Thursday, April 26, 2012

{DIY} New Lawn & Landscape

After multiple failed attempts to get on HGTV's Curb Appeal, we finally conceded that we were gonna have to get our hands dirty and fix up the front of our place ourselves. 

This is a pretty slow process since we're learning as we go, and, well, with a toddler and a newborn, and all our pets, and full time jobs, we've got a lot on our plate already.  But as slow as it is, it's also very rewarding to see the improvements come to fruition and know that we CAN do this.

If you remember, this was the front view of our property when we bought it. you can't really tell, but we had a single-car, asphalt driveway, which we had replaced last summer, with a double-car stamped concrete driveway with matching path and flowerbed walls {still in love with our new driveway too!}.  See that project HERE.

After {imagine a tree in the open spot in the curb}


In addition to the driveway, we had new windows put in, and replaced the front fence {necessary since the old fence was so rotted, Domino could break through it}. 

We also dug up the front yard quite a while ago in preparation for a new lawn.  Well, it started with trying to get rid of a few weeds, which turned into digging up the entire yard thanks to years and years of root growth.  And since we weren't quite ready to tackle the lawn project, we had a dirt lawn for almost a year!

It got to the point that a neighbor sent his gardener over to give us a quote on fixing our front yard!! Okay, this neighbor is one of our good friends, but we got the message.

But in reality, we were making progress. 


I'm no landscaper, but I drew out what I thought would be a nice plan for the front yard.  Rather than just a lawn, I thought we should try a border along the front and side which we'd fill with flower bushes.  I was hoping this would look nice and save us some water {and $$}.


Rogér installed the sprinkler system {100% himself} over the winter.  We had to wait for some rain to soften up the ground, and unfortunately, this was the least rainy winter we've ever had here.  We used Rainbird because they have a good reputation and if you send in the dimensions of your yard, they'll send you back a plan with the parts list and recommended sprinkler head locations.

Since we still had a lot of work to do as far as getting tilling the ground, Rogér put the sprinkler pipes almost a foot deep.  That way, when we tilled, we wouldn't hit the lines.

After the sprinkler system was in and tested {it worked beautifully with no leaks!}, we tilled a few times to dig up the remaining weed roots.

We had originally planned to put down grass seed, but our dirt was so rocky that we were worried about the seed growing in evenly.  Plus, many of our friends that have put in lawns recommended sod, so we switched the plan to sod.  Of course, reading up on sod, we realized we were gonna have to get rid of all the rocks anyway!  Ugh!

We read that we had to sift the dirt to remove any rocks bigger than 1/2 inch.  Wow, was this painstaking!  We picked up some wire mesh at Home Depot and used some scrap wood to make sifters.  Foot by foot, we shoveled dirt into the sifters and removed the rocks.  We had done about 1/8th of the yard, which took a couple weeks, when a gardener who works on the house across the street saw me shoveling and sifting {9mos preggo} and came over to tell me that we definitely did NOT need to go through all that work.  He said no landscaper would go through all that trouble, and as long as we got out the BIG rocks, we would be fine.

Taking his advice, we moved really quickly through the rest of the dirt. 

We still had to till a few more times to loosen the ground and remove big rocks and weed roots.  Total, we probably tilled about 5 times, although we had to break it up into multiple sessions due to time and weather constraints.

The gardener also recommended that we mix some redwood mulch into the dirt since our ground was clay rich.  We didn't end up doing that, but we did put in some grass fertilizer that was leftover from a friend's lawn.

Next, we raked and leveled the heck out of the dirt, using a borrowed landscape rake and wheelbarrow, until we were happy with the levelness and pitch of the yard. 

Note: you want a level yard, but with a low pitch down towards the street, so the water will run off towards the street.

We also put in the border so we knew where to stop the sod.  Throughout this process, my mom kept saying things like "THEY might ruin our border when THEY install the sod," and "When are THEY going to do the sod?"  Every time, I reminded her that there is no THEY, only US.  Haha.

4. SOD

We ordered our sod from U-Save Rockery.  It actually came from Sacramento, which was fine since our soil is really good soil.  We've heard that if you have temperamental soil, you will have to get local sod.

Once the sod arrived, it only took a few hours for Rogér and his dad to get it laid in.   This was probably the easiest  and the most rewarding part because we actually had a lawn when it was done!

We read that the best way to lay the sod is so the seems in each row are staggered like bricks.

TIP: For filling in the odd shaped edges, Roger found that cutting the sod from the back {dirt side} worked best.  He used a linoleum knife.

                                                                After laying the sod, Rogér and his dad took turns rolling it out. {U-Save provides a free sod roller for a day with your order}.

And voila!  We have a yard!


I had picked out a few flowers from a local nursery with the help of my mom, and we quickly added those to the border area.  The flowers are all full sun and hearty plants to minimize our water usage and maintenance.  The plants still need to grow and we'll fill in more as we're ready.

We installed a drip system to water the plants in the border area and adjusted some of the sprinkler heads so that they would hit every inch of the new grass.

For about a week afterwards, I was still surprised every time I looked out the window and saw our nice lawn!  We also got a lot of compliments from all the neighbors, who I'm sure are pleased after worrying that we would bring down the neighborhood forever.

This was truly a DIY project, and we are super proud of it! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cake Pop Flop!

Ever since cake pops hit the scene, I've been dying to make them. There's so many cute, pretty, imaginative ways to decorate them, and they're delicious!

But time and resources never really allowed me to try....

Until now...

I happened to have some cake scraps leftover from a cake I made for a friend's baby shower.  I also had some leftover frosting, and just happened to be able to squeeze in a run to Michael's, where I picked up some candy sticks and candy melts {among other things that were unrelated to cake pops}.

I felt like these should be simple enough, but it didn't really work out as planned.

My initial cake balls may have been too large?  or too soft?  I'm not exactly sure, since I never read any directions or recipes or tips {surprise!}, but the issue I had was that when I tried to dip the pops in the melted candy chips, the ball slipped right off the stick, or sagged sloppily towards the side.

I managed to pull off a couple of OK looking ones, which went to our friends, The Ballous, who just welcomed home a baby boy {in case you haven't read our older posts}.

The rest of the flops were eaten by us, although I had intentions of giving them away....haha. They might have looked bad, but they still tasted pretty damn good!

The upside to this story is that I'm pretty sure I'm over cake pops.  At least, the making them part.  I'll leave that to more patient people and I'll just enjoy their hard work!

Friday, April 20, 2012

There's a new Ballou in Town!

Rowan and Cid have a new little buddy to add to their growing posse.

We're very happy to share the news that our good friends, Bret and Lisa Ballou welcomed their baby boy, Evan James, on April 17th, 2012.

Bret & Lisa with Evan 
photo courtesy of The Ballou Blog

What a surprise, since Evan wasn't due until another 4 weeks!  
But he was born a very healthy boy and everyone is doing great.

Can you believe that Evan and Cid were born only 8 days apart? 
These guys are going to have so much fun together!

Not to mention, we're excited that our paternity and maternity leaves will overlap!  It's much more fun to have time off work when you can share it with friends.

Follow the Ballous as they learn to be a family of three on their blog, The Ballou Blog.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Welcome Home, Baby Cid!

Sorry I left everyone hanging!  {well, by everyone, I mean the very few of you who read our blog and probably already know the news anyway :) }

I've been meaning to get another post up, but we're kinda busy, ya know.

On April 9th, 2012, our second baby boy, Cid Laurentius Balyon arrived!  

He weighed 8lbs 2.7oz and was  20.5 inches long.

 Cid with his proud Papa

Cid is such a good baby.  
He eats great, sleeps great, and barely makes a peep, except when we change his diaper.

Rowan is an amazing older brother.  I was worried about how he'd handle the new little guy.  He's been jealous in the past when we've held other babies, and since he's so young, he really wasn't able to understand anything about us having a baby or him being a brother.  But to our surprise, he's taken it really well.  He waves to Cid and gives him hugs and kisses.  He brings Cid's pacifier to him and tries to share his bottle.  He's relatively gently, but occasionally slams a book or toy in Cid's lap or face.  Cid's a trooper already.

Tippy toes!

We couldn't believe how small Cid seems, even though he actually weighed more than Rowan did, he seems so tiny since we've been living with a toddler.  BTW, Rowan all of a sudden seems like a giant.  The first night home, I tucked him in bed and thought, "holy cow, he looks like a 5yr old!"

Our first week home was jam-packed full of things to do, {new lawn, home appraisal, friend's baby shower, etc.} so we've hardly had a chance to settle in.  But we're getting there. So far, I think this transition to a family of four couldn't have gone more smoothly.

We LOVE our little Cid!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Induction Pending

Tomorrow is the BIG DAY.

Unless Trouble decides to make his grand appearance between now and 7am tomorrow morning, we'll be calling Kaiser to find out what time we start inducing.

I have mixed feelings about this induction. I wish he had just come on his own terms and I suppose I could choose to let him go a little longer just to see. But there are reasons why we've chosen to induce tomorrow and without going into all the details, I'll just say I'm happy with our decision.  I won't say that I'm really ready for it though.  Still nervous.

Plus, it seems kind of weird to me to have our baby's birthday predetermined, although, I guess that's how scheduled c-sections are.

When I told my doctor that Sunday was a good day, it had totally slipped my mind that this particular Sunday is Easter Sunday {there's a lot of things that slip my mind lately, including the horse's vet clinic today, which really sucks that we missed :(} So it looks like we'll have an Easter baby!

And since I'll {hopefully} be in the hospital tomorrow morning meeting our new little man, we celebrated Easter with Rowan today by sending him on an Easter egg hunt! So much fun!! We gave him his little basket and a Peeps chick to chew on, {he only took a couple bites of the Peeps and then got upset cuz it was sticking to his hand. Then we sent him out the door in search of colorful eggs, hidden in pretty plain sight, all over the back yard. Even as obvious as the eggs were, it took a little pointing in the right direction to keep Cubbie on track.  But he was excited with each one he found and carefully placed them in his basket one by one.  He's so organized!

At the end of the hunt, we gave Rowan his grand prize, an orange soccer ball, which we've been dying to give him ever since I picked it up from Target a week ago, but managed to keep out of his grubby little hands until today. OMG!  He LOVES that ball!

Happy {early}Easter, Rowan!

Did I mention that Grandma is here too?  My mom came down at the beginning of this week {we were hoping the new baby would be on time}, and Rowan's been having a blast with her as well as enjoying her cooking ;)

With three pairs of hands and no baby yet, we have been able to accomplish some much needed work on the house, so stay tuned for some updates there.

Thanks for helping us out Grandma!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Past Due

Well.... It looks like little Trouble isn't as punctual as his big brother. Today was supposed to be the day, but we all know due dates aren't very accurate. I'm just a little concerned that he's planning on growing {as in getting BIGGER}in there for another week :/ I did have a scheduled Dr's appointment today. The Dr. Checked my cervix- only 1 cm dilated! Ack! She also said she could scrape my cervical membrane to help promote labor. I asked her if that would hurt an she said it would be like an aggressive cervical exam. Ummm...OW! Yes, it hurt! but other than that user uncomfortable scrape, everything is still good. Good heartbeat. Good size. So I guess he's just meant to stew in there a bit longer. The Dr. Didn't recommend inducing until at least a week after the due date. But I'm impatient so we scheduled for next Sunday {okay, it's just one day, but I can't imagine even waiting THAT long}. So that's the update. We'll be waiting!
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