Friday Five

This week has flown by! I kept meaning to post about tearing down our deck but all of a sudden I woke up and it was Friday. No complaints here.

1 – We are mostly finished building the second phase of the fence! We have two warped boards that need to be replaced and we need to fix a few places so that the dogs can’t slip out but we finished enough to move on with the next phase of outdoor work. The open spot is where the gate will eventually go. Right now we put some lattice up just to keep the dogs from getting out.

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2 – We ripped down the deck last weekend! Well, I ripped down the deck with a little help on the stairs from Hell and Kyle handled a majority of the clean up. As long as it doesn’t rain we’ll start on the new deck this weekend!


3 – We’ve been spending a lot of time outside with the pups now that the yard has almost doubled in size again. They are loving all of the extra space and it doesn’t hurt that this is the only grassy area in the backyard right now. Dead grass > no grass.


4 – Our upstairs air conditioning unit went out on Tuesday and it was miserable. All of our bedrooms are upstairs and it was super hot earlier this week. We don’t have a ceiling fan in our room and I prefer arctic temperatures when it comes to sleeping so we ended up sleeping on the floor in the living room. The dogs didn’t mind. Thankfully we were able to get it fixed Wednesday afternoon and the cost was under $100.


5 – We slightly changed the plan for moving the current back doors in the kitchen. Instead of sliding them down the same wall, we’re hoping to take the current dining room window out and put the new doors there instead. This means less steps from the door to the deck and it lets us walk right into what will be the outdoor kitchen/dining area which will be better for grilling. It should also bring in more light on that end of the space. We’ll probably do this next Spring/Summer along with adding more windows in the kitchen/dining room.


That’s all for now! Hopefully I’ll have lots to share next week. I’m usually pretty ambitious in my weekend plans but my hope is to finish getting the back area prepped tonight (rake, pressure wash foundation, lay weed fabric) so that we can start building tomorrow. I really want to power through because right now it’s a hassle to get the dogs out since we have to take them through  the tiny laundry room and then out the back door of the garage but I also want to take the time to make sure everything is 100% right.

Friday Five

What’s up, jerks?!*

I really wanted to get more into blogging this year but so far it hasn’t happened. Part of that is a lack of things to blog about because I don’t want to post something just to have some sort of content. That being said, in an effort to get myself to post regularly, I’m going to try doing a Friday post every week that just throws out 5 things that are going on in our lives at the moment. We all know how great I am with keeping up with these things (I owe you guys a 2016 goal update for instance) so we’ll see. Let’s get to it.

  1. *We’re binge watching The League right now and it’s giving me a lot of feelings. I miss football season. Rafi is disgusting but hilarious. I wish there were more than seven seasons. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself when we finish the series; we only have four episodes left. SINT. Time to pick one of the billion shows we’re behind on…maybe we’ll finally finish Parks and Rec. Or Pysch. Or catch up on Gotham. Deadliest Catch? Suits? NCIS? The options are endless and overwhelming!
  2. We’re almost done with the next phase of the fence! We just have three more panels to finish plus the gate and then we can connect it to the existing lattice fence. Fingers crossed that means deck demo can get underway this weekend. Ugh, our poor grass. That’s what happens when you have a very hot, dry summer.fenceleft
  3. Kyle and I registered for a half marathon and we’ve been getting up early almost every Saturday morning for our long runs. My longest so far has been 13 so I’m feeling pretty prepared for the race and it’s not until September. My last couple of long runs have been 10-11 miles but I’m hoping to bump back up to 12-13 this weekend. It’s supposed to be super hot though so we’ll see.
  4. We’re currently fostering the cutest kitten. Her name is Gracie and she’s just over 4 months old. She’s fully vaccinated, micro-chipped, spayed, and ready to be adopted. gracie
  5. I’m thinking about getting a new blog design soon. I’ve never loved this one and I’ve been wanting to upgrade for some time. I’ve been putting it off until I have more to blog about but maybe if my blog is prettier I’ll want to blog more? I don’t know but I think I’m going to test out a couple of blog themes this weekend to see if I can find anything I love.

Our New (Final) Deck Plan

I don’t think I’ve really talked about it here but Kyle and I have gone back and forth on our deck plans so many times that I’ve lost count. I never really loved anything we settled on and although he’s pretty laid back and said he was cool with whatever, I could tell he wasn’t totally into what we decided either. A few weeks ago we were sitting outside burning branches from our Christmas tree (Yes, I realize Christmas was almost 6 months ago. Deal with it.) and I started to play around with a new idea which I’ll get to here in a minute. First, let’s look at the current deck. Here’s a photo from the listing:

Back View

Our original plan was to expand the existing deck all the way across the back of the house so that we can move the french doors to give us more wall space in the kitchen and then create a paver patio behind the garage (where the brick is in the photo above). This would give us an “upstairs” grilling/dining area and a “downstairs” outdoor living area. Here’s a very professional rendering to help you visualize the original deck plan.


That was the plan for a while but then we decided we didn’t really want to deal with pavers and we didn’t love the idea of pouring a concrete patio either so we decided instead of a patio we would create a lower deck. So we would keep the overall plan but with different materials.

That plan was THE PLAN for a long time. Like, the last two years. As the project has gotten closer (!!!) I’ve started to doubt that plan more and more. We kept talking about it and how to best tackle it and financially it’s best for us to break this project up into two phases and even then we went back and forth on which phase to do first (upper deck vs. lower deck). The same arguments were being made over and over to justify one over the other. The lower deck should probably be done first to make it flow more seamlessly. The upper deck should be done first so that part is done and there’s no snag when it comes time to re-do the kitchen and move the french doors. The lower deck should be done first because it will be the cheaper phase. The upper deck should be done first because it’s falling apart and the pine tree near the lower deck area should probably be removed first.

But then, as I was sitting in my plastic adirondack chair breathing in the fumes from the burning evergreen branches, I came up with a new plan. I finally admitted to myself that the old plan never really worked. I didn’t want a multi-level deck. I didn’t want something that has a lot of wasted space and the potential to look like Frankenstein fell in love with a load of pressure treated pine. And so a new plan was born. Are you ready for this?!


Okay, so I know that mock up leaves a lot to be desired but it’s the best I can do with the tools I have. ANYWAY, it boils down to this: instead of a lower deck and an upper deck we are going to build a one level floating deck at the height we had planned for the lower deck. This means that we’ll have to have a few steps from the doors to the deck but that was really the only con we could think of and it’s not a big deal to us. We feel like this plan lends itself better to our ultimate goal of being able to entertain seamlessly out here and it keeps the deck open to the yard so it’s easy to come and go. Not that it would have been difficult to access the yard with the original plan but this just keeps everything a little more open. We are losing a little space because we can’t use the entire span of the back of the house due to the crawl space door (the current deck is built above the entry point) but it’s only 4 or 5 feet which we can deal with.

If all goes as planned, we’ll be starting on this project at the end of July/beginning of August. We’re still doing the deck in two phases the first of which will be demolishing the old deck and building from the crawl space door to the corner of the house. We’ll also be adding in another section of fencing during this project which will have to be done before we can start on the demo/new deck.

We are both much more excited about this plan than we’ve been about either of the other plans and if I had my way we’d be yanking that old busted deck down this weekend! Tick-tock, deck, your time is coming.

Trip Report: Orlando

It’s been pretty quiet around the house lately so I don’t have much to share on that front but I wanted to tell you guys about the awesome vacation we went on earlier this month with Kyle’s family (which is different than the vacation on our 2016 goal list). We spent 3 1/2 days in Orlando at the Loews Royal Pacific with park-to-park passes for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I’m basically just going to dump a ton of pictures and then mention a few things at the bottom of the post. Enjoy!

adventurebeginsChief and JessChief and KyleDiagon AlleyDuff1Duff2Gringotts_dayGringotts_interiorGringotts_nightHogsmeadeHogsmeade_threebroomsticksHogwartsHogwarts2Jess and JimmyJurassicParkMinistry of MagicPlatformUniversalStudiosWeasleys

So here are some of my thoughts/tips/whatever:

The hotel was beautiful inside and out. I tried really hard to figure out a way to sneak our king mattress out of the hotel but I don’t think we could have fit it in our Kia. Seriously, that was the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in. The hotel had a large pool and beach area that was nice. I only spent one afternoon there and I really enjoyed it but I enjoyed napping in the bed more so that’s how I spent most of my afternoons outside of the parks.

We got into Orlando on a Wednesday afternoon and spent the late afternoon/early evening at the parks until they closed. The crowds were really low so we were able to get a bunch of rides in without waiting at a single one which was insane. The crowds really picked up by Friday though and we had to contend with a whole bunch of school groups.

If you’re thinking about getting the express pass, just do it. We had it and it was so worth it! There were times we didn’t need it and not all rides accepted it but it came in handy a lot, too.

If you’re a Harry Potter fan (or even if you’re not), you should go to both parks. Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are both so cool and it would be a shame to miss out on either one. If you have passes to both parks you can take the Hogwarts Express to get from one to the other which I highly recommend doing at least once each way. After you’ve ridden it once each way I would say you’re safe skipping it and walking between parks if the wait is long. If it’s a short wait, ride it as many times as you can.

If you can only choose one park, I would vote Universal Studios solely based on Diagon Alley. Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventures is really cool and that’s also where Hogwarts is but there’s just something about Diagon Alley that feels special. I think it’s because when you’re there, you feel completely separated from the rest of the park so it really feels like you’re somewhere else. Plus, Escape from Gringotts is in Diagon Alley and it’s my favorite Harry Potter Ride.

If you can swing it, stay at an on-site hotel. It makes it so easy to come and go from the parks as you please. We would go to the parks when they opened, stay until lunch, head back to the hotel for a few hours of rest/relaxation, and then walk back in the late afternoon when the crowds had died down some.

Favorite rides/neighborhoods in Islands of Adventure: Jurassic Park (water), Ripsaw Falls (water), Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Spiderman

Favorite rides/neighborhoods in Universal Studios: The Mummy, Escape from Gringotts, London, San Francisco, Duff Beer Garden

We ate at several restaurants in City Walk that were good and I would eat at again: NBC Sports Grill and Brew, Vivo Italian Kitchen, and Red Oven Pizza Bakery. We also ate at Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food but I don’t think any of us really liked what we got and the atmosphere wasn’t all that great.

We had so much fun on this trip (thanks again to Kyle’s parents!) and we can’t wait to go back! Especially since the Chocolate Emporium will be open next time:) Now we’re just counting down the months until our big Caribbean vacation!

2016 Goals Check In

I’m a little behind on this update but once again I don’t feel like we’ve accomplished a lot lately. For May, I’m hoping to make a lot of progress on the front door project and the yard. We’ve been tackling the yard every weekend but it’s a lot of work! I know we’ve made a lot of progress but it’s hard to tell unless you live here and see it every day. Over the weekend we filled up our 96 gallon yard waste container plus 7 30-gallon yard waste bags with leaves and weeds. We haven’t done anything in the back yard for the entire 3 years we’ve lived here (at least not outside the fence) and the house was vacant or being rented out for several years before then so the yard has been seriously neglected.


We’ve cleaned up this whole area which used to be all leaves and weeds. Apparently I don’t have a before picture but trust me, it was bad! Eventually we’ll do some landscaping back here with plants that keep mosquitoes away. We weren’t able to take our fence all the way to the property line but we don’t mind because it gives us the ability to put in some natural insect repellents without having to worry about the dogs digging them up. Of course, behind this angle we still have all of this crap.


And that’s even after I did some weeding.

Anyway, we were able to strike off staining the fence! So at least there’s that. I have everything I need to repaint the study so hopefully I can take care of that this month too if I get the front door finished up.

-Demo current deck – Postponed to 2017
-Clean garage…again – Done! 
-Build new, bigger deck – Postponed to 2017
-Refinish very old but new to us front door – Started at the end of 2015. 
-Install front door
-Repaint the study
-Add built ins in the study?
-Add crown moulding in the study?
-Create new area for dogs
-Remove dog crates from master bedroom
-Caulk windows – Started. All downstairs windows have been caulked. 0/4 upstairs windows have been done.
-Paint master bedroom?
-Clean up side/back/front yards – Started. Currently focusing on smaller side yard and parts of the backyard. 
-Price out all aspects of kitchen remodel
-Stain fence – Done!
-Extend fence?
-Remove trees? – Removed dead oak in front yard.
-Remove shed?

-New flooring in entry/study/living room. – Mostly done! We just need to add the thresholds and then install the baseboards in the living room. – Done!
-Paint living room. – Done! 
-Stain beams in living room. – Done!
-Build/stain lower deck – We priced this out over the weekend and we’re trying to figure out when to tackle the project. Most likely August-September. 


-Read 26 books – can be re-reads or never before reads, but must come from books we already own – Behind! I should be on book #10 but I’m only on #9. Hoping to catch up this weekend.
-Go on an awesome vacation – Booked and paid for!
-Lose 20lbs – This is still not going well but I’ve decided that I’m going to just shake it off and start over on Monday. I’m thinking about doing a weekly post on this to keep me accountable.
-Tone and tighten once I finish losing these last 20lbs. – Three of my weekly workouts are dedicated to toning.
-Walk the dogs more – We’re still not walking them as often as I’d like but more than we used to.
-Use my craft room – I rarely use this room and that’s pretty lame
-Get a new look for the blog

Do You Want to Build a Fence? Part Three.

A couple of weekends ago, we finally got around to trimming down the posts and staining our fence. I had almost gotten used to the raw pine look and comically tall fence posts.


Since we only have a small portion of fencing in at this point, we were able to knock out the staining in a weekend. Going into it, we weren’t sure if we wanted one or two coats but we ended up loving it after one so we stopped there. Here’s what we did:

Step One: Trim posts. Kyle bought a 9″ blade for the reciprocal saw and knocked this out quickly.
Step Two: Clean the fence. We broke out the handy dandy pressure washer for this.
Step Three: Allow fence to dry. We cleaned the fence Saturday morning and then ran some errands. By the time we got back the fence was ready for stain.
Step Four: Stain. Stain. Stain.
Step Five: Curse yourself for not staining the boards before you installed them.
Step Six: Stain.
Step Seven: Stretch your back.
Step Eight: Stain some more.
Step Nine: Get your brush stuck between the fence and a tree.

Step Ten: Stain even more.
Step Eleven: Allow fence to dry.
Step Twelve: Top posts with solar light caps.

We finished up late Sunday afternoon and love how it turned out! Here’s a progress shot that shows the new stain vs. the raw lumber.

Our yard is a disaster but at least we have a pretty fence now. Baby steps.





There’s still a ton to do but maybe in about 20 years it’ll all come together.

2016 Goal Check In: April

We haven’t really made much progress on our goal list this month but we did tweak the list a little. We’ve decided to hold on the upper deck project for this year and instead wrap it into the kitchen renovation next year. We are planning on moving forward with building our lower deck instead so that we still have an outdoor area to use this fall. While I’d love to get rid of the scary current deck, this new plan makes the most sense for us right now.

Anyway, here’s where we are now. I really need to start working on the front door and I have the paint for the study, I just haven’t had the motivation. We’ve been spending a lot of time on the sofa during the week and our weekends have been dedicated to yard work or traveling.

-Demo current deck – Postponed to 2017
-Clean garage…again – Done! 
-Build new, bigger deck – Postponed to 2017
-Refinish very old but new to us front door – Started at the end of 2015. 
-Install front door
-Repaint the study
-Add built ins in the study?
-Add crown moulding in the study?
-Create new area for dogs
-Remove dog crates from master bedroom
-Caulk windows – Started. All downstairs windows have been caulked. 0/4 upstairs windows have been done.
-Paint master bedroom?
-Clean up side/back/front yards – Started. Currently focusing on smaller side yard. 
-Price out all aspects of kitchen remodel
-Stain fence
-Extend fence?
-Remove trees? – Removed dead oak in front yard.
-Remove shed?

-New flooring in entry/study/living room. – Mostly done! We just need to add the thresholds and then install the baseboards in the living room. – Done!
-Paint living room. – Done! 
-Stain beams in living room. – Done!
-Build/stain lower deck


-Read 26 books – can be re-reads or never before reads, but must come from books we already own – On track. Finished #6 and 200 pages into #7.
-Go on an awesome vacation – Booked and paid for!
-Lose 20lbs – This is not going well. I’m working out a ton but I’m having a lot of trouble getting my eating under control. We eat out way too often!
-Tone and tighten once I finish losing these last 20lbs. – Three of my weekly workouts are dedicated to toning.
-Walk the dogs more – We took them on a short walk last weekend. Hoping to do it again at least once this coming weekend. They play in the backyard a lot so the walks are just to give them a change of scenery. 
-Use my craft room – I rarely use this room and that’s pretty lame
-Get a new look for the blog

Happy Friday! Fingers crossed for a productive weekend.

Yard Progress

We’ve made a tiny bit of progress in the great yard clean up of 2016. We’re really trying to get our property in decent shape this year since it’s been pretty neglected for the three years we’ve been in the house. Of course right now it still looks pretty crappy but it’s a work in progress! We’re starting on the side of our yard that sits between our house and our neighbor’s house. We figured this side is the most important right now because our neighbor actually has to look at it (we don’t have a neighbor on the other side of our house) and her house is on the market so I’m sure it will help her if our yard doesn’t look like total crap.

Here’s our overall plan for this side of the yard:

-Remove weeds
-Remove ivy
-Clean up leaves
-Remove monkey grass
-Remove overgrown azaleas
-Trim other giant bushes
-Trim fence posts
-Clean fence
-Stain fence
-Landscape around outside of fence (mostly mosquito plants)
-Plant plum trees
-Install edging from fence to front of property
-Mulch from fence to front of property
-New walkway (this will happen later down the road)

Our time has been pretty limited lately since our past several weekends have included at least one day away from the house and the weather hasn’t always wanted to cooperate. We’re also limited by how much we can put in our yard waste container each week. Here’s the best I have for before pictures…this is after we raked up a ton of leaves and I removed some new ivy growth.



I hate monkey grass with the fire of a thousand suns so we decided to rip it all out and put in plum trees. Kyle hacked everything up with a pick ax and then I picked up all of the chopped up plants and tossed them in our yard waste bin.


Once most of the monkey grass was up, we went ahead and planted our plum trees. There are two in this picture (taken a couple of weeks ago) but they’re almost impossible to see.


On Saturday, we removed the rest of the monkey grass and I worked on raking out all of the loose grass remnants and leaves and tried to level out the area a little bit. I apparently forgot to take a picture but it looks a lot worse right now than it did when we started working. I’m planning on cleaning up the rest of the leaves and dirt this weekend and hopefully we’ll also be able to install the edging and just maybe start mulching.

We have zero plans and a forecast full of sunshine so fingers crossed for a productive weekend!

Project Update: Master Bathroom

As you guys know, we’re in the middle of tearing out our master bathroom with no immediate plans to rebuild it. I don’t know if it’s the bathroom or me, but the demo has been super slow. It took me no time at all to tear out the half bathroom downstairs but I have been struggling to rip out the master bathroom.

Demo is usually my favorite part of any project and it’s something I’m pretty good at tackling myself but a couple of weekends ago I had to get Kyle to help me because I was so overwhelmed with it all. We got the toilet out as well as the moldy drywall but the tile floor is a pain and a half.


It’s so difficult to remove with the tools we have that we even got a quote to have the professionals come in and take care of it. We heavily considered just paying to have it done but honestly, we’d rather save that money now and use it down the road when we rebuild so we decided to pass on hiring the job out. So that’s where we are right now, a partially torn up bathroom and 30sqft of floor tile left to remove before we even start tearing out the shower tile.


Once we get the floor out we’ll pull out all of the shower tile and the tub before putting down new subfloor and closing the area off indefinitely.

In better news, we’ve been able to make some progress on the outside of our house! We’ve been pretty limited with our time lately but I do have a little bit of progress to share soon so check back later this week!



One of the things we want to do this year is get rid of some of the troublesome trees in our yard. We got a couple of quotes and after discussing our options, we decided to move forward with removing the oak in our front yard. All of the pines in the front and back will eventually go but with a total over $3k, it won’t be this year.

The oak in the front yard was in poor shape and we were afraid that if it fell, it would hit a neighbor’s house or car and we didn’t want our crappy tree to be somebody else’s problem.

I don’t think I have a real “before” picture so here’s a screenshot from Google Maps.


The tree in question is the one close to the center of the picture. It doesn’t look bad here, but this picture is almost 4 years old and in that time, the tree started to die from the top down. Every storm left a ton of large, heavy limbs in the street and the leaves were dead for most of the year. So $600 later we have this…


We could have had all of this hauled away but leaving it here saved us about $100. We had planned on burning the brush pile and hauling the logs to the backyard to eventually split and use for firewood. Actually moving the logs proved to be a little difficult but lucky for us a neighbor from a couple of streets over saw the pile and said he’d be willing to take whatever logs we didn’t want and cut down the logs we do. Hopefully that will happen this week! I’m glad that we finally got this tree taken care of and it gives us one more thing to mark off of our 2016 goal list!

I’ve got a small side yard and even smaller bathroom update for you guys later this week so stay tuned.