Friday Five

It’s Fridaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Let’s get to it.

1 – We made homemade peanut butter cups the other night and they were so freaking good! I used this recipe from Brown eyed Baker for the peanut butter mixture but we didn’t use the directions for the chocolate since it called for a microwave. No, we do not have a microwave. Yes, I know that’s weird. We haven’t had one since we moved to this house and we haven’t actually missed it but we are planning on putting one in when we renovate the kitchen (next year? 2018? I don’t know anymore). Anyway, we just used our double boiler and melted a couple of bags of milk chocolate chips (no need to add anything to them).


2 – I took this picture of Otter the other night and I cannot stop looking at it and laughing.


3 – I posted a current picture of our living room the other day on Instagram (@jmens6 if you want to follow) that makes our downstairs seem like it’s pretty put together. Spoiler alert: it’s not. Here’s the photo I posted on Instagram. If you look at the bottom left you get a little hint.


And here’s the view if I turn slightly to the left:


The only thing that’s really finished in our entry is the floor. Here’s a rough list of what else needs to be taken care of: the rug needs to be replaced because the dogs have eaten parts of it and it’s a little too small for the space, I need to build a new entry table because this one doesn’t really go with our style anymore, we need to skim coat the wall because I gave up on removing the painted over wall paper, the baseboards need to be installed/caulked/painted, I want to switch the light out, the walls need to be painted and I need to finish refinishing the old front door we bought 2 years ago so that we can switch it out with this door which by the way, is half painted purple on the front side. This would probably be a good project to tackle soon because it’s not actually that much work. I need to look at our 2016 goal list though and see where we stand on that.

4 – Even though we’re probably still several years away from doing a gut job on our master bathroom, I’ve been looking at ideas on Pinterest a lot lately. I am in completely in love with this vanity and really hope we can find someone to custom build something similar for us when the time comes.

mcm bathroom

(Photo by Ema Peter Photography)

5 – The huge, half-fallen pine tree in our backyard shifted yesterday and is now even closer to actually falling. If that little oak it’s resting on would just give way I think it would finally hit the ground. There’s not really a way for us to move the process along safely without hiring someone to come remove that whole group of trees and honestly I’m way too cheap for that. It shouldn’t cause any damage when it finally does fall (other than knocking out some of that cheap lattice) so we’re just trying to let nature take its course. We are being careful with letting the dogs out in the meantime though.



That’s it for this week! Here’s a tentative plan for this weekend:

Friday night (if it doesn’t rain): Finish installing posts for railings.

Saturday: Long run, finish deck boards, build/install stairs?

Sunday: Install railings, build/install stairs, work on front door project.

Deck Progress

A few weeks ago, we tore down our old rickety death trap of a deck.

Demo went well for the most part. I mean, we almost knocked a spigot off the house but other than that it was pretty smooth.


Since then, we’ve slowly been building back a nice new deck that doesn’t feel like a hearty wind gust could knock it down. We didn’t end up lowering the deck as much as we thought we would so we’re still going to need to install railings along the higher parts.


Fortunately for our area (but unfortunately for this project), we’ve been getting quite a few pop up storms so we haven’t been able to work on the deck as much as we would like but we’re getting so close to being done with this phase and I wanted to show you guys the progress that we’ve made.


Eventually, the deck will wrap around the back of the house to the garage but this is all we’re doing for now. It’s a slow process but let’s be real, all of our projects are slow. This is the current state of the deck. The lattice is there to attempt to keep the dogs from jumping off. Barley thought it was really hilarious to take a couple of dives off the end and give me a heart attack. Aren’t dogs fun?!


Here’s the punch list for what we have left:

  • Finish installing posts for railings.
  • Finish installing deck boards.
  • Install railings.
  • Build/install temporary stairs from the door to the deck and the deck to the ground.

If it doesn’t rain this weekend we should be able to get most of it knocked out. Fingers crossed!

Friday Five…on Monday

Yep, I suck. I’ve been insanely busy at work lately and once I got home Friday night I just completely forgot to post. I planned on doing a post on Saturday instead but never got around to it. I didn’t want to skip completely so I’m doing my Friday Five post today and pretending it’s not Monday.

1 – We have the most awesome friends in the world. My friend/co-worker Cha came over last weekend to help us build the deck frame and this past weekend she and her husband Nick (also a friend/co-worker) came over to help us haul the old deck lumber to the dump. Our backyard is already 300% less trashy looking thanks to them.

2 – This big guy surprised us when we got back from the dump on Saturday. Typically, I hate snakes but we leave these guys alone and let them do their job. This is only the second one we’ve seen this year and he looks like he’s eating well.


3 – We bought a new couch! In the last Friday Five post, I mentioned a new couch wasn’t really in our budget but we were able to shift some funds around and buy one that was on sale at Rooms to Go. We tried out the tufted sofa I mentioned but ultimately chose the Bonita Springs sofa because it was $300 cheaper and a little comfier. I’m a little concerned about the fabric with all of the animals but we really just need it to last a few years until we can upgrade.


4 – The couch was delivered this morning and we took the opportunity to completely rearrange the rest of our furniture. We swapped the sofa and tv walls and brought the two chairs from the study into the living room. We decided to keep the old sectional for now to fill up the other room. It’s too big for the space but it’s just temporary until we figure out what we want to put in there. We still need a rug for the living room and we’d like either a bench or a chaise to put under the window instead of the chairs but I’m just happy that it actually looks like people live here now.


5 – I was browsing Pinterest yesterday and this photo caught my eye (it wasn’t pinned properly so I have no idea who to credit. If anyone happens to know, let me know and I’ll update the post)


I would love to do something like this on both sides of our living room. I think it would look really pretty and I love how the glass keeps everything open but you can still close the room off. That’s also a lot of glass to clean dog slobber off of though so we’ll see.

It’s going to be another long and very busy work week but I’m hoping to find the motivation to give you guys an update on the deck later this week. Spoiler alert: it’s still not done but it’s getting so close! We need to install three more posts for the railings and then we can finish off the deck boards. After that it’s just installing the railings and putting in some stairs. So. Freaking. Close.

Friday Five

This is only my third Friday Five post and it’s already a struggle to figure out five things to talk about! There really hasn’t been much going on lately.

Let’s see…

1 – The deck is still a major work in progress. We didn’t get very far last weekend and we weren’t able to work on it during the week at all.The ledger boards are all in and the outside posts are set. Our plan is to tackle the frame and joists tomorrow and install the deck boards on Sunday. We might have a helper or two tomorrow so hopefully it will go a little faster than last weekend!

2 – I desperately want a new sofa. It’s not in the budget right now but our sectional needs some serious help. The dogs have destroyed part of it and after 4 years of being a bed and a playground to cats and dogs, it just needs to go. I would LOVE this West Elm sofa but at almost $2500 (when it’s not on sale) it’s way out of our price range and I’m afraid the dogs would scratch it.


This is my current second favorite. The price isn’t bad and I’m less worried about the dogs and their claws.


3 – I hate the new Instagram Stories feature. It’s such a trivial thing but it makes me so irritated. I already have Snapchat and the stories feature seems like the exact same idea minus the hilarious filters. Stop trying to make stories happen, Instagram!

4 – The weather has been slightly cooler lately (as in high 80s instead of 90s) and it’s making me ache for Fall. Fingers crossed the temps don’t go back up! I’ve never been much of a Summer person and I’m so over the heat and humidity. I just want to be able to open the windows without melting and wear jeans without feeling like I wrapped myself in shrink wrap.

5 – I keep waffling about our kitchen reno. We decided to do it next Summer but then decided to push it to 2018 because it gives us a little more financial freedom but now I’m leaning back toward trying to get it done next year. Every day the urge to take a sledgehammer to the cabinets gets a little bit stronger.

Here’s the plan for this weekend:

Friday night – NOTHING. Rest and watch Netflix.

Saturday – Long run in the morning (minimum of 10 miles), spend the rest of the day building the deck and possibly taking some of the old deck to the dump.

Sunday – Finish building the deck? Maybe? Hopefully?

Friday Five

This week has flown by! I kept meaning to post about tearing down our deck but all of a sudden I woke up and it was Friday. No complaints here.

1 – We are mostly finished building the second phase of the fence! We have two warped boards that need to be replaced and we need to fix a few places so that the dogs can’t slip out but we finished enough to move on with the next phase of outdoor work. The open spot is where the gate will eventually go. Right now we put some lattice up just to keep the dogs from getting out.

IMG_2154 (002)


2 – We ripped down the deck last weekend! Well, I ripped down the deck with a little help on the stairs from Hell and Kyle handled a majority of the clean up. As long as it doesn’t rain we’ll start on the new deck this weekend!


3 – We’ve been spending a lot of time outside with the pups now that the yard has almost doubled in size again. They are loving all of the extra space and it doesn’t hurt that this is the only grassy area in the backyard right now. Dead grass > no grass.


4 – Our upstairs air conditioning unit went out on Tuesday and it was miserable. All of our bedrooms are upstairs and it was super hot earlier this week. We don’t have a ceiling fan in our room and I prefer arctic temperatures when it comes to sleeping so we ended up sleeping on the floor in the living room. The dogs didn’t mind. Thankfully we were able to get it fixed Wednesday afternoon and the cost was under $100.


5 – We slightly changed the plan for moving the current back doors in the kitchen. Instead of sliding them down the same wall, we’re hoping to take the current dining room window out and put the new doors there instead. This means less steps from the door to the deck and it lets us walk right into what will be the outdoor kitchen/dining area which will be better for grilling. It should also bring in more light on that end of the space. We’ll probably do this next Spring/Summer along with adding more windows in the kitchen/dining room.


That’s all for now! Hopefully I’ll have lots to share next week. I’m usually pretty ambitious in my weekend plans but my hope is to finish getting the back area prepped tonight (rake, pressure wash foundation, lay weed fabric) so that we can start building tomorrow. I really want to power through because right now it’s a hassle to get the dogs out since we have to take them through  the tiny laundry room and then out the back door of the garage but I also want to take the time to make sure everything is 100% right.

Friday Five

What’s up, jerks?!*

I really wanted to get more into blogging this year but so far it hasn’t happened. Part of that is a lack of things to blog about because I don’t want to post something just to have some sort of content. That being said, in an effort to get myself to post regularly, I’m going to try doing a Friday post every week that just throws out 5 things that are going on in our lives at the moment. We all know how great I am with keeping up with these things (I owe you guys a 2016 goal update for instance) so we’ll see. Let’s get to it.

  1. *We’re binge watching The League right now and it’s giving me a lot of feelings. I miss football season. Rafi is disgusting but hilarious. I wish there were more than seven seasons. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself when we finish the series; we only have four episodes left. SINT. Time to pick one of the billion shows we’re behind on…maybe we’ll finally finish Parks and Rec. Or Pysch. Or catch up on Gotham. Deadliest Catch? Suits? NCIS? The options are endless and overwhelming!
  2. We’re almost done with the next phase of the fence! We just have three more panels to finish plus the gate and then we can connect it to the existing lattice fence. Fingers crossed that means deck demo can get underway this weekend. Ugh, our poor grass. That’s what happens when you have a very hot, dry summer.fenceleft
  3. Kyle and I registered for a half marathon and we’ve been getting up early almost every Saturday morning for our long runs. My longest so far has been 13 so I’m feeling pretty prepared for the race and it’s not until September. My last couple of long runs have been 10-11 miles but I’m hoping to bump back up to 12-13 this weekend. It’s supposed to be super hot though so we’ll see.
  4. We’re currently fostering the cutest kitten. Her name is Gracie and she’s just over 4 months old. She’s fully vaccinated, micro-chipped, spayed, and ready to be adopted. gracie
  5. I’m thinking about getting a new blog design soon. I’ve never loved this one and I’ve been wanting to upgrade for some time. I’ve been putting it off until I have more to blog about but maybe if my blog is prettier I’ll want to blog more? I don’t know but I think I’m going to test out a couple of blog themes this weekend to see if I can find anything I love.

Our New (Final) Deck Plan

I don’t think I’ve really talked about it here but Kyle and I have gone back and forth on our deck plans so many times that I’ve lost count. I never really loved anything we settled on and although he’s pretty laid back and said he was cool with whatever, I could tell he wasn’t totally into what we decided either. A few weeks ago we were sitting outside burning branches from our Christmas tree (Yes, I realize Christmas was almost 6 months ago. Deal with it.) and I started to play around with a new idea which I’ll get to here in a minute. First, let’s look at the current deck. Here’s a photo from the listing:

Back View

Our original plan was to expand the existing deck all the way across the back of the house so that we can move the french doors to give us more wall space in the kitchen and then create a paver patio behind the garage (where the brick is in the photo above). This would give us an “upstairs” grilling/dining area and a “downstairs” outdoor living area. Here’s a very professional rendering to help you visualize the original deck plan.


That was the plan for a while but then we decided we didn’t really want to deal with pavers and we didn’t love the idea of pouring a concrete patio either so we decided instead of a patio we would create a lower deck. So we would keep the overall plan but with different materials.

That plan was THE PLAN for a long time. Like, the last two years. As the project has gotten closer (!!!) I’ve started to doubt that plan more and more. We kept talking about it and how to best tackle it and financially it’s best for us to break this project up into two phases and even then we went back and forth on which phase to do first (upper deck vs. lower deck). The same arguments were being made over and over to justify one over the other. The lower deck should probably be done first to make it flow more seamlessly. The upper deck should be done first so that part is done and there’s no snag when it comes time to re-do the kitchen and move the french doors. The lower deck should be done first because it will be the cheaper phase. The upper deck should be done first because it’s falling apart and the pine tree near the lower deck area should probably be removed first.

But then, as I was sitting in my plastic adirondack chair breathing in the fumes from the burning evergreen branches, I came up with a new plan. I finally admitted to myself that the old plan never really worked. I didn’t want a multi-level deck. I didn’t want something that has a lot of wasted space and the potential to look like Frankenstein fell in love with a load of pressure treated pine. And so a new plan was born. Are you ready for this?!


Okay, so I know that mock up leaves a lot to be desired but it’s the best I can do with the tools I have. ANYWAY, it boils down to this: instead of a lower deck and an upper deck we are going to build a one level floating deck at the height we had planned for the lower deck. This means that we’ll have to have a few steps from the doors to the deck but that was really the only con we could think of and it’s not a big deal to us. We feel like this plan lends itself better to our ultimate goal of being able to entertain seamlessly out here and it keeps the deck open to the yard so it’s easy to come and go. Not that it would have been difficult to access the yard with the original plan but this just keeps everything a little more open. We are losing a little space because we can’t use the entire span of the back of the house due to the crawl space door (the current deck is built above the entry point) but it’s only 4 or 5 feet which we can deal with.

If all goes as planned, we’ll be starting on this project at the end of July/beginning of August. We’re still doing the deck in two phases the first of which will be demolishing the old deck and building from the crawl space door to the corner of the house. We’ll also be adding in another section of fencing during this project which will have to be done before we can start on the demo/new deck.

We are both much more excited about this plan than we’ve been about either of the other plans and if I had my way we’d be yanking that old busted deck down this weekend! Tick-tock, deck, your time is coming.

Trip Report: Orlando

It’s been pretty quiet around the house lately so I don’t have much to share on that front but I wanted to tell you guys about the awesome vacation we went on earlier this month with Kyle’s family (which is different than the vacation on our 2016 goal list). We spent 3 1/2 days in Orlando at the Loews Royal Pacific with park-to-park passes for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I’m basically just going to dump a ton of pictures and then mention a few things at the bottom of the post. Enjoy!

adventurebeginsChief and JessChief and KyleDiagon AlleyDuff1Duff2Gringotts_dayGringotts_interiorGringotts_nightHogsmeadeHogsmeade_threebroomsticksHogwartsHogwarts2Jess and JimmyJurassicParkMinistry of MagicPlatformUniversalStudiosWeasleys

So here are some of my thoughts/tips/whatever:

The hotel was beautiful inside and out. I tried really hard to figure out a way to sneak our king mattress out of the hotel but I don’t think we could have fit it in our Kia. Seriously, that was the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in. The hotel had a large pool and beach area that was nice. I only spent one afternoon there and I really enjoyed it but I enjoyed napping in the bed more so that’s how I spent most of my afternoons outside of the parks.

We got into Orlando on a Wednesday afternoon and spent the late afternoon/early evening at the parks until they closed. The crowds were really low so we were able to get a bunch of rides in without waiting at a single one which was insane. The crowds really picked up by Friday though and we had to contend with a whole bunch of school groups.

If you’re thinking about getting the express pass, just do it. We had it and it was so worth it! There were times we didn’t need it and not all rides accepted it but it came in handy a lot, too.

If you’re a Harry Potter fan (or even if you’re not), you should go to both parks. Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are both so cool and it would be a shame to miss out on either one. If you have passes to both parks you can take the Hogwarts Express to get from one to the other which I highly recommend doing at least once each way. After you’ve ridden it once each way I would say you’re safe skipping it and walking between parks if the wait is long. If it’s a short wait, ride it as many times as you can.

If you can only choose one park, I would vote Universal Studios solely based on Diagon Alley. Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventures is really cool and that’s also where Hogwarts is but there’s just something about Diagon Alley that feels special. I think it’s because when you’re there, you feel completely separated from the rest of the park so it really feels like you’re somewhere else. Plus, Escape from Gringotts is in Diagon Alley and it’s my favorite Harry Potter Ride.

If you can swing it, stay at an on-site hotel. It makes it so easy to come and go from the parks as you please. We would go to the parks when they opened, stay until lunch, head back to the hotel for a few hours of rest/relaxation, and then walk back in the late afternoon when the crowds had died down some.

Favorite rides/neighborhoods in Islands of Adventure: Jurassic Park (water), Ripsaw Falls (water), Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Spiderman

Favorite rides/neighborhoods in Universal Studios: The Mummy, Escape from Gringotts, London, San Francisco, Duff Beer Garden

We ate at several restaurants in City Walk that were good and I would eat at again: NBC Sports Grill and Brew, Vivo Italian Kitchen, and Red Oven Pizza Bakery. We also ate at Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food but I don’t think any of us really liked what we got and the atmosphere wasn’t all that great.

We had so much fun on this trip (thanks again to Kyle’s parents!) and we can’t wait to go back! Especially since the Chocolate Emporium will be open next time 🙂 Now we’re just counting down the months until our big Caribbean vacation!

2016 Goals Check In

I’m a little behind on this update but once again I don’t feel like we’ve accomplished a lot lately. For May, I’m hoping to make a lot of progress on the front door project and the yard. We’ve been tackling the yard every weekend but it’s a lot of work! I know we’ve made a lot of progress but it’s hard to tell unless you live here and see it every day. Over the weekend we filled up our 96 gallon yard waste container plus 7 30-gallon yard waste bags with leaves and weeds. We haven’t done anything in the back yard for the entire 3 years we’ve lived here (at least not outside the fence) and the house was vacant or being rented out for several years before then so the yard has been seriously neglected.


We’ve cleaned up this whole area which used to be all leaves and weeds. Apparently I don’t have a before picture but trust me, it was bad! Eventually we’ll do some landscaping back here with plants that keep mosquitoes away. We weren’t able to take our fence all the way to the property line but we don’t mind because it gives us the ability to put in some natural insect repellents without having to worry about the dogs digging them up. Of course, behind this angle we still have all of this crap.


And that’s even after I did some weeding.

Anyway, we were able to strike off staining the fence! So at least there’s that. I have everything I need to repaint the study so hopefully I can take care of that this month too if I get the front door finished up.

-Demo current deck – Postponed to 2017
-Clean garage…again – Done! 
-Build new, bigger deck – Postponed to 2017
-Refinish very old but new to us front door – Started at the end of 2015. 
-Install front door
-Repaint the study
-Add built ins in the study?
-Add crown moulding in the study?
-Create new area for dogs
-Remove dog crates from master bedroom
-Caulk windows – Started. All downstairs windows have been caulked. 0/4 upstairs windows have been done.
-Paint master bedroom?
-Clean up side/back/front yards – Started. Currently focusing on smaller side yard and parts of the backyard. 
-Price out all aspects of kitchen remodel
-Stain fence – Done!
-Extend fence?
-Remove trees? – Removed dead oak in front yard.
-Remove shed?

-New flooring in entry/study/living room. – Mostly done! We just need to add the thresholds and then install the baseboards in the living room. – Done!
-Paint living room. – Done! 
-Stain beams in living room. – Done!
-Build/stain lower deck – We priced this out over the weekend and we’re trying to figure out when to tackle the project. Most likely August-September. 


-Read 26 books – can be re-reads or never before reads, but must come from books we already own – Behind! I should be on book #10 but I’m only on #9. Hoping to catch up this weekend.
-Go on an awesome vacation – Booked and paid for!
-Lose 20lbs – This is still not going well but I’ve decided that I’m going to just shake it off and start over on Monday. I’m thinking about doing a weekly post on this to keep me accountable.
-Tone and tighten once I finish losing these last 20lbs. – Three of my weekly workouts are dedicated to toning.
-Walk the dogs more – We’re still not walking them as often as I’d like but more than we used to.
-Use my craft room – I rarely use this room and that’s pretty lame
-Get a new look for the blog

Do You Want to Build a Fence? Part Three.

A couple of weekends ago, we finally got around to trimming down the posts and staining our fence. I had almost gotten used to the raw pine look and comically tall fence posts.


Since we only have a small portion of fencing in at this point, we were able to knock out the staining in a weekend. Going into it, we weren’t sure if we wanted one or two coats but we ended up loving it after one so we stopped there. Here’s what we did:

Step One: Trim posts. Kyle bought a 9″ blade for the reciprocal saw and knocked this out quickly.
Step Two: Clean the fence. We broke out the handy dandy pressure washer for this.
Step Three: Allow fence to dry. We cleaned the fence Saturday morning and then ran some errands. By the time we got back the fence was ready for stain.
Step Four: Stain. Stain. Stain.
Step Five: Curse yourself for not staining the boards before you installed them.
Step Six: Stain.
Step Seven: Stretch your back.
Step Eight: Stain some more.
Step Nine: Get your brush stuck between the fence and a tree.

Step Ten: Stain even more.
Step Eleven: Allow fence to dry.
Step Twelve: Top posts with solar light caps.

We finished up late Sunday afternoon and love how it turned out! Here’s a progress shot that shows the new stain vs. the raw lumber.

Our yard is a disaster but at least we have a pretty fence now. Baby steps.





There’s still a ton to do but maybe in about 20 years it’ll all come together.