Doggy Steps

With some of the scraps left over from making the Farm House Table and a wood-shop table, and using these plans as a guide, threw together a set of steps for the dogs to use to get in and out of bed. Avi hasn’t been able to get in and out of the bed by herself since we moved into a home with wood floors because the floors are too slick to push off of, and she slides when she lands. Izzie has no problem jumping off and on the bed, but I worry about the damage she is doing to her joints jumping down from so high.

Izzie was eager to run up and down them as soon as I moved them into the bedroom. Avi is much more cautious (as usual). With the help of treats and lots of encouragement she has gotten the hang of going up the stairs. She will still only go down the stairs if Chris encourages her (he is her “person”, not me) but hopefully with time she will get used to them and gain confidence! It isn’t shown in the pictures, but I do have some rubbery tread stuff that I’ve put down on the steps to make Avi feel more secure.

Farm House Table- Finished at last!

Today we moved the table inside and added the aprons. It is finally finished and ready to be used — and, more importantly, to be decorated with table runners, cloth napkins, center pieces, etc…

Farm House Table

I’ve been wanting a new table for the kitchen/dining room for years. A lot of our furniture is still hand-me-downs or inexpensive things we bought in college or soon after and our kitchen table was functional, but the style didn’t really go with the house and the oval shape was difficult to decorate and to seat our extended family around on holidays. Finally this summer Chris had a couple of weeks off work so we turned out garage into a wood shop and got to work.

We used these plans which I highly recommend. The only changes we made were to used seven 2x8s (trimmed down to more like 2×7) for the top rather than 2x6s and added aprons underneath to give the top a bit more substance and aesthetically balance out the heavy base. We used pine wood and Min Wax Provincial stain (2 coats) with 2 coats of poly on the base and 3 coats of poly on the top.


Here are some of our progress photos, click here to see the finished table!

New Pantry Shelves

One of my goals for next summer is to a) have an awesome garden (always a goal, not rarely accomplished) and b) save all those beautiful veggies to enjoy year round by preserving them. I got a dehydrator for Christmas (thanks Kelly!) so I’ll be drying some things. I’m particularly looking forward to “sun” dried tomatoes and homegrown garlic powder. But most of our veggies will probably end up canned since that’s what I have the most experience doing and using. After last summer’s canning our regular pantry started getting pretty full. Even more so once I added the big box of empty jars I found at the thrift store, and all the dozens of little metal lids. Our pantry has nice deep shelves which are perfect for cereal boxes and big bags of flour and chips and things but the jars just get lost in the depths and then we can’t remember what we have, or find anything when we need it. So, when family came to visit for Christmas I had my Dad help me come up with some plans for a new set of shelves. Over the last week or two Chris has helped me build them. Today we put the last coat of paint on them!

Old pantry on one side of the hall (kitchen is on the other side of the curtain)

Old pantry on one side of the hall (kitchen is on the other side of the curtain)


The pantry is built into a short hallway between the kitchen and the “bonus” room (my work room), laundry room and guest bathroom. Our house was added on to at least once during its history so the layout doesn’t always make sense, and yes, it is weird that you have to walk through our pantry area to get to the guest bathroom. Because its an area that can’t be hidden from guests, the new shelves needed to be not only functional but also attractive.

Blank wall across from the pantry

Blank wall across from the pantry, doorway on left goes to kitchen, doorway on right goes to guest bathroom

On the opposite side of the hallway from the pantry was a blank wall. Being right off the kitchen and somewhat hidden from view, this area tended to accumulate junk. Being right off the (very small) laundry room we would sometimes set the ironing board up there….and then forget to take it down and it would get covered in junk. The space between the wall and the door to the kitchen is very narrow though- about 8″ so it was kind of an awkward space. Thankfully, shelves for jars of food don’t need to be deep. In fact long narrow shelves spaced relatively closely together are better than tall, deep shelves.

We decided to use the entire length of the wall between kitchen and bathroom which is 5.5ft and space the shelves at about 12″ in between. I would have liked for the bottom shelf to be lower, but there is an a/c grate and power outlet in the wall that we had to build above.

In-Progress photo showing shelves in various stages of completion

In-Progress photo showing shelves in various stages of completion

At first I considered building a bookshelf type piece that would just fit into that space but be self supporting. I decided against this though because that would create an unattractive protruding side where you turn to go into the guest bathroom. And I was concerned that such long shelves would bow with a heavy load of filled jars if only supported on either end. Instead, I decided to go with built in “floating shelves”. To build these, you locate the studs in your wall and attach a 1×2 directly to the wall, drilling into the studs. You can see the 1×2 flat against the wall in the bottom shelf. The framework for the shelf is built onto this. Then we used plywood to cover the tops and bottoms of the shelf frames and finally added a pretty molding to the edges and gave everything several coats of white paint. The molding wasn’t part of my original plans but I’m very glad we decided to add it. It was the most expensive part of the project, but it makes the shelves look much more “finished” and decorative as well as functional.

Close up of a finished shelf with molding

Close up of a finished shelf with molding

The hardest part of the project was dealing with materials that weren’t perfectly straight or square (almost always the case with woodworking and/or construction). First of all, the wall itself wasn’t flat. It looked flat, but when we held a long level up to it we realized that it undulated a bit. Apparently this is fairly common with drywall. This meant that when we tried to attach straight pieces of wood to the wall there were gaps. Chris has a better eye for details than me, so he took on the task of making everything fit correctly. He trimmed some of the boards to fit the walls better and filled in gaps with silicone grout. Together we bent and strong armed some of the warped pieces of wood and molding into place. There are still some places that aren’t perfectly straight but hopefully no one but us will notice!

Finished Shelves!

Finished Shelves! Just waiting for the 4th shelf to dry to finish loading it up


Now I’ve got lots of new space for jars of food – both canned and dried- plus all my empty jars. I even made some little holders to keep the lids under control, though I still need to find a way to tame the mountain of rings.

I think we will also want to add some extra supports, like a bracket or two under the bottom shelf, as we add more full jars. For now we are going to keep an eye on it for sagging or tilting.


Lid holders

Lid Holders

This is the first time I’ve ever permanently changed the interior of the house which made me a little bit nervous. When we sell this house we will take the pictures off the walls and the new owners may replace the curtains and repaint the walls, but these shelves are here to stay. Thankfully, I am very pleased with how they turned out. Hopefully any future owners of the house will enjoy them as well, even if they decide to fill them with something other than glass jars!

Small Victories

New Patio Furniture

With my long list of failed experiments posted, its time for some small victories. Example A: our new porch furniture!

We’d been talking about buying new porch furniture since early spring. Last spring we screened in our patio/porch which turned it into a wonderful, bug (and chicken) free space to relax in. It was a lot of work but well worth it (especially since my parents spent a long weekend with us helping with the hardest parts!). Now that our porch is screened in and we are spending so much time out there we realized that the old, mismatched, hand-me-down furniture we’d accumulated over the last decade just weren’t cutting it anymore. Plus we had a couple of guests literally fall through the bottoms of our chairs. That is embarrassing for everyone. In part due to our inability to decide on colors and style and (mostly) due to our sticker shock at the price of nice patio furniture we kept “talking” about getting new furniture but didn’t actually get around to doing it until mid summer and guess what? Patio furniture starts going on sale around mid summer! Apparently that is when stores likes Lowes, Home Depot and Sam’s Club start switching their seasonal items over to fall and start trying to get rid of their summer items. We ended up finding a beautiful set of good quality furniture for more than 50% off from Sam’s. Woohoo for   saving money!! It was still expensive but we felt much more justified in our purchase when we were able to save so much. Hopefully by going with a high quality (and previously very expensive) set we will get many more years of use out of it than if we’d gone with one of the “budget” sets we were also considering.

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Of course, my thrifty gene couldn’t be satisfied with the thought of all new furniture- even if it was on sale- so I had to add in some re-finished bits as well. My parents also replaced their old patio set this summer and while their loveseat and chairs were beyond saving thanks to having been used as a teething toy by their labradoodle, they had a couple of side tables that just needed a new coat of paint. I also found some old metal folding tv trays at a junk shop. Everything got a fresh coat of black spray paint et Voila! now we have plenty of side tables to set drinks and plates on to go along with all our new seating!

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I’m even attempting to keep some potted plants alive on the porch but we won’t call that a victory just yet– I’ve never managed to keep a potted plant alive for longer than a couple of weeks so I’m crossing my fingers….but not holding my breath!

Faux “Stone” patio progress

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We poured the first mold and a half of “stones” this evening. Phew- it was hard work! Mostly it was hard mixing the concrete. Apparently they sell mixing attachments for hand drills. I think we need one of those. It was too hard to try to get all of an 80lb bag mixed by hand before it started to dry. Quikcrete dries fast! After the mold was filled we then had to quickly smooth out all the rough edges by hand and smooth off the surface. In retrospect I probably should have started in the back corner rather than right up at the door from the porch since my technique will probably improve with practice. I guess we’ll just have the ugliest blocks right in the center front!

Chris is on call this weekend so I’m not sure how much we will get done on it, depends on how often he has to go in to the hospital. These first blocks should be dry enough to stand on in 12 hours !

Porch Re-Do

Earlier this spring we started on a big project to re-do our porch. Since we moved in two years ago we haven’t really been able to take advantage of the large, covered porch off our den because its always so dirty. It is one of those spaces that collects junk and because its covered it attracts chickens so its always filthy from them. And when we did sit out there to enjoy a cool summer evening we would get eaten by mosquitoes or dive bombed by june bugs.  The space had a lot of potential, though, and we decided we would be more likely to use it if it was screened in. This way it would stay cleaner (no more chickens), be bug free and just feel a bit nicer and more “finished”.

With my parents help, we installed railings with shelves on top all the way around, put in two door frames and screened everything in. Overall it was a bit less expensive than I’d expected, but also a bit more work. We used this tutorial, which was very helpful for the railings.

Once the porch was screened in we realized that it was no longer an ideal space to keep the grills. Now it was so nice and neat, and the grills are so big and ugly and in the way. Plus they are a pain to maneuver in and out the door and impractical to use inside the porch because if they get too close to the house or the screen the heat can cause damage.










The solution? A stone patio off the side of the porch! After doing some research and price matching we decided the best way to get an attractive patio is to use a cement mold to do a faux-stone design.

We’ve just started this project. The first step was to de-sod the area (surprisingly hard work!!), and cover the surface with sand, leveling it in the process. We are almost done with this step. Once that is done we’ll pour cement into the mold, let it set for a minute or two, then remove the mold and shape the edges with a trowel before moving the mold over a space and re-filling it. Once the whole area is covered we’ll let the cement dry and then we will paint it with cement stain. We are thinking about using a lime-stone color, maybe with a sand color mixed in to make it look more like stone. The final touch will be to fill in the spaces between the “stones” with sand. Hopefully the finished patio will have the look of stone but at a fraction of the cost!  We were inspired by several patios/walkways I saw on Pinterest that had been done with a similar mold, like this one.

Snow Day

This has been a very strange week for weather in KY. Most of last week was beautiful and sunny and in the 60s– perfect spring weather. Not just “not cold” but actually warm! The trees were beginning to bud and the daffodils burst into bloom. We filled our spare time with weeding and starting seeds for the garden.

Then on Friday a huge chain of storms began to move in and KY was hit by dozens of tornadoes. All evening on Friday we could hear the tornado sirens going off and we kept one eye on the local news TV channel, ready to run to the neighbor’s to hide in their basement if the storms moved any closer. We were very lucky that all of the severe weather – the tornadoes and the giant hail storms that accompanied them- skirted around us. Unfortunately many other areas of KY, especially West Liberty in Eastern KY were hit very hard with loss of life and major property damage. I’ll post more about that later– I am planning to go with friends who have family in West Liberty (all safe and sound, thankfully) to spend a day or two cleaning up, re-building or doing whatever we can to help once they open the town up again. Right now everything is locked down and they aren’t letting anyone in.

After such traumatic weather on Friday we had a hard time taking Sunday’s snow predictions seriously. But around 11pm Sunday night giant, fluffy flakes started coming down and within hours the ground was coated in a thick layer of snow. By morning we had about 4″. The snow has stopped now and the sun is out, making everything shine and sparkle.My neighbor, Bailey, came over to help me feed the animals (extra helpings for everyone since the grass is all covered up) and we were delighted to find that the snow is perfect for snow man building!

We were very lucky that all of the severe weather – the tornadoes and the giant hail storms that accompanied them- skirted around us.