Saturday, May 31, 2008

Summer's here, I guess...

dianthus in front
Originally uploaded by southsideandy
Didn't do too much today...although we did go out and buy a new microwave, which you can see the before and after of that on Flickr as well...really exciting, right? Hey, while you're there, check out all my garden pics...I've got some great things growing out there, and finally starting to do well. Including these Dianthus that I planted last year around the base of the tree out front that have come back (with the exception of one "runt" of the litter on the left side.

I like when perennials come back and thrive, making me, Mr. Stick It In The Ground And See What Happens, look good and knowledgeable. :) Happy rest of the weekend, everyone! Hope all your projects are progressing nicely...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

1 out of 3 (so far) ain't bad...

Sorry that there hasn't been too much to write about over at Build a Better Bungalow lately -- it's been busy in other areas aside from home improvement and even (sadly) gardening.

But, today, I went out to the backyard to check (as I do daily) on the "bag o' plants" I bought from Costco months ago and planted in the big empty space where I lost a bunch of perennials over the winter. Thus far, three weeks later, I had not seen ANYTHING sprouting through the dirt and mulch there. I was really starting to worry.

Until today. FINALLY, I saw about three or four Acidanthera shoots protruding from the mulch. That makes me feel better that I didn't bury them too deeply and that I still have a shot at the Salvia and Black-eyed Susans coming up. So, as the title of this entry says, 1 out of 3 ain't bad. Of course, I won't mention that I planted about 12 Acidanthera bulbs, so I guess I'm still OK, mathematically, with that statement...

I'm really itching to get more gardening done...but now I'm getting the basement itch again too. I think I'm going to shoot to have it done by Halloween-time, so we can host a Halloween party. That's actually aiming very high, truthfully, given the rate of work thus far and the impending/non-impending economic recession and higher prices for everything. So we'll see how that goes. I sure would love to pull off that remodel by then, but we'll see how I find a way to ignore the beauty of summer and work inside. :)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

All quiet on the home front...

Well, traveling's done, and this weekend, family obligations have pretty much taken over. But, I have done some planning for the front garden, so we'll see what and when that happens. But at least I'll always know I have a plan for this spot:
This is where I want to put my rain garden, much like what the HCBA did at the North Side Model Bungalow they renovated last year...though different. But same theory. Below is my plan. I searched long and hard for just the right centerpiece for the background of this garden and finally found it in my friends' garden in Grayslake. It's Sutherland Gold's so beautiful, and it will play perfectly against our dark brown brick and the shaded gangway area between my house and my neighbor's. I'm really happy about it. Now I just have to find it somewhere (then chop down the evergreen "tree" that is currently there) and get crackin' on making this garden. Here's my not-so-rough-anymore plan below. Again, for this I used for the initial dimension-based stuff, then exported a photo and worked on placement of "my" plants in Photoshop.

I should follow this up with, we still have the fence to do in the backyard before I can really dig into this project up front. Pun intended.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Leavin', yet again, on a jet plane...

Could I possibly travel more than I am for work right now? I'm off, again, on business for the next couple of days, so unfortunately, all will be quiet here. But please, come back! There's much more ahead, when your regularly scheduled blog continues. :)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Legs like jelly...

What a busy weekend! Unfortunately, little was done in and around the house. My little bro graduated with his Master's degree Saturday, so we drove out to the boondocks to have a family celebratory dinner. That was fun, but it pretty much shot Saturday in the foot.

Today was also shot mostly in the foot, in that, I decided it was high time to get back on the bike and do what I once did semi-regularly for a couple years back in high school and college. And that is ride my bike on long, organized event-type rides.

Today, I rode 25 miles on my new bike in the Prairie Pedal event up in Grayslake, Ill., sponsored by the Liberty Prairie Conservatory. My friends live up there in the "subdivision" that hosts the event, and it was really nice. Obviously, though, my legs and rear-end are not used to all that work. It was chilly, but nice bike-riding weather, except for the ever-present wind, of course.

I was happy with how I rode -- I rarely felt truly winded, which made me feel really good. My legs just didn't have the stamina in them to keep up the pace beyond the 25 miles we did.

Of course, my friends are big-time gardeners in the same mold as me -- buy something, preferably native, regional or perennial, stick it in the ground and see what happens. So, we went to a couple of Lake County's finest garden centers. I was impressed, more or less...though they didn't have a ton of what I was looking for (which I didn't even know what I was "looking for" either anyway), I came away with some good ideas. And, my friends gave me a FANTASTIC idea for one of my tall shrubs out front. Now, if I can just find it to buy it, we'll be good to go!

Hope all your weekends went well...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A slap to history's face...

You all might remember these posts from a few months ago, about a Chicago-style bungalow being basically destroyed, for lack of a better term, and my struggles witnessing this every single day since it's on my way to work (and there's no way around it, really).

Well, work had ground to a halt for a while with the crappy early spring weather, but they had taken off the top (scalped the thing) and gutted out all the walls and floors and everything. They also tore out the back of the entire house.

Then, nicer weather arrived. To my horror, I watched (well, saw the results on my back and forth commutes) as they removed all the stained glass windows and completely removed the entire front porch, framing and walling it off. They then made the dining room windows the new entrance and began building a giant addition on top. All that was left of the original bungalow, for a short while, were the three brick walls. I thought, well, this should be interesting (in a bad way), as they build a second story and put a roof on, obviously all frame construction. I thought, boy, whatever they do up there isn't going to match the yellow face brick on the first floor.

Well, silly f-in' me. Just this week, the bricklayers appeared and began cover the entire face of the now 2-flat with the same boring-ass b.s. brownish-red face brick that every damned townhome and condo building up this way is built with. So, the yellow face brick will be behind this crappy brick.

I said it before, and I'll say it again: I don't know WHY this bothers me so much, but it just pisses me off to no end, and saddens me a bit as well, as to how this type of thing happens, especially in a city with a "bungalow initiative" like Chicago. Now, I know that not every bungalow is salvageable or worth saving, but this one, at least on the outside, was a great example to me of a Chicago-style bungalow, and with developers thinking this way, someday, they might not be any left. Furthermore, if I'm the neighbors, how do I not fight the fact that parking over there's probably already a pain, and now they're going to add more people by upgrading that building?

It's just ridiculous, and I wish there was something someone could have done. Unfortunately, too, this is Chicago, and unless you know somebody that knows somebody that knows somebody, forget it. That's probably why this happened -- it was just an election year. Somebody filled somebody's campaign coffers.

Anyway, the before pic is up above...when they finish, I'll try to find the time to snap an after, so you can all share in my disgust.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What lurks in the gangway...

My blogging compadre, Fred, over at One Project Closer is hosting a giveaway for a set of two solar lamps, so you should head on over and check out his blog, and maybe enter -- but don't put forth too good of an argument, I want to win! ;) Just kidding...good luck to all, of course. Here's a link directly to the post I'm talking about.

Anyway, as promised in my "entry" for that contest, here's a picture of the unlighted gangway and the back of the house. It's a photo at night during the winter that shows the stark contrast between the lighted backyard and the dark, "scary" gangway (on the right of the photo). As you can see, it's not the safest setup in the world. And although I've been thinking about getting some solar lamps, I'd of course love to try some out for free and give them a great review, if indeed they deserve it. :)

I should mention that I have not messed with the brightness or contrast of this photo. This is the real deal. Besides, if I went to all that trouble for two free solar lamps, what kind of nutso would I be? :) I mean, free is free, but I'm not that competitive or insane. :)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A week wasted...somewhat...

Well, I didn't get too much done this week, unfortunately. I spent a day in Atlanta for a seminar and thus a lot of time at airports and such. Always a blast.

Other than that, this weekend, really was more family-oriented and all, given Mother's Day and this being my wife's first Mother's Day as a mom. So I did a bunch of shopping yesterday for her and a couple other things we needed around here. I also bought a neat little pocket video recorder -- an RCA Small Wonder -- that I'm mainly planning to use for A.J.'s daily "adventures"...i.e., when he's being cute or reaching milestones. But, hey, maybe this thing will bring some video interactivity to Building a Better Bungalow as well. We'll see. Lord knows, it's really, really easy to use and get vids onto the CPU and then uploaded. So I'm psyched about that.

Thankfully, this week, I have no travel scheduled, so I might be able to do more work around the house -- I hope. There's just so much going on that it's tough to carve out a niche where I have the time to do this stuff. I'm sure you all have similar problems. :)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Decisions made (maybe), things planted...

Well, I didn't get around to cutting the grass until Sunday, as I was too lazy to change the oil and go buy gas for the mower on Saturday, especially given the dreariness of the misty rain falling as well. But I did cut it Sunday, and it needed it.

Also Sunday, I hung out with a few longtime friends at one of their daughter's baptism celebration. After chatting with a couple of the guys, two of whom have done some serious work to their houses, and one of whom remodeled his entire family room in his basement about 2 years ago, I've come to a couple conclusions.

1. I'm pretty sure I'm going to put down laminate flooring, assuming it isn't cost-prohibitive or my floors are horrifyingly uneven (which they shouldn't be, as I have carpet down there now, but we'll see). My buddy did a floating floor down in his basement and suggested the same for me. I'm probably doing that. Either way, the carpet's gotta go.

2. I'm framing the walls and insulating using 2x4s and fiberglass batts. That's what he used and says I'm right in thinking it's the best for my situation.

3. The serious work will come from the ceiling, which I hope will pay off in the end in terms of the look. I've described it before, I think, but if not, well, then it'll have to be a surprise. :) But we'll see for sure, I never know until you try, I guess. :)

4. In an unrelated issue, I have to fill up and test the backyard hot tub, as this friend might want it and would be willing to disassemble and haul it out of here, assuming it works. So that's good. I didn't want to have to sledgehammer the thing to bits (which I may have to do anyway, if it's broken and no one wants it), so that'll be great.

Aside from that, this evening after hitting the gym for the first time in a couple weeks (stupid Germany biz trip!), I came home and planted a whole bunch of bare-root and bulbs from a package of flowers I bought at Costco. Included Acidanthera (which I've never seen or grown before), Black-Eyed Susans and a blue Sage/Salvia type of plant. So we'll see how that goes.

Meanwhile, my garden's doing OK...I only appear to have lost a couple of perennials over the winter, which is nice, and the plants I put in the new front porch planters are doing great, except the Coleus, for some reason. It says Part Sun, and that's what it gets, so I don't know what's up. But the other two plants are growing and blooming, and the marigold seeds I planted (that weren't eaten) have sprouted, so it should look great soon!

Now, if I only had the time/ability/money to get the other garden ideas I had going, I'd be set!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Germany pictures...

me at the castle
Originally uploaded by southsideandy
Since I haven't posted anything in a while, having been on business in Germany, I figured I'd at least give you all something to look pictures from Germany. Enjoy!

Today, I have to cut the grass, and I'm hoping to get a few things planted/taken care of outside. We'll see how it goes and if the weather cooperates.