Monday, December 21, 2015

'Tis the Season

Christmas is a magical time with all of the decorations, lights and cheer. Hampden goes all out with the 34th street lights. I love seeing the neighborhood lit up and all of the merriness. 

Although our home is not quite on that level, I do what I can to make it festive. I was lucky enough to get some hand-me-down decorations from family members and added some of my own.

Here are some pics of our house all decked out.

Stockings on the staircase for David, myself and the pup.

Nutcracker and little beefeaters. 

Fireplace decorated.

I was really excited to hang Christmas lights outside this year for the first time because David installed an electrical outlet outside and now we have a place to plug them in. Unfortunately, I made a rookie mistake and strung the lights before checking if they worked. Of course, when I plugged the lights in they didn't work, so I tried checking each bulb and replaced the broken ones. The lights still weren't working, so I just left them. A few days later about 30% of the lights magically turned on. I couldn't get the rest working though, so I am not sure what the trick is. I ended up adding another strand of lights so we didn't have random sections lit up.

Finicky Christmas Lights

Our main decoration is the tree...

I have a lot of ornaments; like too many to put on my small tree. My mom usually gave me several each Christmas and so I have amassed many over the years. I like to collect ornaments that represent important moments/things in my life. My favorite thing about decorating is pulling out each ornament and all of the memories that are connected to it. I have ornaments from the places I traveled, ones given to me by grandparents, ones to remember pets and ones of books/TV shows/hobbies that I was into. Decorating the tree takes me a while, but as I hang each ornament I like to reflect on what each ones means to me. 

I have many, many Santas from different cultures.

Ornaments to remember our engagement and wedding.

Irish Blessing, Scottish Santas, and a Crab.

One of David's three ornaments (the soccer ball), my Bella angel and Raven's pride.

Ornaments from my childhood.

Ornament from my mama.

And lastly, Stevie getting into the Christmas Spirit.

Sad reindeer.

Decorating our house brings warmth to our home and gets me excited for the season. Merry Christmas Everyone! I hope your holidays are filled with joy!

Merry Christmas from our family, to yours. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rooftop Garden Final Tally

My garden did not flourish as much I had hoped, but it did yield some food. I was able to harvest about 4 zucchinis, 15 peppers, 12 tomatoes, lettuce and some herbs.

Garden starting out in May.

At first my zucchini was very plentiful but the plants ended up getting blossom-end rot early on and died off. 

Zucchini growing.

Before the zucchini died, I was at least able to make some tasty zucchini muffins.

Food made with zucchini.

 I also made some salads with ingredients entirely from the garden!

Green pepper turns red if you leave it long enough!

The lettuce started to die off in July, perhaps from the humid, hot weather. It also didn't help that I was barely home that month.

Plants looking a little worse for wear. 

My pepper plant was the most plentiful. It only recently started dying in the cold weather. 

Pretty peppers.

Since I had so many peppers, I wanted to make stuffed peppers, but they were so small that I made more of a stuffed pepper casserole.

Not much room for stuffing. 

Stuffed pepper casserole.

I put a lot of labor into my garden, so being able to enjoy some meals with fresh grown ingredients is a nice reward! I have more plans for next year and hopefully can use what I learned this year and be more successful.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


In a middle rowhouse, we don't get very much natural light and so it can be a little depressing, but a skylight is a great way to get around this.

David really wanted to add a skylight, but he knew that this project was a little over his head. Lucky for us, David's brother-in-law, Geo has his own roofing business (ERG Roofing) and so he graciously volunteered his time and installed the skylight for us.


The location for the skylight was a tricky one at the top of our stairs. The boys probably should have used scaffolding, but instead they leaned a ladder on the stairs which is a little dangerous.

Making the first cut.

David's brother-in-law cut a hole in the drywall on the inside first through the attic. Then he used a level inside the hole and made a small cut in each corner so that he could match it up on the outside. Outside on the roof, he connected dots and made the cut. There were several layers of roof to cut through. There was an original metal roof that was completely rotted. There were also layers of shingles, rubber and tar.

Cut on the outside.

We found out that we have one of those old-school satellites on top of our roof. I have no idea how we will ever get rid of this, but perhaps we can use it to communicate with the aliens. 

Seriously, how did this even get up here?

David scored and found a brand new skylight on craigslist at a discount. Geo built a wood box frame for the skylight and then placed the window on top and screwed it into the wood frame. 

Checking to see if the frame is the correct size.

The frame was placed over the hole in the roof. 

Attaching the frame to the roof.

Geo used a blow torch to melt rubber and covered the wood frame. He added two layers to prevent leaks. David said that this will outlast our current roof. 

Finsihed skylight on the outside.

Geo installed drywall to the studs on the inside of the hole to finish the project. 

Light shining in.

Check out this video of some of the work which shows the old roofs and cool blow torch shots.

The skylight definitely brightens up our house! Geo did a great job with this project so if you ever need some roof repair let me know and I can refer you to him!

Finished skylight.

Monday, October 19, 2015

One Step At A Time

After a long hiatus on housework, due to health issues and traveling, David finally finished our steps.

As I mentioned in another post, a few tiles starting fall off of our steps. David, had always wanted to change the steps later down the road, but the fact that he was going have to repair the tiles gave him the motivation to just redo the steps now.

Tiles falling off.

Having a Handyman Hubby is both a blessing and a drawback. Don't get me wrong, David is talented and has done many great things, but it also means he's more risky and open to fixing things up that don't necessarily need to be fixed. Before I knew it, we were ripping off the tile as well as brick and some concrete slabs from our steps. I ended up breaking my toe in an unfortunate accident and so David finished the demolition, but we took a break from the project. We were left with some old, un-level concrete steps for the time being.

Cement steps underneath.

The demolition was very strange. Behind the brick we saw a hug pregnant spider and then a small snake. I guess David was ripping up their home.

Snake living behind the stairs. 

Pulling off the brick and cement 

While I was healing, David and I debated on what to do to the steps. I liked the idea of having brick and slate steps. David wanted to make just basic concrete steps. Since David was doing the work, he won. In the demolition process, David had torn two of the slabs off of the top of the steps and left one behind. To make the steps uniform, David created a wood mold for a 2 inch wide slab and used heavy duty cement to create two slabs. Since I had a broken toe, I told David that I would not be helping him finish the steps. He planned to have his brother come over on 4th of July weekend to help him install the slabs. Then we had another setback in the project because David went to the hospital for three weeks. And after that ordeal, we went on vacation, delaying the project even more.

Making the slabs. 

The steps we were left with for several months.

So our steps were in a state of disorder for much longer than planned. Altogether, this project spanned about three months. I'm sure our neighbors were wondering why we ripped out seemingly decent steps only to have ugly, mis-matched concrete steps. Finally, one weekend in September we were both able to finish the steps together. David spread a layer of mortar on top of the step and we placed the heavy concrete slabs on top. No toes were injured this time, success!

Slabs added on top of the stairs.

As with any house project, there were of course a few issues. David had measured incorrectly for the top step, so he had to fill in a 2 inch gap with concrete. After letting the slabs dry for a day, David painted the steps with Portland cement so that they would look uniform.

Adding went cement to fill the gap.

The steps only cost $50...and one broken toe. But finally being able to check this project off the list after all of the unexpected issues was priceless. It meant that David was finally completely recovered and we could get back to doing unnecessary and sometimes necessary projects to our house. God is good.

Steps painted.

Finished look.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Raised Beds

In our neighborhood, there are small plots of land across from each yard that the city owns. When David first moved in, he noticed that some of our neighbors had claimed the land and made gardens. David had big plans for what he wanted to do with the space.

Empty plot of land across from our house.

He wanted to make four raised beds. The second year he was in the house, David tackled the project. First he had to clear out all of the weeds that had taken over. Then he built the beds from scratch with some pressure treated wood. Later he realized that Home Depot sells kits which would have been much easier, but at least by building them himself he was able to make the beds the exact size he wanted. David built four walls and reinforced the corners with four inch posts.

Frames of the boxes.

David added weed barrier and newspaper to the bottom of the boxes in hopes that it would save us some trouble later on.

Laying weed barrier. 

After the boxes were created, we realized that they were quite large and it was going to take a lot of dirt to fill them.

All of the dirt needed to fill the boxes. 

Car riding low from the weight. 

Never-ending hole. 

 Eventually, David finished all four boxes and filled them up with dirt.

Boxes completed. 

In addition to the boxes needing a lot of dirt, it was going to take a lot of flowers to fill them which would require time and money. The first two years the boxes were pretty much just growing weeds. The weed barrier did not work out too well because lots of plants got through.

David added some slate in between the boxes for aesthetics and to keep the weeds at bay. This has somewhat worked. Weeds grow like crazy in between the boxes but not so much on the areas where there is slate.

No plants to fill the boxes :/

It wasn't until this year that we actually planted stuff in the boxes. I tried planting some old flower seeds in pots, grew them on my roof and transplanted them in the boxes. I'm not sure why, but they grew as vines. Maybe I was just growing weeds. So I ended up ripping these out.

Transplanting flowers.

In July, we bought some dying flowers from Home Depot on a big discount. I would recommend this as we were able to nurse the flowers back to life and now have nice, plentiful perennials for a fraction of the cost.

Flowers all planted. 

Home Depot flowers in the back and vines in the front. 

One challenge with the boxes is that they attract young children. We would notice children sitting on the boxes and jumping from box to box. I would come home from work and see my flowers crushed in the shape of a foot print. I guess I have turned into one of those old curmudgeons that yells at kids to stay off their lawn...except I am too shy to do that. So instead, I had David put up a small fence to deter kids which seemed to do the trick. 

Purple flowers have come back to life. 

After ripping out the vines, we replaced them with some small red and yellow flowers. The flowers have really taken off. The back boxes don't have as many flowers, but hopefully next year we can fill them up. One step at a time!

End of summer, flowers flourishing. 

Although this land is not technically ours, I don't think anyone would mind us taking an over-grown jungle and making it into a nice garden for all passerby's to enjoy.