Missing October

Where has October gone, folks?!  October is one of my favorite months ever, but this year I feel it has snuck by rather quickly and uneventfully.  Nothing very productive around the house happening, thanks to some work related travel for both of us.  Not enough productivity on my dissertation either.  Ugh. I hoped Beastly Paper 1 (we have to write a three paper dissertation) would be complete by the end of summer, which turned into the end of September, and now the end of October is staring me in the face…kind of like the blank pages yet to be filled with substantive words. Funny how writing comes easily to me, with the exception of my dissertation.  Is this some sort of sign? I’m really tired of academic writing.  For so long I’ve honed my expository craft to the neglect of my youthful days of narrative and my teen years of poetry…but now, theoretical and empirical argumentation seems rather dull when there are characters whose stories need telling instead.

Anyway, in an attempt to savor the last bit of October, we KaZoos will be taking a break from the blogosphere.  Partly so I can finish Paper 1 aka the Beast.  Partly so we can spend some time together, given how we’ve been planes passing in the air the past few weeks.  We hope you all have a Happy Halloween or Light the Night or whatever you choose to celebrate at the end of October!

Front Porch Problems

There’s nothing better than a cheerful front porch to welcome people to your home, right?  In the South, porches are quintessential elements of a home, architecturally and socially.  A cheerful front porch is the lipstick of the house. Bright pops of color can do wonders for an otherwise ordinary face entrance.  Unfortunately, our front porch (if you could even call it that) is a bit lackluster in the welcome department.


See what I mean?

We are in the idea stages and would like to solicit some input about ways to spruce it up, so here’s the N-portant things you need to know about our front porch/entry area.

  1. Necessary.  We use our front door as our primary entry into the house because our garage is usually full of projects (see this post), which renders the garage entry to the house more inaccessible from the outside.  Consequently, the walkway and entry need to stay somewhat open and clutter-free so we don’t trip or bump into things whilst juggling ten bags of groceries to be able to unlock the door. In other words, we are not putting up a harvest display with Cinderella’s-chariot-sized-pumpkins and life-size scarecrows barring access to our home.
  2. Narrow.  When we step out of our cars, we step onto the brick pavers, so that just leaves the paved area and the trim of pavers for walk space/welcome space/whatever.  This is a very tight entry, so there isn’t enough room on either side of the door for planters, to my dismay. I had great visions of potted ferns on plant stands, but there isn’t enough room for plants and people to share the stoop. Sacrifices had to be made, and we aren’t a fan of the Aztec way of life.  Or death. You get the picture.
  3. North-facing.  The brick wall to the left blocks all of the morning light, and the elevation + pitch of our roof combine to ensure that only the front of the walk gets afternoon sun (and only March through October).  As you can see, the overhang makes the stoop very dark (and also damp), which doesn’t help matters.  This makes choosing plants tricky business because the plants must be shade-loving if they are under the overhang, or they must prefer afternoon sun during the hottest-part-of-the-day-in-the-hottest-part-of-the-year but be able to survive solely on indirect light during the cooler winter months.  We can certainly shift plants from the front/back yard seasonally, but we would prefer seasonal changes that don’t involve lugging heavy pots around/through the house.  At the same time, we don’t like to throw away money on annuals or plants that aren’t hardy enough for winter. No real pumpkin will last in this kind of dark/damp/too hot environment without breeding bacteria, fungi, and insects.  We love pumpkins, so this is especially sad for us.  
  4. Gnatty.  Yes, I realize this doesn’t actually start with the letter N.  Lots of gnats, moths, mosquitoes, etc. hang out in the dark, damp overhang part of the entry.  We’d prefer other houseguests.
  5. Nightlife.  The sole benefit of the gnattiness is the thriving tree frog and gecko population also inhabiting in our entry.  Unfortunately, members of the gecko family crawl into the rafters for daytime naps…and sometimes crawl into the house.  Nothing like watching Netflix late at night and noticing creepy-crawly shadows on the ceilings…and then having to devise ways to get baby geckos down from 13 foot plus ceilings and safely to their family outside.  Not an easy task, folks.
  6. Naked.  And I don’t mean the door.  The oval panel in the door allows for some natural light to enter the foyer (good) but also enables anyone passing by our home at night to see everyone and everything if we have any lights on at all.  The glass is not entirely frosted (including a section in the center with a ridiculously hideous floral motif resembling the worst kind of weed imaginable), so no running around naked in the house.  Not that we ever do that, but you know.  We plan to replace the door with a less revealing one, but that will have to wait, given other more pressing expenses like floors.  In the meanwhile, we’ve thought about putting up a curtain rod like these and curtain panels on the inside that we can open in the day and close at night for privacy (several of our neighbors do this, including my parents).  However, our narrow entry has an equally narrow foyer on the opposite side of the door, so the curtains will take up valuable real estate.  Le sigh.

N-y brilliant ideas?





10 Ways You Know You are a Burgeoning DIYer

The KaZoos are busily working away on their October to do list, which has unfortunately been cut short due to unexpected work-related travel and sickness.  Meanwhile, here’s a little DIY humor.  How many describe you?

10.  Your driveway is full of cars (and the bane of the neighborhood HOA and all dog walkers who like to walk their dogs in the yards/driveways instead of along the sidewalk) because you can’t park in your garage.  Because the garage is full of materials and tools and furniture and extra decor and ____ (fill in the blank with your personal favorite).  If only you had a barn. Hmm…

9.  Your walls are a mosaic of paint swatches and empty frames. (But those were left empty on purpose, though, right?)  And lots of nail holes in various stages of patching and sanding.

8.  The decor on your mantle/dresser/buffet/console/coffee table consists of a level, measuring tape, drill, hammer, screwdriver, and pencil at any given time (except when taking photos for your blog). Maybe some pliers, too.  And a pumpkin or two thrown in for seasonal festiveness.  And to hide the tools from surprise guests.  Focus on the pumpkin.  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain hammer.

7.  You have a Monica-closet or even a whole Monica-room where you are hiding everything from the room(s) currently under renovation.  Why else would you have bought that house with the extra bedroom, right?

6.    You are on a first-name basis with the crew at your local big box stores, hardware stores, your favorite paint store, etc. You know the Chevy Cruze commercial with Stan, the guy everyone knows when he walks into the gas station because he’s buying gas all the time? That’s you at Lowe’s. Except you’re not buying gas.  Just tools.  And painting supplies. And more tools.  And plants.  And tools. And painting supplies. And tools. 

5.  Scotch Blue or FrogTape Green currently function as accent colors in at least one room in your house. After all, you can leave FrogTape up for like a month before actually getting around to painting, right?

4.  You have tripped over a paint can or the shop vac or _____ (fill in your personal favorite supply/tool) en route to the bathroom at night. And each time, you resolve to put it up the next day.  But the next day comes, and you say, why bother? I’ll just have to get it back out tomorrow. And then nighttime comes, and wham! You stub your toe again. Vicious cycle, isn’t it?

3.  You have a rapidly dwindling supply of NSAIDs in your medicine cabinet, or you’ve started selling doTERRA essential oils so that you have natural home remedies for those aches and pains plus a little extra income to put towards more projects! Cause #AintNobodyGotTimeToWaitAtTheERWhenThereIsWorkToBeDone #LongestHashtagsEver

2.  You take multiple showers a day or haven’t washed your hair/shaved in a week.  You know who you are…and which one is applicable. Hopefully the first. For everyone’s sake.

1.  You are accustomed to living on subfloors/slabs and without a functional kitchen or bath.  Maybe both.  In fact, it’s like you’re camping all the time.  Except less communing with nature.  And more communing with drywall dust. Lots of dust.

Seasonal Bonus: Your friends have complimented your “haunted house” interior decor for Halloween.  But those drop cloths stay there year-round. Shhh!


October Organization: PhD in Pantry

Ever heard the joke about getting a PhD (piled higher and deeper)? Our pantry has earned its PhD for sure. (Anyone else?)

We’ve continued our fall organization mission in the kitchen.  After the guest hall closet and the master bedroom closet, the kitchen pantry was next on our list.  After taking down our upper kitchen cabinets, we are maxed out on space, which means our pantry needs to be as organized as possible to handle some of the overflow.We don’t intend to keep this pantry once we do our major kitchen renovation, but in the interim, it has to multitask as food storage, appliance storage, and storage for portable food storage (cake carrier, trays, etc.).   Here’s how the pantry looked Thursday morning before we cleaned it out.  Not bad, but not great.



Here’s how the pantry looked afterwards.



Doesn’t look much different, huh? That’s probably true.  We just shifted some things around to maximize the utility of the space.  If you look carefully, you may be able to spot a few places with some extra room that didn’t exist in the before shot…as well as fewer things stacked precariously on top of each other.

Speaking of stacking, one thing we really do love in the pantry is our collection of OXO POPs storage containers.  Our measuring cups have plenty of room in them for scooping, and they easily stack, minimizing wasted space.  The lids are easy to manipulate with one hand, and they clean really easily, too.  The only difficulty we have with our OXOs at present is that the wire shelves were installed at a height that makes it hard to get the containers in and out when stacked on top of each other, hence why we leave a little space at the front to facilitate shuffling/tipping. It kind of reminds me of one of those sliding number sequence puzzles.


I used dissolving labels for canned goods to label them so that when I empty a container and wash it, the label disappears.  I can relabel to my heart’s content without worrying about having to clean off sticky residue or dealing with those “erasable” chalkboard labels that don’t come as clean as you might like.  I really do like the looks of the chalkboard labels, but these serve a dual purpose in our kitchen, which means I already had them on hand.  Labels are really essential if you want to ensure your family can differentiate between different types of sugar and flour; otherwise, your baked goods may not turn out very tasty.  Voice of experience here.

We did add an ancient Command hook for hanging our aprons.  Much better than having them fall on us (or the floor) every time we open the door.

IMG_3237Now everything in our pantry has a designated place, which will help both of us return things to their rightful locations on a regular basis, at least until we get to revamp the kitchen completely.  Right now, we plan to move the fridge to where the pantry is presently located so that we can open both doors easily (the right side is hard to open because it is against a wall with a window). Instead of the kind of pantry we have now, we will do one of those awesome pull-out pantries that blends into the rest of our cabinets.  So excited for when that day comes!  Right now we are gathering ideas for our design board.  Hopefully we’ll get to share that soon!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Hood: Part III

We finally patched the ceiling around the ducting for our range hood so that it would stop raining insulation into our pots and pans. We actually did this three weeks ago, but are just now posting about it.  Sorry for the delay.  Travel for Mr. KaZoo and dissertation writing for the Mrs. have taken precedence of late.


  • tarp to protect kitchen things
  • plastic grocery bag to catch popcorn
  • metal putty knife
  • Fibatape wall/ceiling patches (one small, one large)
  • Fibatape
  • joint compound (mud)
  • plastic putty knifes of various sizes


  1. Scrape.  First, we scraped the ceiling around the holes so that our adhesive patches would stick.  We have a scraper specifically for this job, but it was too big to fit between the duct and the wall.  Instead, we just gently scraped the popcorn into a plastic grocery bag using a metal putty knife.
  2. Patch.  Then we attached these two patches, using the small patch for the smaller hole and the large patch for the larger hole.  You simply peel the patches from the waxy paper backing, position over your hole with the sticky-side towards the wall/ceiling, press, and seal the adhesive around the edges.  We cut the larger patch in half (approximately) to fit our irregularly shaped hole so that we could overlap the two rectangular pieces in a criss-cross to cover as much of the hole as possible.  Where the patches did not cover, we applied Fibatape.
  3. Putty.  Once the patches and tape were attached, we covered everything with joint compound, using the plastic putty knives to apply the mud.  Chris preferred using the small knife to apply the mud and the larger knife to smooth it.  The instructions on the patches said to cover them with a thin coat of mud (just enough to cover the texture), so we did a thinnish coat.  What counts as a thin coat? Who knows.
  4. Sand.  After it dried, we sanded it down per the patch instructions, but not so much that the patch and tape texture would be revealed.
  5. Rinse, repeat. Not really.  The instructions say to add another thin coat of mud and then sand it down again, so we did.

With the exposed duct + foil tape combo drawing the eye, we’re not really worried about people gaping at our one smooth patch of ceiling.  We probably won’t cover the duct until we’re ready for kitchen cabinets, but it’s not driving us as nuts as we thought it would.  We’ve got plans to redo the ceiling in our main living spaces completely (beam and plank is what we’re thinking right now), so we’re not planning to add texture to the smooth section to camouflage it. For our next phase of kitchen ceiling work, we’re thinking of something like this (images courtesy of Houzz):

Or this:

And for those following us on this journey on the range, a reminder of where we started:


And where we are now:



For now, we’re pronouncing the hood good.

Mista Lista: October KaZoo To Do

Mista Lista sat down with the KaZoo family this past weekend to do some planning and goal coordination of their next steps, now that most of the necessary, smaller, and easier tasks are out of the way.  Note: Painting the remaining rooms doesn’t even count as a smaller, easier task because the KaZoos will have to rent equipment to be able to reach their high ceilings and move their heavy furniture to do so.  Mista Lista does take pity on the KaZoos every once in awhile.  Mista Lista advised the KaZoos to tackle future to dos in a more time and cost-effective way than their frenzied spring/summer get-it-done-yesterday madness approach.  The new plan is to tackle one big project, one medium-sized project, and three smaller projects, plus conduct research and purchase materials necessary for forthcoming projects in November.  Here’s what Mista Lista helped the KaZoos plan for the month of October.

Projects on Deck:

The Escalade

Painting the living room, dining room, and the rest of the kitchen is the big project of the month.  If the size of these walls (over 13′ high, and running the width and length of the public spaces in the house) isn’t enough to earn the Escalade designation alone, having to rent equipment that costs money and requires logistical planning is also a big deal. Note the height of the ceiling over the height of the baby grand piano with its lid raised. Yes, that is an empty frame on the wall. It’s a placeholder.IMG_3221

The Camry

Coming in second place is putting the finishing touches on the yard, and by this we mean finish clearing the overgrown easement behind our house (note the ginormous, blooming wild shrub+ vine combo), replace broken sprinkler heads, finish edging/mulching the flower beds in the backyard, and transplanting crape myrtles to the backyard fence row for low maintenance privacy and shade.  Sounds like a pretty big job, right? It is.  This might be more like a BMW 7 series sedan instead of a Camry sized job, but all of these things can be accomplished in one long day’s work without needing extra equipment, hence the mid-size designation. You may be thinking, um, but wouldn’t a Bobcat rental help with clearing the easement? Yup, if only we could get one back there. 


The Focus, the Fiat, and the Fit

Painting the house numbers, exterior light fixtures, and mailbox is one of our bite-sized projects for October. We plan to ORB the light fixtures, but the mailbox has to stay a standard black per HOA regulations.  We haven’t decided what color to paint the supremely faded house numbers yet (black like they were before [we think]? ORB’d to match the light fixtures?)…any preferences/suggestions? We’d really like to upgrade the numbers down the road to some of those awesome art deco-looking numbers.  All in good time, right?


Fixing up the fireplace is also on the list.  We got a coupon in the mail for a chimney sweep, and we definitely need our fireplace inspected and cleaned.  It is supposed to be a gas fireplace, but there are no gas logs…and where they should be is a grate for actual wood.  The inside of the fireplace is all black as if the people who used to live here might have burned real wood in a fireplace not really equipped to handle it.  Although we don’t really need a fireplace down here, we would like it cleaned professionally. No time like the present, right?


Sprucing up the front entry to the house for fall is also on the hit, er, Fit list.  Nothing says welcome like mossy bricks, a mud/dirt dauber nest, and a dirty front door, right? We know we are supposed to leave the nest because these insects rarely sting humans but do eat spiders (take them all!), but this nest looks like it has long since been abandoned.  We I  would like some fall flowers and a nice wreath for the front door, so this may involve breaking out my crafty skills.


Right now, the pots/plants you see in the picture above no longer occupy this location, and the front looks like a barren wasteland of brick pavers and dirty concrete.  The small blue and green pots were temporary guests of the front porch while their kitchen home was filled with drywall dust, and the petunias that look so healthy were ravaged by mealybugs…along with a lot of other plants in my yard. Rage. I was able to launch a fairly effective counterattack on the mealybugs and only lost three plants, but the petunias were one of the three that didn’t make it.  The only thing I found to be effective against the mealybugs was spraying my plants with rubbing alcohol (that’s the professional recommendation–not just a stupid idea I had), and the three plants that didn’t make it were so damaged that the alcohol sent them over the edge. Mealybugs are the worst, people.  If you see little grayish-white bugs that look fuzzy on your plants, grab your rubbing alcohol, put it in a spray bottle, and spray like crazy (preferably not on a rainy day where its effect will be overly diluted and not in the sun where the effect of heat + alcohol will burn your plant up).  I thought I had eradicated them from our yard a month ago, but I recently had to launch another alcohol attack after finding them on some canna lilies that they had previously ignored.  So frustrating.  I’m now stocking up on rubbing alcohol and inspecting all my plants religiously.  Apparently they are supremely invasive, massively destructive, and highly resistant, so gardeners beware.

Other October Happenings:

Our neighborhood is also having a garage/yard sale in October, and we plan to participate.  We’ve got quite a few items to sell, and Craigslist hasn’t been our friend of late.  We’ve had several people call about pieces of furniture and set up a meet, only to not show up. Thanks for wasting our Saturday that could have been at the beach, people. You know who you are.  We’re having to post ‘serious inquiries only’ on all our listings, and even still….Anyway, we’ll see how it goes.  We’re not totally enamored with the idea of a garage sale, but if we can clear out some large clutter and make some money to go towards other purchases and projects, it might be worth it.

Project Research: Dining Area Furniture


We would like to replace our dining table and chairs with a farmhouse table and some new chairs/benches/something.  Our current set is a hand-me-down from my parents and not really our style, even though the mahogany finish is nice.  More importantly, two of the six dining chairs are in need of a major re-upholstery job (two have sagging seats, several have batting coming out, and the fabric is stained, worn, and dated) that is beyond our skill set, and the table isn’t safe.  One of the legs snapped last year in the city (super scary!) and my dad helped repair it well enough for it to be safe for use until we could do better.  Unfortunately, two of the other legs are now cracked and threatening to do the same thing, so it’s only a matter of time before this table gives out for good.  We recently learned of a local furniture maker who does awesome solid wood, custom pieces, so we want to investigate this vs. making a table and benches ourselves using plans from Ana White.

And that’s our October.  What projects are you tackling this month?