Spring are you here yet?


This is a draft of our new back yard!  Start date is March 1st (assuming weather doesn’t delay).

Finally visions of a usable space, not a landscaped neglected mess is upon us.  You can’t tell from this draft but our backyard has a slope to it — probably 5 feet in total from the porch to the top of a large retaining wall  (where “remove holly” is in the draft above) that divides the usable yard from the alley.   We are going to get two flat sections with one 2 ft retaining wall dividing the sections which will be accessible by stairs (or for the bold child leaping over a landscaped bed of ornamental grass).  Our graded flat sections will be filled with grass!  Luxurious green grass! Not mulch and weeds and damn azaleas. There won’t be ONE azalea back there thank you very much.  It’s going to be a dull boring grass filled back yard but it will for once be usable and maybe even have room for a jungle gym.  The small landscaped beds in front of the 2 ft retaining wall will give me an option of planting some flowers when and if the kids decide helping to plant flowers is fun.

Surrounding it all (OK 2 sides) will be a 6 ft privacy fence to keep children from leaping over the larger alley retaining wall, and to hide our neighbors yard (which is just a wasteland since she doesn’t maintain it).

I can just see me sitting out there in May with a babe, on a porch swing watching Sydney roll around in the grass.  Is it spring yet?


Seeing the difference

This past January we had to do the not so fun home-moanership task of replacing our aging Furnace and AC unit.  The AC unit was actually not as old as the furnace, which was installed sometime in the late 70’s, but it was what triggered the need since each time it ran…and it ran a LOT… it blew the fuse in our electrical box (don’t ask me why but it was really annoying).  Because our furnace was so old and we had issues with keeping the entire house warm (puny blower) we went all out and just got everything replaced.  This wasn’t a cheap venture but it was cheaper than I thought it would be; for some reason I thought it would be a 10k expense.  Regardless it is never ‘fun’ to spend a good chunk of money on something so ZzzZzz.

We are finally starting to see the benefits though!  Not only is our house at a more constant temperature in ALL rooms but I just got a notification from our electric company that our monthly level payment will be decreasing by 38%.  Wowzers!  We are saving over $100 a month and the only thing we changed since January is this HVAC stuff.   When I compared our energy use to July of 2010 we have used 26% less in July of 2011.  I can’t imagine what it will be like when we finally get done replacing all our original windows!

I guess I wanted to post this because I know many drag their feet when thinking of replacing HVAC units and typically wait until it is an emergency and end up spending more $$$ than you would if you did it when everything was actually working properly, just not efficiently, and your HVAC service company was less busy (avoid transition months of May/June and Oct/Nov) therefore willing to give you a deal.  Same could be said for refrigerators, washers, dryers, etc etc.  If your appliance doesn’t have an energy star logo on it you are probably paying more in electricity to keep the old clunker running than you would if you just went out and bought a new more efficient appliance with an average energy star rating.

Anyways I feel redeemed that our decision to replace our HVAC before it officially ‘died’ was a good one.  And I have an extra $1200+/year in my pocket to prove it!



Our new oasis

Our deck was finished a few weeks ago but I was waiting til we got proper furniture before I introduced you to our new oasis.


Unlike our old deck this new one is child-friendly.  No splinters.  No risk of falling off the 1-story height.


Syd's new cage

We went all out with this…our deck is not small by any stretch of the imagination (it spans the entire length of the house and then some) and is one of the main reasons we bought the house to begin with.  Because of the size, and our decision to use Trex Transend we spent about as much on this remodel as we did on the kitchen.  After spending some time on it though it has all been worth it!!  We used Gravel Path as the main color for decking, and I was inspired by all the pretty decks from the Trex catalog and thought a border in Village Lantern would make the deck more pleasing to the eye.


The railings are Trex Transcend Traditional style and we used a mixture of the two colors with metal balusters and a flat top rail (better to hold your beer than any of the manufactured top rails made by Trex).


Royce even has his own private little area for cooking.  Hopefully with the grill tucked in this corner Syd will be less likely to want to touch it.


Syd has space now for her first play house.


She seems to enjoy pushing the doorbell the most…


And she really wants one of us to be in there playing with her too which is nice, except we don’t fit very well.


We spend time out on it almost every night mostly so Syd can splash around in the big plastic tub we fill with water. Last night we had our first dinner together as a family on our new deck;  Syd was running around naked playing in her bucket and in her house (and even took a poop on the side of her house ha!) while we relaxed and enjoyed some beers.

We still need to get some more furniture, maybe a new table and chairs set, and definitely a kid-sized picnic table. Royce is staining some Adirondack chairs for the span that goes next to the house…it’s shady there almost all day so it’s a good spot to sit and read, if Syd will let us.

Kitchen Specs

We finalized our kitchen specs last night (click on the picture below to see a larger one).  The biggest major change from our current lay out is that we are knocking down a wall where the bar is slated to go.  This will open up our kitchen into the dining room which is on your left as you look at the aerial shot.  Because we are removing the wall we had to move the fridge.  Also since we are getting rid of the double oven/cook-top combo we were able to free up some space on the wall where the range is slated to go.  We even have proper slots for Charlie’s dog dish (on the floor under the microwave in that little nook) not to mention shelves to put cookbooks on.  It will be nice to have an open kitchen…very few of the houses in this neighborhood have that luxury.

Kitchen Decisions

We are well on our way to getting started on the kitchen.  We met with the designer to go over the specs on Wednesday.  We changed a few things with the doors/drawer lay out keeping in mind how I cook.  Hopefully I’ll get the final drawings this week and we can get them ordered so that Dave can start demo while we are in the Bahamas.

I’ll upload the drawings when they are complete.  But for now we have decided on this door style and the finish will be in sable.

Making all these decisions is hard…a kitchen is a big deal…we spend a lot of time in there and I don’t plan on renovating it again anytime soon.  Needless to say there is a lot of pressure to make it ‘just right’.  Since we are getting rid of a wall it’s not as simple as just updating our current configuration (which I like).  Cabinets are being moved, drawers that I’m used to are disappearing.  Ovens are going from 2 sorta big ones, to 1 really big and 1 really small.   I catch myself wondering in the middle of my work day where I’m going to store my cookie sheets since I’m loosing my shallow below the oven drawer.  Or where I’m going to put Charlies dog food!

Let’s just say I’ll be glad in a couple of months when this is all over! 

House update – gutters

We haven’t been doing much on the house lately which is why their has been no posts about our sweet ugly abode.  However yesterday we signed ourselves up for some new gutters.  I took a not very serious request from Royce for me to ‘research’ gutters when I was at the Iowa State Fair…which amazingly you can do thanks to the varied industries building.  I found a few companies, but was smitten by LeafGuard because on their add at the fair, their mascot instead of holding that nap-sack on a stick, at the Iowa State Fair he was holding a corndog!  How can one resist a squirrel with a corndog?!

It also helped that Cost-Co backs and carries LeafGuard so we get special discounts and priority service.  And well to make me not look like a complete decision making freak after looking at all the systems at the ISF this one seemed to be the most logical and has a great warranty.

So sometime in September our house will get some new drainpipes and a rain barrel and will instantly become uglier because our new gutters are cream and our paint is still brown.  I need to find me a painter!

I’ve got our tile…and you can’t take it away from me!

Man…what a saga.  After our weekend of being shocked silly by our tile not coming in until May 5th (just enough to send this little girl with 4 family-in-law members coming to visit in less than 2 weeks nearly over the edge) I figured not much else could happen to us and our tile.

Oh but I should know better!  Mom sewed Murphy in my pocket afterall before sending me off to face this world.

Royce followed up with the Great Indoors (really not great so I’m just going to call the Mediocre Indoors) on Tuesday after our Sunday fun…and found out that yes, indeed the tile was in but the pallet it was on was dropped and broke so they were having to hold our tile hostage until the insurance people came out to look at it.  Al, the salesman said we could come pick it up later in the week. 

Last night was as good a night as any to sit in traffic so I decided to go get the tile while Royce played basketball.  This time I called before I went…and asked the nice man on the phone if ALL of our order was in and ready to be picked up.  He said he didn’t know, b/c his computer was down.  Great.  Fabulous.  “Could you please walk your lazy ass back there and see if my order is in instead of relying on your computer?  really?  Great.  Thanks.  call me back please”.  (Ok so I really didn’t say that word for word but I thought it).   I figured I would never hear from the guy but amazingly HE CALLED BACK!   And he told me good news…ALL of our order was in.  yippie.  off i go.

When I get there I scan my receipt and wait patiently.  Some guy pops his head out and tells me “2 mins Ma’am”.  OK…sure great…this is looking good. I’m so excited I’m getting my tile!  Our bathroom will be done before we know it and we can move back into our room!  Oh the fun, and I can get it all done with some time to spare before the visitors-in-law arrive! 

The power goes out.

No shit.  I’m standing in the Mediocre Indoors waiting to get my tile that was impossible to pick out, got lost in the snow storm, then its pallet got dropped and was held hostage by insurance people, and then the freaking power goes out whenI try to pick it up?

I stand there in the dark and wonder.  “maybe this just isn’t meant to be?”.  Maybe this tile just isn’t meant to go in our new bathroom.  But it is such lovely tile…all natural stone in grays and white, and we can’t forget the pretty decorative strip.

Well kids, this story has a happy ending.  I think I had the hardest working (and maybe night vision capable) person working on finding my tile and navigating it through the dark quiet store to my car.  He even loaded the heavy masses into my trunk.  At which point I sped off after a gracious “Thank You sir!” and I  prayed that I wouldn’t get rear ended on my way home.

Now the only problem is this freakish wind we have been having for the last couple of days.  Dave called this AM and told us he wasn’t going to come because of the weather.  Hell. I don’t blame him, I wouldn’t want to stand outside in this cold bitter wind with wet hands and a tile saw either.  

Back to the norm

It was nice having Royce at home for 5 days straight.  Now that I’m alone tonight I realize how empty this house can be without him around.  We had fun this morning with Charlie though.  We went for a nice long walk and then played some catch before some other dogs showed up and then…well…Charlie can’t focus very well so we gave up catch and let him torment the other dogs.  You can see pictures of our morning fun here

When we got home we had to head out to look at tile.  We still don’t have our counter-top sample (I will never shop at Home Depot again for something like a counter-top) which makes finding tile hard.   We went to The Great Indoors…it’s a good mix of a Home Depot and a Bed Bath and Beyond.  They have a lot of sample bathrooms, kitchens and what not set up so  you can get ideas.  They also had a nice selection of tile and we managed to find something that will look good for the floor and shower.  We also looked a a vanity light but kind of ran out of steam so we headed back home so Royce could rest and eat before going to work.

Once I got Royce fed and off I went off to Home Depot to get a vanity mirror and light.  Both items were found and the mirror was ordered. Hopefully this is the last of the bathroom spending for a while.  We still need to get paint and towel holders and hardware but we will buy that after it is all complete.

I’ve got to work tomorrow at CVS…praying for a slow day, SuperBowl Sunday usually is.  Royce works too, so he won’t get to see any of the game.  After I get off from CVS I’ll be heading over to my friends Leslie & Noel’s house to watch the game with them…well until half-time and then I’ll have to come home at watch it alone with Charlie.

Royce is right

I figured it deserved a blog entry.  It’s kinda funny story.  We were sitting the other night watching our pathetic DC evening news when there was this report of this girl who was murdered and it was a big ‘who-done-it’.  Well Royce all non-chalantley said “The boyfriend did it”.  I was like “how do you know she even has a boyfriend?”  He seemed pretty confident that the boyfriend did it so we bet $1 and shook on it.  Now you may be saying…wow…these 2 really need to get a life outside of betting on who killed some poor girl in DC.  You are right, we do, but thats another entry.  Anyways…a couple of days went by and lo and behold I guess the FBI had been after the girl to question her about…yep…her boyfriend who they were after for dealing heroin.  Well whatta know.  Gee I wonder ‘who done it’.  It’s looking more and more like Mr. Boyfriend did it so I just gave up my measley $$ to Royce and told him ‘he was right’…a rare but occasional happening around here. 

In other more important news, the bathroom demo was finished yesterday.  And we now know why our shower leaked.  Instead of putting down a rubber or lead shower pan they put down waxed paper.  Yep…waxed paper.  So we had layers of concrete, waxed paper and tile.  Pure genius.  Here are pictures of the finished mess.  The wall and the closet are gone and you can see straight down into the basement which is kind of freaky.  They will be coming back on Monday to start putting in all the new stuff. 

And to the basement…Royce finished tearing down all the wood last night.  What a mess.  What a job.  I’m so thankful to have such a hardworking husband. 

Who I must say is such a saint that he got a truck today and hauled away that entire mess to the dump.  And because he is smart he knew to lie to the dump people and tell him that he only had 300 lbs of trash which saved us $60!!  Way to rip of the county dump people to save us $$!  Look at how clean it is now…a big clean slate that we will attack once we figure out how much this bathroom is going to cost. 

New yard art

I think a toilet in the front yard is fantastic.  Especially a brown toilet.

It was an exciting day over here and a noisy one at that.  I guess the bathroom could have pretty much sufficed as a bomb shelter because everything was lined in cement which is typical of houses built in the 50’s.  They call it mud floors but these people took it to the next level and did the walls too.  It is amazing how much crap they have hauled out of that tiny space (and how much crap there is still left).  This afternoon we went to look at fixtures for the shower and got sucked into buying this design from Kohler…which is way more expensive than we wanted to go, but it looks great and sounds like it will work pretty easily.   I’m happy none the less knowing that this will be in our shower for the next 20-30 years.  Skimping on some things just isn’t worth it and it ships from Iowa which is cool.

Here are some before and after shots.  It was hard to get a single ‘before’ shot because the space is so incredibly tiny…the ‘after’ shot was much easier.

And yes…the toilet is still in our front yard.

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