Category Archives: Yard Work

The New House … Before

We moved into our new house in mid-February (our first Phoenix place was just a rental, this one is the real deal) and I finally got around to putting the first floor plan into CAD.  So here she is (with a little furniture because why not):


The house was built in 1986 in a stucco-land neighborhood in an area of Phoenix known as Ahwahtukee.  From the front, this beaut is all garage:

it's all garage

This is not the aesthetic we were going for at all but it is next to a mountain so we overlooked it.  Plus, how often does one sit at the end of one’s driveway to observe one’s house?  Not often, one would imagine.  Oh, how I would love to paint this house one day and put it out of its tan misery.

lr 1

These images are from the Zillow listing and are even fleshier-beige than it is in real life.  Realtor photos kill me.  The nice thing about this house is that the main living space is very open.

wet bar

The wet bar’s days are numbered.  The kitchen sink is literally steps away, why do we need a mini-sink here?  I have plans to wall this nook off and turn it into a proper pantry.


Another living room view with the glorious fans.  This image is a little skewed, I don’t think it is showing the true size of the room.  The sliders on the right go out to the patio and the backyard and cut off on the left side of the photo would be the door to the laundry room and passageway to the garage.

dr nook

The breakfast nook with the octopus wrought iron light fixture.  Off to the side you can see the door to the powder room that is under the stairs.  We had to pry that phone off the wall and patch the hole it left ….

kitchen 1

And … an itty bitty kitchen!  That’s why I’m planning for a wet bar to pantry conversion because there is not enough room in all these cabinets for food and plates and pots and pans.  Not to worry, we’ll work it all out!  The wall on the other side of the fridge (not shown) is where the old-school phone was.

hot tub view

Here’s one corner of the backyard, the “sandbox” where the hot tub lives.  JT and I visited a material yard the other day to look at some pavers.  Some day soon that sand will be history just like the wet bar.  The hot tub just needed a little work to get up and running and was doing great until a few weeks ago when it died.  We need to call our hot tub guy up again and get it checked out.  Ironically enough he lived in STL for a time and worked at Mississippi Nights back in the day.  It’s a little big world.

the sandy beach view

More of the backyard and the mountain beyond, standing from the vantage point of a little out from the back patio.

backyard from corner

And this is the whole backyard from the vantage point of the back corner where we triangle into the mountain preserve.  It’s a lot of rock and it gets full, baking hot desert sun all day so we have yet to come up with a different landscape plan.  At this point, we have enough ideas up our sleeves to keep us busy for a while.

So that’s the yard and first floor – I started on the CAD plan of the upstairs but I haven’t made it too far – this house is all different shapes jutting each and every way – the floor plate for the two floors doesn’t line up at all and it means more work to decipher everything.  It’s a big change from our 800 SF brick bungalow that was a little more straightforward.  However so far life in the desert and especially in our new house has been great for JT and me.  Next weekend when we have the long weekend and some more free time I’ll take some “during” shots of our first floor as it is now!

Have a great week and happy stuffing day!  Cheers – CT

Tree Stump Table

So we have this amazing view of South Mountain in our backyard, but when we moved in it was blocked by two trees. Well, one tree and one sad-sack-of-shit tree stump that was totally overgrown with weeds. We were sure it was providing hiding places for snakes, coyotes, tarantulas, hikers, hipsters.

Big crappy trees

Big crappy trees

No more big crappy trees

No more big crappy trees

We had someone come out and cut them down, which they did in about 2 hours flat. One by-product was a couple logs, one of which I decided to turn into a tree stump table so I could contribute to CT’s living room design.

When I went to grab the stump, I found a giant bug on it. Maybe it was a molted shell, maybe it was alive……I don’t know. All I know is I saw something brown, green and about 5 inches long in a split second before I dropped it and jumped-jerked-pirouetted away. I then soaked it for about 3 minutes with the hose. From there I gathered up the courage to gather it up and set it in the sun for few days to dry out in the midsummer Arizona sun.

Sanded, ready for poly

Sanded, ready for poly

Once I got it into the garage, I began sanding it. Quite honestly I really didn’t know how much sanding I wanted to do. The whole idea of this project was bringing in a rustic touch, but at the same time I needed some leveling of the ends. My solution was starting with medium-coarse grit and finishing with 600 grit. Just enough to smooth out the real rough spots. I cleaned it off with a can of compressed air, and started in with layers of clear brush-on polyurethane. After a few weeks of curing, it was ready to bring in and enjoy.


The most adorable picture I have taken to date!

Off the back porch is a little back deck.  It’s not big enough to be anything more than a way to get oneself from the back porch to the back yard but nonetheless, there it is.  This little back deck, poorly constructed and painted John Deere green, was beginning to literally crumble away – it wasn’t safe anymore at all – not for us people or the sturdy little dogs we love.

Here’s a before shot (but missing the side rails because they came off with a push of a finger and we got excited and started demoing before we took pictures . . .)


What a glorious mess.  Nothing meets the residential code (stairs are 28″ wide, not 36″ and the baluster spacing is way to big), nothing is super structural . . . a mess.  As an added bonus there is a crumbling set of concrete stairs hidden underneath the platform.  (Wait a minute – that’s why the back deck exists!!!!!  It’s a platform to cover up the old concrete stairs!  Why did I never think of this before! – Okay back to the post. . . )

Last weekend, after getting back from our Minnesota trip, JT and I have been laboring in the sweaty, sticky soup that is St. Louis weather to create a safe, code-compliant, non-green back deck.  We’re not all the way done but we do have a safe platform and wide steps installed — and we had the dogs take a maiden voyage…


And that’s the story of how I ended up with the most adorable picture I have ever taken.  Shenanigan (the guy in front) is usually too busy being a stand-offish jackass to really let his true essence be captured on film – but I caught him running down the new stairs with his little piggie ears sticking straight up (they don’t normally do that) and it seems like you can see the real Shenanigan here.  Miss Sophie (our other tan dog) is in the background being sweet and demure like she can be and Cameron, our Stray Rescue foster dog is always tagging along for the fun.

We still have posts with neat copper post caps and lots of railings to install but we are so happy with the way our little back deck is turning out so far.  And it looks like the dogs approve.  Cheers – CT

Another Project?

Alright y’all.  I’m done pouting about my Dream House.  Maybe.  No really, I put my big girl pants on and started another project. 

On two separate occasions I found a pair of these chairs in the alley (put out by someone who was de-hoarding only to be re-hoarded by me).  So along with the MCM walnut chair, I have another project in motion to bounce back and forth between.  I was planning on painting them white except for the bottom five inches or so of the legs (which would be left natural).  This plan derailed when JT pointed out we weren’t keeping them, they’re going to the “list”.  He thought Craigslist browsers of our antiquated ass-backwards town might not appreciate my design sensibilities and he’s probably right.  So instead I’m going to work on doing a light restoration.  It won’t fix everything (one has the letter “r” carved in the seat) so they’ll still be a little rustic but that look seems to be pretty popular-ish. . . so we’ll see.  I’ve started in on two of the rougher ones and it’s looking pretty good although I need to get them out of the basement and into some natural light for Round Two to make sure they’re not streaky.

In unrelated news, here’s a cute baby bunny JT unearthed while mowing the backyard over the weekend (it was really tall – the yard, not the rabbit.)  He took his time hopping off but seemed to get used to his legs and made it out through the fence and safely away from our dogs.

Look at his little ears!!  (Pretty much every animal gets a male pronoun with me.  Is that normal?)

Backyard zen, here I come

Hey everybody!  We’ve been traveling down south – Clarksdale, Mississippi then Tunica then MEMPHIS on a musical mecca of sorts but we’re back to reality now.   Along with traveling, we also used our vacation time to do some work on and about the house.  So even though we’re back to a 40 hour work week, I’m dreaming of some backyard zen.

Remember a while ago when I posted this dream/inspiration image (that I still can’t find the source for, damn you internet)?  Here it is to refresh your memory.


I started out with this spot when we tilled up the backyard:

And now it’s looking something like this:

The table is haphazardly placed and may not stay there ($10 Craigslist score, I’m thinking it will also meet the spray paint fate that gets everything else here), but there’s some (admittedly slow) progress there.  Let’s rewind.  I started out with 4 of the orange work buckets from Home Depot.  I think they were about 3 bucks a pop.  Next I attacked them with my trusty blue spray paint. (Yes I may have a (blue) spray paint addiction.)

I added in some bricks in the bottom and cemented in poles with eye hooks screwed into the top.  This will be a future canopy holder so I measured out two rods at seven foot and two rods at 6 foot so the canopy will slope a little and not hold water.

Since the raised bed area has been our garden in previous years but is being converted to the zen spot, we didn’t want to lose all our food growing capabilities.  The canopy post buckets became the garden instead.   Before I filled the magical little blue buckets with dirt and plants, I drilled four holes around the bucket right above the concrete line so water can drain out.  (And yes, I’m actually getting pretty proficient with the drill.  That is one power tool even a lefty can use!)

Instant (small) garden.  We have tomatoes in one, hot and mild peppers in another, zucchini in a third and the fourth has beans and some salad mix.  Which should, fingers crossed, yield enough vegetables for two vegetable-eating adults.

So . . . now I only have a few more (hundred) little things to do before the zen spot is complete — mulch over the raised bed, get a canopy/canvas, maybe stain the poles and then install some twinkle lights and get a crap-load of citronella to keep us safe from the swarm of bugs that has descended on STL this summer.

More updates to come, Memphis and the Green Shag Market sale!  Of course I couldn’t miss it!  But since the house is full to the gills, I actually refrained from buying furniture (mostly) and instead picked up many other miscellaneous things.  You know I love to tease!

Back Yard Reboot

A couple of weeks ago, husband and I spent a whole day with a sort-of-pronged post digger type dirt mover-thingy and a shovel, scraping and scratching away at the thick and densely tangled layer of weeds that covered our back yard.  That day of immense effort got about 1/8 of the back yard de-weeded enough that it could be seeded.  Oh my.

So after learning that a light-duty tiller rental from the oh-so-nearby Home Depot (even I with my girly arm could probably throw a rock from our front porch and hit it) was only $32 for four hours, it seemed a better use of our time.

  So last Saturday we undertook this total back yard do-over.  It was time —  not much has happened to this back yard in the seven years we’ve owned this house except a lot of dog shit. 

Farmer Ted and his magic tiller dug up most of the yard.  I even tried my hand at the tiller and let it drag me around a little.  The yard waste dumpster in the alley was empty in the morning when we started and F-U-L-L when we finished.  My arms may never recover.

Our “helpers” got tired out too, but mainly from all the overseeing they had to do.

It’s going to look a little weird for a while and not just because of the funky straw grow mats we put down.   Hopefully soon there will be grass or some semblance of grass though.  If the mangy South City robins manage to eat all the grass seed, we will end up doing sod but the effort will still be worth it in the end — the yard needed to be tilled up to allow anything besides this tangled mess of weeds to grow.

And . . . this little patch at the end of the yard that was for a few years an overgrown garden may soon look like something that resembles this:

I couldn't find the original source for this image but it's gorgeous. I want to go to there now!

A little “moment of zen” in our own backyard . . . . more to follow!