July 16, 2017:
Hola! Where does the time go, Geez Louise! Half summer is already gone, and I am first now updating this from last December, tsk tsk. Bad Jan! So, been busy puttering around the yard, as always, and paying more attention than I probably should be to politics. The kitchen "remodel" is on hold due to budgetary constraints, but I hope to have that remedied before the end of the year. And I have yet to paint the guest room - it's only been 3 years now since I moved in to this version of Maison Newton, I'm not lazy or anything, nope... LOL! Take care and have a great rest of the summer. Jan

Monday, July 17, 2017

Views from the Shezebo 2017

Hola!

It was gorgeous today, so the grass out front didn't get cut after all.  I hoofed it to the Pick 'n Save and then back home, got all my rays for the day, wow.  I spent hours in my Shezebo, reading and just relaxing and snoozing (I confess).  Here are some photos from the inside looking out.  This is what I see:


My feet say "Hellooooo!!!"


This is my view looking directly across from mt seat (I removed my feet).  The yellow table was the one I created last year from an old TV stand purchased in the early 1970s.  I spray painted it the sunny yellow and added the wheels for easy mobility.  More about that chair (and its twin, the one I'm sitting in) tomorrow, OY!


Pan to the right (you can see peeking out my enshrouded poor roll of sod - see yesterday's post...)  In the background is the back of the yard, it faces east and is anchored on the left by several clustered arborvitae and three large hostas, and the raised garden bed that runs most of the length of the east fence line.


And panning to the left of the second photo, a matching chair.  They're old, they take a ton of scrubbing even to make half-way presentable, and one of these years, I'll get around to spray painting them with plastic paint :)  In the background you can see one end of the north garden bed that contains a massive multi-trunk arborvitae and the concrete birdbath.  That's the new fence that was installed last November.  Because of the cost, I could only afford to do that one side.  The east fence line will wait until next year.


Here's my seat in the shade.  Across the south side of the Shezebo behind is a queen size white sheet, and on either side turning the corners are two curtain panels I purchased last year.  As soon as I can find reasonably priced yellow flat sheets that don't come in a set I will hang them instead.  This time of year, the Sun beats in from that south side and even though the Shezebo DOES provide much needed shade, it's not 100% shade all the time, depending upon the angle of the Sun.  The perfection, though, is the bug-free environment, especially since yours truly is a MOSQUITO MAGNET!  No problemo while I'm inside my Shezebo, aaaaaaahhhhhhh!


There's the view toward the southeast corner of my lot.  You may notice a roof-like structure running from the garage to the top of the fence along the east fence line.  That's my extra storage area and it's HUGE!  It's at least 10 feet wide and the length of the 2.5 car garage, all poured concrete.  Thanks to the prior owner who installed it, the rain and snow don't get in and it's a good space to store the Weber grill, the patio table and chairs, miscellaneous things that can withstand the cold and damp and assorted tools (there are hanging racks installed - thanks, prior owner!) and also to grill under, with the double doors that open wide to the back yard open if it's raining out.  It also allows me to rent out half of my garage for car storage, since I don't drive and do not own a car myself.  The space would otherwise pretty much go to waste.  Always nice to get that extra $100 a month.


The final pic of the day, a rather blurry close-up of the hooky thingy at the top of my Shezebo (inside).  As you can see, it is NOT CENTERED!  Now what woman, I ask you, would ever design something with a hook meant to hold a chain that holds something else not perfectly centered in the space?  I therefore know my Shezebo was designed by a man, for a woman would NEVAH do such a silly thing!

I haven't attempted to hang anything form the hooky thingy (like a battery-operated lantern) because I know it would drive me bonkers seeing it off center.  Arrrrrgggghhhhh!

Tomorrow, the sad saga of the put-together-backwards chairs.  Yes, it's true.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Endless Puttering Around the Garden

Hola everyone!  I'm still here and kicking, although not quite as 20 years ago, sigh.

It seems that yard work around here is never-ending.  It's funny, I do not seem to remember having this much to do in the yard all the time when I was at my bigger house with the much bigger yard.  Why on earth is that, and how can that possibly be???

I have several items that still need to be transplanted, including a volunteer (probably from bird poop) of a honeysuckle shrub that has sprung up on the right side of the concrete bird bath:


I also want to move over the purple shrub against the back of the fence on the left side of the bird bath (you can just barely see it, about 3 branches peeking up), as it's too close to the Japanese maple. I want to move it to the spot I'm vacating by moving the honeysuckle, which was never intended to be there.  That honeysuckle will get very large if I let it, and I don't feel like constantly pruning it to keep it a small size for the north garden bed.  It seems every time I turn around, I have some new surprise popping up in my garden beds.

The nice 6 foot tall privacy fence that went in early last November looks great; it hasn't started to "silver" yet, but it will, eventually.  The plants seem to like having the taller fence there, I think it may be creating a warmer micro-climate, especially along that north lot line.

I bought a roll of sod to finally fill in a few depressions in the backyard that have been driving me nuts for the past few years.  I keep filling them in with top soil and the squirrels promptly dig out all the dirt in record time, so the depressions are deeper than ever because the dug-out dirt builds up around the edges, sigh.  Well, I bought that sod on May 26th and it's still rolled up in a sheet.  Oops.   As of today, the poor sod is probably dead; I wet it down when I remember to do that and it hasn't rained (we've had a LOT of rain here lately).  I'm afraid to open up the sheet and unroll the sod (yes, I'm a coward that way).  Oh well.

I have more to write about, but I just got off a Skype call with a friend of mine, and once I get her on I can't get her off, 1.5 hours poof - gone!  It was supposed to be a test to see if her Skype still worked.  So, here are a few photos of plants and/or successful transplants I moved into the south garden along the edge of the driveway last year, I'll have to come back and post again, there's some to catch up on!


This is one of two shasta daisies I planted new last year in the driveway garden bed.  One did not make it over the winter but this one popped right up and as you can see, is loving the hot sunny location.


The hydrangea was transplanted from the backyard north lot line last year, in preparation for having the new fence put in.  It was a little droopy in this photo; I watered it afterwards and in less than an hour it perked right back up.  There are two pine trees on that side of the lot bordering the driveway (south lot line area) and they shed tons of needles and pine cones, keeping the soil very acidic.  The hydrangea loves it.  When it was in the backyard, I had to give it lemon juice to get that color on the blooms.  This year, it came up with the flowers already those lovely lavender and lavender-pink colors!  This is a "mini" shrub, it will get wider as it matures but not much taller.

On the left side of the hydrangea is a columbine I put in last year, which seeded plentifully and I now have columbines popping up throughout the south garden bed, which is fine with me; on the right is a faded bleeding heart.  The blooms on both are gone, although the deep purple blossoms on the columbine only just stopped, they were gorgeous this year!  The spring got warm early and then we turned hot and dry and the bleeding heart didn't like it this year, it faded early and the greenery is already dying out; usually it lasts until the end of August but not this year.

And in the background to the left of the hydrangea, you can see the only survivor of three artimesias I planted in the north bed a couple of years ago.  It is much happier in this hot and sunny spot than in the north lot line; the other two just faded away and did not reappear last year.  On the right is a hybrid double mini-day lily that is a luscious peach-pink color; the last of the blooms fell a few weeks ago.  I am hoping it will survive the winter and give me a good crop of blooms next season.

And what Milwaukee garden would be complete without the common old-fashioned day lily:


This is a shot from the east garden bed; you can see a Rose of Sharon to the left and some volunteer Queen Anne's Lace peeking up.  The day lilies are just nutso blossoming this year!

More coming - promise!  I want to show you what progress I've made in the kitchen, as well as visiting my Shezebo and its current accoutrements :)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Celebrating Earth Day and the March for Science with Crow Offerings

Hola everyone!  Wow, how time flies.  I must catch up -- someday...  For now, the kitchen/dining room is more or less finished.  The cabinets still need to be painted out, the backsplash removed and replaced with the porcelain marble look subway tiles I purchased last year, the cabinet hardware replaced, and new countertops purchased.  And the woodwork needs to be painted - probably black.

Today is Earth Day, and also today all around the world are Marches for Science.  Science and respect for Mother Earth go hand in hand.  In my home state here in Wisconsin, fourteen (14!!!!) separate cities/towns are hosting Marches for Science and Earth Day combined.  Thousands of people have turned out in Wisconsin alone.  Wisconsin, I love you!

There is also a huge March for Science and Earth Day taking place today in Washington D.C.  I am glad to see people standing up for what they believe in and exercising their Constitutional First Amendment to peaceably assemble and exercise their freedom of expression.  No hate involved, only a love of our planet - and a deep love of knowledge along with the acknowledgement that without science, without the quest for knowledge and the application of what we call the
"scientific method" of reasoning things out and working out how to solve a problem, we would all still be living in caves, folks.

I DO put my money where my mouth is.  Along with monetary contributions to various environmental organizations and hours doing postings elsewhere highlighting the dangers of the proposed Trump budget that would totally cut funding, for instance, for NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that funds research into how to better predict weather patterns and such things as hurricanes and tornadoes, along with support development of new and improvements "weather" satellites, oceanography exploration, mapping and surveying, etc.) - and talking with people about the easy things we all can do to help make our world a cleaner, safer and more beautiful place for all of us and for our descendants (RE-USE, RECYCLE, REPURPOSE, RE-IMAGINE), later this month I'll be working with a volunteer group to plant flowers along a stretch of boulevard in my city (as well as taking pride in keeping my property pristine and pretty year round).

We can ALL do things to help our Mother Earth, and support continued research and scientific discovery, too.  Many of  the bloggers I read and fans out there have gardens, for instance.  Every garden supports hundreds of thousands of little critters that we never even see, every single day of their existence.  Each and every one of them serves a purpose on our Mother Earth.  Of course, our lovely gardens also support all of the wildlife and birds that we do see and so enjoy.  These are in addition to the bountiful harvests that our veggy gardens can give us, the shade our wonderful trees can provide for us (as well as homes for our wildlife friends), and the undeniable beauty and fragrances of flowers, blossoms and blooms throughout the season.

My favorite times of day are after going to bed at night, with the window cracked open just a hair, and listening to the hootie owl when he arrives well before spring, singing his subtle song; He either sits in the ornamental cherry outside my bedroom window, or perches up on the rain gutter. I fall asleep to his HOOT, hoot hoot hoot, hoot - HOOT.  And in the very early mornings, especially this time of year, the birds begin their serenading in the pre-dawn, about 4 a.m.  The robins seem to be especially melodious this year.  I hear the through a half daze of sleep, revelling in the softness of my bed, the warmth of my coverings, the peace, the tranquility.  The OH SO RIGHTNESS of it all.

I've been meaning to post an updated photo of current contributions to beauty in the world deposited by my loving crow families in my bird bath over the years, several new ones since I moved into this version of Maison Newton in July 2014.  Geez, almost 3 years ago already, and I'm still unpacking boxes, LOL!  Take a look:


Collected through the years in the bird bath from grateful crows, who believe in paying back a favor with a pretty shiny thing (I've fed families of crows for years, along with about half the squirrel population in Milwaukee County), the following:  From the former Maison Newton of the big and much treed backyard, the "gold" bracelet with inset brown glass stones (one missing); the single die; the yellow doo-hickey, which I think is from an electrical something or other; and the rounded smooth white stone in the upper right hand corner.  From the current and much smaller backyard Maison Newton - a new haul:  The crystal bead - and where that came from I've no idea; two bottle caps (ahem) - crows like local brewery brands in Milwaukee (Miller Beer); the smaller quartz-flecked stone in the top row, center; and the piece de' resistance -- what I call the "Pyramid Quartz Crystal" stone, that has the shape of a deteriorated Egyptian pyramid from the Giza Plateau!  The Pyramid Quartz Crystal showed up about 2 weeks ago or so.  I figured it was a tribute from the crows for feeding them during the long bout of winter from December through the end of March.  They like to surprise me :)

the Pyramid Quartz Crystal is hefty, so it must have been one of the big Alpha Male Crows who delivered it to my birdbath.  I can hear them when they come, and I will always open up the patio door and throw out handfuls of peanuts in the shell (they LOVE peanuts!).  And every year since I've been here, the crow offerings have appeared in due time -- usually in the spring.  Like a Crow-Human ritual, perhaps.  Hmmm...

Celebrate today!  Enjoy our lovely Mother Planet and all of its glorious beauties offered to us so freely each and every day.  And remember that in order to protect it, in order to continue to grow and prosper and live safer, healthier lives in the 21st century and beyond, we need to keep learning, need to keep researching, need to keep studying, and need to keep asking those questions and searching for those answers.  We need - science.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What About That Back Hall Mess - It's DISAPPEARED!

Hola darlings!

I resolved to do something today about that back hall mess that I (and guests) can see when sitting at my dining table.  I wrote about in December.  As I'm trying to gussy-up the place as I work on the kitchen redo, I wanted to come up with an easy and inexpensive way to hide the mess.

I'd been stewing on it for awhile, plowing through Pinterest for ideas, shopping online, looking at all different sorts of put-together closet storage solutions, armoirs, etc. and all cost more than I wanted to spend.  The ridiculous part is -- I believe I had mentioned just hanging a curtain on a rod back in December -- and then proceeded to ignore this simplest and least expensive idea!

Finally, sick of looking at it as I sat hacking through my income tax returns with a machete, today I had enough!  ENOUGH!  I took a short walk to the Family Dollar near me and bought a tension rod that I knew would fit.  Within a few minutes after I got back home and unwrapped the rod, voila!  The mess was hidden away.  I should have done this a long time ago, duh!

Now you see it:


And now you don't!


It doesn't get much simpler than this.  I think I'll press the curtain, though.  Maybe shop for something a bit more "elegant."   This is one of the curtains that was taken down from my Shezebo outside when I winterized it.  It's a little hard to tell in the photo, but the stripe colors are darker and ligher grey, cream, blue, a sort of goldish olive green -- all colors that "go" with the colors used in both the kitchen/dining area and the back hall.  The rings make it super-easy to move the curtain back and forth on the rod and one curtain fits the opening just fine.

I keep staring at it, LOL.  I think I'm in love...

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Kitchen Reno: Big Bad Blank Wall and What I Did (Am Doing) About It

Hola everyone!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, whichever one you celebrate. This year Christmas, Hannukah and Kwaanzi all seemed to converge around the same time.  There are always the Winter Solstice celebrations, too, which are probably the most ancient of all.  I always look forward to the day on the calendar when I can mark off that daylight STARTS EARLIER AND LASTS LONGER once again!

That big blank wall staring me in the face every time I walk into my kitchen/dinette area (constantly, it seems) and have tried to avoid looking at --


it didn't exist in quite this form (and was covered up by the fridge) before I had the wall work done, but now POW, there it IS.

I'm not one to decorate every bare wall in my house, but this walls cried out to me for - something.

I dug through my stash of old picture frames and "art" in the basement - several times - and thought I had a plan.  But I ditched it.  The 24 x 36 framed print of a 17th century Dutch still life of flowers against a black background just didn't seem "right" for the space, somehow.  The scale was off, the mood was off, veering too much toward the traditional.

After more pondering and looking around online for abstract art posters (when did posters get so expensive?), I window-shopped online for "marble/mineral" look wrapping paper or wallpaper in tones of gold/grey/white/black.  I found beautiful hand-made papers at Mulberry Paper.  But I didn't want to order and have to wait, then get frames or figure out what I was going to do for frames or not, etc.

So, I continued to poke around my house and online looking for ideas. WHAT can I use?  I ended up using an idea I had used in the living room, just on the other side of that bare kitchen wall.  I used mirrors I had on hand, and borrowed three mirrors from the mirror arrangement from the living room.  That was taken down in preparation for the wall work done.  After I finish painting the patched drywall in the living room, I will make a new arrangement with the remaining living room mirrors.

This is what I ended up with (the borrowed mirrors are the two end mirrors in the top row and the large mirror in the center):



After looking at it for awhile, I lowered the two square mirrors in the bottom row to better even out the spacing so that it matches that in the top row. Turns out the square mirrors are 9" square and the small round mirrors are all about 10" in diameter.  The adjustment made all the difference in how the arrangement looks but I haven't taken a new picture of it yet.

The bookcase I ordered (with two doors on the bottom) arrived on December 22nd and has been hanging out against a wall in my rarely used front entrance, waiting for the living room to be put back to its normal arrangement.  That will clear floor space for me to unpack the box and wrestle with putting the unit together.

The bookcase will eventually have its back against the side of the fridge, and will "just fit" the width and height of the fridge.  It's white, which will be the color of the cabinets when they've been painted.  The two bottom shelves will provide covered storage for my squirrels' nuts and birdseed and the upper shelves will provide space for my cookbooks, my wood canister set, and display of some of my favorite glass and china pieces.

It's coming along!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

My tree is very simple this year, not even a topper.  I should have had a fire going in the fireplace, but I have those later in the evening, about 7 p.m.  I wanted to get the photos before the twilight faded.  Using the "scene" setting on my ancient digital camera results in photos that can look too bright, but if I use natural light, they often come out too dark -- as witness below the difference between the "scene" setting in the first photo and the normal setting in the remainder of the photos.






Happy Holidays from Maison Newton.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

What About That Back Hall Mess???

Hola everyone!  First and most important, this will be my last post before Christmas, so HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND MERRY CHRISTMAS TO EVERYONE.

It's gorgeous here today.  After warmer (in the 20s) but dreary and damp weather yesterday, it's a bright and sunny 38 whopping warm degrees today and the snow is melting, hooray!  Not a cloud in the sky, this is shorts weather around here, folks.  It will be warm through the weekend, with rain expected on Christmas Day.  There will still be plenty of snow, though, as temperatures will

Of course leave it up to me be racing ten steps ahead when I haven't even gotten half-way through the kitchen redo.  But that back hall!  It's driving me nuts.

All of the homes in this area with my house's footprint were built between 1955-1956 and all of them have the angled sink facing two corner windows, rounded "knick-knack" shelves on the ends of the cabinets framing those windows, a peninsula which, in original form, also holds three half round shelves, and a small back hall from the side driveway that tops the steps to the basement and a step up into the dining area of the kitchen/dinette.  None of the photos of such homes I've seen, including my own home, has any indication that there was ever a door from the back hall into the dinette.

As a practical matter, a regular swing in or swing out door wouldn't work, there just simply isn't enough room.  There isn't enough room for a pocket door either, or a barn door on a runner, unless light switches are relocated.  So, that back hallway is open to view from the kitchen/dinette area.  And mine isn't very pretty.  It holds my trash container, my recycling container, a four-tiered wire shelf unit holding myriad gardening tools and supplies; there are five coat hooks that hold my purse, jackets during the summer and a host of winter regalia this time of year (gloves, hats, scarves, coats/jackets), a broom, a snow shovel this time of year, and a dust pan.  And then there is the shelf above!  That holds yet more stuff, but it's difficult for me to reach; I usually have to pull out the mini ladder to access some of the items.

So - a picture is worth a thousand words.  More pictures are worth more words, right?  You can get a glimpse of the stuff in that back hall in this photo:



Okay, two are enough.  I think you see the problems.  LOL!  Not exactly the kind of thing one wants to look at when sitting in what I hope to be a sort of "lux" dining area experience.

So, I started thinking about what to do back there to try and streamline storage and make the space presentable, since I cannot cover it up.  Well, I could hang a swagged curtain, but that is so 1970s and would also get in the way.  I am constantly in and out of that back hall area and I can quite easily picture myself getting tangled up in any kind of draped curtain.

The shelf has to go.  So do all of those coat hooks.  I'll be shopping for some kind of cabinet that will hold nearly everything, which will go a long way to improving the "view" from the kitchen/dining area and making me much happier.
I'll let you know when I come up with something.  Failure is NOT an option :)