Bean’s Book Club

Welcome to another installment of Bean’s Book Club! I’ve decided to include a few unconventional items in my list this time, since I have had some requests for reading!!

BOOKS

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)

Can I just say again how much I LOVE a good mystery. I am DYING right now because I am at the point where the characters in the book know who the killer is, but I DON’T KNOW who the killer is. SOOOOOO GOOD!

Silkworm

 Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

The most amazing true story I have ever read. Ever. The resilience of the human spirit and the ability to overcome the most horrible things will always make me thankful for those who have come before me. So incredible.

unbroken

BLOGS

I love blogs. Even ones that aren’t mine. This is more like my everyday reading, and many times convinces me that I can do things (mostly around my house) that I want to do. Here are some that I read just about every day.

younghouselove.com

John and Sherry are AWESOME! They seriously get it done and have been such an inspiration to me on tackling home improvement projects. The amount of things that they have tried, completed and written about it inspiring. I love seeing what they’re up to each day.

YoungHouseLoveTrianglesWIDE

stylebyemilyhenderson.com

I love this girl- she is quirky, fun and a REALLY good designer. I don’t always want everything she does in my house, but I love seeing how she puts things together and the way she interacts with us as readers.

EmHen

whatkatewore.com AND hrhduchesskate.blogspot.com

How could I not include this??!?!!? I love Kate; I always I want to read about her, see what she’s doing and daydream about being her. Both sites are very good with sourcing accessories, jewelry, clothes, etc and just keeping me generally informed on all things Kate.

Will & Kate

cupcakesandcashmere.com

This is just fun and easy to read. She has a real knack for styling her house that I really admire, especially since my house looks like a tasmanian devil tornado just went through it. I wish I could make everything pretty like she does. Also, I like that she mixes it up with career advice, outfit posts, cooking- just about everything!

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BREWING

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

My friend Marcie told me these are just as good as Follett’s other books. I can’t wait to read this one! Also, may have to watch the show after I read the books. Teehee!

Pillars of the Earth

Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler

Another British mystery series. Jesus (that would be the Spanish pronunciation, not the son of God) said it was entertaining.

full dark house

Spruce: A Step by Step Guide to Upholstery and Design by Amanda Brown

I really need to learn some upholstery skillz. Like now.

spruce

 What have you all been reading that I should read? I like to have a long list!!  

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Baby Got Back (Yard)

After many weeks away from the blog, I am back! You know how sometimes life just speeds by? Well, that’s what has happened and I have neglected the poor little blog that I love.

Sometimes a hiatus spurs a brilliant idea, so The Judge and I are starting a little series called Baby Got Back to get us back in the swing of blogging on a more regular basis. I was supposed to have the first post, since I had the intro written, but sometimes little sisters can also be brats. 

For once, I am going to be sharing a house update! This never happens. Not because I am lazy, or don’t have any ideas, it’s mostly because:

1) I need a little motivation sometimes

2) I don’t have a whole lotta DIY knowhow and

3) I need more money to execute awesome ideas.

The backyard has been a thorn in our side since we moved in: it seemed like there was just so much to do back there, and we didn’t know where to begin, or what would actually bring us the best use of the space. We wanted to extend our current hillbilly porch (hillbilly because it looks like there should be a couch sitting on it and we keep a lot of crap out there) further out into the yard, get rid of the grass by putting a deck or patio there and also extend the yard by utilizing the roof of the garage somehow (either as a seating area, living roof, or something besides a giant black rectangle). About 3 years or so ago, my lovely aunt, Marlene, called and said she had a bunch of paver bricks she wanted to get rid of since she was going to replace her paver patio with a stamped concrete patio. Dan and I went out and picked them up, put them on a skid and stored them at my parent’s office for the next 3 years…

Fast forward to May, 2014: My neighbor, Michael Lakoff- a.k.a. motivator, The Best Neighbor Ever and foreman for this yard project, has been talking to me about doing something to my yard since he moved next door about 2 years ago. He is seriously a freaking machine: Michael owns the landscaping business Sun + Rain. When I mentioned that I had a skid of paver bricks waiting for such a project, all he said was, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Well, I think I was just waiting for Michael. It’s pretty crazy, but we got the patio graded, base down, sand down and leveled AND laid all the bricks in ONE DAY. I was doing a serious happy dance.

I totally thought this was going to be a lot more difficult than it was, but I guess when you have someone that really knows what they’re doing, and people who are willing to help you, it makes a HUGE difference. The day before we started grading the yard, Dan got all of the stepping stones out of the grass.The pics below are also serving as our “before” photos, since we didn’t take any- you get the idea, though! You can also see the pile of bricks donated by my Aunt.

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My dad used the tiller we rented to get all of the grass turned over so that it made for a nice loose surface that we could easily level out. And after it was all tilled up:

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The next day, we got to work. Michael brought over a 2×4 and 3 PVC pipes for leveling the sand. First, we raked all the dirt that had been tilled up to start making room for the paver base. Paver base is actually pretty dope stuff; it’s like sand and gravel together, but once you lay it down, it becomes hard and helps prevent all of your pavers from sinking into the ground like they would if you only used sand. After we got all the base down, we raked it out, then tamped it down with a bunch of our feet.

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All the while, my mom and grandmother are watching and drinking Bloody Mary’s.

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Then came the sand. Michael set up the pipes, we dumped sand out, spread it around and then ran the 2×4 over it all to level it out. See how pretty and smooth it is?

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Once that was all done, we started laying bricks. At this point, I was on a high because I was just going to be happy if we got the base and the sand leveled out, but to actually get the bricks going was the best feeling. I think you can see it in my face:

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We chose a basket weave pattern because it was pretty easy to do without having to make a bunch of cuts and was more interesting than the Jack on Jack pattern.

You can see our pattern a bit better in this pic:

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Literally it was about 2:30 PM and we were sweeping the sand into the cracks. It was glorious. We had a LEGIT patio. We have spent more time outside in our yard than we ever have before; it’s probably the best project we’ve ever done.

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We had some other things to do as well, like move our rock wall up and around the patio to make it more stable, and build some steps into what we’re calling the lower garden. I came home from work one day, and it looked like this (thanks to Michael, of course):

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Then, we added some soil, edging (which you can’t see in the pic, cause it’s under the pavers) and plants and, voila!

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There’s still a lot of work to do, but it looks pretty good, right!?!

Baby Got Back (Staircase)

Ok, so here it is. I know you’ve been holding your breath to see the final result of the back staircase, but first, let’s take a trip down memory lane. When Andrew and I first moved our house, one of the first things we started to tackle was the back staircase. Being dark and dirty was the least of our problems. The floor was covered in carpet, 3 different linoleum patterns (wearing through to the wood in some places, doubled up and covered with carpet in others), and each step had a metal strip covering the edge. It was fucking awful.

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The wood at the bottom of this staircase was covered in gross yellow carpet.

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You can see the multitude of fun patterns we were dealing with here.

It look us like, 6 months to rip everything up. That is 32 steps (not including the basement steps) and 5 landings of linoleum, pulling out upwards of 10 headless nails per step, and removing each strip (each having about 10 additional nails each). Finally, the moment came when every last bit of linoleum was removed from the steps and landings, including the black goo that covered the landing on the 2nd floor. That moment was glorious, but it was the middle of winter and that means that we wouldn’t be able to finish any wood until the weather was suitable to opening doors and windows. Suffocation is not the way I wanted to finish the floors.

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Note the goo.

Fast forward a few months to find Andrew trying and failing to sand the steps with both a pad sander and an orbital sander. We broke down and bought a belt sander. Pro tip: the belt sander works the best. Sanding was a huge ordeal. It involved the shop vac, all 3 of our sanders, earplugs, face masks and many, many extension cords. It was dusty, but mostly loud and it took us maybe 1.5 weeks total to sand everything. Please note we decided to start this project when our kitchen was only 1/2 finished. We are not the smartest raccoons.

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Andrew sanded most of the stairs, but I did get in on the action.

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The shop vac looked like this.

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During this point I decided that we were no longer going to paint everything white with a dark stain on the treads. Instead Pinterest convinced me to paint everything black. I read somewhere on the internet that black risers were a common thing in old homes as it hides scuffs better on steps that are skinny. Since our stairs are really narrow and constantly have people going up and down them, it seemed fitting.

This is my pin-spiration

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So we went back to Lowes to pick out a new stain color. We chose a red/orange stain called Gunstock (Minwax), because it would look the best with the black trim we were planning. I started staining.

Y’all, it was really red.

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But I soldiered on. It was still really, really red. I started to get a little nervous.

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The next day I opened up the back door to the massacre scene from Carey. The floors were super red. Like pigs blood in buckets red.

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Wait… more blood

Carrie

Fortunately, by this time in our homeowning process, Andrew and I have adopted a mantra. It goes like this: not everything has to be fucking perfect. So I moved on and we began to prep for polyurethane. I cleaned everything really well and started to poly. The first coat went on great, but once it dried, we were concerned that the steps still felt like wood and not like glossy, protected wood.

Here’s Andrew applying some polyurethane

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So the recommended 2nd coat went on. It went on thick. Like as thick as you can apply this viscous liquid. I was super proud of myself. The steps looked fantastic, but after the 18-24 hour drying time was up, the floors were still tacky. After 72 hours, the floors were “dry” but if I walked on the steps I would leave sock prints. Oops. Fortunately (?) it was so thick and not dry that any prints left would sort of melt back into place by itself. I was strongly reminded of Gloppy from Candy Land.

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This is what our floor was like.

Later we learned that many thin coats are the recommended way to apply polyurethane. 3 coats probably would have been fine for us, and would have dried 2 weeks faster.

Reminder: It doesn’t have to be fucking perfect.

So I started to prime the risers, trim and bannisters with the grey tinted primer, leaving many toe prints along the way. The crazy Carrie Red started to not look so crazy. It actually started to look awesome. Like really awesome.

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So awesome that we questioned whether the black was going to be too dark; alas the paint was already bought, so again I soldiered on. The priming and 1st coat of paint went on really slowly. I had to paint EVERYTHING with a brush, and I mean EVERYTHING including the beadboard bannister/walls. Side note: I now hate beadboard and it sucks to paint. At least with the 2nd coat of paint I could roll those portions.

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Here is the finished product (so far). The only thing left is adding the quarter round trim along the baseboards on the landings. It’s necessary as there are some large gaps between the floor and the baseboards, but it isn’t as noticeable now that everything is black.

P.S. Kristene is going to be super mad that I posted this before her. She has a whole intro written already for a “Baby Got Back” series. Just pretend that she posted first. I’ve got shit to do this week and I wanted to get this posted before I forgot. Sorry, sister. Love you.