Wayfair Green Thumb Challenge

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Wayfair.com and Porch.com. All opinions are my own.

I’m normally hesitant to take part in blogger challenges and competitions, but I jumped at Wayfair’s and Porch.com’s offer to participate in their “greenthumbchallenge for three reasons that will shock most of you to the core. (Nope.)

One, I love gardening and live in Southern California, which boasts the perfect environment for outdoor living. Two, I genuinely like Wayfair and like working with them–they’re one of the very few sponsored posts I’ll write. Three, The William Morris Project. What’s that? Oh, yes. Completing this porch was one of the many projects on my intentional home list. Here’s how I envisioned it way-back-when.

Front Porch: A place to sit and watch little boys ride bikes, play in leaves, and catch bugs.



Keep that goal list in mind when you see the after pictures. I think the new porch looks great, but I’m drawn to natural and practical. It’s a front porch, so you won’t see rugs or bar carts in my after pictures. You won’t see pretty baskets that are meant for indoors. You won’t even see plants that photograph well but will soon die off stage. What you’ll see is what you’ll get if you drive by my house tomorrow or the day after.

Here’s a before picture, since I don’t think I’ve ever share a picture of our front porch. There was not a chair, stool, pot, or plant to be found. The two pots you see in the picture are ones I moved from the backyard in preparation for the green thumb challenge.

I faced two challenges while putting together our porch: the blistering west-facing location and California’s infamous drought. I knew that with a porch facing west, I would have to choose plants that could tolerate the heat for at least 6 hours a day when the sun is at its highest and hottest. The drought posed a different set of problems. We have strict water use regulations, and potted plants/hanging baskets require regular watering, especially in a climate as hot as mine. I decided to use (mostly) drought tolerant plants.

Here is what the porch looks like now. True story: it rained the week I took these pictures. We are in a drought, it never rains, and I made a big deal about southern California outdoor living, but I was the knucklehead running in and out of the house trying to take pictures during breaks in the rain. Oh well; we need the water.

The main plantings are drought resistant. The others…not so much. Those reflect my inability to turn down anything in yellow.

The red flowering plant is salvia. It requires very little water once established and attracts bees, butterflies, and especially hummingbirds. Some people may be reluctant to use plants that attract bees–I hear you, I’m allergic to bees–but they play a critical role in our agriculture and, for whatever reason, are disappearing.

The domed topiary-like shrub you see next to the chairs is a sweet-pea shrub. They don’t attract wildlife, but they do make a cute, long lasting cut flower.

I always wanted a window box, but nothing requires more water or does as poorly in the inferno-like environment of our summers. I chose to fill our new box with portulaca. It didn’t look like much when I planted it, but this hardworking plant requires little soil and lots of sun. If you’re curious, the potulaca should eventually look like this, but here it is 3 days after planting at sunset.

For seating I went with classic adirondack chairs in dutch blue, which I accessorized with these pillows.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. Those chairs aren’t dutch blue. They are a gray, powdery blue. They’re fine, but they aren’t dutch blue! Something to keep in mind if you buy the same chairs.

Last, are the hanging plants. I chose succulents for all four of our hanging baskets. I made sure to choose those that do well in full sun, but I’ll be honest and admit I’m nervous about their outcome. Hanging baskets are tough for my neck of the woods, and putting them on a west-facing porch is all but saying “I like to kill plants for fun!” I bought them because I want them to last, and so far they are growing and responding well to the sun. We’ll see how they do.

I can’t believe the front porch is done. I turn onto our street every day on my way home from work and see our hanging baskets doing their thing, hanging. I pull into the driveway and see plants! In pots I’ve had for years! I’m feeling “proper happy,” as Mikey likes to say.

Do you follow me on Instagram (I’m @themrskendall)? I’m going to be posting an image that shares details on how to enter for a chance to win a Wayfair gift card and landscaping services from Porch.com

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.

The Book Purge

I’ve been wanting to purge my books for 6 months, maybe longer, but I put it off because it wasn’t necessary. That changed last week during our Easter vacation. This is not news if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, where it seemed like I was doing a real-time live purging. I was, kind of. Hey, it’s boring and confusing picking over 970 books. I say 970 books because two weeks ago Mikey had to count all the books in our house for a math assignment. He fudged it after the 800s, but it’s fair estimate.

I’m deep into the world’s largest pitcher of Kool-Aid: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Many logically assumed my purge was a result of becoming a Konvert–that’s what they call themselves, and it reminds me alarmingly of Claymates*–but my motivation was more mundane, less life-changing. We got new carpet put in the family room.

That’s pretty much it. We had to remove all the furniture, including the bookcases, so it seemed like a great time to do what would otherwise be easy to put off. I didn’t even read the book purging section of the book until I was done, but I did okay. (Full review on the book coming soon.)

My goal was to reduce our library by half, and I think I did it! I didn’t, and won’t, count the books I have left. I know that I donated eight stuffed shopping bags to the school, five to Goodwill, and three to a drug rehabilitation center. I was ruthless, thanks in large part to encouragement from everyone on Instagram and Facebook. When I waffled, they reminded me of the end goal. Louise was especially helpful when I debated giving away a John Irving novel I didn’t love. John Irving is my favorite author, and I thought I should keep the book so that I had a complete collection of his work.

I had a hard time splitting up a collection of books by an author, but once I did it, I quickly realised it was a good choice. There will always be the library or ebooks. It helped me to think of it in terms of curating a “five-star” collection. In reality I am aiming for a “four-star” library – all the books should be either four star or five stars, with the occasional sentimental three star book creeping in. No keeping stuff you don’t love.

Pretty great, right? I used that as my mantra throughout the purge. It made so much sense, and made getting rid of books much easier. I also learned something about myself, which was unexpected but exciting. Even a bit surprising.

ALL I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT MYSELF I LEARNED WHILE PURGING BOOKS:

  1. I’m a fan of Russian literature. If a Russian wrote it, chances are it’s one of my favorite books. (Any recommendations for me?)
  2. John Irving stopped being my favorite author when he wrote Until I Find You. I haven’t loved a book he’s written since A Widow for One Year.
  3. I really want to love poetry.
  4. If you were to assume my passions based on the books I kept after the purge, it would be religion, parenting, homemaking/housekeeping, and post-apocalyptic nightmares. Arguably all one and the same.
  5. David Sedaris is the only author I consistently enjoy.
  6. I didn’t keep a single Pulitzer prize winner. I can’t remember the last one I truly enjoyed.
  7. Some of my favorite books are ones I read in my 20s, which is a total bummer.

Final picture of all the books in the library. There are so many books, and yet in the picture it looks like a small pile. Oh well. I hope the kids like them!

* I had to google a link to Claymates in case someone didn’t remember that magical moment in time. In doing so, I fell down the deepest of rabbit holes. So deep. I know about his congressional run, his ex-boyfriend, and his ever-combative hair.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.

A Housekeeper is the Most Glorious, Awful Thing

Years ago we had a housekeeper, but the Mister was laid off and cutbacks were necessary. Suburban living: the struggle is real. 
I fantasized of the day I could call Maria and beg her to come back to work her magic. That day finally arrived last year, after I started volunteering in the library and the Mister started traveling more often than not. It was such a blessing. We could now spend the weekend doing “stuff” instead of cleaning the house or mowing the lawn. (I convinced the Mister to get a lawn service.)
We never really did “stuff,” but that’s neither here nor there. I had more time to run errands and the Mister was able to play outside with the boys. 
The housekeeper thing was really working out. I loved coming home every other Thursday to a clean house without having to lift a finger. It’s not like cleaning the house myself, where every day there is something for me to do. It’s never top-to-bottom clean. 
Then, just 10 days ago, the unthinkable happened: Maria fired us.
We got fired! I can at least give her credit for doing it over the phone. She could have sent us a breakup-text. She found a bigger and better house to clean.
I’ll show her, I thought. Our house will be twice as clean! The cleanest! Our house will be so clean generations of families will be talking about it for centuries to come. But only after a quick stop at Target to pick up some cleaning supplies since I stopped buying them a year ago.
I started in the guest bedroom, intent on blazing through there since it sits empty. Instead, I opened the door to what had become a dumping ground. Drum kit, old toys, a closet filled with blankets and pillows, and a two cluttered desks.
Well, I thought, might as well clean the room the right way.
Two hours later. 

I had a drum instructor scheduled to pick up the drum kit that evening. I went through most of the toys. I completely ignored the chaos of blankets and pillows in the closet, but did change out the sheets and wash all the bedding. I started in on the cluttered desk and bookshelves, only to realize that some of the papers Mikey had stacked on his desk were from the 3rd grade. I found Easter Bunny pictures he took with Nico at school. I have no idea what year since the date isn’t on the picture.
I found some books that were missing and all of my Sharpies.
I also found this little nugget of wisdom. A housekeeper is a terrible idea if you want to create and maintain a clutter-free, intentional home.  

Maria didn’t put things away for us, but she did stack things in neat piles. I told her not to put away the toys for the boys, but to put everything in a bucket so they could put it away themselves. I only went through the (very neat) piles occasionally and the boys never put away their toys. The guest bedroom became a dumping ground because I never had to see it unless I was adding to the pile. 
I realized during those two hours of cleaning that I didn’t lose steam in the William Morris Project. I didn’t have proper motivation to keep up with the William Morris Project. It’s easy to ignore clutter, failed systems, and too much of what you don’t need when you don’t have to face what you’re doing wrong–or not doing. An organized, clutter-free home takes a lot of hands-on work. It can’t be avoided. So I’m not. Avoiding the dirty work, that is.
Baby steps. I may not be ready to tackle large, weekly projects again, but I’m ready to tackle my own clutter one homework pile at a time.
Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.

Christmas Ornaments 2014

 

It’s that time of year again. I’ve written about my holiday ornament tradition several times (here, here, here, and here) but for those who don’t feel like reading blog posts from 2007–dear God, the pictures–the tradition goes like this. I love glass ornaments, so that’s what I use to decorate our tree. Every year I buy a few ornaments to represent the year for us as a family. Here are the ornaments I bought this year, all from Target.

 

I bought an apple siting on a stack of books to represent my return to the working world as a teacher’s aide.

 

This ornament representing our Buttercup isn’t glass, so it’s a bit of a cheat. Glass ornaments are hard enough to come by, so in my mind the glitter acts like glass and is, therefore, glass. It’s all about sales, even when you are your customer.

 

This one was hard for me to buy, and even harder for me to photograph. How can it be 8 months since we lost Buster? (That’s one of the posts I’m most proud of writing.) I think about him every day. I’m debating going back to the store to buy another one for Buddy because he is 14.5 years old. Soon he will need his own ornament, I imagine, and I would love for them to match because they were our peas in a pod.

I write little messages on the back or bottom of each ornament to keep track of the memories. So far I know what each ornament represents, but one day I may forget why I have mushroom ornaments. Or maybe one day my great grandchildren will find my boxes of ornaments and wonder about the batty old woman who had a tree full of frogs, cakes, bones, elephants, golf balls, dogs, birds, mice, books, Star Wars, Mickey Mouse, and so on.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.