Beautiful and Enchanted

One of the things I loved most about this house when we bought it in December 2000 was the screened-in back porch. The following summer we spiffed it up a little bit with some pretty little flower lights that gave the porch an enchanted quality at night, some Adirondack chairs that a friend found for me at a rummage sale, and a coffee table that Jim and I made completely from scrap wood and Mexican tiles we had laying around in the garage. (I love that table!) Over the years, my mom made a couple of pillows for us and my mother-in-law picked up some pillows and knick knacks for us while in Guatemala.

When we moved in, the boys were in 3rd grade and kindergarten and we spent a pretty decent amount of time outside. I was working very part time, and it would be more than six years before I even knew what a blog was; I was never on the computer back then.

I am, by nature, not an outdoorsy person (unless I’m on vacation; in that case I love being outside). At home, I’m an indoorsy girl. In fact, I have always believed that half of my smarts can be credited to my genetic makeup and the other half resulted from the way I fought my mom tooth and nail to stay inside and watch “Sesame Street” and “Electric Company” every single day when all she wanted was for me to get outside and get some sunshine and physical activity for goodness’ sakes. Having this beautiful space was a joy. Until it started to get neglected.

Over the years as the boys grew, we all got busy and time outside was mostly spent playing lacrosse elsewhere. The screened-in back porch became a dumping ground, and although Jim–who has always loved being outdoors–continued spending time out there (to use the grill and enjoy a beer after coming home from work), he didn’t really care if the area was “beautiful” or “enchanted”. He gave the space a good power wash once a year and that was about it. The Adirondack chairs ended up just outside, on the patio.

Fast forward to last week. It occurred to me that we had such a hard winter that it was going to be great to spend some time outside, finally. I eyed the back porch from my couch-office and wondered what it would take to spiff it up. Creating a mental inventory of what I needed, I made plans to do the job this week while Jim is on a business trip.

Yesterday was the day. I had heard it was going to be near seventy degrees outside and the weather, combined with the fact that I was having a mentally tough couple of days and needed to get out of my own head for a few hours, had me gathering my supplies and getting started.

Let me show you what I started with, first.

Back Porch Before 1

1: Tube lights that used to line the ceiling in D’s room and were later moved out to the porch when he was finished with them, recently broke away from their zip ties and hung low enough to be a strangling hazard if we weren’t watching where we walked.

2: The flower lights that made the porch so enchanting at night died a couple of years ago, which made the fact that they were covered in years of dirt a little more obvious.

3. Camp chairs that got dumped there one day when it rained last summer.

4: “Outside” shoes are always sitting by the back door. I’m always worried I’m going to put my shoes on and find spider bites (or something!) on my toes later.

5: Our firepit was moved in there over the winter.

6: The gorgeous handmade tile table was full of clutter.

7: The recently-discovered-to-be-rusted-all-the-way-through grill. We’ll be purchasing a new one when Jim comes home.

8: We had two coolers out there, because they both leak and the last time we entertained we had drinks in there but never brought them in/put them away in the garage/got rid of them.

Wait, there’s more!

Back Porch Before 2

9: Old folding chairs, ruined by the elements.

10: I got this fabulous vase in Mississippi at a Mexican imports store for way cheap, and ended up putting regular-sized silk flowers in there because I couldn’t find anything of the right proportion that was affordable. It always looked sad but after years and years of dirt and wear, it was totally pitiful.

11: Filthy siding, spiderwebs all over the place, and dirt-covered floor.

As you can see, I had my work cut out for me. I got to work with a broom and buckets of hot, soapy water. (The hoses aren’t hooked up for the season yet so I was carrying water out from the basement utility sink.) I washed the siding, got the dirt off of the tube lights, and swept up everything else.

From start to finish it took me about three hours, and I couldn’t be happier with the results:

Back Porch After 2

Back Porch After with lights

Mexican Tile Table

Sidenote: Now there’s no clutter covering my boys’ handprints from 2004:

Names in Cement

Oh, and at night? Once again, enchanted.

Back Porch at night

The facelift cost me $127:

Outdoor rug (Target): $30
Lights (4 strands, on sale at Target): $40
Huge flowers for vase (5 of them, half off at Michael’s): $40
Flower garland for windows (2 of them, half off at Michael’s): $14
Zip ties: $3

(I could have gotten away with spending a little less money had I purchased basic lights and waited for a sale on the rug, but I wanted to get it done in one afternoon.)

I’m so glad I took advantage of the great weather we had yesterday and did something that satisfied the creative part of me. When I sat back down in/on my couch-office last night I kept staring outside at the porch (I had left the lights on), just like I did when we first renovated it years ago.

Now I have to figure out my next project!

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