Of Wallpaper, Water Closets, and Womatoes

So, wallpaper. No wait. So, water closets… no. How do I intro into a thing about things I generally don’t like but now have both?

So in the master bath we have a water closet- which I hate for various reasons. First- why? Look, no one is showering while their spouse in pooping at the same time… at least not around these parts, so I prefer a more open concept floorpan for these sorts of things. But no- privacy prevailed to the previous owners so now to use this toilet you have to shut yourself in a 4′ by 3′ space… but hey, it’s 10′ tall sooo… yay? That’s how spaciousness works, right?

On top of the fact that I’d have never built this standing coffin in the first place it was builders’ beige with a cheap light fixture that has a fan you can’t turn off when the light is on. I slapped a small watercolor print and a stick on the wall and literally called it a day for 3 years.

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OH MY GOD NO ONE ZOOM IN ON THAT TOILET OR FLOOR- TODAY WAS CLEANING DAY I F-ING PROMISE.

SO..I think you can see why I was sick of it. Not shown are all the gaps to be caulked and trim that was never properly painted… it sucked. And I tried to never go in there. And it’s been a disaster from day one in this house.

And yet… I knew it wouldn’t take much, it’s such a small space. I thought about shelves across the back… but it really is so small I worried that no matter how they were hung my husband or I would hit our heads on it. And then I’d just have to dust everything on it… so no. Gallery wall? You know, I’ve never actually been great at them, and then there is still all the dusting. Instead I decided on… wallpaper!

Now look, I’m wallpaper conflicted. The house I grew up in had wallpapered bathrooms, flowered and striped wallpaper, to be exact, that replaced, and I’m not kidding here, gold foil inappropriate (read naked figures) cartoon wallpaper. It’s seared into my memory. Mom replaced that gross gold foil stuff on like day one of buying that house and I was only 4… but I still remember. So needless to say, in all the years, and all the wall options… I really thought this day would never come.

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I almost opened it so you could see how clean it was. Almost.

The look I was going for was a 30 years from now “Oh my god that’s hideous what were they thinking?!” Because really, with wallpaper it has to be go big or go home. So I only did one accent wall (if I had painted an accent wall red it would have been very 2001, no?) because I didn’t want to feel too overwhelmed by that pattern. Also, I know you can’t really tell, but the walls are now painted a light grey. It’s… it’s white. I broke my cardinal rule of trying a paint swatch in the room itself first and just picked a color and bought it at the same time. It was supposed to be light mousey grey… but even “white” it’s an improvement. I’m hoping when I get the trim repainted the contrast will be more apparent? Oh well. Also, the wall sheen has now gone from WHY DOES ANYONE DO THIS flat to satin and the trim will go from WHY IS THE TRIM FLAT TOO???!!! to semi-gloss. All the gaps are caulked. The floor was scrubbed with CLR and a toothbrush which I assure you I am never doing again. And look- a handy basket of spare rolls of toilet paper rolls- because in this bathroom no one can hear you scream.

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Wait, could those be… cactus and palm trees together in an impossible landscape? You bet your ass they are, bub.

So, I’m pleased with myself and covered head to toe in paint and caulk and wallpaper paste and it might all finally come off after the 3rd or 4th shower. On to the tomatoes.

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ARE YOU SEEING THE SIZE OF THIS TOMATO PLANT?!

The Sungold is now taller than me. Taste test wise… it’s a good cherry tomato, but nothing beats my old trusty Sweet 100s. Which contrary to their name are the tangier of the two.

We’ve relented and let the toddler start harvesting tomatoes. She very carefully takes a bowl outside to fill… and then not a single one makes it back inside, ever. That’s okay kid, you get the tomatoes on the bottom 3 feet, I’ll take the ones from the top 7, deal? The older girls are smart enough to sneak out without the toddler to snag some for themselves a couple of times a day.

Spring

A blog you say? I have one, do I?

The Tile:

So spring has sprung and what that means is that I’m less apt to sit here on the weekends and more likely to be found gardening or cleaning. (It’s a “yay” response to that statement. I know that seems unlikely, but it’s true.) A few weeks ago I hand scrubbed 40 square feet of white subway tile from a stepladder on my counter.

I’d always hated that tile. It runs from our stove all the way to the 12’/ 16’/ “I should really measure this one day” ceiling. And it sounds like I shouldn’t have hated it. It, in fact, sounds right up my alley. But oh how it wasn’t. The people who flipped our house (aka Those Jackasses) did a pisspoor job on everything. Painting. Floors. Exterior Painting. Installing Cabinets. Wired in fire alarms that were wired wrong so THEY were a fire hazard. Jesus don’t get me started on the incorrectly installed french door that’s molding or the bathrooms that are going to have to be a complete tear out. So the Jackasses installed this huge counter to ceiling swatch of subway tile in the kitchen, and thanks to the open concept of our house there it was, staring me in the face every time I sat on the couch, ate dinner, cooked dinner, or peed with the bathroom door open when no one else was home.

And what was the problem with the tile? Well, as I mentioned it’s really hard to reach. Which explains why they never properly scrubbed the grout off. There was a mattifying haze of it left all over the top 4 feet. And just a badly cleaned job on the areas that were reachable. My husband and I had installed tile at our last house. We knew how to do it correctly. This was not.

And I CLEANED it before, don’t get me wrong. The thing got half assed wiped down a few times in the 2 years we’ve been here, we’re not monsters. But one recent random Saturday I just grabbed a bucket and a scrub pad and I LAID into those tiles. It honestly took hard scrubbing EVERY damn tile, all the way to the ceiling. And almost working by feel- you can feel the tile turn from gritty to smooth. I grabbed a butter knife for some excessively gritty corners. And I have NO idea how long it took to do. An hour? Two? Shorter than the two years I’d been hating it though.

And what do you know, I like that tile now. It no longer is a testament/monument to “you live in someone else’s house/ they did this” and made it ours. I felt that same feeling at the last house too- it took touching and changing literally every surface before it felt “us.” This is the same, just a dauntingly bigger place, and the beginning started out hugely pregnant and then dealing with an infant so we had no choice but to let it lie for a while. But now? We’re on a roll.

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SOOO carefully cropped to not show dirty counters…

And that has been what these past weeks have felt like. We’ve reorganized our bedroom. I cleaned out and organized my closet. We’ve gardened and gardened and gardened. We’ve put up a fence that almost caused an international event. (good fences make good neighbors my ASS, Frost. It’s fine. Yes a lawyer were briefly involved.)

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Texans be serious ’bout them property lines. Bless that we had a handy copy of the survey at the ready…

 

And now, there the tile sits, way up there. Gleaming. And I smile at it, because it is mine.

The Garden:

And… that felt like the end of the blog post actually. Bt the gardening… I just want to say we’ve gotten the side garden/ Japanese maple garden rocking these days. The husband and I got each other Japanese maples for our 14 year anniversary this week- brings the total to 8. We’re close to running out of space in the perfect high dappled shade of the pecan trees over there- but if conditions allowed the entire yard would be Japanese maples.

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We hang out here a lot talking about how nice it is. Might be why the neighbors sold there house and moved. It’s better looking in real life.  *bare patch in the front left is a Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow shrub that we cut to the ground when we transplanted it in the fall. It’s coming back. (Yes, that actually is it’s name)

A few weeks ago we dug up the entirety of this awkward triangle section of yard between the carport slab and house and made a garden of it- antique rose, white mistflower shrub, dinner plate dahlias, pineapple sage, coreopsis transplanted from the wildflower area, rosemary, a different colored may night salvia (not the standard pink or two shades of purple. This one’s fuchsia with flower stalks twice their normal size)…

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Put up or shut up about the May Night Salvia, I know, I know.

native monarda, spirea, a Mexican Olive Tree, Mexican Mint Marigolds (aka Texas Tarragon aka not related to any plant in it’s common names…), and bronze fennel (my FAVORITE ornamental herb). The husband has a gift for rocks, so there is a cool stone border and a nice walkway through it. It’s a very “us” garden… what predominates is it better not have any of the standard garden center bedding plants we see around here. We like the unusual or old fashioned, or at least unusual for TEXAS (sure other regions do NOT consider pineapple sage or may night salvia unusual… I get it. They make the cut ’round these here parts though).

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Did I oversell it? Because I feel like I oversold it…

But having worked in a garden center for a while, I HATE all the plants that are on the market for no reason other than that they’ll flower in six packs. Plants should do well in the GARDEN not on the shelf… I am very anti-standard plant offerings- if there was some kind of a walkout or march, or plant hat to crochet I totally would- this is an issue that speaks to me, dig? What I’m saying is if you EVER find a petunia or salvia greggii in my garden it’s because I’m DEAD and the next wife has no idea what she’s doing, the whore.

In the backyard this weekend the husband planted a new pomegranate tree, the needle palm we’ve had in a pot for years, and a vitex tree. They were big pots. They were HUGE holes. The toddler fell in one and almost couldn’t get out, if that conveys the concept… And I dug up a three foot by twelve foot section of the yard to put in tomatoes. I don’t think writing that out quite conveys the hours and hours we spent yesterday fighting the hard ground to accomplish those tasks… it was way more difficult than it sounds, promise.

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Is that a 6′ T post driven into the middle of that 4′ tomato cage? You bet your ass it is. Sweet 100 cherry tomato is a BEAST. The T post still won’t be enough… grow my pretty, GROW!

Weirdly the section I dug up for tomatoes was super sandy (still rock hard? Not sure how that works, but it was). I feel like maybe it was the floor for some old pigeon coop that had been torn down or a sand floored shed. There are a couple of cut off to ground level cedar posts close by to give credence to that theory. And I unearthed a 70s astroturf doormat while digging. WEIRD to think there we were, mowing over a welcome mat buried 2 inches down this whole time. But again, it’s the same feeling: we’re slowly making it ours through blood, sweat, tears and the occasional demolished lower back. And FINALLY we can see the shape of the garden coming together… we’re well on our way.

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Picture of front porch pots for no reason related to narrative whatsoever. Mint, Italian Parsley, and a tuberous begonia

Linked up with Samantha @ Fake Fabulous HERE!

On Flu Shots and Stuff

Ah my last flu shot- I remember it like it was yesterday… I was at my doctor’s office getting some blood work done for yet another thyroid check, and therefore had blood drawn from one arm and a flu shot in the opposite shoulder. Never one to miss the opportunity for this sort of thing, I waxed poetic about the unfairness of it all to my husband; my arm hurts, it feels like someone punched me in the shoulder, and here I am super pregnant and miserable already. *Needle scratch* Hold up. The baby’s now 1… so that means what? It means that I have the god damn flu right now because I THOUGHT I got the flu shot this year when in fact I got it LAST year.

Get your flu shots, folks. This shit ain’t fun.

On the plus side (Desperately Seeking Silver Lining) I have plenty of time to blog or write my local paper (already checked that one off the list, actually. I make such a good shut-in!) and letters to my aunt and uncle.

Let’s see, what else?

The baby had 4 teeth come in at once, but one of her front teeth is coming in MUCH faster than the others… I’ve started calling her Fang. Still not walking, but my grandmother is of the opinion she could if she wanted to. She’s awfully close though. It’ll be any day, methinks.

The new windows are in and this is the first time we’ve set the thermostat to 72 and actually had it be 72 when we wake up in the morning They look sharp too.

My house is trashed but I can’t muster the energy to put the Cheerios box away, so I’m taking the opportunity to fight any occasional OCD tendencies. I do like a clean house though, even if I don’t often mop the floors.

There is a woodpecker that comes to the bird feeder multiple times a day (hour, really) for (I think) the shelled peanuts in the mix we use. I have the perfect vantage point on him from the couch.

I see that my master plan to use this time to write extensively will be foiled by the fact that I have no energy to keep moving my fingers over keys… bummer.

Until next time.

GET YOUR FLU SHOTS! GAH

The Battle of Vicksburg… Monday Morning in a Central Texas Town Version

So. It’s EFFING cold in this house. Worse than last year? Maybe. I have cold weather plastic over the windows in the baby’s room- and that is JUST about the only thing getting us through. That and the belief that this is fleeting and is therefore romantic in an “Oh it’s cold, let’s all cuddle up” type of way.

So therefore know, when I told my middle daughter that “I need you to bundle up and go play outside.” I wasn’t being cruel… hell, it’s probably warmer outside. Besides. Character building.  But how was I to know THIS was the hill I was to die on? Did Johnny Reb know the Battle of Vicksburg was the turning point in the war when it happened? Did they know it was a slow, inexorable slide from that point to defeat? Because I can sure as hell tell you I knew the SECOND she replied with a not impolitely phrased: “That sounds like a want more than a need” and walked out of the room- that this war was lost.

They’ve won. Oh lord. The children have won.

 

Lord.

So, in the prep for hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year I busted out the steamer mop and gave the living room/kitchen/dining room a once over. Later, I glanced at the 11 month old (wait. what? That was fast- life is just a quick sprint to the grave once you start having kids- I SWEAR.) while she was sitting on the floor and I snatched her up with a gasp while saying “What did you spill? Or did you pee? Why are your pants …dry.” Because I thought she was sitting in a puddle of water. What was she sitting in? A shiny patch of floor with light bouncing off it. Because it was clean. Spotless, even.

THIS IS MY LIFE NOW I DON’T EVEN RECOGNIZE CLEAN FLOORS ANYMORE.

“You know, Flowers and…”

My husband and I love gardening- we like existing outside, as much as we can- and we like doing it in a nicely landscaped place. And I have dabbled enough in landscape design to be all annoying about it. I like a French Cottage style- not as chaotic as English Cottage, but still emphasizing an abundance of flowers while also incorporating veggies and herbs right in the same spaces. Also, all organic, and stuff. So.

Back in the day I used to work in a garden center and thus became a bit of a plant snob- I want the unusual, the hard to grow, the unknown, the ones with cool historical stories. Honestly, a landscape of New Gold Lantana, Salvia greggii, Knockout roses, and crepe myrtles might as well be beige walls as far as I’m concerned. (So Bourgeoisie! I’d have never made it through the Reign of Terror with that kind of attitude, let me tell you- Robespierre would have definitely seen to that. Ho, ho!) But also people- please don’t fall for the trap: most commercial growers and big box stores grow plants that look good in POTS so you’ll buy them- for a rockin landscape you want plants that do best in the GROUND- they should almost always be just green and unassuming looking in pots for sale. So.

Our house had been abandoned for 20 years before we moved in- and the people who flipped it as an income property ran out of money and bad ideas and installed next to no landscaping. They did put 8 shrubs in, actually. They were Yaupon Hollies. And if the latin name of Ilex vomitoria ‘Nana’ doesn’t just perfectly sum them up, I don’t know what would. We ripped them out. So… we get, finely, to my point here.

Slowly… ever so painstakingly slowly- we’ve been landscaping. The front yard has sod and new shrubs. (anyone care what kind?) They’re dwarf myrtles, Myrtus communis compacta. Sweet myrtle is a plant that dates back to ancient times, with the first recording of it in written history in 50 AD. White flowers. Purple berries (edible, yes. Palatable? eh.) It’s considered an herb, and I use it extensively in cut flower arrangements. Supposedly it was one of the plants Adam was allowed to take out of the garden on Eden (how’d that work? Some kind of severance package, maybe?). We also have a side garden in and establishing. We’ve planted poppies and larkspur seeds in the 70′ bed between our new driveway and our neighbors. So, even with a now 10 month old we have done some really big projects. Oh- and we took out the trash trees in the back: Cedar Elms and an Arizona Ash (Boo! Hiss! Who plants those awful things?! It’s dead now.) And my husband and some contractor (cough cough, Dad, cough cough) installed a new fence. Okay! Jeez, this is taking together all too long to get to the point of… “Hey, wanna see the few flowers we’ve got over here right now? There aren’t that many because we haven’t landscaped the backyard yet, but we eked out what we could this year.”

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Francis Dubriel Rose. We get a rose for each of the girl’s when they’re born. Mary’s middle name is Francis (How Catholic are we, amiright?! Not very, actually.) so this one seemed like a good choice. Turns out it gets 8′ tall. Gulp. Maybe should have done a bit more research. It’s from 1894 and named for a rose breeder in Lyon, France who started out his career as a tailor. (My plant snobitude- it is DWARFED by my level of rose snobbery. lovelovelove me some antique roses. Hearts.) Hey and look! Turns out the jerks who sold us the house didn’t even sand the exterior before they painted! Haha…yeah. Don’t do that.

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My Nutmeg scented geranium- love those leaves! Flowers are small but very cute and both are cute in cut flower arrangements. Hey and look! You can see that the jerks we bought the house from built the deck using nails instead of screws! haha… yeah. Don’t do that.

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Chocolate Sunflowers… now that’s one to file away for future use! I tried to angle the picture to exclude the neighbors house and her one of her no-goodnik son’s truck covered in assault rifle stickers. Grow, sunflowers, GROW!

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Coreopsis from a wildflower mix the neighbor gave us to add to the driveway bed. Huh. That’s not hideous…thanks, neighbor! Now, about that asshole dog of yours. And the other one. And the other one. And the new puppy…

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John Fannick Phlox named after… some guy in San Antonio. Owned a plant nursery. They can’t all be interesting stories.

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Weed grass heads from the bamboo forest/ghetto in the back corner. The seed heads do look nice in flower arrangements, though. And that’s all I got… except for this last one, that is.

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Happy Saturday. (“Don’t say Cat-urday, don’t say Cat-urday…”)