Tag Archives: Patio

Thrifty Living: Toy Cart Update

22 Aug

Recently I posted about the vintage cart we’re using as toy storage for Isobel. I still needed organizing bins at the time, but it worked out so perfectly just as it was that I wanted to share it. Isobel and I took a trip to Target the next day and I happy to discover their dollar aisle was full of colorful storage bins. I bought a ton since I didn’t know what exactly I’d need and also because her play room (known in our house as “the guest bedroom,” or more often simply, “the pencil room”) was also in need of some organizational assistance. Even so, I bought more than I’d need for just the two areas since I wanted to be sure I had both areas covered and I knew I could take back the unused bins.

Isobel was busy “painting” while I got to work on the toy cart.

Her toys already divided pretty evenly by type: bubbles, sand and gardening toys, chalk, and water painting supplies. She also has a ton of small inflatable beach balls left over from her bubble-themed birthday party,  but those we keep near the pool with her other water toys. The Barbies, of course, are courtesy of Jupey’s Harem.

The top of the cart is where we keep the watering cans, her bulk bubbles, her (by now crusty) Easter basket, and of course, all of her water painting buckets and brushes. Since she was playing with them at the moment of the photo, they are not pictured.

The second tier of the cart comfortably holds vast amounts of chalk and an assortment of bubble wands and bubbles. The librarian in me was tickled the two orange pans fit neatly side by side on this shelf, as if they were meant for it. It gave me an organizational boner.

The bottom shelf holds a large bin with all of her gardening equipment and her sand castle toys. Next to that is the bubble bucket and her “Mrs. Cat Boots.”

Hey, Isobel! While I was organizing, you weren’t by chance  painting the windows, hrmmmmmm?

That’s what I thought.

All the extra tubs I had intended to return never made it back to Target. Isobel thought up a lovely new game called “Train” and they are now a necessary part of our family. She likes to organize them by color, sort them into a line, fill each “car” with passengers, and sit in the front bin while saying, “CHOO CHOO!”

If it makes her happy then I guess it was money well spent, especially since each bin averaged out to about a dollar.

This whole “thrifty living” thing I’m so fond of? I think Isobel’s better at it than I am.

Thrifty Living: Toy Cart

2 Aug

When our neighbor of over twenty years passed away recently, my parents assisted my neighbor’s children in cleaning out her house. We had been close to my neighbor, and her health issues over the years made us grow us close to her out-of-town children, too. My neighbor was proud and stubborn, living alone and independently well into her nineties. We helped her when we could and she baked us the most amazing pies (from scratch, of course). Frugal to the end, her home was a vintage wonderland of things she kept clean and well-ordered so they wouldn’t need to be replaced. My parents were given permission to take a few things from the house before it sold. My Dad grabbed this cart.

Although my parents had no immediate use for it, they knew at the very least I’d be interested. They gave it a good scrubbing and brought it over. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it myself until I saw Isobel stacking her containers of “bubble juice” on it. It needs a little work in the form of some cute storage bins, but it makes the perfect toy caddy for Isobel’s chalk and paint buckets, and, of course, her bubble juice.

It’s not a bad cat storage, either.


I just picked up some cute organizing bins for this morning, so once I get it all put together I’ll share the results.

Photographs: Garden Buddhas

28 May

I fell in love with Buddha statuary after reading Siddhartha in high school. I think they are quite at home in the garden.

Little Big Links: The Patio

26 Mar

I’m a little anxious for spring.

Ceylon Pitcher: Remember last year’s obsession with the carafe? This modern one is amazing, and anticipates my desire to make naturally flavored waters.

How To Build A Patio: Our house came with a gravel pit that’s now a gravel-and-weed-pit. I want do to something like this to save it.

Mason Jar Lights: lighting is my most favorite patio item to shop for.

Japanese Rain Chains: I’ve wanted one of these since before I had a house. Now I just need to pick the perfect spot.

Vintage Yellow Lantern: It’s not even in use and already the place feels brighter.

Make Your Own Copper Wind Chimes: I love wind chimes. This looks fun.

Home on the Range

23 Sep

I can’t believe I’m working in the garden every night. And I’m loving it. I honestly don’t think I’d be out there if I didn’t have Isobel. Before baby I spent time after work decompressing by processing photos, surfing flickr, or watching TV. But I don’t want our after work routine to be spent in front of the TV. My mother had very strict TV limits with us, and plus we couldn’t afford cable, so we were allowed an hour of antennae-TV a day, which usually meant snowy episodes of whatever was on PBS. She set a high standard, especially because we have access to DVDR’d episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba on demand. It’s very tempting to turn it on and fold the laundry in peace.

But that’s not why I became a mother.

So! The backyard beckons. She knows every day at around five o’clock we go out there and play for a couple hours before bed.

Proof I have no yardworking skillz

Right now I’m only focusing on my plants on the patio, because those are the ones I love and my skills really don’t go beyond container gardening at this point. I mean, I can prune the power-hungry wisteria over there but trust me, there’s no reason to until the leaves all fall off. Much more manageable that way. And the lawn? Well, the neighbor is still working on that.

This bucket is one of Isobel’s favorite outdoor toys. She likes to fill it up with water or birdseed and then dump it out again. She is also developing quite the little sense of humor as I saw her putting it on her head and saying, “Hat! Hat!”

These begonias clearly need some help. They used to be a lot healthier and happier but something’s been snacking on them. Also when I was moving around I noticed there were tons of black widow egg sacks on them, which I promptly crushed with a shovel.

Remember my golden scooter? This scooter is very special to Anthony and me because it came with the house. The side of our house by the pond was so overgrown with weeds when we moved in that we didn’t notice the previous owners left this scooter back there for an entire year. That’s right. Anthony had to literally dig it out of the weeds that had grown around it. Nature was claiming the golden scooter for its own.

Just look at that scooter! Some boy somewhere is weeping that it’s missing because it’s painted solid gold and very obviously magical. This is what it looks like right after someone rides it:

It's magically delicious!

Some of my plants still look pretty good despite all the neglect I’ve lavished upon them.

My patio table, however, needs some help.

Zorro looks on, disappointed in my gardening skills.

Look how fresh and clean everything looks after a good sweeping and some repottings!

Jupiter watches with interest whenever he sees us outside and begs to join us. Sorry, I’m clearly some sort of Cat Dictator.

Let me outta this hell hole

I call this shot “Begonia Vision” because you can see Isobel playing in the background. Also I was out of hanging pots and just added the barely-still-alive String of Banana plants to this one. It’s a party in that pot!

Also looking a lot better on this side. Less places for Black Widows to hide, certainly. Although the guy installing our cable didn’t do a pretty job of it.

I’m actually working on the patio and I couldn’t be prouder of myself. I originally posted about the patio to shame myself into working on it, but in the end, that held no sway whatsoever. Apparently I don’t hold myself accountable to the internets. I’m doing it because I love, which is the best reason to do anything anyway.

Buddha Baby

14 Sep

I am incredibly proud to say that I’ve been working on my patio. I know! I didn’t think it would happen either! It came about accidentally, of course, because I’ve been “planning” to do stuff outside for years and it hasn’t happened. In fact, when Anthony read the post that said each year I had planned to work on the patio and he said, “Really? I never knew that.” What can I say? Clearly I have excellent planning and  follow through skills.

It started last week. Isobel wanted to go outside, and the weather had cooled to the point that I was glad to take her. I realized while we were out there that I had the capacity to make myself useful. I could sweep! And do plant-related chores! A revelation. Isobel’s favorite things to do outside include filling a bucket with water and then dumping it out, stomping ar0und in her pool, and playing with birdseed—all things she likes to do independently anyway.

Probably the most wonderful part about hanging out outside together is that she is so entertained she never asks to watch Yo Gabba Gabba. TV-free entertainment! There’s nothing more frustrating than traying to spend Quality Time with your daughter after a long work only to have her constantly request “Babba! Babba!” I’M TRYING TO ENRICH YOUR LIFE WITH QUALITY TIME, CHILD.

In between trying to resuscitate my herb garden and creating some new terrariums, I was also kept busy killing black widow spider eggs and teaching Isobel the basics of plant maintenance. I’m slowly working on trying to salvage some of my plants and get things in order.

Isobel especially loves to watch me water the plants. I need to somehow get a video of this but the other night while she was watering them she made kissing noises over them.


Although what I really want is to fill my garden with gnomes someday, right now it’s full of Buddhas. I enjoy a garden Buddha or three. So does Isobel. When she saw them she referred to them as “baby” and wanted to play with and talk to all the “babies” I had in the garden. Please add this to your “too cute to be real” and “is she lying?”collection of stories.

I am not lying. I could never make anything this cute up.

Oh, and one more thing—remember our pond? Well, due to extenuating circumstances, we’re taking it out. Actually, our neighbor is taking it out. We’ve worked out a trade: in return for taking out our pond he’ll get to keep the equipment for building a pond in his own yard. Win-win. He’s actually talked about converting the giant pond into a small water-feature consisting of just the waterfall and the bubbler. I would love that because I love the sound of the water and a smaller feature would be safer for the baby and easier to block off.

The pond doesn’t look so good right now though. It looks like a biohazard.

The previous owners put it in and it’s illegally deep. Pond breadth and depth are regulated and this pond is too deep for its overall size (according to our neighbor). Basically it’s an accident waiting to happen. We loved having it and we loved having fish but it’s a bitch to maintain, very expensive, and because things are always going wrong we’re constantly having to refill it to keep the fish alive. Water is going to  be metered here soon and we just can’t afford it.

The bigger reason, of course, is Isobel. We’ve been talking about taking it out ever since the little stick I peed on revealed a plus sign. I would never just let her run around the yard without supervision, but since we have a pond I never even let her get a certain distance away from me. The pond is not exactly easy to fence off, either. I can’t wait till we have this land back.

Hopefully soon it will be scaled back to a modest water feature and I can fill this whole area with plants and a tiny orchard. And more Buddha Babies.

Patio: Before

17 Jun

Now that it’s summer I wake up every day to the same chorus from Isobel: “Outside? Outside? Outside?” We’ve been spending so much time outside this summer that I’m developing a pretty decent tan–weird!– the first in about ten years. I’ve also been noticing how sad my patio has looked lately.

Our backyard is a homeowner fail. We’ve lived in this house for about six years and have done improvements here and there. We spent our time and money fixing the things that required our immediate attention. Hell, we still need a new roof and carpet–both are original from 1987. Our carpet is especially disgusting.

Before Isobel we really didn’t use the backyard a whole lot so it sort of got left behind in the homeowner’s shuffle. The lawn really isn’t a lawn. It’s a glorified patch of prickly dry weeds and Bermuda grass that we mow into something resembling a lawn. We have a dead tree back there that we nicknamed ‘the stick.’ Mostly we used our backyard for barbecues and eating outside so I didn’t so much mind the yard looking like Hell as long as the patio was nice.

I’ve never been a successful gardener when it came to planting things in the ground but I could always manage growing things that were potted. I’ve pretty much given up digging in the dirt unless that dirt is some sort of container. I started growing plants on the patio the first summer we moved in. I used to tend to the plants on the patio at least once a year during summer vacation: I’d re-pot, sweep, rearrange, and add new plants to the group. Last year I was pregnant and so not in the mood to be sweaty and messing with plants so the patio this year is a miniature overgrown jungle. Every time I take Isobel out to play I’m reminded of the work ahead of me. Ugh.

If I post the before photos up here I’ll have to do something about this mess, right? I’ll feel required to fix the situation and post after shots? Oh I hope so. I hope my sense of obligation is enough to conquer my laziness.

Currently, my plans include:

  1. Re-pot root bound plants
  2. Rearrange things so the spider plants don’t take over
  3. Get a new cupboard for the backyard
  4. Paint the patio furniture (can’t decide between red or orange)
  5. Hang lamps or lights that actually work
  6. Sweep debris and spider carcasses away
  7. Prune plants that need it
  8. Divide succulent babies from parent plant

That cupboard thing that some of my plants are sitting on? It’s supposed to be some sort of electric grill. I don’t know, I don’t really understand it. It was given to us as a housewarming present and instead of trying to figure out how to use it I just stuck plants on it. I’m a real go-getter. Ideally I’m going to find something while thrifting to replace it. It looks ugly but it’s been very handy to have a cupboard there for our barbecue supplies, gardening miscellany, and fish and bird food. I really hate the way it looks but it’s too useful to get rid of without replacing.

I bought those gorgeous green candle holders for the shop and I’m trying to convince myself not to keep them. Trying. This photo isn’t helping.

Remember the pumpkins?

Sometime around Christmas I posted this photo of our pumpkins that showed no sign of fading. I invited my friends on flickr to bet on which pumpkin would last the longest before it got all disgusting and I had to throw it away.  It’s June, and all of them are still in the running:

Now if you notice the larger one isn’t looking so great. Neither is the yellow one, which used to be white. The other three don’t look half bad, though. We moved them to the patio and Isobel really has fun carrying them around the yard. I’m sure this cheers the pumpkins and helps them last longer.

I’d love to hear your picks for Longest Lived Pumpkin or what kinds of things you do to spruce up your patio in the comments.