Category Archives: Pets

Accidental Adventure

(This post is also way behind schedule – We did this trip in January. I’ve been busy – don’t judge me).

Hubby and I bought a camper a few months ago and have already gotten some pretty good use out of it. Our maiden voyage was spent on the beach on a driftwood collection mission. The following weekend we were in the frozen tundra of North Texas, attempting to camp at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

This time our plan was to camp on McFadden Beach, near the Texas-Louisiana Border. However, when we arrived, there was hardly any beach to speak of. It seems that the beach had been eroded away, and the road that used to be there was broken up and scattered in the water. Whelp….instead of heading home, we thought ‘we are so close to Searim State Park, we might as well give it a shot.’

It was pouring but we knew that the rain was supposed to stop around 6 pm, so we didn’t want to go home defeated. I tried to make reservations by phone and online while Hubby drove through the rain on the way to the state park, but the phone recording said “go to our website to make a reseservation” and the website wouldn’t let me make a reservation for the day of. It would only let me put in the next day’s date. So we had to make the drive to the park and hope that they had a spot for us. Even if they didn’t, we have a state park pass so we get in for free. If they didn’t have any camping sites available, we would check out the park while we could and THEN drive home defeated. (We know when we’ve been beaten).

Luckily though, there were plenty of spots for us to pick from. We hooked the camper up in the rain, walked the dogs in the rain (yes, we had 2 dogs with us this whole time, too!) And then turned on the tv in the camper to wait out the rest of the storm.

When it stopped raining the sky turned a beautiful orange color from the low clouds, which changed to pink and then purple.

Orangy-Pink Sunset

campground sunset

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Our adorable little camper – no, it’s not a pop-up. It really is that tiny

It was stunning. We took the dogs for a walk and as we were headed to the beach we heard the loudest clam of thunder we have ever experienced (it set off car alarms and I could feel the shock wave IN MY TEETH). After checking out the beach for a  little while, we went back to camp and cooked some dinner. We had to eat in the camper with the dogs because it was so cold and windy, but it wasn’t nearly as chaotic as I thought it would be, considering that one of the dogs that we had with us is an 80 pound 2 year-old yellow lab with almost zero table manners.

The next morning we got up to see the sunrise over the beach (this is a great spot because you get sunrise AND sunset pictures at the beach!) and it was spectacular. Low tide was at 5:30 am, so the tide was out and the water was like glass. Birds were everywhere on the beach, probing the wet sand for worms and crustaceans.

Searim Sunrise

We came back and ate breakfast, then took the dogs for a walk along a boardwalk that goes through a marsh, while we birded some more.

redheads-wmLuke, the yellow lab, tried to chase the American Coots as they crossed over the boardwalk from one area of the wetland to the other, but then he suddenly got the overwhelming urge to go swimming. (He is a water dog after all). So he stood on the boardwalk, staring at the water and then just jumped right in. Hubby had a hold of the leash so Luke couldn’t go swimming after the Coots, but the look on his face said it all. “I’m in deep trouble.” After jumping in, he instantly turned back around and tried to get back onto the boardwalk but couldn’t make the jump so he stood there in the water with his feet up on the boardwalk with the guiltiest look I’ve ever seen on his face. We pulled him out and I couldn’t control myself. I think I laughed for about 10 minutes solid. I couldn’t even get my camera up in time because I was laughing so hard all I could do was try to not pee myself. Of course after that, he smelled absolutely terrible. If you’ve never smelled mud from the bottom of a swamp or lake, you can count yourself one of the lucky ones. It’s horrific. And after that little stunt he pulled, we had to load up into the truck and head out so we were stuck with stinky swamp dog for hours!

Before we headed home we went to check out the McFadden National Wildlife Refuge, which is an adjoining property. Basically, since the 1980s when people learned that it’s a bad idea to drain wetlands and build on them, they turned this whole area of the Texas coast into a wildlife refuge because there’s not much you can do with the land. Good for the animals! We drove around in the refuge for a while and I attempted to get photos of Luke looking like the majestic water dog he’s SUPPOSED TO BE but instead his A.D.D. kicked in, he leaped into the water, and started chasing any duck he could see. Needless to say, this did not improve his…aroma.

Bird List for the Weekend:

Osprey, Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls, Snow Goose, Killdeer, Redheads, Lesser Scaups, Willets, Black-bellied Plovers (non-breeding plumage), Piping Plovers, Northern Shovelers, Belted Kingfishers, Purple Martins, Caspian Terns, and Hudsonian Godwit. So far for the year, we have IDed 56 species.

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Reclaimed Wood Table

A few months ago I was able to get my hands on some great old wood when a gentleman I know rebuilt his front porch.  When I asked, “do you have a plan for all that old wood?” (trying to hint around that I wanted it) his response was, “a good match.”

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I couldn’t stand idly by and watch him burn that beautiful wood, so I asked if I could have it. Now, the tricky thing was this was in Louisiana. I live in Texas. And I had flown to Louisiana on this trip. I went to LA a lot for work at the time, and I knew that eventually (because of project circumstances) someone would have to drive the work truck out there instead of fly, so I would just ask them to bring the wood home for me. Easy peasy. I selected some nice pieces because I knew I wouldn’t need all of it, and I stored it away for the next team to drive up. However, there was a miss-communication and the gentleman that let me have the wood thought that I wanted all of it afterall! So when the next team drove up he helped them load a half-bed full of old lumber. Geez.

I ended up taking more than I had planned, but I felt terrible that the rest was thrown away. NO ONE WANTED IT! And I definitely didn’t have space for all that lumber. I couldn’t even fit it in my car – I DRIVE A PRIUS!

So several months have gone by, and I finally got the guts/energy/inspiration/whateveryouwanttocallit to finally do something with the old lumber.  However, since I have had it for several months, Hubby thought it was taking up too much room in the garage (which it was), so he put it outside next to the garage. Where it got rained on, and full of spiders and roaches, and started to grow fungus. Grreeeaaattt….

I was able to wipe all the surfaces down with a wet rag, kill all the spiders and roaches, and then I set the wood out to dry because it had absorbed so very much rainwater.

All set up and ready to dry. Three minutes later there was a major domino effect because of the clumsy lab, trying to get me to play fetch.
All set up and ready to dry. Three minutes later there was a major domino effect because of the clumsy lab, trying to get me to play fetch.
Cibolo trying to help me by knocking everything over trying to get me to throw his toy.
The Clumsy Lab.
That's a dog head, staring at the toy he just dropped.
That’s a dog head, staring at the toy he just dropped, which also knocked over my drying boards.

Also, I raided the barn at my parents’ house recently, and turned up with this:

Old bench
Old bench

This is an old bench that my mother has had forever, and it was her grandmother’s. Obviously something along the way had removed the top, so I decided this would be a great base for my first attempt with this old wood. And the bench was already a beautiful color, so there was no need to re-stain it.

Seeing as how I HATE spending money on things that I can make myself, I looked online for a nice pattern that I could turn into a stencil and I found this:

The stencil
The stencil

I thought about simply putting it into the corner of the bench and having two or four corners be decorated instead of the center, but then I thought that I really need to expand my horizons with stenciling, so I decided to put this into the center of the bench and using the same stencil four times to make a circular pattern. Also, I decided against doing my chalk method and instead attempted to cut out the pattern from a clear transparency, since I was going to be using the same stencil multiple times I didn’t want it to get stuck to the roller or soggy with paint.

Also, thanks to some advice from Ashley over at Domestic Imperfection, I got some clear polycrylic to protect the beautiful blue paint that was already the amount of distressed that I loved. The last thing I wanted to happen was for the blue paint to chip away the first time someone sat on the bench! Also thanks to Ashley’s advice, I tried it out on some extra wood first to see how it would behave. What I discovered was this: It looks much better brushed on than sprayed on – when it was sprayed it didn’t seem to go on evenly, and I could see bubbly marks. Luckily it dried slow enough that I could spray it on and smooth it out with a foam brush. Also, I tested what it would look like when I painted over the polycrylic. I did NOT like how this made the paint look. Because of the now smooth painted surface the new paint didn’t go on evenly. So I decided that I would paint on the pattern and then spray it with polycrylic to seal the final product. Also, as several DIYers have pointed out, I bought water-based polycrylic because the oil-based kind is known for causing discoloration in your paint over time.

The wood in place, and the stencil sort of in place
The wood in place, and the stencil sort of in place

The next step was to build a frame for the wood to screw into place. I didn’t want to attach the reclaimed wood directly to the bench wood, because I was afraid that I would screw it up terribly, and ruin perfectly good wooden bench legs. So instead I spent $1.67 on a 1″x2″x8′ dowel to use as a frame. I wasn’t quite sure where I was going with this because I have never framed anything out like this before, but after one or two miscalculations (this bench is a very weird size, so there aren’t exact inches. The measurements were like 11.62 inches instead of 12) I got the frame set.

Old legs plus new frame
Old legs plus new frame

I also was nervous about attaching this to the bench legs, but I guess I needed some sort of stability, so I bit the bullet and screwed the frame into the legs.Sort of.

Too scared to drill through the old wood, I didn't quite get the hole deep enough for the screws. Oops.
Too scared to drill through the old wood, I didn’t quite get the hole deep enough for the screws. Oops.

I drilled some cheater holes into the wood first, and then put in the screws. Unfortunately though, I was so concerned about drilling too deep and going right through the bench frame, that I didn’t drill deep enough so the screws started stripping before I got them flush with the wood. Good thing they will be hidden by the top 🙂

After a few cold snaps and not wanting to work in the garage/yard because I just wanted to be warm, I sucked it up and got the energy to work on it again. Also, and I will say this was the real hold up, I didn’t have a good way to steady the boards while I attached them to the frame. I was worried about them being too far apart from each other after I screwed them into the wood, and being stuck with them that way.

Until just a couple weeks ago, when Hubby and I went to Harbor Freight so he could buy a manual log splitter. I saw these awesome, huge, heavy-duty clamps, (that were only like $10 each) and I knew that was what was missing from my garage repertoire I had been trying to build up. A few days later, I had the top attached.

Top Attached with Pattern

Now, in order to do the pattern on the top, I had a couple ideas. I thought I could do the chalk method I had used in the past, but then I was afraid that the pattern would be too busy for the chalk to work. I thought about stenciling, but I had recently had bad luck with a home-made stencil, so I was a little gun shy. And the last thing I want to do is screw up this beautiful reclaimed wood! So I decided that I would cut out the negative (white) space, and use it to trace with a pencil. As I was cutting out the negative space, the positive space tore in a few places, so I was definitely going to have to trace with the pencil instead.

And I also discovered that the pattern was actually too big to put into the center and repeat it 4 times, making a perfect circle. Whoops, I guess I should have checked that. Oh well, I like the idea of the corners being decorated too!

I taped the stencil down and drew the shapes in with a pencil. I made sure to have lots of light in the form of a head lamp to make sure I could see what I was doing clearly.

Stencil in Place
Stencil in Place

Here is a close up of what the penciling looked like.

Penciled Stencil
Penciled Stencil

I did two layers of white paint and then added a light gray to the edge to make it pop out a little bit, but not too much.

And this is the final product!Finished Product

Detail shot

Staging

  So now I have a beautiful accent piece that cost $0, and an extra seat if needed!

Thrifty Gifty Crafts #1

I made these things as Christmas presents for a few of my friends, and I have to say, I’m pretty proud at how they turned out. And they aren’t Christmasy, so they can be made any time of year.

First I will start with the Pet Portrait.

Jake's Portrait

Now, I’m not a painter. I try to be. I pretend to be.

But I’m not.

So believe me when I tell you, this was one of the easiest projects I have done, and guess what? I DIDN’T GET THE IDEA OFF OF PINTEREST! I know, right? I’m sure this idea is ON Pinterest, but I didn’t see it there. It just came to me. Like an epiphany. I’m sure it will never happen again, so I’m enjoying this craft project for all it’s worth.

So to start from the beginning, I have this friend named Trixie. And she moved far, far away, and I miss her terribly. And she has this dog. His name is JD. He is Trixie’s pride and joy.

So when I saw this picture on her FB page I knew I had to do something with it. My epiphany was to print it out in black and white and paint him onto a square canvas with fake snow popping off the canvas. Being a black dog and VERY photogenic made this project easy. I didn’t have to worry about hair pattern or shading or any kind. Easy Peasy.

So, if you want to paint a lovely Pet Portrait like this, here is what you do:

1. Print out a black and white picture about the size of the painting you want to make, and make sure that you are confident in recreating the image. If you get discouraged by the complexity of the painting you will either never finish it, or never start it to begin with.

1.5 Make your husband go out of town so you can watch Princess Bride while you work on this and other presents, and he’s not in the way.

2. Cut out the outline of the dog and trace around it onto the canvas or other medium you selected.

Tracing Jacob

3. Suck up your fear of screwing up, and start painting, keeping the original photo close by for reference.

Reference Photo

4. Allow the paint to dry before you go crazy with glue. This part is usually pretty hard for me. I’m always trying to rush the drying process so I can just get it done.

5. Now, this Christmas present was a little Christmasy, but that’s really only because the picture was taken in the snow. I tried to make it a little more cheerful by adding “Let It Snow” all along the edge of the canvas, thinking that it needed a little extra something. I hated it. But it was too late. So how did I fix it? I covered it in glitter! That way it’s much less obvious that my painting/handwriting skills are terrible, and it’s still quite festive.

Edge

I couldn’t find my teeny tiny paintbrushes when I was doing this project, so those probably would have helped and I wouldn’t have ended up hating the edge, but it’s fine.

Also, I would have sworn that there was a “fake snow” product out there for crafting.

You know, something like THIS?

fake snow

But for some reason, I couldn’t find it anywhere. So I had to improvise. Instead I bought glitter. Glitter that I will probably never use for another project again, and it was a container of like 2 pounds, but it was cheap and it got the job done.

When Trixie received it in the mail (and she was not expecting it) she was so excited! She loved the painting of JD and I hope it will last a long time.

My New Photo Home

My New Photo Home

Today I started a new Flickr Homepage.  This is where I’m going to start storing all of my photos that don’t necessarily need a blog post or there were WAY TO MANY to include in one post, but I thought were too great (in one way or another) to just forget about. Since I got a new camera for myself last year for Christmas, and since I bought myself some new camera lenses as a Labor Day present to myself (you don’t buy yourself Labor Day presents?!), I hope to fill this homepage with beautiful photos that everyone will love to see. Also sometime soon, I hope to be getting the new Adobe Photoshop program, along with a new computer. The plan is to be able to dive much deeper into this photography thing. There is nothing on the Homepage yet, but stay tuned! I will probably be blogging more soon too, and with that I plan on saying, “hey, if you are still interested in my photos after you read about [insert awesome adventure story here] then check out the new homepage full of beauty and wonder here http://www.flickr.com/photos/my_wildhood/“.

Sound good? Are you waiting at the edge of your seat for more?! Maybe next week things will start to heat up….just sayin’…

Bucket List

Not too long ago, a couple girls at my office, Zombie and Poltergeist Prevention, Inc. asked me what I was going to do for my birthday. Jokingly, girl #1 said “what are you doing for your birthday? Climbing Mount Kilamanjaro?” And girl #2 agreed with her that we are always adventuring, so there is no telling what our weekends have in store. And again today, I ran into an old friend from high school, and in casual conversation with her boss, whom I had just met, my friend explained to him that we are adventurous people. This is probably one of the nicest things someone has said about me. So it made me think about creating a bucket list.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order other than this is the order I thought of them, my bucket list:

1. Go to South Africa and Kenya for my 30th birthday

2. Climb Mt. Kilamanjaro for my 40th birthday (the girls at work had a good idea!)

3. Dive the Great Barrier Reef

4. Meet Jane Goodall

5. Swim with polar bears!

6. Swim with great whites! (Ok, ok. In a cage).

7. Visit all 50 states of the US

8. Visit every continent (I got this idea from my dad, the Intrepid Traveler, who has almost done this!)

9. Run a marathon

10. Hike the Pacific Crest trail

11. Dive every sea

12. See an octopus in the wild

13. See the aurora borealis

14. See the aurora australis

Now, by no means is this a finite list. I will continue to add to it, and I have already scratched something’s off my list, before I ever really wrote it down.

Like I have hiked the tallest peak in Texas. Twice.

I have been to Alaska and Hawaii, the two hardest states to hit when attempting to hit all 50.

I have been parasailing in the Florida Keys.

I can’t wait to start crossing a few things off my list, so I have room to add more to my list!

What are some things on your bucket list?

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Home Improvements #2

(Disclaimer – this is the first time I have tried to use the WordPress App with my phone, and upload the pictures. If they look weird, it’s because they EXPLODED in size, and I had to shrink them down manually. Sorry ’bout that. Still learning.)

There is a space in our backyard that the grass will never grow. When we bought the house the area was covered in an awful ground cover vine that was making the garage rot, and would eventually have killed the oak tree it was climbing up. We ripped out the ground cover, but then we were just left with dirt. I found some awesome flag stones in the front flowerbeds and turned them into a walkway in the backyard so we wouldn’t have to walk in the mud, but the area was pretty much useless, except for our redneck dogs that decided to dig holes all over it. So, Hubby and I came up with an awesome idea – lay rock in the area. The dogs wouldn’t dig there, it would be a nice flat space for me to put my potted plants, we wouldn’t be tracking dirt into the house constantly, etc. So we decided to gather native rocks from Hubby’s uncle’s house in the hill country. There, it’s easy to find nice big, flat rocks, and they were…what’s my favorite word?

FREE!

Now, I’m sure Debbie Downer would say, “you had to pay for the gas to get there, so they aren’t free rocks.” Except for the fact that we were also visiting family, which was a great, fun trip, so we would have probably done it anyway, even if we weren’t getting rocks. So there. FREE.

When we starting scoping out the property for rocks, we saw the biggest, flattest rock we could manage, and I HAD TO HAVE IT.20121205-122630.jpg

So what did Hubby do? He hooked up a chain and dragged it out!

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(Ok, so that’s actually a picture of his uncle pulling out the rock, but Hubby hooked the chain around it)

We loaded up our small trailer and the bed of the truck and headed home. We only had an hour to work before we lost the light, but I HAD to get some work done!20121205-122908.jpg

I arranged most of the stones the way I wanted them (more or less), and with the Super Mother Rock as the centerpiece, I mosaiced around it.

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I ended up not having enough rocks to finish, but we will be going back to his uncle’s house soon so we can get the rest.

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To fill in the gaps between the rocks, we spread pea gravel.

That way, we (hopefully) won’t have water pooling around the rocks, and it will drain better. That’s the idea, anyway.

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So…Ta-Da! (Sort of) finished product! (This was right after it rained, it it was covered in oak leaves). Actually we will probably really and truly finish this project this weekend.

Next on my list of this to do to make our backyard even more awesome: see that dart board on the garage? I’m going to paint the plywood backdrop for it with chalkboard paint so we can keep score and write dirty jokes. Because that’s how we roll.

My Entertaining Hubby Reblog

My sister, That Clever Chick, has a super awesome blog that teaches you recipes, crafts, and drinking games. Here, she has taken someone else’s joke and made it funnier. Check it out! And follow her. It’s much easier to follow her over the interwebs than in real life.

My Attempts at Cleverness

I follow George Takei on Facebook. Yes, the Star Trek George Takei. He is absolutely hilarious, and posts ridiculous stuff all the time. Awhile back he posted this:

Hubby found this to be hilarious, so he reposted it on his wall. I, of course, could not let my honor be impinged in such a way, so I posted a response. It’s not that polished, but I think you get the idea:

There you go, sweetie. Fixed that for you!

 

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