Sunday, 8 June 2014

New chairs for the backyard

I decided to ignore all advice to the contrary and go for the wooden Muskoka chairs. I just couldn't bring myself to buy the recycled plastic ones, even though I know they're lower maintenance. There's inherently more charm to the real wood chairs and I don't really care if the stuff in my yard fades and looks kind of dingy well loved.

Plus, I have two boys that I can force to do the restaining for the next decade at least.

Matthew and I were at Costco on Friday and happened across Muskoka chairs, so we picked up a couple of them. Yesterday he helped me unpack them and start the assembly. Unfortunately he lost interest fairly quickly and I was left on my own for much of the process.

The first chair was  bit of a pain to put together, but the second one was a breeze and I had them all assembled within a couple of hours. They're really comfortable to sit in, and I think that they're going to look terrific when I get them stained.

I discovered a patio design flaw yesterday when Alan cut the grass - the mulch that I put down around the hostas flew everywhere when he passed by it with the mower. So I pulled it out and put down some of the river rock that I had stockpiled behind the shed.

I like the look much better and it should be less maintenance than the mulch - a win-win situation.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The garden shed

I spent a long day on Sunday setting the flagstones in the the grass by the shed. It's all done now! I also managed to finish staining the front of the shed last week. The sides and back still aren't done, but we can't actually see them from the yard, so I'm not in a big rush to get them done. I'll let Matthew slowly pick away at them.

My mom was in and helped again on the weekend - she was a good sport and scraped the way-ward paint off of the windows and then cleaned them. They'd never been washed in the 13 years that we've owned this shed. Frightening, I know, but I can barely keep my children clean. Cleaning shed windows isn't even on my radar. The only problem with the clean windows is that I need to re-organize the junk inside the shed as you can see it so clearly now! 

We picked up some geraniums for the window boxes and  planted hostas that I had moved from the garden that used to be near our back patio. The plants really softened the look of the shed. 

It's such an inviting little nook in the yard. I pulled out a couple of plastic Adirondack chairs that we had stowed behind the shed and set them on the patio. I think I'll head out this weekend and pick up some wooden ones - I'd like to paint them bright red to contrast with the grey shed. 

So I have one small region of the yard finished up. Next up is getting some gardens in place adjacent the planned stone patio so I can move the bushes and perennials out of my vegetable gardens. I'd like to get some tomatoes in the ground! 

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Backyard progress

The backyard is slowly proceeding. Our contractors didn't really have time for us, but since they're so nice they agreed to squeeze us in. We agreed that we didn't expect this project to be finished lickety-split, so we're patiently waiting for them to have time to do some more work. 

At the end of last week they poured the concrete slab that will be under the wooden deck and we put the old stairs back in place temporarily so we can now get out of the back of the house and we have a clean spot to BBQ. We're happy with that for the time being. 

Since there's work still to be done near the house and it's a mud pit where the stone patio will go, Matthew and I decided to start work at the back of the yard and move forward. I convinced him it would be a lot of fun to stain the shed (and the offer of pay probably didn't hurt) so he started on that last weekend. 

My wonderful mother came in on Sunday and spent the afternoon helping Matthew paint. I spent the day dragging around the flagstones that used to be part of the patio close to the house to make a little seating area back there. It gets full sun late in the day, so it's a great place to sit after we get home from work. 

I wanted a casual look, so i decided to put the stones right into the grass so that we can run the lawn mower right over them. I laid out the stones where I wanted them, and now I'm removing the grass underneath and setting them level with the grass. 

It's not really hard work, but it's slow. I'm hoping to get these finished up this weekend so I can get to work on my gardens because that's when the fun really begins. 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Backyard progress

There's been slow and steady progress made on the backyard over the last two weeks. The old patio, planter box and gardens have been removed. The lilac and mock orange bushes were moved to the vegetable gardens at the back of the yard and seem to have survived. I still have to figure out where I plan to move them permanently.

The view from the back of the house now looks like this.

The footings for the deck are in and the sod is removed where the ground level patio will be. We ordered the stone for it on Monday, so hopefully it won't be too long before it can be installed. We decided to go with 2'x3' black sandstone.

We're pouring a concrete pad the width of the backyard for the 12' out from the house that the deck will cover. We plan to use it for storage for things like our winter tires, the assorted Thule racks we have for the top of the car, etc. All the stuff we would normally store in our non-existent garage. They're coming to pour the concrete pad today, so hopefully start building the deck next week.

Now that the weather's warm I'm chomping at the bit to get started on some gardens out back. Last weekend I got the front garden into some semblance of order, with some new plants put in and mulch down so it's looking nice and orderly out front, even though it's a disaster out back.

I also spent a few hours on Monday cleaning out around the outside of the shed. Which is in desperate need of a new paint job this year.

I put down river stone along the left side of it a number of years ago, but it had become totally filled with leaves and maple keys, and it was impossible to keep the weeds down.

So I spent about three hours on Monday morning picking up all of the stones and separating them from the vegetation. It was incredibly tedious, and I felt like shovelling the whole mess into the garbage, but the city won't take rock, so I had no choice. It's all done now, though.

I plan to put down large patio stones along the side of the shed so it's easy to keep the vegetation down. I have no idea yet what I'll do with the river stone, but I'm sure I'll find some use for it. It's back behind the shed now, out of my sight, so there's no big rush to decide.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Spring has finally sprung

and the work has begun. This morning, on our new deck and patio.

We have a gorgeous 8' x 8' sliding glass door leading to the backyard directly from the family room/kitchen, but we didn't use the patio much last year due to it's crappiness.

We have an amazingly deep backyard, especially for a house downtown. Our lot is 210'; the backyard is 156', but with a width of only 20' it looks a lot like a bowling alley. That is set to change.

The problems with the old patio were many. One of the biggest was the mess that it was in. We tore down an old addition from the back of the house 12 years ago, and decided to use the brick from that foundation for the patio. Big mistake - there were two types of brick used, and over the years the freeze-thaw cycles led to complete disintegration of one of them, so the patio was always a dirty mess. And the weeds that grew between the cracks drove me crazy.

Our current patio was also too small. There wasn't really enough room for a table and chairs, the BBQ, and people to safely move about. I was always worried that someone would brush up against the BBQ and get burned.

So although we built the patio ourselves and it was a tonne of work, I'm not at all sorry to see it go.

The plan is to build a 12' x 14' deck at the level of the family room with 6' high privacy screens at the two neighbouring sides. I considered a planter box for the third side, but have decided to go with an open railing so the view of the backyard isn't obstructed from inside the house. We'll buy cushy outdoor seating for the upper section so that it's a nice place to sit and relax.

We'll have stairs on the right (when facing the backyard from the house) going down to a ground-level stone patio that's 20'x20'. This is where we'll house the BBQs (both gas and charcoal) and the table and chairs. I'd also love to build or buy an outdoor pizza oven. There are some pretty sleek ones available at Costco right now that I have my eye on.

Beyond the ground level patio we'll have two deep gardens flanking a central path leading to rear half of the yard. Hopefully breaking it up into "rooms" like this will help relieve the bowling alley feel. I'm excited to get moving on it!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Toy storage

It's April, and although it's not quite feeling like spring here yet, I'm starting to feel the urge to do some spring cleaning.  I decided to start with the biggest pigsty problem area in the house - Cal's bedroom. That boy is a packrat. 

We're quickly moving out of the toy stage, and I've managed to convince the boys to get rid of a lot of stuff that they've outgrown. But there are some toys that they're really resistant to giving up. Like the trains, for example. I don't know why, because they never really played with them. 

When you live in an old house and have few closets, finding extra storage space is a high priority if you want to hang on to anything. I had these drawers sitting around in Matthew's room after a Pinterest fail. They were supposed to be mounted on the wall for storing Matthew's 10,000 trophies that he's received over the years, but when I got them done I was disappointed in them and they sat in a corner of his room for a year. So this project really killed two birds with one stone in the useless clutter category.

I picked up some small wheels down at the hardware store. The plywood on the bottom of the drawers was too thin to screw them directly into, so I cut some spacers out of a 1x2 that I had sitting around in the basement to attach to the bottom of the drawer. This also added a little bit of height so that the front of the drawer doesn't catch on the carpet when you pull it in and out.

It was a quick and easy project - it only took about 20 minutes of actual working time to cut the wood, set up the glue, and after it dried screw in the wheels. And the final product was most satisfying.

We now have lots of room to tuck away toys that aren't played with into a space that was sitting empty and unused. I call that a win!

Not as big a win as getting them out of my house would be, but a win all the same.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

And continuing on the theme of the worst boyfriend you've ever had......

.... I'm back to brag *just a little* about my nephew who just signed with the Dallas Stars! The boy whose diapers I once changed is headed for the NHL.

Alex has worked hard for a lot of years to make it happen, and we're absolutely thrilled for him.

EDIT: I realized after I posted that I should make it clear that the title is an extension of my last post, and does not refer to Alex's many charms. ;)
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