snow2It is snowing here AGAIN! One delayed opening followed by a snow day. Kind of crazy for this early in the year in Philadelphia! Of course there are 2 excited kids in this house. Sam made his first snow man all by himself this morning. Pretty cute, right?

piano-winter2I’m still finishing up decorations around the house, but I have updated the top of the piano. Can you tell I am feeling shiny? I’m loving the gold sparkly spiky ornaments that I dug out of the random vintage ornament box. I went through ALL of the ornaments this year and did some purging and organizing. I can now officially fit all of the ornaments in one awesome vintage box.

christmasornaments1This is the gem that came from Mr S’s grandma. Pretty fun (if you ignore the old stains)! The new bench in the craft room will house all of our Christmas and holiday decorations. The bench dimensions were set by the size of my plastic storage bins. The bench will fit 4, but better yet it will fit 3 plastic bins and this extra long box. One small victory in old home storage!

craftroom-wallpaper5Speaking of which I finally made a decision on the wallpaper. I changed my mind and went with a different pattern, after I was still on the fence about a couple of the samples. This beauty is on its way! Its a 1970’s reproduction from Little Green called Reverie. A little crazy, but I like that it is a little nod to all of the crazy 1970’s wallpaper that we took down up here.

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I’m feeling behind in my holiday decorations and preparation! Maybe it is because I spend too much time looking at Pinterest and all of the beautiful decorations that I cannot even begin to attempt. Maybe I need to stop looking, but it is so addicting, and easier than actually getting to work. Fortunately I do have impatient children who actually want to decorate for the holidays! I have named Sam the official “tree fluffer” for helping reshape the fake Christmas tree. He took the low parts, which was a nice change for my back. I can’t be the only one who dreads getting their scratchy, bulky tree up and looking good.

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Anyway, as I started getting the Christmas decorations out I realized that I had not photographed the Thanksgiving piano top. I like to adjust and tweak this small area whenever I get the chance (while ignoring the rest of the mess around it).  I kept a lot of the decorations from Halloween and just added a couple of later fall touches. I think my favorite new things are the glass blocks with the feathers on them. I bought them on clearance at Target and I immediately put them up. Now of course the area is in flux again as the fall orange makes way for sparkly Christmas decorations. Stay tuned for an update!

christmastree1Our main tree is up, lit and decorated in a beautifully messy way. This is the first year that we are putting up all of the fragile ornaments. So far only one casualty!  The kids relished putting up the ornaments, double and triple stacking them on the low branches.  I did go through after them and move some of the more fragile ones out of harms way. They also discovered how magical it is to lay under a lit Christmas tree.  Now I just need to clear away some of the boxes and toys and light the fireplace. Hopefully this weekend!

How are your holiday decorations going?

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The Craftroom/Studio is moving along slowly. It is hard to get motivated to sand and reapply spackle yet again! So in my procrastination I have started to think about wallpaper for the back wall. Yes, after spending lots of time getting the walls nice and smooth I am going to cover one of them up! But I do like the idea of a pop, that will help accentuate the shape of the room. Am I completely crazy? Maybe I have breathed in too much dust.

Here are a few of my current contenders (samples are on their way):

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This is Indira Damson (W0019/03) by Clarke & Clarke Wallpapers. I actually remember seeing this wallpaper on pinterest a few months ago and thought it was really pretty. It is certainly dramatic!

craftroom-wallpaper3The second choice is a beautiful Bumble Bee (BP 555) Wallpaper by Farrow & Ball Wallpapers. The gold metallic is quite stunning but I’m not sure if the blue might be a little overpowering.

craftroom-wallpaper2The third choice is my current favorite. The Globetrotter Natural (W0015/02) by Clarke & Clarke Wallpapers has famous building drawn on it. The description says that the pattern is “gold”. I will have to wait to see the sample in person to see if it actually metallic or not. I think it could be nice without being overpowering. The only question is whether it is too boring and not graphic enough. I could also get it with the pattern in pink. hmmm….

craftroom-wallpaper1Finally here is a crazy water scene that I thought might be fun. Nympheus (BW45033/1)  by G P & J Baker Wallpapers.

For more of the wallpapers I have been considering you can check out my Pinterest page.

So have I completely lost my mind?

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craftroom-progress1

There has finally been some progress over here on our third floor! Our contractors worked part of last week to get our Craftroom closed up (i.e. no open walls where cats and small children could get stuck). I had them build in some storage in the eaves while they were at it and for good measure add a bench on the window wall. We are still spackling and cleaning up the old plaster walls. Then comes priming and painting. I think we are still a couple of weeks away from actually being able to use the room, but that is a LOT closer than where we have been for the last several months.

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The picture above is where we started. Basically a storage room with 1980s wallpaper and no insulation, heat or storage. I still need to order the storm windows (and eventually restore these windows) but it is at least now comfortable to spend time in (if you don’t mind spackle dust). Now that we are in the home stretch, I’ve been refining my Victorian Industrial Glam aesthetic. I think I am headed slightly more industrial than glam these days, but I think it is going to be a really great space. Finally a spot where we can work on projects and not have to clear them off the table to eat dinner.

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I think I have a good mix of storage and am looking forward to having a spot for a lot of homeless items that sits in corners all over the house. I will put together a separate post on all of the furniture and accessories I have been hoarding carefully choosing.

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Happy Halloween!

November 1, 2013 — Leave a comment

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Another Halloween has come and gone. There are large quantities of candy in the house and the whole family is suffering from a post Halloween malaise. I hope everyone had a great time! The weather was warm here, which made for a much more enjoyable night than normal.

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Elvis greatly enjoyed all of the attention! I wouldn’t be surprised if he started requesting to wear this costume out more often. If he was willing to sing in public I think he could start an act. He informed me that 54 people liked his costume during his Halloween Parade at school (not that he is counting or anything).

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Rapunzel is in love with her hair (and I am greatly relieved that her hair is not normally this long).

pianofall-2In other related updates, I realized that I haven’t shown off the fall piano styling. It is one of the few things I have managed to get done in the house recently.

pianofall-1I inherited the orange chocolate pot from my grandparents recently and thought it was perfect for the fall. I added a bunch of Osage Oranges (aka Monkey Balls). They have a nice citrus scent and I literally pick them up on the ground at Maisie’s school where they are plentiful (and the kids like to throw them). Let here it for free decorations!

I hope everyone has a great weekend and enjoys the extra hour of sleep! Tomorrow is the last soccer games for the season. I’m looking forward to some lazy Saturday mornings in our future.

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Our Busy House

October 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

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I know, I have disappeared yet again! Life has a funny way, of throwing you off your game. I like routine, and while I was looking forward to the school year starting, I had not realized how full my life was going to be. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lovely life with a sweet family, but finding time to carve out for the blog hasn’t happened. I’m still trying to figure that out. I miss writing and sharing and I have felt a little lost. I remember someone telling me that with kids it just gets busier (and harder) the older they get. At the time I had a baby who wasn’t sleeping through the night and needed A LOT of attention, so it was hard to imagine that to be the case. Now I would partially agree. We don’t over schedule our kids, but there is still a lot going on. Between school, homework, soccer and spending quality time with the kids it is pretty exhausting (although I would say not as tiring as having a small baby). I also have kids who like to be where ever we are, even my 6 year old generally prefers to play right by us (i.e. I am constantly stepping on legos). I am trying to savor this time because before I know it he will be hiding up in his room, but there are times when I wonder whether I will ever have real alone time again. My brain has felt really scattered, like I can’t put a complete though together. So please try and bear with me as I try to get back up and move forward.newplantingbed1

So anyway back to the house and the garden and design…

I have managed to squeeze some gardening in the last couple of weekends thanks to some glorious weather and some strategically planned play dates. I decided last weekend to create the last piece of planting bed that I have been envisioning for a while. I mentioned my love of southern magnolias last time I wrote. Well of course after I searched out the perfect tree for the driveway and paid full price for the South Magnolia ‘Kay Parris’, I stopped at Home Depot  the next week and guess what they had? Southern Magnolia ‘Little Gem’. Curses! I had checked there the week before I bought my tree and they didn’t have anything like that. The only good thing was that the price was not that much less than the nursery, so I didn’t feel too terrible. Since then I have been stopping over to the plant section about once a week to see what they have and more importantly to check to see when everything would go on clearance. Every year around this time they will start marking all of the plants down (to clear space for the Christmas trees!). Well last Thursday was finally the day! 50% off all perennials, shrubs and trees! They were just putting the sign up when I pulled up on my lunch break. I quickly assessed the situation and got a cart. I probably squealed like a school girl.

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There were still a couple of Little Gems in stock. I stood there starring at them. $35 was pretty enticing. So I kept trying to think where I would put another one. Eventually I would like to replace our bamboo with several of these, but that project isn’t happening any time soon. I finally decided to pick one up and figure it out after I got home. I also scored a couple of pear trees for $11 a piece for the side yard, a few small Nandinas and some really cute coral bells (Heuchera ‘Circus’).

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Once I got home I spent some time moving my new tree around, trying to find a place for it. We have some more sun near our shed after some tree trimming (which removed a large portion of our old birch tree) and removing dead branches from the cedar.  I decided that it was time to add the planting bed next to the shed. And if I strategically placed the new magnolia I could provide an additional buffer to the street. In the diagram above you can see the view that I am trying to block. It is hard to photograph but the general idea is that when you are on the deck this will eventually provide some more visual separation between the backyard and the street and adjacent driveway. It also allows for the tree to be out where I can touch the leaves and admire the flowers in the spring.

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I filled in the remainder of the planting bed with some of my new coral bells and some miscellaneous other plants and hostas. I’m not quite sure whether this falls into part sun or not. This area tends to get dry due to the large tree roots. I think it may take some experimenting to get the bed to succeed!

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend. I’ve got a long overdue date night scheduled with Mr. S!

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Garden Update: Fall Plant Picks

September 27, 2013 — 1 Comment

southernmagnolia2

I have been busy in the garden the last couple of weeks. The cooler weather called to me and I decided to it was time to tackle my weed infested gardens and add a few new plants. It was the Scott Arboretum Plant Sale last weekend, so it was a good excuse to pick up a few plants. I also decided it was time to plant the Southern Magnolia near the driveway, which I have been thinking about for the past couple of years. Unfortunately the plant sale wasn’t going to have any so I headed over to Mostardis. Of course while I was there I picked up a couple of extra friends for the garden. I still have a good bit of work in the front garden (in front of the bay window), but I have at least started edging and weeding.

shadeplanter1As I mature as a gardener, I am starting to become much more selective about the plants that I buy. I am much more interested in foliage and creating a patchwork of beautiful patterns and colors, and much less concerned with the flowers. At the same time I am still learning about properly placing plants. I lost quite a few perennials to the wet spring and summer. So my goal moving forward is to not just look at sun verses shade but also look closely at the type of moisture requirements. I also now have a much better idea of how each of my planting beds functions. I am also trying to buy native plants where possible. I don’t think I would ever go to a completely native garden, but seeing how the birds and bugs love our garden, it has inspired me to give them a good habitat.

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One planting bed that has changed over the years in this small bed adjacent to our driveway and the property behind us. Originally there were terrible prickly overgrown evergreen shrubs here. I pulled those out years ago and started with mostly annuals. The bed is pretty dry and gets a fair amount of wind from the adjacent street. Although this bed isn’t in our line of sight most of the time, it can be seen from some angles and if we ever put an addition on the house, it will be visible along with the van that parks there and street beyond. For the shorter term I planted some Rose of Sharron along the fence to provide a quick screen. However these aren’t evergreen and they self-seed way more than I would like. The only good thing about them is that they have a deep tap root so they don’t require watering. After contemplating multiple plants including traditional evergreens, I decided that a southern magnolia would be perfect, except that the traditional varieties are way too big!

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I have always thought that Southern Magnolias are quite beautiful, but until recently hadn’t really thought of them as suitable for my yard. Fortunately there are a couple of smaller varieties that are suitable for our Zone 6B/7A climate. I had originally searched for a ‘Little Gem’ but one of the local nurseries had ‘Kay Parris’ (which is related to little gem) in stock in a suitable size (i.e. not tiny but could still fit in the car) so I took the plunge and planted it over the weekend. This one should stay in a suitable size with lower branches to be the perfect year around screen. From what I have been told, they are pretty sturdy trees and good in full to part sun and doesn’t mind dry soil. Yes!  And did I mention it should have beautiful white fragrant flowers in the spring? I have filled in the rest of the bed with some of the perennials that survived the weeds including some columbine, grasses and ice plants. I also added some Russian Sage that I got on clearance at Home Depot.

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One surprise to me was how quickly my side bed has changed from full sun to part shade with the addition of the river birches. I guess it shouldn’t really be a surprise, but in the last year my full sun plants have really suffered. In the spring they start out strong but by midsummer a lot of my plants that normally thrive looked pretty sad. I see some lots of transplanting in my future! This bed is also quite wet during heavy rain. The one new plant I picked up for this bed is Eupatorium serotinum late flowering thoroughwort. This beauty is about 4′ tall and has white flowers in the fall. It is another native which the bees seem to quite like. It likes wet soil and is suppose to do well in full sun to part shade.

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Another new plant I picked up is Scutellaria incana, hoary skullcap. It is another native that get blue flowers. It prefers dry soil and sun to part shade. I planted these beauties near by bamboo patch.

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 Finally I picked this euphorbia up on clearance at a local nursery. I have had mixed luck with spurge. I managed to kill several beautiful purple ones over the summer. They are not particularly fussy about light requirements but they don’t like to get too wet. So my sideyard was not a good spot. This variety Cushion Spurge ‘First Blush’ is petite and pretty. It gets yellow flowers in the spring but I am smitten wit the green and white leaves with reddish edges. These will be planted in full sun in a much drier spot in the front yard. Hopefully they will do well there!

What have you been planting lately and what are on your plant list?

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wall-signature

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend! The weather was beautiful here and a Saturday night rain, made weeding on Sunday a joy! I spent most of the weekend outside between soccer, planting and the Scott Arboretum Plant Sale. I will have to share my new little plant friends in a separate post, but I thought I would show you some progress on the Third Floor today. While I was playing in the dirt, Mr. S. took on removing the wallpaper in the 3rd Floor Stairway. There is still a little bit more work with some extra fuzzy patches, but we got a much better look at the conditions of the walls. We also found a signature from the original paper hanger (the previous owner had mentioned that it was somewhere up on the third floor). We think its says: “M E Albertson Paper Hanger December 31st 1892 Residence Clifton Heights Del Co (Delaware County) Pa“. Pretty cool! Mr. S. worked on the photo to make it more legible, it is harder to make out in person. Too bad it is in a terrible spot right where the hand rail normally goes and adjacent to a bad spot of plaster. We haven’t decided what to do about it. We are planning on painting the whole stairway, but I feel like we can’t paint over it. I was thinking that we might cover it with some wallpaper that we could paint over (so it could be protected and later removed) but look clean for now. Why oh why couldn’t he have signed it up higher in a good spot?

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The signature is in the lower left corner.

As you can see it is REALLY difficult to take pictures of the space since it so narrow and tall, with alcoves at the top.

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Here is the inside of the new window. Our contractor trimmed it out with a simple trim piece with a bead on 1 side. This matches the trim piece below the sills on this floor. I still have to paint the trim though. The extra board is there to act as a guard for the kids. I like the new window but the screen is definitely sub-par. I haven’t decided whether this will stay or we will replace it with something different (copper pipes perhaps?) but in the meantime we will paint it out white so that everyone remains safe. The new window was in full use this weekend with the fan going. It was pretty amazing to see how much hot air came up the stairs.

stairway3One of the first projects for up here once we finish the plaster work and paint is to build 2 little seats on either side of the alcove. The kids already love to hide up here, and I think it would be a great little spot with a soft pillow.

stairway4 As you can see I needed 2 photos put together to get a view looking back down the stairs. I wanted to show you the weird ledge above the staircase and our new fan (which matches the one on the second floor). Mr. S. thinks it needs a large bust.  I’m not sure what will end up there, but it definitely needs to be interesting. Any suggestions?

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New Third Floor Window

September 18, 2013 — 2 Comments

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The day has finally arrived for my new third floor window to be installed! It is a custom order Jeld-Wen window with custom size and patterned mullions (which took 6 weeks to arrive after I signed off on the drawings). We also went with an aluminum clad exterior in a color in light green to match one of the accent colors on the house.  I’m pretty excited! My contractor is working on the final trim and fitout right now.  I know that a lot of the old home enthusists are shaking their heads, but I have plenty of windows that will be restored/rebuilt (i.e. the rest of the third floor) with new interior storms but this one, which is pretty much the only one we will be opening on a regular basis, I decided to go with functionality (and energy efficiency). Speaking of which, does anyone have an interior storm manufacturer that they recommend? I’ve been looking around, but haven’t come to a consensus. I need to have these in place before I can have the rest of the third floor windows removed to have them rebuilt.

house-backdormer-beforeThis is where we started with a leaky set of window that needed to have its sill completely replaced (along with the original 1888 cedar shingles). This involved disassembling the entire area including the structure in between the 3 windows. We were left with a hard decision to replace or rebuild. In the end we decided that if we were going to spend money at this location, we really wanted some function. The window is at the top of the third floor stairs and is great at exhausting out hot air on a warm day. I spent a lot of time deciding on the configuration of the mullions. Here is my rendering:

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And here is how it has been sitting for the last couple of months:

dormerwindow1 And here it is right now (i.e. about 10 minutes ago as I waited for my contractor to put it in):

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I still need to paint the new aluminum sill to match the dark green trim, but I am pretty excited. I will be back with some interior shots tomorrow. I hope everyone is having a good week!

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YellowSpringsFarm1

This past Sunday we took a little trip out to Yellow Springs Farm and Nursery to check out the Native plants and their well known goat cheese. The cheese was delicious, the goats were cute and the kids made friends with Rosco the dog.

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First off we said hello to the goats, who were not surprisingly very friendly. They were waiting to be let out into the field for a snack.

YellowSpringsFarm2Rosco spent the time playing with the kids. He taught Sam how to play fetch. Sam followed this by saying that clearly he needs a dog. Of course I don’t think the 2 feline family members of our family would agree about that.

YellowSpringsFarm3Maisie took charge of the camera. Not a bad shot! It is always fascinating to see the world from a small person’s point of view.

We tried their delicious goat cheeses! I highly recommend them, if you can find them! I think I will have to place an order sometime soon.

As for plants I wasn’t looking for anything in particular for the yard, except a super hardy native street tree. We decided on an American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana). It may not be the most exciting tree, but it should be the right size, super sturdy, non-aggressive roots and it is native. They were really helpful and pointed out that this is widely used in the City of Philadelphia with good success. SOLD!

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Our new tree is about 3 1/2′ tall. I think it should be a good size for planting in our diminutive grass strip between the sidewalk and curb. As much as a I love a big tree, I have had better luck with smaller specimens taking over time.

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We also picked up a couple of beautiful grasses for the front yard. We picked out 2 varieties, both with reddish tinges in the fall. I think my favorite is Panicum virgatum ‘Shanendoah‘ with nice plumbs on top. It should get to be about 5′ tall.

LittleBluestem-prairiebluesThe second grass is Little Bluestem ‘Prairie Blues’ which will get to be about 3 1/2-4′ tall. The color on it is really amazing! I am going to try and fit them in around the nandina in the front yard. They should be happy there with lots of sun and relatively dry soil. Hopefully I can get all of this planted this weekend. The weather looks good, of course there are several small jungles of weeds laughing at me. They better watch out, because I am hoping that their days are numbered!

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend!

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