Coop Devil

The sounds of distressed clucking and squawking began to drift into the living room sometime between 10 and 11 at night—long after the hours when the “bukbukbukbukbukbuuuuuuuuuuuk” from Frannie Sue’s tiny but powerful lungs is considered appropriate. The dogs lifted their heads, tilted their ears backward and let out a low, slow growl. I muted my episode of The West Wing and strained to listen in with them. Silence. Then, THUD. WHACK. SQUAAAAAKSQUAAACKBUUUUUUUUUK. CRASH.

“Moosh!” I bellowed toward the bedroom in Heath’s direction. “The chickens! Something’s happening to the chickens!”

Not bothering to put on shoes, I scurried out the side door and stepped awkwardly on the balls of my feet, over twigs and stepping-stones through the backyard to the chicken coop. I didn’t have my flashlight, but I didn’t need it. Even in the dark, I knew what I saw crawling eerily from the chicken coop door.

A few seconds later, also shoeless, Heath came stumbling out into the darkness with rake and flashlight in hand, ready for battle. Except for the shoe thing.

“What is it? Can you see?” Heath asked me, his voice relaying equal parts concern over the mysteries that lay hidden in the darkness and frustration for being pulled from his cozy slumber into the uncertain, barefoot night.

I pointed to the varmint that clung ferociously to the inside wire of the chicken coop, activating the same defense used by Sam Neil’s character in Jurasic Park. “He can’t see us if we don’t move.”

But we saw him, his naked tail, his glowing eyes, his face that would have been cute in a different context. There was a possum in our chicken coop.

kiley the possum

We would have to rebuild.

Our coop had been through much iteration over the years. We built it at our old house, repurposing wood and other materials from the original coop to save costs. Then we hauled it across the highway to our new place before then making one, two, three more additions and modifications to the original plan. We added on a wing, converted it to a duplex and moved doors around from side to side without investing in new materials to get the constantly evolving coop up to snuff. And now we had egg snatching, chicken pestering possums to answer to.

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chicken coop

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Forgetting that, just weeks ago we were much more a threat to chickens than this 8-pound marsupial, we vowed to spend our weekend reinforcing the coop to make it into a chicken’s fortress. We would plan incessantly, measure meticulously and level ground furiously to create a coop we could be proud of.

Saturday morning, as usual, came earlier than expected. And despite a late night crawl down Rainey St. comprised of pickle-flavored shots, lewd gestures in photo booths and chicken-and-waffle food trailer eats, Heath and I managed to pull ourselves out of bed and into the backyard. Even the White Rabbit would have scoffed at our poor timing, which found us deconstructing the original coop under the incessant and unforgiving noon sun without even a hint of a shade to ease our discomfort. As we pulled and prodded and pried the coop apart, the backyard began to look more and more like a WWI battle field with dismantled structures, entangled metal wires and the sounds of hopeless humans moaning with pain.

Are the chickens even worth it? Maybe it would be cool to start raising possums instead. I could name them after Downtown Abbey characters. Cousin Matthew. Lady Sybil. That would be fun.

We endured repeated trips to Home Depot and lost battery life to our drill at least twice (perhaps a bigger momentum killer than my tooth-hurty joke). We put up and took down support beams at least a dozen times and suffered approximately 87 mosquito bites and 33 chicken wire lacerations to the gams. And we snipped at each other more than I’m proud to admit.

“I don’t work well in groups.”

“Well, I don’t understand why you don’t understand.”

The whole “during” phase of the coop construction was unceasingly frustrating. Less team building and more scream building. But when we stapled that last piece of chicken wire, laid down the hay, and stood back to marvel at the handsome hut, we felt pretty proud of each other for conquering the beast.

“Good job Moosh,” we both said, arms around the other’s sweaty, dirty, sun burned waists.

We stood in silence for a moment; relieved the endeavor was finished and grateful for the promise of sweet, sweet air conditioning in our very near future. Finally, coop complete, we retreated indoors and collapsed in a tizzy of laughter on the couch. The chickens on the other hand, never made a peep that night.

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Garden Growth– One Year Later

Last summer, good ole Gretchen (my garden guru) came to stay with us for a week to help us garden beginners install her customized landscape plan in our front yard. The visit was a great success and we went from dead, brown and lackluster to manicured, verdant and promising.

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We couldn’t have asked for a better change (an upgrade that felt even better since we shed our own sweat to achieve it), but nearly a year later, it’s pretty magnificent to see how the plan has really taken shape.

Last June…

curved yardThis May…

frontyardflowerbed

Last summer…

paver pathway This spring…

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2012…

The front yard as seen from the driveway.

2013…

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Watching the garden morph through the seasons has been more than gratifying, it’s been a valuable learning experience. Through trial and error, we’ve gotten used to practicing regular weeding, pruning, re-mulching and other necessary upkeep tricks of the trade. What fun it’s been to figure out how to keep a garden alive, happy and thriving.

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We’ve also experimented with ways to make watering more efficient. In the front bed, Heath repurposed an old pvc pipe to make an irrigation system we can effortlessly hook up to the hose for hassle-free watering.

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We can only guess how it will change from now til next year.

 


A quick garbage can cover up

Question: What does one do with unsightly garbage bins and out-of-use screen doors?

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Answer: You make a garbage can screen.

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We weren’t wild about the fact that the first thing people saw when coming up to the house was garbage, so we repurposed our old screen doors to conceal the rubbish.

The execution of the project was fairly painless and the whole operation, from coming up with the concept to hanging up the finished product, was completed in an afternoon. It was also a project we did on the cheap. Because we already had the screen doors, the only cost was the reed fencing and the hardware needed to keep the doors together, about $25 total.

To get ‘er done, we first removed all of the hardware from the doors. Then we screwed two long 1″x2″ pieces of trim to the top and bottom of the piece to affix the doors to one another. We used a staple gun to keep the roll of reed fencing down and flat behind the screen. Screw eyes were placed at the top and about two feet of white metal chain keeps the piece suspended in front of the cans.

old screen doors

attaching the doors

makingthescreenAnd just like that, our side entryway troubles were over. I’ve gotta hand it to Heath for saving the doors all this time. He knew they would come in handy for a future mystery project, and they turned out to be the perfect solution to the problem. And I’ve gotta give some credit to my creative mom who helped me come up with the idea. I’m inspired to see what other household items we can find new use for.

hideoutdoorgarbagebins hiding garbage cans


It’s here: a (nearly) complete kitchen!

Today I write the blog entry I’ve (embarrassingly) been fantasizing about for awhile, the post on our newly renovated midcentury kitchen.  We have been planning and slowly chipping away at our kitchen renovation practically from the first moment we moved in.

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She was relatively functional, sure, but it wasn’t a place I wanted to spend much time in. And like others, as I grow older and try to become a culinary savant, having a comfortable cooking area has become more and more important to me. To make the space work for us, I spent months flipping through tons of magazines, pinterest boards and blog posts to figure out what would fit our space and our budget. We took it on bit-by-bit, first painting the walls and replacing the light fixtures. Then Heath spent his Christmas vacation sanding down and restaining the original knotty pine cabinets and adding new hardware, and we worked together the following spring break to remove the wood wall paneling and add more shelving and storage. About a month ago we tackled the most costly upgrade, replacing the countertops and redoing the plumbing. And to wrap it all up, last week we put in the tile backsplash, resulting in the nearly finished product we have today, 18 months after moving in.

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The original tile work was not a professionally executed job. There were broken pieces around the electrical outlets and jaggedly cut tiles around the sink. So when it came time replace it, we went back and forth on whether we should do it ourselves or have it professionally installed to avoid a debacle like what we began with. In the end, we decided to take it on ourselves, a decision I’m happy with, not only for the financial implications but for the sense of accomplishment and ownership we felt when it was all said and done.

We started as all young 21st century DIYers do, watching a YouTube video on the process.  We found this one to be the most helpful.

Contrary to our initial beliefs, installing the backsplash was relatively straight forward.

  • If you have uneven drywall like we did, use an all purpose joint compound on the wall to smooth out uneven areas before beginning.
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  • Butter the walls with adhesive.
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  • Lay the tile and wait 24 hours.
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  • Grout
  • Caulk

The tiling was a lot like putting together a puzzle, frustrating at times, but marvelously gratifying when you find the right piece to complete the sequence.  The corners and edges were predictably the most challenging areas to finish off, but we had a tile cutter that proved most helpful to create tiny pieces to finish off our pattern.

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And installing the tile was a true team effort. We started in the middle and worked our way out to either side. Then I did the grouting and Heath did the caulking. It was couple’s team building through and through.

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The tile backsplash was the cherry on top of the renovation sundae, leaving only the dishwasher and garbage disposal installation to be desired. It’s fantastic to be able to stand in our doorway today and take in the finished product that was more than a year in the making. While it’s not completely perfect, I can’t help but beam with pride at the first major renovation we conquered on our own, from the design to the execution (with a little help and support from loving family and friends). It was a long process to be certain and sometimes tested our patience, but it was also an experience we will carry with us as we continue to develop our skills and take on new challenges in the future.


Counter Culture

Thanks to the great, great folks at Austin Countertops, the doodle house is now equipped with wonderful white solid surface countertops.  It took us 17 months to make a decision and execute, but they are finally here!  I never in my life could have imagined being so thrilled about 20+ square feet of acrylic slab, but boy am I.

countersbeforeandafter This update and upgrade is a huge breath of fresh air in that weird little kitchen.  I knew taking out the tile would make a difference, but I never could have estimated just how much until we officially made the switch. I’m confident that after all the deliberating we made the right choice for us. The new surfaces are easy to clean, beautiful to look at and fit in seamlessly with everything else in the kitchen– a little bit modern and streamlined, but still fairly timeless and adaptable.

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whitesolidsurfacecounters

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Even though it took a while, in the end I’m really happy we took our time with this kitchen renovation (and it’s not even done yet). If I rushed into it, changing everything up before I got to really know the house and the cooking space, I would have made monumentally different decisions which I think, in the end, I would end up regretting.

So cheers to another project crossed off the very long and never ending to-do list. The cosmetic parts of this kitchen makeover are nearly complete, with only the back splash left to tackle. I guess we will be spending the next week or so on Youtube getting a crash course in tile installation. DIY or DIE!


A little hallway pick-me-up

I sometimes forget that hallways are rooms too, and important ones at that. They carry us from one part of the house to another, acting as passageways to new attitudes.  Think about it, you enter the hallway and instantly have to change your school of thought from “it’s time to cook” to “it’s time to sleep” or from “it’s time to study” to “its time to shower (or, you know, other things that happen in that room).”  If you consider the mentality switch that occurs in hallways, you realize these literal and figurative passageways are kind of a big deal.  So why oh why did it take me so long to give our hallway the attention it deserves? Despite being an area of the house we don’t spend much time in, hallways shouldn’t be an afterthought. When given some TLC, I figure they can become as beloved a space as any.

A blue hallway adorned with maps

A blue hallway adorned with maps. Photo from The New York Times.

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Black doors and dramatic lighting make this hallway a distinctive space in its own right. Photo from Pinterest.

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Geometric wall stenciling in bold patterns and a consul table make this part of the house sing. Photo from Apartment Therapy.

Big bold stripes from floor to ceiling contrast well with the light wood flooring. Photo from Pinterest.

Big bold stripes from floor to ceiling contrast well with the light wood flooring. Photo from Pinterest.

A gallery wall or a brightly colored rug give interest to long narrow spaces. Photo from Apartment Therapy.

A gallery wall or a brightly colored rug give interest to long narrow spaces. Photo from Apartment Therapy.

I really wanted to emulate one or all of these ideas into our hall space, which is long, narrow and boring beige.

longhallwaybefore

Lots of doors in and out, but not a lot to look at as you go from one room to another.

But because our hallway has a very low ceiling (an air conditioning duct was put there after the house was originally built), I didn’t want to do anything that would close the space in and make our guests feel claustrophobic. And because there is no overhead light, just a little wall sconce midway through, I didn’t want anything that would need a lot of light passing through it to look good.

I briefly considered painting the doors instead of the hallway, which I think can give a really cool effect, like this photo from housetohome.

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But that solution didn’t solve my boring beige dilemma. So I decided to do what I normally do…paint it turquoise! (Technically, the paint color is called Fiji, but hey, it’s close enough.)

The hallway after

The hallway after

I love, love, love how it turned out. I actually don’t dread walking through that part of our house anymore.

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I’m also really loving how it looks as you glance through one room and get a peak at the new peacock-blue hallway that lays behind it. Check out how much better the hallway looks from the kitchen in these before and afters.

The hallway as seen from the kitchen before...

The hallway as seen from the kitchen before…

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…And after. I love the lime green and turquoise color combination, so this feels very happy to me.

I also love how it makes our art and photos pop, something that was definitely lacking with the old beige.

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The black and white photos stand out against the vivid background. And check out those cuties hanging out in the office.

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Because it’s not a huge space, taping the walls, patching the holes and slapping up the coat of paint was done in just a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.  I still need to touch it up in a few places, but over all I’m really happy with our playful new corridor. Once we get some wood floors and change out the door hardware, this space is really going to shine.

labradoodlesinthehallway

 


Slowly but surely, the kitchen renovation continues

I suppose it’s time to make good on my promise to share all of the juicy (or rather saw dusty) details of our kitchen renovation.  Honestly, nothing would give me greater pleasure.

Renovating the kitchen has been on our to-do list for quite a while—practically from the first moment we saw the old girl.  It had good bones, but not a lot of personality, and we’re all about charisma in these parts.

For me, knotty pine is beautiful in small doses. The original kitchen had more than what I prefer.

It is spacious enough for what we need, and the cabinets weren’t in shabby condition, but overall it doesn’t inspire much creativity, a quality that should be mandatory in a space from which spectacular culinary masterpieces are expected to be born.

We had big, big plans for how to improve the looks and the functionality of this narrow knotty pine nook. We started small, first by painting the walls in a shade of green called spritz of lime…inspired by photos that brilliantly display the appealing divergence of the warm, honey-colored pine and the vibrant and verdant green.

green walls and knotty pine Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 4.16.17 PM tumblr_m8xkye6FA81ruu90ro1_500 And while from time-to-time I find myself questioning whether we went a tad too bright, I still think the pallet gave the kitchen some much needed contrast.

modernknottypinekitchen But with only one window and unflattering florescent lighting, the new green needed a pick-me up, so we updated the, what I’m calling, vet-clinic light fixtures with something a little shinier and more modern.

Modern track lighting from Lowe's for $40. And yet, still the kitchen felt a little…how to put it eloquently…blah.  The cabinets, while in good shape, were a little worn down from so many years of use, and the black hammered metal H-style hinges and matching handles were a little dated on top of the fact that they darkened the kitchen even more.  After a lot of debating and internet research, I opted to maintain the color and style of the naughty pine cabinets, which was a surprise even to me. At first, I jokingly referred to them as naughty pine, but that style is so indicative of the era the house was built in that I hesitated to change it. After all, if style is cyclical, it should only be a matter of time until they are all the rage again. Instead, I thought, better to find a way to update them so the kitchen can feel modern but still cohesive with the rest of the house. So over the Christmas holidays, we sanded and restained the cabinets and added updated nickel fixtures.

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The update was much needed and greatly appreciated but still our cooking space was far from what we hoped for in our dream kitchen, so next we opted to tackle removing the wood paneling from the walls and add some open shelving for increased storage.

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Still, what was and continues to be missing, is an update to the counters and back splash because poorly installed beige ceramic tiles just won’t do. This weekend, we took a sledge hammer to the terrible, TERRIBLE tile work and began the demolition, preparing for new shiny white counter tops.

We weren’t sure what would lie beneath the tile.  The original laminate perhaps?  Or rotted plywood?  Your guess was as good as mine.

tile demolition

Pulling up the tile was easier than I thought it would be. Perhaps that is because it was rather cathartic to smash into the surface I had so long despised—making the project feel less like work and more like play. Before I knew it, after just a little sweat and chiseling we, with the help and expertise of Heath’s family, completely scraped the countertops and backsplash free of the tile I found so appalling. In just a few hours we were able to remove all the tile AND salvage our deep stainless steel sink. A big money saver for we thrifty folk.

Heath tears down the wall.

Heath tears down the wall.

What we found underneath the tile was dry plywood, which ended up being a lifesaver, enabling us to still be able to use the kitchen counter and sink for the next two weeks while we wait for our white solid-surface countertop to come in. Though it’s not much to look at, I’m grateful for the interim surface.

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We also (drum roll please) had a plumber replace our kitchen faucet, both a cosmetic and functional improvement

Heath wonders how we lived so long with the leaky original.

Heath wonders how we lived so long with the leaky original.

The new one has a spay nozzle, more mobility and much improved water pressure. Winning!

The new one has a spay nozzle, more mobility and much improved water pressure. Winning!

And now that the tear-out is done and we have nothing to do but wait, we are busying ourselves with comparing our options for the backsplash.  So far it’s between a light blue subway tile and mini rectangular tiles in varying shades of blue. While I wasn’t keen on mini tiles at first, as of now I think it’s our front runner.

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The kitchen remodel has definitely been our longest-running home improvement project to-date, and it’s still a ways off from being complete, but I feel like we turned a corner with this week’s demolition. And I’m excited for how much it’s going to change for the better in the very near future.

demolition duo