Here is a tour of our house.

Exterior

Street view. This hasn’t changed much since I bought the house. Expect big changes in the future. Like a living room addition and a front porch big enough for entertaining. With curb appeal. Eventually we’d like to put on a metal roof, insulate the block walls, install stucco or siding, and replace the windows. Oh yeah, this is really eventually. We have big ambitions and little money, see?

The view from the street, December 2011. The chunks of concrete are destined to be an urbanite patio for entertaining in the front yard.

West side. There used to be two windows with aluminum awnings, and mesquite trees.

This is pretty close to what the west side of the house looked like when I bought it.

In 2006, we took down the awnings and built the pergola. I planted vines for a living screen and shade. When I watered them, they either marginally survived or died, but the mesquites got really big and started growing into the overhead utility lines (and each other).

The pergola before we cut down the mesquites. Yes, this is really Arizona. Yes, it really does snow in Tucson. Sometimes. Rarely.

In 2009 we replaced the kitchen window with a door, and poured a concrete patio. We took a lot of mesquites out in 2011 and now the vines are growing and my wife isn’t sneezing. Hooray!

The west side now looks like this. It's winter, so the vines are sleeping. Shhhh!

The Back Room. This was added on sometime before I bought the house. Probably in the late 80s or early 90s. No records downtown. There are some long and crazy stories about this room and how it was built. But that’s another page another time. I added foil-faced foam insulation and siding in 2011 (eventually the rest of the house will get a similar treatment). Sometime before that I replaced the original sliding glass patio door (which was eeeevil) with a wood French door salvaged from my parents’ house. And sometime before that I added the gutters, since all the roof runoff would land in front of the door and flow into the house. Pretty sure it’s not supposed to do that. In the future we’ll be installing a new roof with a thick layer of insulation.

The Back Room, which is now our master bedroom; yeah, the fascia needs painted green. Gettin' there.

Cowboy Hot Tub: Andrea loves pools and we both enjoy a warm soak to relax. Only we couldn’t afford a real hot tub (one with jets and controls and all that), so we built our own out of a stock tank and put it on a low deck.

Cowboy Hot Tub

The whole setup cost us about as much as a used hot tub, but this one takes no electricity and uses about $4 in propane to heat each time we use it. But no bubbles unless you bring your own straw. The ocotillo fence and gate were required security measures because we were state-licensed foster parents when we built it. Presently the pool needs some repairs before we can use it again; all the plastic tubing for the filtration system disintegrated and needs replacement. Gotta love the Arizona sunshine!

The Back Yard. This is one of the reasons we love this house. For an urban lot, this yard is huge. We have a large shed and workshop, a covered patio, and a vegetable garden. After all that, there is still plenty of room for the kids to run and play. A swing set and two play houses (one wooden and really nice) were free off Craigslist and Freecycle. I built the deck for the wooden play house out of a fence panel and landscape timbers from the hardware store.

Back yard with playhouses, swing, workshop, and covered patio in background

Playhouse, which came pre-decorated. It's so fun I can't bring myself to paint it, but eventually the wood needs some UV protection or it will fall apart from sun exposure.

Veggie garden

Trees. We have lots of trees on the property. The previous owners had planted fourteen (yes, that’s fourteen) mesquite trees on a quarter-acre urban lot. They were spaced about eight feet apart. When mature, mesquites can have canopies anywhere from 40-60′ across. When I bought the house, they were young and beautiful and we had lots of shade. Ten years later and they were choking each other out, growing into the house, growing into the overhead utility lines, taking most or all of the water and sunlight from our other landscape plants, and dumping enormous quantities of pollen, leaves, pods, and sap everywhere. They grew so fast and so big I couldn’t prune them enough. (The upshot is I had a lifetime supply of firewood for myself, friends, and neighbors.) When Andrea became severely allergic to mesquite pollen, enough was enough.

Pummelo tree; the big one on the right is a mesquite, the somewhat less big one on the left is an Arizona ash, and the one directly behind the pummelo is the mission fig. The ash looks funky because the mesquite was growing into it and choking it out; I pruned the mesquite way back. When the fig gets big enough we'll remove the mesquite altogether, as it blows pollen directly into the master bedroom and is only a few feet away from the patio slab and house.

I hired a tree service to come out and they cut down most of the mesquite trees. We kept four, which happen to be the largest. But they are appropriately spaced and mostly downwind, so the pollen generally blows away from the house. I replaced the ones we removed with three citrus, a mission fig, a jujube, and two pistachios (one male and one female). All are appropriately spaced and sized for their locations. We plan to remove two more mesquites; one is in the way of our living room addition, the other we’ll remove when the fig tree is big enough to make some shade. In Arizona, shade is gold!

Interior

The Living Room. Presently serves as the entry hall, kids’ play room, dining room, living room, and home office. Yeah, when you have a small house you learn how to make one room serve lots of functions. It actually works pretty well for our family, but it makes entertaining large groups difficult. We plan to add a living room to the front of the house and make this room function more as a dining room. This will involve opening up the wall between this room and the kitchen.

The Palace of Play. It has never been so neatly organized since I put it up.

The Kitchen. We did an ambitious gut remodel before we got married. Andrea’s dad helped a lot with this one. Here I learned the value of knowing how to sweat your own pipe, especially if you are going to be the type of person to drill a hole through your water supply line at 10pm on a weekend. We did some crazy stuff in here without really knowing anything of what we were doing. I’m amazed it turned out as well as it did. It has some awkwardness in the layout, but it is a huge improvement over the original 1954 kitchen and it continues to serve our family well.

The Bathroom. We remodeled it after we got married, but before we had kids. It’s the only bathroom in the house and isn’t much bigger than a postage stamp. Our remodel involved a skimcoat of drywall, new paint and caulk, and tiling the shower, which had been a victim of a 1980s application of plastic shower liner.

Bathroom so tiny I can't even get a good picture. The tall cabinet on the wall is an upside-down Billy bookcase from Ikea.

We have since learned that white paint and toddlers don’t mix, and glossy black tile and hard water don’t mix either. The tub is the original 1954 cast iron tub, which looks nasty. So nasty I can’t post a close-up picture of it. There’s enough nasty stuff on the Internet already. It needs to be re-enameled and re-caulked. But it’s our only bathroom with four people in the house, so you can imagine how likely a bathtub redo will be anytime soon. Maybe after our master bathroom is finished. And we’ve recovered. A lot.

Ellen’s Room. Or is it a storage room? It still has boxes of stuff I put up when I renovated in July of 2010. And our bedroom furniture when we got married. Ellen doesn’t seem to mind, but it bugs me that my kid sleeps in a storage container. It just doesn’t bug me enough to put off all the other projects. Someday she’ll have her own room.

The little bedroom shortly before we had our first kid. Now it's Ellen's room and it has our original bedroom furniture and a bunch of boxes instead of a crib and rocker.

Ian’s Room. Used to be our room. I painted the mural and installed a reed ceiling as a surprise for Andrea when this was our master bedroom (she had to go out of town for the weekend). The color and the fish suit Ian well, since he likes blue and he loves to swim. Well, one of our kids has a cool room…

The original master bedroom with the original house cat.

The Back Room. Originally it was our dining room and home office, but with two kids the house was getting small fast. When Ian was a baby we had his crib back here, too.

The Back Room in its original state as a dining room and home office, here with gamers. Dude, pass the polyhedra.

By the time the summer of 2010 rolled around, Ian was ready for a big bed and couldn’t sleep back here anymore. So I sent the family to Kansas and transformed this room into our master bedroom, and converted our old bedroom to Ian’s room. The transformation meant thoroughly remodeling this room, including tearing down the entire east wall and rebuilding it. Hoo-boy!

Master bedroom before furniture.

The Master Bath and Laundry Room.Presently it is a work in progress. Someday we won’t have to haul our laundry to the shed. We won’t have to compete with two kids for use of a bathroom so small it requires multiple occupants to stack themselves atop each other. A little elbow room is nice, ya know?

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