Driveway Surprise

6 Oct

The outdoor transformations keep on coming this year; we now have a new driveway!

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I say it was a surprise because we weren’t planning on getting this done until next year, knowing we would want a nice surface for Kate to play on/ride bikes/use chalk, etc. Ben already had a quote priced out with his normal guy, but then we noticed our neighbor was getting their driveway done. Out of curiosity he walked over there to ask if they would cut us a deal on ours since they already had all the guys and machinery there. When they said yes, and they could do it for less than $2/square foot, we had to pull the trigger. Since they were already there, they started that same afternoon and were 100% finished the next day!

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We love how much tidier the place is without the gravel. And Kate has already gotten to enjoy it, taking rides in her wagon.

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Here are a few before and afters:

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There is a ton of parking space. Here is the before/after view from the garage.

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We love being able to run out to the car or onto the driveway without shoes on now.

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Here is the before/after view toward the street.

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IMG_4933It feels a like a park!

And lastly here is the before/after view toward the house from the street.

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White House No More

4 Aug

The exterior of our house is now gray! Amherst Gray by Benjamin Moore to be exact.

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It is truly amazing what a little bit of paint can do. The siding looks brand new.

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Such a change from when we moved in almost two years ago now.

front-oaks-exterior-beforeDoesn’t even look like the same house does it?

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We were debating whether to paint the exterior this summer, but when we got an amazing deal from one of Ben’s sub-contractors to paint the whole thing, we went for it. One guy sprayed almost the entire house in one day!

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We were a little nervous about painting over the brick, but think it looks so nice and charming now.

IMG_4786Ben also hung new black shutters that we got on sale at Home Depot last year for $7/pair.

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The garage door and all the trim went bright white. We also hung a new barn-style light over the garage door. It is this one from Lighting Direct.

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Off to the side of the garage we planted a row of emerald green arborvitaes and the arbor we got married under (which Ben of course built). It creates a nice separation between the pool area and the driveway and rest of the property.
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Here it is from the other side. We also laid some bluestone pavers as a walkway. The grass is slowly filling in.

IMG_4820Ben is in the process of building a big pergola onto the back of the house so I’ll wait to show you the back until that is done. Very exciting things happening!

Our Backyard Chicken Coop

10 Jul

Time to show you our backyard chicken coop and the six hens who live there! That’s right, we are officially chicken farmers (words I never thought I would say).

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We love it! And the chickens have been a lot of fun so far.

Ben and his business partner, John, built the coop from scratch over the course of a few weekends.

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We painted it Benjamin Moore’s Amherst Gray and the trim is Behr Premium in Ultra White.

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It was a test run to see if we liked the color (we did), so now our house is in the process of getting painted that color too!

IMG_4758We planted that Arborvitae bush on the left and some climbing clematis on the right to provide some shade for them.

There are three total windows that open and close so they can get a nice breeze in there.

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Here are the nesting boxes, so you just lift up the lid to collect your eggs.

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We even hung a little welcome sign outside of the door.
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Here’s Ben inside the coop giving them food and water.

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And then there are the chickens!

IMG_4763We have three Rhode Island Reds and three Barred Rocks. The big black and white one in the middle is Edna and she is the only one laying right now. She is a few weeks older than the others.

The chickens have a door so they can go between the coop and the run whenever they want. Every so often we let them out of the run and into the open yard. They LOVE grass.. and dandelion leaves!

IMG_4764Did I mention how amazing the eggs taste? SO much better than the store bought ones. We only get about 1 egg a day right now, but are looking forward to when all 6 hens start laying and we have a ton of fresh eggs each day!

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Railroad Tie Retaining Wall

17 Jun

Our backyard is really starting to take shape thanks to our new retaining wall. It is over 5 feet high at the tallest point and is made entirely out of old railroad ties.

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You get a sneak peek of our chicken coop there in the back.

We decided to hire this job out and are so happy with our decision. A crew of 3-4 landscapers spent three 12 hour days out there working on it.

IMG_4692We purchased the railroad ties for just $2/piece last winter when they were on sale at Home Depot, so it was a really cost effective way to do a retaining wall.

IMG_4690It’s quite a change from where we used to be.

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And before that.

IMG_3128And all the way back when we bought the place and it was all weeds.

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Ben also spread two truckloads of pulverized top soil and the landscapers laid grass seed and straw blankets to keep the moisture in. So hopefully we will have some grass soon!

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Then we will do some plantings and eventually a fire pit in the corner part.

Here is a close-up view. I love the look of it!

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More outdoor updates to come soon… it’s coming along!

Powder Room Reveal & Addition Update

5 Jun

Finishing off the four rooms of our new addition has been slowly coming along, and I can finally call the powder room part of it complete!

The last time I showed you the powder room it was in the early stages looking like this:

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And here it is now:

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Starting at the bottom, we used a ceramic tile from Lowes called Leonia Silver. It was very reasonable at $2.50/square foot.

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We had a hard time finding a vanity since the room is so narrow at only four feet wide. We found a small black one at Menards that I gave a makeover with new knobs and a coat of Benjamin Moore Fieldstone paint. The candle, hand towel and soap dispenser are all from Target.

New Zealand 1031On the walls, you can see we did white beadboard on the bottom and the top half is Arctic Shadows by Benjamin Moore.

In such a small space, I didn’t have to much decorating to do, but I placed a large glass vase that we already had from Home Goods in the corner and purchased some tall, faux flowers from Pottery Barn.

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On the wall opposite the vanity I added some art from Garden Ridge that used to live in the bathroom at our old house.

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Moving next door to the new laundry room, last time it looked like this:

IMG_4193It is far from complete, but now it looks like this:

New Zealand 1032We used the same flooring as the power room in here (but ran it the opposite direction) and painted the walls Sea Salt by Sherwin Williams. The washer and dryer are new to us that we actually got used for $100/pair! This is the first time we’ve had front loaders and so far, so good.

We hung a cabinet over the washer/dryer that Ben had left over from one of his jobsites. I will probably end up painting it. Inside the cabinet Ben built a laundry chute that starts up in our future master bedroom closet.

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You can hardly see it in the photo but we made the front of the chute out of clear plexiglass so you can see what’s in there.

We plan to add a countertop (maybe butcher block?) and some shelving in here.

There has been much less progress on the addition rooms upstairs, but that isn’t a huge priority for us right now. Our main focus while the weather is nice is outside.

So here is the future master bathroom right now, which has drywall, framing, plumbing and electrical.

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And next to that is the master closet which is painted and carpeted.

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They aren’t finished yet but we hung french doors to these two rooms which we plan to frost.

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We plan to focus on these rooms after the summer and then move into our new master by the end of the year.

Next up on the blog… chickens! Yep, we had our chickens arrive in the mail yesterday and we built a beautiful coop for them to live in.

Favorite Newborn Products (Or How We Survived the Last 12 Weeks)

8 May

No one warns you just how challenging having a newborn is. Maybe they do, and you just don’t listen. The past 12 weeks have been full of lots of trial and error. Luckily, we had a few successes along the way.

With my maternity leave coming to a close, I thought I would share our favorite products that helped us survive so far. Here are the Top 10….

1) Amazon Prime

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I feel like Amazon Prime was made for new moms. Since it’s so hard to get out of the house, it was a godsend to have pretty much any baby product arrive at your door step with free 2-day shipping. The UPS man was here most days. If you are pregnant or have a newborn, this is a must have. The $99/yr. subscription has paid for itself a million times over. We watch movies/tv shows on it too.

2) Exercise Ball

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We brought a Gold’s Gym exercise ball to the hospital to help with labor. But what it really came in handy for was bouncing on while holding Kate. It was the only thing that would soothe her. She’s been hooked ever since. We even bought two of these—one for upstairs and one for downstairs. We have spent many a hours bouncing on this thing. The weighted bottom helps you not tip over helpful for those wee hours of the morning.

3) MamaRoo

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You can imagine how bouncing on a ball for hours can get tiring. The closest thing we could find to simulate that was the MamaRoo Bouncer, or “egg” as we like to call it. This thing is awe-some. It has several settings such as “car ride” and “ocean wave,” but Kate’s favorite is called kangaroo. It also plays white noise or you can hook up your iPod/iPhone to play music. Definitely worth the investment and really not that much more expensive than your traditional swing. I also have to give the manufacturer, 4Moms, props, as our swing started to squeak and they shipped us out a new base within two days. So far so good.

4) Boppy Lounger

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After every feeding, I prop Kate up in her boppy lounger for some play time and tummy time. She loves it. We first just laid her on a blanket but its nice to have her more upright. We also use it for tummy time. It’s machine washable, too.

5) BOB Stroller

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We are really happy with our BOB Revolution stroller. It has maneuvered great down our gravel driveway and on non-paved paths at the forest preserve. Kate loves to go “off-roading” with it in the grass and bumpy areas. While a little pricey at full retail, we purchased it via Amazon’s warehouse deal program as an “open box.” I was nervous for it to arrive but everything was 100% new and in its original packaging. If there was an open box, I couldn’t tell.

6) Sleep Sheep On-The-Go

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Kate used to hate riding in her car seat until we started using the Sleep Sheep On-The-Go. It plays white noise like waves and rain. Now we use it any time she rides in the car or stroller. The only problem is it shuts off after 45 minutes. I’ve had to pull over to the side of the road to turn it back on after she started crying because it turned off.

7) Rockabye Baby Pandora Station

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Not so much a product, but we listen to the Pandora station called Rockabye Baby all the time. Rockabye Baby are popular songs by artists like Michael Jackson, U2, Journey and Aerosmith put to lullabies. Kate is a huge fan and we have fun guessing the song titles. We play Pandora through our Sonos system. We also have the paid version of Pandora ($3.99/month) so no ads. Totally worth it!

8) Swaddles

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Our two favorite swaddle blankets are the Miracle Blanket and the Woombie. We wrap Kate in a swaddle at bedtime and for every nap. These two products make it so easy. Recently she started wiggling out of the Miracle Blanket no matter how tight Ben got it, so the Woombie is great since there’s no way to get out of it because its zippered. When we transition out of the swaddle, I plan to try out Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit.

9) Aden + Anais Burpy Bibs

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These burpy bibs from Aden + Anais rock. Soft, lightweight, and full coverage to protect your clothes. They are huge compared to any others. We have three one for the diaper bag, one for upstairs and one for downstairs.

10) Carter’s Zippered Sleep-n-Plays

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Kate has lived in Carter’s zippered sleep-n-plays around the house. A one piece zippered outfit makes dressing and changing her quick and easy. Plus they are really affordable, the patterns are really cute and the quality is great. I personally believe all sleep-n-plays should be zippered. Who wants to fumble with all those snaps, especially in the middle of the night?

While every baby is different, those are the things that have made our lives easier and Kate happier. What are your favorite products for newborns? Anything you wish was invented back when you had little ones?

 

Goodbye Mud, Hello Deck

1 May

We’re proud to report our back deck is finally built! This project actually began late last fall. We bought the cedar timber during a sale, and poured the footings then. It got too cold to build, so as soon as we got some decent weather, Ben was out there framing it up.

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He did the majority of the work himself over several weekends and nights, but he also traded some old furniture to a sub-contractor for 2 days work on the deck. It worked out great. Here are the guys finishing up this last weekend.

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We still need to stain it and move out our good patio furniture, but here it is all built. That’s our hot tub (which we moved from our old house) in the corner.

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I absolutely love how the boards run opposite directions and meet in the middle, almost like a herringbone (all Ben’s idea).

IMG_4609Ben used a hidden fastener system, called CAMO, which made hiding the screws much easier.

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The CAMO tool spaces the boards evenly and then guides the screws into the joists. You can see a video of how it works here. The tool itself is less than $40, however the screws that you have to use with it can get a bit pricey.

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Here is a closer view of the hot tub area. Our cover broke so don’t mind the weights holding it down for now. And the hammock will be moved somewhere else.

deck hot tubIt is so nice to be able to walk out onto this…

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Instead of this….

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While there is still plenty to do out here, it is quite a change from this when we bought the place.

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Here is a similar view now.

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In addition to staining the deck, next up is laying some pavers outside the new laundry room door here. We didn’t continue the deck all the way because the doors were at different levels.

IMG_4613And also building a retaining wall here out of railway ties. And of course laying grass.

retaining wallCan’t wait to fully enjoy this area this summer! Pool party anyone?

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