Archive for October, 2011

Not our yard.

There’s no sugar-coating it–leaf removal in the Fall is awful.

I can handle (and sometimes enjoy) mowing the lawn in Spring, Summer and Fall, and I can deal with shoveling the snow in Winter, but clearing the yard of leaves for several weekends in the Fall is simply wretched.

I say wretched, because it’s so time-consuming. You rake piles until you’re sick of raking piles. You bag the piles until you’re sick of bagging piles, or you’re sick of moving your filled bags, or you’re sick of changing your bags.

It’s a never-ending process, and I’ve never performed a homeowner’s chore as maddening as raking leaves.

  • One minute, I feel as if I’m making great process–“Look how clean this 1/8 of the lawn looks! I’ll be done before lunch!”
  • The next minute, I look at the remaining, covered 7/8 of the yard–“I’ll be out here after sunset…”

Last year, I did the entire project the old-school way, with just a rake and a about 300 bags. Thankfully, our county collects unlimited bags of yard junk once a week throughout the Fall, so the bags eventually disappeared. But, it did take three or four full weekends of work in October and November last year. (I can’t remember exactly because I blocked the experience from my mind.)

But this year, I’m determined to make the process less wretched, and after the past weekend, I’m cautiously optimistic I’ll handle these leaves better this time around.

I caved and bought a combination electric leaf blower/vacuum for about $70. While the blower was OK, the vacuum was great. Very powerful and chopped the leaves up nicely into an attached bag (Katie was impressed and even used the vacuum for a minute or two!), so I used far fewer bags and uncovered a lot more ground in shorter time. I still raked piles, but my back felt a lot better without the constant up-and-down of collecting and dumping into a bag.

I uncovered about 3/4 of the yard on Saturday, and on Sunday, with about 1/4 of the yard left (the portion along the street-side of the house), I used my neighbor’s gas blower and blew those remaining leaves to the drainage ditch along the street.

Sure they weren’t bagged, but the last leaves were off the grass, which was all I needed to see by the time football kicked off Sunday afternoon.

Remember jumping into your Dad’s leaf piles when we were kids, rolling around in them and slowing Dad’s progress? I wonder if he was secretly annoyed…


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At our wedding reception, Katie’s father, Butch, began his toast by thanking the guests and acknowledging his wife, Susie, and my parents for their work in planning/preparing for the event, though he went out of his way to single out my father, Mike.

That’s because Katie’s parents hosted the reception in the backyard of their beautiful three-acre property in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Their home is nestled on top of a hill, surrounded by various tall trees, and it overlooks what seems like a never-ending wooded expanse to the south. A pretty awesome spot to have your wedding reception, if you ask me, even if it took Butch, Susie and others several months to prep for the Big Day on Oct. 2, 2010.

Back to Butch’s reception toast, he went out of his way to single out my father, because my father in unique in a certain way: He loves doing yard work, and he loved helping make sure Butch and Susie’s yard was “ready for its close-up.”

That is no joke. He really loves it, and that was the extent of Butch’s message. He couldn’t believe how much my father enjoyed the yard work, couldn’t thank him enough, and said he was welcome to come back in future years whenever he wanted.

Well, with no backyard weddings to plan for (none that we know of, yet…), Katie and I have had The Real Yard Crasher and his hedge clippers all to ourselves.

Take a look at his work from over the weekend, tackling the overgrown, out-of-control hedges along the street-side of the house. (Keep in mind he did this in only 2-3 hours–I was mowing the lawn and let him do his thing, I promise.)








Thanks, Dad! And just like Butch, I’ll raise a glass and say, “You’re welcome any time!”

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It’s my favorite time of year. Days are warm and sunny, while nights and early mornings are crisp and chilly. Trees are gorgeously aflame, supermarkets have plenty of acorn squash, and I get to pull out my sweaters and Uggs.

Yesterday could not have been more perfect weather-wise, and I went to Baugher’s Orchard in Westminster, MD with some peeps. We picked apples and sampled (and bought) some of the best cider I’ve tasted.

I also discovered a new variety of apples. Usually a gala girl through-and-through, I tried an idared and found it exceptionally sweet and crisp. We just couldn’t decide if it was pronounced “i-da-red” or “i-dared.”

As an added bonus, I can use the produce I bought as home decor.  Here are my hand-picked idareds hanging out in our dining room fruit bowl:

The pumpkins I snagged, guarding our front door:

And here’s a peek at our front yard, in its autumn-y splendor:

Fall is good.

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“Before anyone (me) gets too excited, I should also temper this revelation with the knowledge that for some reason people in our neighborhood have a habit of listing their houses REALLY HIGH, and then selling them nowhere near that. Stay tuned to see how this suburban excitement plays out.”

Katie said this just one day ago. Was she trying to jinx herself?

Because on my way to work this morning, I drove by the For Sale sign for the house across the street from us and noticed a beautiful “SOLD” tag had been added. And a quick online search revealed that, yes, the posting has been removed from almost all real estate sites.

By my unofficial record, I think the house was on the market for about a week. Pretty impressive, though Katie and I like to brag that our house was on the market for three days before we signed our contract.

Congrats to our neighbors on a quick deal (and maybe accepting a full-price offer)!

Kenny Powers approves:

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image found here

When a house goes on the market in our neighborhood, I get weird butterflies of excited nervousness. I like to be able to gauge how the biggest investment of our life is going. Since we’ve moved in, a couple houses nearby have been sold, and I stalk them online until I can find out how much the owners settled for. This girl’s all about the bottom line.

Last week, I saw a sign (and it opened up my eyes! and I am happy now living without you! I left you, oh! oh-oh-oh). Ahem. I saw a Re/Max sign for a house down the street, and I could barely wait to run home to redfin.com to find out which house is for sale and what the list price is. And guess what? OUR HOUSE is for sale. Obviously not literally OUR house that we live in (and own), but our neighborhood contains a handful of house styles that repeat, and the house that just went on the market is the same STYLE as our house.

Now, I should note that Andrew and I have actually been inside the other house, and the owners have put a lot into it, so it’s not really a direct comparison. The other house has three bedrooms, three baths. Ours has three bedrooms, one “and a half” baths (those who have been here realize that our “half bath” is a stand alone toilet next to our dryer, but hey, if real estate agents want to pretend that’s a half bath, I’m game). I dug up the listing of our house to compare to the other house, and here are the notable differences:

  • Other house: built in 1966. Our house: built in 1962.
  • Other house: 1456 square feet. Our house: 1040 square feet.
  • Other house: two closets in the “owners’ suite.” Our house: half a closet in the “master” bedroom.
  • Other house: 0.88 acre lot. Our house: 0.56 acre lot.
  • Other house: tucked away on a cul de sac. Our house: on a fairly busy corner lot.
  • Other house: bigger, more modern kitchen. Our house: um, not.

In short, our house doesn’t quite measure up, but it has the potential for more finished living space (and closets), so isn’t it GREAT NEWS that the other house is listed for $95k more than what we paid for ours? Before anyone (me) gets too excited, I should also temper this revelation with the knowledge that for some reason people in our neighborhood have a habit of listing their houses REALLY HIGH, and then selling them nowhere near that. Stay tuned to see how this suburban excitement plays out.

BTW, it’s not an oversight – I am not posting the other house’s listing here for privacy purposes. Womp womp. Here’s a pic to make it better:

That’s dusk in Florence, taken during our honeymoon last year. Something so pretty makes suburban real estate seem silly.

But if you really want to see the other house’s listing, email me.

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How Sad…

…is this?

That’s the living room wall you see FIRST when you come into our home. Inviting, no?

No, it’s not inviting! That picture is no exaggeration. Aside from the horrendous lighting and the lack of a side table (because we did/do have a table there), the above picture is true to life. Nothing on the wall, nothing cozy or friendly or homey about it. And the longer it looked like that, the sadder it seemed. You’d think that after a year of living here, we’d settle in a bit. I’m saying “we,” but of course, it’s mostly my fault. Andrew’s more of a that-looks-awful-here’s-a-picture-let’s-nail-it-to-the-wall type of person, and I’m more of a oh-I’m-not-sure-what-if-we-find-something-better-just-wait-for-me-to-explore-all-our-options-slash-find-a-REALLY-good-sale type of person. Or, as I like to think, I’m more of a “master plan” type of person.

Not really. But I’d like to be. I’d like to be a “master plan” type of person. So, I set out looking for my MP. Fortunately, my three-pound Restoration Hardware catalog arrived around this time, so I flipped through that, looking for inspiration pictures of expanses of wall the stylists had made, um, stylish.

Idea the first: many pictures.

I like the look of a bunch of frames arranged tightly and geometrically like this. Plus, horses are cool. However, the problems with this arrangement are that 1) I would have to buy nine frames, and 2) I would have to find nine images that would still sort of seem cohesive.

Idea the second: one big picture.

Uncluttered and statement-making. Too bad the image above costs $5,000 and the most similar image from Ikea reminds me too much of the one hanging in the break room at work. I’d rather my home not remind me of being at work.

Idea the third: mirror plus art.

Liking the combo of square and round shapes. And it’s not too complicated. And a mirror would be great in our spot because it’s across from a window. AND there’s an Ikea mirror I bought as a possibility for our bathroom, we decided was too small and returned, but still spoke to me when I was there shopping for curtains.

So, here’s our progress:

Comparing our arrangement to the RH one, I am thinking I may have hung the trio a little too high – always a problem with me.  I know the art is supposed to be eye level, but then I think to myself, “Andrew’s eye level is about eight or nine inches higher than mine, so I’ll nudge everything up just a little bit.”  And then it ends up being too high.  But practice some patience with me here because we want to find a console table or something to go along that wall, behind the chair-and-a-half, and then put lamps or whatever on it, so there’s got to be some breathing room.  Or at that point, I’ll rehang the stuff lower.

You may also be trying to figure out what’s in those frames.

That’s the piece of paper that came in the frame over there on your left. And in the right frame, a picture of some flowers in a pitcher of… milk? I don’t know, it doesn’t really make sense, I just liked it for some reason. I keep telling Andrew we should get a picture of cookies to put in the other one. Milk and cookies? Get it? Yes? No? I’ll keep you posted on what ends up in that frame. You’ll probably be waiting another year though.

P.S. The two frames, mirror, and milk-drinking flowers are all from Ikea.

P.P.S. You may have noticed the dog crate in the wide shot and be wondering where Widget is.

He’s snoring while I type.

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First, let me say I really like our yard — about a 1/2 acre, corner lot, relatively flat, several mature trees, very nice when it’s looking its best.

But as summer gives way to fall during the first full-calendar year of homeownership, I’m still thinking about when I’ll have three to four hours in my week to mow this bad boy. And that’s becoming a challenge, as the days get shorter and the weekends are booked with weddings and short trips to visit family and friends.

So, last week, with a wedding to attend on Saturday and our one-year wedding anniversary on Sunday, I did something I’d only do as a suburban homeowner: I left work at noon on a Friday to mow the lawn. Yeah, I’m shaking my head, too.

As I worked my way up and down the lawn, around trees and along hedges, I couldn’t help but laugh and think this was the stuff that comes with homeownership. And on top of that, Katie called in the early afternoon to ask if I could take Widget to the vet’s office later that day.

A Friday afternoon off from work, and I’m mowing the lawn as fast as possible, so I can shuttle my dog to the vet.

Definitely a, “When did this happen?” moment. Adulthood creeps up on you, watch out.

I’m starting to sound a little too philosophical. The purpose of this post was to introduce a new, ongoing feature, “You Know You Live in the Suburbs When…” We’ll chime in from time to time when we’re caught doing things around the house we only used to laugh about because our parents had to do them.

The list begins with:

  1. You used to spend your weekends bar-hopping, now you spend them home improvement store-hopping.
  2. You take time off from work to mow the lawn. (Yes, shaking my head again.)

Help us out and add to the list!

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