Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Survivors

It is ridiculously hot and we're all living in an oven these days, so I'm always thrilled when some sort of life manages to survive the uninhabitable awfulness of Phoenix summers. The sunflowers are very, very thirsty but look at how completely beautiful they are! I only planted them about two months ago - if I could have grown that fast, I'd be Normal People Height by now.

Many more updates to come because I am now making real (if slow) progress on the house - the thesis was submitted this weekend! No celebrating is allowed yet because I do not yet have a grade and because I'm now buried in six weeks of the real, true final class of my program...but still, I am happy and I am sharing my happiness with my patient, longsuffering home and its projects.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

Having a house has made me appreciate dad even more than usual. His ability to be a walking reference book of "how to" fix/undo/redo/create things is unbelievable, and I love having him do things at the house because it means I get to spend time with him.
Whether it's putting in a new water heater,


fixing the door that was so crooked I couldn't even shut it,


fixing monstrous cracks in the walls,



or creating landscape designs, Dad manages to get it done perfectly every time.

Thank you, dad - I love you!

Birds Are Pigs, and Other Observations of Nature

One of the things I was most excited about when I bought my house was putting up a bird feeder. Mom has always had crowds of birds following her from house to house and I think they're relaxing to have around.
My trusty assistant helped me load up the feeder and hang it outside...but I wasn't prepared for the mess those adorable little birds can make. Seriously, it was amazing. So I went on a quest for a stand I could put over dirt in the backyard in order to resume hosting feasts for the feathered neighbors.

The one I wanted was at Home Depot...kind of. They had one set up but none for sale in the store and none on their website. My attempts to negotiate with the not-quite-awake-and-definitely-not-polite employee were not successful so I gave up. My Home Depot trip yesterday was much more productive, though - they even had grown ups working there on a Saturday! The floor model was stuck in a corner so I claimed it as my own and marched it to the register with the $25 price tag on it. I boldly asked for a discount since it had clearly been set up outside for awhile, but secretly thought that was even better because then I wouldn't have to put it together! I expected 10% (all former Ross employees know that 10% is the magic number that gets the annoying bargain shopper off your back without getting you in trouble with the manager, by the way...so it never hurts to ask!). The cashier gave me $10 off - a 40% discount for my coveted bird feeder stand!

Elated with my victory, I marched to the car...only to discover that while my Saturn has a Transformer-like ability to fit almost as much as a small SUV, this was not one of the times it would be able to help me. After several minutes of comical attempts to contain all the angles of the stand into the trunk, I gave up and accepted that part of the money saved must be used to get a screwdriver to take the thing apart. The ridiculousness of the whole ordeal was pretty hilarious and it made me grateful I've never had a desire to have reality TV show cameras following me.


The stand is now rooted in its new home and seems to be a big hit. Those birds can EAT - it's amazing. They have an interesting system of self-governance, too...people in line at Stickler's need to take lessons in patience and orderly food lines.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Blue Cure for the Blues


I've been taking ten-minute breaks between Thesis Writing Sessions to decorate the bathroom with tape in the hopes that someday soon I will open the can of paint that has been sitting there for over a month. Doesn't blue tape just scream "magic is about to happen here"? Well, first it shouts "someone's about to get a toxin-induced headache" but then it starts on the hopeful magic predictions.

Don't Call It A Comeback

I've been here all along! I just didn't want to pass on my frustration and exhausted outlook on life. It's hot here (duh), and as I have wilted in the miserable sun all my plants have, too. It was depressing, to put it simply. But now I'm learning to accept the Facts of Life in Phoenix. I had a therapy session with a wonderful woman who used to do landscape design, and she taught me an important lesson: Home Depot deceives. It turns out the plants don't just die when they get to MY house - they die in everyone's yards at times because they're not always ready for the lovely, balmy Phoenix weather (insert bitter sarcasm here). So she helped me "triage," and provided therapy as I said goodbye to these poor soldiers who are on their way to Plant Heaven (not to be compared with Planet Hollywood which is a very, VERY different place).

Mr. Tomato apparently has seasons, and this is not his. His offspring will come back in the fall when I plant a new one.


Senor Cilantro just didn't like the four-day weekend drought he got while I spent time in Payson a few weeks ago, and he decided it was his time to go to a better place.



Madam Canna Lily likes San Diego more than Phoenix...I can only assume her lack of care for her appearance means she's started a life near the beach somewhere.


And Les Lantanas are just resting while they wait for a long drink (it's 5 o'clock somewhere, they tell me), and will recover soon.

A little knowledge goes a long way...I now will turn to the Phoenix Master Gardeners and AMWUA instead of those creeps who say the plants need "at least 6 hours of full sun" when really they just want to sit in the shade and drink all day.

Live and learn.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bringing Italia Home

It's been an entire year since I got home from Italy (LOTS more on that trip here, for those of you who didn't already read my travel writings), and I've been missing it. Since I haven't had much time to work on the house and don't have updates to share (did I mention I can't WAIT to be done with school?), I thought I'd try to distract/amuse you with these comparisons instead.

For example, I met this lovely lion in Verona...and he reminds me of this crazy feline of my own.

And while there are lovely wall cracks in Italy, my own walls do a pretty good job of living up to those of the ancient world.

Seriously, though, it is amazing how many things I found in common when I started looking for them, and not just the McDonalds that seem to be on every street in the world. Pigeons, of course, are everywhere...though they were certainly more celebrated in Venice than they are here.
And it seems that geraniums manage to get in a lot of travel across the globe.

Is it possible that Lantana does, too?

It seems people find a way to pay tribute to things we care about that have died, though Italy's monuments are certainly more noble and justified than the popsicle stick I have to mark the place where my poor tomato plant gave up on life.

Maybe we don't write our hopes and dreams out as clearly as the visitors to Juliette's house do, but we do all find ways to express our pursuit of the possibilities that every day holds no matter where we are...like these paint swatches that express how much I can't wait to get to work on my house.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Kids Are All Right

In order to avoid homework a little longer (and to further amuse Sarah! ;), here are some pictures of the amazing progress of the little guys I talked about in an earlier post about my baby plants. Aren't they gorgeous?
I still have a hard time believing that anything could survive in such horribly hot weather (my tomato plant, for example, looks like he's been through The Amazing Race...and lost), but so far they're still hanging in there.

The bougainvillea looks pretty too. It had frozen before I bought the house, but after a lot of tough love with the pruning shears it appears to be very happy with life on the edge of The Unfinished Garden. Of course, I'm using the term "garden" very loosely...my yard continues to be barren but increasingly hopeful.
I'll just have to keep thinking about my options and planning what to tackle first.

(Yes, of COURSE that was just a shameless opportunity to show off the cutest baby in the world. I also wanted to illustrate that I still recognize the difference between kids and plants...!)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Service with a Smile

Last week, I found the one thing that may make me want to be in my dining room enough to actually cook. I just want to stand next to this table and hand out lace napkins and fancy hor d'oeuvres. It took two trips to IKEA and lots of patience to bring something this perfect into my home - the first trip, they were out of the table and weren't sure when it would arrive. Several weeks and a generous graduation contribution later (thank you!!!), I was able to afford both the table and the gas to get all the way to and from IKEA (I'm being melodramatic but you should have known that when I talked about handing out lace napkins).

The table started out looking like this...

...and two hours and LOTS of confusion later, it became this. Isn't it perfect? Once the paint on the wall is one color and not The Darkest Green Paint Ever, it'll be even better.