Summer 2018

Wow, it’s been a few months since I made a post.  My goal was once a month, and I’ve clearly neglected that; Darn!

At the end of May, we went on a big family vacation to see Chris’ mom and dad.  We started off with a long weekend in Colorado with his mom, her husband, his sister, his brother in law, and their baby.  We got to see his mom’s new custom-built house, (BIG and BEAUTIFUL), and see our niece for the first time since her birth (we got to meet her the night she was born, how lucky!).  The house was just unbelievable, his mom and her husband, Jim, put a lot of manual labor into it.  Jim is the main builder on it, and has some hired helpers to assist.  We got to see all the kids’ rooms, downstairs, see the layout of upstairs with a beautiful kitchen and fireplace, and walk on the wrap around porch!  His mom lives in rural Colorado, close to an Aunt and Uncle from his dad’s side, so we got to see them too (I love them, dearly!).  We stayed with them, in their custom built house with an alpaca farm, and enjoyed lots of family time.

Then, we were off to Oregon to meet up with Chris’ dad, his girlfriend, her kids, and Chris’ siblings + spouses + kids.  We have two nieces, and we got to meet the eldest for the first time on this vacation!  His dad rented a beautiful house on the coast with a gorgeous view of the ocean, and we spent 4 nights/5 days there.  We saw LOTS of beaches, relaxed in the outdoor hot tub, and had a lot of fun family meals.  Unfortunately, his dad’s girlfriend’s father passed away while we were there.  It was not completely unexpected, and there was a beauty in that Oregon was the last state for him to visit, and the family really felt we took him there in his last moments.  It was so hard, but I’m glad we were together to help support his family, which is really our family; He was a kind, generous, welcoming man, who always made Chris and I feel like grandkids of his own.  Chris’ dad’s girlfriend, Jen, has been in my life as long as Chris has.  She is also kind, and loving, and I consider her family.  The vacation was certainly bittersweet and memorable.

June was a fairly quiet month for us, though I signed us up to host a foreign student through Compass USA!  I got to read through applications, and select a student, so I chose the only vegetarian young man, named Unai.  He is starting his last year at school, and hoping to go to university for physics next year.  He arrived the last week of June, and stayed for four weeks.  He was extremely polite, and a very good kid.  We got really lucky in that we were never required to “parent” him – never had to ask him to clean his room, put his phone away, etc.  He made his bed everyday, and I had to pry preferences from

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Unai cutting the Spanish omelet (that’s fake bacon on his plate, yum!)

him because he was always so agreeable!  Part of the program was the students had activities and field trips planned on most weekdays, then the host parents would have weekends for activities.  The meeting point for the students was ~45 min away from our house, so unfortunately we had to drive a lot on weekdays bringing him back and forth.  We talked a lot on those drives, and it was a great opportunity to get to know him.  He never complained, and was always ready in the morning on time!  On weekends, we took him camping, hiking, I hosted a small party for my co-workers and asked him to invite friends from the program, and tried to do American stuff.  He watched the first Lord of the Rings movie with me, and read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in English.  He taught us how to make a Spanish omlet (SO GOOD), and taught Chris and I about responsibility and working together.  As a child-free couple, we have A LOT of freedom, and you may be able to imagine what a BIG change it was for our household, even though our student was so easy to host.  Thankfully, we worked through the change well, and Chris really stepped up to help out when I needed him.  I was gone for Unai’s last weekend with us, at a sorority conference, so Chris handled driving Unai to a friend’s house and managing his whereabouts.  Unai and I cried when we parted for the last time; I gifted him the second Harry Potter book in American English, and he gifted me a Nightmare Before Christmas tote he had purchased on their trip to NYC.  I was so impressed with how thoughtful the gift was, and how grateful I was to meet him, share my culture, and learn about his.

At the end of July, I attended the national conference for my sorority, Phi Sigma Rho.  My attendance was required because I received training for my new volunteer position: Regional Field Director for the Midwest 3 region.  That covers 5 university chapters, including my alma mater, Purdue!  The main purpose to the role is to me an alumni liaison between the active chapter members and the national organization: holding them accountable to deadlines, national policies, and supporting the chapters with whatever needs may arise, however unique.  I have been out of college for 6 years, and uninvolved with my sorority for almost as long.  This past year, I volunteered for two committees: Colony Education and National Historical, to start giving back in small commitments.  The RFD position was something I applied for, and was selected to hold, and lasts for two years.  I thought the training at conference was very valuable, and I got to return to Purdue, where it was hosted!  I said goodbye to my favorite bar that is being demolished and closed, and ate Mad Mush cheese stix, two quintessential parts of my life at Purdue.  I also met active members from each of my chapters, and especially got to know women from my own chapter!  All around, it was a really amazing weekend, and I can’t wait for next year’s convention, in hot Arizona (ok, not excited for the heat!).

In August we threw a laaaaaaaaaaaate birthday party for Chris, who I promised to throw a party for his golden birthday (he turned 28 years old, this year, on March 28th).  It was gold themed, and we actually celebrated a friend’s birthday there, as his real birthday was the day after our party!  We hosted a beer-Olympics drinking game tournament, and had our guests pair up and declare a country to play for.  I made a giant bracket on a blackboard, and Team America won!  Consequently, also the team of the real birthday boy (not Chris).  It was great to host friends, and everyone enjoyed the gold décor, cutlery, drinks (beer and cocktail), and games!  We even had out of town friends come in to visit for the party, it was so much fun!

Now that the university school year is starting, I find myself jumping into Phi Rho chapter meetings to introduce myself.  Three down, two to go!

September is Chris and I’s second anniversary month, and Girl Scouts will be gearing up!

Kitchen Renovation!

When we bought our house, we envisioned a kitchen reno.  We may not have known the timeline, but we figured it was coming.  Over two years into home ownership, and the time has COME!  Not to mention the months of planning before this week!

In my last post I detailed out the design choices we made, and in this post, I will provide photographic evidence of our journey.  As you may know, my father-in-law is a general contractor, specializing in home renovations, and my husband is quite handy!  This process has been, and will be, all us (really, him & dad), excluding laying tile.

Kitchen Before

Here’s pictures from the house listing, before we bought it.  Notice the terrible hardware!

Kitchen Before 2

Here’s how the kitchen looked when we visited the property during our house hunt.

Chris took care of the demolition.  If you can’t tell, the cabinets were built into the kitchen, they are not pre-fab, so Chris has to rip each out piece by piece.  Then the floor had to come up, which included the laminate roll and the underlayment to reveal our subfloor.  This also included ripping up baseboards, getting new water pipe valves, and re-plastering some dry wall damaged in the process.  I helped by painting the walls and trim after the demo.  Here’s where we were at before the tile guy came:

Big empty space!  First step after this, is to get the tile down.  It took  the tile guy 2 days plus one morning, and here’s what the space looks like with flooring (and painting):

My father-in-law arrived the same day the floor was finished (the back corner by the door was last to go in, last to be grouted).  Then they got to work!

Day 1 (half day)Top Cabinets go up

Day 2: Bottom cabinets go in (including re-routing an air duct, and setting up new water lines for the fridge and dish washer)

My fridge now makes ice, and our dish washer ran the morning of Day 3!!  They put most of the shelves up inside the cabinets, and we’ve started filling them up and planning what will go where.  The egg cartons are already in the angled cabinet by the back door!

Day 3: Hardware went on (I helped!), putting up the microwave and vent through the roof, and barn wood shelf placement.

Day 4: The last full day my father-in-law is in town.  Finishing touches and the molding.  The crown molding was the hardest bit, as our ceilings are far from level, so it took a little elbow grease and ingenuity to get them looking proper.  Counter top supplier came in to measure, installation is a week from today.

Day 5: We actually wrapped up on Day 4, so that on Day 5 we could wake up easy, get breakfast, then head to the airport.  Here’s Chris and my father-in-law, proud of all their hard work:

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Rightfully proud of the labor, ingenuity, and effort that went into our beautiful new kitchen!

I am SO grateful to have such a hard working husband, and have always known his dad can put a steam engine to shame, as well.  We could not have accomplished this feat without his dad’s decades of professional experience renovating houses, because our 1950’s house did not make it easy on us.  His willingness to fly out to us and help us non-stop for four days is the only reason our kitchen came together so beautifully.  We are now one new kitchen, and many small tools richer.

Here are pictures at night, because I couldn’t wait the second I got home and the counter tops were on!!

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Counter tops are on!! I’m in love!

Chickens and Kitchens

Shaker door off white

Ivory Top Cabinets

April has brought much anticipated change to our house: the kitchen renovation has finally started!  After months of picking out cabinets, tile, hardware, counter tops, a sink, a faucet, and more – all decisions are final!  Chris was a real asset cold-calling different home remodel companies to request meetings and quotes and helping me make decisions from SO MANY options.  We don’t think this home is our ‘forever’ home so he kept a keen eye on what would add value to the house over what was too unique (or too expensive and could wait).  This renovation isn’t just the design for us, though; Chris’ father is coming out for half a week in May to help us (Chris) put together everything from the tile up!

The only labor we are paying for is for tiling the floor.  That just seemed like too much to YouTube, so we splurged and found a good deal for someone else to do it.  No regrets.

Shaker door grey

Grey Lower Cabinets

This past weekend, Chris took out all the cabinets, himself, which were built in and into the kitchen.  I wish the demo was as easy as unscrewing pre-assembled cabinets from the wall, but it really was dismantling the cabinets and ripping each piece out.  Thankfully, it went quicker than anticipated and Chris had our walls bare quickly, without much damage to the dry wall, itself.  Unfortunately, our gross (flimsy, off-white, thin, laminate) counter tops had an upper lip to them (no back splash) so we will have to sand down that seam, Spackle, and paint over it.  We are not planning to add back splash, so that portion of the wall will be revealed.

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Tile

I am gaining a new, functional, personalized kitchen, but I am also losing my bookshelves!  Our kitchen came with two waist-high book shelves separating it from the dining room and those are gone after demo day.  I filled them up completely, so we have a lot of misplaced books in need of a home.  My dream is for built-in shelves on either side of the fireplace, which isn’t unrealistic, but also isn’t happening soon.

For the floor, we are responsible for the demo, so that the tile guy can come in and lay tile right down.  This meant ripping up the gross (flimsy, off-white, thin, laminate – it’s a theme) floor as well as 0.25″ plywood underlayment to reveal the subfloor.  Chris purchased a long flooring scraper to help, and also relied on a circular saw, crow bar, and log splitting wedge to get pieces up.  But, get pieces up he did!  The most difficult section was by the back door, which has the basement door and backdoor in a nook.  Now our kitchen is cabinet and floor free, save the space around the kitchen sink, which we are leaving in until the day before tiling.

I am confident the before and after will be night-and-day, and we’re making a real improvement, but it’s hard not to worry about all the choices we’ve made coming together and looking cohesive.  I really don’t want out kitchen to look too new.  Our house was built in the 1950’s, and I really love most aspects of it, already.  I love that it’s a brick rancher on a huge yard, I love the wall colors and the brick wood-burning fireplace, I love the thin wood flooring and the layout (wish there was a master bath, though).  I want our new kitchen to fit in with our house, not outshine all the old character it has.  That is my biggest challenge, and I kept things muted (neutral colors, leathered counter tops), and rustic (barnwood shelving with cast iron brackets) in hopes to achieve my dated-but-quality look.  I picked an round-edged sink and a simple old-style faucet in hopes of keeping it out of the 21st century, where square industrial sinks and goose-necked faucets are all the rage.  I’m terrified the kitchen will look like it doesn’t belong.

Kitchen Faucet

Simple Faucet & Spray

I am confident the before and after will be night-and-day, and we’re making a real improvement, but it’s hard not to worry about all the choices we’ve made coming together and looking cohesive.  I really don’t want out kitchen to look too new.  Our house was built in the 1950’s, and I really love most aspects of it, already.  I love that it’s a brick rancher on a huge yard, I love the wall colors and the brick wood-burning fireplace, I love the thin wood flooring and the layout (wish there was a master bath, though).  I want our new kitchen to fit in with our house, not outshine all the old character it has.  That is my biggest challenge, and I kept things muted (neutral colors, leathered counter tops), and rustic (barnwood shelving with cast iron brackets) in hopes to achieve my dated-but-quality look.  I picked an round-edged sink and a simple old-style faucet in hopes of keeping it out of the 21st century, where square industrial sinks and goose-necked faucets are all the rage.  I’m terrified the kitchen will look like it doesn’t belong.

Kitchen Sink

Undermount Double Bowl Sink

Despite my concerns, I am ecstatic to be making visible progress and to have our completion date SO CLOSE!  We gave ourselves two weekends to demo, and scheduled the tile guy to come next Monday (4/30).  Chris’ dad comes in town that Wednesday, and our counter top provider comes in Saturday to measure, then counter top installation is the following Saturday.  Somewhere in between there we will be running a water line to the fridge, and figuring out electric for a garbage disposal.

We’ve made a few changes, pre-renovation, just to prepare for the inevitable:  We put in recess lighting to brighten up the space, purchased our new appliances ahead of time, and replaced the back door.  Those changes have happened slowly over the last two years (whoa, we’ve owned a home for two years!).

I will make a separate post to give you the full-effect of before and afters!

Now, onto the chicken part:  We also got two new birdies on Schwall Farms!  I wish it was seamless, but they came with some serious lessons.

Morwen egg

Eggs (Left to Right) from: Pippin, Morwen, Merry

I picked the two up from the same flock, same coop.  One is a grown Ameraucana, about a year old, same as our original three.  The second is a little Cream Legbar mix, who is still a pullet and will start laying soon.

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Goldberry

The typical introduction of new chickens involves a quarantine period of up to a month or more, where you isolate the new birds from your existing flock.  This is to monitor the new birds, to make sure they aren’t bringing diseases to your flock (better to lose one than many), and to do introductions slowly as birds have a pecking order that will need adjustment.  This isn’t my first rodeo (OK, OK, it’s my second!), so I did what I had done for Sammie, who was our first new bird.  See this post to read about her (spoiler: sad ending).  I put the two new girls into a separate run (dog crate) with a little hen house (adapted TV stand) connected.  This lets the girl have a home, an outdoor space, and keeps them separated from our existing flock.  The newbies came home with me Friday (4/20).  I awoke the next morning to check on the birds, let my girls out, and all was well; I went back to sleep.  I awoke a second time to Chris banging on our bedroom window an hour later, “one of the new chickens is bloody!”  I groggily got up and put warmer clothes on, and came out to find the little Legbar mix missing half her neck.  Oh, god!  The grown hen had pecked at her neck, removing feathers and skin, pretty severely within the hour that I had checked on them and when Chris had.  Now what?!

Poultry SprayHer injury was gruesome and I was overwhelmed with guilt, that I could’ve prevented this pain!  Chris was quite worried she would not survive, however having been exposed to more chicken information, communities, and chats, I had seen birds survive worse.  We immediately needed to remove the Ameraucana, and treat the little Legbar.  Where in the heck was I gunna put this extra bird, though?  Oh well, into the yard she goes because the safety of the Legbar is more important than newbie quarantine at this point.  Treating the Legbar was a quick facebook/internet search to validate my plan, which was: clean the wound, treat the wound.  I made a sterile saline solution to flush the wound and then sprayed it with poultry care spray, specifically for pecking wounds and the like.  Your big concern is the bird going into shock from the experience, so I kept checking in on her – she remained alert, eating, and drinking.  Whew.  Now, she comes in at night so she doesn’t experience cold weather, and her wound gets sprayed 3 times a day with the poultry care stuff.  She looks better every day, and is the sweetest, most docile hen.  She won’t grow much bigger, so I am already worried about her with hawks.

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Morwen

The Ameraucana is a big girl.  She’s black with the most beautiful green sheen on her feathers.  At first, I was angry with her, and felt quite detached.  But, as the day went on, I honestly grew quite fond of her.  She’s not too hard to catch, she mostly leaves our original three alone, and figured out the run of things real quick.  On her first day with us, she laid an egg. In a nesting box!  Not to mention that it was just stunning.  The most vivid blue egg I’ve ever seen!  She went to the coop really early in the evening, and spent the night without incident (I woke up at 5:30 am to open the run in case waking up together didn’t go well for her).  On her second night with us, she slept with the girls on the coop perch, nestled between Merry and Pip, who are the biggest aggressors to new birds!

Morwen

Look at that green!  No filter.

Having gotten to know our new girls a little better, I named them on the second day: Morwen (black Maeraucana) and Goldberry (little Legbar).  They’re names from Lord of the Rings.  I call them Wennie (like “When-ie”) and Goldie.  We learned real quick that Wennie can and will hop our fence.  That’s a big no-no as we don’t want to bother the neighbors and it’s more dangerous out in open field (or in the neighbors yard with their dog!).  For the first time, we clipped chicken flight feathers. I did one, and was so nervous, I swapped Chris and held Wennie as he cut.  No blood, so that means we didn’t cut too much off.  We have yet to find out if we cut enough off, though.  Hopefully we don’t get another text from our neighbors..

Now it’s a waiting game.  Waiting to see how well Wennie integrates into our flock, waiting for Goldie to heal (and trying to figure out when to introduce her to the flock), and then waiting for her to start laying.  I haven’t given too much thought about anything past getting Goldie healed again.  We can’t introduce her to the hens until she’s completely healed.  Unfortunately, chickens are vicious and will attack an injured bird, picking at it’s wound.  Yikes.  So Goldie needs to be 100% to minimize any risk of her getting pecked again.  I need to take some pictures of her now that she’s looking less gruesome, and then post more later when she’s healed and grown.

Chicken keeping is not without its surprises and challenges!  Here’s my at-home chicken first-aid kit I’ve assembled to address any chicken maladies (and have used more than I’d like!):

  • Vetericyn Plus Poultry Care Spray (wound covering, spraying twice a day)
  • Vitamins & electrolytes (boost in extreme heat, help from shock)
  • Epsom salt (soaking feet before bumblefoot treatment)
  • Vetrap
  • Gauze pads
  • Disposable gloves
  • Baby Aspirin
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Neosporin ointment (non-pain relieving – NOT a “caine” type (like benzocaine or  idocaine))
  • Superglue gel (broken beak repair)
  • Flashlight
  • Styptic powder (bleeding nails/beaks – corn starch works in a pinch)
  • Dog nail clippers or dremel
  • Chlorhexidine 2% solution (Cleaning and sanitizing bumblefoot & other skin infections, as well as cleaning/sanitizing equipment, work areas, and cages, used for initial cleaning of a wound)
  • Apple cider vinegar (worm preventative, many health benefits, 1-3 tablespoons per gallon water)
  • VetRX Poultry Aid (relief and prevention of colds, breathing problems – drop on nose, scaly legs)
  • Corid (treating Cocci – bloody stool – 1 tsp per gallon water) and I have added..
  • Safeguard Goat Wormer 125ml
  • Nutri-Drench Poultry, 4 oz.
  • Wazine 17 Turkey, Chicken and Swine Wormer, 8 oz.