April 23, 2014

Outdoor Update: Side Fences Are Up!

Hey everyone! Hope you've been having a great week! It's been busy over here and I have a lot of house updates. But today - a big update from the house exterior = side fences!!

I have to admit, I've been a bit down in the dumps lately about the front landscaping not yet being completed (you'll see more below), but I can see the light at the end of this dirt tunnel you guys. I'm getting closer.

And in true "this is your life, Sam" fashion, timing is everything and everything happens for a reason.

Let's start on a positive note = The side fences are up! Considering the house exterior has pretty much been open to the public since June of 2013, it's nice to feel a little added sense of security. Well, the gates aren't up yet...but when they are (later this week), I'll be feeling MUCH better. Anyway, here is the left side yard…


Last minute decision on this gate, I'm adding a small arbor over the top. Can't wait to share the end result...


Now that the side fence is up, you can see the little space I've carved out for a future garden...

I can't wait to grow veggies, herbs and other fun plants the kids can help with. They are very excited about a future garden. By the way, if you have any garden tips, shoot them my way - I'm just starting my research on this topic so anything you garden diy smarties can pass along will be helpful!

I'm definitely an organizer...and not a gardener! But I'm getting better.

Most of my growing success (with plants and flowers) has been with the help of Miracle-Gro. When I use Miracle-Gro, my plants and flowers are more beautiful and healthy. I'm again planning this garden with Miracle-Gro in mind. The soil in this corner of the yard isn't great, so I'm looking forward to turning it over and adding a lot of nutrients for growing the foods we will be eating. I'll be sure to share my gardening tips as more landscaping posts coming along, but I tend to lean towards plants and flowers that aren't very high maintenance. With 3 little ones around, I can't always get outside to spend hours gardening. Eventually I would love to do that and I'd love to get the kids into gardening as well. But for now I make sure that my sprinklers are set to hit everything. And I make sure to mulch and heavy trim 2 times a year.

Moving along, here's the right side yard fence...


Love it! And I'm going to love both side fences even more once the pretty gates are installed later this week. After the gates are in, all of the fencing will be stained. Then at that point I can move forward with plants, flowers, trees, shrubs, the garden....and much more! I can't wait to add color. Can. Not. Wait.

Speaking of color, remember when I said I had been a bit down in the dumps about some of the landscape progress? Well, it's mainly due to this scene...

Yup, still NO sod out here. No pathways either. The rain held us up at first...and we need the rain here in Nor Cal, so no complaints from me. Then the rain did another favor by letting us know we needed added draining in the front, so we've been working on that when we have the time...

Trust me, I count my blessings here, but the dirt is wearing me down because the kids are constantly in it. Which means I have dirt coming into the house. Which means I am cleaning more than I'd care to.

Ahhh, life!

But there is always an upside. For me, it was spending time at the house last weekend, enjoying Easter with family and taking in the progress that *has* been made. And it's huge progress, friends! I just can't wait until the front is looking green and beautiful like these other spaces around the house...



And I'm looking forward to sharing a post soon about the new fences...

Remember, share your gardening tips here with me and other readers. Or if you want to share more personal gardening stories, share them at Gro Something Greater!

Back soon with a full fence recap! Have a good day!

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This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Miracle-Gro. All opinions are 100% mine.

April 18, 2014

Swimming Pool Update: Solar Panels


I can't believe this month marks one year from the first time I set eyes on this house. Hard to imagine that one year ago I was flying back and forth between Little Rock and San Francisco, searching hard for a new home. It was a stressful time, friends. A time I have no interest in revisiting.

But it's been fun thinking back to how the house looked before we bought it…and celebrating the little and big improvements made since June 2013.

One of the biggest (and most costly) improvements to this house was renovating the swimming pool. When we bought the house, it was listed "as-is"…and you know what that means. It was completely shot. While I worked with the awesome pool contractors transforming the pool from this…


To this…


The idea of adding solar panels to assist in pool heating was a big topic. I wasn't really sure if I wanted to do it, but as we've lived with the completed pool / spa and have heated the spa each time we want to get in….it's clear that solar is the only way to go for many reasons. Although it's a big cost up front (I always keep it real in here - it was about $9k to install these), it's a no brainer and is going to save us SO MUCH money in years to come. It's also going to extend our swim season.

So yesterday, the solar guys came out to add the panels. In one day the house went from this…




To this…



I was worried about the aesthetics of solar, but it's really not that bad! The black panels and piping blend in with the black roof. And the roof is pitched at the perfect angle to not make it stand out as much. It also helps that the panels are only located on the back side of the house. There was no need to add more panels to the front roof pitch, which was nice….


We did have a little bump after the crew left yesterday. Thankfully, I went back outside again to photograph the panels for today's blog post and noticed something was very wrong…can you spot it?…


How about a little closer…


Ha!

The crew came right back to fix the issue easily with a socket wrench. Needless to say, I have been outside quite a bit checking the system while it's running. Last thing I need is water dripping onto the roof for hours on end. Or my pool slowly getting drained as I lose it down my gutters. Ha!

The solar runs from 10am to 5pm.

For those of you with more questions about solar, I have answers. I chose to add this info at the bottom of this post in case the "why's" and "what's" and "how's" aren't of interest to you. :-) You're welcome! You know me - anything I do comes with a ton of research. I've got (some) answers people! Just lived through it to tell you the nitty gritty. Most of this info came directly from the company I contracted with for this job.

The main reasons I went with solar?

1. Solar pool heating systems extend your swimming season for up to 6 months. That's more than twice the swimming season without solar pool heating.

2. There is no monthly natural gas charge like conventional pool heaters.

3. Over a 10 year period of heating with gas you will have paid for your solar pool heating system more than twice!

4. The system can heat and maintain your pool at over 80 degrees in combination with a pool cover.

How does a solar pool heating system work?

A typical system consists of solar collectors, easily mounted on your roof, and an optional solar sensor and automatic control unit. You simply set the automatic control unit for the desired water temperature.

Sensors detect changes in the water temperature and direct the automatic control unit to close the control valve so as to route water through the solar heat exchangers. Warm, solar-heated water flows back to the pool, continuously circulating through the collectors until it reaches pre-set temperature levels.

What solar product did you choose?

My solar contractor works exclusively with Revolution by FAFCO. Apparently, this is the industry-leader in solar pool heating products. They are also the largest manufacturer of solar heat exchangers and they pioneered the solar swimming pool heating market over 30 years ago.



How efficiently will solar heat my pool?

If you follow the recommended solar heater sizes and have a proper exposure to the sun (the company helps you determine this by mapping on something like google - that's what they did for me), your pool should be 10 to 15 degrees warmer than it was before you heated it, under the same weather conditions. Evaporation of water from the surface of the pool causes most of the cooling of the water. The larger the solar collector area, the more of the sun's energy it will collect and send to the pool.

Therefore, the larger the solar collector area is in relation to the surface area of the pool, the warmer the pool water will be. If in the future you decide you want an even warmer pool or you would like a longer pool season, you can add solar collectors to the system.


How about maintenance?

No special periodic maintenance is needed. If you close your pool at the end of the season, the solar system will automatically drain down if you have followed the install instructions. However, the easiest way to ensure everything is done correctly, most solar companies offer a shutdown / start-up service. When they come to do this, since they are the experts, that can also catch problems early on. 

Before the solar company left yesterday, they started-up the system for me. They set the system to 88 degrees. The weather is definitely warming up here, but don't imagine the pool will get anywhere close to 88 degrees until July. But the pool will definitely be warmer and ready for swimming in the coming week. In the winter it was about 45 degrees. It's about 68 degrees right now without having been heated or having solar attached….so if we can get it into the 70s here real soon, we'll be set to hop in. Finally!!!

If you have any other questions, shoot me an e-mail of leave your question in the comment section below. 

Have a great weekend you guys!


April 17, 2014

Keeping It Real: My Home Office


You guys sick of hearing about little tweaks made in my home office? Back in August, I shared my first update since move-in. And since, I've shared little bits here and there about the office and about my various binders.

So, you guessed it, here I am again with yet another change / update!

I'll be honest, whenever I make a tweak, it's for the better. Always. I notice an issue and need to fix it immediately. For example, my home management binder….

Love it and am still using it, don't fret. But it was getting too heavy and cumbersome. I had so much crammed into it that it was killing my shoulder in my work bag. I was also lugging around my blog notebook and my blog binder…

I needed to sort out the contents a bit so I wasn't lugging around passwords to every single thing known to man…while I was out in public. Duh.

Another reason for the office tweaks? My little organization business is getting busier and I needed to got on top of that deal. And all of the home projects are piling up again. Several are wrapping up, while others are beginning…but it was all a big jumbled mess. I accidentally (?) paid a property tax bill late. That mistake cost me $500! Ugh! I basically have so much going on day to day - blog, business, kids, home, and more - that I needed to revisit how I was keeping it all contained and organized. When I get that annoyed feeling each time I sit at my desk, I know something needs to give. And when I get annoyed walking to the master bedroom, which is on the opposite wall from the office…

It's difficult for me to walk past this space in the morning and at night and not be annoyed or frustrated when something needs improving.

Yesterday, I spent just a few hours doing some office tweaking and hope this will do the trick.

Bah - famous last words!

A few months ago (yes, I said months!) I took the dive and bought a few of the Better Binders from Staples. I've been hearing about them for a long time…

Yup, grabbed them a few months ago, lined them up all pretty right here….and there they sat. Until yesterday that is!...

And dare I say without sounding like a complete dork - it really is a better binder!

I also scored these beauties on sale at Target a few weeks ago…

12 pretty manilla folders for only $1.28!...

And 3 sets of full adhesive post-it notes for $1.10 each!...


Love a good deal on office supplies!

So let me show you around my newly updated home office...


I've chattered enough here on the blog about the Martha Stewart Wall Manager, but I really love this system...

I changed out a cork board on the far right for more file space. Now I have interior home project files / topics...

Exterior home files / topics...

And a spot for business-related items….

Right now I am only able to work with one customer at a time (in real life), so the pink folder contains everything related to that one job. It's hidden in the back to hide the client's identity. Recently, I was hired to write about organization for a local mom's-group monthly newsletter. It's a huge tri-city group here in the Bay Area and I am thrilled to be on board! But, it's yet another reason to stay on my organization game because we write 2 months in advance - so this month, I am actually writing for June's newsletter. And I am now super proud and fired up to share that I'm a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO)….as well as my local SF NAPO chapter. So excited!!! Needed a spot for those papers, as well as local meeting dates and contacts. Excited!!

Nothing really changes here. Have a little spot for pens, pencil sharpener, glue, tape, pins, etc…

On the left side of my computer sit these new pretty binders…

I've broken them out into the following; passwords, blog, home and finance. I also have my blog notebook tucked away with this stash. That notebook contains dreams and blog topic ideas. The binder contains the business side of blogging, along with my schedule...

More supplies…

And my home management binder, which contains my cherished calendar for all things everything, sit right here front and center...



Still head over heels for my Crib Springs Turned Pinboard...

Below the crib springs, I created a small printing center...

The printer used to sit on the desk, taking up far too much precious space. Now it sits on it's own little shelf. Below it I have extra printer paper, ink cartridges, and other medium-sized office supplies like my hole punch and paper cutters.

This board, which is an old white board that I painted white, now keeps all of my sponsor, giveaway and affiliate info in order…at least the stuff I need to see in my face day to day...

Below it, I'm still using the 2 rolling drawer carts for things like envelopes, manilla folders, sheet protectors, and more….

My new shredder is also tucked away over here. Don't forget to enter to win that giveaway this week!...

I also needed a little spot for things like this…

These are upcoming sponsored posts and giveaway info….excited to share! Wait until you see what's inside that black box. Love it!!!!

The office shelving hasn't changed that much since move in. The baskets work like a charm to keep it all together…

To be filed, incoming mail, receipts….

Blog reference material, recipes to try, items to scan, photos to file….

And I have a few school / therapy / home inspection report binders tucked away in the desk…


Now, don't be fooled…all that glitters isn't gold, my friends. This back wall. It's killing me!…

It's at the top of the stairs when you walk up here and it. annoys. me. to. no. end. To see everything here day in and day out? Ugh!

My plan is to have closing cabinets and I need a flat workspace. I want to get creative here and am planning / hoping to find something on Craig's List or at a local consignment shop or goodwill. Something I can make my own. Clearly, I've been spending a lot of money around here and it's time to think frugal for a while. Eventually, I envision this office space being completely built-out…something that looks custom built, much like the master closet. But until then, I have to do what fits in the budget and what will help calm my organization nerves. And I have the height in here to work with…

I'd love to ditch the rolling drawer carts and get all of that stuff put into drawers and cabinets over here. Along with everything else. Honestly, this isn't even everything. In the garage I have boxes of photos and scrapbooking stuff and books and completed scrapbooks. Just need somewhere for it all to live and be easily accessed.

Yes, you've now seen my dirty little home office secret. And yet another fun project on the to-do list.

But you've also seen my newly update office tweaks that are going to help me function more efficiently.

And I hope I've helped inspire you to keep updating and re-visiting systems in your home that may not be working for you. No harm in making your life easier! I'm far from perfect…and I'm always happy to make changes and learn from them.

Have a great day!