After 17 or so years of working on my backyard I think I’m finally happy.  Not with the backyard you understand, just happy in general. Which makes me far more tolerant of the things in my backyard which make me nuts.  Like the lack of storage, my possibly dying maple tree and the hellish mosquitos that have not only bit me, but bit my feet while resting on either side of a massive, potted citronella plant. Having said that, as the saying goes, this is the closest to being happy with my backyard as I’ve ever been.  There’s one more thing that would really make my backyard happiness complete and I’ll get into that later in the post.



I’m just going to tour you through these photos as if I’m actually touring you through my backyard.  K?  We’re going sort of casual today ’cause it’s a summer Monday and no one has the energy for anything else.  I.  Don’t have the energy for anything else, lol.

So here I am in my Restoration Hardware hacked chair pretending to read a book.  It’s a great book actually and I have read it, but I’m not really reading it here.  I’m pretending to read it.  It’s a fantastic floral design book called The Flower Recipe Book.  Very looks, Brooklyn style arrangements.  I also have The Plant Recipe Book which is similar but with plants as opposed to flowers.  Both are on sale now.


Last year I had my Restoration Hardware Furniture Hack beside the pizza oven which I LOVED because it was so cozy, but when I had pizza I had to walk it over to the other side of the backyard to slide it onto the table.  It didn’t make sense.  In the winter when I had my 8 cords of wood delivered I had to move the furniture from around the pizza oven to make room for wood stacking.  At the time my sister helped me drag the furniture over to where the dining table was and in the spring I decided it would make more sense to just leave it there and put the table by the pizza oven.


Still the best thing I’ve ever done for my backyard was build the pizza oven. It not only saved me a TON of money (like thousands) by building it myself, it’s created a reason for me to be outside and a reason for people to come over.  EVERYONE who comes wants to come over for pizza.  Everyone.  If you want to build your own pizza oven for about $100, start here.

My outdoor dining table and chairs were from Ikea and they feel like regular furniture which is what I like about them.  It’s nice to have something outside that you like enough you could have it inside.  I mean, I wouldn’t but … I could.


Those ice-cubes are fake.  For real.  They’re plastic ice cubes.  If you shoot anything outside in the summer your ice-cubes are gonna melt quick-like.  Buy fake ones and they’ll never melt.


You know those sales racks they have right at the check out in stores? That’s where I found this speaker.  I wouldn’t say it’s the loudest speaker I’ve ever owned but it’s great for the backyard because it’s bluetooth, has a rechargeable battery so I can set it down anywhere without plugging it in and it’s waterproof  .  It’s called a Cornerstone if you want one.  You can also get two and they’ll pair to each other and create stereo sound.  Get ’em here if you’re in the States. If you’re in Canada, the only place I can find that carries them is The Source.


The light fixture you see hanging in the picture below is a prototype I made using corrugated plastic.  I based it on a cardboard light I got at Ikea that obviously wasn’t going to stand up to the elements outside.  Although, like an idiot I did try.  It’s made by cutting the plastic into shapes and then scoring it so it bends. It worked well but I need to make another one that’s a tad neater.  I’ll never do it.  But let’s pretend.


Some time last winter I bought the fire table that sits between my chair and sectional.  The manufacturer was coming out with new styles and Rona was selling off all the old stock for almost free. I think this was about $180 regular price around $1,000.  For now I have it hooked up to a propane tank. Once I’m sure I’ve completely committed to having the sectional in this area of the yard I’ll have a gas line permanently run to it.

Hey! There’s that book I’m pretending to read hanging over the arm of the sectional.  I really commit to my lies.


I know and I understand that I’ve been saying for almost a year now that I’ll be doing a post on how I built my Restoration Hardware furniture.  I have not yet done that.  Here’s the thing.  I don’t use plans, I don’t even know how to read them. I just build stuff.  I make it to fit me and my yard or house.  So when people ask me how wide or deep the chair is I can tell them, but that’s been built for me.  Not someone who is 6′ tall.  That’s half the advantage to building your own furniture, you can make it the size that feels right to you.

I haven’t abandoned the idea of writing up a post on the basics of how to do this furniture but it’s definitely something I keep putting off.  Sorry about that.


I do have  the posts I did last year that show you how to hack up the arms to make them look worn, another post on how to use a natural stain to make the wood look aged, and another post on how to build the arms. If you haven’t done any of that, those posts will get you started.


The fish are really easy to take care of  until they get a weird disease that eats their flesh to the point that you can see their internal organs. Then it’s a real shitshow.   If you haven’t read my post on how I treated my fish that had gaping holes in their sides you really should just for the before and after photos.  Big. Gaping. Holes.  You could see their insides!

Most of you know the story behind THAT chair.  For those of you who don’t, read all about it.  It’s the reason the word fiasco was invented.


Yeah.  I still have them. And they’re still cute.

Before I let you go we’re going to take a nighttime tour, if you have time for that.  Come on in the back gate …





Can you imagine this backyard at night without the lights?  Probably not.  Or else you could but it wouldn’t be nearly as nice or, more importantly, useful.  I can go in my backyard any night and do anything I could do in the day.  I can see well enough to BBQ, eat or read if I want to.  Mainly I watch the Blue Jays on my laptop.

Remember at the beginning of this post I said there was one thing that would make my backyard closer to perfect? It’s a pergola.  A big, modern pergola with straight lines, stained black off the back of my house.  It hasn’t happened yet but I’m leaning in that direction.   Leaning very hard.  I wouldn’t hire anyone to do it.  That’d just be stupid.  But I won’t build it myself either.  That’d be just stupid.

I’ll hopefully be able to convince a few friends to help me and maybe they’ll have some friends and so on.  I pay in pizza.  That might not seem like enough but I use really, really expensive cheese.

I’ve never used my backyard as much as I have this year.  I started out by making an actual point of sitting in it every, single morning.  As soon as I wake up I grab my laptop, a coffee and head out back to go through my emails.  I’ve written this entire post and Photoshopped all of the pictures while … in my backyard.

It isn’t perfect but it’s almost perfect and for the moment that’s good enough for me.

HAHAHAHAHAHA.  Just kidding.  It’s not good enough at all.  I need to erect that effing pergola. I’d better start making a lot of dough.

Pizza dough.



  1. Is that AstroTurf under your dining table and did you install it yourself? I’m attempting to build a “puppy rest area” off to one corner and it gives a whole new look to my courtyard which previously had no grass. ( I now realize I needed the grass to break up the “busy-ness” of my various beds, potted plants, and garden art. (Thinking of adding another area for unruly men,)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Emily. It is astroturf but it’s just a rug laid down. I had my favourite HUGE old maple tree removed from my backyard last year and this summer I planted grass in the 6×6 area for the new puppy. But it’s already a disaster so in the spring I’m going to lay astroturf. Dig up 6″ or so, lay down rocky gravel, tamp it, lay the astroturf, then brush sand into it to make the astroturf stand up like real grass. ~ karen!

  2. Sammy says:

    So pretty at night! I didn’t know there was such a thing as a pizza oven for the outside. Sounds fun though.

  3. Patti says:

    I love, love, love it all, Karen! And I have a question!

    I noticed that in one photo it shows you have some succulents out on your patio. Do you bring those in every time it rains? I’ve made a centerpiece of succulents which I bring in nightly in the event of rain, but I was wondering whether you’ve found a variety which will happily live outdoors. Also, I saw you had a boston fern outside – same question goes for that!

    And lastly, where on earth did you find that amazing pot for your succulents, AND for your basil? I have been looking everywhere, but every pot I find which I really, really like turns out to have plastic succulents glued into it, and that makes me mad.

    It looks amazing! Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hey Patti! When I pull the tarp over my outdoor furniture when it’s going to rain the succulents get covered up! But they should be fine outside as long as they have really great drainage. And boston ferns LOVE it outside. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. They just need to be in the shade or at least only partial sun. ~ karen!

  4. Elen G says:

    Oh, the night shots. Magical.

  5. karin sorensen says:

    Your backyard is out of this world. What a stunning, serene space you’ve created! I’m in continuous awe of you, you da bomb! But I must asked again, how do you get anything done? :0B I would simply sit quietly in your backyard for hours – no days and watch the light change, oooohing and aaaahing about the lighting at night and be content AF, ‘cuse my French.

    Amazing and such an inspiration you are.


  6. Stephbo says:

    I have serious back yard envy. Ours could be nice, but the mosquitos make it pretty much unusable.

    And for the record, I would be quite content to help you build the pergola in exchange for pizza. You’d just need to give me a place to sleep and plenty of notice so I can book my flight. 😉

  7. jess says:

    WOOOOOW!! I have seen a lot of pictures of your backyard. And always enjoyed. But I am extra enjoying these nighttime shots!

    And thank you for saying it took 17 years. We are 7 years into our backyard. Gives me a good decade to catch up ;)

  8. Deb says:


    Backyard is gorgeous. Furniture insanely good.

    Off the subject question: what happened to your baby chicks? I ask because one of my birds recently hatched 6 (yay!) and I am waiting to see if they all turn out to be roosters. (Yes, I read your sexing post and it was very helpful, but I figured knowing whether they were males at one week wasn’t going to be of any use because what was I going to do, drown the adorable little things? So I figured I’d wait until the crowing started, at which point I would no longer be able to avoid the issue of what to do with them.) So far, I think two are probably roosters.

    Anyway, I’m wondering if yours are still around and laying or if you did something else –eek — with them. Also wondering what your plans are for the original girls when they stop laying. I have found that there is a guy in these parts (nameless, faceless, and really, what sort of person does this for a living) who travels around and picks up one’s old birds and hauls them off. Reportedly, he evens pays you a few bucks for each bird. Weird, but I am thinking it’s better than staging a mass slaughter which, farm girl that I aspire to be, I really haven’t the desire for.

    Perhaps you could post an update on the current bird population at your place one of these days?

    In the meantime, we had your bruschetta again last night and while no one wept exactly, there were a lot of sighs and very little conversation other than yummy noises. So thanks for that!

  9. Mo says:

    Beautiful Karen. When are you having us over?

  10. Lohi Karhu says:

    Karen, nice photography! I make the not-so-outrageous presumption that you do your own…

    How/where did you learn photographic skills, and, more important, “vision”?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lohi! Funny you should mention the photos because this backyard was especially difficult to photograph. Photography is kind of like writing. You get better by doing it every day. I’ve taken a few 9 week photography courses at my local art school as well as a Photoshop course over the past few years. I also took a private lesson from a professional lifestyle photographer. But most importantly, like I said … I take photos every day. As far as vision goes, everyone gets their own style. It just sort of appears over time. :) ~ karen!

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