Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Patio Renovation on a Budget

Longtime readers may remember that we were attempting to redo our backyard patio ourselves. Yeah, we have still been working on it up until this past weekend. Two solid days of back-breaking-cursing-ourselves-for-starting-something-so-stinking-hard-my-wife-won't-stop-
nagging-me-until-it's-done-work. Yeah, good times, good times. Don't you wish you were my spouse about now? Nope! Me either!

First, let's start with some before pictures and I will share some of our woes and dilemmas with redoing our space.

When we moved into our house, there was a giant tree that was right next to a bricked patio that had been there from the very first owner. That tiny beautiful tree turned into a giant enormous tree that began to uproot the patio, creating an unsafe spot to hang out and was horrible to entertain on.

We paid to have the tree removed and the stump ground. What we did not expect was the difficulty that we would have placing a new patio on this space because the stump was ground, but the roots were still there. And the roots? Yes, those roots were giant trees that were just as difficult to work around as the space. This giant pile of dirt was creating a damper on my outdoor entertaining and my kids loved playing in it...which created a ton of laundry for me.

We ripped out the entire patio except for the very beginning of it because it was all uneven, but many of the bricks were broken and crumbling so we were worried how big we could make our patio if we only had a few bricks to work with.

Lucky for us, Ryan's family renovated their patio and offered us their bricks so Ryan decided to make a design from their old brick and our old brick to equal a fabulous new patio. We loved the design, but the work was very tedious because the bricks were two different sizes. Basically, it made for difficult and unpleasant work BUT it was practically free except for the labor and the fresh sand.

Now I can tour my yard with a lot less embarrassment. Here was my solution for (with the help of my husband's hard labor) the giant dirt pile. The root system was axed as much as we could and we leveled the dirt and outlined it with some of our free brick. We covered the dirt with pebble and moved our fire pit to this area. Two chairs were purchased for $29.99 from the Martha Stewart line and two outdoor pillows for $12.99 each (also from the Martha Stewart line at K-Mart) to complete this look. These chairs are wicker, but can fold to be stored in our shed or can be easily moved to the dining area for extra seating. I picture a lot of time in the evenings with my husband in these chairs! Not pictured was a small glass table that I got for drink holding or as an extra spot to put a tray on when dining outside for twenty dollars.

Here is what the bricking looks like on the finished patio. The two bricks made a beautiful design with their different colors. I just love how it turned out and I know my husband is really proud too.
Please ignore the trash can in the corner- we are still cleaning up from all of the hard work. Here is our dining area which has been relocated to the side to create more room on the patio for playing and drawing with our chalk.

The patio set was already owned, but my cushions were showing their age. I did do a deep-cleaning on these and let them enjoy some time in the sun. I didn't want to spend all my money on cushions so I replaced the back cushions and will replace the bottom cushions next summer. These kept me on budget, but also freshened up the patio set.

Now the kids can play in this instead of the dirt pile. How refreshing! It will certainly save me some time on laundry, but not on floor sweeping.

And now I can nag my husband about moving these, which are leftover brick from our project. I am sure we can think of some things to do with these, but he asked me not to nag him for a few days until he can recover from this project.

That concludes our backyard tour- I can't wait to hear what you think!

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Frugal Family Fun

My husband builds some amazing forts for the kids using sofa cushions, comforters, and lots of fluffy pillows. Throw on a DVD from the library and you have your very own movie theater! The kids had a great time with daddy while I was gone last night. Aren't dads just the best fort builders?

When the kids climb in bed, my husband and I pretend it is summer and sip our Magic Milkshakes. We sip these as we catch up on our work in the evening or just spend time chatting while we slurp our shakes down. The Midwest folks have spring fever so we do what we can to make it feel like it is hot outside!

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

All Around the House 02.07.08

You might be wondering where I was yesterday? Well, I am proud to say that I am tackling one of my New Year's resolutions and have begun a sewing course over at Hancock Fabrics. I had been looking into it (or procrastinating on it) for several months now and finally decided that this was the year to learn.

To say that sewing is hard for me is an understatement. I am really struggling with learning to sew. Does sewing come naturally to anyone? I find this whole thing to be quite tedious compared to using a hot glue gun and a staple gun. I am one of those free spirits though that doesn't like to measure or follow direction, but that is not what is expected of you in a sewing class. I know I am being taught the proper way to sew, but I don't envision myself doing half the stuff I am learning when sewing. My goal really was just to learn how to use the sewing machine so that I could make throw pillows or curtains. An added bonus for me would be to be able to make a simple skirt or apron, but never to sew my own pajamas (which is our third project in this series of classes).

Our first project was pillowcases. I have a feeling I will never make pillowcases again because this is something I would rather buy in the store. Of course, the purpose is to learn how to sew, not necessarily to learn how to make pillowcases. These were supposed to be an easy first time project, but it took me four hours to make these. They didn't turn out perfect, in fact, one of my pillowcases had to be completely sewn again because it wasn't done right. I also had made the mistake of picking striped fabric, which I wouldn't recommend to anyone who is trying to learn to sew because all of the lines had to match up and it took forever to cut these and sew them.

Our next project will be more up my alley. We are learning how to make aprons and this time I picked a green polka-dotted print. Seeing as the pillowcases took me four hours, I can imagine that an apron will take me about twenty hours.

Regardless, I am really enjoying Ivy's, from Home Ec 101, posts on learning to sew and she is offering a great tutorial for beginning sewers. Taking her free advice is a lot less expensive than taking the courses, which average $15 each plus materials, but I am hoping this class pays off for me.

If you have any kind words for a discouraged sewer, I could really use them! I know I am not very patient!

Ethan was also the superstar in his class for the week. They pick one person each week to be the star and each day they do something special with that person. He had to make a picture about himself and his family which shared all about himself and his favorite things (pancakes and trips to Chicago). The next day he shared his favorite book, "How do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon." The next day was spent sharing about his favorite toy- his Mega T-Rex. Lastly, today we had to make his favorite snack to bring in to share with the class..Pumpkin Muffins. After my sewing class last night, I came home and whipped these up to take this morning while my little superstar slept.

The whole family chipped in to make his superstar week, complete. Even Emily & her monkey helped by handing crayons to our rock star to complete his project! This was definitely a family effort to make his week special.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

All Around Our House 10.25.07

My son stayed home with a belly ache today so I took a few pictures of things going on around our house and what we are up to. I was having difficulties with the memory card on my camera so I didn't take as many pictures as I usually do this week for my blog. Here is my way to make up for it!

This first picture is the bench that I purchased for our entryway. I found it at our local Meijer and was pleased with the quality of the piece and how comfortable it is too. I am trying to work on making our home more inviting and making guests stand to take their shoes off didn't seem too inviting to me. This is the first step towards the direction of what we would like to do for our entryway. We are also planning to wainscot the entrance to make it feel more inviting and get a new light fixture to replace the seventies version that is currently there.

We also relocated our own shoes and belongings and hung some hooks for our coats now in the garage. My bench was moved out there so that the kids can sit down to pull off their shoes. I got a couple of cheap milk crates to throw our backpacks and bags in there.

Yesterday we finally got a chance to do some leaf crafts together. While Emily took her nap, Ethan and I got some special time together to pick out leaves from our front yard. Even though I mowed this past weekend, the yard is filled with leaves. We brought them in the house and traced them, colored with them, and decorated our kitchen window. Ethan wanted to hang part of them upside down since they were "falling from the trees." This was a fun craft to work on, to practice his cutting skills, and gave us an opportunity to talk about nature. I don't feel like I do enough of this with him so we both really enjoyed ourselves yesterday.

I threw a chicken in the slow cooker for our dinner tonight. We have been doing really well this month with our menu plan. This will be our first month really on my husband's once-a-month pay schedule and doing my menu plan has really helped us from going out so much and it has been much easier to figure out what to make when entertaining our friends & family.
I am also finally getting around to reading "Eat Pray Love"by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is hard to explain the book, but it is truly has been a great read for me and an interesting look into another person's travels and spiritual journey. Everyone had been telling me to read this, but I had other books in my to-be-read piles. I am so glad I am finally sitting down to read this- it is a fascinating and fun read.
I also finally found a place to store some of my ribbon so it will be more organized. The pretty suitcase that my "sister" sent from that sister swap is the perfect place to keep all of it. It looks so pretty in the case and it is a clever place to store it without it taking up additional room.



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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

All Around Our House: 09.19.07

I thought I would share what we are up to over here in our little corner of the internet. Linking will be provided through Amazon, but what I am reading/doing is usually loaned through our library and not purchased. The links will provide specific information though on what we are doing!

The kids are listening to: Justin Roberts, "Meltdown"

I am listening to: Dashboard Confessionals, "Dusk & Summer"

On my nightstand you would find, "Queen of Babble in the Big City" by Meg Cabot

I found this when I was thrifting yesterday, "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman. I paid $4 for it- a little more than normal, but it was too cool to pass up!

My children's latest fascination is "Yo Gabba Gabba"

Fall is coming so I need to start whipping up my cocoa mix- yummy!

I am adding some of the items from the new Martha Stewart Collection (from Macys Department Store) to my Christmas list this year. I love these cake stands! I wonder if Macy's will let me use my coupons since Michael's would not!

Let me know what you think and if you would like to see this regularly!



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