Monday, April 29, 2013

Sneak Peak of Cottage Exterior

Looking at all of the mustard color paint on the outside of our beach cottage has been really depressing.  EVERYTHING was mustard--the trailer itself, the outside of the porch, the window trim, the steps and landings outside both doors.  Yuck.

So it was pretty exciting this weekend to get just a preview of coming attractions:

We stocked up on paint at a recent Sherwin Williams 40% sale.  The colors we chose are Mariner for the exterior walls, Youthful Coral for the doors, shutters, and awnings, and Extra White for the trim and stairs.  One of my friends said it reminds her of a Key West cottage....

On Saturday, we primed the outside of the porch and then painted just enough of the aqua around the "windows" so Doug could re-screen and add trim.  We also bought a vintage screen door at a salvage yard, and we painted, re-screened, and hung it this weekend.  Now we actually have a door that closes and has no gaps around it.  Imagine that.

It may be a few weeks before we get the outside of the porch finished because we want the inside done as soon as possible so we can get furniture in and actually begin to use the space.  Doug has already installed the new floor, and this weekend, he nailed up T-111 panels to cover the old studs.  Painted white, they look amazing.  This picture of the new floor shows just a little of the old "walls," which were nothing more than the back of the outside wall and the studs:

 And here's what it looks like with the new panels primed:

Now the porch is completely screened, including under the floor boards, and we have a door that latches tight from inside, so it should be bug proof and relatively secure.

This weekend, we plan to install bead board on the ceiling, paint the paneling white, and paint the trailer part of the porch interior aqua.  

Then it will be ready for furniture!  

Can't wait.....

Friday, April 26, 2013

Dog-Proof Cat Feeding Station

As soon as we got our yellow Lab, Jodie, I knew we were going to have a cat food problem.  Like most cats, Pax likes to eat when he wants to, so we always left dry food out for him all day and gave him canned food in the morning and at night.  But he didn't even wolf that down--sometimes it was still half eaten a few hours after we put it out for him.  And of course dogs love cat food because it's rich and smells so delightfully nasty.

So I did the thing that I never thought I would do...the thing that anyone who knows me never thought I'd do.  I let my cat eat on the kitchen table.  

But it really bothered me, and of course Pax abused the privilege.  He got up on the table not just to eat but to lounge.  And to put himself in a position where he could take a swipe at the dog's head when she went past.

So two weeks into having Jodie, I decided I had had enough of Pax on the table.  Doug had talked about making him a dog-proof feeding station, and we looked at some pictures online.  

Places like Orvis sell them, but they're like pieces of furniture--they take up a lot of space, which we don't have, and they're expensive. I do love the expressions on the dogs' faces as they look longingly at the kitty gourmet feasts in these ads:

This one is sold by a woodworker, who is obviously very talented.  But who needs a dovetailed cat feeding box, especially when the prices are $450 for a small one and $600 for the large?

I knew Doug could make something nice (although he did warn me that I wouldn't get dovetailed joints), but he has no time.  Right now, in between photo shoots at the University, he's trying to get the porch renovated at our beach cottage.

So two nights ago, I decided to take things into my own hands.  We have a freestanding butcher block in the corner of our kitchen where I feed the dog and store the pet food.  I was using the space underneath to store canned foods in a vintage wooden box, but I decided that I was willing to sacrifice the space if it would let me safely feed the cat.  I cleared everything out and scrounged around the kitchen for something to use as a barrier.  

Aha--a grid-type cooling rack for cookies was just the thing and the perfect size.  At first I thought I would need two--one for each of the open sides where the block wasn't against a wall.  But then I realized that if I positioned my "tower of tins" just right, I could leave a space that was just the right size for Pax to pass through.  Here he is, eating in it just minutes after I got it set up:

Initially, since Doug was out when I was doing this, I fastened the cookie rack with just a large rubberized twist tie (the green thing on the left leg in the photo above).

But when Doug got home, he helped me install four plastic cable ties so that it would be tightly fastened in place at all four corners:

I love this shot because they're both eating at the same time (although it's hard to see Pax):

And I was able to keep my tins, which store (from the top down) treats for both of them, kibble for Pax, and kibble for Jodie. After all, even even pets need vintage storage containers.

I'm thrilled with the results--it was a no-cost, no-Doug-needed solution to a problem.  And I'm posting it here in the hope that it might give other pet owners an idea for how they might adapt a similar space in their own houses for cat-food-stealing dogs.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Riffed by Thrift

A few weeks ago, Christine asked me if I could make a T-shirt quilt for her friend Anais, who's graduating from UD in May.  Christine offered to pay for the materials and take me out to lunch in payment.  

Because she's a grad student without a lot of money, I tried to keep the materials cost down.  Instead of buying batting, which is about $17 for a twin size piece on sale, I bought a blanket at Goodwill for $4 to use as the liner.  I also had a pair of double size flannel sheets from GW ($3 each) that I planned to use for the sashing and the back.

Keep in mind that sewing in my house is now a challenge with a large goofy kitten who thinks that the entire house is a cat playground:

and a Lab that wants to stick her nose in everything I do, although I admit that when I took this picture, her worst crime was being underfoot:

Here is Pax watching me work in the only room in our house that has an open floor space big enough for me to spread everything out flat:

This is the shirts laid out on the bathroom floor as I was still deciding how to arrange them and what to use as the sashing:

This picture shows the blue buffalo plaid that I was originally going to use but decided was too dark to go with the shirts.

After I finally had everything cut, arranged, and sewed, I assembled the layers and discovered that the blanket was too soft and stretchy so the finished product didn't lay flat. I had to rip the entire outside seam out and start over.  Once I took it apart, I realized that I had cut the sheet for the back too short.

How many more mistakes could I make on one project?  Maybe I could blame the cat and dog for distracting me....

But sometimes mistakes lead to a better product.  I put the quilt aside for the evening, and the next day, Doug went to the fabric store and bought me a bag of batting.  Then I searched through my fabric stock to see what else I had that could work for the back.  I found a cotton Tommy Hilfiger twin sheet that had small blue and dark red stars on a white background.

I decided that it would work with the blue, red, and tan plaid sashing and borders in a kind of funky way.  It also had a nice light blue and white striped edge that I could fold over the front of the quilt for some added interest (you can see it better a few pix down):

Christine suggested a pillow too, and I had a little bit of material left over from the back (with already finished edges) as well as a partial bag of loose batting in my stash:

One of Anais's T-shirts actually had her name on the sleeve, so I cut that out and ironed it on the border with "Steam a Seamz":

Christine gave the quilt to Anais last night, and she loves it.  I'm really happy with how it turned out, but I also learned a valuable lesson in thrift.  

Sometimes it just doesn't pay to follow the least expensive option, and you have to know when you're beaten.  If I had bought the batting in the first place, I would have saved the $4 on a trashed blanket.  I also had a funny feeling about the plaid flannel sheet for the backing because it wasn't heavy enough to hold its shape, but I went ahead with it anyway and ended up trashing that too once I cut it wrong.

Still, the whole project cost me under $30, and I have lunch with Christine to look forward to.  

She even promised to buy me dessert.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Dog's Life

I'm hoping to have some renovation updates soon, but having a new dog in the family has kept us pretty occupied for the past couple of weeks, so this will be another post about our rescue Lab, Jodie.

Jodie adapted pretty well to living with us during her first week--we had some bathroom accidents, some poor leash manners, and some skirmishes with the cat, but she is a quick learner and eager to please, so most of the problems we had initially are pretty well resolved at this point.

But Doug was worried about whether Jodie was happy.  She has a very soulful face:

We also noticed that she didn't wag her tail a lot.  I started thinking about the video on her petfinder page and remembered that she had loved playing ball in Taiwan and that she had been living with a bunch of other dogs. 

I realized that although Jodie was getting plenty of exercise with our daily 5-mile walks, as well as lots of attention and praise, she was missing a very important element of life--fun.

So on Friday afternoon, even though it was chilly and damp, I took her out with the retractable leash and threw a tennis ball for her in an open grassy area across the street from our house.  

She had a blast and started wagging her tail.  She also got tired in a way that she didn't from just walking--the panting-I-just-want-to-sprawl-on-the-kitchen-floor kind of tired.

The next day, we took her to the beach.  It's a pretty deserted place, so we got brave enough to take her off the leash and really throw the ball hard so she could get in some good runs.  She raced through the sand to retrieve the ball and brought it back every time:

When we got back home that night, Doug was planning to grill some chicken and some venison that someone had given him.  I figured Jodie was probably tired enough that she would stay with us on the deck without her leash--especially with the smells of deer and chicken in the air.  She was very good, and we found an old inflatable rubber ball that was kind of squishy for her to chase. I don't know where she got more energy for that game, but she found reserves somewhere:

The next day, Christine, Doug, and I met Alex, Ashleigh, and Honey at a park in Havre de Grace, Md., and it was like Jodie was reuniting with a long-lost sister (Jodie is the one with the red collar):

They chased balls, wrestled:

 and then crashed in the shade under the table while we ate our lunch:

Once again, Jodie taught us a lesson.

Life is about more than healthy food, exercise, and work--everyone needs a little fun....every day.

P.S. Yesterday afternoon, Doug stumbled on this pleasant little scene in our bedroom:

I'm sure if Jodie was allowed on the bed, they would have been napping together. I just wish Doug had moved the clothes I had just taken off out of the picture :-)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lessons from a Rescue Dog

We just got Jodie on Sunday, but we've already learned lots from her in 3 days.  Here she is right after we brought her home, sporting the red bandanna collar and denim leash and harness provided by her rescuer.

This photo was taken by the rescuer at her house right before we left:

They even sent us with a pillow that came all the way from Taiwan so that Jodie would have something of "home" with her when she arrived in the U.S.:

So, what has this sweet dog taught us in three days?

First, Cesar Millan is right.  Exercise, discipline, and affection--in that order--are the recipe for success with a dog.

We knew exercise was key because a tired dog is much less likely to get in trouble.  But giving a dog exercise is tough if she won't walk properly on a leash. So that was first.  I refuse to have my arm pulled out of the socket by a dog, so our first four or five walks were painful.  Leash slack, we move forward. Leash taut, we wait.  It took us an hour to go around the block the first day, but on the morning of day 3, we walked a brisk five miles with the leash mostly slack except for an occasional rabbit or squirrel sighting.

Here's what she looked like yesterday evening after her long walk with me and a shorter one with Doug--the cool deck felt great to a tired dog hanging out with her new family:

On to discipline.  Jodie has already learned to sit before she's allowed to return to the house after being outside, to wait for an OK from me before she dives into her food, and to lie down while we eat dinner.  These aren't just random shows of "I'm the pack leader" on our part--they're all designed to make our life with her more pleasant for everyone.  We don't want a dog that knocks people over, begs at the table, dumps her food bowl in her rush to gobble her dinner, or rushes into the house before we've had a chance to check her feet and take off her leash.

And affection flows much more easily if you're not mad at your dog all the time.  Of course, someone may be mad for awhile, but we hope he will get over it soon:

Here he's watching her from the trunk we use as a coffee table:

while down below, she's too tired to care:

Aside from the Cesar principles, Jodie has reinforced the idea that we have to be flexible.  Just as we bought some wrong kitchen tables on the way to finding the right one, we've had to rethink some of our earlier dog decisions.

Like buying a crate.  Our house is small so we hoped to get by without a crate, since Jodie is an older dog and not a puppy.  But her bathroom training wasn't going so well, and we were getting frustrated, which wasn't doing anyone any good.  I found a used wire crate for $20, cleaned it up, outfitted it with some old white towels and her pillow, and in she went at bedtime.  We didn't hear a peep out of her all night, and, even better, I wasn't greeted by a pile of poop when I got up at 5:30 the next morning.

Or using a retractable leash.  I hate retractable leashes because I think people just use them to allow their dogs to run around in a completely uncontrolled fashion.  But we want to play ball with Jodie in the park near our house, and right now, she doesn't come back when we call her after she fetches the ball.  So we need a long leash in order to teach her how to come on command. We ended up buying a retractable leash, but we're hoping that eventually we won't need it because she'll be controllable in open spaces without it.  For our regular walks, though, we're sticking with the 6-foot leash cinched up to 3 or 4 feet so that she's close to our side at all times.

Or buying a tie-out cable.  We would NEVER leave Jodie tied out in the yard by herself.  But our yard isn't completely fenced, and our first goal has to be keeping her safe.  So we bought a 15-foot lightweight cable that can be fastened to the hammock hook on our deck, allowing her to be on the deck with us while we read, eat, or talk.  Again, we hope that eventually we won't need it once she reliably comes when called off leash.  Here, she's happily chewing a stick while Doug and I catch up on our day:

We've also had to prioritize our goals and pick our battles.  For right now, potty training, leash walking, and simple house manners are our top priority. We also want her to stop chasing the cat, but he at least has places to be safe until that lesson is ingrained.  Next up is coming when called and staying on command for longer periods of time.

And then maybe we can sign up for therapy dog training so that other people can enjoy Jodie as much as we do.

P.S. I learned one more lesson from Jodie after I posted this yesterday:  Don't get too cocky.  Last night, we walked Doug down to campus, where he had a photo shoot.  It was a beautiful spring evening, and students were everywhere--walking to class, playing Frisbee, going to dinner, walking their own dogs.  All of Jodie's lovely new leash skills, acquired at dawn when the world is quiet, went right down the drain--she pulled to look at everything and everyone.  So now I know we have work to do to get her ready for prime time.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Expletives Deleted

I was going to ask Doug to guest write this blog post for me because it's mostly about demo-ing the deck that formed the floor of our beach house screened porch.

I figured he would do a better job than I could of explaining everything that was wrong with how it was constructed by the previous owner.

But then I realized that I would have to delete way too many expletives, and besides, most of you who are reading this probably don't understand trusses and beams and loads any better than I do.

So I'm just going to tell you that the deck is now torn off and that it's a miracle it didn't collapse sometime over the years because there was almost nothing holding it up.  We also found that the deck wasn't even properly connected to the porch walls.

As Doug was tearing off the boards, he was telling me how he's going to redo it.  I just smiled and nodded because I know that he will do it right...unlike the previous owner.

Here are a few pix of the deck as it was coming off:

Luckily we found a whole sheet of T-111 and some plywood to fill in the growing open space as we worked or else Doug would have found himself with nothing to stand on:

Here's me inspecting from outside as the space inside grew too small for both of us:

My job was to haul the old boards around to the back of the trailer because we're going to use them to fix the shed ramp, which is currently so steep that only a mountain goat can climb it without slipping:

We also made a really cool discovery this weekend.  We've been looking at paint colors for the exterior--which is now just a hideous shade of mustard everywhere--walls, trim, steps....

We had kind of settled on aqua, coral, and white.  As Doug was cleaning up on Saturday, he noticed a small part of the trailer where it wasn't tightly connected to the living room addition.  The mustard paint hadn't quite reached that spot....and behind it was aqua.

That must have been the original color of the trailer.  So it's going back to its roots and will be jazzed up with white window trim and coral awnings.  The coral will also be used for the shutters on the living room addition. The steps and railings will be painted white.

Maybe I can find some coral and white geraniums for the flower beds.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Dresser of a Different Color

A few weeks ago, I posted about a funny little dresser/cabinet that we bought at a yard sale.  Doug added some bun feet to it that we had removed from a blanket chest when we needed to lower the chest to use it as a coffee table:

We bought it not knowing exactly what we wanted to do with it, but we liked its character, it was solid wood, and it was only $15.

Its first home was our extra bedroom, where it seemed like the perfect place to store extra fabric for my sewing projects (the sewing machine is also in this room).

But then we ordered a bed for Jodie, our rescue Lab.  The bed is large, and our house is small, so the dresser had to go.

No worries--I had another idea for it.  I realized it would be perfect as a buffet server and storage piece on the porch at our beach cottage.

But not looking like this.

Now before anyone gets too excited about my desecration of real wood furniture, I have a disclaimer here:  Although this piece is old and is solid wood, the finish is faux.  Someone used one of those antiquing kits on it, and its surface was actually covered with brown paint and some kind of glaze.

So I had no pangs of guilt in making it look like this:

Everything about our beach house is a little funky.  We have four different colored chairs in the dining room:

And Doug made these great little serving trays for the porch out of tennis racquet presses:

So in keeping with the funky pastel theme, I painted the body of the dresser with semi-gloss Sherwin Williams "Sea Salt," which I used on all of the built-ins in the trailer.  I then rooted through my collection of spray paints and came up with purple for one drawer, yellow for the other, and pink for the two little doors.  I already had two blue glass knobs and one pink one, so I ordered another pink one and two in Depression green, and now she's all dressed up and ready to go on the porch.

Once the porch is torn down and rebuilt, that is.

The fun begins this weekend....