Posts Tagged ‘amazing’


Monday, June 6th, 2011

Here’s today’s free tip: THERE IS A REASON IT COSTS A LOT OF MONEY TO HAVE A PATIO PROFESSIONALLY INSTALLED. It is not a nice, easy weekend project. It is a ton of work. Actually several totally literal tons. Tons of brick and sand and gravel and dirt. “More dirt!” was our mantra of the week – even the toddler says is now. Constantly. There is dirt under my fingernails I may never get out. Every surface on the first floor of the house is coated in grime. Even the carpet in my bedroom THREE FLOORS UP is dirty. It’s going to take me another week just to get the house clean.

Ok, it’s going to take me a MONTH to get the house clean – because I’m going to be too busy relaxing on my patio to bother with vacuuming. Who can be bothered when there’s s’mores to be made and wine to be sipped from my classy new plastic wine glasses?

This is not the dramatic before and after picture post (that one is coming as soon as my dining table gets here)(and after E builds me a shelf)(unless he takes a month to build the shelf because I am not waiting that long) that’s going to BLOW YOUR MIND. This is the “look at all the work we did to get to the “after” post” so the after post doesn’t end up being a bazillionty pages long. Now it will only be half a bazillionty pages long.

This is the yard in March, before the lawn guys raked up the leaves and before most of the green stuff came up:

Here’s the yard just last week:

The grill was totally neglected in that dirt spot behind the big tree, the flagstone paths were always full of weeds and impossible to shovel in the winter, the grass never grew next to the garage, the back steps were a MESS and the slope of the yard meant there was a huge mud puddle right in front of the steps when it rains.

It was not a good space, not for me, not for E, not for the kids.

Here’s how we started the project:

E and I tore up all the walkways, but saved the stone to reuse in the project later.

E built a planter bed out of 4×4’s behind the tree so we had somewhere to put all the dirt – and so I had someplace to put all the hostas I dug up when we took out the walkways.

Dad and E spent TWO FULL DAYS just digging. I helped (truly, I did help) but I am just not strong enough to do much good. That tiiiiiny hill to the left of the garage ended up being full of roots and concrete. They worked so hard they both deserve medals. And several cases of beer.

Mom did a GREAT job watching the kids, especially since Caroline has been a crazy teething monster for days and needed CONSTANT attention. I seriously don’t know what I would have done without Mom.

These are the pavers I chose for the patio – they’re just brick that’s gray instead of red. It was a budget choice as much as an aesthetic one (they were about $2.o4 per square foot), but in the end I LOVE them. E and I did all the design stuff ourselves with some practical and/or math help from my Dad. We ordered 2250 of these…and have about 14 left over. GOOD ESTIMATING.

These are the stone we chose for the retaining wall. I was very excited to find that these only cost $2.15 a piece, which was LESS than the ugly cheap looking ones. We went back for more twice to get the height/length of the wall exactly right but since we only bought a dozen at a time we didn’t need them delivered.

So in total, we had to dig down 6 inches from where the top of the pavers were supposed to go to lay down 3 inches of gravel and then an inch of sand (the pavers were 2 inches high). And when we finished digging out each of those layers we had to make sure the top was totally level. E leveled dirt AND gravel AND sand with just some 2×4’s and PVC pipe.

We ordered the gravel and sand from a local family place (actually the same family who we buy our Christmas tree from) and they delivered it all in big giant trucks that dumped it in our driveway. It was SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper (close to 70% less) to order it in bulk than to buy it in bags from the hardware store. They also helped us figure out how many cubic feet to order to cover 500 square feet of ground.

After the gravel was all down, we rented a stamping machine from Home Depot. It took just a few minutes but was TOTALLY WORTH IT. The special gravel is made of lots of different sized pieces so when it gets pounded by the machine it locks itself together and becomes almost like cement. There is NO CHANCE any weeds are growing up through this patio (also because we laid down landscaping fabric).

My dad’s mantra when he does projects is “We have to do it RIGHT.” That included getting the yard almost totally level – I say “almost” because we intentionally sloped it a little so the water would drain away into the flower beds. We also added a drainage pipe to the downspout that runs under those steps made from 6×6’s so water from the gutters won’t wash anything away.

We might have broken our own rule and worked in the dark a few times once we realized we weren’t going to be done with our “easy project” by Wednesday.

The pattern for the pavers is called a basketweave, and that line of bricks around the edge is called a soldier’s course. Doing a curve along that wall and another along the back meant a lot of brick cutting, but Dad had a diamond blade for his saw so it wasn’t too hard. We added black edging to the sections that didn’t abut something solid so the pavers won’t move over time.

Little Evan was an expert shoveler by the end of the week and helped with spreading out the sand. We put sand over the pavers and then rented the stamper machine again. It leveled all the pavers and forced the loose sand into the cracks so now it’s all one extremely solid surface.

After it was stamped and swept again and wetted down we did all the clean-up work – cutting landscape fabric, planting things, putting together furniture, hanging lights. By the time my parents left our driveway on Sunday morning the only thing that wasn’t 100% done is reseeding parts of our lawn.

And here is a sneak peak at my “hanging out on the awesome patio” after photos. Also, my husband’s butt. He was grilling, which makes it even better.

More pictures coming soon – and finished, final, awesome, magazine-worthy makeover pictures coming hopefully before the weekend. Also coming: your invitation to a barbeque. Seriously, who wants to come over?

P.S. Before you ask, the answer to “will you come do mine next?” is NOT FOR ALL THE WINE IN THE WORLD.


Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Back in July, one of my bloggy heros Loralee posted a link to a contest for an all-expenses paid trip to The Creative Connection Conference in Minneapolis.

All you had to do to enter was write a 250-word essay about your creativity and how attending would help you develop as a person and an entrepreneur.

So, hey, nothing to lose. I wrote an essay, frantically using up more than my fair share of contractions trying to keep it under 250 words. Because, HELLO, creating stuff is awesome. I do it a lot. It’s not always pretty or perfect or brilliant, but I love my blog, my photographs, my knitting, my baking and the chance to meet and network with other (way WAY more amazingly creative) women sounded like a dream come true.

I sent my crazy rambling words off into the ether and forgot all about it.

OK, I didn’t really forget. I thought about it. A lot. I thought about how amazing it would be to attend a conference like this (HELLO, THE PIONEER WOMAN IS GOING TO BE THERE). I thought about how much of myself I put into my little essay. I thought about it right up until the day they were supposed to contact the winners. Then I thought bitter, angry thoughts about the jerks who got picked instead of me.

And then yesterday I got an email.

Hi Suzanne,

Congratulations! We have selected you as one of our three winners in the Create.Craft.Connect contest sponsored by Lark Crafts and The Creative Connection!

We were so inspired by your incredibly unique entry (love your belief that creativity isn’t about talent but the love of making things!)  that we’d like to send you to the conference in September.

WHAT THE WHAT? My best guess is I was runner up #17 or something and the other winners had to turn it down for some reason, which would explain why I was contacted so late. But who the heck cares, I’M A WINNER!

I passed out for a minute. Then I sobbed a little. Then I tweeted like fourty bazillionty times. Then I sobbed a little more. Then I jumped up and down. Then I peed my pants because I couldn’t bring myself to step away from the computer in case the email message somehow disappeared.

Can you tell I’m excited? SUPER excited. I’m also terrified I’ll spend the whole time standing in a corner because I don’t know ANYONE. I also feel like a terrible mother because I’ll be leaving Baby Evan AGAIN for three more days, not to mention dumping him with my parents for most of Labor Day weekend while E and I attending wedding festivities. And then I feel ever worse because I don’t actually feel THAT BAD about getting some more baby free time before Baby Squared becomes a reality. Mama likes sleeping in.

I don’t have any actual plans yet, no plane ticket or confirmations or instructions on how to sign up for the workshops or whatever. Which means maybe this is just some sort of extra-specific spam and tomorrow I’ll get an email saying the best way to contact them is this Nigerian phone number and while they’ve got my attention could I help their great uncle transfer $23,000,000 out of the country? All they need is my bank info. I don’t think I’d be the least bit surprised.

BUT. If it is real, I will soon be accosting Ree Drummond with my giant pregnant belly and tracking down Allison from O My Family to prove she really is as cute in person.

I need to go change my pants again.

p.s. Who can suggest somewhere to get awesome, fast, cute, cheap business cards? Because if I’m going to pretend to be all like “Oh hai, Am legitimate bizness woman!” I think I need cards.