livestock update

The chickens are still well. We have settled our coop down with two black Barred Rocks, two Rhode Island Reds, and two California white hybrids. We aren’t too far away from collecting eggs. They should be laying in a month or so!

Aaron wanted to give the new birds names that silly kids would give them, so he chose Snowflake and Sugar. I suggested the spelling “Snoflak” since that would make it even more authentic, but Aaron says that’s overthinking it. Oh well. He picked these names on behalf of all the children in all the world. Since he is a man of such generous heart, I imagine he willl probably go to Dunkin Donuts and eat some donuts on their behalf soon, too.



We also had a little visitor in a window well a few weeks ago. Neighbors on both sides of us have dogs, so the bunny situation gets out of hand sometimes. This year we had a little baby running around in a window well, and Aaron got him out. His mommy was waiting for him, but I still wanted to try domesticating the little thing.
baby bunnyHe could have been a good addition to the coop, but we decided against adding more animals right now. Well. Aaron smirked at me and set the bunny down to hop over to his mama. Hopefully he doesn’t return and try to eat out of the garden!

{cute graphic via Karen Watson}

{cute graphic via Karen Watson}

kitchen reminders

As my “Spring Break” kicks off (no classes! no piano lessons! no Bible study!), I’m faced with a pretty daunting list of things to accomplish around the house. Taxes, business paperwork and billing, dry-cleaning, kitchen trimmings and a full “Spring Cleaning” check list mean that my break is just a change in the type  of work I’m doing, not a break from work. I’m looking forward to accomplishing some projects that have been bugging me for a while, but right now I’m especially grateful for these words of wisdom scattering the kitchen. I think sometimes I leave these things out because I know that my future self will need the reminder.

kitchen reminders

Praise to the Lord! Who doth prosper they work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.
— Praise to The Lord, words by Joachim  Neander, 1863.

We delight in the law of your word
We delight in the Son who was perfect from birth
We delight in the day He’s returning to earth, 
— We Delight, by Joshua Moore.

do they have large talons?

“Do the chickens have large talons?”
“Do they have what?”
“Large talons.”
“I don’t understand a word you just said.”
— Napoleon Dynamite (Paramount Pictures, 2004)

This is not going to become an organic-chicken-raising urban-farming blog, but here are a few more updates for our chicks’ devoted fans.

1) The fuzz is on the way out. This Rhode Island Red is Golda. She is displaying her fancy wings and (let’s be honest here) the cutest tail feathers of all time.

tail feather

2) I can’t tell the Barred Rock chicks apart and we might give some of them away, so two names rotate between all four. This little lady might be Winifred or Simone. She is displaying her talons.

3) You can get another peek at all six in this video – they are still reasonably adorable and like to peck their beaks on the side of their box.

a box of chicks

After trying to convince me his little project was for our future children, Aaron finally confessed that his “play house” wasn’t for kids, it was for chickens. And he told me if I ever put a child in this coop, whether it was ours or someone else’s, he would probably call Child Protective Services, but that our future chickens would really like it. Since Aaron had a great experience raising hens when he was a kid and we both harbor secret urban homesteading fantasies, we’ve been talking about chickens every spring for four years. They have always been in the long-term plan, and whenever one of us works on anything in our shed Aaron talks about transforming it into a coop. He realized chickens were legal in our city and when he discovered the massive supply of DIY-coop-building plans from other hippy-ish blogs, there was no turning back. We just happened to go to a farm supply store this weekend and… now the rest is history:  We have six little chickens in our laundry room. (This is the year of MAKING IT HAPPEN, after all.)

I do want to say that I didn’t have animals growing up (except a hamster named Pecan, may she rest in peace), so this is pretty new to me. I have firmly indicated that I am not interested in raising any cloven-hoofed animals, but I could probably be convinced to get a horse if resources allowed and we had kids who would manage the riding and caring. I’m pretty sure no one is reading this for my treatise on hobby farming – you just want pictures of the chicks. I will happily oblige.

1) Chicks at the store. We couldn’t leave them there: chicks 12) Transporting them home in a box:
chicks 23) Aaron carefully observing them. He is such an animal-lover that I can’t believe we haven’t had anything serious until now:
chicks 34) The chicks enjoying their temporary box home in the laundry room:
chicks 4…But, wait! There’s more! I TOOK VIDEOS. Indulge yourself as you see fit.

Aren’t they cute!? I’ve heard they might even stay this way for a few days.

2013: The year of “MAKING IT HAPPEN”

Our holiday memories this year center around traveling. We visited our families for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, which made for lots of fun and lots of driving. (My little Honda passed the 100,000 mile marker somewhere around Kalamazoo, MI!) Aaron reinjured his knee playing ice hockey and now receives consistent encouragement to visit a doctor, and we’re both enjoying the benefits of our Christmas loot: eating lots of air-popped popcorn, drinking homemade lattes, and keeping warm in wool socks. We really lucked out in the loot department this holiday season.

And now, without much time to really refresh over break, we’re heading full-force into a new year of grace and growth. After Aaron’s four-and-a-half years of PhD slaving, we’re close to the end of this grad school thing, though without a solid graduation date yet. It could be this year. Or it could be later. We don’t really know. It’s hard to even think about “resolutions” or “goals” for the new year because so much is unknown about the future. I suppose this is always true, but it seems very apparent that everything about our life – employment, family, church, house, income/finances, location – could drastically change in the next twelve months. Or it could all stay the same!

During our possible-moving-scare last spring, we had a walk-through with a Realtor to discuss exactly what this house needs before advertising it for sale, and since we have a list to work on, our plan for this year is “make it happen” at home by finishing one house project each month. We slacked off on projects of all sizes this fall while Aaron was hunting and I was drowning in work. I may still be drowning this spring, but we’ll be able to get stuff done together. First up? Finishing the kitchen. Shocker, I know. And luckily (for me!!), our bathroom plans were heartily approved for resale interest, so we’ll start working on that when it gets a little warmer.

But for now, we’ve been working on all the little finishing details for the kitchen project and we’re hoping to wrap them up by the end of January! It’s really embarrassing and disheartening to know we started this all two years ago. Next time we redo a kitchen, we’re hiring out some of the stuff and  we’ll take time off work for our labor instead of squeezing all the magic into weekends.

So this is what the year has looked like for us so far. I’d say it’s pretty exciting!

head lamp; fashionably spray-painted vent.

Aaron is wearing his head lamp while installing our fashionably spray-painted vent cover.

Happy New Year!

Shady Business

Almost four years ago, we fell in love with a little house nestled up into a hill with trees all around. I think it reminded us a little more of our native Michigan than most other real estate we had inspected, and Aaron likes yard work more than inside work, so we bought it. We haven’t regretted this decision, but oh boy! These trees have taken a little more tending than we expected.

A Tale of Two Trees

Last summer our city decided to take down a tree in our neighbors’ yard, which we thought was great, since it hung over our house and made us nervous during windy storms. And taking it out would mean our newly seeded grass in the back yard could get more sunlight.  Well. Surprise! Even though the tree is in the other yard, the removal crew felt it was acceptable to climb up  our hill of newly sprouted grass on their way to taking down the tree and leaving the branches on the other place in the yard that has new growth.

It’s kind of hard for the newly sprouted grass to grow after being trampled or covered with branches. All the fresh grass was afflicted in some way.  This brought Aaron much grief, so he made some calls and the city sent someone over to reseed the area after we got our yard cleared out from the branches from our neighbor’s tree that was cut down by the city.  (We were responsible for moving the branches even though it wasn’t our tree.)

The person who came to put down new seed in our yard accidentally roto-tilled a bunch of wires by our shed, which took down land lines and internet all over the neighborhood. Then the person who came to fix our internet somehow didn’t get our connection reset so we were offline for two days.

The worst part? They only took the parts of the tree that were in the way of the wires. This is what we see in the backyard now. 
Luckily, our latest tree adventure wasn’t quite so challenging. After some procrastinating, we decided to fell the huge tree in front of our front door, the one that took two people’s arms to span the circumference, that was touching the house and making horrid creaking sounds against the roof every time the wind blew. It pains me to say this, because I think I have DIY in my DNA, but  it was so huge and foreboding, being over the house and right by the door, that we saved up and paid someone else to do this. We drove away from Iowa last week to spend Thanksgiving with family and left our forestry project for the real professionals.

When we came home, we just had a stump and some sawdust.
I finished teaching some piano lessons Monday evening and came out to find Aaron laboriously assaulting the stump with this axe, so I asked, “Are you making this into a planter or did you have a bad day at the lab?” (It will be a planter, we hope. But Aaron will have to be in charge of the plants since I always kill them.)

Summer 2012 – That’s a wrap!

Chilly air is invading my cozy blanket pile on the couch and I’m getting up hours earlier than usual in the mornings. I’d say these are two signs that summer is definitely over! Now between lessons and tutoring, I’m doing lots of thinking, studying, laughing, piano-playing, singing, crock-potting, and generally ignoring piles of unfolded laundry. (I suppose that last part was true even in days of relative underemployment.) I like being busy and I’m looking forward to keeping this pace for the rest of fall! But I knew this active season would come, so I tried to make the most of my final days of relaxation earlier.

So, knowing I would be juggling “real” work now, I spent a little time working on some projects while Aaron was busy in Japan this summer. Oh yeah… He just got to visit another side of the world. While I did crafts in Iowa. No biggie! He can make it up to me later.

The biggest project I tackled was taking care of beautifying the dining room rug. I mentioned before that I basically hate how it looked, but after this makeover I’m very happy with what we have. it’s amazing what cool things come from a small budget and lots of creativity!
I started with this:

I was going for this  inspiration look:

A tutorial convinced me I could do it. And watching Jack Bauer‘s American super-hero stunts powered me through four hours of work. By the end, I was exhausted and telling myself things like, “I can’t stop and go to bed. I have to secure the perimeter! We can’t wait for back-up – GO, GO, NOW! Someone get me the President on a secure line!!” to keep my spirits up. And finally, after six episodes of 24, I had a beautiful rug!

I will confess: I made lots of rookie mistakes. I mean it! Lots of them! If you come over and move my table… well,  just don’t do that. You’ve seen enough here. Most of the crookedness happened because I didn’t realize the sides of my stencil weren’t square. Even though I started out carefully, my uneven edges and inadvertent rotations ended up really messing up the pattern even though I was following my guidelines. And I should have spaced out my repeats more for the look I was going for, but overall it’s totally fine. I should stop thinking about the mistakes. It is still pretty cool, and I think the diamond pattern actually makes it feel really connected with the kitchen tile backsplash, too.

I really enjoyed this project and I would absolutely do it over again. Now I’m looking for an excuse to do this somewhere else in the house!

And I’ll mention this here because I put it on my 30-before-30 list: Now that we’ve been married over four years, I am 90% done with my wedding scrapbook. This book goes from the proposal to our honeymoon… just missing a few random bridal shower pictures in the middle.

And yes, that is the same stencil from the rug on the coffee table. It isn’t that I’m so decoratingly coordinated or anything; I just worked with the supplies I had available when rug inspiration struck.

The final bonus of our summer? Several sets of company (but not enough pictures to document their visits), and now I can’t help thinking we have the absolute best cousins and niece ever.

I’m almost tired just remembering all we stuffed into the summer. It’s definitely over now! And between hunting and teaching, I’m thinking the big projects and vacations may have to slow down for a bit now, too.

The Great Hall Collage (Home Tour)

A small house is a great blessing, and we have been surprised by much joy coming from the limited size of our home. I’m not the only one to think a diminutive space is good, too! The popular blog Apartment Therapy regularly features “Small, Cool Places” that make our little cabin a mansion, comparatively, and even Leonardo Da Vinci said “Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind.” I’ve thought of his quote frequently since living here, and that mental discipline has stretched and improved me many times over during these three years.

In this smallish dwelling, we have just one hallway that twists around from the kitchen, up a few stairs, and leads to the bedroom, linen closet, bathroom and office. This cozy passageway is one of the dearest spots in my home because of the photo project built up on the walls. Inspiration came from a few different sources, but I didn’t really know how to start so I just got some pictures and started nailing them up on the wall.

Collage wall from Pottery Barn, via my pinterest board. I love the different textures on the wall, but I think the clash of black and brown frames is distracting.

source unknown, via my pinterest boards. I love the black frames against white walls with lots of natural wood in the house, just like ours.

When I don’t know how to start something, I either panic and procrastinate forever or jump right in and hope it works out. This hall collage came about because I responded in the second way. Now after three years we have one giant collage that is about 90% done. There are a few empty frames and some empty spots that need frames and artwork. When I look at this, I think I meant to have photos on just one wall, but I had a general idea instead of a specific vision for the project so it ballooned from there. I’m certainly not disappointed with how it turned out.

I left the light buttons on this picture because they are so cool. We turn the lights on and off by pressing round buttons, not flipping switches! This little house has serious quirks, and I love it.

A beautiful thank-you note; The cover of a cult book on prayer; Pictures from Aaron’s homecoming; Take-out cookie fortune: “Your path is arduous but will be amply rewarding”; 1st verse of For the Beauty of the Earth.

artsy cabbage; lots of Van Gogh; pictures from the beach; friends; family; virtus tentamine gaudet; embroidery from my friend J; Mattise goldfish poster; anniversary card; baby ducks; letterpress christmas cards;  honeymoon photography; psalm 51:8; Psalm 91; flowers from the Hillsdale campus.

Wedding pictures; grapes on a card from my friend A; quaking aspens; easter hymn; CS Lewis quote from “The Four Loves” on vulnerability; heartbeat; fake leaf above the door to our bedroom; antique postcards my friend E sent from Paris; college diplomas.

I have learned much about pictures and decorating and arranging in the last few years, so I am really inspired about where this could go in the future. We have a nice mix of art, pictures, quotes and other memorabilia here, and I’m daydreaming about doing this timeline style in another house someday, so the quotes and other art would somehow correspond with what was going on in our life at the same point of the pictures we’re in. I think it would be a really neat testament to God’s faithfulness in our lives, and a tangible illustration that our lives really are God’s artwork always in process.

PS: I will also admit that this post bugs me because it doesn’t feel “real.” I’ve done a fair amount of tweaking since taking these pictures, so I’ll update sometime when it’s “100% done.” Just in time to list the house for sale and remove them all for Realtor staging, you know.

PPS: Did you notice how many photos and cards we have from friends and family here? Those are some of my favorite pieces in our hall, so if you send us something neat it might become a special part of our collage. I’m not begging or anything, just throwing the idea out there for your consideration.

Bathroom (Home Tour)

After getting a look at the decor heights of our lovely bedroom, I thought I’d show you the disaster that is our bathroom. I will admit…. we chose that blue. I was 22 and inexperienced, and I have learned a lot since then. But anyway, some natural aging on the house means I get to make over  our awkward first paint and decor choices! There are tiles peeling off over the tub, so an overhaul on this bathroom is on the must-do list. I’m quite sure it will be easier and much cheaper than the never-ending kitchen project!

Walking in from the hall.

The grodiest shower in the developed world. I can’t even show you a picture of the inside. More grout comes out every time I scrub the tiles, so I’m never sure how hard I should work to get it clean. 

Someone brilliantly put wood trim around the shower door, so we have to be very careful about wiping it off after showers.

The sink is… very special. Also, the vanity is humongous and takes up half the bathroom. They had to make a cut-out so the door would swing open. 

This bathtub is also special. The shower extension doesn’t go high enough for a shower. And those fake brown tiles are peeling off!

I don’t really know when this will happen, but plans for the bathroom include: retiling the bathtub surround and putting in a shower head; turning the yucky shower stall into a linen closet; replacing the toilet; replacing the vanity with something skinnier; and repainting the walls gray.

I think deep-down, I would be more adventurous with color for the rest of the house, but Aaron likes to keep things very neutral since we will need to sell the house in a few years. I’ve heard that restrictions on creativity can actually be a freeing thing, and I think it’s true for how we’re putting the house together. By working to find things we both like, I think our house has a pretty clearly defined aesthetic that neither one of us would have found on our own. (Aaron actually cares about this quite a bit, which surprised me, but I bet if he was on his own it wouldn’t be a high priority.) This co-decorating sense makes it a little easier to pull together new projects, like our bathroom.  I like this first inspiration bathroom better because it feels a little more “grounded” with those black shelves. But no matter how it works out, I keep coming back to the gray-with-rustic-wood combo whenever I look for ideas, so I’m pretty sure we’re going for something like this!

My favorite inspiration bathroom! From Focal Point on my Pinterest boards.

More natural wood with gray! From a YHL Reader Re-design, on my Pinterest boards.

Our Room (Home Tour)

I have some house pictures here. I truly meant to do these posts quite a while ago. I’ve been bugged to share house pictures by several friends and family members who can’t make it out to inspect in person. So here we go!

We’ll start off with the one room of our house that feels “done” to me. This is the only place we have bold color on the walls. Right after moving in, I tried a few greens that did not work. Finally, after wasting $70 on ugly paint, Aaron, who is partially colorblind, picked the color we have now. We love it. I don’t know what I will do when we move. I would absolutely think about using the same color again. My aunt visited last month and told me the green worked because we can see so many leaves in our windows. I think she’s right! It feels like an extension of the outdoors, which is just right for us.

The view coming in from the hallway. I got the blinds on a freak Lowe’s clearance for 70% off and my mom helped me make the curtains.

stepping in

Aaron’s side. I refinished the dresser as a surprise for him a few years ago; also, I spray painted the nasty old fan to look metallic black. The flower painting was a wedding present.

My side. Lots of books and baskets! Also, I made that bedskirt because our bed is too tall for regular ones, which is handy when you have lots of junk to hide. Which we do.

my book basket.

I bought this old record stereo on craigslist from one of our pastors. Painted the bottom, refinished the top, covered the speakers with old canvas. It’s great for storing linens!

My dresser. Antique from Aaron’s family. I refinished it.

Fake flowers from Walmart clearance; calligraphy from my sister; mail holder from goodwill; books; jewelry box; cool dish from goodwill.

There’s a great psychological effect to starting and ending each day in a space you love. I’m grateful to have such a cozy room… but I will confess that it usually has piles of laundry all over the place, which is less than relaxing.