Tag Archives: home improvement

Country Kitchen Redo

18 Jan

Turns out I can’t move into a house without throwing myself into some DIY projects! I knew the kitchen was a must as soon as we looked at this house…

Cabinets were good quality, but the fluorescent light fixture, plastic counters, drop in sink, and dated pulls had to go…

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After a little bit of work, voilà!

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I actually didn’t take any before pictures (whoops), and they only had two pictures of the kitchen that I was able to copy from the MLS listing… So you can just barely see that they had cabinets hanging over the peninsula. Dave and his dad took those out ASAP.

ISy7878ghwn3h01000000000 (2)IMG_20180118_105733_022Ah, breathing room and an eating space!

IMG_20180118_104150108_HDREven though we went with the basic (and classic) subway tile, we added some flair. The edge of our butler’s pantry has a chiseled finish, which is subtle but fun up close. We also couldn’t find any bullnose corner pieces on short notice, so instead of doing 45° cuts on the tile, I had bought these really cool tiles from a local artist in Hendersonville a few months ago, and I had them put in instead.

IMG_20180118_104202376Painting along those grout lines was scary! And the white took three nerve-wracking coats to look good.

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I love our granite (Typhoon Bordeaux Light), and the sink is a regular undermount sink with a low divide. This was the feature I liked best from our expensive farmhouse sink that we had picked out in our last house.

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The counters were hard to pick out. We had a bad experience at our last house with soft granite from India that sucked up every spill no matter how many times we sealed it. Because shop hours in Asheville are mostly during the week, David could never take off work to help me pick something out. My mom came with me one of the several times I went to the giant warehouse that had so many choices I was tired halfway through just looking at them. But I finally settled on one that has delighted us after install. We wanted something with movement and flavor, and we got it! It sparkles and never fails in its beauty. Thank you, earth magma from long ago, for creating this magnificence!

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Our Total Kitchen Remodel

5 Oct

The biggest thing we did to our new house before moving in was gut and remodel the kitchen.

Because it looked like this. Not the worst, but not what we wanted either.kitchen-4-a

We had our contractor remove everything of course. Only took him a day! Walter thought the kitchen fell through a tiny hole in the floor into the basement.

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I ordered white, wood cabinets from ProSource that are made by the Amish in the United States (thank you to Bobby for helping me design the new kitchen!). They also have soft close drawers! And they were only a week late on delivery!

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I had everything so tightly scheduled so we could move in in a month, that both the flooring and granite people ended up at the house at the same time. No, that month wasn’t stressful at all!

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The house started coming together. It was fun to watch the process. It was slightly less fun to make sure everything got done on time and done right, but luckily I’m Type-A enough that I did enjoy that too.

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And then, suddenly — oh yeah and a few extra months of work later — it was finished!

As a reminder, it looked like this:

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And now!!! I love having the kitchen and living spaces together. Makes for cozy, comfortable living.

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The dog and cat happily posing.

Who doesn’t want all their appliances crammed in together?

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Ah, nice and bright and open! And our awesome woodworking friend Alex made and installed our floating shelves for us.

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They had a little eat in area (and a window we made disappear).

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Which we turned into the fridge/pantry area.

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Lovely giant wall in the middle of the room!

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Brought up to the 21st century! I kind of have a Parisian café/1950’s diner theme going.

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It’s much, much smaller than our kitchen in our old house, but once I got everything organized and realized I don’t need a million cabinets to store stuff I rarely use (hello basement storage!), I love it.

What I think of the Real Estate Market in East Atlanta

31 Jan

As my dad so elegantly puts it,

“Don’t tell me what ‘the market’ says. I tell you what the price is.”

And also

“Buying a house is easy. Selling a house is hard.”

And boy have I learned a lot about that in the last year. I thought moving would be easy, but it’s a racket if you aren’t rich or live in a posh neighborhood. And somehow we live right on the fringe of a posh neighborhood.

Our house is one of the most expensive on the block, because it is really nice, but so many of the houses immediately around us were foreclosed on and flipped right after Dave bought his house. Because David paid “full price” it is much harder to sell for as cheaply as the the competition, even though he’s the one who worked hard during the recession to not cut and run (or get forced out by the banks). He didn’t buy the house 20-30 years ago when the neighborhood was dirt cheap. We’ve been here seven years, and the money and sweat equity we put in to this house doesn’t seem to matter too much, at least yet. We’ve gotten lots of activity but no offers; however, it’s only been about six weeks and a lot of that time was over Christmas and New Years.

I believe that the way realtors get paid is detrimental to everyone who isn’t really rich or about to make a ton of money on a great purchase.

My husband and I don’t dislike our house by any means; this house is beautiful, and we enjoy keeping it up. But with our lifestyle it makes sense to move out to Marietta with the schools (and room to home-school) and land and sprawling split levels. I love in-town living, but I’m ready to move back out to the suburbs. I grew up there. David grew up in Ansley Park, moved to Chattanooga for boarding school, was a Marine in N.C., and then lived at our house. Longest place he’s ever lived. But now he’s terribly excited to move out of the Perimeter. I think one day I could even see myself living in a very rural location, but for now (and maybe forever), East Valley. It is an incredible house that I would love to live in.

I hope this transition is smooth. Current house needs new roof, floors refinished, a new light fixture for the foyer, a fence, and the master bath tile re-glazed and cabinets painted. A cool gray exterior would really make the decks pop! New house needs new flooring in lower levels, new back doors, insulation, garage spring safety cables, railing, shelving, light fixtures, fans, kitchen faucet, bathtubs, re-wallpapering the guest bath to truly bring out the tacky tile, all new appliances… the only part that is perfect is the outside, which is what I am dreaming of! And the extra space of course for my growing family. I think I see a baby kitten in our future… Petra better get ready!

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Our stager wanted me to artfully place plants around the house. Petra, however, eats them.

The Great Deck Adventure of 2015

29 Jan

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Two weekends ago our wonderful, handy friend Lloyd came over to help Dave build my privacy screen idea. They removed the current posts on the deck (very carefully — hello sawsall!) and put in 7 ft. posts. Then they fit in lattice supports, cut the lattice to the correct size, and slid it in to each slot.

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They finished just before the cold rains of last week, and it looked fabulous.

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Lloyd then recruited Dave to help on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend for the HOMES project (a yearly service project that helps elderly, poor people with home repair), and Walt and I went to brunch at Stone Soup Kitchen while he was gone. A little mother-son date!

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I quickly started adding my decorations AKA hanging lights and railing planters. I filled the latter with pansies.

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I began the final (and overwhelming) touches by painting one panel of lattice. It took about 2-3 hours, and I had to use solid color stain. Using a brush left thick drip marks down the other side of the panel. This got done right before our open house.

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The whole week after the open house was gorgeous, until Friday. It rained all day, of course. I was worried but Saturday was fairly sunny (even though not warm). I had to get down to business on Sunday just so I could finish this thing.

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I was really glad to be able to slide out the lattice panels and paint the posts separately. I had painted the first panel in place and that was a mistake. It was a sunny Sunday to get this work done, thank goodness.

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I realized if I made David buy me this lovely tool (oh no, something that requires directions!), my very huge project would become a very quick project. Thank you, inventor of the paint sprayer. It worked pretty fantastically but it ate through the rest of my paint and I had to finish with the brush. I’m not sure I had the settings correct or if I did it right, but I was in a hurry. And the sprayer-painted sides look much better than the brush sides.

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But it’s done now and it looks grand!!!

Why I don’t ever have to make lemonade because it’s usually sitting right around the corner.

17 Jan

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I love this photo for many reasons, most of all for the awesome photo bomb by dude in the chair. This photograph was taken by a random but cool Facebook friend of mine who just appeared in this particular restaurant in real life (I’ve only seen him one other time in the five or six years I’ve known him). Also, this is a great group of guys. My husband has known them for forever (since preschool and beyond), and I really appreciate how fun they are to hang out with. A couple extra friends came to brunch and they turned out to be psychologists and graphic designers and UX-ers, and it was very inspiring to talk to them about what I already love to do and would like to pursue career-wise.

Last weekend was really incredible. Following a recent blog post of mine about some of the serious things in life, a lot of people in my life came out of the woodwork to talk to me. And speaking of woodwork, my husband and our friend Lloyd built a beautiful privacy screen on our back porch this past weekend. They finished literally as the rain started, so I haven’t had a chance to stain it yet! I’m glad the sun was out yesterday to dry the wood. It looks extremely magnificent even unfinished though!

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Lloyd and his wife, my dear friend Leslie, also invited us to Morningside’s Couples Group dinner on Friday night where Dave and I were the youngest people by 25 years (except Leslie who is my oldest brother’s age), yet we really enjoyed chatting with everyone there. And they like to play a simple game every January where everyone writes a resolution for his or her spouse, and then everyone else at the party has to guess who it is about. It was silly and fun. I was talking with a wizened photo editor in the kitchen and could hear all the laughter in the background. He was telling me what I should do better re: the Christmas card I designed for our church. The whole night seemed to be about life, purpose, career, and calling, yet in a very fun delivery. Even the prayer about our current world unrest before our delicious pot luck dinner was beautiful.

Fast forward to Sunday brunch with our friends at Stone Soup Kitchen next to Oakland Cemetary, and I feel like the world is showing me my new path. There are constant signs in this world if you simply want to notice them. I personally like to pick out the good signs, the signs that bring me to calm and peace and happiness and art and adventure too. Otherwise the downward spiral is not fun. I’ve seen behind that curtain and try to avoid it as best I can.

Stone Soup Kitchen is by far the best breakfast place I’ve ever eaten at. Every dish looked amazing and I wanted my stomach to be big enough to eat the menu. After our table got all their beautiful looking meals, I got my plate and it looked like it was going to be disappointing. But I was rewarded for my choice by then devouring the best plate of eggs I’ve ever had in my life. Our table was in the hidden back porch and the ambiance was the coolest I’ve enjoyed at an in-town restaurant yet. I want to go back there every weekend until we move to the burbs.

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Kitchen Cabinet Remodel

19 Nov

A few weeks ago we went through a week-long kitchen renovation. I don’t know how people stay in their houses for remodels that take six weeks or more! However, I am now in love with my kitchen. I have always appreciated the cabinet and counter space, but now, it looks fantastic as well and feels great to be in.

This is what it used to look like:

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A year ago we rearranged and moved the large dining room table into our gigantic living space. Then this year we painted the walls blue, and I painted the new kitchen table black. And then, much to David’s chagrin, I couldn’t handle the “orange” cabinets any more. So, this happened:

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Even with everything taped off, a dusting of white oil paint got everywhere and on everything. I guess we’ll have memories of this project for years to come.

The beautiful new kitchen!:

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Not only did we get this amazing kitchen, but we got to relax at the in-laws house and have them cook dinner for us for two days while our house was a disaster.

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It feels so big in there now, and the countertops and backsplash pop (and match!)… I love it! I got David to install a new Pottery Barn light fixture over the table that really brings the room together, and I made curtains for the window to add a splash of color. It’s my favorite room of the house to be in now!

The Metamorphosis of the Kitchen Table

14 May

Over the past few weeks the garage has been in a super transitional period. First we filled it up with the things we wanted out of the house for showings and items for a yard sale. With both these things postponed, David managed to clean and organize so that we could fit the cars back in there. I was thoroughly impressed.

Then, my kitchen table project happened. Cars were parked in the driveway again.

The table was a hand-me-down from Dave’s sister, bought very cheaply from an estate sale. It’s sturdy but not very pretty. I loved it. Walter likes to push back from the table, and it would be very hard to knock these chairs over backwards. I wanted a table we could make a mess on and I wouldn’t freak out about. I didn’t want to pay $1,000 for a well-made table either.

Enter our table:

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However, once we painted the kitchen, the table looked even worse style-wise. My mother had mentioned earlier that I should paint the chairs. So I looked up some blog posts of people who had painted furniture and thought to myself, “Why not?” It didn’t really turn out like theirs (maybe it was the paint I used), but it is so much better than before that I can hardly believe it.

DSC_0291Finished product. What a beaut.

Midway through the project I had a fantastic idea to get a glass top for the table. When  I found out our table was a standard 48″ and I could get one for $100 from Pier1, I was sold. There was a lady stocking paint at Lowe’s who told me that no paint was safe to eat off of, but I could use bar wax that would yellow the paint. This other guy said that paint has been safe to use for a while now. Either way, I’m glad I don’t have to worry eating cancerous paint anymore. And I think it really is the icing on the cake in terms of how it all looks.

Here’s how I did it:

Without sanding any of the furniture (but making sure all the dust and dirt was gone), I primed everything with Zinsser 1-2-3. It covers any surface and seals as it goes. I read one person who used a brush to paint it on. Do yourself a favor and use spray primer and spray paint for any surface that isn’t completely flat. It goes so quickly too. The first chair I did with a brush and it looks significantly worse than the rest of the table and took forever. The spray cans of primer were big and I was able to use one can per chair and one can for the legs of the table.

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For the table top I used a small foam roller and a regular can of primer. When it is applied it looks like it’s going to have a terrible texture to it, but it dries nicely. You just have to make sure to take care of any lines.

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I sprayed the primer inside the garage with the door open, wearing a ventilator. This worked well to keep pollen/dust off the table while it dried and the smell isn’t bad. However, I should have done Dexter’s kill room setup in there. Primer dust was all over the floor. Not really on anything else, surprisingly, but it was hard to clean up.

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The primer dried in half an hour, which made this project go very quickly. If it feels gritty after it’s done drying, take a piece of fine sandpaper to it, removing any dust before you continue. I used Valspar black satin spray paint for the chairs and table legs, about 1 1/2 cans for each. You have to spray paint outside. The fumes are unbearable even in an open garage with a mask on. On a drop cloth I flipped the chairs upside down to get at the legs easier, then placed them upright and finished. You can’t touch them for at least an hour. They ended up a little glossier than I had imagined they would be, but it still matches my Parisian beach theme going on in the house.

I did one chair a week earlier than the rest as a test subject. I don’t know why, but maybe because I brushed on the primer, the chair is even glossier than the rest. Also, I found out, if you don’t use poly to seal the chairs then they might never dry. I read somewhere that it can take 7-30 days to “cure”. I certainly don’t have that kind of time to wait around for paint to dry! Over a week after I painted that first chair, a dinner guest left a nice butt print on the seat. No paint came off, but it was still tacky and had lots of kitty paw prints all over it too.

Solution: about an hour or so after you spray paint the chair, you can brush on polyurethane with one of those cheap sponge brushes, and three hours later it is a finished product. You can sit on it with no problems. The key to poly is to prevent it from foaming as you apply it by not having too much or too little on the brush. Also beware of drips, because they will dry permanently that way. I only did one coat for everything (instead of sanding and doing a second coat). It seems to be fine so far but obviously I can’t attest for durability. There might be a second coat in my future.

I also used the foam roller to roll on the table top paint. I used Valspar black satin latex enamel (it’s right by the spray paint). It dries a little bit harder and quicker than the spray paint, so I didn’t poly it, but that’s because I knew I was going to use the glass table top. It took about two days of Walt’s nap time to do all this, minus extra time for pilot error.

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I can see the flaws, but David says that’s because I’m being too critical.

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With some additional cute new artwork, the kitchen looks like a million bucks.

The House, nearing completion.

4 May

We have been chin deep in house projects for the past two months. This is way past knee deep… though I do see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just funny that after you make your already awesome house perfect you get to… move?

Since we haven’t had any pressure to put the house on the market, this is how things have been going:

When you tell a homeowner to replace the front door handle, the new handle will make the front door look old now too. They will probably want to re-stain the door.

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Worn out door.

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Fresh and wonderful door.

When they re-stain the door, they will notice that the wood rot around the house needs to be fixed as well before it goes on market. The handyman will notice that your gutter is too small, causing the problems, so he will recommend a new gutter. The gutter guys will recommend and your husband will agree that the fancy gutter guards will be worth the expense, so you’ll get those too.

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Helping us paint by keeping the drop cloth warm.

After many more projects outside (painting, washing, staining, planting, fixing, etc.), you will realize things that need to be fixed and updated inside. You want a new light fixture for the kitchen. This light fixture will be great, but then you’ll realize that you to need to repaint the kitchen to match the new light. With the fresh new look, you’ll realize how old and cheap the cabinet knobs look, so you’ll get new ones. When your kitchen looks as great as it does, you’ll want to paint the kitchen table as well (that one is mid-project. So far only one chair is currently black).

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Old kitchen.

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New kitchen.
Not the best picture. But during the day the kitchen looks almost gray to match the living room, then at night it’s this beachy blue color. Love it.

When your husband notes that the pantry could use some painting too, you say, well it’ll be difficult to paint around the pantry shelves. When your husband says he’s going to take those down, you tell him that he’s not going to put the old ones back up. He’s going to have to build shelves since you’ve always disliked the wire ones. And if you’re going to paint and put in custom shelves, you can’t leave the old linoleum. You’ll want to tile the pantry floor too.

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We picked the black one.

And this is why when you give a homeowner a cookie, he’ll want a glass of milk to go with it…

99 Bags of Mulch in the Yard

12 Jun

A catchy song and literally true! I was naive and thought about 35 bags of mulch would cover three garden areas. That turned out to be incorrect.

Things are a’changin’ around here, and I like it. My mother generously has devoted a lot of her time to help my project, and my husband, yet again, graciously put out a lot of hard work for another one of my ideas. Luckily it’s a home improvement, so it’s easier for him to say yes when it involves him spending time at Lowe’s.

I have always hated the AT&T box in our front yard. The feelings have only been growing over the last few years, especially when we found out there was nothing to be done about it. So we decided to put a lot of effort (and some money) into fixing up the yard so the box wouldn’t be so prominent.

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On the right side of this beautiful picture taken two years ago during Atlanta’s big snow storm, you can see the box. There is also a large AT&T cylinder. There used to be Egyptian reeds blocking the box from view, but AT&T tore those up. Eventually we got them to plant new ones, but they never grew and only made it look more hideous and messy. In the picture you can also see the ivy that surrounds a very large, very pretty oak tree. However, this old gem makes the grass surrounding it never grow. So. Our solution:

Step One & Two: Build retainer wall and till new garden area.DSC_0242 DSC_0243 DSC_0246

Step Three: Buy lots of dirt and mulch. Distribute.
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Step Four and More: Till topsoil into Georgia clay. Plant new plants. Lay down landscape tarp. Cover with mulch. Enjoy!

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We also covered the previously existing garden with black mulch and added a couple more plants for extra color. The hostas have been entirely unhappy the last three years in their current spot, so they transferred to under the dogwood and replaced with beautiful hydrangeas. Azaleas (pink and white and purple) will eventually grow big enough to block the box. The whole yard is cleaned up and beautiful. Very exciting!

But of course, we’re not quite finished. We still have to put borders around the new garden and finish up a few other things. The plants around the mailbox look very unhappy and thus ugly. But I think that’s the way it is when you own a house; an ever-evolving project.

Our weekends are wearing Mama out — in a good way!

9 Apr

A beautiful day like today makes it easy to go for a long walk with the baby. Besides, it’s probably a good idea to build up his immune system to pollen early on if he’s going to be living in Atlanta. Today was a good start since everything outside has a bright, yellow sheen to it. He’s starting to like the stroller more, so we can get in two miles pretty easily and that’s nice for my sanity and muscles.

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The pretty blooms of our magnolia tree we planted last year. It’s doing well this year so far. We thought we were going to lose it to fungus last summer, but it’s held on!

This weekend Jason spent the night Friday night. Reminds me of old-fashioned high school sleepovers grown-up style. We watched This is 40, which instead of being funny was a depressing look at what marriage and kids can do to people. I kept looking at Dave and saying, “That’s not going to happen to us, is it?” But it was nice to have some friend, wine, good food, and gossip time.

Saturday I started staining the front porch. It’s a project I have wanted to do since our home improvements last year. In retrospect, when our friend/contractor Gary offered to do the porch for $50, I should have taken it. I’ve known that since last year but really felt it this weekend when we opened up what was left of the 5 gallon tank of stain we bought a year ago and it was sludge. He had done the back porch, and when he offered I thought boy I don’t want to spend another $50 after everything we’ve spent, I can do this myself, it looks easy. Well, it isn’t hard, but it isn’t easy either.

I got a late start due to the sludge problem. David had to go pick up more stain and materials to build new posts. The end posts on our hand rails are soft with decay so it’s about time. I think it’s going to start a whole new painting project since they’ll be freshly white and the rest of the porch is dark with age. However, this is the year of the front lawn improvements, so it will only be fitting with our theme. I have a vision to makeover our bed of weeds.

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Pre-stain. The pollen wasn’t too bad yet.

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First coat. Looking good.

I didn’t even get the stairs started before the sun went down and we had dinner plans with my mother. To which we were an hour or two late. I was like the Energizer Bunny trying to get the first coat on, not even stopping to talk to a friendly neighbor that walked by (I did apologize). I didn’t anticipate how far apart the boards are which meant I also had to paint in between all the cracks. Turns out it’ll need a second coat too since it looks like when you color with markers and you can see where I stopped and started painting. Luckily the second coat should be much easier. And I’ll have to stain the mailbox post too. Everything needs to coordinate! It’s always how these projects go; you fix one thing and it makes all the nearby stuff look shabby.

Sunday we went with church folks to the Braves game. The Bravos are so hot this year! I love it! We sat in the outfield, which Dave and I never do, and it was fun to have a new perspective, but in the future if we’re bringing the baby we’ll need shaded seats. He was not too happy in the super afternoon sun. But we were only there for the second half of the game, so he survived. He sure is cute in his Braves outfit.

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Look at those teeth!

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Great seats!

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Us and the snow cone guy. A classic.

After Orlando, Easter family-fun-filled weekend, and this weekend, I’m exhausted! But having fun with my husband and son is what life is for and why I get out of bed bright and chipper on a Monday morning… well, after a few snooze buttons. Oh that’s right, the baby doesn’t have a snooze button!