Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Two things I loved about our home when we first moved in were the big and beautiful eucalyptus trees in our backyard:

We fantasized about building a tree house in one for the kids, or hanging a hammock between them for some summer afternoon lounging. They smell nice, create a great privacy screen between our yard and back neighbor’s home, and shade out the afternoon sun while we eat on the back deck. Plus, koala bears love them, and koala bears are cute, so therefore eucalyptus trees must be cute, right? Yes, this is my logic.

But after living here almost a year (has it really been that long?!) we’ve also discovered that their heavy shade prevents any other foliage from growing back there, they constantly drop leaves on the deck and all over the yard, and can sometimes smell like cat pee. We thought that having them professionally trimmed (they were definitely overdue for a cut) would help combat these issues…well, other than the cat pee thing…so we brought in some experts to give us a quote on the job. When the Mr. first called and said, “we have two large eucalyptus trees in our backyard,” the arborist said, “I have some advice. Move.” Not quite the response we were hoping for, and the fun continued when he came out to see them for himself and made the official recommendation to remove the trees completely. Ugh. He explained that not only are they messy, but eucalyptus trees are a fire hazard, and frequently fall in heavy storms.

So not only will we lose our shade and part of our fence (since it was built around the trees) but we’ll also be looking at a pretty high price tag for the work. Ah, the joys of homeownership. So, while we look for some better pricing options on the tree removal, I’m saying farewell to my hopes of a kitchen remodel and driveway gate this summer.

We're hoping we can find a way to save some of the wood and make some cool stools from the stumps to commemorate their presence and might post on Craigslist in case anyone wants to make use of the rest of the wood or the leaves, since I hate to just dispose of them. Feel free to claim a branch or two if you like!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Miles of Tiles

I’ve been hiding a dirty little secret. Well, a few of them actually. Of course when I share photos of my home I try to capture it from its good side. Who would want to show off ugly carpeting, old linoleum and drafty windows? Well, the truth is that I have all of those and more. So instead of trying to hide them from you I decided to share them with the world. The first step is admitting you have a problem, right? Well, I’ve got quite a few.

First up, this kitchen floor, a caramel and white checkerboard of linoleum tiles. It’s just not my cup of tea. I’m hoping that there’s hard wood underneath it somewhere, although I do know that one layer down is yet another layer of linoleum, so I haven’t yet worked up the courage to chisel it away for a peek just yet, not to mention the potential asbestos exposure lurking underneath:

Not only do I dislike the material, the colors and the pattern, but the tiles are dingy and stained, and no matter how hard I scrub them I still end up with this:

While a kitchen remodel is definitely in the plans for us, we want to tie our kitchen into a new family room and a beautiful new deck leading to our backyard, and a project of that scale comes with quite a large price tag. I would love to be able to do it in phases, but it just doesn’t seem to make sense for us (since turning our bedroom into a family room means turning the den into our bedroom, and adding a deck off the kitchen means moving the location of the garage.) So for now it looks like I’m stuck with this crazy linoleum tile. I’ve hunted around for kitchen rugs to try to cover it up, and also warm up the floor, which can be quite cold in the morning, but everything I had seen was too small, too big, expensive or clashed terribly with the caramel tiles. Until I remembered my old friend FLOR, that had helped me out so nicely in our den. Not only could I create something the exact size that I needed, I would be able to choose from a ton of colors and durability options, as well as just pick one up and rinse it off if something got spilled (which happens frequently in the kitchen!) We decided to pick up the blue color in these backsplash accent tiles and went with House Pet in Chameleon:

12 tiles seemed like they would fit perfectly, and thanks to 50% off shipping by ordering through the local store and another 10% off from an online coupon code I found, I was able to virtually buy them tax free. They arrived yesterday and we couldn’t wait to plop them down:

I love them! Not only do they cover up the flooring I was trying to hide, but I feel like they just make the room look more polished. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Closet Case

I spent a good amount of time prepping for mom’s visit this past weekend, and specifically logged two hours on Friday night while watching Dog Whisperer (I know, quite a party, huh?) cleaning out our den closet and making space for our guests to hang clothes and leave toiletries, etc.

This closet has pretty much functioned as a storage space for the kids since we moved in, and has worked well as a central location for the them to store and find all the games, books and toys that I’d rather not see cluttering up their room. We were able to squeeze in a tall IKEA bookshelf that was on its last legs, which we laid in horizontally, and that created some cubby spaces for us to separate some of the junk. With the sectional sofa dividing the den, and the closet and small scale kids table & chairs behind it, we created a nice little play area that they use frequently. But along with frequent use came frequent shoving of all the aforementioned games, books and toys into any space they could find in the closet, which resulted in an overflowing pile of mess with no rhyme or reason.

So first I removed all the coats and anything that was piled up on top of the bookcase without a home. What a mess!

I was able to fill up two bags of trash (broken toys, dried up markers, etc) that I quickly threw in the bin out back before the kids could plead their case for any of it, which helped to lighten the load. Then I started to organize and rearrange. Their dollhouse had to find a new spot for now, but hopefully they’ll play with it more if it’s front and center for a few weeks. 

And other than their bucket of dolls and doll clothes and a few other small bins of tiny toys (Littlest Pet Shops and Polly Pockets) I was able to clear off the top of the bookcase.

Then I had to find a place to put all the winter coats that had been calling the den closet home so I picked up this $30 garment rack with cover from the Container Store, and the Mr. set it up in the garage. We so rarely need access to these coats anyway, so this would leave the space available for mom during her visit and then just in general give us a less cluttered look when we’re sans guests. I left about a dozen wooden hangers in there for our future guests, as well as towels and an extra blanket.. 

Once we’re back from our camping trip next Sunday we’ll be able to set up the air mattress with some fresh sheets and pillows and Hotel California will be open for business!

Friday, March 11, 2011

I'm Baaaack!

I know, I know...I said I was taking a little blogcation and then I was gone for almost two months! To my kind and loyal friends who kept pestering asking, "when are you going to blog again?" the answer is NOW! The truth is that I fully intended to just take a week or two off to charge my blogging batteries, but then one kid got the flu...and then the other...and then the first one got it again, but this time it settled in her hip joint (it's called viral toxic synovitis and despite having a harrowing sounding medical name was not serious at all.) All this sickness left me trying to juggling my laptop and phone while checking temperatures, making soup and holding sad, clammy sick hands and I just couldn't get my creative juices flowing on any house projects. I barely had time to get myself showered!

Ok, so enough with the pity party. I'm back in action. First item on the agenda: my mom and her boyfriend arrive one week from Sunday for a visit (our first real house guests in the new place) and I've got work to do! In addition to creating an inviting area for them to sleep for the duration of their stay, I want the whole house looking its best for them. I've already got some plans in the works, like clearing out the den closet for their clothes and suitcases and sprucing up the back deck for our dinners on the grill (especially since we'll have extra daylight once we turn the clocks ahead this weekend.) And since we leave next Friday for a two night camping trip, this weekend will be my only time to get everything ready, so I'm kicking into high gear now with a lunchtime trip to the Container Store for a new kitchen trash can (one that the dog can't nose her way into) and a new dog food container (our hungry pooch goes through food so fast that the little DIY canister I fixed up for her just isn't doing the job anymore.) I'm armed with a 10% off coupon and not afraid to use it!