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A Year of Home: The Outside

Hey there, friend. Welcome to part two of this post! If you missed part 1, feel free to hop back a post and check out A Year of Home: The Inside. Or don’t. I’m not going to tell you how to live your life.

Seeing as we moved into our Sage Bungalow around the first of last year, it’s understandable that our primary focus was on the interior of the house. Even if the weather hadn’t been cold and the ground hard, the previous owners hadn’t kept up with their raking, causing a seemingly-impenetrable layer of frozen leaves and pine needles to encase the ground. Since there wasn’t much that we could do to the outside until everything thawed, we just pretended that it didn’t exist and waited until spring to attack our new outdoors.

But once it did thaw? Boy howdy, did we attack. Our eyes might have teared up and our hearts swelled with pride every time we looked upon our new little home, but those were some pretty fucking rose-colored glasses we were wearing. The reality is that the exterior of our house was drab, tired, and completely void of any personality whatsoever. So as soon as it was warm enough for the ground to thaw, we took to spending all our free time outside, making it ours.

And I don’t want to brag, (too late,) but our efforts? Totally worth it.

 

The very first thing we did, before spring, even, was hang new house numbers. This might seem like a tiny change, hardly worth mentioning, but for us, it was huge. This was the first visible personalization that we made to our house, a tiny way of saying, “Hey, we live here now, and this is who we are,” to the world as it drove by. Those house numbers, along with the staggered- shingles style of our siding, also set the tone for the rest of our exterior decorating. I chose the number plate, with it’s beautiful shiny treated-copper numbers and patinaed untreated-copper background, while Kyle stained the backing-board a lovely dark chocolate brown. (Which he would later rip down and re-stain to match the stain of our DIY shutters. What can I say, we’re perfectionists.)

Our first big project for the exterior of our house was the landscaping in front of the house. The original design of the landscaping when we first moved in was…well, there wasn’t any. There were four different bushes, one of each, lined up in front of the porch, as if they’d just gone to a nursery and gotten one of whatever was in the discount bin. There was nothing architectural framing the bushes, and since it was winter, half of them looked dead. It looked unintentional and uninspired, and it had to go.

So in late spring, when the ground had finally thawed and the weather warmed, we ripped it all out. Well, most of it. We did keep one holly bush, because Kyle took a fancy to it and I was okay with it because it was an evergreen. (It’s winter for half the year here, people, I don’t want my house looking like shit for half my life.) We bought a second holly and a quartet of Mediterranean heather, which I’d set my heart on after hearing about its love for acidic soil and hardiness in frigid winters. (And who am I kidding, its romantic blush of purple blooms, which I thought brought out the green in our siding.) Red mulch, which played off both the green of the holly and the purple of the heather, finished off our little garden.

And that’s where we figured the project would end. I mean, we wanted to lay down rocks or bricks or something to edge the plantings, but it was going to be pretty expensive. (And I mean, we had just bought a house.) So we figured we’d just do our planting, lay down some mulch, and wait a while until we had a little more spending money to do our edging.

Then Kyle stuck his shovel into the dirt to dig out a dead ugly bush and hit a rock, one that once we dug it out, looked exactly like the fieldstone that comprises the retaining wall framing our driveway. Another shovelful produced another rock, and another, and before long we had a whole pile of fieldstone, enough to edge our entire box! And I gotta say, we may have chosen this material for its price (free), but I adore the way that the fieldstone cohesively goes right from lining our shrubbery into the retaining wall. It makes it look purposeful (and not like we dug them out of the yard!)

There were even enough rocks left over that Kyle was able to embed them into the soil at the bottom of our deck stairs, making a little landing pad!

 

Next on the list was to repaint the stair railing on our porch. Not only was it rusted to hell, with paint flaking like dandruff, but the black just didn’t make sense when it was framing a white pillar. Luckily, this was an easy project. All it took was some meticulous masking…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…a healthy dose of personal protection…

 

…and about 7,000 misted layers of white spray paint.

 

And did I mention patience?

But what a difference it made! More than I gave the idea credit when Kyle first pitched it to me. But painting that hand railing white brightened up the front of our house immensely, and I’m really proud of the way it turned out. It’s one of my favorites of all the projects I’ve done on the house, because it took only a little bit of work and had a huge payoff!

 

Painting the railing may have been my pet project, but nursing the lawn back to health? That’s Kyle’s baby. As spring came and we cleared away the layers of debris, it became clear that there had been no lush green lawn lying dormant under the snow. There was dead growth and weirdly sandy soil. But Kyle is a stubborn man, and it became his sole purpose in life to get grass to grown in our yard.

Which, we learned, is weirdly hard. Who would have thought it’s so difficult to grow grass? I mean, the shit grows between the sidewalk, shouldn’t it grow like crazy in our dirt? (The answer was no.)  We probably could have gotten grass more quickly if we’d sodded, but have you priced out sod? That shit is expensive! Not to mention the fact that there’s no guarantee that the sod will take, meaning that you could spend an ass-ton of money and still have patchy, brown grass. No, Kyle was steadfast in his determination to make grass grown the old fashion way: from seeds.

Even if it killed him.

There was a lot of raking. A looooooooot of raking. Raking debris out, raking seeds in, raking for what I’m pretty sure is no other reason than he likes raking. (Not true.) Two cubic yards of topsoil that were spread throughout both our front and back yard, which is a weird unit of measurement, but I assure you, is an absurd amount of dirt. Kyle seeded multiple times and fed the lawn over and over with different nutrients. And the watering. Religious and continuous watering. He put a lot of work into that lawn.

And while (much to his disappointment) our lawn still can’t quite compete with that of our neighbor across the street with the in-ground sprinkler system and twice-a-week mowings, I think still think it looks pretty damn amazing compared to where we started. I could not be more proud of all the hard work Kyle’s done on our grass, and I think it goes a long way towards making the house look loved and cared for.

By far, the project with the biggest visual impact on the exterior of our house (and the one I’m most proud of!) has been our new shutters. I hated our old ones from the moment we moved in. The same vinyl louvered shutters that everyone else in the whole fucking neighborhood has on their house, ours came in the only color that Home Depot stocks in stores: lifeless black. To add insult to unoriginal injury, the house right next door to us has that exact same color siding and had the exact same color shutters. If it weren’t for the landscaping, you wouldn’t even be able to tell them apart. It bothered me to no end that not only was our house identical to the one next door, but they shared the same severe, dull look.

Which is boring. Which is not okay.

The problem is that we knew what we wanted, and (do you notice a theme here?) what we wanted was expensive. We had our hearts set on board-and-batten shutters, which for some inexplicable reason are the fucking Rolls Royce of shutters. (Seriously, someone explain to me why they are twice the price of louvered or raised panel shutters. I don’t understand it.) So once again, we were resigned to put the project into that distant future named “someday.”

Until Kyle saw a ridiculous sale on cedar fence boards, and we said, “Fuck it, we’ll make our own.”

Over the course of a couple days Kyle cut the boards, I stained them, and together, we assembled them into lovely board-and-batten shutters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time they went up, I thought they were more charming than any of the expensive ones we’d priced out, and more than a little of their beauty came from the pride that we’d made them ourselves. They’re not just one-of-a-kind because no one else in the neighborhood has wooden board-and-batten shutters; they’re one-of-a-kind because they’re the only set made by us, together, in existence, and that makes them special.

Our little Sage Bungalow has come a long way in the last year. When we first moved in, it looked stodgy, tired, and banal, as if the person tending to it previously cared only for filling check-boxes as quickly and cheaply as possible.

Now, I think it looks more than just unique; now it looks uniquely ours. But even more importantly, I hope to the world it looks charming and warm, like it’s full of laughter and friends. I hope it looks like people live there who are interesting and fun, the sort of people who would love to have you over to play original Sonic the Hedgehog and drink beer, who will make you fried chicken and then sit with you long into the night on their deck and talk by the light of a torch, the sort of people you’d like to know. I hope it looks like a house full of love.

Because it is.

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A Year of Home: The Inside

December 29th officially marked one year since we first moved into our Sage Bungalow. Or as we call it, our little house. A whole year of living, of laughing, of hoping and dreaming. Eating and sleeping and studying and playing and drinking and fucking and working and cleaning, and all the things that people do in their safe place, away from the eyes and insecurities of the outside world. Oh, and there’s also been projects. Endless, endless projects. It may have the same floor plan as a quarter of the houses in our neighborhood, but a year later, the Sage Bungalow could belong to no one but us.

 

We’ve made it ours.

 

 

 

 

The Living Room and Kitchen

The living room has remained relatively untouched, save some interior decorating. (Good start, Stephanie, way to live up to your own hype right out of the gate…) But we’ve got a really good reason for that. (Trust me, I wouldn’t continue to force myself to live within the world’s beige-est walls without a good reason.)

 It’s because of the kitchen. The kitchen is also more-or-less it’s original (and not our personal taste) decor. We installed the under-cabinet lighting, which has made for a much more functional work space. (Also, I’m a sucker for architectural lighting!) The addition of a rolling kitchen island has doubled our usable prep space, and the garbage disposal Kyle installed has made washing pots significantly less gross. Oh, and we installed all the of cabinet hardware, which we found in the garage in a ziploc baggie but for some weird reason the previous owners had never bothered to install.  But all of these little additions have been minor, and while they’ve done gobs to make the space more functional, they’ve done little to pretty up the place.

And believe me, the kitchen is definitely slated for a makeover; the cabinets are okay, but the fake-tile linoleum and faux-granite counters have got to go.  But kitchens are fucking expensive, and Kyle and I have no intention of cheaping out on our dream kitchen; Kyle’s already announced that can’t have a budget for our stove, and the counter tops I have my heart set on ain’t cheap either.  If that means that we need to wait a couple extra years in order to afford the kitchen that we want, so be it; I’d rather wait 10 years to redo our kitchen exactly as we want it than get a shitty one right away. So if that means embracing contractor-grade cabinets and ugly laminate counters while we save up the money, I can make it work. After all, the food will be tasty out of any kitchen Kyle and I are in!

I suppose I can mention that there has been one semi-major addition to our kitchen/dining/living room: our aquarium! Both the tank and the stand were castoffs from my parents, and while the tank took little more than cleaning and some new caulk in the corners, the stand took a lot of work. It was in good shape, but it was stained…walnut? Deep brown, but with some orange undertones? It was pretty, but didn’t go with the rest of our decor even a tiny bit. So I sanded the stand down and gave it a coat of semi-satin black, to match the wood trim of the rest of our furniture. I’m pretty damn proud of how it turned out, and now it’s a perfect home for our menagerie of tetras! (And one cory catfish. And their upstairs neighbors, the marimo moss balls.)

So the main living area may not have seen much in the way of personalizations beyond the fishies, but the three bedrooms are a different story. If there’s one word that describes the transformation the bedrooms have gone through, it’s this: paint.

 

 

Soooo much paint. All the paint. So much paint that I actually donked up my shoulder when we first moved in from all the sanding and painting. But it’s been beyond worth it.

 

The Office

Our office was first. You may remember that when we first moved in, this room was referred to as “the giraffe room” because it was bright fucking orange and featured a picture of a giraffe on one wall. (Which, luckily, turned out to be a decal sticker; otherwise, I think I’d still be there trying to prime over it!) And while I love bright and vivid color, this was the singular room that couldn’t be a bright color; so much of our work involves how light interacts with color, and there’s no way having bright orange walls wouldn’t fuck with our eyes. So our office went a soft neutral gray.

The Bedroom

Our bedroom was next, not because the beige was particularly painful (other than the fact that beige is inherantly painful,) but because we knew that we would be buying all brand-new furniture a few weeks after we moved in, and this was our one chance to paint without having to take all that shit back out. We chose an aquamarine that some might call “jarring” or “obnoxious,” but I call “vibrant” and “striking.”

There was also one other fun little addition to our bedroom: a ceiling fan! Easy-peasy little project, especially once Kyle figured out that maybe my suggestion that he wear eye-protection and a dust-mask was a good idea after all. (Funny, that.) Kyle loves it because he can’t sleep without a fan, and I love it because I no longer whang my toe trying to walk through the dark room to turn on a lamp!

 

 

The Guest Room

The guest room came a few months later. I suppose this room didn’t need to be painted as early as it did; after all, how often do we have guests? (Also, guests who get a free room instead of a $400/night hotel room tend not to complain about things like the color of the walls…) But since I use the dresser and mirror in the guest room as my vanity, I see it every morning, and seeing it in its nondescript state made me sad. Besides, despite what everyone since…ever…has taught us, white doesn’t always make things look bigger; in fact, the all-white walls meant that the ceiling blended in with the walls, which made it feel like the room was going to close in on me. So the guest room became a lovely lavender/periwinkle color that looks bluer in the daylight and more purple under warm lamp light. My dresser/vanity also received a makeover, since, like I said, bland things make me sad.

 

The Bathroom

The bathroom, beyond the addition of our accessories and my painting the shelf, doesn’t appear to had any changes made to it. That is, it doesn’t look like we’ve done anything in the bathroom, when in actuality a whole metric ass-ton of work was done in there, thanks to a pipe rusting out and raining water down the back of our vanity and through the ceiling of our laundry room in the basement. At midnight. Ten hours before we had to be at work for a 16 hour day. 36 hours before we had family coming into town for Thanksgiving.

Yeah, it was awesome.

Kyle ended up taking a personal day and spending the entirety of it replacing a good half of the plumbing in the house. Miraculously, he was able to get the entire thing plumbed and the wall closed back up in a single day, and we were able to clean up that night. We may not have gotten much sleep before family rolled into town, but had we not told them, they never would have known that 24 hours before, the vanity was in the hallway and the toilet was in the bathtub!

We’re still planning on redoing the bathroom, hopefully sometime this winter. We want to replace the vanity with something that doesn’t look like it was purchased from the as-is section, and replace the flooring (even though I love those tiles) with something that doesn’t involve so much grout that refuses to come clean. And, of course, paint!

The Basement

The basement hasn’t gotten much in the way of changes. Even though we’ll probably replace the carpeting at some point in the future, there’s one thing we’ll never change: the wall color! From the moment I laid eyes on those turquoise walls, I fell in love with them, and I have no intention of ever getting rid of them. Probably the biggest change to the basement (besides the initial addition of furniture) is our bar. That’s right, a real grownup bar! That contains more than just handles of mid-level rum! My favorite part is most definitely the lighting that we added inside the bar. (Duh.)

 

The Garage

But by far, the most dramatic change to the interior of the house has been in the garage. When we first moved in, the walls had drywall hung, but not finished in any conceivable way. There was only one outlet in the whole garage, and the only light was the one in the garage door-opener. For two people who are as into projects and tinkering as we are, this was not going to fly.

The first thing that happened in the garage was Kyle mudded and sanded the drywall. Which, god bless him, is quite possibly one of the shittiest jobs a person can have to do in a house. Once that was done, that left me to put two coats of white on all the walls and the ceiling. (Plus a little splash of color for my work space!)

After that, it was time for electrical work. Together, (you didn’t really think we’d hire an electrician, did you? The only dirtier word in our house is “contractor,”) we installed four more electrical outlets and four bright-as-fuck LED lights. Seriously, those things are so bright that if you’re in there late, you have no idea that it’s night. More than once, Kyle’s accidentally stayed up until 4am, working on projects, because he lost track of what time it was. So yeah, fuckers are bright.

 

Sometimes I worry about the choices we’ve made for our little house. How they’ll affect resale value someday. If guests will feel welcome and comfortable in the guest room. If people walk around our house thinking, “Christ on a cracker, what acid trip did that color fall out of? Talk about no taste!”

But then you know what I think? Fuck other people and their (admittedly, probably imagined) opinions. This house is ours, and we love it. Our friends feel comfortable here. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. And that’s all that matters.

Stay tuned for next time, where I tell you all about the fun things we did to the outside of our house and all the ways I got into more trouble with paint.

(Kidding, our house is still greenish-tan. Or is it…)

(It is.)

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It was time to re-dye my hair, and I was completely over turquoise.

Not totally true. I still love my turquoise hair. Adore it.  I call it my mermaid hair. But I was not in love with having it this time of year, because much of my winter clothes are also turquoise. I don’t like doing the matchy-matchy thing, partially because I feel like wearing the same color as my hair turns me into a monochromatic blob, but also because, as previously discussed, if I wear something even remotely close to the same color as my hair, fifty-thousand assholes who think they’re clever will point out that I match. Don’t think I’m serious? I hate the matching comments so much that I will no longer buy clothes in anything resembling turquoise or purple, just in case. So while I was still thoroughly enamored with my mermaid hair, I have winter dresses that I’d like to wear again someday.

The turquoise had to go.

Originally my plan was to go back to purple. I still love my turquoise, I love my purple, I just wanted to them to be on my head during opposite seasons. But then Kyle, being ever the contrarian, suggested blue. And predictably, I immediately latched onto the idea. I can’t help myself, I’ll always be attracted to a newer and shinier color. Not that blue is an entirely brand new color; I’ve been blue before. But it had been almost two years since I’d seen my blue-headed self, which was much longer ago than the mere four months since I’d been purple. Besides, I liked being blue during the winter; the way that it faded into icy blues and silvers made me feel like a snow queen!

And so I set my heart on blue. Unfortunately, I found my previous shade of blue (After Midnight) to be no easier to source than my purple was! I probably should have just given up and ordered it straight from Manic Panic just like I do my purple, but when you’re tired and pissed off and standing in the middle of a Hot Topic surrounded by teenage emo “scene” kids, sometimes you make rash decisions. Staring at a bottle of Rockabilly Blue, I vaguely remembered when Manic Panic developed that color and hearing them tout that it was their most potent blue ever. Well, as someone who is all about saturated colors, that couldn’t be bad, right? That just meant that my hair would be even blue-er, right? Seemed reasonable enough.

Time to try this new blue.

The first mildly red flag was during the dye process. Kyle mentioned that the consistency of the dye was much thinner than any of the other dyes we’ve used. This is not necessarily bad; after all, each color has a little different level of viscosity. It just surprised me, considering this was supposed to be their “most saturated blue ever.” But no matter. Blue-ward, ho!

Six hours later, we completed the dying ritual as we always do. I stood in the shower, bent backwards with eyes screwed shut, while Kyle poured diluted vinegar on my head. He turned the water on for me, as always, and I kept my eyes tightly closed, since despite his careful pour, vinegar has a way of creeping into my eyes and hurting like a motherfucker. A couple of minutes vigorously rubbing my scalp and squeezing my hair, and I was finally confident that my eyeballs were safe. I opened them for the first time. And screamed.

It was like someone stabbed a motherfucking smurf. And then used a chainsaw to dismember the smurfy little corpse.

Blue. Everything was blue. Now, I’m used to a certain amount of splash; it’s kinda the nature of the beast to see whatever color is going on my head also speckled on the walls and swirling in the tub. It cleans up pretty quickly, no big. But this was not the normal amount of splash. Blue on the walls, the tub, the shower curtain, my hands, my chest, running down the side of my legs and staining my toes. My hands were purple, for shit’s sake! Everywhere I looked, I saw blue.

Luckily, the tub and walls cleaned up easily. (Because otherwise, I’m pretty sure Kyle would have actually murdered me.) And despite the shocking amount of staining in the shower, it’s actually not entirely outside the realm of normality for there to be some leaching immediately after dying. After all, last time I went blue it was not uncommon to see a slight tinge of blue on my fingernails for a week or so after first dye. No big deal, I just made sure that whatever nail polish I wore looked nice with blue. Look, now they’re just ombre! I mean, sure, my hands were purple for what felt like a little longer than usual. And the fact that my neck remained stubbornly azure for a solid week was…not my usual experience. But even though the blue-splosion was pretty shocking and the cerulean stack of evidence was piling up, I still wasn’t totally convinced that there was any reason to panic. It’s just a really potent blue, right?

That’s what I thought. Until I started seeing blue everywhere. Slight tinges of pale blue so faint that at first you almost think that it’s the light playing tricks on your eyes. Until you realize that it’s e-ver-ry-where.

On my sunglasses…

 

 

 

 

 

my earbuds…

the fur of my coat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then, on places that don’t even come into contact with my hair!

My phone…

 

 

 

 

and the handle of my toothbrush!

Luckily the blue-bleeding hasn’t ruined anything that I really care about. (In that the things it’s probably ruined I don’t really care about, and the things that I care about it hasn’t really ruined.) So far it’s stabilized at a  humorous levels of bluing up my world, but there’s no longer any denying that there is definitely something up with Rockabilly Blue. A perusal of the interwebs has informed me that this is a thing, that many other people have had the same issues that I have, so at least I know that it’s not just bad luck or poor dye technique. And I really do like the finished color on my head.

I just wish it would stay there!

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I love…

Lilies

…all the flowers on our lilies

(that I didn’t even know were

going  to bloom!)

 

 

 

Zest…the way my hands smell after zesting citrus.

 

 

 

 

 

…a quiet morning on the back porch Morning on the Porchwhen the air is just a bit brisk.

 

 

 

 

 

…all my favorite people in one place.

 

Favorite People

 

 

 

 

 

 

…surprise wildflowers.

 

Wildflowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…how much Kyle loves his new FPV rig for his quadcoptor.

 

FPV

 

 

 

 

 

…the way my tomatoes smell just picked.

 

Tomatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…when Allyse sits like a people.

 

Allyse is people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…the hens & chicks from a cutting off of my grandmother’s plant.

 

Hens & Chicks

 

 

 

 

 

…any day spent at the track.

 

Track

 

 

 

 

 

…this guy.

 

Kyle

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