Landscaping our property – Ongoing 1

Here are some shots after the work began.


Here is the front of the house with the trailer and bobcat parked in the garden.




And the entryway with all the bushes and plants taken out leaving behind the big stones that Mich likes so much and some new plantings. Mich tells me that there is more to come. It looks really empty right now. But then it *was* pretty overcrowded before.


Here the front plants have been pruned WAY back and some cleanup has been done on that garden area.




Not much has happened here by the shed except that a hole has been prepared and a new red bud is waiting to be planted.




Finally a picture of the back of the house. The Azaleas have been removed and the bed has been prepped. Some of the plants waiting to be installed are in the foreground sitting beside our not-so-new chiminea at front right.



Landscaping our property – The Beginning

A little while ago we had a landscape architect (Sherry Lizotte) come over and create a “master plan” with us for how our property might actually look someday.

We took those plans and worked with a landscaper (Glen Warren) to figure out what we wanted to address now and what would wait for (probably much) later.

Having the overall plan was actually suggested by Glen when we first talked with him. Our original intention had been to just “spruce up” the place. Essentially taming some of the more unruly plants and replacing others. But as our aspirations grew, we all soon realized that there would likely be a lot of wasted effort if we didn’t work according to a larger plan.

I took before pictures of everything except the windows at the back of the house (where the gym and Mich’s office are situated). Going back through my old pictures I find I’ve NEVER taken pictures of that area – weird.

Anyway I thought I’d chronicle some of the changes. Let me know what you think.


To start off, here is a picture of the front of the house just before the work began.




As a contrast, the bushes looked like this when we first arrived here 10 years ago.



Continuing on with the front yard, you can see pretty clearly how we’ve allowed things to outgrow the area. I trimmed the bushes most years but was not “garden savvy” enough to know how much I could cut back all these plants without harming them.






And Here is the backyard showing the shed area.


Gift Cards – What a bad idea!

There is only one type of gift certificate/card/coupon that I must confess to really liking. That’s an gift certificate. You can apply it against your account, see the balance and then use it for any purchase from Amazon or any of their affiliates. For me, this is a good thing because I’m always buying stuff from Amazon.

Otherwise, I cannot think of a more terrible idea than taking good, honest money and exchanging it for something that is more limited. Gift certificates are typically good in only one brand of store, can expire, are often forgotten about and frequently obligate the user to spend their own money in an effort to use the complete value of the certificate. Store brand gift cards are in the same boat.

The newer “Visa” gift cards (I presume MasterCard, AMEX and the rest have similar deals) are supposedly as versatile as a regular Visa card but they aren’t. I have a $60 Visa gift card that I received as part of a promotion for switching my natural gas provider.

My first attempt to use it was in a gas pump. That failed miserably since it’s not a real Visa card and there isn’t any PIN associated with it to allow you to use it like a debit card.

I then was able to successfully use it to purchase lunch one day. So I stuck with restaurants as they seem to know how to cajole the cash out of them.

Keeping my receipts so that I’d know how much was left on the card I went for lunch one day and tried to use the remaining balance on the card and found it was declined (not a great hardship as I was already going to have to pay for about 1/2 the meal cash anyway). The waiter was pretty good about it, he tried several different amounts on my behalf knowing that I was just trying to drain the card but to no avail.

Just now I checked the card balance and last 5 transactions and find there’s a charge on the card that brings the balance down to about 87 cents. I can tell you that I’m not about to bother trying to use the card to claim 87 cents! I’m also a little dismayed that I can’t pinpoint that extra charge. It was only for $8.40 and I have some other receipts that I want to go through, but the novelty of the card is such that I’m pretty sure I remember every time I used it (3 times)…

Anyway, that’s where I’m back to my Amazon gift certificate or just cash (giving or receiving).  As I think about it, I suppose for other folks who shop at a particular store a lot maybe it’s like Amazon is for me. They’ll use the value of the card in a couple of weeks and be the happier for it.

But I suggest that, for the vast majority of cards and certificates, they will be lost, forgotten, expired or otherwise unusable benefiting only the retailer and not your intended gift recipient.

Clark Howard was also warning that some of the gift card suppliers actually charge you to let you know your remaining card balance.

a few funny videos

My 2 year old (actually 1 year, 10 months, 22 days, MARC) is really into watching internet videos of monkeys, babies and dogs.  Here are a few that I have come across.  Amazing? Funny?  Crude?  You be the judge. 

I picture a young Marc as the narrator of the baby video…