Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Summer So Far

As usual, I feel like we jumped from 5 minutes of spring to full-blast summer.  It's been so hot already (how did I forget how miserable it is to be hugely preg in the summer???) and we're trying to take advantage of the sun and soak it up.  

I'm also a little daunted about what to do to keep my toddler entertained each day.  She only went to school two days a week, and only for half days, but somehow that was enough to break up the week and make it feel more structured.  Now I have five full days that stretch out in front of me and a girl who is becoming more independent and needing more stimulation.  We're getting creative over here, for sure.  

Soon enough she will have a sibling to play with who will entertain her. :)  (Speaking of which, I should probably get on with prepping for baby... I've done zero and she's set to arrive in the next twelve weeks!)

So here's what we've been up to so far this summer:

Harper had her last day of school.  It's hard to believe that when she first started going, she couldn't stand on her own (or crawl even).  This time I couldn't get her to stay in one place long enough to get a decent picture!

We had a garage sale!  This was our first one and I have to brag that we made well over $800!  We were lucky that Tony's parents brought over lots of stuff and refused to take any money (we donated to their church in their name instead), so that certainly helped.  We also had big pieces of furniture that we would have craigslisted anyway, but little stuff really added up.  

I was so excited it was a success!  I was afraid we would haul all this junk out and no one would buy it.  But we literally had one lady come buy almost all the furniture before 7 am on Friday (definitely have yours on a Friday, it was far busier than Saturday!) and a steady stream of people after that.  We had only minimal stuff left over and it went straight to the local thrift store.  Money and purging! Success! 

They recently redid a local playground and I love the new "grass."  I don't have to worry as much about my accident-prone child.  She loves to slide and jump and I just can't believe how "two" she's acting lately.  This kid thrives on being "owsiiiiide."

Kacy and Mikey's little one Finn had his first birthday!  He was just born!  (apparently my summer has consisted exclusively of me lamenting how fast children grow!)

He had a blow up slide that Harper was really good at.

 My newest trick is to find a box of something and let Harper go all through it.  She is GREAT at making messes.  Luckily, she is sorta learning how to clean them back up (sorta being the key word).  Books are her absolute favorite thing in the world (maybe next to raisins).  I am so proud because that was my goal, but man sometimes I get tired of reading them (over. and over.).  She is better about not ripping pages, so bins of real books are a hit now.

Also, crazy hair.  The end.

*By now it's no secret that I take an annual Digital Detox week that corresponds with our family vacation (don't rob us, Tony's parents are housesitting - we don't have anything good anyway).  I don't look at computers or ipads and I only use my phone for phoning, so I'll be checking out for a while.  

I absolutely LOVE doing this, and I highly recommend it, especially while on vacation. Life needs a reset sometimes, you know?

 Sometimes I get a little sad for people when I see them checking in to every restaurant and attraction on their trips in real time - how do you even enjoy it that way?  I'm all about taking some pics and bombarding people with them, but there's time for that later.  So, I'll be soaking in some quality family time and breathing laboriously while chasing a toddler through the sand while 7 months pregnant and sweating - no one needs a real time image of that one, I promise.  See ya later!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Berry Pickin'

A few years ago, Tony and I took my visiting fam to pick some berries at a local farm.  It was fun (and roughly 1000 degrees) and I remember thinking how fun it would be to take a kid there in the future. Well, we now have the required kid, so of course we had to go get us some strawberries (and I used the excuse that I don't bend so well these days to be the official photographer). 

We found a great little farm this year (Whitley Farms in Sharpsburg, locals), where they don't use pesticides.  It's a little family operation and they were so sweet and encouraged tasting.

Harper surprised me with how well she did.  She carried the bucket, picked some herself, and only squashed a few.  We went early enough that it was only about 80 degrees (9 am, people) and she loved running down the rows.  Can't wait to take a whole brood of kids here one day!  We are definitely going back for raspberry season!

Hard at work

 Try not to be blinded by my thighs... I tried to crop them out but it just wasn't happening...

So good.

Maternity jean shorts for the win.

I <3 You, Summer!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Backyard Part III: ROCKS! (and it's done!)

Rocks, y'all.  Lots and lots of rocks.  $$$ of rock.

So the backyard saga continues... but here is a final look!  It's finished!  (well, as finished as it's getting at this point).

((( Part I here )))
((( Part II here )))

So, when we left off last time, we had put down landscape fabric, Tony dug in lots of stone edgers, and we laid mulch and planted plants.  

This time I got some pictures of the plantings around the play area side of the yard.  Still so excited to have hydrangeas! 

It's a hosta party and you're invited.

Grow, babies, grow!

Now it was time for the biggest chunk of square footage - the rock.  We decided to go with rock because it would hold up a little better than if we just mulched or pine strawed it all.  As I've mentioned, water flows right through here when it rains, so we needed something that wouldn't wash away. I also wanted it to look planned and substantial... like it was always meant to be that way and not covering up years of neglect and failed grasses. :)

We debated different types of rock - pea gravel would have been nice, but it was too small and we worried about erosion.  Regular gravel would have been fine, but we wanted a more polished look.  So we decided on smaller river rock.  It was more expensive, but I love the look.  The stones are mostly rounded and they are a nice natural color.  They are big enough to not wash away, but not so big to make walking through there impossible.

Harper was so excited to see it delivered!  Lots of WOWs! 

Oh, just enjoying a nice juice among the stones.

She looks skeptical.

 We ended up needing 8 total yards of it.  We estimated 5, but soon realized we were short.  So, for the grand total, that's 2 yards of gravel, 8 yards of various mulches, and 8 yards of rock - 18 yards of materials that my dear husband shoveled and wheelbarrowed in.  He definitely got his exercise!  (oh, and shout-out to Mikey and Kacy who stopped by and put their Crossfit-honed muscles to good use and helped lay a lot of it in like 15 minutes!)

It was a long, slow process, but it was so fun to see the results!

My growing bump even helped chronicle the process!

 And now for more final shots!  I have to say, the minute the last load of rock was laid, I grabbed the camera and took these.  The sun was too shiny and I didn't stage anything, but it's an accurate look at real life. :)

You might notice too the ridiculous amount of leaves all over our beautiful new surfaces --- stupid heavy rain from the night before left quite a mess!  I started to pick up some leaves before realizing in 7 seconds that my pregnant belly just was not having it.  

What was great, however, was to see the new drainage system at work - and it performed flawlessly!!  No flooding anywhere!   (Go Tony!)

I have to add too that there are many smaller things I plan to do, all of which I'm calling Phase II.  Things like paint the shed trim, add more color, bring in bright pots for annuals, fill in the hanging baskets, pressure wash the patio, make some fun outdoor art, get a new porch light... all things we totally will do in time.  They just didn't fall under the "bring heavy stuff in" phase.  I should add too that my awesome parents are giving us their 6-seater outdoor dining table with chairs that will really fill in the patio nicely.  All of that to come soon enough! 

Oh look, a tree. 

I love this view now!

The play area: 

I'm begging Tony to let us invest in the pocket hose... anyone have one and can vouch for it's durability??  Ha I know it's an infomercial product... but I just hate lugging that heavy hose around to water our new plants! 

Fun for toddlers of all ages!

Ok, technically these pavers aren't dug in yet... but they will be!  We are hoping too to put some large square stones leading up to the shed.

Our patio looking a bit forlorn right now, but it will get jazzed up soon!

 And who can resist a little before and after action??  The coolest part is that these photos are mere months apart (not years, like we are usually known for when it comes to projects!)

We are so proud of our hard work!  Mostly because we finally did something we've been wanting to do for years, something that might not be an "investment" in our house, but something that will make us enjoy it so much more.  I want to go outside now, and that means so much.  And wouldn't you know it?  The mosquitoes decided to roar to life the very weekend we got it done... if only there were a magical cure for that..

Thanks for all of your kind comments along the way and for enduring all of these posts! 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Backyard Part II - Mulch and Plants

See that adoration on her face?? Only for daddy!

((( Part I here )))

This next part happened over the course of a month or so probably.  Between weather issues and other plans, and fitting in work on weekends or during naps, it took a while.  But it happened!

So, after we got the irrigation laid (I say we liberally throughout this post, fyi), we worked to get the area ready for our landscaping.  Tony rented a tiller and tilled up the weeds and fun stuff that laid here.  Then he sprayed it all with Roundup to kill the weeds.  

Again, don't be deceived by all that green...

Next, we laid down a tremendous amount ($$$) of landscape fabric to further prevent the weeds from returning, and also to create a nice flat surface to lay our stuff on.  It was like carpeting the backyard.  I actually helped with this stage.  You secure it with metal spikes called crampons - fun fact.

 By this point, Tony had already shoveled in 2 yards of gravel for the irrigation trench.  So naturally, we needed more stuff for him to laboriously move.

We wanted to create landscape beds using edgers.  But we've used cheapo small ones before, and they end up mired in muck and are generally not effective at keeping things separated.  So we splurged (our version of it at least) and got these nice tumbled cobbles.  They are huge and heavy and have a nice natural look.  They aren't cheap, go figure!  

I was pretty proud of the rounded design I came up with. There was some tweaking, but the idea in my head actually worked in real life, which is unusual! 

This almost-enclosed area is going to be our play area.  We're thinking swingset, playhouse, etc in this little designated space.

Spot the snacking toddler!

We kept having to lay the landscape fabric in phases, since we kept underestimating how much we needed.

 So after Tony laid all 200 or so of these 40-pound-each cobbles, it was time to buy more stuff for him to haul!  

Enter mulch - two kinds!  We got regular black mulch for the beds, and cypress chips for the play area, since that's what is often used on playgrounds.  I think we got 4 yards of each - so we're up to 10 yards of stuff plus cobbles that Tony's moved so far.  Harper loved playing on the mounds.  She kept running up to them and yelling WOW! WOW! WOW!  Tony's dad was a big help in helping him spread mulch too.  

Harper was always eager to help.  We brought most of the mulch in while we had reinforcements, but then Tony had to go back in and dig in the cobbles.  This involved cutting the fabric where they would go, using a flat shovel to dig a very shallow trench, and then fitting them in it.  It took him probably 8 hours total to do all of them, spread over the course of two days.  I watched!

Next we got to go out to buy some plants.  I was so excited to do this, since we are always too cheap to really buy plants.  We actually got good ones and ignored price tags.  It still ended up being cheaper than we imagined, maybe about $200.

And by the magic of the internet.... boom! results!   (I actually very much helped plant plants, for the record!)

We got plants that we knew would grow pretty big and fill in the space.  We plan to add annuals and more smaller, colorful things later.  Most of these are evergreen too, which will help.  I don't have a good picture, but we simply planted more hostas in the other bed by the play area (we already had some there).  That side of the yard is total shade, so hostas are pretty much our only choice.  We also moved some struggling gardenias and put in three hydrageas, which I have wanted for years and years!  I'm hoping it's not too shady for them.

I know I promised hardscape on this post, but it's long enough so I will leave you with this preview of a sweaty, hyper Harper enjoying her play area thoroughly! 

Next installment - more rocks!

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