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June 22, 2014 / JustinKays Porter

Facelift for the Hub (aka the White Trim Battle)

With all the updates we’ve been doing in the backyard recently, we had a massive eyesore lurking around: the Hub. Although highly practical and much more visually appealing with the demo work we’ve done, the addition of new doors, and the lawn of my dreams, the Hub was still visually jarring. It had basically been painted white: so bright that it was nearly impossible to look directly at it in the daylight for fear of burnt retinas. We had always planned on painting the exterior, and now that the doors were in the time seemed right.

Pre-painting. Lots of color choices!

Pre-painting. Lots of color choices!

We knew we wanted to go with a darker color to protect our eyes, and we settled on a dream color somewhere between green and grey. With test pots in hand, we painted test swatches on both sides of the Hub visible from the backyard and spent a week looking at them in different lighting and debating the pros and cons of the different shades. In the end, we decided on a color called Gettysburg Grey (the third color among the options in the photos). You’ll notice a swath of white paint with each option: we had decided on white trim, but I’ll get to the battle on white trim in a bit!

New doors protected before the great paint spraying adventure!

New doors protected before the great paint spraying adventure!

Before painting, my dad helped us out by power washing the Hub’s exterior (facelift step #1). That way, the paint would actually stick! Then we taped off the windows and doors, rented a paint sprayer, and got down and dirty with our Gettysburg Grey.

Getting ready...

Getting ready…

Ready, set, spray!

Ready, set, spray!

So much better :)

So much better 🙂

The paint spraying actually went really fast (facelift step #2). We only had to rent the paint sprayer for 4 hours and Justin and my dad were able to get the whole thing done and cleaned up with time to spare. Justin did most of the spraying and had a nice film of paint all over himself by the end!

Yaaaa exterior painting! He looks so good :)

Yaaaa exterior painting! He looks so good 🙂

Paint sprayer returned, we went back for a few rounds of holiday checks with a standard paint roller (facelift step #3). The next step was to add the trim boards around the door into the shop and the garage door (facelift step #4). Then came the great white trim debate… Even though we had already decided on white trim, Justin was having big time second thoughts. After we just got rid of all that white, he was worried that the white trim would be too bright and too stark in comparison to the mellow Gettysburg gray and the deep blue we had chosen for the doors. I should note that I had my eye on a dark eggplant color for the door, but that was vetoed as “too purple”. So I stood my ground on the white trim! I convinced him to let me paint the trim white, and if he hated it we could just consider it very well primed and figure out Plan B.

The less than perfect white trim after the first painting go-around.

The less than perfect white trim after the first painting go-around.

At the point in the painting progress in the photo above, Justin hated it. But I was convinced I could make him love it. After all, I hadn’t done any cutting in and the edges around the trim were really messy. Plus, the gutters needed at least two more coats, and the white ring within the blue shop door really had to go. So I persevered. And I kept painting… painting, painting, and more painting!

And then it was beautiful...

And then it was beautiful…

And now that it looks like this, I’ve at least convinced him that it’s not terrible. Actually, I just asked him: he likes it! That response has been a long time coming 🙂 It looks sooooo much better now that it’s all cleaned up. And we’ve put up twinkle lights along the newly painted white gutter (you can see the bulbs in the photo above), and they just shine like you wouldn’t believe! I’ll have to get a photo of that up at some point.

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We love the newly painted Hub. It makes the backyard feel like a new place, and it’s so beautiful! We’ll see if I’ll be able to win the white trim battle again some day in the future when it comes time to paint the house…

So glorious!

So glorious!

And, last but not least, here are the before and afters (I tried to line up the text on the photos with similar features so you can see how far things have come). Enjoy! And good luck with any painting projects you have under way 🙂

 

From the back patio, near the swings

From the back patio, near the swings

Moving toward the Hub

Moving toward the Hub

The front of the Hub

The front of the Hub

The Lounge Patio

The Lounge Patio

June 9, 2014 / JustinKays Porter

Deals, Doors, and More Sunlight

After we built a wall in the Hub, it was time to poke some holes in the Lounge side to make way for some glorious doors. The goal was to put a door on the north side and the east side, so on warm summer evenings the doors could both be opened and the loungers could enjoy a nice cross breeze. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

As part of the ongoing Lounge project, Justin and I had been on the lookout for doors. I know, that’s kind of an odd thing to say. But if you know us, you know that we frequently haunt garage sales, thrift stores, Craigslist, and even street corners when we are “on the lookout.”

We scored our first door at a garage sale last summer. We saw the door for sale and had to run home to check the measurements to see if it would work, then figure out how to get it home. The door we picked up was still wrapped in its original packaging, and we were able to look up the details online. What we picked up for 150 dollars retails for over 1,600! We knew we would need to spend some additional money to get the door in, but we were willing to take that risk. By some miracle, we were able to fit these 9’ French doors into the Prius (!) and get them home in one piece.

Brought door #1 home and spent a few hours daydreaming about how gloriously the doors would replace that window...

Brought door #1 home and spent a few hours daydreaming about how gloriously the doors would replace that window…

And, even though I’m incredibly behind in the blogosphere, we held on to this door for the better part of a year before actually installing it! There they sat, in the corner of the sad-looking Hub for a while.

Sad and lonely, waiting to become doors

Sad and lonely, waiting to become doors

We ended up paying someone to install the door for us. We were a little worried about waterproofing and because we picked up the door at a garage sale, we felt better letting someone else build the frame and find and install all the hardware. I’m sure we could have figured it out, but it would have taken a lot more than one day. So not much to report on the installation front. We swapped out the window in the before picture, and used the existing header for the new door.

That's a pretty big hole in the wall. And yes, we have swings :)

That’s a pretty big hole in the wall. And yes, we have swings 🙂

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Door #2 has an equally thrilling story. After much debating, we had decided to go with a large sliding door out to the patio on the north side of the Lounge. We went so far down this path that we went to Home Depot and Lowe’s and got price quotes for the type of door we wanted. Then we went home and cried because we were far to cheap to spend 2,500 dollars on a door. In a moment of shear brilliance and luck, Justin sent me this link to a post on Craigslist.

Habitat for Humanity Re-store: amazing!!

Habitat for Humanity Re-store: amazing!!

It was essentially the door we were about to buy before the crying fit! I called our local Re-Store, found it was still at the store, and asked the fine gentleman to hold it for me. Then I went to the store, deemed it worthy, and later Justin and my dad went to pick it up with the truck. 400 dollars later, this beautiful four-panel sliding door was ours for the taking. And it too sat in the sad-looking Hub for a while.

Ready and waiting, leaning on the new wall for support

Ready and waiting, leaning on the new wall for support

Because we elected to pay someone to install door #1 (French), we opted to have them simultaneously install door #2 (sliding). We did the more extensive prep work to have this door put in, including removing the previous single door and installing this ginormous header.

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And, ta-da! The space went from a dark, dreary shop to a fabulous, light-filled, door-studded Lounge!

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Now for the before and afters:

Woohoo!

Woohoo!

Yay, doors!

Yay, doors!

Time for a confession: We had the doors in before we had the drywall guy come in to tape and texture. Remember how there were conspicuously no photos of either of these walls? 🙂 We sequenced that so our drywall guy would patch the areas around the doors to make them look uniform and glorious.

June 3, 2014 / JustinKays Porter

Dividing the Hub

As I mentioned previously in the master list post that probably bored you to tears, we built a wall. I know that sounds really hardcore (and it was), but before we get too far along I should also mention that the wall we built is not structural. It doesn’t bear any loads. The shop building already had a massive beam running through the center of right, conveniently right where we wanted/decided to build our wall.

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Here’s the before picture. This is the shop before we bought it. See the big beam? The perfect starting point for a wall!

Just a quick recap for the newbies or those experiencing senior moments: the property we bought not only has a home, but also a detached shop near the back of the lot (recently renamed the hub). As one of our many projects, we decided to divide the hub into the shop and the lounge. Step one of dividing the hub in half? Building a wall!

Framing

Framing

I’ll keep the rest of the post short and sweet, mostly because I was very uninvolved with wall building.  I do know that Nancy and Dirk came to visit shortly after Christmas, and Dirk and Justin spent the weekend framing the new wall. Nancy and I spent the weekend crafting and not paying much attention to the wall building, but more on that later!

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Throughout the wall building adventure, Justin was very aware of the future hopes and dreams of this wall. Yes, the wall has its own hopes and dreams. The practical side of the wall has hopes of having lots of outlets, a gas line for the heater, and tools galore, and dreams of watching all kinds of furniture built, projects constructed, possibly even a car rebuilt someday. The fun side of the wall has hopes of hosting a TV and a large photo display of sorts and has dreams of watching pool tournaments, parties, and lots of lovely lounging people. Enough of that metaphor? I told you I didn’t have much to say about wall building… So here are some photos!

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The view from the shop. Justin put that pipe in to pull all the wires from the wall to the someday TV… look Ma, no hanging wires!

The view from the shop. Justin put that pipe in to pull all the wires from the wall to the someday TV… look Ma, no hanging wires!

After the framing was complete and all the electrical was complete, dry wall was hung. From what I can see, this was a fairly quick and rewarding process? But I think there were lots and lots and lots of drywall screws that went into that wall, so that must have taken some time.

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Following drywall, we opened our wallets and hired this fine gentleman to tape and texture our brand new wall. We had no intention of tackling this project on our own. It would have taken ten times as long, looked 1/10th as good, and I’m sure there would have been lots of yelling and swearing.

We paid someone to tape and texture… and it was worth every penny!

We paid someone to tape and texture… and it was worth every penny!

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And that’s how you build a wall. The hub is now cut in half!

And just for fun: look at everything we had to pull out of the shop. There's a lot of stuff in there!

And just for fun: look at everything we had to pull out of the shop. There’s a lot of stuff in there!

May 22, 2014 / JustinKays Porter

Bocce and Boca in Truckee

What to do with two newbies in Truckee? The usual, of course. Garage sale-ing, fishing, bocce and tasting at the local winery, campfires, walking the dogs, jet-skiing at the lake. Life can be really hard sometimes…

Wine, bocce, doggies, and love is all you need :)

Wine, bocce, doggies, and love is all you need 🙂

Last fall, we took our friends Nick and Jess up to Truckee to visit Nancy and Dirk.  We had a great weekend doing the above mentioned items, and in general eating too much good food, drinking too much good wine, and loving every minute of it!

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The girls went garage sale-ing while the boys went fishing. Sadly, I don’t have any photos of either activity, but let’s just say they were both successful endeavors!  Saturday afternoon we spent at the Truckee Winery, enjoying good wine, great games of bocce, and even better company.

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I think there is a little hop to that toss…

Now there is some professional bocce form

Now there is some professional bocce form

I did mention there was drinking involved, right?

I did mention there was drinking involved, right?

It is worth mentioning that Nick and Jess have a basset hound (Dodger) and Nancy and Dirk have a beagle (Toomba), and I’m really sad that I didn’t get a picture of them next to each other. Dodger looks like a stretched out version of Toomba… who knew that a basset hound and a beagle would be exactly the same height? There was never a morsel of food left unfound for more than 0.5 seconds. And they were highly entertaining.

I don't think Dodger was too impressed by the wine and bocce.

I don’t think Dodger was too impressed by the wine and bocce.

Another side note about the random connections we all have to Kankakee, Illinois.  Before the side note, all of you unfamiliar with Kankakee should know that it is a small town (population in the year 2000: 27,000) that you have most likely never heard of and should probably know nothing about. No offense intended to the Kankakee-ites. Back to the random connection. Nancy was born and raised in Kankakee. Grandma Webster still lives there, and came to visit us last summer. My Grannie Annie lived there for a very short while during her formative years. If that wasn’t enough, Jess’s stepmom also grew up in Kankakee! And because it’s a small town, of course one of Nancy’s best friends married Jess’s stepmom’s brother. If you didn’t follow all that, don’t worry about. Chances are I got it wrong, and I definitely left out some details. Needless to say, Nancy and Jess had a great time getting to know each other and sharing stories of loved ones.

Kankakee connection!

Kankakee connection!

Sunday, we loaded up the jet-skis and took off for Boca Reservoir. Oh, you thought I meant Lake Tahoe when I said we took the jet-skis to the lake? We couldn’t give these two everything on their first time to Truckee; maybe next time!

The best part about Boca? You can drive right in to the water if you want. No need to worry about parking, and the truck made a great wind break!

The best part about Boca? You can drive right in to the water if you want. No need to worry about parking, and the truck made a great wind break!

If you can’t tell by the photos, the wind was not our friend on Sunday. We still had a great time, alternating between jet-skiing and bundling up in sweatshirts and beach towels.

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I think I speak for all of us when I say I can’t wait for summers in the Sierras. I know everyone loves to go snowboarding and skiing (okay, maybe not this year), but the summers are my favorite up there. Warm days, cool nights, mountains, lakes, wildflowers, wine, bocce, campfires… how can you go wrong? Cheers, until next time 🙂

Yes, we have neon mustaches on occasion

Yes, we have neon mustaches on occasion

May 20, 2014 / JustinKays Porter

The Master List

Disclaimer: This is a very word-heavy post. Pardon me while I wax poetic about lists and projects… The last post was and the next post will be heavy on photos to make up for it!

I am a list person. There are to-do lists, grocery lists, amazon order lists, Home Depot lists, etc. written on all types of paper scattered all over my life (I would say house, but the lists have wandered into my car, my backpack, the bathroom, the shop…). Justin has tried to convert me to one of the multitude of list-making apps available, but it’s just not the same. Checking a box and watching an item disappear from a list on my phone is in no way as satisfying as drawing a nice clean line through a completed item, and having it stay there. It’s like saying, “Take that, task! You’re DONE!” And watching the neatly crossed off tasks and items grow is, at least for me, somewhat of a guilty pleasure. Time for a confession: I add things to lists just so I can cross them off. That’s right, I said it. I will write down a task I’ve already completed just so I can cross it off and feel more accomplished. Hopefully I’m not the only one guilty of this, or you may all start to think I’ve lost my marbles…

Anyway, now that you all can add another dimension to my perceived craziness (and sympathize with Justin over my list-making tendencies), let’s get to the point of this post. We started a huge project in January: converting the shop at the back of our lot to half shop, half lounge. Let’s be honest: Justin does not need 1,000 square-feet of tools. Can you imagine what would happen if we ever moved?? And we really had our hearts set on converting part of the building to an entertainment space.

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The wall that started it all

As part of the blog revival effort, to get you all caught up without giving everything away, I thought it would be fun to share a list of what we’ve done, what we’re working on, and what’s left to do (please, no comments on my definition of “fun”). In order not to bore you to tears, I’ve condensed the list into general topics. Future posts may cover more of the dirty details, but for now, we want to give you an idea of what we’ve been up to. The bullet items in italics have been completed.

The Hub (thanks to Kimmi for the GREAT name suggestion… it stuck!)

  • Build a wall, right down the middle of the building: this is what started the project way back in January! Thanks to Nancy and Dirk for coming to visit and kicking us into gear.
  • Tape, texture, and paint the interior walls and ceiling (including the pre-existing walls, that previously had no texture)
  • Give the hub a facelift: add exterior trim around the doors and windows, paint everything on the exterior (walls, trim, gutters, doors, etc.), add new hardware to exterior doors, remove massive antennae, put up some art/other visual interest
  • Install exterior lighting, including both task lighting for projects and ambient lighting for parties
  • Plant, plant, plant!
  • Add a fence near the patio on the north side of the hub, to block off storage space from view (much like this fence that Dan and Justin built last summer)
  • Clean up/paint/refinish patio furniture; maybe add a fire pit? A water feature?
  • Stain concrete patios, sidewalk, and mow strip (this is a big someday item; it helps that we have to wait on this to make sure the new and old concrete stain evenly)
We paid someone to tape and texture… and it was worth every penny!

We paid someone to tape and texture… and it was worth every penny!

Yaaaa exterior painting! Can you tell what color we chose?

Yaaaa exterior painting! Can you tell what color we chose?

The Shop

  • Clean, paint, and install various storage features (cabinets, shelves, desks, a repurposed kitchen island, etc.)
  • Facelift for the floors: strip, clean, and reseal the existing VCT flooring
  • Add/move overhead shop lights for better function
  • Add art: I know, the shop isn’t a place to hang pretty pictures. Not that kind of art. We would really like to have a “Paul wall” with fun and interesting things that we inherited from Paul when we bought the house. Because Paul spent so much time in his shop, we think this is the perfect place.

The Lounge

  • Install new glass doors that open the room to the lawn to the east and to the patio to the north
  • New face for the floors: remove VCT and associated adhesive, add new tile floor
  • Add window and door trim, crown molding, and baseboard (and paint and caulk around said trim)
  • Install lounge-worthy lighting that is NOT fluorescent
  • Create a bar area: install cabinets, make and install concrete countertops, transform old grimy refrigerator into a chalkboard fridge equipped with a keg-erator
  • Move in furniture, including moving a pool table (?)
  • Add a sound system
  • Decorate: We have lots of ideas for this bullet and we want all of the choices to be very “us”. We have dreams of incorporating a gallery wall somewhere, hanging Justin’s hand-shaped surfboard, making furniture out of wine barrels, handmade quilts in baskets, a dartboard backstop made out of corks… we’ll see where we end up!
Preparing for a new door

Preparing for a new door

Cutting tile is a very serious business… just like list making!

Cutting tile is a very serious business… just like list making!

As you can see by the amount of italics, we have been quite busy. And there are a lot of things (line half in italics) that are works in progress. It will probably be that way for awhile… but that’s what you have to look forward to as I work to catch the blog up on our progress. Ever heard of the term “weekend warrior”? Well, Justin and I are weeknight warriors as well. I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures and/or terrible quality of photos that you’ll see for some parts of this project!

May 12, 2014 / JustinKays Porter

Conquering Mountains: Round Top

We hike. Justin and I both come from families of hikers: leisurely hikes, steep hikes, hikes to destinations, hikes for views, hikes, hikes, hikes. Prior to wedding planning and homeownership, we used to hike in the bay area on weekends at home or on trips to Truckee, Tahoe, Yosemite, or wherever else our wanderings took us. Now, we mostly stay home and work our tails off. I’m not complaining, don’t get me wrong, but the fact that we don’t get out to hike as much as we used to makes it even more special when we find the time.

Round Top: we're coming for you!

Round Top: we’re coming for you!

Last summer, we took a few days off work and spent a long weekend in the Sierras with my fam (more on other adventures in coming posts). After arriving at Papa’s house in Tahoe on a Friday night, we hauled ourselves out of bed early on Saturday to make the drive from south lake up to Carson Pass on Hwy 88, about 45 minutes away. After finding a parking spot, we gazed across the highway at our mountain of choice: Round Top.

View of our designation from the parking lot

View of our designation from the parking lot

For a little personal background story, my Grandma Joan used to take us up to this pass when we would come visit Tahoe in the summer. She loved the area, and would take my sisters and I in the little red jeep with our mandatory matching red bandanas, blaring the Oak Ridge Boys, for our version of a girls’ day out. The hike from Hwy 88 back to Winnemucca Lake is relatively flat (i.e., perfect for grandmas and grandkids if you bring plenty of water and candy with which to bribe said grandkids) and has the most beautiful array of Sierra wildflowers I’ve ever seen. It’s the best kind of special place. This year we were a little late for the show, but we still got some beautiful colors and another great Winnemucca wildflower memory to add to my growing collection.

Aster daisy, Indian paintbrush, lupine

Aster daisy, Indian paintbrush, lupine

This particular trip we were on a mission. We had tried to get to the summit of Round Top a few years ago, and by some freak incident happened to try this on the windiest day of the year. A big group of us (maybe 20? You know who you are…) had left south lake in our shorts and t-shirts. By the time we got halfway up the mountain from Winnemucca, it was about 40 degrees with gale force winds. And I’m not being overly dramatic: at least half of us didn’t make it to the top, and those that did were up there for about 3 minutes and came down for fear of being blown off! But I digress. We had come back to conquer Round Top.

Getting closer! The trail to Round Top

Getting closer! The trail to Round Top

As I said earlier, the hike into Winnemucca Lake is flat, past Frog Lake with the mass of Elephant’s Back keeping you company on your left. Once you get to the lake, it’s a steep, roughly one-mile hike to the top. And you can tell from the contours: both sides of Round Top are pretty steep, but the other side is crazy steep!

This is the best map I found of this hike. We didn't do the full loop here… we started at #7 (Carson Pass), headed to Winnemucca Lake (#5), then on to the summit (#4). We did some cross country to get from #5 to #4, but mostly stayed on the trail. Source: http://www.everytrail.com/guide/round-top-amp-winnemucca-lake-carson-pass

This is the best map I found of this hike. We didn’t do the full loop here… we started at #7 (Carson Pass), headed to Winnemucca Lake (#5), then on to the summit (#4). We did some cross country to get from #5 to #4, but mostly stayed on the trail. Source: http://www.everytrail.com/guide/round-top-amp-winnemucca-lake-carson-pass

On the way up. Boys like to stare off in to the distance and point at unknown objects. They like to all point at different things and pretend they are in agreement with what they are pointing at...

On the way up. Boys like to stare off in to the distance and point at unknown objects. They like to all point at different things and pretend they are in agreement with what they are pointing at…

Hiking, hiking, Kimmi is starting to get silly!

Hiking, hiking, Kimmi is starting to get silly!

Big smiles from Chels

Big smiles from Chels

Scrambling up the lichen-crusted rocks

Scrambling up the lichen-crusted rocks

But the views from the top are so gorgeous. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to get to the top of a mountain. These are my favorite types of hikes: the hard work paid off and you feel like you can see the whole world from these vantages. And it makes you feel so powerful, but so tiny and insignificant at the same time. Need a new perspective on life? Go climb a mountain.

Caples Lake, the view from Round Top

Caples Lake, the view from Round Top

Lunch on top of the world

Lunch on top of the world

Peaking over the edge

Peaking over the edge, down to Winnemucca Lake

Happiness is climbing mountains :)

Happiness is climbing mountains 🙂

More spectacular views

More spectacular views

And I also have to note: the endorphins. Yes, we tend to get a little silly up there…

There are no words...

There are no words…

One of the many faces of Matty B

One of the many faces of Matty B

There was one other family up there with us for a bit. They brought this dog. Those tiny little legs brought him up the mountain. And he went a little crazy too!

There was one other family up there with us for a bit. They brought this dog. Those tiny little legs brought him up the mountain. And he went a little crazy too!

I also feel obliged to mention that these photos have not been edited. I shot them with a polarized lens on my camera, but these colors are real. The beautiful blue sky, white and grey puffy clouds, vibrant wildflowers and lichens, every shade of green you can imagine in the trees, grasses, shrubs, flowers… so much life, and so many colors.

Frog Lake

Frog Lake

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Winnemucca Lake

Winnemucca Lake

We’ll go back someday, of course. How could we not? Traditions of grandmas and grandkids, family hikes, and wildflowers must be upheld! I don’t think we need to uphold the Oak Ridge Boys tradition though; that was only for Grandma Joan 🙂

He's my favorite

He’s my favorite

And, of course, the celebratory beer in the parking lot. We did it!

Woo hoo!

Woo hoo!

May 11, 2014 / JustinKays Porter

The Lawn of My Dreams

Have you ever finished a house project, stepped back, and thought, “That looks like it’s always been that way?” Immediately after placing sod, this is how I felt. It’s hard to explain. Obviously, the lawn hadn’t always been there. I had more around for most of the prep work that went into this project (more on that here). But at the end of sod day, I felt like “Oh hey, lawn. You look the same as yesterday. And the same as last week. And the same as last year.” Wait, no! You’re brand new! Anyway, either I’ve lost my train of thought and at some point you understood what I was attempting to tell you, or now you think I’ve lost my train of thought and my mind. The point is this: the lawn is everything I ever wanted!

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We did quite a bit of research on the types of grass available and the companies able to deliver them. Did we entertain the idea of seed? Sure, for half a second. By the time we were ready to put the lawn in (last October… I know, I know), we had already suffered through a summer with the dirt patch. It wasn’t that bad because we were so busy tearing things down that we didn’t really notice it for a while. But now, we were ready. And we were surprised at how relatively inexpensive sod was! So we selected our grass type (Bolero) and selected our company (Delta Bluegrass) and ordered. Two days later, this truck arrived at our house at 6 am.

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It was a Saturday, and we were ready to roll. Or should I say unroll?

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Laying sod is a very rewarding project. In a matter of hours, we had gone from dirt patch to lawn! Check out our time lapse of the project here.

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As for the details, it’s pretty simple. The delivery guy handed us a packet of fertilizer, which we sprinkled all around over the compost we had already put down. Then, you start unrolling. You develop a technique for meshing the pieces of sod together so the seams are less visible, but after a few weeks it’s impossible to tell where the piecing happened. And when you get to the end of a “row”, you sit yourself down, and saw off the remaining chunk of sod with a steak knife. No, really, you do… You can see me do this in the video a lot!

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And there you have it: the lawn of my dreams. The backyard is really starting to take shape. I can’t wait for lazy summer days lounging on the lawn, sunbathing in the backyard, games of ladder ball and lawn bocce… the possibilities are endless.

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And now for some before-and-after throwbacks. These photos were taken when we bought the house (the upper photo) and in November (the lower photo). Pretty crazy, right?

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May 6, 2014 / JustinKays Porter

Coronado: Land of Beach Cruisers and Rooftops

We were invited to spend a weekend at a friend’s family beach house in Coronado. I KNOW. Who could possibly say no to that? No one. No one could ever say no. And this wasn’t just any house in Coronado. Walking distance to the beach (although most things are walking distance in Coronado), pool, hot tub, beautiful summer weekend, beach cruisers for days, and some locals to show us around; this house had all the trappings for a great weekend, and did not disappoint.

Wandering aimlessly is the best way to start your morning on Coronado

Wandering aimlessly is the best way to start your morning on Coronado

It probably won’t surprise you that we spent the weekend days walking the beach and cruising the island. Do you know how fun it is to form an impromptu bike gang and ride all over the place on beach cruisers? During ComicCon weekend? Let’s just say best people watching EVER.

Beach cruisin'

Beach cruisin’

To be honest, the people watching was so amazing and I was so preoccupied with riding a bicycle and staring that I did not take a single photo of the ComicCon madness (For those blissfully unaware of this event, it’s an annual conference in downtown San Diego relating to all things comics. And everyone dresses up. And I mean really dresses up!). Oh well, maybe I’ll remember photos next year? Hint, hint, Kyle…

View of downtown San Diego from Coronado

View of downtown San Diego from Coronado

If this picture doesn't make you happy, I'm not sure what to tell you.

If this picture doesn’t make you happy, I’m not sure what to tell you.

San Diego skyline

San Diego skyline

Bridge from San Diego to Coronado

Bridge from San Diego to Coronado

I think Justin could get used to this...

I think Justin could get used to this…

After an exhausting day of cruising, we headed into San Diego to see what kind of trouble we could get into. Remember how I mentioned hanging out with the locals? Well, we got invited to a rooftop party, overlooking the entire city. And managed to get there before the sun set. And they were BBQing, and the food was fabulous. To whomever those people were, your life rocks. Thank you for including us for the night!

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So, to our hosts, thanks for the best weekend in the history of Coronado. And to those of you traveling to Coronado, here’s my advice: stay at a friends beach house, form a beach cruiser bike gang, take in all the ComicCon hilarity, and get invited to a rooftop party overlooking the city. Come on, it’s not that hard…

May 5, 2014 / JustinKays Porter

Concrete, Compost, and Sprinklers

What do you do when you’ve finished demo and can actually see what your backyard looks like? Start beautifying your newly exposed backyard! As soon as the miscellaneous structures attached to the house and the shop were gone, we immediately started planning our backyard. Other than demo and the planters, we hadn’t really done a whole lot back here after we bought the house. But seeing the backyard sans the West Wing really inspired us to get a move on!

See the large dirt patch in the back? So much more obvious now...

See the large dirt patch in the back? So much more obvious now…

The main goal for the backyard was to get a lawn in. I know, I know… we live in California, a state of perpetual drought. But the lawn isn’t very big, and we are definitely NOT putting one in the front yard. Can you tell I had to justify this a little bit? But how do you create a backyard oasis without a little bit of lawn? Okay, fine. There are lots of ways. I just wanted some lawn!

But before I get ahead of myself, there were a few steps to take before our lawn could come into being. First step: concrete. There are two big concrete patios in the back that come off the shop: one in the front at the shop garage door (that you see in most pictures) and another off the north side of the building, under a giant oak tree that lives in our neighbor’s yard. We wanted to create a sidewalk of sorts to connect the patios, as well as a concrete mow strip to encircle the rest of the future lawn. And this post is all about that!

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My dad, the lifesaver, spent a bunch of time the week before we poured concrete setting up the bender board forms while Justin and I were at work. I swear, we would have accomplished so much less on our house at this point if my dad wasn’t retired! He’s the best!

Forms in!

Forms in!

The first thing we had to do for concrete weekend (because our forms were already up), was head to the rockery and pick up the concrete.

The beer came later...

The beer came later…

Once the concrete arrived, we had to work like mad to get the concrete into the forms and start troweling the surface before it started to dry. Troweling is a continuous process, but you haven’t to make sure you start early or the concrete sets without you. Knowing we had a lot of concrete to pour, we had all hands on deck that we could recruit.

Matty B

Matty B

Troweling, troweling, troweling

Troweling, troweling, troweling

My grandpa even got in on the action!

My grandpa even got in on the action!

Maja

Maja

Faja

Faja

After the troweling was accomplished (hours and hours later) and the concrete was almost dry, we went back and brushed the concrete with an old broom to give it a little extra texture. And some handprints, because what concrete project is complete without handprints?

Brushing for texture

Brushing for texture

Handprints for personality

Handprints for personality

We kept watering down the concrete after all this was done, just to make sure it didn’t dry too fast and crack all over the place. We also went back to the rockery and got a giant pile of steaming, stinky compost so that our future grass would really take off and grow like crazy! And let me tell you, this stuff was rank. I apologize to our neighbors for that smell.

Watering down the concrete. And see the stinky stinky compost?

Pretty concrete and more stinky compost

Pretty concrete and more stinky compost

Lastly, before we could roll out the grass, we dug a bunch of trenches and put in sprinklers.

Lots of trenches. Note the rounded concrete corner in the foreground of this photo? I forgot to mention that my dad also cut the square corner into a nice round curve :)

Lots of trenches. Note the rounded concrete corner in the foreground of this photo? I forgot to mention that my dad also cut the square corner into a nice round curve 🙂

Now, with the concrete done, soil tilled and fertilized, and sprinklers in, our lawn prep was officially done. Next up: the lawn!

April 29, 2014 / JustinKays Porter

Tourism at Home

I have a confession to make: I grew up less than one mile from the Winchester Mystery House and I never made the trek over there for there to see it in person. I guess that’s not entirely true; I saw the house from the street every time I drove to the movies or the mall or to the freeway. But I had never really seen the house, or the grounds, or even the free museum until very recently (this last part is the strangest to me, because I love museums and I love free things…). Sometimes it takes visitors from far away places (like Kankakee, Illinois) to inspire you to be a tourist in your hometown. And when Grandma Webster came all the way out to visit us, the time finally seemed right!

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I love visitors. Grandma Webster, come back anytime 🙂

Now a little background on both Grandma Webster’s visit and the Winchester Mystery House. Grandma Webster came out to visit the California family to check in on kids, grandkids, and great grandkids, see all the progress we’ve made on our recent projects, and enjoy a little relaxing family time in the warm California sun. Little did she know, she picked one of the very few weekends that Campbell summers get above 90 degrees. Oh, and did I mention we don’t have air conditioning? I think we were all melting!

Now for the Winchester Mystery House. You can read the extensive history about it here: http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com/learn.cfm. But allow me to briefly summarize the particular kind of crazy that was Sarah Winchester and her home: Sarah married William Winchester, of the infamous Winchester rifle, and amassed a huge fortune. After the deaths of her daughter and husband, Sarah became incredibly depressed and sought out spiritual help. A medium explained that the Winchester family and fortune were haunted by every soul killed by a Winchester rifle, and that the only way to appease the spirits was to build them a massive house. As long as construction on the house continued, the spirits would leave Sarah and her money alone. I think the medium had ties to a developer in the west and got some cut of all this money! Not the point… Sarah took the medium’s advice to heart: she started building and never stopped.

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We took the tours of the house and saw doors open onto solid walls, second story doors open into thin air, staircases that disappear into the ceiling, hidden passages, windows through interior rooms, and all sorts of other things designed to confuse the haunting spirits (Sorry for the lack of personal photos in this post. Our tour guide informed us that some Hollywood bigwig is currently shooting a film here and all interior photography is banned until the film wraps. Sounds fishy to me, but what do I know?).

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The tour also took us around the grounds (where photos were permitted and encouraged). When Sarah lived in the house, it was surrounded by orchards and farmland as far as the eye could see. Now, there is a movie theatre complex on one side, a shopping mall on another, and a major freeway just a stone’s throw to the south. Although the Winchester name is mostly associated with rifles (and there is a whole museum dedicated to the different types of rifles), Sarah Winchester made quite a bit of money and a great local name for herself with her orchards.

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See the door? That opens into thin air? I don't make this stuff up…

See the door? That opens into thin air? I don’t make this stuff up…

My favorite part of the tour were the stories about the 1906 earthquake. There was considerable damage to the house, but nothing that couldn’t be rebuilt. And Sarah did love to build! Sarah was in her spirit room during the earthquake, and the house “adjusted” so much during the quake that she was unable to open any of the doors or windows in that room when the shaking stopped (and there were lots of doors and windows!). It took her staff upwards of 12 hours to find where she was in the house (that’s the problem with secret passages, trap doors, and trick staircases) and free her from the room. She wouldn’t let them break any of the windows or doors, for fear of what the spirits would do to her for ruining their home.

So the real question: after all my years of living in San Jose, was it worth the trip? Absolutely! I found the tour fascinating, and the interior of the home is furnished with all period pieces. It’s like stepping back in time and seeing it through Sarah’s eyes. And although it’s not air conditioned, it was significantly cooler than our house and a nice break from the heat. The best part of the tour? The hard hats!

Everyone looks good in a hard hat

Everyone looks good in a hard hat