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    Hey there! I'm Amanda and I'll be your co-pilot today. Along with my handy husband, Ben, we're remodeling our second house. We're avid DIY-ers, tackling large and small projects while raising two rambunctious boys. Thanks for following along on this wild journey!
    Photo by Jana Graham Photography

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    The organizing nerd in me is thrilled with our well stocked, Costco proportion school lunch drawer. Everything in one place for quick access. Now that I see the pic, I need to turn the short row of Apple berry boxes-OCD problems. Added this Rose Vervain to my cart on a whim a few months ago. Not that's it's bloomed, I am so glad I did-look at those pretty flowers! Knowing it grows well here, I just might have to get a few more. #ohagardengrows Working on some master bedroom updates and sharing the progress on the blog today. I can't wait to build a new bed frame and put that green velvety goodness to use!!

New Favorite Plants

Never in my life have I considered myself a garden person, until this year, that is.  I was bitten by the radioactive spider that makes me want all.the.plants.  Seriously, it’s becoming an addiction, stopping at various garden centers, wandering through rows of plants, reading tags, taking notes, and almost always returning home with at least one plant.  I made a plan, that I fully intended to stick to, but with so many amazing plants, I’ve come to the decision to buy what I like and will work in our conditions, because I will find a place to plant it.


Take this small area along the front of the house.  My initial idea was to plant a low evergreen, but with the addition of the walkway, every juniper grows too wide.  A change in plans was necessary, and I like the idea of a wider variety of plants, colors, and textures.


Still wanting year-round greenery, a Yew between the windows will fill the area, but can be trimmed to maintain size and shape.


Working as a groundcover, dark green and purple Ajuga will spread up to three feet wide, covering a decent amount with a small plant.


In front of the windows, Rockfoil is supposed to be an evergreen, even in our cold winter climate.  This low growing, mounding,  hen and chick looking plant should max out at 6 inches tall and 18 inches wide, which won’t obstruct the view out the window or need much maintenance.  The bright, spring green is almost the complete opposite from the adjacent dark Ajuga.


In addition to wanting/needing and evergreen base to cover rock expanses, adding colorful shrubs and flowering perennials adds character.  If this Smoke Tree makes it through the winter, I’m ready to declare it my favorite for the dark, matte red/purple leaves, and lace like ‘smoke’ plumes.


Salvia is another favorite because it thrives in full sun without needing excessive watering.  The bold purple flowers really stand out among the other plants.


A few Golden Barberry offer bright yellow and lime green leaves.  I love the contrast against the dark junipers, but the color reminds Ben of over watered, dying plants; to each his own.


Planted near early summer blooming peonies, late summer bloomer, Coneflower, is super drought tolerant as well as a hard-working pollinator.

Purple-ConeflowerAs with the front, starting with creeping junipers will give a good base, but adding a variety of other perennials has benefits.  First, the various root systems, as well as the rock layer, help stabilize the hill.  Secondly, more pockets of plants will absorb rain water, prevention excess runoff.  Third, give visual interest and textures to the hill throughout the seasons.  When selecting plants, I’ve been careful to choose plants with pretty or interesting foliage.  That way, even when not in bloom, it still looks nice.  Here, a small Lavender and Angeline Stonecrop have very different looks.


By planting lower growing plants to the front, and taller shrubs near the back, each plant is still visible.  At the front edge, Artemisia, a silvery green dry loving plant softens the hard rocks.  Once mature, it should spill over the base a little and become dotted with tiny flowers.


In the back, the Viburnum planted this May has already grown by leaps and bounds.  Next year, it just might be covered in snowball sized flowers!


Right next to that Viburnum is a Catmint that has gone wild, in the best way.


Here’s that it looked like just over one month ago:


For the majority of the plantings, I’ve selected full sun, drought tolerant varieties because we want a pretty, but still resource friendly landscape.  In the small, only truly shaded area we have, evaporation isn’t as much of a concern, so I’ve added a few slightly less water wise plants.  Hostas and Coral Bells still don’t need much water to live, but flourish with deeper watering.


By far the most water drinking plant I have is this Hydrangea.  For the nearly head size blooms, I think it’s a fair trade-off.


At the end of the back walkway, I’ve started a full sun-loving flower garden.  It includes a reed grass, red day lilies, Catmint, poppy, Delphinium, and a Petite Snow Butterfly Bush, bottom left.


Watching this (and the other plants) grow and bloom is exciting, which is why I’m hooked on gardening.


Near the butterfly bush is an American Dream Coreopsis, with thread like stems and leaves and dainty pink flowers.


Another Coreopsis, this time creamy white Big Bang round out the full sun area, at least for now.  I’m giving it a year to grow and fill in before adding anything else to the mix.


Needing more color to the left of the waterfall, I’ve added another Coreopsis, this time hot pink Show Stopper.


As I continue researching, my plant want list grows.  My next step is to include native grasses, perhaps Switchgrass and Little Bluestem, dotted over the hillsides.  For native plants and guides, Prairie Nursery has been extremely helpful to this novice gardener, giving plant conditions and a map of native areas.  If you have any plant suggestions, feel free to shoot them to me.

Dresser to Impress Her

Remember that 80’s Drexel dresser I recently snagged for a friend?  The stain wasn’t my favorite and it had several chipped areas in the veneer, but that hardware.  Oh the hardware!  Brass flip handles that recessed completely into the fronts, with corner brackets.


The coloring is a little off in both the above and below photos, but the worst part was the speckled, wavy finish.


Usually I prefer to completely refinish wooden furniture, but the missing parts of veneer just wouldn’t allow a new stain finish.  Instead, I sanded everything down with 120 grit to prepare for paint.  Sadly, the unstained wood grain was really pretty and made me wish there was a way to keep it natural.


Instead, I filled the missing areas, knowing the dresser would also look amazing with a simple white finish.  To prevent any stains from seeping through, I applied two coats of Kilz primer.


For a durable, satin sheen, I rolled on three coats of Sherwin Williams Pro Classic paint in Snowbound.


Overall, transforming this dresser took about 8 hours, but it shines like the gem it is now.  Look at that hardware; it’s not all wall flower blending in, rather standing out, demanding the attention it deserves.



Those corners add just enough detail to keep the frame interesting.


Fortunately, my friend also loves the new look and will pick it up soon.  In the mean time, I photoshopped it into our bedroom, just to see what it would look like.

White-Painted-Dresser-OverallI’m kicking around some ideas to put the area at the foot of the bed to use.  Stay tuned for more on that soon.


Thrifted Thursday

Thrift shopping is like the famous Forrest Gump quote, “like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”  More items than not are simply someone’s unwanted junk, but among the trash are some real gems.  As a frequent shopper and bargain addict, I’ve been helping a friend find some good deals for her new house.  Here are the things that caught my attention, but we passed up.  A large brass lamp for six bucks, which I pointed out would be impossible for her toddler to break, but she’s just not a brass lover.


She wasn’t in love with the plaid, and instead of hoarding yet another chair, I thought of the look I’d get from Ben if I brought it home with me.


Now, this fabric is really busy, but I loved the lines on this 100 dollar sofa.  Not sure what it’d cost to reupholster, but it was super comfy.


Honestly, I didn’t consider this gigantic coffee table, but the sheer size was interesting.  Couch for scale, of course.


More and more lately, I’m drawn to ugly lamps, like this squatty brown one.  With the right shade, in the right space, I think he’d be darling.


While browsing the books, I spotted a set of Life Nature Library, complete with the most adorable designs on the back covers.  That alone was almost enough to make me walk out with these, but I passed.


However, I have found several items for myself recently, including an oversized ugly lamp.  For only $4, it was totally worth it to buy a clean white shade to pair with it.


Of course the ugly lamp obsession couldn’t stop there, I had to get this handsome man for six bucks-pun alert!


Clearly this one can benefit from a new shade, but I’ll have to track down the perfect one.


To house my ever-growing plant collection, I picked up a few planters, too.  This blue crackle beauty set me back six dollars, and looks perfect paired with a blackeye Susan on our back step.


The big leaf Philodendron in our living room needed a bigger pot to continue to grow, so this brass lion head is keeping it safe.


With my friend’s approval, I’ve snagged her a few pieces of furniture, including this marble-topped coffee table.  The X base is real wood, but the edge detailing is wood looking plastic, so I gave it a fresh black finish before sending it off to live with her.


Just last week, she approved this Drexel dresser, but the wood veneer has seen better days.  Because I’m the best friend ever (ha!) and love a project, I’m going to spruce it up with paint, too.


You know, shopping for someone else is equally satisfying, but very nice to my wallet.  It’s a win-win because she gets furniture, I get to shop and tackle a project.  Not too shabby.  Any amazing finds you’ve snagged recently?

Two Doors Down

As usual, summer is our time to tackle outdoor projects.  During the week, I add and keep up plants, build walkways, and pull weeds.  Weekends are Ben’s time to knock out the heavy lifting projects, like installing new windows, siding, and rebuilding the front deck while I help in any possible way.  So far, we’ve constructed a cover for the south-facing front deck, to make it usable and enjoyable in blazing heat and sunshine.  Before we can go any further with that, we have to replace the sliding doors.  The old sets are original to the house and barely function.  Sliding each door takes far more effort than it should, the screens are gone, and the panes are fogged up.


When renovating, every step feels like a huge victory, so having easy to open, see through doors is a thrilling luxury.


Two down, one to go.


Followed up by the rest of the pool house windows, that are waiting in the only looking/getting worse pool house.


But, after windows, we can work on siding, then the interior.  And you know what that means?  The giant warehouse room filled with building supplies and tools can start looking better, perhaps even become usable.  What an original idea, no?

Walk This Way

Over the last two years I’ve dreamed, researched, plotted, and planned, and at long last, I’m slowly tackling our landscape plan.  Having an incredibly steep lot, both front and back, has been challenging to say the least.  Before starting anything, we discussed oodles of options: wood, metal, concrete, or stacked stone retaining walls, all of which are difficult to secure enough to prevent leaning or toppling over time.  Yes, plenty of houses have these in our ‘hood, but they’re all leaning or have caved in heavy rains.  We kept coming back to one option, setting boulders against the natural slope to prevent erosion, but it also serves as a retaining wall, without being rigid and noticeable if it shifts a little.  But, that led to another decision to fill even the flat areas with rock, not knowing where or how to separate the slope from the flat areas.

Basically what I’m saying is, we have literal TONS, and tons, and tons of rock and while it’s super low maintenance, I’ve been looking for ways to break up large areas.  Of course, plants are a must and I’ve added 170 (no exaggeration) between this year and last, though I have deviated/changed up my landscape plan.  Sadly, I’m not finished, instead focusing my attention to the most noticeable areas, then I’ll take time to tackle the smaller, untouched areas later on.


Our bocce court is a water and hassle free way to section off a large rectangle.

Another large part of the rock is broken up by the reclaimed beam back deck, stairs, and front steps, but between the bocce court and stairs was a long strip of super boring rock.  After nestling in a few pavers in the back, I knew adding a longer, winding path would add interest.


Reusing leftover pavers from the old back patio, I created a stepping stone walkway to connect the two areas.


Just off the step edge, narrower stones go between the Russian sage and day lilies.


On the other side of the Russian sage, I plan to add a short ground cover plant below the basement windows, so I curved around, leaving room for growing plants.



On the other side, I’ve already added my favorite succulent, a stonecrop Angelina.


I know it grows well here with little water or effort because the one in the back near the waterfall has gone crazy over the last year.



Creeping junipers are always welcome, covering large areas with year round color, but need little maintenance.  To contrast against the deep emerald-green, I added two golden barberry plants.  Ben says the just look like dying plants, but I love the chartreuse color.


Looking from the bocce court toward the entry, things are taking shape, but still not finished.


I find adding plants extremely enjoyable, bordering on addicting, but waiting for each to mature is a different story.  Much like children, even fast growing plants are hard to notice growth when seen on a daily basis.  You don’t see a startling difference, but looking back on pictures proves just how much they’ve changed in a short time span.


Look at the puny Russian sage not even a year ago, now they’re almost five feet tall!  Can you tell plants and landscaping have been at the front of my mind these warmer months?  Never before did I enjoy gardening, but I’m totally digging it now.  Oh the puns, the hilarity.  Now I feel like going through old photos of my kids and plants to fully appreciate the changes and growth that have taken place right in front of my face.  I didn’t realize how nostalgic a simple walkway could make me feel.


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