Are we there yet?

You guys.

Today was a big day.

A very big day.

The kind of day you don’t know is going to be big. It’s only big in hindsight.

Today was the day that Travis and his crew at Stonescapes finished our landscaping.

Even though I am sick with the worst virus ever and didn’t get out of bed all day…I got out of bed for this. So for all of you cool peeps in town who were driving by and honking and waving and giving me a thumbs up this afternoon…there was not a photographer zombie in my yard. It was just me. And if you knew it was me but were worried because I looked like the walking dead… I think I’ll be okay, thanks for asking, but I do feel like I might die.

But I did take these pictures and am writing this blog post because sometimes you DIG DEEP BECAUSE YOU UNDERSTAND IT’S A BIG DAY.

I’ll let the zombie pictures speak for themselves…and I can’t help but including some true “before” images. As in…before we actually paid actual real money to buy this place (the fact that we did might actually be more shocking than the transformation).

South side




East side



North/Northeast side




West side




Big day.

In fact, even though we still have a tiny bit of paint and exterior work left…

…and we didn’t have quite enough left in the budget to sod the whole yard, so we seeded some of the less-traveled areas and won’t have real grass over the whole yard until spring…

…it kind of felt like we crossed the finish line today.

Mark it down.

November 6, 2017.





Off Center Landscaping 

Today started off like any other ordinary day.


But it wasn’t an ordinary day.


img_9785When these guys rolled up with a truck loaded up with GIANT rocks…I knew they weren’t screwing around. And I moved my car. 

I took a round of pics around 8 this morning, before Travis and his crew from Stonescapes showed up. Then I took another round of pics after they left. You can scroll through the slideshow below to see the “before” and “after” pics from today.

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Travis said it looked like a bomb went off in our yard.


Charlie came home from school and said it looked like a war zone.


I say it looks like progress.




Off Center crowdsourcing: landscaping edition

So what do you do to keep your sanity when you’re a generally impatient person who has spent a month in “hurry up and wait” mode?

*Waiting on the framing and window guys to get started, waiting on final demo & brick work, waiting on electrical bids, waiting on HVAC guys to call us back (no one is crazy enough to want this HVAC job!)…*

You work on landscaping plans!

Never mind that landscaping literally the last thing we’ll do…that it may be a year before we get to it…that – when we do get to it – the budget will probably be so shot we can only afford a bucket full of grass seed…

It’s fun to dream about summer nights on the patio, or fall evenings gathered around the fire pit…NOT worrying about things like framers and electrical bids and who’s going to do the HVAC work on the house…while the kids play in the yard.

Joe and I have spent a couple of weeks poring over the five beautiful landscaping concepts designed for us by George Hayes at Sticks and Stones Outdoor Living and Landscape Co. We’ve got some pretty clear ideas about what we want, which elements we like and which ones we don’t, and the big changes we want to make to our favorite concept.

But before we send our final feedback to George, we thought we’d share the plans to see if any of our Off Center followers have ideas we haven’t thought of or lessons learned from their own outdoor renovations.

As always, just click on one of the pics below to open a slideshow and enlarge the images.

At first glance, they are a little overwhelming. The drawings aren’t all oriented the same way, but I did orient the images the same way (front of the house on bottom) and they are well-labeled. So you can generally find the house with the front porch and garage in back. The misshapen circles are trees. Each design incorporates parking, walkways, and planting beds. And each concept has a patio with tables/chairs, an outdoor kitchen (usually with a bar island and grill island), and a fire pit. Some have a garden.*

Keep in mind that we’re working on a “master plan” here that will likely be phased in over a few years or more. It’s likely we won’t have the budget to do everything at once and may not want to anyway since our family and needs will continue to change over the next 10-15 years. We have to think not only about what we need right now (a place for our grill and table and a space for the kids to play) but also what we may want 10 years from now (an outdoor kitchen and pretty plants).

So what do you think? What do you love? What would you change? What are the “need to have” versus “nice to have” elements? What do you wish you would have thought of when you planned your outdoor space?

And also…can you talk Joe into adding a pool to the long-term plan? Because he won’t budge on that one…

*Post edited with an updated design description for my friend Lindsay, who was worried at first that we were putting big beach umbrellas all over our yard.

Hurry up and wait

So things have been quiet on the blog lately…because things have been quiet at the house lately.

If we were categorizing the renovation into phases, I’d say we wrapped up the first phase (we’ll call it Operation: Make the House Not Fall Down) in early August. This was right as we were leaving for a 9-day vacation, and we didn’t really want any substantive work going on while we were out of town. So we sort of let things come to a natural stopping place before we left.

Operation: Make the House Not Fall Down. Complete.

So what now?

Time to move on to Phase 2. We’ll call it Operation: Make the House Livable.

Operation: Make the House Livable begins with framing. We got a few framing bids & picked our framing guy. So we’re ready for him to get started as soon as he can, but he’s wrapping up other work before he can get to us. Once framing is done, it will be time for HVAC, plumbing, and electrical (in that order). We’ve met with at least one subcontractor in each of these areas and are working through those bids now. I think we’ll have it all lined up within the next 1-2 weeks.

We’ve met with the guy who will do the window restoration, but he’s booked out a couple of months out so it will be a bit before that work gets started. Our friend and master welder, Kraig, is working on repairing the trim (most people are surprised, but the trim is all metal). And I just got 5 amazing design concepts from our landscape architect (I’ll post about that soon), so we’ve been poring over those trying to decide on a landscaping plan.

Operation: Make the House Livable. Ready to begin.

So, over the last two weeks or so, not much has happened at the Off Center Revival. But a lot is happening. With any luck, by the end of September, Operation: Make the House Livable will be in full swing.


It’s already been a productive week at the Off Center Revival. Basement work is going strong (more on that in a future post), and we decided to go ahead and finish tree/shrub removal to get them out of the way for building the garage and other future exterior work. So there are 4 big maple trees in various stages of removal on the property (don’t worry tree lovers – there are still 4 maples, a walnut, & an oak tree left…a LOT of mature trees on our corner lot).


Somehow, getting rid of all these trees and shrubs makes the house seem a little…straighter. And notice that the front porch has been taken down so that it can be repaired & rebuilt!

In the front, there were two maples on the northeast corner of the property. There’s still a bit left of one, shown in this picture. The other maple in front, and the oak next to it  (outside the frame of the pic) will stay.


Probably the the largest tree we removed was the big maple in the back, between the house and where the garage will be. We went back and forth on that one, but it was growing at sort of an awkward angle on an incline and was right where we plan to have some patio space and landscaping. Getting rid of this tree will open up that area and make building the garage much easier.


The yard is starting to feel really big!

On the south side of the house, there were two maples fairly close together. We kept one and got rid of the other. There’s a gorgeous walnut at the southwest corner of the house. I’ve got my eye on that for a really cool swing (maybe something like this).

There are still two small maples near the back of the property line, too. They’ll stay for now, although we may eventually get rid of one. Joe has his eye on the other one for a tree house for the boys!


Close-up of the stump on the south side of the house. It kind of looks like a heart. Awww…


Until next time…

Liberation (or, how we spent our Saturday)

Let me start by making one thing clear.

We are NOT doing the work on this house ourselves. After living in the 100-year-old Craftsman for 8 years, we learned a lot about home improvement (Joe, mostly) and (he) did everything from ripping up carpet to laying a patio, tiling a shower to planting a row of shrubs, adding electrical outlets to restoring windows. But this house is WAY beyond our skill set and, frankly, we want it done before we retire. We have several subcontractors lined up to begin basement work, exterior and interior demo, and rebuilding the garage…hopefully at least one of them will start this week.

That said, since the house is finally OURS, we were itching to just get in there and do something.  So, over a few drinks and a game of cards with our friends Mark & Mindy on Friday night, we came up with a plan to rip out all the shrubs around the front porch.

Basically, the day went like this:


Woohoo! The truck is here (shout-out to Marvin – Mark’s Dad – from Kansas City Motors for letting us use his car carrier for our little project).


So…how are we actually going to do this? Does anyone know to operate the winch? Joe makes multiple winch jokes at Kendra’s expense.


Neighbor stops by and gives Joe & Mark tips on how to operate the winch and position it to pull the shrubs out by the root. Game on!


Awesome progress. The ground is really wet and soft, so these bushes are coming out like butter!

The truck is stuck.

Kendra and Mindy make a quick trip to get another truck to pull it out. The truck is un-stuck! Game on!

Apparently while getting the truck un-stuck, we broke the winch.

Mark and Joe take a quick trip to Turney to fix the winch.



Kendra and Mindy (and the kids) get bored. Let’s start peeling some wallpaper!

Kids get super-into wallpaper peeling.


Kendra and Mindy find some hidden messages behind the wallpaper in the dining room. They also find a patch behind the wallpaper in the living room. The patch is soft and the wall feels hollow. Mindy is convinced there is treasure behind it. Kendra is convinced there’s probably a human head in there. We never look.


Joe and Mark finally return. The winch is fixed. Game on!  Shrubs coming out like butter…

The truck is stuck again.

Use other truck to get the car carrier un-stuck (again). Decide parking in the yard isn’t going to work. Try parking on the shoulder of Center street. Too soft. Consider parking the truck across Center street. It would block the road, but for only – like – an hour. Also consider parking across the street, which would stretch a cable right across a main highway in town. Kendra and Mindy can stand in the road to keep cars from clothes-lining the cable. The group rejects both of these plans. Well…mostly just Joe rejects these plans. Joe is a rule-follower.


This will not do.

Determine we MUST liberate the front porch, but only half the shrub removal is done. Consider getting a chainsaw. Mark rejects this plan. Take a vote. Mark loses 3-1. Mindy goes on a chainsaw hunt. Joe, Kendra, and Mark decide to take a beverage break. Having beers before operating a chainsaw…what could go wrong?


Joe and Mark find a good spot to park the truck near the back of the house and remove a few more shrubs there. Kendra operates heavy machinery with one hand.


Joe and Mark admire their roots.




Mark channels his inner badass and mows down the remaining shrubs.


Joe supervises appropriately.





Admire our work, ruts and all. Decide what took us a whole day would probably take someone who actually knew what they were doing about 3 hours.

Don’t care.


Look. At. That. Concrete. Porch.

Start planning how we’re going to save it…