Thursday, November 1, 2012

Grass Stairs and Fire Pit

Update--Here's how things are looking today (scroll down to see how things are progressing):

So, we've been wanting to plant grass down by our firepit.  And some idiot (myself) had the "brilliant" (stupid) idea to build grass stairs from our existing grass down to the firepit area where we will be planting more grass.  A project that should have been long and difficult turned out to be nightmarishly, excruciatingly long and difficult.  First of all, after calling the utility companies to check if it was safe to dig and getting the clear to go ahead, we still found rerouted sprinklers AND electrical conduit (all still in use, mind you) as we were digging.  Thus, we had to reroute both the electrical and two sets of sprinklers.  On top of that, we also ran into an old rock retaining wall with concrete curbing underground as well.  We pulled out tons (probably literally) of boulders.  We already moved half of them down to our lower lot, but you can still see the huge pile that remains at the bottom of the stairs in the pictures.  We destroyed and repaired the wheelbarrow several times, killed the pick ax and the hand rake . . . , well, you get the idea.  I wish I could remember where we bought our shovel, as it has gone far above and beyond it's use.  It's the one thing that's been awesome.

Here's how the planter area looked before we dug it out for the grass stairs:
Not the best picture, but it's the only "before" picture I have apparently.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of the stairs.  We still need to buy a few more retaining blocks for the rest of the top row, cut back the fabric, and cut out the concrete curb at the top of the stairs.  We did route the sprinklers to the grass stairs but, needless to say, we never got a chance to lay the sprinklers for the area around the firepit.  Nor did we get to remove all the rock and grade the area for the grass.  That will have to happen next year, I suppose.  It was hard to get a good angle of the stairs due to the previously mentioned mountain of rocks, so the stairs don't look level, but I assure you they are.   They will also look more level when the concrete curb at the top of the stairs is removed (as it is not level and created the illusion that the stairs are not).  I will update the photos next year when we get a ch
ance to finally finish the project.

The grass stairs have survived the winter and we have made some great progress this spring on the project.  We now have the sprinklers installed on the lower tier around the fire pit area.  I don't have any pictures of the sprinklers because I'm dumb like that and don't think about blogging pictures while I'm installing sprinklers.  But, I assure you they are there.

Stairs today, still looking healthy and happy.
Today, we finished putting in the top soil--12 cubic yards of top soil!  And, to make a big job even bigger, the dump truck that delivered the soil was too big to dump it in the area we needed and had to, instead, dump it at the top of the hill.  Poor Cameron moved all that soil by himself with a single wheel barrow.  Needless to say, he is exhausted.  I raked the piles he dumped into place.

Here are some pictures of how the area looks today and of the hill Cam had to move all the soil across:

And the dreaded hill and now removed pile of dirt at the top of it:

UPDATE:  Sod and Flagstone are in!
So, we spent our Family Home Evening last night installing the sod and the flagstone and it's all really coming together.  We started out by finding some boulders down on our lower lot--remember all those boulders we pulled out when digging for the stairs?  Cameron is the man--he carried them all up so we could place them around the firepit.  I wanted something that was raised around the pit, because I'm always terrified one of the kids is going to trip and fall right into the fire and not be able to get out.  I figured that adding the boulders would help prevent that.  It will also give us a place to put our feet when sitting around the fire.  (You can see the sling chairs I made to put around the pit here).  After placing the boulders, the boys and I puzzle-pieced the flagstone in.  They brought me the pieces and I found places for them.  Finally, we cut grass to fit between all the flagstone--this was the hard part.  This is how the firepit looks now:

And, here are a few preliminary pictures of the whole area where we layed the sod.  It will look prettier as the grass takes root and fills in a bit.  It will also look nicer as we clean up a bit, plant the vegetable garden, lay the flagstone path through it, and level out the gravel.  Once we get that area fixed up, all we will have left to do is buy a tree to plant in the corner planter and paint/stain the sling chairs I built last year to put around the pit and move the climbing dome over to this area.  It's all coming together and we couldn't be more excited.

Update:  The grass has had a little time to start to take root and we got an Autumn Blaze Maple planted int he new planter.
Kids are loving the extra grass.

Family Time on the new grass.

Planted the Maple and transplanted the strawberries to the new planter.
UPDATE:  We moved the climbing dome down to the firepit tier.  The kdis are lovign having another area of the yard to play in:
And we added a Japanese maple and several shrubs, including golden vicary privet, smoke tree, red twig dogwoods, burning bushes, and more to the planters around the grass stairs.
And, just because the sun was peering into the yard so beautifully when I was taking the pictures, here are some pictures of the sun setting behind our yard:

UPDATE:  To kick off the start of Fall, we finally got to try out the new fire pit arrangement for Family Home Evening.  It was so nice to be able to sit in the grass instead of the old gravel while enjoying the fire.

Bread Boards

So my AWESOME neighbor brings me scraps of a variety of beautiful hardwoods (along with other woods as well).  He shares my love for wood and building.  So, I've been saving these scraps up and have been wanting to make some bread boards out of them.  With the holidays arriving, I wanted to get them done so I can use them on Thanksgiving.  So, we had a few warm days this week and I took the opportunity to get outside and make these suckers.  I am so pleased with how they turned out.

First I made these individual mini-breadboards that can be set at each place setting on the table.  Each one is different.  I bought some tiny metal ramekins to set on each one for butter, jam, etc.

Then I made these french bread board because I LOVE french bread and frequently use it in my meals.

Then, I finished up with a couple fancy shmancy boards for fun.  I did a pizza board and what we have already kicknamed my strawberry board.

So, I deliberated long and hard on if I should ensure that they are all perfectly symmetrical and perfectly sanded and finally decided against it.  I tried to make them mostly symmetrical, but I liked the imperfections giving them more of a hand-made, old-world look rather than a machine-made, brand-new look.  I like the finished product.  Now, if I could just get to my kitchen remodel, I will get something built to display them on when they are not in use . . . .

Update (December 2012):
Here are a few that I made for Christmas gifts for my family.  They seemed to like them.

Love it when I get to actually use my "minis".  So fun!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Announcing Abigail!

My dear sister has been trying to have a baby for many years.  She and her husband have decided to adopt and the wait for a baby has taken years as well.  But, after a long wait, many prayers on their behalf, and some truly miraculous circumstances, they have finally been blessed with their first daughter.  She is such a sweet little gal and I knew she needed something special.  So, I spent the last couple months crocheting her this little blessing gown.  It's been a fun labor of love.  The last one I made was from a polyester thread, which was softer and shinier, but since this one won't be used for several months I made it out of cotton thread so that it can be stretched or shrunk as needed.  I hope it fits!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Evertaster--I cannot wait to read this book!

One of my best friends just wrote a youth book called, "Evertaster".  This guy is one of the smartest, funnest, most adventurous, and most creative people I know and everything he does is amazing.  So, naturally, I cannot wait to read this adventure novel to my four boys!  It comes out next month, just in time for a good summer reading.  We are all excitedly anticipating its release.  Check it out when it comes.  For more information, you can visit the Evertaster webpage:
It's going to be awesome!

UPDATE:  The kids and I really enjoyed Evertaster.  It was funny for both kids and adults.  And now, Sidwell has put out a follow-up Novella to Evertaster:  Buttersmith's Gold!  We just got our copy and are excited to read it!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Outdoor Curtains

So, I pretty much live on my back deck in the summertime.  In the early morning hours, it's a bit sunny on the couch where I read and in the evening fall hours, the dining table gets a bit too much sun at dinnertime.  So, I wanted to add some curtains that I could pull back to block the sun wherever and whenever needed.  I also thought the curtains would be nice for keeping the snow off the deck furniture in the winter. 

But, our deck is huge and that many curtains can get pricey.  So, after much research, I decided to make the curtains out of canvas drop clothes.  I figured that sails are made out of canvas, so it should be a good material to stand up to the sun and intense wind around here.  Turns out I was right so far.  They have endured a terrible winter and now are still doing great this summer.

Curtain rods are way too expensive for a space this large, so I headed to Home Depot to come up with an alternative plan.  In the end, I decided to hang a plastic-coated wire (metal rope) through some eye hooks that I placed between each of the curtains.  The, I ran the wire through some clip-on curtain rings that I ordered from Jo-Ann's.  I tightened the wire with a little hardware from Home Depot and hung the curtains (drop cloths also from home Depot) on the rings and WaLA!  I now have curtains for my whole 9'x40' deck.

I am so impressed with these little curtain rings.  In the winter, I clamped the curtains to the railing, as they would catch that crazy wind just like sails.  And, believe it or not, those tiny little clips held tight.  I only had one curtain pull off the rings one time when the wind caught it just right.  I think that's pretty impressive considering the weight of just the curtains themselves.  When the curtains are open, I find that little ball bungee cords work best for holding the curtains in place.  They are easy to use, look surprisingly  nice, and keep the curtains put when the wind blows.

All in all, I've been enjoying the fruits of this project and feel like the curtains are not only functional, but really help this outdoor space have the warmth of an indoor room.  I am very pleased with the results.