Composting Our Food Waste

Maybe it’s nesting for baby #2 over here, but I’m like feeling this urge to turn our house into like a self contained oasis where we can get everything we need from our home sweet home – food, love, little bit of this, little bit of that. I feel like there’s some type of symbolic mama bear thing going on – maybe the world seems a bit different of foreign to me, and I think my way of dealing with the chaos around me is trying to create knowns here at home. And y’all – for so, SO, long, I’ve wanted to have a yard that produces food for us. I mean – I’m realistic, I get that I’ll still go to the grocery store and buy tyson chicken more than I should, but I want to start pushing us toward as healthy a lifestyle as possible, and I think knowing precisely where you’re food is coming from (and what it took to get it there) is a good step in that direction.

So some of y’all that follow me on insta and facebook probably saw my initial inspired rant about the steps we’d be taking to get this rodeo happening. This book was a super fun read for me (it’s like 99% pictures, and explanatory text) and it had a few nuggets of info that inspired me to get started on this little self sustaining journey.  Modern_Homesteading_Book_Review

Now it’s a bit of country snobbery IMHO, where they kinda imply that the only way to live sustainably is to like go all out and homestead the heck out of it, and I’m all about finding middle ground guys and empowering people to make small, incremental steps where they’re at. I mean, would it be nice to have a peach tree orchard – sure! But if someone can do something small, and build from that, I’m kinda more on that train.

So our first small step was snagging this compost bin off craigslist for $20.

First_Steps_To_Composting_At_Home

Y’all I love this thing. Like it’s taking the place of the cat in my hierarchy for love for household people/pets in Sell Casa. I feel like wonder woman saving all our food scraps (what, what) and 1) avoiding the landfill and 2) creating some sweet sweet soil for all my crops I be tilling come spring (obvi).

It’s pretty easy concept – just pop open the top and add in your goods. Nothing with dairy or meat can be added, or weeds that go to seed (then you just have compost that’s going to be full of weeds). In fact, I’m so afraid of the whole weeds taking over the compost bin thing, that I’ve decided to avoid all types, not just those (like dandelions) that go to seed. (If anyone knows more about this than me, would love to hear insights)

Compost_Bin_In_City

It’s also super fun to see H get pumped about bringing the compost out and I hope it helps him, in small ways, as he grows up, think about wasting less and wanting less and making things stretch further, faster – vs. this very wasteful society we’re currently all marinating in.

It’s also an added bonus that this little nook of the garden used to look like this.

Hose_Storage_Ideas

And I convinved the hubster to drop six dolla billz at our favorite local hardware shop for this new handy dandy house house thing I’ve been eyeing for a few weeks.

Organizing_Yard_Ideas

Better, right? Not perfect, but definitely better! H always wants to swim in his pool, so it’s nice to have the hose more accessible and less likely to get all tangled up like it did before.

The rest of that row along the house currently looks like this (#dontjudgebut I’m hoping my food I plan to grow just grows as quickly as all those weeds 😀

Overgrown_Sidepath

 

Never, Ever, Buy Things New

Y’all, I mentioned a few months ago our new found journey to becoming frugal masters. We’ve always been sorta inclined toward this path and there are *definitely* those that do this much better than me. Case and point, kiddo clothes. So sometimes, I like imagine a life where I would bust my bootie into Carter’s and Old Navy and just sorta crackle with pure glee as I load up my cart with the bargains around me. $5, FIVE DOLLARS?! Why, I really should grab two! I mean, the marketing you guys, they got that down and the clothes are so. darn. CUTE. Feeling me parents of the internet world?

Well you’ve got to use your imagination a bit more when you shop second hand, because the clothes are not marketed and laid out for you so nicely, but y’all, I guarantee you that there are so many other humans out there that paid full price for kids clothes that got underused, that you’ve got a prime opportunity to swoop in there and get your hands on the goods for a steal of a deal.

I’m {personally} totally hooked though. I just got H’s entire 5T wardrobe for $61 and since a toddler jacket at the Gap runs you around $40, I consider this a win.

Kids Consignment Sales Raleigh

Disclaimer – I’ll probably add a shirt or pair of pants here and there, but overall – this kid is going to be looking j-crew posh when he hits the streets.

A few points really quick – notice I said my kids 5T wardrobe? Y’all he’s in 3T right now, but truly, the only way to successfully keep yourself from having to buy things full price down the road, is to start stashing clothes for them early and then add a few small, key pieces as they get older. Like an extra pair of pants, more jammies, or water shoes. Every one of the items above cost less than $3 and they’re all name brand, really nice stuff! (more here on how I keep each size organized)

Consignment Sales Raleigh

I mean, that sweater y’all. It makes me wish for a nice cup of coco and weather that was not 100. NC in summatime, it’s great! 😉

Where_To_Consign_Raleigh

I’m loving this Gap windbreaker, $2. Yeaaaasss. So cute, and barely worn!

Best_Consignment_Sales_In_Raleigh

One thing you do need to be ok with is having other children’s names scribed inside the goods (especially things like jackets, I’ve noticed).

Meh – for $2, if people call my kid Jack, I’m ok with that! If he lands up with a Jack in his class we may have to cross it out to say Henry, just so the coat stays in the Sell Casa 😉

Why_Buy_Used_Kids_Clothing

My mom is super amazing and chipped in to help buy the kiddo some shoes, too. These are all in great condition and are brands like Stride Rite and Keen (hello $50 per pair of shoes – no thanks!). More like $5 when you buy them used you guys.

Another thing I’ve personally taken a liking to – is at consignment sales only shopping the 1/2 off days. I’m sure there are better selections on full price days but there is still really, really nice/cute stuff on the 1/2 off day – so I typically wait and see what I can find! When you start early, it’s not dire that you get everything you need in 1-shot, too. Consignment stores will often have dollar days, etc, so you can find good deals no matter the locale.

Kids_Shoes_For_Sale

One of the blogs I read, Frugalwoods is all about clothes bans. Like never buy clothes and I’m all – nope. Not happening! 1) Buying clothes is fun, it’s fun to have the kiddo dressed up and dapper. I like doing it, it brings me joy (she would roll over and die hearing me saying buying stuff is fun BUT my other point is 2) Frugal living is all about the ROI y’all – IMO. I’m confident that all the clothes I buy for H will be sold for nearly what I bought them for, giving the dirt cheap prices I paid. Following me, grasshopper? Sure, some clothes will get trashed, etc, but most of them I will sell for what I paid, which is like a $1 or $2. So, I call that a win – it’s like borrowing a cute wardrobe, right? Either way – I think the path to frugal living is all about carving out what it is that you value and minimizing the rest.

Don’t let friends buy new. That’s your PSA for the day.

Here are some of my favorite Raleigh consignment sale locales, for anyone local!

 

 

Farmhouse Table + Flowers

Our house was pretty landscaped when we moved in a year ago, and with a 2-year old, and an interior I wanted to get cracking on, we’ve literally done nothing – like nothing – to the outside of the house. Well I guess Jay did trim the bushes once last year – ha! But that’s been it! Oh and he’s built this table, which I’m obsessed with. Plan from Ana White, here.

Farmhouse Style Table

So this planter and been growing away over time … by now, it’s a bit overgrown. We had some basil in there that we transplanted into a small planter we keep in the kitchen for cooking.

Brick_Planter_Landscaping_Before

I’ve always loved the look of houses with tons and tons of hydrangeas all over the place. That or peonies but now that I have a kiddo and ants like never leave my life (ummm food crumbs all the time), the thought of a plant that attracts ants is not something I’m mojoing for too much.

We have a tiny little courtyard around our house, so I’d really like to give it a bit more of “us” character over time, and get rid of some of these tall wacky trees we have planted all over the place.

Tall_Bushes_Landscaping

These are some of the images that I swoon over when thinking about designing our backyard space.

Couryard_Patio_Plantings

{source}

Do you think I could get away with turning our house into a tree, a la the photo above? I think Jay might fa-reak out 😉

Or what about turning the house into a bush, like this photo? Maybe I should just paint it green with a faux finish 😉 Something about that ivy/plantings growing over the wall just makes a space look old and lived in, I think. I love it!

Courtyard_Plantings

{source}

Or this one (that table is a bit too weathered for my liking), but the droves of hydrangeas is definitely something I can get behind. And that charcoal shed tucked in the corner – mmm hmmm. Nice. Hydrangea_Backyard_Courtyard

{source}

So one small step toward this oh so lovely vision was to turn our planter introduced at the beginning of this post, into a small spot for some hydrangeas to grow. We picked up two from Home Depot this weekend, and y’all I am so excited to watch these babies grow. Down here in NC things do grow pretty fast, so hopefully they take off quickly!

Hydrangea_Bush_Starters

I’m desperately hoping I don’t kill these beauties – I found this article helpful – and others attempting to grow hydrangeas may as well!

Next up, a porch swing (?) and some dark navy paint perhaps a la this photo. It hurts my heart I love this photo THAT much.

Outdoor Porch Swing

{Source}

Best Affordable Gifts for Ladies

Well we got the men covered on Monday, so I’m back with some of the best affordable gifts for the ladies in your life. Your sister, your wife, your mumzie or your bestie – we’ve got something for them all.

Again, everything is made in the USA!! Woot!!

Let’s start with the under $20 group.

Gift Guide Under $20

 

Maison Blanc Tin Candle $8 // Rachel Rhinestone $8 // Rifle Paper Pocket Notebook $10 // Kiehls Lip Balm $8 // The Balm Highlighter $20 // Let’s Get Lost $18

Ah sisters, where would the world be without them. Sister-less, what a horrific proposition. Well if you still are giftless for that sister in your life, look no further my friends, look no further.

Gift Guide for Sisters

Gold Foil Pocket Notebook $10 // Repurposed Wall Art $24 // Embroidered IKAT pillow $19 // Cocktail Maker Kit $30 // Almond Lip Balm $5 // Smooth Infusion Hair Treatment $26

And we can’t forget the mommas of the world 🙂 Here are some of the best affordable gift ideas for the mumzies.

Gift Guide for Moms

Pink Peony Votive $25 // Kiehls Helping Hand Essentials $28 // Lab Magnets $22 // State Tablet Holder $38 // Burt’s Bees Shea Butter $20

Happy shopping!

Black Thumb

I still remember the moment. Seeing that beautiful little fiddle leaf, standing by it’s lonesome in Home Depot, just waiting for me to come and rescue it from the dole drum life of the hardware store. I couldn’t believe my eyeballs, and Jay couldn’t believe his ears – why, why was this woman so excited to get her paws on this tropical house plant.

I mean come. on. husband – that’s a whole lotta leafy green hubba hubba goodness. Am I right, or am I right?

Where to Buy Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees

But y’all – Houston has got a problem. I think I’m (we’re) killing the plant. A week or so ago, it looked liked this:

How to Care for Fiddle Leaf Fig Trees

And now, well now it looks considerably worse than that. I may be able to count the remaining leaves with one hand. :'(

Right now the plant is:

  • In indirect sunlight
  • Watered about once weekly
  • Kissed and cuddled and encouraged to get better soon

HELP! Do we have any (tropical) gardeners out there? Is this beautiful plant destined for the compost bin? Say it ain’t so – does anyone know what I can do?

My Boil over Oil

Holy pancakes. Y’all, oil heating, what theeeeee heecck? So, I’ve got one of those “What they didn’t tell you about being a home owner moments” coming right up for you. Our house has an oil heater, turns out, that’s bad. Now, normally in the South, we wouldn’t even be thinking about heating our house until like December, but truth be told, we put the cart in front of the horse again and got ourselves into a bit of a pickle. I’m (quasi) happy to report that Jay is totally to blame for this incident and that I had nothing to do with it 😀 Yes, I do take some pleasure in that.

See, it all started when Jay decided he wanted a gas range. To his credit, it’s a beauty of a gas range. 😉 Here’s a sneak diddly peak at what landed on our doorstep on Tuesday!

GE Cafe Dual Fuel

We kinda both agreed that we knew we’d want to convert everything over sooner or later, so we figured it would be a good investment to run some gas lines through the house. The good news, if we connected either a water heater or a furnace to said gas line from the utility, then they would run it to our house for free! Picture us nodding along like Ed the hyena at this point. Sounds good, right? So we proceed, and have the gas company come on out and install this bad boy for us. Here’s a photo of the furnace/water heater combo we had before.

Old Oil Burning Fireplace

The catchy catch (noted above) is that we have to install a furnace or water heater. Now, we knew we wanted to replace both of these things. We’d heard that both are quite a bit more expensive to run (oil vs. gas for the furnace, and electric vs. gas for the water heater). It wasn’t until we started doing our research though that we realized how expense they’d be to run. Specifically, this chunk of love oil burning furnace.

Oil Burning Furnace

Y’all, cover your children’s ears, because what I’m about to tell you is down right ugly. After sleuthing around a bit, we found out that the cost to heat our house for the winter, was going to be close to $1,500. We called a local oil company that services the triangle, and they indicated we’d be looking at a rate of $4.49 per gallon, and that we’d most likely need 400 gallons to get us through winter. If you pull out your calculators, you’d see that’s over $1,700. For just our heat. For just the winter.

You guys, we came from Michigan last year and our entire YEAR of heating and cooling and all our other electric things – like total utility bills for the year – was less than that. Like significantly. (We averaged just over $100 a month for the entire year) And it was -40 one day last winter – NEGATIVE FORTY, people! So, after I was done choking on my spit post telephone call from the sweet old lady at the oil company – I looked at Jay and said, son, we’ve gotta DO something about this!

Here in lies the conundrum. We got this news at a time when we were not planning on replacing the furnace. We knew we had to replace either the furnace *or* the water heater, but turns out due to a perfect trifecta of a “traditional” style water heater (i.e. tanked) not working with the existing furnace (since it can’t be vented via the chimney, since the furnace already vents through there and there isn’t room for both), we either had to proceed with an ultra efficient, ultra expensive, tankless water heater or we had to bite the bullet and spring for a furnace. Since along with running the gas line in the interior of the house the tankless water heater would cost us $3,500, we decided it would be prudent to convert the furnace first and put in a less expensive tanked heater later.

So I started shopping around, and we had (3) different HVAC companies come out to tell us about our options. Here’s what they said:

  • $5,500 for 90% efficient furnace, and gas line run
  • $4,600 for 92% efficient furnace, and gas line run
  • $5,800 for 95% efficient furnace, no gas line run

In the end, we landed up going with the least expensive option, at which at $4,600 was a pretty hard pill to swallow. Keep in mind, we were not planning on this expense whatsoever, so needless to say, it was a bit of a shock to the system. Lucky for us a few of our other expenses have been coming in under budget, so that gave us some extra dough to tackle this beast. As a point of comparison – we paid under $2,000 last year for a 95% efficient furnace in Michigan – so we were a bit surprised by the pricing down here in NC. I may or may have not cried in a corner. We’re like – wait – I thought cost of living was supposed to be lower in the South. FALSE. That is false.

Here is our new furnace, all shiny and well, ginormous. Not sure what the deal is with the space ranger vent off to the side. Apparently it’s necessary. Thank goodness this monstrosity is in our basement and not upstairs, y’all.

Converting from Oil to Gas

Bingo. Bango. Bongo. I’m personally a big fan of this hunka chunka metal, because although it cost me more money than I personally feel should be godly possible, it’s also going to save me a cool grand this winter. And the next one, and the next one. Once we sat down and did the math, we knew it was a no brainer, even though it was a heart breaker.

Compared to our old place, this guy’s venting system is super small and tight against the siding, too – which is great. You can barely notice it from the outside. See how it’s totally streamlined with the siding out there?

Furnace Venting out Side

It’s a little cumbersome on the inside, but some of the other options were way, way worse, so in the end, we’re pretty happy with how it turned out. This is a close up shot of the venting that’s outside.

Side Vent Furnace

In addition to installing the furnace, a sizable chunk of our expenses was for the gas line installation as well. Although it was pricey, it’s going to be so nice to have a gas range in this house (not to mention a gas water heater and furnace). Added bonus, since we already had the 220 line installed through there (the last oven was electric), we were able to get a dual fuel oven, which is supposed to be optimal for both baking and stove top cooking. Swanky.

Now that we’ve converted over the furnace though, we do still need to save our pennies to give the electric water heater the boot. Right now, this guy is nearly half of our electric bill each month, so it would be nice to minimize that expense in the future. See the energy usage chart? You want that arrow on the far left, not the far right.

Electric Water Heater

I really can’t recommend the company that came out enough (not paid or perked in any way to say it!). They’re Carolina Heating and Cooling, if you live in the area, and they were awesome about talking through our options with us. Added bonus, the guy gave us a quote right on the spot when he came, where we had to chase the other (2) companies down with tons of phone calls and emails. Do you want my money or not people, carrumba.

And a week after our furnace was installed, do you know what I got in the mail? A plant. From the furnace dudes. WHAT? I mean, talk about Southern Hospitality. Color me impressed.

Indoor Plants

Anyone else install a furnace in the middle of July? 😀 Although it was a chunk-o-change, we’re super happy that come winter, we won’t have to worry about the astronomical cost of paying for oil for the old furnace!

 

Strawberry Pickin’

Seriously, how have I lived on this Earth for 27+ years and not had the pleasure of tasting a freshly picked strawberry straight off the vine. It’s beyond sad, really. Now that I’ve seen the light though, I can tell you I’ll never be able to look at store bought strawberries the same way, that’s fo shizzle.

So Jay and I have been on a little household mission around here to transition our shopping habits a bit so that we are getting more locally grown, sustainably harvested and minimally processed foods into our belly instead of the plethora of unhealthy junk that’s out there seemingly lining the streets. So when I started to see tons of strawberry picking signs beginning to dot the landscape this spring, I told Jay that by George, we were going to join our neighbors and go get ourselves a bushel. 😀 (more or less). Seriously, we had so. much. fun. (and a TON of strawberries to eat after we got home)

North Carolina Strawberry Fields

Since we got a hankering to go strawberry picking on Sunday, and virtually everything is closed down south on Sunday’s, we landed up at a location that was a bit on the touristy side of things (aka, more expensive and gimmicky than most), but still in the big scheme of things – pretty sweet! For $10, they just gave you a big old bucket (that you get to keep in the end) and told you to fill it to your hearts content!

And we sure did! 🙂

Strawberry Field Locations Durham

Since we had never picked strawberries fresh off the vine before we did a bit of reading before we started out that basically said you should try to pick strawberries that were as consistently red as possible, with no green peaking through. Unlike a banana, for instance, a strawberry will not continue to ripen after it’s picked from the vine – so what you see is what you get.

Strawberry Fields North Carolina

Although most of the strawberries were absolutely perfect and ripe, it’s only about mid-way through the season down here, so there were quite a few that still had some time before they’d be ready to be picked.

Just look at all those ripe (and delicious!!) berries ready to be put in my belly!

Strawberry Picking in Durham

We seriously had the best time and we’re totally converted to the sweet, sweet taste of home grown berries. There really just isn’t any way to compare them with store bought berries. Can I get an amen, from anyone who’s seen the light? Normally I find strawberries to be a bit tart, but these glorious gifts to mankind are so sweet they taste like they’ve been dunked in sugar. Mmmmmmhmmmmm, that’s how I like my berries. 😉

Farm Fresh Strawberries

In addition to a few large fields of strawberries, there was also lots of other fresh produce available for purchase. Although it was a tad more expensive than our produce down at the farmer’s market, everything was still very reasonable priced, with full heads of lettuce starting as low as $2.

North Carolina Produce Station

We definitely had to get strawberry shortcake added to our dinner menu once we had a bucket full of strawberries sitting on our hands. So. Dang. Good. People!

Strawberry Shortcake

Since I’m sure all the locals that may either be new the area, or are not familiar with all the patches around these parts would be interested, I thought I’d also put a list together so all the Triangle crowd can enjoy the sweet taste of summertime, too!

Strawberry Picking Locations

Cates Corner Farm
Hillsborough, NC

Double R Cattle Services Inc.
701 Ollie’s Lane
Hillsborough, NC 27278

McAdams Farm
1100 Efland Cedar Grove Rd.
Efland, NC 27243

Whitted Bowers Farm
8707 Art Rd.
Cedar Grove, NC 27231

Waller Family Farm
5030 Kerley Rd.
Durham, NC 27705

Buckwheat Farm
2700 Holland Rd.
Apex, NC 27502

DJ’s Berry Patch
1223 Salem Church Rd.
Apex, NC 27523

Hilltop Farms
6612 Kennebec Rd.
Willow Springs, NC 27592

Jean’s Berry Patch
3003 NC Hwy. 751
Apex, NC 27523

Page Farms
6100 Mt. Herman Rd.
Raleigh, NC 27617

Phillips Farms
6701 Good Hope Church Rd.
Cary, NC 27519

Pope’s Strawberries of Raleigh
1305 Fayetteville St.
Knightdale, NC 27545

Confession, I have Wendy’s fast food digesting in my gut as I type this. #FeelingGuilty. Needless to say – we’ve been approaching this food transition in a very real way. I.E. Sometimes fast food will still make it’s way into our lives 😉 Baby steps, people, baby steps.

 

Country Living

I’m all about fresh air and rolling hills, nature, ahhh – isn’t it wonderful. That being said, I think if I had to pick a camp to describe which way I lean – I’m ya know, more of a city girl. It’s not that I don’t like being out in the countryside – I love it – I just don’t find myself out that way much since we’re usually hanging out on our own turf (don’t we all live in our little boxes a wee too much?). So when I saw a cool little flyer in our local paper for an opportunity to scoot our booties out to the land of endless sun and check out how the other half is making it happen – I jumped!

Piedmont Farm Tour

And by other half, I mean the most amazing group of hard working human beings – seriously – these people are something else. Jay and I are really trying to get more of our food from the local farmers around us (vs. the super market, where it’s carted in from half a world away), so we thought this little farm tour was a pretty awesome way to get to know the faces of the people that are behind all the magic. We’ve signed up for a CSA this spring, and the tour offered us a chance at seeing where our food was actually coming from – is there anything cooler than that?

Red Barn Photograph

In addition to being able to see the actual farm where our fruits and veggies will be coming from – the tour included like 30 other farms in the Piedmont region. From pigs to potatoes, there were farms along the tour that had it all.

Our first stop advertised puppies – I have to say I was disappointed that I exited and re-entered my vehicle without petting any pups – isn’t that sad. That being said, there were lots of other baby animals 😀

And kitties, lot of kitties.

This guy – umm – yeah. He’s definitely my fav. I think he wants a carrot. Or maybe some lettuce. He wants something.

Farm Tours North Carolina

All the cows made me think of my dear mumzie (Wisconsin born and raised). We only saw beef cattle on our little tour of the farm side, but I’m sure there are dairy cattle somewhere in this fine state. Side note – ummmm – milk is WAY more expensive here in NC – like twice as much! I don’t miss that whippersnapping, backbreaking cold, but by George, I miss my $2 milk. $4 whhaaaa??

Free Range Cattle Farm

In addition to seeing all the fine farm animals at our tour, we also had an opportunity to see some veggies in their prime. Seriously, I would just die of happiness if I had a veggie garden with this level of straightness in it’s rows. Scrumptious.

Farm Tour North Carolina

In addition to being able to see some of the plants that were further along on their growing journey to get in my belly, we also saw some seedlings just getting started.

Organic Vegetable Farms

The third farm we visited definitely took the cake though. First, it had herding dogs. I mean, that’s pretty rock solid awesome. But right as we were rounding the final corner to leave the farm (or so we thought), we stumbled across a big old field full to the brim with chickens!! I mean, like thousands of chickens just bagalking all over the place.

Free Range Chicken Farms

A fun thing about this farm tour set up, is that in addition to being able to be up close and personal with the animals, we were also able to purchase eggs, meat and veggies as we toured each location. This stop had cartons of eggs for purchase. You could either go collect them yourself (where the chickens were laying them) or you could be lazy and pick a dozen from this big old barrel of them.

Free Range Chicken Eggs

Doesn’t that shot just look like a slice of americana? I love it 😀

North Carolina Free Range Chickens

There were also chickens chilling with some big fat pigs along the back stretch. Funny little buggers. Man, pigs are stinky animals, are they not?

North Carolina Pig Farm

Overall, it was super fun to go on this tour. It’s more or less a fundraiser for the farms in the Piedmont area, so it was nice to support something (albeit in a small way) that we really believe in. Jay and I are pretty excited that we signed up for our very first CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) this year (an egg and cheese one, actually) so I’ll definitely have to report back for all of you guys on that as well! Anyone else out there do the CSA thing, I’d be curious to hear different perspectives on it!

 

Tobacco Trailin’

You know how they say opposites attract? Well in the case of Jay bird and I, pretty sure that’s right on the money. Jay’s as calm as a cucumber, chillin’ like a villain, not easily excitable. Me, I’m like FULL SYSTEMS GO all day, all night, watcha back cause I’m coming up behind ya kung foo fighting with a karate kick. So when my husband started exhibiting some of my aforementioned personality ticks about a certain little hobby of his, I knew that we were on to something this man just couldn’t leave behind him. Bikes people, this man is a little crazy sauce about his bikes.

See, look how happy he is.

Biking to Work

So, up in the mitten, Jay rode his bike day in and day out to work, and on the weekends whenever he could. He had a pretty safe route (although Lord above do I worry about him, mostly unnecessary worrying, but I do it all the same…) that took him along quieter streets and along bike lanes throughout town. When we knew we’d be moving down to North Carolina, one of the biggest considerations for us when selecting a city to call home was what his route to work would look like on his grown up two wheeled people powered mobile. When we found Durham, our hearts did a little pitter patter since it was really pretty darn perfect for his bicycle commute.

Now since I haven’t officially announced it on blog land yet, if you’re reading and thinking to yourself – commute – job – Jay, by golly, did that son of a gun land a 9-5 gig? The answer would be (praise the good Lord above) YES! Jay is now gainfully employed as a Quality Engineer with a company right in RTP. 😀

Bike Commute on Tobacco Trail Durham was the perfect location for us since there’s this nifty little trail called the American Tobacco Trail. It’s basically one big long multi-use path that just so happens to be perfect for Jay to commute on. It’s not his entire route, but a solid third of his trek in every morning is on this pretty sa-weet multi-use path. Great since it gives me some peace of mind about his safety, and gives him a nice, smooth (and direct!) ride into work each day.

Since we’re currently living in our temporary apartment digs, his commute is actually 2-miles or so longer each day, but overall it’s taking him just over a half hour to commute into work right now vs. about a 20 minute drive. Added bonus, he’s burning over 1,200 calories each day. Yowzer!!

The weekend before we both started working down here Jay and I thought it might be fun to take a little bike ride and simulate his commute so he would know which way he was headed come the work week. Lucky for us, Jay had a nifty little mounted holder for his cell phone, so we were able to navigate the entire way using gps bike directions from google maps, which I think is pretty sweet!

GPS Mounted to Bike

Traveling along the Tobacco Trail with Jay was so much fun, seriously, I was just scooting my little bike down the line with a big old smile plastered across my face. Our favorite part about the ride was all the different types of people you see actively utilizing this trail for both recreation and utility. There were of course lots of commuters on it (this trail basically connects the city with one of the largest engineering/tech hubs in the country, really…) but there were also tons of families, couples and even the hard core Lycra racing types, too!

American Tobacco Trail

The trail had lots of nice cutouts into the neighborhoods around it, which is super nice for people living right up against it.

Tobacco Trail Durham

There are a few (very well marked crossings), where bikes deviate from the path a bit and cross over a road.

Biking on Tobacco Trail

Coming from Michigan, the best part about the path and the entire route in was how smooth it was! We’re so used to dodging potholes everywhere, so to have something as nice as this to ride on every morning is a real treat!

After a few miles of riding on the trail, Jay enters his last leg of the journey on Cornwallis Rd. which lucky for him has a nice bike lane the entire way!

Commuting on Tobacco Trail

When we rode through town on our way back home, we spotted a few fun places to rest our weary legs for a bit. Since we’ve lived in Michigan our entire life and pretty much knew the turf we were traveling on day in and day out, it’s been so much fun to explore an entirely different area! We spotted another Tobacco named plaza downtown (notice a theme…) that we enjoyed checking out. All around this water tower there were eateries and cool things to look at and do.

Durham North Carolina

This bull was chillin’ like a villain in the front of the plaza. We may more may not have snapped some selfies next to it 😀

Durham Bulls Statue

North Carolina public radio also had some offices further down in the plaza – so cool! We’ve been loving exploring the city by bike – so many nifty places to see and things to do!

North Carolina Public Radio

 

 

Raise the Roof

So THIS, is what our attic looks like right now. Hella messy, but hella on. it’s. way. to being a legit room.

Adding Drywall To Attic

Since our attic has been looking like the photo below for the past oh, ya know, 4-months, it makes me want to do a flippin’ air bound somersault when I realize that the next attic projects will consist of fun things like painting, and carpet installation and bed linens – and not – oh, insulation! 😀

Raising Ceiling in Attic

But, I’ve had a few people emailing me asking about how we insulated the top portion of the attic (above the ceiling), so I wanted to show y’all a comprehensive play by play to help anyone that might be looking to try the same type of project. I know, yet another post about insulating yo timbers. Due to the amount of emails I’ve been getting on this one though, I’d venture to say that we’re not the only household trying to tackle making their space a bit more cozy.

The awesome part about all of this, is that we’re actually able to exceed the code regulated insulation value for our ceiling, which means our space should be deliciously toasty for our frigid Michigan winter’s. When your future forecast looks like this, extra insulation makes me extra happy.

Weather in Ann Arbor

After insulating all of the walls and roof deck, we were still left with the top triangle of our ceiling, which is where the most heat escapes from (hot air rises…). Since our rafters are only a few inches deep, we really thought we’d never be able to get anywhere close to code unless we used spray foam. We were pleasantly surprised though to see that with a bit of ingenuity and a lot of time and patience, we were able to get the desired level of insulation for our zone. Sweetness.

Insulation for Zone 5

Each step of the insulation process got a bit easier, and this one was really just a matter of creating a base for the fiberglass to sit on, and loading the insulation up onto the landing we created. Since we had extra foam around from our wall insulation process, we used that as the bottom section for the fiberglass to rest on.

For the pot lights we had scattered throughout our ceiling, we had to cut out a small opening for the foam to fit snugly on top of each light.

Insulating around a pot light

Once we would get the foam pieces up, we had a good floor for all of the fiberglass to sit on top of. Since we had enough room to accommodate it, we purchased R-30 fiberglass to sit on top of the R-5 foam – with the walls, that brings our R-value up to at least R-52 and up to R-54 in some sections. Holla holla give me a dolla.

You can see Jay in the photo below, putting some of the R-30 fiberglass up into the cavity above the foam board.

How to Insulate Around Pot Light

One VERY important thing to note when insulating around pot lights, is that you may have to build a structure around the light, in order to prevent the risk of fire. Pot lights get hot, foam is flammable, not a good combo.

Since we had extra drywall around, and didn’t want to let any scrapes go to waste, we opted to build a box to go around our lights in order to prevent anything that might be prone to catching fire from touching the light boxes. The boxes we built were about 8″ square – just large enough to pop right over the top of the pot light fixture.

Insulating Around Pot Light

This is how the box looked after it was installed above the pot light. Nothing fancy, but you can see that it definitely provides a barrier that prevents anything flammable from touching a light that could potentially get too hot, and cause a fire.

How to Insulate Attic

After we came back through to close the other side up with foam, this is what our ceiling looked like pre-drywall.

How to Insulate Around Pot Lights

Overall, we are SO happy that we were able to get as much insulation as we did in the space. Our last house also had a finished attic, but the amount of insulation was in no way sufficient and we were freezing our badonkadonks off morning noon and night. We don’t even have the heat pumping up there yet, and I can already tell that the insulation we added is going to make a huge difference.

Here is a side view shot of how each layer of insulation looked before we added our drywall. Nice and toasty my friends.

How to property insulate attic

For all you newer blog readers, you can read about our other insulating adventures here (and here).