Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ginger & Bella Houses

outside view of the house; notice the steps they made on the right, going up to an outdoor patio! The bundle of sticks is a camp fire, and behind that is a stool made from a rock balanced on twigs.

the pink flower at the right is in a vase made from the tip of a bamboo shoot. Bed on left, side table made from a scallop shell, with the inside piece of a conch shell on top for decoration. The big scallop shell at right is a table and also a place to cook.

love the moss pillows on the bark bed--they chose this spot because moss was already there for a carpet. Desk in the back right of the room, with a bark stool.

bathroom with seashell sink. A broken piece of flagstone from our patio is the floor.

outside view of bathroom.

Emma's newest creation--a sofa with rhododendron cushions, a seashell bottom and a lilac leaf for comfort. Not sure how long that will hold up, but very pretty!

I am so proud of the imaginative play that goes on in my house every single day, and one of the longest running games around here involve tiny animals (Only Hearts Pets, if you're a parent who keeps abreast of fad toys) of varying species. I can't keep all the names straight; cries of, "No, Mom! That's Kirby!" or "No, Mom! That one is a girl!" are frequently heard in my house. But the two stars of the game are Ginger and Bella, a cat and a panda. They own a very spacious dollhouse upstairs, they are the stars of coloring books, drawings and comics galore, and they also have a vacation compound under our dogwood tree. Emma was showing me some new features this morning, so I asked her to take some photos so we could always remember this game.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

New Year's Resolutions--Yes, In May!

I know, I know, it's May, not the time for resolutions. But really, I have a good reason, and that's my garden. You might recall that last year I overhauled the perennial garden in the backyard. When we moved into this house five years ago, I thought "perennial garden" meant that I never had to do any work in the garden, because after all, the plants are perennials...doesn't that mean they take care of themselves? That's what it should mean! I am the worst mix possible: I love having a beautiful yard and flowers to fill up vases in my house all summer long....but I really, really hate yard work! And after pricing out what it would cost to have landscapers do all the work for me....let's just say that if Matt had only cared about being rich, he should have saved himself the trouble of getting that Ph.D. and gone into yard work instead!

But I digress. I finally got tired of my formerly lovely perennial garden being an overgrown weed patch and last year I decided that I was going to do something about it. So I worked. HARD. And with practically no help from my family, I might add. Matt and Rachel gave me a bit of help when it came to buying the forty tons of mulch I needed and humping it from the store to the car and from the car to the back yard...but once it was in the back yard, it was up to me to heft it all over the garden. The kids helped a tiny bit, when it came to planting, and Matt dug a few holes when I needed a deep one for roses or peonies. He also worked with our neighbor's rototiller to turn everything over before I began. And the kids helped a bit collecting the three hundred thousand pounds of beautiful stones I collected from local beaches over the course of the summer, so I could ring the garden in (and hopefully keep the lawn from encroaching while I did it) okay, I STILL don't have that project completely finished...but in my defense, rocks are heavy, it's a pain in the neck to collect so many, and my garden is large--I'd say it's probably 30 feet long by 10 feet wide (but don't quote me, because I'm terrible at eyeballing measurements!)

My theory was simple. The former owner of the house was apparently a master gardener, or at the least she could afford to pay for people to do it for her. The perennial garden featured gorgeous flowers, but the problem was that I had a hard time telling weeds from flowers, so it all got very out of control. Also, she stuck to a pretty boring color palette of yellow, purple, and tiger lilies in orange thrown in--I happen to hate tiger lilies. I like them on roadsides, but I hate them in gardens. They are messy looking with their massive foliage and they don't make good bouquets because they wilt as soon as you cut them. I decided a better plan for my style of garden was to plant bushy perennials that might spread out...I used various butterfly bushes, coreopsis, roses, peonies, lavender, Montauk daisies and others of that nature (OK, yes, I've forgotten some of their names!) so that when weeds pop up, it would be easy to tell them from the plants I wanted. Then I could yank those troublesome little buggers before they became a problem. The fresh mulch looked so pretty, and I laid landscaping cloth underneath really, weeds wouldn't be a problem at all. No sun, no growing.

Someone really ought to give weeds some kind of award. Really. I have had trouble many times in the garden--with veggies, herbs, flowers--I plant them and sometimes they just die. For no reason whatsoever. Really, no reason! And yet--I am a champion with weeds! Landscape cloth? Mulch? HA! Those weeds just come right through it. No trouble at all, don't mind if I do! I'd imagined that this year I could sit back and watch my beautiful garden, maybe spend three or four hours (all summer, as in three or four hours TOTAL) pulling out the weeds that would sprout, and finally finish up the rock collecting to border the garden at my leisure. All done. Finito. Flowers to enjoy and that's all. We bought a new hammock and I'd envisioned reading novels while I looked at that beautiful garden....I guess the lesson here is that gardening is a series of endless chores that make you want to stab yourself repeatedly. All those people who say they love gardening? I think they are either Stepford wives, compulsive liars, or are quite simply insane. What's to love about backbreaking labor that never ends? I just don't get it!

I should pat my kids on the back here and say that sometimes they are willing to help me. Emma and Julia, especially, will help me weed and plant things. They are all willing to pick things from the garden. And Ben can be counted on to pick yellow dandelions for me--at least that way they won't go to seed and make more of their horrible clones. Gardening is an area where I can say Matt is a terrible husband, however. (And this is not something I can say of him often; he is mostly a very good husband. But gardening? He is a jerk about gardening.) He mows the lawn, and will trim bushes if I nag him for a few weeks first. He will rake leaves in the fall (again, with the nagging) and he's aces at shoveling snow. But work in the garden? N-O-P-E. No can do. Never. Not in this lifetime. He tells me "I hate gardening, and I don't care what the yard looks like." I've tried pointing out that he enjoys vegetables and herbs that we grow. I've tried tantrums. I've tried the whole "if you LOVED me, you'd give me some help..." I've tried pointing out that this should be a family project, and by not helping me, he's subtly encouraging the kids not to help me....all for nothing. This seems to be the single area of life where I simply cannot budge him. (*sniff*)

This spring, the weeds have been really bothering me. Every time I went out in the yard and noticed new weeds sprouting in the garden, I wanted to punch someone. Every hour I've spent weeding has bred resentment in my mind, that I have to do all this alone, even though I already do so much for this ungrateful family....and every time I stop to buy four bags of mulch so that I can drag them home and dump them over the garden in the hopes that it will slow the growth of these pesky weeds (and I can only buy four bags at a time because otherwise we'll wreck the new shocks in the van that we had to put in because LAST year I supposedly wrecked them bringing home too many bags of mulch and beach rocks...blah blah blah...and by the way, four bags of mulch weigh about a million pounds and cover about nine square inches of the garden) every time I do this all I can think of is that it's going to take a hundred MORE trips to buy enough mulch to cover it all, and what's the point anyway because obviously the weeds grow right through it anyway...and so, here is the resolution part.

My resolution is simple and beautiful in its simplicity. Every day (assuming the weather is fine, and that I'm home, of course) I will get outside in the garden or yard, and I will weed. For half an hour, or possibly forty five minutes if we're home all day and I feel like it. I set the alarm on my cell phone and put it in my pocket, and I work like a machine till it rings. This is going to make all the difference in the yard and in my levels of psychotic rage, because it breaks the job into tiny pieces--rather than going out once in a while and spending hours working like a crazy person while the rest of the family does something fun--which is basically anything that doesn't involve yard work!--muttering to myself about how I'll never get it finished, how horrible it is, how nobody is helping me, etc. --I am working steadily and daily, and in short bursts of time. In half an hour, I can get a surprising amount accomplished, and more importantly, I know the job won't be finished, so I don't care that it isn't. I'll be back out tomorrow, and after I've worked for a month or so, maybe I'll even be scrounging around trying to find something to do. At least that's the hope. There I go, being terribly optimistic the least, I can use it to make my husband feel extremely guilty that he's such a lazy sack when it comes to the yard, and maybe I won't have to nag quite so much when it comes time to trim the bushes again.