Monday, November 6, 2017

Halloween 2017

This year the boys were Spiderman for Halloween. They picked out their costumes back in August.

They love to play dress-up, so we have plenty of costumes to choose from. Mr. Pfitzer got to wear a costume the other boys haven't. Mr. JCrew's Nana gave us a puppy costume for Little JCrew, but it wasn't the right size when Halloween came around for either of the older boys.

Mr. Pfitzer truly thought he was a dog. We went to a couple houses that had dogs and Mr. Pfitzer got down on his hands and knees, nose-to-nose with these pups and sweet-talked them. I don't have any pictures, but it was so cute!

We hit up only a few houses then went back to our house to give out candy. Our neighborhood likes to do Halloween big, so we always get lots of visitors. We enjoy giving out candy because we can see more costumes that way. Plus, I like showing my boys the giving side of things.

Mr. Pfitzer even understood the concept of giving candy. He was reaching into our bucket and handing out candy to others' buckets.

We did find a last-minute outfit that I thought was adorable. I died laughing when the boys put the masks on. I loved it so much, that we bought the masks only. They are now added to our dress-up stash of clothes.

I hope everyone had a great Halloween! Another plus side to not trick-or-treating to many houses... we have less candy to get rid of! WIN!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

French Drains

I kept busy 2016 winter with projects inside, but my gardener heart was ready to be outside again. I was eager to see what this season would bring and it didn't disappoint. Right after we moved in we realized we had water issues. It was Christmas of 2015 when it poured all day and we saw how bad our yard flooded.

I actually cried. Part of it was due to pregnancy hormones, but I saw a lot of hard work being washed away. There were then several rains in the Spring that kept flooding our yard.

I knew the side of the house closest to our nearest neighbor stayed wet during construction, so we made sure the contractors that graded our lot, installed the sprinklers and laid the grass, also put in a French drain to take the water away from that area between our houses. But the rest of the house downspouts, I attached tubing that ran through the flowerbed and released the water into the grass. At each downspout I put rocks to help, and be pretty. I got this idea from another house in our neighborhood.

After the Christmas "flood" we never had a bad rainfall like that. But I noticed my plants were not growing. Some would have yellow leaves and some plants were losing their leaves completely. I started investigating and realized the plants were sitting in water! The water table in our area is high, and if I could do things all over again, I would not dig a single hole. I would have placed the plants on top of the clay and poured dirt around them. Then add mulch. This would create a berm-type of flowerbed, but it would help water not sit at the base of the plant and cause root-rot.

We also had issues with the driveway puddling. The driveway had a ridge meant to take the water to the sides, but the amount of water that came from the large driveway was way too much for the yard.

And the other issue was that each time it poured, I was having to rake mulch back into my flowerbeds.

I could put up a liner for the flowerbeds to keep the mulch in, but that also meant I would be keeping the water in the flowerbeds and continue to drown my plants. I decided to add lots and lots more french drains to control the water runoff. Each downspout on the north side of the house got attached to a drain and the drain ran out to the street. The other downspouts on the South side of the house, just release into the land next to us.

Now, I thought we agreed on the outlet being on the curb, but somehow communication failed and we got a pop-up drain in the grass. This worked fine for a while and the water flowed across the sidewalk and into the street. However, the grass area around the pop-up never dried out. This grass stayed green and lush, but I had one issue... Every time we mowed, the mower would sink in the mushy ground and leave tracks.At the very beginning of Spring, we had this issue fixed. We removed the pop up drains and had the pipe extended to the street curb.

We added drains to either side of the driveway to help with the water runoff there.

It has worked just as it should and we no longer have flooding in the driveway.

If I were to do one thing over regarding these French Drains, I would have used large PVC pipe to connect all the downspouts. I noticed a house in our neighborhood do that.

I just used the flexible piping from each downspout. Then when we added French drains, they connect my tubing to their tubing and ran it through the yard.

After the French Drains were installed I felt I could tackle the flowerbeds. I did an experimental section on the North side and the NorthEast flowerbeds. I dug up every single plant, filled the existing hole with drainage rock, put the plant on top of the rock and poured dirt around the plant. I had a lot of mounds of dirt, so I filled the space with mulch and also put mulch on top of the new mounds. Mulch is cheaper than the good dirt.

It was mid-summer when I did this, but I quickly noticed plants growing and looking healthier! My hydrangeas weren't growing at all, but they doubled in size once I replanted them correctly. After this success, I moved on to redoing every flowerbed. It was a lot of work, but so worth it. I spread it out over time. One section at a time. I got tired of the constant trips to the far away Lowes for mulch, fitting all I could in the car, that I decided to wait and place one large order and have it delivered. Lowes had 3 cubic feet bags for the lowest price. Most mulch bags are only 2 cubic feet. And Lowes charges one flat shipping fee that was worth it for the amount of mulch we needed. And we chose bags of mulch vs the truckload that we did last time because it saved us on labor. A truckload meant you were shoveling into the wheelbarrow and dumping. With bags, I could pile four bags in the wheel barrow, dump it wherever and go back for more. Mr. JCrew and I had a rhythm. He'd transport the bags and I would open them and spread them.

Early 2017

Mid 2017

I wish I had taken a picture of our pallets of mulch, but we ordered 400 bags that came on 9 pallets! It took up a lot of the driveway and were piled 15 feet high. I told Mr. JCrew the mulch was my Christmas present. And for Thanksgiving, we used our time off to spread the mulch. I felt so strong after all that work. Mr. JCrew and I joke about making a workout video called, "Garden Body by Lindsay." All I do is play in my yard and I build muscle. :)

I got a lot of mulch because of the berm-style flowerbeds we had just created. The beds are over 8 inches tall with mulch. This helps the water ricochet off the sides of the flowerbeds and also cuts down on the weeds.

I was sooo ready for Spring to get here and I can really see progress in the yard. It was too late in the season last year to see results. But with all the rain this Winter and Spring, my mind has been at ease knowing the plants are not getting too much water.

I put sand down on all the lines where the French Drains were added, but I learned that I used the wrong kind of sand (Play Sand). That causes compaction. I then used Scott's Lawn Soil over the bare areas. I then fertilized the yard and watered and by mid-June, the grass has almost completely filled the gaps. Yay!

Spring 2017

I did read a book AFTER we had performed this work, that I wish I had read before we built the house. I read about installing a reservoir tank underneath your house. I actually probably would have used the land next to our house to install. But the tank collects all the water runoff from the house when it rains. There is so much water that I see going into our street drain that I could put to use. It's like one huge rain barrel. Live and learn. There are up sides and downsides to rain barrels.

Below is a picture of a rain barrel that is installed under a porch. A builder we had interviewed early on was a green builder and he recently installed this rain barrel. Great idea!

I will say, it is a lot of fun to look back at pictures from 1-year ago and see how far we've come. It's humbling to see where we started and what we've got now. It has definitely been a labor of love. Soon, I will have to show current pictures. Raising the beds has really changed how the yard looks and the plants are performing so much better!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Golden Anniversary Celebration

We got to be a part of something really awesome recently. Our Sunday School was going to take a break for the summer and not meet, but then the church came and asked us to plan a party. Our answer, "Heck yes!"

We started planning in June for the September event. The party was for the couples in our church that had celebrated 50 years of marriage! There were over 50 couples in our church that have celebrated 50 years or more. Each week we discussed a different topic for the event. The event felt so far away, but I'm so glad we planned ahead, so there was no last minute panicking.

I really just want to share photos. It turned out better than we planned. We had about 26 couples attend our event. We started the evening with a Mocktail Hour.

We served two different punches in cocktail glasses.

During the cocktail hour, we played a Newlywed Game.

We thought it'd be fun to have a couple from our Sunday School class participate.

During our preparation for the event, we interviewed the couples. They came by our class and we asked some questions. The answers were to help us make this event tailored to them. We got to learn so much about these cute couples. The interviews were the best part. We printed the interviews on pretty paper and hung them on twine along with their wedding photos.

For dinner, we had it catered by a local small restaurant. It was delicious food. The dinner was served on the hosts' and volunteers' China! This was such a neat detail. Our class, with a couple other volunteers, served as waiters for the tables.

Each table also had a colored fabric that anchored the table decor. These colors were the colors mentioned of our guests' weddings.

We even had a red table with Christmas China on it, as we had several couples that married near Christmas, so they used the church's Christmas decor for their wedding decor.

We kept the flower arrangements simple white to not distract from all the other stuff that was going on.

The flowers were in gold vases. Those "vases" were wine, beer, condiment, and liquor bottles that we collected. I spread the word to all I knew to save their bottles. Each weekend we were painting those bottles gold. The 50th wedding anniversary is the Gold Anniversary!

The bottles had to be soaked to get the labels off. I used a mixture of baking soda and vinegar and it worked great.

Then it was on to painting them. I researched the best gold spray paint, and it truly was great.

A lady from our church volunteered to make a wedding cake for the celebration. It was a gold cake that was soooo good! We had to decorate the table to match up with its elegance.

On either side of the wedding cake, we had tables that had easels on them. Those easels were to display the wedding China of our guests. We asked them to bring in a dinner plate from their set. We displayed them and wrote their last name on a placecard. It was so fun to see the different patterns, but to also hear the guests comment about the plates. Many remembered seeing the other patterns as they shopped for theirs.

Another item we asked the guests to bring was their wedding gown. Some still had theirs, but others did not. Some ladies borrowed their dresses! We had several gowns that we hung up for display. Those REALLY made the decor special!

Our last little bit of decor that we had for the room was a "photobooth." We used trimmings from our yards to created the arch and we found furniture around the church along with a couple items from my home. I found a cute banner on Etsy and had to have it!

We had found an inspiration picture, but really didn't know if we could pull off the same quality.

It can't be compared apples to apples, but I LOVE how ours turned out. After dinner, we had several stand in line to get their pictures done. They had cute props they could play with and a chalkboard sign they could use to write down how many years of marriage they were celebrating.

Then a couple of us young folks got to participate. We wrote how many years away from celebrating 50 we were.

During the night we played hits from the time they were dating/married (50's 60's). We even had one of our classmates bring his Barbershop quartet to serenade the crowd.

After dinner, we also encouraged the couples to dance. Many did, and it was a VERY special moment.

Planning this event was fun, but it was way more fun to experience it. These couples are amazing! They gave such great advice on marriage. Many agreed that marriage is not easy, but keeping Christ at the center is a saving grace for keeping a marriage going. They couldn't emphasize enough how your mindset when entering into a marriage needs to be focusing on the commitment. Don't do it with a plan to back out if it doesn't work.

Photo credit to Brad for being our photographer for the photobooth and capturing all the details.

It is a night we will remember forever.

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