Shut the Front Door!

We’re on an exterior mission to fix up the house’s curb appeal before we lease the house.  Here is step one!


It’s pretty sad and pitiful, isn’t it?  We heard from several of our neighbors that this door had been “knocked in” by the previous owners.  Something about being a foreclosure and them trying to get in and “steal” things from the bank (like the kitchen sink and all of the appliances).  Pretty sure they won “Homeowner of the Year” award in a parallel universe.  Oh, and we still haven’t traded out the Sheriff’s Locks on this bad boy.  We’ve been rocking the two toned handles since 2009!  Pretty sure we win “Homeowner of the Year” in this universe – haha!

But as if all of that weren’t bad enough, the door also faces west and gets all of the prevailing winds and moisture from our rainy Pacific Northwest winters.  Once it’s wet, the sun comes out and bakes it so up close it’s looking a little more like this:

…in other words, kind of warped, damaged and dried out from the sun.  We kind of hemmed and hawed around repairing this door for awhile for God knows why.  First it was because we thought we would need a handyman or carpenter to repair it because it looked like it was “out of true” and we wanted to try and salvage it.  The door looked crooked in the frame but after breaking out our level and straight edges we realized it was the casement that was crooked and not the door – haha!  Classic.  Reminded me of that Shel Silverstein poem about the kid who has wavy hair and eventually shaves it all off only to discover he just has a wavy head.  Well, we definitely weren’t going to tackle repairing the casements (that takes a calibre of skill that neither of us have and a can of worms that we didn’t have handy).  So that kind of gave way to the fact that we could go ahead and try refinishing the door and then seeing what happens.  After all, replacing this door is not an option.  It’s a full 8′ tall and as expensive as they come so may as well try to give it some spit polish…

So we removed the door:

…which gave Maggie a perfect perch to monitor all of the goings on:

…and then Dr. J got to sanding it down so it was smooth as a baby’s behind – literally took like 20 minutes:

…then it was into our secret stash of stains and paints and we found a leftover stain from….mystery project?  It may have been leftover from when we finished the Ikea Countertops for our desk in the office but we really don’t remember.  In other words – it was free.

Then we let it dry, sanded, poly-ed, sanded, poly-ed, replaced the door hardware and VOILA!

How’s that for some updated curb appeal?  Not bad for a quick weekend project that only cost us the cash to replace the locks.  Is it perfect?  No.  But we’re renting this house from here on out so it doesn’t have to be perfect for us.  It just has to look good!  And since we’ve purchased a nice storm door to protect it, we’re hoping that this finish will be nice and protected from the elements – fingers crossed.


Let’s take this outside…

Do you realize we’ve been in our house almost three years and we’ve only posted on the outside/landscaping like maybe a handful of times?!?  Wait, let me see if I can throw them all out there for you because it’s really not much:

The Back yard:

The Front and all around:

Three years…and that’s ALL we’ve done.  All of that and a bottle of rum .  It’s actually kind of embarrassing.  But when you spend your summers moving in, renovating a laundry room and finishing up a massive bathroom remodel while hosting a bajillion out of town guests, some things just kind of have to get skipped.  And let’s be honest, summer in Oregon really only lasts a solid two months so whenever we have a free minute and the weather is nice, we’d much rather be doing this:

…or maybe something like this:

Who wants to spend ALL of their spare time working in the yard?  Certainly not me!  Get me outside so I can have F.U.N!  But there are only so many times that you can play the “fun” card before your parents come to visit and tell you to “Grow up!”  As I hang my head in shame I kind of have to agree (*pouts*).  And since we’re planning on putting this house up for rent, we need to figure out a low maintenance scheme so that when we leave it the house will hopefully be on “auto-pilot”.  We’ve got some serious issues floating around our outdoor spaces and it’s high time we grow up and fix ’em.  First, perhaps a little bit of a list might help:

Front yard:

First off, we feel pretty lucky that we don’t have to do a ton of maintenance in the front since most of it is covered by the HOA.  We don’t have grass in the front so no need to worry about mowing and the HOA covers mulching every couple of years (though they do “barkdust” instead of mulch, so it erodes fairly quickly.  HOA, fail!).  And our plant life has been looking pretty paltry lately.  We’ve dug out roughly 6 bushes that have all bit it since our time living here and we have another one that’s on it’s last leg (*update* – it died.  We had to dig it up too).  We’ve done some planting here and there over the past 3 years but the landscaping could use some help.  Here’s a WAY old pic from before we closed on the house…

All three of the bushes in front (the two red and one green) are dead and gone and then the spider-y plants behind those have all died as well.  On the left side we dug up another bush and we have a Rhododendron that we planted just under the front window that I think is having drainage issues and is kind of on its last leg :-(.

Our front door…*groan*…

It’s a hot mess.  It’s obviously seen a fair amount of water damage over the past few years and since it faces west, the sun has done the rest of the work that the water didn’t – cracks, scratches, and just overall baaaaaaad.  We did purchase a nice storm door to hopefully quell any future water damage but the whole finish is a mess and needs to be refinished.  You can read about it in this don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it article of yore.  We also still have the old sheriff’s locks that were installed when the house was foreclosed – one brass and one brushed nickel.  In short, reeeeeeeeeal classy.

Back yard:

Oh, the backyard.  First off, it’s just plain dinky.  After we built a fence and dug out a garden, we’ve just tried to keep it as maintenance free as possible.  Here’s a pic from before moving in…

Let me explain a few things.  First off, Oregon summers really only last about 3 months (if we’re lucky).  We’re beating down the beginning of July right now and we’re still dealing with rain showers pretty much every day and temps hovering around 65-75 depending on the day.  Fabulous if you’re a vampire – horrible if you like to garden.  Last year, we really didn’t get good summer-y temperatures until the last two weeks of August and we still only got up to around 85!  That being said, we basically only use our backyard for two things – growing vegetables and Maggie’s personal loo when we’re too lazy to take her on W-A-L-Ks (yes, I have to spell it – she goes nuts if I say “walk”, “park”, “block” and about 100 other words and phrases that she understands – seriously, she’s the smartest dog ever!).  We don’t really use our backyard as a “hangout” spot because, let’s face it – it’s always friggin’ raining!!!!  So I have quietly eighty-sixed multiple plans by my husband to build decks, pergolas, buy more expensive furniture, etc, etc.  Honestly, I just don’t see the point because we never use it.  In fact, we spend more time “maintaining” our backyard than we do sitting out there and enjoying it and I blame it mostly on the weather – haha!

But there’s still so much to be done back here.  We’ve done a fair amount already (when we’re diving between rain drops and/or chopping down our overgrown Sage and Rosemary plants:

…but I admit we could do more.

So here’s hoping we can figure out some time this summer between road trips to California to get’er all done!  We’ll be updating a few things here and there.  In fact, we’re sneaky – some of those things have already been tackled!  Muwahaha!  Stay tuned…

Decking the Halls…for the very first time…

Deck the Halls with boughs of Holly….fa la la la la la la la la!  What’s a bough, anyway?  If you put it with ‘wow’, could it be a new Yuletide hip hop name?  Bough Wow?  I’m here all week, people… 😉  Don’t forget to tip your waiters!

We have been slowly but surely decorating our house all month and since we are having family out for the holidays we are uber-stoked about it!  However, finding places to put decorations was….ummm….not as easy as it had been in years past – that whole having a TV above your fireplace thing kind of cuts down on the “hanging the stockings by the chimney with care” aspect to your Christmas decor – damn trendy new houses!  But we thought we’d share a little bit of Christmas cheer with you and show you our first attempt at putting up Christmas decor in the new house….and we hardly spent a dime!  It’s Christmas at Tell’er All About It and you are invited!!!  Please enjoy the tour…

Front Door

Oh, you’re here!  Let me take your coat.  You brought cookies?!  Oh, you shouldn’t have!  But just in case anybody is taking note, I’m a BIG fan of Shortbread and my Mom’s very own Caramelatas…..mmmm…..but, please, come in, and admire the lights while you are outside and Maggie will greet you at the front door…

This was entirely J’s project this year.  We did have to purchase a few odds and ends and a timer, which are absolute lifesavers for Christmas lights!!!  Every night when I come home from work, the lights are on, and I don’t have to fuss with a plug in the dark in the rain (gotta love Portland!).  It’s such a lovely atmosphere to come home to – I wish we could keep the Christmas lights on all through the winter….but then we’d be *those* people….and nobody likes that.

The Bar – a libation, perhaps?

Can I offer you a drink?  Of course, there is always vino, but our personal favorite poisons are Manhattans, Gin & Tonics, Meyer Lemon Martinis (only in close proximity to growing regions, of course, like the West Coast), or Mojitos.  Well, we are plum out of basil and lemon, but I’m sure we could whip up a traditional Mojito if you are interested….

Well, we couldn’t hang the stockings by the chimney with care, so we used our fun “NOEL” Stocking holders in a new way – on the bar!  I mean, who doesn’t want to think about ye ole NOEL while getting ready to imbibe?  Basically, we hung Christmas ornaments with ribbon off our “former” Christmas Stocking holders.  Oh, you want a close up?  Well, I am here to deliver…

Did you notice the Santa and the Snowman?  Those are old Pottery Barn candles that always make an appearance every Christmas season.  And the NOEL?  A long time ago cheap-o Tar-jay purchase that keeps givin’ every year!  Oh, and don’t forget to bring in a little bit of outside in with some Sparkly Pine Cones and a few extra ornaments mixed in:

The Hutch (and those pesky stockings)

Oh, you don’t drink?  Well, we can still be friends!  In fact, let me show you where we put our stockings (since they can’t be hung by the chimney with care) on our newly re-fab-u-lized Hutch in the Family Room.

(…and, yes, we did block out our names to protect the innocent).  But who says that the stockings have to be hung by the Chimney?  I’m pretty sure Santa will find them anyway….and he has already started filling them early – sneaky, sneaky!  And while we’re here, we should point out our Cake Stand that typically holds wine corks and a candle has been transformed into this:

Old ornaments + a Christmas candle holder = understated elegance!  But what about the big guy???  We’re getting there…

The Wall O’ Mirrors….and a wreath, too!

This is one of my favorite decor tricks for Christmas – hanging a wreath over a mirror.  We just took a long piece of ribbon, hung the wreath halfway in between, nailed the ribbon to the wall underneath the mirror, and VOILA!  An instant glam-up for a classic piece:

The Big Guy – O Tannenbaum – The Christmas Tree – Piney Old Saint Nick

Everybody’s pride and joy….their tree.  And while the jury’s still out on in this house whether it’s more green to buy a live tree over a re-usable tree, we are staunchly in the artificial tree world (we are terrible Oregonians!).

I would like to thank my dog, Maggie, for standing still for a full 3 second shutter speed!  I’d also like to thank my Mother for sending us an early Christmas present in the manner of the Dolce Slipper chair from Tar-jay Land!  Finally, no more dining chairs in the family room!

Merry Christmas to all….and to all a good night!

Santa and his team of merry men (don’t you love how I mix the cultural references?) will be very busy the next two weeks entertaining family, traveling, enjoying the holiday cheer, and celebrating L-blogger’s birthday (and it’s a big one).  We may check in from time to time to show you what we are up to, but if we don’t, please don’t be concerned!


Before & After Bliss: More Curb Appeal!

Finally a weekend at home and, of course, we spent it working around the house.  Our list got slightly shorter this weekend, though!  Here’s the update in the SAFE category!:


  • Buy and install (by ourselves, of course!) a new Hot Water Tank!  That should be fun!
  • Buy and install a garage door opener (our house never had one installed – what gives?)
  • Window Dressings for a minimum of 4 more windows.  Is privacy a safety factor?
  • Caulking our outdoor “leaks” and repainting almost all of our window aprons before winter sets in.
  • Replacing the seals on our front door and our garage entry door so that they don’t leak – and while we’re at it, see if we can fix our “leaning tower of Pisa” doors.
  • Service the Furnace – we can’t turn it on until we do!  Could be a cold winter…Brr…

One down!  And we also cleaned out my car this weekend hood to boot, played a healthy dose of Rock Band, so I’d call that an all-around successful weekend!  Here is a little Before & After:


The front of our house, getting prepped for a minor facelift.  But what’s the big deal?


No, wait….don’t tell me.  Has it come back??


Yes, it’s the Return of the Caulking Kerfuffle!  Say that 5 times fast!  Our window aprons were treated with the same laissez-faire caulking treatment that our front entry pillars were given.  In fact, the repair job was so shoddy that when J climbed up there to caulk the window aprons, there was a good quarter-of-an-inch gap between the window and the apron – yikes!!  It probably goes without saying that any sort of gap around a window is a *baaaad* thing indeed, especially with our wet winter weather just around the corner here in the Pacific NW.  Once that moisture gets into those cracks, it breaks down the seals, creates more leaks, creates mold, creates problems, and then the house collapses into a bubbling pile of goo…definitely not a happy prospect when you’re still paying the mortgage – eek!

Oh, and, yes, I am deathly afraid of heights, so this job lay resolutely in the blue corner.  However, not to be deterred, I *did* Caulk my very own window and painted it last week – just a window on the first floor….that whole fear of heights thing!

DSC_0359Do you notice Maggie enjoying the view in the above photo?


Ahhh….so much better!  But on to the guts of it!  And the Captain Morgan pose!  Mad props to J’s Aunt and Uncle who let us borrow their 9,000 ft long ladder for this job:


Look, Ma!  No hands!!!  Oh, if only we could’ve put the climbing harnesses on for this one – that would have been awesome!


And now for the Full Monty reveal (well, not the *real* Full Monty….moving on!).  The Before (from before we closed on the house).


And the After with a closeup showing what a difference paint can make!



Tell’er All About It has started the checklist!  One down!  Now we don’t have to worry about leaky windows this winter!  Phew!!!

Before & After Bliss: Pillar of Strength

We’re back with yet *another* Labor Day weekend makeover!  Only this time we’ve moved from the back of the house to the front of the house!  It’s been mentioned before, but our house was previously a foreclosure with some….ahem….issues.  One of the most obvious problems was the very first thing that greeted you at the front door.  Actually, it was even before the front door on our front pillars:


Pretty bad, huh?  What’s worse is what you can’t see – the fact that the wooden base of these pillars was essentially wobbling off!  This was more than likely due to the fact that our front door faces west with very little tree cover, which means the wood probably baked, shrunk, and then freed itself of the mortar and glue.  And that white film?  Oh, who knows what it was, but probably a “There, I Fixed It” type of fix – we’re guessing it was probably bathroom caulk that was never painted over, therefore cracked, therefore allowing moisture into the seams, therefore speeding up the rotting process.  Oh, and did I mention that the previous owners also took all of the touch-up paint with them.  Le Sigh….so what to do?

Rebuild the whole stinkin’ thing, of course!!

The first thing we did was to remove one panel of the pillar and take it to Lowe’s so they could do a color match with paint – important tip whenever you don’t have the right paint color to touch up a problem area.  Be sure to specify interior, exterior, and do your best guess at a finish (flat, eggshell, satin, etc).  The paint store should be able to do the rest of it for you.

After we had a full gallon of mystery paint (color tested on the same piece of wood just to be certain), J ripped off the old pieces of wood and removed the extra caulk so that we would have a nice clean finish to work with:


Once all of the pieces were off, we decided that since they were in reasonably good shape (and already shrunken from years of sitting in the sun), they made good candidates to re-use again (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!).  We did have to clean up the underside where the wood met the stone – bad mortar and bathroom caulk = cracked mortar = wobbly pillar base!

Then it was time to rebuild the piece – just like a puzzle we re-built it precisely as it had been before, but this time we closed the gaps and used Outdoor Clear Caulk (we used Dap brand) to glue the base back onto the stone and mortar – whoo-eee!  Stinky stuff!  Then we nailed the wood pieces back into place.  Honestly, after a while of hammering away, we got lazy and used our new staple gun!  Much easier on the shoulders!


…and finished off all of the “gaps” and “holes” with the same outdoor caulk in clear:


Clean up the edges with a paper towel or the side of your finger as much as possible and always remember – paint can cover a lot of ills!  But allow the glue to dry for at least 24 hours if possible (just to be safe).  Then get ready to get your paint on!  Here is the pillar after the repairs, but before painting:


the same pillar after painting….


Instant curb appeal makeover!!!  Overall, since we reused most of the materials, this is the rough price breakdown minus obvious tools like hammers, nail guns, and the like:

  • Caulk: $3.98 from your local hardware store.  Be sure it’s graded to work OUTSIDE!
  • Galvanized Nails: $5 for a box of hundreds!
  • Paint: Around $20 and we even got a $5 refund!
  • Total:  Less than $25 for a huge impact makeover!

What about everyone else?  Were you guys busy at home this Labor Day weekend?  Are we inspiring you to get some things done outside before the weather turns sour?


Picket Fences

If you couldn’t tell from our previous posts (specifically this one), we spent a good deal of our Labor Day weekend LABOR-ING!  It all started with two (very heavy) visits to the hardware store:


How much wood would a Toyota chuck, if a Toyota could chuck wood?

…a heckuva lot of rain…!!


…one rented two-man post-hole digger…


….four muddy post-holes….


…four bags of concrete…


….four upright posts…


….three confused dogs…


…and one beautiful fence as our end result!


And now for the goods.  If you want to know how to build your very own fence, keep reading.  If this kind of stuff bores you, then check back later this week while we check in with the ladies and how they were keeping themselves occupied inside and out of the rain!

Diggin’ Post Holes: You can see in this video how we dug the post-holes using a rented Auger from Home Depot.

Fill’er Up!: Using one 80-lb bag of Concrete per post, we placed the posts and filled up the holes.  Some sources recommend you use gravel to put on the bottom to aid in drainage, but we didn’t do this as the posts we used were treated to withstand moisture.  We did, however, dig super-deep post-holes in order to give our posts extra stability.  Usually, a 6 foot fence (which is what we built) requires a 2 foot hole — we dug as deep as the auger would let us (about 3 feet deep).  And once we filled it up with concrete, those suckers just didn’t move since the hole was so deep, so leveling the post was a cinch.

Give it some support: We laid some cross-posts between the posts to match the existing fence style and give us a place to hang the slats.  The top cross-piece was the most important, because it defined the top of the fence.  We made sure (checking and double-checking) to make sure it was level before nailing it into place.  This was made pretty easy by using galvanized brackets we picked up from the hardware store.

Hang your slats: We used a staple gun with 1.5″ galvanized staples, so we were able to quickly hang the slats.  Once we got closer to the posts, we just cut them to size (this took some trial and error at times, but you hardly notice it now.

Build a gate:  You can find gate kits at Lowe’s or Home Depot and use those to help you build a gate.  This made it really easy — measure the size gate you want, make a couple of cuts, and off you go!

Top’er Off!:  The last step was to cut the excess tops off of the posts and put a decorative topper on it.  This is actually required so that water doesn’t seep into the cut ends of the posts.

And now Maggie the Mascot Mutt is a happi(er) pup because she can finally roam free in the backyard!  This job requires some pretty heavy duty tools, but if you have the equipment to do it and/or a local Hardware store that will allow you to rent them, then this is something that could probably save you several thousand dollars to do it yourself!



Men, Men, Men, Men….

We had a muddy Labor Day weekend out here in Portland, Oregon.  Rain, rain, and more rain!  But we did manage to have some fun with the video camera while we were working around the house.  You can click here to check out J and his Dad having manly fun with a Post-Hole Digger!

Whatever would that be for?  Hrmm….stay tuned for the big reveal this week!