HANNIBAL, Mo. -- A family gathering spurred a backyard home improvement project for a Hannibal woman.
"There just wasn't room for everybody to sit," Janie Monroe said. "Through that weekend I mulled things through my mind and came up with this idea."
What she came up with made Monroe the Week 10 winner in the 31st Lookin' Good contest sponsored by The Herald-Whig and First Bankers Trust.
By winning the weekly prize, Monroe gets a $100 cash award and the chance to win the $1,000 "People's Choice" grand prize, to be announced on Sept. 29, in the contest which recognizes homeowners for outdoor projects that improve their homes.
Monroe's project transformed what had been a basketball court off the carport of her home at Mark Twain Cave where she is the campground manager.
"I started thinking this could be a really nice sitting area out here," she said.
So she started work last fall, first filling in an area sloping down to the carport, replacing grass with mulch for easy maintenance, adding a hammock and a porch swing on a stand and taking down the basketball hoop.
"Little by little I extended it out on the other side. I put a waterfall in, put some solar lights in and made it to where when you're out there it's just like you're a million miles away," Monroe said. "I've got the beautiful surroundings anyway, the trees and all the wildlife."
Monroe did the work herself, stopping at times because of a busy schedule, wet weather or wanting to spend time with family.
"It's just been a process," said the Hannibal native and retired teacher who lived in Indiana for 30 years before coming back home. "Every time my kids come home, there's something different. That's the whole point. I love doing that kind of stuff."
Now Monroe's moved her focus to the front of the house where she's building a porch. "It's coming along slowly but surely. I'm going to do the porch and stop for the year to enjoy what I've done," she said.
In the meantime, she can "see" the finished project in her mind, just as she could do with the backyard patio.
"I love creating spaces and places where you can just relax and enjoy your home," Monroe said. "Down here is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and I just created my own little piece of heaven."
Weekly winners will be announced each week through Sept. 1. Entries can be submitted through Monday, Aug. 19, and must include before and after photos of the home improvement project along with a brief description of the project.
Projects must be started, underway or completed between Sept. 9, 2018, and Aug. 18, 2019.
"If you want to do it, do it," Monroe said. "Bottom line, yeah it's work, but it's fulfilling at the end of the day. What makes it worthwhile is when you see other people enjoy it. Of course you're going to enjoy it."
Entries can be mailed to: Lookin' Good Contest, c/o The Herald-Whig, P.O. Box 909, Quincy, IL 62306. All entries should include a name, address and a daytime phone number.
Online entries can be submitted at whig.com/contests. More information can be found at whig.com/contests or by calling 217-221-3306.