Sunday, July 2, 2017

Our Big Outdoor Home Improvement Project

Woohoo! It’s done! It’s done! It’s donnnneeeee!

Remember how I mentioned that Mal and I “supposedly” weren’t buying each other presents for our birthdays, Mother’s/Father’s Day, and wedding anniversary because we were spending a lot of money on an upcoming home improvement project? Well, it’s finally done, and it was worth every penny. We couldn’t be more thrilled with the end result!

And, of course, a project with all sorts of awesome construction equipment was a huge hit with a 3 year old.


Qman was in heaven watching the crew from Mento Landscape work – hours of entertainment!


A little background on this project: When we bought our house, we knew that the retaining walls outside needed to be replaced at some point or another. They were pulling away from the house and a decent-size gap was forming. One of our contractor friends said they could stay up for another few years or maybe ten – it was hard to know for sure. Even still, it was a project that we wanted to tackle sooner or later because, honestly, they were just kind of ugly.


Additionally, our walkway and driveway were starting to fall apart with all sorts of cracks and bumps, so we figured we might as well go all in and get everything done at once, which, of course, was not a small feat in anyway. We started saving money as soon as we moved into our house, and we finally decide to get estimates from potential contractors this past spring.

We had three potential landscapers (all recommended by friends) give us estimates on the work that we wanted done: 1) replace retaining walls, 2) fix stone walls at front and back of house, 3) replace walkway, 4) give front stairs a face lift, 5) replace stones that line driveway, and 6) repave driveway. Obviously, this was a big undertaking and, boy, did the estimates reflect that. Yikes. I nearly had a heart attack seeing them. The estimates also varied greatly with regard to what was included and how much each part cost. We actually asked that the estimates be broken down just in case we needed to pick and chose what should be done now and what could wait. Plus, one of the landscapers didn’t pave driveways, so we needed to factor in that extra cost if we were to go with him. In the end, Mento’s estimate was by far the best value for the money (and they provided everything we wanted). In fact, their estimate included everything that we wanted for nearly $8,000 less than another quote that we received! Basically, it was a no-brainer. We signed the agreement and started to finalize the details on our big outdoor project.

When it came to selecting the design details for the walls, walkway, and front stairs, Mal and I headed to Mento’s showroom in Braintree to make some decisions. We figured seeing things in person was the best way to decide. While there, we chatted with John Mento, the owner, who took us around the showroom and explained the different options. I actually shared some images of potential stone choices and patterns on Instagram Stories to see if my followers had any feedback and received some great feedback. Thanks for the help, guys! 🙂 Mal and I eventually finalized our decisions and then hit the road to celebrate with a couple of cocktails since it was happy hour and all! 🙂

On the drive, Mal received a call from John. It turns out his son (and his wife) are regular CNC readers and recognized us at the showroom. Mento, as a business, is looking to grow their social media presence, so he immediately inquired about a potential partnership and suggested a discount in exchange for coverage on CNC. I was already planning to blog about our big ol’ outdoor project because it’s something we’ve wanted to do for years now and we’re obviously really excited about it, so it sounded like a win-win for everyone!

A few weeks later, it was go time and the Mento crew arrived at our house, bright and early, ready to tackle our project. Rodrigo Silva and his team worked so hard and put in some seriously lonnnnggg days, often working well into the early evening and even in the pouring rain. They were really efficient and, less than a week later, our outdoor space was completely transformed!









And, finally, here are the BEFORE and AFTER photos, which say it all! 🙂

BEFORE (retaining walls on either side of garage):






BEFORE (right side retaining wall):



BEFORE (left side retaining wall + stonewall):




SAM_3963 (1280x853)


BEFORE (wall lining driveway):




BEFORE (front stairs):


(I spy Murphy.)


BEFORE (walkway):




We are so happy with the way things turned out. We’re also really impressed with the Mento team and their work. We absolutely recommend them for any sort of landscaping, stone, or paving project you might have – and we can’t say enough about the value for the money. Their services are definitely priced right!

Question of the Day

Have you ever tackled a huge home improvement project? How’d it go? Was it worth it in the end?



The post Our Big Outdoor Home Improvement Project appeared first on Carrots 'N' Cake.

from Carrots 'N' Cake

Weekend Link Love – Edition 458

Home » News

July 02, 2017

Weekend Link Love – Edition 458

By Mark Sisson


weekend_linklove in-lineRESEARCH OF THE WEEK

More research shows that chocolate is good for cognition.

A skull cult at Gobekli Tepe. Why can’t I join a skull cult?

Now this is a depression treatment I love: bouldering.

Identical workouts have different effects on mood depending on whether you’re indoors or outdoors. I’ll let you guess which setting gives the best results.

Scientists just ran seven different replication studies of the original power pose research. All of them failed to replicate.

Millennials are having more strokes than is normal for their age. C’mon, guys.

Risk-taking may breed happiness.

Our ability to withstand extreme endurance efforts arrived alongside our large brains.

Family men and women are more productive workers.


pb-podcast-banner-142Episode 175: Cassie Parks: Host Elle Russ chats with Cassie Parks, a woman who loves helping people discover and attain their wildest dreams.

Each week, select Mark’s Daily Apple blog posts are prepared as Primal Blueprint Podcasts. Need to catch up on reading, but don’t have the time? Prefer to listen to articles while on the go? Check out the new blog post podcasts below, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast here so you never miss an episode.


Why travel may help you live longer.

The psychology of “clutch.”


How LSD therapy changed Cary Grant forever.

Take that 2 o’clock nap and don’t be shy about it.


This Thai dish might give you liver cancer.

Don’t get bit.

I think she prefers her steak rare.

Genome sequencing for everyone is getting closer and closer.

More than any other food, American GIs during World War 2 craved fresh eggs.

This 91 year-old German lady can do more pullups than most of you.

This tiger isn’t on sleeping pills.


Announcement I’m proud to announce: MDA named one of Best Men’s Health Blogs of the Year by Healthline.

Study retraction that didn’t surprise me: The one where paleo worsened blood lipids.

Film I’m anticipating: We Love Paleo 2. Check the teaser.

Success story that really made me proud: The one from Melani, a Primal Health Coach.

Study I enjoyed: Touch from a lover is analgesic.


  • Now you take a leg of lamb, some cumin, a few beets, an Akkadian translator, throw it in a pot, add some beer. Baby, you got yourself a Mesopotamian stew going.
  • It’s summer, so you should be grilling chicken. Here’s how to do a whole one.


One year ago (Jul 2– Jul 8)


Coconut oil also removes mascara very well. Put some on a tissue or cotton pad, apply to eye for a couple seconds, and wipe. Clean eyelids.

– Good tip, Susanne. I think I’ll give it a shot.

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from Mark's Daily Apple

Market Watch: Apricots

With their luscious, velvety texture and sweet-tart flavor, fresh apricots are one of the highlights of summer. But unless you’re lucky enough to live near a local grower, you may never have tasted one that’s truly worth biting into. That’s because, like peaches and plums, these tender little fruits are best when allowed to ripen on the tree. One of the first of the stone fruits to arrive at markets, apricots are only available for two short months, beginning in late May and extending through mid-July. There are about a dozen common varieties, produced primarily in California, but they are also grown on a small scale in many other regions of the country. Any fruit you see during the winter months have been imported from either South America or New Zealand.


Apricot Facts

Apricots are rich in carotenoids and xanthophylls, nutrients that researchers believe may help protect eyesight from aging-related damage. They are also a good source of vitamin C, fiber and potassium. When dried, they lose some of their vitamin C, but become a concentrated source of iron–a particular boon to those who follow a vegetarian diet.

In the market, look for fruits with a deep orange color and avoid those that are pale and yellow. If they are hard or have streaks of green, they have not been tree-ripened, and will never develop much flavor. If just slightly firm, place them in a paper bag and leave them to ripen at room temperature for a day or too. When ripe, apricots will be soft enough to yield to gentle pressure. Eat them as soon as possible, as they will not keep!


What to do with Apricots

Perhaps because apricots are in season around the same time as more popular relatives like peaches and nectarines, they are often overlooked. That’s a shame, because their rich, tart flavor is a match for both sweet and savory treatments. For a healthy breakfast, mixed sliced apricots with honey and a few tablespoons water and cook until slightly softened. Then, spoon over yogurt and a top with a handful of granola. Or, for a weekend treat, sauté sliced apricots in brown butter and serve over French toast.

Raw, sliced apricots make a sweet counterpoint to bitter greens in a salad, topped with chopped, salty nuts and a sprinkling of crumbled goat or feta cheese. For an appetizer or light lunch, spread toast with ricotta cheese and quartered apricots, then broil until slightly caramelized and garnish with slivered fresh basil. They also stand up well to grilling: Thread chunks of the fruit with red onions and pork tenderloin onto skewers, brush with a mixture of apricot jam and mustard, and grill until browned. Of course, apricots are best known in desserts where they are often featured in fancy French tarts or American cobblers and pies. For a simpler and healthy dessert, serve apricots as part of a fruit fondue along with chocolate sauce. Or poach the peeled fruit in Lillet or white wine and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Since apricots are hard to ship and take well to drying, many of the world’s cuisines make liberal use of the dried fruit. They are particularly common in Middle Eastern cooking, where they are often found in a rice pilaf or paired with lamb in a tagine. In many recipes that call for dried apricots, fresh ones may easily be substituted.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:



Orzo Salad with Fresh Apricots, Pistachios and Ginger Oil

Grilled Summer Fruit

Apricots with Honey, Ginger, Ricotta and Pistachio Nuts


Dried Apricots:

Quinoa Salad with Apricots, Basil and Pistachios

Seared Pork Tenderloin with Fry Pan Quick Fruit Chutney

Sicilian Harvest Salad


Abigail Chipley is a freelance recipe developer, writer and cooking teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon.

from Healthy Eats – Food Network Healthy...