Thursday, February 25, 2021

Goodbye, My Riley Roo

Well, this was an extremely tough loss. 16 years. How do you put into words what a 16-year friendship means to you? I got Riley from a pet store in Lubbock when I was living alone and wanted a companion for my last year in grad school. He had a big head and a tiny body and I was intrigued by the sign that said "Beagle/Corgi mix." Over the years he grew into his big head (and then some) because he never passed up an opportunity to eat. Didn't matter if the item in question was really edible or not - he would give it a shot. He had a tank for a stomach because crayons, toys, dryer sheets, wet wipes, and even a King-sized Toblerone bar were no match for him. Our exchange student Kim learned of his insatiable appetite when she left her bag on the floor one time. (He smelled gum). Our friend Mike saw his skills first hand when Riley jumped waist high to snag a cookie from him. My mom lost a bag of bird seed because Riley got hungry one day. Meezy would occasionally taunt Riley by holding food out of his reach, but overall Riley had a pretty good record against him, including snagging a whole Taco Bell burrito when Meezy got too cocky. If you've known me over the past 16 years, then you've probably known Riley (and his signature one ear up/one ear down look). He's been my shadow. I joke that if we put a pedometer on each of us, we'd have the same number of steps at the end of the day. I originally got him so that I wouldn't feel lonely, but I never could have imagined he'd spend 16 years making sure I wasn't. He was a GOOD, smart, mischievous, hungry, and above all else - loyal - friend. Rest in peace Riley (Bubba, Riley Roo, Rooster Dooster, Biggies, Ri Ri). You were one of a kind. March 2005 - February 2021

Dutch Turns Nine

We let Dutch invite his closest friends over for some outdoor fun to celebrate his birthday. It was a beautiful day and they played soccer most of the time. That was followed up with some Domino's pizza and an Oreo ice cream cake (two of Dutch's favorite things). We also brought him up to his school to get a video in front of the message board. Jude decided to sing happy birthday to him (his own rendition), which resulted in this hilarious exchange:

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I can't buy or borrow books fast enough to keep up with his reading habits. He brings books to school so he can read if there's any down time. He stays up late every night reading in bed. He also loves Minecraft, riddles, anything chocolate, big homemade waffles, and walking home from school. He's a stereotypical big brother who teases and tricks his little brother into doing things for him. He LOVES his dog, Zoey.

Jude Turns Six

It was not an eventful birthday this time around thanks to a global pandemic, but luckily this kid doesn't need fanfare to enjoy himself. He's happy with donuts and just spending time together. There's definitely something special about him. He's the one who comes running when I say, "Look, there's a lizard!" He's the one who is already bringing food to his mouth before I have to say, "Just try it." He's the one who can put down the Ipad when a new puzzle or board game or Lego set is presented. He loves reading and excels at it. He loves his dog, Zoey, and mentions her in every school assignment he's allowed to. He uses big words and sometimes answers math problems faster than his big brother. He loves snuggly pajamas and cold pillows. He's also got a tender heart and gets his feelings hurt easily. He brings me happiness every single day. 

He started Kindergarten this school year, but only virtually for the first semester. For him, that meant getting all of his daily work completed in about an hour and then not having anything to do for the rest of the day. He's very advanced in reading and pretty advanced in math, so it's not like he was falling behind, but I didn't want him sitting idle for too long. I sent him to in-person starting in January and I think it's been great for him. 

He has fallen in love with Hamilton, the musical. He tries to memorize a lot of the lyrics and I often find him listening to it in his room. He's been known to wake up at 5am and sneak into the living room to start watching TV. He's willing to try new foods, but loves pizza, kolaches, and broccoli and cauliflower the best.

I think my favorite thing that he's said recently was "Someone at school today said 'Jude' and I answered, 'Depends. Who's asking?', like in Hamilton." That kid, man. Six going on sixteen.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Even More Adulting

Can you even call yourself an adult if you haven't bought new windows for your house? Just kidding. That's just me trying to make an expensive, mundane purchase sound cooler than it really is. When we bought our house (built in the 1960s), the majority of the windows had already been replaced by prior owners. There were a few irregular-sized ones and some "fancy" ones left that had diamond designs on them. They had lost their efficiency many moons ago and I'm guessing they had not been replaced yet due to the expense. Actually, I'm hoping that's why they were still there, and not because people actually thought they looked nice. Here's what we were rocking before replacement:

The horror! It's okay to cringe. We finally pulled the trigger on updating them to a modern design and current energy efficiency. We used Window World and were pleasantly surprised by their prices. The installation went really smoothly too. Here are the after pics:

The view is crystal clear now and there's more natural light coming in. I'm also grateful I won't be freezing in my office in the winter anymore. The 3 huge windows used to let too much cold air in! 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

2020's Not All Bad

 As with many people around the world in 2020, we started thinking about what remodeling projects we wanted to undertake at our house. A while ago we noticed a slight leak in the roof area of our sunroom. We think that room used to be an exterior patio that prior owners enclosed, so its roof wasn't part of the main roof and clearly wasn't covered appropriately. We knew that had to be dealt with, so we got a quote on removing all the old windows, replacing the interior sheetrock, putting on an adequate roof, and installing two sets of sliding glass doors. That turned out to be more expensive than we thought it would be, which got us thinking about just how much remodeling we wanted to undertake this year. If we're going to spend X amount of money on the sunroom, why not just knock everything out at once with one company who can accomplish multiple items on our to-do list? Rarely am I thankful for a quote that comes in higher than expected, but in this case, it resulted in some amazing transformations that might not have happened otherwise! I'll start with the sunroom, since I already mentioned it. 

Here's the before:

And here's the after:

With the shutters on the windows, we never enjoyed the natural light or unobstructed views of the backyard. Now, we have easier access to our entertaining area and better views from the interior.

Next up is our upstairs guest bathroom. We are lucky enough to have enough room downstairs for the whole family to sleep, so our upstairs has always been available for guests. There are two bedrooms and a full bathroom up there. When previous owners designed that bathroom, they really didn't utilize the space well. They took up too much of the bathroom with vanities and shoved a shower in a corner where the roof slopes. Our construction crew chief, Amelia, came up with a much better design for that bathroom and the remodeling company gave us examples of what types of finishes we should aim for. Here are some before pics (brace yourself):

And here are the after pics!!

We went with gray cabinets and white quartz counters (to match our kitchen and laundry, which you'll see shortly). The toilet was relocated to the back where the roof curves, which makes way more sense than having a shower there. That space was widened by removing part of the wall.

The shower was relocated and expanded and updated with a modern design. I love the floor/wall and accent tile that we chose.  

Recessed lighting was added throughout, along with a super cool rain shower head and a detachable extra shower head. 

We used the accent tile in the storage niche too.

My jaw still drops when I walk in that bathroom, mainly because I know what it looked like before. The configuration now makes so much more sense and I think guests will finally feel taken care of!

In the past, I always complained about our utility area because it didn't have a clear purpose and seemed like a hodge podge space that didn't really accomplish any one thing fully. It served as our laundry room, pantry space, water heater closet, and powder bathroom. There were no cabinets for my laundry supplies and no good space for folding or laying clothes out to dry. The powder room felt tiny, and the pantries seemed too shallow. The cabinetry was old and outdated. Luckily, we were able to remedy all of my complaints! Here are some before pics of the utility:

And here's how we fixed it!

We added cabinets above the washer and dryer so all my laundry supplies could be out of sight. We also flipped the way the bathroom door opens. It used to open in, which crowded your space as you entered. Now it opens out, so the bathroom feels bigger. 

We completely removed all the outdated pantry cabinets to the right of the entrance and replaced them with a true laundry station. Now there is a hanging rod, extra upper cabinets, a quartz counter for folding clothes, a lower cabinet for our dog food, and a space for laundry bins. It's an actual laundry room!

We got rid of the huge door and replaced it with a barn door. We rarely closed that door anyway, but now when we do, at least it will be more stylish.

The tall cabinetry is actually hiding our water heater! Not sure I've ever seen a fancier setup for one of those. The furthest cabinet is an overflow pantry for whatever doesn't fit in our kitchen. There's also additional space to the left of the cabinet where we keep our stand-up items, like a step ladder and brooms, etc. I feel so much better about this space because it has more purpose (and clearly a more modern design) now.

I saved the best project for last! We've been wanting a new kitchen since essentially the day we bought the house, but we kept putting it off in favor of more necessary work (foundation, plumbing, windows, flooring, etc). Finally, the time was right! Our kitchen was a U shape, that sided to the living room. Meezy always talked about taking the wall down between the kitchen and living, but I worried about the loss of cabinet space. The cabinets had been updated in probably the last 20 years, but they didn't go all the way to the ceiling because of the fur-down. The counters were a shade of blue and were fake stone, the backsplash was boring, our ovens and cooktop were surrounded by a brick monstrosity that was a waste of space, and we didn't feel connected to guests since the kitchen was closed off. Take a look at the before pics:

Behold, our masterpiece!

Bye, bye wall! Now the kitchen opens up to the living room.

We opted for a huge stainless steel farmhouse sink that came with drop-in attachments like a strainer, cutting board, and drying rack. The faucet has a blue LED light that illuminates when it's on, and the light turns to red when the water gets hot. 

We carried the gorgeous white quartz counters into a waterfall edge to give it a finished look. I love the wide soft-close drawers in this section of the kitchen. 

We had the counter overhang into the living room so we could add bar stools. 

I thought I'd be in trouble on food storage once I lost the pantries in the utility room, but these new cabinets utilize their space so much better than the old ones. Not only are they taller, but they are deeper and include drawers, so you can actually store items in the back and still get to them easily. The drawers and cabinet doors are all soft-close.

This range is essentially what I built my kitchen around! I've been waiting for the day when I could call this my own. After shopping various high-end brands, I realized that you were paying for name and not necessarily features. Don't get me wrong, this guy wasn't cheap, but it ended up being a better value for the money to go with GE Monogram instead of Viking, Wolf, Thermador, etc. It's got 6 burners plus a griddle, along with a full-size oven and an additional smaller oven. We put an island vent hood above it because we wanted as low a profile as possible. (Not super easy to do when you need 48" of vent). Hard to tell in the pic, but we went with a white subway tile in a herringbone design for the backsplash.

The best microwave option for our kitchen design was a built-in drawer microwave, so we went with a low profile Sharp with wifi capabilities. You can wave your hand in front of it to open it and operate it from your phone.

Lastly, we knew the niche on the other side of the kitchen needed some sprucing up, so we removed the brick surround and flattened the wall, changed the counter to match our kitchen counter, and added the same backsplash to match the kitchen. Eventually we may add shelves or a wine rack here. 

Can you believe the changes? I feel like I'm in a totally different house now. The project took 5 weeks from start to finish. We are extremely pleased with the results and happy to share more info about our contractor, appliance supplier, finishes, costs, etc. Feel free to ask!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

New Family Member

With my beloved Beagle/Corgi mix, Riley, turning 15 a couple months ago, I've begun to accept that we're on borrowed time. He can't hear that well anymore, he's lost a little of his eye sight, he suffers from arthritis and heart disease, and he can't go on a walk for more than a block or so. After losing my Keeshond, Casey, a couple years ago, Riley was a comfort during my sadness. I know I'm going to be a wreck when Riley eventually passes away, and the kids are going to take it even harder than when they lost Casey. I started looking for a Corgi rescue a couple months ago, because I decided I wanted to go ahead and have a second dog in the house to help counteract the unavoidable sadness that'll happen at some point, probably sooner than later. I found a good candidate every week or so, but each time I applied, the dog had already been adopted. The first couple times I applied, I showed pictures of the dog to the kids, but then I had to go back and tell them the dog was no longer available. I eventually stopped telling the kids about each dog I applied for, because I was tired of the disappointment!

I mentioned to a friend I was looking for a Corgi rescue, and he happened to find out about an owner surrender who had posted about it online. He sent me the owner's contact info and I immediately messaged her. We arranged a time for me to meet the dog the next day and OMG, I fell in love immediately. She was a 7 week old Corgi and probably the tiniest dog I've ever seen. She looks like she has a fox face, but she's definitely got the Corgi build, and she hops like a bunny when she runs. She didn't have a name yet because the owner said she had only had her a week, so Dutch did the honors and named her Zoey.

It was an adjustment having a puppy in the house. It's literally been 15 years since I had one! Constant bathroom breaks, little accidents, stolen socks, chewing on everything, etc. The first couple nights were rough because she woke up every couple hours and wanted to be taken out of her crate, but after being with us a week or so she started sleeping longer. We're getting a good stretch overnight of about 6 uninterrupted hours of sleep, so I'm good with that.

The boys are IN LOVE. They ask about her when they wake up in the morning and they want to kiss her goodnight before they go to sleep. If I ask Dutch to take her outside or play with her, he obliges without hesitation. Meezy and I had said we didn't want a puppy when we discussed getting a second dog, but I'm actually really glad we did. The boys are going to create a bond with this dog from the very early stages of her life and they're going to get to see her grow up.

Zoey got to meet her cousin, Sophie

Riley doesn't care too much about her, which is good. He occasionally will bark or sneer at her if she gets up in his business, but for the most part they leave each other alone and co-exist well. Zoey likes to follow Riley around the backyard to see what he's doing and it's adorable to see a stout Corgi/Beagle followed by the tiniest puppy.

You just can't help but smile when you see Zoey and it really has been a joy having her in the house. She's already brought so much happiness to my boys. I'm glad we are able to give her a forever home!