After a week of travel and some catching-up at work, I am FINALLY back to the blog. Thank you so much for continuing to read and check back. It is very encouraging for a new blogger like me to see the blog traffic did not drop entirely down to zero. ūüôā

I spent the last week of March in Southern California for work.¬†For the most part, I stayed in Riverside, where Slav and I got our PhDs (in Neuroscience, in case you are wondering). I got to visit the houses we lived in, dine with old friends in our favorite restaurants, and walk around the campus¬†in which we spent 5 years learning, doing research, and teaching. Walking down the memory lane was fun and gave me deep appreciation for how far we’ve come, but I also missed home terribly. Maybe age has something to do with it, but I do not enjoy being away from home for this long.

One thing I never paid attention to when I lived in SoCal, is its¬†mission-style, Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. It turns out that the ceramic tile roof, the white stucco wall, and the arched front porches totally burned into my mind and have been subconsciously influencing my design decisions. Remember the phase II plans¬†for our back patio? That is pretty much what Spanish Revival porches look like. Interestingly, we also lived in North Carolina for equal amount of time (>5 years), but I’ve never developed the same interest in Federal and Georgian-style southern houses.

Spring Cleaning – Pantry Closet

Since coming back, unsurprisingly, I was swamped with work. But we did manage to work on a few small things in and around the house. For example, as part of the spring cleaning and purging effort, we reorganized our pantry closet.

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It does not look like a superior product, but it is a lot more functional than the before:

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The original closet lacks shelving, so things tend to pile up and hard to find. One night, as I was cooking dinner, Slav added a couple shelves above and below the existing shelves.¬†Adding these shelves could not be simpler: the cleats were already in place, and we have some leftover 5/8″ plywood from making the¬†floating nightstand. Slav ripped down the plywood to size and popped them over the cleats – no nails or screws needed. This upgrade almost doubled the holding power of our pantry, so everything we store here can be organized to one layer and easy to find:

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To top shelf holds plastics. We are trying to cut down the plastic use, so I intentionally put them up high and make them hard to reach.

Dog treats and medicine were stored on the second shelf – We have a treat jar for dogs in the kitchen so these are just refills. The medicine is bulk ingredients for mixing¬†Charlie’s joint supplement. If you have an older dog and want to make their joints healthier for longer, I highly recommend to mix your own joint supplements opposed to buy from pet stores. You can find all the pure ingredients online in bulk and in pharmaceutical grade. It is not only cheaper, but also you can control exactly what and how much your pet is taking. This sheet shows what and how much we give to our 10-year-old lab Charlie, you can use it to calculate how much your pets need based on their weight.

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The next two shelves hold our dry goods, sauces, and spices. We are eliminating some upper cabinets in our kitchen soon, so this pantry has to work harder to hold our spices. Putting sauces on Lazy Susans makes everything we need visible and easy to reach. For $10 a pop, they are god-sent.

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Pasta, grains, and cleaning supplies are located at the bottom. Pretty neat, right?

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We also added shelves into our toiletry closet next to our bathroom. Giving everything a dedicated and relatively permanent space not only makes keeping track and finding supplies quicker, but also makes cleaning inside the closets a lot easier. It is our intention to have a low-maintenance and low-consumption style of life, so there is less stress and more time to create. Having well-organized closets with spare room shall help.

Planting Fruit Trees

In addition to cleaning, Spring is also time to plant. We are currently experiencing a massive attack of analysis paralysis due to lack of landscaping experience. Yard work was easy last year, because all we needed to do was to fix obvious problems, such as getting rid of overgrown bushes and dead trees, power-washing the fence, and doing a gut-job on our garden shed (including demo, rebuild, paint, organization, and finishing touches). But this year we need to create, which feels like a much bigger responsibility.

There is no right way for gardening, so we decided to just follow our heart and plant whatever we want, starting with fruit trees.

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We planted five trees in total, including a Honey Crisp apple, a nectarine, two different cherries, and a peach. These bare-root fruit trees are only $12 a pop in Costco, making them good subjects to experimenting with.

Slav picked the cherry trees. One of the best memories from his childhood was climbing onto his parents’ cherry tree and eating fresh cherries. Apparently, his childhood cherry tree no longer exists. ūüôĀ So this 36 year-old man decides to recreate this magic happiness in our yard.

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We also got a honey crisp apple, a nectarine, and a peach, all of which we love and purchase constantly. They will likely spend the first a couple years growing to full size, and start producing delicious fruits in year 4. We planted them 14 feet apart to allow them to come to full size. By lining them along the back fence, we hope the mature trees also function as a privacy fence and hide the mix-and-match back fence.

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This is our first time growing fruit trees, so we followed the instructions to a tee. Fingers crossed!

Other Gardening Plans for 2018

We also plan to add a privacy hedge along our northern fence. This portion has double fencing – our neighbor’s wood fence and our chain link fence, with quite a few trees in between.

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The tree root started damaging neighbor’s wooden fence, which prevents us from taking down the chain link fence that we deeply hate. Since these trees do not provide flower or fruit, and appear to be quite invasive, Slav made the decision to cut all of them so he can fix neighbor’s fence, take down our chain link fence, and plant a privacy hedge instead. It will be a fairly big and expensive operation for which we need to coordinate with our neighbors. But if we could pull it off, we will have¬†complete privacy in our backyard in just a few years.

The last thing we want to do this year in our yard is to experiment with vegetable gardening. Colorado receives only 8″~15″ precipitation each year, most of which during winter. So replacing turf with¬†urban farming and Xeriscape is one serious matter to us. Among drought, heavy clay soil, and wind and hail, gardening vegetable will be a very different experience from what we had in North Carolina. This year’s goal is simply experimenting different methods of¬†amending soil and watering, in preparation for bigger garden next year. To set us up for success, I¬†ordered a¬†veggie garden starter kit from¬†Resource Central, which includes starter plant that are drought-resistant and locally raised. I also ordered their¬†honey bee heaven garden kit¬†to bring more pollinator into our yard.

Being warm and nice outside today, I shot a short video of our yard and explained our landscaping goals for you. Among the fencing, privacy hedge planting, and veggie and perennial beds, we will be busy as a bee!