Backyard Budgeting

I definitely did not go into this project with a budget in mind, I just wanted to get the work done. So we worked little by little and I bought everything with cash. At first when I looked at the receipts it made me a little sad, that there was so much money put out since May.

One thing to be aware of is that when you’re doing a long project like this it’s very easy to lose track of the costs. You may want to add cash to an envelope system and track receipts each week so you can see the costs in real time.

Again, this was split across a few months and many trips! The biggest one time purchase was the wood for the planter boxes and following that the dirt from the nursery.


  • Makita power drill $5 (Salvation Army find of the year!)
  • Makita battery 2 pack $35.99
  • Drill bits $10
  • Other tools borrowed from Dad: free
  • Total: $50.99

Patio Decoration:

  • Fliso Umbrella from Ikea $24.99
  • Bag of Concrete (for the umbrella stand) $4.68
  • Plastic Adirondack chairs from Home Depot $36
  • Pillows – already purchased!
  • Wood Adirondack chairs – free from family
  • Blue primer plus spray paint for chairs $3.37 x4 = $13.48
  • Total: $79.15


Flower boxes for patio:

Raised flower beds:

Side yard Patios

  • Red 12″ Square Paver Stones $1.21/ea x 12 = $14.52
  • Polymeric Sand $20
  • Total: $34.52

Dirt & Trash Removal

  • One time fee to remove wood, stones, trash and scalloped edging = $85
  • 2 cu sq ft of soil from local nursery $9.99/ea x 14 = $140
  • bougainvillea trees $14.99/ea x2 = $44.97
  • hydrangeas 5 online $53.01
  • Total: $322.98

Ready for the Grand Total? $729.95 plus the cost of labor which in my book isn’t too bad for a beautiful new backyard that had very little work done in the past 5 years.

Besides, when I look at the cost of patio sets that begin at $500 and only go up from there and consider that I have 4 chairs, 4 patios, 4 planter boxes and a great umbrella for shade, I think I got a great deal and exactly what I wanted.

The labor cost was definitely an expense, but I don’t regret that either. Ryan worked ridiculously hard and spent many hours digging, leveling, hauling and building.

Patio Plans, Pavers and Plants

Hold on to your seats, this is going to be another long post about the backyard.

Last week I outlined the vision of the backyard in this post – could you see it in your head? If not, here’s the progress post to show how I made the vision come true.

I wrote this post about building out the side yard and my new raised garden beds but this post is all about the corner patio.

Let’s start with the sad state of the tree. The dead tree. The sappy tree. The one that only produced blooms like this for ONE WEEK a year and then immediately died.

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Mostly the tree looked like this:

2011_08_13 (51)Only this picture is old so consider the tree was even more dead. Right where Nixon is standing there’s a pop up sprinkler so I had to take that into consideration when planning this corner. A square patio or one that came out further than the board above would be problematic.

In May we took out the boards and installed concrete wall blocks that stacked 2 and 3 high for a new retaining wall:

2013_05_07 (13)4th of July weekend we took out the tree, all the way down to the stump:

DSC_0100Aside from the fact that you can now see the horrible cobwebs in the corner, you can also see where the dirt was piled up against the fence. With a plan in place, I started buying square pave stones and decided it was time to finish this up.

2013-07-13 (07)As you can see we laid out newspaper underneath the square stones and matched the border stones to hold it up. Here’s a better view from above:

2013-07-13 (08)Before we set everything in with polymeric sand I wanted to lay out the furniture to make sure it would fit well.

2013-07-16 (10)The table probably won’t end up here but the chairs fit well and the planter box along the back looks great.

So, plans continued!

Here’s how it looked with the sand set:


In order to protect the fence from dogs digging along the boards and to bring in a little green, I decided to build these two boxes. They’re 12″ deep and 6″ wide. Along the left side (north fence) the box is 6′ long; the box along the right side (east fence) the box is 4′ long.

Here’s a shot of the box I built:

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Close up shot of the interior:

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Here’s how the patio looks with the two (empty) flower boxes:


And with the chairs:


The umbrella is a great neutral and creates a bunch of shade midday in this corner.

DSC_0019Same day I was able to get dirt in the planter boxes and a few plants!

patioYou can also see that I chose to upgrade the pot for the umbrella – it’s a heavy sucker so I wanted something that would ground it. The cement was poured into a small (1 gallon) container and then the whole thing got covered in dirt. I’ll add some annual flowers next year, I think, to make it pretty.

Yes, I miss those pretty pink flowers from the tree but I think these (which will grow up the fence with a little trellis) will fill in quite nicely!


Raised Garden Beds – a Novice Tutorial

I am absolutely in love with my garden beds! Over a few days we built 2 new 4′ x 8′ raised garden beds and 2 custom planter boxes.

Let’s start with the garden beds:

2013-07-16 (19)These were designed to fit in my side yard which was measured at 4′ wide and 17′ in length.

We picked up douglas fir boards that were 2″ thick, 12″ wide and 8′ in length. The easiest way to buy these is to pick out 6 2 x 12 x 8 boards, reserve 4 for the long sides and have the other 2 cut in half for the short sides.

To secure the boards I picked out 4″ x 4″ redwood posts and had them cut into 16″ segments. This would allow them to be flush with the top of the bed (12″) and go into the soil 4″ down. Here’s a close up of the joint:

DSC_0132Of course we have to secure all of that together so I picked up a tube of liquid nails and a one pound box of 2.5″ wood screws (exterior grade).

Before assembling all the wood we began by protecting the wood with Thompson’s Outdoor Water Seal. All those milk crates I had saved ended up being very useful!

2013-07-13 (05)Those were supposed to take 24 hours to dry but since it was 95 degrees outside they were ready in less than an hour. We lined up the boards, slapped on the liquid nails and then drilled for the screws. I also got persnickety and made sure that the side of each board with stamps is facing in (so it gets buried with the dirt).

Up to the assembly, this could be a one person job. Moving the wood isn’t too difficult and even drilling the holes and securing the boards. But it usually takes two people to hold everything in place to secure the screws to ensure everything is level. Digging the holes can be difficult depending on the state of your yard but moving the boxes is a chore.

Because Ryan was here he dug out space for the posts, pulled up the weed cover that was in place and filled in a single layer of rocks for drainage. We moved the boxes in place before working on the patios and filling in the interiors.

2013-07-16 (02)You can see in the background of that photo that  we laid down a layer of newspaper and wet it down.  The boxes butt right up to the new red stone patios with just a minimal layer of rocks in between to keep out the dirt and weeds. On this edge we’ll add a layer of regular bricks but around the other edges where it’s too narrow just a layer of rocks.

The best part of the process so far is that we have no scrap wood leftover from these boxes – there are four 16″ posts left and I have big plans for those!

Next up, the flower boxes for the stone patio.

Big Backyard Plans

I’ve been working a ton in the backyard these last few months and can’t wait to show you what we’ve come up with! The plans have shifted a few times but soon I’ll have several patios to decorate, planter boxes to fill, vines to plant and furniture to revamp.

I’ve been considering ways to bring a lot of personality and pretty to my small backyard while staying in budget and keeping it to scale. One of the most anticipated projects is this small corner of the yard where we recently removed the tree:

dead treeNow, stay with me for this visual.

There’s a slightly raised patio reaching back into the corner, maybe 7 or 8 inches above the grass.

Thin planter boxes sit on the patio along the fence line – only 6″ wide or so.

Planted in the boxes and growing up the fence are white wisteria flowers, providing a sweet scent and attracting butterflies.

On the patio are two Adirondack chairs, each with comfortable outdoor pillows.

A large flower pot holds the white umbrella from tipping over in the wind, providing needed shade in the morning.

Sounds great, right?

Now, the side yard:

You open the gate from the front porch and step down onto a stone patio that reaches to the backyard.

Along the exterior wall of the house is hanging storage for garden tools.

On the right, along the fence line, there’s a small patio and compost bin.

Then an 8 foot long raised garden bed with hostas, perennials and wildflowers. Honeysuckle vines grow vertically up the fence.

In the middle there’s another small patio, this one holding a gas grill for cooking out and lawn mower.

Another 8 foot long raised bed completes the path, more 4-season flowers and plants grow.

Finally, a thin brick patio lines the chain link fence and bright pots are filled with more flowers.

Morning glory planted in the pots grows up the chain link fence and open in dark purple blooms.

Sounds so relaxing, right?

Pretty good considering I started with this monochromatic slab or dirt and gray:

2011_09_02 (04)There will be many more pictures to come as we build it out, this weekend I’m hoping to have the wood boxes and patios built, then work on filling in the dirt and buying plants.

Remember our list? Here’s an update

  • Dig out the small stones and hard dirt
  • Recycle the wood that we pulled out of the backyard
  • Use stones to fill in the gaps
  • Measure for 2 raised flower/vegetable beds each will be 8′ x 4′
  • Buy wood and install flower/vegetable beds (newspaper to line the bottom)
  • Fill in the beds with fresh dirt
  • Dig out the scalloped edging
  • Create another brick patio like the one below

Now I’m off to dream about the ideal mix of plants, vines and flowers for these spaces!

Tearing it up

I don’t think it’s any big secret that I hate the floors in my bathrooms. The tiles are so very 80s and collect dirt in the grooves like none other.

In fact there’s a big problem with vinyl floor tiles: they’re either perfectly smooth and will get scratched and dented easily or have some texture and collect dirt.

But I did finally find a tile that I like and matches the room color already perfectly! So it was time to tear out the old tile. I first removed the baseboards all around the room (which were a lovely mix of wood and plastic) so I could get into the corners. I shared a little preview in this post from Memorial Day weekend.

Most of the tiles came up once I hit the edges sharply with the crowbar. Some needed a little more oomph.


Do you see how gross the subfloor looks? At first I thought it was stained with glue in a pattern or just grimy. Then I realized it’s actually a second layer of flooring, this one a single slab of vinyl.


So I wedged in my crowbar and started pulling it up too. This layer was relatively easy to pull out, although the tape got stuck to the floor in several places. The pieces filled up my trash can over several weeks and I had to sweep constantly to get up all the little pieces. Using the crowbar, some water, and an utility knife I was able to get some of the paper and glue up.

DSC_0087It’s hard to tell unless you’re at eyeball level but the subfloor looks a bit… uneven. So we’ll be assessing if it needs a plywood base or self-leveling underlayment or something else entirely.

The next step was tearing out the vanity and counter top. I couldn’t wait to see the condition of the floor and wall behind the unit.

I started by taking off the doors and drawers and hello, I am such an idiot! For nearly 5 years I’ve had child locks on the 4 doors of this unit and I just now took them off. So consider 1500 days of opening the door and hitting the child lock. Doh. Here’s what the cabinet looked like in case you forgot:


To be honest, I don’t really know what my Dad did to get it out. We took off a few trim pieces, then broke the seal of the caulk along the counter top. Moved the counter top to the backyard and then took apart the unit.

nekkid bathroom

The bathroom looks so nekkid! The wall behind the counter is damaged and there’s a bunch of problems where the caulk was applied so I’m now doubly glad for the decision to add bead board 4 feet up the wall.

floor tilesHere’s an idea of what the new floor tiles will look like installed – the perfect match for the wall paint and the new white trim. But first I need to finish taking up ALL of the glue and paper stuck on the floor.

floorIt’s going to be a long job. But at least I’m one step closer to having the bathroom I want! Here’s an inspiration pic from Pinterest, the closest I could find to the layout and colors of what I want:



Here’s the short list of things to do:

  • finish scraping up ALL of the glue and paper
  • center the tiles and install all the floor tiles in a diamond pattern
  • purchase and install the baseboards
  • purchase and install the beadboard (cutting out around the sink pipes and toilet pipes)
  • Dad insists that the toilet will need to be removed to finish the tile and beadboard so there’s that
  • purchase and install the chair rail
  • Fill nail holes and paint the trim and beadboard white
  • Touch up the wall paint as needed
  • Install the sink
  • purchase and install the faucet
  • purchase and install a toilet paper holder

I’m thinking of also buying or building something like this to hold my towels and miscellaneous stuff since I lost all my counter space:


but I have a few pieces that might work so I’ll test those out first.

New pictures. Of me. For reals.

I know, I’m typically the gal behind the camera and love it that way but recently I had a few portraits done and wanted to share them. I had a blast shooting these with my new bff Lauren.

And because it would be me otherwise, enjoy my snarky commentary along the way. Oh and some newsy news for you at the bottom of the post too!headshotthis was the first one I got in a proof and got mixed reactions. Some say “too serious” some say “hell yeah” so let’s just call this one “hella serious, yeah!”

state_capital (6 of 59)This ended up being my favorite. Of all times. Sure the purple shirt photographs a little blue but you can see my necklace (which I wear all the damn time), my hair is a crazy and I’m smiling. Good things.

state_capital (11 of 59)Another favorite. This one is more straight on “trust me peoples” but I lurve it anyway. Also the bilateral hair is kinda awesome, no?

Systems Academy WelcomeHere’s one in the black shirt, a little smarmy if you ask me but I still like it! Besides, this is my “do what I say or I’ll get you” look usually reserved for children.

state_capital (59 of 59)Finally, my behind the scenes pic – this one was shot while I was recording a few videos and I think it’s a nice meta shot.


Okay, so what else has been going on at Casa de Kelly? Well, I have some new pictures to show you of the front yard after planting a ton of flowers (about half survived our little heat wave this week) and setting up the cutest  patio cart. Love it. Also, I decided I needed Adirondack chairs and ended up with 2 sets. So I needed more pillows. You see how this all spirals out of my control so easily!

Inside I’ve been working away: painting baseboards, remodeling cabinets in the bathroom, I finally picked up the tile for those bathroom floors, I rearranged the living room (again) and have big old plans  in the works for the house (think AC, floors, windows, paint, power washing, BIG dreaming).

So, stay tuned for more of those posts as summer drags on. I’m fine as long as the heat abates and I don’t have to deal with 105 as the weekly low.