June 14, 2017
- I thought I was immune to poison ivy after a childhood of dirt rolling and naturing without a single case; I was positive that I could not get it. So when I started hand excavating the front hill of my house I wasn’t even considering the possibility of it. Coupled with the fact that I DID NOT SEE ANY poison ivy, AT ALL, it didn’t even cross my mind. Cut to one week later when I’m walking around looking like Jabba the Hut caught Leprosy (not cute), I was seriously pissed off.
The landscaping at my house was disastrous when I moved in, it was totally overgrown and looked like it hadn’t been touched for 20 years, so I decided I was going to take it on as one of my solo projects (also because every landscaper I surveyed about it, looked at it, and basically never called me again). So I came to terms with the fact that I was on my own and got to business. The difficult part about the landscaping at my house was not only that it was totally overgrown, but really the sheer scale of it. Normal people are like, “oh how cute, let me get a couple shrubs and plant a hydrangea…” and I’m all like, “Ok 66 linear feet, by 12, means 6 yards of mulch and 37 SHRUBS… that’s after I excavate the 12 feet of overgrowth, and dig the 37 holes and fill with a fertilizer mix, oh and the drought, have to factor in the drought, need granite cobble stones so a pallet of those at $1.75 a piece and I need 200 of those…” So, it wasn’t the easy peasy situation that my pinterest dreams are made of. Nevertheless I persisted…
At first I just had to clear the dead overgrowth, don’t have a lot of pictures but here is a good idea of what it looked like:
So given how serious the growth was, I had to get an excavator to first clear the space:
starting with a clean slate
Once it was cleared, I figured I was GOOD TO GO, no visible vines etc. so started digging those holes. I have since learned that poison ivy doesn’t actually have to be visible for you to get it (real F**king cool). Apparently the oil of it, within the vines and leaves can spread onto other plants, onto rocks, onto gardening tools and clothing. So last summer I officially got it 4 TIMES, on my arms, face, one time DANGEROUSLY close to my lady parts, I am not kidding it was a NIGHTMARE. Poison ivy on your inner thighs is a new level of torture, you can’t even walk normally, TRUST ME… pure torture. Every time I thought “ok, I got this, I am fully covered in practically a HAZMAT suit,” gloves, long sleeves, rubber boots, whole nine… I STILL GOT IT.
I spent a large majority of the spring walking around with bandages taped all over my body to not scare away my clients. What’s worse; your real estate agent covered in opened wounds (barf) or covered in mysterious bandages?? I prefer the mystery… So after I planted all the shrubs (which looked oddly small once they were in – sort of a casualty of 66 linear feat of space) I decided I was going to weed mat the whole thing so no vines could grow up in-between all of my plantings. I weed matted at night because I was heavily medicated due to above referenced poison ivy and I couldn’t sleep, so no pictures really. Here is how that section ended up coming out;
Who knew I had a granite wall there?!
Why are these plants so tiny?!!!! They were much larger looking when I bought them.
So at that point I was finished with that project for the summer – cut to last week when I decided the top of this hill looked unfinished and started another project. I wanted the top of the hill (seen above) to look more complete, so I started edging out a new bed.
making a new bed
This seems like an easy task, but ripping up well established dirt might as well be ripping up cement. NOT EASY. Once I ripped up all of this grass I realized I had about a thousand pounds of grass with dirt attached to it to move somewhere which I hadn’t fully thought out…awesome. But what was in the grass roots?! Oh you know, just some more F**king poison ivy!!!! (face meet desk, desk -face, slam, slam, slam) Moving along…
Bed and shrubs...21 to be exact.
I got 21 more shrubs for the top, Japanese Holly, which looks similar to boxwood but grows faster. Boxwood is that super chic, great for a landscape architecture/style design plant but it grows and what I consider to be a glacial pace…I have no patience for this. If you have 20 years to watch shrubs grow, go for it, if not – pick something else. This is what weed matting looks like:
weed mat in between plants.
I bought a pallet of granite landscaping blocks to edge it all out and another 3 yards of mulch. After a lot of sweat, a jammed finger between granite blocks, and a moderate amount of blood (no tears), I finished the job.
Granite block edging
Flower and shrub bed
My Peonies in Full bloom
So in conclusion… hire a landscaper.
June 6, 2017
Quick update, have been super busy – yay! Just got a new listing in my hometown of Scituate, MA and got some sweet drone shots. So this is what it feels like to be a bird?!!! Suddenly feeling sad that I can’t fly…
Anyway, great single family listing on the street next to the one I grew up on, this is my hood!! 02066 for life!
I spent my entire childhood on this beach <3
Was also lucky enough to book the super talented Brian Doherty to shoot the interior! He does some really amazing work, check out is website: http://www.briandohertypd.com
All interior photos by Brian Doherty:
February 8, 2017
I am officially obsessed with Air BnB! Whoever created this site (hey rich guys I’m talking to you) is a genius. My best friend Danny and I decided we needed a little birthday get away to break the monotony of winter and since we both have a birthday on the same week, it was a match made in heaven, Paris heaven to be exact. Since it was my 3rd time to France and his first time to Europe (which is crazy to me, Europe is everything you need and more, if you haven’t been – drop what you are doing RIGHT NOW and run away to Europe) I decided to try out the famed Air BnB that everyone talks about. I know I probably should have gotten on this train sooner given how much I love to travel and how much I love to check out other peoples houses, (duh hillary, you are so behind the times) but I was always so skeptical that I would end up in some creepy axe murderer house filled with bugs and dirty pillows. Whelp, I admit it – I was wrong!
Air BnB has really got this niche market locked down and done right. They have all the reviews you could need from other people, solid pictures, and good feedback so you end up getting exactly what you expect. I was in Paris a year ago and stayed at the really beautiful hotel Notre Dame Saint Michel and it was great, but the room was tiny and it cost a zillion dollars. So since I didn’t want to share a tiny room with my best man friend (love you Danny, but you snore) I decided we needed to upgrade to an apartment. Air BnB had so many great options all over the city, with great photos etc. I was pretty set on staying the the Latin Quarter/ Saint Michel because it’s close to so many things. I found us an amazing 2 bed apartment, for less money than a hotel. Needless to say – we lived it up in this awesome apartment. I checked some local real estate offices while I was there and figured out that the place we were staying in was probably a million dollar 2 bed flat, for $345 a night (High season it’s $500). Um yes, please!
Here it is:
My room with private balcony!
exterior we had the Triple private balcony in middle, perfect for wine thirty.
So we pretty much had the best birthday ever! Dancing the night away at every gay bar in town (well I danced, Danny hit on cute guys) wine, baguettes, touring around, and all that Paris has to offer. But Danny and I both agreed that our apartment was one of the highlights. It’s amazing how when you travel your “home base” can really set the mood. Having space to spread out, have a little dinner party, make espresso, drink wine on our private balcony, etc. really made it extra special. So in conclusion… AIR BnB for life!! I’m drinking the Kool-Aid!
Walking the streets of Paris
Rose De Paris, huge ferris wheel that we rode, I had a panic attack at the top...good times
We went to the far North of the city for the Paris Flea Market
Birthday buddies on the Seine!
January 21, 2017
I recently took my Mom on a 70th Birthday trip to Charleston, SC. I had been reading in Travel & Leisure magazine that it was the “Coolest City in America” and really had to prove this somewhat drastic statement for myself. As with anything opinions can vary from person to person but claiming a small town in the South was that amazing seemed a bit of a stretch. I’m always open to proving myself wrong so hopped on a flight with my favorite lady and headed down.
Initially I wasn’t all that impressed: small airport, lackluster developments, a lot of beige, and an overwhelming feeling that I had been mislead. After we arrived at our hotel we hit the town in search of a cocktail and that’s when I really started to get a feel for the city. All of the locals were extremely nice and willing to give suggestions, directions, and general information which is always appreciated when you want to get right to the good stuff. The downtown was lovely with a lot of shopping and restaurants to explore as well as some small parks and historic monuments. One of my favorite aspects is the bar scene (not just because I love a good drink) but because there are some really unique settings for bars, a church that has been renovated into a bar, old houses that have turned into restaurants, and roof top patios. I was impressed with a social scene and would certainly recommend Charleston as a Bachelorette destination for anyone.
My Mom suggested we take the “Old homes tour,” and never one to miss an opportunity to wander through a strangers house, I was immediately ready to rock. It was a great way to get a feel for the interiors of some of the beautiful mansions and historic homes that give Charleston its unique feel. Many of the homes have what’s called a “Piazza” which is basically a long open air porch that runs the length of the house and has multiple entries into the house, it’s usually held up by columns which provide a grand feel to what I would consider a gorgeous side porch. The original design plan was to help with the heat of the South by capturing the cross breeze and providing ventilation on a large scale to the house. Charleston is a lot of things, but in my mind it is the land of amazing porch/patio/veranda/decks…
Which got me somewhat confused; what really is the precise difference between all of these exterior sitting spaces? I always say deck when I mean porch and porch when I mean patio and patio when I mean veranda and then I think, “what am I even saying?” Well here it is to clarify for all of us;
Porch: First off it is COVERED (has a roof) and is external to the building, usually it is at the front or back of the house and can be enclosed with screen, glass, windows.
Deck: A deck is flat and has no roof, usually elevated or just above the ground level and has a railing, a place you would imagine having a BBQ grill, can many times connect two spaces or provide access to multiple doors. Usually made of wood construction.
Patio: Patios are on the ground and are a paved like area either made with stone, brick, slate, etc. It is a space in the grass that is made for dining and entertaining at ground level. Can be attached to the house or detached.
Balcony: These are always attached to the house and elevated. They can be covered or not covered and can protrude from the house or not (which would be a Juliette balcony).
Veranda: I find these difficult to distinguish from a porch because they are described in almost the same way many times. Basically they are a covered porch that starts at the entrance to the house and extends around the sides, they are also for the purpose of cross ventilation in the house and are more commonly seen in the South.
Got it? No? That’s ok, I’m still confused too. Anyway here are some pretty house pictures from Charleston, SC. Final analysis; an awesome town, good food, nice people, I wouldn’t call it the “Coolest City in America” but it gets a solid 4 stars.
January 3, 2017
Classic Charleston Piazza!
A beautiful Victorian style house.
Dying for this house by the water
Beautiful brick houses, elevated Piazza.
Double porch but made of iron handrail. So amazing.
I loved this kitchen, brick floor and built ins - and those windows!
There were also amazing gardens, I'd like to go back and take a garden tour.
I was recently in Iceland for a week or so and spent a fair amount of time wandering through Reykjavik, the capitol. It’s a really hip city that surprised me with how awesome it was. The city itself is very walkable with all of the shops and restaurants in close proximity, accessed by a pedestrian walk way and small streets. Throughout the downtown there are a ton of amazing restaurants and pubs, and even more shocking is how awesome the food is. It was a total surprise to me but honestly, I didn’t have one bad meal in Reykjavik – they have their food scene locked down! Even if you go into what might seem like a seedy dive bar, it’s pretty much the best burger and fries you’ve ever had. Needless to say I spent most of my time eating and drinking, I find it’s best to stick to what you’re good at, ya know?
While wandering downtown I noticed there are a ton of amazing building murals painted on the sides of buildings. Not just terribly thought out graffiti, but gorgeous pieces of art on the ENTIRE building. It turns out that about 10-15 years ago the city didn’t really pay much attention to unauthorized graffiti but in recent years (I assume with the influx of tourism) have started policing unapproved graffiti. In order to continue the tradition and keep the art scene alive many artists have begun to get approval from building owners to paint the murals, which in my opinion makes it even better. This way they get to spend the time planning and executing their piece and it also ensures that only talented artists get to graffiti the streets, win-win, if you ask me.
I should have taken more photos because there were so many unique murals, here are some of the ones I loved;
In a construction site so I couldn't get closer
Corner building covered
Because I'm ALWAYS on the hunt for Feminist propaganda.
This was pretty cool
This was on a cute side street
This was next door to our hotel on the waterfront
Loved this one too
And since people go to Iceland for scenery, here I am in naturing...
August 4, 2016
Ok so as a continuation of “Excavation Station” I wanted to update how it all turned out. As you may know we excavated out our backyard to get rid of an INSANE amount of an invasive species called Japanese Knotweed. Total nightmare. But we also took this opportunity to level out our back yard to make it more useable. After the excavation was complete we built a “dry stack wall” which I discussed in the previous post. Then we debated whether to seed the law ourselves or have it Hydro-seeded. Hydro-Seed is this Green pulp that comes out in a big hose and gets sprayed onto your yard, it’s a mixture of seed, wood chips/mulch. It basically makes the process easier and more uniform when finished. So because we were burt out (and I ended up picking up another remodel project along the way – more on that later) we decided to do the Hydro-seed route. The cool part is the guy that ended up doing ours also does Fenway park and is endorsed by them, so we’ve started referring to our yard as “Fenway.” Although none of us really give a Sh*t about the Red Sox, its fun to pretend.
I started to get antsy because it took a WHILE for the seeds to sprout, I was almost convinced we got a bad batch but little by little it came up. The only really unfortunate part was that it has not rained AT ALL this summer, so it’s been sort of an inner struggle to water and waste water, or to let all our hard work die. I usually end up watering in the dark of the night in order to have a mental compromise with myself.
Some photos below, not the best pics but I’ve been busy people!!
Heres the wall and the yard half Hydro-Seeded
BAM - FENWAY!
Another angle of the wall
Here I am caught red handed doing yard work in My Hunter's and work dress - Hey you gotta get it done no matter what! Steve gets mad at me for "Never wearing 'work clothes'" But honestly, what's the point of changing if I'm always working?
July 3, 2016
I recently went to Nantucket to get a little inspiration and a mental break from the busy real estate season. Nantucket if you don’t know is an island off of Cape Cod that has beautiful and has tons of historic homes as the island was a Whaling hub in the early 19th Century. They have a pretty cool Whaling museum that is worth checking out if you have time… but Whaling was not my main focus. I needed interior design inspiration! I love nautical life in general and in that I have a beach house I wanted to get some ideas to evoke the spirit of the ocean without star fish and seashell curtains (seriously people, stop with the starfish).
I started out walking the main downtown section which is adorably cute and then wandered down some side streets which bring you back to 1600-1800s architecture and design as many of the houses have not changed and have just been updated when needed. Real estate is insanely expensive on Nantucket but when you walk through the streets you can see why, it’s really a special place. One thing about beach houses that I’ve always loved is that people in New England name their houses. It’s all over the town that I grew up in (Scituate) and in Hull as well, so as I walked through the streets I took note of lovely front doors and house names.
But why? I have always wondered – why do people name their houses? Naturally it seems like an affectionate way to treat your house by giving it an alter ego, I mean people name their cars right? But aside from that, is there really a point?
After a little research I found that people have been naming their houses for hundreds of years. George Washington had “Mount Vernon,” Michael Jackson had “Neverland Ranch,” and The royal family has “Buckingham Palace.” But really it all started with rich people (shocking) who named their houses Manors, and Halls and then started to come up with other more creative ways to signify their property. Prior to street numbers, house names were a way for people to find a property they were looking for. In the mid 1700s Parliament in England decided all houses had to have numbers (makes sense right?) because how else can you find a house without a name or a number? Looking at every house name could get old and imagine how long it would take the delivery guy to bring my pizza when I’m drunk?! Gotta have that visible house number!!
So here is a sampling of the cute house names I saw on Nantucket:
The Captain's house
July 3, 2016
As you may know I am in the process of remodeling my dream house which is an old Victorian on the Ocean. It has turned out to be quite the project which is taking a long time to complete because I have a full time job, and no machine to counterfeit money in my basement. We took a break from finishing the front porch because our backyard was really steep and we wanted to level it out. A friend of mine from High School owns an excavation company out of Scituate, MA and came over and gave us a really reasonable quote to get the job done. Aside from leveling out the backyard we have had an ongoing battle with Japanese knot weed which is pretty much the devil and is an invasive plant species that took over the back yard.
This is what it looks like in summer
My dad and steve trying to clear it out after Winter
After a serious battle against this invasive plant that was taking up 1/3 of our yard, it continued to come back – no matter what we did (we didn’t do Round up Or Chemicals because I don’t want them in my yard, google about it and decide for yourself but I am ALL SET with glyphosate death serum).
Since we were planning to excavate to level out the yard we asked our excavator to go down an extra 2 feet in order to get most of the root system of this bamboo out. This plant is INSANE, literally if you leave just a tiny section of root in the ground, and entire plant will grow back, it’s actually growing through our asphalt driveway.
When our excavator came he got to work taking all of the dirt that was contaminated with Japanese Knotweed and trucking that out of our yard, and then taking the steepest section of our yard that we wanted to level out and using that dirt to fill in the hole where the dirt had been removed. Then he leveled everything out – which took a few days to get properly angled.
Taking out the hill
Before, hard to tell how steep it was
Leveled out backyard
LUCY love climbing on the mud wall
We ended up taking out about 4 feet of dirt from the steepest part of the yard in order to level it off. When you take out that much dirt naturally you have to put some sort of retaining wall in to hold the dirt from collapsing in on itself and shifting from the neighbors property. I looked at all kinds of possible retaining walls, there are so many beautiful ones to choose from, but obviously everything I really loved was WAY over budget. Fu*king budgets, always raining on my parade!!
Luckily our excavator who is great at this type of stuff, had an excess of boulders he had been collecting from other jobs. We were able to buy boulders by the truckload from him and do what is called a “dry stack wall.” Meaning, the rocks are places strategically to make a wall but there is no mortar or anything holding them together. Over time the dirt and grass seeps into the cracks and creates sort of a joint to hold the rocks back, hence the “dry stack.” The cool thing about this type of wall aside from the fact that it is more affordable that other masonry walls it that it reuses boulders that have not been altered which is a “green” alternative to quarried rock, and it provides a natural look. When you’re walking in the woods and see rock walls rom 100 years ago, those are dry stack walls, which have managed to remain pretty well enact.
Watching them build the wall was pretty cool as they had a strategic plan in place and picked each rock to fit into the correct space. I have to admit, when they first started I was like “Oh no, this is going to look like shit.” I really didn’t have a lot of faith that my “retaining wall on a budget” was going to look like the beautiful walls I had been stalking on pinterest, but luckily I was wrong and it came out awesome.
Tons of Boulders – delivered by the truckload.
Organized placing of each rock took some time. I walked around drinking wine and silently judging the placement of each and every rock.
Came home from work and it came out better than I thought! More to come on the back yard soon!
June 12, 2016
I’ve always wanted to go to the Brimfield Antique Show and this year I finally made it. I packed up the whole gang, my mom, a cooler of sandwiches and snacks and hit the road! I wasn’t really sure what to expect so I threw a couple hundos in my pocket and was hoping for something cool I could buy.
Side note, it took a while to get there – the actual ride was fine, but once you pull into Brimfield you sit in one lane of traffic for an hour plus, which was the real torture. We all ended up peeing on the side of the road, except my mom who refused (no shame in my game) because we couldn’t lose our place in line!! So if you ever go, there is a small back road that runs sort of parallel to route 20 which is the main road. TAKE THE BACK ROAD and save yourself a ton of time, I google mapped an alternate route on the way out and saved us from the return torture. There are still 2 more dates this summer for the Antique Fair : July 12-17 • Sept 6-11, so Check it out!
There was some really good junk and some not so good junk, and there were A TON of people. Having two kids in tow was both fun and exhausting because A. it’s not the place to loose a kid, there are so many people and it’s a FAIR, who wants to lose their kid at a fair?!!! So I spent most of the day making sure Lucy (5) didn’t wander more than 3 feet from my side. B. There is SO MUCH STUFF, I think you would have to spend a week there just to see it all, I mean there is A LOT OF STUFF. And naturally all the things I wanted were over budget. I snapped a few pics of cool items.
* Insider tip: HAND SANITIZER, Bring it, use it, love it. The place is one giant dirt pile of fun and porta potties.
Gallery, you can click on to enlarge:
June 12, 2016
If you’re up to date with the remodel you’ll know I came home from work one day to my house looking like this;
Bye bye porch
Well my casual little porch remodel has turned out to be, well, NOT SO CASUAL. But that’s why I live with a contractor so moving along…
I’m pretty adamant that we keep with a similar style as I like to maintain architectural detail when working on older homes. I just kind of feel like so many houses look EXACTLY the same, why not maintain the unique differences that set a house apart from the rest?!
So after ripping off the whole porch and putting in temporary (VERY TEMPORARY) supports we had to jack up the house, literally JACK UP THE HOUSE, with a little thing called a …wait for it… HOUSE JACK. Legit, these things exist. So basically you put a huge 2×4 on this jack and lift up the house and then put a beam into place to hold up the house again. I’m giving the abridged version because pictures tell a better story but if you ever want a detailed explanation, I can give it to you – if you bring me a bottle of wine.
First Major beam went in at night... STRANGER DANGER
Side view before Beam 1
Staging and Framing for Beam 2, Also Steve's Ass...haaaay haayyy
Beam 3 and 4 And roof Framing Begins!
Roof Framed in Just in time for the Holidays! PEACE!!!
Well deserved Beers on top of Porch - Soon to be Second Level Porch from Master!
So At this point we are fully Framed in!! Winter came right after the second floor roof went on, we quickly put a rubber roof on top just to get it sealed up and then had to hold off until the warmer weather. The plan is to put a second floor Deck on top of the Main floor Porch so the master bedroom will have sliders that go onto the higher up porch with some killer views. At this point we are still framed in and don’t have decking down yet but coming soon!
The most important part of this project really is a two part issue that was repaired. First, the porch was separating from the house, and was eventually just going to fall off. Second, the second floor living area was cantilevered over the porch which was not properly supporting the living space, so all of the second floor flooring had buckled and warped and was obviously sagging. Once we jacked up the first floor porch and put new beams in, the second floor interior floors became more level – YAY! They aren’t exactly perfect yet, but when we put new flooring down inside we will be able to make the level now that the second floor is not sagging.
Once the main framing was done we poured a concrete slab underneath to provide us with a dry working space where we will stain the floor boards for the porch (the decking that you stand on).
So fresh and so clean! Much better than dirt to work on!
This project is on a slight hold while we took on another one, so stay tuned!!