Sunday, May 31, 2009

a question

If the San Diego Rock 'N' Roll Marathon, is, as it is described, a "flat course", then why does the route veer through or shockingly close to areas named "Hillcrest" and "Mission Hills"?

Hmm... just wondering.

Let the butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling begin!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

orchids and bathrooms

Today, I bring you pictures of both bathrooms and my new-found plant love: orchids!

First, here are pictures of the one full bathroom that we have, which is located on the second floor. Had I redecorated myself, I probably wouldn't have chosen the bathroom's color scheme or tile, but it's completely acceptable to Brad and me for now. We are not yearning to invest the time and expense in ripping out and installing tile or trying to repaint the dark green trim. We love the plentiful storage space in the medicine cabinet, wall unit, and sink vanity. Our hallway linen closet sits rather empty because we can store so many of the bathroom essentials in the bathroom itself.

Notice my teeny, tiny plants on the windowsill - love them! I have also decided to try my hand at growing orchids. I placed a small orchid on the lid of the toilet tank. On sunny days (unlike the day I took this photo), light streams in through the window in the mornings. Hopefully it will be enough to keep the orchid alive. Our window is naked right now, and while this may sound strange, I like it and plan to keep it that way. Yep, no blinds in this bathroom! The view from the window is our neighbor's beautiful red brick house, no more than three feet away. Our neighbor has no windows on that side of her house, and unless someone hangs his or her fanny OUTSIDE of our bathroom window, it's impossible for anyone to see anything in our bathroom.

I decorated in browns. I may buy some dark green towels, though, to help tie everything together.

The only thing that we have left to do in the full bathroom is to hang a picture above the towel rack.

Here is a picture of the half bathroom, located on the first floor, right off of the kitchen.

We plan to paint it a color named "vineyard", and to hang art on the walls. I placed my one extra carpet square from the kitchen here, and it works perfectly as a one-square rug in front of the sleek pedestal sink. It's the perfect size.

I know that you've already seen the kitchen, but here is a picture of the orchid that will live on the kitchen windowsill.

Let's hope that I can keep it alive!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

rewards of weeding

I discovered this tiny little strawberry in our backyard flowerbeds while weeding over the weekend. I found it so cute that I just had to take a picture. It's about the size of a small grape (though it looks larger in the picture), and the wild vines only produced one berry. For once, I was thankful to be pulling weeds!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

not orange, but close

I had high hopes of posting pictures of all of the rooms in the house as they were completed. But getting settled is taking much longer than I had anticipated. So I am going to post "round 1" shots of each room, along with a list of pending tasks for each space. I'll post additional photos in several months (or years!), after I add the finishing touches to each room.

Today's highlight includes our third bedroom, or in its current state, the office.

Brad painted this room all by himself (thanks Sweetie!). After I admired my friend Summer's kitchen, we chose her paint color, appropriately named "Rust" by Benjamin Moore in a flat finish (this was the first room that we painted with a flat finish... I love, love, love the color and the finish. I wish that I would have painted the kitchen with a flat finish, but I know that Brad will kill me if I dare to suggest that we repaint the green areas now. We hope to never have to try to cover up that green. It will be a monster to repaint. I feel sorry for the next owners of our house!).

This room receives wonderful light from a window on the left and a door with a window. The door leads to our second deck. A fairly large closet is located to the right of the picture (where the wall juts out). This room is actually more spacious than it looks in the picture. It can fit a double bed and could serve as a bedroom if necessary.

Brad and I laid the FLOR carpet squares in a parquet design, though you'll have to stop by to see the details in person (they didn't show well up in the pictures). We are now the proud owners of a carpenter's square and a carpet knife. We are becoming quite handy!

To-do list:

  • The bookshelves need some help. A few small plants and more books will make a huge difference.
  • I'd like to add two-inch white wooden blinds to the window eventually, as well as a valance or something.
  • This is not at all a priority unless this room ever becomes a bedroom, but I'd like to leave the window above the door unadorned, but come up with something to cover the window in the door to provide a bit of privacy.
  • Like all of the other rooms, we need art on the walls. We have lived here nearly two months and still have yet to hang one single piece. Now that I better understand how tiring painting can be, I hesitate to taint any freshly painted wall with a nail. I know how hard we worked to paint that wall!

A special conclusion to today's post: a funny story. When we first moved in, Brad (jokingly, I hope) lobbied for a Tennessee Vols orange room, but I had to put my foot down on that one. I told him that when he finally acquires his "man room" (e.g. if we ever finish the basement), I will be more than happy to pardon the football pictures from storage and to allow a bright orange accent wall or even an orange bathroom downstairs. Sorry to my VOLS readers. I just don't want that bright orange in the main part of the house. When they visited, Brad's parents, who bleed VOLS orange as much as Brad does, walked into this room with stars in their eyes and to my chagrin, delightedly exclaimed, "It's orange!!!"

I quickly replied, "It's RUST. NOT orange."

I mean, really. The color is closer to Texas orange than Tennessee orange, don't you think?

Monday, May 25, 2009

it may be small, but it's ours...

At long last, Brad and I finally have a (tiny) yard! And I am having a blast. I spend time checking the plants' growth, pulling weeds, and scaring away critters before and after work each day and on most weekends. It's more work than I expected it to be. So until I get the hang of things, I'm thankful that the yard is small. Below you will find some pictures, as well as my never-ending to-do list.

This is the view from our back door. My pitiful Gerber daisies are in the planter on the right. Thank goodness the petunias in the other planters seem to be doing much better!

The former owners of our house left us this nifty storage unit. I keep my gardening gloves and small tools in it. Brad finally got a real grill! You can see its cover in the lower-left corner of the picture. We are looking for a small table and chairs for the deck.

Here is the view of the yard when standing at the railing of the deck. We were pleased that the former owners planted the two Japanese maple trees in the back. We need to trim them so that we can exit through our back gate without touching them. My herb garden is the large box in the back right of the picture. The smaller box in the front right of the picture contains my tomato and pepper plants and chives. I've (mostly) cleared the weeds from the bed on the left, and I'm in the process of deciding what to put there. I need to do my research on hydrangea and peony bushes to see if that area will provide adequate space and conditions for growth. I'd like to plant additional flowering vines to climb the trellis. We have bamboo growing to the right of our steps (right-hand side of the picture) that needs to be trimmed.

Here is a closer picture of my tomato, pepper, and (blooming) chive plants. Despite constant uprooting from the squirrels, the tomato and pepper plants seem to be growing. But I just noticed today that they are infected with little insects, so that means yet another trip to Frager's to ask a zillion questions about pest control.

Take a closer look at my herb garden. While it doesn't look like much to you right now (except for the bushy oregano, which came up on its own), all nine herbs that I planted have sprouted. But because of the squirrels' shenanigans, they are rather mixed together. But that's okay because I can tell the difference between all of them by look and by scent. My biggest dilemma with the herb garden is that I find it hard to wait for all of the herbs to grow and spread. I planted the herbs from seeds because I wanted to harvest more than what one or two plants would provide, and it was also cheaper to plant from seeds. But this exercise tests my patience, which is probably good for me. I check their progress every single morning and evening. I can't wait to harvest my first batch of herbs for a delicious home-cooked meal!

Finally, here is a view of the back of our house. The former owners left the hanging lanterns. I'm thinking about replacing them with hanging flowers or ferns, at least during the summer. We haven't done a thing with our second-floor deck yet, but I envision bursts of color and cascading flowers at some point. We also plan to tear out the landscaping right below our main deck and redo it with something a little less wild looking.

The backyard to-do list (this is really more for my benefit than yours):
  • Trim the bamboo and Japanese maple trees
  • Buy table and chairs for the deck
  • Redo the landscaping below the deck
  • Research and implement pest control techniques for the tomatoes and peppers
  • Research space and growing requirements for hydrangea and peony bushes (and possibly roses, lilacs, and others!)
  • Beautify the second-floor deck
  • Plant additional flowering vines to climb the trellises
  • Decide whether or not to replace the lanters with flowers or ferns

Thursday, May 21, 2009

san diego suggestions

Brad and I leave for San Diego one week from today, and other than knowing our flight and hotel arrangements and the necessary details for the marathon, we have absolutely no idea what we're doing while we're there. You see, we've been too busy to even think about this trip let alone plan it in meticulous detail like we do with most of our other adventures.

Perhaps this is a good thing. I am notorious for wearing out both of us on what are supposed to be relaxing vacations. We fear running 26.2 miles in the heat if we're already exhausted from three days of sightseeing and walking all over God's beautiful creation in sunny Southern California.

But because I can't help myself, the planner in me yearns for some ideas, you know, just in case we need them.... We'll celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary the day after the marathon and our last night there, and I'd love a restaurant recommendation in La Jolla or even a suggestion of a cute neighborhood where we should spend our anniversary.

I've heard that we should visit the San Diego zoo, so we may try to do that. What about beaches? Which public beaches are the best? What neighborhoods are worth checking out?

Dear readers, if you have been to or know San Diego, please share your thoughts and suggestions. I will do everything in my power to ensure that Brad and I enjoy a little relaxation time too. After all, we do have a race to run.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

enemies in cute outfits

As a proud member of Alpha Gamma Delta, whose mascot happens to be none other than a squirrel, I fear that the powers that be may revoke my membership because of this post. But I can't help myself. I'm desperate. Since moving into our house and embracing my nascent gardening career, I have quickly learned that squirrels are not my friends. I've grown to detest them. And I am on a mission to rid the cute, but destructive critters from our yard.

Weeks ago, I filled two planting boxes in the back yard: the first one with nine herbs to supplement the oregano already there and the second, smaller one with two pepper and two tomato plants. It was a beautiful afternoon and I finished my work outside with a joyful heart and a sense of accomplishment.

I ate my breakfast on the deck the next morning to admire the yard and I saw two squirrels digging madly in the herb garden. I chased them away and tried to repair the large holes that they created. The seeds that I had so neatly organized into sections were now scattered across the entire bed. Thankfully, the herbs have finally sprouted, but my garden is now a chaotic mess of basil growing amidst rosemary growing amidst parsley, and so on.

After attempting to repair the herb fiasco, I turned around and saw that ALL of my tomato and pepper plants had been uprooted, and were lying limply on the ground, roots completely exposed and chewed off in some cases! I replanted them, only to find the vegetable plants dug up again when I returned from work that day. After another day of this song and dance with the squirrels, I charged to Home Depot and invested in some Critter Ridder, a pepper-like spray that supposedly deters animals, but doesn't harm them. Under my careful watch and the pepper spray, the squirrels seem to have stayed away from the herbs and vegetables since then, although all of the plants are growing quite slowly and look a little fragile, possibly due to their tumultuous first few days in the ground.

After planting Impatiens in the front yard and carefully spraying the Critter Ridder around the flowers, I arrived home from work one day to be greeted by an Impatiens plant with pink blooms, carefully uprooted and placed on the sidewalk directly in front of our front gate. Brad is convinced that the squirrels are taunting me on purpose now. They obviously don't appreciate my morning routine of banging on the back door and yelling, "Excuse me!" to scare them from the yard.

My most recent battle with these pests has left me bewildered and confused. I planted beautiful Gerber daisies in a large box on our deck. They were stunning. Colorful. Perky. Joy-inducing. Until I came home from work one day and noticed that something had cleanly bitten off the blooms of about half of the flowers. At first I thought that it was a bird because I had carefully applied the Critter Ridder to the box's border and the soil appeared relatively undisturbed. Then the next day, I peered out of our back door and caught a squirrel with a large red daisy in its greedy little paws. After chasing the squirrel away, I went a little nuts with the pepper spray and unintentionally ruined the rest of the blooms. You'll find a picture of the sorry mess below. Notice the many erect, flowerless stems, and then the droopy blooms that I accidentally killed with the pepper spray. The plants are still alive though, so I hope that they will bloom again if they are not scarred for life at this point.

Seriously, what do I do about these squirrels?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

calm, cool, and collected

I took some time off of work last week to paint our master bedroom. I am so proud of the finished product. Brad had a horribly busy work week, so I prepped, painted, touched up, and cleaned up all by myself, no small feat for a fairly large room (by city standards)! Below you will find some photos of the semi-finished product (NOTE: we still need some things... see my to-do list at the end of the pictures).

Notice our refinished 1915 red pine hardwoods! I should post a "before" picture to show you the carpet when we moved in and what a beautiful difference the refinished floor makes. The final product was worth every single penny. I chose an ice blue paint hue to bring out the blues in the bedding. It's a teeny bit more "blue" than what I had hoped, but it's a beautiful color and I find it very serene. The color is called Bashful Blue by Benjamin Moore. I've fallen in love with the flat finish. It seems very formal and elegant to me.

Brad and I bought new bedroom furniture because we spent the first six years and ten months of our marriage sleeping on the child-size double bed that Brad inherited when he grew out of his crib at age two. Yes, he moved straight from his crib to a double bed. I cannot believe that we kept that bed for so long, or that two adults actually fit into it, but it worked well in the space limitations of our old apartment. Now that bed (and its matching child-size dresser) occupy our guest room, so our guests will get to experience the coziness of it. Couples, beware!

Because we will probably always live in small spaces, we chose a queen platform bed for the extra drawer space underneath the bed. We adorned the bed with a divine, extra plush, pillowtop mattress! Our new bedroom even affords us enough space for TWO nightstands, my dream come true! I enjoy reading at bedtime, and I have dreamed for six years and ten months of having my own nightstand and lamp. Our old apartment only had room for one nightstand, which Brad rightly claimed because he doesn't trust me with alarm clock duty (he shouldn't!). I swear that my vision has deteriorated in the past six years and ten months from trying to read in low light on my side of the bed.

Here's a picture of our bed and two nightstands. The closet that Brad and I share takes up most of the wall on the right.

Here is a picture of the view from the plant's location in our bay window. Please ignore the full clothes hamper. Because I gave up Brad's childhood desk that I used as a sit-down vanity for years, I bought this temporary, wheeled storage unit to hold my "beautifying" essentials until I can figure out something more permanent. The device is on wheels, so I can roll it into a closet to hide it if I need to.

Our bedroom receives wonderful light because of the bay window and the additional window on the left. The sellers left the wooden blinds, an unexpected gift. We plan to purchase a comfortable upholstered chair to place in the bay window with the plant. We need a place to sit to put on and remove our shoes; our bed is too high to make such tasks easy or comfortable!

MBR tasks still to be accomplished:
  • Curtains
  • Decorative pillows for the bed (hopefully my first project once I learn to operate the sewing machine that I inherited from Mama Millie)
  • Art
  • More plants
  • Chair for the bay window
Stay tuned - pictures of the back yard and additional rooms will be posted soon!

Monday, May 18, 2009

when training pays off

In addition to tapering, another great perk of marathon training occurs when one runs a race two or three weeks before the marathon and can see the positive effects of being in "marathon shape". I first experienced this phenomenon in 2006, three weeks before the Marine Corps Marathon when I ran the Army 10 Miler at a pace of 8:57 per mile (a record for me!). Yesterday, Brad and I both achieved new personal bests at the Capitol Hill Classic. Granted, it was only a 10K (6.2 miles), but my pace was 8:50 per mile and Brad's was an impressive 7:30 per mile! And the race felt easy and incredibly short, compared to the distances that we've been running lately. We both had plenty of juice left at the finish line, which is always an awesome feeling.

These small victories make the training time and miles worth it because setting new personal best paces and finishing the race with energy does not occur at marathons (at least, not for us). Our goal is simply to finish, which takes an exorbitant amount of time and every last bit of energy that we have.

So for now, I'll revel in the knowledge that running more than 300 miles over the past four months has resulted in an 8:50/mile pace in a 10K race, a victory that I'll happily accept.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

day of freedom

How I love the tapering phase of marathon training! Brad and I have had the most enjoyable Saturday today, mostly because it did not involve either one of us running around Hains Point, across the 14th Street Bridge, up Lee Highway (yuck), through Georgetown, or down the National Mall. We lived like normal people today, for the first time in months. Here's a recap of our day thus far:
  • Instead of rising at 5 a.m., we slept until after 8 a.m.! We can't remember the last time that we slept so late.
  • We visited the farmer's market held in the parking lot right behind our house. We left our yard through our back gate and we were there instantly. So easy. And we came away with two types of yummy cheese.
  • We walked to Peabody School on Stanton Park to pick up our bibs and timing bands for tomorrow's race.
  • Breakfast at Eastern Market called our names and then we visited some of our favorite vendors and came away with dessert, raspberries, strawberries, sorbet, and some decorating ideas for our house.
  • On our walk home, we stopped at our library and delighted in their semi-annual used book sale! We came away with ten classics, one novel, and one nonfiction book, all for a mere $10, to fill our bookshelves and reading lists.
  • Brad then mowed the yard while I went to Michael's to choose a mat and frame for a large watercolor that I acquired in Florence (more on this later) that I plan to hang in our bedroom. Thanks to my Michael's rewards card, my $390 custom framing job only cost me $159.64. How I love a bargain!
The best part is that we enjoyed all of these outings without sore legs, aching backs, and feelings of utter exhaustion. We're now preparing to make BBQ ribs, corn on the cob, and salad for dinner and just relax tonight. I know that I'll feel a little sad once the marathon is over (Brad claims that he won't!), but days like this truly make me long for the finish line. Literally and figuratively.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

a temporary fix

Beautifying the yard is just as, if not more, important to me as finalizing all of the rooms in the house. And the yard has been my biggest distraction lately from unpacking the last boxes, deciding furniture, browsing wall decor options, and educating myself about curtains. Below you will find two pictures of my "temporary" solution to the front yard. I say temporary because I have a grand vision of a pruned maple tree (to allow more sunlight on the yard), huge, bright tulips, additional mulch, and possibly a hydrangea or peony bush. But, until then, I will make do with snapdragons planted in urns that match the color of the house's trim and impatiens that supposedly thrive in shade.

I fear that I may have to replace the snapdragons with another flower as snapdragons evidently need more sunlight than they receive in this location. Here is a better picture of the impatiens that line the fence and sidewalk. They should spread and grow, so I hope that the front yard will burst with color very soon. I'm really into color.

Brad and I need to repair the sidewalk and a portion of its brick border, but those tasks are long-term projects. I have no idea what the three other plants/bushes are (they were already there when we moved in), but I have decided to keep them until I can implement my grand vision. The back yard is probably ten times the size of the front yard. I've been working hard there, too. I will post pictures of the back yard soon!

Working in the front yard is a great way to become better acquainted with the neighbors. I've also learned that I would much rather be outside gardening than inside decorating. Will someone please come over and finish the furniture, curtains, and wall decor for me? I've got the yard covered.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

nosy neighbors

Yep, it's only been one month and Brad and I have quickly turned into them. The house five doors down from us is for sale, and Brad and I bolted to the open house this past Sunday afternoon.

We tell ourselves that we were just curious to see the floor plan and decor. But honestly, we scrutinized every nook and cranny of this house to compare it to ours. It does have several nice features that our house lacks (nicer bathtub and bathroom tile, parking space in back), but we found many more drawbacks (including a higher price), which reassured us that we made the right decision to claim our house when we did.

This reassurance could not occur at a better time, having just made our first mortgage payment and all.

Monday, May 11, 2009

time to taper

Brad and I have finally entered our favorite phase of marathon training: tapering. Less than three weeks until the big day!

We completed our last long training run this past Saturday morning: 23 miles. Most marathon runners usually peak at 20 miles before tapering, but my sick and twisted mind insists that we both need to run a bit farther so that our bodies endure a physically grueling experience more similar to what race day will be like (hey, there's a big difference between 20 and 26.2 miles... the latter involves an extra HOUR, at least, of running). Except, for the second time now, I have learned that 23-mile-runs are just the pits, and (hopefully) not representative at all of a marathon. In 2006, Brad and I struggled so much that it took us over 5 hours to complete a 23-mile training run, but amazingly, we ran the Marine Corps Marathon (26.2 miles) in less time: 4 hours and 30 minutes! Do not underestimate the power of crowds, cheerleaders, pure adrenalin, and food and water provided for you every two miles.

This past Saturday, again, my 23-mile time exceeded my Marine Corps Marathon time. Despite my 45-minute head start, Brad caught up to me during mile 22, at the water fountain near the carousel on the National Mall, and because he was hurting too and misery loves company, we walked together and complained all the way to the U. S. Capitol. But, as soon as we reached the base of Capitol Hill, we ran up it to our finish line near the Library of Congress. No matter how far we run or how much we ache, the guilt of cheating by walking up Capitol Hill always gives us a burst of energy to finish strong. Or, just to finish.

Running our favorite 10K this weekend will be such a welcome relief from the longer runs of the last three months. We won't know what to do with ourselves with a free Saturday morning!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

speaking of pink

Our new block hosts a slightly more eclectic crowd than our old block's collection of politicians, doctors, and lawyers. Plenty of young couples and families, just like us, snatched up these renovated historic homes with hope that they will turn into great investments if when the H Street revitalization efforts succeed. Several multi-generational families, who have owned their homes for decades and have not been bought out yet, are still sprinkled throughout the block. Brad and I have two such families living on either side of our house. We've made friends with both of families, and I love hearing their stories about the development of the block and the neighborhood over the years. My favorite neighbor thus far, Bea, serves as the block's watch dog. I believe that she knows every single thing that happens on the block while she is at home. She's friendly with all of the police in our district, and she calls them the instant she senses anything unusual. I am actually quite thankful to live next door to someone who I know will watch out for us and our home. I respect and appreciate anyone who runs a tight ship.

And only four doors down from us reside the Code Pink people and their Pepto-Bismol pink mobile. If you are not familiar with this very vocal, anti-war group (I wasn't really), they not only drive the pink mobile, but they dress in pink most of the time. From my trusty perch behind my living room curtain, I've only seen the man (husband? ... not sure) clad in hot pink tennis shoes, a hot pink sweatshirt, and pink pants, never "normal" clothes. Brad and I joked that our home's sellers lucked out when the pink van was nowhere to be seen during their open house in February, when we first fell in love with the house. We didn't spot the van until soon after our contract on the house had been accepted. It figures. Actually, the van is gone much of the time. But the owners did leave it parked directly in front of our house for an entire weekend recently.

We have yet to meet the Code Pink folks, but I'm sure that they are nice people. When we do finally cross paths, let me assure you that we will not be talking politics, but we may have to chat about the parking location of this pink van.

Monday, May 4, 2009

overcoming the green monster

When I posted pictures of my new kitchen last week, I didn't have time to share the story behind the paint job. To ensure that Brad receives his due credit, especially because he normally defers to me on most decorating and paint color choices, let it be known that he saved the kitchen.

Never having painted before, we were both overly optimistic about how much time and effort painting even one room takes. We started working on the kitchen on a Friday evening and only had time to paint one coat that night. When I purchased the paint, the sales rep warned me that the pesto green that I chose would initially look very light and bright, but that the color would tone down with additional coats. Wow, she wasn't kidding. As we plodded through that first coat, I kept trying to reassure both of us that the highlighter-like hue on the walls would turn into the color that I desired eventually. Not thinking about how the color would look from adjacent rooms, I naively slathered green paint on the largest wall in the kitchen (the now brown wall) that is clearly visible from the dining room and from parts of the living room. Brad and I nervously joked and called it the "green monster" all evening. I believed that the paint color would improve with additional coats, but I worried about such a bold color being visible from other rooms in the house.

After the green monster ruled my dreams all night long and I woke up a nervous wreck, Brad persuaded me to run a bunch of errands while he tackled the second coat. Luckily, the color looked MUCH better with a second (and even a third) coat. When I returned from running errands, Brad had painted a second coat on all of the walls except for the large one. And, while I was gone, he came up with a brilliant idea: paint the green monster a more neutral color, something a bit easier on the eyes from the other rooms of the house and a shade that would help transition from an already bold-colored dining room.

I remembered that we had plenty of living room paint left and the harvest brown color was just what we needed. I went to work immediately with the brown while Brad finished the green, and a lively kitchen was born. I love how it turned out. And I have my smart husband to thank for it.