Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bugs Before Cable

Yes, I'm weird and take pictures of insects and reptiles in our yard. I recently told one of Tommie's female colleagues that I used to collect and play with insects as a child because I didn't have cable television. She said that was in no way, shape, or form a valid excuse for playing with worms. Why didn't I just draw or something? Ha.

I hope that by the time there are kids in my life they aren't so far removed from nature that they never even see a worm. (Seeing it on an iPhone doesn't count.) No cable for them!

Anyway, here are some of the little guys I see around. I know my mother-in-law will like the snakes, but some of you might not appreciate them as much. None are poisonous...that I know of. I think they are cool...must be because I don't have cable again.
 Small black rat or racer snake (white belly?) trying to get into our storage shed.

Box turtle in the driveway.

 Orange-striped oak worm eating our oak trees.

Brown snake in our leaf pile.

Lizard with the bright blue tail on our deck. It's a Blue-tailed Skink. I love them!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Grass is Sort of Greener

As I mentioned in a previous post, raking our yard was half the battle--the next part is a lot more tricky, for one because we don't own the property so we don't want to (nor can we) put in a lot of thought and effort, let alone money. The second reason is that I have no idea what I'm doing. I've never had my own yard, so most of what I do involves putting down seeds, watering them, and seeing what happens.

I decided to try to make a couple "puppy patches" of grass--one in the fenced in area that I am assuming was a garden at one point (but it gets way too much shade so I'm not entirely sure what would grow well in there), and one abutting our patio for Maya to lay in and to help buffer the mud.
First I tried to just put down some Scott Patch Master near the patio to see what would happen. I know it's technically to patch existing grass, but I thought, "Well, what if I just want a patch?" Well, nothing happens, that's what.

Plan B was putting down a thin layer of top soil and seeding it with Scott Dense Shade Grass Seed. Just as I was beginning to give up, I saw the little spouts of hope coming up. Week two and it's slow growing and spotty, but maybe with another light reseeding it will fill in.

All I did in the fenced in area was put down the same Dense Shade mix (no top soil because the dirt is better in there). That started to grow quickly with some regular watering, however, it too is spotty, probably due to the lack of sun.

At least it looks a heck of a lot better than when we got here!  (Did I mention how many leaves we raked!?) And from far away, it certainly looks green, you just can't look up close.

I recently mixed in some Scott EZ Seed to see if it helps fill in the gaps. I got all my seeds on clearance at Target or 50% off at Lowes so I'm not loosing lots of loot even if my little yard patches never fully catch. Hopefully over time the grass keeps getting greener.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sometimes The Dog Has The Most Fun

We tried to take a little escape trip this past weekend to Lake Norman in Mooresville, NC. It's only a couple hours away from Durham and I found a small cottage online for rent that was within walking distance to the shore.

We were going to take a dip in the water, read outside on the patio, let Maya sprawl out on the grass in the sun, and go out to dinner at a nice steakhouse. You know what they say about the best laid plans...

The sun never came out, and staying inside the cottage was not appealing. Tommie kept referring to the house as "arachnophobia." He didn't much care for getting hit in the face with cobwebs everywhere we turned.

The one positive was that the place had a really big fenced in yard so that in between the rain we could throw the tennis ball with Maya and kick around a soccer ball. Maya also got to sleep in bed with us, which always equals a good night sleep for her and a poor sleep for those who have to share it with the little medicine ball. The dirty furniture and dead spiders on the floor didn't bother Maya either (I think she ate a couple), but the spiral staircase did. She would climb up slowly one paw at a time then wait at the top for Tommie to rescue her.

We only made it one night and decided to come home early. One nice thing about the trip is that we realized how much we were looking forward to coming back to our place. We've only been here for a few months now but it already feels nice and comfortable and it's (mostly) cobweb-free. Maya, however, votes for a big backyard one day, and I agree. Sometimes she is the only one who enjoys herself.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Conference Table Makeover

Tommie's office space at new job recently changed and one of his tasks was to help makeover the room, which, of course, turned into me also helping with the room makeover. Luckily, Tommie and I both like us some HGTV real-life action.

The new office space, which was the old computer lab inside a Durham private school, is shared by four staff members. Among other new items, Tommie chose these L-shape desks from Office Depot for each corner of the room.
The group also wanted a conference table in the middle of the room where they could converge. With a small budget in mind, Tommie and his boss found this dated dinging room table at the Habitat for Humanity Store in Durham for $75, along with the black chairs you will see in the "after" photos for $3 a pop.
The table had some knicks and other eye-sores but it had sturdy bones and plenty of space. So, the boys bought the table and told me to fix it, woman. Not really, they asked me politely what I could do with it and I made something up like I usually do.
Since the organization is a young, education-based non-profit, we went for a bold change, incorporating the group's colors (blue and white) with part of their logo (the "U").
Like most DIY projects I start, I had no idea what I was doing. After giving the wood and laminate surface a little sanding down, we coated it with Zinsser Cover Stain Primer which I read worked on laminate.
Then we applied a really good Valspar semi-gloss white paint to the base and the legs, even painting over the rusted brass "details." The top got a few coats of Olympia's premium semi-gloss, low VOC paint in Brilliant Blue. 

The logo was created by first tracing the outline of a trash can lid to get an even circle, then putting tiny pieces of painter's tape around it. I also used painter's tape to create the "U" inside the circle.
After applying three layers over consecutive weeks, the finished product got a couple light coats of Briwax clear finishing wax to make it seal and shine.

The U isn't perfectly even, and the surface of the table shows some bumps and imperfections, but we'll just call those "marks of character" and enjoy the end result as it is--bright, fresh, and vibrant.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bringing Pinterest to Life

A lot of what we do around here involves food.

We go out and try new restaurants around Durham; we head over to neighbor's houses for potlucks and curry; we host new friends at cook-outs and dinners. We don't drink, but we sure do eat a lot.
My go-to recipes for get-togethers are guacamole and key lime pie, but we've already graced parties with these platters so I've had to start thinking of ways to branch out. Enter Pinterest. 

The danger with Pinterest is that you may find yourself pinning pretty picture after pretty picture but not actually doing anything about it, so I've been going back and attempting to bring my "Foodie" board to life.

I posted a couple weeks ago about making this pasta, crab, and basil dish. It was simple to make, filling, and a welcome change from regular pasta.

This week I was tasked to make a salad for a get together. I had no lettuce but I did have plenty of basil growing outside and bright orange tomatoes from the farmer's market, so I tried this chickpea, basil, and cherry tomato salad recipe. Again, easy to make (this is key for me) and a twist on regular salad. 

Over the long weekend, I tried this recipe for banana "ice cream," which really only requires frozen bananas and a food processor. If you want, you can add peanut butter and cocoa. 
This never happens, but I actually might like the plain banana version better. I still eat my fair share of regular ice cream, but this is a healthy alternative. It even looks like ice cream.
I have to admit that I feel a sense of accomplishment seeing these pins come to life instead of just drooling over the pictures.