How to build a patio in 28 easy steps

Yesterday I posted a picture of our finished patio that George, some friends, and I built over three days last week. Now I am here to tell you how we did it.

Step 1: Mark out and measure the area. 

Our yard is on the side of the house, and it’s an L-shape. There’s a weird bit of sidewalk in the middle back from when there was a house there. Due to the boys playing soccer and Ziggy being Ziggy and other factors, there was an area next to the back door that was dirt or mud, depending on the weather. So we marked out a rectangular area between the side of the house and the weird sidewalk bit.

Step 2: Order stuff

We decided on these brick-like pavers from Home Depot called Holland pavers because they were on sale and I liked the look of them. Woot! Arranged for them to be delivered because, uh, we needed a bunch.

We also needed sand, so I did some googling and found a local company to deliver a truckload of concrete sand. Thank goodness they had a handy dandy calculator on their website to figure out how much we needed. Feel very adult-like.

Also buy a case of beer with which to bribe friends with so they will help. Go back to feeling like a college student. Continue reading

Ta dah! {brick patio!}

A week ago, this was basically mud (or dirt, depending on the weather.) But now, thanks to the help of friends and my parents (who took the boys for a few days) we have a lovely brick patio!

Naturally, this photo was taken very carefully so you can’t see the piles of dirt and sand and shovels everywhere. I’ll save all that for the post I’m planning about how we built it.

But for now I’m going to enjoy the nice evening with my back to the mess.

It’s gone!

After 7.5 years (kind of a lie, we really put it up probably 6.5 years ago) we finally took down the baby gate.


I know it seems weird – do 7 year olds really need a baby gate? Well, our living room is upstairs, and the floors are wood. And at the bottom of the (hard, wooden) stairs is a ceramic tile floor.

And with the amount of running and wrestling and general tomfoolery that goes on upstairs, I just felt better having the gate there. But I’ve forbidden socks upstairs now, and the boys are a pretty cautious sort, so I feel okay about it.

Hopefully we won’t end up with any more fractured skulls.

Thursday stuff

Oliver lost one of his top teeth, finally! Poor dude was getting a complex about it. Woke me up at 1am to show me. Glad he didn’t swallow it in his sleep! Looks like the adult tooth is already coming in.


While getting in the van to take the boys to camp this morning, I stepped in a red ant pile that was hidden under some Asian jasmine. A lot of cursing and slapping at my feet followed. I hate those assholes. (Here’s the full video if you want to see them up close.)


Today a company is coming by to give us an estimate on having the attic insulated. Hopefully we can afford to do it, because I imagine it would pay for itself in a couple of years. Upstairs gets so, so hot. Anyone have experience with this? Our a/c is just struggling to keep up with the heat.

I also am scheming to get the living room in order. Painting, first of all. And then just making it look a little nicer. Maybe it’s time to take down the baby gate at the top of the stairs? I dunno if I’m ready for that. Here’s what it looks like currently. At least I moved the lego table into the boys’ room. It’s a start.

Oh shoot. Two days til the triathlon. Better start thinking about that.

Look, there’s our house!

Last night’s episode of NCIS New Orleans was terribly exciting, no? I don’t mean the plot or the atrocious accent of that one guy (HUH?) or just the typical New Orleans cliches they threw at us, but MY STREET!

Just for fun, a few screen shots from the episode, next to the photos I took while they filmed…

My view: The gray SUV that carries NCIS people (I guess) screeches into the driveway of the “coroner’s office”!


On TV: The gray SUV that carries NCIS people (I guess) screeches into the driveway of the “coroner’s office”!


My view: People run out of the building, away from the gunman! (Then they stood in our driveway.)



On TV: People run out of the building!



My view: Scott Bakula and other randoms run to help the security guard who got himself shot!




On TV: The pain is so real!



Okay, that’s enough. You get the idea.

One more screen shot, where you can see our house! And our garbage cans! And a tiny bit of my van! And my neighbor’s house/coffee shop!

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Handily labeled for you.

Well, I think we’ve proved that my block makes a great place to film things. Now if anyone just needs a cute 7 year old boy and some spares, have your people call my people!

Happy houseiversary

I cannot believe I forgot our 11 year houseiversary the other day. Okay, okay, maybe I don’t have to mark every anniversary of every thing that’s ever happened. Yeah, I don’t have to. I just like to.

But wait…I’ve only posted once about a houseiversary, and that was ten years ago! So now I don’t feel quite so ridiculous for posting one today.

In the past eleven years, we’ve been through a lot in this house. Engagement, Hurricane Katrina, marriage, and the arrival of three kids at once (as you can imagine, we bought this house on the assumption we’d have one or two kids, max.)

We’ve redone the kitchen, rebuilt the stairs, moved rooms around, built in triple bunk beds, painted the exterior, and added a wall, but I still want to repaint the living room and get new floors downstairs and fix the ones upstairs and redo the totally ’80s downstairs bathroom and finally change the lightbulb at the top of the stairwell that has been burned out for a decade.

One day.

Would I love to have a bigger house? One without so much wasted space? God, yes. The boys won’t fit in those beds forever, and I’d kill for, say, an actual laundry room and a back yard. But I also love the idea of the boys growing up in the same house forever. And I can still remember the knee-weakening feeling I got when we walked through the front door for the first time.

(Of course, the previous owner was an artist, and had one teenage kid. And was more on the minimalist side than we’ll ever be.)

A mini-makeover

The kitchen is done, and now our attention turns to the living room. It’s not terrible, I suppose. We got a new sofa from IKEA a few years ago, and as the boys have gotten older, their toys have gotten fewer, so it doesn’t look like Toy R Us vomited everywhere (just the LEGO factory.) But still, our “entertainment center” was a mess of wires and dust and functional but ugly furniture.

Before: So. many. wires.
After: Much better!

The unit is by Prepac and if you’ve put together IKEA furniture before, this will be no sweat.

I have more plans for this room, like re-painting and fixing the floors, but this is already so much better.

Details on our “new” kitchen

I thought I’d post some details about the kitchen, in case anyone was interested. I know I like reading posts like this, anyway.

Paint: Behr Premium Plus Ultra Super-Duper Fancy Nice Awesome (something like that) in Dolphin Fin

Granite: Cold Spring

I love the metallic flakes. You know I like sparkly things.

Faucet: Glacier Bay Carmina Pull-Down faucet


Tile: Daltile Rittenhouse Square Mosaic (white) and white penny tile mosaic bought from Floor & Decor (behind the sink only)

Grout & Caulk: Bright white non-sanded (hides my rookie tiling mistakes)

Stove: Samsung Electric Convection Oven (Black)

Look at all THE BUTTONS!

If you have any other questions, just let me know. (And no, I am never tiling again.)

Our kitchen: before and after

Over the summer, we did a little refresh of the kitchen. Not a full gut job by any means, but a nice update.

It all started when my friend Mary Catherine got new granite countertops, and when I heard how reasonable they were, well, I wanted granite countertops. (When I came home and told George, he merely pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.)

Ten years ago when we bought our house, the kitchen was a sunny yellow. Sponge painted, if my memory is right. With royal blue trim. It was okay, but not my style. Especially the tiled pelican “artwork” behind the stove.

Was not sad that we had to get rid of that fridge post-Katrina.

So before we moved in, we painted the kitchen, um, lime green. Okay, maybe not the wisest choice.

Screenshot 2014-07-27 10.53.46
There’s that damn pelican.

A couple of years later I was already sick to death of it, and went in the opposite direction. Dark brown. I actually loved it for a long time. The contrast against the while cabinets was nice. We also tiled over the stained white laminate with large beige ceramic tile. It was fine, but definitely an amateur job. Over the years, it cracked near the sink, and I hated that I couldn’t roll out dough on the countertop.

Not terrible, I guess.

By this point, we’d already replaced all of the appliances with black ones, and I was itching to get rid of our range.  It was a slide-in one, which is expensive to replace, but the oven was small and off by at least 25 degrees, and it was just yuck. I knew that replacing the stove would have to wait until we got new countertops, which I always assumed was a pipe dream.

But it turns out it wasn’t! So this summer, we decided to change them out, paint the kitchen, get a new stove, and FINALLY GET RID OF THE PELICAN! (Confession: I made most of the decisions while George pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed.) (Not really. He was very supportive.)

The kitchen should have been done weeks ago, but I started losing steam when we got to the backsplash tiling part of the renovation. I was all ready to grout, but then I went to Mexico, and then I had my triathlon, and finally I just bit the bullet and finished. Whew. Here’s the finished product. I’m so, so happy!

The new stove (with a chicken nuggets button!) to replace the yucky old small one. And look! No more pelican!
Nothing on top of the cabinets. Clutter-free! (Well, mostly.)
Nothing on top of the cabinets. Clutter-free! (Well, mostly.)
New undermount sink and lovely new faucet. Heaven.
New undermount sink and lovely new faucet. Heaven.

It’s not perfect (don’t look too closely at the backsplash, okay?) but being in the kitchen and cooking is so much more pleasant now. Particularly chicken nuggets.

Things ‘n’ stuff

It’s been a while since I’ve written a real blog post with more than like fifteen words and a picture, and I’m feeling kind of neglectful of my poor blog. Ironic, considering my job!

The boys went to the beach with my mom and Larry while I was in Mexico. And by all accounts, they had an amazing time. I got pictures and videos from my mom throughout the week, which was nice. Kind of cool to think they really weren’t that far away, as the crow flies.

Screenshot 2014-07-18 10.12.21

Some pictures that may or may not have made me tear up throughout the week…

My hearts.
There was a room with bunk beds, but I guess they liked sharing a bed better. *sniff*


But the best part about their trip was the email my mom sent me when it was over. Every time I read it, I teared up.

One of the most touching times we had was walking down the beach with them at night and them finding sand castles that others had built and just being awed. Last night they saw a tiny crab on the beach and played with the crab for several minutes.

Miles woke me up in the middle of the night one night to tell me we forget to have dessert. The next night they had enough brownies and oreos to make up the missing dessert.

Kristina’s coming in a couple of weeks and we’re taking them back to Orange Beach for a few days, so now I’m extra excited about it. But they’ll probably be dismayed to learn that I won’t be stuffing them with brownies and Oreos there. That’s a grandmother’s job!

In other news, my friends Heather and Maggie and I are doing our triathlon in a week! I had a week off of swimming (I’m guessing being lulled by the waves at the beach or floating in the pool with a glass of wine doesn’t count) so I’m trying to get back to where I was before my trip (i.e., not flailing across the pool for the entire 200 yards.) I think I’ll be okay, even if it means doing a length or two of breaststroke while I catch my breath. I also need to not forget about the twelve mile bike ride and two mile run after that swim. I know I can do those on their own, but after the swim? And then the bike ride? Hmm. We’ll see!

We just got new gutters this week. They are pretty. This has definitely been the summer of Home Improvement, what with the kitchen, the gutters, and the bench that’s being built in the dining room. Good stuff!


We also had a super fun awesome playdate the other day with one of Miles’s kindergarten classmates. Miles got to play with his friend alone for a few hours while I ran some errands with the other two, and then we all hung out together and went and had dinner. It was so nice! And the boys were really into impressing Rajan’s mom, because they ate strawberries, seaweed (!), rose petals (!!), and some other new things. I said I was going to be dropping the boys off at her house for food training.

One of the errands I had to run that day was to drop off the heart monitor I’d worn for the previous 24 hours. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my heart (I had it looked over plenty before my surgery last year) but I do get palpitations sometimes, and better safe than sorry, right?

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