When we left off with Part 1 of the fence building project, we had a fence that was on its way to being completed.

And here it is completed!

Excuse the non-staged photo, but I thought someone (cough Sara cough) might murder me if I didn’t get a finished pic up today.

Here’s another view so you can see how we now have a nice closed-in feeling across from the patio.

In pictures you can still totally see through the privacy slats, but I promise that in real life it feels very contained and private.

Next up is planting some flowers and shrubs in front of it and trying to train some more Virginia Creeper to grow on it.

*As a result of several comments (which I am not deleting), I have decided to remove the rest of this post. Apparently we have incriminated ourselves and whether commenter JoeKnows means “It’s a good thing your address isn’t readily available because you have broken several laws…..” as a threat or not, I am taking it as such.

I simply wanted to tell our story as a learning experience. I wanted to discuss neighborliness and general human understanding, and warn others to always discuss things with their neighbors, no matter how nice you think you’re being.

I welcome comments, even if they don’t agree with me. But it is also my right to respond to those comments and try to explain myself (which I thought I did in a diplomatic manner). Also, comments that are accusatory rather than constructively critical tend to illicit charged responses from protective older brothers and friends who know us, and there’s nothing I can do about that. So please keep that in mind if you plan to comment in such a manner.

And please feel free to comment constructively.

We have a lovely (well, we’re working on it!) yard. It’s big and spacious, and we love spending time out there in the garden and eating dinner on the patio.

But beyond our patio and shed and in-progress flower beds, the view is a little distracting:

We have this nice six-foot privacy fence around most of the yard. But the 50′ closest to the house is just this crappy old rusty bugger of a fence. If you click and zoom on the picture above, you can see where the 6′ privacy fence (on the right) ends and the 4′ rusty one begins.

The rusty four-footer does nothing to block the view of our neighbors’… well, junk.

To be fair, we know that our yard has been plenty junky in the past, and we’re not perfect. In fact, we had a pretty junky swamp cooler that we feel pretty guilty about leaving up for so long (it’s off now, though!). And in the interest of total fairness, allow me to post this doozy of a junk pile from last year that our neighbors probably weren’t too fond of looking at:

But you know how when it’s “your junk” it’s okay? Kind of like when it’s “your filth” in the bathtub it’s okay? No? Anyone?

So, a fence means that we don’t have to look at anyone’s junk but our own- a wonderful thing.

I will spare you all the gory details of putting in a fence. If you’ve never done it, I would recommend getting a book on the matter, or maybe finding a good tutorial online.

A couple of notes though:

  • We got the Home Depot book on fences and patios, and it said to NOT set the line posts in concrete- just the terminal (end) posts. It said to just dig the holes, put in the posts, and fill it back in with dirt. We didn’t trust that, so we set all of them in concrete.
  • We dug all of the post holes with a post hole digger, not an auger. It’s hard work but really not too bad with the two of us. If we had a bunch (we only had five), we would definitely rent an auger.
  • Roots are jerks.
  • We did chain link to match the existing six-foot fence. If we were building a completely new fence around the entire yard, we would have done wood.
  • Vinyl privacy slats are very expensive. For 50′ of 6′ high slats, it would have cost us $275 to buy them new. We found some in the local classifieds for $50.
  • Setting the end posts and then using a string (and line level) as a guide for how tall to set the line posts is a good idea.
  • Brothers-in-law that spend their weekends helping build a fence are nice.
  • To pull the fence tight, you need a fence puller and come-along. A fence puller alone costs $35 to buy, but luckily Home Depot rents out the puller and come-along for $15 for 4 hours, which is more than enough time.

Here is Stan pulling the fence tight with the above-mentioned tools:

Aww yeeeeah.

And here is our progress so far!

Just picture how nice it will be with privacy slats in it. The red truck, white SUV, and minivan parked on the back lawn will be invisible! Along with the toilet and decrepit swing set!

PS- We’re still figuring out the whole “water your lawn” thing so it looks pretty sad right now. So yeah- I know our yard isn’t perfect, but it will be that much nicer when we can look at our imperfections and not our neighbors’.

Stay tuned for Part 2, wherein we put in the privacy slats and gussy it up a bit. We’re hoping the Virginia Creeper will soon spread onto our new fence like it has by the vegetable garden (visible on the right-hand side of the above photo).

It is HOT in our house.

Okay, so I know that we’re major wimps because we’re not experiencing the heat wave that’s going on in the south, but at least most people down there (maybe?) have air conditioning. We have no respite (except when I go to work and they keep the temperature at a level that requires me to wear a sweater and moon boots).

Why don’t we have cooling? Well, here’s why.

A few months ago, we were chatting with our across-the-street-and-down-a-ways neighbors, and we looked at our house from theirs. We saw a horrifying sight: our old swamp cooler, clinging for dear life on its precarious rotting wood support, looking mighty disgusting. Of course we always knew it was there, but seeing it from our nice neighbors’ view gave us a twinge of guilt for having such a ghetto piece of garbage hanging on the side of the house.

And besides that, I have always hated how one of the neat old windows on either side of the fireplace had been demolished and replaced with a big ugly vent.

And besides that, it didn’t really work properly for a variety of reasons, so we rarely bothered to use it.

So, we did something about it. We ripped ‘er off.

We were left with a gaping hole, which we covered with plastic and have embarrassingly been living with all summer:

This blogger has no pride.

Anyhoo, our plan is to actually make two new matching windows. I know I know, we’re crazy- but you can’t buy them new like this anymore, with just a simple hinge and latch:

We may also hunt some down from a salvage place, but finding two windows that match and are the correct size is probably nearly impossible.

But back to the problem at hand: that is, the problem that our house is consistently 82-84 degrees. Below are some practical tips for if you find yourself without a cooling system for a period of time, or if you’d like to just minimize your use of your cooling system.

Open the windows at night. At least in Utah, it cools off at night (I know that in some places such as Oklahoma, it never cools off and if that is the case where you live, I’m deeply sorry.) Open a couple to create cross-flow. We open the little “fireplace window” in the living room and the window in our bedroom, and even though it seems like a convoluted path, you can actually feel a surprising amount of air movement in the bedroom. A fan in front of a window will help even more.

Close the windows and blinds during the day. I used to think that you should leave the windows open as much as possible, but the simple fact is that if it’s 97 degrees outside, you want to keep that air out. Closing the blinds keeps out sunlight.

The idea with the above two tips is to bring cool night air in and trap it there as long as possible during the day.

Realize that in summer, you are probably going to be a little hot. One thing that has always been amusing to me is how inflexible we as a first-world society have become. Even if it’s over 100 degrees outside, we want to be cool- even chilly– inside! I know we’ve all heard this before, but trade the jeans for shorts and lose a layer, and don’t be afraid to be just a titch uncomfortable. Drink some ice water! My brother has a swamp cooler, and he turns it on just enough to “take the edge off”. Well done, Jonny.

On nights where the temperature shows no mercy and stays hot, use water (nature’s coolant) to cool off. I had to laugh when I saw this video. It could be called “Orangutan cools off like Amanda and Stan”.

At our house wet bandanas abound. Stan loves to throw them on me when I’m not looking, which always startles me and nearly results in him getting a swift punch in the face, but then it feels soooo good. Tying one around your neck works well too, since there is a lot of blood supply close to the skin there. (It’s the same principle as keeping your neck warm with a scarf in winter.) I’ve also been known to use a wet bandana the same way you would a blanket when going to bed.

Use a good old fashioned fan. Sometimes I have to do my makeup while sitting in front of a fan just so my face will stop sweating long enough. Fun, right?

Hang out in shady areas. I’m sorry if these tips seem a little “duh”, but it really did take me a while to notice that our east-facing patio is just about the most pleasant place to be in the late afternoon as the sun is setting to the west.

And for the record, we have been trying to get a new swamp cooler all summer. We want one on the roof so that none of our windows are blocked, and no one seems to want to install one for us. One place even let us pay for a bid (normally we wouldn’t pay for a bid but we were getting desperate), sent a guy out who said he could do it no problem, and then called ten days later to say that no, they actually can’t do new installations- only replacements- and they were not apologetic in the slightest for leading us on. It was Lowe’s in case you’re wondering. (Can you hear me Lowe’s? I’m disappointed!)

I may write another post about why we’re going with a swamp cooler (also known as evaporative cooler) over central air conditioning, but for now I think I’ve rambled enough. Stay cool and stay in school.

This weekend we did lots of stuff, including:

  • Got rid of a huge eyesore hanging from the side of the house (more on that later)
  • Toured a neighbor’s current reno- I mean they are really in the thick of things!
  • Perused old pictures from when I was really in the thick of things

  • Built a tabletop raised bed for a friend (more on that later)
  • Spent half a day designing invitations and insert cards
  • Hand-addressed half of our wedding invitations
  • BBQed salmon burgers twice and hung out with my friend Becca who I wish would move back here
  • Performed a major cleanup on the patio and made a thrilling time-lapse video of it (I know, it seems like that’s all I ever do- move pavers around and make time-lapse videos of it. But this time I had help, and this time the patio is NOT going to turn into a storage unit again, and this time I used my Wingscapes ProjectCam that the nice folks over at Wingscapes sent me. This time is different.)

No there aren’t two Stans. The other one is Duncan.

  • Ate a delicious Easter dinner
  • Booked our Honeymoon! Well that was last week but it counts. We’re going to Playa del Carmen and I cannot WAIT. I’ve never been on a resort vacation before.

  • Thanks to all of your helpful input, we set up our registry. We chose to use myregistry.com, since you can put anything from any store in the world on there, and also set up a cash fund if you want (still figuring all that out). We also chose not to include the info on our invitations, but to tell our parents so they can spread the word if people ask.

I’m feeling pretty good about the amount of stuff we got done, but also a little overwhelmed by all that there is left to do. My brother-in-law offered to fly me out to Texas for my niece’s baptism and my new nephew’s blessing this weekend (robbers beware- I will have a housesitter so don’t try anything funny). I’m suuuuper excited to go there! But we also kind of made me going out of town the deadline for the invitations (which is probably laughable) and work is busy this week, so we’ll see how much more we can get done.


There’s an abandoned church about half a block away from my house.

It’s gorgeous. It has shopping carts in its parking lots and a pile of laundry on its steps. That’s sad.

Every time I walk by there, I think about how it’s my dad’s dream (one of many) to find an old church like this and turn it into a house. For some reason, he thinks that would be just about the coolest thing. One of his friends lives in an old church-turned-house, and I’m told it’s awesome.

It seemed weird to me at first, but I’m kind of warming up to the idea. A beautiful building is a beautiful building, right?

I mean, imagine this was your front door.

(Sadly for some reason those windows have been filled in.)

And imagine these were your living room windows. Or kitchen!

Won’t somebody help this church?

Or at least beef up the security against bums and vagrants?

There is a restaurant here in SLC that’s an old church. It’s called Ichiban. I love going there for a) their half-price sushi rolls Mon-Wed and b) this:

Church-turned-restaurant: nice.

Sorry, the restaurant was kind of a sidetrack. But what do you guys think about living in a church? Would it feel weird? Too grand and formal? Rad? I’m curious to see where people stand.

In high school, I had a car that was affectionately (and simultaneously distastefully) known as “The Fridge”. It was a junky white Pontiac, and the hood had a bad case of peeling paint. When I would whine about driving a junker, my dad would say, “Well why would we get you a nicer car, when you can’t even keep this one clean?” He had a good point. Just because it had peeling paint and the ceiling upholstery was falling down, didn’t mean that the back seat had to be littered with school papers and lunch bags and drink cups. Aren’t teenagers gross?

Anyway, my laundry room was resembling The Fridge. Clothes were piled on the washer, detergent had trickled down and made a gooey mess on my beautiful front loaders, and there was dust everywhere. It’s like my teenager self had decided that if I couldn’t have an awesome room, then I was going to have absolutely no pride in it. I’ll show my parents for not giving me a nicer car!

So I cleaned it up. Yes, the walls are still cracked and have some death-liquid running down them, and the uneven cement floor has peeling paint (much like The Fridge! see how good at metaphors I am?!), and the stud wall offers me a great view of the water heater, but that doesn’t mean it has to be disgusting.

Since I don’t really know how to level a cement floor, frame in walls, or sheetrock (and I don’t have a “laundry room fund” set aside at the moment), it may be a while before my laundry room looks like this:

For now, this is the best I can do:

(Trust me, you don’t want to see a “before”.)

And it beats the heck outta the laundromat.

I used an old Ikea rug to protect the tops of the machines, and wiped everything down. I displayed the kitschy laundry painting, because my dad picked it out and I can’t bear to get rid of it.

I know it’s no mega makeover, but it feels so much better! Maybe I can inspire one of you to “spring clean” a depressing area of your house. It feels gooooood!

And along those same lines, I also washed all the windows. Whew! But it’s such a wonderful, cheap way to let in more light, especially on dark winter days.

And lastly (because this post is already all over the place), I made this delicious tomato soup. It’s what you should make if you too are longing for summertime tomatoes from the garden, but it’s January.

(Adapted from this recipe)

2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 14.5-oz can vegetable broth
1 generous tsp dried basil leaves
2 tsp sugar
1 cup half-and-half
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil

Heat tomatoes, basil, and broth on the stove until boiling. Reduce heat and cover- simmer 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir until butter is melted.

Eat with a big drippy grilled cheese (PS- the secret to a perfectly melty grilled cheese sandwich is to not put the other piece of bread on until the cheese is melted- put a lid on it to speed the melting process). And if you look at the other recipe, you’ll see I’ve cut the fat quite a bit, so I think that calls for a little grilled cheese indulgence. 🙂

Happy, happy Monday.

I’ve never decorated for Christmas on my own before- just with my mom. I used to love pulling out the boxes of Christmas decorations and rediscovering all the trinkets from the year before. Now, I have a new goal- keep Christmas decor to 1 Rubbermaid container. ONE! Also, keep it cheapo, schmeapo.

I found some red beaded garland stuff at the DI (Utah version of Goodwill) for $1 (for 4 strands) in the summertime. I liked its simplicity, so I bought it.

Then yesterday, I found a wooden wreath there for $3. Here it is!

It was super dusty gross, but I microfibered the crap out of it. Next time I borrow an air compressor, I’ll give it a blast with that (sure, that’ll happen).

I then wrapped one strand ($0.25 worth) of red beads around it. Voila- a Christmas wreath!

It looks kinda sloppy, but that’s my trademark. It matches my hair.

I was going to wait until after Christmas to get a few (JUST A FEW) decorations, but Roberts sucked me in with their 50% off all-things-Christmas sale (and I totally forgot what I went in there for in the first place).

So for $4 each I bought some garland.

Looky there- my front porch is all pimped out (well, as pimped out as I want it to be) for Christmas for a total of $11.25.

Mailbox, you gots ta go.

Except then Stan wanted to put lights on the big tree in the parking strip…

Last night I was walking Blanche, and I had my camera intending to take pictures of the eclectic mix of houses around my neighborhood. There are some pretty over-the-top Halloween displays (amazingly I don’t think I’ve seen any blow-up thingies this year!), but one stopped me dead in my tracks.

You guys, there are “spooky fun oh-i-love-the-kooky-skeleton” displays…

… and there are displays that will haunt…your…dreams.

Cue Psycho music

What’s going on? On the left we have an assortment of creepiness seated on a plastic yard bench… on the right is a cooler labeled “Toys” and a light pole wrapped in … wedding tulle?

The center of the yard seems to feature a bizarro-world Alice in Wonderland scene, complete with a stumpy gray man serving a pink teapot and what appears to be Wal-Mart tent circa 1986 being used as a tablecloth.

Now that I’ve written this whole dramatic post, I realize that I may be over-exaggerating the creep factor. Maybe it’s because I’m blonde and therefore my brain keeps transcribing my face over that little Alice doll’s. Maybe it’s because Alice in Wonderland scared the poop out of me when I was a kid. Maybe it’s because I’m afraid of my own amusement at such a display going on just a couple blocks from my house. Or maybe it really is scary as hell.

What do you guys think? Am I overreacting or will you be joining me in my nightmares tonight?

My house is a charmer. Always has been. See?

But a masterpiece can always be improved upon, right? 😉 Let’s take a look at all the changes that have taken place:

Let’s see what it looks like now!

The shrubs and trees are a little less than impressive at the moment, but that’s just because I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money. I’m not in any huge hurry to have the best yard on the block, and besides, it’s kind of fun to watch all the stuff grow.

I would love to plant some more perennials in front of the shrubs, and paint the white triangle parts of the house (I never know what to call that part). A cool metal sun or some other eye-catching decoration would probably serve me well, and maybe painting those ’50s metal curlicues too. Or planting some Virginia Creeper so it would crawl up them.

I’ve pretty much had my fill of digging, path-laying, and planting big things for this year, but I am very open to suggestions for improving the look that don’t take too much time/money.


This post is about shutters, not about shutting up my lovely readers, of course.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane and remember that awful awning. More like YAWNing.

My dad insisted it was “cool”, but I argued. He insisted it would be nice for keeping the hot western sun out in the evenings, but I just pointed to the giant tree growing in my parking strip. I win!

Down it came, and my poor window was naked for a long time. I saved the awning though, maybe for a second life as part of a chicken coop someday.

Until Stan the Man came to my rescue with a masonry bit and some fancy blue screws. Masonry screws. Oh and Jonny’s hammer drill, which worked a little better than the regular drill.

Look at him!

Once they were up all the way it was too dark for a photo, but you get the drift. Oh and PS, they were $3 each at the DI, plus a $3 sample of green paint, plus the masonry screws. So around $12. Not bad!

Next up- that fugly bush thing has to go. Well maybe not next, but eventually.