DIY Backyard Landscaping Reveal

Jul 15, 2018

I think I've written so many times about wanting to have our backyard landscaped! We have had zero luck with contractors over the past two years. Their vision and/or pricing has not been even close to what I had in mind. My husband and I had mentioned just planting trees and shrubs ourselves, but we were still thinking it over until a few weeks later when we noticed Houston Garden Center had 50% off all their plants. They have the sale every year and even discount them to 75% off in August. This sale is also how we landscaped our last backyard for cheap. It's not exactly ideal timing with the Houston heat, but if you're willing to sweat you can save big. We decided we were ready to sweat!

When we built our pool a couple of years ago we added the Italian cypress trees behind the pool wall within a few months. They were a little thin and short at the time, but they have grown so much the past two years. The new landscaping is all along the fence line in the back. I'm hoping in the next year or two the plants will grow a couple of feet taller and wider so you don't even see the fence.

We only addressed half the yard, from behind the hot tub to the side gate by the front of the house. It's the main area you see when you walk outside. I'm hoping we will landscape the other half next summer. I'm already going to start planning it out to get a head start!

This is the starting point. I'll take you you on a little tour all the way to the side gate.

We used Japanese blueberries and magnolia trees where we will eventually need privacy on the side fence (directly in front of you in the below photo). Hopefully, it will be a couple of years before the lot is sold and the house built so they have time to get big. The area to the left (the fence behind the pool) will never have neighbors on that side so we used wax myrtles that will just cover the fence. I also added Texas sage that's a bit lighter in leaf color to add a bit of variation. It has a pretty purple flower that blooms in the spring and summer too. 

I like how the new flowerbed creates a little walking path in the back. We also added solar lights to the beds. They are only $10 each and it's so nice not to have to worry about using timers and electricity. It's also a no-brainer to install. You just stick it in the ground and switch it on. There's no lines to bury at all. My husband says he would eventually like to get real lights, but I think these are fine. They are bright enough and last all night.

The view from behind the cypress trees.

The side fences-The one with the magnolias is one side fence on the unbuilt lot. Their house will back up to the corner of our house on this small section. The one with the cypress trees is the second side fence.

The other side fence. It's a strange shaped backyard with two neighbors on one side. Here's a close-up of the Japanese blueberries that will eventually reach 30 feet tall. They are about five feet tall right now. I'm hoping next year they will cover the fence. Then we start a line of cypress trees. These are what ours looked like when we planted the ones behind the pool wall. It's amazing how big they get! I'm not quite sure if these are going to stay. We were honestly out of options because we needed something big, but didn't want to buy too many of the same plants. They may end up being transplanted to the other side of the yard next year.

I absolutely love these holly trees! I kind of wish we had continued these down the fence line, but they were a little pricey. If they're still available next month at 75% off I may buy several more. I love that they almost cover our neighbor's house. It's so nice to look out the dining room window and see greenery instead of fence and a house so close by. They still need to get a bit taller and grow wider, but it's already a huge improvement.

The small shrub with the roses and vincas around it were my idea of a divider between the holly and cypress trees. I'm not so sure that worked out so great in reality! I'm thinking of curving the bed a little more so it's not such a half circle. If I copy it on the other side against the house I'm hoping it may look like the grass is in an oval shape.

I still haven't planted anything against the house yet. I'm not sure if I'm up to it this year!

This is just a first layer. I'd like to tweak and add more in front of the large trees and shrubs. I decided to get the big stuff in first so we can add privacy from the side neighbors and cover the unattractive fence.

To recap, here is the before.




It was so worth it to DIY our backyard landscaping. We saved so much money that instead of landscaping one small section we were able to do half the yard. How much did we save? The quote we received for the same landscaping area was $35,000 and we spent $3,000. No joke! Half our budget went to hiring someone to shape the beds and mulch it. We could have saved several hundred more, but we wanted to have it completed in time for our 4th of July party. We decided we were on a roll so we installed a new outdoor speaker system for the patio and saved 70% there. It was already pre-wired so it really wasn't difficult at all.

What's in store for next year? I mentioned I'd like to landscape the other side of the yard and it's what I'm most excited about. I'm going to create a formal garden! It's something that I've always wanted. I'm a little nervous because it's so different from anything I've ever done. At least the yard on that side is less challenging because there aren't privacy issues or weird lot angles to disguise. I've got a year to draw it out instead of just grabbing what was on hand at the garden center with no plan!


Fourth of July Pool Party 2018

Jul 5, 2018

I can't believe we've been having our annual July 4th pool party for five years! We started it the year after we put in our pool at the last house. Everyone had so much fun at the first party that they asked if we were going to have it the next year. It ended up snowballing into an annual event!

Earlier this year we installed the terrace pillars and railing. It also ended up being the perfect spot to add bunting.

This green sweet potato vine had choked my pink petunias I planted earlier this summer so I added red vincas a few days before the party. When I was digging in the pots I noticed there were actual sweet potatoes under the dirt about the size of a golf ball. I guess that's why they call it a sweet potato vine! I also added small American flags to each pot. I just love how festive it turned out!

Here is the biggest change! We added landscaping to the back yard along the fence line. We started behind the hot tub and went all the way around the pool and up the side of the house. It's kind of hard to see anything but mulch in this photo. I will show you more as soon as I take pictures. It was nice we were able to finish just two days before the party. We also installed a drip system for the potted plants, added more landscaping and patio lights, and put in a new outdoor speaker system. We were able to DIY everything so we could have everything on our wish list. We spent an absurdly small amount of money for everything. I will go over those details in my next post in case you are also wanting to make exterior updates. There's still a bit more to add and tweak, but it's basically done. Our backyard has come a really long way from last year!

A quick family photo before the party started.

Thankfully, I have one friend that always remembers to take a photo during a party! She also has a home decor Instagram account. Follow Leigh @ourwoodforesthome.

I've been reflecting back this year on how my kids and my friends' kids have grown up over the past five years. They were so little back then, and now most of them are tweens and teens! I'm also thankful to have such great people in my life for so many years. I love their company and watching their kids grow up with mine. I hope they have fun memories of going to the Clark house for the 4th of July when they get older!

Beach Trip: Cabo San Lucas

Jun 28, 2018

We just got back last weekend from a fun trip to Cabo! My husband and I went for our friends' wedding. It was our first time there, but we have been to Cancun and Cozumel. It is a bit different with the desert landscape, dark blue Pacific water, gusty winds and really intense waves. The biggest surprise is that it was cool at night. I didn't bring one long-sleeved top since I thought it was going to be hot and humid. The weather is more similar to the California coastline, which makes sense considering the location. We stayed at Pueblo Bonita Pacifica and it was wonderful. The only downside is you can't get in the ocean because the waves are too big and there's a dangerous undertow. However, you can get in the ocean if you stay on the calmer bayside of Cabo. It wasn't quite hot enough to get in the water anyway. It was a rare sight to even see anyone in the pool! The weather was comfortable enough to sit on pool loungers in a swimsuit. That's such a change from our usual beach vacation.

I love a comfortable sundress for traveling. It can be tricky to wear them with a plunging back and/or neckline so I wear mine with a tube top underneath. I've linked a similar one at the bottom of the post.

I love a good swimsuit cover-up that can double as a dress. It's especially important at a beach resort when you may be walking into restaurants and having lunch pool side. I always make sure I have a maxi dress with me too in case I get too much sun on my legs.

I never thought I'd wear a crop top, but I fell in love with this cover-up when I tried it on. It's the beach anyway, right?! I love the high waist, too.

It felt like we were back in Capri on this sunset cruise! If you go to Cabo don't miss it. We were actually freezing on this boat ride. It was already cool so we texted our group and let them know we were planning to bring our hotel robes. Our Houston crowd didn't bring anything with sleeves either. There were 18 of us wearing white hotel robes. I'm sure we looked like we were part of a weird cult! We did take them off for photos, but I kind of wish we had gotten one with them on now. I had brought a maxi dress because I knew it would be windy, but it came in handy with the cooler weather too.

Dressed up for the wedding! I have wanted this Lilly Pulitzer dress forever and finally bought it a few months ago. It gets updated every year and comes in different colors too. I've linked this exact one from Ebay and Amazon to get you almost every size. 


Summer Kitchen Vignette

Jun 15, 2018

I'm all about summer color in my home this year. I have no idea why, but I needed it asap once the thought entered my head! The easiest and most inexpensive way to make a change is by creating a vignette on a tabletop, mantel or kitchen counter with fresh florals. I decided a new arrangement on my counter would be the most visible spot since I'm always in the kitchen. Except for the green milk glass I found at Target and just had to have, everything else is what I had on hand. The best part is I can easily change the florals and/or fruit to create a completely different look. Hot pink orchids and lemons for a tropical look? Pale pink roses and macaroons for a romantic look? There are so many possibilities!

I'm also working on a couple of other summer vignettes around the house this weekend. You can see my latest projects on Instagram!

California Dreamin'

Jun 7, 2018

I am back from our week long family trip to California! We decided to do a multi-city trip to please everyone in the family-golf in Palm Springs, basketball on Venice Beach and fancy resorts with beautiful ocean views. Guess who picked the last one? If you guessed me you would be right! We were all excited about the cooler weather since the Texas heat hit us hard at the end of May.

We started the first leg of the trip in Palm Springs. Well, it was actually Palm Desert. It was difficult to find a hotel to fit all of us, but we finally found a two bedroom suite. We stayed at the Renaissance Indian Wells. It is so pretty! 

Image result for indian wells renaissance hotel

The property is huge and there's so much to do there. The best part is our suite was enormous! We had a huge living room, dining room, three queen beds, two bathrooms, two kitchenettes and three balconies. I also liked that this was a large resort with a lot to do on property. My husband and older son took the SUV we rented to the golf course the only full day we had there so we needed restaurants and activities to keep us busy. We only stayed two nights because I wasn't sure there was enough for us to do there, but I wanted to experience it and maybe come back later if we liked it. 

The first thing I did was hit the pool! Only Aidan, my youngest son, wanted to go swimming since the other two were tired from the two hour drive. 

We didn't stay long because it was getting late and everyone is was getting hungry for dinner. We decided to eat at a restaurant on property since we were all a little tired. The minute we walked out to the pool after dinner the boys "came alive." The movie screen was set up and and they all wanted to stay and go swimming. My husband and I were zombies at that point so we promised we'd go the next day.

My husband and oldest son woke up really early to go play golf the next day while the rest of us slept in. We were stuck without a car so I ordered room service for the kids. It was pricey, but I did get a kick out of seeing them have room service for the first time. Ryan, my 12 year old, actually requested it. You would have thought it was a normal occurrence by their nonchalant reaction of being brought breakfast.

Ryan loving hotel life in his robe!

We made it back out to the pool for a couple of hours until lunch. We were walking back to the room and Aidan ran ahead of us. We turned a corner to see him waiting for us like this!

After lunch at a Triple D restaurant (Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on The Food Network), we checked out Palm Springs. Honestly, I was disappointed in Palm Springs. It wasn't what I expected based on the photos of The Parker Hotel and the mid-century modern architecture. It was rundown, but that's okay because I loved Palm Desert where our hotel was located. I am glad we only stayed two nights there because there wasn't anything except the pool that interested my younger boys, and they get bored with it fast since we swim so much at home. They loved eating out at the restaurants though! I tried to find kid friendly places, but the only one I would recommend is Eureka! because even if it is burgers and tacos it is really good. I doubt we'll all go back to Palm Desert as a family, but I know my oldest son and husband would love to go back and play golf.

The next day we were headed to Newport Beach! I decided I wanted to go to Newport because one of my favorite TV shows is Behind the Gates on AWE. So many of the homes they feature are in the area. I knew the views and weather would be amazing. I chose Newport over the other local towns because I found the most amazing hotel. I knew it by looking at the website, but once we drove up to Pelican Hill Resort my jaw literally dropped.

The Resort at Pelican Hill - Newport Beach

My kids took one look around the valet area when we drove up with the fancy cars and asked if we could really afford to stay there. I kind of had the same thought with McLarens and antique Rolls Royces parked next to us. I did get a really, really good deal there. It normally is very pricey, but the rates at that time plus a night free special made it very affordable. We really just got lucky. I didn't mention this on my Instagram stories when doing a room tour, but they also include a butler when you rent a villa. I wasn't exactly sure what to do with a butler. He even called at one point to ask how we were because he hadn't heard from us. We finally felt like we had to give him something to do so we had him make our dinner reservations.

We got there early and our room wasn't ready, but we got to check out the villa clubhouse and pool. I love the decor!

We took a hotel shuttle to Crystal Cove Beach to wait for a call about our room. Crystal Cove! I hear about it on Behind the Gates all the time. The shuttle driver had bags for all the guests with beach towels and bottled waters, which was perfect since our beach gear was packed up in the car.

So Baywatch right here!

So...biblical here? Ha!

Now this is where the butler came in handy. The hotel called and said our room was ready while we were at the beach. Instead of taking the shuttle our butler offered to come pick us up and take us to the villa. No check-in either!

The Villa

Can I just live here? Our view of the ocean was blocked by trees unless I stood on the chaise lounge, which I did of course. We had a living room, dining room, full kitchen, two bedrooms and three bathrooms. It even had a foyer!

 Villa Plan 2

The butler sent up a nice cheese, bread and fruit platter that evening. The kids have since rediscovered fruit.

It got cool that night so we took full advantage of the fireplace.

We explored the area the next day-Dana Point and Laguna Beach. We even drove down to La Jolla in San Diego for lunch since it was only an hour away when we were in Dana Point. The boys were not happy driving around so we kept that short. We went to Laguna Beach so Ryan could play basketball and Aidan could go to the beach. It was cool and gray, but that didn't stop them! We all had such a good time. We met a local and chatted while Ryan and his son played basketball together.

The next day we were supposed to go to Catalina Island, but it was another cool and gray day. Our only indoor activity was to go to Griffith Observatory in LA. We were up early already so we decided to drive there instead. We ended up getting there way too early because it wasn't open until noon, and actually never ended up making there. We spent forever in traffic finding a restaurant and then the boys decided they wanted to stop in Hollywood. They don't know many celebrities, but they liked how exciting the area seemed. It turns out Jimmy Kimmel was about to start filming. Sandra Bullock and Kobe Bryant were the guests. You already know I have a son obsessed with basketball so I felt terrible I didn't get tickets ahead of time. At least we took this picture outside the set!

I thought it was cool how the Hollywood sign can be viewed here.

The restaurant was in Beverly Hills and my husband made sure to walk me by my favorite spot from a trip years ago. They had the display on the street so I had to get the boys to take a picture.

I have to tell you the funniest story! We were leaving the parking garage next to The Jimmy Kimmel show right before they started filming. The parking garage attendant directed us toward the alley between the garage and show building. I guess this is where celebrities get dropped off because there was a crowd of people on both sides of our SUV waiting, which happened to be a large and black. I looked up and these people had these ecstatic expressions. Some were even recording us on their phones. My husband started dying laughing because he realized they thought we had a celebrity in the back of our SUV. The boys were dying laughing too! My husband asked me if we should stop the car and let our older son out and see if they thought he was a celebrity. I said no, but it would have been funny! I have to say that if celebrities get that kind of attention it's pretty cool. These people were seriously thrilled to see us!

Thankfully, the next day was sunny and warm! I think this was my favorite day. We stayed in the Newport area because we were DONE with the traffic. We went to Balboa Island. It is so adorable! The beach, homes, shops, and restaurants are picture perfect!

The boys rode on the Ferris wheel at the pier after lunch. Dylan being the big brother he is had to rock it to scare his younger brothers.

I think this was a day we all had fun together as a family. Maybe it was the sunshine or the view? I don't know, but it was a good day. We ended it with a nice dinner that ended up being my favorite place of the trip.

Javier's-Not everyone liked their food, but it didn't go to waste!

The decor was beautiful. I love these lanterns!

The next day was our last full day so we decided to check out the hotel pool. You can see the golf course and the ocean in the background here. What an amazing view! Even though the pool in Palm Desert was nice it was so crowded that we couldn't relax. This was so calm and almost spa-like in contrast. I would pretty much curl into a ball if I were at one of those crowded pools in Las Vegas. Just the photos of that many people makes my anxiety spike!

We left after a couple of hours to get ready for a date night. We ordered the boys room service for the second time. It was outrageous, but I consoled myself by reminding myself it was vacation. We made reservations at the Italian restaurant at the resort. The best part was the view.

I was sad to check out the next day! Here are some other cool things from our trip.

The Quiet Woman-I was just sitting in traffic and looked to my left and noticed it. If you are a Real Housewives of Orange County fan you will know the significance of this restaurant. This is where a fight (verbal) went down between Kelly and Shannon. My kids wanted to know about it so they looked it up on Youtube and got a big laugh out of it.

I also found my dream house! It has an amazing ocean view too!

We were headed to Santa Monica next for our last night. This was the boys absolute favorite day! They loved the beach and the rides at the pier.

We let the older boys go on the rides while we had lunch at Shutters nearby. My little guy isn't a fan of rides, which worked out since he's still a little young to go even with his teenaged brother watching him.

After lunch my husband went to follow the older boys around and I took Aidan to the beach. They met us after a while and all went in the water...until I saw a fin not far from the boys. I freaked out! We kept seeing fin after fin even if not at the same time so it was probably a pack of dolphins, but they were way too close for comfort!

The weather was perfect. It was warm enough to sit on the beach, but we weren't sweating either.

We still had all afternoon to kill so we decided to head to the Venice canals. I have always wanted to check them out. My older two boys stayed behind at the hotel, but that was probably a good thing because I can't see them enjoying it.

We didn't stay long, but it was nice to see. That night we had dinner by the pier and the boys rode a few more rides. Aidan even decided to get on one of the smaller rides!

The next day we were leaving, but we had the most important stop to make. Ryan had to check off playing basketball on Venice Beach off his bucket list. He's been talking about it for years! We heard it gets kind of crazy so our plan was to wake up at 6am and take him there. I didn't sleep that night (random insomnia) so I stayed behind to get rest while my husband took him. They were the only ones there so he had the court to himself!

I am so sad I wasn't there, but I am so happy we could do this for him! It was the main reason we chose to go to California. I can't wait to blow this photo up and hang it in his room!

I hope you enjoyed my California trip report!