Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Not Enough Ladies, Too Many Mans

Well, we got gender confirmation on baby #2!  At 18 weeks, we got a very clear sonogram picture confirming we're having another boy.  I think I was leaning towards wanting a girl, but giving Dutch a brother will be a great gift.  He needs a little playmate who can hang with him.  The kid has loads of energy, typically at like 9:30 at night.  He runs, he yells, he crashes his cars, he rides his bike around the house, etc. I don't think he'd know what to do with a sister!  The main benefit, of course, is the fact that we get to reuse all of Dutch's baby stuff again!  Whew.  No need to obtain a whole new wardrobe or accessories catered to a girl. The new baby will inherit Dutch's nursery and all the furniture, and we'll work on furnishing a whole new room  for Dutch.  I'm having to give up my current home office setup, but such is life!

I'm not gonna lie - when I heard we were having another boy, I got a little overwhelmed. There will be 3 males in the house!  I'm severely outnumbered.  It made me think of a Flight of the Conchords song. (Make sure you have a sense of humor before you proceed with watching this.  Also, NSFW lyrics.)

My favorite lines:

"You guys are dorkin' up my vibe with all the dicks."
"Not enough ladies, too many mans."

Monday, July 7, 2014

Outdoor Living Remodel

We enjoy having a pool in our backyard, but that was the extent of our outdoor amenities. The sun beating down on our uncovered patio was brutal, so we knew we needed to provide some shade and comfortable seating.  We wanted an area for lounging before or after being in the pool and an area appropriate for outdoor dining.  This is what we had before:

It was nice for laying out, but the smaller chaise lounges weren't very comfortable, the pillows faded quickly, the heat was scorching, and it wasn't a convenient place for eating. Once we cleared all the furniture out, here's what we had:

The area was a good size, so we decided to get a pergola installed. We used Lawnmaster through Home Depot.  We liked their options and thought they were affordable.  Once we met with a rep and decided on the features, they sent us renderings for approval.  After we signed off on those, installation was scheduled. That process took about 5 weeks, in total.  They told us it would be 3-4 weeks, but whatever.  The actual installation was done in 5 hours, so that was nice.  The crew was efficient, answered all my questions and provided suggestions, and cleaned up after themselves.  I was happy with their work! Here is the finished product:

It's a 12x14 Deluxe Pergola with upgraded stripping.  That means we got more wood slats on the top, so that it would provide more shade.  I love the red stain on the wood and the end-cuts on the headers. We had them start the first header at 7'6" high instead of 7' so that we could add a fan or misters later, and it wouldn't feel too close to your head.

Now that the pergola was installed, we needed furniture!  Considering how long it took us to pick out our indoor dining furniture, I was dreading this task.  I looked at a few stores in person, and then checked out a lot of sites online.  I came across Chair King in Plano, and decided to stop by there on the way back from an appointment.  They were about to close, but I got a good feel for how many options they had and figured it would be worth a return trip on another day.  When Meezy and I found time to go the next day, I realized there was a location closer to our house. We drove there instead and discovered the store was closing that next weekend.  The inventory was quite limited, but they were offering 50% off!  Score!  We had figured we would spend a few thousand and get a small table with 6 basic chairs.  Thanks to the sale, we were able to get a huge table with 8 upgraded chairs.

The table comfortably seats 8, as shown, but this is with just one of the leaves installed.  If we have more guests, we can add the other leaf (that is stored conveniently under the table), and have room for at least 2 more.

The end chairs are upgraded swivel chairs.

    The side chairs don't swivel, but they're all sturdy with nice, decorative arms and fade-free fabric.

I'm so glad we went to the location that was about to close, because we either would've spent double on this set, or not gotten the one that we really wanted, to save money.  We put the new stuff to use immediately, with a family meal on Friday night - homemade pizzas!  I'm looking forward to more outdoor fun this summer and fall.

Project Costs:
Pergola: $3,900
Furniture: $4,200 (total also included a large serving cart, not pictured)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Meatless Mothers Day

I bet the title of this post has you confused. It'll make sense shortly.  Let me start from the beginning.  I've never been a fan of hunting.  When I see people post pictures online next to an animal they killed, sometimes just for the sport of it, I cringe. My mind just doesn't process the desire to shoot an animal for the heck of it. A beautiful buck's life is worth more than a dozen likes on facebook.  An antelope deserves more than getting an occasional glance from you as you pass by its stuffed head in your living room.  Don't get me started on people that hunt exotic or endangered animals. What selfish, arrogant pricks those guys are.  But, I digress. It makes me sad to think about animals dying for trophies, which leads me to the next scenario. Some hunters will justify their actions by saying they kill animals for food.  "I use all the edible parts of the deer, so it's not like I killed it just for fun."  Let me make sure I understand - you had a desire to eat a certain kind of meat, so that made it okay to kill the animal.  Was that the only food source available to you?  Do you live in the wild and procure ALL your own food by hand?  I doubt it.  There were most certainly alternatives.  

So, that has been my stance on hunting for many, many years, but I never took it any further than that. A couple months ago, a possum mom and baby decided to take up residence in our yard. It wouldn't have bothered me much except that I worry what diseases they might carry, and my dog wouldn't stop confronting them.  I feared a fight was imminent.  One day, Meezy informed me that the baby possum was hiding under the control box for our electric gate. He said, "I was going to kill it, but I knew that would make you mad."  I was shocked!  "You were going to kill it?!? How?"  He said that he probably would've found a large stick and beaten it to death.  Oh. My. God. (I know most guys reading this would have chosen the same route he did, so I understand the majority of my disdain for this approach is related to my gender).  I told him how I couldn't believe he would have it in him to literally beat an animal, a baby no less, to death.  There were alternatives!  I grabbed a small stick and scooted the possum out of our yard, into the alley.  Boom, problem solved, and everybody lived.

Fast forward to Mothers Day weekend, and we were making the 5.5 hour drive to Amarillo. I had lots of time to let my mind wander, and it wandered back to the possum scenario.  I thought again about how I definitely wouldn't have had it in me to kill a possum, and I certainly wouldn't have condoned Meezy doing that either.  Uh oh. That raised an interesting question for me.  If I don't condone other people killing animals, how can I allow myself to benefit from it?  And thus began the meat dilemma.

Was I any better than a hunter? I let someone else murder an animal, where I don't have to watch, so that I can enjoy a burger.  Man, I'm cringing just writing that.  An animal had to lose its life just so I could have 5-10 minutes of my brain telling me I was eating something yummy. It's very easy to ignore all the steps that happen before that burger shows up on my plate. Ignorance is what made eating meat so easy before. At any point in my life, I guarantee if I had to stand in front of a cow, and watch it get murdered, I would not feel comfortable eating its meat. With that said, just because I don't stand in front of it for that doesn't mean I should have a different response.  The same action still takes place, whether I'm there or not.

And that brings us to meatless Mothers Day.  I made a decision in the car, on the way to Amarillo for Mothers Day, that I would become a vegetarian.  Wouldn't you know it, we had a big cookout to celebrate the holiday.  Lol.  I enjoyed a meatless burger, and it actually wasn't bad.  There were plenty of side dishes without meat for me to partake in, as well.  It's been a month since I made the big change, and I'll honestly say it hasn't been too difficult.  There are plenty of options for me to eat, and most things are still good without meat - salad, nachos, queso, enchiladas, pasta, fried rice, sandwiches, etc. I do miss loaded queso - that was probably one of my most favorite things in the world. But, it's for the better.  I don't feel the guilt, and I actually think I'm becoming healthier.  There are a lot more leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables in my diet now!

Do I restrict Dutch from eating meat? No. He can make a decision about his diet when he's older.

Do I prohibit meat from being purchased in our house? No. Meezy is his own person, and my feelings don't dictate his actions.

Are you preaching to me? No, I don't preach about this. Just because I decided to be a vegetarian doesn't mean anyone else should feel like I'm pressuring them to do the same.  It is a completely personal decision, just like religion, politics, etc. I'm only writing about it because it's a substantial change for my life.

Do you think you'll make a difference in the world? No, I don't feel like me not eating meat will make even the smallest difference in the world. It is completely the result of me not wanting to feel guilty about what I eat, and where it comes from.

Are you vegan? No, I am not vegan. I am still figuring out what I feel about where dairy products come from. The animals aren't killed, but they are bred strictly for production of products for me. Many aren't kept in humane conditions.  Where I'm at right now is that I try to buy products that mention humane treatment, but I've got a long way to go before I'll feel like a responsible dairy consumer.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sorry, Seat's Taken!

That 4th lounge chair gets filled this December!  We're expecting our second child, and we couldn't be more excited.  We decided to get some family pictures taken that could double as our announcement.  Special thanks to RGE Photography for capturing our joy. Here they are:

OMG, with the cuteness

 Big Brother in training

Oh  Baby!

There will be two soon.

He's super kissable.

Dutch looks so grown up here!

One of my favorites.  Baby is waving at you!

And the best one of them all:

Friday, May 23, 2014

Dining Room Makeover

This next transformation I'm going to share with you brings a big smile to my face!  I'm still beaming at how great the results have turned out.  The dining room in our house was beyond boring.  There was no paint color on the walls, the drapes were cheap and sheer, the gold drapery hardware was left over from the previous owners (and I had spray-painted it silver), and our dining set was the one we had purchased 8 years ago, on the cheap, from Ashley Furniture.  It was time for a major change!  Here are the before pictures:

Booooooring!  I decided I wanted a very formal dining room, with a modern and classy color scheme, and seating for a large group.  I chose Cement Gray paint from the Martha Stewart paint collection, and after I got it on the walls, I knew I had chosen the right color.  I got brushed nickel drapery hardware from Bed, Bath & Beyond in a simple design and purchased these Montecito panels from ZGallerie.  The main transformation came from the new furniture, though.  This was our splurge purchase. We found an awesome table from ZGallerie with self-storing leaves on both ends and 8 matching chairs.  Check it out!


Forgive me, the tags are still on!  Lol

Can you even believe it's the same room?  The coolest part about the table is the fact that it seats 8 as-is, but if you extend out the two leaves, it seats 12!  Perfect for a dinner party or game night or one of my monthly board meetings (that I was too embarrassed to host before now).  Surely this furniture will at least last us 8 years!

Project Costs:
Paint and supplies: $50
Drapery hardware and drapes: $110
Furniture: $3,500

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Landscaping Remodel

If you couldn't tell from all my previous posts, my house is in a constant state of remodel or repair, or both. The repairs aren't fun to devote posts to, so let's talk about the good stuff! We recently decided that our exterior needed some sprucing up.  I'm not gonna lie; my neighborhood lends itself to giving you a "keeping up with the Joneses" complex.  We were lucky to be able to buy into this area last year when prices were lower, and we found a house that needed work, so we got a good deal.  Little by little, we've been trying to bring the house up to a respectable level on par with other homes in the neighborhood. It's not that I'm jealous of other people's homes nearby; it's more of a realization I've had that my house is a huge investment and I need to take pride in it and give it the money and attention it deserves (to protect that investment).

There were areas of our yard that were missing sod and would turn into mud pits after it rained.  Our trees were very overgrown because they hadn't been trimmed since who knows when.  The flowerbeds around our big front trees were really just dirtbeds.  And, in the front of the house where there is a wide expanse of brick, the previous owners had left a huge flower pot with dead ivy in it.  The exterior just looked tired and unkempt.  Here's what we did:

First up was getting the trees trimmed.  We used our weekly lawn maintenance guy for this part.  David, the owner of DFW Area Lawn Care, is very communicative, reasonably priced, and has always done a good job for us in the past. We saved a couple hundred bucks in this area by timing the work to occur the weekend before bulk trash pick up. That way, the guys could just leave the branches at our house instead of having to haul them off themselves. You just don't even realize how much there is to cut until you see it piled up in front of your house!


The same crew put down Weed 'n Feed throughout our yard and installed sod where we needed it.


All of these areas had been dirt for the past year, so I barely recognize them now!

We also got the guys to plant flowers around the two big trees in our front yard.  It really is a nice finishing touch and gives it a polished look.

The rest of the work done was accomplished by ourselves. We removed the flower pot and dead vine from the front of the house and replaced it with a charming fountain.

The owners had left a large pot behind, with nothing in it, so I picked out some pretty flowers to fill it with and placed it on our front porch:

Lastly, there was an area in front of our fence that already had a couple of established plants in it, surrounded by dirt, so we opted not to sod it and instead turned it into a flowerbed.  We added a couple more grasses and mulch.

Overall, I am thrilled with how everything has turned out.  I feel a lot of pride when I pull up to my house now, and I think the cost was justified.  Here's the breakdown of what we spent:

Tree trimming, sod, and flowers surrounding trees: $1,950
Flowers for front porch, grasses, and mulch: $65
Fountain: $200