What a weekend

Well, I’m exhausted. Let’s start with that. There hasn’t been much downtime this weekend, but I’m so proud of everything Joel and I got done in our backyard. More on that in a bit. First I’ll start by saying that Joel and Melanie got to town on Thursday; Jessica picked them up at the airport and got them to my car, which they’ve been using while they are in town. We all went out to dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant that night and were able to celebrate Jessica and Joel’s birthdays, which were both very recent.

Although we didn’t end up seeing them on Friday, we’ve spent practically the entire weekend together and gotten a lot done while having a good bit of fun in the process. We started off Saturday morning by taking Ava to soccer class. This was an important class for her because it was the first time that she was on her own and didn’t have me right there participating with her. I was a bit nervous watching from the sidelines, and as her parent my natural reaction anytime she did something wrong was to go out there and help her, but I resisted the urge and watched from afar with Elise and Joel. Melanie, Jessica and Enzo stayed even farther back for similar reasons.

As it turned out she did great and had a lot of fun. She did a good job listening to her coaches and stayed engaged practically the entire time. There was only one time where she got frustrated and just sat down in the middle of the field to scowl for a minute, but she ended up getting back up on her own and participated throughout the remainder of class. Once again I was impressed with how well she did, particularly with how she handles the ball. She runs as fast as she can and hardly ever loses control of her dribbling. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I hope she sticks with soccer because she definitely has a lot of natural talent for it, but ultimately I just want her to have fun and enjoy herself.

After soccer we all headed back to the house and Joel and I got started on assessing the work to be done. If you’ve been reading these posts then you know that I’ve spent the last several weekends in a row working on creating a dog kennel on the north side of our house for Bella. Last weekend I finished off digging out all the grass, and with Rick’s help we were able to line the entire fence with paver stones to keep her from being able to dig her way out.

Since the digging and stone work was done, the only remaining work was to lay down landscaping cloth, stake the cloth down, then fill it all in. The question was, what am I going to fill it in with? I’ve considered gravel, mulch (both natural and rubber), and synthetic turf. There was about 300 square feet to fill in so I had to be considerate of costs, as well as what would be better for the dog. I ended up settling on large garden bark nuggets. I liked the large nuggets because it was less likely to get stuck in Bella’s hair, it smelled good, and it was reasonably priced. It ended up taking 35 large bags to fill the area, but I’m really happy with the final result (see photo below).

With the dog kennel complete we were ready to get started on the next backyard project, which was to extend our back patio. It didn’t make sense to do anything else in the yard until the kennel was done because as long as Bella had access to the backyard there would be no way to keep it clean and usable. After talking it over with Joel and heading to Lowe’s to look at their selection of paver stones, we had a plan. The idea was to purchase a bunch of these 20”x20”x2” concrete paver stones and use them to line the patio, meaning we would extend our back patio by 20” on each side. In order to do this we would need to dig out the grass all around the patio then meticulously place each stone and check it for stability as well as verify that it is level. As usual, it ended up being a lot more work than I ever expected, mainly because you have to be so precise with how much dirt and sand you place under to stones, but I couldn’t be happier with the final result.

We weren’t able to finish this project on Saturday because we had dinner plans, so we did as much as we could, then called it a day at 5:00 to give everyone time to clean up and get ready for dinner. We ended up meeting Joel and Melanie at a restaurant called Cantinetta in Bellevue. My good friend Michael Don Rico manages there on Saturday (he works at their sister restaurants the rest of the week) so we figured it would be fun to go see him, as well as try something new.

As expected it was an excellent dinner (and all around evening), with the exception of the crazy lady at the bar who decided to listen in on our conversation. She completely misconstrued something I said and ended up getting really mad at me. I don’t know what she thought I said, but it upset her and she became most unpleasant. I was tempted to talk back at her but decided to take the high road and suggested to our group that we leave the bar and have a seat at our dinner table. Luckily that was the last we saw of the crazy lady, but it made for interesting conversation amongst ourselves throughout the evening.

After dinner Michael joined the four of us for a drink at a new restaurant next door called 99 Park. Quentin Stewart, their executive chef, is an old friend of ours who used to work with Jessica at Branzino. We haven’t seen him in several years, but there he was right when we walked in. The look on his face when he saw Jessica was priceless. He immediately set us up for desert at the bar and we all spent the next couple hours catching up. It was a great way to end such a fabulous evening. I always love hanging out with Joel and Melanie and wish we got the opportunity to do that sort of thing more often.

We got back to work on the backyard Sunday morning at 11:00 and picked up right where we left off. Joel and I finished off the paver stones, with the exception of the two outermost corner pieces, which would need to be cut down to size in order to fit correctly. Luckily my next door neighbor Troy had a stone chisel that I was able to borrow, and it worked like a charm. I still need to get some paver sand to fill in the cracks between the stones, but it’s not urgent. Again, I couldn’t be happier with the finished product, and appreciate the help from Joel so much. I can’t imagine how long it would have taken me to do this project on my own, plus I wouldn’t have really known what I was doing, so having his guidance was invaluable.

After finishing up on the backyard we did a few more projects around the house. I did some cleaning and reorganizing in the garage while Joel helped Jessica measure our floor space so we’d know how much flooring to purchase for our big project in July. We were also paid a visit by Laurel. Unfortunately this will probably be the last time Laurel comes to this house because she’s only about a week away from moving cross-country to Raleigh, North Carolina. We’ll be attending her going away party next Saturday at Athena, the apartment building in Queen Anne that I was living in when Jessica and I first met.

The rest of this evening should be pretty relaxing. I’m looking forward to making a nice halibut dinner with mushroom risotto and vegetables for everyone, and Joel and I are looking forward to watching the Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight. Amazingly both of us were able to completely avoid social media, news, radio, etc. and neither of us knows how the fight turns out. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a letdown but I’m still looking forward to checking it out.

It’s worth noting that all of our yardwork this weekend was aided by the most beautiful weather imaginable. I haven’t seen a cloud yet, and apparently tomorrow, which is their final full day in town, is supposed to be just as nice. Last week was incredibly busy for me at work, so hopefully this week we will be back to normal. Here are a few photos of our weekend accomplishments.

The minivan all loaded up with bark for the dog kennel
The minivan all loaded up with bark for the dog kennel

The finished product - Bella’s new outdoor home
The finished product – Bella’s new outdoor home

As you can see it didn’t take long before Ava was coloring the paver stones with chalk
As you can see it didn’t take long before Ava was coloring the paver stones with chalk

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