Welcome to the Jungle

Did I mention previously that we applied to be a part of a new HGTV show for vacation rental homes that needed a makeover?  We could have used their help!  Big SOS here!!!  We were actually more overwhelmed with the overgrown landscaping (and I use the term “landscaping” loosely) than with the work that needed to be done on the inside.

About three weeks after we closed we had several inches of rain and our front yard and driveway were soon underwater! We were thinking that it would soon subside but they don’t call it the low country for nothing! At this point we knew we needed some serious help and called in the professionals from YardWorks.  The back yard was bordered by many overgrown Elaeagnus (pronounced:  Ug-lee-ag-nus).  The house was surrounded by shrubs that had never been pruned.  The front yard no longer had grass probably due to the flooding.

Front yard with weeds and overgrown shrubs

Front yard with weeds and overgrown shrubs

 

Back yard Ugly-agnus and beautiful 250+ year old Live Oak

Back yard Ugly-agnus and beautiful 250+ year old Live Oak

The team at YardWorks put together a great landscape plan and suggested dry wells to eliminate the periodic flooding in the front yard.  It took a team, a bobcat, two dump trucks and two days to eliminate all of the existing shrubs and weeds but it looked so much better and we could actually see the beauty of the 250+ year old Live Oak Tree.

Front Yard Debris

Front Yard Debris

 

Backyard debris

Backyard debris

 

And now we have a clear canvas for the starting point of our new landscape plan.  First, we will be replacing the driveway, followed by adding the dry wells and we also have a new deck to build.  Why a new deck you ask?  Because, the current one was never attached to the house!?  Seems like that would have been noticed by the building inspector at the time….just sayin!

Weeds are still there but overgrown shrubs GONE!

Weeds are still there but overgrown shrubs GONE!

25th Hour Gal

 

Paint Your Brick Fireplace – It’s Easier Than You Think!

I decided that my first DIY project for Searenity Now would be to tackle the fireplace. It wasn’t ugly but it didn’t look beachy. I searched Pinterest and lots of other sites to find out how to give the fireplace a makeover, and I found an easy step-by-step guide on the Lowes site.

The very 'un-beachy' fireplace

The very ‘un-beachy’ fireplace

One rainy day, I went to Lowe’s on my mission to find the paint colors I wanted to use.  I wanted a white shade for the background that blended in with the white on the walls and then for the darker color, I wanted something that wouldn’t offer too much contrast.  I ended up using Benjamin Moore White Dove for the base (because I happened to have it already).  For the top coat, I used Oatlands Subtle Taupe by Valspar (6005-1B).

The first thing I did was to wipe off the exterior brick with a damp rag.  I also ran a hand vacuum over the exterior to get cobwebs and any dust and debris off the hearth.  No offense to the previous owner but let’s just say that she could have spent a little more time on cleaning.  I didn’t bother with the interior of the fire box as I knew I was going to put a screen over the front.  If you want or need to paint your firebox, I recommend you start with that project before moving on to this project.  I did paint the one row of bricks around each edge but nothing inside the firebox.

I then taped some paper to the floor using FrogTape and also taped around the edge of the brick to protect the wall.  You know, just in case of a spill.  I am prone to accidents so I plan ahead!  By the time I had the paper down the brick was dry from cleaning and it was time to start the painting.

For the white coat, I used a cheap brush and a roller specifically for rough surfaces.  I think Lowe’s offers “Good,” “Better” and “Best” brushes.  A “Good” brush is fine for this project because I promise you will throw it away when you finish.  First, using the paint roller, paint the entire brick area.  You will use the brush to paint the mortar that the roller doesn’t cover.  Load a lot of paint on the brush because the mortar between the bricks will really need a lot of paint for coverage.  You may have to move your brush in both directions and even jab at the mortar a little with the brush to get the paint in all the cracks and crevices.  You really want to make sure you have everything completely covered with your white color before moving to the next step.

First step complete!

First step complete!

Let the white coat completely dry and touch-up where needed.  Once that coat is complete, you can move on to your contrasting color.  This is where I stopped using the Lowe’s instructions and came up with my own technique.  I used a 4″ foam roller for the top coat with the contrasting color.  Foam is important as you only want to lightly hit the high spots of the brick, not completely cover it.  This top coat takes about 20 minutes.  Very quick and easy!

 

You want the darker color to be uneven.

You want the darker color to be uneven.

I completed the entire project the same day and I love the result.  Don’t you think it looks more beachy?  And guess what….no spills!  This was a very easy project.  Here is the final with the new decor.

The new 'beachy' fireplace completed!

The new ‘beachy’ fireplace completed!

 

Leap of Faith

We may have taken a seriously wrong turn but I don’t think we have! We have been searching for a small beach house in the Charleston area for several years. We just couldn’t find the perfect one for us. Then last year, we found one on the market that was in our price range and we thought had great potential. To say that it looked sad & tired is an understatement! It looked nothing like a beach house even though the ocean was only a block and a half down the street.

The house was a short sale and we had no idea about the long grueling process. But, we decided to go for it! It took six long….make that very long months from the time we made the offer to the time we closed! I won’t sugarcoat it as it was a painful process. It was also pretty painful for our friends that had to listen to us whine!

But good things come to those that wait, right?! So the house is ours but now we needed an extreme home & yard makeover. On the HGTV website, we found out about a new show and they were looking for people who had just purchased a beach house (check) and wanted to update it (check)! We applied and actually made it through the initial screen but then we were DENIED! Oh well, I love HGTV anyway.

So we will dive in and get the job done ourselves. I hope you follow along to see our progress.  Before we begin, here is the start of our vision…”SeaRenity Now!” If you aren’t familiar with this Seinfeld episode, it is one of my favorites. We decided to name the beach house after it with a play on the spelling (get it?…SEA). If you missed this episode, check out the highlights here “Serenity Now, Insanity Later!”

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We’ve “Nested!”

Ever since I saw my first Nest, I have wanted one too.  So this past week, I finally bought and installed our new thermostat, the Nest.

The Nest is an impressive thermostat but the technology is what makes it outstanding.  The installation is very easy and they even include a screwdriver and the screws you need.  First you visit the Nest website:  https://nest.com/thermostat/life-with-nest-thermostat/ to check capatibility with your wiring.  If you pass that simple test, you are ready to install your Nest.  I could have completed the installation in about 15 minutes total but I had to do a little painting behind the old thermostat.  Don’t forget to turn off  your current thermostat before disconnecting and turn off the power to the part of your house where your thermostat is located.

After painting, I connected four wires into the Nest and then it was time for programming.  First you connect the Nest to your WiFi and then it will automatically check for software updates.  You then set the lowest minimum temp and the maximum temp for your home.  This means that your house will never be colder than your minimum or warmer than the maximum temp you set.  Next you turn the dial to the temperature you currently want in the house.

Now for the cool part!  Download the Nest app to your smartphone or tablet.  You can then control your thermostat from your phone or tablet.  That may sound silly but let me tell you a couple of things that are very convenient about this feature.  We turn the heat down low at night because we both sleep better when it is cooler.  When we wake up one of us has to go turn the heat up a few degrees to warm up the house but now we can just grab our phone or iPad off the nightstand and adjust the temp.  Easy!  Have you ever left on vacation or a long weekend away and forgotten to change the settings on your thermostat while you are away, well now you can do that from your phone.  Just go to the App and click on “Away.”

It takes a week for the Nest to get to know your habits and your temperature preferences.  After that, it will automatically adjust to your desired temperature several times during the day based on your past preferences.  Of course you can also make adjustments any time you want.  No more programming different programs for weekdays and weekends.  Just install and enjoy!

We have had our Nest installed for just a few days now so it is still learning our schedule.  But so far we love it!  Nest has a new product out that is a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm.  I may have to update our smoke detectors after the holidays!

Nest packaging

Nest Packaging

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Nest Screwdriver

Simple Nest Wiring
Simple Nest Wiring

Updating Software

Updating Software

Installation Complete!

Installation Complete!

One More Gift

There are so many reasons why I love this time of year.  I started a tradition a long time ago after I lost my father much too early to cancer.  He passed away in June and when it was time for Christmas, I decided to adopt an ”angel” off the Angel Tree at a local department store in his memory.

As I lost additional family members through the years, I would adopt additional angels in their name.  I also asked my friends to support their local Angel Tree instead of giving a gift to me.  I started this tradition over 20 years ago and last year, my husband and I started a new tradition.  We now adopt a family and help them at Christmas.  As much as I love opening gifts with my family, I have to admit that when I deliver the gifts to our adopted family, sharing that joy with them is my favorite part of Christmas.

This year, we have a single mom and her 12 year-old daughter, whom I’ll call Jill.  Jill’s wish this year was to have her room painted pink and she also wanted a zebra comforter set with matching curtains.  Two weeks ago we delivered that comforter set and curtains along with a stocking full of girly things and some clothes for her.  We also picked out some things for her mom too.  We contacted our local painter, Bear Mountain, and told them about Jill’s wish.  Bear Mountain donated the labor and most of the paint and Sherwin Williams also contributed some of the paint.  Bear Mountain painted the entire room including the ceiling.  On Christmas morning Jill, will have her Christmas wish wrapped in her new comforter set in her pink room!  My sincere thanks go out to Bear Mountain Painters and Sherwin Williams for their generosity.

Giving just feels good especially this time of year.  There are so many ways you can give of yourself and giving doesn’t always mean money.  You can give of your time through a charity or mentoring.  Find a cause you believe in and make a difference.

One charity that I think is fun and a little different is Kiva.  On Kiva, you can make loans of all sizes to entrepreneurs all over the world.   Your loan is typically repaid a little at a time.  I wait until the loan is halfway re-paid and then I loan it out to another entrepreneur.

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year will be to give more of myself next year.  I lost a dear friend last week.  She was sick for only a few weeks and unfortunately I didn’t get to say goodbye.  She gave so much of herself to our church and to our outreach projects.  I will miss her so much.  She was someone I always admired and so I want to give more of myself next year, in her honor.

We can all make a difference in this world.  It doesn’t matter how small or big the gift.  It is just a matter of reaching out

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” ~ Mother Teresa