Around the House

A few months back, page I believe I may have declared war on the omnipresent list of projects in my life. “I have PLANS and I am STICKING TO THEM,” I said. Oh, Jill of five months ago. You are so precious. Look at you and your motivation. So young and naive.

In spite of my rosy-hued optimism back in June, let’s just say that at least I made an attempt. My blogs about the house and our ongoing renovation have been woefully lacking and much fewer and further between than I hoped, but at least I gave it the ol’ college try this summer. Back in May, I conspired with one of my best friends to come up with a list of things I’d like to get done on the house. Jen helped talk me through what I’d ideally like to have done first, so I could feel a big sense of accomplishment and maybe – just maybe – finish a project.

So, to start with something fairly quick for an easy win, we decided I should start by hanging up more of the mirrors and artwork that have basically been collecting dust sitting around the house for the last two years. We started with the big round CB2 mirror in the dining room above, which we had to anchor through plaster into 120 year-old brick. The blue version has since been discontinued, but they still have it in white. It’s awesome. And then, on a recent cleaning spree, a bunch of my lamps ended up moving around the house. I painted this vintage brass lamp green a few years back and I’m pretty sure the flying eagle belongs here. Easy. One project down.

Next up, artwork. Now, this project has had a little less success because I’m so indecisive. I know that furniture will ultimately move around and new art will join the family, so I’m a little hesitant to go drilling loads of big holes into our beautifully refinished plaster. Fortunately, I’ve had a ton of luck with the 3M Command hooks and strips. For whatever reason, the hooks seem to work better for my wooden frames and anything on which I’ve already installed picture hanging wire. For most of my smaller art and anything in a metal frame, the small and medium strips work. The big strips have worked well on my posters — all the way up to 18″x24″! I have kind of a silkscreen obsession, so the no-damage hanging is wonderful. I buy them in bulk on Amazon because they’re way less expensive than most stores I’ve seen them at here in NYC.

In order to tackle this project, for a few of my newer silkscreens I had to pick out frames first. I’ve had lots of friends and fellow photographers ask if I have any recommendations for custom frames, and YES. American Frame. I am in no way affiliated with them except as a supremely happy customer. Over the years I’ve ordered many, many frames from them (yep, lots of silkscreens) and always been happy. You can order completely custom sizes (lots of colors, too) and the prices are reasonable – though you do have to assemble yourself. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a cinch.

That’s a print from Jaime Derringer of Design Milk in the photo to the left, above. She had a sale on some time ago and I just had to. The triangles are simple, but the tilt of the geometric design is AWESOME. I feel like my right leg has grown a couple inches every time I come home. In a good way. And there at the top of my stairs between the bathroom and the guest bedroom, I hung prints I’ve had several years — from Bee Things, RADROBOT, and Scott Parry. Yes, that is a smiling orange and a horse with laserbeams coming out of its eyes, turning on the hall lights. (Maybe someday I’ll take photos with something besides Instagram to do them some justice.)

I still have loads of prints and silkscreens to hang, but at least I got started. One and a half projects down.

Jen and I also decided I should focus on the master bedroom this summer. For nearly two years, Zach and I have been living without hanging storage or real closets. Folding laundry has been a nightmare, because we couldn’t really hang anything up. Suits and dress shirts were hung on hooks; the back of our doors were utterly ridiculous. It’s shameful. Everyone I’ve ever told this to raises their eyebrows in disbelief (and silently judges).

Part of the problem was just in the planning — I was pretty well decided on the PAX system from IKEA because I’ve heard great things. But there are virtually limitless options between the sizes and frame colors and doors and racks and shelves and pants hangers and on and on. Plus it was almost humorous — once I decided where we’d install the wardrobe, I realized the wall was basically a half inch short of allowing for the full six-frame configuration I’d planned. Ha, ha, ha IKEA. You get the last laugh.

28 boxes and 2 weekends of assembly later, we had our giant closet and LOADS of extra storage space. Plus, I hung another big print from Felix Waser on the wall. Another project down!

Now the view from bed is priceless. Sometimes I just lay in there pretending to read a magazine while I really just admire the new closet and dream of all the other ways we can get organized. Kind of like this guy, who just watched and napped while we were hard at work assembling the monstrosity.

And now that I look at this picture, ugh. I guess I should caulk that baseboard.

Another one for the list.

Tomatoes Forever

A month ago, page I wrote about how nicely our garden has been filling in this year. A few weeks later, tadalafil it’s now become a crazy jumble that needs a serious pruning. The zinnias are popping up as fast as the weeds, and everything is in full bloom. Of the edibles we planted this year, the tomatoes are really stealing the show. Green zebra heirlooms, San Marzanos, golden cherry and grape varieties – it’s a bonafide tomato party!

Our decision this year to plant the tomatoes in MUCH BIGGER self-watering planters has really improved the process. The tomatoes are much more productive, we’re watering less frequently and they’ve managed to survive more weekend trip neglect than ever before. Though we really don’t have a lot of space in the front garden to grow produce and the footprint of the new planters dominates the available space, I still think it was a good choice. Not only have our recent hauls been satisfying, they’ve been really colorful too:

an afternoon harvest

green zebra heirloom tomatoes

And what’s an edible garden without loads and loads of herbs? We get so much direct sunlight all day, every day and the herbs are loving it. As usual, we’ve grown lots of basil from seed to go with the tomatoes (and delicious, delicious fresh mozz). This year we decided on a few different kinds — sweet basil, spicy Thai basil, and a new-to-me Japanese lettuce leaf basil that features huge aromatic leaves perfect for pretty much anything. I’m still hoping to try my hand at making lettuce wraps with them!

Rounding out the herb garden are two types of rosemary, creeping and English thyme, Italian and golden oregano, common sage, lemon balm, lemon verbena, and summer savory. This year – it’s second year – the lavender also went bonkers. Planted right by the stairs for all passers-by to enjoy, it has been showing off its graceful purple blooms for more than two months now. I’d love to learn how to shape it into a dried wreath this fall.

lovely, lovely rosemary
lettuce leaf basilsweet, sweet lavender
golden oregano
growing thyme from seed

Last, but certainly not least, are my strawberries. I’ve never had a lot of luck with strawberries but each year aspire to try something different to improve my haul. Marie’s are always so much more fruitful and jealousy-enducing, but thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s produce. Or something like that. Anyway, my plants are FINALLY putting out runners, so maybe I’ll encourage them to propagate into new pots so I can try again next year. Womp, womp.


I can’t wait to get out and do some work this weekend. Time to pull out the pruners and clean it up a bit.

Do your weekend plans include any gardening? I’d love to hear!

Garden, Year Two

It feels like forever since I’ve done a proper garden update, stomach and that’s probably because I’ve spent more time getting my hands dirty out in the front yard than inside writing and editing pictures. This time of year, it’s a serious undertaking to get the garden watered sufficiently while temperatures blaze into the upper echelons of bearable. We’re the only ones on my block without a shade tree, and even though I’ve chosen lots of drought-tolerant plants, even one hot day without water can scorch and kill a lovely plant.

Last weekend at the Mermaid Parade, Joel joked that I’m a little obsessed with my garden, and he is absolutely right. I love it. Even when it’s a million degrees outside, it feels so gratifying to experiment in our tiny little front yard. I’ll never get over that child-like wonder of watching things sprout and grow, and I already know I’ll be gardening until I’m old and grey.

Anyway! On to the pictures. This past week after tweet-promising a proper update, I went back into the garden archive to see the photos from when we first planned the garden last year. I had forgotten how awful it was. HIDEOUS! And then the garden looked like this on July 7th of last year. I was so proud at the time:

And today, here she is:

garden overview

So, yeah. I’d say she’s filled out just a tad over the past year! Of course, the extra-warm winter didn’t hurt, and all the rain we got this spring really kick-started everything into high gear. I’ve already had to cut back our oregano by half – and the butterfly bush that grew to three feet last year is TOWERING over the garden at more than eight feet tall already! It’s starting to flop over and go to seed, so I’ll probably have to prune it soon as well.

A few things have changed in the garden as you can see in the overhead photo below. Zach and I got real irritated with the chrysanthemums last fall when an errant snowstorm came and crushed them. They were originally planted by the previous owners’ estate to cover a huge stump in the front yard when the house went on the market, and they grew out of control last year. We dug all of them up except one, and now they live in pots with all my neighbors. In their place, I decided to plant some annual heathers, which should hopefully fill in the bare spots in the center of the garden rather quickly.

garden overview

We’re also aiming for a lot more flowers in the garden this year. I enjoyed growing zinnia so much last year that I found a company online – Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – which offers loads of heirloom varieties, including zinnias. I ordered several and they’re starting to grow all around the garden. Really excited to see the colors start to appear, especially the acid green one I ordered!

Besides the zinnia, my clematis bloomed for the first time this year – and it was stunning. The yarrow has burst into tiny flowers everywhere, my several varieties of salvia are going through their second round of blooming, and tiny white flowers on the calamintha bring legions of butterflies and happy bees to the garden, which in turn are making the tomato plants really productive. The garden is really starting to achieve the wild look I was going for, and now I think it’s going to be a delicate balance to keep it under control. Instead of, you know, turning into THAT NEIGHBOR.

the clematis! it blooms!butterfly bush
hot pink yarrow
hot pink butterfly bush spikesgettin' wild and crazy

This year, we also decided to plant new window boxes, which I filled with petunias, vines, and other trailing flowers whose name I can’t remember off the top of my head. Next year, I’ll probably try and plan the window boxes a little better instead of grabbing whatever catches my attention on a trip to Home Depot (lame, I know).

In the center window box, I also planted a bunch of freesia bulbs that have begun to sprout — we’ll see how that works out because it’s been kind of a chore to keep all the boxes from frying in the heat. It seems like all our neighbors with shadier front yards have an easier time keeping their window boxes full and beautiful, but in the meantime I’ll just enjoy the color they bring.

new window boxes!

A late addition to the garden last year in early October, I planted two rhododendron that were on sale for cheap and needed a home. And who am I to say no?

Fortunately, they got established before the freeze and made it through the winter as small plants. Early this spring, both plants bloomed quite a fuchsia display and completely justified my decision. I was a bit worried about them since we had a freeze after they’d begun to bloom, but they bounced back and put out new growth quickly. I’d love for them grow tall enough to become a hedge in the back of the garden one day, filling the spring garden with pink blooms!

rhododendron, new growth

And last, but certainly not least, all the sedum are doing exceptionally well in the heat of my front yard. Sedum are close to my heart because my grandmother has many kinds planted in her midwestern garden, and I remember being fascinated by all the different kinds as a child. Every time I see them, I think of her.

Anyhow, we have several varieties planted in pots and in the yard, including hispanicum Blue Carpet, Platycladus, spurium Red Carpet, Sieboldi, spectibile Brilliant, and Angelina. The sedum in pots do exceptionally well, and the Angelina are becoming exactly the funky, textured groundcover I had hoped they would be in the front of the garden. I just want to pet it.
sedum starting to bud

So there you have it! A garden update almost exactly one year later. This week I’ll write a bit more about the edibles and herbs we’re growing. Are you growing a garden this year? If so, link me in the comments! I’d love to see what you’re up to outside this summer.

Two Years

When you buy an old house, buy information pills there’s really no advice in the world that can prepare you. It tests your patience, your will, your wallet, and your relationship. And if you’re planning any amount of DIY, well let me warn you first-hand. There may be loads of glossy magazines and well-curated design blogs with great tips on refinishing floors, choosing the perfect paint color, and planning the renovation of your dreams. But last I checked, there aren’t many helpful tutorials on coping with lowered expectations, disappearing motivation, and letting go of perfectionism. Those are things you have to learn for yourself. And it’s not easy. Seriously. It’s not easy.

But for those of you afflicted with hopeless romanticism and a love of historic architecture, there is good news. Renovating an old house can also be one of the most beautiful experiences, once you get over yourself. Today marks my two-year anniversary of being a homeowner — and I’ve learned so much. Looking back on this past year, I see so many projects that haven’t quite made it out of my head and into my home yet. But through photographs, I do see that we’ve made lots of progress and for that I am thankful. Some weeks, it’s just enough to get the house cleaned and the laundry ready before a marathon of work or travel. Quite frankly, it took a hurricane to slow me down enough to paint a wall in my dining room.

Fortunately, my house is wayyyy more patient than I am.

I’m hoping this summer will change things. This is the summer of lists, and of getting things done. I will pick up a paintbrush and I will finish projects. I’m looking at you, master bedroom and kitchen. You are so going down (and getting pretty). I have PLANS and I am STICKING TO THEM.

This is the summer we will finally have a closet suitable for clothes storage, instead of pathetic hanging hooks everywhere. This is the summer we finally install door hardware on the bathroom door so our guests don’t think we’re lunatics. This is the summer that we cut down our backyard jungle.

Get ready, House. Year Three is coming.