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Fire Drill Fence Building

September 20, 2011

There were so many things we could have never known or anticipated about our house—and even if we had known, we would have probably still bought it anyway.  Examples?  The water pipes blowing up in the front yard two weeks after we moved in.  The fact that the entire house is tiled in 19” imported tile that can’t be found ANYWHERE should we want to remodel at all.  The fact that the furnace had a gas leak.  Oh yeah. And that the houses on both sides of us have renters.

Yup.  Lucky us.  We don’t have anything against renters (we were there ourselves), and there are definitely good ones—like sweet old Alma and Alfredo (seriously…how adorable!) who used to live next door and were the kindest, gentlest little couple.  Or the next door neighbors next to us now who have the cutest little family.  Renters who take care of their property.  Renters who pull their own weeds, who might actually chip in some of their own money to water the grass a little extra so that it stays alive.  Those kind of renters we like.  The ones with domestic disturbance calls, who park their leaking trucks in front of your house, park their car so that it hangs over INTO your driveway, and who may, or may not have shot a gun into their television set and then left it sitting in the street for over a week (okay, they did)–those kind of renters?  We can do without them!!!!  So, when the latest renters moved out, we did what I call “FIRE DRILL FENCE BUILDING!”

What does it mean?  It means that the rental next door is empty, we don’t know when the next people are moving in, and we DESPERATELY need some privacy, so we better build a fence and fast!  Here’s why:

Yeah, that’s me standing in our next door neighbor’s backyard, looking down into our own backyard.  Beyond the fact that we really wanted to be able to sit naked in the backyard during our nightly barbeques (just kidding, guys!), the fact that they could see directly into our master bedroom sitting was also a drawback.

Yup, that was our view from the master bedroom.  They had a clear shot looking into our master bedroom, so we constantly left the curtains closed, and that resulted in a gloomy feel in our master sitting room.

Okay, so maybe building the fence has a whole lot less to do with having weird neighbors than us actually just desiring privacy, but I now that I typed that whole thing, I’m not deleting it.

Anyway, the existing fence was about 3 feet tall, and we decided to add three feet of solid fence to the top to create a little more privacy.  The only problem?  The existing stone wall was falling apart.

So we started by rebuilding the fence (I’m quite the stone mason), and by knocking off those stone caps that were holding the lattice in.  Of course, those stone caps were filled with concrete and rebar, and knocking them off may have incidentally resulted in us breaking some stones underneath.  Off to the store we went.  3.5 hours later, the stone fence was entirely repaired, and ready for us to begin mounting the fence to the stone wall.

I won’t bore you with all the details and the how-to’s, but let me tell you that we can build a mean fence.  After three and a half hours of repairing the fence, we were slightly short on patience when it came to drilling through concrete stones to sink in 7” butterfly bolts to secure the metal post bases.  I am not exaggerating (read: only slightly exaggerating) when I say it took 20 minutes to drill each hole.

There were 7.  We each took turns, but it was beyond exhausting.  And by the end of the first day, we finally had the stone wall repaired, and the metal post bases mounted.  It was about an 8 hour day, and we were d.o.n.e.

Day 2 brought us securing the posts to the metal bases, and building the structure to support the fence.  Please note that my look of extreme concentration in the picture below is a result of the fact that I am such a pro with the drill that I hold the next screw in my mouth so that I’m ready.  Yep, it was about two minutes after this picture that I was quoted as saying I need my own drill.  That way we could work faster, because we could both work at the same time!

After we had all the supports secured, we had something that looked like this: (Side note–poor, sad Homer and Bertha…I just don’t know where we went wrong).

To give you a frame of reference for the height of the new fence:

Then, finally, came the fun part!  I’m not even kidding.  Once the support structure was built, the rest of this probably took about two hours.  I suppose at this point I should also point out that the fence runs 42 FEET LONG on the side of the house.  This is no small fence.  It’s more like the Great Wall of China now.

I was responsible for cutting the boards, while Chris screwed them all to the fence structure.  (Shout out to my sister and bro-in-law who gave me my SMOKIN’ hot pink safety glasses for Christmas last year.  Love those babies!)  I should also point out that we determined the height of the fence by figuring out how we could cut the fence boards directly in half to save money.  So, rather than needing to buy 87 fence slats, we only bought 44.  I am so brilliant clever.

And by the end of day 2, we had this:

We still need to attach a lattice to the top so that it matches the rest of the fence in the backyard, and then we’ll need to paint it white. (Well, technically we’ve already built the lattice…I just need to tell you about it!).

For now?  I’m totally walking around naked in the backyard.  Bahahahahaha.  Just kidding.  But I am enjoying keeping the curtains open in the master bedroom!


BBQ Island & Outdoor Kitchen Reveal

September 9, 2011

I’m finally back with our outdoor kitchen reveal, and it feels soooo good to be done with this project!

After the counters were prepped with plywood, it was time for hardiebacker.  Chris used a jigsaw here to cut the hardiebacker so that it fit.  The key was to use a blade that was made for cutting concrete.  He then screwed the hardiebacker into place, and we were left with this.

Of course, that meant it was time to move on to the difficult part: tiling.  We learned quite a few lessons along the way–one of which was definitely listen to the timeshare presentation that earns you $100 free, because you never know when you might want to purchase a tile saw later in life.  Glad we went to the presentation, and glad we didn’t have to rent the tile saw.  Trust me, I am all about saving money, as you well know by now, but it really relieved a lot of pressure to know that we owned the tile saw and didn’t have to worry about rushing to get it returned within a rental window.  Chris manned the tile saw:


While I became the official “thinsetter” er. Yup.  Tried to make it a word.  Kinda worked, right?  Anyway, I used the flat side of the trowel to lay down the thinset…

and then pulled the ribbed side back across while holding it at an angle.

By the end of the day, Chris had perfected his skills with the tile saw.


We managed to get the entire counter top tiled in one day.   Chris spent a separate day tiling the edge.  We mixed our own thinset, and learned online that taping the tiles on the sides of the island would hold them in place until the thinset dried.  Think about it: normally you tile a wall from the bottom to the top so that the tile at the bottom is kind of holding things up.  We were just doing one tile around the edge, so that wasn’t really an option.  And in case there was ever any doubt about how we manage to fit these projects into our busy schedule, the picture below makes it pretty clear–sometimes it is late at night and we have to drag an indoor lamp outside to finish up.  In this case, the impending deadline of Chris’ graduation party was keeping us motivated to get finished.

Next we tackled the backsplash.  I wanted something custom and detailed, and we decided to cut the 12″ tiles down to 3″ sections, and separate each 3″ section with some rows of the same accent tile that we used in front of the sink.


Up next was grout–or it should have been, but of course, when we read the grout bucket, it said that you might need to seal the tile first if your tile is pourous.  Are you KIDDING me?  We were so ready for this project to be over, but found out we weren’t close.  Obviously slate is pourous, so we needed to seal it.  BACK to Home Depot.  Seriously relieved that it is four minutes from our house.  Otherwise I really would have pulled my hair out.  Tip: Slate tile sealant ran $40/bottle.  HOLY CRAP!  The nice guy at HD also told us we’d need to reseal it every six months.  We had an inkling that would be the case, but he pulled us aside and pointed out the Wet Look Sealer by Behr.  It is designed for natural (quarried) materials (i.e. slate even though the bottle doesn’t say slate), and with a bottle at three times the size for just $25, we said, “Yes, please!  We’ll take it.”  And let me tell you, it was the best recommendation ever.  We brushed it on with a paint brush, and it was dry to the touch in about an hour or two.  The picture below really shows what a difference it makes since the left half of the tile has the sealant on it, and the right half doesn’t.

I couldn’t believe the rainbow of colors that it brought out.

And finally, it was time for grout.  First you smoosh it in there…really good.


And then wipe off the extra with the grout sponge.  But don’t push too hard and wipe all the stuff that you smooshed in there out.  ‘Cause that would kinda defeat the whole purpose.

So, without further stalling…

Okay, one more stall….here’s what the outdoor kitchen looked like before:


And here it is after all our hard work:

So. worth. it. Especially when it was all ready for Chris’ graduation party celebration.

So what about you?  Ever had a project that ends up having way more steps that you thought it would?  No?  Just us?  Come on…humor me! 🙂

Outdoor Progress

July 14, 2011
In true “Housetory” fashion we spent our 6th wedding anniversary working on a house project.  Would you have expected anything less?
Ever since we very first saw the outdoor kitchen, we knew it had potential.  Potential to be ANYTHING other than what it currently existed as was a positive. And I was kind of dreaming of slate…ever since we moved in a year and a half ago, its what I have imagined.  Here’s what we were working with:
Of course, we’ve encountered problems along the way.  Problem #1 Chris fixed.  Problem #2 Chris (might have) contributed to.  Sorry.  I’m honest.  Plus, he rarely reads this, and when he next does, he’ll have to chuckle a little because he knows that I AM RIGHT!  Problem #1, Chris Fixed:  When we had the ginormous water eruption in the front yard, somehow the plumbing to the backyard didn’t get hooked back up properly.  That meant the outdoor sink was useless because there was no water to it.  Chris spent a ton of time out front playing plumber (quite successfully I might add), and when it was (almost) done it looked like this:
It’s now painted to match the house, but I can’t find the picture anywhere, and I’m too busy…I mean lazy to go take another one. And we now have water back in the kitchen sink for our outdoor kitchen!  Yup.  He’s SUPER handy!
Problem #2, Chris (might have) contributed to:  Okay, before you get all “I can’t believe she said that” on me, we had a Huge (yes, with a capital H) discussion about the electricity that was going to the outdoor kitchen.  The former owners had done it in a ghetto (okay, and I admit, not “up to code”) manner.  Chris hated it.  I didn’t see a way around it.  Enter Chris’ boredom one day.  I don’t remember the day, mostly because I wasn’t there for it, and I didn’t know that day ever happened until I noticed the result some time later.  Yup.  He cut it out.  It was an “above ground” electrical rigging of sorts, and he just plain cut it out, put putty over it, and never said a word.  Until I saw it.  Then, well, then he grinned at me sheepishly and said, “Yeah.  I thought it was better to get rid of it.”  Seriously?  How the heck am I going to run a margarita station at my outdoor kitchen without electricity?  Or what about that fridge we wanted to stick out there?  Alas, we have come to no solution yet.  Or, at least not a solution that doesn’t involve having  a hole cut in my house by a professional electrician.
But, now we are ready to tackle the kitchen out there to make it look amazing.  And by “ready” I actually mean “holy-crap-we-better-get-this-done-ASAP-because-we-are-having-a-huge-party!”  That kind of ready.
So, on his “summer Friday” Chris set to work demo’ing the tile.
He had made huge progress by the time I got home on Friday evening, so on Saturday, we were ready to fix the problem that he had discovered underneath: it wasn’t level.
We were hoping we wouldn’t have to replace the hardie backer underneath, but not only will we end up replacing it, but we also ended up leveling out the existing plywood, and getting rid of the “fish cleaning” station. Yup.  Like I said, we bought a special kind of house.   You may also notice (in the picture above) that there are two special features in addition to the afore mentioned hole where the fish cleaning station was: 1) The diamond pointy thing (right side of photo).  Really?  Really?  Really?  2) The “countertop” is entirely flush with the edges.  Think about a normal counter top.  Remember how it has that little overhang of the counter top “jutting” out over the cabinets?  Yep.  We thought that would make it look more normal, so as a part of the plywood leveling process, we added some wood around the edges to create that depth:
When it was all prepped and ready for hardie backer, it looked like this:
Anyway, it was a great day, and we really enjoy working on these projects together.  Even if, no, especially if, it is on our anniversary.
We were done early enough to get cleaned up and make our 7:00 pm reservations in Laguna at Ti Amo.
Can’t wait to show you the rest of the progress!  In the meantime, what about you?  Are you the type to tackle a big project like this on a special day to commemorate the occasion?  Or are we just nuts? 😉

Bringing Back Glam

May 30, 2011

I posted a hint on Facebook earlier today about our most recent project…were you able to guess what it was?

With this latest project, we decided it was time to bring back a little bit of glamour…Hollywood style.

As I’ve explained in previous posts, we’ve been concerned that our “traditional” style has leaned a little bit too far that way, particularly in the family room: we have dentil molding, damask patterned pillows, dark wood furniture, lighted bookshelves…I mean really–it had definitely become a little more traditional than we ever intended.  We’ve changed that up recently–by bringing in bright and airy white curtains, and some other accessories (which I haven’t yet posted about!).

This latest project was definitely an intentional purpose.  We used to have a picture of the two of us hanging above the fireplace.  Which was great.  Except that we always take pictures in front of the fireplace.  That mean that every picture we took had a picture of us kissing on our wedding day in the background.

Like this…(Chris’ birthday nearly a year ago)…see how distracting that is?

So, we quickly moved the picture elsewhere in the family room once we realized how distracting it was, and I concluded I needed a BIG, huge, round mirror to hang above the fireplace.  No big deal, right?  Except for the fact that like everything else, there are always two problems: 1) I have expensive taste and 2) it usually involves work for Chris.  Bahaha.  But it’s true.

I knew I wanted something really modern, and when I found this beauty at Home Goods for an unbelievable price, I knew we had to take it.  It was everything I was looking for: modern, interesting, and detailed.  And, after all, the price addressed problem #1.  Of course, as you can see from the picture below, that meant #2 was definitely still in play.

Yeah.  It was gold.  YIKES!  It is just not my taste.  My sister can attest to the fact that I REFUSED to wear yellow gold jewelry until about three years ago.  Because I was so sure that it wasn’t cool.  And while I may now have accepted the fact that it looks great with my wardrobe, I’m not even CLOSE to hanging it on my walls.  (P.S. I don’t foresee that changing).

Might I add, I really do love how my husband looks at me in these situations (you know, the ones where I am suggesting that we buy something new, and in perfect condition, and take it home and screw with it, potentially ruining it) and says, “Sure, babe.  That would be really fun and I bet it would turn out great.”  Seriously.  He does.

And so the prepping for the coat of white spray paint began.  We started by putting 1″ blue painters tape right up against the edge of the mirror.  Then we cut out a piece of paper to cover the center and taped that down using painters tape.

Once that was done, it was time to coat it with white spray paint.  Chris rocks at this.  Honestly.  I don’t even try.  He says it is years of practice.

It was only once the project was done that I got a small hint that during our tip to Home Goods Chris might NOT actually have been so certain about my idea…

Scene: Mirror has been spray painted white.  Project took less than an hour from start to finish.

Chris: It actually looks good.

Katie: Yeah?

Chris:  You’re such a visionary.  It turned out really good.

Ha!  I’ll take it.

Without further ado, the finished look for your viewing pleasure…I think it brings just another touch of glamour and modernity back to this room.  I couldn’t be more pleased with the result.  Well, maybe a little.  We hung it a tad high.  Hey!  I’m a perfectionist…what can I say?

What We’ve Been Up To

May 16, 2011

You’re probably wondering why we haven’t done anything around this place lately.  We have.  I just haven’t shared. YET.  So, while I summon the power to write about our latest projects (which include decorating, plumbing, and painting), let me tell you what we did when we weren’t working on the house.

From April 29 – May 5, we visited Lake Tahoe, CA, which is about an eight-nine hour drive from our house.  It really depends.  On whether or not you decide you’re smarter than the GPS, decide to follow the GPS, realize you were actually smarter than the GPS, find your own way back to the correct route, and then discover a road is closed.  That might make an hour’s difference in the travel time. Just sayin’.

We drove there on Friday, and arrived just in time to snap a quick picture in front of the sunset and the mountains.


Typically, locals call this “Mud Season.”  God was watching over the weather for us, and there was still about a 17′ base of snow on the mountains.  We literally could not have asked for better weather.  It was generally in the high 50’s to low 60’s, and obviously a bit cooler on the mountain tops.

On Satuday, in typical Chratie fashion (Yup…sometimes we call ourselves that…cause in our little world, we pretend we’re famous like Bennifer was), we took in our surroundings.  This also involved driving the ENTIRE way around Lake Tahoe.  Let’s just say that wasn’t planned.  Fortunately, we had time to stop along the way to take a ton of pictures.  Emerald Bay, below, is one of the most photographed places in the world.

Sunday brought one of the coolest adventures. EVER.  Snowmobiling.  Seriously–if you haven’t tried this, you should.  Unless you’re old.  Because I’m not that old, and my arms legs, and butt hurt like you wouldn’t believe the next day.  That could also have been for holding on for dear life while Chris careened around turns at 55+ MPH, but hey!  I’m alive and I smiled the whole time.  We weren’t smiling when we took off on the expedition with an extended family of 6.  Our total was 6 snowmobiles: 2 guides on 1 each, and then the other 4 with 2 people each.  Might not sound significant, but it is.  Things got off to a less than pleasant start when the machines started overheating because the lady in front was going sooooooooo slowly.  I seriously couldn’t even describe how slowly she was going.  It was practically like watching paint dry.  Except worse.  This lady was driving so slowly that we would just sit and wait for a couple minutes, and then start driving again.  Again, we totally lucked out because since we had 2 guides, they split off.  Result?  Chris and Katie take a PRIVATE 27 mile tour, climbing 2500 ft into the mountains, and me singing “How Great Thou Art” in my head as I watched the scenery.  Oh yeah.  I did.  I can’t say enough about how great it was.

We went skiing on Monday and Tuesday:

And Wednesday was…what else? Visiting a car museum.  This is where I very humbly point out that perhaps I am indeed the coolest wife ever.  Because, my other half didn’t even know that there was one of the 16 BEST car museums in the world located just a short 1 1/2 hour drive away in Reno.  Until I read it in the guidebook and told him.  Yup.  Didn’t have to, but I did.  Bahaha.  Seriously though, it was pretty amazing.  So cool that we even got to sit in this little car:

And for those of you that are actually interested (hi, mom!), here’s the 8 minute video of all of our pictures.  If you don’t want to see about 50 pictures of us gratuitously posing in front of Emerald Bay, waterfalls, and trees, feel free to skip it.  I’ll never know.  Actually, I will.  Because everything around here has a counter automatically built in.  But hey, pretend I don’t know…

Overall, a fantastic vacation that couldn’t have come at a better time for the two of us as Chris enters his final trimester of his MBA program.  Woot to the yeehaw.  That’s like a mini-pre-celebration.  Just imagine the excitement yet to come!

Can Frames be Sexy?

March 29, 2011

For those of you that read lots of blogs in the “blog land” you have probably noticed that one of the very popular things to do is to spray paint things white.  Anything, and everything.  I’ve noticed that people are really enjoying painting knick knacks and paddy whacks white.  Okay, so really only knick knacks.  They paint ceramic elephants white, and candle sticks white, and cups white.  I don’t have anything against using a little bit of spray paint.  After all, it’s an economical way to take things that don’t match, and make them fit your space.

In this project, I decided to put my own twist on the whole concept of using spray paint.  It started with these beautiful red, ceramic peacocks that I found at the Great Indoors; they were bright red, and perfect.  I wanted them “badly”, but not $65.00 each “badly.”  Enter the idea to spray paint something red to match the décor in our master bedroom.

When I saw these frames, I knew that I had found the right solution, and at $6.99 a pop, it was an affordable risk to take.  I loved the way they were ornate, and I could envision the contrast that would be created by painting them red.

So, after removing all the hardware (take the screws out–there’s no reason to paint them too), I set to work.  Make sure the area is well prepared and covered, so that any over-spray doesn’t damage something else.

(And yes–I am totally sporting a t-shirt from 2002.  Don’t be jealous of how up-to-date my wardrobe is).

A couple of tips for you:

1) This set-up above didn’t work so well, so we reverted to our old “tried and true” spray paint technique.  Hang something up using a hanger, cover the area behind it, and paint away.  That way you can paint the front and the back at the same time.

2) The clear coat spray paint, which we were hoping would create a cool “lacquer” look, actually just caused the recently dried red spray paint to “un-dry” and caused a drippy mess.  We re-sprayed with red and were happy with the look.

3) Keep your arm moving while painting.  Chris is a pro at this.

I’ll give credit where it is due on this one.  I finished the first frame, and then the other two were sitting.  For AWHILE.  I only did one because in case it was ruined, I wanted to be able to return the others, or use them “as-is” in our master bedroom.  Enter SUPER-Chris!!!! While I was laid up with a migraine, he finished the other two.

Here’s the finished result.  And for the record, no, they are not all sitting on the same nightstand.  We actually have one 4×6 on each nightstand, and the 5×7 is on our dresser.

If you’re impressed with the picture on the far left or the far right, check out Wendy Rueter Photography.

What do you think?  Like I said, “Can frames be sexy?”  Because I find myself answering with a resounding, “Heck yes!” to this one.

Though, I must admit that I now find myself trying to find more reasons to spray paint things.  Now if only I could find some orange spray paint that matched our family room…then I could do some serious damage.

New Neighbors, Construction, and Babies

March 27, 2011

We’re getting new neighbors.  Again.  The thing is this: we had neighbors exactly like this before.  We didn’t notice when they were doing construction, but BOY did we notice when they had moved in.  I mean, seriously.  There was no avoiding the fact that they had finished construction, and they were here to stay.  All of the kids got up stinking EARLY in the morning, and there was no way we could avoid knowing they were awake.  And what do you say?  Seriously?  “Hi, we’re your neighbors, I know you just moved in, but seriously, your children are annoying?”  Yeah, I didn’t.  Don’t worry.

So this time, needless to say, I’m more than a little nervous about these new neighbors.  Here’s what makes it even worse: the kids haven’t even arrived yet because the construction is ongoing, but I already know these kids are going to be exactly the same as the last ones.  So, I said to Chris, “Should I go do something?”  Seriously, he’s such a tenderheart.  As crazy as the previous neighbors drove him that were JUST, and I repeat JUST like this, he didn’t want me to do anything that might kick them out.

No–we’re not awful people, we’re just not great at sharing our space.  Especially the space directly and I do mean directly outside of our bedroom window.  Like I said, we caught ’em in the act of construction this time, and I snuck a little video so that you could see exactly what I mean:

Last year, the momma bird and the daddy bird (yes, I’m not kidding you–it was the daddy bird) took turns with the eggs, and we had 3 little chicks.  They were always hungry around six ‘o clock in the morning.  No big deal unless you don’t normally get out of bed until 7:15.  Which we don’t.

In any event, I really did ask Chris if he wanted me to scare off the two (yes, I said TWO!) momma birds who were building the nests on our back patio area.  Nope. Not a chance.  I have a feeling that in a little while, at around 6 in the morning, he’ll be regretting that decision.

In the meantime, we’ll keep you posted on how BOTH nests are doing, though you can only see one in the video.  We’re expecting babies out there soon!