Monday, October 25, 2010

Renovation: the Beginning

I finally was able to rearrange the basement enough to accommodate moving more stuff down there without creating too much chaos. Determined to start demolition soon, I moved the stuff from the upstairs bedrooms into the basement. I was almost ready to rip up the carpet when Rob wanted to postpone the carpet ripping for a while.

What?? Why?? You want to stare at the 70s shag a little longer? You don’t want to walk on bare boards? Why postpone?

He had to cave as I was holding my awesome prybar at the ready: “LeeAnn is coming for a visit – it was a surprise.”

WHAT?? LEEANN!! Holy cow! That’s AWESOME! What a great surprise! And a GREAT reason to postpone demolishing the guest room!

So, my VERY good friend and rockin’ former roommate arrived the next morning with her beautiful baby daughter and we were able to spend a few days catching up face to face. *sigh* so nice!

NOW… the blue shag has become my vanquished foe! muah hah hah!


It put up a really good fight at the end. Rolling and moving carpet is surprisingly difficult! But, it’s down the stairs and ready to be moved into the garage (that is… when Rob gets home).

And let me just say, demolition is so rewarding!! I might like it better than cleaning! You get to see such a big difference in such a short amount of time. Plus, you’re getting rid of something you didn’t want to be there and making way for something you’ve been looking forward to for months… yea, it’s awesome.

We have also made the forms and poured our sample concrete pieces for the bathroom countertop. Both of us have different ideas about what will look good with our black tile we got at the auction, so we decided to make two sample pieces in the size of a bedside tabletop. Each of us designed our piece to exhibit our ideas for the countertop AND we can use them later as bedside tables!

We just poured them last night, so they’re not interesting to look at yet… Maybe next week we’ll do some grinding (so to speak) and reveal the aggregates.

We rearranged the greenhouse, taking out the bottom shelf on one side so we could fit the larger potted plants. The matsuma orange, fig, and pepper plants have been very happy now.


We also got the worms into their new (clean!) home. Plus, we added a light rope for some additional heat. It comes on at 11pm and shuts off at 6am – yea, there’s a timer in the greenhouse! We also plugged in the heater and set it. But, we don’t know if it works because it hasn’t been below 40 degrees during the day (thank you South Dakota!) But, the plants and worms all seem happy!

And check out the blueberry plants showing off their fall foliage!


And my last home brag: I lit the basement! It is no longer a dreary and, let’s face it - a little bit creepy, place! I ordered a cord with ten sockets and hung paper lanterns on the ceiling. Now, with a flip of a switch, the whole room is lit! It’s WONDERFUL!






I’m going back to finish off the blue shag room! Plunder and pillage!

Adventures in South Dakota


Here’s Rob on another hunting adventure. I went this time! And took photos. Notice that Rob is wearing orange, per hunting regulations. Yeah, that’s a Hawaiian shirt…


One of the great perks – the beautiful sunset!


Officially addicted, Rob went the next chance he got and brought home this rabbit! I’m preparing to make Hossenfeffer, per the Bugs Bunny cartoon.



Last weekend, we drove through Spearfish Canyon and gazed at the beautiful scenery… the golden aspen leaves, rocky cliffs, and happily running streams.

We also went to the Old Trout Hatchery in Spearfish where we gawked at the GIANT trout through the underwater viewing area – very cool! Rob’s hand is there for comparison.


We’re thinking about getting some trout to put in the future aquaponics system in the greenhouse…

Another hunting adventure! Yes, this is all the same weekend.

Rob got a TURKEY! We were super excited!


And I cooked it per Ina Garten’s guidance by stuffing it with onions, garlic, a lime (she used a lemon, but lime was fine), butter, salt, and pepper. SO easy! And it turned out great! Rob may have to get another turkey tag… delish!

Continuing our South Dakota adventures… this weekend, Rob and I happened upon the Black Hills Kennel Club Dog Show! SO FUN! We’d never been to one before and really had a good time.


I loved walking around auditioning dogs for future family additions. Plus, the owners are more than happy to talk to you about the breed! I love the Saluki and think maybe one down the road, but the Ibizan still stands out as a pretty dog to me – plus it looks a little more substantial and I think can hold its own with a Ridgeback… However, none of their temperaments compare to the Ridgeback (so laid back, chill, and super fun!) We’re sticking with the Ridgies!

We had to take a photo of this! The Golden Retrievers all looked like CLONES! It was like being on the set of Air Bud…


Look! The Shaggy Dog from the movie!


Poodles galore!


And we think Rob’s grandmother should show the yorkies she has now… look how fun it looks! :-)


Dog Show. Fun and FREE entertainment! Highly recommended.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Another Reader Advice One

Since you were SO helpful with the painting trim question – thank you so much! I’m giving you another advice solicitation.

So, after looking at more pictures and reading reviews, I’m about 55/45 for Brazilian Walnut wood floors for the living/dining room. The other choice we like is Brazilian Koa (tigerwood).

The Koa is beautiful, but I’m worried it’s too “interesting” for this house and might affect resale with its “uniqueness.” It’s also a little softer than the Walnut and I figure that’s a factor with Gus’ nails and if we rent the house in the future.

What I’m concerned about is this:

Rob likes the 5” planks and I think I do too… except…

Here’s some photos of the 5” walnut.


I worry that with the wider planks, as in the bottom two photos, the random dark piece and the random light piece will be too obvious.

If it’s in a 3 1/4” width, I think those variations will blend more into the whole. Here’s a 3 1/4” width.

husbw3sv_rs    13951974_101021_full

And for your option to chime in, here’s the Brazilian Koa, which I think is SO pretty and so “me”, but I know that my taste doesn’t necessarily sell a house… plus, I do really like the walnut…

husko5sv_rs  169913_13072_full 

So… what do you think??

Friday, October 15, 2010

Need Reader Help

Okay, I need your help.

We’re finishing the planning stages of the upstairs bedrooms and new blinds are part of that plan. My question is:

Should I paint the trim around the windows?



It would give the rooms a fresh, clean look.

It would go better with the white 2” vinyl blinds that I like.

It would go better with the more contemporary style I’m going for in the remodel.


Wood is easier to keep it looking clean.

Painting trim is more work than not painting trim.

This wood trim is ALL OVER THE HOUSE. If I paint these two rooms, where would it stop?

Would painted trim look okay with wood doors? Would I end up painting the doors?


I hope you can see my dilemma. Please help! I go in circles when I think about this and I’m getting dizzy!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Good Advice

My great friend, Rebecca, gives really good advice. Having recently done a big remodel on a 70s house bought from a member of the older generation, she had loads of good advice. But this tidbit is the most profound of all.

Remember that this is not your dream house.

She is so wise. This week, I had to give up on my dream of radiant floor heating throughout the house. *sigh*. I know some of you are saying, well, duh! But, I just really thought it could happen with us replacing the flooring anyway… but we finally got some real numbers and those, combined with the extra stuff we were thinking about (moving the basement arrangement, raising the door frames, re-ducting the A/C…), it just wasn’t feasible.

I’m pretty comfortable with it now. I’m no longer worried our renovations might price us out of our market. Plus, I’m comfortable with the skill level of all the DIY projects remaining. But, one day…

As a compromise, I will be getting radiant heat in the bathrooms (with those electrical pads that don’t raise the floor and look super easy to install!).

We’re almost done with the planning stages and might start on some demo upstairs soon… !!!

In the meantime, we’ve been renovating the greenhouse. We’re cleaning it out and preparing it to hold the potted plants for the winter. Rob also is figuring out how he wants to do the aquaponics (we plan to have a fish tank! – fresh fish, anyone?)

As part of that process, yesterday we did one of the more disgusting things either of us has ever done. In an effort to rid ourselves of the gross, yet effective composters – the maggots – we took on a daunting task.

We separated the worms from the maggots. Hands covered in muck, Rob imagined that this was one of those gross medieval era jobs – picking worms from the muck. It really wasn’t that bad until we got down to the details. Worried (and rightly so) that baby maggots would be impossible to separate without washing the worms, we each took a handful of worms and slowly and methodically rinsed them, picking out the clean worms and placing them in their new home.

It took about two hours.

Later that night, when I closed my eyes, the picture etched into my eyelids was that of a writhing ball of earthworms wriggling in my hand. I guess the experience was a little traumatizing…

You should be glad we didn’t take pictures.

But here’s one of our first ideas to separate the worms:


We thought if we put a handful of worms in water, they would swim to the top and we could easily transfer them cleanly.

They did not.

But hopefully now we’ll have a much more pleasant compost bin!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hunting and Gathering

Saturday, Rob went on his first pheasant hunt! It was opening weekend for residents of South Dakota and we were both itching for him to “bring home some bacon.”

He got his three (three per day) and here they are!


He plucked them while I prepped the kitchen sink and counter to receive raw meat. It wasn’t as hard to prepare the birds as I’d thought! Great!

Gus enjoyed the process too


Last night, I cooked two birds. I cut them into pieces, seared them in a pan and placed them in the crock pot along with…

fresh carrots from the farmers market

chopped potato

fresh onion, picked that morning from a friend’s garden


one can of cream of mushroom soup

and season to taste

After being on high for about 5 hours, the meat fell off the bone!

Some modifications for next time…

I think I shall de-skin them for the crock pot. There were a few half-feathers left on the skin that neither of us enjoyed not being able to easily remove (as the meat fell apart due to its awesome tenderness).

I shall definitely add more seasoning. The pheasant flavor was good – like quality dark meat chicken, but not flavorful enough to stand as I had it with very little seasoning.


I am so glad hunting season is upon us! I love cooking food that I know where it came from!

A note on seasonal cooking:

I LOVE cooking with the seasons – I cook in the summer with lots of fresh veggies, berries, herbs. Autumn is thanksgiving-ey food with late-season veggies, green beans, squash, pumpkins, cinnamon, getting a little heavier on the meat. Winter has more meat, using canned veggies, potatoes, stews, chilis, and lots of baked desserts. And spring gives me leafy greens and the beginnings of summer.

I think the body actually needs more of what “cooking for the season” gives. For instance, in summer, we need foods that give us energy and are served fresh. And in winter, we crave stews with meat and carrots and potatoes… roughly. Plus, it makes each season’s food that much more exciting when it’s time!

Right now, South Dakota is in it’s summer produce season (weird, I know). The farmers market has lots of tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers. A little too eager for fall, I bought two pomegrantes from the grocery store to put in my “fall” dinner salad to serve with one of the pheasants.

Some of my produce haul


I also jumped a little into fall with my pumpkin I bought at the pumpkin festival downtown last weekend. I roasted the seeds, steamed the pieces, and pureed the pulp, saving most in the freezer for later. This is what I’ve made so far. Pumpkin cake per Martha Stewart. Tastes of fall!


So… the seasons here follow the actual “seasonal” calendar… the first day of summer is June 22; fall stars on September 22; winter begins December 22; and spring embarks on March 22. I know, weird.

Just a comparison for those of you who’ve never lived in the great state of Texas… these are the season I grew up with…

Spring is the beautiful months of March and April when the bluebonnets grow and the weather is perfect! Summer is May through most of October. There’s inevitably a cold front around Halloween that makes your super cute costume unwearable. There’s maybe a few days of fall mixed into October and November. Then, it jumps back and forth from cold and warm until January. Then, winter in January and February. And that’s a Texas season!

Now you can imagine my shock at the realization of what fall is! All those cute clothes in the fall catalogs that I always thought were so impractical are not! A three-quarter sleeve jacket would be totally appropriate in this weather where the shade is 50s and the sun is 70s. Who knew? Not me.

Enjoy your fall, wherever you may be!

Rearranging, the Genesis

In the beginning, I unpacked the boxes and reduced the magnitude of cardboard in the garage.

And I saw the light, that it was good and I divided the recyclable materials from the household goods.

The unpacking stage complete (well, mostly), I took on the task of rearranging.

Taking more easily-defined spaces first, the first day I rearranged the shed. I took everything out and used my new shopvac (which I LOVE, by the way!) and sucked up all the spiderwebs and dirt. Then, I put everything back in the shed in a more organized fashion. And I saw that it was good.


The second day, I rearranged the garage (for the second time), moving everything out (everything I could carry, that is!), vacuuming and putting “garage stuff” back in the garage. Of course, there’s still some stuff in there that’s doesn’t “go” in the garage, but it shall find a place one day.

The third day, I attempted the basement. A less-defined space, I only completed the utility room. After emptying and vacuuming, I left laundry room items and dog items, along with sodas and paper towels.

That is where I’ve stopped. The rest of the basement is filled with  chaos - without form, and void of awesomeness. Even with my totally nifty (made them MYSELF!) storage cubes (Ana White’s website is wonderful! She makes everything so accessible and simple!), I cannot overcome the chaos.


I have discovered I lack storage in the form of items of furniture. I didn’t know! Apparently, that’s where people put their random items… Anyway, I am almost certain that these cubes are my ticket to organization. I never know what kind of space I’ll be living in next year, so why buy huge wall-covering storage pieces? Well, with these, I can stack them tall, wide (for a bench), make a cube… lots of ideas! And no big wall required! I only made three to start, but if I like them as much as I think I will, I will be making more (maybe some bigger ones to store larger items…).

Anyway, here’s some pics of us using our new table saw and nail gun (SO easy to use!! LOVE it!!). (We are planning building our own kitchen cabinets, thus the woodworking purchases).

IMG_6019 IMG_6045


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What a Weekend!

Well, I’ll begin by showing off my latest DIY project. I changed our old mailbox! I ordered more interesting vinyl numbers off the internet, took a big chunk of my day unscrewing the old rusted screws, found a new base from our scrap wood, cut it to size with our new table saw, and attached the platform and new mailbox to the post! Simple, but not quick.

Old mailbox


New mailbox!


We’ve been checking out surplus building materials from places where we’ve been shopping – carpet remnants, tile rejects, etc. We got a tip about the Black Hills Homebuilders Association Auction this past weekend. I went Friday to scope it out. It looked promising.

So… Saturday we went at 9 for the beginning of the auction and found they wouldn’t be getting to the stuff we wanted for a few hours. So… we went to the Downtown Pumpkin Festival!

Now, I’m really sorry, but we forgot the camera at home so we didn’t get pictures of the Giant Pumpkin Contest (they were HUGE – huge like 1200 pounds huge!), the inspiring farmers market, the free samples of delicious sausage (bought spicy breakfast and Czech), the daschund races, the beer garden, and the many locals in t-shirts for the chilly yet sunny weather. It was great fun!

At noon-ish, we went back to the auction. And yet again, I love Rob’s many skills! He really is very very skilled at so many things! He is really skilled at auctions! We didn’t get some of the stuff we were interested in, but what we did get… man oh man! We got some GREAT deals!!!

Our first purchase was a bathroom exhaust fan and light (with a free one thrown in) for $30. Not a crazy good deal, more like “on sale at Lowe’s.”

Our next was a Moen shower faucet and bath fixture, with valves. It’s WAY nicer than the ones at Lowe’s – heavy in your hand and everything! Plus, a really nice design. Now, we checked online and it retails for $557. We got it for $80! oh YEA!

Getting excited now at the cheapness of stuff that we wanted (and apparently others weren’t interested in), I picked up a box of 7 doorknobs (the ones in our house are all different!) for $10. These retail around $40 each set.


Rob got a water pump for the aquaponics system we have planned for the greenhouse for $10. It’s meant to be a hot tub water pump and is super nice!

Then, the tile was up! Oh boy! We prioritized and made our plan. Our first two choices went for much higher than we were willing to pay. When some nice black tile went up, we decided to bid and maybe make a black and white bathroom (always classic)… we got our future upstairs bathroom floor for $40!

We plan on mixing the bigger tile with the smaller matching ones to cover the floor.



The last one is our best deal yet! There was some very pretty slate that I was just wanting to see what it went for. When no one was really interested, we got this for the future kitchen (plenty at over 100 sq.ft) for $40! I am falling more and more in love with it every time I see it. Some of the pieces remind me of a sunset. Plus, it’ll look great with the concrete countertops we have planned!



In all, it was a VERY successful weekend! And I’m happy that our remodel budget is happy too! Now, if radiant floor heat was just cheaper…