Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gettin' Dirty With It

We gave our flowerbeds a full 365 days (plus more, since that year started at the end of November, there really wasn't much we could do outside other than shovel anyhow) to show us their stuff before deciding to work on getting rid of shrubs, trees and plants that weren't really our taste.  It was a good idea to do this, so we could see what bloomed when, what color the blooms were, and what we just couldn't stand.  The previous homeowner really liked her plants, and because she was older, probably grew to not be able to care for them like they needed. Many of the plants have been reproducing like crazy (iris, day lilies, daffodils) and others are just overgrown and need to be reeled in BIG TIME! I am all for the "natural" approach to gardening, you know - like English cottage style, if it is done well, but right now, I just want to clean things up and transplant some of what we already have back into the garden and go from there. Start from scratch, so to speak. And actually be able to see what is planted and mulch around them...

Our first nice spring day was last Saturday, and the re-landscaping mayhem began! There was a bed in the back that needed to be regraded away from the house (so that water flowed away from the foundation instead of toward it) - so this was the first project we tackled. We took all the plants out of the bed and dug up grass so that we could till, add soil and peat moss, and make it level before mulching. We decided that we would do this, and then replant.

Part of this planning involved a trip to our local garden center, Achin' Back (love the clever name!) for the first time. I like local nurseries, and have always wanted to stop by this one.  AB is family-owned small business, and their staff have been so helpful so far in our past two visits. If you're in the Chester County area, check them out!

One of the services they offer, in addition to great advice for problem areas, is landscape design. For free. We met Matt, our new friend at AB (hopefully he doesn't get tired of us and our silly questions), on our first visit and he explained that if we took pictures of our house and brought them in, he could help us to design our vision, help us select plants that would work in certain locations around our house, etc. After getting the basic idea for what we have and where we'd like to be at the end of our project (with a new patio outback and moving the front walk and front flower bed, widening and reshaping beds, etc.), Matt walked us around and showed us different plants and trees and figured out what looked best and fit with our tastes.

Here's the preliminary sketch Matt made:
And my updated color version that includes other trees, etc. that we already have and are planning to keep and use:

And so you can get an idea of what some of the plants are (and to help us remember what we ended up choosing - for now at least), I have included some pictures of the new plants/trees we're planning to plant!

What are your thoughts on our picks so far? What's your preference between the Weeping Redbud and the Snow Fountain Cherry?

Be back soon with our "in-progress" pictures.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Have you read what I've read? (to the tune of Do You Hear What I Hear)

Have you seen the application going around on Facebook, asking you to identify whether or not you have read more than 6 of the 100 books listed below by BBC? I don't really do Facebook apps, but was interested in looking at the list to see which books I have read, to see if I read more than the average person. The books I have read in my lifetime are marked in bold below.
image from penguinbooks.com
1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald

44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

21 out of 100. Not too shabby I suppose, although I am sure there are many of you who have read way more than that. There are some that I did not bold because I have read parts of these books but not the whole thing. Others I have seen in the film form, but that does not count, because we all know that the book is always better than the movie. And I actually own others of these books that I have not yet read. A few years ago, my goal in the New Year (some would call this a resolution) was to read 50 books. With this list and the unread books on my bookshelf as inspiration (a la  Jules' unread library), I am thinking that I just might have to come up with some sort of reading program for myself for 2011.

Are there any books on this 100 best-loved novels list that you've read and would recommend to me? Or have read and would advise me to not waste my time on?

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I think Christmas really is the most wonderful time of year. As I write this post, I am listening to Christmas music, my house smells like a fresh balsam tree (thanks to Bath & Body Works and their wallflower, you'd never know we have an artificial tree), and the lights on the tree and mantle are a-sparkling.

Most of my present-purchasing is finished. I've started sending Christmas cards to loved ones. And in the midst of the chaos that comes along with the kitchen renovation, our home is mostly decorated - this year inside and out (with a 36" lit wreath on the bay window and some lights on our bushes out front).

Of course, I still have a few final touches on the decorating, and one or two gifts to buy and most of them to wrap. But I feel like the planning and energy to get ahead this year has really paid off. I always enjoy Christmas. I love Christmas. But some years, I feel like I get so caught up in the commercialism and busyness that I forget to treasure and ponder the (as cheesy as it might sound) real reason we celebrate this holiday. This year, I find myself cherishing the celebration of Advent and praising God that he made Himself flesh and dwelt among us, the light of the world coming into the darkness (John 1) so that He could live a perfect life and one day go to the cross to pay the penalty for our sin, so that we may have fellowship with Him and eternal life. The mystery of Christmas.

Christmas this year has been a time of real reflection for me personally, through the Advent readings of Scripture and Christmas music/lyrics. I hope that it will be for you as well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

sneak peek

The kitchen has waved farewell to its demolition phase and reconstruction is underway. Here's a sneak peek. Enjoy!

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