Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How to Grow Grass the Brioni Way: Part II

Hello! Here we go with the second installment of the Broni how not to grow grass saga. If you remember in this post, we had a problem with dead grass and burrowing bees. A bad situation overall! So a year later we gave it another go. Because we failed miserably at seeding, we went to the home improvement store to see what else we could get, in order for our grass to grow. The salesperson suggested Scotts Patchmaster. It was different from plain seed because the seeds were stuck in this material that resembled dryer lint product, which would therefore hold it in place and protect it from the elements and critters.
It's like the equivalent to seeding and then putting hay over keeps the seeds in place. That weekend, along with the many stares from our neighbors (LOL!) Justin put this product all over the dead areas of our lawn.

As it turned out, practically our entire lawn was covered with this dryer lint. LOL...I'm doing a lot of laughing right now, but I'm sure at the time this was a major stress point for poor Justin...

Justin giving me a thumbs up.

And then admiring his work? :)

I know what you all are wondering..."Did the grass grow?" In short - no.  I don't have any pictures of the final results, but the grass grew in really patchy! Maybe it was the type of seed product we used, but I honestly think it's the DC soil. I heard somewhere that the mineral levels of the dirt in the city are really high, which makes it challenging for grass to grow. I  personally was ready to throw in the towel. Maybe that little space of yard wasn't suited for grass. We do have a huge maple tree in front of our house (specifically in our treebox), so maybe all the shade isn't conducive to grass growing. On the other hand, Justin and his suburban upbringing with visions of a perfect lawn wasn't ready to give up yet.
After numerous attempts to re-grow the grass, ranging from EZ-Seed to another Scott's product that resembled dryer lint, we knew that we were running out of options. We would soon realize that each attempt would fail and our frustration (mostly Justin's) grew more by the month instead of the grass. What would we try next?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How To Spend a Tax Refund - Home Improvement Style!

Justin and I got a pretty significant tax refund a few months ago and we have been trying to figure out how to spend it. Yes, I know that if you are receiving a tax refund (adjust your withholdings...blah, blah, blah) that means you are letting Uncle Sam hold too much of your money; however, for some reason we still get giddy when we hear that we are getting money back. We are planning on putting some of it toward a trip this Fall (location/date TBD), but we were going to use the other part of it towards what else? Home improvements.

Here are the top three improvements we are contemplating:

1) Backyard Redo

Ever since we moved into our house we knew that we would have to redo our backyard eventually. After this incident, it became even more apparent that our backyard concrete slab was unsatisfactory. Last fall I applied for DC's RiverSmart Homes Program, which gives money to DC homeowners interested in bayscaping, rain gardens, rain barrels and pervious pavers. Pervious pavers are landscaping surfaces that allow water to seep into the ground rather than in storm drains, which thereby reduces the pollution that might end up in location streams and waterways. We were interested in replacing our cement slab, and for homeowners interested in installing pervious pavers, the program offers a $1,200 subsidy.

Last month, someone from the RiverSmart Homes Program came over to do a stormwater audit of our house. Upon realizing that our entire backyard was concrete, she said that the removal of the concrete, installation and the pervious paver materials would cost anywhere from $20-25 per square foot. For an area the size of our backyard, that would be upwards of $10K! Yikes. The $1,200 subsidy definitely wasn't going to go a long way. With that said, redoing our entire backyard in pervious pavers was out of the question, but on the bright she said that including green space in our design would reduce the costs. So in a few estimates that we've requested, the designs have included grass and planter boxes with the pervious pavers. We're just waiting on one more estimate to see if this is the route we want to take.

2) Repair and Refinish the Hardwood Floors Upstairs

Although we have wood laminate on the main floor, we have original hardwood floors upstairs. Before you go into your "oohs and ahhs" about the original heart of pine hardwood floors, I have to burst your bubble and tell you that they are in crappy condition. They have always been in terrible condition and this is another thing we knew we would have to fix down the road. Some parts just need to get sanded and refinished like this part in our master bedroom.

However, other areas will also need to get repaired like this part in the hallway.

It is clearly damaged and was poorly patched. Because this area is located in front of our upstairs bathroom, I'm surprised we haven't gotten splinters from it or stubbed our toes on the jagged area more often. This area has been subjected to doggie pee (Can you image how hard it is to clean? It sucks.), but we have just learned to live with it nonetheless. If we choose to fix the floors upstairs, I know it won't be as "fun" compared to a new backyard, but it's much needed and of course it'll add value to our house.

2) Wrought Iron Fence and Hand Rail for the Front Yard

As much as we love our neighborhood, one of the worst things about is the trash. There is trash everywhere. I'm not saying that we live in a dump, but we do live on a high traffic street (between the metro station and a Safeway) where there is always an errant piece of trash laying around. Passersby just don't know how to use a trash can, even if their life depended on it.  And where does the trash end up might you ask? Our front yard and sometimes our treebox.

The trash my friend is blowing in the wind...
The neighbors to our right have a fence so when the trash gets blown around, its stops right at the fence and into our yard. During the Fall when we rake leaves, Justin always grumbles about it without fail! Come to think of it, the fence would also prevent any extra leaves from blowing into our yard as well. As evidenced by our neighbors, a solution to prevent the trash from coming into our yard would be to fence it out! Plus, we'll have a fenced in area for the boys (aka: Louie and Derby) to play in.

Get us out of here!
You must to admit that nothing is more charming than a DC rowhouse with wrought iron fence! :)

If we decide to go with the fence, we figured we might as well do the hand rails, too. Last year when we were renewing our homeowners insurance, we not only got pinged for a lack of handrail on our back steps, but our front steps as well. The insurance company didn't make us rig up a handrail for the front steps, but they put us on notice that'd we might be penalized for it in the future. I feel like a handrail would complete the look of the fence and make for a overall cuter facade!

If you were in our position which one would you choose? A new backyard to enjoy for the summer? A shiny new hardwood floor to brag about? Or wrought iron details that add instant curb appeal? I would love to get all of this done, and all of it will get done eventually, but which one would you do first?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Kentucky Derby 2012: "I'll Have Another" Edition

This past weekend was the Kentucky Derby so Justin and I (along with four of our friends) make the nine hour drive to watch the "greatest two minutes in sports." We left Thursday afternoon and as soon as we got to Louisville we headed straight for Mr. G's. Mr. G's is a hole-in-wall bar near Justin's parents' house, complete with cheap beers (a 32 oz beer for under $4? say whaat?) and darts. This will be a lovely picture filled blog for those who like that sort of thing. :) 

I'm not one for darts, but I surely enjoyed the buzz I was getting from my huge blue moon!

Meter & KG raiding the jukebox. We must have heard Gotye's "Somebody I Used to Know" like four times followed by silence. It was time to take matters into our own hands, lol...

After, leaving the bar we got some White Castle (of course!). None of our friends had ever had it before and Justin is always one to share the indigestion joys of White Castle with those who have never had it before. Here is a pic of us punishing a crave case.

Friday morning we made a stop to Lynn's Paradise Cafe. I think it's a must-see for anyone from out-of-town. The food is great and the decor is eclectic.  How could you not support anyone that's beaten Bobby Flay on his show Throwdown? hehehe...

After that, we headed to Buffalo Trace to check out the distillery. First, we went to the tasting room where Freddie gave us the 411 on the Buffalo Trace products. We got to try out their " moonshine" called White Dog Mash, Eagle Rare, and Buffalo Trace.  My favorite was the Bourbon Cream. I bought myself a bottle and can't wait to use it in my next coffee beverage! Since we got there a little late and they were no longer giving tours, we were lucky to have one of the site managers offer to give us our own private tour. How cool was that? He showed us where they bottled the bourbon, stored the bourbon and where you could pick your own barrel and create your own batch!

That evening we went to the Kroger to pick up provisions for the next day, and we actually saw them making the rose garland for the winner of the Derby!

On the day of the Kentucky Derby we woke up bright and early for the long day ahead. The girls prepared some tasty beverages (a fresca drink and pink pantydroppers derbys) and we loaded up the coolers full of beer.

Although we had a valet parking pass that came with our box seats, we opted to go tailgating in this cute elderly couple's lawn. Virgil and Augusta (aka: Gussy) were the cutest and they were kind enough to let use use their bathroom quite frequently.

After a few hours it was time for us to go in, but not without a group shot in our Derby Day finest.

As we were waiting to enter Churchill Downs, I saw a bunch of B-list quasi-celebrities enter through security. I saw David Birkhead (Anna Nicole Smith's baby daddy), David Arquette, Christian Siriano (from Project Runway), and Joker Philips (the coach of the University of Kentucky basketball team. And of course when I got in, I spotted wee man so I had to take a picture with him!

Wee(man) and me!

The Star Spangled Banner was sung by none other than the Queen of of Hip Hop Soul, Mary J. Blige. In addition, one of the judges from the Voice, Blake Shelton was there too! Haha, it's my friend, TB, but if you look at the pictures, he kind of looks like him, right? At the end of Derby, Justin spotted Doron Lamb (UK Basketball player) and shook his hand.

Doron tried to "holla" at my girl's actually a funny story, you should ask her about it ;)

Unfortunately, our friend TB mistook him for Reggie Bush.

There was a chance of rain/thunderstorms, but we couldn't have asked for a better day. The sun was shining and boy was it hot! Justin and I spent most of our day in the box while our friends got to experience all the sights and sounds of Derby--including the infield!

Here are the ladies in red:

Justin trying to beat the heat:

TB trying to figure out his bets:

Because you know you have to come correct!

His research proved successful as he and two of my other friends were big winners in selecting "I'll Have Another" to win the Kentucky Derby!

An amazing shot that Joos took of the actual race!
Overall, I would have to say that this was one of my favorite Derby trips. The weather was perfect, the people I was with were great, and how can you beat having box seats with a great view?

How about you? Did you watch the Derby on TV or were you at the Virginia Gold Cup? Don't get Justin started on the Gold Cup to which he refers to it as the "Poor Man's Derby," LOL! Personally, I don't have any vendettas against it, I just think it shouldn't be the same day as the Kentucky Derby (which makes it seem kind of artificial), but that's a whole other blog post altogether. ;)

Is going to the Kentucky Derby on your bucket list? If so, we're taking applications for next year :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Welcome to the Family, Derby Briones!

Last weekend, Justin and I got another dog. Another french bulldog to be exact. We came to this decision over several weeks thinking about how much fun we have Louie and how much more fun it would be if he had a playmate. There have been many a time when Justin we have come home after a long days work and all Louie wants to do is play a never ending game of tug-of-war/fetch. We would always be like, "Why can't you play by yourself?" or "Wouldn't it be neat to have another dog for him to play with?" So we went on the internet searching for a rescue frenchie or an older frenchie (so we wouldn't have to deal with potty training) and we came across this little guy. His original name is Cutting Edge's Magic Man (AKA: Nick).
photo courtesy of Japacas
I called the owner and told him that we were interested in Nick and he gave me some background on him. Basically, he comes from a championship bloodline (his dad is an AKC grand champion and his mom is an AKC champion) and they were thinking about showing him, but his brother from the same litter turned out to be better in shows. Since they didn't want them competing against one another, they decided to find a Nick a forever home where he could be a pet.

We took a day to think it over, but we couldn't say no to that face! A few days later, we drove to the North Carolina/Virginia border to pick up the little guy. He's seriously is little! About half the size of Louie, but then again Louie's large size is an anomaly...

We thought long and hard about what to name our new member of the family and we finally decided on Derby. 1) It kept our Kentucky theme (Louie=Louisville, Derby=Kentucky Derby) and 2) He was born on our anniversary, July 3rd, and since our wedding was Kentucky Derby themed it was truly fitting that he be given that name.

When Louie met Derby for the first time, he was a bit unsure, but of course they started to roughhouse like frenchies do right away! Sometimes we have to break it up (because Louie can straight up bully little Derby--pun intended!) but for the most part they kiss and make up as if to say, "No hard feelings!"
What my sister likes to call "frenching"
For me it has been a rough few days with the two of them; breaking up their "fights," learning how to walk two dogs on leash by myself, sleepless nights due to Derby's incredibly loud snoring, but despite all that it has been incredibly fun. Sometimes the two of them can really stress me out and try my patience, but when they get along it's the best! They kind of remind me of kids in that sense. Or at least what I imagine parenthood to be (but a lot harder with humans!). Yes, I know dogs aren't the same as kids but you know what I mean! And, no we aren't planning on having kids anytime soon in case you're wondering, or as Justin always says, "Ask us next year." har, har, har...

Derby curling his tounge. One of the only tricks he knows at the moment, LOL.
So are you a dog owner considering another dog? Did you end up getting another dog and if so what assisted you in making that decision? I've never owned two dogs in my life before so it definitely has been a learning experience! It's been so rewarding having two dogs with two silly, but different personalities; it sometimes leaves me feeling like this:
Derby kind of looks like Louie in this picture