Archive for the ‘uncategorized’ Category

A Sunny Day

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Posted by Rebecca, May 23rd, 2011

On Saturday the clouds finally parted for long enough for us to work on part of our spruce-up-our-landscaping project. We had some plans in the morning, then we headed straight to a local garden center to load up our car with whatever we could fit. We decided to tackle the front for now and we could only fit enough plants for one side of the front. We planned to go back to pick up a couple more shrubs for the other side, but we ran out of time.

First, I finally got to set foot on our patio!

My shoes were super muddy at one point and I actually walked around the patio. Yes, I did not want to get dirt on my patio. We admired it for a bit, then back to work it was.

The word work is an understatement actually. We have the hardest soil ever. Ever. I’ve never said this before because I’ve never had a house before and have never dug holes in the ground before. I knew I hated doing it last year and that many of our plants and portions of our sod died due to the lack of “hearty” soil (a lawn guy who knocked on our door told me that once). But when a team of concrete guys in business for 30 years told us we had the hardest soil they’ve ever seen, we were like hey! we’re not weak cry babies afterall!

I’d describe this “dirt” as peanut butter that was put in the freezer for 2 years. It probably didn’t help that it rained all week and this stuff was a million pounds. Mike and I always blamed our orange soil on the fact that our house is new and was once a pile of construction muck.

Yes that puddle is the outline of our house. We do live very near the Delaware River, but our concrete guys were local and I’m sure they would know if our clay soil was a result of that. Basically the builder took all of this muck and flattened it, then landscaped it one day. Most of our plant causalities were because the plants never rooted. I literally pulled them out of the ground in the shape of the pots they were planted in. We really wanted to avoid losing any plants because of this, so we also picked up two bags of top soil to try to mix in with our clay. You know, like on the commercial!

The only plant we picked up that wasn’t for the front yard was a hydrangea. Right after I saw the walkway leading onto our patio and the curve it produced, I knew I wanted to plant a hydrangea. We decided to get one on Saturday because I knew it would be a rainy week and hydrangeas require a lot of water to get established (hydra… get it? okay a garden center employee told me that last year). Thankfully, larger plants weren’t so bad to dig because we could use the big, leverage friendly shovel.

Here’s the pretty curve from the other side, complete with baby hydrangea.

We mixed lots of topsoil in with this guy to make sure he gets established. The tag said he’d grow to 3 feet wide, so we tried to make sure he had enough room to fill out that curve nicely.

We eventually plan to make this whole side of the walkway into a garden bed with river rock and mulch, but for now we have a random hydrangea planted in our grass. And it looks like a giant weed.

Here are the hydrangeas we planted early last year, who survived a heat wave and a winter full of blizzards. They are planted underneath our bay window and will hopefully fill in nicely some day. This picture was taken on April 8th.

And on Saturday!

The one on the right has really taken off and is ready to bloom!

Hopefully the backyard hydrangea will do just as well in our clay muck as its buddies.

Okay enough about the hydrangeas, next we added some day lilies to one of the semi-circles we have in our landscaping. I forgot to take a before, but this area had some small shrubs that died last year.

This area has so much potential and it was just lacking the color and fullness of the landscaping on the driveway side of the house. We also decided to take this bush that remained by the walkway (it’s 2 buddies died) and replant it over here in the back.

It still needs some work but it’s looking better already.

Hopefully these day lilies, which are reddish orange, will grow in nice and full like the yellow ones we have on the other side.

Next, we had to fill in these holes left from dead/moved shrubs.

We decided to make this area into a place for some seasonal flowers. We have areas on the other side where we planted some summer flowers and some mums last year, but no where on this side to balance them. We picked up some orangey flowers that resembled wildflowers since Saturday marked 3 years since we lost Sunny. Last year we decided to plant some orange flowers on his anniversary weekend and thought we’d do the same this year as a little way to let him know we haven’t forgotten him. We also picked up some tiny purpley white things.

At this point I was shaking like a leaf. Digging all of those little holes, with a little shovel, in dirt that was insanely hard was literally painful. I would rather dig out large plants than do an ice pick type of move to get these little things in. Plus I could not get them to stay straight for the life of me. The purple ones are closer to the walkway than I wanted since I was sitting and they naturally gravitated that way. When I realized this, it had started to rain on me (which felt wonderful!) and Mike tried to comfort me by telling me we could always pick up another flat of these and plant another row in between the purple ones and the orange ones to even it out. The thought of digging 24 tiny holes again is not appealing.

Then the rain came and it forced us to stop right before I collapsed. Though the weather didn’t let us put our patio furniture together, at least it held off long enough to get some gardening done and give our new plants a nice watering! 🙂

Outdoor Kitchen Plans

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Posted by Rebecca, May 19th, 2011

We’ve mentioned on here a few times about how we are planning to do an outdoor kitchen. We knew we’d like one someday, but we didn’t really think too much about it until we had our patio first drawn out and I saw this curved area.

Immediately I envisioned a caddy cornered grill here. Mike and I started looking around and found some ideas of what we were thinking of doing.

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Oh and here’s another thing I forgot to mention.. we want to build this ourselves. My brother and my sister-in-law built their own U shaped outdoor kitchen, so we have their help if we need it. I know it seems ambitious, but we’re up for the challenge. We’re not insistent DIYers or anything, but if it’s something we’d think would be fun to do, we do it. If we have no interest in doing it, we hire someone. Simple as that! This house stuff is supposed to be fun, right? So we try not to torture ourselves if we don’t want to do something.

We couldn’t find anything exactly like we had in mind through Google, so we picked up this book at Lowe’s.

I love these books, we have a basement one as well. It has TONS of information about appliance types, finishes and even some general patio advice. It also has great pictures that were different from our Google searches.

(please excuse the iPhone pictures)

We don’t want anything crazy, we’re not about to appear on an episode of cribs or anything. We want a grill, mini-fridge, some storage and Mike would like a burner. I talked to my sister-in-law and found out where they ordered their kit. A kit is basically a pre-sized steel frame that you assemble, add concrete board to, stone and insert appliances. This DIY Network page has the basic instructions, but the kit also comes with instructions and a DVD I believe.

My sister-in-law told me that they ordered their kit from a slightly shady looking website called BBQ Coach Outdoor Kitchen Supplies. I immediately spotted the New Yorker island and it looked just right!

Yes, they only have that tiny image. But! They also give the measurements.

This was wonderful because we could plan out the size of the curved portion of our patio. It was already spray painted, but when they came to pour the concrete 2 weeks ago, we had these measurements in hand and had already marked on our own about how much larger we wanted it. We ended up extending that curved area out an additional 3 feet or so, incase we ever want to put bar stools back there. Here’s an aerial, in-progress picture of the larger area.

You can also see where Mike put the conduit he blogged about under the patio to eventually run some electric to our island.

The kits allow you to choose how many appliance openings you want and also allows for some variation in the plan. They recommend that if you’re using a concrete or granite countertop to provide additional support. I think I’d like poured concrete, but we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there. We know we definitely want to cover our grill in stone similar to the stone on the front of our house, with grays and browns to blend well with our yard, patio and new furniture. It will still be pretty pricey, since the kit is around $900, but it’s still a fraction of the price it would be to hire someone to install one. Our concrete guy even told us it would be better for us to do something like this than to have him do it. Not that we asked, but he offered and when we showed him our plans and what we wanted to do, he realized we had it pretty figured out.

To give you (and me) an idea of what it would look like on our patio, I worked a little Photoshop magic.

Pretty cool huh? And since it took me all of 2 seconds to insert just the grill and I enjoy torturing myself, I decided to add some “mulch” and some of the stone we hope to add to our landscaping. Along the walkway is river rock and where the patio becomes elevated (because of the 8 inches our yard slopes from the house to the end of the patio), we think we are going to add a few inches of retaining stone to make everything look a little more level. We started to investigate all of this on Saturday, more details to come when we figure it all out.

We hope to start our grill project this summer, but who knows when it will be! After our Pottery Barn purchase, we know we’re going to take a little break and focus on doing some landscaping on our own the next few weeks (weather dependent, ugh.)

The End of an Era

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Posted by Rebecca, May 16th, 2011

First, thanks to all of you who gave me the heads up about the Pottery Barn coupon that was making the email rounds today.

Second, I did get one, but the coupon was too late 🙂

On Friday after work, Mike and I hustled our rears to Pottery Barn and bought the Chesapeake dining set. Yes after months and months of searching (which you can read about herehere and here if you’re bored), we finally took the plunge. And what a completely random plunge it was, considering my entire dining room is furnished with things from Ikea and Target.

I’m not mad about the coupon, because we weighed our options before we decided to go buy it in person. I priced out purchasing online and realized that with the high shipping costs (even with the current promotion), it was best to order it in store. We know it was expensive and kinda blew our budget. I say kinda because technically we stayed in budget, we just got half of the furniture we planned 🙂 So we don’t get a loungey area this year, but that’s okay since we’re completely in love with the set we ended up with.

The floral cushions on the stock images are killing me, so I gave you the plain ol’ view.

So what made us find this set on a Wednesday and buy it on Friday when I’ve been agonizing for weeks/months? Well here’s a list! Some of which are listed in my previous post, but hey, I like justifying expensive purchases 🙂

1. We love it, which we could only say about the uber expensive Ventura set from Crate and Barrel before this guy came around.

2. It is still a fraction of the cost of the astronomically priced (have I mentioned that before?) Ventura set, and we actually like this set more.

3. It is solid wood and can be sanded and refinished rather than having a cheap set get crummy or go out of style in several years.

4. The table extends to 104 inches long and the extensions are stored underneath the table. Plus the chairs stack for storage. We realize that even with just either of our immediate families, we need more than 6 seats. Why buy a nice table if we always have to stick a folding table at the end?

5. We can add to this over time and mix and match other pieces of differing styles. I was having a hard time thinking of what I could add to the wicker sets I was previously eyeing. Plus doing this makes it a little more budget friendly.

6. I think this style better suits the patio, but I had to see the patio done first to realize this one.

7. I just finished 2 graduate classes with 101 average in one and a 99.6 in the other. Work hard, play harder 🙂

8. My twitter friends said I should buy it.

9. We want to sit on the patio this summer, and we’re not getting any younger here.

10. I nearly died this past week, please refer to number 7.

We also picked up a bench to use when the table is extended, rather than picking up extra chairs. We figure we can also use the bench as extra loungey seating, plus I’ve always wanted a table with a bench!

The only “extra” we purchased was 2 of these throw pillows which were 20% off.

I’ve wanted wide striped pillows for ages and I figured I’d make my own, but for around $20 for these pretty large pillows I figured I couldn’t do much cheaper. Oh and I haven’t used my sewing machine yet, so actually making them may not have happened this summer.  I plan on sticking these on some plastic adirondack chairs we already have to make them look a little nicer until we can do better. We didn’t pick up any of the chair cushions that went with the table or anything because a) I don’t know if we want them and b) I can get them cheaper elsewhere. We started with the bare minimum for now.

We opened a Pottery Barn credit card to receive 10% back in reward points. With the money we’ll be getting back, we’re thinking of buying a fresca blue square umbrella.

It’s amazing, I thought I wanted such a bright and fun backyard but once it started to come together, it just wasn’t screaming bright fiesta. I guess sometimes you can’t plan these things out no matter how much you think you have your mind set!

So we justified, planned what to get and purchased it. Shockingly, the store had every single piece in stock. We have an SUV now, so no problem, right? Wrong. The table box was ginormous. So on Friday, we left with only 3 chairs and a bench.

We asked my parents to come down yesterday with my dad’s pickup and we were able to get the table and remaining 3 chairs. Thank goodness they followed us to Pottery Barn because only the table and 2 chairs fit in his pickup (he has a hard top on it) and we were able to take the final chair. I meant to take a picture of the boxy chaos, but I forgot.

I wish I had a set up after picture to show, but sadly, it rained all weekend and this is what the weather is looking like for the rest of the week.

Whooomp whoomp. Sunday is supposed to be clear so hopefully we can put our furniture together then. Supposedly we “just have to put the legs on” (Pottery Barn Employee, 2011). I hope you get what you pay for in the assembly department and we’re not battling an Ikea-esque purchase. Though I must say, Ikea has gotten way better the past 2-3 years. Anywho, the minute this thing is together I will be snapping pictures!

ps- I’m still recovering from this semester (see #7 and #10 above), so I know I’m way behind in housekeeping around here. I owe everyone an updated blog feed, I wasn’t getting email notifications when I received comments so I’ve been awful at responding to those, and I have 8 million projects left unfinished. I’m slowly easing my way back into blog loving, so bear with me 🙂

Sprucing Up

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Posted by Rebecca, April 22nd, 2011

I mentioned last week that Mike and I had spent some time in the front yard clearing the death. Though we haven’t had a chance to do much other than just making it look not-bad, I figured I’d share some pictures until it looks just plain old good. So here we go, in mostly pictures 🙂

Two out of three bushes dead! Still thinking of what to replace them with…

The other side at least had some signs of life coming up in the middle of all that death.

Plus some mum skeletons mixed in.

But! The two hydrangeas we planted last year are sprouting up! I was a little worried about them because we planted them late. They had beautiful blue flowers on them, then we got hit with a killer heat wave in early June and all of the flowers fell off 🙁 The leaves stayed green, but they didn’t bloom ever again. Hopefully this year I can have flowers for long enough to put some around the house!

Hot mess going on in our little island garden.

So I gave them a little (okay a lot of) a haircut. That’s Mike in the background dealing with our dead patches of sod, from above mentioned heat wave last year.

Then I pulled out all of the plant skeletons.

And things started looking much better!

Reseeded (and thanks to the rain this week, it’s green now!)

So now we just need to keep seeding our hearts out, doing rain dances (for the grass and the hydrangeas!), hunt down some replacement plants and freshen up the mulch in some spots and we’re good to go! 🙂

Office Bribery

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Posted by Rebecca, February 24th, 2011

Tonight we started to put our office back together. I say started because the process will probably take us most of the weekend. Over the past couple of months, the office as become a dumping ground of sorts for tools, vacuums, holiday decor, gifts, clothes that need to be donated and a million other things. It drove me insane, but I knew the organizing part was a huge undertaking that we would need to plan for. The miscellaneous junk is currently being housed in the entryway…

The office is a no cat zone at night (they like to chew wires, we apparently raised puppies), so anything that needs to be kept away from them gets closed up behind those french doors. It is definitely our most useful room because of those french doors, so nice, neat storage is key.

We moved our desks back in last night, Lucy and Desi also made the move…

Considering they were framed and matted for our previous office, they look quite good in here! I am looking forward to getting them up on the wall soon! (please excuse all of the nighttime pictures, this all literally happened tonight)

We also moved in our Expedit bookcase and put together some storage cubes that we bought way back when we got the bookcase in the fall. The green as an accent will be staying, but the purpley boxes and trays will probably get a makeover since they don’t go with our last minute, more gray than purple paint decision…

Oh, and we bought and mounted a TV while we were at it…

I know, somewhere an interior designer is crying. You see, the painting of the stripes story had a little part I left out. When I asked Mike if he wanted to paint stripes on Friday afternoon, he said he would only agree to it if he could put a TV over the bookcase. Of course I said yes! I like to work with noise in the background and I figured if I could look up and glance at HGTV or How I Met Your Mother reruns every now and then, I wouldn’t feel like I was sitting at my desk at my day job or anything. Plus I really wanted to paint stripes last weekend…

So that was Friday, then we painted stripes and touched up through Sunday. On Monday, Mike was off for President’s Day and I was at work. I got a phone call from him telling me he drove an hour away and bought a TV on sale. Leave it to my husband to not procrastinate a single day when he’s searching for electronics! I trust his judgement and we did talk a little bit about how we didn’t want the TV to be bigger than the bookcase. So we got a 26″ LG TV with a low profile swivel mount.

The location above the bookcase means that a) we can hide all wires and devices within the bookcase and b) it can’t be seen from the entryway when you look into the room. In this picture, the screen is turned to face Mike’s desk…

The wires still need to be concealed since we just mounted this tonight. We’re planning on making an Ikea trip this weekend to buy some doors for two of the bookcase openings to hide the Mac Mini we have in there. Then it’s time to organize and find a home for everything else! I can’t wait to finally have some organization in my life 🙂

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