Saturday, May 31, 2014

Feathering Our New Nest

The best thing I can say about my hair in this photo is that at least I'm not all gray yet....

Hi all, Dianne here.  You may have been wondering why Roger has been writing all the blogs lately.  All I can say is, I must have inherited an extra "feather your nest" gene, because every time we have moved from one house to another (or to the RV from a house) I have gone into extreme project mode.   After almost 43 years, Roger is used to this and knows that there is no point in trying to rein me in.

This stage of building our casita is like being nine months pregnant; everyone wants to know "Have you gone yet?"  The answer is no, not quite, but probably next week.  In the meantime, I have filled my days preparing.

I started in early April by repainting all of our metal patio furniture, including the candle lanterns and even the garden towers and planters.  

The garden stuff had moved from shabby chic to junky mode, so I cleaned them with steel wool, some C.L.R., and painted with my trusty metallic bronze Rustoleum.

All of a sudden, things we'd let slide for years just had to be repaired before the move, like a lamp switch and a mosaic planter that had broken that I still wanted to use.  It's still not perfect, but at least it's now usable and the huge crack is regrouted.  Once it's planted and strategically placed, the unmatched tiles won't be too noticeable.
Another item that had to be repaired was a wicker table whose glass top had been broken by the Texas wind blowing a big candlestick onto it.  This table has sentimental value because it used to be on Roger's parents' screened porch.  Glass tops are not very practical down here because of the wind and dust.  I got the big idea to fashion a mosaic top for it so that it could once again be used as a table on our new, larger patio at the casita.

Of course, I've never done a mosaic before, but that didn't stop me.  After all, I had done the backsplash in our coach house, so how hard could it be?  
We bought a piece of 1/4" plywood and our friend and next-door neighbor Bob cut it for us using his saber saw (Roger sold his when we started fulltiming).  I coated it with water seal and resigned myself to the fact that the table will need to stay under the porch roof out of any potential rain.

When we cleaned out our storage closet, I found that one of my good china dishes (wedding present) had gotten broken.  I added two dishes in colors and patterns I liked from the local Goodwill store, picked up tile scraps from our construction site, picked out the flattest and prettiest pebbles from our travels, added in the sea glass we've picked up here and there, and bought a small bag of garden-shaped tiles to give it some extra color and shape.  It was kinda fun smashing the plates into usable chunks.  I played with the shapes on a cardboard box top using an outline of the table top.   

I knew my table would be a random pattern, but I also wanted to make it a sentimental top that would be fun to use.  I even used the "Noritake Ranier" pattern marker off the bottom of my china plate just for fun.

Next step was to arrange and glue the pieces to the plywood using tile adhesive.  I also covered a few of our pebbles with masking tape to keep the grout from getting into their sandy surface.
  Here's what the table looked
like after gluing and before grouting:
The small tiles around the edge (with spacers) are leftovers from tiling my coach house backsplash.  I cut them in half using the tile nippers I still had from that project.

Here's the finished product, after grout sealer.  It won't win any prizes, but it's once again a usable table and has some sentimental value, with our rocks, china pieces, construction tile pieces and sea glass incorporated.

Here are a few more "projects":
I picked out some of our favorite rocks and covered them with mineral oil to make them look wet and more colorful.  Then, to keep the dust off of them, I bought a glass canister and lid.  This will go inside the casita on our TV cabinet when we move. 

I bought a nifty silverware caddy and new flatware, so that I can save drawer space in my new cabinets.  

People wonder why I would want such a small house as our new casita.  The answer is that I have enjoyed the convenience of living in our RV for the past 5 1/2 years.  Everything is conveniently organized and it's so small there are no more whole days spent doing housework.  I didn't want to go back to those days!  The trade-off is that every inch has to be planned for best and highest use.  I consider it a fun challenge!

For instance, I came across this nifty wine bottle shelf on sale and thought I'd use it to store rolled towels on in the bathroom.  That idea faded once I realized that the only wall space for it had to house the towel bar.  I puzzled over what to use it for for a couple of days, looked on Pinterest and Google, and finally came up with this idea:
I found three acrylic canisters with lock-on lids that fit where the wine bottles (or towels) would have gone.  It will hang just off the kitchen in a little nook
Nook is on the left just beyond the arched doorway
where I plan to put this cabinet to house canned goods:  
Perfect size but might need to be repainted

I buy Mexican coffee beans in a large bag at our local HEB grocery, and one of the acrylic canisters will house coffee beans, another will house spaghetti, and the third probably penne pasta unless I come up with a better idea.  I have a small ceramic canister from Harrod's in London that I'll place in the basket under the canisters that will hold tea bags.  So, this plain little niche will soon be a tiny pantry!

Another small project will be these Mexican
tiles that I bought and plan to glue to a 2 x 4 and place atop the cabinet that's above my head in the photo above.  La Cocina means "The Kitchen" in spanish, and since this area used to be Mexico, I thought it was appropriate.  It will also coordinate with the Mexican talavera cabinet knobs that are now installed on my new cabinets:
These knobs are prettier in person

But I saved the best project of all for last!

Charlie the cat has always had the Taj Mahal of litterboxes.  In our house in Indiana, we even built a special cabinet for him in the mud room:

The enclosed box kept our whippets out of the litter box, which they considered to be a "brownie dispenser."  (Gross, I know, but dogs will be dogs.)

In the RV, Charlie's current box is a "Clever Cat" large enclosed box with a hole in the lid.  Serviceable, but gray and not too cute.  I'll spare you a photo of the current, used litterbox.

One of my big challenges in the new casita was where in the world to put the litter box??  The bathroom is too small, and no room in the bedroom for it.  The only real alternative is in the TV area in front of the kitchen peninsula:   

The litter box will sit about where the bag of grout is in this photo of the unfinshed kitchen.
The cabinet on the far right (that opens to the living room side) is where we plan to keep our pet supplies.  Here's what I came up with:

When we cleaned out our storage closet, I emptied one of our old trunks.  We think this might be a trunk Roger's mom bought to send him off to Purdue with in the fall of 1968.  

I pried the lock and handle off the front and scrubbed the rust off the remaining hardware with an SOS pad:
Then I painted the hardware and trim with gold metallic paint:
I sent away for some heavy-duty pretty contact paper (from
Next I used an old credit card to smooth and adhere the contact paper to the inside and outside.  I popped any bubbles with a sewing needle and smoothed them out.  I used an exacto-knife

to trim around the hardware.
Sorry 'bout the moving boxes in the background, but that's how we're living at the moment!

I had pried out the rivets to remove the bottom panel from the side that will face away from the doors entering the room:
Inside that, I cut down our old RV welcome mat for a scratch spot for Charlie to wipe his feet after exiting the litter box.  At Petco I found a litter box the perfect size to fit inside.  Best of all, three of its four sides are tall because Charlie is a hearty litter scratcher and a low-sided box would just not do!  I will simply open the trunk lid for easy access to clean it out.
Here's what the entrance will look like to Charlie:
He has enough clearance to climb inside the pan but not kick litter everywhere.  I stuck one side of an "extreme" velcro pad to the top of the trunk and pushed a charcoal odor absorber (the kind sold for certain litterboxes) onto it.  It held!

We had saved brass trim off of a wicker basket that fell apart.  I spent one afternoon polishing the brass to get rid of the black tarnish spots.  When you're retired, you have time to polish brass on a pretty day on the patio!
Roger helped me drill through the thin metal sides and screw the large pieces onto the trunk.
 The small pieces I simply glued with clear Liquid Nails on top of the existing plainer pieces.

The piece de resistance was actually Roger's idea, seconded by our neighbors Bob and Linda at happy hour one evening (after a few drinks).  Roger thought it would be cool for Charlie to have a beaded curtain to walk through to get to his litter pan.  An added benefit is that he can stop and play with the beads when he's done.
 I bought some cheap child's necklaces and cut them into four equal sections.  They actually didn't even come unstrung when I cut them; must have been because they were designed for small children.

My next puzzle to solve was how to hang them?  I repurposed a very short tension rod that we used in our motor home.  I cut apart a cardboard box and made a strip off one corner that would hang over the tension rod.  
 I used my Liquid Nails again to glue the sections of necklace to the cardboard v-shaped strip:
I did one side, let it set, then flipped it over and staggered the remaining pieces between the first ones.
After the beads had dried, I glued the cardboard strip to the top of the tension rod, with the beads hanging down on each side.

Knowing how Charlie will enjoy batting at the beads, I also dipped the end of each strand into the Liquid Nails to help keep them from unstringing.
Here's what the beaded entrance looks like:
And, the main point of the whole project, here's what the litter box will look like to the casual observer just entering the room:
The dark line is just a shadow
I don't really worry about Charlie not wanting to use his new digs.   He is the best. cat. ever.  and has never once made a mistake in that department. All I'll need to do is show it to him with the trunk lid open at first and he'll take it from there.

The pet photos of the day are a story unto themselves:  The first photo (above) shows our friend Jim teasing Bandido, Tequila, and their two whippets Klick and Gabe at happy hour at their house one evening, before they headed back to Minnesota for the summer.

Fast forward to now, and every time we stop by to check on their house.  Both of our dogs immediately go to their door as if to say "Come out and play!  Where's Auntie Sue?  Where's Uncle Jim?  Most of all, "Where are their toys??"

1 comment:

Bill and Nancy said...

You are one busy nest builder!! You sure are creative and everything turned out great. So nice that each item has the personal touch:o)) But the liter box wins the grand prize!!!