More Brick-Laying

Sweeping sand into the cracks between the brick pavers – this path leads around our big maple tree and to our side gate into the dog yard

Soon it will be more than just nippy in the morning. Then winter will descend upon us and I’ll be focused on the inside projects.

Until then…

This is the west side pathway. This picture was from a couple of weeks ago. The pile of bricks is now gone!

Brick Moving = Brick Laying

I have nearly moved all of the brick from the sides of Cottage East!

The paths on both sides are clear, with a few bricks scattered here and there, and several large stacks.

I woke up this morning and decided I would re-do the brick paths in my side yard. Originally laid directly on the ground with no weed blocking landscape fabric, often the wrong kind of bricks (ones with holes in them), and far too narrow of a path – it all needed to be re-done.

Herb garden to the right and maple tree to the left

So I pulled up a few rows of bricks, laid down the landscape fabric, and got to work on the new (and wider) path.

Later I nagged Dave into running to the store and buying some sand and together we put down around 180 pounds of sand and swept it into the cracks between the bricks.

I’ll probably need around three more 60-pound bags, but the path looks GREAT!

From the other side (Cottage East in the distance) – I think I will wrap the path around the maple tree. And here is where I ran out of sand!

Plans Change

My plan for laying all of the bricks we collected off of the sides of Cottage East in the backyard as an English garden has changed.

View from the other side. This took hours, but it is going to look awesome and be very functional for us.

For one, the yard is very uneven and will need leveling. For two, I’ve laid a majority of the brick down on both sides of the Cottage as walkways, and I really like the look of it. I would have to give up having the paved walkways on each side in order to have enough bricks for the backyard.

I’ve planted the sides of this path with plenty of iris and daylilies. They will grow in strong in the spring!

So the bricks that are in stacks will go to widen pathways and make new ones – all done properly, with an underlayment of landscape fabric and paver sand to help hold the loose bricks in place.

The base of the maple tree is planted with lamb’s ear, hosta, daylilies and some herbs. I think I will wrap the path around it to further accentuate the plantings.

Eventually, I’ll landscape the backyard of Cottage East and lay in a path of bricks from one corner of the yard to the other to get guests from the off-street parking to the back steps of the Cottage.

This new path is twice as wide as the old one. Which is good, because the plants really tend to fill in and block the walkway. I will eventually take this path all the way to the front walkway. I still need to “curve” it a little more.

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Weight Goals and Upcoming Event

I considered adding these topics to my last post, but it was already long enough, so here you go – a brand new post!

Weight Loss Goals and Accomplishments

I’ve mentioned before that, since rescuing my dad from Panama late last year – I’ve had a couple of fires lit under my butt.

#1 – Lose weight and avoid the onset of Type 2 diabetes

#2 – Get a plan for retirement in place because planning on living with my kid when I am old and decrepit is NOT a retirement plan

So by mid-May, I had figured out this whole “diabetic-friendly diet” and began in earnest. I started weighing myself daily, eating sensibly while cutting down on carbs, sweets, and portion sizes.

Goal #1 – Get my weight below 220

I accomplished this on 6/28 and immediately set a new goal:

Goal #2 – Get my weight below 215

This was accomplished on 8/5, which led to my third goal:

Goal #3 – Get my weight below 210

And on Tuesday, after having been below 210 for a full 20 days, I considered that goal accomplished as well.

Because my weight can fluctuate 1-3 pounds on a daily basis, even though I weigh myself at the same time and under the same circumstances, I figure that a time span of three weeks at the target weight is appropriate for considering a goal “accomplished.”

I hit 209.5 on 9/6, which started the clock. I got down to 207 last week.

I don’t need huge weight loss all at once – what I need is a healthy decline in weight over time that STAYS off.

So now I’m on Goal #4 – get my weight below 205.

My long-term goal is to get my weight down to 170 pounds. I haven’t been that weight in more than two decades, but I know it can be done. If I average six weeks for each five pound goal, then we are looking at me arriving at my long-term goal of 170 by mid July 2018. That really is not long at all when you consider how long it took me to get to the weight I am now!

But that is assuming that I just continue to lose weight through sensible eating. I imagine my weight loss will slow and I will need to begin exercising more by then. So we shall see.

Another way to look at it? If I continue on this current path – I will have lost ALL of the weight gained over the past 20 years in just over ONE YEAR. When you look at it that way, I think it sounds pretty frickin’ awesome!

Meanwhile, I went in on Tuesday to see Dr. Edwards, who heads Kansas City Direct Primary Care and get the A1C blood test, a test that looks specifically at your blood sugar levels over the past 90 days. The A1C test indicates whether you are normal, at risk for developing diabetes or already have the disease. Here is the breakdown:

Normal below 5.7 percent
Diabetes 6.5 percent or above
Prediabetes 5.7 to 6.4 percent

Thanks to my diligence, my dad, who has been a type 2 diabetic for 20+ years, scored 5.6 on the test recently! I have tested at around 6.2 percent, which is prediabetic, both four years ago and again around four months ago. My test results now? 6.0 percent!

My doc wrote, “Even a change of .2% in the right direction is a HUGE change since most of the time I’m seeing people who are moving in the other direction…but full percentage points. Keep up the good work!”

So, while I am still considered pre-diabetic, I’m making changes to see that A1C fall to normal ranges.

I was talking to my chiropractor yesterday about this and he said, “Imagine an A1C of 14%.” It turns out he had that, plus blood sugars in the 500 range. He made changes to his lifestyle, his eating habits in particular, and is now back out of diabetes and in the normal range.

A good calorie calculator I just found is my next step in dialing in my weight loss goals. You can play around with it to determine short-term and long-term weight loss goals. If, for example, I want to weigh 150 pounds and know my lifestyle will be sedentary, according to my height and age, I should limit my caloric intake to 1600 calories per day. OR I can make changes in my activity level, and “earn” myself the right to more calories per day if I think that 1600 calories are too little.

I don’t plan on obsessively counting calories – after all, I already weigh myself daily and consider that rather extreme – but it is a nice tool to use.

Northeast Kansas City Historical Society Sixth Annual Homes Tour

It’s that time again!

I have to admit that I look forward to this homes tour every year. I really do! Last year, having our neighborhood as the tour destination was phenomenal, and this year, I’m excited to see TWO of my cleaning clients as destinations on the tour!

I will be a docent at one of them, probably in the morning, at the house on the top left in the photo above. I can’t wait, I love to look at the rooms and get decorating ideas each time I am there to clean it. The owners have impeccable taste and have done so much work to improve the home over the years.

I hope you will set aside some time in your schedule to visit each of the houses on Saturday, October 14th. The tour runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Allocate plenty of time, you won’t want to miss lingering over the carved wood, antiques, fireplaces, and stenciled ceilings. And so much more!

Posted in Events/Tours, Health | Comments Off on Weight Goals and Upcoming Event

Bricks So Many Bricks

The stairs at their proper width (we widened them last year)

Truly Backbreaking Work

My love of bricks began when we moved here over four and a half years ago. A beautiful old brick house needs brick pathways.

And with five lots, I had plenty of room to lay down a few pathways. In the first year, a long-abandoned house down the street burned and I knew the city would be coming in with bulldozers to level the lot. In the back of the house was a brick patio.

We made several trips back and forth with the wheelbarrow and I assembled a small pile of bricks. The next spring, I laid them on top of the concrete path, leading to the steps at the front of our house.

Just a plain little sidewalk back in 2014

And with that small act, I caught the brick bug bad. (Say that ten times fast)

Over the years I have scoured Craig’s List ads for free bricks, worn out the shocks in my van hauling them back, and made quite a few paths (most of which need to be re-done…it’s a learning curve, after all).

The first brick path, laid directly over the cement walkway

My friends and family have made many jokes about it. “We saw a pile of bricks and thought of you, Christine!”

circa 2015

Well, let me tell you, with my most recent purchase, the little wood frame house to our east that sported a crumbling brick facade, I can attest that I have won the brick jackpot.

Along the way, words I never thought I would utter have been spilling out of my mouth…

Early 2016 before we expanded the stairs

“Where are we going to put all of these bricks?”

“I move them until I can’t move and there are still so many of them!”

The brick path to the property line on the east side of Cottage East

“Will we ever be able to get all of these bricks moved?!”

Well, folks, the end is in sight…mostly. Here are the most recent pictures.

The view of the entire east side of Cottage East

As you can see, we have laid down a pathway on one side. It needs a little fixing, but it’s close. And the other side needs a weekend of work and it should be done as well.

The west side of Cottage East. The pathway extends to around the halfway mark.

And this is a good thing, because we have a couple of guys coming in after next weekend to work on removing the windows, framing them out for new ones, fixing some foundation issues, and removing the rotting boards, replacing them with plywood/OSB and wrapping it all with Tyvek.

The front walkway of Cottage East. I guess I need to learn how to shape brick now so I can cut them into triangles and give it a finished look.

Revitalizing My Classes – Just a Handful, Though

I’m going to teach a few classes next year. Right now I have two on the books:

June 7th, 2018 6:30-8:00 p.m. Make Your Own Vinaigrettes and Dressings

October 11th, 2018 6:30-8:00 p.m. Homemade Breads and MYO Butter Spreads

These classes are free to attend and will be held at North Kansas City Public Library but pre-registration is required. Contact NKCPL for details.

There will be one more class, one on DIY Coffee Creamers, set for a Saturday morning in either March or April. I’ll let you know when we have a specific date on that.

That’s a crapload of grass growing in my former/future crop garden.

A Garden Next Year?

The irony that I originally started this blog to talk about my garden and what I was growing in it has not escaped me. For the past two years, I have had little or no garden and even less time to think about gardening.

I hope that will change next year, but I’m not sure. So for now, I’m tentatively planning a garden. Just a very basic one. I would love to grow:

  • Tomatoes
  • Kale
  • Watermelon
  • Pumpkins
  • Swiss Chard

Low key.

A line of bricks here at the front of Cottage East side yard keeps the dirt/mud from coating the sidewalk and making it a slippery mess for passersby. You can see the remnants of the last rain still on the concrete.

Those Airbnb Dreams

We have a LOT of work in front of us for Cottage East. The work to get it safe from the elements is paramount and will be completed before the end of the year.

We won’t be installing siding or new windows until spring, however, but the plywood/OSB and Tyvek wrap should be enough to hold it until then.

I’m busy adding this pathway in our side yard. It connects with another pathway already there. The brick edging will help define the yard from the sidewalk and prevent mud from seeping onto the sidewalk and furthering shallow rooted plant growth onto the actual sidewalk areas.

Cottage West is in a holding pattern for now for a couple of reasons.

#1 – We need to get one project completed fully and completely.

#2 – The neighbor next to it is mentally unbalanced.

#2 doesn’t necessarily interfere with #1 – but once work is done on either cottage we want it making money. And frankly? Having an unbalanced guy living directly next door to a property that has folks coming and going constantly is not going to work.

So we wait. We fix up Cottage East, get it performing on Airbnb and producing income. Use that income to fix up Cottage West, and then possibly do a long-term rental instead. I doubt the neighbor will behave any better, but I have no problem with pushing forward harassment charges and a lawsuit against him if he is behaving poorly. Having one person/family there to provide testimony would certainly be easier to move forward in a court of law.

And considering the neighbor has a laundry list of problems to address with his own home, I can only hope he will focus on them, instead of making trouble with us. Honestly, as it stands the house he is in probably needs to be condemned.

Posted in AirBnB, Classes, DIY, Garden Planning | Comments Off on Bricks So Many Bricks

Each Step Moves Us Forward

The balancing act continues, dear readers. Each week we balance caring for my dad, the typical house/home stuff, tending to the acre of land we are now responsible for, and tackling the projects that will move forward our renovation projects.

Now That Was Dumb

This past Wednesday I returned home from a cleaning to see that roof supplies were being delivered to Cottage West. However, they were placing everything on the ground of the front yard.

I went up and asked what was going on and the guy said, “Well, the roofer was worried because you had pulled the brick walls off that if we put the material on the roof the house might collapse.”

“Um, those bricks are a facade, the frame is intact.”

The guy shrugged.

“So when is the roofer coming?”

He shrugged again, “Your guess is as good as mine.”

I went inside and called Champion, who we are contracting with for the roof, siding and windows – because I was quite concerned. No matter what neighborhood you live in, delivering construction material without any kind of security in place is not a good idea. And certainly not in our area! I explained to the folks at Champion that I was not going to be held responsible for the theft and that they needed to get someone out here pronto to secure the supplies.

No one ever showed up.

My husband made sure to put the small stuff inside the house, but the tar paper and roofing materials were far too heavy. That night, it appears someone tried to move the tar paper and couldn’t, but the next night? They made sure to take every last bit of tar paper and shingles. The only thing left was a piece of plastic that wrapped around the tar paper!

Everyone over at Champion is rather embarrassed and they promised we would not be held responsible for the loss.

Still, I really was ticked. I don’t want the house becoming a target for additional thefts!

A few hundred neatly stacked bricks behind Cottage East – and only a couple thousand to go!

Just 120 Bricks a Day

Just in case you haven’t already guessed, I’m a goal-oriented person. And while the massive piles of bricks surrounding Cottage East are rather overwhelming, I have come up with a plan that works for me.

On Saturday, I grabbed our wheelbarrow and slid it up to the bricks on the east side of the cottage, as close as I could. I only took the whole bricks, of which there are plenty. I can move about 24 bricks at a time. Keep in mind, these are older bricks, which weight a sight more than new bricks do. Modern bricks weigh in at three pounds, but old bricks are heavier and weigh around five pounds.

So many bricks to go!

This adds up believe me!

I try and move five loads of 24 bricks each, for a total of 120 bricks. If I try to move more than that, I end up being very, very sorry in the hours and day that follow.

So far, I’ve managed to move five loads on Saturday and five on Sunday.

All of the broken brick gets shoved to the sides and I just keep moving the wheelbarrow in – I’ve managed to clear about six feet of the pile on the east side so far!

And then there is the east side of the house. I worked on this today and cleared about four feet in.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all of the broken brick, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

This week I plan on moving 120 bricks per day, for at least Monday through Thursday. I think I can get at least half, possibly 2/3 of the brick on the west side of the house moved and stacked that way.

Now that it is nice and clear, it is time for me to plant Althea and mint. I’ve already started with the Althea.

Tree Stumps, Begone!

When we first took possession of Cottage West, we had a bunch of trees growing along the east wall of it. They bent over the roof and were damaging the already “past its prime” roof.

The side of Cottage West in July 2014

We cut them down, but it was one of the first times Dave had used a chainsaw, and the brush was thick, so it seems that some of it grew back.

With the chainsaw, hand snips and lopper we managed to clear the wall.

Althea, also known as Rose of Sharon. It grows easily and self-propagates whether you want it to or not!

I want to plant the entire length with Althea (also known as Rose of Sharon) and mint, I think it will make it far easier to manage if we just have to mow right up to the mint. The Althea will grow in thick and self-propagate, so in a few years, it should be a solid wall of flowering green bushes growing up to about 8-10 feet in height. Mix that with lovely mint at its feet and we will have quite the groundcover in a few years.

It occurred to me as I was planting some of the altheas starts that once the mint takes hold, two awesome things will happen.

This spot under the Cottage West front porch needs a nice screen of Althea and mint.

  1. Ants will avoid invading the house – they detest the smell of mint (as do cockroaches and mice)
  2. The mint could actually act as an early alarm system if anyone were to be walking around outside. The smell of crushed mint can be smelled up to 100 feet away. Back in Belton, Dave mowed mint over 100 feet away from where I was standing, pulling weeds. I was convinced I was somehow standing on mint because it was SO strong!

My very healthy horseradish plant

I keep adding plants and pulling weeds. Eventually it will look better!

Move a Plant Here, Move a Plant There

As the rain fell lightly on Sunday, I took advantage of the moist ground and dug in deep, moving plants from other sections of the yard and trying to work with plant heights to create a more organized garden in the front of Cottage East.

My painted rose is blooming.

Huh, who am I kidding – tall plants, short plants, I just want to fill it with plants!

I also weeded Cottage West and gently pulled about 15 Althea plants out of the ground and relocated them now that the east wall of Cottage West is clear of trees.

Yes, I weighed over 220 and yes, I’m currently working on the “less than 210” goal. Slow but steady wins the race!

Pains and Pounds

I’ve mentioned that I’ve had a ton of body pain in the past few months. Specifically, my lower back muscles and also my right foot has been showing signs of plantar fasciitis.

One of the huge “Here’s your sign” moments from my dad coming to live with me was the reminder that I am pre-diabetic and overweight. Two huge strikes against me.

And eight months after flying to Panama to pick him up, I am reminded daily of a couple big life lessons:

  1. Take care of your body because you only get one – no replacement parts exist
  2. Prepare for the future financially – it is unrealistic to expect your children to care for you when you are old, suffering from dementia, AND also happen to be destitute. Uh uh, that is NOT going to happen if I can help it. Besides, I’ve only got the one to depend on!

So very quickly, the goal of losing a lot of weight was pushed high on my list. I have never been a “dieter” in my life and I have also never been interested in any quick weight loss schemes. So I went about weight loss in this order:

  • Slow down – eat slower
  • Be aware of portions and eat a more balanced meal
  • Slowly decrease portions
  • Exercise as often as I can
  • Make reasonable goals for weight loss (i.e. Set a goal of losing five pounds, achieve that goal for a full 3-4 weeks, then make a new five pound weight goal.

Exercising was a doozy because as soon as my weight loss and exercise became a priority, my body rebelled with massive pain in my back, legs, knees and feet.

At this point I STILL can’t get on the treadmill, but things are improving with regular visits to a chiropractor, deep tissue massage and now my daily stretching exercises. In the past week my pain has gone down and overall in the past three months I have lost around nine pounds.

I still have a long way to go, but those nine pounds are hard-won, let me tell you!

A little spot in my “new” office.

Next Weekend – Moving a Ton of Brush?

I think that next weekend we will rent a truck again and move a ton of brush off the property and possibly one load of paint cans to the paint recycling place nearby.

We have at least 200 cans of paint that we inherited with our purchase of Cottage East in various places – the west side of the house, upstairs in the front room, and stacks and stacks in the basement.

But the brush – aiee! We have a HUGE stack in the backyard of Cottage East, a smaller stack at the end of the alley, and plenty of bigger pieces of wood that we are considering just cutting into smaller pieces and keeping for campfires.

I will probably spend some time this week, cutting down more treelings and adding them to the piles

Furniture is always moving around my house. I inherited the obsessive rearranging gene from my mother. My cool estate sale find – a manual typewriter – sits on a small table in the hall at the top of the stairs and is accompanied by an Eastlake needlepoint chair.

Each Step Moves Us Forward

I’ll admit it, at times it is overwhelming. There is so much to do!

To that end, I’ve suggested to my husband a few changes in how we handle projects.

I’m hoping that 2-3 evenings per week, we can work on little projects – moving stuff up, down or around – installing the security cameras we bought (that sure would have come in handy on Thursday night) or motion detector floodlights – finishing the wiring projects – et cetera.

Waiting until the weekend to tackle ALL OF THIS STUFF is rather overwhelming.

It’s hard. I know we need down time, but we also need to finish some of these projects. If we don’t, then the money is just flowing out, and NOT flowing in.

Luckily, we work together well. Never underestimate the value of hard work and a partner willing to work by your side towards a common goal!

Posted in AirBnB, DIY, Garden Planning, Goals/Dreams | Comments Off on Each Step Moves Us Forward

And She Danced…

This weekend was devoted first to neighborhood obligations – my husband is the president of the neighborhood association and was slinging hot dogs for the masses on Saturday.

Meanwhile, I was at a chiropractor doing my best to deal with the constant pain I have been in. My lower back has a cluster of muscles that is pretty much constantly spasming. Combine that with plantar fasciitis in my right foot and I feel pretty much useless at times.

The rest of the day was filled with the basic minutiae of living – laundry, chores, and more. And on Saturday we woke to rain and the low growl of thunder.

No brick moving for us.

Instead, we threw ourselves into more work inside our house. I now have my office in the smallest room in the house. This room was probably a nursery or sewing room at one time.

Dave had his office in it originally, but moved to the front bedroom, right next door. And while my office has always been located in the library, I decided it was time to devote just a few more square feet of space to exercise and health.

So now my old office is our new workout room. I can’t wait to get a smart tv and mount it on the wall. That or a projector, since I’ve got a laptop I can use while exercising at the treadmill.

Solar Eclipse

Yesterday, however, was very special. My husband had asked for the day off of work months ago. I wrote a note for Em’s school on Friday letting them know she would not be attending on Monday.

This feels very “Night of the Comet” for me (which I cannot tell you how many umpteen times I watched as a teen). Thankfully we escaped with our vision intact and did not become piles of red dust or find ourselves with cannabilistic tendencies. At least, not yet!

Instead, we all piled into the car and drove to Columbia – a place I was sure, after carefully checking the hourly projections for three different cities within range, would have the least cloud cover and the best show.

An “eclipse” rock we found at the park

We planted ourselves at Flat Branch Brewery, where just yards away was this lovely little park with a creek running through it. Emily played in the creek for over an hour before we headed back up and ate lunch while watching as the sun was slowly consumed by the moon.

Dad really seemed to like the trip. He was only annoying a handful of times, which might be a record for him.

As it neared totality, I took Em’s hand and we walked to the park, lay down on the damp grass and watched as the moon slid in front of the sun. A ring of yellow-white fire surrounded it and I could see a corona jet out from the right side of the moon, the sun fiercely declaring it would not tolerate being obscured for long.

Emily danced around me and then we both looked at each other and I said, “Come on, let’s go find Daddy!” We met him just steps away from the park because he had the same idea.

The creek at the nearby park. I love creeks. I remember taking Dee to one in San Jose when she was a few years younger than that.

It was a magical, mystical experience. Side by side, we hugged and watched as the sun reappeared.

Em loved the creek.

I have seen one other eclipse, 40 years ago, on the side of a highway in Oregon. I was seven and grumpy from a long car ride. We also didn’t have the super-cool glasses that we did Monday.

Yesterday was…perfect. I spent it with the people I love, who love me back, and it was a truly life-changing event.

It will stick in my memory for a very long time.


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Monumental Progress!

Look! No more bricks!

“It’s time we started worrying about demo’ing the brick wall on Cottage East,” I said to Dave yesterday. The task seemed monumental and, let’s face it, downright intimidating. We had to remove half of the west wall (the other half had already fallen off on its own) and then we had to somehow remove the buckling, yet solid brick on the east wall.

Piles of bricks to move

I was imagining us taking it brick by brick, on ladders, chisels in hand, and frankly, I was wondering how I would avoid being crushed by falling bricks.

This appears to be a second fireplace, right next to the first. If these walls could talk, they would tell me so many details!

Yesterday, when we took the refrigerator doors of the dumb fridge over to Cottage West and Dave put them back onto the fridge, I weeded the front yard of Cottage West. It looks better now. This mild summer with frequent rains has meant a crapload of weeds. Every time I turn around, our yard is overrun!

This used to be a side door off of the staircase going up to the second floor. I think it might have had a small porch and possibly some stairs. The window came off during the demo, so we need to board it up until the guys come out to replace it along with the roof and siding.

My pain levels are high, but I’ve been able to get plenty of weeding done in the past couple of days.

This had a side banister so rotted it lifted off of the brick and cement in one easy motion. Well, it needed to be replaced anyway!

The front raised bed at Cottage East, along with the side strip which had been filled with crabgrass. I still need to do about 1/3 of it.

I pulled at least half, if not 2/3 of the weeds on this side bed.

Either this weekend or the next, we have a small army of kids and adults coming in to move and stack brick. Once that is done, the house will be ready for the roof/windows/siding installation.

The newly weeded raised bed in front of Cottage East

We are about two to three weeks out from it and I can’t wait!

This little house is going to look awesome when it has brand-new siding, roof and windows.

That’s a lot of bricks!

I won’t hold my breath on the codes violations dropping off anytime soon. The violation for “inappropriate storage” was on the books for a year, (it was three large pieces of styrofoam that occupied a porch for three days before the porch was torn down and rebuilt).

As we worked away, we could hear our neighbors talking. The wife just kept on and on. Finally, we heard her husband say something to the extent of, “They are working on the property, they have the bricks down, what more do you expect from them?”

The west side of Cottage East

We just shook our heads and soldiered on. Some folks don’t have much of a life. I feel sorry for her. She seems like a fish out of water around here.

We can only do so much. Our bodies, mine especially, are failing us. We work our wage-earning jobs during the week and then try to fit in time around my dad and the kiddo in the evenings. And on the weekends we go until our backs scream for mercy and our knees say nasty, nasty things.

I’ve spent good money on custom insoles, foot braces, and more for my plantar fasciitis and out of whack back. Despite this, after a few hours of work, I am in so much pain I can barely walk.

So it is plenty frustrating. I want to get so much done!

And I know, I KNOW it will all happen.

We have had some hard hits this year, but we have also had a couple of solid boons. And by next spring we will finally have paid off the fixes to Cottage West and can start putting some serious money towards the other repairs needed to finish both the Airstream and the two Cottages.

Eventually, all of the little pieces and plans will unite into one solid plan, and the three properties will start producing income and our yard will look fantastic.

I’ve never been afraid of hard work. I’m just going to keep plugging away every weekend until we make it all happen, one piece at a time.

And one piece of upbeat news to share. After we managed to demo BOTH walls before noon – my friend and neighbor Michelle came by to whisk me away on a shopping trip. We checked out the Super Flea (not impressive) and then she took me to Weird Stuff over in the West Bottoms. I had never been and was so happy I went because I found that fountain I wanted for the brick wall in the backyard of the Cottage East!

Just $50 – instead of $199 or more brand new. We will mount it with a solar powered pump when we are closer to finishing the project. It will look awesome!

Posted in AirBnB, DIY, Goals/Dreams | 2 Comments

Welcome to the Jungle

As I drove down to 12th Street today, I passed a familiar face, the codes inspection guy for our area. He was busy photographing a vacant house that keeps getting broken into. And I was both happy to see him and dreading where he would end up next.

After all, I had seen this on Parcel Viewer…

Summary: Property Violations
Description: Citizen is calling to report high grass and weeds at this location. It’s getting a little out of control and would like someone out to cut it.

Parcel Viewer allows you to look up any address in Kansas City, find out the owner, find tax information (how much an owner pays and when they paid it last) and more. It’s also where you can find a list of any codes violations – high grass, issues with property/building maintenance, etc.

And that property violation had shown up on 7/25.

In a few days I will receive that in writing from the city. And I plan to do the only logical thing – IGNORE IT.

Because here’s the deal. My husband works full time, Monday through Friday. I work two part-time jobs – cleaning houses, and caretaking for my dad. I also homeschool my kiddo (the new school year starts tomorrow!) and try to handle most of the interior runnings of the house (financials, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping).

My husband is exhausted after a long day of work and I’m pretty done in too. So that leaves the weekend for us to get a buttload of work done AND the mowing as well.

I looked at the finances and, right now, there is no way we can afford to hire it out. Next spring, though? After we have paid off several repairs on Cottage West we are nearly done paying for? I’ve already got it set in the budget. Until then, rain or shine, tall grass and weeds, holiday weekends or not – our priorities have to be project based, NOT the lawn.

We will probably tackle mowing this next weekend…maybe. But that will be AFTER we move the Airstream and AFTER we get a plan in motion for:

  • Installing two sliding gates on the privacy fence
  • Figuring out when we will be demo’ing the sides of the Cottage East in order for the roof, side windows and siding to be installed

When it comes down to it, I’m NOT trading or delaying my financial future and retirement plans in order to soothe some neighbor’s irritable bowels over how our grass looks. And I could give a good goddamn whether or not they think our yard looks like a jungle.

We don’t live in Overland Park, Kansas. We don’t belong to an HOA. And our neighborhood and community have far bigger problems to deal with than a yard that goes unmowed for a week or two.

I’m going to focus on the pressing projects, because frankly, whatever neighbor is complaining, they are not the one who is going to be worried about my retirement, I am. And while I’m going to do my best to keep up on the yard work, I know my priorities are where they should be.

So, neighbor, the dear sweet neighbor who has nothing better to do than call codes about our grass?

Welcome to the jungle. Don’t let that cheetah bite you on the ass.

8/1/2017 Update. I heard back from codes. I had sent an email asking what in the world he was talking about when he listed on the codes violations OBJECT OBSTRUCTING THE SIDEWALK”

He wrote back, and sent pictures. Here is what he said:

“Thanks for your response and inquiry.

Can you please trim (photos attached) away from the sidewalk and the street in front of your home?

I realize most of your vegetation is allowable plant life. However, there still needs to be a clear path.

Also, my research after inspection shows you are the new owner of 3231?

Thanks for keeping the lot mowed. But we both know you have some serious brick work on the west side, window repairs, etc…

Warning Letters are on the way. Keep me informed of your plans so I can help you along the way.”

This is where we both park and I can guarantee you, the mint that is growing over the edge of the curb is not obstructing our comings and goings.

Damn you, mojito mint, you have escaped the confines of your planter!


Folks, I can only do so much. We both work full-time, I’ve just started homeschooling the kiddo for 5th grade, and the weekend’s work is already lined up. It includes spreading gravel, moving and situating the Airstream, finishing the privacy fence in back of our property, and making a plan for demo’ing the crumbling brick walls on Cottage East.

I sent him back an email letting him know that I’d get around to mowing the lawn in a week or two.


There is only so much time, energy and money in my little world. And I’m allocating it the best that I can.

This means that my yard is not going to look perfect. Not this fall. In the spring, after the last of the payments are made on the new roof, windows, and front porch of Cottage West, there will be enough in the budget for a lawn mowing service. But right now? Nope.

I feel like a dog chasing my tail. What needs to happen now? Who do we try to keep happy? The neighbors? The city? Ourselves?

Timing is everything, I guess. Opportunities rolled in, and I’m not sorry I took advantage of them. But that also means that at this moment, conflicting priorities are on the rise. In the end, I’ll make the best decision I can for ME and MINE. I will make a decision that means that someone is going to be unhappy.

You can’t please everyone. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to kill myself trying.

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Yet Another Step Closer

The universe has a way of working itself out. I had a cleaning this morning and my body is still recovering from the weekend’s work. My client rescheduled to Wednesday and I couldn’t be more relieved.

A day to recover is kind of perfect right now.

This weekend included a new freezerless refrigerator delivery and plenty of yard work and fence building. Check it out…

The Ultimate in Refrigeration

A friend of mine put this idea in my head. She bought a Frigidaire, refrigerator only recently and I was quite envious. Her model is actually one that can either be a refrigerator or freezer, depending on the setting. Mine is simply a freezerless refrigerator.

Next year I hope to find an upright freezer. For now, the chest freezer we have will do, but I definitely need to organize it better!

I will scout for some more bins to hold different items so things aren’t so cluttered. I like have a bin for cheeses/deli, for meats, vegetables and breads. Then I can open the fridge, grab a bin out and find what I need.

Nebraska Furniture Mart delivered it on Saturday and took away the magic fridge. POS magic fridge!

Now we just need to move the dumb refrigerator to Cottage West where it will wait for the rest of the renovations before being put into use.

This will go in Cottage West and live a nice long life

The new fence along with the opening for the driveway to the west. We ran into the foundation of an old driveway and garage which made it impossible to dig holes for the 4x4s, so we figured here was as good a place for a driveway. It may have a curved shape in the end, who knows?! Obviously, we will need to cut down this vegetation.

The Fence, the Fence!

All of the panels (with the exception of the 3-4 needed behind Cottage West) are now in. We have two wide openings that will be sliding gate areas for the planned driveways.

We will finish the gates in a similar pattern, the privacy pickets over metal frames on wheels and add locks. And of course, we will also continue the fence panels to include the back of Cottage West.

The panels, and possibly the gates, will have to wait until the brick walls on Cottage East have been deconstructed. They are next on our “screaming priorities” list.

Dave has worked very hard on this fence, as have I, and we love how it looks. It will provide the privacy we need and give the guests who stay in the Airstream a sense of isolation that can be rather lacking in the city.

One lone section before the yard behind the Cottage West devolves into a jungle of Japanese hops. We will close this section off…hopefully by late fall.

Eventually, we will install a four-foot high picket fence across the entire front of the property, but that is a challenge for next year (or the year after).

Brush Piles Begone! Well…Moved, That Is…

While Dave dealt with a particularly brick-filled hole and setting in a 4×4, I got to work on the multiple brush piles. We had two big ones, one in the middle of the future RV pad and one at the end of the alley, interfering with a full range of maneuvering that we would need when moving in gravel and the RV.

We also had three smaller piles. One near the old woodpile, and the other two in the RV pad area that had been potential mushroom growing plots. They had to go as well, unfortunately, since they were in the way.

Most of the brush was combined into a massive pile of brush in the backyard of Cottage East, over eight feet tall, at least ten feet wide and about six feet deep.

Our little KCFD-compliant firepit. I miss our gartantuan one. Now THAT was a FIREPIT!!

A Little Bit of Fire

I also started a small fire in our firepit to clear out the decayed and broken pallets and some of the small brush pieces that were too small to stack. Over the next seven hours, the flames ate up plenty of discarded wood pieces, and small brush. I even burned some of those dreadful Japanese hop vines.

Who knows, I might add a few more today if the coals are still active.

We took it from here and put it…

Cherry Tree Relocated

We had a sweet cherry tree that was right in the way of where the RV would sit. We went back and forth on it and finally decided it needed to go.

So we dug it up, trying desperately to not break too many of the roots. I bought this tree from Fedco Trees and they have provided us with some excellent fruiting trees over the years so I really hoped it would survive the move.


It is now planted in our “crop garden” area, which was not planted at all this year.

It has the loose, sandy fill soil in it. A dream to dig in, believe me. After battling the thick clay soil for years, I felt rather spoiled.

Fingers crossed it survives.

A view of the future home of the Airstream. You can see the east driveway opening in the back there. Gravel should be laid down hopefully this Thursday afternoon.

Just Two More Steps

We are left with just two more steps, one before and one after.

I’ve asked Dave to schedule a gravel delivery on Thursday afternoon. We’ve calculated that we need a whopping 15 tons of gravel for the driveway and the RV bed area. Once that is in place, we are ready to move the Airstream and then it will be a push to get the sliding (and locking) gates in place.

This still leaves our front yard open, but the tall fence in the back will be a deterrent. We have another 3-4 panels to install in the back of Cottage West, but at this point, the scritchy scratchy Japanese hops dominates that backyard. Anyone who really wants to walk through it will have a heck of a time and won’t leave without a rash.

So, spread gravel, finish gates and fence.

I can’t wait to pick up the Airstream on Saturday!

One Last Thing, How Could I Forget?!

If all of the hard work involved in fence building, tree moving and more wasn’t enough – Dave spent about three hours putting together our new platform bed to go with our new king size mattress.

We still have to install the drawers, and eventually the original mattress (seen under the new mattress) will go to live in Cottage East’s front bedroom.

I also need to find two matching lamps for the top, and a couple of organizing solutions for the headboard storage, but it’s looking good!

My granddaughter (she’s Em’s cat) Sugar looking out over the yard

I think we have finally found a bed that works and I couldn’t be happier. Plus now I have extra storage!

Well, once the drawers are installed I will.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print, folks. Talk to you soon!

Posted in AirBnB, Garden Diary, Goals/Dreams | Comments Off on Yet Another Step Closer

Progress…Forward March!

Despite our descent into the dog days of summer, we are making progress on our plans for the yard and properties. Each weekend is full of work, sweat, and more sweat. Take a look…

We installed the last of the 4x4s and added cross-supports for the pickets on Saturday and early Sunday.

Building That Fence

With the Airstream that we purchased last week needing to be moved as soon as possible (after August 4th the PODS container will be out of the way and the former owners want it gone the next day), we realized that we needed to get as much of the privacy fence up as possible.

In the foreground is the dog fence, in the background the west edge of the fence. There will be a wide driveway paved with gravel for now, and concrete later on.

Originally we had intended to build an inexpensive fence, just 4x4s joined with 2x4s and metal cattle fencing. This was nixed in exchange for a nice, solid privacy fence. We want visitors to feel comfortable, isolated despite being in the city, and have a feeling of privacy. And nothing says that better than a tall wood fence.

On Saturday evening, after Dave had labored to finish cementing in the last of the 4×4’s we had a nasty storm. Over 60,000 people were out of power, but we were not one of them. Luckily, the Airstream was not in its future spot. A large limb from the mulberry tree would have given it a nasty dent and even a broken window!

It took us a few minutes to clean up the mess on Sunday morning before we resumed our work.

The east corner of the new fence in the background. We decided that it would be nice to put a fence between the two properties. The gravel will not cover those 5-8 feet where the fence juts out. A nice patch of greenery on the east side of the driveway will make it look even nicer. I plan to add hostas along with iris and daylilies to the strip of green.

And did I mention that the heat index was 112 degrees on Sunday? We just dripped and dripped and DRIPPED. We both guzzled the water, but for my husband it really took its toll. The next day he was dizzy and headachy, a sure sign that he was low on electrolytes and probably dehydrated.

A close up of the new fence.

We will be building a sliding gate across the opening to the driveway. This will probably be a chain link gate covered with the tall fence pickets and, if I can find it, a keypad lock. We are still working on those details.

I was quite proud of my work on this section of the fence. We still have a way to go, but good work takes time, right?!

The space between the dog fence (in the foreground of most of the pictures) and the new fence is around 20-25 feet. The Airstream will sit parallel between the two fences and have a deck on one side.

I’ve been busy finding cool vintage/retro tin signs to mount on the inside of the fence. I’m excited to glam it all out in true 50s fashion!

Bistro Table and Chairs

Happy days for me, I scored a particularly cool find the other day at a yard sale. Just $15!

This little bistro table and two chairs are looking worn right now, but there is a paint job in their future.

What do you think? Forest green? Black? A royal blue, perhaps?

I thought of putting them on the deck outside of the RV, but these really make me think of English cottage, so they will probably go into the Cottage East.

What do you think?

Measurements – Roof, Windows, Siding!!!!

Champion came by today and we walked through Cottage East getting measurements for nine windows (just the windows on the east and west sides) along with talking about the details for the roof and siding.

Now that the Catch 22 has been resolved, we have a green light to:

  • Pull off the brick (right after we finish building the privacy fence)
  • Have the roof, side windows and siding all installed
  • Run electrical to Cottage East so we can install a burglar alarm and keep it monitored and secure

The Catch 22, by the way, was a real pain in the patoot. Champion wouldn’t install the siding until we removed the bricks. The electrician wouldn’t install the electrical until the siding was in place. And there was a LIVE WIRE running into the house that threatened to electrocute anyone foolish enough to brush against it while demo’ing the brick walls, plus a tree limb that was right next to the electric pole off the alley that needed to be cut down.

My hero! This guy was so nice. Technically he didn’t have to do this, but he kindly offered and I was so appreciative!

I was lucky enough to find a really nice KCP&L worker to agree to cut the limb and also cut the power, thus allowing us to move forward on our project. He saved us nearly $500 in costs – the electrician was going to charge us that much just to remove a couple of scrawny limbs!

We are about 4-6 weeks out on the windows, roof and siding. More if we need time to finish the demo. And I’ve got a couple of folks lined up to help us cart and stack the brick once we get the bricks off of the house.

In other words? Progress. Forward…March!!!!

Posted in AirBnB, Historic Northeast | Comments Off on Progress…Forward March!

Our Properties at Present

Cottage West – July 2017

I was looking up an old photo of how Cottage West looked back when we first bought it. To say that there have been a few changes since then is an understatement.

Cottage West – July 2014 You couldn’t even see the front! We had to tear out the old columns along with the porch and re-do it all.

It made me realize just how much we have done which puts into perspective the tasks remaining.

A new porch, new paint job, new windows and new roof go well with a landscaped yard full of flowers. We still have a few parts to paint, but it is looking sooo much better!

Along with that, I took a few more pictures.

This shot really conveys the amount of space between our house and Cottage West. Keep in mind, there were THREE houses in between back in the day. It is such a shame they didn’t have someone to love and care for them. If they had, they would still be standing and I wouldn’t have the massive yard that I do, but still…

Call it a July 2017 State of the Union portrayed in images.

As shocking as it might sound, I may need to just return this garden (outlined in white poles) to grass for a while. We have a LOT to do with renovations in the next two years. After that, I can consider having a food garden again. Albeit a smaller one!

It isn’t perfect.

That’s not an apple – that’s an Asian pear and they are coming in STRONG this year.

Not by a long shot.

The daylilies love this spot in the front.

Look close enough and you will find weeds.

I finally found enough hanging baskets at IKEA at a decent price to populate all the hooks around the entire porch.


The front yard has become my breeding ground and “go to” spot for transplanting flowers out of into other parts of the yard.

But it looks, at least to me, a heck of a sight better than just plain grass. I’ll tame it eventually, I know I will.

The herb garden with horseradish along the front

Or else the gardeners I am eventually able to hire will tame it!

The rains sure helped resuscitate all of the transplants I put into the side yard of Cottage East.

Oh Cottage East, you are going to be so much work! But you are worth it!


Posted in Historic Northeast, Historical Home | Comments Off on Our Properties at Present