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.

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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.

xx-H

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?

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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…

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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!

xx-H

Summertime.

Whoah. Two weeks just seemed to disappear in the blink of an eye! But now it’s officially summer, and there are lots of fun things going on around here. Let’s see, where to start…

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Hermione is home! You guys – she was gone for TWO WEEKS. I had totally given up hope that we would see her again. I had packed away her food bowl and emptied her kitty litter, when lo and behold I got a phone call from a lovely older woman one saturday night who said that hermione had been hanging around her yard ON THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN and did I want her to bring her inside? I jumped in my car and raced to pick her up (2.5 miles from our house!) She was a little scrawny but otherwise totally fine. I think the baby rabbit population of our town is glad we recovered her. Little minx. Not sure the dog is too thrilled to see her again, but I’m over the moon.

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We’ve been spending tons of time outside, with friends, doing fun crafting and art activities. I found a super simple recipe for outdoor chalk paint (here) and love setting Lucy loose on our neighborhood sidewalks. We’ve gone to feed the ducks and geese at our local landfill turned lagoon, and parked ourselves in the front yard with watercolors and ice pops.

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Lucy went to White Sox game. I think she liked it. Hotdogs and lemonade and Daddy – what’s not to like?

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I picked up a Phil and Ted’s Freerider. It’s a scooter that attaches to the stroller and can be used as a buggy board. Lucy is absolutely obsessed and I love keeping her close when I want to.

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We adapted my Schwinn Meridian Trike to take a Yepp stem mounted rear seat for Lucy. I lovelovelove the stability of the trike when I’m biking with her. I won’t be winning any road races, but it’s fun to cruise to the beach.

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Deck progress! Finally! Sean was really slammed with other jobs, but he’s finally back and working through the weekend with his helper and Pete to get the deck going. The gravel covers the swale we dug for drainage and the concrete footings for the deck. They still have to attach a ledger board to the house before the framing can get going.

So! That’s whats been happening. Oh, I also started meds for our FET(happening in mid July) and have had migraines like twice a week, which is why I haven’t been posting much. I’m not eager to add any more heavy duty meds to my regime so I’ve been trying to just tough them out with tylenol. I did pick up a homeopathic remedy that I’m eager to try – normally I wouldn’t have much faith in that sort of thing, but I’m trying to be more open minded. So! That’s what’s been happening around here. I also completely rearranged our living room, but I’m waiting for a few more details to come together before I put it on the ol’ blog.

Hope you all are well!

xx-H

The front garden.

You know – the one that only exists in my head. Right now all we have in front of our house is a scraggly patch of lawn.

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Our house is practically flush to the sidewalk, and since there is no sidewalk on the other side of the street we get A LOT of foot traffic. We live across the street from an elementary school so there is basically a neighborhood parade in front of the house twice a day. I’d love to have a little garden there just to increase our curb appeal, but also because I’d like people to walk on the sidewalk, and not on the grass. It’s a partially shaded area that mostly gets indirect sun in the late afternoon so I’ve decided on some shade loving perennials to make an easy and welcoming front garden (and to hide the ugly gas meter!).

1. Hydrangea

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I would probably choose a white mophead variety if I can find them at my garden center. Maybe a dwarf variety? Hydrangeas can grow fast and furious, so I probably won’t plant too many, but it will be nice to have something with a bit of height.

2.Hosta

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I love hostas – easy to deal with and a million shades of green. My favorites are the huge elephant ear varietals with bluish tones mixed with a few of the bright chartreuse ones.

3. Hellebore

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I love the unique colors and appearance of hellebore (christmas rose.) I planted a few green ones at our first house and they thrived in a densely shaded garden so I’m hoping I can have repeat success here.

4.Astilbe

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I love Astilbe for a little bit of drama and color. The feathery plume is so pretty. They make great cut flowers too. They bloom quite tall and have a pretty kind of spiky foliage.

6. Japanese Forest Grass

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I love the waterfall effect.

7.Japanese Painted Fern

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I love the petite Japanese painted fern. It stays quite short, but has a huge variety of colored foliage.

8. Irish Moss

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I spotted this lovely ground cover at our local botanic gardens and totally adore it. The petite white flowers are charming, and I’ve read it’s almost as durable as grass – which is a good thing if school kids will be trudging over it every day.

It’s a pretty small area so I won’t need a ton of plants, but I’d like it to have a lot of variety. Of course, my plan depends on what’s available at my local nurseries this year, but a lot of what I’ve chosen are fairly easy to find. We also have to put in a front walkway since we moved the location of our front stairs and I’d like to add a rain barrel since our downspout is right there on the front corner of the house (although you can’t see it in the pic because it fell off, like, 2 months ago. #stayingontopofthings

So! That’s the plan for the front garden. Meanwhile  Pk is till out of town and contractor Sean is pouring footings for our new back deck. I’m watching my brother’s very energetic dog for the week. He gets along great with our dog, but they never stop playing – it’s a bit exhausting for everyone. Also, I’m the only mammal in my house who didn’t pee on the floor yesterday #goodthingimhousetrained

Sorry, I’ll stop it with the hashtag thing. I don’t even use twitter! Hope you all are well.

xxH

all images via BHG

dirt farm.

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

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Especially when he brings this beast.

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

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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!

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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.

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Within two hours – we had a new lawn!

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Just in time, too. We have had rain every.single.day 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.

xx-H

backyard dreams

Poor Lucy was up all night for the second fevered night in a row. Today, after a visit to her doctor and some antibiotics for an ugly sinus infection, we spent the day cozied up in the living room listening to the lighting and thunder outside. These April showers have me dreaming of lush landscapes and hoping we can get going on the back yard sooner rather than later. After talking with our contractor this afternoon we decided that we need to completely regrade our  yard and he agreed that a low deck with a gravel bed  and a swale underneath could help deal with some of our water drainage issues. He reminded me that any deck we put in could be protected from the rubble of our future basement dig out with plywood and that a flat surface would be easier to work from than the rocky uneven dirt pile that’s there now. After our chat my mind is running wild with ideas for our tiny dirt patch! I found some images of beautiful and compact backyards that are inspiring.
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I’d like our yard to be a mix of materials – a functional low wood deck with room for the grill and the table by the back door, stone or concrete paths to the garage studio and the gate to the driveway, as well as a patch of lawn for the dog. If we can I’d like to squeeze in a few puppy proof raised planter beds so we can have a little vegetable and herb garden. Our yard is really a side yard, running along the side of our house because of the way our lot is laid out.
Our contractor spent the day cutting new roof rafters in the garage( we basically have to rebuild it from the inside out so it’s a suitable studio space for me) and otherwise reframing the space. I’m so glad that work has started again(there goes that tax refund!) It buoys my spirits to actually see some progress around here. It was also nice to focus on something else instead of endlessly refreshing news websites about the bombing in Boston. I’m not sure if it’s motherhood, IVF hormones, or most likely just being human – but every story from that day has me weeping, and squeezing my loved ones a little tighter.
I hope you and yours are happy and together, wherever you are.
xx-H
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