Backyard Renovation

OMG guys, I can’t believe how long it took for us to finish this project! What we thought would turn into a 2-3 month project turned into a year! We started on July 13, 2017 and finished the project on June 11, 2018. Granted, life and work definitely got in the way. We could’ve finished this project way sooner if it weren’t for work and stuff.
Before – Lots of land, no landscaping
When we bought our house the front and back yards weren’t landscaped. Our ultimate goal is to be able to use more of our yard since we have so much square footage back there. So the first project was to create an area where we could put our outdoor chairs and tables. Kinda extend our covered patio so we could BBQ, have outdoor dinners, use our fire pit, etc. As first time homeowners we knew this would be a huge undertaking for us. It was going to be our first big investment into our home. Since It was kind of overwhelming we didn’t really know where to start. We didn’t even know how much to budget but thought about $3000 might be reasonable. We contacted a few landscapers to give us an estimate but it was way out of our budget so we decided to just slowly work on it ourselves. It was so rewarding to finish but damn, it was so hard! No regrets, though.
Our first goal was to decide how big we wanted the space. Our backyard is flat land with no trees or anything to abstruct/work around so we had a blank canvas to work with. It is also a rectangle so it was really easy to dissect the yard into. We decided to go with a 725 sq. ft. space for what we called the “patio extension.” I did extensive research, went online, watched YouTube videos, read blogs, and went shopping at Lowe’s and Home Depot to start to create a realistic budget.
Let’s start digging!
Once we decided on the dimensions we got to digging! This was the hardest part, it’s really labor intensive and took time to make sure the slope of the land was going away from the house for rain fall. You don’t want excess water to pool or go toward the house. That can lead to foundation issues down the line. We started with 4 inches closest to our covered patio and went down to 6 inches as we went farther away from the house. This is what took us over a year to do lol!
Finished “pit”
Once we finished digging (a year later) we wet the soil to help it settle a little and sprayed it with weed killer. A few days later we laid down our weed barrier, put in some landscape edging around the perimeter, and went to order our rock. At first weren’t sure what we were going to use for the patio extension but obviously price was a factor. We were thinking about doing concrete, stepping stone with rock or grass in between, brick, or rock. We decided to go with rock since it was the most affordable option and the most versatile. We could always add stepping stone in the future if we wanted to. 
Weed barrier down
There’s a great family owned building materials company about a mile from our house, Jacobi Building Materials. We went there, told them what we wanted, and everything was spelled out and really simple. They asked for the dimensions, they told us how much weed barrier we’d need, how much gravel, and they were right on the money. We hardly had any waste! Plus, they deliver! If you live in the San Fernando Valley area, I highly recommend seeing them.
The rock was delivered at 7 am sharp and we got to work right away. Charlie and I moved all the rock from our driveway into the pit we dug in 6 hours. It was just us, 2 shovels, a wheelbarrow, and lots of water!
Finished! Look at that cute pup enjoying her new patio
All in all we spent a total of about $800, WAY LESS than our expected $3000!! The $800 included shovels, a wheelbarrow, a tamper, the weed barrier, weed killer, the edging, gravel, and delivery.
View number 2
In hindsight there are a few things I would’ve done differently:
  1. I would’ve dug 2 inches and sloped to 4 inches instead of 4 inches to 6 inches. It really wasn’t necessary to go that deep and we probably would’ve spent a little less on the rock.
  2. We should’ve done this in the fall or winter, it was so hot most of the days we worked on it and I got such a bad tan!
  3. Because it took us so long to dig the pit weeds and grass began to grow where we previously dug. It took extra time to remove and kill what was growing in that area. Next time I’d make sure that we could consistently work on the project so we don’t create extra work for ourselves.
  4. We made the mistake of not creating a straight line to follow when we were digging so our patio extension is a bit squiggly lol! We’re going to cover it up eventually but it still bugs me! We should’ve either spray painted the perimeter, used wood for our edging so it would be pretty straight from the beginning, or put stakes at the corners and tied rope to keep the lines straight.
Honestly, if I could do it over and had the money to pay someone I think I would still do it myself. The sense accomplishment and pride I feel for my home after finishing this project is invaluable. I got out there, sit on the patio, and stare out into the yard for no reason. I rarely ever went out there before this. Now I have breakfast outside, we have friends over and eat dinner back there. Even though the yard still has a long way to go (we still have so many different sections to work on) I love being out there and get to enjoy the space!
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Advice from a 33 Year Old

I’ve always felt like I was one of those “13 going on 30” type of kids. I don’t know why I was always in such a rush to grow up. Not necessarily on purpose, but just naturally. My mind thought differently from my friends and classmates my age. At 33 I look back at my life so far and see how quickly I just knew things I wanted and just went for it. 
  • At 19, I started my first business. Growing up I thought I wanted to work for someone (seeing how hard my parents worked) but one day I just changed my mind. I knew I wanted to be my own boss. I might not have known what that would mean at the time or the consequences of that decision, but I knew that’s what I wanted.
  • I enrolled in a 2 year college with no intention of going to school any longer than I needed to. I graduated in 18 months. School just wasn’t my thing.
  • I always thought that school was important and I knew I wanted to get a degree in something. But I thought it was silly that I had to pay someone to do work when I can get a job and get paid to do it instead.
  • I always thought learning on the job was the best way to learn.
  • The only thing I regret is not traveling more in my 20s. My excuse was that I didn’t have enough money or time but if I really wanted to make it happen, there’s always a way. Work and business was always my priority.
  • I’ve always believed in God, I grew up Catholic. But there was a time when I completely shut God out of my life. Not because I didn’t believe, it was more that I was stupid enough to think I had it all together. I thought I had it handled, that I didn’t need God. I had everything I could ever ask for. But despite that, I still felt empty and incomplete. One day I decided to go back to church and reignite my relationship with God. It changed everything.
  • Don’t pretend to be something you’re not, be true to yourself and who God made you to be. Don’t waste your life trying to fit someone else’s mold of who they think you should be. 
  • Life is short so make the time you have on Earth count. Hug your family tighter, tell people you love them, make time for your friends, don’t stay angry, smile, don’t hang on to expectations, and be kind to others as much as you can.
  • Be grateful for what you have in your life, don’t focus on what you don’t have. Contentment is one of the hardest things to achieve. We live in a society that wants us to always want more. Be grateful for what you have.
But most of all – pave your own path, walk the road less traveled. Yes, it might be rockier. It might be way harder than you ever expected. People will tell you it’ll be too hard, that you can’t do it, or that you’re crazy. It will mean you have to make sacrifices, a lot of them. But take it from this 33 year old, it’ll be more worth it to try and fail than to do nothing at all.
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Why Retail Job Experience is So Important

Photo by: Sarah Pflug

I’ve had this conversation with so many different people from different walks of life. Because of this I thought it would be worth mentioning.

I highly recommending working in the restaurant, retail, or customer service industries at some point in your life.

I’ve worked in a lot of industries that revolved around customer service, and as much as I hated some of those jobs, each one has taught me a lot. Whether it’s a new skill or something about myself, I’ve learned so much from working in customer service jobs.

I learned how to be more patient.

I learned to break out of my shyness. (I used to be really shy as a kid)

I learned that a simple smile can go a long way.

I learned how to sell a product without being pushy.

I learned how to multitask.

I learned that I have worth and deserve respect.

Thanks to working in industries such as food and clothing I met some really great people. A lot of my coworkers turned into friends! I’ve met some great friends thanks to working in these jobs. Friends that helped make work more tolerable and more fun!

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me but working in these industries was such a big part of my life. Yes, it wasn’t great all the time but it made such a big impact on me. When you’re on the receiving end and you’re a customer you definitely have a different perspective compared to when you don’t.

If you’re in college, between jobs, or just want something more interesting I highly recommend something revolving around customer service. I can tell you one thing, you’ll definitely get something out of it aside from just a paycheck. You’ll probably learn something about yourself that you didn’t know before.


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