Crickets

I have a backlog of posts for you someday but have been having some issues with the blog mechanics (namely being unable to post photos) and mostly having time to sort it out. I’m working on changing the hosting and getting things back up and running and will deluge you with updates about things that happened months ago. I can tell you are super excited.

In the meantime, I cannot believe it is August already!! I have a draft of an end of June post– oops. As soon as the weather gets nice, I swear time speeds up into overdrive.
Since I still haven’t worked out a re-direct to the new hosted site, I’m gonna be super fancy and tell you to go here:
to find me and these exciting updates I keep promising. Sorry I couldn’t make this smoother.
Happy August!!

Have a seat

Let’s talk chairs, shall we? I recently admitted to my sibs over some beverages that I have a serious chair problem. Now that they know, the interwebs is the next obvious place to say this. A chair problem? You ask. A chair problem.

Several years ago I had an old dining room set with tall chairs that weren’t really my style and they made the room seem smaller. Eventually the table needed refinishing and I realized I didn’t like it enough to spend the effort to re-do the set. So I sold it on Craigslist and started looking for replacements.

DSC_3135My elderly neighbor sold me two chairs for $5 each. I loved them the minute I saw them. They needed repainting but these things were solid, elegant, had nice legs. Mmmm chairs. I scoured garage sales, thrift stores, and craigslist for weeks looking for more chairs to finish out the set. I found three that were fine but I didn’t love, but at $5 a chair, they seemed to do the job. I actually ended up passing those on to a friend who bought a dining room set that matched them almost perfectly!

After weeks of searching, I finally found a set of four that DSC_3142I couldn’t walk away from. Well I did at first because I thought they were asking way too much for them. But then it got awkward when I stopped 4 or 5 times to check on my chairs. As luck would have it, they went on a half off sale and they came home with me! Silly me thought I was just putting together a new dining room set, not the beginnings of a serious problem. I painted all six of the gray and reupholstered the four with seat cushions. I love these chairs. I use them constantly and still absolutely love them.

Last summer I wanted to find a couple chairs for the sewing room, to use as overflow, and another one for the desk. My friend and I went to a large and wonderful neighborhood garage sale and I left with 4 chairs for $8. Not chairs that made me drool, one is going to be a project / barn chair, the other three I could repaint and use for the desk and sewing room. Good plan, right?

…… and then I saw three of these at a thrift store. DSC_3152Drool. These weren’t just “oh I guess we could sit on these and make them work” chairs. These were gorgeous, old, sturdy, and lovely chairs. Where have you been all my life???? Again, I visited the overpriced chairs twice and then they went on sale. You’re mine at last!! Because I may have a chair problem, but not an overpriced chair problem. Once they went on sale, these were the chairs. So the cheapo make do chairs in the barn will be repainted and sold off because hello gorgeous! These ones are staying with me.

DSC_3045Six weeks later, I came across these two at a garage sale for a steal of a deal. Be still my beating heart. Two for $15. These beauties are rock solid and the wood detail. Sigh. As I told the woman I was buying them, she said her husband really didn’t want to sell them. “I understand completely,” I said and promised to take good care of them. As I was walking out of the garage with them, the husband said wistfully “Take care of my girls.” I will sir, I will.

The heart loves what it loves. And apparently mine loves sturdy, old, nice legs, curved bottoms, and some kind of interesting old detail on the chair backs.

I am learning some important lessons: Never settle for chairs you don’t love. Because girl, you will find some you LOVE and can’t leave without. Save yourself the trouble and buy no more “meh” chairs.

I’m also putting myself on an official chair ban. I’m not allowed to buy any more chairs until I fix up and get rid of those spare chairs in the barn. #chairban2016

Perhaps this is where I should also mention I am a single woman who lives alone. It does seem that 11 dining room chairs is probably enough until I fill those ones up. It gives a whole new meaning to this song .  Maybe I just allow myself one more for an even dozen. That’s how many kids I want someday…

While I’m at it, I’m trying to figure out if I could make a living as a curator of beautiful chairs and petite china cabinets. Let me know if you hear of any openings– or if you need any chairs!!

And now you know.

I’m Reenie. I have a chair problem.

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Puppy Season ?

DSC_2552In the past year, my few friends who had dogs basically had most of them die. First Chance, then Maggie, then Buck, then Pepper. All within a couple months of each other. I was ahead of the curve (knowing Maggie wasn’t going to be around much longer) so I got a puppy the same year. This year, however, seems to be the year of the puppy for my other friends. What is really funny is realizing that I am not ready for a new puppy. Once in awhile I have the crazy thought that a puppy would be great for Daisy because she’d have someone to romp with and maybe she’d leave poor old Suzie alone. Then I come to my senses and realize I am not ready for a puppy yet.

Being a lover of all things cute and fuzzy, I assumed the minute I met my friend’s puppies, I’d go all mush and want to take them home.  Instead I loved meeting them -fluffy, tiny, adorable balls of love and mischief, and I left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude that they were not coming home with me. I guess I’m not quite recovered from my own puppy yet — or rather, we’re in the one year old puppy stage which is a big enough handful right now.

It also reminds me, once again, to look for the good in my current situation. Not that there aren’t struggles, but that there is always good to be found.

I do miss the tiny puppy snuggles. I do not miss having to be vigilant about shoes, anything on the floor, or someone peeing in the wrong place. Daisy is 1.5 years old. She is and has been completely potty trained for so long I barely remember that rough month last spring. She comes when she is called. She chews on toys exclusively and hasn’t destroyed anything in a long time (except that one day I left her out of the crate when I went to Mass — oops). She doesn’t even have to sleep in a crate anymore because she’s proven she can be trusted at night. This is all very good and makes my life a happy place. Would lack of these things ruin my life? No. No it wouldn’t. But it is nice to look back and see how far we’ve come. Now if I can get her to not occasionally knock over tiny people with her exuberance and drop the ball consistently on command, we’ll be really living the dream.

Planking the Ceiling – Room 1

Friday night I was having three of my nieces and nephews over to sleep over. It had been far too long and everyone needed haircuts. Their mom brought us dinner, thankfully since I’d been in project mode and haven’t been grocery shopping in far too long. We ate around the stack of luan planks on the dining room table. The weather was nasty – cold, snowy, freezing rainy. Ick. I informed the kids that they’d be put to work on Saturday because at Aunt Reenie’s house, it isn’t all fun and games (I’m not sure they believe me). I considered trying to get a jump on things Friday evening, but it was too complicated considering needing places for people to sleep. So we did haircuts and played Settlers of Catan with much shenanigans. I sure love these goons.

Saturday morning, the kids were down shortly after 7. We ate breakfast and then got down to business. Geno was the official sander, sanding down the edges of the boards just enough to smooth them out and get rid of the splinters. Jane was my official spackler.  Once I removed the trim that was glued to the wall, there was a fair amount of spackling to do. Jane was very proud of her work and being able to help. Love that kid.

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Both Lucy and Geno took turns helping me hold the planking up once it was glued, so I could nail it up there with my awesome Ryobi nail gun. I love that thing. This project would have been miserable without it!

The kids and I got the room emptied (into the other bedroom), 6 of the planks sanded and up, the walls spackled, and lunch eaten (and they did some reading and relaxing) before they had to leave. I spent the rest of the afternoon finishing the job. Planking a ceiling solo is not ideal or quick. And every single muscle in my back and arms hurt by the end of the day.

By the end of Saturday (which came around 11 pm), I had finished the ceiling, caulked the perimenter, primed the whole ceiling and the walls, removed the window and door trim, had completely trashed the whole room and my body. Laying down my back shoulder muscles throbbed and twitched. My wrists throbbed. My arms throbbed. How old am I?? Then I realized I had basically worked non-stop from 9 am until 11 pm. 14 hours. Oh.

Sunday I went to Mass, groaning in pain whenever I moved my arms. Then brunch at my parent’s to celebrate my niece’s birthday. And then home again to try to get this thing closer to livable. It still feels a long way off. Amazingly, once I started painting another coat on the ceiling, the throbbing subsided. Guess the muscles just needed to be worked again.

My dear friend stopped in and we visited while measuring, cutting and installing the new door and window trim. I was able to re-use some of the window trim but replaced a lot of it because it wasn’t a consistent size and was in poor condition. The door trim I replaced entirely to make it farmhouse style trim. It looks awesome, if I do say so myself.

By 10 pm on Sunday, I’d put a third (and final) coat of paint on the ceiling, a coat of paint on the walls, primed and put one coat of trim paint on all the trim. I also started trimming out the weird stairway cut outs with a combination of old and new trim. Gotta make these weird little cubbies look a little less trashy. All at once, both of my batteries died making finishing the cubbies or doing anything else with the power tool set impossible. At 10 pm, that felt like a good thing. And I crashed hard.

A few helpful tips in case you want to try this at home (and to remind me when I do the other bedrooms):

– Dry fit all of your planks — especially if you’re doing it in a wonky old house where nothing is even. It is much easier to make adjustments before you put glue on the plank.

– Everyone on the interwebs says this but seriously, have help to plank the ceiling. Even my inexperienced, rather distracted help was better than the part I finished by myself simply because more hands makes this project infinitely better! No matter how handy you think you are, it is very difficult to hold a board, grab a nail gun, check the spacing, and nail it in place with only two hands.

– I read many different posts online about ceiling planking. Some people insisted the cheap luan I used was miserable and terrible. Some swear by the tongue and groove planking in this brand or that. I will say this: the luan planking was not perfect. But it was incredibly affordable and I really do love it. Totally worth the investment. Even in it’s imperfections, it fits the character of this little shack I call home and is a vast improvement over the ugly ceiling tiles.

The Project Spiral

I’ve been dying to plank the ceilings upstairs for a long time. I am not a fan of the old ceiling tile squares and to make matters worse, they are badly installed and the lines aren’t straight and there’s an inch gap on all sides which is wonky and used to allow dead bugs to fall down (before I caulked them). It is a Type A nightmare for sure. (And no, we are not surprised that something done in this house was poorly done).

Let’s take a moment though to talk about a little thing I call the “Project Spiral”… if you’ve ever done any sort of project, this may sound familiar. The situation in the yellow bedroom upstairs is a perfect example of the project spiral. I had a short term roommate for a couple months. It should have been fine but ended up being kind of weird and complicated. Regardless, she didn’t spend much time at the house and when she did, she spent most of that time shut in her room. When she moved in at the end of October, I moved out of that bedroom and into the “kid” bedroom figuring it is easier to displace myself for guests than a roommate. I love that little yellow bedroom. It gets great light and though it is tiny, there’s something very cozy about it. It has the old textured plaster walls but I painted it and put a new laminate floor and thought it was pretty great.

Righto. So the roommate moved out and I was having house guests coming so I thought I’d just clean the room, maybe rearrange furniture, swap out the dressers, and call it good. Of course I actually want to plank the ceilings and thought maybe this would be a good time- seeing as no one is living in this room or staying in this room. Plus it is a tiny space to try the planking in and very budget friendly. Maybe…

IMG_0356Around this time, I overreacted to the incredibly busy-ness of the last three weeks and scheduled myself at home. Every night. Because burn out, people, burn out. Work is insane. I had overscheduled my evenings for several weeks. And I needed home time more than anything else. So there I was, at home, in my paint sweats, and decided to paint this old Craigslist stool to turn it into a bedside table for the guest bedroom. A nice low key paint project that I could do in my living room, surrounded by dogs, while watching Fixer Upper. Hard to go wrong really. I paint the stool one night, wax it the following night, and then take it up to see how it fits into the bedroom.

I should mention that the bedroom is 10 feet by 7 feet (about the size of an average walk in closet). A full size bed takes up the entire width of the room. There’s not a lot of room to play with. But being the eternal optimist, of course I think I can rearrange things and find space that isn’t there. So I’m scooting the bed to put the newly painted stool turned bedside table (to hold the newly painted lamp). And I notice the walls look really dirty. You can see the outline of all the places the roommate had put up pictures. On closer inspection I realize it is soot. I knew she was burning candles up there– fine– and never opened the door– fine– but I wasn’t expecting this! Sigh. I decide to see if I can rotate the bed so I have to remove the mattress and box spring. When I do, I notice there are coffee spills on all sides of the bed– and coffee stains running down the wall where the bed was. Really?? We can’t wipe up coffee when we spill it all over the bed and wall?? I go downstairs and get some cleaner and rags and start scrubbing down everything.

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It is while scrubbing down the walls I notice there is a bunch of adhesive gunk on the wall and in several spots it has actually pulled the paint off. What?? I mean, who glues stuff to the wall?? Particularly knowing you’re only going to be there a couple months? Now I’m just annoyed because I am going to have to repaint. On the other hand,, this room was originally painted with one gallon of unknown clearance yellow ($5 baby). Naturally there’s a bit left for touch up but not enough for repainting the whole room. Ugh. And touching up walls that have been covered in soot is not going to work.

And thus the spiral…
Paint a stool to use as a bedside table =>
Rearrange furniture =>
Find soot and coffee stains all over the walls =>
Scrub walls =>
Find adhesive and peeled paint on walls =>
Must repaint the walls…
and if I’m going to repaint, I might as well go ahead and plank the ceiling amiright? That also leads to upgrading the window trim and painting that too, and while I’m doing trim, I should probably swap out door trim too so it all matches…

The project spiral.
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I decide to pull off one ceiling tile to see what is underneath, fully aware that this is the point of no return. The tiles are very solidly glued to the original plaster ceiling. (Maybe I was secretly hoping to find old planked ceilings already there– alas old plaster ceilings covered with adhesive holds far less appeal for me). I see no reason to remove the ceiling tiles and will just glue and nail the planks over the existing ceiling tiles. Let’s call it extra insulation, shall we?

So I went to Home Depot after work on Thursday. I got sheets of luan board (very thin plywood often used as underlayment). A whopping $12 per 4×8 sheet. I need 3 sheets for this room but decided to get 4 since I know myself well enough to know I may need it. I asked the nice man at HD to cut it down into 8″ strips (the long way). He said they have a new minimum of 12″. Darn. I thought for a moment. I mean, I do have a table saw and could cut them down myself (other than the fact that I can’t transport a full 4×8 sheet in my CRV). Honestly I don’t want to. I ask the guy how wide his blade is (1/8″) so I ask him to cut the sheets down to 11 7/8 (so they will all be evenly sized) and I decide to just go for the wider plank look. Anything is going to be better than the ugly ceiling tiles.

Once I got home, I notice he cut the planks 11 5/8 instead of 7/8. Meh. What is done is done. I could cut these all in half at home– hmmm– I opt to just go with the wider boards.

Next Up: Actually planking the ceiling…

Stick Day 2016

Stick day sort of happened naturally last year. My gang of eight nieces and nephews were coming for a sleep over. I had the idea to have a stick picking up contest – we split into two teams of 4 (boys vs girls), I gave each team a tarp and set a timer for 15 minutes and whichever team had the bigger stick pile on the tarp won. As it happens, the piles were too close to call so everyone got a dollar (because I hadn’t planned ahead and do have a big coin jar in the laundry).
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Now, I may have a “usual sleep over gang,” but there are also a lot of other awesome kids in my life who I certainly don’t want to exclude! So this year I planned Stick Day in advance and invited a few other little friends. I told them about the stick contest (which is a mere 15 minutes) and then told them the rest of the day they can just play. Monica (age 7) wanted to make sure if the losers got prizes, they would be smaller than the winner’s prizes. James was suspicious that it sounded like work. Avery nagged her mom about it for weeks and the week of Stick Day, in her list of awesome things in her life, Stick Day was up near the top. AJ practiced picking up sticks in his own yard just to be sure his skills were up to par.
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Stick Day was actually postponed because the original date ended up being 34 degrees and snowing. The rescheduled day was perfect! 72 and sunny. Absolutely amazing. The crowds began arriving… I divided the kids into teams – there were 9 kids in attendance for the stick contest part. Assigned team captains. And started the timer. We went to the back corner of the yard where there were a ton of sticks because I neglected it almost entirely last year. The kids barely had to move the tarps once they started because there were sticks and logs galore. I loved watching them try to move huge logs, and break off branches. And how they pulled together making new friends and picking up sticks furiously!
 And we had another tie! Everyone got to choose three mini chocolate bars.
One of my favorite things about this little corner of the world is how much joy it brings to the little people in my life. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but this place has it’s own kind of magic. As my niece Lucy told me this weekend, “I love this yard so much because there are all kind of ecosystems here! Pine forest, fields, regular woods… EVERYTHING!”  Yes, I imagine that’s what it is: all the ecosystems. Or something. I think about how rarely kids have hours on end to just roam around outside creating forts and games and tribes and messes. It was one of my favorite things about visiting friends in the country and growing up in the country. I love that I get to share that adventure with these darling people.

After everyone had chocolate and snacks, they scattered. Kitty made war paint using ashes from the fire pit and soon had almost everyone painted up. Maria and Avery and Monica had an elaborate mud pie making operation. Norah wanted me to release the “Cannonball” (Daisy) so she could “skitter up a tree”. There’s something about the thrill of an energetic puppy to escape. Michael ground corn into flour by smashing corn kernels between paper plates on a stump (Norah brought the corn and directed the operation). At one point, I was helping the little boys build a hide out and Michael found the perfect stick for a bow and wanted string. (Apparently I need more string). I apologized that I didn’t think I had any. Lucy swoops in “What do you need?” “String for this!” He holds up the perfectly curved stick that just HAD to become a bow. “Oh I always bring my emergency kit when I come here. I have string, yarn, this elastic string, rubber bands…”  The teepee had sticks added and a clothesline set up (the girl with the emergency fun kit may have been behind this). Tribes were formed. Signs were made. Poetry was read.

It was Benjamin’s (almost 4) first time to stay for a play day (without his mom) and he was thrilled. He is usually wary of dogs after having been bitten in the past (by other dogs), but he and Suzie were fast friends and he even made friends with the energetic Daisy. I tell you, there is magic afoot.  Of course Suzie could be a therapy dog for kids afraid of dogs. She LOVES her kids. She always runs to see them and then stands there so they will scratch them. Once the kids discover that it is the secret to calming her down and making her happy, she gets scratched pretty much non stop. What’s not to love about that? AJ said several times “Suzie loves me the most because I give her nice big hugs and I’m a really good scratcher.” True story.

Daisy did mostly fine. One small person got scratched because I was in helping another person pee on the potty and she got too rambunctious. She spent the day in and out of her crate. Mostly out with us, with some occasional breaks when she got too rambunctious. My tribe for the event consisted of the three little boys. We played with the dogs, clipped branches, built a boy’s hideout, climbed a fallen tree. All the good things in life.

At my house we have a few rules:
We are kind.
We are helpful.
We are inclusive.

Next time, I’ll add “We never sit on the couch.”  After the gang left, I found charcoal war paint all over my couch. Thank God it came off easily with a magic eraser.

By the time the parents arrived to pick up the troops, there was a crowd of the dirtiest kids I have seen in a long time. And absolutely happy from their wild day in the ecosystems. On the way out, a few kids asked “Can we come back next weekend?”

And that my dear readers, is the magic of Stick Day.
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My life the circus: just add chickens

It was a nice Friday night and I borrowed my dad’s car with the hitch. I headed down to Saline to pick up a trailer from the C’s to pick up the coop. My community of people are a delightfully interconnected bunch. It happened to be their daughter’s birthday so they were having my brother and his family for dinner. I got to meet their delightfully chubby baby (finally!), visit for a bit, and then drove off with the trailer.

My brother in law and the kids helped me load it and a rototiller to borrow onto the trailer. I drove home and another friend came to help me unload it. He lives close by and is personally invested in this coop being ready since his family would be bringing their chicks to live there the next day. This particular friend happens to be a brilliant woodworker so I showed him my attempt to hack a new light fixture and he gave me some advice on how to solve the final steps. I love my people!!

IMG_0625Saturday was an all out circus at my house. While I had the borrowed trailer, I picked up a bed from my friend’s house for my Grandpa who lives with my parents. So I visit with Bob, we load a bed, and I visit with my mom while we unload a bed. Then I head back home where Donal, Lindsey, and CK  are already at my house and running the hills with the pups. They were over for a work day in the yard. An hour later, our friend Nick swings by. We were signed up to cook this meal for charity on Sunday (Nick and I each cooking part of the meal). He needed to drop off his portion on Saturday and I’d make the delivery the next day with my portion. So Nick stops to visit for a bit and then heads out.

We get back to our stick retrieval program, driving trailer load after trailer load down to the burn pile. Even CK got in on the stick picking up. You’ve got to start them young! Maybe next year he’ll be ready for the Official Stick Day. We ate lunch and then CK went down for his nap, Lindsey went to get a shot, and Donal and I continued on with the yarding.

Somewhere in the middle of this Cora and her kids show up to deliver the chicks to their new home. I knew this was going to be a sad parting (for the kids) so I made sure they did all the chores to get the chicks settled: they put them in the coop, filled the food and water. Thomas did a thorough inspection of their new digs. “This is a pretty nice coop! It’s a lot bigger than I was expecting. But it does need some more paint.” IMG_0605

I told the kids that I will need them to come back and help me build a bigger chicken run and do some chicken chores. Thomas plans to pitch his tent right next to the coop for the next sleepover (okay he actually thought maybe we should put the coop down next to the “tent spot”. Um no. We aren’t moving it every time people come sleep over). The kids picked them some delicious dandelions and we all were delighted at how much they seemed to really like their new home (and the dandelions). Seeing the tractor out, the kids needed a few laps around the yard in the trailer. They promised to visit again soon and Maria’s parting show was to ask me to please try to keep the dogs from eating them (her mom obviously prepared her for the possibility).

IMG_0609Suzie got quite excited and pawed at the coop a few times. I brought Daisy out on her own and did some down stay practice near the coop. Allowing her to see it but not go nuts about it. She was interested but much calmer than Suzie over the whole thing.
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 Donal and Lindsey offered to return the trailer to the C’s house while their kid was napping upstairs at my house and I hauled out the borrowed rototiller to get started on my new vegetable garden area. Naturally as soon as I hauled the tiller up the hill to the garden spot, it started raining so I didn’t even get started on the garden. Moments later CK woke up from his nap so we braved the light rain to see the new chickens and check out the fort in the pine “forest.” As we walked by the fallen tree in the back of the yard, he commented casually “Dat’s a really big stick dere.” Yes. Yes it is. Then he asked where the tractor was, so we had to open the barn and peek at the tractor. Even with the tractor off, CK wanted to stay a safe distance away. He wants to love it and is clearly fascinated, but it is kind of scary when it is running.

His parents arrived to take him home and I figured I would return my dad’s car and run some errands since I couldn’t keep working in the yard right now. 2.5 hours later, as I pulled up (still raining), I was shocked and horrified to see Daisy in the yard. She had been in her crate!!! (Well at least she was until I let her outside to pee and forgot her out there in the rain). She was wet, muddy and frantic from being left alone in the rain. I was frantic because I was sure I was about to find half a dozen dead chicks in my yard. Noooooooooo.

I raced out there to find all the chicks still in tact and in the coop. Daisy had clearly dug one or two paws full of dirt in a couple places in an attempt to get in. But the big hole was 3 feet away from the coop. Because she IS that smart. Or because she dug a paw or two full of dirt next to the coop, which reminded her about how much she likes digging big holes and she gave herself a little more room for that endeavor. Oh Daisy. Thankfully her stupidity or easily distractable nature saved the day and the lives of six chickens. I was very relieved.
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The chicks have all their feathers but I left the heat lamp on in their coop for a couple days while they adjust to the great outdoors (and the cold rainy weather). Daisy runs out to see them when I let her outside, but she’s not lunging or digging or trying to get in. I know it is too early to call this a success, but it has been a successful week and for this I am grateful. And the adventure continues.

And in case you want cuteness overload, here’s some letters from cute kids about their chickens: FullSizeRenderIMG_0642FullSizeRender_1FullSizeRender_2FullSizeRender_3