The Easement Awakens

Ah, the sweet satisfaction of finishing a project–in this case, replacing our fence. Warmish weather for the win! While many of you have been blasted with winter storms of late, we’ve had nothing but blue skies on the weekends, making it possible for us to actually finish our fencing project over the course of the last four weekends.

What once looked like this:

now looks like this:

In the left picture we don’t have all the posts cut to size or caps glued on the posts, so technically the finished product looks like the picture on the right. Also, the thing under the tarp in the foreground is our fire pit, if you were wondering.

Privacy? Check! Rotting? Nope! We’re calling it good.

If you’re actually interested in the fencing project, keep reading. If not, but you’re wondering about the title, skip to the “and now for the fun part” section at the bottom for a funny story about our fencing experience. 🙂

Choosing Fence Materials
We’ve only had experience with wood fences up to this point, but we chose to install a vinyl fence at the ‘Z00 for four reasons, in no particular order:

  1. Free materials. My parents installed a vinyl fence (after having a wood fence) and had leftover materials they gave us.
  2. Coordinating with existing fencing. Our neighbors already had white vinyl fences, and the west side of our backyard was already fenced with white vinyl, thanks to that neighbor.
  3. Maintenance. The white vinyl fence is lower maintenance for this area, which is one of the reasons my parents installed a vinyl fence after living with a wood fence for awhile. The salty, humid air accelerates the weathering process of wooden fences, and even those galvanized exterior wood screw boxes will tell you they are not to be used within 5 miles of coastline.
  4. Cost. Considering the damage our existing wood fence had suffered, after pricing out replacement wood for the worst sections, it was cheaper to replace the entire thing with vinyl fencing.

Installation Process
With a regular wood fence, fencing is rather straightforward because you set the posts, then attach the panels to the posts using the runner boards. Not so with the vinyl fence we installed.

We experienced a number of issues with installing this kind of fence: The brackets that attach the panels to the posts must be attached to the posts and then to the panels. If you measure the length of the panel, set your posts, then try to install the panels between the posts, you have no wiggle room, and you can’t slide the panels down into the brackets from above if you are a two-man one man, one short woman crew. Even if you could do that, the panels aren’t uniformly sized (and aren’t always square), so creating an installation template for the distances between the posts and between the top, middle, and bottom brackets based on the measurements of one panel result in post overlaps, gaps between panel and post, or bracket misalignment. Awesome. 

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After experimenting with different installation techniques, we decided that the following sequence worked best: (1) Person A holds the panel level at correct height while Person B traces the top bracket location on first (already set) post. (2) Person B attaches the top bracket to the first post snugly, then Person A holds the panel level in the top bracket while Person B traces the middle bracket position. (3) Person B attaches the middle bracket to the post with a little wiggle room, then Person A holds the panel level in the top and middle brackets while Person B traces the bottom bracket position. (4) Person B attaches the bottom bracket to the post with a little wiggle room, then Person A holds the panel level in all three brackets to set middle and bottom bracket final position, while Person B drills pilot holes in the panel and then attaches brackets to panel. At this point, the panel is now attached fully to the first set post. (5) Person A continues to hold the panel level at correct height (helped somewhat by the first set and now attached post) while Person B positions the second not-yet-set post in its hole beside the panel. (6) Repeat steps 1-4 for the other post, but Person B must also check the placement of the post along the string line (for straightness of fencerow) and that the post remains plumb as (s)he attaches the brackets. (7) With Person A holding the not-yet-set post in place, Person B pours the concrete for the post. Fun times. Not really. 

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One of the other complications that we experienced was having to meet up with our neighbors’ fences. For example, in the back east corner of our yard, our fence doesn’t meet our east neighbor’s back fence because they have set their fence ON the back property line, rather than inside it. Since we went through the proper procedure of getting a city building permit for our fence, we will be held accountable for making sure our fence is inside the property line. It makes for a bit of an eyesore that the fences don’t line up but is what we must do. The pre-existing white vinyl fence on the west side that our west neighbors built actually sits in our yard (PAST the property line, not even on it), and there is a retaining wall that extends from their backyard into our yard that made us have to stop our back fencerow too soon to meet up with the too-inside west side fence. We had to devise a solution for this awkward arrangement. In addition, we had to make our gates, including a new gate on the northwest side, work with the east and west neighbors’ existing gates, both of which had been attached to OUR original wood fence posts. We would have preferred to move our gates further forward in our yard so that more of our windows would be fenced into our backyard (we have to stare at our east neighbor’s trashcan from our living room window-ugh), but we are required to match on the front with our neighbors, even though our fence was the original one to which THEY matched. It is so frustrating to live in a city and neighborhood with such ridiculous restrictions if you actually abide by the law.

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The last complication also related to the gates–namely, that the instructions provided with the gate gave the wrong specs for the allowance between gate posts, so we always had oversized gates for the space between the posts we had stood (the gates required set posts, so no wiggle room here). We had planned our post positions such that we could make the cuts for our gate sizes along the prefabricated picket lines in the panels so that the gates were sturdier and more factory-finish looking on the ends. On the first gate, we just assumed my dad had mis-measured somehow to be too tight, or “precise” of a fit. On the second gate, we thought we made the same mistake he had. By the third gate, when we experienced the same phenomenon the third time, we realized the error was not ours. Overall, this experience taught us that my dad’s adage about not reading/following the directions exactly actually made sense. We tend to be skeptical of directions for items made in certain countries based on past experiences (sorry China), but this fence was made in the States. Plus, a measured distance of 7 inches should always be 7 inches, but their specification of “7 inches” allowance needed to have been 8 inches instead. Fortunately, my dad gave us these white vinyl pieces (I can’t remember what their real purpose is) that slide over the jagged edges where we had to cut down our perfectly sized gates, and they actually make the gates look even better.

And now for the fun part
You can imagine the tedium of fencing: string, set, measure, prop, level, hold, drill, drive, repeat ad nauseam. Fortunately, some neighbor kids have provided us some much needed entertainment while we worked recently.

Behind our house is an electrical easement, and beyond that, another neighborhood. The power company allows ‘native’ weeds plants to proliferate in the easement, coming only once every three years with a Bobcat to mow them down and a wood chipper. Although some things die back in the mild Florida winters, mowing once every three years is hardly enough to keep the flesh-eating plants wild blackberries, sandspurs, cat’s claw, etc. at bay. The power company does allow us to use the easement for gardening, if you should feel like taming the jungle on your own, of course. Of course, because the jungle snakes its way through our fences into our backyards, we have to mow and weedeat the jungle anyway. Constant vigilance! as Professor Moody (or Barty Crouch, Jr.) would say.

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Rarely do we see anyone back in the easement. In fact, I can only remember seeing a group of teens walking through it on a holiday weekend in search of a shorter route to the beach than the main road. I suspicion they regretted their decision to hike into the jungle wearing bikinis and flipflops, given the certainty of the briars marring their flawlessly tanned skin.

Fortunately, 2015 was a mowing year, so things were a bit shorter than usual this winter, making it easier to see the neighbors’ houses, traverse the area, and most importantly, work on the fence. Late one afternoon while standing posts and panels for the back fence, we saw a couple of tween boys emerge from the undergrowth in a clearing, brandishing sticks like light sabers. They reminded me of Max from Where the Wild Things Are as they shouted and galloped through the brambles with their sticks, slashing at briars and each other. They climbed into a shabby treehouse nestled in a grove of trees in the backyard of a house in the neighborhood opposite us, a few lots down.IMG_5131

After a little while, the boys reemerged and began scavenging the opposite side of the easement for anything homeowners might have discarded in the jungle (sadly, this happens). A couple of old screened doors soon adorned their treehouse. It wasn’t too long before we heard them heading our direction–heard, not saw, because by this time we working on the side of the fence interior to the backyard and thus out of their line of sight. They stopped short directly behind us, and one of them exclaimed, “Here’s some bricks we should come back to get!” We realized then that the boys were planning to take our bricks and obviously had no idea that we were on the premises! Previously, we had been using those bricks to line our flowerbeds in the back, but we had to take the beds (and bricks) out to take down the old fence and build the new one. During this process, we had also discovered a zone of the easement along our fencerow colonized by fireants, and we used the bricks to mark the places NOT to step until we no longer had to dance delicately between the ant beds while fencing.

Chris swung open the gate we had just hung the previous weekend, and I stepped through it into the easement. You can imagine the look on the kids’ faces when they realized that we had been on the other side of the fence and had overheard their plans. The obvious leader (and quirkier of the two), managed a rather cheery “Merry Christmas!” over his shoulder as they scampered out of sight. It was the end of January, but you know.

Needless to see, we paused in our fence building to move all the bricks to a safer place deep inside our yard. Once this was accomplished and we had returned to fence work, we saw them gallop past us, carrying a discarded (and extremely dry) Christmas tree, complete with red plastic base, overhead. Presumably, it is now sitting in the “living room” of their treehouse, where we can only hope they do not play with matches. Because if they do, let’s just say, tinderbox.

Ah to be young and imaginative again.

They were hilarious to watch. Of course, they didn’t know we had been watching their antics the whole time we had been working. Of course, it could also be that we were simply so bored that a couple of kids engaged in make believe play was highly entertaining to us.

As the sun was setting, they crawled over a fence into a different backyard, presumably the other kid’s home, and disappeared until the next day.

I’m almost sad that we finished the fence, as I cannot vicariously return to Jakku or Narnia or Middle-earth, or whatever world the easement becomes for them on the weekends.

And now we will be getting a lock for our back gate so they don’t haul off our adirondack chairs, too. Wink.

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KaZoo 2016 Year in Preview

Mista Lista is back, baby! Since the entirety of the ‘Zoo has been a construction zone for awhile, Mista Lista took a long vacation. A sabbatical, if you will. Now refreshed and ready for the new year, Mista Lista is back on the blog to share a sneak peek of what’s on the schedule for 2016 in the ‘Zoo.

Mista Lista has noticed the KaZoos aren’t the best at finishing projects on schedule (Can I get an amen?), or remotely close to schedule, for that matter.  I call it Creative Minds Meets If You Give a Mouse a Cookie Complex.

Creatives aren’t always known for progressing sequentially and logically along the shortest possible path to the endzone. They zig. They zag. They occasionally throw a series of backward passes. Wait a sec, that’s football. My bad.

Creative types often start a number of projects that sit in various stages of semi-completion as their enthusiasm for one idea is soon overtaken by inspiration for another. Their creative energy is diverted again, and again, and again, leaving them with a garage full of tools/supplies and a house full of construction projects hazards.

And of course, this haphazard completion is helped (?) along when the beginning of Project A leads to the beginning of another related Project B. For example, when the KaZoos wanted to install their range hood vent, it meant tearing down the upper kitchen cabinets first to make room for said hood vent. But cutting holes in the roof for exterior ventilation meant getting someone to cut the hole in the roof and seal the opening (that would guarantee the work). And given the existing roof was nearing the its end of life, shouldn’t they just go ahead and replace it while the guy was coming out to look at the roof? And on the story goes. Anyone else need a cookie and milk after that? I thought so. 

Therefore, without further ado, I give you the KaZoos’ 2016 resolution:

Finish what you started.

Startling, I know.

So what’s on the docket? Here goes, in no particular order:

Mrs. KaZoo’s Dissertation
We’ll start with the most depressing and boring project, Mrs. KaZoo’s dissertation. Yup, this project is getting knocked out in 2016. I realize this probably doesn’t interest (m)any of you, so enough about that.

King Quilt
Mrs. KaZoo plans to finish the king quilt she started two (three?) years ago so that the KaZoos have cooler covers for the warm summer weather.

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Backyard Fence
The KaZoos have had a partially fenced backyard for months now-the result of working steadily but slowly to replace fence panels as time and money allowed. As the KaZoos near the year anniversary of starting their fence job (March), they plan to have this baby complete and inspected before winter is over, or February. They actually tackled the back gate the previous weekend, so here’s hoping they can get a few more panels and the last two gates done in the next couple of weekends.

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Fireplace Wall
It’s time for the fireplace to get some more love, just in time for Valentine’s Day, perhaps? The KaZoos built footings for the mantel last weekend, so all that’s left is to reinstall the mantel, caulk, paint, and tile the fireplace surround. And calling a chimney sweep to clean things up from the renters who tried to burn wood in a fireplace designed for gas logs. I know, right?! 

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Floors
The longest project in the history of the ‘Zoo. Seriously. What’s left, you ask? Laying underlayment in the guest wing, tiling and grouting the guest wing, and tiling and grouting the master wing. Oh, and the kitchen and master bath after those get demolished. 

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Baseboards
Once they get the floors finished, the KaZoos plan to install new, chunkier baseboards.

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Paint Touchups
The Kazoos need to touchup the paint in a few areas around the house. Seriously, people. A finished paint job makes everything look more polished.

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Kitchen Renovation
The KaZoos also have a BIG kitchen reno in the works. Design, demo of existing pantry, relocation of refrigerator and waterline, new drywall and paint, purchase and installation of new cabinets and countertops, you know. All in a day’s work, right? Smirk.

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The fools KaZoos intend to complete all of these projects in the first half of 2016, but I’m not going to hold them to any promises. {Wink.}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas at the ‘Zoo

Mid-October, Chris suggested we put up our exterior Christmas lights on Halloween weekend. After recovering from a serious laughing fit, I countered with Veteran’s Day, as autumn is my favorite season, even if Christmas is my favorite holiday. Glittering icicles take away from the pumpkins, and I like to let the pumpkins have their moment.

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We finally put up exterior lights on the weekend after Thanksgiving.

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Thanks to our tiny driveway and three cars, you can’t see all the lights. And the blinding orb? A snowflake. It shows up better in real life. #notaphotographer

This year, #flooring marathon2015 meant we barely got the main living areas floored in time for the holidays, so there was a bit of a delay on the decorating. But the good news is that the main areas have real floors again, and we love them!

We did manage to put up a few Christmas decorations inside before the start of December, and I even swapped out the scrapbook pages in the white frames for Christmasy ones for less than a dollar. I had a hard time choosing between all the different possibilities, so right now the wall is host to “Rustic Christmas” but will soon be switching to “Sparkly Christmas” for fun. IMG_5473You can also see this picture features a Homer bucket housing the Internet goodies (we threw the router, AirPort, and all the cords in a Homer bucket to keep them safe from the construction), laundry being folded (hey, that’s impressive, right?), and a mirror we used to see the back of the TV for hooking up electronics. Keeping it real, peeps.

I finally put up our main Christmas tree after the first full weekend in December. As you can see, we are still touching up paint and working on the mantel. #stockingsmaynotbehungbythechimneywithcarethisyear BUT LOOK AT THOSE FLOORS. AND THE TREE!

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I use both white and colored lights on the same tree.  Why? Because I can. When Chris and I got married and it came time to put lights on our first big Christmas tree together, there was cause for pause: Chris’s family always used colored lights on their tree, and my family always had one tree with white lights and another with colored lights…but Chris and I only had ONE tree. What to do!? Inspiration struck, and I decided to put both white AND colored lights on the same tree but on separate circuits plugged into our multiplug.  That way, if we are feeling like a White Christmas, we can have only white lights. If we want only colored lights, we can have that as an another option, too. But we agree that both is best. More light is always the answer.

I realize the delay in decorating for Christmas is seen as a blogger crime against humanity. This is ridiculous, folks, given how many bloggers have expressed frustration and anxiety over trying to decorate early in time to be featured here and there. I understand that for most of those who fall in this category, blogging is a source of income, but seriously, people. In the interests of trying to attract and retain the attention of more popular bloggers, corporate sponsors, and followers, bloggers are sacrificing the joys of the season on the altars of commercialism, consumerism, and materialism. Jesus was apparently just fine with a stable. Why aren’t we?

Don’t get me wrong, I love decorating for Christmas, and I normally have my Christmas decorations up by Thanksgiving so we can enjoy them for longer. Because I have a pre-Christmas December birthday (and probably because I’m a girl), I have received a lot of birthday and Christmas presents that happened to be Christmas decorations. I can count on one hand the times I have purchased ornaments for myself. I love them all, and every year when I unbox them, it is like saying hello to old friends and family. I also inherited a lot of Christmas decorations from my parents who don’t decorate as much anymore, probably because they don’t have me at home to do it anymore. #childlabor #momwasallergictothetrees #dadclimbedontheroofthough #ilovedit

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This tree gets most of the soft ornaments because its top wobbles a bit, and the cats can reach it from the table, meaning a disaster is likely to happen.  The larger tree shown above gets soft ornaments around its base only.

Each item brings to mind the person who gave it to me–from the ornament my first babysitter gave me to the festive present lights from one of my college roommates. When I set up my Fontanini nativity scene, I remember my mother’s sister who started my collection before she suffered a heart attack and died a few years ago. This year, when I placed my Byer’s Choice carolers on the bookcase in our new library/music nook, I thought of a dear family friend whose caroler collection was the inspiration for mine; she passed a few months ago after a long battle with cancer and lingering complications. As I open each item and recall the giver, I say a prayer for those who are still living. For those who have passed, I pray for those they have left behind. IMG_5509

For the past two years, my mom has given me beachy ornaments, now that we live at the beach, so I had just enough ornaments for a small sea-themed tree. I used a tree that was rescued from my grandparents’ attic after my grandfather passed away this summer. It was in sad shape, but I think it turned out okay. It didn’t have a functional base, and since I’m too cheap/lazy to buy floral foam, I just stuck it in an old decorative urn from Pier 1, weighted down with river rocks. I don’t exactly recommend this, as Hermes has pulled it over a couple of times. #lifewithcats This tree has all the shatterproof ornaments on it, thankfully. I hope to add a starfish at the top before Christmas.

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If you are wondering about the ombre effect with the darker indigo lights at the base and the bright turquoise at the top, you can thank Target circa 12 years ago. I bought a set of blue Christmas lights from the Target Christmas clearance section, and the tint wasn’t uniform. I’ve always loved the anomaly, and they’re still going strong. #happyaccidents #pleasemakethemonpurpose

Now back to my concern about Christmas and the need to DECORATE WITH ALL THE THINGS. I love to decorate for Christmas because I cherish the people and memories associated with those decorations–not because my house needs to look just-so for the right people. For me, each decoration is a reminder of love.

IMG_5512My concern is that we are so busy preparing for Christmas that we miss Christmas by forgetting to be still. At the very time we celebrate Emmanuel, God with us, we forget to be with God. We have become Martha, busily cleaning and crafting and decorating and baking and shopping and gift-wrapping, instead of being Mary–just sitting and listening to what God has to say to us. Or perhaps, because of the way ‘professional’ blogging works, it appears to all the world that the best bloggers can be both Martha and Mary, rendering numerous readers (and other bloggers, even!) feeling hopelessly inadequate at both. At a time we should be demonstrating authentic love for others, we hand them unnecessary heartaches wrapped in a perfect bow instead.  Not cool. Let’s get out of the kitchen/craftroom, off the internet, and into the Word as we celebrate the time when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Off my soapbox, now. I promise. And because every good post has cat pictures:

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At least I know they like our trees…and they know how to be still, at least for a little while! 🙂

 

 

Fauxtography in the Family Room

Having a smartphone with a decent camera has increased the frequency of pictures we KaZoos take, but not necessarily the quality.  Unfortunately, time and other, more pressing issues, usually rob us of time to break out our old film cameras for photography.  We also never, and I really mean never, print the pics we do take, which is why our frames have nine year old wedding pictures in them. And pictures of our cats. Confessions of the childless.  We are in the process of trying to remedy that situation, and last summer I bought some 12 x 12 square frames from Michaels at one of their BOGo sales (plus coupon!) to use to create a gallery wall in our house for all the new, fun photos we would be taking of our new life at the beach.  Flash forward a year, and those frames have languished in our foyer, empty…until now.

After painting the living/family room, and rearranging the furniture, I knew I wanted to have a gallery wall around the TV.  Since we only have one main living area in the ‘Zoo, and a small one at that, there is only one room for communal TV viewing, and the TV dominates the wall space.  We painted the wall a dark gray so that the TV would blend into the wall more, and the bookshelves flanking the media stand have improved things tremendously.  There was just one thing missing–art.  We debated between a gallery wall, photo ledges, or shelves but ultimately decided a gallery wall was the way to go.  After examining our collection of wall IMG_4589art and frames, we elected to go with a uniform grouping in a rectilinear arrangement around the TV, using the 12 x 12 square frames.  For a couple of weeks, the frames sat empty (again), but the blankness in the well-used living room bothered me more than it had in the foyer, where no one really spends a lot of time.  With no photos or photography of our own that was sized appropriately for these frames (yet), I pondered what to use instead.

Inspiration hit when I realized (after how long?!) that scrapbook pages were the perfect fit for the frames! I took some pages leftover from one of those tear-out scrapbook page collections that were photography. I had mined its best contents years before but managed to scrounge enough decent pages to fill the frames. IMG_4745I played with the arrangement a bit until I was satisfied with the balance of color, pattern, texture, etc.  Now our wall is much happier, and so are we.  Plus, I realized that I can easily swap the contents for different scrapbook pages for seasonal or holiday themes as desired, and I won’t feel bad about ‘replacing’ someone’s picture.

If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive and fast way to create some wall art, this is definitely an excellent option.  This strategy would work well in rooms like kitchens and baths where you don’t want to use real photos or original artwork for fear of moisture damage but still want some bright and cheery art.  I could also see this being useful for staging your home to sell when you need to depersonalize yet still have attractive (but affordable!) art to appeal to buyers or for furnishing a rental/income property with art.  A key thing is to make sure the frames have nice mats, otherwise your photo scrapbook pages will look very much like scrapbook pages and less like real photos. The mats dress things up a bit, I think.

PS: We don’t stage our bookshelves.  Although the carefully planned arrangements of whatnots and collectibles tossed in with a few books harvested IMG_4748-1for their bindings (and not their contents) may be visually appealing, we use bookcases to do real work storing lots of books.  We are unapologetic bibliophiles, including the cats.  Cats and books go well together.  With a cup of tea.  And perhaps a cozy quilt, too.  Happy Friday!

The Great Backyard Party Part 2: Back Patio

I love indoor/outdoor rugs for their practicality, but the available patterns and colors these days make them even more irresistible.  For a few years now, we’ve been planning to get an outdoor rug but decided to wait until we knew what size we needed for the ‘Zoo…and also because we could not find one that we both liked well enough.  Well, the search is finally over!

As part of our backyard party makeover, we decided to spice things up on our back patio.  We took advantage of a 20% sale and purchased the Improvements’ Tangiers outdoor rug in Spice {see what I did there…spiced it up?}, available here, to anchor the space (and hide the unsightly concrete cracks!).  We chose Spice (orange) to provide contrast to the green lawn, but we also like how the warmth of the rug coordinates with the other warm colors in our existing patio furniture.

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They have a variety of different sizes, including a 7’10” x 10’10”, which was absolutely perfect for our 10′ x 12′ patio.  The size fits the patio seating area nicely while keeping the grill off to the side on the concrete so that there is less mess.  Of course, one of the best things about this rug is that you can just hose it down, and after tracking dirt and grass clippings on it, we can attest to the fact that it sweeps and washes right off with minimal effort.

Cautionary note: I took these pics at high noon because I wanted to show how the rug looks in both shade and bright sunlight. Thankfully we have two umbrellas that made it a bit easier on the eyes and didn’t wash out the pics!

In case you haven’t noticed, we aren’t afraid of bright, bold color, and the Tangiers comes in a number of colors we liked.  In fact, we bought a smaller version in Green for the kitchen!IMG_4608My husband accidentally sprayed it with greasy water when he was washing our cast iron skillet {#baconlovers}, and I promptly blotted the stains with a clean paper towel, applied dish soap to the spots, allowed it to sit for 15 minutes, gently scrubbed with a soft toothbrush in the direction of the fibers {the cleaning instructions say no scrubbing because it may damage fibers, but the blotting/soaking wasn’t doing the trick}, hosed it off until no more soap suds appeared, and then left it to dry in the sun.  No more spots, and the fibers seem to be okay! We’re not sure if this would have worked on an older stain, but we are very satisfied with how easy the Tangiers rugs are to clean! I took this pic after cleaning up the grease incident!

Now back to the patio. We’ve gone from blah…

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to ahh, that’s more like it. So much better.  IMG_4610

 

Plus, the cats love lounging on it, and it feels fantastic to be able to walk out on the patio barefoot. It’s a fiesta for the eyes and the feet! Call me crazy, but I just might go back for thirdsies and get one of these rugs for the living room. Total game changer! The bistro set is from Target; the red umbrella and the red and green chairs are from Sam’s Club, all bought a few years ago in the city. #studentsalary

We also bought these cheap Adirondack chairs from Big Blue and Big Orange (same price but different color options available at different stores meant trips to both to get the colors we wanted).  We wanted to have additional seating outside since our patio only seats four people right now.  Eventually we hope to add a fire pit to this grouping of chairs that are circled up around, well, nothing.

IMG_4611Like I said before, we like it bright. If you’re looking carefully, you’ll note we have an unusual “sod” stack in the back corner, which is our repository for grass dug up from the yard to make room for the garden we planted (note the cedar beds in the background).  Details on that to come!

Back on the back patio, we also added a storm door because we kept having water pool in our kitchen after heavy rains. Now we have no more surprise puddles in the middle of our floor, and the baseboards aren’t getting soggy anymore either. Very good indeed.IMG_4609

Overall, we’re feeling pretty happy with the way the backyard is shaping up, but especially the patio.  We may never make it to Tangiers, but having a little bit of it here in Florida sure is nice. 🙂

Final Four for the Floor

Wood look tile seems to be the top flooring trend of late, but we’ve been thinking about it ever since we bought the ‘Zoo and felt eww on our feet.  The peeling vinyl tiles, complete with faux grout lines filled with 20 years of gunk, the ‘newer’ but threadbare shag carpet with cheap pad, and the exposed metal teeth on the thresholds that shred our soles, the smell emanating from the guest rooms, plus my allergies, had us shopping for flooring from day one.  Last spring, we excitedly began tearing out flooring, but the need for less disgusting flooring was soon superseded by the practical desire to protect our home investments and improvements by doing a re-roof for our big project of 2014. Now, 2015 is the year of the floor.

A couple of months ago, we started seriously looking at flooring options in our area and options from online tile suppliers that ship to our area.  We got some {free!} samples from various places and started narrowing our preferences to particular colors, lengths, and styles.  We love wood tones of all kinds, and while they have really improved how imitation wood products look, we have noticed that tiles with red/pink or yellow undertones seems to look less realistic, as do tiles that don’t have enough pattern and color variation.  Consequently, we were both drawn to the darker samples in the first round of sampling {as was Hermes, apparently}.  Our first round pick was this guy from South Cypress, an online tile shop with regional roots:

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Note the stain on the far right side.  This carpet is seriously gross people.  

This is a color body tile called Barnwood in color Pecan by Storka.  We definitely wanted a color body tile where the color goes through the body of the tile so that chips and scratches are less noticeable if they happen.  The second tile beside it was our second favorite, another Storka product called Saison in color Angers.  It was also nice but was more uniformly dark.   The third tile, the gray, was something some neighbors of ours got from Home Depot and had installed in their home over the winter.  It looks great in their house, but we just didn’t want to go so gray and so weathered for our floors. We thought Barnwood combined the more traditional deep brown with just enough weathered gray visually and, on a practical note, would provide better camouflage for dirt/sand/pet-ness and be less slippery for wet feet.

We decided to do another round of sampling, focusing on tiles with similar looks and features to our first choice.  We conveniently happened to be in the Birmingham, AL area on Friday, so we stopped by the South Cypress showroom, where Courtney from Sales helped us find additional tiles in which we might be interested.  After examining a number of options, we came home with three more samples, resulting in these four final contenders:

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#1 is Storka’s Barnwood in Pecan (our original favorite).  #2 is Storka’s Saison in Angers (our original second favorite).  #3 is Marazzi’s American Heritage in Spice (a new interest).  #4 is a new Storka product called Lodge in color Forest.  All of these products are color-body porcelain tile, though we observed that the Marazzi tile appeared to have a grayer body than its reddish-brown top.  Courtney pointed this out to us but also reminded us of the hardness of porcelain with respect to potential for chips and scratches. We like that #2, 3, and 4 all come in longer lengths, making them more like wood floors.

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We placed them in different areas of our home with more and less natural and artificial lighting to see how they looked and watched them throughout the day as the position of the sun changed. We also walked on them to get a feel for the texture.  When we laid out all the samples, #3, American Heritage Spice, became our new frontrunner.  It had all the rich, warm tones and hand scraped look we love about wood but didn’t necessarily expect to be able to achieve with wood look tile.  It was the most realistic looking of all the tiles that made the Final Four and also felt the most like wood to our feet.   Compared to #3, the others looked decidedly more muted.  Though less apparent in the picture, #2 had a rougher, oddly synthetic-feeling texture to the feet, and once we felt the difference in texture, we could also see that difference.  #4 was the least wood-like of all of them and the most gray but still had an appealing feel and pattern.

IMG_4464We also noticed a lot of color variation in our original favorite, #1, as you can see in the picture above.  In person, the piece on the right side looks very red, the left looks very brown, and the middle piece looks very gray.  We like some variation and understand that real barnwood would also have considerable variation but are somewhat undecided about whether the variation will draw attention to the shorter ‘board’ length, making it more apparent that these are tiles and not wood planks.

We also experimented with durability and ease of cleanup.  I might have squirted mustard on the samples. And etched them with a screwdriver.  And dropped things on them on purpose.  All of the samples fared relatively well at the cleanup and destructibility tests, though #3 suffered a couple of chips (not from our tests but possibly from transit?) that revealed that the Marazzi definition of color body was indeed suspect.  The  top has a reddish brown, but the color underneath is decidedly gray, which was very obvious when chipped.  Not exactly our definition of color body.  This was sad news for #3, as we were leaning towards this until the chipping gave us cause for pause.

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Right now, we are undecided.  What do you think? We’ve tried to tell Hermes we have to choose just one.  He doesn’t seem to agree.

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Update on the Tile Trial: We’ve been keeping an eye on our tile samples throughout the week.  Spice, which was starting to become our favorite, has started to show signs of damage that furniture markers/Sharpies cannot hide…and the brown/black markers actually don’t match, so it now looks like we’ve drawn on the floor.  Womp, womp. Stay tuned for the final decision!

KaZoo Anew

So those of you who have been reading our blog have probably wondered if we have been abducted by aliens or joined the ranks of all the people who had good intentions of starting a blog but ran out of ideas, energy, inspiration, and time.  Then, mysteriously, with no explanation, a post appeared last week.  A post of pictures and virtually no words.  No explanation for our long absence or our return.

Long story short? Bad. Things. Happen. October to March has been a rough season for us.  I haven’t made sufficient progress on my dissertation to finish before my funding runs out. Major burnout there, peeps, but try as I might, I can barely bring myself to look at my computer screen anymore.  Are there any jobs that don’t require the use of a computer? Sign me up.  So there’s that. Then Poseidon’s health went rapidly downhill (test results all came back negative), resulting in his untimely demise on December 23.  I asked for an autopsy after we had to let him go, and our vet found an inoperable, untreatable mass in his abdomen.  He was so gentle and loving and devoted, and we didn’t have time to prepare to say goodbye. The sea here has never looked so ugly and cold as it did that day as we drove to and from the vet. Not a very merry Christmas for us.  Even now, I can’t talk or write about it without tears streaming.  Cleopatra, our other cat, has been in mourning, too.  There were also a few bouts of serious sickness for each of us, resulting in multiple rounds of meds  multiple times for multiple infections for the more immune-compromised one (Mrs. KaZoo).  We went through two bargain club packs of Kleenex–some for sickness, others for mourning, and still others for depression.  It’s been a very melancholy fall/winter.

But spring has its way of reminding us that things can (and will) get brighter.  We got a new kitten, Hermes, and he has brought us joy in an otherwise bleak time.  We’ve also had some nice weather recently that has renewed our energy for life, DIY, and blogging. So here’s to KaZoo Anew.

Beach House Kitchen Ideas

Beach House Kitchen Ideas

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!

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!