outside updates

The weather has been beautiful the past two months or so, and we have been taking advantage by being outside more. I don’t really enjoy being outside when it’s not pleasant, and that probably shows in the overall cleanup of our house during the summer and winter months. So, it’s good for me to spend the time and energy to make up for it.

One of the things I spent a long time on was in cleaning up the bushes by the road. I talked a little bit about the azaleas here, and left with this picture:

Cut back azalea bushes

It’s not very obvious in the picture, but there are a lot of non-azalea bushes in that island that have somewhat taken over now that the azaleas have been cut back. So I spent a few hours outside one afternoon/evening with our pruning shears and lopped off as much as I could. I had to be really careful because there are vines with thorns starting to grow. I cut them back whenever I encountered them, but then I had to be careful because I wasn’t wearing gloves. Here is the after:
Azaleas, after trimming back
(Apologies for not taking these pictures in the best of light – I just know I need to take them when I think of it and not wait.)

I cut a lot back from the other pine island, but you can’t really tell. The thorny vines were worse on that side, so it was tedious, but I think it’s a good start.

Another thing I started doing was quickly pulling out the hose and spraying down the front of our house where the spider webs are going crazy (around our front door). It has really helped and doesn’t take too long. However, our house was at an awkward place just sprawling around the front stoop, so I decided to get one of those hose hiders from Home Depot. Because of the azaleas, I couldn’t put it on the ground, but I think it actually looks nice to have something on the front stoop.

Fall flavor

Fall flavor

We didn’t paint the front door – it was just open. I try to leave the door open whenever the weather is nice, to help air out the house. I just wish we had screens elsewhere in the house so I could get some cross-ventilation going! (One of our cats makes a beeline for open doors and windows.)

I stuck the little pumpkin there for now, but we hope to get a big pumpkin soon. I think it looks very nice!


Cutting down the azaleas!

At the end of our driveway, we have several clumps of bushes that were at one point intentionally landscaped by a previous owner. We know nothing about plants, so we have mostly let them go, occasionally pruning them in a completely uneducated way. One of the clumps of bushes are azaleas, which are some of my favorite flowers. Here they are in full bloom:



The pretty flowers were keeping me from cutting them back, but they were really too high and tall. Cars could park on the street on the other side of the bush, and would be completely obstructed from view from the house. It also made backing out the driveway a little dangerous. I couldn’t really find a “before” picture, but hopefully you can get the idea from this picture:

Loves her balloon!

My sister was visiting, and while she was here did a lot of work to cut back the azaleas – she couldn’t find the original bushes. It seemed to her that a layer of mulch/dirt/pine straw was placed over the original bush, or something like that. She didn’t have enough time to finish, but she did get it cut down and thinned out a lot. I took this picture today.

Cut back azalea bushes

We still need to do more, especially with removing all the non-azalea plants. But for now, this is good. As far as the parts that my sister cut off – she transplanted them to the front flower bed under our bay window. We weren’t sure if they would take, but this past spring they bloomed! And I noticed today that there are new leaves, which should hopefully fill out the whole area. I’m excited for how it looks!

Front flower beds

So as a reminder, here is what it looked like when we moved in:

And here is what it looks like now:
Front porch


New Mailbox

When we last left off, we came home from vacation to find that someone ran over our mailbox. It took several days to get a new mailbox. I opted for inexpensive at Home Depot and bought a kit that included the post and all necessary pieces, and the mailbox portion separately. Our neighbor offered us some leftover cement and a post hole digger, and actually he helped us get the post in the ground. That was very helpful, because Paul had injured his hand and was having trouble with the manual labor portion.

New mailbox

I went with a black mailbox to match our shutters, and white post to match the trim. I really would like to do something with plants around the mailbox (perhaps some flowering vines going up the post?), but it’s a very shady area. I tried a flowering vine at one point (you can see the pot in the cinder block at the bottom right of the picture), but it quickly died. I hope to move those azaleas to another part of our yard this winter, so maybe after that I can do more with the mailbox.


Coming home from vacation

We went on a little jog down to Orlando this weekend for my nephew’s 1st birthday! We had a wonderful trip. My brother and sister-in-law just moved into their new (old) house and I look forward to seeing what they do with it! Perhaps it will inspire me to work at decor in our house.

Coming home we were greeted with a slew of issues, which is frustrating.

Shortly before we left, we noticed our bathtub is leaking. We didn’t have time to deal with it before, so we need to figure out the problem and best solution now. The downside of having only one bath/shower! Fortunately our local Y (where we are members) has showers available.

Speaking of plumbing, we also came back to a dripping kitchen sink faucet. It wasn’t dripping before we left, and it isn’t bad, but it’s still something that needs to be dealt with.

We came home to find our mailbox on its side – apparently someone decided to take it out with their car, and drive off. Sigh. So today I went and bought a new mailbox, and now that Paul is home from work for the evening we’ll figure out how easy it will be to put up. (I’m 7 months pregnant and he has an injured hand – we’ll see!)

The last annoyance is our stairwell light is burned out. I know, very minor, but involve dragging a chair upstairs and taking down the light fixture. I’m mostly exhausted all the time which makes these types of projects difficult.

I’ll post pictures of our new mailbox once it’s up and my camera is back from the repair place.


front yard daydreams

I spend a lot of time daydreaming what I’d like to do with certain problem areas around our house. It tides me over while we’re in a position that we can’t really do anything, heh.

One problem area: We live on a corner lot. Apparently, people seem to think that means that we are totally fine with them cutting off the corner and walking right through our yard. This drives me nuts. I feel like it’s rude and it makes me uncomfortable that they walk so close to our house. (How easy would it be to grab something off the carport?) Also, I worry a little that by letting someone on our property and not doing anything to stop it might invite a potential lawsuit later if they should injure themselves somehow and sue me. Yay, America and our court system. I’m sure that isn’t a very common scenario, but I’ve also been around enough people who have found themselves at the wrong end of a lawsuit to know that fighting something like that is tedious and expensive.

And just to illustrate, I added a blue line to approximate where people are generally cutting across:

Doesn’t it look nice and inviting to cut across?
From the edge of our yard

And by the way, 99% of the people cutting across the property are adults. I actually have only once seen kids cut across. So they are very definitely people who should know better!

I have been brainstorming about putting up a fence to take care of this problem. A fence would also give me some peace of mind about making it more difficult for toddlers to run into the street. I have gone back and forth, and have decided that a fence along the shorter side would be cheaper and still look nice. Here is what I’m talking about:

Our yard on the other side

Here are my thoughts about what we should do…

First off, I’d like to remove the two random bushes. I don’t know if they can be moved to elsewhere in our yard, or if we should rehome them. I’ll have to look up what kind of bushes they are. :-) On the left side of the picture, you’ll see some gorgeous azalea bushes. I think they’re beautiful, but they are not in a good spot in our yard. It’s very difficult (read: impossible) to see if anyone is coming when you are backing out of our driveway. Also, if a car parks behind them, I can’t see the car at all from the house or the driveway – which makes me nervous and a safety hazard in my opinion. So transplanting the azaleas is something that needs to happen regardless.

Once the bushes are gone, I’d like to put a fence along the road and up our property a bit to made a corner. (I need to research setback laws for our county.) I am leaning towards a white ranch fence, or perhaps a split-rail. Something like these:

(Images from here and here)

From the very brief pricing I have done, they would be about the same price for the 100ft. length (no gates) we’re talking about. I also have visions of a pretty flowering climbing vine along the fence, or just flowers, to make it appealing to the eye. Of course, I know nothing about plants so I’ll have to talk to someone about that. :-)

So what do you think? Do you prefer ranch rail or split rail? (Picket fence would also work, but it seems a lot more expensive.) What flowering vine would look nice?


Big project this weekend!

We haven’t done much with our house this summer, aside from a few decorative things that I keep meaning to take a picture of so I can post about it. Mostly, our house is just incredibly messy and I keep saying that I need to just go through and do a major decluttering.

My parents are here this weekend and they love doing house projects. I appreciate the motivation, so I came up with a big project: painting the back of our house and our shed.

Where the porch was


We are painting them the same color, the green that is the same as the rest of the house. I hope this will make the shed not feel so big and in-the-way! Today we rented a pressure washer and cleaned the shed and the siding, which has made quite a difference. I think I might keep an eye out for pressure washers on Craigslist because I could see it being quite a useful tool!

Tomorrow we are going to attempt to get as much of the junk off the siding as possible around our sliding glass door. As you can see from the picture above, there is a lot of stuff leftover from when the porch was put on the house. We guessed the porch was put on at LEAST 20 years ago (based on what the neighbors have told us), and more likely it was more like 30 years ago. They used something similar to Liquid Nails it appears, and even pressure washing didn’t make it budge. We talked to the guys at Home Depot and they recommended an old fashioned scraper and sand paper, at least to get it off enough to make the paint stick to it. That will be the project tomorrow, and Monday will be painting day. As you can see, it’s quite a big painting job so we’re going to rent a professional paint sprayer to make our day easier. I plan to paint the entire shed green, and the trim (the parts around the door that are currently brown) will be painted white to match the house.

I am excited! We need to call the landscaper and schedule their return to grade our yard and plant grass back there. That’s next on the agenda and will have to be done by November 15th I believe (before it gets too cold), but I need to look at our finances first and make sure that we’re still okay to move forward with this project.

Oh, in addition to pressure washing today, we also spent a lot of time in the yard. Paul weed-whacked, my dad raked, and I mowed. Our yard looks great! We still need to bag the leaves and pine straw, but already it is looking so much better. I would like to see the area under the magnolia tree cleaned up a bit, but other than that I’m really pleased with how it all is turning out.

Pictures to come!


it’s a gorgeous day for painting!

The weather has been perfect for us to complete the painting projects I have in mind. It’s warm, but not hot, and most of all the pollen hasn’t gotten bad yet. Here in Atlanta, we have the joy of having our entire city turn yellow from pollen every spring. :-) That will probably hit in a week or two, so for outside painting projects this is the perfect time.

I started early and pretty much painted all day. My in-laws are visiting and both helped paint and watch the toddler so I could paint, which I really appreciated.

I tackled the shutters first, then while my father-in-law got the upstairs shutters I painted the railing on the stoop. I painted around the front door yesterday, and today I decided to paint the rest of the wall because while the color is really, really close, it’s not an exact match and the slight different was bothering me. :-) I also started on the front stoop, but had to stop because I ran out of paint. I hope to run up to Lowe’s for more later this evening, and finish the stoop tomorrow. I also need to take the blue painter’s tape off from around the shutters, and then I’ll get a picture of them. I will say, it looks awesome! I am really, really happy with how everything has turned out! Can’t wait to share “after” pictures!


dirt under my fingernails

Well, I just came in from completing Day 4 of my challenge! I’ve done pretty well. Sunday, Paul and I both spent about an hour outside – he cleaning pine straw off the roof and cleaning out the gutters, and me picking up pinecones and sticks. Then I raked for about 45 minutes on Monday, and took yesterday off because it rained. Actually, the rain let up about mid-afternoon so I *technically* could have picked up pinecones at least (yes, we have that many!), but it was also rather chilly. Today I continued raking. All total, we put six 30 gallon bags of leaves out for the trash on Monday, and have collected seven more so far.

Certain areas of the yard look great, but overall it still needs a lot of help. :-) It feels good to see so many bags of leaves at the curb, knowing that my hard work is making a difference!



Spring is here and curb appeal is on our minds. :-) (Can’t you tell? After this post and this post? :-)) The weather has gotten warmer and the spring rains are upon us, and my attention has turned to the backyard as our next big project. We’ve been debating for months about which to do first – the backyard or the foundation. The foundation is very important, but the issues in the backyard are contributing to the foundation problems.

We ultimately decided to take care of the backyard now, because we are concerned that the foundation will continue to get worse while we are saving up the money if we don’t fix the cause of the problem. The good news is we have the money now to take care of that. The bad news is it will put us that much farther back in our savings for the foundation repairs. Isn’t that life?

I have turned my attention to finding a landscaper. Here’s what we plan to do:
* debris/brush removal and grade the entire backyard
* install some sort of drainage solution to divert the stormwater away from the house and into a creek at the back of the property
* plant grass or sod to create a kid-friendly play area in the backyard

The result will hopefully have added benefits of reducing the mosquito population, and giving us a place to spend time outdoors. The backyard is mostly fenced in, so it’s a safer place for toddlers than hanging out in the side yard, as the road that runs by our house is fairly busy (especially during the early afternoon when parents are headed to and from the elementary school that’s two blocks away). Also, when this is done, I hope to put up a clothesline for some eco-friendly clothes and diaper drying!

Now, just to find a landscaper that does all that.


30 minute challenge

Okay, I am going to attempt a challenge for myself this week. We’ll see how this goes, as in the past I’m not very good at challenges. :-)

For the next 7 days (this upcoming week), I am going to spend 30 minutes a day outside, picking up pine cones, small branches, and raking leaves. (Yes we never really raked the leaves from last fall. I know, our yard looks terrible.)

Picking up pine cones and raking up pine needles is an endless job in our neighborhood, and I get bummed before I even start. I’m hoping that by breaking it into 30 minute increments, I’ll be less overwhelmed and the yard will look *that* much better.

The only exception is if it rains, which should just be Tuesday. Otherwise, I’ll be outside every day for at least 30 minutes. This counts as exercise, right? I’ll try to remember to take before and after pictures, in case there’s a noticeable difference. (I filled four 30 gallon bags of leaves this afternoon and you can hardly tell.)