Sunday, May 29, 2011

This one's for you, Toots

In honor of Memorial Day, I would like to introduce you to a very special lady.

This is my grandma Nancy, or Toots, as I affectionately called her. She was my real dad's mom. It's difficult to put into words how much my grandma meant to me. She passed away last November after a short battle with liver cancer. It happened so fast that I'm still grappling with the reality that she's gone. I like to pretend that she's still in Boise doing her thing. Taking care of everyone around her, reading books in rapid fire succession, serving on church committees, and watching her soaps.

I spent a lot of time with Toots as a child. We lived in Boise, and she watched me after school and all summer long while my mom was working. I have fond memories of playing beauty parlor with her while watching the Golden Girls. We'd bring her make-up tray into the den and take turns applying garish red lipstick on each other and teasing our hair like Blanche's.

When I visited her last fall, we played beauty parlor again. Except this time I was using dry-shampoo to wash her hair and helping her brush her teeth in bed because she couldn't get up anymore. She used to change my diapers and now I was returning the favor. Even in the midst of very awkward and unchartered territory for all of us, she was making jokes. You couldn't beat her sense of humor and outlook on life. She was once told me that "this too shall pass" after I shared a difficult time I was having. Those wise words still get me through the low points.

Right after high school my aunt Melinda, cousin Alison, grandma, and I went to New York for a week. My grandparents are originally from New York and raised their children there until Auntie M was a senior in high school before relocating the family to Boise, Idaho. We stayed on Staten Island and toured their old haunts. The photo above was taken in front of the home they owned there. We ventured into Manhattan and must have walked 60 blocks that day. Even in her 60s and with multiple knee surgeries, grandma was a trouper. It was a wonderful trip and I'm so grateful that we went.

Grandma was caring and thoughtful but sharp as a tack and didn't mince words. She once told my 20-year old mother that her ass was getting wide as they were making the bed. Another time she sneaked up behind my grandpa as he sat in his chair waiting for dinner to be ready and whacked him in the back of the head with a frying pan. Then she ran like hell and locked herself in their bedroom. Evidently, he wasn't saying very nice things and she got fed up. My family history is full of stories like this and much worse. Auntie M and I have long talked about writing a book and revealing all the craziness.

In the midst of that craziness, I convinced grandma to escape to Warm Lake with my family (step-dad, mom, siblings, and pets) for a week. From the outside it may seem weird that my mother's ex-mother-in-law came on vacation with her "new" husband and their kids, but it was perfectly normal to us. I loved that I was able to give grandma a week away from the stress and hardship of home. We had such a great time reading books in the cabin, reading books by the lake, taking walks, playing poker, and talking talking talking.

Toots taught me to take care of the ones you love, to not let anyone take advantage of you, and to love Frank Sinatra. I learned to Waltz while watching Toots and Pops dance to this song. I remember that even then I recognized how much these two individuals meant to me and how I would cherish the memory of watching them dance in the living room.

Please enjoy this song and then go call your loved ones. You never know which phone call will be the last.

Like Frank says, "Someday when I'm feeling low, when the world is cold, I will feel a glow just thinking of you." 

Nancy Granquist Scharf
March 30, 1930 - November 22, 2010

Sunday, May 15, 2011


We accomplished two big things today.

1. We finished our last Financial Peace University class and are official graduates. I can't believe it's been over three months since we began. Time flies when you're saving money and slaying debt!
I wish I could report that we've paid off thousands but truth be told, we haven't. We've paid off the low hanging fruit debt and are charging ahead (sans plastic, that is). According to the debt snowball calculator, at our current pace we will be debt free (except for the house) in 2013! Credit cards, student loans, car loans, everything!

2. The coop is done and in place! It was a long and arduous process made easier by a new friend, Van. He was one of the unlucky lumber guys I requested a coop package price from. He gave me a number but then also offered to help me build it. The best part? He's building a house not far from us and had enough leftover material to build the coop for free! I just had to purchase windows ($2 ea. at the recycling center), tar paper ($5 from Habitat for Humanity), shingles ($22 from HD), and hardware including hinges, latches, hook and eyes (approx $40).

Van even took me under his wing and taught me how to frame, insulate, frame, etc. I see these things laid out in plans at work and watch other people turn them into reality, but I'd never done this stuff myself. We spent about 20 hours over a couple of weeks putting it together. The last step was transporting it and turned out to be the most complicated part of the whole deal. You see, the coop probably weighs close to 500 pounds. No joke. It's made of 2x6 redwood, insulated, finished inside with tongue and groove paneling, has an A-frame roof, shingles, Certainteed shingles, and trim. (The only things it's missing are A/C and indoor plumbing!)

There was no way we could just lift it onto a trailer and bring it home. In fact, it's too big to fit through the opening of our gate so we had to take apart the fence. I'm getting ahead of myself...

Transporting the Coop: A step-by-step breakdown

Problem: Find someone who owns a vehicle with a hitch. Solution: Scotty, our painter friend.

Problem: Find a trailer. Solution 1: Borrow a trailer from a friend-of-a-friend down the street. Arrive to find the trailer has a flat tire and is blocked by a Jeep. Solution 2: Scotty has a friend with a trailer, but it's full of aspen logs. We have to unload the trailer before it can be used. And it was raining.

Problem: Find a Bobcat/skid steer/forklift to hoist the coop off the trailer and into place. Solution: Diamond Rental had a forklift but it was no ordinary forklift. This baby was street legal and could lift 5,000 pounds 16 feet into the air. Lucky for us, Scotty was also a qualified forklift operator.

Problem: Getting the coop into the backyard with such a gargantuan machine. Solution: Very kind (and very strong) neighbors saw our plight and came to our rescue. It took 7 people to carry it 25 feet. With 2 breaks.

Tonight is their first night in the new digs. I'm hoping we built it well and that they'll survive.

In the end, these $3 chicks turned into a bigger fiasco than we could have imagined. I can't tell you whether or not it has been worth it. I'll let you know how I feel when the first egg is laid.

I promise to post photos later. It's been an exhausting weekend and I'm ready to crash!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chicken Sh*t

The chicks are about 5 weeks old now and have probably tripled in size since we brought them home. Want to know what else has tripled in size and quantity? The title of this post should be a clue.

I had no idea that two seemingly innocuous chickens could produce so. much. shit! And let me tell you that there is nothing cowardice about chicken shit. I'll spare you the details (consistency, size, shape, color, etc) and you can take my word for it.

The chickies (or chickybooms as I call them) are still living in the bathroom downstairs but it became evident after cleaning up today's fecal production that they are ready to be moved to the great outdoors. At least I assume they're ready because I'm ready. That's all that matters, right? To be fair, their feathers have come in and they seem to enjoy being outside. Lots of worms and grass to feed on.

A couple weekends ago, we removed the pavers from half the existing dog run and let them run (kinda) free when the weather permits. Since the weather can only improve from here (seriously, 12"-18" of snow in late April?), I think it's time to get cracking on building the chicken coop. I found some pretty sweet and super detailed plans for a coop and even have a material list to obtain chicken coop lumber package bids with. The lumber sales guys probably thought I was kidding. But I wasn't. I want a lumber package and it better be well-priced or I might "accidentally" leave them off the bid list for our next multi-million dollar project (I'm kidding. Kind of. Bwahaha)

Next up... sweet talking my dad into spending an entire weekend at my house to build their sweet nest.

Any ideas for coop names? Casa de Pollo? Cluckville? Help a chick out.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Just Hanging

Just a little project I wanted to share. 

I found this little gem at an architectural salvage place. It looked perfect for my office. 

But it was a little beat up and needed some TLC. 

I started by scraping the goo off. 

Then taped off the glass and added a few coats of SW Acanthus. 

I added a couple of D-hooks to the back. Reattached the hardware and ... ta da!

She's done! And she's purdy. 

Just what the doctor ordered. 

A couple things I learned:
1. I should have put a layer of tape around the edge of the mirror then taped the paper down to that. 
2. The paint job would have looked better if I'd sanded first. 

What have you been up to lately?

Monday, April 4, 2011


You know the TV show Dawson's Creek? 
Jason just asked me if Creek was Dawson's last name.

Never a dull moment with this guy.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ee I Ee I Oh!

And on this farm we have some chickens. Ee I Ee I Oh!

I've been thinking about getting chickens for a while now. As in at least a year. Our living situation didn't allow for it until we bought this house. It helps that we live in a pretty rural place and livestock are everywhere. Take this sight, for example. We took advantage of a freak warm front by taking the pups on a stroll. This is Inga telling a few horses and a bull what's what.


She's so tough behind a barbed wire fence and thirty feet away. 

There's even a man who drives by our house every morning hauling hay in a flat bed truck. He's accompanied by a big black dog who warns everyone they're coming - in case the diesel engine wasn't warning enough.

Yesterday, there was a man operating a petting zoo outside the local grocery store. The only animals in his zoo were baby goats (Does that still qualify as a zoo? Or does the term zoo imply multiple animals? I don't know.) Farmer Joe quelled Jason's fear that we'd be going home with a gallon of milk and a pigmy by informing us that you can't own a goat within city limits. They're considered livestock. But chickens aren't...

On our way home we passed the local hardware store. Many of you might be picturing a big box store like Home Depot or Lowes. Not here. You couldn't fit Home Depot's employee break room inside this place. But it gets the job done. 

There was a placard outside that read "Get your chicks here!" The bar across the street could make use of that sign, too. 

A few bats of my eyelashes and assurance that we'd "just look" and we were pulling into the parking lot. 

Fifteen minutes later (and armed with some guidance from the ever-helpful staff) we walked out with these sweet chicks. They are two-week old Rhode Island Reds. I named one Ginger and Jason named the other Reznor (As in Trent Reznor, the lead singer of Nine Inch Nails. I'm sure he'd be flattered). 

In about six months they will begin laying big brown eggs - about one a day each. I will finally be at peace about the eggs we eat because I know that they're coming from some well fed and well loved chickens. 

Ginger (left) and Reznor (right)

The pups have been super curious about them. But so far the chicks haven't been mistaken for squeek toys. Here's hoping we arrive at some cross-species harmony.

They are currently residing in a box in my office. We will eventually build them a coop when the weather improves and they outgrow their box.

Love at first chirp

Stay tuned for our next farming adventure - starting an organic garden! 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Show me the green...

... and I'm not referring to money, although, if you're offering, then I'll take that too. For the first couple months we lived here something about our upstairs just bugged me. I couldn't put my finger on it until -aha!- I realized that everything was some variation of brown. Hardwood floors, knotty alder cabinets, tan walls, darker tan accent walls. Boring.

(These were taken at night so take that into account when judging the photo quality. You can still get a sense for the monochromatic blah that's going on.) 

I started thinking about what color would liven this space up in a soothing, natural, contemporary kind of way. I also had to take into account that whatever color chosen would extend throughout the entire first floor of our house because there are no natural breaks in the wall anywhere.

Let the inner dialogue/argument commence.

Ick. Why would you even consider that?
No, our bedroom is blue and that would just be too much.
No. I want cool colors to let the floors feel warm.
Did you not hear me about the red?
Ok, that's it. You're fired.
Aha! Green?
Hmmm.... yes, I think green could work. But not yellow-green. More like a grey-green with a cool tone. And something subtle that will provide a good backdrop to whatever else is going on in the room. Good work, self!

Out came the Sherwin-Williams color deck. And the Benjamin Moore color deck. And the blog stalking. And the google surfing with search words like "green living rooms"

I settled on 7 possibilities and collected samples. Here's what I came up with:
From left to right: SW Acanthus, SW Recycled Glass, SW Bonsai Tint, BM Tea Light, BM Nob Hill Sage, BM Prescot Green and BM Kittery Point Green.

(Can you detect the awful underlying pink hue in this wall color?)

We mutually agreed that rather than painting the whole upstairs, we're just going to paint the "accent" walls because they bother me the most. My top picks are the Acanthus (far left) and the Kittery Point (far right). Jason only likes the Tea Light (fourth from the left). Here are some close-ups.

(These look blue-er in this photo than they are in real life)

What do you think?

Once I choose a color, I can stop wasting money on paint samples ($6 bucks a pop starts to add up) and start saving that money for a new fixture to hang above the dining table...

Tiella Bronze courtesy of Lowes
5 light antique bronze -

                                                         Serena Drum Chandelier by Oly Studio. 

I'm leaning toward the Serena by Oly Studio or the Tiella Bronze from Lowes. But we'll have to see how things shake out. You never know what Google will turn up when searching "moderately sized drum chandelier that looks natural yet sophisticated in oil rubbed bronze that I can install myself"