Saturday, October 22, 2011

It takes a lifetime...

... to accumulate seasonal decor, wall art, photographs, etc. We've slowly been trying to add some decor to the house. This is one thing that I am quite patient with. We focused more on smaller projects throughout summer rather than major DIY because of our busy travel schedule (St. Louis, Chicago, Iowa, Marion, Disney, etc.). I realized it's been a while since I shared some of my silly vinyl table cloths...

This first one stayed up for most of the summer sadly. Monkey was quite disappointed to realize those hot dogs were fake (not really, she's smarter than that!). She did snag a tasty treat from Kathy at a pool party earlier in the summer though. :) The best place to purchase these table cloths is Old Time Pottery. This is located just across 275 from Cincinnati Mills. This store has a bounty of great finds, but it's definitely a search to locate specific items (like a Burlington, searching through deals to find the right item).

I also thought I'd share this sweet summertime decor with you. The bright and fun table cloth is from Kelly, my mom's friend. She actually gave this to me for my bridal shower 3.5 years ago! I didn't have the opportunity to use it before now. (Side note: Kelly also gave me one of my prized possessions- a large insulated tote bag with wide shoulder straps. I LOVE this and would gladly buy 5 more if I could find one again!). I love breaking out the items that we got for the wedding and using them now. :)

Meijer has these beautiful flowers often. Unfortunately, I've never purchased such regal flowers. I do love them don't get me wrong, but I naturally assumed that a gorgeous display like this would cost me big. False. I purchased two bouquets at just $2.99 each! That whole arrangement was $6. Shocking, right? The bouquets didn't have a price tag on them, so I'm certain that other shoppers passed them by as I had. I passed a dismal flower section (I normally do my shopping on Sunday nights, not exactly prime stocking time at the local grocery store and they're sold out from a busy two days of shopping). So I decided to do a price check to see just how much they were. Whaddyaknow!? (Notice something new in the photo above? Keep reading to hear more about that!)

If you couldn't tell, I love flower arrangements, but I want them on the cheap. Roses are definitely beautiful, but I carnations are cheaper and more hearty. Win-win. My favorite flower has to be the stargazer lily. This was a featured flower at our wedding.

Thankfully, Don, Tim's dad, painted us this beauty as an anniversary gift and we are delighted to display it in our dining room. This gorgeous stargazer lily is ever-lasting unlike live flowers. Don spends several months working on each painting and we are so happy to display this gallery-worthy piece in our home! We had two other paintings inspired by Aruba in our on-campus apartments and we're definitely glad to have some fine art in our house too.

Finally, we've stolen a page out of our friends' home decor notebooks. The Allen, Bishop, and Jicinsky families all have architectural letter-grams (is that a word?) displayed in their homes. I chose the tiny frames because I didn't want obtrustive frames detracting from the architectural focal points in the photographs. Unfortunately, I don't think the frames fit the scale of the room. At some point, we'll upgrade to 5x7 frames with mats to fit 4x6 photos. We'll definitely maintain the sleek black and white look with a black frame and white mat. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Ton of Concrete Later...

In our back yard we have a small patch of dirt surrounded by concrete adjacent to our house. Tim had a great idea in the spring-- a garden. He tilled the earth in this small plot. I even planted a few strawberry plants. As soon as the first strawberry would begin to ripen a blasted bird would snip a little bite out of it, rendering the whole thing inedible. After this happened to 20 or so strawberries, I gave up. It was only May and I was done.

What was once a neatly maintained and fenced in little area became a weed patch once again. Monkey and Sullivan could still fit their little bodies in between the wire fencing, so it did little to deter them from digging in the dirt. They were nice enough to leave the strawberries undisturbed. I didn't even take a photo of the embarrassing state of affairs in this weed garden. If only I could cultivate fruits and vegetables as well as I could cultivate weeds!

We'd had enough. Tim got pretty ambitious and decided to concrete this area. You heard me, concrete it... ourselves. We're pretty ambitious DIYers-- "A" for effort is the motto around here! Even for us, this was a big project given the level of skill concreting requires. We did some research on the basic steps and I asked my friend Kim for advice. Her husband is a professional, so Phil if you're reading this, please stop now. Trust me, you don't want to see the craftsmanship that comes next.

Tim removed the wood retaining walls and dug up the roots of 4-5 bushed that were buried deep in the ground. Next he had to dig out a good 6 inches of dirt and transplant it to the back of the yard in a low spot. I'm sure the neighbors wondered what the heck we were doing, burying dead bodies or something (those are actually hidden in the vacant house behind us in case you were wondering). Finally, he poured gravel into this trench. Thankfully, he did this over a two week period. Sadly, I don't have any photos to document all of the hard work that went into it, but I'm sure he can attest to the back-breaking work that took place.

You'll notice a strip of black in the above photo. This is a strip that absorbs the shock so to speak when the concrete expands and contracts in the cold and heat. Thankfully, Kim gently reminded us that we should install this so our newly poured concrete didn't crack (thanks Kim!). We opted to place it on 3 sides. The 4th side had a small strip (4" wide) that we wanted to be flush with our new concrete.

Brian brought his truck and helped Tim pick up the concrete from Home Depot (thanks Brian!). We purchased twenty 80 lb. bags. 20 bags x 80 lbs. = 1600 lbs. You read that right: 1600 POUNDS!!! I did help Tim with this project, but most of the physical labor came from him because the bags were too heavy for me to lift.

We dumped each bag into our mixing trough, added the prescribed amount of water, and mixed. I did more of the mixing than the lifting. Even that was shockingly difficult. Shoving and pulling 80 pounds of concrete/gravel to mix it evenly with water is no simple task. We added extra water as needed to get the concrete the right consistency. The next time you see a concrete truck you should thank your lucky starts there is machinery to help us with bigger projects!

We dumped each bag of concrete over the gravel. After 17 bags were in, we smoothed it out and skimmed another wet batch over the top. We did our best to use a board to level the concrete. It was tremendously difficult to do because the concrete contained bits of rock that would lift as we pulled the board across the top. For our first attempt at concrete, I'd say we did pretty well. It is a level slab that slopes appropriately away from the house. It's definitely not smooth though. We took our hands across the top and tried to smooth it out in small circles. It's not pro-quality, but it's a functional space!

As the concrete dried, we placed a penny with the year in the corner. This was Kim's suggestion to commemorate our concrete experience in this house (great idea Kim!). Every few hours, we spritzed the top of the slab with water to keep it from drying too quickly. We also placed a tarp over the top and blocked the dogs from trampling in our freshly poured project. We certainly get an "A" for effort on this one!