The Little Things Update

Since the office overhaul there have not been any massive changes. We added sheet metal to one side of the office supply cabinet so my daughter could play with magnets there and hang her school work.


IMG_6910We finally got to changing the legs on the dining table. The legs before were very nice, but a significant pain to clean under and with three-times-a-day sweeping (who are we kidding?) the difficulty was enhanced. We purchased four legs from Ikea that I thought would fit with the piece well enough and my husband attached them. I don’t like how they look, so they’ll likely be temporary, and the table wobbles a bit, but they are an improvement nonetheless.

IMG_6898It does look cleaner, but I rather think they should be attached to some wood so we see more of the leg. I have an idea of taking one of our massive bathroom mirrors, having the corners cut, antiquing it and using it as a table top. Wild, no? It’s on the brainstorming list, the list which may never fully materialize, and that’s just fine.

IMG_6895In a more exciting mood I share with you the developments of our front yard.

When we first moved in, it looked like this:

IMG_4955Yes, the bushes actually did look like that!

IMG_4961And here is the flower bed now.

IMG_6899Every thing except tulip bulbs and some tiny purple lily-like flowers were gradually removed. Three lavender plants are in, rosemary, pin cushion flowers, salvia, and a stone pine tree are in. We have lemon balm growing safely in a pot and will add mint to the matching pot next to it.

IMG_6900When we planted we used the existing plants to create symmetry only to realize after that they were not centered! St. Francis is helping balance things out out.

IMG_6901I’m so pleased with the developments. We’re using an old red wagon for the plants in progress now that I’ve fully expressed my displeasure to my husband at the sight of lots of little junky pots in between the plants.

IMG_6902This winter we’ll finally plant the tree in those pots on the left.

IMG_6903In this neighborhood we combat ants so we’ve moved a picnic table to our newly fenced in front yard for dinner times. It’s the same redwood material and age as our former backyard furniture, but a coat of paint saved it from its impending demise.

IMG_6904The blue rocking chair made it to the front and found a buddy once the rain stopped. Our living room is less cramped now.

IMG_6907I moved the antique trunk back against the wall so the walkway is open. With my husband’s new sander I saw what was underneath the rust.

IMG_6906It’s neat to see the original black from through. I’ll wait on deciding if I will paint it after all.

My husband is working bit by bit to get the vegetable garden planted in the front. Zucchini, yellow squash and artichokes are planted along the border in our backyard, Little Italy.

That’s all for now. I feel swamped under the weight of rivaling children so I do not feel very ambitious with our projects. We’ll be having a yard sale next weekend as part of Hughson’s city wide yard sale. Along with some furniture we’ll be selling rosemary grapefruit-aide, snicker doodle and peanut butter cookies. If you’re in the area, come on by!

Outdoor update (the fence is in!) plus tips on how to negotiate

The fence is in! It turned out beautifully. We find the space feels larger now and I can relax much more knowing the kids could not just run out into the street. Currently we’re working on teaching the boy not to open the gates without permission.

IMG_6623I’m pleased with the simplicity of the design. It has visual interest, but is not ornate.

IMG_6624  IMG_6626Because of the downhill slope of our front yard, the 36 inch high fence does not block the view of the house.

The wrought iron ties in with the iron candle chandelier I wrote about before.

IMG_6425In the backyard, we’ve made the giant leap to purchasing a few furniture items.


They were sold for, what I think is, a great price off of craigslist.  IMG_6649

IMG_6650The seller posted them for $95. I offered $80. Please, never be afraid to negotiate. I once felt uncomfortable at the idea but it is totally worth it. The likelihood of offending, which is often the concern, is little to none. The worst the person can say is “no,” in which case you pay what you may have been willing to pay anyway. At best you get your asking price which you planned on negotiating up from.

Here are some simple steps I learned for negotiating:

Based on the asking price, decide what you would like to pay. The seller will look to you to make an offer.

Once you’ve decided what you want to pay, go down twice that from the asking price. For example, seller wants $100, you want to pay $85, offer $70.

Have the phrase you’re comfortable with. “Will you take seventy for it?” “How about seventy?”

The seller will either accept or counter offer. Use halfway points to guide you. He or she says, “no, what about $90?” Halfway between his offer (90) and yours (70) is $80. That’s where you go next.

That is the longer way. Another method is using whole bills as your guide. In the case of the yard chairs, the seller was asking for an odd number, $95. I offered an even number, totally prepared with a $5 bill to go through the negotiating steps.

“Will you take eighty for them?”

Seller thinks about it, “Sure, I can do 80.”


One other lesson to keep in mind, if the seller wants too much, there will very likely, one day, be another set of chairs, dresser, dish set. Very rarely will this be your only chance. Feeling free to walk away can make negotiating a fun game for some, or a reinforcing bonus for others. I’d love to hear your negotiating stories in the comment box.

Back to the Nature

I shared with you before that we will be putting in a wrought iron fence. The mow strip is in. They also took out the inside concrete strip (meant for RV access, although there is a tree in the way). Here is before:


And now:

IMG_6536You can see how much cleaner things look now that we have removed the pillar bushes and concrete. Once the fence is in we’ll plant these fruit trees in the yard.


We’ll rebuild an old bench to place out there as well. We chose to leave one concrete strip to use a “stroller access” for walks. Otherwise we would have to go the long way down the drive way. The front walk way has steps.

For plants in the front, the area you saw in the photos above will have flowers and herbs (rosemary, lavender). To the right (not pictured) will be our vegetable garden. It has the best light and the children do not play out front without supervision, so its safer for the plants.

I have not shown you photos of our backyard. It’s never been an eye-sore or anything, but I’ve never liked it. When we moved in, the back was overgrown with weeds. The timer for the sprinklers was missing and a valve is loose. In order to water the yard and turn the sprinklers off, my husband had to engage in an elaborate routine that ends in a rain dance. So we decided to let the weed-lawn die and plan for the future.

I’m traditional, but non-traditional in some respects. This might make me a hipster traditionalist. I suspect those who know me would be lolling right now (that “laugh out louding”). Nevertheless, who says you have to have grass? We contemplated other options. Winter came. A little rain came. The idea came: let’s make it a meadow.

IMG_6576I think it’s pretty. We pick out the weeds we don’t like (dandelions, anything prickly) and are “cultivating” the pretty weeds. My husband threw down chia seeds in the bare spots (so hip!). My mom can’t wrap her mind around it, but we’ll mow soon to clean it up and plant wildflowers along the sides.


IMG_6575If we get the sprinklers working, I think we can keep the green levels up and enjoy this drought friendly, grass alternative.

I think the fence needs some sprucing. Summer project, perhaps.

We have a covered area in the backyard that looks like this.


The pillars are in awkward spots, and outside the bay window it is a little narrow, but we have a sitting area in the narrow section with a swing bench and broken down redwood chairs. At this point, everything is hand-me-down furniture. One day we’ll have something comfy outdoors.

IMG_6579My great-grandmother’s sits in a deeper section of the covered area with three spare chairs that are drying out from the temperature changes. I plan to send these back to my parents house (via our van) and getting those soon-to-be-painted metal chairs out there. We’ll start eating out once we have the energy to think about it.

IMG_6578There is a paved area around the corner, for the RV of course (watch out for the solid wood fence when you drive up). I have used this area for a clothesline, which we just replaced with something neater on a post, which I purchased from Target. An adjustment, but a good purchase so far.

IMG_6573 We tried mounting it in the lawn, but my feet got muddy, so my husband moved it to the cement and put it in an umbrella stand. The downside is, it is too tall and I have to stand on the bench. The upside is, more room for sheets. I don’t know why hanging clothes on a clothesline hasn’t been part of the green move movement, I see only benefits (except that some people think it looks trashy, which is their ridiculousness). (Let’s say it again, so hip!)

The fire pit has a better home out there by the clotheslines (not to be used at the same time). For too long it was right outside the back door.

IMG_6580So you don’t become too dazzled by my backyard (she wrote, tongue in cheek), I will show you a picture of our Christmas tree (this photograph taken the first week of March). My husband put it outside for the kids to play with, since we had to work so hard to get them not to play with it at Christmas-time. As it goes with most thoughtful playthings, it has sat, largely ignored, except for a lego tree-topper. It’s amazing how long the tree lasted.

The plan for the backyard has come much slower. I’m happy with our “meadow” plan and the wild flower plan. I’d like to grow some lilies and hydrangeas in the shadier corner of the yard. I just read hydrangeas are highly toxic if ingested (we have an ingesting-type of son), so this plan will require more discussion.

Slowly but surely!