Tag 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

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.


The Dream House Part 1

I have been getting some pretty bad “city claustrophobia” lately, so I figured the best way to treat it is to write down my list of must-haves for my dream house. This will be Part 1 – Still working in Houston. I have a lot of different style dream houses, depending on where I’m living. In the southeast Texas region, a farm house. In the Hill Country, a native rock house. In the desert, adobe. And then of course there is always the true “dream Beach House or Lake House”. But that’s a completely different story…

At the moment since I still need a job the idea is to have a dream house and a job at the same time (I know, boring, but it needs to be realistic, right?). This means I’m not dreaming of this house being on an island or out in the middle of the desert. The city still has to be within an hour’s drive.


First of all, land is a priority. I’m not talking 200 acres, but AT LEAST 2 acres. Preferably 5-10 but I’m keeping the price range in mind. I want to be able to raise chickens and have a huge vegetable garden, and a large enough yard that the dogs can still run and play but be separated from said chickens and garden. And of course, there will be a pony.

And his name will be Lil' Sebastain
And his name will be Lil’ Sebastain


There cannot be a through-way in front of my house. Going past my house will not be a shortcut to get ANYWHERE. I do not want to have my dream house turn into the house in Up, where the city builds around me and I’m too stubborn to sell or move, so it’s just me surrounded by high rises and shopping centers.

In combination of land and access, I don’t want to house to even be visible from the road, for two reasons: security (If the bad guys can’t see a house, they won’t know that there’s one to break into, right?) and if you can’t see the house from the road, you can’t very well see the road from the house then, can you?


I don’t care about attic space (we hardly use our attic anyway), but there will be a barn. A big barn. That way we can have all the storage we need for animal feed (dogs and chickens eat a lot), gardening supplies and tools (big gardens require bigger tools), the boat (keeping that, of course!), and a work/hobby shop. I want enough space to store my 90% completed projects and supplies to start other projects whenever I get around to it, without all that stuff being “in the way”.

Hobby Shop/Barn
Hobby Shop/Barn

Finally, The Farm House:

Farm House
Farm House

Huge porches: We do a lot of cook outs with friends and family, so we need a lot of space to entertain, but only outside. Screw indoor dining. That’s what the recliner is for.

Single story: I’m not cleaning stairs. I’m not walking up and down stairs. I’m not tumbling down stairs in the middle of the night to let the dog out to pee. Not. Happening. (The photo above is a single story-the windows above “open” to the attic.)

Smaller than we have now: We have a 2,200 square foot house right now, and use about 50-60% of the space. And that’s when we have someone spending the night in the guest room. Areas like formal dining AND a breakfast area? Not necessary.

The current setup.
The current setup. Basically, we only use the left and central portions of the house.

Interior Details: I want an actual pantry, instead of a big cabinet like we have now. It’s deep and dark, so you can’t really see what you have. The top and bottom shelves only have things in the front portion because if I utilized the whole shelf I would never see that stuff again. There could be a toddler back there and I wouldn’t be able to see it.

An actual laundry room. We have a laundry “closet”. It’s got those terrible folding doors to close the washer and dryer off from the rest of the room, but our washer and dryer are actually too big for the area, so the doors don’t close correctly. We actually had to take them off and re-hang them differently when we moved in so we could close the doors at all. And they are only held closed by magnets we had to glue onto the tops of the doors. (I know, champagne problem – Oh No! My washer and dryer are TOO BIG to fit in the designated area! It’s still annoying and my next house won’t have that problem.

Mud/Laundry Room
Mud/Laundry Room

A mud room. Somewhere we can drop our stuff when we get home from work and not clutter up the rest of the house. Somewhere I can make the dogs wait to be toweled off, before they run through the house spraying mud and dirt on every surface. And somewhere that has a half-bath so that you don’t have to go traipsing through the entire house to go to the restroom while you are in the middle of doing yard work, but you stepped on a doggy land mine, so now you somehow have to manage to take off your shoes before you pee yourself….you see? This is an easily avoidable problem. The laundry room can even BE the mud room. I’m not picky!

A big kitchen. The kitchen we have now is pretty great, but it’s still a little cramped when more than one person is in there at a time. And since everyone knows that the kitchen is a social place, it needs to have a lot of space. But at the same time, I don’t like the idea of an “open concept” kitchen-living room area. The kitchen can also be a noisy place, and have those two rooms separate really appeals to me.

Beautiful, huge kitchen with room to be social and cook at the same time.
Beautiful, huge kitchen with room to be social and cook at the same time.

While we’re at it, I love Plantation Shutters like in the photo above. We have them in our house now and I love them. They give the windows a classy look and they can stand up to anything. They are easy to clean. They can close for privacy, or they can actually reflect the light (if you have white ones) and brighten up the room when they are open. Perfect for any farm house. And sliding barn doors. I mean, what farm house wouldn’t look perfect with those? So these are details, but they are still things that I think are must-haves 🙂

The perfect barn door to close off the mud room, laundry room, pantry, etc.
The perfect barn door to close off the mud room, laundry room, pantry, etc.

Hard floors. Either wood, stone, or tile. Even stained concrete can look nice if it’s done right. But carpet + dogs is a disaster. And I’m not going through life without dogs. That’s just not an option.

As much as I would like to, I really don’t have the time to renovate a house to make it the way I want it. I would love to pull an Ashley at Domestic Imperfection and just make the house the way I want, but I just can’t do that AND have a job at the same time. And as we already discussed, Dream House #1 is the scenario in which I haven’t won the lottery yet.

These things shouldn’t be THAT hard to find, right? I mean, it’s not like it’s a long list. I should just show this post to our future Realtor and say, “find something to fit this description and I’ll buy it. Easy peasy.”

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.”


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


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