Monday, May 31, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Super Mario Birthday Party

E's Birthday Party was a huge success. The kids had a lot of fun as did the birthday boy. We started out with the Mario invitation that I designed and had printed.

Once at the party, the kids jumped into the pool immediately. They had a fabulous time swimming and splashing around.

After swimming, it was time for a snack.

Boys received a Mario Cap while girls received a Princess Peach Crown. I had sewn enough so that if the kids wanted a different hat, there would be enough, but no one complained. You can go here to read more about the caps I made.

The caps and crowns were a big hit!

The kids loved wearing them and were excited to take them home.

After a quick meal, the kids enjoyed a game of Mario or two, another game I had spent hours making.

We used gummy bears to mark the cards. It was perfect because they stuck to the cards. With winds at 18mph, the kids cards remained in tacked.

After a few games of Mario, the kids enjoyed Yoshi's Egg hunt. I made the sign and stuffed the eggs with candy and chocolate coins.

The kids were given green buckets which were to resemble the pipes in the Super Mario games. I added some name tags so the kids can identify their buckets from each other.

After receiving their buckets, kids ran quickly to retrieve their eggs.

Immediately afterward, the kids had to examine their eggs.

It was now time for cupcakes. E helped me prepare the cupcakes with the toppers I made. We wanted to have it ready before the party, but the winds were so heavy, we were afraid, it would get knocked over. Learn how to make the cupcake stand here.

Happy Birthday E!!!

E with his green mustache.

While they munched on their cupcakes, the kids enjoyed their scratch cards. I had made these scratch cards weeks prior, but waited for a head count before adding the scratch stickers to the cards in order to conceal the winning card. I wanted to make sure we had two winners. The kids chose their cards based on their favorite character.

...and the the winners were:

After cupcakes, we ended the party with some water balloons.

I had designed, printed and folded these question mark boxes filled with chocolate coins, but in the hustle and bustle of things, I forgot to hand them out. oops!

At the end of the day, it didn't matter. The kids had a fantastic time and made great memories. Hearing several kids mention this was the best birthday party ever made all the hard work in preparing for this party well worth it.

Happy Birthday E! I hope you had a wonderful day.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Pool Process - Completion!


We decided we wanted to build a pool when we built our house. When our house builder said they would not do this due to warranty, we decided we would wait a little while before taking the plunge.

Three years later, we finally decided to move forward with the project. This is what our backyard started with. It was plain jane. We didn't plant anything because we knew the pool equipment would destroy it. When we built our house, we paid for extra decking which we had to rip out at an additional cost. This was our backyard.

There once was just a playset (or two):
We started gathering pool pictures that we liked and focused on a list of must-haves. We dreamt of what we wanted and had the pool builders come up with the best design to capture it all. Our main focus was we wanted a raised spa, a tanning ledge, a grotto water-slide and we wanted it to look as natural as possible. This all occurred during the design phase. Read more about the design here.

DESIGN PHASEThis is what they came up with. Once we signed off on the design, we requested all the necessary pool permits, including electrical, city, and HOA permits. Less than 2 weeks later, we were ready to get started. However, mother nature was not so ready. Rain delayed the excavation for a week.


Excavation took an entire day. They started at 9:30 A.M. and didn't leave until 6:00 P.M. Read more about the excavation or the "big dig" here. Immediately to follow the next day was adding steel.

I thought this process was going to take a long time, but within 3-4 hours they were done reinforcing the pool with steel. To read more about steel, click here. After steel came the plumbing and electrical installation.

I wasn't home for this process so I don't know when they started and how long it took. It was done by the time I got home from work. To see more pictures, click here. We had an inspection the following day which we passed. This lead the way for gunite.

They sprayed gunite over the steel and this is what we ended up with 4 hours later. To read more about the gunite process, click here. The first four steps took less than a week to accomplish. It took longer to come up with the design. Technically, if we didn't have rain, it would have only taken 5 days. After waiting about 10 days for the gunite to cure, the next step was installing the pool equipment and finishing the plumbing.


They dug trenches around the pool to lay the plumbing. They had already laid the foundation for the pool equipment when they sprayed the gunite. It was just a matter of connecting everything now. After everything was connected, we had to make our selections for our stone and tile. Read more about that here.


They spent four days cutting and placing stone around our spa and to create our grotto water slide. There was a long delay for our tile. It was not available and we waited weeks for it to come in. To read more about our stone work, click here. Once the stone and tile work were nearly complete, they laid rebar to install the decking.


We decided to retile the slide. We originally went with a more slick tile because we thought it would be smoother for the kids, but after we saw our waterline tiles and discovered that it was just the same as our slide tiles, we knew we wanted to change it out. It also gave a more natural look to the pool. The original tile made the slide stand out and we wanted it to blend in so we decided we would have them redo the entire slide. We love how it turned out. To read more, click here.


I was excited about the decking. Our backyard looked horrible with all the trenches and when it rained, mud splattered everywhere. Decking cleaned up the better part of our yard and added an ample amount of space for patio furniture. Decking was a two day task, laying rebar first and then pouring concrete next. Aggregate was laid on top of the concrete and then smooth to finish. To read more, click here.


With decking done, the sprinklers around the pool could be installed. For the pool landscaping we decided we did not want any plants that would shed leaves into the pool. We stuck with 2 kinds of palms, Indian Hawthorne shrubs, ornamental grasses and a few yaupon hollies. All of these plants are drought tolerant and can withstand the pool's salt water. To read more, click here, here, and here.

One of the last steps to the pool installation process is spraying on the pool finish.


We decided to finish the pool with an exposed aggregate instead of the standard white plaster. I wanted the pool to look as natural as possible, more of a lagoonish feel. White plaster was not going to make that statement. I chose the darkest pool surface that was available to create the natural looking pool. After they sprayed the pool finishing, they added the water. The picture above shows the color right after the application. It is much darker now. To read more, go here. After getting the chemical balance correct, our pool was ready for us to take a swim. Here is the finished product of our dream pool.


From the time we signed the paperwork to the time they added water to our pool, it took about 2.5 months. Adding another 2 weeks to chemically balance our pool took us to the 3 month mark before we were able to actually take a swim. During that time, we decided to tackle the landscaping for the rest of the yard.

We started with none, knowing that we were going to build a pool one day. We ended up planting many different trees and shrubs. Read more about the landscaping here. I tried to create a tropical feel around the pool and a zen-like atmosphere everywhere else. Trying to cut costs down, we tackled the entire landscaping project on our own. I built a bed purely using my imagination and google and this project was no exception. We contemplated building the pool ourselves, but I am happy to say we left it to the professionals.

Taking a look at the over all appearance of our outdoor space now, I am super pleased. I have no green thumb, but ended up with a very serene place for us to sit and enjoy morning breakfast, an afternoon swim, or just an evening conversation. Many hours of hard work was poured into this project, but all well worth it.

Before and after pictures:

That concludes my 4 month pool project. As the summer heat approaches, I look forward to moving back inside and tackling the numerous projects that have been waiting for me.

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