Thursday, July 12, 2012

An Arbor and Birdhouse in the Secret Garden

I was going to write about these separately this week, but time got away from me so you’re getting them all at once. 

How’s that for a bargain?

2 projects in one sitting!

You probably already saw the birdhouse, I bought it at TJ Max this spring.  It came on a metal post.

I showed it in some of my earlier reveals of the landscaping.

It was just holding a spot until I could use it where I really wanted to.

I removed the house from the attached metal post and instead attached it to this one.


The wooden post is from my salvaged porch parts.  This one was odd, looks like it was made to be a corner support, with 3 sides.   

It’s the blue piece leaning against the fence with red trim in the “before” photo below.


It was really tall and I immediately saw it in the center of the garden with a birdhouse on top.

A metal post stake pounded into the ground and a short 4x4 support the piece.


So there it is. This one was easy peasy.  I stained everything white. (I wasn’t very careful on the birdhouse, as you will notice)


And it has occupants in the top apartment already!



Oh, by the way, that sign Deb made for me is in Italian; I forgot to mention that when I showed it to you.

It says, “My Secret Garden”.

Thanks Mom, for reminding me to tell everyone. 

Now for project #2, the arbor.

Remember this spring I found these at the curb?

I knew they would be perfect in my Secret Garden.

Last week when Deb was still here we spent our last day together working on this.

It was pretty simple.  First we had to stabilize the old pieces, the nails had rusted out and it was pretty rickety.

Some glue and deck screws fixed that problem.

A piece of old wooden ladder was used for joining the sides together at the top.

Lord knows I had plenty of old ladders to choose from!

We used the taller one you can see on the left in the picture below.

It was just right.


I had some decorative wood corner brackets in my stash ($1 each from Real Deals) they dressed it up nicely.

After staining all the parts we walked it over to it’s new home. 

See the support bar in the picture below? 

That was to keep it from breaking apart as we carried it.


Once we got it there we discovered 2 problems.

First, it was too tall!  At 9 ft high the proportions were all wrong.

Second, It looked pretty plain.

Something was missing.

I left it there a few days and tackled it again on the weekend.

Only this time I didn’t have my helper.

I took some 1x6’s and just cut them down to size.

After tracing a curve in one end I cut it out with the jigsaw.  Then I traced the pattern on the other ends and cut them out.



After cutting a foot off the bottom to make it shorter I moved it back over to the garden entrance.

This time though, I left it on the outer side of the gate.



It just felt right.


Then I cut out a circle in the gate. 

I was thinking it would make the gate look more inviting, maybe tie it in with the arbor.

I’m actually not too sure if it works for me yet. 

Poor Mike is beside himself over that hole.



I used a rusty barrel ring to measure out the circle.  Then I inserted it into the hole to stabilize the boards.


I’m not done with that part yet, that will be another project.


Arbor #1, is done!


I can check that one off the list.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Deb was here!

Last week I posted that Deb from Proper Prim was on her way to visit for a few days. 

I had taken some vacation days from work so had 5 days off in a row. 

They pulled in on Friday afternoon and the fun began.


I was waiting in the driveway with camera in hand.


She even came bearing gifts.  She made me this sign for my Secret Garden.



Isn’t she the best?


We had some pretty late nights, sitting out at the bar until the wee hours of the morning.   

Time goes by so fast when you’re having fun!

On two nights we had more friends and family over.  I was so glad my kids got to meet Deb.

What a great time we had! I was so sorry to see her go.


Now that she’s gone, everywhere I look I can see Deb’s handiwork.  She is such a wiz at putting vignettes together!

The girl just doesn’t stop, picking up something from one area of the yard and arranging it somewhere else, making it look like it was always there.

She always has her magic tool bag nearby, with the drill and level right on top.







Mike and I had to play in a golf tournament on Wednesday morning, so we said our goodbyes before we left.

When we got back the driveway seemed so empty with the motor home gone.

We went out back and lo and behold, that little stinker had left us a new clock and thermometer set on the back wall of the garage.


Now when we’re up talking ‘til the wee hours of the morning we’ll know exactly how late it is!

Thank you Deb and Dennis, we love having you here.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Deb’s on the way!

I’m so excited!  My pal Deb, of Proper Prim, is on her way to visit for a few days.  She hasn’t been here in 2 years and I can’t wait to see her and Dennis pull into the driveway in their home on wheels.

I’ve promised her I wouldn’t make her bail me out of any messes this time, and no more ugly lamp challenges either.

You know that lamp she reworked for me is still going stong out by the gazebo.  It makes me smile every time I look at it.

On the home front I have some news.

My job has changed.  I’m no longer a road warrior. 

Yep, I’m turning in the company van and trading it for a desk.

Not sure how I’ll adjust to it, but the plus side is the hours are much more regular (and fewer) than what I was doing.

Next I’ll need to get a new car. 

Oh the possibilities!

Shall I get a large vehicle like my van with a big interior for hauling my curbfinds home

or a teeny tiny one, like a mini cooper

to keep me from over-indulging in my curbshopping obsession?

I  can’t decide.

We’ve got 2 weeks to figure it out.

But I won’t be car shopping this weekend.

Nope, I’ll be hanging out with my pal Deb.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Long Overdue Secret Garden Update

I haven’t had much time these past couple weeks to work on anything much on the home front.  I’m shocked that it’s mid-June already!

Why, last time I worked on the Secret Garden was on Memorial Day.  Don’t think I’ve given up on it though, I haven’t thrown in the towel just yet.

My job has been very demanding and will continue to be for most of the summer, we have a lot of big projects going on that make for some very long days and a lot of travel.  I’m bushed by the time I get home.

Here’s an update on where I am so far.  The section by the house is all edged, planted, and mulched.  This side gets a fair amount of shade most of the day because of the shadow from the house.  I stuck with plants that are ok with partial sun. 

These pictures were all taken on May 28th, we’ve had so much rain since then the plants have all grown by leaps and bounds and are really filling in. I went out to take some pictures this morning only to discover my camera battery was totally dead! 

I’ll have to get some updated shots this weekend for you.



The only  thing I’ve done in the middle section was to change out the retaining blocks with some that match the rest of the blocks around the breezeway. 

This is how it looked when I first put it in, but as I got going further into the project I realized I needed to change it up. Those blocks were all wrong for that planter, they just wouldn’t do.


I’m a lot happier with it now.  (At least I will be when I get it all straightened up and planted!)

I have a couple small shrubs I want to transplant there, and a post that I want to put a birdhouse on top of.


Those original blocks got used for edging around the Rose of Sharon bushes along the driveway side of the yard.


It meant more work, but now that it’s done I love it.


I still haven’t touched the wild corner on the left in the picture below.  There’s a honeysuckle plant growing up the fence in the corner,  clematis, a very old tea rose, a peony,  geranium, bachelor’s button, and lots of phlox. 

It’s a jungle in there!

I plan to clear and transplant that corner this weekend, along with getting the middle all set.  Building the arbors and finishing the fence will have to wait until I’m done with the basic part.


I took this next picture from the secret garden looking toward the Outdoor Kitchen.

Seeing what Is already done keeps me from getting discouraged.  I’m so glad I did that part first.


I want to thank everyone for all the great feedback on my weight loss post. 

I plan to do an update on that soon.

Thanks for hanging in there with me!

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How to Lose 20 pounds in Just 2 Months Without Even Exercising



No, this is not an ad for a fad diet.  It’s more about my propensity for following them.

Actually, truth be told, I struggled a lot with this post, not sure just how much I was willing to confess to you all.

Do you ever do that?

What started as a fun, tongue -in-cheek blurb soon turned into something far deeper as I started really thinking about my lifelong habit of dieting.

Finally, after a week of twiddling with this in draft form, I’ve decided, what the heck, this IS the place where I go to “confess” isn’t it?

And YOU are the people I keep it real for.

So here goes, it’s not a junk or project post, unless you consider ME a project. 

Hmmm, guess you could think that, after all, life is an ongoing project isn’t it?

Ok, now that we’ve settled that issue, let’s get back to those 20 pounds, shall we?

Because I really did lose 20 pounds (21 now) since April 1st, and I thought I’d share with you; my loyal friends my successful diet strategy.

So read carefully and follow to the letter and you too could lose that extra weight! 

  1. Wake up one morning and decide that this is the day you are really going to start that diet.  Really this time.  No fooling.
  2. Next, listen to a Hypnosis CD for weight loss you’ve had kicking around the house for the last 4 years yet never seriously attempted.  (does anyone else out there buy this stuff on infomercials in the wee hours of the morning?)
  3. Make a very long list of things you want to get done out in your yard.  Make sure most of it involves hard, backbreaking, manual labor.  Something that will keep you busy every spare moment when you’re home.
  4. Eat 6 small meals throughout the day (every 2 to 3 hours).  Make sure they are right around 100 calories and are low fat and low carb.  You will feel like you are eating constantly, but it’s most important that you don’t skip any of these or you will be starving and then eat everything in sight.
  5. Eat a fairly normal supper….just make sure it is low carb  and low fat.  Shoot for a plate that’s 75% veggies and 25% protein.
  6. Drinks lots of water.  Lots!  Even when you really want to drink something else.
  7. Avoid alcoholic beverages. Drink water instead. (see #6)

Don’t laugh, I’m dead serious. 

This combination really worked for me this time.  It was my ‘magic pill’.

I must have been in just the right mood when I listened to that hypnosis program because I have not wanted any candy or sweets at all. 

Not even ice-cream!  

Had I known it would work I would have tried it so much sooner. Instead it sat in the ever growing pile of diet plans, exercise equipment, and workout CDs.  Gathering dust.

Looking back over the years I think I’ve tried just about every fad diet out there, Atkins, South Beach, Slim fast, NutriSystem, Hydroxycut, 6 week body makeover, and Medifast.

Then there was the Grapefruit diet and the Soup diet (remember that one? I still can’t eat cabbage after that!)

I even made up one of my own, the Chocolate diet.  Back when you could get candy bars on special 3 for 99 cents.

A Butterfinger for breakfast, Nestle Crunch for lunch and a 100 Grand bar for dinner.  It actually worked! (I should get a patent on that one, it could really take off)

See, that’s the tricky thing about fad diets. 

They all work, more or less.

I’ve fallen for so many promises of “Fast weight loss!” “Easy!” “No pain!” “Eat anything you want and still lose weight!” “Melt off the pounds without really trying!”  “No exercise required!” “Tone your body while sitting on the couch watching TV!” “Take this Magic Pill and you will be the perfect size!” and all the other promises they shout during the paid programming testimonials, so many  that I feel like an expert in diets.

In fact, I’m really GOOD at following them. 

Just not so good at keeping the weight off once I’m done dieting.


You see, in case you haven’t figured it out yet,  I’m the perfect example of a Yo-Yo dieter. 

I need a magical formula to lose weight, any gimmick will do as long as I buy into it,  and when I get the weight off  I go right back to all the habits that got me to gain weight in the first place.

So I thought maybe, just maybe, if I actually put this out there and actually own up to my terrible habits it may help me break them.

Maybe YOU will be able to help me with this!

Let’s start with portion control; that’s what gets me every time.

How on earth do people stop eating a bag of chips, candy, cookies, (anything) before it’s empty?

I just don’t get it.

What’s working for me right now is that I’m buying those individual portion packages.

You know.

The 100 calorie bags.

That seems to help.

I can still eat the whole bag that way.

Hopefully not the whole box.


All kidding aside, I really need to break this yo-yo cycle!

Dare I hope there is someone else out there in blog land that has this same problem? 

And if so, how do you handle it?

Oh, and what was your favorite Fad Diet? 

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Outdoor Party #1, Check!

Hope you all had a great long weekend for Memorial Day. 

We had our first party of the season (my list goal is 6, so I’m on my way to a check mark there).

What do you do to get ready for a party?

Chances are some grocery shopping, cleaning up the house, pulling out serving trays and dishes, maybe even making some special appetizers or dessert, right?

Well for me food is the last thing I think about.  Good thing I have Mike to pick up the slack in that area or we’d have starving guests!

Around here it usually means pulling out all the stops and busting tail to get a project done before party time.  That’s exactly what I did this weekend.

Friday morning I took 3 trips back and forth to Lowes and Home Depot for 20 more bags of mulch, 22 topsoil, 20 garden soil and 100 more retaining wall blocks. See how low the van is sitting? 

Waiting to be unloaded yet again.


Let’s review this little project….

You may recall the “before” picture of the walkway.


And the awful dirt and weed-filled space between the kitchen and the secret garden entry.


A couple weeks back the pavers got all pulled up and reset with a better base and retaining blocks.


Then last week I showed you one section all planted and mulched.


I spent all day Friday (extra day off), and Saturday, and Sunday trying to pull together the rest of the landscaping around the walkway and outdoor kitchen.

First this little area on the side of the potting shed…


Then the narrow strip between the garage and the patio was built up into a planter.  I went 2 rows high on this part, hence the trip back to Lowe’s for more blocks.



Finally the biggest section along the house…


Seriously, on Sunday morning (party day) I was outdoors in my PJs at 5am preparing to set the stepping stones in front of the kitchen.


I saved that part for last.


From there I went to planting the new planters and mulching around some trees.  Then dusting all the webs off the pergola in the outdoor kitchen. And using the leaf blower to clean up the patio, then dusting again from all the dust the leaf blower kicked up.  Duh!

Time was running out as I pulled out a bucket to wash the breezeway floor……

I stepped into the shower to get cleaned up just 30 minutes before guests were due to arrive.

By the time the first guest showed I was all ready for them.  The night was a huge success, we ate and drank ‘til the wee hours of the morning.

Only one mishap and it turned out ok. 

Katy took off for a run when someone left the gate open.

Very scary moments there! 

Good thing she’s a people dog, I got a phone call from the folks who found her minutes after the escape.

Thank goodness! Slowly everyone started coming back from the search operation and the party resumed.

Wish I had thought to take pictures during the festivities, but alas, I was too busy having fun.

You’ll have to settle for some landscaping shots, ok?

I took these all the morning after.



Wait, what happened to the mulch along the right side of the kitchen?

Could it be dug up already?


Oh, yeah,  Katy decided to dig a deep hole in it and have a nice cool nap!

Caught her red-handed.


Dang it Katy! What am I going to do with you?


I was pretty satisfied with how this part came out; especially after digging out this photo taken last summer from almost the exact same angle.



What a difference!




Ok, so now I can get back to working on that secret garden project.

Really now.

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