a stellar picture. It was pretty sunny and there was a lot reflecting in the glass. Lets pretend there is no glare/reflection and this is on a much larger scale, shall we? Well, I think this could look quite cute cascading down the length of the fence. I’m a big fan of fun colorful things outside.

The latest Anthropologie catalog was waiting for me when I returned to Tacoma, and, again, am looking to try recreating some of their styling. And, again, it is not with their clothes, but the paper cutouts they used to display jewelry. I am thinking that some more paper art with cutout butterflies, leaves, and flowers would be a nice addition to my framed origami lotuses

anthropolgie 2

anthropologie 1

While I was able to resist Anthropologie’s siren song, I did buy a book there- domino: The Book of Decorating. It is filled with pretty pretty pictures and lots of good tips. It is sad that domino magazine stopped production last year. They would really complete my home improvement/decorating magazine supply.

Bill and I also went to Rejuvenation. It was absolutely wonderful. Just stepping in their showroom made me instantly regret any and all purchases we have made at those big home supply stores (you know which two I’m talking about). Their period lighting, fixtures, and hardware was really too much for Bill and me to handle. We started out making a list of items we would purchase, but the list kept growing and growing and growing. We had to make the (responsible) decision to not buy anything that day, but go home, do some research on what size fixtures would be just right in our spaces. And, we need to be reasonable and buy a just a few items at a time and slowly renovate room by room. Hopefully, we can return some light fixtures we had previously bought but not yet installed to those aforementioned giant warehouses.


So many options… And this was just one small display case. Surely you can understand why we became overwhelmed so quickly.

We already have some period lighting in our house (in the foyer, living room, and dining room). So, there is no need to search for new lights for those rooms, however when it comes time to repaint the living room (this summer) I definitely want to install a ceiling medallion.

IMG_4764 Wouldn’t one of those pretty babies be fantastic?  Next time we go down to Portland we will have a plan about what to purchase at Rejuvenation. There will absolutely be a few light fixtures on that list, a medallion, and drawer pulls for our kitchen, beyond that I am not sure. 

Oh, did I mention that besides having the regular showroom Rejuvenation also has antique section? It is wonderful (and overwhelming). It would be great to be able to stop by and just poke around and get a few things here and there (after all the stock in that section of the store is constantly changing), but living in Tacoma that is just not a possibility for us. So, all you Portlanders, live it up for us!

IMG_4767 Someday all my door hinges and window sashes will look like that. Someday. Also, someday I will have a lion knocker on my front door.

IMG_4770 A peek into the vintage section of the store. Every nook and cranny is bursting with awesomeness.

We also discovered that the Schoolhouse Electric showroom was just a few blocks from Rejuvenation. I had no clue that there Schoolhouse Electric only had two showrooms: one in P-town and the other in New York. By the time we were finished at Rejuvenation we needed to get on the road and head North, but next time we will certainly be checking out Schoolhouse’s store. I have since them gone to their webpage and requested a catalog so we (hopefully) won’t be overwhelmed when we go in there.  Damn, Portland, how did you get to be so lucky with your plethora of period stores? Tacoma would like it if you would share the love.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Welcome to Hell

Before I contribute anything of true interest to the worldwide blogosphere, I would like to take this opportunity to be blisteringly critical with myself and my audaciously ambitious wife. As co-owner of our gargantuan turn-of-the-century monument to habitation, I need to point out that we have bitten off far more than we may ever hope to chew. The sheer volume of improvements and updates required by such an old and forgotten hulk of a building is just now beginning to impress upon my stunned mind. It is all I can do to keep myself from instinctively curling up into the fetal position when the subject of Home Improvement is brought up in conversation or even daydream. One question nearly paralyzes my gumption: Where do I start?


…There are the smashed corpses of stray kittens rotting in our crawlspace. The attic is a deathtrap with a broken window and a ceiling perforated with rusty nails--patched with heavily over-laden spider webs. The back porch was obviously built by a dangerously anti-social sadist who designed it (with pressboard) to quickly decompose and fall apart at the first misplaced step. Raccoons, like evil spirits, haunt the front landing and use the flower beds as a combined storage area and toilet. The composite roof shingles are fertile soil for moss and mold. The detached garage floods with any amount of rain (or even mist) so it holds standing water for at least 350 days of the year. The back yard is lumpy and covered in gravel while you can’t even step in the front yard without slipping in the neighbor’s dogshit.

I could go on…but after writing it all down…I feel a little out of breath…but…I actually feel a little better too.

I can see that there is a lot to do, but there is plenty of time. I still have the scraggily remnants of my once vibrant youth. All we can do is take it one day at a time: one step of one section of one major project at one time. We’ve already done quite a bit as you can see from Lacey’s latest updates to the blog. I guess the key is to not get lost in the big picture. Each little improvement is one step closer to the ultimate goal, no matter how small that step may be.

Overall, the biggest thing our house has going for it is a plethora of unrealized potential. In fact, the wellsprings of this potential flow so strong that I have a very real fear of drowning! We may yet choke to death on this monstrosity of love--this cavernous shelter--this collection of aged oddity and bastard spirits from years past; however, if we do, we shall die with smiles scratched across our parched and well-worked faces. We shall die with contented bellies bloated with love.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pretty Origami Lotus

Best part? It is seriously easy. So easy even I could do it. Now that is really saying something because I suck at folding paper. I have never made a paper airplane that could actually fly (or was symmetrical) and have consistently failed at making paper cranes and other supposedly easy origami crafts.

ss_101354172See, isn’t it pretty? This is one the folks at Better Homes & Gardens made. I first came across the paper flower in a magazine last summer, it included a link with the directions on how to make it. All you need is pretty paper, a paper cutter (or good old fashioned scissors), a rubber band, yarn, and frame (I used crafting glue to affix the flower to the frame). Anyway, I knew right away I HAD to make it… and it only took me 6 months to actually do so. I even bought the frames to house the flowers last fall at Ikea. I was prepared and ready, finally the day came to actually make them.


In the magazine spread they had the hanging in triplicate in a bedroom. So… uh… I did the same. Not very original on my part, I know. IMG_6279-1I did vary slightly from their directions. Obviously, I chose to pair mine with a kitty, which makes anything look better. I didn’t  like how big their yarn heart was, so I just tied one knot instead. I also left my leaves upside down so they looked all green (instead of seeing the other side of the paper). I  made the flowers a bit smaller, so they could fit in my frames. I would, however, also be interested in creating one on a much lager scale. Hmmm…

IMG_6283-1I used a color scheme of a pinky-purple, light blue, pale yellow, and green. I used a darker more neutral toned purple paper for the background. From a distance it blends a bit, but up close I think it is nice and subtle. These were really quick and easy to make and they are a nice addition to our guest bedroom. Need proof? Here is one last picture (with a kitty) to convince you.



P.S. Please ignore my crappy Venetian blinds. They will be gone soon. I hope.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spring Cleaning

…except outside.

Monday was President’s Day so the hubby and I had a day off together, which is somewhat of a rare thing. We decided to celebrate by getting some yard work done together! Wah-hoo, we live life on the edge. Anyway,  it was pretty nice to get outside and make a dent (albeit a small one) on our front yard. We also got a bonus on our cleaning powers, because while we were cleaning up outside out housekeepers were doing our floors and bathrooms. And, let me say, hiring a housekeeper has been my favorite extravagance by far. It is just so nice to have those basic cleaning issues taken care of for us on a biweekly basis. If you can swing it I would highly suggest looking into getting someone to clean… but maybe that is just because I hate to clean. Hmmm…

Anyway this is what our front yard looked like when we started:


I think the hardest part about gardening at this point in my life is that I am not sure what is a weed and what I am suppose to out there saving.  This is aggravated because this is our first (early) spring (late winter?) in our house.  I know what some of the foliage it, but only if I planted it last summer. The ones I knew were the easy part; those I was just able to trim away the old growth and be excited by the new sprouts shooting forth.  I also planted a bunch of bulbs (crocuses, tulips, daffodils, and what not) last fall and it is fun to see those start to come up.


So far the only thing to bloom are the crocuses, but I am looking forward to the rest, especially because I don’t keep track of things all that well and cannot remember how many bulbs I planted, or all the varieties, or colors, or…

Bill and I couldn’t decided what all should be pulled up, so I just stuck to things I new for certain were weeds. And, let me tell you, there were more than a few of those to occupy my time. I also planted a bunch of seeds I had left over from last year.  I know it is a little early for seeds, but our winter has been so mild I am just crossing my fingers that it doesn't freeze and kill all my seeds. Plus, by planting all of my old seeds I know feel totally justified buying new seeds. I also need to set up my little portable greenhouse and get impatiens started for my blooming bags.

Here’s hoping at least a few of the seeds make it and I get to see at least one representative of all these pretty blooms this summer.


Meanwhile, while I was toiling away on the weeds and the seeds, Bill was busy taking out a monstrous and hideous shrub. I have no idea what type of shrub it is, some people have offered their guesses but never with much conviction. One of neighbors has also been battling hers for the last few years and was commiserating with us over the long hard battle. This shrub is obviously in it for the long haul. When we first bought the house last May we chopped down about half of the height and cut back the half closest to the house (because it was getting uncomfortably close).  However, the shrub was not to be deterred! It sent out tons of new branches from its base. Sigh, so this year we decided we would try to bring it down once and for all. Bill ended up braking a new Gerber handsaw on it, as well as bending our super duty loppers. We filled two lawn waste containers with the branches and leaves, and have enough left over to fill them again.


Here is Bill working away. And here is the massive stump that was left behind. I can’t even imagine how large this plant would be if it had never been trimmed. I am guessing it has been here since the beginning (i.e. 105 years). When we were first looking at buying the house we went down to the local library to do some research and found a photo of the house in 1920 when it went up for sale the first time. I need to track that down and see if the shrub is in fact visible at that point, and how big it is. Anyway, the stump:


That entire mass is all stump. Don’t be fooled by what appears to be dirt, it is still stump (just with a fine dusting of dirt and old leaves). I have no idea how we are going to get rid of that mess. I would be happy if we could get it shaved down to a level area and then I could just plunk down a massive outdoor planter and add some dimension to our front yard. There is another stump a couple yards back that is already flat that I definitely will be putting a planter on.  We have lots of grand plans for our front yard (Hell, we have grand plans for every inch of our house).

The forthcoming improvement is trees on our planting strip. Our neighborhood is taking advantage of an awesome program here in Tacoma where the city will supply free trees for our planting strips. We ended up getting something like 10 houses to participate for a total of 18 trees. We attended a tree planting workshop put on by the city last weekend and the trees are going to be delivered at the end of this month.

Our other major plan for our front yard this summer is putting up a fence. A cute little white picket fence to be exact. That way we should cut back on the neighborhood dogs who poop in our yard (and their owners who do NOT pick up after them). Plus, we would like to get rid off all of our lawn and mulch and landscape it. Dream big!

Here is what our yard looked like once we gave in for the day. It might not appear all that different, but give it a few months and the fruits of our labor will become apparent (I hope!).

IMG_6314-1 And to put it all into perspective here is the whole house shot.


What about all you out there? What kind of gardening and/or yard work are you up to? Or what do you hope to accomplish?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Screw an Easter egg hunt; I’m looking for Monkeyshines glass!

Here is one of the (many) reasons I have grown to love Tacoma over the last few years: Monkeyshines. They are a group of anonymous glass artists who gift the city with art once a year around the time of the Chinese New Year. For the last seven years they have distributed glass orbs and/or glass medallions emblazed with the corresponding animal from the Chinese zodiac.  It is basically like a giant city wide game of hide-and-seek or an Easter egg hunt, except that it is way cooler to find hand-blown glass than a person or a hardboiled egg.

Although the Chinese New Year is still a few days away, the hunt is already in full swing. The first gifts were found Tuesday morning.  This is the year of the tiger. The folks over at Exit133 found this pretty ball along with these 2 medallions downtown.
After seeing their blog post when I got home from work yesterday it took me all of 30 minutes to convince Bill to put on his shoes and coat and come search with me. We decided to check out the Evergreen Extension Campus nearby; after all, we figured there were reports of finding orbs at UWT and UPS already, so surely there has to be one somewhere at Evergreen! Alas, our search was unfruitful (but, of course, still fun).  We also got up extra early for work this morning to go search several parks within walking distance…. still no luck. They could be anywhere, which is part of the fun and part of the frustration. I dreamt last night that everywhere I looked I found one, but being the civically minded person I am (or at least like to think I am) I only took one orb and re-hid the others. Okay, I lied. In my dream I actually took one orb and one medallion, but even my dream self was able to reason that the medallion was to keep in my classroom.
We are going to try searching again tomorrow morning. Hopefully we will spot one, but even if we don’t we will still fun.
We both have Friday off so we will be able to go on a big search (when it is actually light out, what a novel concept). However, I have no idea if we are too late in the game to even have a slight chance of finding the gifted art. The whole production is quite mysterious. At this point no one knows for sure how many pieces are out there, or even if they have all been delivered! The first year they distributed 200 balls, but last year there were 600. Also, when they first started they were hidden on the eve of the Chinese New Year, but in the years following people started going out in anticipation and cherry picking the art before the city had a chance to discover and enjoy the fun., therefore they started varying the night of delivery. This year there is even speculation that they are only delivering small batches each night to extend the fun and give people more chance to search.

I talked to my students about Monkeyshines today and they became all aflutter. For the rest of the day they kept reporting that they had spotted a medallion off of school grounds (although all the sightings were false, just pop cans or other shiny bits of litter). I hope that some of them were able to get their parents in on the fun and get outside and searching.  We decided as a class that Monkeyshines exist to have fun, make Tacoma a better place, and create a community experience. 

Wish me luck. I would love nothing more than to create a post tomorrow (or the next day, or the day after that) showing off my Monkeyshines gift!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

It’s a Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood

If you live in the Pacific Northwest you know that we seem to be experiencing an early Spring. I walk to work (I am a lucky girl) and every day I notice more and more plants sending up shoots, as well as, buds turning to blossoms on trees. Last weekend my husband and I (and our dog) took advantage of the unseasonable warmth and sunshine and went out for a nice long walk around some historic neighborhoods in Tacoma. I took along my little point and shoot camera to capture houses that I find inspiring.

This lovely house is just a few blocks away from our own. I just love the colors. We are constantly contemplating what we should do to our exterior. I am drawn to blues, but I just don’t know if our block could handle another blue house (there are currently 5!).

You know what makes this house even better? It is next to this fabulous Tudor. Sigh, the Tudor was on the market two year back, but far out of our price range. It just slayed me though, as it was on the route I walked from work to the bus (back when we lived in an adorable little apartment near a zoo). I’m glad that the house found a buyer and that they are treating it well. Also visible is my husband (and supposed blog co-author) and our dog.

Here is the front of the house:

It has a really good sized fenced yard, with a sort of overgrown English garden look to it. There are a good amount of trees on the lot too.

It is just crazy to have trees flowing so early! I can hardly believe it is early February, let alone that these photos were taken at the tale end of January.

Anyway, on with the house!

This mansion is insane! I am so curious about its history. You can’t really tell from this shot, but it has sweeping views of the Puget Sound, the Cascades, and Mt. Rainer. The other thing you can’t really tell from this shot is that the house seems to be falling into disrepair (or, hopefully, a very slow repair?). The other side of the house is missing a bunch roof shingles, among other things. In the 4 years I have lived in Tacoma I have yet to see any exterior improvements. Of course, I have no idea what the interior is like, but, boy, would I love to find out! I would love to see this place be turned into a bed and breakfast. I’d book a room even though it is only a mile away.

I really enjoy the Corinthian columns on this house, as well as, it being a double lot. We have Doric columns on our house, which are also great. I guess you could say I am just a big fan of columns in general. Also, you can see the backside of the mansion behind the blue house.

Originally our house was a double lot, but it was parceled off sometime after the 1920s. It would have been so glorious to have a huge yard and garden on the North side of our house instead of a duplex. Yet, then again, if it was a double lot we probably wouldn’t have been able to afford our house anyway.

Here is another exterior color scheme I really enjoy, the view of the Sound isn’t half bad either. Bonus, there are no green houses on our block! Okay, there is one really pale gray green house, but it barely even counts, plus, the owners were mentioning how they plan on painting…

Fake Bernini in Tacoma! I enjoy this way too much.

The last house of the day is directly behind our favorite bar, The Parkway Tavern. It it so unique and urban looking. The dense shrubbery out front kind of obstructs the view, but trust me, it is fantastic. Its look is very unexpected in Tacoma. I imagine it fitting in a much larger city, maybe in a block or row houses or something of that ilk. I don’t know if that is logical or not, but, whatevs. I adore this house.

My batteries started going low on me pretty early on in our walk, so the quality (and quantity) of images is not what I wanted it to be… Oh well, I can assure you, we will take more walks and Tacoma has many more beautiful houses. Perhaps, I will even take the time to wade through my photos from a weekend spent last year in Port Townsend (a town known for its Victorian architecture) and our honeymoon in ‘08 to Victoria, BC. After all, I am pretty much house bound for the next two weeks, as our big bouncy dog had major surgery this last week and he has to stay pretty much immobile for the next two weeks and needs a lot of care and attention. So, expect a lot of posts… or, at least, one or two more.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Thanks be Given

I realize it is now February, therefore, this post is not-so-timely... but, what the hey, I'm going to post it anyway. Side-note: Did you know I'm a poet and I didn't even know it? Okay, enough with the cheese and on with the patronizing.
Everyone should send 'thank you' cards. Everyone. They are nice to get. And, if nothing else they let the person know you received the gift (if it was sent by mail). If you choose not to send an actual card, please, I beg you; DO NOT send an e-card. They are horrible things that are the bane of my inbox. If you insist on going the virtual route a simple email would suffice. Anywho, homemade cards are far and away the best option. Even simple ones are far superior to the store bought variety (and, of course, in a completely different league than the aforementioned dreaded e-cards... Can they even really be considered a card? This blogger says, "No.").
I whipped up my holiday 'thank you' cards in less than 10 minutes. True, I didn't have ton to create, nor are they very thrilling and awe inspiring, but they get the job done. The real key is having the proper supplies: craft paper, a handy-dandy paper cutter, a cute hole-punch, and craft tape. Here is a shoddy picture of the cards. 

I assure you, they were at least slightly better looking in person. And, most importantly, they were used to communicate thanks to those folks who gave me gifts. I have even subjected my students to multiple card making assignments. When I assigned Thank You cards after winter break, one lone student (out of 25) asked, "What if your parents already have you write Thank Yous?" To which I say, "Well done, one set of parents, well done."