Tree Removal

Last week we had 8 large trees taken down in our yard.  There were two sweet gum trees in the front yard, two in the back yard, three pine trees along our driveway and one more that was too close to one of the sweet gums to stay.  Three of the four sweet gums were dying, not to mention they dropped gumballs all over the yard and driveway.  The three pines along the driveway were the culprits behind our buckled driveway.  We have so many trees on our property that I don’t find the removals to be too drastic-looking, but in a small way everything feels a little more opened up when I look at our house on my way in each day.

The front yard with two large sweet gum trees:Front Trees Before

The front yard after the tree removal:Front Trees AfterAlong our driveway with three large pine trees:Driveway Trees beforeAfter the pine trees were removed:Driveway Trees After

Progress Report: Year 1 in Review

It has been a little over a year since we moved into our forever home. We purchased our house with full knowledge that a 40 year old home would bring with it a good many things that need to be addressed. We are trying to prioritize and go down the list one step at a time. The positives far out-weighed these issues though – a large wooded lot, a well-built, custom home, a friendly neighborhood with lots of pride of ownership.


Our first project was fencing the back yard for our dog. Our back yard goes quite far down to a creek, so there was no need for privacy fencing. My only request was that we use black fencing instead of galvanized steel. All told, that came in at $2600.

Pressure Valve

We noticed the water heater was leaking a little, so our plumber took a look at it and found that we needed a new pressure reduction valve. Evidently, as more homes are built in our county, the water service just turns up the pressure to accommodate, and without a pressure reduction valve, the PSI is crazy high. That repair came in at $325.

The garage door in our basement did not have a lock on it and one of the garage door openers in the main garage did not work. The repairman also added safety cables to the doors to keep the springs from snapping down and hurting someone. Everything came in at $650.


We moved in knowing that the HVAC systems were on borrowed time. The downstairs unit was installed in 1988 and the upstairs unit was installed in 1993. Sure enough, once it was warm enough to try the AC, we found that the downstairs did not cool. We replaced the condenser, as well as had the systems serviced. Before the year was over, we also replaced the starter in the downstairs furnace and the control board on the upstairs furnace. All HVAC work came in at $3500.
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In August, a pop-up storm with strong winds dropped a poplar tree onto the roof over the garage. It took with it our power lines and cable lines that run above ground to the house. To have the power lines reattached to the house and replace the gutter that the tree crunched came in at $625.

Smaller projects included painting all of the bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, the kitchen and the den.  I also painted the front door and our bathroom vanity cabinets and stained the deck.  My sister showed me how to replace cracked glass panes in two windows, so now I know how to remove glazing and reglaze the windows.

Light fixtures in the foyer, stairwells, dining room and our bedroom closet were all replaced.  Bradley replaced the weather stripping at the bottom of the door leading to the garage.  He also changed out the kitchen faucet for me.  We replaced the very old shower heads in the two spare bathrooms as well as the pulls on the vanity cabinets and added a few towel rings and a toilet paper holder.

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We have pulled out a lot of invasive shrubs and small obstructive trees along the driveway and in front of the porch.  My mom has planted a lot of flowering plants and native plants along the driveway.  Above is a picture of one of the Hellebores she put in that has already bloomed this year despite being transplanted recently.  In a seemingly never-ending battle, I was able to kill back the english ivy along the left side of the house to about 10-15 feet.

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As we look forward into 2015, we have decided to have a half dozen trees removed – a few sweet gums that are in decline and a few pine trees that are the culprits behind our buckling driveway.  In addition, we will be having the electrical panel replaced, at which time they will trace all of the lines and label everything for us.  We will also get them to help us with a light in the stairwell that Bradley could never get to work and I would like to have an outlet added in our foyer that I can use for a lamp, our Christmas tree, or something I’m sure I haven’t even thought of yet.

I have plans to add more shrubs to the bed at the front porch.  Once nicer weather moves in, I will be painting the shutters navy.  Finally, if it’s in the cards financially, we hope to have the top third of our driveway removed and repoured and maybe bump out the top part to make the turn into the driveway less severe.

What I’m Loving

There are a few years, and a laundry room renovation (creation actually), between now and when we plan renovate our bathroom.  Nevertheless, I’ve been playing around with rough layouts and collecting material inspirations.  I’m dreaming of a very traditional style, including white subway and hex tiles, white custom inset cabinetry, and polished nickel fixtures.  My collected inspiration is on this pinterest board.

What I'm Loving 5
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I love these simple Bryant sconces.  I would have two flanking each sink area.  The vanity area in this bathroom renovation is my inspiration.  

I think this hidden outlet is a fantastic solution for keeping a hair dryer out of sight when it isn’t in use.  

One of our favorite purchases has been a heated towel warmer.  Right now we have one that stands on the floor just outside our bathroom, but I would love to use one of these wall-mounted versions when we do a full renovation.  

I love the Moen Waterhill collection, and have the hand towel ring in a couple of our bathrooms already.  I have this pivoting paper holder in the bathroom on the main level, and I love it – the style, the weight of it, and the ease of changing the roll of paper.  

Polished nickel has become my favorite finish for fixtures, whether plumbing, lighting, or hardware.  It is so classic and rich-looking – much more so than brushed nickel.  And it is warmer than a chrome finish.  I plan to use it wherever I can in future renovations and upgrades.

Red Office Accents

After compiling a small collage of red office accents that would look really cute on my desk at work, but some of which was pricier than I would ever spring for, I came across a great little knock-off version of the accordion file collator.  Target’s Room Essentials brand is carrying one very similar but in a dull gray color for only $10.99.

I think it is only half the size of the collator from Anthropologie that was my inspiration, but that doesn’t bother me.  I took it home and coated it with a few layers of red spray paint.  Now it is in my office at work with the other red accessories I’ve collected over time.

Collator before

Red Collator

red desk accessories

New Year’s Eve Party

We held our annual New Year’s Eve party last week and I was able to try out my decorations in our new house.  I also added a few new things this year.  The best new addition was a wreath for the front door.  I bought the silver ball and tinsel wreath after Christmas at Target, then added some NYE flair using a glue gun.  I had to remove a few of the silver ball ornaments from the wreath in order to fit the extra decorations in well.  I added two party horns covered with gold and silver glitter and a silver tiara.  The gold starburst was an ornament I picked up at World Market after Christmas.  I also added an extra strip of tinsel to the outer and inner edges of the wreath for a bit more substance.

New Year's Eve Wreath

In the foyer, I put a crystal clock and two champagne flutes under a glass cloche.  I changed the DIY tinsel-covered numbers to read 2015 on the wall behind the table.  Lastly, I wrapped some gold and silver garlands that I picked up from Walmart after Christmas around the stair banister.

New Year's Eve Foyer Decorations

In the living room, I set up the party hats and noisemakers for ringing in the new year at midnight.  I hung a silver mylar “chandelier” above the coffee table.


NYE Chandelier

On the coffee table, I put out little baggies of “Midnight Kisses.”  For dinner we had chili and chicken-corn chowder, cornbread, and buffalo chicken dip.  At midnight, we toasted with champagne with rock candy garnish.

Midnight Kisses

In the den, I added a party hat to the bulldog jar given to me by a good friend this year.  Even Buddy put up with us putting a little hat on him for long enough to snap a picture.

NYE Bulldog

NYE Buddy