April 17, 2014

Spring Into Action

Spring has sprung in our neck of the woods and we couldn't be happier. With the exception of the weather in the last few days (chilly days and freezing temps overnight), we have had temperatures in the seventies and things are blooming at a rapid pace. Like, so fast that my hostas and daylilies are noticeably bigger one day than they were the day before. I feel like running outside and doing cartwheels. Except I'm too damn out of shape and would probably pull something. Anyway... we have been doing a few things outside and I thought that I would show you what's happening in our yard right now.

This is how I rocked out my urns for Spring this year. It might be on of my favorites so far.
They make me happy every time I walk up to my porch. I love a red, white, and purple flower combo.

We don't have power lines in our neighborhood which is awesome but we do have boxes in some of our yards. Some people have large ones but we only have a small one. I think it's for the phone lines. I had to split up some hostas so I threw a couple of them in front of it. I'm going to do some research to see if and how I can block it completely with something. In the meantime, this will help hide it a bit.

I got a couple of ferns from Lowe's and hung them on the porch. One them is bigger because when I bought them a couple of weeks ago I noticed one was damaged. I took it back to exchange it a week later but they were sold out. By the time they got more in, it was two weeks later and now I have one that's two weeks older than the other. Things like that bother the heck out of me. Every time I drive up to the house, I notice my lopsided ferns. I have issues. I didn't bother tidying up my porch before I took these pics. Isaac ate lunch at the table on Sunday and I haven't moved the chair back. We're friends. You don't care if my pics look perfect, right?

We have grass!! At least some grass. We're pretty stoked. We are going to get some more grass seed this weekend and, hopefully, have a decent-looking yard by the end of Summer. We have very realistic expectations so we aren't counting on things looking fabulous any time soon. I have read that Bermudagrass is the way to go if you have a clay yard so that's what we will be getting.

A close-up of our lush yard. Haha.

And, even closer. Can you tell I'm excited? I go out on our deck to check it out a couple times a day. 
You would think I'm Scarlett O'hara surveying my plantation.

We got some rain on Tuesday so the creek was rollin'. I almost took a video so you could hear it. I could spend the whole day out there listening to the water. A couple of weeks ago, it rained so much that we could hear the creek in our yard. That was a first since we moved here a year ago.

Isaac loves poking around in the creek. It should provide a lot of entertainment this Summer.
He and a friend threw on their swim trunks and played in it for 3 1/2 hours on Sunday! 

My favorite yard project is probably our little bed that we put around the mailbox. It's not much but it looks a lot better than it did before. I used retaining wall blocks from Lowe's to make a border then planted some of the hostas that I needed to split up. I threw in some annuals to fill in but next year, I will split some more hostas and the entire area will just be those. 

This is what we were working with before. Hideous. I had Nate carefully dig out the grass for the new bed so that we could use it to fill in where the plants were. We still need to hit it with some grass seed because we didn't quite have enough sod to cover everything. I still can't get over how gigantic our mailbox is. We will replace it in the Fall. I always said that I was going to wait until we replaced the mailbox to plant anything around it but I couldn't wait any longer. 

So that's what our yard is looking like these days. Nothing spectacular but even little things like getting some plants in the urns and sprucing up our mailbox has increased our curb appeal a ton. And more importantly, it makes us happy when we come home and see our little touches.

Have you been doing any yardwork lately? Do you like working in the yard or is it just a means to an end? I used to hate it but I'm actually enjoying it this year.

April 16, 2014

The Paint Chronicles, part 5 {the pantry}

Howdy! This week is Isaac's Spring Break and it has been really great so far. We had lunch with Nate on Monday then hit up the Children's Museum after. It was the first time Lena has been since she could walk so it was really cool to see her run around and have fun. Yesterday it rained all day so we stayed in and cleaned the house and played board games. Good stuff.

This past weekend was beautiful. It was a great weekend to have a little relax time but also get some things done. I have been trying to wrap up some half-finished projects lately and I am happy to say that at least a couple of them are done. Woohoo!

One of the projects that I recently completed might be my new favorite: our pantry. I know I sound like a crazy person. Who cares about a silly pantry, especially a little one like mine? Well, me. Our pantry was dingy and dull and was in desperate need of some TLC. And I am probably in it ten times a day so why not make it pretty, right?

Here was our mess-of-a-pantry before I got my mitts on it.

It served it's purpose but was an eyesore, for sure. Since our house is so open, everyone would see it if I needed to go in there to get something or if we happened to leave the door open. I know I shouldn't be so shallow to care how a pantry looks, but I am and I do.

Here it is all empty and ready for paint.

Time to get to work! It was dirtier than I thought. Once I got in there to wipe everything down before I started painting, I got a close-up of all of the grossness. Ick.

And now I have a pretty little pantry that makes me happy every time I open the door.

Pantry with photo boxes for storage!
It is so easy to find what I need now. I painted the walls off-white instead of just white so it wouldn't be too stark with the shelves. The shelves are semi-gloss black. I knew didn't want a typical pantry and shared some of my inspiration here and here. I thought about painting beige and black horizontal stripes on the walls but decided against it after I picked out the boxes that I used for storage. I figured that was enough pattern. Speaking of boxes, this is what I used.

Photo boxes from Michael's! I had planned on using baskets but when I saw these in a Michael's ad, I realized they would look amazing and save me a bit of money. I paid around $1.40 for each of them (they were on sale and I had a coupon) and I needed ten of them so that's only $14 for two shelves of storage! The baskets were going to cost around $80. Big difference and I think the boxes are much snazzier. I also love that the boxes are smaller so I can have the items split into more categories. I hadn't planned on labeling anything but since the boxes already came with a label holder, I figured I would print some up. They turned out so cute.

Pantry with photo boxes for storage!
Now, it's easy to find what you need and we know where to put things away. 
An organized life is a happy life, I think.

Here are the sides of the pantry, the parts you don't really see unless you peek in.

Yes, that is a huge canister of tea bags. I may have a problem.

Pantry with photo boxes for storage!
All of the canisters are from Target. The skinny ones have a rubber ring around the lids so they are pretty air-tight. I love having everything visible. It's so convenient to be able to see what I have and what I don't. I can't tell you how many times I have bought something that I didn't need because I didn't see it in the pantry or I would think that I had plenty of something only to realize that I didn't. I was always doing that with rice. I would see the box and assume that I had enough for dinner then would find out I only had enough for one person. #dinnerfail

After filling the cannisters, I cut out the instructions from the box or pouch and taped them to the bottom of the cannister so I can refer to them when I'm cooking.

I was going to build a container for the dog food but when I came across this one at Home Goods for $20, I had to get it.

That might be the prettiest dog food container I've ever seen! I like how the stainless steel (or whatever) ties in with the metal on the boxes and the black pops next to the black shelves. Ok, I've lost it. I'm talking about a pantry in terms of things popping and tying in. 

Although I love how much better the pantry looks, I'm most pleased with all of the room we have in it now. Everything that is in the boxes is still crammed together but because it is separated, it's not a sloppy mess. And having clear canisters will save a lot of stress when it comes time to make a grocery list or start dinner. And how great is it that when the door is open, it blends in with the rest of the house?

Pantry with photo boxes for storage!
The only thing that I haven't done yet is hang a pretty hook for my apron on the inside of the door. I bought one at Pier 1 for $2 but the screw is really long so I need to cut it down and get it installed. Then the pantry will be done and done.

What is your pantry situation? Do you have a glorious walk-in? A closet-style like mine? Is it organized or are things just chillin' like mine used to be?

Bonus question: Should I be committed for putting this much effort into a pantry?

Here are previous installments of The Paint Chronicles:

April 09, 2014

Pattern Play

I've been thinking a lot about our downstairs powder room lately. It's one of the few rooms in our house that won't take much money to spruce up. This would be a temporary upgrade but one that would, hopefully, be nice enough to last us a few years while we focus on other spaces. Here are my thoughts right now:
  • paint and raise the existing vanity
  • get an uber-cool, but very inexpensive, laminate top (did you know that laminate is hot again?)
  • use the sink that we already have
  • stencil the wall in a fun pattern
  • buy new cabinet hardware, lighting, and faucet
  • accessorize with art and towels

I've always known that I wanted pattern in the powder room. I love wallpaper in small spaces, it gives a small room so much punch. I originally wanted to use a geometric pattern in navy and white (I shared my thoughts on that here) but now I'm leaning toward softer lines and other color combinations, although I haven't ruled out navy and white. I have started browsing for interesting stencils and here are a few of my favorites.

Cutting Edge Stencils

Tamara Trellis Allover

Tea House Trellis Allover

Sari Paisley Allover

Leopard Skin Allover

Arrow Print

African Batik

Indian Paisley

Arrow Outline

I can't believe I have included an animal print! I'm not a big animal print person but I thought the Leopard Print could be really cool in shades of gray. Subtle but very chic. I also love the Arrow Print. I like that you have the opportunity to use multiple colors and the pattern is amazing.

So that's what I'm thinking right now. Do you have pattern in any of your rooms? Don't you think it's amazing in small spaces?

April 08, 2014

Our Backyard... The Journey to Pretty

Yesterday, I shared the the dramatic and unprofessional aspects of our backyard renovation. Sorry it was such a long post. I had intended to just give you the gist of what happened but once I started writing, I got all worked up again! I think I needed to get the story out one last time (I've shared it with some friends and family). Now I'm done thinking about all of the drama of the renovation and just want to remember how cool it was to watch the landscapers work and see our yard transformed over three days.

I'm excited to show you the process of flattening our sloped yard and adding a retaining wall. I know from working with my dad that contractors don't like it when the homeowner is breathing down their throat while they work. They like to have their space to work and focus and get the job done. I made sure to stay out of everyone's way and just snapped some quick shots then head back to the house. I was anxious to get some pictures throughout the process so that I could share them with you and to keep as a reminder of our first big outdoor project ever.

Here we go!

Time to start digging! The guys started by spray painting the spots where I wanted the wall and stairs then it was time to scoop out the dirt and move it to the bottom of the yard.

Once they dug out everything, it was time to get the wall "just right" and 
lay gravel under the soon-to-be wall.

The stone is here! The guys moved each one by hand with a wheelbarrow. Ouch.
I took these pics from the kitchen window, you can kinda see the screen.

Once the gravel was spread, they started laying the stone. They stacked the stones in a way so that each layer was closer to the dirt wall than the one below it. After the first layer was down, they added a sheet of plastic-y fabric between the dirt wall and the stone.

The wall is coming along and they have started the stairs!

And they're done!! She's so purrrty! The wires that you see hanging down are for lights. 
There will be two on each section of wall and one on each side of the staircase to light up the stairs.
I don't need any of our drunk friends (ok, me) falling off of the wall during a late-night soiree.

Here is our yard before:

I miss our grass but not having a crazy-sloped yard.

And here are some shots of the new yard:

This picture is taken from our deck. We still have quite a few random piles of firewood in the woods that we need to find a home for. I know I can't expect woods to look perfect but I would like to tidy it up, if that makes sense. See the pile of gravel in the upper left corner? That is where the last owners had a small shed. We might put a fire pit area there. We were going to have the landscaper install a paved patio that was just big enough to have a fire pit in the middle and room for chairs around it, about a 16-foot octagon. Thank goodness we didn't. They had a hard enough time getting the yard and wall right.

A couple close-ups of the stone:

I have been referring to the blocks that we used for the wall as stone but they are actually a man-made product by Anchor. We used Highland Stone in the Jefferson color.

And finally, a quick-shot of the things that I am going to do this Spring and Summer. I also need to scrape and paint all of the wood trim around the exterior of the house (it's no too much, most of it is vinyl) and paint the front porch floor. We will probably pay someone to scrub the house, one less thing for us to do and no risk of us falling off of a ladder.

So that's the new yard and a run-down of upcoming projects. I will be working hard for the next few months but it will be worth it to have the house freshened up and to our liking.

Do you have any big plans for your outdoor space this year?

April 07, 2014

Our Backyard...The Saga

Howdy, stranger! I have been kicking it low-key and unplugged for over a week and I have really missed chatting with you! Our landscapers were here two weeks ago and I was on a major renovation high. After we had some yard-related drama, I lost my buzz and needed a break to recharge. I showed you here how we were going to have our yard flattened and a retaining wall installed. Watching them do their magic was really exciting and I was very impressed with their mad landscaping skills but after they "finished" that Friday, I realized a few things:

1. Our wall was supposed to be 44 feet long with a staircase in the center (which would be centered at 22 feet). They decided to add two feet to the length of the wall because it would look better on one side of the yard. After inspecting the new wall, I realized that they added two feet to the wall but they didn't change the center of the staircase. I had a 46-foot wall with the stairs centered at 22 feet. Great. Now what? Well, apparently, the foreman thought that the solution was to argue with me for ten minutes. He refused to acknowledge (or was too dimwitted to grasp) that he needed to adjust the center of the staircase when he added two feet to the wall. He would say, "we added two feet to the wall because it looks better" and I would say, "I know that. Thank you. Let's get back to the problem. I have two more feet of wall on one side of the staircase than the other." Back and forth for ten minutes! As we were arguing, one of the landscapers suggested that they remove the two feet that they added. I know I could have been a jerk and had them redo the stairs but I didn't want to be that person. They removed the extra two feet and it looks fine. It looked a smidge better with the extra length but if you hadn't seen it before, you wouldn't know.

2. The owner of the company told us that we would have a 10-inch grade from the retaining wall down to the woods, where our fence will be going (hopefully next year). They were going to cut a wedge out of the yard where the wall was going and scoot that dirt down toward the woods to make the yard flat from wall to fence. Awesome. Well, once they were done on day 2, I saw that only 2/3 of our yard was flat and the 1/3 that was closest to the woods sloped down to the woods. Obviously we needed some dirt for our project to be completed in the way that the owner thought. I mentioned the problem to the foreman the next morning (the third and final day of work) and he said that he would call the owner. That afternoon, I went out to check on the progress and to find out what the owner said. He hadn't called yet. That's cool. A few hours later, they looked like they were wrapping things up so I headed back out to see what the owner said about us only have 2/3 of our yard usable. Still hadn't called. Seriously? He said, "I know what he's going to say. He's going to say we need dirt." Me: "Ok..." and I just stared at him until he walked away and called him. I'm sure, at that point, that he hates me but I didn't care. I head back inside to have lunch with Lena and, as I have a mouth-full of turkey hot dogs and Doritos, the phone rings. It's the receptionist for the landscape company. She was calling to find out what the issue was with the yard. I explained what the owner had told us and as I was talking, the owner chimes in. She had me on speaker phone, which was fine but normally you tell the person on the other end that they are on speaker phone and make-aware who else is in the room. I can't hear what he is saying so he picked up the receiver and proceeded to yell and cuss at me about how fill-dirt was not in our contract. After telling him not to cuss at me, I told him that it wasn't my fault that he didn't know we would need dirt, it was his. He told me that he was going to spend "thousands" of dollars on dirt and it's not right that he would have to pay for it. Again, not my problem. By the way, our new neighbor works for a retaining wall company and told us that the dirt cost him a couple hundreds bucks, at most. He may have even gotten it for free from a building site. Jerk. Needless to say, within an hour I had two truckloads of dirt in the backyard. Everything was filled and flattened by 5:00. Of course, the foreman started bitching about "working late on a Friday" around 2:00 when the dirt arrived. God forbid you work 'till 5:00. What is wrong with these people? My dad is a cabinetmaker and owns his own company. He wouldn't commit any of these crimes. He would work his ass off until the job was complete and do it with a smile on his face until he got in the truck to go home. So... the job is done, right? Not so fast.

3. Nate and I headed out to dinner and a UVA basketball-watching party soon after the landscapers left for good. We thoroughly inspected the yard the next day. We realized that they hadn't smoothed any of the dirt that they added to the back of the yard. It was a straight drop-off from the back of yard down to the woods. As in, I can't let Lena walk around the yard without someone right next to her because she will fall three feet down into the woods. I refused to talk to the foreman or owner again so Nate called and the owner said he would come out to look at it. He agreed that it needed to be smoothed out and seeded for grass. They came last Friday and officially completed the job.

After all of that drama, this is what we have:

A flat yard and a super-cool retaining wall! 
It looks a little crooked but it's just my camera skills. After working in the yard all day yesterday,
I could barely hold a camera much less keep it level.

So that is the story of leveling our backyard. Thanks for letting me vent. It was really stressful but was worth it in the end. Once the grass comes in, we will have a nice flat yard to enjoy for many years.

I know it may sound like I am being really harsh on the foreman (i.e. calling him dimwitted) but I assure you the job started off very pleasant and I was a pleasure to work for. I don't care much for having someone argue with me because I called them out on a mistake. Especially when I'm (and Nate) writing the check. Having to argue with the foreman and the owner in one day was too much. I was in a crappy mood for days. I had been looking forward to this project since December and they obviously don't know how to run a company or treat people.

If you live in the Richmond/Chesterfield Virginia area and are thinking about hiring a landscaping company and would like to find out who we used so that you can avoid the problems that we had, just shoot me an email and I will give you their name (my email address is on my 'About Me' page). I may be pissed but I don't want to publicly humiliate them.

I took a ton of pictures of the landscaping process so I will show those to you tomorrow. It's pretty cool to see how it all went down.