killing two birds with one stone (or more accurately... many stones)

One of the great things about our new house is how much potential the yard has. We're on a 1/3 of an acre which isn't ginormous, but still gives us lots of space yet isn't too much for renters to handle down the road (we know this isn't our forever home and we're pretty sure we want to turn it into a rental property once we move on). And although I grew up with a larger yard than most of my neighbors in southern California, I do come from the land of living on top of your neighbors so this much yard is unheard of! 
One of the bummer things about our new house is how much potential the yard has. Meaning, that one day it will be beautiful and usable, but for now there's lots of dead plants, really no good grass space for the kiddos to play on, and lots of  "obstacles" in the yard. Here's what I mean: 

It's not a pretty sight, and although the yard is going to take some lots of time to tame, I really want at least one groomed spot in the yard so I won't be so embarrassed to tell people which house is mine. 
"Oh, my house? It's the one with the all the overgrown and half dead plants. And that beautiful blue spruce tree that the previous owners seem to have planted right in the middle of a pathway. And the side yard is covered in bark. And we have a cactus too!" 
So I decided to focus on the planter bed in front of the house, because that seemed somewhat manageable.

Look what some rain and some nice warm days did for the lawn!
Although this hasn't been a complicated project so far, it has been really exhausting. I had to not only rip out a bunch of dead/dying/overgrown plants, but also move aside millions of river rocks and lug some big railroad ties across the yard.
And here's where the killing two birds with one stone part comes into play. Here is random planter obstacle #1 after I stole some of the blocks. I'm working on removing this leftover planter that is smack dab in the middle of the lawn, and improving the front planter bed at the same time! I swear, sometimes I am so brilliant I amaze myself. ;)
And here is the little retaining wall so far. Trust me, it looks much better than the old railroad ties did. I also took the opportunity to make the front bed much smaller, I figure it will make things easier in the long run, less to weed and maintain.

So far, $0 spent and already a big difference. I'm hoping to finish this weekend, but we'll see! Maybe I'll have something awesome to show you on Monday!

Has the weather warmed up where you live? Are you getting antsy to work on some stuff outdoors yet?