The Back Yard: New Patio, New Life

When we first moved into our house, we didn’t fully appreciate how impossible it would be to utilize the backyard. It is a steeply sloping site and when the former owners added the family room, they built it over the existing patio.

So, when we moved in, it looked like this:

There was a hugely overgrown Japanese maple blocking our view to the backyard from the family room, and a random gas-powered lamp. The porch was not big enough to do much of anything with, and the cement area under it was just big enough for a grill and a chair.

Making matters worse, the lowest part of the ground seemed to be at the Japanese maple. Before we took it out, I could actually shift it around with just one hand after heavy rains. Not great.

So, we took out all the old bushes, moved out the cement bricks, and took the Japanese maple tree out. We were sad to see it go, but it was kind of a menace.

Dale added built-in planters along the fence line:

We reused the bricks to make a tree ring and it’s now a herb garden that I use for cocktails!


And last spring, we poured a patio! And it has dramatically improved our ability to enjoy the yard. It truly transformed our summers and ability to entertain.

Dale designed the shape and had a terrible company come in and pour it! LOL. We nearly fired them and the owner drove us nuts with endless delays and rude behavior (however the people who finally showed up and did the work on-site were lovely!) before finally presenting us with a bill that was 33% more than we were quoted! Nice people.

The patio is roughly 15.6 feet by  x 29 feet:

HUGE lifestyle upgrade.

We got a fire bowl and Dale put up cute lights:

Watching baby bunnies eat flowers as the #empireofdirt slowly turns to grass.

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We bought an outdoor dining set and I made cushions for the chairs!

I also made teacup bird feeders:

And this year, we bought a nice grill:

And we’ve added a retaining wall in order to combat the mountain of dirt and add some nice landscaping (which is our project for this coming weekend). I’ll post more about that once it’s complete.

Baking Up a Storm Pt. 2

Here are the next 10 cakes I made.

New Year’s Neapolitan Cake. Two layers of white chocolate, two layers of dark chocolate, strawberry preserve filling topped with vanilla meringue buttercream, chocolate ganache drip, and chocolate-covered strawberries.
Chocolate spice cake with cardamom buttercream rosette cake. This was one of my favorite flavor combos.
My first “naked” cake was a 6-layer chocolate stout cake frosted with Raspberry cream cheese/Swiss meringue buttercream and then topped with dark and white chocolate bark (sprinkled with freeze-dried raspberries and pretzel bits) and fresh raspberries! (Not happy with the naked part, but it was a first effort).
Lemony carrot cake with daffodils (I wrapped the based in plastic) and a spun sugar nest on top.
Lemon thyme cake brushed with thyme syrup, filled with lemon curd cream and frosted with a “rustic” ombré Swiss meringue buttercream (by rustic, I mean “poorly executed ombré” and “roughly frosted” smooth).
Simpsons-inspired Donut Cake
S’mores cake: cinnamon buttermilk cake, milk chocolate fudge frosting between layers, and toasted meringue frosting.
Purple layer cake with pitch-black frosting and crazy sprinkles
White birch “bark” cake with a diorama on top. Gingerbread cake with espresso frosting.
When I’m not baking cakes, I’m working on cookies. These are wookie cookies.

Baking Up A Storm Pt. 1

I’ve been baking like a crazy person for the last year. I had barely baked anything previously, which is weird! But I thought it would be cool to round up all my cakes of the past year-plus to show off my skillz (which are beginner at best but I’m still proud).

Here’s the first 10:

Blueberry Jam Cake. My first big effort and it featured ombre frosting and homemade blueberry jam filling.
Lemon cake with homemade lemon curd, homemade candied lemons and white chocolate shavings.
Chocolate Flower Cake with candy melt flower petals.
Sprinkle cake with sprinkle frosting. Not my finest offering.
German-style Black Forest Cake
Lady cake for Election Day.
The Birds red velvet cake.
Spice cake with maple frosting and crazy candy melt tree.
Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and a poinsettia candy melt flower on top.
Chocolate cake with buttercream frosting and a little ring of raspberries on top.

New sofas!

New sofas in the living room (ignore the extra table against the windows as I was excited to share and Dale hasn’t dismantled that table yet because it’s probably moving into the family room and that new sofa doesn’t arrive until tomorrow). We went on a sofa-buying frenzy and it no longer feels like a college apartment! Yay!