The Entertainment Center Dilemma

We’ve been in need of a good entertainment center from the time we’ve been together. I honestly don’t even remember what Joey used as an entertainment center before we lived together, but I’m sure it was awful because it was kicked to the curb about the same time I moved in. 🙂

Not that I brought with me anything that was too fancy either. We’ve actually been using the same entertainment center (if you want to even call it that) that Julia and I (and let’s be honest, my DAD) built when we first moved in together in college, circa 2001? It was fire engine red when Julia and I shared it, and man were we proud to tell people that we built it!

Later the entertainment center moved with me to the Pool House, and when I decided to evict whatever Joey was using when I moved in, well I brought old red with me. Except when it went with me to Joey’s townhouse we decided to paint it black…you know, to class it up a bit. HA.
LIving room

Well it served us well for a number of years, but ever since we moved to the new house it started feeling a little TOO reminiscient of my college years. It was time for something more grown up, and we dreamed of something big and built in. With cabinets lining the bottom and shelving on the top. But it turns out custom cabinetry is expensive…shocking right?? So, then we looked at other options like the following from Ikea:
hemnes-tv-storage-combination__0209228_PE362819_S4Which actually as I type this I realize that this set has significantly gone down in price since we first looked at it, so it may go back on our list in the not so distant future as more of an option. Especially if we doctored it up to look like a built-in unit. But even with the drop in price, at $750 it is still out of our budget for now.

Following the kitchen reno, our budget for the rest of the house has become very limited. As in, I was told by my husband, no more “projects” for awhile. So I put the entertainment center on the back burner and moved on with life.

Then, in August when my brother moved to Raleigh, and had no furniture of his own, we decided that it was the optimum time to unload gift our entertainment center to him.
🙂 Luckily, we had picked up an old dresser from our friend Summer a few months prior. She was moving and decided she didn’t have room for it anymore, so we took it off her hands, not really knowing where we were going to put it but there is always room for a free dresser. Actually, when we picked it up I thought it would be the perfect size for a future changing table/nursery dresser. But when we decided to gift Justin with our entertainment center, we decided that we would try to re-purpose the dresser as an entertainment center.

I forgot to take a true before shot of it. 😦 Bad blogger. But let me paint a picture for you first…this dresser was free even to Summer! She inherited it from an old roommate in college that didn’t want to move it. It had a tall sibling, that I’m kicking myself now for not grabbing. But it was cream, almost a yellow, and it had very purposeful brush strokes that could be seen, its probably some 90’s treatment like rag rolling that I’m not aware of…but it was definitely some sort of treatment. It also had some terrible wooden hardware we snatched out immediately.
entertainment4I wanted to paint it a fun bright color like turquoise. It was a free dresser, we could take some risks. But Joey promptly shot that down and told me I should paint it white or black. The man has trouble “seeing” my vision…but to be fair, I’m glad he reigned me in because the end result works so much better for our house and the space.
entertainment2

I went back and forth on whether to paint it white or stain it cherry like our kitchen cabinets. Joey didn’t think it would stain since it had already been painted…I knew in my heart that gel stain was magical like Pandora Radio, and would work. I decided to try my hand at a two tone finish. The plan was to take the top drawer out, and use it as a shelf for our electronics. Then to use the bottom two drawers for dvd/game storage. My dad advised to use a matte black spray paint to paint the inside of the empty shelf so that it will fade out and be less noticeable. That is what is going on in the photo above.

We decided that to make it work as an entertainment center we needed to add some height to it…so we tore out the legs and decided to add new ones. The ones in the photo above are the new ones. You’ll notice a slight problem in adding the new legs…
entertainment3There’s about a quarter inch gap in between the dresser and the legs. Womp Womp. The issue is the hardware. Because this dresser did not have screw in legs, we had to buy a special hardware that would attach it but it had a raised configuration so there was really no way around it.
Source:15898

We went back and forth about it, debated adding trim around the base, talked to my dad about it, debated some more…before it finally dawned on us that if we just moved the legs a bit inward it would be perfect because the outside edges of the dresser were reinforced, but the inside wasn’t so there was a difference of about a half inch that would cover the gap perfectly. The lesson here is that sometimes it takes weeks to come up with a solution that was right in front of you. So don’t get discouraged.
entertainment5Here it is with a fresh coat of white paint, and the first coat of gel stain. You can find out more about this magical gel stain from my kitchen cabinet post here.
entertainment6Still the first coat, but you can see how uneven it is and streaky. Some of this is from the brush strokes that were already there, but some of it is just because that’s how the first coat of this stain looks.

We used spray Zinsser Bullseye primer to prime the dresser, and then generic white flat paint to paint it. If I could do it all over again, I would have bought good paint to do this project, but we worked with what we had and what we had was cheap white paint we used on the craft room desks. We had some issues with the hardware, the hardware I picked out (and ordered because both HD and Lowes FAILED me) came with screws that either did not fit the hardware, OR we have particularly thick drawers, either way we had issues getting them to anchor firmly. And this is an issue that continues because I love the hardware and haven’t made it out yet to buy new appropriate length screws. But they’re in, and they look pretty, they’re just not all that stable. haha. So I should work on that. In the meantime, feel free to ooh and ahh over our pretty new more mature entertainment center!

Thanksgiving entertainment ctr Xmas Entertainment Center
It needs a little poly, I got so excited about it being done that I didn’t actually finish it before we brought it inside and set it up. haha. I NEED to give it a nice coat of poly on the inside so that we can more easily wipe the dust away (you can probably see that its more grey than black right now) and so that the top will be nice and shiny. And drink ring resistant. Need that for sure. But its easy fix, and I’ll do it one day…probably the same day that I put the right size screws in the hardware…haha. 🙂

Thank you Summer for saving this baby for us!! 🙂 It loves it’s new home!!

Kitchen Reveal

Our kitchen is by no stretch of the imagination complete…we still have a number of things that we want to finish up in there, but we’re getting close! So I thought I’d share a few before and after photos… 🙂

Don’t mind things like the range hood that need to be replaced.1 Removing that cabinet above the sink was a HUGE game changer. I feel like it really opened up our kitchen and updated the entire space.
11

We wanted white carrara marble countertops, but because they’re so delicate, and we’re so tough on things, we opted for quartz. We were told that quartz countertops are the most durable of the solid stones, and are heat and crack resistant, so when we found a pattern that mimicked the cararra style we jumped on it.
3

LOVE that sink!! We agonized over the sink decision, and I’m so happy with the one we chose. We knew we wanted a single stainless under mount sink, but we had no idea how many options there were! In the end we went with the 16 gauge steel (the lower the gauge the better) and the deepest we could find (10 inches). It’s gigantic! We could definitely bathe Lady in there, and maybe even Chief!
4The appliances also did a lot to upgrade the space. The oven is new of course, and the dishwasher and refrigerator were hand-me-downs from Joey’s parents. I think the black is a huge improvement, and works nicely with the stainless and black stove. We were so lucky that Joey’s parents were looking to upgrade their set, because appliances would have set us back a ton of money and we would not have been able to call our little kitchen reno done so quickly if we would have had to save for those! Especially since the fridge Joey picked out cost an arm and a leg, that kid has expensive taste! But don’t cry for him, because he convinced his parents to buy “his” fridge, so he gets to visit it every time we go down to Land O Lakes.

It’s also good because I probably would not have picked out a French door fridge if we were buying a new one, but now that we have one, I really like that style…so I’m sold. I guess now we just have to save and wait for Joey’s fantasy fridge to go on sale. 🙂
5

Since these photos were taken we’ve replaced all the switches and outlets to white ones and put covers over them, so it looks a little more finished now. Also, the eat-in got a little transformation as well…
10

Unfortunately on a normal day it looks nothing like this, and most of this area is taken up by Chief’s condo (gigantic crate) and Lady’s studio (smaller crate) and the table is filled with dog paraphernalia like treats and brushes and toys. But sometimes I like to take all that stuff out and pretend that our beasts are well-behaved and that we live in a clean, serene space, instead of the loud, sandy and chaotic place we typically call home. 🙂
14And a few more photos just for fun…
12A shadow box displaying the koozies from our rehearsal dinner lives on the wall between our bedroom and our laundry room.
6Fun fact about me…I love the idea of birds, and have filled our home with little bird figurines and other symbolic bird type stuff (nests, houses, cages), I even worked it into our wedding theme…and yet I’m terrified of them in real life. haha. I mean the ones flying around in the wild are fine…but the ones that are not afraid of humans and get too close (I’m looking at you pigeons and seagulls) as well as pet birds, and most of all big birds (like ducks and chickens) freak me the hell out!! 🙂
7This sign lives on the back of our dining room door, and I’m obsessed with it. I didn’t make it, I bought it off of this deal of the day website I’m obsessed with (Groopdealz.com if you’re interested), maybe a little too obsessed…but whatever. It’s good to have items in your home that make your heart sing! Right? Well this sign makes my heart sing.

That’s about all the pictures I have, but I’ll leave you with a fancy side by side before and after shot that I have been trying to figure out how to do for months but finally got it to work today! Take that internet! 🙂
Side by side croppedNot too shabby if I do say so myself… 🙂

Ok so things left on the kitchen to-do list:
Replace that cream range hood with a stainless one
Add a white subway tile backsplash
Stain the floor grout charcoal grey
Replace the pendant lights for something better
Stain the table top cherry and give the base a fresh coat of white paint
Find chairs to match the barstools
Paint the ceiling white (it’s a slight cream color now…I’m dreading this task though)

Two very different sets of golden haired twins

The week before last was a tough one at the Meyer Manor…Joey recently came down with a case of Shingles, and has been pretty miserable for the last couple of weeks. Then factor in that our dogs who are pretty consistently troublemakers, turned into complete holy terrors for an entire week! The combination was enough to really throw me over the edge.

pups

I’m not going to lie, there were a couple of points last week when I truly believed I was not cut out for dog ownership. Usually, their overall cuteness and moments of sweetness get me through these moments…but last week it was hard to see the cute and the sweet. That’s how bad they were…
chief

I read somewhere that dogs sleep between 18-20 hours per day…this is not the case with Chief and Lady. Joey and I joke that Chief sleeps with one eye open, but the truth is that there are only one or two occasions when we’ve actually witnessed him sleeping. We just have to trust that he is sleeping when we’re not around because otherwise there is no evidence of him actually requiring sleep.

He really only has the attention span for laying down and relaxing for about 30 seconds, which is a vast improvement on his attention span as a puppy. Otherwise he is up and moving, and if you aren’t in the current act of petting him, then you can bet that he is likely getting into trouble somewhere in the house. Lady is not much better, but I’ll admit is slightly more content to just lounge in the living room or sunbathe in the backyard. It’s exhausting, and sometimes I feel my patience wearing thinner by the day.

Luckily, I got to go up to Atlanta for a girls weekend with Julia and Kris (my besties that go way back to high school…) and escape the terror that was Chady (our dog’s nickname when they’re bad). Joey of course was not so lucky to get a break, but he managed to keep from strangling them, and keep them from killing each other (which is a feat in itself).

A welcome banner from the girls :)

A welcome banner from the girls 🙂

I’m a terrible friend, and rarely go up to visit them. So I was glad when Kris gave Julia and I the swift kick in the pants that we needed to actually plan a trip! And it was a lovely weekend! I so loved catching up with Kris, and bonding with her twin baby girls. Although I probably can’t call them babies anymore now that they’re walking and talking.

Ok not just walking now, RUNNING! It's crazy how fast they are growing up!

We went to a pumpkin patch in Cumming, GA that was really awesome! It had a petting zoo, corn box, bouncy houses, and hayrides! It was a perfect activity for the girls, and the perfect way for us adults to get a fun Fall fix!

goat

I only have a couple of close girlfriends that have kids, which is kind of funny given my age that there are so few. Although I do anticipate there will be a “baby boom” if you will, over the next year or two for my circle of friends and hopefully for myself as well. But even though I only have two girlfriends with kids at the moment, they are longtime friends of mine, and I have to say there is something kind of awesome about watching your friends become mothers.
Kris and girlsKind of incredible really. Motherhood just seems to come so naturally to them, and I love to watch them interact with their little ones. The patience and tenderness I see there is so sweet, and gives me hope that those skills will come to me too when I (someday) embark on the journey of motherhood. It’s encouraging, especially when sometimes I feel I can barely keep it together being a puppy parent.
hayrideI always knew that Kris would be an awesome mom. She’s loves kids, she spent her summers as a camp counselor and babysat and tutored kids all through high school. She wanted to be a teacher LONG before I ever even dreamed of picking a career. But even knowing all this, I still marveled all weekend at the endless energy, humor and creativity she brings to the role.

It kills me that this is out of focus, I just love these smiles!

It kills me that this is out of focus, I just love these smiles!

I know I’m getting a little mushy here, so I’ll wrap it up. But I’ve been thinking about this kind of stuff a lot lately, and it’s inspiring to see such wonderful examples of love and patience from my girlfriends. I’m grateful that they went ahead and navigated these uncharted waters of parenthood before me, and hopefully they will teach me their magical ways when I find myself immersed into motherhood.
tractorThank you Kris for being an excellent hostess, but more importantly for being an amazing friend and an awesome mom to these adorable girls! 🙂

Sophie

Leah

I came back to Tally refreshed, and ready to face my own little “trouble twins.”

Sometimes they look like a  two-headed beast

Sometimes they look like a two-headed beast

And magically, it’s like I came home to whole new dogs… They are becoming more and more loving toward each other, and are really starting to become content with just relaxing and laying around like normal dogs (instead of bouncing off the walls and looking for trouble). In fact, this past week they even laid down in the bed with us for a solid two hours! It was unreal!! Usually Chief spends his time in our bed trying to take the sheets off me, or eat my sleeping mask, or fight with his sister, but all of the sudden it’s like a light switch turned on and he realized its nice to rest and relax sometimes.
bedI don’t know what changed, but I’ll take it. I do feel like sometimes things get worse with Chief before they get better. I think this is a good example of one of those times, now if only I can just remember this the next time he goes on a reign of terror. 🙂

Staining the Cabinets

Pinterest started to become a thing just after we bought our house if I remember correctly, and I thank my lucky stars for it every day. Although I think Joey kind of despises it in a way that men used to despise HGTV, because it is a constant source of ideas for projects to do in our home. 🙂

I however, would like to kiss the makers of it, and most of all Monica, from Monica Wants It: A Lifestyle Blog. Her post about updating her bathroom vanity from a honey color to the dark espresso with gel stain was one of the first posts I came across on Pinterest, and her tutorial is what inspired and motivated me to do our kitchen cabinets.
PinterestI’d never heard of gel stain before, and her tutorial enticed me because there was only a light sanding, scuffing really, that occurs with her process, instead of the very labor intensive stripping and sanding that would need to occur for traditional staining.

I decided to try it out on our guest bathroom vanity first. Just in case, since that would be A LOT cheaper for us to replace if it was a DIY fail, than all the kitchen cabinets. I used the same brand of gel stain (ordered from Amazon) but in a different color, I selected Georgian Cherry, because I am a sucker for all things cherry colored. I followed her tutorial to the letter, and the vanity turned out pretty good if I do say so myself. It was the first go around, so it’s a little heavier handed and the doors are darker than I would have liked, but I learned a lot in this process and I’m glad I practiced there first. The bathroom vanity was actually my first diy project in this house!
Cabinet door beforecabinet door coat 1
(Left photo is the before of one bathroom cabinet door, right  is after one coat of stain)

So with the results of the bathroom encouraging, about 6 or 7 months later, is when I finally got up the motivation to start on the kitchen cabinets. And to be honest, for the number of cabinets that we have, it stretched out into quite a project. I started in March and called it done just before Labor Day in September. I had initially planned to be done by Memorial Day but alas, life gets in the way.

For anyone that considers doing this method, I definitely encourage you to use Monica’s Tutorial and to practice on something less important first. You definitely find your groove and your style, and you can kind of make it your own. But follow her main points, and really it’s pretty fool proof. And quick! Even though it stretched out for as long as it did, I must say that the actual work part goes by very quickly. As with any project the worst part is the prep. I was very meticulous about  taping off areas I wasn’t staining (like the inside of cabinets, inside of doors, floors, walls and countertops) and even just a light sanding and cleaning is still tedious, although I do recognize how easy I got away with this process versus normal staining techniques.

Oh and how could I forget the hardware! That was also a beast, just removing all the hardware was a massive chore. If I remember correctly we had 52 knobs in that kitchen, so that meant 52 doors/drawers that all required two hinges be removed and replaced. In the beginning, I did it alone, just using a screwdriver, it was a workout to say the least! Later we got smart and used the drill, and Joey took over most of those duties.

Please also ignore the ratty looking contents of the cabinets. The foam liner for our china looks so tacky

Please also ignore the ratty looking contents of the cabinets. The foam liner for our china looks so tacky

But the staining itself is a snap. I broke our kitchen up into sections for staining, and I would say that each section took under a half hour for each coat of stain, and even that is being generous. The long part was waiting for it to dry and cure, I waited at least 24 hours in between coats. I did three really light coats on the cabinet frames and the doors. Although in my experience the doors really sucked up the stain a lot more than the frames, so some of them only got 2 coats to make sure it was all as even as possible.

Once three coats of stain is on, then you have to apply between 2-3 coats of gel poly on top, letting each coat dry for 24 hours. I did two coats on the upper cabinets and three coats of poly on the bottom cabinets since they take a little more of a beating.

If you are very dedicated and have nothing else to do, you could definitely knock this project out much quicker than I did. But with Chief having increased needs due to his surgery, Lady requiring more attention because she couldn’t play with Chief to get her energy out, and then Joey also having carpal tunnel surgery on both hands during this time, it really took a lot longer than I could have anticipated. But the important part is that it’s done. And we love it.

Now I want to stain every piece of non-cherry wood in my house. Including pieces that are painted and not real wood (this stain works for those pieces too!! I’m telling you it’s miracle stain!) so you can be sure you will see future posts of projects involving this product, in fact I have two different projects going on in my garage this very minute that required this stain. 🙂

Kitchen Lighting

It’s probably apparent I’m not blogging in real time for this reno…I had every intention to, but much like my plans to document Chief’s recovery from surgery, this didn’t pan out either. BUT I do want to document our reno as much as possible, even if it’s after the fact, so that we remember how much blood, sweat and tears we put into this kitchen in five years when I get another wild hair…lol. (Kidding Joey and Dad…you can all calm down now…)

Getting the new stove and removing the cabinet really sparked the rest of the chain of events that spawned our reno. We were driven to start the updates since we had holes in our ceiling, and also because we were really starting to see the potential. Also, our destructive little guy Chief was going to be on bed rest for 3 months, so it seemed like the perfect time to have this chaos going on, because he’s really the one that gets into things, Lady is at least a little more trustworthy, silly, but trustworthy.

Lady doing her Flavor Flav impression

Lady doing her Flavor Flav impression

So anyway, back to the point of this post…Lighting. We were blessed with some really unfortunate fixtures in the kitchen.

Exhibit A: Plain fluorescent light and fan. ceiling fan and flourescentI’m sorry, but fluorescent lights are just plain ugly. Especially the ones from the 80’s that don’t even try to conceal themselves. We lived with them in our townhouse, and they ran our power bill up like crazy. So this fixture was first on the list to go!

I loved the idea of the ceiling fan in the kitchen, and it comes in handy when your kitchen is full of smoke because your dog tried to set your house on fire…or when you burn the casserole you’re baking… 🙂 But even though it was a Hunter, this particular fan had seen better days, evidenced by the drooping in the photo above. It also was not centered in the ceiling as seen below. So once the fluorescent light was gone, it looked extra absurd.
Kitchen 1 WholeIt also was so close to the cabinets on the side that some of them had strings attached so they wouldn’t swing open far enough to hit the fan. Super high tech solution right?? 🙂
Then there was also Exhibit B:
eat in lightThis fancy chandelier was in the eat-in portion of our kitchen and it was all kinds of dated. Cream colored with gold accents. It was probably really nice in it’s hey-day, and it probably will be really nice if someone cared enough to rehab it. I think with some spray paint, new shades and some new candlestick covers it could be pretty cute. Alas, we don’t have a place for it, so it’s sitting in our garage until it finds a new home via Craigslist or Goodwill.

We went back and forth over the lighting issue. We wanted recessed lighting…but of course that would entail a good amount of electrical work since the house wasn’t wired for it. Dad could do it, but the last thing I wanted him to have to do was spend all that time crawling around in our hot attic in the middle of the summer. I just couldn’t ask him to do that in good conscience. I’ve also heard that recessed lighting can be expensive since you need a good amount of cans for decent lighting, and a lot of times can be charged by the can. SO we decided to try a cheaper solution first, to at the very least minimize the number of can lights that would need to be installed.

So we scooted on down to Home Depot and found a new prettier Hunter Fan with a light kit. Now…I did enlist the help of my dad on this one too since he’s the fan installation extraordinaire…and it did require a little bit of attic work….but not the same extent that the recessed lighting would have. And also I planned to hire someone to do it, but in the end my dad said that was silly and said he would do it. SO I accepted. 🙂

The light from the fan was surprisingly bright, and when combined with the new pendant lights we installed over the bar, it ended up being plenty of lighting. So this was a big relief and a big cost saver. Now the pendant lights over the bar were another dilemma because I wanted something kind of stainless and industrial…the ones we really loved were really expensive of course. The top contenders for expensive fixtures were this guy (Joey’s favorite) and this one here (my fav). While neither fixture were too bad if you needed only one, we were thinking we needed three which would have taken it WAY out of our range. I am, however, considering going with this semi-flush mount in our entryway or hallway, so I can still get my Jonathan Adler fix in our home. 🙂

Next on the list was this one but it ended up being way too large in real life, which is kind of ironic since it’s called a mini pendant. So we backed out of that one. Finally we landed on this one from Ikea. I hadn’t seen it in person, but the price was right, and Joey’s brother was coming to visit soon from Tampa, so we asked him to pick up two. Once installed, we were on the fence about them, mostly because one of them just never hung quite right (I guess that’s the gamble you take with Ikea) but I think now I’ve decided that we like them enough to let them stay and luckily they were only $30 a pop so if we hate them later, I won’t feel too bad replacing them.

And for the eat-in chandy replacement, I wanted a drum shade pendant. There was a lot of drama involved with this light, I had a really hard time finding what I wanted. I had registered for this light with Crate and Barrel, when we registered for it I had intended it for the dining room in our townhouse, but we figured it would work in our new house. At the time I didn’t realize that it had only a cord to hang by, back when I registered the cord was always out of the picture so you couldn’t tell it didn’t have a downrod. When I finally saw the light in the C&B store, I knew the cord would drive me nuts. Which was sad because the pendant was perfect otherwise. So that one was returned. Then I ordered another one from CB2,  again with the cord, so back it went. Finally I found a pendant kit from Amazon that was perfect and a white shade from Target to top it off. So up it went and it’s perfect and it only cost us around $50 for the kit and $15 for the shade. So we saved around $134 not going with the C&B light. Woohoo! Which meant we had C & B store credit for later kitchen purchases…Hooray!

Pardon the poor lighting in this photo. The downrod on this appears to be ORB but it's really a brushed nickel finish

Pardon the poor lighting in this photo. The downrod on this appears to be ORB but it’s really a brushed nickel finish

So that’s the lighting update…It all ended up being plenty of light so I think we’re going to abandon the recessed lighting plan. And all in all our lighting total came to around $225 which is kind of a steal when you think about how much we COULD have spent had we used an electrician and picked spendier fixtures.

The beginning of the kitchen renovation

When we bought our house, it appealed to us in that it was older but still essentially a turn-key. The floors were polished and gleaming, the rooms were all freshly painted in a nice neutral vanilla shade, the deck was brand new. The only room that really required any true updating was the kitchen, which was fully functional, just dated.
Kitchen 1 WholeAnd although the kitchen was going to take a good amount of work, especially on our budget (which was very small), we were glad that the owners did not update it before they sold it. This way we were able to make it truly our own.

Like I said before, the kitchen was fully functional, and as ugly as those appliances were, gosh they worked good! haha. So good we had a hard time justifying running out and getting new ones. So we left the kitchen alone for almost a full year, going back and forth with ideas of what we could do. And then something happened that made us jump in head first into the reno: Chief tried to burn down our house.

Like many large breeds, Chief enjoys to jump. He likes to greet people by jumping up to look at them in the face (I know, I know, it’s awful. Trust me we’ve tried to work with him)…and he likes to counter surf. He’s always been very interested in the stove and the counters surrounding it, which of course have the controls in the front instead of the back. On numerous occasions Joey and I have watched him turn on the stove burners by jumping up and hitting the switch on his way down. Never the low direction of the dial either, always to the right for the high temperature side of the dial of course. But we were always there to catch it to fix it. Until one night, about two weeks before his surgery, when Chief turned on our stove without us even realizing it. It was a Friday night, and we were watching a movie in the living room, and sometime during one of Chief’s walkabouts around the house, he jumped up and turned the stove on full blast without us even noticing it. The bad news was there was a piece of cabinet trim that we had removed as an experiment that was sitting on top of that burner.

Not too long after, Joey stood up to get a beverage, and he smelled the smoke. When he got to the kitchen the piece of trim had just started to have flames coming off of it. Luckily he got it out without anyone being injured, but it coated our entire house with a layer of black smoke, and produced a nice big crack in the glass cooktop.

Luckily the trim was not a piece that we would ever need, it was just the bottom cover for the drop in stove. So at that point we decided that the drop-in stove was not only a hazard with the puppies, but also potentially a hazard for future kids, so we decided to buy a new freestanding stove.  Haha, let me rephrase, Joey’s parents bought us a new stove as an anniversary gift. 🙂

And we’d been looking for awhile, so we knew the perfect one to order. A new LG model that had flat buttons controls on the BACK of the stove top, glass cooktop, and a 6.4 c.u. oven, it was gigantic inside! So that meant we had to figure out how to convert the space from a drop-in to a freestanding one.

After getting a quote from a pro that was over $450 to convert the space, we called in for assistance from my dad, who came in to save the day!
Oven RemovedThe first step was to cut out the bottom portion of the cabinet. Like so below:
Cabinet cut for new oven 1He made it look really easy, but there is no chance I would have attempted that, my hands are nowhere near steady enough! The next step was to remove the backsplash.
Countertop cut for new oven1He placed a piece of duck tape there before he made the cut to keep the countertop from splintering. We tried to use frog tape first, but it didn’t have the right amount of stickiness, duck tape did the trick perfectly!
Oven removed 3What we were left with….pretty right? I really hope the drips there were from the countertop glue. This was around the time that the overall beige color of the kitchen started to wear on me and everything just seemed dirty and grungy. Yuck. Anyway, the next step was converting the hardwired drop-in to an up-to-code plug for the for the freestanding stove. We are very blessed that my dad is super handy, and basically built our house himself, so we saved a TON of money that he was able and willing to help us with this step instead of hiring an electrician.

Meanwhile, a few mere feet away, we were double blessed to have my uncle Bill helping us that day on some other long time coming tasks. One of which was working on our laundry room, which will be another post for another day, probably a long time from now since it’s still a long way from done. The more important job being that he was there to help us remove the cabinet above the bar.

Kitchen 1 over the bar cabinetsFrom the moment we moved in we wanted to remove that cabinet. A lot of people thought we were nuts, given that cabinet space is always valuable real estate in a kitchen. But we had so many cabinets already, and it really seemed to date the kitchen, so we did our best to not put anything in those cabinets that we wouldn’t be able to find a place for later. So we did that for about 8 months, with that cabinet only holding paper towels, which ended up finding a new home in the laundry room anyway. So we felt good about our decision to remove it, and forged ahead.
Over Bar Cabinet Removal 1I must stress again, how unbelievably lucky we are to have such awesome family members that help us out with things like this!!

Anywho…once that cabinet was out, the difference was incredible. The kitchen was so open and light it was fantastic. It almost felt like it was the way it was meant to be. It was a subtle change that had really had drastic impact. Although we were left with a few holes in place of the cabinet…
IMG_20130406_113846_152 (1)Which remained until we figured out what we wanted to do about lighting, and once that was done, we had the drywall professionally repaired. It was one of those projects that we probably could have done but were afraid that it would always look like we did it ourselves if we did, so we hired it out and had him fix a couple of other holes too. Also, it was easier on our wallet because we were able to craigslist our old oven, and use the proceeds to pay for the drywall repair! Winning! 🙂

As for our new oven…we are in LOVE. IMG_20130406_120140_837 (1)Isn’t she pretty? I just love her blue interior! That’s totally how you pick out a stove right? Based upon the color of the interior?? haha. Just kidding of course, it was just a perk that it was blue inside. And it really started to make the rest of the kitchen look pathetic in comparison, so that’s when we really got motivated to keep going.
We love all the changes, and we’re so thankful to Joey’s parents, my Dad and my Uncle Bill for making it possible for us!

Summer Vacation

We were long overdue for a vacation!! We had originally hoped to do it over our anniversary weekend, but life got in the way. We were so busy taking care of Chief and renovating the kitchen, that spring turned into summer, which is now quickly turning to fall. But luckily we managed to squeeze in one, albeit quick, getaway to North Carolina for Labor Day weekend.

It was a whirlwind trip, it was always going to be short, but then got even shorter when we left a day later than we intended. We left the Thursday before Labor Day to go visit Justin in his new apartment in Raleigh. We were there only for the night to deliver some additional items from home, and to of course meet his girlfriend Jessica, who we were very happy to meet. We did get to have two meals with them, so that was nice.
I discovered the wonder that is Instagram during this trip, and I incessantly bothered pretty much everybody I came into contact with, but Justin and Jessica were good sports about it, and posed for a picture or two. 🙂

Friday morning we got up and headed to Hickory, North Carolina to see Joey’s college, Lenoir Rhyne University.

It was a beautiful campus, and fun to see where my Smitty spent his college days. I took about a million pictures here.

I also forced Joey to take me to a local dive for lunch, he chose the Village Pizza and it was a delicious choice, and took him down memory lane for sure.
Village PizzaWe also spent a good amount of money in the bookstore on LR apparel, but figured it would probably be awhile before we were back, so we stocked up 🙂 And how I have a pretty cute LR shirt.

I think one year when we have kids we’ll try to come up around Homecoming time in October, so Joey can visit with old pals, and we can see the leaves change.

Later that afternoon, we headed to Charlotte to do a quick Ikea stop (perhaps the fastest one of our life in fact), and then to spend a couple of days with Joey’s Aunt Carol and Uncle John. They had just moved into a beautiful new home that they had built, and we were in awe of all the gorgeousness. The layout was really smart, and the details in the home were really quite incredible, it was inspiring. Also, I think that all the beautiful details in their home might have finally convinced Joey that we should commit to a few things around our house that I’ve been saying we should do all along, like adding wainscotting and carriage hardware to the garage doors, among many others. So it was win-win for me 🙂

Joey’s cousin Lisa and her husband Jason (and their six-year-old son Ian) came over for dinner, and we had a great time socializing with them. Ian beat us all at his own version of Survivor Style Candy Land, so that was pretty cute, and we ended up staying up late chatting with Lisa and Jason. It was nice catching up, and Joey and I were reminded how nice it is to visit with family for happy circumstances. So much lately, it seems the Meyer family has been gathering for sad events, and it reminded us how we need to make more of an effort to stay in touch and get together to celebrate happy times as well.

We spent Saturday with Uncle John and Aunt Carol, they showed us around downtown Charlotte, and we mostly just spent the day chatting and watching football. And eating, don’t forget eating! John and Carol used to own a restaurant, and Carol even went to culinary school, so these folks know how to cook!! I spent a lot of time sitting at their island and watching them cook, mentally taking notes. Everything was delicious, and I know I came home weighing much more than when I left. 🙂 But that’s vacation right?

We came back after breakfast on Sunday, and made good time on the road. We got home around 6pm, and were able to relax and sleep in, before we had to go pick up the dogs from “summer camp” aka the boarding facility. It was their first time being boarded, and we were careful to choose one that was highly recommended by people we knew, and that had lots of room to run and play. I think they had a blast, they came home exhausted (seriously, they are still tuckered out two days later!!) and with a cute “report card” that summarizes what they did during their stay with pictures. It was super cute, and we were glad they had fun and were well cared for!

Why yes I did hang our dog's "report card" on the fridge...lord help our future human babies! :)

Why yes I did hang our dog’s “report card” on the fridge…lord help our future human babies! 🙂

We finished Labor Day weekend off with a win for the Seminoles, so really it was the best long weekend we could have asked for!

Link

I said I would do a post about Chief’s surgery and how we came to find out about his hip dysplasia. Things have just recently started to go back to normal, even though the poor baby has been cleared for regular life since June. So since we’re regaining this normalcy, I thought it was a good time to reflect on the events, and maybe help prepare someone else that happens to stumble onto this blog in a similar situation of what is to come. Also, this post is probably going to be a little wordy, so feel free to skim or skip and just ooh and aww at the cute Chief pics I’ve peppered into this post to keep it more exciting.
Tongue outIt all started at the end of February when Chief started throwing up…at first it was just once or twice, we assumed it was just normal dog stuff, eating too fast or what not…

Well it started becoming more regular and he always ate it before we could check it out so we had no idea what we were dealing with (sorry, that’s gross I know). Until one day about 5 or 6 days after the vomiting began, when he started being lethargic and refused to eat. As soon as he refused his food and playing with his sister we rushed him to the vet. He spent the night there and was monitored closely. During the night he threw up enough shreds of a red towel to fill up a gallon size Ziploc, the patch sewn into the towel even came out whole! We had never even known that he had been eating this, he and Lady had been playing tug a war with the same towel a few days earlier…but never anticipated that Chief would decide to eat the towel…
VetAnd as it turns out of course, towels are not digestible, and in fact, towels do what they’re supposed to do…absorb. We had to have the poor guy rushed to another vet to have him scoped to make sure that it had all come out. Luckily, it had, but his stomach lining was very irritated so the vet decided to place some tiny bb like things in his stomach to make sure that everything was passing through correctly. He needed to go to the vet the next day to get x-rays to make sure that the bb’s were moving along on the correct path.

He seemed fine when he got home, so we weren’t too worried about the x-ray the following day. We thought we were out of the woods for sure. And we were as far as his stomach issue went…but we were not prepared for what the x-rays also found…

Hip dysplasia. The worst our vet has ever seen! Joey was not at all prepared for the conversation that followed from our doctor…and I hate that he had to get that news alone when we were just expecting to pick the dog up and for everything to be fine. Instead Joey was given strict orders that Chief was going to have to not run or jump for the rest of his life…or he’ll tear something and may have to get put down or have gruesome archaic surgeries with less-than-stellar outcome percentages. We were devastated. That night we cried, we talked through every possible option that we could think of…and resolved to make Chief’s life as normal as possible even if it meant risking a shorter life span, for him to have a better quality of life. Because no running or jumping or playing with his sister, and essentially living in a bubble, would not be fair to a 9 month old Golden Retriever puppy.
Chieffy

Now I should say a little something about our vet…We LOVE our vet!! And Chief and Lady love our vet even more than we do, which makes us appreciate our vet and his staff even more!! They are both so happy whenever we pull into the parking lot, it’s like they’re going on vacation! Maybe they don’t get out enough… haha.  But, that being said, he’s more of a general practitioner and was the first to tell us that he doesn’t keep up with the new surgeries and treatments because he’s not a surgeon.

The next day I called our vet and talked to him as well, told him our concerns, asked him about a surgery I had read about online called a TPO, and finally got the number for a surgeon/specialist that he recommended. A few days later we met with the surgeon and our fear was confirmed. He did have dysplasia…but the surgeon was much more optimistic about Chief’s future than our vet was. He recommended the surgery that I had read about, which is called a Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO), and it’s for dogs under a year old that have been diagnosed with hip dysplasia. The reason they must be under a year old is because they use the dog’s own hip bones and sockets and secure them in place with pins and plates, unlike a total hip replacement where artificial parts are attached. However, because they’re using the dog’s true anatomy which is ideal, there can not be any arthritis or degeneration of that anatomy which tends to set in around 1 year of age. (Please note that I am far from a veterinary professional and this is strictly the information I gathered from the surgeon, in my own words. Google has lots of good information about the surgery itself if you’re interested).

1st x-ray after surgery. You can see how the left hip is not really sitting in the socket...that's how both hips were.  As he healed, his right hip (surgical hip) was more in place.

1st x-ray after surgery. You can see how the left hip is not really sitting in the socket…that’s how both hips were. As he healed, his right hip (surgical hip) was more in place.

Initially, the vet advised that we have his right hip done first, and then if we wanted to, to do the left one four weeks into recovery from the right leg. But the day of the surgery we learned that the left hip was displaced further than initially believed, and that it wasn’t guaranteed that they would be able to put it into socket enough for the surgery to work. The surgeon advised that we continue with the right leg, and then use other methods to control the left hip dysplasia when and if it ever bothered him. So that’s what we did, and I think it was the right decision, because they ended up having a harder time with his right hip than they thought they would, and they said that the left leg definitely wouldn’t have taken to the surgery. So in the end I’m glad we didn’t put him through all that for it to not be successful.

The home instructions we received were to keep him calm, no running, no jumping, no excitement. ha. Have I mentioned that Chief is a 9 month old Golden Retriever? He doesn’t know what calm is! The moment he saw us walk in to pick him up, he leaped for joy with both front legs up in the air, leaving his one bad hip and one broken hip to support him (and that was while the vet tech was assisting him to walk). She immediately handed him off and went to find him more sedatives.

Of course the whole right back side of him had to be shaved. So that was a little jarring. I’m not sure what I expected, but it was sad to see that poor naked pup. And the heinous looking incision. They gave us a cape instead of a cone, and we were grateful for it! It worked so much better for us than the cone because it moved with him, so he couldn’t ever get to the spot to lick it, but it also was flexible and soft so it didn’t inhibit his sleep or comfort level.

Poor naked baby

Poor naked baby

As a quick side note, we got him home that first afternoon, and fed him and a few minutes after he ate, he began making this horrible noise. It was a god awful hacking noise and then it stopped. He wasn’t getting air.  We panicked. We could try the Heimlich but it could hurt his hip. Joey snatched him up and put him in the car and held him the whole way to the emergency vet. I think we both cried the whole way there and it seemed like the longest 5 minutes of my life. All we could think is that something had gone wrong with the surgery, that something terribly wrong had happened with the sedative or the trachea pipe during the surgery. It was awful. When we arrived they came rushing out and checked his air, he was breathing but just barely and making that awful noise when he did. Finally as we walked into the facility he coughed up a few bits of kibble and promptly ate it right back up. He was fine. And in typical Chief fashion gave us the scare of a lifetime.
http://instagram.com/p/d0LxiSpmfM/
(photo taken months after surgery, he wasn’t allowed on the couch while he was recovering. But it’s the only sad face picture I have of Chief. lol)

The first week we had to ice his incision spots (there were three I think, but only two that required ice). He was not a fan of the ice. We were also supposed to watch the incisions for any signs of infection, so we took about a million pictures a day to compare (I’ll spare you those pics though).

We also had to sling him, which was essentially using a rolled up towel as a sling to support the leg that had surgery. In theory this shouldn’t be difficult, I did too much over thinking I think and worrying that I wasn’t doing it right. In the end, he turned out just fine, so obviously we did an alright job of it. It wasn’t comfortable for him or for us, but it had to be done, and it’s one of those things to expect if you’re anticipating having a recovering pup from a TPO. After the first week, we were able to leash walk him for potty breaks.

He’s was basically on bed rest only, and it drove him nuts. We have all hardwood floors and tile in our living areas (aka slippery surfaces), so we had to rearrange our living room, and create Astroturf and rug pathways. Our house looked really ridiculous for several months.

Astroturf pathway & Lady missing Chief while he had his surgery.

Astroturf pathway & Lady missing Chief while he had his surgery.

The first couple of weeks were hard. Lady didn’t understand why Chief was in his crate and couldn’t play and Chief couldn’t understand either for that matter…It was sad. I think that’s the hardest part about this surgery is that they really don’t understand. We worried that they would think it was some sort of punishment. Chief would have run around and never missed a beat from the day he came home if we’d let him, regardless of the pain. That’s why we had to stay strong, and follow the doctor’s orders.

At the 14 day follow-up the surgeon said he was impressed with Chief’s progress and that we were doing good. He was incredibly supportive, and patient with us while we asked him a million questions. It was at this appointment we had to make a decision as to whether or not we were going to sedate him or not. It wasn’t going well at home, Chief was barking and crying incessantly, and violently shaking his crate like he was in jail. Because we had no other way to prevent him from injuring himself and causing further damage, our surgeon strongly encouraged us to sedate him. I hate that we had to, but it was the only option to keep him safe. And while we definitely did our research and asked a ton of questions, in the end we were very lucky to not experience any negative side effects, and we pray there won’t be any long-term ones in the future, we’re quite aware that there are risks associated with every medication.

But as much as we hated it, it was the best option for our family. And later when he got stronger, the medication’s calming effects allowed for us to be able to let him have family time outside of his crate while he was still technically recovering. If we hadn’t had the medication it wouldn’t have been possible because he would have been uncontrollably bouncing off the walls. One day we accidentally forgot to give him a dose before we went to work, and this is what we came home to:

Chief the bed destroyer

Chief the bed destroyer

Taking care of Chief post op was a real energy drain. It’s hard to explain, because looking back it really wasn’t THAT difficult, in fact it was really pretty easy, all things considered in the way of things that could have happened. But I think it was that it required a drastic change of routine, and a lot of emotional energy. Keeping the dogs separated was by far the worst part. Especially since we were all still adjusting to having Lady in our family when this all happened. I think if we had just had Chief, it would have been a lot easier on all of us. But we had Lady, so we did the best we could to keep everyone happy and healthy.

The 30 day check up went well. We celebrated being 1/3 of the way through the recovery.  He had a new set of x-rays done to make sure that everything was setting properly, and the surgeon was happy with Chief’s progress. We were instructed to increase his activity level to 10 minute leash walks 2-3 times per day. Most of these were in the backyard because everything out in the world excited him too much. Also, you can imagine the funny looks we got walking a half bald dog around. I caught at least one person in their car pointing him out and chuckling.

30 day check up

30 day check up

He got stronger and stronger and acted like there was nothing wrong. He wanted so badly to run and play with Lady and to jump up on the couch and snuggle. Unfortunately none of these activities were allowed so we stuck to our guns. But he was showing progress, and we silently hoped that we’d go into our 60 day appointment and get the all clear for regular activity.

Unfortunately this did not happen. But he did get a good report, and the surgeon said the x-rays showed he was about 90% done, but that he still needed another 30 days before he could return to his normal activities. He could start having 20 minute leash walks 3 times a day now. We were all disappointed. Lady more than anyone I think. The last couple of weeks before he was cleared to play, she started refusing to go outside unless Chief could come with her. We had to drag her out to potty. And eventually she started not even wanting to come out of her crate. She was officially on strike. It was really sad.

Lady on strike

Lady on strike

I’d be lying if I said there were a couple of times that we didn’t crack in this last 30 day stretch and let them play together in the Man Cave since it was a small contained area, and it was carpeted. They probably played harder than they should have but we did our best to keep it controlled, and we were lucky we didn’t have any consequences.

At the 90 day visit, the surgeon patted Chief on the head, gave me a hug, and told me we all did great! He said Chief could return to normal activity and that he had healed. I swear Chief understood him too! That night when they played, I think may have been the happiest day of their lives!
Chief and Lady

We celebrated Chief’s belated 1 year birthday that weekend, and took them for a quick hike at the greenway near our house, and did lots of playing that weekend.
duck

The surgery was tough, but worth it now that it’s all over. On the one hand I’m sad that he wasn’t able to have the left hip done because it does cause him some pain (particularly at night). But we are a little relieved that the decision was made for us, since that hip was not eligible in the end. It would have been a longer recovery (and we just barely made it out with all of our sanity) and lots more money, so it was a blessing in disguise I guess. He takes an anti-inflammatory at night, that seems to help, and the vet says that once the scar tissue builds up around the hip socket that he won’t have as much pain until much later in life. But he was optimistic that there is a good chance that it may never cause him problems, or that if it does there are medicinal interventions we can pursue, or we can always have the total hip replacement done when and if it does cause him problems. Time will tell, but in the meantime we plan to keep him active, and lean and hopefully that will keep him healthy as long as possible.

My boys :)

My boys 🙂

Chief Update

I’m so behind on posting…about 6 months in fact…what was my last post? About getting Lady in January??? And it’s June now?? Sheesh. Well a lot has been happening so I’ll do my best to catch you up.

Around the end of February, we had a scare with our baby Chief, and learned that he had to have surgery for hip dysplasia. I had intended to document week by week his recovery, because there is very little on the web in terms of what to expect during the long recovery process. But I now know that there’s not much on the web because it’s a very long, demanding and heart wrenching time for not only the pup but the parents as well (perhaps even more so for the parents). It’s also very dull…and as much as you want someone to be able to give you tips and tricks on how to handle keeping a less than year old energetic puppy calm, there really is no good advice other than your life will mostly suck for 3 months.

30 day check up

30 day check up

I plan to do a whole post devoted to our experience with the surgery, and to document what led us there. But for now the good news, I took him in for his 12 week evaluation, and we got a big thumbs up from the surgeon! Our Chieffy has healed 100%!! And we are so relieved and excited to go home tonight and let Chief and Lady run and play outside! And they are more than ready too!
Chief and LadyMore updates will follow in the coming days…hopefully 🙂

We made it!!!!!

Today marks our first anniversary, and also happens to be Easter! It’s amazing how fast a year can go by, but we’ve been very blessed and have had such a wonderful year.
We had initially planned to go out of town for our anniversary, but then an unexpected series of events that led to Chief having to have hip surgery, and kind of limited us both in budget as well as limited our ability to leave his side for a few months. Poor baby. And POOR mom and dad, literally and figuratively. 😉

But we’ve had a lovely day so far…we started the day with Easter service at our wedding pastor’s church. We completely adore Andy, he’s one of those people that we just felt an instant kinship with, kind of like we’ve known him our whole lives even though it’s only been a short time. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how everyone feels when they first meet him, he’s just THAT genuinely nice!

untitled-1062Anyway, we hadn’t seen him since our wedding, but I kind-of-sort-of work with his wife Martha, whom I also adore. She is also a social worker, and works with the elderly, so we’ve indirectly worked together for a couple of years, but now we work for the same agency so I get to see her much more frequently which I love. A few months ago, she gave us an open invitation to attend their church, and mentioned that it would really make Andy’s day if we surprised him. As soon as I learned that our anniversary and Easter fell on the same day, I knew it was meant to be!!

The really funny and cute part was that he emailed me the day before, to check in with us and to invite us to the service. Joey was convinced that Martha had slipped up and spoiled the surprise, but the look on his face when he saw us at the service was priceless and it was obvious that he was surprised! We had the best time, the service was phenomenal, and it was good to see them both. Also, everyone there was super welcoming, which made us feel right at ease. It was also really fun to see all the kids dressed up in their Easter outfits. There were sooo many sweet sweet babies, I couldn’t stop staring at them… I remarked to Joey about how many babies there were, and he told me not to drink the water. haha. So obviously someone isn’t quite ready for babies yet… 🙂 But all in all, it was a great way to start the day, and a really special way to commemorate our anniversary. We’ll definitely be back!!

Unfortunately, we had to leave right after the service to get home to re-dose Chief’s meds. And not long after that we got up with our neighbors, Rick & Cindy, to have a puppy play date. It was the first one with just Lady and Zoey (minus Chief) and it went pretty well, which is good since it’s only the 3rd time Zoey and Lady have met. Lady is a little bit bossy, which drives me nuts, I think Zoey’s a little bit nervous around her which makes me sad, especially since we went to her house…but overall it was good and both pups were tired afterward so that’s all that matters!
Lady and ZoeyThe rest of the day we spent being lazy. We cooked a yummy prime rib and green beans for dinner. It was my first time cooking a prime rib, and I think I overcooked it a little, but it wasn’t too bad. 🙂 Oh, we also cracked open the bottle of Bounty Rum (“the Spirit of St. Lucia”) which we brought back from our Honeymoon in St Lucia. Just as delicious as we remembered!
BountyAll in all it was a lovely day, and we look forward to many many more anniversaries in the future!  🙂