27 June 2011

Business up front

Now that it's summer, we're finally getting pleasant spring temperatures instead of the summer weather we had during spring. Thanks, global warming. Time to get into the yard!

I'd been waffling over what to do with our front flower bed. Because we live in an historic district, we don't have the setback that modern subdivisions have, so no real front lawn. Our front steps run right to the sidewalk, leaving a 6' x 18' strip of grass/weeds to one side. I've wanted hydrangeas forever, so hydrangeas I shall have! To make my hydrangea dreams come true, I had to remove my irises:

They were in desperate need of division, so I did that. I ended up with 44 plants! My mother-in-law mentioned a few months ago that she wanted to try some purple flowers in her yard, so I gave her several divisions. The remainder will be replanted somewhere in the yard, as soon as I figure out where. There was also some bishop's weed living in the bed:

I haven't found it to be particularly invasive or troublesome, and I think the foliage is pretty, so I moved it to the side yard on the other side of the front steps. I spent some time pulling out other weeds from that area and wouldn't mind this stuff taking over instead. May the best weed win!

Once the area was cleared of grass and weeds, I broke up the soil and added a couple bags of compost. The hydrangeas (whose pots I soaked in buckets of water while I was doing the site prep) then got planted and mulched.

Homigo hydrangea

Hopefully they'll eventually grow wide enough to touch each other

Within minutes of being planted, several people stopped to tell me how wonderful they look! I just hope my green-thumbed luck continues and they keep looking great all summer. After waiting 6 months for my bulbs to bloom, I was happy for some instant gratification with the hydrangeas!

We also (almost) finished trimming the front bed with bricks. I have yet to determine what else I'll be planting, but all of the grass will eventually be removed. I thought the bricks would make a nice edging material along the sidewalk, and we certainly had plenty laying around to do the job!

Clearly we have some weeding to do (this part has been done for a month or more), but we're pretty happy with how it turned out! The sidewalk makes a 45-degree turn to meet the house at the bay window, leaving a gap where the bricks change directions. In this area we'll pour a little bit of concrete.

It'll be like a keystone and a heck of a lot easier than cutting a brick to fit the space. A monogram or tiny handprint may or may not show up in the cement.

24 June 2011

Frugal Friday

Regardless of the state of the economy, being frugal is always wise. I'll leave the big items to Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman, but every Friday I'll share one small thing I do that eases the purse strings a little bit. It's not house progress (yeah, we're working on it), but maybe it'll keep my mom from assuming I'm dead because I haven't updated in weeks.

The inaugural Frugal Friday tip is an easy one: cook! Even if you're buying groceries at full-price (ha! Who does that?) you'll still come out ahead over eating out. The recipes I use are generally written for 4-6 servings, but I usually don't halve them. Instead, I make the whole recipe and eat the leftovers for lunch during the week. We've always got a steady rotation of yummy homemade things in the refrigerator. This week we've had Spanish rice and enchiladas, Thai curry with chicken, chicken lazone, and chicken and broccoli stir fry. (Can you guess our meat of choice?) My meals work out to about $1 per serving but are often even less than that! An added bonus of cooking at home is that you know exactly what's going into your food and can make healthier substitutions as desired.

Are you the kind of person that burns water? Frozen skillet meals or even microwave meals are still cheaper than grabbing fast food at the end of the day and probably faster!

14 June 2011

The American Family Yost

Well, it's been a week and the copper thief has not returned to finish the job. If we can last 10 more days, we probably won't have to worry about it for another year. You see, the likely culprit is being sentenced on June 29 for another string of charges, including 2 class-5 felonies (breaking and entering and possession of criminal tools) and a class-4 felony (theft from an elderly or disabled person). The sad thing is, he's probably pulling off these crimes to not only feed his vices, but also to pay the restitution he owes from yet another conviction. $50,000 can't be an easy amount to come up with, even for a person with a steady job.

It's (almost) too bad that he hasn't returned, because we've been ready. With a defense scheme that lies somewhere between Swiss Family Robinson and Home Alone, we've been sleeping lightly - with our shoes on - and waiting. I won't go into details (I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise in case he does come back), but let's just say that when you live in a construction zone, you've got plenty of scary and dangerous tools at your immediate disposal.

A rude awakening

Two nights ago we woke up to Zibby barking at 2:30 in the morning. We immediately knew something was wrong. He usually doesn't bark in the middle of the night, so Tom went down to investigate. Turns out the freon lines to our air conditioners were cut to drain out all the refrigerant. This is the same thing that happened last year - the lines were cut and then the coils were stolen a few days later. We have our alarm system hooked up to the heat pumps to prevent theft. The security system was armed and the line was cut, but the alarm did not go off. Made me wonder if we could get the security company to compensate the repair cost.

We called the police and had a report made. Tom had seen a guy walking down the street when he went out to see what was going on and gave the police officer a description. The officer told us that some guy he personally had arrested last year for copper theft just got out of prison in the past month and Tom's description matched his. He pulled up a mug shot on his computer in the car, and Tom IDed him with about 75% certainty.

We had the security company come out to figure out what the problem was and repair the cut line. It turns out the thief has some kind of knowledge of security systems. He spliced together the wires in such a way that closed the circuit and caused it not to trip. I don't know all the technical details, but it's now fixed to where that can't happen anymore. So on the one hand, the thief bypassed the security system which would have gone off if he'd simply cut the line. On the other hand, why did they install such a vulnerable system to begin with? Does this change anything in regards to the security company's monetary responsibility?

What I do know is this:

Zibby's a good boy.