Apr 24, 2011

The Landscape Plan - 2011

Why the lull in posting? Well, Mexico trumped the snow. We spent the last 9 days in Cabo. I had full intentions to post while I was away but alas I was a slave to the beach, the poolside bar and chips and guacamole...

I had plenty of time to reflect while on vacay and I've come to realize that DIY happens not necessarily as a result of genuine interest but under the guise of the following (nearly daily) conversation:

Me: "We got the quote - take a look"
Hubby: "Are they &***%% kidding? We could do that for a fraction of the cost ourselves. How hard can it be to [insert multitude of projects]?"

I get that some things require skill and years of experience but a lot of home improvements require labour and in the case of landscaping - a bobcat.

Our plan for this year is part aesthetic, part safety and a whole bunch of catching up on lack maintenance. So unfortunately for me and some readers out there, there will be some boring crack fixing/sealing posts. I'll keep them short - promise.

We have had, I swear, over a dozen different landscapers/concrete guys / paver guys / grass repair guys and tree removal guys looking at the yard over the last few months. All have provided us with competitive yet astronomical landscape quotes that have made our jaws drop (usually over the 30k mark). These are quotes for our overall landscape plan which includes labour & materials for a new fence, removal of weed infested lawn, regrading of yard away from the house, new sod, concrete front walkway, front step and back concrete patio with concrete wall. We are phasing this work as follows:

Year 1:
  • concrete walkway and step (front yard)
  • re sodding and regrading of front and back yard
  • new fence
  • perennial gardens in front & back

Front walkway and our 'half' step up to the front porch.

Year 2:
  • Concrete patio and concrete wall in back yard
Our dream patio concrete pavers - these apparently don't exist in Calgary. Only in glossy landscape magazines.

  • removal of vinyl siding and paint house
  • planting some large trees
We fell in love with this French Blue Scotch Pine at Greengate today. It's about 15 years old and 8 feel tall and would look perfect in the front yard. We're still recovering from losing our 18 year old bonsai so she'll have to wait until next year.

Year 3:
Wood soffits to replace vinyl - I like these.

After a scrutinous review of all of these various landscaping companies, Hubs and I decided that for this year's work, all we really need is a guy who owns a bobcat and some helpful friends and family. Yesterday we finally met with a guy who can help us to meet our Year 1 goals. He owns a bobcat and works in part for beer and cookies. (I make a mean peanut butter cookie).

Herewith our grossly ambitious plans for the yard:

May: (crunch month - which has to happen so we can move the veggie garden beds out to their new space and plant by the May long weekend)

a. Tree stump removal - we removed a ton of sickly trees and bushes last year and now have the clearcut remains to prove it. They have to be removed for regrading.

b. Sod removal, regrading and back patio prep - Bobcat Guy is going to come in for a weekend to skim off the bad soil, properly grade the front and back so water is NOT running to the house (current state), and prep for ground for the patio. Apparently BG is going to dig our postholes for the fence too. To save on the high cost of a new fancy concrete patio like the one above, we are re-using the existing concrete patio pavers and have skimmed from the front and side walkway pavers to extend the existing patio out an extra 8 feet.

c. Back Patio - Hubs
Patio as of yesterday morning.

After we hacked apart the pathways. Hubs built this patio as a trial to make sure we had enough pavers.

Front walkway sans pavers

c. Resodding - me/hubs/kids (how hard can it be to roll out grass?)

d. Fence - Hubs + whoever we can coax to help + me taking the kids out of the house so they can get it done
Inspiration for the fence. And here.

e. Setting up the vegetable garden beds - me


a. Concrete walkway and front step in front yard - some local concrete guy

b. Perennial bed planting in front and back - I'm pulling together a plant plan - will post shortly. Keeping it all xeric and not going to stray at all from Zone 3a as I have been reduced to a novice with the nutty weather and elevation conditions out here.

c. Sandbox - hubby - We love the idea of bringing play into our landscape design so we're integrating a sandbox into the garden, a slide on the slopes with ropes to climb up.

Sandbox plan in upper right. Ropes tied into postholes filled into concrete will be integrated into slope. We first thought to put a slide right on the slope but concluded it would quickly become a slide for sand and toys onto the patio.

Stampede and mojitos in our new urban oasis


Apr 6, 2011

Office De-cluttering

I work from home. Which has both strengths and weaknesses. On the plus side, I'm only one flight of stairs away from my office. On the weak side, I'm only one door away from squealing kidlets. Kids are tempting too. They are always doing something waaaaay more interesting than what I'm doing at work. Macaroni art vs. proposal budget... Hmmm. Better go check to make sure Nanny is using the correctly shaped dry pasta.

I do love my office space, though. It's spacious with tons of potential. And by 'potential' I do mean potential to be something no office on the face of this planet - messy, cluttered and disorganized.

For that reason, I hired Calgary-based J'organizing, owned by Jennifer Zagorsky. Jennifer is a charming Certified Professional Organizer who recently opened her own business. She met with me and my messy partner in crime for a free consultation to decide how best to organize my space. We set a date and she immediately tasked me to pick up a few shelving pieces to kick start the organization.

In my defense, I am actually not terrible at organizing. I own my own label maker and have properly labelled boxes and jars throughout the house. For some reason, though, I've been completely stumped by the office. I also recently hired a Research Assistant that was to start shortly in the space. I had no choice but to get more organized.

Pre-organization - not too shabby...

The way Jennifer structures her consultations is to work directly with the client for however long it takes to weed through your stuff. My mom was in town so there was an entire fleet of us to help out with the pitching and reorganizing.

Below are some before & afters...

Before: One of the first questions she asked when she came into the room was how long I've had that dead bonsai in my office. I told her it was just 'winterizing'. And for those wondering, that is breadbox on the table. A gift from my bestie but didn't fit in my kitchen. Now re purposedfor printer paper.

After: Same view but now with shelving.

Camera collection and Chinese domino set I bought at a Northwest Coast Native art auction (left).

Closet Before: Chaos.

Closet After: We moved everything accessed on a regular basis out of this closet and into baskets in the new Expedit shelf from Ikea featured in above images.

Before: The ever so functional 'floor' shelving method

After: Printers contained

Before: The junk storage table.

After: Zen organization...

Now just need some finishing touches:

Wallpaper and a rug.

I'm in love with black wallpaper right now. Ferm Living

Apr 2, 2011

El Pinko V. 2

Version 2 came as a result of two factors.

1. Price - a substantial portion of the El Pinko budget was allocated to wall tile.

2. Girly factor - although impossible to avoid the feminine qualities of El Pinko, V. 1 amplified it a tad too much. Hubby already lives in a house with 3 girls. He doesn't need to be reminded of it in the bathroom too.

The revised version is more neutral and modern and doesn't compete with the pink fixtures like the last version.

Floors will be a charcoal grey matte penny tile by American Olean (with dark gray grout) from Deerfoot Carpet & Flooring.

Colour of the floor tile.

Walls will be subway tile wainscoting around the entire walls, accented with this glass tile. It's difficult to capture with the camera, but it's a mix of clear and opaque white glass. We found it at City Tile downtown. No idea who makes it. Disguised by secret coding. Sneaky.

The rest of the bathroom is the same as before.

We have decided after countless overpriced quotes and MIA contractors that this one should be simple enough to manage on our own. We need a tiler, a plumber, and have found a really cool local guy who knows how to make recycled glass countertops. He's going to build us a new vanity as well.

Now to pray to the Reno Gods that we make it through the rest of the winter melt unscathed.