Mista Lista: They See Me Mowin’

Mista Lista’s changing things up at the ‘Zoo.  Each month, Mista Lista will be taking a closer look at one part of the ‘Zoo to see how things are shaping up. This month, Mista Lista is checking on things in the yard.

Front Yard

Our goals in the front yard were fairly simple: Take out overgrown landscaping and disintegrating edging; replace with new landscaping and new edging. We didn’t take a close up of the front flower bed when we bought the house, but it was primarily a thick row of overgrown grass with a few snake inhabitants. We tore out most of the grass and replaced it with a white climbing rose, hydrangeas, hostas, and a few flowering plants, primarily mums.  After a year, everything is thriving, and we even had to widen the bed to make room for our hostas.  I’m probably going to have to divide them next year, and my neighbor is planning to give me some of her divided hostas, too, which will mean even more hostas.  Yay! I just love hydrangeas and hostas together, though this year our hydrangeas bloomed pink instead of blue.  I love the deep purple-blue, but the pink were a nice change. I envision pink in the front near the house (near the foundation it will be a tough battle to maintain the right soil ph for blue) and blue in the back along the new white fence.  We’ll see.

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 Side Yard

Yes, we have two side yards, but only one is pictured.  The other one hasn’t changed much. Our west side yard was the priority, primarily because of the magnolia looming over our house (the roots were too close to the house foundation to be safe) as well as the other overgrown shrubs. We replaced them with a variety of plants including knockout roses, loropetalum, canna lilies, caladiums, purple fountain grass, and monkey grass. Everything has grown so quickly that is hard to believe it’s only been a year since these were planted. The pavers and the pine straw that our neighbors had spread on our yard have now been replaced with flourishing grass.  

                                 Last Year                                                                                 This Year

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Back Yard

The backyard has also changed dramatically.  Again, our goals were primarily to take out overgrown and ill-placed shrubs and trees, and down the road, replace the fence.  We added more flowerbeds, filled with canna lilies, lantanas, banana trees, roses, etc. We also tried a fruit/vegetable garden this year (mostly not a win), and started replacing the fence.  After buying a new outdoor area rug and some lawn furniture, we actually had people over for a cookout, with enough seats for all.  Yay!

Last Year                                                                                 This Year

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Overall, here’s what’s been accomplished thus far:

  • Moving gate latch to the inside of the backyard (Surprise! We discovered we did in fact have a gate latch already, but it was put on the outside to allow free access to our backyard to any interested parties…what-tha-what?)  We now realize how the neighbors were able to show other interested buyers the backyard while we were looking at the inside with our realtor!) (1)
  • Cut down imposing magnolia in side yard (2)
  • Trim trees, shrubs, and grasses (2)
  • Remove sago palms in the way of mowing (2)
  • Replace rotted fence board (2)
  • Test/correct sprinkler aim (2)
  • Clear easement behind fence to keep weeds out of our yard (2)
  • Remove overgrown (ugly) hedges and grasses and snakes, oh my! (2)
  • Remove scalloped landscape edging (3)
  • Add new plants, mulch, and edging (3)
  • Replace odd flower bed between entry and driveway with brick pavers so that we aren’t stepping out of our car into the flower/weed bed (2)
  • Cut down magnolias in backyard (3)
  • Paint faded mailbox (2)
  • Shadowbox wood fence (3)
  • Line fence with crape myrtles for low maintenance privacy and shade (3)
  • Add edible plants! (3)
  • Upgrade fence (4)
  • More patio furniture for people to be able to join us in our back yard (3)
  • Expand patio area (4)
  • Add gate on garage side for convenience (4)
  • Add sunporch? (4)
  • Add pool? (4)

Staying on top of things with the yard hasn’t been the easiest during our flooring project. We are constantly battling the weeds in the back, so we are brainstorming solutions for keeping them out more easily (that don’t involve lots of toxic chemicals!).  We also hope to finish the fencing and rearrange some plants in September to give them time to get established in their new homes before cooler weather arrives.  Ah, so many projects, so little time.

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Mista Lista: October KaZoo To Do

Mista Lista sat down with the KaZoo family this past weekend to do some planning and goal coordination of their next steps, now that most of the necessary, smaller, and easier tasks are out of the way.  Note: Painting the remaining rooms doesn’t even count as a smaller, easier task because the KaZoos will have to rent equipment to be able to reach their high ceilings and move their heavy furniture to do so.  Mista Lista does take pity on the KaZoos every once in awhile.  Mista Lista advised the KaZoos to tackle future to dos in a more time and cost-effective way than their frenzied spring/summer get-it-done-yesterday madness approach.  The new plan is to tackle one big project, one medium-sized project, and three smaller projects, plus conduct research and purchase materials necessary for forthcoming projects in November.  Here’s what Mista Lista helped the KaZoos plan for the month of October.

Projects on Deck:

The Escalade

Painting the living room, dining room, and the rest of the kitchen is the big project of the month.  If the size of these walls (over 13′ high, and running the width and length of the public spaces in the house) isn’t enough to earn the Escalade designation alone, having to rent equipment that costs money and requires logistical planning is also a big deal. Note the height of the ceiling over the height of the baby grand piano with its lid raised. Yes, that is an empty frame on the wall. It’s a placeholder.IMG_3221

The Camry

Coming in second place is putting the finishing touches on the yard, and by this we mean finish clearing the overgrown easement behind our house (note the ginormous, blooming wild shrub+ vine combo), replace broken sprinkler heads, finish edging/mulching the flower beds in the backyard, and transplanting crape myrtles to the backyard fence row for low maintenance privacy and shade.  Sounds like a pretty big job, right? It is.  This might be more like a BMW 7 series sedan instead of a Camry sized job, but all of these things can be accomplished in one long day’s work without needing extra equipment, hence the mid-size designation. You may be thinking, um, but wouldn’t a Bobcat rental help with clearing the easement? Yup, if only we could get one back there. 

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The Focus, the Fiat, and the Fit

Painting the house numbers, exterior light fixtures, and mailbox is one of our bite-sized projects for October. We plan to ORB the light fixtures, but the mailbox has to stay a standard black per HOA regulations.  We haven’t decided what color to paint the supremely faded house numbers yet (black like they were before [we think]? ORB’d to match the light fixtures?)…any preferences/suggestions? We’d really like to upgrade the numbers down the road to some of those awesome art deco-looking numbers.  All in good time, right?

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Fixing up the fireplace is also on the list.  We got a coupon in the mail for a chimney sweep, and we definitely need our fireplace inspected and cleaned.  It is supposed to be a gas fireplace, but there are no gas logs…and where they should be is a grate for actual wood.  The inside of the fireplace is all black as if the people who used to live here might have burned real wood in a fireplace not really equipped to handle it.  Although we don’t really need a fireplace down here, we would like it cleaned professionally. No time like the present, right?

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Sprucing up the front entry to the house for fall is also on the hit, er, Fit list.  Nothing says welcome like mossy bricks, a mud/dirt dauber nest, and a dirty front door, right? We know we are supposed to leave the nest because these insects rarely sting humans but do eat spiders (take them all!), but this nest looks like it has long since been abandoned.  We I  would like some fall flowers and a nice wreath for the front door, so this may involve breaking out my crafty skills.

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Right now, the pots/plants you see in the picture above no longer occupy this location, and the front looks like a barren wasteland of brick pavers and dirty concrete.  The small blue and green pots were temporary guests of the front porch while their kitchen home was filled with drywall dust, and the petunias that look so healthy were ravaged by mealybugs…along with a lot of other plants in my yard. Rage. I was able to launch a fairly effective counterattack on the mealybugs and only lost three plants, but the petunias were one of the three that didn’t make it.  The only thing I found to be effective against the mealybugs was spraying my plants with rubbing alcohol (that’s the professional recommendation–not just a stupid idea I had), and the three plants that didn’t make it were so damaged that the alcohol sent them over the edge. Mealybugs are the worst, people.  If you see little grayish-white bugs that look fuzzy on your plants, grab your rubbing alcohol, put it in a spray bottle, and spray like crazy (preferably not on a rainy day where its effect will be overly diluted and not in the sun where the effect of heat + alcohol will burn your plant up).  I thought I had eradicated them from our yard a month ago, but I recently had to launch another alcohol attack after finding them on some canna lilies that they had previously ignored.  So frustrating.  I’m now stocking up on rubbing alcohol and inspecting all my plants religiously.  Apparently they are supremely invasive, massively destructive, and highly resistant, so gardeners beware.

Other October Happenings:

Our neighborhood is also having a garage/yard sale in October, and we plan to participate.  We’ve got quite a few items to sell, and Craigslist hasn’t been our friend of late.  We’ve had several people call about pieces of furniture and set up a meet, only to not show up. Thanks for wasting our Saturday that could have been at the beach, people. You know who you are.  We’re having to post ‘serious inquiries only’ on all our listings, and even still….Anyway, we’ll see how it goes.  We’re not totally enamored with the idea of a garage sale, but if we can clear out some large clutter and make some money to go towards other purchases and projects, it might be worth it.

Project Research: Dining Area Furniture

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We would like to replace our dining table and chairs with a farmhouse table and some new chairs/benches/something.  Our current set is a hand-me-down from my parents and not really our style, even though the mahogany finish is nice.  More importantly, two of the six dining chairs are in need of a major re-upholstery job (two have sagging seats, several have batting coming out, and the fabric is stained, worn, and dated) that is beyond our skill set, and the table isn’t safe.  One of the legs snapped last year in the city (super scary!) and my dad helped repair it well enough for it to be safe for use until we could do better.  Unfortunately, two of the other legs are now cracked and threatening to do the same thing, so it’s only a matter of time before this table gives out for good.  We recently learned of a local furniture maker who does awesome solid wood, custom pieces, so we want to investigate this vs. making a table and benches ourselves using plans from Ana White.

And that’s our October.  What projects are you tackling this month?

Mista Lista: September Aha’s and Ta Da’s

Now that the KaZoos have made almost all of the small and affordable repairs and improvements they can at this juncture (except for a few things needing to wait until cooler weather later this fall), Mista Lista will only be sharing seasonal updates on their home improvement progress.  These home improvement to do/ta da posts will come at the end of November, February, May, and August.  Not to worry, though: Mista Lista will be sharing other to do and ta da posts that focus specifically on certain projects that are receiving some KaZoo love in the interim months.  Let’s get this party started!

September Aha’s and Ta Da’s:

Receding Yard Uglies
Our neighborhood HOA has a policy (not always well-enforced) that air conditioning units and trash cans should not be seen from the road, and while some people may not follow this policy, we happen to like hiding the yard uglies.  My parents gave us a leftover lattice screen to hide our trashcan, and we bought another lattice screen to hide our AC for $17.13 (on sale at Lowe’s end of summer clearance sale).  We also put down 9 red square patio stones ($7.83 also on summer clearance) underneath our trashcan, since the grass underneath it was dying from lack of sunlight anyway.  We dug down the area so that the patio stones would be level with the ground for easily rolling the trashcan into place behind the lattice. Now if we could just hide the ugly meter in a way that would still allow it to be read….

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Reorganized Garage
Once the KaZoos started some of the more involved projects like installing the range hood, they realized that they needed a location to organize everything for their current and upcoming projects.  After putting away some clutter that had accumulated on various shelves in the garage, they designated one shelf as their DIY project shelf.  This shelf holds all the smaller items they are/will be using for projects, grouped by project, and sequenced by order of project.  Although one shelf may not seem like very much room for all of their DIY needs, this is one way the KaZoos are keeping their to do list manageable for the future.  Plus, now Mr. KaZoo can fit his car in the garage where all of those things were taking up valuable car real estate. Mista Lista applauds the KaZoo family’s efforts to minimize clutter and maximize efficiency.

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Remixed Office/Living Room
When Mrs. KaZoo first arrived from the big city, her home office was set up in the front bedroom where she would be encouraged to work by the abundant natural light.  Mrs. KaZoo knows she works best in natural light in an open, minimalist space free of distractions, and the front bedroom offered a nice picture window on the north side of the house.  Plus, this would make the front bedroom seem like less of a space-waster if it could double as an office.  Unfortunately, the cramped space in the front bedroom was cramping her thinking.  Keeping the draperies open on the picture window allowed plenty of light but also plenty of heat,  not to mention the constant distraction of neighbors passing by the window while she was working.

At the same time, the KaZoos were feeling frustrated with their living room arrangement because they could not sit on their favorite couch to watch TV, due to the size limitations of the room rendering it impossible to have the media stand opposite the sofa.  Plus, the living room was feeling very crowded with its oversized furniture awaiting a neighborhood garage sale in October.

Mrs. KaZoo had an “aha” moment when she realized that the KaZoos could swap out some furniture with existing pieces in other rooms to solve both the living room and office dilemmas.  When Mr. KaZoo came home from work one evening, they shifted the TV to a smaller TV stand, relegating the larger media stand to the front bedroom for media storage.   The smaller TV stand fit on a smaller wall in the living room, allowing the sofa to occupy the longest wall opposite the TV.

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By putting the TV on the smallest living room wall instead of a bulky loveseat and moving a French chest to a different wall beside the piano, the angled wall was freed up for Mrs. KaZoo’s displaced desk.

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Now, both desks are in the living room area (making for a more functional office space), the KaZoos can watch TV from their comfy couch, and the front bedroom still serves a valuable double purpose as book and media storage in addition to a guest room.  Having a media stand in that bedroom also provides a flat surface for guests’ suitcases, and we can eventually put a TV in that room if we so choose.  Three birds with one stone, fools.  That’s what Mista Lista calls efficiency.

Re-Mastered Closet
For under $100, the KaZoos completely redid their master bedroom closet, maximizing storage by reusing existing shelving from the garage.  See these posts for other details: Part I, Part II, & Part III.

IMG_3203Here’s the cost breakdown:

  • 1 can Sherwin Williams Harmony paint in Sea Salt = $31.79 (on sale)
  • 4 packs of Rubbermaid fastset back clamps = $7.24 (on sale)
  • 3 Rubbermaid 12 inch support brackets = $7.62 (on sale)
  • 1 pack of Rubbermaid c-clamps = $6.20 (on sale)
  • 3 Rubbermaid wall end brackets = $3.28 (on sale)

TOTAL PROJECT COST: $56.13

Not too shabby, eh?

You may have noticed that there are only ta da’s here and no to do’s.  Say what?! Mista Lista and the KaZoo family have decided to set monthly project goals, so tomorrow Mista Lista will be back sharing the KaZoo To Do list for October.