Before & After: All Fenced In

Last time I blogged, I rambled about the mundane tasks that go along with homeownership, but our list of to-do’s didn’t stop there. We had been ignoring our weed-filled brick path for months, so we finally set aside a Saturday to deal with it.

This meant lifting all of the bricks, putting down weed killer, chiseling bricks that didn’t fit the edges, and filling the gaps with sand.

When Pete took charge chiseling, I weeded, trimmed the bushes, and spray painted the lattice he built for the front of our house.

Then after that, around 6 p.m., we realized we had one last fence to remove in preparation for our new fence install. This bad boy:

About 5 hours later, this happened (doesn’t he look thrilled?):

Except it was still dark out, so we had to take an “after” shot of the concrete post in the morning. Our neighbors, who were having a birthday party in their backyard at the time, cheered us on as we finally pulled the fence post out in a state of exhausted hysteria. We thought that was the worst of it, since the other two posts we dug up weren’t so bad, but there was another post just like this one. So that’s what we ended up doing with our weeknights.

I think it was all worth it, since now we can take Betty White outside with the utmost laziness. Plus it just looks prettier.

Here are a ton of “after” shots of the yard with the fence. Harold, our lawn gnome, quickly got used to his new digs.

I felt the need to document Betty White’s first fenced-in bathroom break, but left out the photos of her going #2 (you’re welcome).

We’re pretty smitten with how good our backyard smells right now with all of the fresh cedar. It’s kind of crazy that we’ll be getting hitched back there in a little over a month.

Homeownershit: Before & After

Part of being a homeowner means when your friends ask what you did last weekend, you begin to cringe at how ordinary your life sounds when you say it out loud. “I spent the entire weekend sweating outside while trying to improve our home instead of going to the shore.” Despite how that might be interpreted by peers, I am surprised at how much fun I have working with Pete on our home in less than ideal conditions (100+ degree weather).

One of the tasks on our to-do list was getting an affordable rain barrel (thank you, Craigslist) and putting our wasted water to work. This project isn’t quite over since the barrel still needs another coat of spray paint, but at least it’s functional. I need to take a break from spray painting for a while though, or at least until forest green nose hairs come into fashion.

Every time I take Betty White outside, I am reminded that our bilco doors are a rusty, hot mess. It has been driving. me. crazy. since we moved in a year ago. It was a simple fix, but one I just never seemed to get around to — spraying the doors with metal primer and then painting the doors with exterior Rust-Oleum.

Our shed. Dear god, our shed. This might be the ugliest eyesore on the planet, but we are stuck with it until we can afford a new one. Between the peeling door and cracked paint on the window frames, the opportunities for lead poisoning were boundless. Not to mention the green gunk that is still begging to be pressure washed.

There’s really no way to fix this thing without renting a bulldozer, but we made an attempt. Pete secured the door with a new latch and we sanded and painted the door and window frames. If you’re curious, our grass is recovering from weed killer, thus the sad brown spots.

We’re getting a fence installed in a few weeks, but we wanted to keep these trees for added privacy:

The contractor asked that we trim the trees back for up to six feet so they wouldn’t be putting any weight on the fence. Most of those branches were low-hanging and half-dead, so it was an excuse to get some more yardwork out of the way. Probably not the best activity to perform in sweltering weather, but we entertained ourselves by putting lawn bags over our heads and chasing each other with branch lassos. Pretty sure our neighbors think we’re cray cray now, if they didn’t already.

Are any of you working on DIY projects or home repairs that are consuming your free time and making you feel like a total grown-up?

{DIY} Homebrew Attempt #3

wedding wheat

Our third homebrew (thus the “003”), a Kobayashi Wheat with Sorachi Ace, has been labeled and sealed as one of our wedding favors.

wedding wheat

Pete designed the labels, which we printed on Kraft sheets from Paper Source (cue angels singing — that place is amazing).

wedding wheat

We decided to incorporate one of our wedding colors by dripping yellow wax down the bottles, Maker’s Mark-style.

wedding wheat

With a makeshift double-boiler (an aluminum can inside of a pot), we melted batches of wax beads.

wedding wheat

Emma Stone stared at us from the newspaper as we took turns dipping the bottles in the wax (c’mon girl, no one believes you wear Colorburst).

wedding wheat

We cracked open our first one last night and it tasted like beer to me (in that I didn’t like it), so I deem it a success. We’ll probably keep a few extras for upcoming anniversaries…hopefully by then we’ll have a few more homebrews under our belts.

Summer Hiatus: I’ve Missed You

It’s been over a month since I’ve posted on here, so let me just say that I’m impressed you’re still reading. I apologize for the silence on my end, but things have been a bit busy as of late. When I’m not working at my full-time job at Generocity, I’m tackling absurd amounts of yard work with Pete, shooting weddings on the weekends, processing photos, or planning our own backyard wedding.

I haven’t had a chance to share our engagement shoot with you guys, so here are some of our favorites by Morrissey Photo. Even though I’d rather be behind the lens any day, it was really easy to be ourselves in front of them since they’re two of the nicest people on. the. planet. Thanks again to Matt and Lauren for following us around the Love Letter murals in Philadelphia, you guys are the bestest.


Images by Morrissey Photo

In other wedding planning news, we sent our invites out to our parents and siblings. I had a lot of fun working on these with Pete — I made the illustration for the back and Pete designed the front (I contributed the talk bubbles with our initials). It’s been really nice having this whole wedding planning thing be a collaborative effort while crossing tasks off our to-do list.

wedding invite

wedding invite

wedding invite

Not that it’s as thrilling as envelope liners and photos of the Ginger, but I’ve been posting more actively on my photography blog, if you want to give it a look-see every week or so.

{DIY} Homemade Strawberry Jam Favors

Pete and I have been watching a lot of food documentaries on Netflix as of late, and afterwards, we were excited to shop locally and go to our neighborhood farmers’ market for the first time. We figured since strawberries are in season, now would be a good time to test a recipe for our jam favors.

homemade jamIf you’re interested in canning, I would recommend our friend Marisa’s book, Food in Jars. We used the Quick Strawberry Jam recipe from this book, which we doubled to make about 8 cups.

homemade jam

The recipe is fast and easy — first you just have to combine sugar and Pomona’s Universal Pectin in a bowl. Then, place the strawberries in a saucepan and crush them with a potato masher.

homemade jam

Start to bring the berries to a boil and then stir in calcium water (the recipe is included in the Pomona box) and lemon juice. Afterwards, you slowly pour in the sugar pectin mixture and stir to dissolve.

homemade jam

Return the berries to a boil and stir to ensure that the mixture is heated thoroughly. Then, remove from the heat and let them rest for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to release air bubbles, and skim off any foam.

strawberries

For the final step, ladle the mixture into clean, hot half-pint canning jars, leave 1/4 inch of headspace, and release the trapped air. Once you wipe the rims clean, you just have to screw on the jar bands and process them for 10 minutes.

strawberries

Then, turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, and let the jars rest in hot water for 5 minutes.

canning

One of the jars didn’t seal entirely, so we were able to test the jam to see if it was wedding-worthy. It turned out pretty delicious — we’re excited to add some blackberry and raspberry jams to the mix for our favors in the next month or so.

strawberries

We’re definitely hooked on going to the farmers’ market for fresh produce, so we’re looking forward to visiting on Saturday mornings to see what’s new in season.

canned jam

I’m glad this batch came out much better than the failed peach ginger recipe. We plan to add a homemade label and decorate the lid with twine and fabric (I blame Pinterest for our surge of craftiness).

jam noms

My latest morning ritual now includes eating jam on a bagel while devouring a ginormous chocolate-covered strawberry, courtesy of our friends Valerie and Daryl for my birthday. Apparently one of the perks of growing old is being treated to such delights. It is awesome.

birthday flowers

Pete spoiled me for my birthday by surprising me with a dog card from my favorite art boutique in Philly, beautiful flowers, and tons of amazing food (if you haven’t noticed, food is the way to my heart).

birthday flowers

We’ve been checking a lot of tasks off our growing to-do list, including making our latest homebrew, so bear with me as I overshare our wedding plans.

Has anyone else tried making homemade jam? If not, you should definitely test it out, it’s fun and pretty inexpensive in the long run.

{A Laid Back, Labor Day Menu}

Apart from the whole committing-to-a-lifetime-with-your-soul-mate thing, one of the best parts of getting married is, in fact, the food. We’re really lucky to have found our neighbors at Joshua’s Catering, a green company that is known for their local, seasonal, and organic ingredients. We’ll be adding some flavors of our own by making our own pumpkin whoopie pies, which we tested out last week and Pete’s family approved. We’re also going to be brewing a summer beer (TBD) and canning homemade berry jams for our family as favors.

I figured now would be an appropriate time to share our full menu. It’s an alternative twist on a Labor Day picnic, with locally farmed, grass-fed, organic meats. We’re not having a traditional wedding cake, instead we wanted to have a trio of desserts. Each guest will be served a watermelon gazpacho, whoopie pie, and last but not least, banana crème brûlée—a slight nod to my brother, who is a fan of banana-flavored desserts and was kind enough to approve of us getting married on his birthday.

Starters

  • Grass-fed beef  sliders with caramelized onions and Gruyère cheese
  • Endive and goat cheese with dried cranberries and reduced balsamic vinegar
  • Gazpacho shooter with blackened gulf shrimp


{Intermezzo of peach sorbet}

Salad

  • Arugula and goat cheese with roasted beets, hearts of palm, and a reduced red wine vinaigrette

Dinner

  • Blackened shrimp taco with black bean and corn salsa, served with summer slaw
    OR
  • Chipotle barbecued chicken with truffle mac n’ cheese and grilled asparagus
  • With baskets of gaufrette potato chips to share


Dessert

  • Banana crème brûlée
  • Watermelon gazpacho
  • Homemade pumpkin whoopie pies with cream cheese filling

We were surprised by how difficult it was to find a sustainable caterer that focused on local efforts. That being said, we also had a tasting at Birchtree Catering, where the chef/owner Rasa couldn’t have been any sweeter, but overall Joshua’s Catering was a better fit (plus the owner and chef are super charming and flexible).

For you fellow wedding attendees out there, do you tend to take notice when caterers use locally-sourced ingredients, or not so much?

Then + Now: Our Houseaversary

One year ago today, Pete and I signed the papers at a very stressful house settlement—one which we nearly walked away from. Despite some oversights by our realtor that made our first few months as homeowners pretty anxiety-ridden, it was all worth it in the end. We couldn’t be happier to have spent the past year removing rooms and rooms full of wallpaper, filling as many brown yard bags as humanly possible, and making the most of spray paint.

In less than four months, we’ll be exchanging vows in our own backyard, the only place that seemed appropriate to formalize our commitment to each other. Every time I shuffle in the kitchen to stuff my face, I am taken back to the evening when Pete got down on one knee in our home. The house isn’t perfect by any means—the ceiling cracks after a coat of fresh paint, the basement floods, and the grass is filled with weeds—but neither are we. I’m really excited for what the next year will bring and I hope to have just as many before & after photos to share this time next year.

For now, here’s a glance at the original real estate photos vs some semi-recent shots of our latest improvements.

The sunroom hasn’t changed much, but we just made it a bit more cozy for now.
The living room is probably the most dramatic change after we painted the fireplace, wood paneling, wood trim, and door (not to mention the previously yellowed, smoke-stained ceiling).
Removing the curtains and wallpaper in the dining room did a lot to open up the space and make it more airy.
The bunny wallpaper and linoleum floors in the kitchen killed. me. We made a quick fix with some spackling, coats of paint, peel and stick b&w tiles, and painted cabinets.
We’ve hung curtains since the photo (right) was taken, but it’s still less of an eyesore than before when it was covered with even more stained bunny wallpaper.
The photo (right) is a poor representation of our pet room from when we first moved in, but it can give you an idea of the lack of Thomas Kinkade wallpaper.
The upstairs guest bedroom still has a long way to go—those hollow wood closet doors need some love, the antiquated a/c unit needs to be removed, the furniture needs to be spray painted—but it’s still better than before.
The upstairs bathroom is a tough one to photograph without falling off the toilet, but we removed the stained butterfly wallpaper and replaced it with coats of grey paint to keep things simple.
Our old friend, the concrete death pool, now houses a fire pit until we can afford to update our patio.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the mini-tour! Happy 1st houseaversary, Pete. I look forward to celebrating Cinco de Mayo-style tonight by making tacos on our grill.