Posts filed under ‘Improvements’

new sidewalks!

Last week, we were the lucky recipients of brand-spanking-new sidewalks. Yipee! (If only we didn’t have to pay for them… remember how I already whined about this? Paying for new sidewalks when the old ones are perfectly good is, apparently, one of the joys of homeownership… just one of the lessons we’ve learned re: homeownership in the last couple of months.)

Anyways, I give you the old sidewalks:

And now, the new ones:

The only problem is… now the walkway leading from the sidewalk to the front door looks old and sad. Guess we should have ripped up that concrete and replaced it with brick pavers also… oops. Another project for another summer, I suspect.


August 3, 2008 at 7:12 pm 3 comments

pictures of pictures

I’ve been informed that some of you are going through “blog withdrawal” because of my lack of recent posting.  Apologies!  It’s just that I’ve been busy writing boring sciencey things for my real job (if you don’t believe me, go to pubmed and type in my name – not all of them are mine, because I have a very. popular. name. but you’ll get the point.), and sometimes, I go through all of my allotted words for the day and don’t have any left for blogging.  Other times, I am just lazy.  Or busy planning a wedding.  Or selling a house.  Or remodeling a house.  Or annoying Jason.  Or pampering the dog.  You see?  I am BUSY.  But I promise to never leave you, to continue to blog, even if I am just blogging about cleaning.  Which brings me to today’s post:

Sunday I went on a manic cleaning spree – I even washed the wood floors and baseboards by hand (typically I rely on my good friend, the swiffer to handle these sorts of things).

Jason did miscellaneous chores – including hanging pictures! Yay! I unpacked some of our decoration-type things and put them out, and now our house feels much more like a home. It makes me so happy. I can’t wait until we can start painting and installing new light fixtures and closet organizers and – oh my! But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Some pictures:

Our living room.  Do you like my curtain tiebacks?  They are only temporary, although, at the rate we’ve been going on the INSIDE of this house, the length of “temporary” is questionable.

More living room.  Note my large stack of work on the couch.  I am currently avoiding said stack like the plague.  Also, I do not like that lamp.  But!  We left all of our lamps in Kentucky and need some sort of light in the room.

The TV (in the living room, of course).  I pulled out a little basket for Barley’s toys that he’s afraid of because they squeak, and I think it works nicely here next to the TV.  I also dug out these vases and the wooden tray on the TV cabinet.  The tray makes me really happy because I can’t stand how the mail and other miscellaneous crap always accumulates there… the tray sort of hides the mess, or at least makes it look more organized.  Faux organization is my style.

View from the living room into the dining room.  Note the exhausted and overheated doggy on the floor.  Also note the ugly yellow extension cord on the floor – we have exactly ONE 3-prong outlet in the living room and it happens to be in the least helpful place (go figure).  So, extension cord it is.  That is, until Jason re-wires the outlets on the first floor.  Anyone have thoughts on whether we can actually rewire the outlets easily?

The dining room (view towards the front of the house).  We hung the little red picture, but I might hang some other pictures in that corner instead.  Really, something just needed to go up, and this was it (you can also see another picture waiting to be hung sitting on the chair in the background).

June 24, 2008 at 9:43 pm 3 comments

a less controversial garden post?

Man, you guys are tough! But, you’re largely right: our garden is small. That’s what happens when you live IN THE CITY. It’s tricky. So we turned to Mel, but it looks like none of you are big fans of Mel’s technique.

Seriously, though, I am a little doubtful that we will grow anything at all this summer. If the garden is anything like Jason’s compost bin, he’s going to forget all about it in 2 weeks (hopefully the garden won’t turn as stinky as the compost bin has). And, we all know that I am far too lazy busy to go out there and water the garden.

But now that you’ve all commented, I secretly hope we get the best yield ever. Because, ha! That would show you. Right?

(Jason says: I have yet to eat anything grown by your mom! Or uncle Brian and aunt Jackie! And that translates roughly to: who are they to tell me how to garden? Although, now that I think about it, he has never eaten anything grown by Mel, so how do we know whether this by-the-square-foot technique will work?)

Anyways, even though you’ve all ripped on our garden, I’ll risk more criticism in order to bring the world pictures of our other planting beds. Over the weekend, we bought some 4″ x 8″ x 12″ tumbled concrete blocks and created a cute little hops garden, and began construction on a raised bed next to the brick patio.

Remember this?

Well, we got rid of the extra dirt, and lined the garden, as mentioned earlier. Here’s Jason, hard at work

And, in case you missed it, Barley totally helped:

Jason planted some hops, put up some twine, and put down landscaping cloth to block out the weeds. Now it looks like this:

Do you remember this?

Well, we started putting up what will be a little retaining wall. (We still have to go back and get more stones… at 24 lbs a piece, we’re nervous about putting any more than 24 in the camry). Here’s what it looks like now (note that it is still not done):

Here is what I need from you, faithful blog readers:

1. I need perennial clippings! Because now that we’ve done all this brick work, there’s not much left in the budget to buy plants! So, please, if you’re dividing those perennials and have some extras, feel free to just save them for me! Or, maybe if you’re real lucky, I could even help!

2. I need advice on what to plant in these beds (ahem, Mandy). The hops garden gets sun from about 11am-dusk (its facing West), and is about 7′ x 17′. The bed along the fence gets sun from mid-morning (10-11am-ish) to late afternoon (3-4pm-ish), is on the North side of a fence, and is about 1′ deep by 21′ long.

Do you like the new homework assignments on the blog? I am so demanding! But you knew that already.

June 2, 2008 at 6:31 pm 11 comments

pavers! part 2

Did I mention that we RAN OUT OF SAND on Sunday? As in, didn’t even get halfway through the project before realizing that we were not going to make it? So we had to improvise. We woke up around 8am Monday, and headed to Home Depot, then Menards, to rent a truck. For those of you who have never actually been in Menards – it is fantastic, and I hope you get to visit sometime. Definitely make a point to notice the DOS-based computer system still in use. They’ve got computers that look like they’re straight out of the 1980s. So awesome. Menards is like Fleet Farm meets Home Depot meets Walmart. (only, not so much Wal-mart-y, because I hate Walmart, but love Menards). Jason thinks it is best described as “a flea market… of hardware”. He also tells me that there are no Fleet Farms or Menards on the East Coast?!? Oh, the East coasters are missing out. Fleet farm is also fantastic.

Anyways, we rented the Menards truck because the Home Depot truck was rented, and headed up to Bachman’s, which is a huge garden/landscape shop in these parts. Bachman’s might be my new favorite garden shop, but it’s more likely that I’m just amazed by the sheer size of the place. It is huge, despite it’s urban location. Bachman’s, I’ll be bach. or, back, actually. Anyways.

Jason in the Menards truck.

We picked up another yard and a half of sand, then emptied it into our driveway, returned the truck. Cousin Catherine showed up to help out, and thank goodness she did. (Dear Aunt Tami and Uncle Doug: thanks for not only being willing to put up with my shenanigans for several months on end, but also for having kids that are willing to drive 30 min each way to partake in my shenanigans! Dear Catherine: you’re my new favorite cousin.) Catherine is pretty darn good at bricklaying… she put down most of the patio, while I brought her bricks and Jason tacked down pave-edge with stakes that we had purchased at Bachman’s. It looks good. Really good.

Awesome cousin Catherine works her bricklaying magic!

Around 3, I left to go to work and Catherine left to head home to do her homework. I also ran errands in between doing work stuff – we ran out of pave edge and stakes – so I had to rush around town to find them. Tricky. But Menards and Bachman’s were still open, so I managed to score the necessary supplies, and a burrito for JT (from Chipotle, of course). While I was at work, Jason finished the rest of the patio and put more pave-edge in surrounding the bricks. Then, I came home, freaked out, and re-did the part of the path that Jason had finished. Why? Because it didn’t look right. (Because the section had only 4 rows of brick instead of the 5 rows the rest of the walk had).

Jason installs the pave-edge.

So then, I was annoyed with Jason for not having paid attention to what he was doing when he laid the path, he was annoyed with me for ripping up all of his hard work and redoing it, and we were both totally annoyed with the project and also with the dog, because he kept barking from inside the house. I suspect the dog may have been annoyed with us for ignoring him all weekend. Annoyance was rampant.

Yeah, I ripped it up and redid it. Can you say “control freak”? How about “perfectionist”?

Barley spies on us from inside the house.

Anyways, we kept working till about 8 Monday night, when we finally called it quits. I finished laying all of the brick. Jason tamped the front walkway and patio, then put sand over the front part of the walkway and tamped again. I had to return the brick saw this morning, but we kept the tamper to finish up some things this evening.

Last night, we swept sand across the bricks and tamp them down. Repeat x3. This morning, we returned the tamper. This evening we (Jason) finished the bricks outside the side door (we couldn’t use the tamper because we couldn’t get it close enough to the house and then the bricks would have been sunk into the sand at different angles). But now we’re all finished with the brick pavers! Yay! It was honestly not all that tough to do – the most frustrating part was not having all of the supplies that we needed to complete the project, especially since we had to rent a truck to get the sand. But! If you’ve read our past home adventures, you’ll discover that not having the proper supplies to do the job is a theme around these parts…

Look! The finished product:

The patio and back walkways.

Another view of the patio and back walkways.

The back patio.

The back walkways.

View from the front. Not bad when you consider what it looked like 2 months ago…

The new patio and pathway are a huge change from before!

More pictures are here:

Pavers 5-2008

May 28, 2008 at 9:59 pm 5 comments

pavers! and more pavers!

Holy cow. I’m pretty sure that every muscle in my body aches. Ouch! This patio better be worth it. I better be able to get a pool boy to bring me some margaritas while I lounge on the patio all day. Hint, hint, JT. Better work on your margarita-making skills…

Anyways, the weekend. Things started off smashingly when the paver delivery guys showed up around 7:45am with all the supplies necessary for paver-patio-making. Joy! Unfortunately, our driveway is about 3 feet by 5 feet (okay, I’m exaggerating a little…) and we could barely fit everything along side the piles of concrete and dirt that currently take up about half the driveway. Fortunately, the delivery guys were experts in navigating city alleyways, and all was delivered with no problems… except, we were supposed to get landscaping spikes and they ran out. We decided it wouldn’t be a big deal.

Jason supervises the dumping of the base material.

Jason compacts the soil before the base is laid.

One thing that I am particularly proud of is that we thought to bury some low-voltage lines under the pathway so that later, when we have the money/inclination, we can add some low-voltage lights around the patio for a real outdoor oasis in the city.

Our low-voltage line, buried under our walkway.

The first 2″ layer of “base” (aka, small stone mixed in with sand) went down in about 2.5 hours. The second layer of base took a bit longer because we had to make sure that it was leveled so that water would be directed away from our house (note that we started this whole mess in an attempt to get the water OUT of the basement). I think our second layer was actually about 3-4″, but it was leveled and compacted by about 4pm on Saturday (took about 4 hours). By then, we were sick of the project. Oh, and it looked like it was going to rain.

Barley naps while Jason pours the base layer.

Jason compacts the base layer.

Necessary nourishment.

Leveling out the second base layer so that water will head away from the basement instead of into it.

Jason condenses the second base layer, while Barley follows him.

We laid down sand in small segments and “screed”-ed it. Which means that we lined up two 1″ pipes on either side of the path and pulled a wood board across them until the sand between them was flat. Jason was mostly in charge of that operation, while I started laying pavers. We managed to get about halfway down the path along our house before it got too dark to see what we were doing.

Jason “screeding”.

Finally! Ready to lay bricks!

On Sunday, Jason screeded more sand, and I laid more pavers. From about 9am-4pm. And it was so humid and the forecast was calling for some serious thunderstorms… so we were just waiting for the rain to come. Surprisingly, it didn’t rain at all. (As I was watching the news later that night, the radar showed storms all around us and a little line of calm over our house all afternoon. So amazing.)

More screeding and brick laying.

The plastic wrap over the pathway… it threatened to rain all day Sunday, but we were lucky that it did not.

We quit at 4 to fix the dryer. The old gas dryer that was left in the house quit working about 3 weeks ago. NOTHING IN MY HOUSE IS CLEAN. It was starting to smell like dirty dog up in here, so I am SO SO SO glad that JT fixed the dryer situation. In order to use the electric dryer that we moved from Kentucky (I am SO SO SO glad we moved that beast), JT had to install a new circuit, new breaker, and new plug for it. I also lent a hand by standing next to him with a wood board, prepared to smack him if he got electrocuted. But he didn’t, and I was nice and didn’t smack him anyways and say, “oh, it looked like you were getting electrocuted” which I thought about doing once or twice. Or even 3 times.

Jason and the service panel.

JT then disconnected the old gas dryer, and it smelled a little like gas. The gas has since dissipated, but if you stick your nose up by the end of the pipe, you can still smell a little gas. Is this normal? (Dad, Uncle Brian, anyone else out there who is handy? HELP. I DON’T WANT TO EXPLODE IN MY SLEEP.) We’ve got the basement windows open anyways, and Jason notes, “We haven’t died yet.” So that’s where we’re at.

Our dryer. So nice and shiney!

***Insert Tangent Involving My Underwear (you’ve been forewarned)***

Remember how I went to that massage on Friday? And also how our dryer has been out of commission for the last 3 weeks? Yes, I am totally scraping the bottom of the barrel for underwear. And the only “suitable” ones I could find were given to me for Christmas by my Grandma. They are super-cute! And I love them! They have a little monkey on them and say, “Paul Frank is your friend” across the butt. Which is SO FUN! Except, I’m twenty-seven and not fourteen, and sometimes I like to fake like I’m sophisticated, for example, WHEN I GO INTO A SALON FOR A MASSAGE. So basically, I am not that cool. Hey massuse! Paul Frank is your friend!

Anyways, I am still trying to figure out what was worse: my I-am-twenty-seven-going-on-fourteen underwear, or the fact that I made her rub my stinky, dirty, blistered feet.

***End Tangent (blog is safe to read again)***

Okay, so where was I? Oh yes. Sunday. Evening. Jeff and Andrea invited us to go to dinner with two of their friends who happen to live about a block away from us. We were tired, but decided we could use a break, and also thought it would be fun to meet other friends in our neighborhood. We hit up Pizza Biga and Pumphouse Creamery (both within walking distance from our house, and both were delicious!), then we headed over to Buster’s for some drinks. It was a fun night, and we were home by 11pm. Just my style.

And you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the rest of the saga!  Stay tuned!

May 27, 2008 at 9:26 pm 4 comments

backyard weekend

We spent most of the weekend in the backyard… unfortunately, no lounge chairs or margaritas were involved.

Saturday involved a trip to Menards AND Home Depot. I spent much of the day moving dirt around in an effort to make the grade of the yard slope away from the house. The goal being that this would encourage water to move away from the basement instead of into it. I also planted some grass seed, and I’m hoping it will grow like crazy. Soon.

North side of house

East side of house

Jason did some work on the fence and built a little garden. He hopes to plant some veggies soon, but we’ve got to get the brick paver walkway done before we do any planting (that’s in the works for next weekend).

Jason’s garden

Today, Tinen came over and helped dig out the rest of the area where the brick paver walkway will go. Thank goodness! I am so sick of digging! The extra help was MUCH appreciated. Tinen also helped us build and hang the gates on the fence, and I think they look pretty darn good. We still need to add some hardware to them (i.e., handles, latches), but that shouldn’t take very long.

Tinen and I dug out this area today.

Jason messes with the back gate.

The back side of the front gates – we decided to put 2 gates here instead of one.

The front side of the front gates.

Man, that doesn’t sound like very much was accomplished today – especially when you consider how much we were able to get done last weekend when my family visited. But I’m pooped.

May 18, 2008 at 10:17 pm 2 comments

House Project #2, Phase 4

Just to review, here’s our list for the get the water out of our basement project. (Items in red were worked on this weekend, those crossed out have been finished).

  1. Removing the sidewalk on the South side of the house
  2. Having glass windows installed in the basement
  3. Installing an underground drain tube to the front gutter spout
  4. Adding a new pathway using brick pavers
  5. Building a raised planting bed where the path was
  6. Adding a drainage system along the South side of the house
  7. Grading the rest of the yard away from the house (this is not as important since the water only seems to be coming in on the South side, but still should be done)
  8. Adding underground drain tubes to the other gutter spouts

We also built a fence this weekend! How did we accomplish so much in one weekend? My family came to visit with a truckload of garden tools and worked all weekend! Oh man, did they ever work. They even worked in the rain!! And Jason and I did a little work, too, but there’s no way we would have gotten it done without them.

Saturday morning, Dad and I ran to home depot for concrete, fence posts, and an auger (much better than digging those holes ourselves). Meanwhile, mom, Robby, and Trevor excavated the part of the yard where the path and patio will be. Jason staked out the yard. 3 hours later, when the Home Depot people finally figured out what an auger was and how to let me rent it, Dad and I returned. The next hour was spent determining whether someone would hit a gas pipe with the auger, since we forgot to call the digger’s hotline last week. Then, there was discussion about what exactly would happen if someone were to hit the gas pipe with the auger… would it be explode and get hurt? Or explode and die? Luckily, we did not find out (my dad again performed some risk calculations and decided it would be safe).

Once holes were dug, Robby and I had to run to Chipotle for lunch. Dad and Jason filled holes with rocks and set the posts up. Mom and Trevor continued to dig. At this point, it was drizzling. Boo. When we returned from Chipotle, Robby and I left again to run to Home Depot to get some more posts and concrete and to return the auger. A million minutes later, after the Home Depot rental man called 18 different people to figure out how to ring up a free transaction (I complained after our insulation debacle and was rewarded with a free rental), we were on our way back home. Mom and Trevor were still digging, JT and dad were about ready to fill the post holes with concrete. So they filled the holes with concrete, while Robby, Trev, mom, and I dug out the patio area. We then had a ton of dirt, which we were able to stick up against the house so that the dirt sloped away from the house instead of towards it. We called it quits around 4:30 because it was still raining and I think everyone was pretty sore and soggy. Except me, because I really didn’t do that much other than run errands. So, thanks everyone for working so hard while I slacked off and/or exercised patience with the losers that work at the Richfield Home Depot!

We went out to my aunt and uncle’s house for dinner – burgers, fries, salad, and a fantastic dessert dish made by my cousin – ohhh! It hit the spot! Big time.

Today we had much better weather, so I took more pictures. Mom, Trev, and I ran out to Home Depot to pick up all the pickets for the fence (140 total) while Robby and Dad set up 2x4s between the fence posts. Mom got to witness the excellence in action that is the Home Depot staff. I don’t know whether my favorite part was when they watched the two of us struggle with the boards or when several of them came over to ask, “you building a fence?” No. I’m picking my nose. What does it look like I’m doing!?!

Jason had to work for a few hours this morning, so he missed an encounter with our VERY concerned distraught neighbor. Distraught as in, ran through the muddy back yard in his slippers going: What’s the plan? But what about this area? So what are you doing with concrete? How are we going to maintain this area? He wanted answers NOW. I was all Whoa, man. We’re just putting up a fence here. The fence is so you can’t come over here and ask questions anymore. That’s all you need to know. Okay, I didn’t say those things. But I did hope that Dad would call me over and demand some help. He did not. But our other neighbor came over and distracted the distraught neighbor so I ran over and begged dad for something to do. Eventually, the distraught neighbor left.

Dad frames out the posts on the North side of the house. Now the neighbor boy can’t come over and start conversations with Jason. <Jason sighs, relieved>

Mom rakes up the dirt around the fence posts. A change from digging was needed.

Jason came back from work just in time to miss out on the distraught neighbor experience, but we did get to meet 2 new neighbors again today, and again, they’re all very nice (and they’re fellow ‘sconnies).

He also came back in time to start putting pickets up. Since he didn’t put the first few up right, I demanded that my mom supervise his drilling. The result? A very level fence, and a discussion about my college boyfriend. Fantastic.

Jason is so happy to be working on the fence, but my mom remains deep in concentration! Look at that level fence.

Trevor turns $100 into 100 pennies as Barley sunbathes in the dirt.

Dad makes that face because it helps the drill work better.

Dad and Trevor cut some stuff. With power tools. Trevor loves using power tools (he cut a bunch of the fence pickets with the miter saw).

I got to use the miter saw a ton today, and it was uber-fun. I *heart* power tools, especially when I am done using them and still have all 10 fingers and toes. We had a little snafu in that I had been saying that we were making a 5 foot fence, when in fact, I should have been saying it would be 6 feet. The pickets come premade in 6 foot lengths, but dad had planned for a 5 ft fence, and ultimately, we ended up with a 5.5 ft fence. Just tall enough to keep the neighbors out and the dog in. But! That meant that we had 140 6 ft planks to cut up. And I got to do the cutting!

Look! I actually worked today! And, judging by the way my tongue is hanging out of my mouth, I must have been doing something really important.

Robby likes power tools, too.

Suddenly, we were finished. And it looks pretty darn good, I think. We just have to finish making a front gate, and figure out a way to put the gate my dad and Trev made on the back fence.

View of the East side of the house.

View of the South side of the house.

View of the North side of the house.

Barley wakes up to inspect the handiwork on the fence. He is quite pleased.

And that was our weekend! Busy! Busy! Busy! The house was covered in mud when my family left tonight (which makes sense, since the back yard is almost entirely mud right now, and it rained yesterday, and we all walked in and out of the house with our muddy shoes). So, I did a little cleaning and some laundry, and now it’s 11:00. I think I might need another weekend.

More pics are here:

Backyard 5-11-2008

May 11, 2008 at 11:03 pm 3 comments

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