Backyard Deck

Backyard Deck |

We had a deck in our backyard, but we recently made some improvements to it. Previous owners had built the deck – not sure when but it’s not that old. It was in need of staining and we wanted to cover and screen in part of it.

It’s a large deck with two levels – a top part then a step down to a lower part. We wanted to cover the top part and leave the bottom area open. Our design was pretty simple – a metal roof with wood frame that was stained to match the rest of the deck. The guys did a good job and it looks great. We extended the roof a few feet past the screened area to have a little bit of covered space that wasn’t screened, so the entire top level is covered but not all of it is screened.

The deck has three sets of stairs down to the backyard. One set of stairs is with the screened in area and we had a screen door put there. Michael built gates for the other two stairs. This has been very helpful with keeping an active toddler and puppies on the deck. Before the gates it was just open, so Gavin and the dogs would take off down the steps as soon as given the opportunity. Now we have gates that slow them down.

When we bought the house the deck had an orangish colored stain. Neither Michael nor I liked the orange, so we went darker with the stain to get something we thought we’d like more. We picked Olympic Dark Mahogany Semi-Transparent Stain, and are happy with the way it turned out.

Under the roof in the screened area we had a ceiling fan installed. We also had a couple of outdoor plugs added to the deck (inside and outside of the screened area). The ceiling fan is great since it’s always hot in Texas. The extra plugs are useful too. For now, we’re using one plug to keep a mini-refrigerator on the deck to keep cold drinks handy.

Ceiling Fan on Backyard Deck |

We’ve been enjoying the deck every day since it was finished. We spend a lot of time outside, especially with Gavin and the puppies. This turned out to be one of those projects that was definitely worth the time and money.

Backyard Deck {Before & After} |

Backyard Deck {Before & After} |

Okaloosa Island

Enjoying the beach {Okaloosa Island} |

I love the beach!…. so, when we wanted to plan a family vacation, of course I opted for the beach. We considered other options, but the Emerald Coast won for a couple of reasons: 1. it was something we would all enjoy and 2. we could make the drive in a day (a really long day, but a day).

Michael & Gavin in the water {Okaloosa Island} |

Gavin playing in the sand {Okaloosa Island} |

Gavin in the pool {Okaloosa Island} |

We rented a condo at Pelican Isle through VRBO. It was a one bedroom condo located on the first floor, directly over the pool.The condo was very nice – the one bedroom had a king bed, and enough room to set up Gavin’s Pack ‘n Play for him to sleep in. The bedroom had a bathroom with a tub, and down the hall was a second bathroom with a shower. In the hall, between the bedroom and bathroom, were built-in bunk beds. We didn’t use the bunk beds, but it would be a great space if you had older kids. Next to the hall bathroom was a washer and dryer that came in handy. The kitchen, dining, and living area all flowed together. Off the living area was a balcony with a fantastic view. It was perfect for our family.

Pelican Isle {Okaloosa Island} |

Our condo at Pelican Isle {Okaloosa Island} |

Our condo at Pelican Isle {Okaloosa Island} |

Our condo at Pelican Isle {Okaloosa Island} |

Pool at the condo {Okaloosa Island} |

View from our balcony {Okaloosa Island} |

View from our balcony

View from our balcony {Okaloosa Island} |

View from our balcony

We stayed for a week – arrived on Sunday and left on Friday. Our days were pretty much the same each day – beach in the morning, followed by swimming in the pool, lunch at the condo, naptime, and an early dinner out. We did walk out on the Okaloosa Island Pier one night after dinner. It was fun to watch all the activity with people fishing, and several were catching fish.

Okaloosa Island Pier |

Okaloosa Island Pier

Darinda and Gavin on Okaloosa Island Pier |

Darinda and Gavin on Okaloosa Island Pier

View from Okaloosa Island Pier |

View from Okaloosa Island Per

View from Okaloosa Island Pier |

View from Okaloosa Island Pier

It was a relaxing vacation for all of us. We all enjoyed hanging out at the beach and swimming in the pool. Gavin had fun with his first trip to Florida – see videos below for him laughing at the waves and playing in the sand.

Stormwater Drainage

After we lived in our home for a while, we discovered a stormwater drainage problem. We had heavy rainfall last Spring, and following a big storm, we had water seep into our house. It happened again in the Fall. Big problem!

This was a project we needed to get done before we started any other home improvements, mainly since this was a bigger concern and the other projects are more want-to-do than need-to-do.

We hired a landscape company that did a lot of drainage work, and they did an excellent job. We had river rock between the house and retaining wall, but it didn’t serve any purpose – it just held water during heavy rainfall since the water had nowhere to go. The guys that did our drainage work cleared out the river rock and dug down to put in a 30-foot French drain along the end of the house and two twelve-inch drain boxes, then put the river rocks back in place. They tied the downspouts on the end of the house into the new drainage system. Lastly, they hand-dug across our front yard (140-feet) and installed PVC pipe for the water to drain down with a lawn pop-up drain at the end of the pipe.

Less than a week after the work was completed, we had a heavy rainfall. The new drainage system worked perfectly! It was great to not have any water seep into the house, and we can check this project off our list.

Stormwater drainage - French drain & drain boxes |

Stormwater drainage - French drain & drain boxes |

Stormwater drainage - French drain & drain boxes |

Spaghetti & Meatballs


Michael and Gavin both love all types of pasta dishes. Going through my recipe box, I came across an old recipe for a copycat Monjuni’s spaghetti sauce. I made a couple of changes, added meatballs, and a new family favorite was made! This is a super easy recipe, and I can keep everything on hand to make whenever the mood strikes.

Servings: 8
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 12 hours

2 (28 ounce) cans tomato puree
2 tablespoons basil
2 tablespoons oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon onion powder
12 teaspoon black pepper
1 (1 pound) package of frozen meatballs
thin spaghetti

1. Combine tomato puree, basil, oregano, garlic, olive oil, onion powder, black pepper, and frozen meatballs in a large pot, cover, and simmer for at least 1 hour.



2. Cook spaghetti.


3. Serve sauce over spaghetti. I usually make garlic bread to go with it.

I put the cook time as 1 12 hours, but sometimes I cook the sauce a little longer. Also, you could substitute ground beef for the meatballs, or the sauce can be made without adding any meat. This is easy to make and we all enjoy it.

Gavin eating spaghetti |

House Floor Plan

I’ve written a lot about the updates we’ve made to our home, but I never posted a floor plan. I recently came across a floor plan Michael had drawn in SketchUp, and thought I would post it. He did this floor plan when we first bought the house and were trying to decide how to use different areas. I labeled the rooms based on how we are currently using each room. It’s not exactly to scale, but it’s close enough.

The house was originally built in 1973, and has been added on to over the years. It is currently just over 3900 square feet. The room we are using as the Master Bedroom was a den. This room was not original to the house… I’m not sure when it was added on but I’m guessing some time during the 1980s. The original master bedroom is the room we are using as the Game Room. Additionally, the garage was enclosed (not sure when) and two bedrooms were built. These are the rooms we are using as the Home Office and Home Gym. So, the back door was originally at the end of the Hallway by the Mudroom. Now, we have to go through the Back Entry to get to the Mudroom, but it works for us. Last year, we added the walk-in Pantry using a closet off the Game Room.

Click on the image to open a large view.

Floor Plan |