Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gardening in Brooklyn - The Ugly Truth

"Here's the deal - I need some low shrubs for a corner tree bed that can withstand not being watered, car exhaust, lots of dog (and sometimes child) pee, trampling, abuse by high school kids, and lots and lots of cigarettes."

At first, the woman stared back at me, mouth on pavement, panic in her eyes. Slowly, her eyes moved out of focus, beyond my head, and began to scan the acres of annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, herbs, veggies, and garden gnomes.

"You don't live around here do you?"

"Nope, Brooklyn".

"Gary. GARY!, can you help this woman please"?

Luckily, Gary was used to dealing with "city folk" and was able to set me up with a few nice shrubs and plants for our tree bed. (A note on Gary, his experience with "city folk" was extremely rich people who had large roof decks in Manhattan, which is not us either).

A few months ago, as part of their plant a million trees campaign, the City dug up our stump and planted a little linden. They very carefully moved my rather sad container shrubs and very carefully uprooted my just emerging bulbs, and placed everything off to the side. The freshly mulched and top soiled tree bed has been barren ever since, slowly gathering weeds and the ire of the block association (I kid!).

I knew I needed to plant something but hadn't had the time. While home in NJ, I stopped by a great nursery (Rostlers in Allendale) and picked up a carfull of plants that would tolerate not being watered and being peed on. Bayberry, a thorned and beautiful bush was a natural choice as were some sedeums and a big spiky thing that promised to send up an ostentatious 5 foot bloom in the late summer.

Bathroom update

The bathroom is finally, mostly, almost done (if you don't could proper caulk). This was not the smoothest bathroom renovation but we're so happy to finally have all of these random people out of our house. I once held the idea that we would be happy to live in a fixer upper that existed in a constant state of flux but definitely definitely not.

The tile is really lovely and the floor tile is great. The chrome fixture are like a naughty older aunt with some dementia - always nice to have around but in need of constant attention - and I'm still compulsively wiping them down after every use (not at all like I'd treat an aunt). We have mixed feelings about the paint - the husband thinks it's fine and I sometimes,kind of hate it. I certainly don't hate it enough to find a painter, choose another color and give my house over to another contractor as they hemmed and hawed for two weeks.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bathroom Update

I was joking last night that I've become to most boring person in the world because the most interesting thing happening to me right now is our bathroom renovation. That isn't totally true (work is going well) but the bathroom does have the most visible progress.

The tub is in (and is incredibly comfortable) and the tile is 75% up on the walls. The glass tile is beautiful and despite our best efforts is the exact same shade of blue as the hall bathroom.

On the garden front, I put in bulbs last Fall and they are starting to come up. Right now they just look like brownish green nubbins but I post some photos when they get a little more interesting.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bathroom Progress

We're at the halfway point after having been side tracked by all of the repair work that needed to happen downstairs. All of the rough plumbing is in, the tub is in and has the surround and the radiators have been swapped out. All of the sudden it looks like a real bathroom!

Next week will be devoted to tiling and we'll really see if we made some good choices about tile and fixtures. Something about the order of all of this seems wrong. I'm sure there is a way to put together a computer model to help us visualize how the tile will look on the wall but right now we're just finding comfort with the fact that we usually pick good looking things.

One of the more exciting and tiny projects are the radiators. The one in the bedroom was comically large so we swapped it with the appropriately sized bathroom one. All this means is that we can get the wall back and actually put stuff there.

I'll be away next week and hope I'll come home to a mostly done bathroom!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bathroom Progress

Nothing too exciting is happening other than a lot of plumbing, the walls are starting to come back up and the bathtub is up. I hope we're at a point where pieces start to come together rather quickly as the husband might lose it completely if he has to keep sharing a bathroom with me (and all the workmen).

I like these pictures because you can see the burn marks on the original plaster and lathe. We think that this was originally the kitchen and that this is the impression from the original stove. It would be scary if we didn't expect everything in our house to be wackadoodle. In contrast to the electrical, the burned boards seem rather pedestrian.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Wander on the West Side of the Canal

What I've Been Up To

I've been up to a lot lately and while I'm a bit sleep deprived and certainly lighter in the wallet, our many projects are moving along nicely.

You wouldn't notice too much action in the bathroom and that's because they've been patching the bathroom below us from all the damage in the wall. They've started on the plumbing and reframing some of the walls. We now have all of the fixtures (sans toilet) and tile waiting to go and I think have made all the major choices.

At work, we launched a website . When I pitched my vision for this department, no one said anything about a website. I'm a big believer in digital outreach and a well curated list of resources but building a website from scratch with a major deadline was not what I signed up for with this position. Luckily, I had a great technical team who was hugely supportive, patient, and willing to catch my typos and bad ideas. I now maintain a professional blog where I write about education and not my bathroom.

My stuffed staph infection that Ab gave me when I was sick a few years ago. Staph watches over meet and is an instant conversation starter that signals to people that I am not the serious, scientific side of the Academy.

Work has very much settled down and we are just executing all of the programs and plans that I designed in the Fall. I can legitimately say "we" because I was able to hire someone to run one of the programs in the department and that has made a world of difference. I feel a tremendous amount of pride in my after school program and often get a bit teary when I talk about it.

I've also read some amazing books since the holidays. Everyone is sick of hearing about the
Frank: The Voice by James Kaplan but I also read Susan Collin's Hunger Games Trilogy, Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken; Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stonee; Hazel Rowley's Franklin and Eleanor (which was not nearly as good as Doris Kerns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time and many more. The Kindle app on the iPad has made me into an even more voracious reader, a feat I never thought possible. The weather has been so cold and dreary that the only true solace is a nest of blankets on the couch and a good book.

I also read Sam Kean's great book "The Disappearing Spoon" and then got to meet him at a talk he gave at work!

And for a bit of randomness, I wandered around on that freak 60 degree day and found this amazing homage to Michelle Obama on a shopping bad at Pearl River:

And we went bowling for a birthday and I found that the husband can really bowl.