More updates in the yard…

Sorry for the unintentional break from posting here. We seem to have fully embraced a summer schedule and that means late nights and no naps and thus, less opportunities for blogging. But! I’ve found  a few minutes, with help from Caillou.

We’ve had the BEST week, mostly because Pete was able to take off a few days around the 4th of July. So needed and so fun just to have him puttering around the house with us. I take for granted how demanding his schedule can be – poor guy was pretty exhausted. Luckily we finished the deck in time to enjoy a little R&R- just what our family needed. The long weekend started with a baseball game (we have White Sox season tickets – a totally much deserved splurge for Pete.)We had an amazing 4th of July that included a parade, a bbq, and some fireworks by the lake. We hosted a little get together on the new deck on Friday night and then saw David Byrne and St. Vincent at Ravinia on Saturday (awesome show!). Lucy slept in her wagon for most of the show, but woke up for a few Talking Heads songs.


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Basically the best extra long weekend ever.

We spent the rest of the weekend prepping for the pavers in our back yard. We knew we needed to have a devoted area for the bbq and AC unit so we left a little 8X8 foot pad next to the patio. I originally planned to do bluestone in that area and for the walkways to the gate and the garage – I love the classic look – but after pricing it out it just wasn’t an option. Bluestone runs about $10 per square foot, whereas concrete pavers run between $1-$6 per square foot. We hit up our local big box stores to see if we could find something large and simple and settled on these ones from Menards. They were $6.99 per 16×24 inch paver which is about $3 per square foot. We just bought a pallet and had it delivered. Easy Peasy.


I’m not usually in favor of material that’s supposed to look like something else – but I think these are totally the right thing for this yard. The stone patterning is pretty subtle and the color is a nice bluish gray. They obviously don’t have the natural color variation of bluestone, but since they are cast from a mold they have a uniform thickness that natural stone wouldn’t. Sean laid down a gravel and crushed limestone base and then added a few inches of sand for leveling.

IMG_5367 IMG_5368I’m not quite ready to so a full reveal of the yard – we have a few more details to pull together and Sean is still laying the walkways today.By details I obviously mean finding a place for all the toys and junk that have accumulated . Here’s what the finished patio/ac/bbq space looks like.

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It sounds kind of funny – but I think working on the yard has brought a really extreme level of happiness. I’ve just been feeling so good lately – like our house is finally coming together and maybe not such a terrible eyesore. Sometimes with a fixer upper you just get so burnt out from all the projects that have to be done vs. projects that are just pretty and pleasing. Having some space to entertain outside is so important for us because our house is really petite – it’s like a whole new addition in comfortable, safe living space. I cant wait to get the new fence which maybe will get started next week, depending on Super-Sean’s schedule. He’ll also build a screen to cover the AC unit since it is so flippin’ old and ugly (fingers crossed it will last the summer though! I’d rather spend money on a new fence than a new compressor.) I’ve got plans for a few furniture pieces for that spot to make it a really functional outdoor cooking space.

So! That’s what’s happening with the yard. Now, what’s happening on the baby making front –  our FET is happening on Tuesday. Crazy right? It seemed like this time has passed so quickly, but maybe that’s because I’m hopped up on estrogen, steroids, and baby aspirin. I started the dreaded progesterone shots last night which is like injecting yourself with a dull pencil full of olive oil. My tush is SORE, but. It’s worth it. I feel optimistic about this try, but guarded, of course. This will be our 3rd IVF/FET since Lucy was born; maybe 3rd time’s the charm? If this round doesn’t work we’re going to take a break from fertility treatments. It’s just too expensive and stressful to think about doing again this year. Or maybe even ever again. I realized this past week that no matter whether or not we have another baby – our little threesome is wonderful the way it is. We are so happy and lucky to have this little house and such a great life in our hometown surrounded by our families. If this is as good as it gets, it’s pretty darn perfect.

I hope  you all are well and having a fabulous summer.


The Deck!

Oh, you guys. It’s so awesome. When I last posted we had just finished digging the drainage pit under the deck. Sean, Pete, and Sean’s helper made quick work of laying joists.IMG_5071Once the joists went down the decking went on really quickly.IMG_5112We decided to stain the deck a cedar color. It’s a bit orange, but it matches perfectly with the stain on our front steps that Sean built last year. Sean meticulously sanded every board and then applied two coats of stain. It was challenging to get the stain on because we had intermittent storms all last week, but it’s finally done!IMG_5220 IMG_5222It’s so huge! And it looks so orange – these are iphone pics in full sun – I promise it’s not quite that vibrant in real life. I decided that the furniture should mostly be gray or black as a way to counterbalance the amount of stained wood we have in that area (the new fence will probably be cedar too.) Ignore the piddly furniture – I’ve been racing around trying to pick up a few pieces before everything is out of stock.  One bonus of getting a deck so late in the season is that everything is on clearance and/or floor sampled right now, so I’ve been finding some great deals. Pete suggested using the deck as a lounge area and putting our salvaged picnic table in the grass, which I think is a great idea. Later tonight we will pick up a floor sample of this bench – Laguna Deep BenchIt’s really deep – almost like a daybed. I’m also thinking about picking up a couple more lounge chairs in addition to the marais style metal chairs I just got – maybe these ones from Ikea?

lounge chairs

Now that the deck is done we can keep making progress in the garage/studio and then move on to the fence (thank god.) Seeing the brand new deck next to the absolutely falling apart fence makes me twitchy – but I know it’s only a matter of time before super-Sean the carpenter whips out a new one for us. I feel thrilled at the prospect of actually having usable outdoor space! We still have to do a bit of hardscaping (a little paver area for the bbq and AC unit, as well as paths to the garage and gate) but the yard is already improved a million times over. Other small projects in the works are a new backdoor and screen door, and some planter boxes along the fence for veggies. I’m keeping track of my ideas for the back yard and the rest of the outside of our house on Pinterest. We won’t get it all done in time for 4th of July, but I’m really looking forward to doing some late summer entertaining a la this sort of thing…


This is a pic from Lucy’s Gramma’s birthday brunch this weekend. Summertime you guys! bubbles! parties! parades! family! It makes me feel giddy and I swear it’s not just the fertility drugs talking.

Hope you all are well and have a great 4th!


dirt farm.

You know you’re in for a fun day when this guy shows up at your house on a Saturday morning.


Especially when he brings this beast.


Let’s rewind. The reason we needed to bring in a bobcat to rip out our entire yard was because it looked like this.


I don’t really have to explain do I? It’s the shame of the neighborhood. Heaping and uneven mounds of dirt, patchy weeds, and general ugliness. It also sloped toward the house which is a major no no for drainage. Sean made relatively quick work of it, but it still took most of the day to remove about 20 yards dirt. There were a few terrifying moments – mostly the hour long period when we thought he might be stuck, but he and Pk prevailed!


Here’s a view from our upstairs bedroom. I’m sure our neighbors were relieved to see the yard being worked on. Now if I can just convince them to rip out that fence! (it’s in the works folks. One thing at a time!) On Saturday and Sunday we worked on grading and drainage.

IMG_4773The pit is for drainage. We decided to add a low deck close to the house and the trench will help direct water away from our foundation. Unfortunately the space was too tight for the bobcat so we had to excavate that area by hand which took ALL DAY Sunday. I’m still sore.

IMG_4759Basically the area closer to the house that will be covered by the deck is more sharply graded toward the  drainage pit. We will lay down plastic sheeting to direct the water away from the foundation and toward the drainage pit where it will slowly filter into the surrounding soil.It will all be covered with gravel which will be hidden under the deck.

IMG_4774Once the deck area was excavated we started to work on tilling and amending the area where the sod would be laid. We added peat moss, organic much and manure. I thought we would till it, and leave it there for a week since Pk was headed out of town, but when Pete went to return the tiller he decided to go ahead and by the sod.  Mind you, this was on Memorial Day and we were leaving for a bbq in an hour and a half (needless to say, I didn’t make the salad I had promised to bring; thankfully I had an understanding hostess). After a frantic text to Sean he appeared with a magical mixture of fertilizer and chicken poop for the sod prep. It’s a good friend who brings you chicken shit and corn gluten when you need it.



Within two hours – we had a new lawn!





Just in time, too. We have had rain since Monday night. It’s GREAT for the new lawn – not so good for the  mud pit we excavated to  prepare for our new deck. I won’t have more after photos until we make a bit more progress, but I thought I ought to update since I took such a long break from posting this week. One bad thing – I think all the chaos and noise scared our cat away. She’s been missing since last Friday:( She has a microchip and was wearing a collar, but she’s never been gone this long before. Fingers crossed that she’ll reappear soon and be able to sun herself on the new deck.

I hope you all had a great memorial day weekend! Pete’s leaving town tonight, but hopefully Sean will be back to make some progress this week. I’m going to fantasize about building a new fence.


Trash to Treasure

We live in a dense urban area where metal scavenging is a serious business. There is an entire cadre of folks who drive through the alleys of our fair city picking up metal garbage to recycle for cash. In some ways it’s kind of awesome – you can always get rid of metal scrap just by tossing it on your curb or in your alley. It will most likely get picked up within 20 minutes. The downside? There is almost never any good metal treasures left out for me to find on my long walks with Lucy. I routinely see scrapping trucks drive by with complete patio sets tumbled in the back that just need a good sanding and some rustoleum. Luckily, a couple of weeks ago, Pete and Lucy and I were biking on a Sunday and happened to find this.



Clearly, this picnic table had seen better days. The top and bench were totally rotted and the paint was flaking off the metal base. I knew it would be fairly straightforward to add a new top so I begged Pete to drive the truck back to pick it up. I can’t believe it was still there! It was on a Sunday though, so I’m guessing the scrappers were at church. We hauled that bad boy home and took off the top and benches, which basically disintegrated in our hands. It was really easy to just unbolt the pieces from the sturdy metal frame.



We scrubbed it down with a wire brush and then used a drill with a wire brush attachment to strip as much paint as possible. This thing had years of porch paint on it. We bought some of my favorite paint (Rustoleum high performance enamel) and Pete went to town. We replaced the top and bench seats with cedar and gave the wood a coat of Thompson’s Water Seal.

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I love the bright color and the fresh cedar. This things is solid as a rock. I love that you can fit a ton of kids on the benches and that the cedar is naturally rot resistant.  I was planning to buy an outdoor patio set this year once we made a little progress with the backyard so finding and revamping this beast saved us between 500-1000 bucks. We just need to by an offset patio umbrella (oh and finish landscaping the backyard, build the deck, and replace the fence) but at least we have a place to eat!

Speaking of landscaping, Pete and our contractor Sean are spending memorial day weekend using a bobcat to dig out and level our back yard. You can see in the pictures where we started to do it by hand, by after a couple hours of digging  we realized that we really need to use heavy machinery to deal with the amount of dirt that has to be removed. Our yard is about six inches higher than our neighbor’s yard and slopes toward our house (!!!) So removing the dirt and debris and sloping the yard toward the street should help a lot with drainage. We still haven’t decided whether to plant seed or lay sod, but I’m looking forward to having a green yard instead of a mud pit.

How about you guys? Got big DIY plans for Memorial day weekend?


ps. Thanks again for all your thoughtful emails, texts and calls. Pete and I really appreciate all your support.

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