Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The House We Left Behind: a Photo Essay

When we chose our first home, a 900-odd-square-foot bungalow, it was after viewing dozens of dwellings in our neighborhood known for its small historic craftsman and mission-style houses.  It was the flow of our house and its expansive yard that distinguished it from the others we viewed. 

I always knew it was the backyard that would deter us from moving (but also from expanding our house), and the yard that we would miss most. 

So I wasn't surprised, on one of our last afternoons in our bungalow, to find Big Sis weeping in our fairy-enchanted garden.

I'm going to miss the birds, she cried.  We won't have this backyard at the new house, and Amani can't roll around in the grass...

I hugged her.  Let's take pictures, I suggested.  Show me what you want to remember

There's the ornamental pear tree that was blighted when we bought the house.  We were advised to remove it, but we carefully and gradually trimmed it instead.  Ten years later, it finally bloomed white in season, like all its pear-tree friends down the block.  We hung swings and fairy houses from it, and nasturtium beds blossomed in its shade.

There's the garden Husband carefully tended, and the artichokes we harvested each summer and the compost bin that prompted volunteer pepper and tomato plants.  The raised bed is an upcycled wood frame from the fluorescent light box that dominated our small kitchen's ceiling. 

There's Big Sis's blackberries.  Not a prolific vine, but it blossomed and berried each year, and it's one of the plants she was saddest to leave behind. 

There's Husband's cactus and succulent section of the garden, where many of the plantings were cuttings from our dear friend Eric's amazing property. 

There's our prolific lemon tree, which grew too many lemons for us to use, and even for the girls to make into lemonade at the spur of the moment.  We'd pick them and line them up on the low wall between our and our neighbors' yard, where they could be plucked by our friends for their use.  Many a fairy concoction featured a lemon-juice base. 

There's the min-rose climbing vines we planted and let grow wild.  They were at their blooming best as we packed.  

When we built a fence along our new side patio seven years ago, we strategically planted two jasmine plants along it.  I loved waking and coming home to its warm perfume in early spring, and when we flung open the french doors the scent would permeate the house.  I vowed to plant some at our new home...

One of the joys of teaching children about plants and gardening is identifying edible varieties all around.  We had some naturally sprouting nasturtium in the yard when we bought our home, and we spread the seeds around the various beds over the years.  The girls were fond of grabbing flowers to munch on whenever they wandered outside. 

Our yard also had snowbushes, heavenly bamboo, agapanthus, bromeliad, a dwarf pomegranate, giant birds of paradise, silver-leafed Dusty Miller, sage, lavender, Mexican heather, and geraniums. 

As Big Sis directed my photography and Little Sis conducted a video tour of our garden, Amani the dog dug her last hole:

But we're growing accustomed to our new home and its flora.  There is abundant nasturtium in the canyon, bougainvillea we don't have to trim lining the canyon and our property, hydrangea about to burst, and jacarandas flanking the deck.  Our friend Eric, whose fig tree and succulents we willed to the new owner of our old home, came by my office with a surprise:  a blackberry bush harvested from cuttings on his own property. 

And the fairies are on call already (making me sigh with relief that we're in the process moving in mentally, now...):


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Couched in Innuendo

One of the awesome parts of our new house is the family room downstairs that opens onto the deck, a large open space with great windows and afternoon light.  I'd dreamed of having a house with a separate living area for the TV and kid movie time--you know, a place for the family to hang out when I'm hosting book club in the living room.  But I'd also dreamed of having a third bedroom and more than one bathroom.  I didn't think we'd wind up with a family room and everything else this house comes with too, so I'm pinching myself.  We moved in five days ago, and it's still exciting to come home from work everyday. 

A bigger house means we could use more furniture, but I'm resisting filling the place in the manner of our former home (you recognize you may be on furnishings overload when you can't find a space to do a wall-sit and your house resembles a thrift store showroom).  Nevertheless, our new family room demanded a couch, and a stain-resistant sectional seemed like the perfect choice.  A new sofa was a budget priority, so I researched seating options while we waited to move in. 

I explained to my skeptical mother that I was looking for a new couch online.  It had to be within certain width specifications to fit the space, I elaborated, and I felt confident I didn't need to sit on it to find the right one. 

"We are looking for a sectional with a chaise." 

"A sexual?"  my mom answered.

"I think that option is more expensive," I laughed.  "A sectional, Mom.  A sectional."  And then I wasted no time transcribing our conversation into a text to my siblings. 

I continued searching for the perfect couch online.  I wanted a spill-proof sofa that cost less than a compact car.  High-quality leather sectionals were ruled out. 

I consulted my father.

"Dad, have you heard of bonded leather?"

"Bondage leather?"

"Bonded leather, goodness."

Folks, allow me to introduce you to our Sexual Couch with Bondage Leather.  It did not come with chaps or a bullwhip, but we think it's pretty perfect (and G-rated, thus far):