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backyard

DIY Series: Home Projects for 2017

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DIY Series: Home Projects for 2017

This year I am doing Lara Casey's Power Sheets, which I LOVE by the way! I intended to do a whole post on my goals for the year but you know work and 10-Ks and coordinating a move with our church to a new building and ski season have just really taken over... Maybe I will do one later this month though. Anyways, one of my goals is of course home projects for the year. In Denver, everyone goes dormant in the winter then as April starts to come around the whole city kicks it into over drive and does a TON of home improvement projects. The rush is real. Contractors just stop caring and are so over booked there is a wait list of like 6 weeks just to get a bid, it is really something else. Each year I try to start getting bids in March so I can get on the schedule for renovations.

Ben and I had our annual meeting to discuss our house to dos so we can stay focused this spring and summer and accomplish our goals! Here is what we have narrowed down the list to:

  • Bathroom
    • Full gut and renovation (I am so excited... I already have two contractors scheduled to come out this Friday to give us quotes)
    • See my inspiration here!
  • Basement
    • Replace the carpet with vinyl wood-esque flooring
    • Do something with our exposed brick wall (yes, yes I know everyone loves it in theory but its not sanitary, it is crumbling, and just not really practical... We are probably going to put up dry wall.)
    • Fix the windows
    • Paint all of the doors, trim, and ceiling with fresh white paint
    • Paint the rest of the walls grey
  • Paint the front door & fix a piece of glass that has been broken since we bought our home
  • Paint front porch ceiling with a fresh coat of white paint and switch out our old light fixture
  • Backyard
    • Re-seed & re-vitalize our grass (unfortunately it died and dried up last year after we sodded)
    • Expand our garden by building some raised garden beds (SO excited about this!!)
    • Refinish deck (the Colorado sun is so intense!)
    • Organize storage under our deck
    • Setup our outdoor fire pit
    • Purchase an electric smoker (Ben is beside himself he is so excited about this... he at one point was telling me we could smoke 100 lbs of meat... Good LORD.. what are we gonna do with 100 lbs of meat!!)
  • Front yard
    • Re-fresh our front yard flower bed areas by pulling up our old rose bushes
    • Re-vitalize our grass and mud patch (we finally killed all the weeds but now its just dirt)
    • Pull up and replace a ginormous prickle bush by our porch
  • Miscellaneous
    • Patch some wall areas around our new Nest and light switch plates then touch up the paint
    • Replace our old smoke detector with the Nest CO2 and smoke alarm
    • Replace the light fixture in the entry way
    • Replace the light fixture in the hallway to our bedroom
    • Poly the handrail & post
      • This is leftover from last summer and really we have just been procrastinating like its nobody's business and could easily do this before the spring/summer arrives.

I will keep you updated with our progress this year. Our next plan is to finalize our timeline and budget for each of these projects!

Planning is my middle name -

Chelsea
 

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Breaking Bread

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Breaking Bread

The dream I had for our back deck/porch/yard has always been to gather together with our family and friends and talk about God's word and our lives, laugh, break bread together, and play games! We have been working on our backyard for over a year now. Here we painted our deck (which sadly did NOT hold up in the Colorado weather elements). Here we laid sod, which sadly ended up frying towards the end of the summer (#renoprobz). We also decided to renovate our kitchen starting in May and much to my dismay our deck became the outdoor storage unit for our appliances and our contractor's tools and supplies. We had a dishwasher and stove among other renovation debris and tools on our deck for about 8 weeks. FINALLY, when our kitchen was nearing completion we were able to finish decorating our back deck and get some use out of it before the winter rolls in. I was afraid I would miss the precious summer time but as I am always reminded, God is faithful and I still had plenty of time to enjoy the backyard.

The day after our contractor finished up with the kitchen, I texted a group of girlfriends to see if they wanted to join me for an evening on the deck complete with yummy food and wine! I got a resounding "I am in!". During this party, my sweet friend (and also current ROOMIE! - more on that later) mentioned that she wanted me to teach her all my hosting ways for when she gets married soon. I had another friend comment to me about how it is hard to know how to host. This got me thinking. I love to host and it comes somewhat naturally to me but it isn't that hard and really everyone can do it! We all grew up with our parents showing us different skills and gifts. My mom, as well as, my dad and step-mom are all amazing hosts. My entire life, I have watched as they have thrown party after party and gathering after gathering. It is easily one of my favorite memories of growing up. Somewhere along the way, I picked up my own hosting style. A few tips I have learned through experience can go a long way for throwing an affordable gathering with a specific theme or style.

I am going to share with you how you can put together a girls evening at your house for less than $50 and not stress out in the process! I want to encourage you to invite others in to share in the hosting and use all the fun stuff you already have in your home that was a wedding present or a special purchase that we just don't use enough!

First - pick the night of the week that works for you invite girls over. I know that about 8 girls fit perfectly on my back deck. For me, I work a 9/80 schedule which means I have every other Friday off so I usually pick a Friday evening that I am already off to host my gathering! This automatically makes it less stressful for me.

Next, decide on the menu for the evening. I usually make the main meal and at least one side or appetizer. I will text the girls letting them know what I need help with. Do not hesitate to tell your girls specifically what to bring or just give them suggestions. Most of my friends love direction when it comes to contributing to one of these gatherings!  Sometimes I am as specific to say that I want someone to bring a cheese and cracker platter and sometimes I say "a side that goes with chicken". This allows people to make something they like but also lets them know what would be helpful! I love my girls, everyone is usually fighting over who gets to bring what and we always end up with SO MUCH FOOD! I love it.

My go to recipe for the meat is crock pot pork. I literally make this so much. It is affordable, easy, and Whole 30 approved!

I shop at my local Sprouts and pick up a 3.5-5.0 lbs of pork loin or pork shoulder (whichever they have that's on sale). I usually spend about $5-9 on the pork! That's it!!

The morning of the party, I put the pork in the crock pot. Then I add about two spoonfuls of garlic that is already chopped in the jar. Add some fresh oregano or other herbs from the garden (pick what you love but some suggestions are: Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, & Basil). Then I add some salt and pepper to taste and put about 1/2 cup of water (or wine if you prefer. P.S. cooking with wine is not Whole 30 approved.) for the juice. That is IT! Just put on low for 8 hours and it is completely ready for your evening! Crockpot recipes make it really easy when you get home from work. You can just focus on prepping the table or the space you are going to hang out in.

For this party, I also made some basmati rice with garlic and some cilantro. I then just rummaged through my pantry and fridge and threw in a bowl of fresh cherries, some pistachios, and a bowl of green olives. All things I already had that were going to go bad if they weren't eaten soon!

When I am the hostess, I usually provide a few bottles of wine for the evening. Nothing fancy, I literally go to Trader Joe's and get 3 buck Chuck or maybe one "special wine" that is $4. I know big spender. To cutesy things up - I just poor the red wine in a decanter (a wedding gift) and put cute wine stoppers in the white and pink wines! I let the girls know they can feel free to bring their beverage of choice, so again there is no stress! I always provide some lemon and rosemary infused water in a cute pitcher (another wedding present).

To make the dinner special and set the ambiance for the evening, I usually pick up one of the $3.99 bouquets at Trader Joe's the week of the party. I keep a stock pile of my wedding decor for various church events and events at my home, so I will usually pull out a few lanterns and candles to set the table. Here is where it gets really fun... You know all that china, fancy cups, platters, and other STUFF you got for your wedding? Yeah, get all that stuff out! It is time to use it. I have been using Ben's grandmother's beautiful blue glasses, my grandmother's weeping willow dishes, and all the platters, pitchers, etc. that I have for these parties! It is so fun. At first all the girls were like, "wow! Where is all this from?" and I was able to tell them that it was basically all gifts and hand me downs and it was time to just use all the fancy stuff! This makes them feel very special and just makes the evening so much fun! You totally don't have to do this but for me, it is just really special to actually get to use all my serving ware. Finally, I pulled out the real napkins that my mom gifted me for Easter. Yep, that's right, real napkins. Don't be scared of the clean up, just throw them in the washer at the end of the night! These are from Target and are really cute!

If you can't tell already, I LOVE blue. Everything matches because, well, I buy everything in shades of blue and grey. Haha

This time together with friends was so sweet. I cherish these nights. I love encouraging the other women that they too can throw a dinner, that isn't overly expensive, isn't over the top but fosters an environment where others feel special and cherished! As you can see above, we had everything from pork to pizza rolls, to a cheese and fruit tray, to fresh cherries & veggies. We didn't have fancy Hors d'oeuvres. These nights are about being present in the moment. As a hostess, you can't lose sight of the point of the evening and you need to enjoy the friends you have over. Once I get the table set, I usually just sit down and focus on being present, I don't run around the whole time or let myself get stressed out. I just know that I don't have to control everything and it doesn't have to be perfect. I usually have at least one friend who brings their dog over to play with Trigger. We listen to country music or our favorite worship songs, sit under the market cafe lights, enjoy the amazing weather that Denver offers in the summer, and talk about life, marriage, our jobs, our ministries, and what we are learning about who Christ is. One of my favorite parts is towards the middle of the evening I usually prompt the girls to share what they are learning in God's word, what this season of life is teaching them, or how they are being stretched. I am always so encouraged during this time. I am beyond thankful for a community of women that are on mission in this city and are loving others with their time, their words, and their hearts. 

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We had such a wonderful time that I planned another evening just two weeks later. We changed up the menu but again it turned out to be such a precious time with these girls. As I swept the leaves on our deck last week, I was reminded of the changing season and I am so thankful I had these special evenings under the stars with my precious friends!

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Trigger and Abe were totally infatuated with all the food droppings they got! They were not happy to be temporarily locked inside.

Happy gathering -

 

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Backyard

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Backyard

Y'all...This has been one of our longest spanning projects to date. We wanted to work on our backyard almost immediately when we moved to our house in June of 2015 so we could enjoy our summer outside. Our entire backyard was zeroscaped, which means there was no grass. This is very popular in Denver because most people have small yards and prefer low maintenance. However, we have a dog, Trigger, and really wanted to have grass for him. Also I grew up with grass backyards and really love the lush look!

I mean come on...How could you deny this puppy grass?

But due to so much going on last summer and just lack of understanding how long this would really take we were not able to complete this project last year. The deck took so much more time than expected. You can read about that here. We were determined to complete this project early this year!

Before:

Step 1: Rock Removal

We started out ambitious last summer and posted on the neighborhood social media site Next Door about "free rocks!" the only catch was they had to come and shovel the rocks and remove them from our yard. This worked at first but then winter came and the appeal was lost. This year, we started aggressively shoveling rocks and dumping them in that lovely dumpster behind us. This is hard work, the rocks are very heavy and unfortunately I am just not that strong so we needed help! We are so thankful for our friends who helped us and Ben's parents who we shamelessly put to work almost every time they are at our house! I don't mean to underestimate this step by not discussing it more but basically this took the majority of our time to actually remove every single rock & all of the weed barrier beneath the rocks.

Rock Removal Complete:

Step 2: Tilling, Leveling, & Soil

On Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I decided we should try to knock out the rest of the backyard, We had fun during this stage of the project! We rented a tiller from our local Home Depot ($47/day) and got to tilling up the land! It was quite easy to use and even I was able to use it. We went over the soil until it was noticeably the texture of sand. We had two mounds that made our backyard uneven. So after tilling up the ground we would take turns using the rake to level the ground. This wasn't too hard but took some time to make sure it was how we wanted it. This took about 2-3 hours. We then laid down fresh soil & some compost to help the grass thrive. Ben did most of the soil sprinkling, I just helped manage.

 

Step 3: Sod

After our lunch break, some friends came over to help us with the process to lay sod! We all rode to the Home Depot and bought a pallet of the Colorado blue grass, the only grass that grows in Colorado apparently. Each roll is 2 ft by 4 ft, so 8 sq ft and each roll was $5.98. We have about 440 square feet in our backyard that required sod. Thankfully we have a truck and were able to load all of the sod into the bed of the truck. The guys at Home Depot were so helpful and helped us load it all. Next - the boys started to lay the sod from the back to the front and from the fence towards the sidewalk. You are not supposed to walk on the grass for at least a week so that it has time to take. It only took the boys one hour to lay all of the sod and make all of the necessary cuts. We actually had about 60 sq ft too much so we called Home Depot to see if they would take it back and even though they usually don't take back live products they were nice enough to let us bring it back since it had only been 2 hours since we left the store! Also they may have felt bad for us because we were at the same Home Depot about 6 times over the holiday weekend and saw all of the same garden workers haha.

Tips we have been told about the coming weeks after you lay fresh sod:

  • Don't step on it or let your dogs on it for one week. We are going to wait 2 weeks just to be safe.
  • Water, water, water. We water about 20 minutes twice a day.
  • Don't mow for 3-4 weeks after you lay the sod even if it starting to get wild looking.
  • Due to so much watering, it is recommended to use a fertilizer a few weeks after laying the sod.
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After:

We are beyond excited about how this turned out! We can't wait to let Trigger run loose back here. 

I even managed to plant a small herb garden on our deck since I was feeling the green thumb! We are growing cilantro, oregano, rosemary, & parsley. Pray I don't let these roast this summer!

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where the green grass grows -

Chelsea
 

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