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:

IMG_20180505_184512158.jpg

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!!

Final.jpg

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.

Tile.jpg

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.

Goldberry.jpg

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.

morwen2

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.

 

 

 

 

Purrfect Companions

I’ve written about the chickens and my journey with dogs, but am finally writing a post about cats.

Oh gosh, I love cats.  I really love cats.  Really. Really, really. 

My heart has paw prints from quite a few cats left on it.  There’s the first cats in my life, Mookie (spelling not confirmed) and Puppy, whom I have no memories of, but have seen pictures and been told stories about. The first cats I do remember, Jake and Maddie, captured my adolescent heart, irreparably.  There’s also Tibby, who is my parents’ current resident cat, that had a leg amputated (from illness) after coming into their care.  Also, Tucker, who came into my life in college, and now lives with my sister’s friend.  My first cat as an adult, was also my first kitten, and sadly, Suki passed away from FIP mere months after her adoption.  In present day, there’s Louis, whom sleeps on my chest every night.  And, there’s also two foster cats, that have been a pleasant adventure, and that I will miss dearly.  Before diving into present day, I do have to start with Jake, my first real feline love.

He takes me back to life to good ol’ St. Louie: my family got two cats, right around when I was in the third grade.  They were a brother and sister pair, found at a Petsmart adoption event.  I remember my mom had to leave and come back, if we were to adopt them, and she let me stay with them while she was out.  The brother was a big orange tabby, we named Jake.  The sister was tortoiseshell, and named Madeliene (after my best friend at the time), nicknamed “Maddie.”  I couldn’t tell you much about Maddie when we first got her, but Jake was just the love of my life.  He was beautiful and cuddly, and so much trouble.  He lived by no rules and I loved him unconditionally.  He once peed on me, and I didn’t care.  He shared my bed and my heart.  It’s hard to impress upon you how absolutely obsessed I was with this cat, and how deep my little heart loved him.

Jake was eventually demoted to an indoor/outdoor cat, as his antics in the house got to be too much.  He loved being outside, so he had no problems with that.  I, on the other hand, saw the outside world as dangerous to him, and fretted about his well being.  I wasn’t wrong to be worried, as Jake later lost use of the end of his tail by some accident; who knows how it happened.  The rules didn’t change, though, and he continued his indoor outdoor life, until it killed him.

I was in the 8th grade, getting ready for soccer practice when our house phone rang.  I answered, and there was a kid on the line.  They told me that Jake was hit by a car, and that I should come get him.  Of course, I freaked out!!!  My beloved cat, that I had spent almost 6 years of my young life with, was in dire trouble and needed to be rushed to the vet!  I think I passed the phone to my mom, because she got clarification that my beloved cat, that I had spent almost 6 years of my young life with, was actually deceased, laying in the street, and we should come get his body.

img_20180223_110233665.jpg

Jake

Grief, as I had never known.  I didn’t go to soccer and my mom went to get Jake.  I held him in the backyard and cried. Just cried, and cried.  Honestly, I’m crying a bit writing about it.  We had a burial, and my friends gave me cards expressing their sympathies.  I was, and still am, totally torn apart by his loss.  I have a picture of him in a jewelry box on my vanity, and one in my cube at work.  He has been the most influential feline on my life, to date.  I have a very soft spot for orange tabby cats, and will ensure I have the company of one (or many!) for the rest of my life, thanks to him.

When my husband, then boyfriend, and I finally moved in together in 2015, my first objective was to get a pet.  We got a dog, which we loved (him and the experience), and I wanted my cat.  I had lived almost 3 years of my independent, adult life without a feline, and it was not an ideal way for me to live.  I got on the internet and found two orange tabby sisters, being fostered close by.  Of course, we went to meet them!  Unfortunately, they were not very affectionate and also had specific medical needs.  Their foster care taker was not very pushy about them and let us know if their care seemed a little overwhelming, it was ok to admit they were not a good fit.  I thought about it, and spent time with them, but ultimately, we did decide they were in good hands currently, and were not a good fit with our lifestyle.  Their foster care taker suggested I consider a kitten she had, the last of the litter, who happened to be a little orange tabby.

IMG_20151025_202723917_HDR

Satsuki

Be still, my heart.  I had never had a kitten before, always preferring adult cats, assuming they were less likely to be adopted since baby animals are always so popular and wanted. I didn’t say yes, right away, but I did say yes before we left that day!  We took her home and named her Satsuki, from the movie Totoro, calling her “Suki.”

She is probably the best cat I’ve ever had, and Chris declares her the best cat “ever.”  She slept on us, she was so fun and beautiful, she got along great with our dog.  She was not troublesome at all, which was new for me!  She just lit up our lives, and was a wonderful companion.

It is with terrible grief, that this third pet blog post also features recent loss.  We adopted Suki in August, and she passed in November.  We had been free feeding her and it took us a few days to realize she wasn’t eating.  Although she seemed to be acting normally, we verified she was not interested in food and took her to the vet ASAP.  The vet did an overall workup, and concluded she likely had FIP, which is Feline Infectious Peritonitis.  I had never heard of that, and he we didn’t get an actual diagnosis because to do so is very evasive, and the vet could make that conclusion fairly confidently without the procedure.  I got the call at work with the diagnosis, and had to talk through it, not knowing anything about this disease.  I am grateful for my understanding boss, who caught me crying in my cube.  The vet let me know there was treatment, but really, no cure, and that the prognosis was terminal.

IMG_20151010_135739559 (2)

Nothing short of wonderful.

If you want to learn more about FIP, you can do some reading here.  The main takeaway is that it only affects cats in their ~first year of life, and the disease can lay dormant for a while, without indication or detection.  There’s not much to ‘prevent’ it, assuming your kitten lives in a normal, healthy environment, without other sick felines.

It was my first, real experience with terminal illness in pets, and I have to admit I handled it wrong.  The day of the diagnosis, Suki’s health declined rapidly.  She still couldn’t eat, and was not able to hold down liquids.  Her existence was a struggle, and clearly painful.  I wasn’t sure if I should consider euthanasia and when; everything happened so fast.  She was mostly normal at the exam, and the next day she was on death’s door.  Around 10pm that night I called an emergency vet, open 24 hours, and explained the situation, requesting euthanasia services.  I wrapped our sweet girl in a towel and we drove her there.  Once in a treatment room, Suki convulsed and died before the vet could see us.  I will never forget watching her suffer and pass, in such a violent and unpleasant manner.  My selfish desire to cling to unrealistic hope and wish she could be around longer allowed her last moments to be dreadful.  She didn’t deserve that, at all.  She was cremated, and her ashes will stay with our family, along with precious memories of her.

It had been so long since experiencing the grief of losing Jake.  Thinking about how short her life was cut made me feel afraid to have a cat again.  That experiencing this grief again would be unbearable.

fb_img_1451262320489.jpg

Louis under our Christmas tree, 2015.

After Christmas of that year, I felt like maybe we could get another cat.  That it was worth the pain to provide sanctuary for a homeless cat, who surely deserved love and companionship.  It was selfish to shy away from providing that, when we were so able to, and would so love another cat.

We went to Petsmart, and the same rescue Suki was from had cats there.  I held a young male, sandy colored tabby named Leo, and I cried.  I explained what happened with Suki, and the rescue representative was so kind.  She offered to waive the adoption fee if we wanted to take Leo home.  But, I still didn’t feel ready, so we left, and I told Chris I had to think about it.  He was very supportive, but sure that we could take Leo home. Well, we came back for him, of course, and Leo turned into my Louis.

2018-02-23_14-18-41Louie (or “Lou Lou”), has just been the best.  He sleeps with me most nights, and recently started sleeping on my chest (THE BEST).  He was so great with Baron (after an adjustment period), and had no adjustment period for Juniper.  He sits under our Christmas tree every year, just like he did when we first brought him home.  He loves boxes, with a determination I have never seen.  He’s a liiiitle naughty, like an orange tabby, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  He makes my heart swell, and I can barely handle how much I frickin love him.   He does pretty darn well with our foster cats, too.

Nelly and Kelly came into our lives somewhat unexpectedly.  I had cleared with Chris that I would be filling out a foster application, and his rule was one cat.  We got a desperate call from the cat rescue to see if we would be willing to house two sisters, who had absolutely no where to go, if not with us.  Chris let me say yes!  And that immediately felt like a mistake.

26613972_10200152522358023_1420613418_o.jpg

Nelly

Nelly and Kelly were, and really, are, very afraid of people.  They don’t want to be seen, or be touched, or have any dealings with scary humans.  We kept them in our guest room, and I spent time in there, daily, trying to become familiar and trusted.  Kelly, the brown tabby, warmed up to me, and purred loudly when I visited.  Nelly, the white cat, remained skittish.  Months passed, little improvement was made, and eventually the girls needed to see the vet (just annual checkup/vaccines/nail trim).  That was terrible.  They couldn’t easily be caught, so Chris and I spent forever chasing them around the guest room.  Chris got scratched and bitten!  The girls were very unhappy, and I worried, traumatized.

23828541_4996854001359_1478261702_o.jpg

Kelly

Then, we needed the guest room, so we had to rinse and repeat, confining the girls to a dog crate for a weekend so we could let my family in and out of the room.  That was terrible.  Eventually, we needed the guest room again, so I decided it was time the girls move to the basement, and give them free reign of the house.  Chris’ dad came to visit, and the girls hid in the basement for weeks.  And then we started to see them late at night, when the dogs were put to bed.  And then they started showing up for morning feeding times.  And somewhere along the way, they stopped isolating themselves so much, and wiggled into my heart.

Now that they’ve spent some time with the whole house at their jelly bean toes, Nelly has really gained confidence.  We see her all the time, and she loves lounging upstairs, in the hallway, in the kitchen, in the living room!  She’s very flighty, and doesn’t want to be pet, but she is just a doll.  So beautiful, and it’s so rewarding seeing her comfortable.  Kelly seemed to have regressed a little, and once she had freedom, wasn’t interested in pets anymore.  The girls are also both, crazy about Louie.  They love him!  They like to rub against him, follow him, and be where he is.  Louis acts like a little boy and bats them away when their affection is too much!

What prompted this post is that the girls are being relocated to a new foster tonight, and I am heartbroken.  We have given them lots of time, patience, and love-at-a-distance, but Chris has put his foot down that we agreed to be a temporary home, and that it would be better working conditions when renovating our kitchen if the girls weren’t around.  I understand his reasoning, and respect my husband’s compromise.  I’m glad we could take them in their time of desperate need, and I’m glad they have a safe, caring home to go to after ours.  I will just miss their little presence.  I hope that their lives stop having to be restarted, and that a kind soul with a big heart gives them a real home, a “furever” home, they call it.  They really deserve it.

Update after dropping them off:

The girls are with their new foster home, and I feel confident they are with people that genuinely care about them, which is the best I could ask for short of a forever home.  We first stopped at the vet for a quick nail trimming, and I cried the whole way there, while there, and then during the drive to their new home.  The new fosters were very understanding of my tears, as they have lots of experience fostering.  They seem like very caring and good people, but my heart still hurts.  When the girls first came to me, I worried I was in over my head, but before long, I was wishing they never had to leave.

I’m not sure what’s in my feline future, but Chris says we can have two cats in the house, so I imagine we will either stay on the foster list (strictly open to one cat, so we don’t have to have a timeline), or look at adopting again, soon.