Skeletons no more

Admittedly, blog posts about closets aren’t the most exciting thing on the menu, but it’s what’s been on our minds lately. Since we’ve been sharing our abode with Bro over the last couple months, we’ve been made aware of the fact that every square inch of space is a valuable commodity not to be squandered–closets included. Perhaps, if done right, even my tiny bedroom closet could be salvation from clutter and chaos.

Fortunately I happen to know just the man to tackle a closet rejuvenation: the one, the only, Handyman Heath. After sleeping in on a Sunday morning, and doodling a sketch or two of an ideal closet on scratch paper, Heath went to town on Project Let’s-Get-This-House-And-Closet-Situation-Under-Control. While I was grocery shopping, and cleaning and being a stereotypical homemaker, Heath was measuring, sawing, and lord knows what else, to turn our clusterf*** of a closet into a real-deal functional storage space.

Hot dog! Who knew all I had to do was point to the mess, say “closet please” and within a few hours it would be completely transformed? Let’s make a toast to our latest DIY success and to Handyman Heath, my DIY genie.

Bring it, Rain.

Rainwater collecting is a good idea for 242835345234 reasons. I’m going to list two of them.

ONE: If you haven’t spent any time in Austin, you should know it doesn’t rain here in the summer. At all. At least not in the past two years. It gets so dry that the city must sometimes authorize water restrictions that are so harsh, restaurants have to stop serving water to customers unless requested. I’m not joking. It’s a real thing. So collecting precious rainwater while we have it is sort of like drilling for oil. It’s a valuable commodity that will soon be gone forever (or at least it feels like it during the middle of August).

TWO: After a big rain our yard is transformed into a swimming pool. It’s not as fun as it sounds because puddles = mud, and mud + labradoodles = disgusting carpet mess. So, it’s in our best interest to keep as much of that water off the ground and into buckets as possible.

In the end, all that water goes back to nourish the plants and the earth, helping us to be a little more sustainable and do our part to save the planet.

Sounds pretty good except for the part where most rain harvesting barrels are ugly as [expletive]. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

Not. Cool. We have four of these puppies that, once the gutters are installed, will have to live in some very prominent places in our backyard. Egh. At least if they were being ugly in the front yard, all of our neighbors could see how awesome and planet friendly we are.

“Oh look, those rain barrels aren’t very attractive but look at that young couple doing their part to help the earth. I want to be just like them…so earth conscious and attractive and thin!”

I am clearly taking liberties here, but the point is, the barrels are in the back yard, they are numerous, they are large and they are not good to look at. So, of course, I’ve been scouring the web to find some solutions.

OPTION ONE: Paint it.
I’ve seen a few folks adorn their barrels with picturesque scenes of the countryside or  bright and charming flowers. It’s a big step up from white plastic construction site we’ve got going now.

It’s a pretty great alternative, but the problem is that I’m no artist, whatsoever. So if I tried my hand at painting the barrel, I imagine it would end up looking something like this.

That’s a rain barrel. It says, “I Heart Rain.”  This is not an improvement over the current situation, so I think we will pass on option one.

OPTION TWO: Put a plant on it.
This is the not-so-distant cousin of Portlandia’s “Put a Bird On It” campaign, but it make a little more sense. The barrels are in the back yard, there are plants there already, why not throw one, or two, or ten on top of (or around) the barrels?

Ok. Option Two, you’re still in the cards, but surely there are other things to consider as well.

OPTION THREE: Use a whiskey barrel.
It’s a cute idea, whiskey barrels are rustic and vintage-looking. That totally fits in with our little hipster masterplan. Maybe a whiskey barrel could work.

I really REALLY love this idea, but Heath already purchased four rain barrels that did not at one point hold whiskey, and I’m pretty sure it’s counter productive to the whole “earth friendly” thing to throw out perfectly good rain barrels because they weren’t “cute” enough. Option three, I hate to see you go, but you just won’t work for us.

OPTION FOUR: Build around it.
As usual, Instructables had some neat ideas for using lattice to surround a water barrel set up that seem fairly doable.

And I saw some really neat ideas from Living Rainwater Tanks that I think we could emulate, and I do know a pretty handy fellow who could make it happen.

In the end I think it will be a combination of Option Two and Four that go down, a decorative structure of sorts, combined with a little greenery.

Yes, I think that will work nicely. I can’t wait to reveal the before and after photos…

Living Room Re-Do

Not so long ago I posted here about my disgust with the TV set up in our new living room (our lives are filled with monumental levels of adversity). Boring, drab and uninspired it was. Fortunately, I found a solution–one that involved a major overhaul of the living room layout and resulted in a much more feng shui entertaining environment. The before and after photos have me breathing a sigh of relief.

Ultimately the TV had to change walls. Instead of sitting against a blank white canvas, I repositioned it in front of an oversized window framed by a green accent wall. Now all eyes are on the bright “retro avocado” wall and dramatic curtains rather than an expansive plane of icky nothingness. Me Likey.

Customized shelving, made by none other than Handyman Heath, went against the white wall, which gave the room the personal pizzaz it needed.

You might recognize the shelves from the office in the old house. I loved them so much, I thought they deserved to be front and center rather than tucked away in the office or guest bedroom. Here’s how they looked pre-move and pre-stain.

The empty wall turned out to be the perfect backdrop against which the shelves and their various knick knacks could pop.

We also changed the wall color from the same neutral beige that I wrote about in our office to a bright white that packs a nice punch. The difference is subtle but, again, keeps the beige cloud feeling from creeping in on us.

Plus, against the green accent wall, the new white looks much crisper than the beige color did.

I also finally made the effort to focus in on some of the smaller details, like creating an entryway table. Sadly our house lacks an actual foyer, so a decorative little side table next to the front door has to suffice for a barrier between the living room and entryway until a more established room divider can come into play. Fortunately, it’s a pretty cute interim set up.

I never stop being amazed at the difference a coat of paint and a little rearranging can make.

I’m clearly not winning any Pulitzer Prizes for obsessively blogging about my new and improved living room, but I’m a big believer that a happy environment makes a happy person, and our new space is very happy.


Handyman Heath has struck again, this time leaving a beautifully constructed horizontal cedar fence in his wake.

Yes, while I was spending my Friday night gallivanting with girlfriends Heath was getting acquainted with a handsome set of post hole diggers. Twenty four hours, three 2-foot holes, 240 pounds of concrete and $270 later we found ourselves the winners of a sort of fencing match.

It was our (Heath’s) first attempt at legit fence construction, but the final result couldn’t be more beautiful. Before the fancy fence, a significant portion of our backyard was visible from the street, as a 3.5-foot chain link fence didn’t lend us much in the way of privacy. And while I do post photos of our backyard for the world to see on this magnificent creature we call the Internet, I felt funny about so much of it being on display to every passerby in the neighborhood at any time of day or night. So after a bit of eye lash batting and finger hair twirling, I convinced Heath to gift me with this enchanting piece of back yard privacy.

Heath considers himself a novice craftsman, but proved to have a knack for fence building. To other “fencers” he offers this advice:

1) Keep a pickaxe handy. Blackland prairie soil (what we have here in Austin) is not easy to dig into. It’s hard and it’s thick, and you will save yourself a lot of trouble if you have the right tools. In this case, a pickaxe was the ideal weapon for tackling this muddy mess. Plus swinging a pickaxe back and forth is an easy way to get instant street cred on the East side.

2.) Make sure the faces of the fence post are even. While everything may be nice and level, the faces of the posts have to be flush with one another. Otherwise, you run into trouble when it comes time to put on the horizontal planks. A difference of an inch or two between the faces will result in a wonky, bendy-looking fence, which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

3.) Check that the wooden planks you select for the fence aren’t warped. This one got us a couple of times and forced a few unexpected return trips to Home Depot. A warped board will affect the leveled appearance of the fence. Instead of clean, even lines between each slat, you will wind up with variation that can diminish the entire clean and streamlined look of the project.

Building the fence was a big piece of completing the back yard puzzle, and while it will probably never be “finished” this, along with some extra weekend gardening, made the new house feel a little more like home.

Heath picked up these concrete pavers from Gramps after a recent trip to Denton. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to use them in the yard but finally settled on burying them as a type of garden border.

Silver Cassia shrub purchased this weekend from The Natural Gardener

The air conditioner got a make over with these concrete blocks and bright planters.

Moss Phlox

The windows hanging in the back ground were found as garbage on a neighbor’s curb.

Frannie Sue isn’t allowed out of the coop while we still have chain link around the yard. She’s hoping this “building tall fences” trend continues so she can have free range of the yard again.

The veggies at the new house finally start to take shape.

The entire front of the house has a planter that’s quickly filling with anemone-like succulents.

The vegetable garden slowly taking shape.