Outside – Current

I don’t know if you noticed that I used the word “tomorrow” several times in Thursday’s post about the state of our yard before we planted a bunch of stuff. That was intentional, so I would guilt myself into not putting off the follow-up post. But then I started to edit pictures and got all excited to show you what the yard looks like now anyway, so a self-nudge was barely necessary! And then? Chrome and WordPress decided to have a massive fight, which resulted in the browser crashing every other time I tried to insert a picture for the post. I struggled about halfway through it, but my bestest was coming for the weekend to visit, so I put it off anyway. Better late than never?

Away we go!

Tim’s mom is a pretty talented landscaper and has a bunch of really lovely gardens at both the family home and the lake house, so Tim wanted to get her opinion on what would work well in different parts of our yard. We all headed to Oakland Nursery, where we worked with one of their employees to narrow down our options more and pick some awesome plants for us. Sandy graciously bought all of our plants at Oakland as a joint birthday present for Tim and me. Thanks again, Sandy!

Our car was super-full of plants on the way home from the nursery! This was without getting any compost or mulch. And we got a few more plants (like the mums) at the second nursery we visited that day.

More inside! Plus, year-round interest!

Outside – Before

Last weekend, partly in an attempt to battle the cold temperatures inside our house (as I mentioned, our furnace is busted, but we’ll be getting a new one installed next week), partly because our yard is bare and it needed it, but mostly because Tim’s mom bought us a joint birthday present of some rocking plants, we took on some major yardwork. I had been meaning to post some pictures of the yard so we would have a starting point (we have Thoughts on what to do on the outside of the house) to show y’all, but I kept putting off doing it. Saturday, with a carful of shrubs and trees from the nursery (seriously, pictures in the next post), I darted around snapping a few before shots. I’ll follow up tomorrow with the results of a long weekend’s worth of plant-picking and plant-planting.

Okay, this photo is actually one Tim snagged right as work commenced on our sidewalk (thus the pile of bricks in the foreground). Cheerful, tiny front yard, with not a lot to it.

More pictures inside!

Follow the red brick sidewalk

One of the things that we adore about the neighborhood we live in is the many historic touches. Parts of the streets are cobblestone (usually the parking lanes, while the center is paved, which I secretly like, because driving on cobblestones kind of makes my hands go numb) and the housing stock, while newer and less grand than our neighbors in Victorian Village a few blocks to the East, is a delightful mix of turn-of-the-century buildings, with some newer construction thrown in. One of the things we enjoyed about our house was a brick sidewalk running the width of our lot, one of two houses on our block where the old brick still existed. What we did not love about the sidewalk, however, was that it wasn’t in the greatest shape. Slightly undulating due to settling and an occasional tree root, it had some tough little weeds growing up between the bricks that we could never quite get rid of. There is tons of foot traffic in our neighborhood, so we had slight concerns about uneven bricks being a tripping hazard, but it wasn’t bad enough for us to deal with right away. We put “re-lay brick sidewalk” on our list of outdoor projects, along with “reconfigure brick patio,” “plant awesome-sauce garden in back yard,” and “figure out how to make a walkway from garage door to house.” (Speaking of undulating, our back yard has tons of little pits and hills. I am a giant klutz, so walking through it when the ground is frozen is like asking very politely to snap an ankle when I’m caught off-guard by an uneven part.)

After finishing the laundry room, we were pondering which project to take on next. We’d spent some time this summer doing some landscaping both in the front and the back of the house, so our brains were definitely thinking “outdoor.” (Also, we had pretty much decided on a plan of action for the front bedroom, which did NOT include ripping out plaster walls in the sticky heat of July.) The idea of the sidewalk came up, which we were originally planning to do ourselves. Just for comparison’s sake, Tim decided to get bids from a few different contractors. This is when we learned that the way our street is designated in the zoning, we’d need to put a bed of concrete down below the brick for it to be to code. (It’s weird, while our street is wider than some of the surrounding streets, we don’t even have a light at the end to get onto the East-West avenues to our north, nor does it really connect to anything major to the south. No idea why it’s zoned that way!) Re-laying bricks is something we could probably handle (we plan on doing the patio ourselves), but messing with concrete…we were happy to leave that to experienced professionals to get it right and to code.

The bids came in and it was…more than we had expected. The cost of putting the brick sidewalk back in over just laying down a new concrete sidewalk was also a tiny bit staggering. We took a week or two to muse it over. On the negative side, on our block, it’s just us and our neighbor with brick sidewalks left. (There are some stretches on surrounding blocks as well, but getting rid of it wasn’t going to, like, ruin the character of our block.) On the plus side, Tim mentioned that the brick will be extremely long-lasting and low maintenance, easier to care for in the winter, and it was a nod to the historic nature of the house. We’d intentionally not purchased a home in a subdivision in the suburbs (where, frankly, lots of homes don’t even have sidewalks), because we love the character of the urban neighborhoods and older homes. The guy with the most competitive bid even assured us he could reuse the brick from the existing sidewalk so it wouldn’t be, like, brand-spanking-new red brick. After lots of discussion, we decided to honor the history of our house and have the sidewalk re-laid with the brick.

We, of course, forgot to take a picture of the sidewalk before it got ripped up, but here’s a little pictorial of the construction and finished product. We could not be more in love with it!

The ripped-up stage. You can see our neighbor’s concrete sidewalk was a little crumbled where it met our bricks.

Our lovely new sidewalk inside!

Refreshing patio furniture

When we volunteered to host my dad’s surprise 65th birthday party, suddenly a lot of little things seemed like necessary improvements in the weeks leading up to the party. Tim spearheaded a bunch of these tasks: clean out the garage (and man, it looks AWESOME), tackle the insane weed problem happening on the brick patio, deal with the mosquito population that seems to have set up camp under our deck. None of it was super-pressing, but we knew our list would make our guests more comfortable and make us feel better about showing off our house to a lot of people who hadn’t visited it yet.

One item on the list that Tim identified was cleaning up some patio furniture we’d been using for ages. (I don’t remember the full history of the set, but I think at one point, Tim’s mom owned it and it was painted a pale pink. The glass-topped tables have been dining furniture in a few of Tim’s apartments, as well as our first apartment together, and in the dining room of this house, before we bought a proper dining set.) Every now and then, we’d comment on the flaking paint and think “oh, we could sand that down and repaint it someday.” Turns out, Dad’s party was the perfect impetus for “someday.” So with prompting from Tim, I rolled up my figurative sleeves and tackled the set, which consisted of two table frames and five chairs, decorated with scrolls and ivy leaves.

From flaky to fresh, pictures inside!