Small California Backyard Transformation: Water wise and Dog Proof!

It all started with a stressful day, one fed up dog “mama” and a shovel…small-backyard-water-wise-and-dog-friendly-makeover-before-pic-.jpg

What should’ve been a quick project, or rather a band aid, for our lawn destroyed by two huge pups…Turned into a week long project of; a few broken toes, half dozen trips to the Home Depot, two bottles of wine and several expletives.

However the end result has been amazing! We now have a  beautiful, water wise, (nearly) dog proof backyard…That we will never have to mow again!

Before we reveal some final pics, we have another great Ikea hack and our new pergola to share.


We originally wanted to build a pergola from redwood, but reigned our DIY dreams in and realized this project was big enough. We then started hunting for a prefab steel pergola (that was budget friendly). Sears seemed to have the best option for our dimensions…It was also free delivery and on sale! SCORE! (FYI-Last time I looked these pergolas are still available at the same price)


It comes in a box and was super easy to assemble with 3-4 people…We had only 2, a ladder, and several bungee cords. Without going into the gory details, just take our advice and bribe a few friends with beer and pizza before you attempt to assemble one of these on your own.

However we managed to get the steel beast up with only minor injuries…



The next part of the project was to “sew” a custom pergola canopy…And when I mean “sew” that’s code for hacking something from Ikea. In this case we found the Ikea Dyning balcony wind barriers. These are meant to line your balcony or deck railing, but because of their dimensions, and crisp white outdoor fabric they were perfect as a draped canopy. Also at only $12 each on summer clearance, they are cost effective compared to other ready made pergola canopies.


Super easy to install and drape, we will probably take them down at the end of each summer.



Now we finally have a cabana-esque, pergola ready for cocktails and summer BBQs… Our before and after pics…











There are still several more backyard projects to do and little plants to grow, before we have those  “perfect” After pictures. However we couldn’t be happier with the progress we’ve made and money saved by putting in the labor now. We’re so excited to finally enjoy our low maintenance, dog proof yard. We also hope we inspired a few people to consider a lawn-free, water wise backyard. Cheers! enjoying-the-new-backyard-with-a-glass-of-red-wine-california-small-dog-friendly-water-wise-backyard-make-over.jpg

To a Happy Summer and Happy Sunday everyone!





THIS DROUGHT IS FOR REAL!…Beautiful and Water-wise Backyards

Fourth of July Weekend was a bit of a reality check (and even a little scary) for us…

This is a massive tree branch that fell from our front yard tree, due to “summer drop” an event that can commonly occur in hot and drought conditions. We are regulated by the city to water only twice a week, which can cause stress to trees during the hot summer months…Next was this…wild-fires-in-california.jpg
A nasty little wildfire that came a bit too close to home, and if the wind had been blowing a different direction, could have easily jumped the river in the 100+ degree heat.

If we had any doubts of losing the lawn in the backyard, they are completely gone now. In fact these events only solidified our love for drought tolerant, water wise gardens. Yet many people equate “water-wise” with dry, cacti, or desert. Yet drought tolerant can be lush and beautiful…



elegant lush drought tolerant backyard

drought tolerant elegant lush backyards

We also love lush and tropical gardens. Luckily you can have both beauty and the tropics with water wise gardens. By planting with palms, grasses, succulents, etc you can find plants that can mimic tropical foliage and flowers. Now let me introduce you to our newest garden editions…




Meet “Juan”, (our Queen Ann palm which was bought for a steal of a deal at $50) and these little cuties…



They were part of the Smart Planet plant line at Home Depot, plants specifically tailored for water wise gardens. Now here they are happy in their new home…



We also deviated a bit by adding a Bird of paradise, (closest to the palm for the extra water run off), Canas, hardy Agapanthas and Fortnight lilies. cana-tropicana-in-drought-tolerant-full-sun-garden.jpg
The Canas, and Kangaroo paw really help bring a unique and the tropical look to the yard. Another great trick to achieving a lush yard, and prevent water loss, is by laying large stones and boulders. In our case we used 2 cubic yards of 6 to 12 inch river cobbles and boulders called Feather rock. (A volcanic rock that looks heavy but is actually very light)


We chose larger rocks and boulders, rather than mulch or smaller stones because it makes for easier yard clean up in the fall. (literally the leaves are so crazy that we use a snow shovel not a rake) Also boulders and rocks are fabulous for deterring pups from napping on the new plants. (Sutter thinks my flax plants make great pillows)
All in all, we hope we inspired you to go water-wise and will be sharing some of the final project pics soon. Happy Sunday everyone!


The Dogs Will Be Alright…Tips for Losing the Back Lawn

Disclaimer: This blog post contains “potty talk”…

We were asked by a neighbor, “if the dogs will be alright with losing their lawn?” Which is actually a legitimate question considering the back yard is where many dogs spend the majority of their lives, and also dogs can be picky about their…ahem…potty routines. beginning-the-drought-tolerant-garden.jpg

As you can see in the picture, (photo bombed by Sutter marking the trumpet vines) our dogs have no shame about their routines, especially after their morning kibble kicks in.  Last year we installed privacy screens in order to hide telephone poles but also set aside area for the pups to patrol and do their business. Unfortunately they liked the lawn more and proceeded to destroy it.


Yet with the flagstone installed, most of our backyard is now hardscape, forcing our two pups to actually use the raised garden bed behind the privacy screens…Yay for less mess!

We think the biggest quandary and concern for many dog owners when deciding on losing the back lawn is where will the dogs either roll around, play or drop a deux. Yet we’ve found as long as there is some non-hardscape space set aside, the dogs will be ok.

However some dogs are really picky, so we’ve come up with a few tips and tricks to losing the lawn.


tough ground cover for dogs

There are several great options of tough ground cover that can stand up to dog wear and tear. By planting ground cover around stepping stones this can trick your dog into thinking its lawn. The best place to find suitable ground cover is start with your local nursery. Drought tolerant options include; woolly thyme, silver carpet, miniature sedum, and snow in summer. If your dog is prone to eating plants and ground cover check with the ASPCA’s toxic plant list for details on each of the plants listed.


grass grown in a pot

Some dogs eat grass to aid in their digestion, which is why homeowners may feel the need for lawn. This is a trick I’ve recently learned, but many apartment dwellers are familiar with…If your dog is a grass eater, grow grass in a  pot. However the size of the pot matters, large, heavy, stable and wide diameter pots are the best for grass grazing pooches. Keep the pot in a sunny spot and where it will least likely to be knocked over.


dogscaped yard

If you’re worried losing the lawn will mean less play space and less potty space, fear not. Based on your breed type, dogs don’t necessarily need lawn to have a good time or go potty. Our Dobermans are natural guard dogs, and love to run around patrolling the fence perimeter, which is why we built privacy screens and left the back garden beds for potty space. Also you may find lawn isn’t really necessary to make a backyard fun for dogs . Water dogs may just need a kiddie pool, diggers might need a sandbox and other breeds just want to sunbathe. The main point is to keep the backyard interesting and tailored to the needs of your dogs.


pea gravel and dogs

Other alternatives to lawn are pea gravel and DG (decomposed granite) which can act like big huge litter boxes for dogs. One of the reasons many dog parks are made entirely of gravel is due to good absorption and the drainage it provides. Also many dogs love to lay in gravel, and sun bathe in it. A couple downsides are that it can get a little messy when kicked up, dusty and invite the neighborhood cats into your backyard.

All in all our dogs have been alright since we’ve lost the backyard lawn. The trade off has been; ensure there is plenty of shade, and areas to sun themselves, enough space to play and potty, fresh water sources, and tough, drought tolerant plants that can withstand our bruisers. We hope our tips have helped a few homeowners out there. We’ll be showing more pics of the back yard make-over as the summer progresses. In the meantime HAPPY SUNDAY EVERYONE!


Gator Done!… (Laying a Flagstone Patio)

Disclaimer: Corny jokes and awful word puns reside at this blog. Especially after laying a flagstone patio, and the celebratory wine kicks in…

Here is where we left off…removing-weeds-and-sod-in-backyard.jpg
A barren wasteland of dirt that was once weed infested grass…There were two options, resod and start fresh, or get creative and drought “appropriate”…We went with option número dos.

If you haven’t heard, Northern California is under extreme drought conditions and even though there is talk of El Niño (freakish storm systems that finally bring rain every five years). We knew we’d be back to drought conditions again.

Also there are still these two hams to consider…floppy-ear-dobermans-begging-for-a-treat.jpg

Who were responsible for this…


In our previous home we knew flagstone works for both us and the two bruisers. They like to sunbathe, we like less dust and dirt. However with this go- around we’d change it up a bit. Instead of real flagstone and piles of DG (decomposed granite) we’d opt for the faux flagstone and a product called Gator dust.

Why? Well, to be honest as we’re getting older we appreciate the easier and less expensive approach to projects. Plus Gator dust is a polymeric stone dust that hardens to a mortar-like joint when in contact with water. YAY FOR LESS DUST!

Heres how the project started…It began with multiple trips to Home Depot in (tiny cars) for many loads of Canyon oak faux flagstone, bender board, all purpose sand, and weed block. (This is when I sing, “some day my truck will come” and hubby rolls eyes…We’re saving up for one as we speak)

Followed by laying down said bender board, weed block, leveling sand, and the flagstone.



Once the flagstone is squared away, and you’re happy with the layout…(For any other uber-analytical, perfectionists out there, setting the flagstone was the worst part) “Honey wait I need to rotate that one 36 degrees!”

Then follow the instructions on the gator dust bag. Dump a bag on the flagstone, sweep, and repeat. Making sure all joints, cracks and crevices are filled and level with the stones. (Just remember if your flagstone joints are up to 4inches, use the “large joint” gator dust)

Then spray the stones, by carefully following the water schedule explained in the directions. Once done with the water, using a powered blower, blow the remaining puddles away.



Let the patio cure for 24-48 hours, keeping the pups off it (if it’s even possible). Then sit back and enjoy with a glass of well deserved vino. Cheers and Happy Sunday everyone!


Stress=Digging…Does that make me part dog?

As my friends know when all is not right in my world, I do things like this…

And this…

When I’m stressed I like to randomly “excavate” yards. Four years ago I was so stressed that I installed four different flagstone and rock patios in our last home…It’s a sickness. Hubby jokes that I must be part dog, since only puppies seem to dig with a smile on their face.

This past weeks digging attack was due to work. Nothing awful is happening, but we are going through tremendous organizational changes so my little “cubicle world” has been rocked.

Also there was another reason for my need to update the backyard…My fabulous in-laws found us a gently used BBQ at an estate sale (normally $500) for instead $100! Score! We are super grateful for their keen noses for sniffing out that deal! …And what a great excuse to make-over the backyard!

We’ll be sharing the pics of our BBQ “central” in the coming weekends.

Now the third reason…Is well, I have visions of this being my backyard…



But sadly we have this…



A grossly ignored backyard, that was waiting patiently for the day when I’d come home stressed out, and running for the shovel.

A week later, we’re now knee deep into the project and will be sharing the pics as we go. (Right now there is nothing much to show) However we hope to have a backyard deserving of our new BBQ and summer parties very soon…Happy Sunday everyone!

Happy Fathers Day!

Better late than never…We only sort of fell off the face of the earth this weekend…Or at least we could’ve stepped off it…

This was one of the many beautiful views from our Father’s Day weekend. My dad is a hang glider pilot…41 years he’s been jumping off mountains with nothing but essentially a kite…And for 31 years I’ve been his kid; camping, trekking and driving to some of the most gorgeous views (and a few not so gorgeous campsites) all over Northern California.


This was Eric’s first time (and the pups) to experience the hang gliding “culture” first hand. A group of awesome guys and gals (with just enough adrenaline addiction) to soar motor less 14, 15, 16,000 feet in the air.
Do I hang glide? Absolutely not! Scared out of my pants of heights! Only one in the family to not have jumped out of a plane or soared in the sky. But I do have an incredible appreciation of the nature, company and camping experiences that come with the flying community.



Thanks pops for raising a daughter who loves Northern California, would choose a pair of hiking boots over high heels and a deep respect for Mother Nature. Happy Father’s Day! And happy Sunday everyone!

PS…We’ve received a lot of “travelling with big dogs” questions this past year. In the coming weeks we’ll be showcasing our favorite travel and camping gear for pups just in time for summer trips.

Ikea Hack! SIDE MURPHY BED /dog bed…Again?!

Have you ever completed a DIY project, were proud of it, pinterest it, and, then you lived with it….Finally realizing…This sh—(stuff) ain’t workin for us!

Remember I had hacked an Ikea day bed, turning it into a trundle bed/ dog bed. Everything was going fine except one problem, “WE” were the problem.

It wasn’t a bad concept, and it was useful some of the time. We admittedly just got lazy, (like letting pups sleep on the comfy bench portion). Also it took up too much space in our little place.

Honestly I seriously started to miss the functionality of the old dog Murphy beds from our first home. This is also when I look over at the hubs, and say “you were right…you know your project obsessed wife was going to change her mind like 4 more times” then ask him sweetly to help me lug the daybed up into the guest house.

Some bleach, new mattresses…We now have an actual bed! Now on to recreating dog Murphy beds…


This time the design was going to be a cross of this…


And this…


We still had an extra Ikea mattress, and the piece of birch we used for “upholstering” the bench. I was hoping to piece the Murphy bed together with scrap wood lying around the house, when I found this…

Waited a week, they knocked it down to $49.90…Huzzah!
I had a frame/box that perfectly fit the twin Ikea mattress.

The only modification we had to make from the instructions was move the bottom/side a half inch to fit the piece of birch by re-drilling new holes.

Next came the front piece, which was pretty easy, just bought some pieces of birch the same 6ft length, and with finishing nails and wood glue attached them to the front.




Followed by staining the piece with minwax polyurethane & stain in pecan

The last part was the easiest, by adding a piano hinge.

And also a locking mechanism…


Overall you’ll noticed we set the piano hinge and front of the Murphy bed halfway in the box, to allow for more space on the floor when the bed is down.



Here is our final “Progress” pic, we’re still in the process of adding trim, etc to make it look less like a random box and more like a tall sidebar.

But oh how functional it is! Dog beds disappear! You can also re-create this side Murphy bed ikea hack as an extra bed for guests. Cause I guess that’s what most people would use a Murphy bed for. (Com’on you’re not all crazy dog mamas?!)

Happy Sunday everyone!

Stealth Microwaves and Toasters…Hiding those pesky kitchen appliances

Remember when…

…the appliances took up the counter…Remember when…

Microwaves were a total eyesore…
(Warning: cheesy blog post intros always occur when country music is playing in the background) Hopefully you don’t have that song stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
Luckily between countertops and backsplash we remembered to include our little kitchen appliance update. Notice how the “after” pics are missing a few pesky coffee makers, and a microwave…

Well, we did the unthinkable for those of us with a tiny kitchen don’t do, we high jacked much needed cabinet space…before…




And finally found the perfect place for our toaster and blender…

All it took was knocking out and removing a few extra shelves, and having our electrician friend wire a couple outlets to the inside of a shelf for the microwave. We did lose some valuable kitchen “real estate” for storage but right now we’re changing our lifestyle to “less is more”. (I don’t know if it’s because we’re now in our thirties, or if we’ve just lived in little houses for too long that we’ve turned this corner?) Perhaps you have a couple cabinets that just need some organization too?… Having a stealth toaster and microwave…in Martha’s famous words…”it’s a good thing” Happy Sunday everyone!

Birthday, Blogiversary, and Baby!

As we mentioned last Sunday, this week we’re taking a small break to celebrate a few milestones, like…


We never dreamed our little diy and dog crazy corner of the internet would’ve lasted a month let alone a year?! Or even our friends and awesome readers would appreciate and Pinterest our design style .We call it “necessity meets hand me down chic” for now.

Thank you again for reading! Hopefully a few of our crazy ikea hacks and diy dog- friendly designs have helped a few people out there in the inter-world.

This past year has been such a learning experience, if you can’t tell from changing fonts, to grainy photos, and grammatical errors. This next year is to find balance between the world of social media and our busy home life. We have met some amazing diy couples and new blogging friends over the past year. Hopefully we can learn and adopt some of their strategies for balance.

Now on to Birthday and Baby!!! No it’s not what you’re thinking…I’m just reflecting on how awesome this birthday week has been, we were able to meet our sweet baby nephew for the first time…

Which is why all diy and kitchen is on hold people! Smelling and cuddling a squishy baby takes priority!

We were so blessed to share this week with my sister and bro in law, two dedicated people who have sacrificed so much of their careers and personal lives to the military and who deserve to be honored this weekend! They are such amazing new parents! (In fact I probably will steal their parenting techniques and use them with the dogs)

Now I’m getting all mushy, and rambling so ending this with a Happy Memorial Day weekend and Happy Sunday everyone!

Part 4: Kitchen Make-over…The Fastest Backsplash Update Ever!

Did we mention we were on the tightest, shoe-string, kitchen budget ever…(Probably in every post!) Or the fact that we are busy, can’t even keep up with the laundry, 0 spare-time kind of people…(Seriously it’s starting to get old)…However, one thing is for sure we’re not the only couple out there with the same sort of problems. Which is why we got crazy again, threw caution to the wind and painted tile again!

Oh yes we got “all crazy up in” our kitchen, and utilized the same strategy for our floors on the kitchen backsplash. Is it the ideal medium for a backsplash? No, but considering our budget, time constraints, and the fact that it even works we couldn’t open the paint cans fast enough!
Here’s how we did it:

First tape off, and lay plastic over the countertops (especially if they are DIY Encore ones, which you are overly proud and protective of) :)

Next clean your backsplash with a degreaser, we used Clorox’s, but some people swear by TSP. Then with any basic paint brush apply two layers of Glidden Gripper primer paint color matched to Natural Linen. (This is the best time to fully cover the grout lines.)

Then we let the primer cure for two days (because of a sudden rainstorm and we didn’t want to take chances with humidity). Once the primer cured we followed it with two layers of Glidden Natural Linen, satin paint. One of the best techniques we found to achieve a perfectly smooth layer of paint was by using Home Depot’s $3.50 mini foam roller kits:

We allowed the paint to cure for another 48 hours. Then to give the transition of concrete countertops to tile backsplash a more finished look we used Dap’s waterproof silicone caulk in Biscuit to line the back edge. Of course, despite laying a line of painters tape I still made plenty of mistakes…

But nothing that strategically placed potted succulents couldn’t hide…

We’ll be testing out our new backsplash soon enough, complete with spaghetti sauce splatters and dish washing marathons to see how well it can withstand us (more on that to come) The kitchen is slowly coming together but worlds away from our original kitchen…


We’re going to take a small break in the coming week for birthdays and cuddling our squishy baby nephew. However we keep chanting “progress, progress” in our heads. Slow but sure, one busy foot at a time the kitchen updates will soon end. We’re looking forward to the day when all painters tape will be gone and we’re taking off for summer trips with the pups. In the meantime Happy Sunday everyone!