Archive for the ‘outdoor space’ Category

Hello Mid-June

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Posted by Rebecca, June 14th, 2011

Remember back when Mike and I had big landscaping dreams? Okay they weren’t big dreams, we just wanted to dig up some plants, add a little fresh mulch and some river rock edging, sort of like these pictures I pinned on Pinterest.

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We wanted to do all of this before it got brutally hot, especially since last year we were mulching into July. Pale ol’ me doesn’t do direct sunlight well and our front yard has loooads of it. I looked at the calendar this weekend and somehow it is MID-JUNE.

This wouldn’t be so bad if the temps were in the 80s or so, but for several days last week we were in the triple digits. We actually did bring our grass back to life in all of our problem areas and it was looking fabulous this spring.

Our daylilies finally bloomed.

And our hydrangeas were growing like weeds!


As we saw the forecast for last week, Mike’s response was “well it was nice having green grass for a while!” I thought he was being pessimistic, but nope…


My poor hydrangeas had a few droopy moments in between watering and I thought I’d lose their flowers to the heat like I did last summer. We thought about doing a sprinkler system last year when our grass got fried, but I honestly forgot about it this year until every neighbor around us had them installed. We already committed to the patio and we just decided we’d rather spend our money on other things. Which means we run outside and move our standard sprinklers several times a night, while our whole block probably chuckles. We sort of have to do this because our association will get on us if our grass starts looking too neglected. Granted, I’m pretty sure extreme heat is a good excuse but we can’t let it completely die without someone complaining. It’s good and bad all at the same time. It maintains the value and curb appeal of our neighborhood, but forces us to move our fiesty sprinklers. Last night Mike took a straight shot to the crotch and looked like he peed his pants. I wish I had a photo.

With summer quickly flying by and scorching us at the same time, we have decided not to do anymore landscaping in the front this year. We are already booked with weekend plans for the rest of June and a chunk of July. We’ve decided we want to enjoy life on the weekends and spend some time on our patio, catching up with friends and just doing some summery things. And for those weekends where it’s 100 degrees and we can’t breathe outside? We have plenty of indoor projects we’re looking forward to finishing and we just bought a pneumatic nail gun to do so 🙂

For now, we’re just planning on pulling these guys regularly and adding a tiny bit more mulch along the edges of the walkway where it’s always weedy (okay a good amount of the weeds are actually stray grass from when we seeded).


We have a couple of extra bags of mulch from last year and we can always pick up more just to maintain the front. But as for any major redesigning? I’d rather be making s’mores at this point in the summer 🙂

I made a lengthy to-do list early in the summer full of things to do around the house and the blog during my semi-hiatus from grad school (I’m still taking 2 online electives this summer). But I think I’m going to kick the list to the curb and just wing things this summer. I have to stop getting mad at myself for not accomplishing enough, when I’m pretty sure I run around like a busy looney 90% of the time. It’s just in my nature as a nerd. You know those kids in school who were mad if they got a 95 on a test? That’s me. As an adult. In fact I did that just two nights ago with a quiz. So in an attempt to stop being so hard on myself, I don’t think I’m going to look at that list this summer.

Okay for at least this week 😉

Fiery

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Posted by Rebecca, June 7th, 2011

During one of our trips to Lowe’s this weekend, we picked up a fire pit. We’ve always wanted one, as evidenced in this early sketch done by Mike…

We didn’t want to do a built in fire pit, because we’ve never had one before and wanted to see how often we’d use it before committing to something permanent. Plus I think we like the idea of moving it out of the way if we need the area for more tables or something. So, we decided not to be picky and just go with a fire pit from Target, Lowe’s, etc. Normally I know every single type of whatever I’m looking to buy that exists. I pretty much memorize inventory just to make sure I find the perfect (insert house item here). But in the fire pit category, I was just going for something classy and modern that wouldn’t break the bank. When we spotted a square fire pit with a mosaic tile surround, I couldn’t say no.

They didn’t have one of these on display, so we purchased it based on the image on the box. I liked the raised panel look on the sides and I thought the base was brown. Turns out it’s black, which I was totally disappointed in, but we decided to keep it as a) the box was 95 lbs and b) Mike assured me if I hated it I could spray paint it with high heat spray paint meant for barbeque grills. Once it was all together and in place, it didn’t bother me so much, though its style is a little more predictable than I thought it would be.

Once everything comes together and we fully furnish, landscape and accessorize this space over time, I am sure this fire pit will fit in just nicely.

Mike hates those plastic adirondack chairs. With each passing day, I think he hates them more. They’re a temporary solution since we blew our furniture budget on our Pottery Barn table and chairs.  We would love a couch, since Mike and I are incredibly lame and like to sit next to each other, plus 2 chairs to round out the area. Mike thinks it would be awesome to build a curved piece of furniture somehow. I agree, I just have no clue how to tackle that one. I’ll have to consult Ana White 🙂

We wasted no time putting our fresh outta the box fire pit to good use (the following pictures were taken with my iPhone)

Confession: I have never made s’mores that didn’t come out of a microwave. I am no longer a rookie 🙂

We went to Target for some random things on Sunday and just out of pure luck walked by a s’mores display. It was the perfect setup for us rookies. I think we snatched up one of everything. The edge of the fire pit had the unexpected perk of acting as a tabletop and is a great area for phones when there’s no fire going.

These extendable forks were key. I think they were $7.99 for a set of 4. Another confession: I am the exact opposite of a pyromaniac. Fire terrifies me. I jumped out of fear that the fire was attacking me about 39 times, so the extendable forks allowed me to sit as far away as humanely possible while I toasted my ‘mallow.

Eventually, I gathered enough courage to toast my feet as the sun set and it got chilly.

I took some night pictures, but there isn’t much to see besides a fire. Mike thought of building some sort of wooden top for the fire pit when it’s not in use so that it looks/functions more like a table. Can you tell we’re itching to build something? 🙂 I think it’s a great idea to best use the space as a fire pit/coffee table area!

Stained

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Posted by Rebecca, June 6th, 2011

This weekend was uncharacteristically cool with temperatures in the 70s or so both days. I wanted to give the house a good spring cleaning (yes I know, it’s nearly summer) and my closet needed to be organized. But we couldn’t resist the chance to work outside without sweating or getting sunburn, so we decided to tackle a project on our outdoor to-do list. Mike put in his vote for staining the stairs that lead to our patio.

We started later than planned on Saturday since we had some errands to run and we were trying to decide what project to tackle. Once we decided to stain the stairs, we figured we just go to Benjamin Moore (which just happens to be around the corner from our house) to get Pottery Barn’s Chesapeake Brown stain. This is the color of our outdoor furniture and once we saw that they sold the color at Benjamin Moore, we figured it would be an easy choice. We went to our local Benjamin Moore store and they didn’t carry their own brand of stain! We debated whether or not to go to another Benjamin Moore, but we figured since it was already noon we’d just head back to Lowe’s (we had already been over there) and choose a dark stain. Our furniture is a dark brown so we figured it wouldn’t be too hard to get something similar.

We ended up choosing Cabot Semi-Solid Deck Stain in Cordovan Brown. It was literally the darkest color Lowe’s had and it had to be mixed. I took a before picture, but I apparently butchered some settings on the camera when I did so the picture looks like a trippy x-ray. But here’s the can while we were using it 🙂

We have never stained anything before and didn’t know anything about the products. We chose something that said it was meant for the outdoors and then basically went for a color. However, this stuff stunk and I was not a fan of that.

We had to clean off the stairs first, since they were covered in some dirt from the patio process. I used a scrubby brush we bought for our laundry room floor that we haven’t used yet.

Who’s that 14 year old boy?? No wait, that’s just me… wearing a men’s shirt and a hat. I just got my hair cut last week and it’s in that too-short-for-ponytail phase, so I needed the hat to keep it out of the stain.

We had some plans Saturday night, so we were only able to tackle the outside and railing/spindles. We saved the areas we had to walk on for last so that we could get up and down the stairs for as long as possible.

I also suffered from several splinters in my…pants. Sitting like this and scooting around made me jump out of my seat several times. Luckily my pants were thick enough to protect from serious injury and/or death 🙂

We had to stop for the night around 5 and when I got out of the shower the stairs looked like this…

Yes, it started raining on our hard work minutes after we stopped. Thankfully, it didn’t ruin anything or cause stain to run all over our patio. But can I just say that the weather is a jerk?? This has been happening to us for weeks. I specifically checked the weather and wanted to stain on Saturday because it was supposed to be dry, while Sunday was supposed to have thunderstorms. But of course, Sunday was dry…

Day 2 began the staining of the walkable areas. We started earlier because, you know, I was waiting for those afternoon thunderstorms that never came.

The large, deck portion was a breeze. I thought because it had the greatest area it would be hard, but it went so fast and was pretty fun to do.

The steps were not so fun and took much longer. There were so many pieces of wood and edges hugging the house that it took some attention to detail.

By early afternoon yesterday, we were all done and just waiting for it to dry!

I went outside today to check on the drying process. It was dry to the touch, but I was a little disappointed to see that there was some obvious unevenness. We didn’t wipe off the excess stain, mostly because we wanted it to be dark and because I was putting on thin coats and essentially dry brushing the heck out of it. Mike did most of the outside parts and he put his stain on thicker. So some spots I assumed were wet are actually permanently shiny. I noticed the thicker stain on Saturday and tried to wipe and dry brush the areas out, but it was too late 🙁

I’m planning on sanding down these super shiny areas and re-staining them to look a little more rustic like the other parts. Rookie lesson learned- make sure you’re both using the same staining method when working in a team 🙂 No big deal, you live and you learn.

psst- I’m linking this post up to Thrifty Decor Chick’s Before & After Party today 🙂

All Clear

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Posted by Rebecca, June 3rd, 2011

After a little photo mishap, a partial breakdown and a husband who came to my rescue by recovering my files, I am happy to report on our freshly cleared backyard!

The process started yesterday when a team of people pulled up to our house at 7:30 am and immediately started hacking away at our brush. They were so fast that by the time I left for work at 8:30, a good portion of our mess was flattened. How did they work so fast? They started with chainsaws and machetes. Mike and I were very happy to leave this one to professionals, could you imagine this scene?

We just so happened to pick the most graphic photos ever. But I laughed hysterically at that random head in Mike’s hand. Please substitute tree sap for blood and branches for faux head. Don’t worry, we aren’t really serial killers 🙂

But really, we are very accident prone. There may have been in incident last week involving a laptop and Mike’s face. And there may have been blood. I’m not sure I’m allowed to speak about it, but let’s just say that coding SongMeanings is apparently dangerous…

So after some tree hacking, done by professionals, our backyard is looking wonderful!! First, some before pictures…

This next picture looks like it was taken from under the stairs. I promise I was not sitting under there 🙂

Here are some close-ups of the dead and dying trees that were hanging around back there.

And the much more lively looking after pictures!

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the unexpected perks of our backyard is that our house acts as a natural awning for most of the day 🙂

We were enjoying the view and the weather so much that we decided to bring our dinner outside 🙂

We made some homemade pizza with fresh spinach since our organic farm membership started up again this week.

Mike took an after dinner walk to our new-found land and I love this picture for perspective…

Since I know it’s very hard to visualize spaces in pictures, I took before and after videos. I apologize if anyone gets sea sick from my after video. I was walking on the new dirt back there and it’s super soft, so I was stumbling around a bit 🙂

The Before Video:

The After Video:

The videos weren’t taken from the same exact place, since where I’m standing in the after is technically in the old brush, but you get the general idea 🙂

Now we’re looking forward to throwing some grass seed back there, maybe uplighting our freshened up trees and just enjoying our new view!

Land Ahead

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Posted by Rebecca, June 1st, 2011

Today started the backyard clearing process! When our house was built, the land was only cleared to a certain extent. We have a lot of sticky bush type things, dead trees and even an old log hanging out in our backyard. They all clearly had to go so we could enjoy all of our space, since we couldn’t even see our property markers before today. It’s not completely done yet, so I only took a few pictures to share and hopefully I can give you some before and afters when it’s all done tomorrow.

Here is the right side. All the way to the right you can see our neighbors also had their brush cleared and theirs is all done and looking pretty 🙂

A little more center…

Sort of left center…

And left field side.

We still have 3 dead trees that are getting cut down tomorrow, which is good news considering NJ has a tornado watch in effect tonight. I’ve never lived in an area of tornado watches in my 27 years living here. Yeah so, all the more motivation to get rid of trees that may fall on my house in high winds 🙂

Oh! More good news! Our tree buddy is going to dump our pile of wood at the back of the property line so that we don’t have to carry each of those pieces back there! Yay!

The backyard looks 10 times better already. I’m already thinking of whether I could defy the odds and grow grass in the summer. Hm worth a shot in the shady area between those trees? Then maybe I can do this, which I found on Pinterest…

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Or maybe build a kick ass treehouse, also found on Pinterest?

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Time will tell what we do with our new found land!

ps- two days later and both hydrangeas in the front yard are blooming!

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