Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The 'Laundry Basket of Home Improvement Updates' Post

It's not that I've been holding back on my blog readers, exactly, but there's a point at which you're so busy you can't put down the paint brush/nailer/shovel to write about what you're doing. I suppose "too much to write about" is a good problem to have, but it does tend to pile up like baskets of clean laundry. Sooner or later you feel guilty that you haven't gotten around to folding it and putting it away. So this post is a folding and putting away of home improvement news, a big update with lots of things to offer, including sunflowers at the beginning and at the end. Ready?

There have been a lot of exterior home improvements checked off the list in the last few months and even more going back almost a year. I mean A LOT. As in punch-drunk with exhaustion and still juggling paint brushes, power tools, sunscreen, and wasp spray a lot.

Well, at least I am. The exhausted part, anyway. Boyfriend Tom is one of those cheerfully energetic people who can work their way through a long DIY to-do list with amazing speed. That's mostly awesome. But on the days where I think I might need a nap, or a beer, or some time for my anxiety-predisposed brain to hyper-analyze the situation, he keeps the table-saw running, and pretty soon I've got another paint project to follow up with.

Except for one thing: the roof. That we hired done. It was well overdue; it was past 20 years old and while I had not had any problems with it yet, I didn't want to wait until I did. Here's a before, from June of last year:

Not only was it looking pretty tired and worn out, it was a pale gray that didn't really "go" with the warm red/browns of the brick foundation and chimney So we picked out shingles that we hoped would pull the entire exterior together. Here's tear-off day. The house is old enough the roof was decked with boards rather than sheeting. Still sound, after all these years!

Here is the finished roof: 

Not shown is a new gutter and downspout system which went in a few days later, routed in a different direction to address some damp basement issues we'd been having. While it has been too dry of a summer to really say for certain that it solved the problem completely, our foundation stayed dry through the last two flash-flood level rains that we have had, which makes us hopeful.

It is embarrassing to admit how long exterior painting has gone on around here. Seasons. Years, even. Too long. That's totally on me, but I'm going to plead single parenthood. But guess what? It's done! (hugs herself, giggles maniacally)

Here's a "getting close" photo of the south (driveway) side of the house.

We had to borrow a longer ladder to get to the peaky-peak of the gable.

And here's the back of the house, a screen-porch, kitchen, attic bedroom shot:

But we are not done with exterior home improvement yet. Wait, there's more!

Tom, with help from me, and various of our boys at various times, built a fence across our back property line.

We "stole" the design from a fence in a neighborhood where we like to walk. Here's some during shots. We also had the yard all torn up, since we were not only digging post holes, but planning a garden bed.

Here it is finished. We plan to let it weather. I like the silvery gray of weathered wood with garden greenery and flowers. 

Here is what my backyard neighbor sees. I think she was as tired of the peeling pink paint as I was, and now we have our backside (ahem) all spanking new. 

But wait, there's more!

A vegetable bed!

This was my son Grant's gift of labor to me while he lived at home between college and the start of his new job. It was an enormous undertaking, and Tom is still hauling dirt for it, since it has settled some since we first filled it.

Here's what it looked like yesterday evening.

The bed was done in the last weeks of May. We got a late start on the actual gardening part, but we put in tomatoes, peppers,  and summer squash, and we've had a decent amount of produce considering the season was shortened on the front end. The tomatoes caught up pretty admirably.

And here's the fence row again, now in late August:

I got a packet of sunflower seeds that said it was mixed varieties 4-6 ft in height, to fill in some space quickly in a flower bed that was just getting started with new perennials.  Um, yeah. Right now we seem to be in the 5-8 ft. range with these babies, and no end in sight. There's a rose bush hidden in there somewhere, believe it or not. The rose will survive the shade in the short term and I don't plan to plant any annuals that are quite so large next year. But they're impressive, aren't they?

While Tom has taken the lead on the outside projects shared here, I've been working on the inside of the house this summer. I'll share some of those with readers soon. It's been a busy year!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Tables, and the Evolution of a Patio

I'm a little mental about tables. They're really important to me. Not just the aesthetic stuff, what it's made of and what it looks like and if it's the right size to fit your lifestyle, but the metaphorical stuff too.

As years pass, the more I realize how much of life happens around the table in a home. Not just the meals, but all the moments. The first baby bites with tiny spoon. The birthday parties. The wine-y sessions with women friends. Christmas cookie decorating. Boxes of pizza. Milk spills. Sullen silences from kids who do not like the chicken casserole. Board games and popcorn. Late nights alone with worried thoughts and darkness. Praying. Arguing. Laughing. Crying. Talking. All of the talking.

I think about this every time we are gathered here. All those times of togetherness, friends and family who have joined us, as well as those who won't be any more, and all the joys and griefs and daily living that we pile up on the simplest of human furnishings, the thing on which we serve our daily meals. It begins to take on the significance of a totem--a sacred object that represents the ways of a tribe.

It's possible I'm overthinking it (because that's what I do), but it's been on my mind a lot lately, as Tom and I have gradually grown our lives together in this house, and as his kids and my kids grow into adults and take flight, flying back and forth from the nest as they test their wings.

Our life together needed a table. A big table. And since our patio needed some grander scale furnishings, that was where this new, big table was going to go.

Since the beginning of my time in this house, the patio has seen its own evolution. It started as a bare expanse of concrete, and not much more. I put a little money into a modest table and chairs, ones that held just me and my kids.

It began looking a little better when I was able to paint the house. But you can still see the old and crumbling (and mauve) screen porch on the right side.

Late summer of last year, we tackled the screen porch, which also helped with the overall look of the patio area, too. 

This April, Tom made the table. We saw plenty of plans we liked, many of them similar to this one, but in the end we cobbled together a bunch of design ideas from various places, and then Tom made the table big, a little over 8 feet long and over 4 feet wide.

While he was at it, and to give us more seating options, he built a bench to match the table, from his own design. 

Most of the time, the bench is going to live here, against the screen porch wall. The pots were a recent sale find at Lowe's and they had to come home with me.

Here's a little bit of a look at the undercarriage. And my unswept patio. The cedar tree is the world's best patio roof because it's green and cool and dappled light, but it's also the world's worst, because it's always shedding little needles all over the place. And I was too hasty to sweep for this photo session, because the sun was going down and I was losing my daylight for pictures. 

I also need to weed the seams in the concrete. Sigh. The strings of patio lights were an impulse buy of mine, and it turns out they were essential. We love them. 

The table has already hosted several birthday parties, a Mother's Day brunch, a graduation barbecue. It's hosted stay-at-home dates and happy hour glasses of wine. It's been my office space on a few work-from-home days, and it's been the place I staged my boxes of dahlia and gladioli tubers when I brought them up from the basement to plant in the garden. I even stretched out on it, full-length on my back, to look up through cedar boughs, fireflies and stars, all at once, on an evening that seemed too whole and perfect to end. What we finished with a layer of varnish we in turn have also begun, living the layers that make it truly shine in the way that matters most.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Doorstep Gets a Front Door Facelift

Readers may remember that some summers ago my Dad swooped in like a hero and helped me get the front of the house painted. 

At that time, one of the things that went undone was the front door. I'd intended to follow up almost immediately painting it, but between the fact the weather never seemed right any weekend I wanted to work on it, and well, just life in general, it remained the weird brownish-mauve color, with peeling layers down to white. It was not a pretty thing. 

Later on, once upon a Thanksgiving, I painted the inside of the door, pictured here, and fell in love with the color. That's Valspar Cinnamon Cake: 

It's a warm, spicy, pumpkin-y color. This year, finally, as Tom has helped get the rest of the exterior house painting done, I tackled the front door on nice weather weekends in little half-hour increments. 

Charming. Also, pay no attention to the ripped linoleum floor. Usually that's covered up by an area rug, and is a home-improvement tragedy for another blog post.

The risk for irritation painting doors while they are still hung is high. Especially a door that's heavily used. And of course my children, who leave doors hanging open as a matter of maddening habit, are now slamming it shut religiously, simply because you've got wet/tacky paint on it. Of course.

Here it is, almost finished with the prime coat. I scraped the big chunks, leveled with wood filler, caulked gaps, and sanded before priming. I'm pretty sure this is the original door, and while I like it, it's been used pretty hard and is about at the end of its life, including the hardware. The budget being what it is, though, we decided we'd throw a fresh coat of paint on it to see if we couldn't get another year or two out of it before taking the plunge on a replacement door and screen door.

Here's the finished product. I spray-painted the door-knocker black to coordinate with the light fixture, mailbox, and address plaque.

I love, love, LOVE how this color coordinates with the sage-y, olive-y green of the siding paint. I still need to paint the threshold trim the dark green color that you see on the awning trim, but the improvement has been so vast I'm kicking myself for not having done this sooner. It's made all the difference in the world.

Monday, June 26, 2017

One Last Post about the Porch

To say we've been basking in screen porch glory is a little bit of an understatement. All the work we accomplished in the waning days of summer last year felt good to get scratched off our list (HERE), but it wasn't until this year that we finally got the furniture rearranged, the pillows fluffed, the rugs down, the planters planted, and we could really use the space. It's been nice to end the work day here with a drink and a conversation with your sweetie, or begin the weekend with a cup of coffee and birdsong. 

I had a few more views of the screen porch to share, and then I'll move on to other parts of the house, because Tom and I have gotten a lot done since I was last blogging regularly (and all that work was part of the reason I wasn't blogging regularly). Remember this oldie but ugly? 

That chair used to be in my living room, and was a rocker from the home I grew up in. I've decided its wood form is not so bad as patio furniture, but I have plans to recover it with a slightly less loud fabric. It's a really comfortable chair, so I hate to give it up entirely. It's sitting in one corner of the screen porch to the left of the sliding glass door into the kitchen. 

On the other side of the sliding glass door into the kitchen is an old bar cart I found in the basement and repainted. I'll admit for the most part it's just filling space, though the bottom shelf does keep my flower vases handy for when I'm cutting flowers from the garden. 

I am in love with this golden ceiling, made of stained grooved 1X8 car siding. It's a cheap material, but it diffuses light in a warm way that makes the porch seem shaded and cozy without being dark. I'm less in love with the light/fan, but the price was right (free, from a fixture replacement project at my mother's house), and we can upgrade later when we find something we really like. 

On the exterior, we went from this: 

To this:

A proper gutter on the front wall of the porch means no more rotting foundations. My summer plants are just getting started on the patio, but we are already enjoying the strings of porch lights in the evening. 

Next up: A much smaller project, at the front of the house.