The Ugliest Part of our Home

While we've been fiddling around fixing up the inside of our house, we've been hiding a big, ugly secret: our backyard.

You might think I'm being dramatic, but I swear I'm not. Our backyard is literally a dirt pit filled with dead leaves, old gravel, torn sprinkler tubes and tree branches. See for yourself:

UGH. Gross! I'm cringing a little just showing these pictures to the world wide interwebs. But admitting you have a problem is the first step toward fixing it, right?

To be fair, our backyard is part of what sold us on the house originally. Not the actual backyard, per se, but the creek behind it. It's really very beautiful when the trees are filled with leaves. Here are some pictures from the original listing. You can see that even then, the previous owners were unable to grow any grass back there because the trees block the sunlight.

The best part about our dirt hole of a backyard is that the house is actually positioned above it, so the views from inside the home don't show any of the ugliness. Thank goodness! That's a big reason why we've been able to ignore this problem for so long.

We brightened up the back patio last summer, and we just ignored the dirt hole below the deck.

Looking at these lush, green photos from the summer, I am officially depressed about the current state of affairs back there. After a long autumn and winter where this backyard was entirely covered with leaves from the plentiful trees around the backyard, we are left with a dust-covered deck that desperately needs a good power-washing.

Like most ugly parts of our home, I like to point my finger at the main problem. Actually, two main problems: Destoyer 1 and Destroyer 2.

They look harmless, right? Wrong! I swear they have worked together to dig a million holes and destroy every living thing in our backyard.

We have never wanted to invest any time, money or energy into our backyard because we didn't think it was worth it. Not only would the dogs destroy everything, but it's hard to figure out what to do back there because the shade and soil aren't ideal for grass and other affordable greenery. But enough is enough: We want to have a backyard we aren't ashamed of anymore! So we decided to tackle the dog problem first by building a dog run.

It was pretty easy. (Especially for me, since I just sketched an idea and watched the husband do all the hard work!) The husband built a gate for our deck so they couldn't access the main yard area, and then we blocked off the side yard. It's the perfect little stretch of space for them to stretch their legs and go potty without having the ability to dig up the entire yard. Plus it's discreetly placed on the side of the house so that they can proceed to destroy that area without us feeling too upset about it!

We had that short wrought iron fence sitting in our garage, so it was nice to put it to use. We need a little bit more to finish the dog run, but it's working pretty well for now.

The destroyers seem a little confused and upset about the situation, but I tell myself that they made their own bed by being so destructive! (No mom guilt over here.)

A little about the deck gate: I sketched a design for the husband that I thought would elevate our deck a little bit. I think the classic X pattern takes the existing prison-ish wooden railing and makes it a little more elegant. He was able to build it our of cedar 2x4s, and I just love how it came out. Of course we need to paint it to match the rest of the deck, but that will happen soon.

Meanwhile, I started daydreaming about what we might be able to do to fancy up the rest of the backyard. Here's what I'm hoping to achieve:

I know you can't see it that well, but we're hoping to add some bushes around the perimeter of the deck and house. Then we'll replace the swing set thing we inherited from the previous owners with another seating area in the back right corner, along with a pretty path that leads to it from the bottom tier of the deck. We are really hoping to be able to put down some sod back there, but we aren't sure if it's worth doing because of the extreme shade conditions back there. We need to consult with some expert landscapers to see if grass would be worth the time and investment. I'd really love to have some grass if we can make it work, so we'll see.

Meanwhile, we started the demolition process last weekend so we could have a blank slate. We dug up all of the landscape stone border pieces and random bricks that were under the wrought iron fence. (We think the previous owners had small dogs and used these stones and bricks to prevent them from escaping under the fence.)

And then we started pulling up all of the old drip line from the sprinklers because the destroyers have completely chewed it up. 

We are going to save everything – all of the bricks, pavers and other salvageable landscaping materials – just in case we can repurpose them later. As always, we are trying to do this project in the most cost-effective way possible.

We are so excited to tackle this big makeover! It's really been a long time coming. Scott has his spring break coming up, so he plans to really dive headfirst into this project while he has the free time. We're researching plants and sod that might do well back here. It's slightly sloped toward the creek and gets little-to-no sun when the trees are filled in. We do have a sprinkler system in certain areas, and a drip line all the way around the house in the existing flower beds.

Green thumbers out there – any suggestions for grass or plants that might thrive back here?! We're clueless, and we love to hear your ideas.

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DIY Heart Sweaters

So... I got a little carried away with the heart patches.

After I finished gluing them to my new [super adorable] flats, I started putting them everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean three different sweaters I bought at the thrift store. Because one heart sweater is never enough!

I wanted to try these heart appliques on a sweater, but I wasn't sure exactly what type of sweater I had in mind. I just knew I wanted something off-white or tan because tan/red is a nice color combo. (It also reminds me of a Target uniform, but that's OK.)

I'm not very good at sewing, so I didn't want to take a chance on ruining one of my own sweaters. I ran to my local thrift store and found three different sweaters for $2 each. I felt like the style of each sweater called for a different placement of the heart patches, so it turned out to be the perfect way to try a few different ideas. Thrifting win!

Sweater #1: cable knit crewneck sweater
This sweater is classic and preppy. I half expected it to have a tiny polo horse on the chest, so I figured one heart patch was the perfect way to add a little bit of personality without it being too over the top. Now it's preppy with an extra bit of quirk, just the way I like it.

The instructions on the heart appliques say to "pin and sew," so that's exactly what I did. I'm no seamstress, but even I was able to hand-sew it on to the sweater with a simple running stitch.

I think it came out pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself. My hair? Not so much. It's obvious I'm not a fashion blogger, and I sure as heck don't know how to make my hair look cute!

Sweater #2: peach-y front-pocket cardigan
This sweater's two front pockets made the patch placement a total no-brainer.

I am a huge cardigan devotee, so I'm definitely adding this one to the rotation.

Sweater #3: Knit three-quarter sleeve
I couldn't go through this sewing session without trying some elbow patches, of course. This sweater was the best candidate.

This one is so neutral and will be really easy to pair with different stuff in my closet. It's definite;y a year-round piece, even with the hearts. It's so comfortable, and it fits nicely. Seal of approval!

I tried some other outfit combos, too. These sweaters are surprisingly versatile. I don't think any of these outfits just scream Valentine's Day, do you?

Well, I promise that is the end of my heart patch obsession. Next up: shamrock patches for St. Patrick's Day! Just kidding... I think.

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DIY Heart Shoes

These shoes are one of my favorite DIY projects of all time, and they took all of 2 minutes.

Let me start with my inspiration. I have had these cheeky, fun flats by Jeffrey Campbell on my Pinterest wishlist for more than a year now. I was walking through the aisles of Joann Fabric trying to get some creativity flowing, and I saw these heart appliques. They immediately reminded me of the cute flats I pinned so long ago, and I knew they would be perfect for my next DIY project.

Luckily for me there is an Old Navy right next to the Joann Fabrics, so I walked right over there to see if I could find a cute pair of flats. One $22 pair of sueded pointed flats (marked down to $13 with my 40% off coupon) later, I was ready to make some cute shoes!

Here's what you need:

1 pair of flats
2 heart applique patches
E600 shoe glue

This project has one step: Glue heart to shoe. I mean, how easy is that?!

If you want slightly more specific instructions, I used a paint brush to put glue on both the front of the shoe and the back of the heart applique. I let them sit for two minutes just like the E6000 glue instructions tell you to do, and then I stuck the heart on the front of each shoe. It's as simple as that!

If you want to add another super cute touch, you can glue these tiny heart appliques on the back.

Obviously these shoes are great for Valentine's Day, but I plan to wear them year round. I like to add a little bit of fun to my boring outfits, and these flats are just the trick!

I could never be a fashion blogger. I'm so awkward when I have my photo taken, especially when the photographer is my sweet husband who would have much rather been watching the Super Bowl pregame show than taking pictures of my feet.

Fair warning: I totally got carried away with these heart appliques this weekend. I'll be back with another post later this week to show you what else I made with these cute patches!

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