Tag Archives: Remodeling

Welcome Out-back at The Hacienda

“Kiiiids, where’s your mom?”

“She’s out-baaaaack!”

If you are ever at The Hacienda, you will be sure to hear that.

And if you are ever wondering where I am, there’s a good chance the answer is the same.

Welcome out-back at the Hacienda. So happy you stopped by! If I could, I would hand you a cold drink and invite you to find a shady spot and “sit a spell” as the saying goes.

Perhaps my favorite spot at the picnic table under the Palo Verde tree?

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Out-back has not always been the most welcoming or inviting place to be though. We started with a blank slate. Actually, I wish we had started with a blank slate, it took a whole lot of work to get to the blank slate stage.

Actually, let me just show you …

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This is the somewhat dismal view from the back patio looking toward the back gate.

The only thing I saw was potential.

My husband, on the other hand, saw the endless work ahead. We were both right.

I sure wish I had taken photos before we had done anything (this wasn’t my first reno so you’d think I’d know better). Before we started, you couldn’t even see the fountain from the back door. The Palo Verde branches were hanging down all over the ground and covering it along with many more Creosote bushes and other wild desert plants. What you see above is after the work of a determined husband with a new chainsaw.

What you see below is the same view as it looks today, a little less dismal, after a bit of vision and a whole lot of hard work.

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But first, just a few more “befores”

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The play set in the giant sand pit was a pretty big mess of splintered wood and rotting stairs and ramps. The previous owner had wrapped a lot of the wood in plastic PVC tape to add a protective layer and prevent splinters (I’m guessing). Sadly, the black PVC tape was ugly – really ugly – and had white lettering all over it. Lovely. That was done by a guy, I guarantee it!

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Potential.

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Do you see it?

Loads and loads of potential.

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Now doesn’t that look like the perfect place to put a swimming pool?

And here’s where we are today …

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With kids and a dog, you have to have a little grass!

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We did hire out a few things. A guy with a small excavator was a life saver.

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And the lawn curbing was best left to the professionals. My husband LOVES the natural “organic” shape I designed – it is just so easy to mow. Not really. But it’s pretty.

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The grass looks a little it rough right now as the winter grass is starting to die off as it gets warmer and the Bermuda Grass, which goes dormant in the winter, begins to wake-up and take over.

Yes, in Arizona, you have to plant new winter grass E.V.E.R.Y. winter.

Backyard-After-10I really do love how the “grass” side of the yard turned out. We won’t speak of the crying that occurred during the sod laying phase. Let’s just say our timeline got away from us and my husband could no longer put off heading to the airport for out of town business. One third of the yard was left to do, light was fading, the sod was soppy and heavy and stinky and had to be finished, the dog had tangled with a cholla cactus, the kids were hungry and fighting, I was dirty and soppy and stinky (see reference to sod). There were tears. But the dog lived. And the kids ate. And I finished. And took a shower.

Before we move on to the rest of the yard, I have to tell you what I did with the ugly play set.

Gary fixed all of the rickety and dangerous parts and put on a roof for shade and then I painted the PVC tape. There was no taking it off so I bought about 438 cans (or so) of spray paint – the kind that adheres to plastic – and painted over all of that crazy tape.

It is a lovely cinnamon color.

I was a lovely cinnamon color.

For days.

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It won’t win any design awards but it sure looks better. Actually, I think it looks kind of cool.

Speaking of cool, how about that nice shady spot?

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The lounge chair was my husband’s Father’s Day present last year. Would you like to see my Mother’s Day present from last year?

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I am so not kidding.

But before you go turning my husband in to the “worst Mother’s Day present ever” police, this is what I asked for. I’m not a jewelry girl. When I say I want “rocks”, this is what I mean. Besides, they came with a labor agreement from the sweet man who got me a big pile of rocks for Mother’s Day.

Incidentally, I bought the lounge chair for him after I sat down a the picnic table to take a break from shoveling and hauling my Mother’s Day present and with head in hand thought to myself “I sooooo wish I could just lay down right now and take a nap. Right here. Under this tree in the breeze.” 

The picnic table was not comfortable.

So, I ordered a chaise.

“For my husband”.

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It’s a nice spot for a siesta. It was so nice of me to think of him.

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Moving on. Remember this side of the yard?

Pool-After-5Didn’t I tell you it was a nice place for a pool? Those are some of my rocks.

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The pool. The pool. The pool. That is a subject for another post.

Pool-After-3Let me just say, putting in a pool is not something I want to do again anytime soon. “Monica” plans and supervises pool construction. Remember her?

Pool-Project-8She has meltdowns over un-authorized white grout in her otherwise “natural” color scheme.

The grout didn’t stay white. Monica had them fix it.

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In the end, it really was well worth all the headache (and bank account ache) because it was all about the kids and they LOVE it! Actually, we all love it. I just love it a little warmer than they do.

So that is our back yard. Out-back. But there is also a “Waaaaay Out-back”.

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Just through the back gate.

(That is my peach tree in the foreground, a Brazilian Pepper to the right of the gate and the three tiny trees along the wall are a mandarin orange, ruby red grapefruit and a Eureka lemon – inside the fence I have two limes, an orange, a Meyer lemon and a fig tree). Love my fruit trees.

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The way out-back remains open for possibilities.

There is talk of a basketball court and a chipping green. But I think it is the perfect spot for a small commercial kitchen for recipe testing and catering.

What? It would be small. And a business.

And there would still be room for sports.

Barefoot Contessa has a barn. Barefoot Contessa can afford a barn.

Oh well, a girl can dream.

For now, I’ll just be happy with another big pile of rocks.

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Thanks for joining me out-back this afternoon. Come back, you are always welcome.

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Welcome to The Hacienda

This is the story of how I ended up in my Hacienda, a 1960’s era block constructed rancher. A desperate fixer upper on two acres of neglected Sonoran Desert.

I have had several people ask me to talk about my house so today is the day.

I might think it was strange to imagine that anyone would be interested in my house were it not for the fact that I am somewhat addicted to the HGTV show House Hunters and am completely addicted to House Hunters International.

I love houses. I love to see where people live and how they decorate. When driving at night, I strain to peek in the dimly lit windows of stranger’s homes just to see what paint color they chose for their walls. And I know I am not the only one.

If I come to your home, I will never ask you for a tour (I think that is a little rude, probably because I am always terrified someone will ask me for a tour when I have clean laundry piled all over my bed and unclean laundry piled on the floor waiting to be washed and my bathroom mirror is splattered with toothpaste – which is pretty much always) but know that I am secretly dying inside with the hope that you will offer one.

Nope, it is not weird at all for me to share my home with you. I’m thankful you are interested. So come on in, pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee and a I’ll tell you all about the Hacienda (as we lovingly call it).

The Hacienda

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If you have been reading my blog even for a short time, you are probably aware that I live in Arizona in the beautiful Sonoran Desert with my husband, three kids and a very sweet golden retriever mix named Gracie.

You may also know that we live on a little bit of land and I like to grow stuff. Oh, and I like to cook. And bake. And eat. And take pictures of the desert, the husband, the kids, the dog and the stuff I grow and cook and bake and eat.

What you may not know is that I also like to renovate, decorate and push my husband to the limit of his sanity with my crazy ideas and projects; “honey, I’ve been thinking, what if we …”

I love to have a project. I need to have a project.

Which is precisely how, just about three years ago now, we ended up moving from a nearly new, neat and tidy suburban home in a nearly new, neat and tidy suburban neighborhood to The Hacienda.

Our nearly new, neat and tidy house was finished. It was decorated, landscaped and required little more that a bit of general household maintenance and a weekly mowing of the teeny tiny sliver of a backyard.

It was only a few years old. It was done. It was pretty low maintenance.

Pffffft. Who wants that, right?

Probably most people but this is my story.

So one day, out of the blue, I said to my husband, as he sat comfortably watching golf in his easy chair, relaxing, lawn freshly mown, not project in sight; “you know that great area you’d really like to live in? Well, let’s sell this place, look for a fixer upper on some land and move up there. Whadda ya think?”

He thought I was crazy. He still thinks I’m crazy. I can be a little crazy.

But he also loves me and after the initial shock and a little bit of time to absorb and consider the thought, he could see that my idea was not entirely without merit. My ideas are never entirely without merit.

We would take a huge loss on our suburban house (we all know what happened to the housing market a few years back) but if we could weather it, the benefit would far outweigh the cost. It would take some sacrifice and a lot of hard work but isn’t that what life is all about? The greatest rewards ALWAYS come from sacrifice and hard work. They also come from listening to the whisper of the Holy Spirit, “I have something better for you, something good waiting for you. Ask me for wisdom and guidance. Follow where I lead.”

You must be wise. But sometimes you also need to be brave.

So we staged and listed our suburban two-story just to see what would happen. It sold in five days. FIVE DAYS! Oh.My.Heck. We are really moving!

What followed was a mixture of panic, drama, unsavory sneaky buyers, unpleasant sellers, unscrupulous Realtors (not ours, we love ya’ Patty Jo), headache, heartache, almost everything we own packed and stored in PODS (I now ♥ PODS by they way – they saved my life or at least my sanity), two-weeks in a tiny furnished vacation rental in between closings trying to keep my children from killing each other or breaking anything that wasn’t ours, a hemorrhaging bank account and a few visits from Monica.

Ahhh, Monica, she’s who I sometimes turn into with just the right combination of stress, exhaustion and low coping reserves; affectionately and appropriately named after the often neurotic, obsessive, controlling, over reactive character of Monica from the TV show friends. I’ve talked about her before in A Mary, A Martha or A Monica? . Yeah, it was that bad.

But it was worth it as we now have a beautiful sprawling Spanish Mission style home on 2.2 acres of breathtaking Sonoran desert. A fabulous home we call The Hacienda.

Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?

Oh, that is spin, my friend.

It is beautiful, it is sprawling, the desert is breathtaking. All true.

But there is more to the story.

In truth, it is sort of Spanish Mission in style. It is actually more of a 1960’s interpretation of Spanish mission. Which is a little bit Spanish mission, a little bit mid-century modern, a little bit funky, a little bit outdated and a whole lot wonderful.

Okay, a lot outdated.

But it gets better! I haven’t told you everything.

In the frantic search for a place to live – did I tell you we sold our house in five days? – we looked at several houses. We had even been looking throughout the consideration phase of this process; but nothing was just right.

Then I found The Hacienda. I knew it was the one the moment I walked through the front door.

The-Hacienda-5

When I told our Realtor it was the one, she thought I was crazy.

“This one? Really? Are you sure? It’s big and old and needs a lot of work!”

Undaunted, I called my husband and we put in an offer before he actually ever saw it.

Then our Realtor thought my husband was crazy.

He isn’t crazy though. He’s busy and he trusts me and he knows this is my thing. He knows that I would never choose something he wouldn’t approve of.

So we made the offer and then he saw it …

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“It’s big and old and a lot of work. This one? Really? Are you sure? And it’s PINK!”

It was indeed, pink. It may look tan in the pictures but I assure you, it was pink.

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He had just gone under contract on a big, sprawling, 60’s era pink rancher with a landscape that looked like a wasteland, a garage that his truck wouldn’t fit into and a mental project list that was growing by the second. But it was in the location he wanted.

This is just one of the many reasons I love him; he trusts my vision, even if he doesn’t always see it at first. He trusts me. He is not a push-over and I trust that when he is firmly against something it is probably for the best. I trust him. We are very different but we are complimentary and we are a team. And so far, that has worked out pretty well for us.

Fast forward three years.

No longer pink. We love the caramel/milk chocolate combo that it took me forever to pick out. Leave it to me to paint my house the color of dessert.

No longer pink. We love the caramel/milk chocolate combo that it took me forever to pick out. Leave it to me to paint my house the color of dessert.

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The Arizona version of the Brady Bunch’s Digs! Someday, the entry will have a walled courtyard with an iron entry gate. But for now the mid-century modern vibe is alive and well.

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Speaking of someday … someday, the flat roof of the garage and/or family room will be fitted with a railing and a spiral staircase, making it an observation deck which will offer some spectacular views of the city.

The Hacienda has been a tremendous amount of work and there is a lot of work that remains to be done. We have the craziest 1970’s disco master bathroom with a toilet I hate and a bidet I have no idea what to do with (sorry, you probably didn’t need to know that), septic not sewer, electric not gas, hours of yard work, trees that always need to be trimmed, miles and miles of house keeping, ugly power lines that I would LOVE for the city to bury, a broken fountain, creaky iron gates and a rusty old Chevy truck that we call Mater in the neighbor’s backyard.

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I’ll take “Mater” over a Home Owner’s Association any day!

But we also have some room to breathe. Our kids have room to run, build forts, ride bikes and be loud. We have a beautiful natural environment that we adore, a fantastic view of the city, the best school and teachers a parent or a kid could hope for and we have a home that is uniquely us.

We have taken something that was neglected and unwanted and made it something special. We have made it into a home. A home that we can see ourselves in for a long, long time. A home that we can see our children grow up in and eagerly come back to.

Most importantly, we have the peace and satisfaction of seeing our hard work – our teamworkevolve into something that we love and are so thankful for. Yes, my husband has come to love The Hacienda as much as I do.

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I knew he would. It’s my job to know.

We are so thankful for this home God has blessed us with. We will always seek His council and follow where He leads. And I am so happy, as crazy as it was, that He led us here.

So that is how we came to live in The Hacienda.

Thanks for reading and for indulging me. And, if you are still interested, tomorrow I will share a little more of my home with you.

How about the backyard? We’ll enjoy a little lemonade under the Palo Verde tree.

I promise, you can’t see Mater from there.