24 September 2014

Retaining Wall Rebuild

When we purchased our home, we quickly made note of the badly leaning retaining wall to the south of our house.  Something that would definitely need to be addressed but there are so many other things to work on or put improvement money towards that we didn't rank it very high.  That was the case until a 40 foot section fell over during a severe thunderstorm a month or so ago.  It was a huge section that fell and when it fell, it pretty much flopped straight forward and lots of the blocks were still in place, just laying horizontally now instead of the more effective vertical.
So began the process of asking for contractor recommendations, leaving messages, setting up times to have them come look at it, talking them through what we want and then waiting for them to give an estimate.
Amazing, I was able to get Contractor A to come by the day after it happened on Labor Day.  His rebuild plans sounded good but he didn't really have any experience with walls of this size (40' long x 4'-5' high).  Verbal estimate was in the $3000 range. Contractor B was the husband of a work colleague.  He specializes in "hardscapes" (I did not even know that this was the term for landscape jobs that are primarily concrete/block/stone etc.)  His company's website has some great examples of their work and I love having someone who you have a connection to, even if it is slight.  I figure that means less of a chance of them just doing the job to get it done.  His estimate was $2,100, but he said he was booked out until November.  He said he would try and get us worked in early though, possibly in the next 3-4 weeks. Contractor C seemed slightly impressed by the size of the job and said it'd be around a week's worth of work (the other two contractor had estimated 3-4 days) and a cost in the $5000-$6000 range.  Needless to say, we went with Contractor B.  And we were so happy we did!  He gave us a call in two weeks and had an opening and was ready to work on our wall.  It pays to spend the time to get three bids on any sizable job.
Day 1: They arrive around 8 and are gone when I get home around 4.  They have pulled all the limestone blocks out of the walkway and stacked them in the driveway and on the patio.  They have excavated the dirt, widening the walk space considerably and dumped in in a trailer they brought.  They must've called it a day a little early since they were ready to start the rebuild process the following day.  And on Day 2 they started working at 7:00 and didn't let up until 5:30.  They were grinding each block, checking it with a level, grinding again, back and forth until they had a perfect fit.  At the end of Day 2 they had the first few layers of block laid.  Day 3 they started again at 7:00 and they were gone when I got home after work.  They finished the wall, backfilled the space with a foot of clean aggregate (gravel), and put in a piece of tile to help move the water out from behind the wall.  They also improved the look of the walking path in the walkway too, using their saw to trim the bricks and filling the extra space with red gravel.  They powerwashed the limestone wall, getting all the green moss off and making it look like new and they sprayed off the patio and driveway as well.  The owner was there for short while in the mornings but for the most part it was two guys.  That is some hard work and I was happy with the finished product. 

End of Day 1.

End of Day 2.

End of Day 3.

Here's why you need a filtration sock around your tile.  
Without it, your tile fills with silt and can't do it's job.

15 September 2014

Patio Door Swap

When it was decided to replace the door to our patio, I was kicking around the idea of doing the installation myself.  The manufacturer's website rated it as a "2 Hour Install" which I am guessing would mean at least half a day for me.  So when I got to Home Depot and was informed that they were running a sale for $50 off the install fee (usually $97), my decision was made.  Save me the time and having to get the tools and supplies.  The door we wanted was out of stock and so we had to wait for about a month or so, but finally, we got the call and the installer came to swap the door for us.  I'm glad we had them do it, as he had to add a small trim piece of wood to the top of the frame to get the right fit.  It looks fantastic, is super quiet (no more slamming) and best of all - you can slide the top pane of glass down and a screen rolls out!  It helps a bunch with getting a breeze through the house.  We took this opportunity to scrape and repaint the interior door to get rid of the scratch marks from the previous owner's animal. 

03 September 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge

I think the microphone got covered up at the beginning.  I just said that stoppable had challenged me and I did not complete the challenge within the 24 hours, so we will be making a donation to ALS.  I challenged Sylvia and Isa.
It is quite a shock to the system!  And a negative side-effect is that we didn't have any ice in the house for the rest of the evening. 

02 September 2014

Photo Challege #2: Labor Day



25 August 2014

Photo Challenge #2: Labor Day

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social & economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity & well-being of our country. Photograph is due by September 2nd.

21 August 2014


So, even though I don't have a ton of tools, and I'm not churning out the home projects, I could not suppress my need for organization.  (And my need to clean up the basement and make better use of the space down there.)  I moved all my tools from a table/workbench on one end of the basement to a lower, wider workbench on the other end of the basement.  I wanted to put up a pegboard for organizing my tools and getting them all up off the bench and not just on shelves.  The only part that posed a slight challenge was that I was going to have to mount it onto a concrete block wall.  I did my research and went on a very fun trip to Home Depot (using some wedding gift cards) to pick up what I needed.  I came home, cut my boards to size and started in.  And got no where.  I'd read a few blogs (including this one from the great Young, House, Love blog) and, while a few talked about mounting on concrete, none of them mentioned anything about needing a hammer drill.  Luckily, a friend of mine had one to loan me.  ("Use ear protection" was his only advice)  Once I had that, everything went smoothly.  After it was up, there were many rearrangings needed to get the tools in the best alignment and incorporate some good ideas I'd seen on Pinterest.  And there is space to the right to add one more panel of pegboard if I need to expand down the road.
Overall, I totally love it.  Total cost of the project was ~$60.  Those three wire baskets alone were $10, so don't get those if you don't need them and it could easily be a <$50 project! I got the small glass jars for free from a friend whose dad worked at a water treatment facilities and had tons of water sample jars laying around.  Sylvia hooked me up with a small clipboard to hang on there as well (in the spot that is empty in the photo) with some paper at the ready for sketching or figuring.
I wanted there to be some unique touch to my board and decided on adding a quote to the front edge of my board.  After a quick hunt and a little help from stoppable, I selected "Give us the tools and we will finish the job" which were delivered by Winston Churchill in 1941.  I used a projector and some paper on the wall to see how big I should make the letters and get my spacing down.  Then I free-handed them while looking at them on my computer.  Outlined in pencil and then filled in with a Sharpie pen.  I love how it turned out.  I should probably give it a coat of clear stain to protect it and make it last longer.
I just go down and stand and look at it sometimes.  Now I just need some projects to work on!  And maybe a few more tools to fill on those spaces. :)

17 August 2014

Photo Challenge #1: WATER




09 August 2014

Family Photo Challenge

Several months ago I had an idea to try a family photo challenge. Isa has always shown an interest in photography so I thought giving her a topic or prompt might be helpful since 99% percent of her pictures consist of her toys or our backyard. A photo challenge would help her (and possibly others) learn about framing pictures, the rule of thirds, zooming in and out, lighting, angles, perception, creativity etc…

Okay, here are the rules:
Each week (or so) a photo prompt will be assigned and communicated by email & text. I’ll try to make the prompts wide ranging so no one has an advantage. You then have a week to find an image that you feel embodies the prompt.  You can use your phone, your camera, whatever works.  Email that picture to middleson.  Only one picture can be submitted per person and the picture must be taken during the week of the photo challenge. Looking in the your archives for old amazing pictures is not allowed. (Sorry Jake.) 
He will gather the pictures and share them on his blog (and will text you a notification when he does).  If people want we can also vote on our favorites.

Photo Prompt #1: Water
Enjoy your photo hunt and send us your pix by next Sunday.  Good Luck!
If people have ideas for prompts, let me know!

Clever Cliches

On a recent trip to Kansas City we made a stop at the Federal Reserve Bank.  We watched thousands of dollars be processed, learned about the economy and enjoyed some interactive displays. middleson served as our tour guide since he used to teach economics. Before leaving we received a souvenir bag of shredded currency and a money museum fun guide.  The fun guide had puzzles and games to test your money knowledge.  One of the games gave you the first half of a common money cliche and you had to fill in the ending.  Here are Isa’s attempts...  They’re too good not to share.

1.     Money doesn’t grow ….it blows
2.     Put your money where… you know.
3.     Money burns a hole…lot.
4.     A fool and his money …make a robber.
5.     Money is the root …to paradise.
6.     There are some things that ….make money.
7.     Money makes the world…happy.
8.     Money can’t buy …a creek.
9.     A penny for…you.

Sylvia's Comment Today....

"This music is music to my ears."