Monday, June 22, 2009

Picture Pages

I had to take a picture of my mutant greens beans. You cannot buy anything like this in the store and they are organic! I usually eat green beans raw and it was so nice to be able to just pick the green beans, wash off a little bit of dirt, and take a bite. They were so good too.

Our peach tree is only a year old, but we already have peaches. The first harvest does not usually taste very good, but we are still hoping for some sweet pickings.

I love the idea of planting flowers in unusual planters, especially if they were items that were going to be thrown away. I was very lucky to find just that item at work this week. They are currently doing inventory, which means anything that cannot be counted goes in the trash. I was leaving work and noticed the lower part of a charcoal grill in the dumpster. Angela was nice enough to left me take it home and I placed a doublelicious hydrangea in it. Once it grows a little bigger and the bowl of the grill starts to show a little wear, it will look fabulous.

Finally, I planted African daisies all along the fencing to the tortoise enclosure. They do really well in the heat of the summer and they will help keep the dogs from getting to interested in Daisy and Squirt. I placed a border along the flowers today because sandy soil in the back yard does not absorb water right away. It tends to run everywhere but where you want it, so the border keeps the water where the flowers are. I have also been building a pile of rocks that we find in the back yard when gardening, etc., and this was the perfect area to place them. And yes, that is a tomato plant in the middle of my flowers. The tortoise enclosure used to be on that same part of the yard and apparently some of the cherry tomato seeds sprouted after I moved it. The plant was already flowering before I even realized it was there, so I decided to leave it.

Our very own forest in the middle of the city.

A little over a month ago I was searching Glendale Water and Power's website looking for their water conservation information when I came upon their energy conservation section. It said that they would provide three free semi-mature trees that would eventually provide shade for your home and cut down on the cost of power for air conditioners, etc. I was so excited because larger trees are not necessarily cheap, but also they have an arborist who comes out to your home to help you choose what type of tree would be best and where to place it. I have no problem picking out fruit trees, but when it comes to other trees, I have no idea what does well in California, etc.

The arborist came by the house and after viewing the yard, etc, we went through a book of about thirty trees. We finally decided on two tipuanas, one for the front yard and one for the back. Then we also picked a golden medallion for the back yard, which is a smaller tree that will have beautiful yellow flowers in the spring.

The morning the trees were supposed to arrive, I was like a child waiting for Christmas morning. The truck finally showed up and dropped off the three trees, stakes, and everything else we would need.

Then we got started on putting them in the ground.

Sunny and Simba were definitely interested in what was going on.

Rommel did most of the manual labor, such as digging the holes and moving the trees. I basically told him what to do, which I didn't mind too much.

After putting a border around them and putting down some mulch, we thought we were done. Then Simba decided he would bury his raw chicken leg under the tree, which meant we could not even get near it. Here he is guarding his prize.

So we put some fencing around each tree for now and they look great.

The tipuana that went in the front yard was in the best shape, but hopefully after a few months, they will all start growing.

I also transplanted the tiny orange tree we had near the tortoise enclosure so that it was more out in the center of the yard. It was not getting enough sun and water in the corner where it was, so I wanted to place it somewhere that was more open.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My prize for winning the battle against the yellow monster - the Montrose Art Walk!

As soon as they announce the date of the Montrose Art Walk each year, I make sure it is down on my calender. I love looking at all the beautiful and unique handmade items the vendors bring out, watching the various people, and tasting all kinds of carnival food that you don't get the rest of the year.

I was considering not taking any money this year because we are trying to save, but after working so hard on the house and painting the living room (the yellow monster), Rommel gave me an amount I could spend. And after walking through the art walk three times, every penny was gone.

First I picked up some lawn decor made out of this sheet metal material. I wanted something to put in the front garden, but I am not one for the cutesy, painted lawn decorations, so these were the perfect fit. I picked out a squirrel to place under the bird feeder and a duck with a few duckings to place in the garden. They kind of have an industrial feel to them and will eventually rust, which I kind of like the look of.

There were a million artisans selling their jewelry and they were all so gorgeous. I finally settled on this hounds tooth made of turquoise. My grandmother used to wear turquoise jewelry all the time, so it reminded me of her.

Of course I couldn't walk out of there without a bag or two or three. Every year I buy one from this vendor who makes purses out of vintage fabric. There were so many fun patterns, but I finally decided on this cool deer in the forest pattern. I also bought a small clutch that I can use to run errands. Another vendor was selling shopping bags made from canvas and rice bags from Thailand. She would buy the rice bags that were extras or that rice vendors were no longer printing and thus making something fabulous out of what was going to be trash.

Rommel also picked out a sign that he wanted to place by the front door. It is not usually my type of thing, but he was a trooper for spending hours walking back and forth with me, so he deserved it.

The yellow monster

Soon after we moved in with my MIL, my husband and his brother decided to paint the living room. The first problem was that my MIL picked an awful yellow color. It is not necessarily a bright yellow, but not pastel either. Between the yellow and the wall that is paneled with wood and mirror, it just bad. The second problem was that my husband is not a very handy person let alone a patient person. He is a very hard worker, but not when it comes to this kind of job. So in the end, the trim was splotchy, you could still see the original color through the yellow paint near the ceiling, and I found pieces of the scotch tape they used along the trim years after they painted. Then my MIL hired someone to paint all the doors and window frames white. He not only did a horrible job, but also used some type of enamel paint that peels off.

My MIL was planning on going to visit family in the Philippines for three weeks and I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to repaint the living room. We agreed on a creamy white for the walls and chocolate brown for all the trim work.

I started the work a week before she was due home thinking that would be enough time to paint, touch up, and clean everything. Boy was I wrong. Because the trim had all been painted with a latex/enamel paint, I spent hours sanding and stripping it. I could not even prime it until every trace of the original paint was removed due to the fact that anything painted on top of it peeled off. Without even touching the base board or the doors to the hallway, it took me a week of slaving away after work and even taking a couple of afternoons off. The day before she was due back, my husband and I hurried to touch the trim up and remove any paint we spilled.

Luckily we only had one fight during the project which was probably because we were so frustrated with having a mess hit us in the face every time we walked in the front door. Eventually he understood that I was just trying to do the project the right way so that we would not have to deal with any problems later.

The day she was due home we cleaned up until the minute we left for the airport and luckily she loved it. It looks so much bigger and brighter and we are all really happy with it. There is still work to do, like paint the base board, but I will take my time on that.

He are some pictures of the whole process for you to enjoy!

I did not remember to take pictures until I already started covering up furniture and everything was a mess.

This next picture is an example of the paint I had to remove from doors and frame work. It took forever and was such a mess.

Everyone was getting tired of the mess, including Sunny and Simba. Sunny no longer had her lookout by the front window and Simba's bed was shoved into the middle of the room where we were constantly walking.

The living room just looks so much airier now and a lot cleaner. I will admit that most of the artwork and awful artificial flower arrangements are not something I would put up, but we have to chose our battles. I won the fight against the yellow monster and I am extremely happy with that!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Into the wild ... of my backyard

Every since we started working on the backyard, adding plants and the tortoise enclosure, more and more wildlife has been attracted to the area. We have had run-ins with everything from skunks to lizards. Rommel has even named a local raccoon Swiper. (He obviously watched too much Dora when he was visiting our nephews.) But there were a couple of experiences that were more memorable than others.

A few weeks ago my husband tells me that one of our adopted feral cats had caught a mouse. I figured it was probably dead already if the cat was carrying it around in his mouth, so I decided not to check it out. A little while later, we head out to go for a walk and I see all the cats surrounding an aloe plant in the garden. They did not run away when I got closer to them so I knew they were after something. I crouch down and what do I see? Not a little mouse, that's for sure. I see a rat. (Just for the record, I appreciate all animals, but some freak me out more than others.) I could not just leave it there to be played with by the cats, so I sent Rommel to find a box while I kept the cats away. Rommel was taking his sweet time, so I decided to try and catch it in the reusable shopping bag I had in my hands. Due to the aloe plant, I could not just throw the bag over him, so I had to try and scoot him out. He proceeded to climb up into the jade bush. At this point I could have grabbed his tail because he was frozen in place, but I just could not bring myself to do it. Just too gross. Rommel finally brings me a small trash can, but the rat decides to scale the stucco wall. I head around to the other side of the gate and we corner him. Between the dogs jumping all over the place trying to get to this new and interesting creature and me screaming, we were surprisingly able to catch him. Luckily he was not hurt, just a little shaken. I briefly considered taking him in and fattening him up before we release him to become some other animals' meal, but quickly changed my mind. Of course the cats kept following us, so we took Mousekewitz (yes, I named him) across the street. I heard that rats like living in ivy, so we let him go in some ivy next to an apartment building. I tried to scoot him along and instead of freezing like a statue like him did before, he turns on me like he is going to strike. I knew he was safe from the cats, so I allow myself to run away like a scared little girl.

The picture to the left shows the home of what I call the birds from hell, otherwise known as mockingbirds, which have built a nest in one of the palm trees bordering our driveway. I have seen them repeatedly go after squirrels and other birds that come within ten feet of the tree. They never come after us, but they definitely keep a close watch on our activities. I decided to relax with a book in the backyard after work the other day. It was the first sunny day of June and I wanted to take advantage of the beautiful weather. I noticed one of the mockingbirds handing out on the back fence. I did not think much of it at first, but the longer he stayed their I began to get curious because their nest is in the front and they never seem to leave the nest for very long. I began walking towards the fence and the bird immediately puffed up, squawking like crazy. Then I saw the baby bird hiding on the ground against the house. I managed to keep the dogs away and grabbed a bucket, hoping to scoop up the bird and place it close to the nest. Instead I faced a bird attack like I have never seen before and again I ended up running away like a scared little girl again. I went out later and the baby bird was gone, apparently had flown off, but the adult stayed around the rest of the afternoon watching me.

And finally yesterday was the home invasion. I was working in our office while the dogs slept on the floor when my husband called. I walked into our bedroom and saw movement out of the corner of my eye. One of the cats was sitting on the inside of the window watching Ziggy, our canary. I came closer and he squeezed out the same hole in the screen we use for our portable air conditioner. He came in our house to eat our bird! We feed them!

At least I can say that life is interesting around our house, whether it means saying rodents or being attacked by demon birds.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


My parents were able to come visit my husband and I for a week. I was lucky enough to be able to take the whole week off. Rommel still had to work, but he had Memorial Day off and was able to be home by five most nights, which is early for him. We were not planning to do anything too exciting, just relax and maybe do some work on the house. But our first priority was food. Okay, maybe it was just my first priority, but I miss my parents' cooking... a lot. So Rommel took my dad to Costco and he picked out some great steaks. We fixed a few baked potatoes and corn on the cob to go with them and I was in heaven. I usually do not eat that heavy, but the heartburn was totally worth it. Even Simba was loving it, which is obvious from the pictures of him glued to my dad's side at the dinner table. Apparently someone was feeding him bits of steak the whole time.

We basically just relaxed the next day. Dad grilled out while my mom and I headed to a local quilting shop. Try as we might, we ended up spending money. My mom bought some fabric, a pattern, and a quilting magazine. I bought some fabric and a pattern. The difference between us is that my mom will probably use her fabric and actually make the quilt she bought the pattern for.

One of the goals I sent for the week they were in town was to paint the brick wall in the backyard. I hate looking at the ugly tan color everyday and found this picture on

I thought it would be great to paint a similar pattern on the wall, maybe just make it a little bigger. Since this takes a little bit of artistic talent, I decided to wait for my mom to help me because she is extremely gifted when it comes to painting, etc. I actually think it turned out pretty well. I like the whole graffiti look of it. My husband does not know what to think of it, but he does agree that it is better than looking at a blank wall.

Wednesday we set out to work in the yard. I found this great garden border at Home Depot (please forgive me for the big box store shopping) which is made from recycled plastic and wax milk containers. My dad helped me put the border around the area under our bird feeding station and then fill it with mulch. Hopefully that will keep all the excess bird seed from killing my lawn.

By the way, I wish I could take the creepy gnome out of the picture above. I cannot stand garden gnomes, just like I can't stand ceramic dolls. I rationally know they will not eat my heart out while I sleep, etc, but they still creep me out. The only reason that gnome still exists is that Rommel put it there and he likes it. One day it will disappear.

My mom and I put in some new plants. We added some of this purple/green grass where the bird feeders used to be. Hopefully it will grow there since nothing else will. We also replaced flowers that were in the center of my hanging baskets. I seemed to have killed the old ones, oops. Then we transplanted my sweet bell peppers and pulled weeds. I think we definitely worked off the dinner from the day before.

We decided to visit the Los Angeles Zoo on Thursday. My dad always enjoys that kind of thing and the weather was absolutely beautiful. Apparently we decided to go on the day when every school in the area decided to take a field trip to the zoo. Some of the little kids were cute, but the rest were just really annoying. In between all the screaming and kids running around us, we were able to see a few animals. After all the walking at the zoo, we met Rommel at our favorite BBQ place to pig out yet again.

Rommel was able to get out of work so that we could take my parents to the beach their last day here. Usually we head to Oceanside where the beach is right outside the door of the rental for vacation, but we were all trying to save money this year. So my dad said the one thing he wanted to do while he was here was see the ocean. We decided to go to Mahattan Beach, which is one of the cleaniest beaches around us. Rommel and I sat on the pier while mom and dad walked up and down the beach. My dad really enjoyed the walk and after a couple of hours was satisfied.

We went to Johnny Rockets for lunch since my dad was requesting a good milkshake. My mom and dad continually harassed each other during lunch, like usual.

Rommel and I had a really great time hanging out with my parents for a week. Of course when they left, I was homesick for awhile, but hopefully we will see them again this fall.