Halloween Out

It’s been a rough few weeks for being the most wonderful time of year, huh? I’m a thinking person, like thinking is one of my favorite things to do, but after all my thinking I can’t come up with the right way to live in this world. Even when your life isn’t directly affected by natural disasters, shootings, fires, war, famine, racists, death, etc. should you saturate in the news and the communal human loss? Or do you stick your head in the sand and live happily in a bubble because your children deserve better than a melancholic mother? That option can’t be acceptable when other mothers aren’t afforded that luxury. I find it impossible to live in the middle, though that’s probably the healthy place to be, so I continually loop through those two extremes, often overstaying my welcome in melancholy…where you could probably guess from this paragraph that I am deep in right now. Why, humans?

Anyways, this has very little to do with my Halloween decorations. Or everything. Who knows at this point. Life is absurd and hard and ugly and straight up wrong, and when world events flare up (OR TOM PETTY DIES), I cynically look at creative pursuits and celebrations as a cheap cover up for all the wrong. So maybe here’s me doing my best to cover up our shared ugly human existence by making a pretty house. Or pretty weird house, depending on taste. Wow, what an intro. Sorry to ramble so off. Though this almost turned into an entire post about the impact TP has made on my life, so I actually think I’m letting you off easy :)

Let me bring it back in. Despite my doom and gloom feelings, I had a lot of fun decorating our house for Halloween this year. I usually go pretty minimal (last year’s inside and out) but was surprisingly over-enthusiastic this year. Probably because the front yard is semi-presentable for the first time ever and the possibilities are wide open. It’s really great, I’ll share soon, I just need to plant a few more things. Our outside Halloween decorations are still quite minimal, but in a large scale way that is working for our yard and for me.
We have a simple spider web theme going on. I almost passed on these Mega Spider Webs from Target because they looked like a dumpy hammock in the bag that would blow down in the wind, but I decided to give one a try and liked it so much I bought another. Easy, cheap, fun, big impact (they are 25′ long!) but in a minimal way. They fit my requirements for compact storage and have, so far, withstood some major wind.I painted the wonderfully weird screen white and we’re planning on adding a second! I’m basically in love.I’ll share Halloween inside later this week. And keep the feelings to a minimum. For today, sending love and prayers to my beloved, burning California. xoxo

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DIY Mid Century Screen / Divider

Things are moving along in the front yard slow and steady. Our most recent project is an exterior decorative wood screen inspired by the pages of a 1961 Sunset book, Entryways and Front Gardens, a photo that has haunted me for years! Obviously adding non structural architectural details can completely change the feel of a facade, but the ease and impact surpassed all my expectations. The front of our house has a long, boring expanse that needed to be visually broken up. Plants are usually an easy answer, but a narrow plant bed sits below, preventing any substantial plant from successfully or safely growing here. While discussing ways to hide our poorly located breaker box, I suddenly remembered the Sunset book project – the perfect match to our issues.We followed the basics of the original frame design, but used 2×6 instead of 2×4 for the inside square blocks to expand the size and open it up a bit. I liked the original mix of squares and bars, but wanted more overall pattern consistency, so the whole family played around with the design for a while until we got something we liked. We used redwood for outdoor durability, but since we will be painting it, pine probably would have been fine and cheaper (we spent around $150 for everything). I’m tempted to paint it a crazy accent color, orange or turquoise being the obvious contenders, but I think a slightly darker shade of the house color will do the trick for now.The completed screen is really top-heavy so we made sure to dig deep. Digging was by far the worst part of the project, but this set-up really helped break up our clay: a 1.5″ drill bit with a 12″ extender. Our 9′ posts were sunk about 2′ deep. Forty minutes of leveling, three braces, and two bags of Quikrete later, our screen stands tall, straight and strong.The original plan was to use the screen to hide a poorly located breaker box. However, once we put it together it became clear that everything looked so much more balanced and better if we placed it one space over. This project doesn’t exactly lend itself to experimentation (once it’s in the ground), so I was a little nervous to switch up our plans on the fly, but I’m so glad I went with it. I’m (mostly) confident that everything will pull together once I paint the screen and get the landscaping done up here. I’m left looking for other solutions to hide that box, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something. My best idea so far has been build a second screen – duh. Husband is not really feeling that one, so time will tell where this story goes. Here’s the two locations we considered: Lessons learned: Never underestimate the power of a (comparatively) tiny screen, or it’s bonus shadows! Next time I go down this road, I’m taking this idea and going HUGE, like cover my whole house huge because it is that good and that transformative:(A fun bonus to this project is that we are planning to build a wood divider in-between our family room and dining room so I took the opportunity to get a spacial feel of size and dimension with this screen inside before we fully assembled it. IN LOVE. All my fears about a divider being too busy, blocking too much light, making the dining room feel too cramped were shot down completely. Can’t even wait for this!)We took a break from the front yard this weekend to clean up our garage, repair a busted backyard fence, and to also address the MOUSE THAT I FOUND IN OUR HOUSE!!! Talk about feeling violated and consumed and conflicted because you love animals but also hate the plague, etc. Let’s just say we drove in our car with a trapped mouse in my lap to an open field and let it go because I’m that person. Until next time friends unless I’ve contracted a rodent borne disease or stress shingles from worrying about rodent borne diseases! xoxo

Border Wall

Hi everybody! It’s been insane here lately so sorry for my absence on my own blog! School started back up abruptly and I’ve been scrambling to switch gears, gather supplies, and make sure everyone is emotionally stable through all the newness. All of that means that summer is officially over for us and our front yard, our ONE summer goal, didn’t quite get done. But we have come a long way and are close! I’d say it’s about 95% cleared of weeds, 75% landscaped, 40% graded/leveled and truck loads of mulch and rock are on the way tomorrow! But it took a lot of boring/ugly/not exciting tasks to get here, the most important one being what we have affectionately named our BORDER WALL!I’ll explain. We live on a corner and a hill, and our front yard is big L-shaped plot that consists of two parts: a flat upper area at house level and a massive slope that goes from upper level to sidewalk level. The slope has a very old/crumbling/needs-to-be-replaced railroad tie retaining wall at its base (that we are ignoring for now). Up around the corner, the slope eventually meets house level and the yard forms a fun curve around our driveway in back (fun fact: we’ve never owned or even lived in a house with a normal garage in front. What is it like?!). Allow these google maps screen shots from when we bought our house to further illustrate:I’ll talk more about plants next time, but we have basically ripped out all existing plants, including the large lawn on the top level. We are going for the same desert modern vibe of our backyard, but maybe not as colorful, so the grass will be replaced with rocks. In order to do that however, it was necessary to build some sort of low-grade retaining wall at the top of the slope to reclaim feet of previously uneven grass area that dangerously dropped off around the edges and to keep the rocks from spilling over. It’s not so much structural as it is a literal border line (previous owner had a rickety piece of wood, as seen above). And that’s how the border wall was born and an endless stream of jokes and joy have followed…the most obvious one being that we are going to get Mexico to pay for it.

My husband used pressure treated 4×4’s for the wall, 4×6’s for the posts, and 6″ specialty screws to hold it all together. After much debate, we cut across the corner of our lot at 45 degrees, angle the wall at one end of our yard, and literally run it into the ground on the driveway side. It has really classed up the joint and given our yard some much needed structure. We now have two defined areas, top and bottom.
We’re beginning to lay down rock up top this weekend on the areas that we have leveled, the same rock we used in our backyard and sideyard, 1/2″ float rock. We have been super happy with it. We’d like to pour a concrete patio outside our front door, where we have the best views. Only a giant circle seems right to me, but we lack experience to give us the guts to try to DIY it, so that may need to happen at a later date. We also hope to build a decorative wood screen to hide our very poorly placed breaker box:As for the slope, I’ve mostly finished landscaping (after taking these photos), so I’ll save the plant talk for next time. It feels so good not be the dump of all dumps in the neighborhood! I’ll leave you with some before/after action of our progress. I think we may still be in the “it looks worse before it looks better” stage, but I can see where we are going and I can’t wait to get there.Thanks for stopping by!