Patio Progress: Phase 1

As some of you may already know, lately we've been itchin' to dig into an outdoor project -- quite literally. Now that our fence is done we are craving a space where we can relax with a book, enjoy a meal, or even roast some marshmallows. Of course we could still do this on the grass like we did back in August, but we want to use our creativity and manpower so we can sit on something solid. Initially we were thinking of building a deck just off the ground, but after taking some time to consider our yard and our budget, we decided what we really wanted was a patio.

So we started out with the typical run to Home Depot (we also visited Lowe's and Menards) to do a little research. We quickly decided it would be most cost-effective to order our pavers from a home improvement store (Menards had the best prices by far) but get our gravel, which goes under the pavers, from another source. That's where handy-ol' Craigslist came into play. After a quick phone call and some negotiating, we found ourselves with a big pile of gravel in our driveway.
Unfortunately, Evan then proceeded to hurt his back starting up our old lawnmower, so our patio project went on hold until ... this past weekend! Here's a little peak at what went down at our official groundbreaking:

Denny (Evan's dad) came up Sunday mid-day, ready to get his hands (err...shovel) in some dirt.
You can kind of see our plan in the above photo. A path right outside the door (which is just to the right of the frame) leads up to a rectangular patio off the corner and front of our dining room area. Initially we were planning on designing scalloped edges and curves for a nice soft look, but we decided a rectangle would significantly minimize the number of pavers we'd need to cut to fit. And we figure we can always spruce it up so it doesn't look like an intrusive landing pad in our backyard by adding pots and planters, or even building a raised bed along the side.
Later in the afternoon Mary (Evan's mom) popped in to help out, and that's when things really began to take shape!
But we weren't prepared for the amount of dirt we ended up with and had trouble finding a new "home" for all of it. We piled some of it around the house to build up the foundation, some of it we used to level out an uneven patch in our backyard (due to an above-ground pool from the previous owner), and the rest we stashed in the corner of the yard to use in a garden next spring. As you can see, the dirt got a little out of hand! (note the crazy pumpkin plant taking over our backyard?!)

We were so eager to continue with our project that we kept working after dark!

Tessa and Leo stopped by and did their share of shoveling and transporting gravel from the driveway to our patio area, which was six inches deep. We need to fill that entire space up about five inches, tamp it down (we may hire this done as the equipment is really heavy), add an inch of sand, and then finally start working with the pavers themselves. (Don't quote me on the layers and inches ... I'll have to check with Evan).
We are already enjoying having a gravel path outside our house - I can't wait until we have the pavers in place! A big Thank You to everyone who pitched in!

Now I'm heading outside to shovel more of that gravel!

Saving Summer

in a plastic bag ...

Oh yes, it can be done!

A few weeks ago I picked a bunch of tomatoes from our backyard and whipped up this tasty tomato sauce so that later, once our backyard is a wilderness of snow and I forget the smell of fresh tomato on the vine and how you can almost taste the sunlight in its rosy skin ...
... I will open this bag and welcome a little bit of summer into winter.
Here's how you can do it too!

Roasted Summer Tomato Sauce

2 lbs vine-ripened summer fresh tomatoes
1/4-1/3 cup olive oil
minced garlic (1 clove per 1/2 tomato)
fresh basil, chopped

Cut each tomato in half (across the wide way) and place cut side up in a glass baking dish
Spread 1 clove minced garlic onto each half
Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes
Sprinkle generously with S+P
Bake at 300 for 2 hours, basting juices every 20-30 minutes (I don't always baste)
Dump tomatoes and juice into a big bowl
Add fresh chopped basil (a handful; adjust to taste)
Either chop with two knives for a chunky sauce, or puree with a blender, immersion blender, or food processor for a smooth sauce

You don't really have to follow the recipe in regards to lbs of tomatoes -- just use a bunch and drizzle enough oil by what looks right, and same for the basil. But the above is the original recipe from here.

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