Major Backyard Update - Part 2

Matt and I have had a super busy summer.  I had two very time consuming classes, and Matt was working a lot of nights and weekends.  But in between all of that we were still able to put some work into the backyard, mostly during this past week.  We took off of work and spent most of the time trying to get our backyard in order.  We were able to get a lot done, and we're much closer to our new and improved patio.  Here's what we've done so far:

I'm really happy with how much we've gotten done.  We've definitely been able to cross a lot off of our list.  

Backyard Project List:
-Move a/c unit (this is the one thing we hired out - don't want to mess with Freon!)
-clean, sand, and stain deck
-paint under deck
-replace deck railings
-replace deck stairs
-grind patio
-fill cracks in patio
-resurface patio
-build retaining wall around patio
-remove concrete walkway
-install patio addition
-complete landscaping
-replace back lights

We are planning on finishing the deck stair railings and the patio before winter.  Then next summer we'll tackle resurfacing the patio and the landscaping in the spring.  It's so nice to have a larger area to hang out!  I'm looking forward to next summer when we can enjoy the patio without having to work on it!


Major Backyard Renovation - Part 1

So for most of this year it's been radio-blog-silence from me, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy.  Actually, it means I've been so busy I haven't had much time for hobbies.  Work and grad school have been getting in the way of me having a life recently. 

However, Matt and I are determined to complete our backyard project(s) this summer.  We want to actually enjoy our backyard, and we've been working hard for the past month.  There is a long list of projects that we have lined up, but we're well on our way to getting there.  As usual, we're doing 90% of the work ourselves, so it's taking a while.  Here are the "before" photos.


Backyard Project List:
-Move a/c unit (this is the one thing we hired out - don't want to mess with Freon!)
-clean, sand, and stain deck
-paint under deck
-replace deck railings
-replace deck stairs
-grind patio
-fill cracks in patio
-resurface patio
-build retaining wall around patio
-remove concrete walkway (we may hire this out as well)
-install patio addition
-complete landscaping

Whew!  Consulting the list it doesn't seem like we've done too much, but we've done preliminary work for the stairs, and I'm very close to finishing the deck railings.  Once I remove the old stairs I can use the new paint sprayer that Matt got me for my birthday and paint the bottom lattice.  I started to paint with a brush and then realized how ridiculous I was.  The paint sprayer should be much more efficient. 

So anyway, here's what we've done:

Deck stripped with the railing removed.
Kiwi helped to get the railings ready!  Holes were drilled into the wood at 4.5" intervals, which keeps the railings to code.  The aluminum posts are .75" wide, so there is 3.75" between each baluster. 

I gave up painting the bottom by hand, but I should finish it soon with the paint sprayer.
Stained deck ready for railing!

I started by attaching all of the bottom wood rails to the posts. 

Next I put all of the aluminum balusters in the bottom rail, and lined up the balusters with the top rail.  Then I attached the top rail to the post. I will be putting a 2x6 across the tops of the rails, which will finish it.

The pressure treated wood I used for the new railings (and will use for the new stairs) takes 6-8 weeks to dry out, so I'll be staining those parts to match the rest of the deck towards the end of the summer.  If you stain the wood before it's dry the stain might peel or bubble. 

We ground down the patio and filled in the huge, and not so huge, cracks.  We will be adding a flo coat to entire patio to even it out and add a nice finish. 

So there you have it!  We are working hard, and hopefully I'll have more updates soon!


Office Redo

I think out of all of the rooms in my house, the office has been updated the most times.  It was the very first room that I painted, and I was never truly happy with the color.  I remember pouring it in the paint tray and thinking "I really hope that looks better when it's dry." 

And it did look a little bit better.  For a time.  But the longer I lived with it, and the more I got to figure out what colors I liked and my personal style, I realized that it wasn't working.  So I started trying to figure out what would work.

I've been wanting to do a dark colored ceiling for a while now, and I figured this would be the perfect time to do it.  Matt got to choose the bright orange of his band room, so I should be able to do a dark ceiling for my office.  But what color?

I bought samples of purple, green, and gray.  But in the end I decided on a gorgeous blue/green color. 

The color I ended up with on the walls is Rock Candy by Sherwin Williams.  The ceiling color is Martha Stewart's Plumage, which I had color matched to Sherwin Williams.
I installed a new semi-recessed light fixture on the ceiling.  I also added a new mirrored desk lamp, which I got at Target. 

I made the desk from several Ikea pieces.  I used 2x2 Expedit shelves for the sides, and a Linnmon table top.  I'm really happy with this, because I was looking for a large working space and a lot of storage, and this has everything I wanted.  My dad gave me the drawer inserts for Christmas, so I installed them for even more storage options.  The purple baskets are great for holding craft supplies, or will be good for school books when I start grad school this March. 

I still need to put in trim and closet doors.  I'll also probably change the window treatments, but for the moment I'm just enjoying the calming blue ceiling and massive workspace I now have. 

And really, the biggest test of a room is whether the dogs are comfortable, so I think we're good with that!


Goals for 2014

I’m not going to set as many goals for myself as I usually do, mostly because I’ll be starting a fairly rigorous graduate school program in March (while continuing to work full time).  I like challenging myself with goals, but I don’t want to stress myself out by overextending myself.  Here’s what I hope to accomplish in 2014.
1) Finish my office before I start grad school.  I really need a place where I can organize my materials and study.  I’ve already painted the walls and got a new desk.  I still have to:
-paint the ceiling
-install the new light fixture
-install closet doors
-put up trim
2) Build a coffee table, end table, and kitchen cabinet.  I’ve already started building the coffee table.  Hopefully I’ll have nice weather again at some point so I can finish the job.  I’m also planning on making a counter-height moveable kitchen cabinet for next to the refrigerator, where we used to have the pub table.  
3) Get back into running, and run another half marathon.  I got a stress fracture after I completed my first half marathon, and I was forced to take 6 weeks off.  I just started again, and it’s been rough getting back into it.  I absolutely loved running the half, though, and I want to do more in the future.  I’ll probably be able to do one again by next fall.  
4) Maintain a good GPA with my grad school classes.  
5) Continue to perform well at work. I don’t want my job performance slipping because I’m spreading myself too thin.
6) Get my CC and CL from toastmasters.  The CC stands for Competent Communicator, and I only have 2 speeches before I reach this goal.  The CL stands for Competent Leadership, and I have several things I need to do to obtain this.  
7) Volunteer at least 10 hours a month with Habitat for Humanity.  I recently started volunteering with them, and I think it’s a great cause, and would like to continue throughout the year. I know 10 hours/month is not very much, but it seems like it’s a reasonable amount that I can give, without giving up time for work or school.  
8) Improve my vegetable garden from last year.  I didn’t really know what I was doing when I started my veggie garden last year, so this year I’m going to do more research and figure out how to get the best produce before I plant.  Hopefully I’ll get more food from it this year!
So those are my 8 goals for this year.  I think they will be challenging, but are also attainable.  I can’t wait to get started!


2013 Goal Review

Since pretty much the only thing I update anymore are about my yearly goals, here’s a recap of my 2013 goals.
House Related

1) Finish the first pass on the inside of the house. 
We’re still working on it! We’ve gotten some small things finished which I’ll try to update on here soon, but it always seems like we’re adding to the list!  At this point I’m just really trying to get my office done before I start grad school (in March!).

2) Go through the house and purge every closet, drawer and cabinet. 
This was really hard to do this year since we ended up selling my mom’s house.  My brother and I spent every weekend during July going through the house to get it ready to sell, and then many weekends between when we accepted an offer and when we closed in October cleaning everything out.  Obviously I had no desire to go from cleaning my mom’s house to cleaning my own, so I kind of neglected my house this year.  Plus I accumulated a lot of things from my mom’s house.  Hopefully I’ll get a chance to be more organized in my own house in 2014.


3) Run a sub 30 minute 5k.  
I’ve done this, but I don’t have an official race time.  My best time per my Garmin was 29:13, and I've done it on the Treadmill several times.  I just haven't run a 5k in over a year!   

4) Complete a half marathon. 
I completed the Trenton Half Marathon in November!  I actually loved it, and I hope to do more half marathons in the future.

5) Get to my goal weight and maintain. 
Working on it.

6) Have a general physical, dental cleaning and eye exam. 


7) Get my LEED AP.  
I passed!  It was an awful test to study for, and I’m so glad it’s over. 

8) Do five speeches for Toastmasters. 
I didn’t quite make it – I’ll be doing the 5th speech on Jan 7th.

9) Take the GRE and apply for grad school. 
Done!  I was accepted into 5 programs, and I’ve decided to go to Indiana University.  I start in March!


10) Change my name. 

11) Start an IRA and contribute the max.  

12) Make 3 changes to decrease my carbon footprint. 
I did!  We made a compost pile and have been composting regularly.  We’ve also been using fabric baggies for snacks, instead of plastic bags.  I also had a vegetable garden in the summer and grew some food.

13) Don't buy any clothes in 2013. 
I didn’t buy clothes for about 6 months.  Then I did.  It was rough. 
Overall, I'm pretty happy with what I've accomplish in 2013.  I'm looking forward to 2014!  Happy New Year!