June Baby

Third baby. Third pregnancy going past my due date. But I am glad about one thing. I’m glad that I’ve gone far enough overdue that I’m going to have a June baby. It’s not really that important, but I grew up in a family where everyone had their own birth month, and I kind of liked it that way. So since Peter already had a corner on May in our family, I thought it would be nice if Baby Boy arrived in June. And with 12 minutes left until midnight, it appears that he will.

And bonus, the longer our little guy takes, the more things get checked off my to-do list. Today I finished planting my pepper plants, so “Plant Veggie Garden” is officially crossed off. I even started a perennial bed with strawberries and asparagus this year. The strawberry plants are looking healthy, but no sign of any asparagus yet. This is my first attempt though, so I’m not 100% confident I planted it correctly.

DSC_0409In the front yard, I’ve finished planting my pots of annuals.

DSC_0418And I also did a spring cleaning in the bean and added a few new perennials. It’s still not “done” (not sure a garden ever is done), but it’s definitely at a point when I can leave it for a few weeks to focus on Baby.

DSC_0448On the nursery prep front, my mom and I finished sewing the curtains and we also added a fun green patterned panel to the bottom of the existing crib skirt so that it hits the floor even when the mattress is up in the infant position.

DSC_0356The girls and I have been out hitting up some garage sales. In addition to finding a great deal on the newborn sleepers we needed (Baby wardrobe complete!), I found these six 12×15 inch frames, including mats, at a sale for the lovely price of $2 each.

photo(5)As you can see from the nursery progress pic, the art wall isn’t done, but you’ll notice the beginnings of the art I’m working on photoshopping to go in the garage sale frames. (It’s not finalized and yes, the train is missing.)

DSC_0353So admittedly, the nursery isn’t quite done, but the good news is that today we finally sold our extra vehicle that has been sitting around since we bought the Pilot a few months ago. Nice to have a clear driveway again.

To summarize… plants are planted, nursery is (almost) done, and we are down to the two vehicles we are keeping. And I get my June baby. There’s really nothing left. You can come any time, Baby Boy. Any time…

Dreaming of Green

Uggg… Just looking at the forecast for the next few days. Tomorrow’s high is supposed to be negative five. Five degrees below zero, for a HIGH temperature, at the end of February… that ought to be illegal.

So I was practicing a little escapism here and looking through pictures of our landscaping from last September, comparing them to our yard photos from April 2010, and making plans in my head for yard work season 2014. And then I realized that I never posted photos of the completed fence or any of our other yard improvement projects from last summer.

If you need a little escape yourself, this is your invitation to come join me for a rather long post rambling about in a land free from snow and sub-zero temperatures…

First up, “The Bean”, a.k.a. the front yard flower garden April 2010:The Bean 2010And “The Bean” September 2013:DSC_4472Plan for 2013 was: Plant annuals in pots and replace dead perennials, re-mulch.

Actual Results: Did plant annuals and replace most of the dead perennials. Didn’t re-mulch.

Plan for 2014: Trim back lower branches of oak trees to get more light into the garden and add even more plants. My vision for this garden to be completely overflowing with interesting plants and pots and rocks and little garden vignettes.

The Front Side Yard 2010:Side yard 2010Front Side Yard 2013:DSC_4415

Plan for 2013 was: Have fence installed and put down grass seed, fingers crossed for a sprinkler system.

Actual Results: Check, check, check. Fence, grass seed, sprinkler system. And as you can see the grass seed/sprinkler system combo made a huge difference for our lawn.

Plan for 2014: Find and buy or possibly make fence post caps (for here as well as all the other corners and gates in the fence). We are also weighing the pros and cons of staining the fence. So that may end up on the project docket if we decide to go for it. After that I think it’s just routine lawn maintenance to keep everything looking good.

Front porch 2010:Front porch 2010

Front Porch 2013:DSC_4421 DSC_4471Plan for 2013 was: Replace lilies on the left side of the porch with azaleas to match the right side, plant hanging basket for shepherds crook, possibly get new pillows for front porch rockers that are a better match for the rug we got in 2012.

Actual Results: Accomplished all of the above!

Plan for 2014: Plant another hanging basket for the crook (begonias naturally), and add a few more accessories to the front porch. (Don’t tell Peter, but I’ve got a candle chandelier that I found at the thrift store last month hiding in the garage. I think it would look so fabulous over the chairs on the porch. We’ll see if I convince him.)

Side Yard 2010:Side yard 2010 2Side Yard 2013: DSC_4422 Plan for 2013 was: Rip everything out and start over (transplanting any salvageable plants), possibly add a magnolia tree (my current horticultural crush).

Actual Results: Didn’t do anything. *Sigh* Okay, that’s not entirely true, I did put up a trellis so that the Clematis would have something to grow on and might do a little better. Despite the weeds and lack of attention, it did have more flowers than it ever has, so let’s hear it for little victories.

DSC_2542As an added bonus, the fence now separates the side yard mess from the back deck mess, so at least it breaks the chaos up a little.DSC_4424Plan for 2014: Actually rip everything out and start over (transplanting any salvageable plants), but in case you were wondering we decided to nix the magnolia tree idea since there isn’t really room for it after all. I’d also like to take out the black plastic edging and re-edge with the same square bricks we used around the front porch.

Back Yard Corner 2010:Overgrown Rain Garden 2010

Back Yard Corner 2013:DSC_4430DSC_4426 Plan for 2013 was: Finish fence, grow grass, possibly add some sort of permanent fire pit. Build a bigger wooden sandbox elsewhere in the yard, dispose of turtle sandbox and maybe give away the play structure as well.

Actual Results: Fence got finished and we did add a fire pit (as well as some bonus landscaping)! We tried to grow grass with mixed results. The new sandbox did not get built, although we did choose and spot for it and plunked the turtle down there to help kill the grass. Play structure got quite a bit of use last year, so it stayed too, although in a different location.

Plan for 2014: Try to grow more grass seed and built a permanent sandbox more toward the center of the back yard. Also hoping to make some of these recycled bottle torches to hang on the fence.

Deck 2010:Deck 2010

Deck 2013 (feel free to avert your eyes):DSC_4434 DSC_4441Plan for 2013 was: Make a new top for the outdoor table Peter built a few years ago, including adding a hole to hold a patio umbrella. Try to keep the weeds from taking over completely while we look forward to rebuilding the deck (maybe next year?!?!).

Actual Results: … well, the pictures speak for themselves…

Plan for 2014: Short answer is… I’m not sure. Long answer… We decided that with Baby #3 set to arrive in late May, this was not the year to DIY a deck. I don’t really want to spend a lot of time landscaping, since we’ll likely redo most of it at whatever point we build the deck. But we’ve got to do something about those weeds. MUST. KILL. WEEDS.

Back Yard Garden 2010:Back patio 2010Back Yard Garden 2013:DSC_4464DSC_4448Plan for 2013 was: Remove maple tree stump, add raised garden beds along the side of the fence for a kitchen garden, then grow lots of new grass!

Actual Results: Stump was removed, beds built (and planted). We attempted to grow grass.

Plan for 2014: Put down more grass seed and plant another garden. We loved having a constant source of fresh veggies at our fingertips! We also need to clean off the cement slab behind the garage, since that sort of turned into a catch-all spot for pots and bags of dirt and the old fire bowl that we don’t need anymore. Anybody want it?

Side of Garage 2010:Landscaping 021

Side of garage September 2012:back yard garden 2012Side of Garage 2013:DSC_4462 DSC_4468Plan for 2013 was: Finish raking up loose rock next to the house into a smaller area to create a landing spot for the garbage cans just inside the fence.

Actual Results: Done!… sort of…

Plan for 2014: Figure out a way to neatly edge garbage can landing pad with square bricks and also keep the landscape fabric underneath from bunching up.

Mailbox Spring 2013:mail box spring 2013Mailbox Fall 2013:DSC_4399Plan for 2013 was: Jackhammer up the asphalt/cement pieces buried in the corner and plant some flowers ‘n’ things and make that corner worthy of the pretty, shiny, new mailbox.

Actual Results: Mission accomplished!

Plan for 2014: Fill in the gaps with more plants for a lush, cottage garden look.

So there you go, a very long and belated fall yard tour. Stay warm!

Now Blooming

Okay, so I know I’ve been slacking here on the blogfront the past few weeks. Sorry about that. My excuse is that I’ve been fatigued, nauseous, light-headed, and in a fog. Before I start any rumors, no, this is not a pregnancy announcement. I think something is going around. I had one piano student out this week with similar complaints, a neighbor just told me she’s been having the same symptoms and Lydia threw-up a few mornings back, which wasn’t funny except that the way she put it was, “I had a bad sneeze.”

Bright lights have been bothering me, loud noises and whiny kids too. I hate not feeling good when they don’t feel good. I have such a low tolerance for whining to start with and being sick brings out the worst in all of us.

So anyway, this hasn’t been our best last couple of weeks. But fortunately my garden has been putting on a show. It’s amazing how soothing flowers can be. So come pull up a green metal garden chair and I’ll show you around my little oasis of calm…

Here’s one of the last irises of the year, just blooming its heart out…

The columbine are almost done too…

The pots of annuals are still going strong…

The lamium is a ground cover, so the flowers aren’t big or showy, but still cheerful…

A neighbor gave me some ferns from her yard, and they are looking good, despite the recent transplant. I know they aren’t blooming, but I just love the soft feathery look of ferns. I think ferns are my favorite non-flowering plant…

The very first of the gaillardia just showed up this week…

And last, but certainly never least, the peony (aka my favorite flower in the whole world) put on the biggest, fluffiest show it has ever managed…

There now, I feel so much better. Flowers, food for the soul. Wouldn’t you agree?

TATT: A Flower Pot Formula

Feels weird to write a Tips and Tricks Tuesday post today. Mondays off always throw me for a loop, not that I’m complaining about a three-day weekend, just sayin’ it doesn’t feel like Tuesday.

But anyway, it IS Tuesday and so thought I’d share a tip that I learned a few years back for planting beautiful flower pots. This is 100% not my idea, so I apologize if you’ve seen this a zillion times before, but I think it’s an awfully handy trick.  It’s called Thriller, Filler, Spiller and here’s how it works:

To create visual interest in a large pot (this works best in a container 12 inches across or larger), put one striking tall plant in the center (the thriller), add in several shorter, fuller plants (the filler), and then a few trailing plants around the edge (the spiller).

In this particular pot I went with one “Raspberry Rum” Alternanthera for the Thriller, three pink Petunias for the Filler and two “Goldi” Lysimachia for the Spiller. And don’t worry if your spiller doesn’t spill very much at first. Since “spiller” is practically synonymous with “ground cover”, it won’t take long before it’s gracefully cascading down the side of the pot.

So there you go, my best trick for planting beautiful flower containers. Now I just have to keep them alive. Anyone got a trick for that?!?

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Good news! We (almost) have a new fence! They are putting the finishing touches on it as we speak, or rather, as I type. Since it’s been a while since you saw anything on the outside of the house, I thought maybe I’d do a little “that was then, this is now” progress report.

A little info on the “then” pictures… it was spring of 2010 and even though we’d moved into our house nearly a year and a half before, it was the first time we’d really paid attention to the outside of our house. (I’d like to say it was because we’d been so focused on upgrading the inside of our house, but it was really mostly because our firstborn showed no inclination to sleep for the first nine months of her life.) So spring 2010 I finally got outside and took pictures.

Now let’s play our little then and now game, unless you don’t like that one, then you can play “Where’s Alethea”, which is sort of like “Where’s Waldo” only probably easier. How many times can you spot her?

“The Bean” (aka front yard flower garden) THEN:

and NOW:

Steps forward: flagstone path, rocks, plants, pots, mulch. Also seating added this spring (just one chair pictured, but we have two; pictures coming once more plants are in bloom).

Steps back: I lost a LOT of plants this past winter. The weather was really harsh. I even lost several daisies. Yes, daisies. They’re pretty much weeds, but somehow they are dead.

Plan for 2013: plant annuals in pots and replace dead perennials, re-mulch.

Front side yard THEN:

Front side yard NOW:

Steps forward: cut down or trimmed back a lot of overgrown trees and a plethora of weeds.  Fence posts are in.

Steps back: now that there aren’t bushy trees covering much of the lawn, you can see the huge bare spots.

Plan for 2013: finish fence (nearly there) and for sure put down grass seed, cross your fingers for a sprinkler system.

Front porch THEN:

Front porch NOW:

Steps forward: Where to start… as most of you know, this was our summer project last year and we basically did a whole DIY porch facelift, including, paint, stain, masonry, and building the screen around the bottom.

Steps back: Zero!

Plan for 2013: Replace lilies on the left side of the porch (pictured) with azaleas to match the right side (not pictured), plant hanging basket for shepherds crook, possibly get new pillows for front porch rockers that are a better match for the rug we got last year. Oh, and finish taking down the Christmas lights. *Sheepish Grin*

Side yard THEN:

Side yard NOW:

Steps forward: Absolutely none.

Steps back: Everything is completely overgrown, out of control, a big hot weedy mess. It looks much worse even than when we moved in.

Plan for 2013: Rip everything out and start over (transplanting any salvageable plants), possibly add a magnolia tree (my current horticultural crush).

Back yard corner THEN:

Back yard corner NOW:

Steps forward: weedy, mostly dead rain garden removed, trees trimmed back to make room for fence, dirt from post holes used to fill in former garden, plastic landscape edging removed.

Steps back: piles of brush and debris yet to be cleared and the grass, it’s sooo bad back there. Also, our turtle sandbox and little tikes play structure (aka our found by the side of the road playground) are now homeless.

Plan for 2013: finish fence, grow grass, possibly add some sort of permanent fire pit. Build a bigger wooden sandbox elsewhere in the yard, dispose of turtle and maybe give away the play structure as well (except that the girls have suddenly become more interested in playing with it recently, so we’ll see what we end up doing).

Deck THEN:

Deck NOW:

Steps forward: the two dogwood shrubs we transplanted from the rain garden are still alive and kicking.

Steps back: this part of our landscaping makes me want to cry. It’s covered in vicious stinging weeds and upstart maple trees that won’t die, no matter how many times I cut them back. Not to mention that underneath the deck is our current extra landscape materials storage (so not pretty). Oh and the deck is starting to rot and/or come apart in places. It needs to go.

Plan for 2013: make a new top for the outdoor table Peter built a few years ago, including adding a hole to hold a patio umbrella. Try to keep the weeds from taking over completely while we look forward to rebuilding the deck (maybe next year?!?!).

Back yard garden THEN:

Bonus THEN photo from September last year:

Back yard garden NOW:

Steps forward: this is probably the part of our yard that has changed the most since we moved in. Last year when they built the house next door they took down a lot of the pine trees that bordered our lot, and we took down the maple that was starting to grow into the apple tree, so this side of our back yard went from dense shade to full sun. So we’ve done tree removal, weed removal, moved rock, got a huge load of black dirt and leveled out the ground so the concrete patio isn’t sticking out.

Steps back: removing all the trees just before a hot dry fall meant the grass fried. Also have a maple stump and rock circle that have become an eye sore without the distraction of an actual tree.

Plan for 2013: remove maple stump/tree circle, add raised garden beds along the side of the fence for a kitchen garden (hooray for full sun!!!), finish raking up loose rock next to the house into a smaller area to create a landing spot for the garbage cans just inside the fence, then grow lots of new grass!

Mailbox THEN:
No picture available because it was inconveniently located several houses away.

Mailbox NOW:Steps forward: this was one of Peter’s fall projects last year. We let our new next door neighbors have our old mailbox location so that we could move ours in front of our house. Peter built the stand and newspaper box from scratch and then jackhammered through a layer of asphalt to pour concrete and set it up. Why is there a layer of asphalt just inches beneath our grass on that side? We don’t know, although it gives us a hint as to why we could never get grass to grow in that corner.

Steps back: discovering asphalt under our lawn… enough said.

Plan for 2013: jackhammer up the rest of the asphalt in the corner so I can plant some flowers ‘n’ things and make that corner worthy of the pretty, shiny, new mailbox.

So there you go. Looks like we are going to have a busy summer. And now that this is so long that no one will read to the end, I want to get outside and see how the fence is coming, so I’ll say TTFN and catch you later!

Front Porch Reveal

Yes folks, it’s actually done.

I know I said in my first post about our porch that we had a simple four task list to accomplish this summer.  Turns out that simple does not mean easy.  However, I am thrilled to announce that our summer (which dragged on into the fall) front porch project has been completed!    And without further ado, here is the finished product…

It meant that Peter and I spent nearly every weekend all summer covered in paint, stain, sawdust, brick dust and mortar, but when I look at the before and after pictures, I realize that it was SO worth it.

We started with this:

…and ended up with this:

32 oz of wood filler, two gallons of paint, two gallons of stain…

A load of lumber, three bags of mortar and 2000 lbs of bricks…

A weekend without stairs…

Again, totally, 100% worth it.

One more before and after, shall we?

On the downside, we are probably now out of the running for an episode of Desperate Landscapes, but on the upside, we’re probably out of the running for an episode of Desperate Landscapes, which should make our whole neighborhood happy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go because Peter has already jumped into our fall landscaping project: The Side Yard Spruce.

Hmmm… on second thought, maybe we could still qualify…

Stay tuned.

Let’s Review, Shall We?

There is little doubt in my mind that this summer will go down in our family history as the “Summer of the Front Porch Project”.  What was supposed to be a relatively simple 4-6 week project in May and early June has grown and evolved (as DIY projects are prone to do) and we are now pushing to finish our front porch facelift by the end of July… cross your fingers… and maybe your toes too.

We’ve spent nearly every free weeknight and weekend in the past month slowly chipping away at this, bit by bit.  And we’re making progress.  We like progress, not as much as we like ‘done’, but progress is good too.

However, before I tell you where we are now, let’s take a look at just how far we’ve come already.

Here is our front porch a la March 2010:This was about 14 months after we moved into the house, but our first year of home ownership was dominated by a highly sensitive infant who didn’t like to sleep… ever… landscaping wasn’t really a priority for us. As Alethea started doing better a night, we slowly came out of the fog of sleep deprivation, looked around, and realized things outside our home were looking less like a dream and more like a nightmare.

Our problems were plentiful, but just to highlight the biggest eye sores:
1. The pebble landscaping rock wasn’t a fabulous product to begin with, but it was made worse by the fact that no weed barrier had been installed under the rocks.  Pebbles mixed with weeds just aren’t a good look.
2. The unattractive plastic edging was missing in places and coming loose in others.
3. The ultra cheap solar lights we stuck in there as our one attempt to spruce things up during our first summer in the home, didn’t work very well and just added to the visual clutter.
4. The grass. Oh the grass. You’d never know we’d used TruGreen the whole summer before, would you?  I don’t blame TruGreen though.  The house was vacant almost a whole year before we bought it and the lawn needed extreme TLC.

So in the summer of 2010 our goals were to replace the pebbles and the plastic edging with something more attractive, and to water and fertilize on a consistent schedule to try and resuscitate the lawn.  (We actually talked about just ripping out all the grass and starting over, but that seemed like a crazy amount of time and labor, so we thought we’d try to work with what we had first.)

Fast forward sixteen months to July 2011…

As you can see, we replaced the plastic edging with gray square bricks, took out the pebbles to put down mulch, and had green grass growing!  We loved the brick edging and were thrilled that the grass was making progress, but the mulch, well, turns out mulch is not in fact better than little pebbles.  Little pebbles at least don’t lose their color and get all trampled down and gross looking.  Yeah, we didn’t like the mulch and it didn’t keep the weeds from growing either.  It’s a shame that my gorgeous orange begonia’s only friends at the corner were some vicious two foot tall stinging nettles.

Be still my beating heart. Begonias are my favorite shade plant ever. So exquisite! But I digress…

So we chalked the mulch up to a learning experience and decided to try again.  This time with bigger, cooler rocks, complete with weed barrier underlay.  And also, we knew we had to do something about our sorry solar lights.  They just had to go.

After searching multiple home improvement stores and many corners of the internet, we finally stumbled upon these stylish, but affordable landscaping lights at Menard’s.  Whoa, did I just use ‘stylish’ and ‘Menard’s’ in the same sentence?  Crazy, but we do love our lights.

So this spring, when the snow melted and the azaleas were in bloom, things looked better than they ever had before.

Better, yes, but still not finished.

Nice looking border, cool rocks with some boulders mixed in, and the new lights of course.  All good.  But everything behind the good stuff is bad, very, very bad.  The underside of our porch and bare foundation aren’t exactly polished. Enter our 2012 Front Porch Facelift Plan.

The first thing that we knew we wanted to do was to build a wooden screen between the support posts to block the view through to our home’s foundation.  We considered several different styles, but thought that something similar to this inspiration photo would fit the character of our house best, only ours will be stained, not painted.


But what the screen won’t cover is the huge irregularly shaped post footings.

We threw around a bunch of ideas (paint them, build a wood box over them, clad them with stone), but every plan seemed to draw more attention to them and what we really wanted was to make them disappear.  Then I had a thought.  Would a large gray footing disappear if it was covered by some other large gray blocks?  We stacked some up to find out.

We loved it, so building stone columns on the four footings became part of the plan.  (The ‘columns’ will actually only be two sided, since the screen will cover the inner sections of the footings, we won’t bother to put blocks where no one will see them.)  As you can probably tell from the photo, this was just a quick-trick-block-stack, when we build them for real, we’ll use mortar to hold them in place.  Neither Peter nor I has ever mortared anything, so this could be fun, but we figured one has to start somewhere and a non-structural, practically stands up on its own stack of big cement blocks seemed like an easy enough project.  We haven’t done it yet though, so we’ll see!

So we had screen plans and we had column building plans, but it didn’t seem like there was much point in sprucing up the whole underside of the porch if we didn’t spruce up the existing structure too, so the whole porch will be getting a fresh coat of paint/stain, including the previously untouched staircase.  Why was it never painted?  We just don’t know.

And since the stair treads and risers were a hodgepodge of different sized boards, Peter decided to replace all of those too.  So our four task list was: 1) Sand/paint/stain existing porch, 2) Replace existing stair treads and risers, 3) Construct screen around underside of porch (including access doors on either end), and 4) Build block columns on each of the four footings.

So that’s what we’ve been doing, and like I said before, we’re making progress.  At least I think we are.

This is progress, right?!?

In any case, I’m off to work on the front porch some more now.  Praise God for a Saturday that isn’t in the upper 90s and muggy.  Maybe my stain will actually dry correctly this weekend.  Here’s hoping!

Running a Marathon

Our weekend was sort of insane, but so much fun.  I feel a bit like I’ve just completed a marathon.  I mean, not that I’ve ever come close to running that far.  I know, I know, my runner’s physique had you all fooled, but I really am tired.  In the 48 hours between Friday and Sunday evening we squeezed in: a bonfire 30th birthday party for Peter, my piano studio student recital, shopping for Mother’s Day gifts, a little work on our front porch sprucing up project, a second bonfire (this time with some neighbors), a Sunday morning church service, hosting Mother’s Day brunch/Peter’s family birthday party, some much needed Sunday afternoon naps and finally, a trip to the playground with the girls.

Since I was busy running around like a chicken with her head cut off, I didn’t get too many pictures from the weekend, but here are the best of the few that I did take:

They are building a new house just a few lots down from ours.  Lots of dust around here lately, so Saturday afternoon I moved the porch furniture to the front lawn to spray it with the hose and give it a good wipe down.  It looked so inviting sitting there in front of The Bean that I just had to take a picture.  I’d like to tell you that I then proceeded to grab a glass of lemonade and a good book and sit for a nice long while, but alas, that did not happen.  Instead, my photo shoot was pleasantly interrupted by this little lady who wanted some attention…

I just love taking pictures of my girls.  Can you believe Lydia climbed up into the chair all by herself?  She totally surprised me with that one.  I know it’s such a cliche thing to say, but they really do grow up too fast.

Friday afternoon I was contemplating the best way to serve s’mores at Peter’s party, when the most brilliant plan occurred to me.  (Okay, so it’s not like I managed to invade Troy in a large wooden horse, but I think this idea is a pretty good one too.)  I’ve had this old 7up bottle crate from my grandmother’s basement sitting in my garage for a while now and it turns out it makes the perfect s’more tray.  Toss the marshmallows into clear cups, cut the top couple inches off the plastic graham cracker sleeve, throw them each into a square along with assorted chocolate bars and you’ve got yourself a cute, organized and easy to carry to the fire s’more buffet!

And last but certainly not least, I had to share this picture of Alethea helping Peter blow out his birthday candles.  It just melts my heart!

Happy belated Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!  Hope your day was great!

A Cheap Parenting Moment

Okay, so I know Peter and I aren’t the world’s cheapest parents.  We didn’t cloth diaper, we bought brand new nursery furniture and we (a.k.a I, Elise) have been known to splurge on unnecessary kids bed and bathroom decor items on occasion.

However, we did recently have a pretty spectacular cheap parenting moment.

Everyone, I’d like to you meet…

Our new backyard playground!  (Deluxe Rainbow play system, this is not.)

When we moved in, this spot in our yard was supposed to be a rain garden.  However, the house having been vacant for nearly a year previous to our purchasing it, the rain garden had essentially become a weed garden.

This is a picture from 2010.  Lovely, isn’t it?

Anyway, a couple years ago we dug up all of the worthwhile vegetation and planted it elsewhere thinking we’d make this into a fire pit area.  The front yard landscaping ended up taking priority though, so we kinda let the fire pit idea go, which might not have been the most brilliant plan, because weedy area, minus the few good plants holding things back, equals SUPER weedy area.  So this year before the weeds could get out of hand again, Peter decided to put a tarp down over everything.  And since we needed something to hold the tarp in place, we figured we’d use what we already had on hand to make it a little play area, just for this year (hopefully).

And what did we have on hand?  Well, that brings us back to our cheap parenting moment.  We had a found-by-the-side-of-the-road Little Tykes play structure and an also-found-by-the-side-of-the-road turtle sandbox.  Uh, huh, that’s right.  Someone actually left this beauty out for the taking.

I’m not exactly sure how the whole cheap-parent point system works.  Anyone know if we qualify for some bonus points since our turtle doesn’t even have his eyes anymore?

Naturally, the girls think their new play area is the best thing ever.  Alethea is always begging to play in the backyard now.  And Lydia?  Well, she gets her ‘I’m big stuff’ face every time we help her climb up into the play structure.

I have to admit, seeing grins like that for the price of a tarp and a little manual labor, makes me think I should try the cheap parenting thing more often.  Makes me and my checking account feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

And We’re Done!

Today we finished up the bean project!  Just as a reminder, here’s where we’ve been…

August 2009 –
No picture available, because I was just trying to survive Alethea’s early months of life.  The bean was covered in knee-high weeds and had seven oak trees in it.

April 2010 –
Weeds pulled and two trees removed

August 2010 –
Lots of mulch and a few plants later

August 4th 2011 –
More plants were added in the spring and the path was marked out

Add some boulders, lay a flagstone path…

And finally the moment I’ve been waiting two years for…

The Bean – August 10th 2011

I’m tired, my feet hurt and it was dirty, dirty work, but it was so worth it!

The Bean has officially gone from the eyesore of our yard to the highlight!