Curb Appeal 2016

Now that we are official in summer all of our trees are providing full shade and some of our flowers are blooming. We are excited that this year we have had the opportunity to watch the rhodi we bought last year bloom.



What is even more exciting though is to see the tall Rhodi’s next to it blooming as well. These plants were sickly and dying in front of the house. Unsure if they would survive, we put in them in the burn pile, only to see one bloom! So instead of burning, we transplanted them along the roadside of our property. So it is exiting to see they are becoming healthy again.


We are still waiting on the astiblie’s to bloom, the hostas to sprout their purple bells, and the peonies to bud as well. On the other hand the bleeding hearts have been amazingly beautiful this spring.



One project we are trying this summer is to transplant a wild hydrangea plant from the backyard to our front bed. It was hard work because the location is on a hill. Trying to dig up the plant with enough roots from that angle took some hard work from both of us. We dug a good sized trench in the front bed and transplanted about a quarter of the plant.


The first few days we were not sure how it would go but by this past weekend, it looked like most of the plants were recovering from the shock of the transplant. Now we just need to decided if it’s worth the effort to fill in more space along the wall.

Trust me they look a lot happier now; this was right after transplant

We also bought some hanging pots for the porch this year. Aldi’s had a deal on begonias for only 5-10 each bucket. Also I found a fuchsia plant in the discount section at the Walmart garden center for only 12! They add some wonderful color to the porch while we wait for everything else to bloom.


The garden is doing well, all plants have sprouted nicely minus the basil. But it can be finicky and take the longest to show growth.


Another curb appeal project we finally completed is a path from the house to the gravel car spot. Last year we dug up large pieces of slate, perfect for a path. But we discovered they are too fragile and uneven on their own. So we bought a rubber stopper and pea gravel. It took Luke only two hours to pour the gravel, stake the rubber stopper in place, and space out the slate pieces.



Since then it has worked out great and we are happy to not be trampling any grass.

Kira update: adult puppy


Our puppy Kira is 11 months old; an adult puppy. She has not lost her puppy coat and she has times of crazy energy but she knows the rules and routine and follows them (most of the time) without stubbornness.


Since our last update we have done a genetic test on our furry family member to discover she is not a lab at all! She is mostly American foxhound, American Stafford Terrier, and a little Chow.


We had guessed she could be part chow because some siblings are very fluffy, plus she has spots on the bottom of her tongue, typical of Chows. We would not have guessed the other breeds, but with research about personalities and behaviors it makes sense. She is all nose, can track anything, but she is also all muscle, very agile, and alert. So we have a tracking/hunting dog also with guarding instincts.


With all the yard work we have been doing (more to come). It has been a task keeping  her from eating the fertilizer, plant food, weed killer,  (even gravel) that we have been laying down. It’s like she is a two year old with shiny objects.


We just recently went back to Stony Brook and were able to do the full trail both ways! In the past Kira’s attention span meant that we only would make it part way. This time the park was crowded but she did not jump on a single person, something we have been working on. For more on this see:


Even though she is almost an adult, Kira still has many new experiences. At the park she was curious but afraid of balloons and strollers both items she has not seen before.


This past week Kira had another new experience, the groomers.  In the past she has been scared of brushes, not a huge fan of baths, and requires treats  to  cut her nails. With this in mind, I stayed for the appointment.


I was shocked and impressed at how well she did. The groomer was able to not only clip Kira’s nails and give her a bath but also trim down her winter coat with an electric shaver, something I thought she would be completely scared of. But the groomer was great with her and Kira is adaptable.


It’s hard to believe we have had Kira in our home for nine months. She has challenged and frustrated us, but also impressed and surprised us. We are glad to have her.


Spring is here!

It is beautiful outside and you can finally tell that spring is here!

It is amazing to see the differences from last year in the same season.

We planted and worked on the front garden beds of the house very late into the summer. For more on this see



Some of the plants we transplanted or moved did not do well or never bloomed. New plants we bought were the “rejects” of the end of the season at the garden centers. I was worried that although they were all perennials they would not show up again this year.


I have been waiting anxiously the last few weeks to see the plants come up from the ground. Just this past week I saw the bleeding hearts we bought last year actually have bells on them! We never got that last year.



Also our oriental plum tree we planted when we buried Sienna (for more on this see?) is actually blooming with delicate white blossoms.



So what has been the major change?

Well first, we had a much milder winter in 2015. This means we have had more sunny days and not as hard or long of a frost. Also, because of this, we had less salt. Salt is used to melt the snow and the snow ploughs use it throughout the winter to clear road. This year the astible and peonies planted near the road are growing like crazy, no blooms yet, but they look so healthy because they are not salt damaged.


Second, since last summer we have removed several trees and branches. Our property is found in a very wooded valley. Our house can be 5 degrees cooler than it is even 2 minutes down the road. Because of this it is difficult to get blooms on plants or their growth is stunted by the lack of sun and lower temperature.


But where we planted or vegetable garden, Luke cut down quite a few large branches, this is why our plum tree is doing so well, it has more sun. Also, because we have had more sun earlier this year the plants in the front of the house have received plenty of sunshine as the trees are just now beginning to bud.  So most plants are receiving full sun or partial shade instead of the late summer full shade.


It is exciting to see all of last summers hard work paying off and to learn what grows better in this environment. We just recently planted our vegetable and herb garden, this summer we have added several more rows and many new plants so it will be fun to see what we end up with.




Early Spring weekend

This year spring is coming early, very early compared to last year. So this past weekend we started to prepare the hill and garden.

Luke used the tiller to till up the ground and add a few more rows to our garden.


We went to the store and bought on organic seeds for this spring/summer including: carrots, spinach, broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, and rhubarb. We also bought herbs: oregano, basil, and cilantro to add to the garden this year.


I climbed up and down our hill collecting broken branches that fell of trees the winter wind and collected them into the burn pile. We also marked trees and branches that needed to be cut down and Luke cut them down with his chain saw.

More work still needs to be done but it is very exciting to have a Sunday Saturday in March to work outside.


On Sunday we got sushi at our favorite place in Rochester to celebrate Luke’s birthday he also spent some bday money in the game and comic store next door.  When we got home we played our newly bought game: Dominion Seaside expansion.


On his actually birthday we celebrated with his favorite birthday meal, beef stroganoff and my homemade Irish cinnamon rolls.

For more about these see:

It was a good weekend.

Lamberton Conservatory and Highland Park


While my parents were here for Christmas we took them on several outings. One, during our day in Rochester was to Highland Park, the  largest (150 acres) and probably most well known park in Rochester. It holds many city festivals including the annual BBQ (for more see  Two festival and Korean BBQ) and Lilac Festival, both of which Luke and I have attended in past summers.


The park has many walking paths through well maintained and developed gardens and orchards. It also includes a band shell for summer concerts, amphitheater for summer movies and plays, seasonal ice skating rink, lodges for rent, and Warner Castle home to Rochester’s Civic Garden Center . Parts of the park can also be driven through as well.


Although Luke and I had been to Highland Park several times, we had never gone to the Lamberton Conservatory. We decided to take my parents because at Christmas the conservatory does a poinsettia display.  Also during the Christmas season the conservatory is open late, until 9pm, so you can see colored lights they have hung throughout up against the nature and the glass walls.


We went during the day and their poinsettia display was beautiful and included great variety. We were told as we walked through the separate rooms to watch for quail and tortoises. The conservatory cares for quail, tortoises, and turtles in the different green houses, as well as fish but no worries about stepping on those.


Although these gardens are much smaller than the botanical gardens in Buffalo (for more on this see Buffalo Botanical Gardens) they have done a great job with the smaller space providing a large variety of plants from all over the world.


My parents were entertained by pointing out all of the succulents and cacti they have at home which are so rare and unusual to us here.

Even though it has been unseasonably warm, the conservatory I think is always a great mini-retreat in the winter months, take off your coat and for a short while and imagine you are in another climate on an adventure.

After the conservatory, we drove the scenic way through a good portion of the Highland park on our way out and on to our next adventure. (More on this to come)

How do you escape the winter blues?

Garden update

As I wrote about this past summer, we decided to start a garden. For more on this see: summer project update garden. We planted several different vegetables for a late summer-early fall harvest. But then we had our first frost two-three weeks before Halloween. So we sadly collected what we could and tore up the garden as prep for the spring.


This was a little frustrating because that next week until now the weather has been warm, anywhere from 50-80 almost everyday.



Still it was not all wasted effort. The spinach did well for several weeks. In August I didn’t have to buy any at the store. But we found by September it was not receiving enough sun light.

The green onions never really developed the way we had hoped and the onions and garlic did not have enough time to grow. Also the broccoli never developed blossom heads, but we think this was because a bug was eating the leaves.


On the positive side our biggest success were our carrots. We had so many that we actually had to thin them out to get larger uncrowded carrots by October. They are a great snacking size, sweet, and one of Kira’s favorite snacks.


So far it has been a good experience and we are hoping to till more ground for a much larger planting in the spring.

August backlog: Summer Road Trip: Botanical Garden



On Tuesday of our road trip we spent the morning just Luke and I at the Memphis Botanical Garden. A large garden with many different areas, it was the perfect relaxing day date.



We enjoyed their Japanese garden with a pond including koi fish, swans, and red bridge. They also had many intricate gazebos and nature chapels.


What I found most unique about the botanical garden was it’s extensive learning area.


It had a giant bird house that could be walked around, and worm tunnels, as well as exhibit where old house-hold items were turned into garden beds including bed frames, washing machines, sinks, and bathtubs.


They had a separate area for learning about irrigation, and a pine tree forest area where children could build with logs and sit in chairs made of wood stumps.


The garden also had a great herb garden and holds many activities and events including a summer concert series.


The only downside is I chose to wear a bright shirt and was eaten alive by mosquitos. When we got back to my brothers we went on a walk and got lunch and a frozen treat and headed back to pack up our car and prep for travels again.


It was hard to say goodbye to my brother, knowing it could be while until we see them again, but we enjoyed seeing their home and getting quality time with them,even for a few days.

We left in the early afternoon headed across the state of Tennessee through Nashville and Knoxville on our way to Pigeon Forge the land of the great smokey mountains and yes. . . Dollywood. More on this to come.