The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: Life Happening Page 1 of 14

Life happening | House tours | Holidays

Welcome, 2024!

As I grow older and older, new year no longer feels like a new start. Work continues, renovation continues, and life continues as it is. But I still like to set an intention for the upcoming year. In 2023, I hoped to evolve into a more active and fulfilling life; and I think we somewhat achieved it by becoming foster parents for shelter dogs. It was not the exact fun activity I planned at the beginning of the year – I was thinking more about hiking and snowboarding, ha! But seeing our foster pups finding their forever homes was immensely satisfying.

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But looking back 2023, there were also things I should have done, or at least gotten started. Interestingly, the reason I didn’t try was not because of the fear of complete failure, but rather less superb results. This is easily seen from my work projects. Since having my own lab, I no longer have access to the top-notch technology and equipment I used to have during my postdoctoral training. I could have developed some cheaper and less impressive alternative strategies to achieve basically the same results, but I just stayed away from these experiments all together. Subconsciously, I might be thinking that if I could not done it in the best way possible, I should not even try it.

Because of the same attitude, I did not perform as many home projects either. Post-renovation fatigue was real and we took a good a couple months not doing any home renovations after our kitchen renovation. But during 2023, there were a few projects I really wanted to tackle, but we didn’t. One example is rebuilding our back fence.

When we moved in, we had wooden fence at the very back of our property and chain link fence on all other sides.

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We have since replaced the chain link fence with horizontal cedar fencing. Slav and I built the fence ourselves which is still holding up very well after five years.

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We did not replace the back fence at the time due to limited budget and time. But we knew that the time of this back fence was numbered. Although it looked OK from distance, it had many splits and broken boards. In 2021, some fence panels started to detach from the posts; we had to add supports from the back.

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It was also built with different wood species. Some panels are made of cedar boards, which naturally turned grey. But some are made of redwood, which stayed yellowish red all year around. Finally, I could not take the patchy look anymore and painted the yellow panels grey/black to match the rest.

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When 2023 started I wanted to have the back fence replaced so bad. But when the Fall came to the end, we realized that we have missed another year of opportunity. Slav did not have as much time in his hands, so we were afraid that we would not be able to do as good a job as we did for the side fence. Once again, we tolerated a really bad situation for the fear of not to have a perfect outcome. It is almost silly to let the concern of not being perfect to get in the way of the good.

Another example is the need of changing the color of the garage door. Since we installed the new roof, painting the garage door in the same color as the fascia and soffit has been on my to-do list. But at the same time, I was worried that painting such a large surface so dark would not work. In the past six years, I have changed my idea so many times on what color to paint – red, white, almond, even painting a mural on it. But every winter, we ended up with the same, boring brown. So one day I asked myself – if the color I picked does not work, what will be there to lose? We might have to live with a color we do not like for a few months, but we have been tolerating this color we hate for six years now.

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It is interesting that when it comes to gardening, I had a lot more tolerance for imperfection. Maybe it is because I can always get it right the next year? But I could apply the same attitude to hardscaping project such as a fence, or my work projects. Not trying it obviously does not yield the results I am hoping for. So why let the perfect be the enemy of the good? For 2024, on both work and home project fronts of things, I would like it to be the year of

Don't Let The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good

That means I need to identify the most important tasks I want to accomplish, for work and home. I will put the fear of imperfect outcome aside, and just do my best to achieve the best outcome possible. I might not be about to get an A+ I hoped for, but as least I will finish what needs to be done and likely learn from the experience. So here you have it, my 2024 intention! Watch me in 2024, everyone!

The Days in May and Happy House Anniversary!

I cannot believe how quickly the last six weeks flew by. Our little ranch was buzzing with activities during the whole month of May. Slav’s mom visited us for a couple weeks, then Slav took a business trip to Netherland. He unfortunately got sick during the trip, and a few days after he was back home, my symptoms started. We both had to work intensely during the sick days, which really slowed down the recovery. By the time we were fully (90%) back on our feet, it was already mid-June.

Sickness and deadlines aside, this May has been amazingly beautiful. Colorado got record-breaking amount of rain, and the garden really flourished. We took the opportunity and overseeded lawn grass. The result was so satisfying.

Remember the magnolia tree I planted last Fall, right before the first snow storm? it bloomed the most beautiful flower ever:

The unusual cool and wet spring delayed the blooming time of many early spring flowers. We had hellebore flowers side by side with irises, which never happened before.

My birthday was at the end of May. My mother-in-law gifted me a beautiful lily to add to my collection. And it bloomed immediately after I planted it into the lily garden.

We also welcomed several new friends to the garden. A weeping Alaska cedar, two weeping redbud trees, and a wisteria which I had been wanting for a long time. All of them were planted around the hot tub to add privacy.

And there are peonies. Oh the peonies. This is only the third Spring since the bareroot plants were in the ground. They stayed small during the first two years and did not produce any flowers. But they must be establishing good roots because this Spring, every single plant proudly presented several buds to me. I cut off most of the buds to conserve energy for these young plants. But I let a couple bud from each plant to bloom just to see what I’ve gotten. These flowers were so beautiful and fragrant. Some of them are as big as my palm! I think I am a little addicted.

By mid-June the herb garden has fully come back. I got some comfrey cuttings online and only one out of three cuttings survived. But in just one season, this surviving comfrey has established herself and produced many flowers. Comfrey is a nitrogen fixer and it is easy to soak its leaves in plain water to make comfrey tea as fertilizer. I have been making the comfrey tea every week and give it to my tomatoes.

Speaking of tomatoes, the veggie garden has been an absolute joy this spring. Before leaving town for his business trip, Slav helped me to top all the veggie beds with a layer of fresh compost, and fenced off the whole veggie garden with cattle panels.

With the garden prepared and protected (from Charlie actually, who ate lots of garden produce last summer), I planted my seedlings. I have raised about 100 seedlings mostly tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, pumpkings, and flowers. And everything went into the ground during the last week of May.

Very soon we started harvesting from the veggie garden, which included garlic scapes from the garlic heads I planted last Fall, and lettuces and radishes I directly sowed into the veggie garden in early May. With the recent rain, we are able to harvest fresh lettuce every day for salads. What a treat!

Garlic scape might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was one of my favorite vegetables growing up. Just like strawberries, they were only available during the last a two weeks of May, which was around my birthday. So growing up, stir-fry garlic scapes and strawberry were my birthday treats. This Spring has been so cool that my garlic scapes grew in slowly. I was able to enjoy them for almost four weeks long and at their freshest.

June is now a month that holds special place in my heart. We bought and moved into our little ranch in June of 2017. Although the house was outdated and badly needed a facelift, it was our first pad and a peaceful nest for us and the dogs. Since then, we have been slowly renovating the house, room by room, in the way that hopefully represents us. The once carpeted, dark, and moldy house is now bright, open, and clean. I am so proud of what we have created, which is not only a house, but also a home. Watching Roxie, Charlie, and the previous Charlie being relaxed and comfortable in our home makes me so proud.

 

Suddenly we are in late June. Yesterday, we had our first 80 degree day. The summer is upon us and I cannot wait to see the veggie garden flourish. We need some heat for that!

I am sure that we will be harvesting garlic (usually in July), tomatoes (August), and melons (September), then the leaves will start turning colors before we know it. Colorado summer is so short, and we need to make the best of it! I hope you are enjoy your summer too!

Welcoming the New Season

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you are well rested after the holiday break. Slav and I went to Poland and spent Christmas with his family. While we were there, we travelled around by train and visited the Malbork Castle, the largest castle in the world. We enjoyed every minute of it.

In late 2022 I took a long break from the blog. It was a much needed rest after the kitchen renovation. But we did not stop renovating. Since the inside of the house was mostly updated (the kitchen was the last room renovated), we turned our attention to the backyard, and completed several landscaping projects before the winter hit. These projects largely changed how we utilize our backyard in the future. I cannot wait to show you these projects here on the blog.

I certainly did not document 2022 as much as before. It has been a weird year to remember. Hopes were high for returning to normal at the beginning, and we kinda did at the end, just not the live we had before. The first big impact to our lives in 2022 was Charlie’s passing. It was just the beginning of February, the second day after Chinese New Year, Charlie went to the vet and never came back. We were all heartbroken for weeks, including Roxie who became very inactive and was visibly depressed.

We knew the only way out was through. So while giving lots of attention to Roxie, we threw ourselves into work and renovation projects. The kitchen renovation started in March and kept our minds occupied for months. In early July, as soon as we wrapped up the kitchen reno and put the first floor furniture back to place, we knew it was time to bring a new dog to our pack. It did not take long before we welcomed Banana peels, a hound/Labrador mix from Soul Dog Rescue to our home. We renamed him Charlie to remember our old friend, and the new Charlie has kept all of us active, busy, and happier since.

Besides losing and adopting pets, we’ve seen more from the circle of life in 2022. In Spring, our best friends welcomed their first baby to the world, a sweet little girl. Slav became a Godfather and attended the baptism. Since then, we facetimed with her often, and had such a joy watching her grow. Unfortunately there was loses as well. Just before Thanksgiving, Slav lost a good friend, who was about our age. This accident shook us. We spent so many nights talking about him, his life, and reflecting on ours. We felt so grateful to have each other, and nothing like losing someone you love makes you reevaluated your own life choices.

2022 was an extra challenging year at work. The good part is that we both made big strides at our respective workplaces. We both took on management roles and became more involved in decision making and strategic planning. But at the same time, new responsibilities resulted in more fragmented time schedules, more stress and anxiety, and urgent demand for new skills. These was more pay and more excitment at work, but also more trial and error which definitely flared up my inner imposter syndrome. We did our best, barely kept up, and communicated as much as we could (not enough!) with each other.

We had a busy year at home. The first half of the year was devoted to the biggest house project to date – the kitchen gut-renovation. It was definitely the most complex project to us, but we managed to produce a splendid result without much chaos. We then finished several big projects in the backyard, which included some labor-intensive hardscaping and planting the last bare spot in our yard. It was however, very satisfying to finally put our touch on every square feet of our property. It felt like such a splendid ending on this multi-year project.

I’m proud of us for the year we’ve worked through. But I also believe that we could do better in the new season. 2023 will be our year of evolving. We will establish a new work-life balance, develop new social circles, and improve our relationship with each other as the circumstance changes around us. We will be married for 10 years this summer. And for a large part, we rely on each other as collaborators – supporting each other’s career, co-managing the dogs, and partnering in house tasks and renovations. Now, we have created a life and a home filled with the people and the things we love. 2023 should be the time we start enjoying it as hard as we were working on it. Maybe 2023 will be the year we become friends again, just like when we first met, to explore the great outdoors we moved here for together and to make new memories. Maybe 2023 can be the year for new hobbies and experiences, in which we spend more time on what is fulfilling, but not out of necessity.

2023 also marks six years on this blog. Always and forever, thank you for being a part of our lives. Sharing our stories has been a joyful journey and an important outlet for me. I hope it brings you happiness and comfort in watching our growth as well. I want to wish you a happy, healthy, and hopeful 2023. We will be here, and I hope you will too.

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