Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Great Back Yard Makeover Before and (almost!) After

I'm so excited to show you the before and (almost) after photos of what I've named "The Great Back Yard Makeover"!  We've come a long way but there's still more to come.  What's interesting is how much I'm enjoying working on this project.  It occurred to me I might like working on it just as much as I'll  enjoy it once it's completed.  I know, I know, but I've accepted that I'm kind-of that way with yard work.  I have a feeling it might be an ever-changing, always-tweaking type of project, and I will love it!

After living in this house for 7 years (new when we moved in), this is the best the backyard has to offer for grass. Not too plush, you say? I agree! You can see the circle area where the trampoline used to be. This is the view from our back door, so you see the front of the neighbor's house in the photo.  

Side view, even the shady area under the oak tree has problems!  I couldn't wait to change this, make it something totally different.

I could begin to see the vision coming to life at this point, but it still seemed almost impossible.  Almost. But we forged on ahead.

Bring on the pea gravel!

When this is completed, our plan is to have a fire pit in the center of the circle surrounded by chairs. I can't wait to see the chairs filled with family and friends.  The fire pit was always the main idea but with all of the work and excitement of pea gravel, bushes and pathways, it started to take a back seat at some point!  But now that it's almost finished and fall will soon be knocking on the door, we can see the fire pit vision again.  Cool nights, crackling fire, marshmallows tanning in the glow of the heat and then smooshed between graham crackers and Hershey's bars.  Mmmm.
Just look at that sad patch of grass.  It appears to be grass but it fools us. It's about half grass/half crabgrass.  I'm so glad it's (mostly) covered up!
Ahh, the beginning of something new! Making this path was a lot of work, but so well worth it.

Yay! Here it is finished from the opposite side. From this angle it looks so long. We added a little half circle for a bench and possibly flowers around it someday.  I have a feeling this project will be ongoing and ever changing.  (Just how I like it!)

This is the second pathway coming off of the right side of the circle.  Do you see the extra pea gravel we still have to the center/right side of the picture?  Still a work in progress! You'll have to close your eyes with me and imagine the boxwoods as fully grown hedges. Oh yes, now I see it!

Now you'll have to imagine the tiny little bushes in back as they'll be when they're fully grown.  And ignore the bag of mulch I accidentally included in the picture. Oh, and the overgrown strawberry patch in the back.  The garden has kind-of taken a back seat at the moment.

Fall is knocking...come on in!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

In the Garden and the Super Cute Little Zoo

So I'm just digging away in the backyard, planting my impatiens in the big flower pot like I do every year, when SURPRISE!  I found a big white egg was already planted!  First I assumed it was a turtle egg, since we have several turtles that lay eggs in our yard every year.  

Then I wondered how a turtle would be able to climb a flower pot to lay an egg?  Okay, very unlikely. So I did some online checking and discovered it most likely was a sly little fox that probably stole one of the duck eggs from the pond a block away.  Apparently they like to do that type of thing and then hide the egg(s) for later.  I wasn't exactly sure what to do with it so I just left it right where I found it.

And yep, wouldn't you know a couple of days later that flower pot had been dug into again.  I didn't check to see if the egg was gone -- I didn't really want to know!

I was so excited to pick the first handful of strawberries from our garden...ever!  We planted these last year and whoa, they sure like to spread!  We've been getting about 8 to 10 strawberries a day which makes me sooo happy, I wish they were around all summer!

It's hard to imagine they come from such humble beginnings, then spread like weeds!  But that's okay, I love to see them branch out and take root.

We had a lot of fun visiting a sweet little zoo in Belvedere, IL recently.  Check out the animal sign.  Don't you just want to take that home with you?  It's so perfectly aged.  They did have one zebra but I didn't get close enough to take a picture. 
But I did get a photo of this little hedgehog!  Look at that face, don't you just want to take him home with you too?
They showed us several baby animals that we were allowed to pet.  These two are baby wolves, but they were too young to touch.  They couldn't stop yawning.  I guess we were too much excitement for them.

They called these llamas, but I've never seen animals like these.  These guys were pretty friendly!

This is Casanova, a horse that likes to be petted like a cat.

 He'll let you know exactly where he wants petted.  Pretty cool.

Okay, here we go.  This year's backyard summer project.  We've lived in our house 7 years and obviously still can't grow grass in the back yard.  When it rains, it stays muddy for 3 days.  Three days!  So we decided if we can't grow grass, then lets cover it with pea gravel and turn the area into a fire pit!  (Yaaay!)  And add some bushes and flowers!  (Yaaay!)  Lemons into lemonade,right?!

Here's the start of it...the pea gravel.  This is definitely a work in process so I will have to update more on this later.  And I'm sure again later.  I've decided to name it phase I, phase II, phase III, etc.

As you can see, my daughter thoroughly enjoyed the rock pile.  I don't blame her, I climbed it as well.  I just happened to have a shovel in my hand and called it "work". 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Welcome Back, Color!

Don't you just love SPRING?  All through town, I see the earth (finally!) waking up after what seemed like the never-ending winter.  Don't get me wrong, winter's okay, for awhile, but I'm ready to move on and see some green grass and colors again!

Lately I've fallen in love with these French metal pitchers.  I'm not sure why, there's just something about them that screams "please take me home with you!".  But until I find 'the one', I couldn't resist the urge to paint one.  Maybe when I have a real one I'll add a few daffodils like my little painting. 

But then I was surprised when I suddenly realized I've never planted daffodils in my yard.  I see them blooming everywhere and I'm constantly saying, "Oh look, the daffodils are blooming".  But I've never actually planned ahead and popped a few of these bulbs in the ground in the fall.  Hmm, now that I think about it I suppose that's not completely true.  My mom's neighbor was pulling all of her bulbs out of her yard (What?  I know, right?) and throwing them out a few years ago.  We snatched a few, thinking they were daffodils.  The next year the green leaves came up, looked great, but no flowers.  I figured I either planted them too deep or they need an extra year before they bloomed.  Then later in the summer I noticed something pink out back by the little fence we have in the corner of our back yard.  I ventured out to investigate and SURPRISE!  Yes, they were surprise lilies, not daffodils.  Ahem, apparently this is the perfect name for them.

I was so happy a few of my tulips bloomed again this year.  These are the bulbs I brought back from Holland a couple of years ago.  Sad to say, about a dozen of them were eaten by what I'm seriously suspecting was a mole.  His tunnel ran right through the corner where they were planted.  I suppose he noticed they were imported :).

And thinking of color, I thought I'd share what I see during a typical day of painting.  Kind of a mess, I know, but in a good way.  (Is there such a thing as a good mess?  Mom?)  I noticed this the other day and pulled out the always-just-in-reach camera.  I can't remember what I was painting, but I'm sure it was colorful!

Have a Happy Easter! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Hand Painted Pendants Featured in the Newspaper!

It's here!  (Yippee!)  Last week the Belleville News Democrat featured my hand painted pendants in the Sunday newspaper.  Thank you so much to writer Suzanne Boyle and photographer Steve Nagy from the Belleville News Democrat. 
 It was a surprise to see my pendant on the top of the FRONT page!

The newspaper also included a link to the online write-up.  It's at

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Getting the Studio Newspaper Ready

It's one of those rare times when my studio is cleaned up and everything I'm working on is put away.  I had to grab some photos before it was too late and the clock struck midnight, back to the way it was.  The Belleville News Democrat, a local newspaper, contacted me to do a feature about my hand painted pendants.  Woohoo!  This is the first time my pendants will be featured in a newspaper.  (Yay!) 

The article should come out in a couple of weeks or so.  The feature writer, Suzanne Boyle, stopped by last week to ask a few questions.  It was a lot of fun to chat with her.  
She brought a photographer along as well.  Wow, I had never been photographed while painting!  He took so many pictures, far away, close up, and oh so close up on my painting hand and brush while I was working. 

I found some old frames stashed away for a rainy day.  I tied string onto a few nails I hammered along the sides, then had fun hanging pictures with tiny little clothespins.  I hung copies of some of my mini paintings and commissioned jewelry pieces I had done in the past.
It's so fun to create these mini paintings.  Some are watercolor and some are acrylic.
 This is my new cardinal pendant I was painting when the photographer was here.  I looove this new tray/bezel. So pretty.

Speaking of things I love, check out the shadows on the wall I noticed the other day.  We actually had some sun (and not snow)!  I was so excited.  This was in my bedroom and I didn't have to think twice to grab my camera.  I climbed right up to it and took way too many photos.

Adding one more thing to the list of things I love...I found these tiny magnets in a drawer the other day.  I had forgotten all about them (another rainy day item!), but I knew my daughter would have fun with them.  When I walked back into the room this is what I found that she wrote about me.  Sooo sweet!

 Happy Valentines Day!!