Friday, September 11, 2015

Curb Appeal - Phase 2

This has not been a short process, we started Phase 1 in March with removing our damaged porch and having it poured with proper supports. I think May was a bit confused thinking it was April, there were only a few days without rain until late July. In June we had a few days where it only sprinkled so the porch was quickly poured.

Within 48 hours we had to cut expansion joints so when the concrete cracks, and it will, then it will be more prone to do it in the designated joints instead of making its own path. My sister and brother in law were passing through so I was given a break from being the assistant for the evening. 

My sister became my design partner...ok she talked me out of changing all the cushions and instead adding outdoor throw pillows. Which has turned out MUCH better.

It took 28 days for the concrete to fully cure. Even though it has rebar and fiber infused we wanted to make sure the concrete was the strongest it could be before putting the weight of the roof on it. It gave us time to go to Yellowstone on vacation with my family, start school, and get a good plan on how to proceed.

Once again Mom and Dad made a quick trip to help set the new posts and start making plans for Phase 3. 

Dad's 100+ year old Transit has been very useful as we work on this house. I also love that it has a story being passed down through several generations in our family.

The porch comes out almost a foot further than originally planned. Which means that the flowers I had planted are under concrete now. Mom and I had to run an errand for the guys and while out grabbed some flowers to do a test run. Then we discovered the pillows we had originally picked out were had been discounted even more!

We definitely got our workout tilling the flower bed by hand. Mom and Dad had to go home that afternoon but they got us a huge jumpstart. We didn't want to loose momentum so we kept going. 

Remember how our Playroom walls were cedar planks? We always had a plan to reuse or sell them but this is the first time that we put that plan into place. 

The first challenge was how rough the boards were. We contemplated between sanding, planing, or just painting them. After placing the white boards against the house we decided to get a planer and in one pass the smoothness and color persuaded us to use the true cedar look.

The next challenge was making sure we didn't mess up because we had exactly enough boards that were long enough without damage to make the columns. So we started with the faceboards to use the best ones to the outside. Then attached the back followed by the sides with finishing nails.

As he worked on attaching the wood I continued working on the flowers, stopping to help him make cuts.

One column done! By getting this one done it gave us the motivation to keep going. Especially after I finished planting the flowers!

The front porch has always been one of our favorite spots. I sit out there as I am on the phone to keep away from the kids, they love doing their schoolwork, and we all enjoy eating out there.

After "we" assembled the post then came the recessing of the nails, sanding, and a clear protectant that I think was actually slightly tinted. If it was, I'm glad because I really liked the wet look whenever I would wipe down the posts after sanding them. 

We also did a little tree trimming. There was one limb that drove me nuts that hung over the sidewalk. During the winter you had to duck because it hung so low besides it blocked the view of the house. 

Phase 2 only took a week to complete, could have been done in a few days but we couldn't work late without being swarmed with mosquitos and we still were operating our daily lives of work/school, exercise, and church. The weather was perfect to work in with very little humidity and temps in the 70's...Did I mention this was middle of August!?! All in all Phase 1 & 2 took a little less than 6 months.

Phase 3 will involve removing the Dogwood trees on either side of the porch, and 2 bushes along the right side (between the two houses) of the house. Then we will have to regrade to make a swell to help keep flash floods away from the window wells as well as replacing the current ones.

We hope to spread some grass seed soon and replace the large picture window...

And I think replacing the black cedar shutters with some cedar ones will help bring it all together. What do you think?

2011- At this point we had put in new windows, lights, and drainage.
September 2015

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Curb Appeal - Phase 1

I'm sorry it has been so long and I promised an updated picture of our office/playroom/classroom (OPC) but since that post a lot in our life changed...again.

Our 5th member of our family has had to move out :( His coaches have asked him to move in with some teammates and help them become acquainted to Columbia. While it is sad we know he is doing good and we still get to see him. This change also means we have an empty room again, so we are changing it back to our office. Giving it a quick freshening up and changing a few things. Another post soon about that and the promised update of the office/playroom/classroom going back to just the playroom/classroom and the inexpensive office update.

August was beautiful weather so we finished our front porch. While there are things that we still want to do and will be doing we have officially finished it to the point that if we were to list it tomorrow we wouldn't "Have" to do anything. Anymore that is the way I gage my projects, otherwise they would never be finished and we would never complete those tiny tasks like trim or touch up painting. This is a new concept that we are adopting because we have so many of those "tiny" items that it is a bit overwhelming. For instance we need to touch up paint in the OPC, trim out the lights, trim the pantry...etc.

April 2011 - 1 year after we bought it and replaced most of the windows and 1 year before the drought.
When we bought this house 5 years ago we noticed the front porch wasn't level but thought it was just to allow drainage. As time went on and we had a severe drought in 2012, we noticed it cracking and the walls near the front of the house having movement. We fixed everything we could think of until one day we realized the front porch roof was not level. It was not very noticeable from a visual inspection but upon further digging...ok prying up a loose piece of concrete we found that the porch was an addition the house.

Luckily the piece of the porch we tore up was in the perfect spot. It showed us that not only was the 30x8 concrete an addition but they never tore out the old sidewalk and small door stoop. The picture above was exactly on the edge of the hidden stoop. The porch was sinking all around the original stoop/sidewalk.

In March we had my dad come down with his transit and help us put up temporary posts. They first raised the porch roof to be level using jacks, which in turn showed us how much the front of the porch had sunk. In the 2 years since the drought we had kept an eye on the concrete but over the winter had noticed almost an inch drop near the door.

The Dogwood trees will have to be removed during phase 3.

At the worst corner it was closer to 3 inches off causing the roof to pull at the front of the house causing the settling we have been seeing. After getting the temporary posts in place the guys decided to see how hard it would be to break the concrete.

In 4 hours they removed 2/3 of the front porch only using a sledgehammer and crowbar. We found only 4 pieces of rebar that went lengthwise. The thickness of the patio also varied, where the guys started it was about 5 inches, over the old stoop it went to about 3 inches thick and the part left for my husband and I to tear out was closer to a foot...

While the guys worked on the front porch my mom helped me with taking the boys to the science fair and then rake leaves. I don't think this would have got done without her help, especially now knowing how the rest of the spring and summer went...BUSY.

We had to stop every now and then to watch the discoveries being made, for instance our river of acorns. I think it was about a 5 foot "stream." There was also the family of moles that would keep moving to the next undisturbed section and in the end we found them again under the pile of concrete as we were moving it. I know many will say why not trap them but I just couldn't bring myself to do it, luckily it seems they have moved on from our yard.

My parents had to go home bright and early Sunday morning so my husband and I were left to do the rest of the demolition on our own.

While my husband worked on the concrete I continued to bag leaves and create a fort for our boys.

The last section was extra thick because it had been mudjacked at one point. We attempted to use a jackhammer to break it up but it was only breaking it into tiny pieces.

In 4 hours we made barely any progress...

So it was back to the sledge and crowbar. We had to take a break for a quick trip to Kentucky and recovery from husband injuring his shoulder, along with a busy spring of soccer games and real estate. By mid April we had conquered taking out all of the concrete.

We went back and forth on pouring ourselves, which probably would have been done sooner, or building a wooden deck. In the end we decided to hire it out.

We sat down and looked up about 20 different companies that were either on Angie's List or recommended by fellow agents and of those 20 only 3 called us back and only 2 actually came to give a quote.

The first came by and did not give a good first impression, told us to stop working and he would take out the rest of the concrete and then wrote his bid on the back of a business card. And by bid I mean a number with a dollar sign in front. No specifics on the work or anything. Didn't explain type of concrete or how it would be poured. My parents taught me better than that, you want to know how your money is being used and the quality of materials.

The second company came out, talked to us, gave us an explanation of what and how they going to complete the job. Went home wrote up a bid, and emailed it to us. It wasn't as detailed as we preferred but they answered our questions and honestly came in with a much better bid.

They asked us to move our rock pile, which I had been in the process of doing but by myself it was tedious. So the last few loads I had help from my husband, good thing too because those boulders at the bottom of the pile were HEAVY.

No job goes smoothly and in ways it worked out for the best. We were told the 1st week in May they would start but it got pushed back to the end of the 3rd week. They were working on other jobs as well so we were worked in between the other ones so it went a little slower.

My parents were traveling through town and stopped by to see the progress which was the forms and rebar. My dad noticed that the porch wasn't lining up with edges of the roof and once we placed the columns back on they would be hanging off. It was a miscommunication because we told the company the size we were wanting but they didn't verify location. They were quick to come out look it over and we all agreed on a new plan which was another $1,000 but we ended with a larger porch and corrected the mistake that the former owner (who poured the porch) had created. We had a lot of rain in June as well which hindered them from pouring as planned but they were able to get it done.

In the end we learned a lot, we would still recommend this local company with the added caution...

1) We are happy we hired it out, even with the issues.
2) Better communication is needed throughout the process.
3) Layout terms of payment and what happens to leftover waste ahead of time.

They didn't communicate when they were coming to pour and they expected payment (cash or check) as soon as they were finished. I had the money saved but they came on a Friday afternoon and because I didn't have notice didn't have time to transfer it to our checking account. They were quick, polite, and respectful.

We still have about 4 wheelbarrows of gravel in our driveway that was never picked up but never told it was ours to deal with. As well as some of the concrete they scrapped off the top. Enough time has gone by that we plan to use it around our bushes along the fence line.

While they protected our door, our windows were not protected and unfortunately one of our newer windows has concrete splatters all over. Our large picture window is also concrete splattered but it needs to be replaced. Again all of these issues could have been avoided a little more communication, I have sent an email to them asking for recommendations to remove this splatter without scratching the glass. Here is hoping to hear an answer soon.

Phase 2 - Columns and aesthetics

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Food Prep

One of the biggest keys to success for our weight loss journey has been preparing our meals ahead of time. This is not only good for helping us stay on track with what we are eating but also for our budget. Over the last year and a half we haven't kept up with it and have slowly...ok maybe not so slowly seen our weight rise and our saving shrink.

We like to cook but time is a huge factor and honestly during the day I don't like it because I end up eating more. So we have a list of foods once a month we prepare and freeze so if we don't feel like cooking or don't have time we can just pop in the oven. Let me tell you I HATE reheated foods but there are certain ones I like and sometimes they are even better than the original because they have been able to marinate more.

With us looking to lose weight though we haven't made those "comfort" foods so we stay out of temptation. Instead we have been cooking up chicken (plain, marinated, raw - to be cooked later) ground turkey, and ground beef. Fresh fruits and vegetables seem to go bad quickly which kills a budget so slice them up save what we think we will eat for the next few days and freeze the rest.

Here comes the next issue...freezer burn. One of those reasons I hate reheated food but after subscribing to a food service a few years ago I learned the art of vacuum sealing and have loved it. Especially since you can seal individual portions or what we do is enough for the 2 of us adults to have lunch.

We go through it faster because everything is organized and I have a log of what is in our freezer...maybe a post for another time if you are interested, and even if we don't it stays good longer. Our bigger dishes; lasagna, pizzas, enchiladas, pot pie etc. have not been vacuum sealed because typically those only last a few weeks in the freezer.

Right now our meals consist of eggs and fruit for breakfast, chicken with a little rice and vegetables for lunch, and 4-6ozs of protein, a "smart carb and fiber" for dinner. Last night we had chicken for me/fish for my husband, medium sized sweet potato and 1 cup of broccoli. You may wonder what the kids had...the same thing. Lunches we do treat them to other things because our food is usually prepared individually so it is easier than trying to do that three times a day, but they typically eat the same as the other (cereal, pancakes, pbj, chicken, etc) They also get snacks so they have more calories than we do because they need them.

So most of what we have can and is frozen.

I try to make scrambled eggs fresh every morning but I also have some frozen in case we are in a hurry. I bake the eggs in ramekins (or muffin tins) at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. We pop the yoke and add a little salt and pepper before cooking. Once they are not wiggly, we let them cool and then seal and ready for breakfast. In the morning I throw them in the microwave for 45secs with a slice of canadian bacon, top with american cheese and if we are having carbs then put it on top of a toasted english muffin. Without the english muffin it is about 210 calories.


Added some green pepper to 2 for an omelet

The chicken we marinate in some liquid smoke and lemon or lime juice then grill. This last time we also did bbq. Depending on the size it usually takes about 1.5 minutes in the microwave, less if around 4 ozs and cut up. This is especially delicious paired with my husband's fried rice and vegetables.

Zucchini and squash is one of my favorite vegetables but I hate taking the time to wash cut and prepare it. Really it doesn't take that long but now that I have it prepared and in the freezer it only takes about 30 mins in the oven to roast it and enjoy.

We also make our own "stir fry" vegetable mixes. In these bags I used broccoli, carrots, squash, corn, peas, and mushrooms. Each bag is a little different than the next some leaving out a vegetable. I don't add any sauces, just mix the vegetables and when we are ready to cook then we can decide what to use. Sometimes instead of stir fry I'll use it in potpies...although it has been quite a while since I have made one of those.

I still have to make a list every week of what we plan to eat, mainly for dinner, but it is much easier to complete a meal. Our goal is to only eat out once a week but even then we are trying to avoid. Take last week for example (before we really got back into the swing of things) we had our plate full, celebrating birthdays, working on front porch, exhausted from working out, no food in the house, so we ate out almost daily. Over the weekend we sat down and talked about how we lost the weight every other time (after the birth of each kid) and came to the realization that this was a key element.

In the few days that we have prepared and following a stricter diet we have both seen the scale go down and feel better. Maybe not from the food but the feeling of not having to spend more time than once a week planning what to eat for the week and once a month doing a mass shopping, prepping, cooking, and freezing day.