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


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!


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!


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.)


cutting corners

We live on a corner lot. I don’t think I’d buy a corner lot again, though it’s certainly not the worst thing about this house. My biggest annoyance is the people who cut across our yard. And it’s not kids or teenagers who are doing it, but rather adults – all women, sometimes with their young kids. I recognize the repeat offenders, but I’ve never seen them anywhere else but our yard (I’m assuming they do live in the neighborhood though). And because of the house being angled to the street, they actually walk right up along the house – it’s not like they’re only cutting across the corner.

I’ve been trying to brainstorm how to solve this problem. A fence seems like the obvious solution, but because this is a front yard I am hesitant to put up a fence. A nice white picket fence would definitely look the most neighborly. Again, though, the cost. My other concern about a fence is wondering about our property line. As you can see from the map, the property line (the red line on the map) is quite a ways away from the sidewalk/street. That would make it annoying to mow, if we had a fence so far from the sidewalk. I’m not sure what the fence laws are – something else to research I guess.

Another option is a split-rail fence. Both this and the picket fence idea are possibilities, but they’re both expensive so aren’t feasible right now. Plants, flowerbeds and shrubs, are good options but both cost money, require upkeep, and take time to grow. Maybe we’ll explore that idea more when we have the money to put towards something more permanent. In the meantime, though…

I saw a house in another neighborhood that solved the problem in a much cheaper way. They put up a bunch of tall wooden gardening stakes, and strung a bright rope in between them. It was definitely not the most visually appealing solution, but it didn’t look horrible either. And I priced the supplies at Home Depot yesterday – definitely doable. It would be high enough that people wouldn’t trip over it, but not so high that they’d be able to duck under it.

Today as I was researching online I had another idea. Instead of putting the rope/stakes around the perimeter of our yard, why not instead line the driveway? That would look the most neighborly, but also deter people, assuming that they would turn around and go back to the street once encountering the “fence”. And if I find people are simply hopping it, or going under, or taking it down, then I can move it and put it along the street. (I like that it’s easily movable. That also is nice since I don’t feel like researching fence laws. I have had enough of trying to decode our city and county’s laws when I was trying to figure out if we could move our shed to anywhere else in the yard.) It’s probably the best low-cost option right now. I think I’ll go measure the space right now so I can know how many stakes and rope to get. Maybe I can run by Home Depot tonight. :-)

Updated: Side benefit – we could like the “fence” with Christmas lights for some holiday decor!


Groupon score!

Yesterday, I found a Groupon for Atlanta that was exactly what I had been looking for! $20 for a one-time lawn maintenance by Trio Lawn Care. According to the site, they’ll mow and edge my grass, trim the bushes, and identify the weeds. I am excited about this, because maybe they can give me some direction as to what to do with our yard. And also it will look nice when it’s done!

I’ll have to take some “before” shots of our yard. I can’t wait to see what it’s “supposed” to look like!


adding to our list

Originally posted at twentysixcats.com

The arrival of summer has shown us a few more issues with our house that we’ll need to take care of. First off, it’s really really hot in here! I have the A/C on, and the thermometer reads that it’s only 78 or 80 inside, but sweat is just pouring off me! I don’t tend to be warm by nature, so I am wondering why.

I have a theory but I’m not sure how accurate it is. Our house is really humid – it’s not vented properly so we have had some issues with humidity even in the winter. I notice it mostly with the windows – mold builds up on the frame, so we have to keep cleaning them with bleach (like, every 6 months… it’s not REALLY bad). Humidity doesn’t really bother us much (heck, we live in Atlanta) but now that it’s summer my guess is that it’s REALLY humid inside. And that is making it feel much hotter than it is. What do you think of my theory? Plausible or totally off-base?

It could also be an issue with our A/C. The inspector told us that it was hooked up wrong, and we would need to get a professional out to take a look at it. Worst case scenario, we need a new unit, but I don’t think that will be necessary right now. I need to get someone out here; I’m just worried about the cost.

The biggest thing that will help with the humidity will be to put in attic vents. Our inspector last year told us that the easiest way to do that will be to get them put in when we reroof the house, which is still a few years away (hopefully!). I know putting a vapor barrier in the crawlspace will help, too – we’ll get that done when we fix the foundation. Any other ideas of bringing down the humidity in the house, short of putting a dehumidifier in every room?

I already mentioned the mosquitoes we’ve been having trouble with. Not sure what to do about that, either. What are the things that make those pesky bugs worse. Standing water? Tall weeds? We need to try and figure that out. It’s worse around our carport, so that’s a place to start.

We have been daydreaming recently about what we want to do with our yard. Those of you privy to my Facebook updates will know that we have some trouble with people walking through our yard since it’s a corner lot. Also, the way our house is situated, our side yard is actually the biggest area and probably where our kids will play. I’d love to have some sort of natural barrier along the sidewalk to keep our kids in and unwanted people out – perhaps some poplar trees?

We’d love to get our yard to a place where we can spend time outdoors. Keeping the bugs to a minimum is key, but also making it a nice place to be will help. We talked today about tilling the whole backyard (there isn’t a blade of grass, only weeds) and planting grass. Someday, someday! There are some things we need to think about first, like how to divert the water from pooling in our yard when it rains. I really know nothing about landscaping so what I have in my head might not even be possible. We’ll see!

Today with the help of some friends we moved a few pieces of furniture downstairs. I am excited! We also moved down our desktop computer to the den, and a few other miscellaneous items. I’m trying to turn a corner of the den into a small office, and the rest of the den will be a playroom. I think it’s going to be a really nice living space when we’re done! I told Paul that I’d like to make the living room upstairs a nice place to have guests and entertain, and the den a place where we can relax and let the kids have fun.

I look forward to working on making the living room look nice decor-wise. Though, I’m about out of money so I better start coming up with inexpensive solutions. :-)