Checkpoint Chicken

New to raising backyard chickens, we had underestimated the inconvenience of having them share space with our dogs. Turns out they poop an incredible amount and two of our dogs decided rolling in chicken poop was absolutley the most fun a dog could have!  At least until they tried to come near us and the screaming, holding our noses and dumping them in the bath commenced – then it wasn’t quite so much fun – not for them or us. Still the horror of frequent baths did not deter them from running back out next chance they got – rinse and repeat…

Posts are in - laying out the baseplates - the taller posts are for the gate

Posts are in – laying out the baseplates – the taller posts are for the gate

Added to that challenge, we also were letting the dogs out in the morning first, then the chickens and waiting till they went home to roost to let the dogs back out – as the days got longer this was more and more impractical and who has time for a juggling act like that?

Alright chicken this is the last time you cross the border without showing me some papers

Alright chicken this is the last time you cross the border without showing me some papers

So I devised a cunning plan to save my sanity – divide the back yard in half – East and West separated by a fence and gate – Checkpoint Chicken!

Last weekend, Eric and I did the obligatory Home Depot run for supplies and I drew up one of my famous scribbled plans on paper for what I wanted to build – you know the ones my husband hates because it is not a blueprint with measurements, front and side elevations and a supply list….

I however had a crystal clear plan in my head – I wanted a wood and wire fence so we could grow climbing plants on it – nothing could be simpler, right?

Coming together - all the wire panels are up

Coming together – all the wire panels are up

Actually day one went well even though Eric wanted to do a simple straight line fence and I wanted an angle so the gate opened up into the rest of the yard – I had a vision people! Straight lines are boring! LOL Florida’s sandy soil took it easy on us and we only had to move one post a little to avoid some massive tree roots.

capping off each panel with a 1 x 4 notching around the posts - looking good!

capping off each panel with a 1 x 4 notching around the posts – looking good!

The next day started out great we got the baseplates in and leveled them, close to the ground so no chickens or dogs could squirm under. We had a little issue deciding on the best way to frame in the panels so we could attach our field fencing without it looking ugly but we figured it out and the panels went up pretty easily and neither of us tried to kill the other – at least not with any real effort…

Fence done - now for the gate

Fence done – now for the gate

We did some nice detail on the top, capping each panel off and notching it around the posts – this was beginning to look like we knew what we were doing…

Gatsby and Charlie patrolling the perimeter before the permanent gate went up

Gatsby and Charlie patrolling the perimeter before the permanent gate went up

Then we got to the gate – the original plan was for lots of vertical 1 x 2 pieces on a 2 x 4 frame however it quickly became clear that it was going to be too heavy – the 1 x 2’s were completely warped and our nail gun was acting up. It was late in the day, we were hot and cranky and had just reached our limit so I tacked a piece of field fencing over the gate opening for the time being and went back to the drawing board.

building the gate frame

building the gate frame

I decided a lighter frame of 1x 4’s with the same field fencing would be a better solution – so back to Home Depot we went the following weekend to pick up new supplies. We found solar post caps for only $4, which I was convinced was a mistake since the plain wood ones were $8!!!! Whatever –  no one stopped us for shoplifting as we walked out the door with our $4 deals. We also picked up a guide to help us drill angled holes in our thinner wood frame. The right tools can prevent and frustration and family dispute – trust me!

Gate & solar caps installed

Gate & solar caps installed

The frame came together pretty quickly and we stapled the same field fencing on to match the rest of the fence. Add some hinges and a latch and we were off to the races – Checkpoint Chicken is now fully operational – show me your papers!

Close up of solar caps from hell

Close up of solar caps from hell

Next up was trimming down the fence posts and adding the solar caps which should have been an easy task except we found out why they were only $4  – they were too tight to fit on the posts without Herculean effort!!! We had to sand the suckers down and my poor husband used brute force and muscle to get them on – most people probably returned them but Eric is nothing if not determined LOL Once on, a couple screws hold them in place (my job) and they give off a nice glow in the evenings.

Part two will be building the trellis over the gate – but that will have to wait for another post LOL

All in all, I am delighted with how it turned out and my life is much easier with separation of dog and chicken – they can both be out at the same time and our dogs no longer smell like chicken poop 3 times a week. A blood pressure lowering solution all around 🙂

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Outdoor Living

Pillow Puppy approved

Final result – Pillow Puppy approved

One of the things I love about living in Florida is the ability to spend most of your time outside. Yes there are three months in the summer when you prefer the AC inside but the rest of the year is glorious. Now that we are in Oct it is time to open up all the windows and doors.

I love the idea of outdoor rooms and our new house has an awesome covered area that lends itself perfectly to that. No need to worry about running out and removing cushions every time it rains – who has time for that?

I had a vision in mind of what I wanted for out there – nice contemporary wicker furniture – the kind of seating I always love when I stay in hotels with great outdoor spaces. Of course that look normally comes with a hefty price tag….

I wanted something stylish, practical and not outrageously priced.  Lets face it even protected from the rain, this furniture needs to be outside 24/7/365 and with the high humidity in Florida real wicker will eventually get moldy and mildewy – gross!

Patio furniture at last

Patio furniture at last – a bit too much beige…

I found a great collection on Amazon that is a resin, wicker look alike on top of an aluminum frame so no rust or mold to worry about. It came in the nice dark finish I was looking for with weather resistant neutral cushions. Exactly the look I wanted at a fraction of the price and since I have Amazon Prime – free shipping 🙂 Awesome!

But – hold up – when we first moved in, the budget wasn’t going to stretch to outdoor furniture – so I had to put my master plan on hold for a while. Although, I did break down and buy an outdoor rug that was a great fit with my fancy designer fabric inside – it was just too good a match to pass up – but for the past 8 months we have had a nice rug out there and no furniture. The dogs liked to roll around on it so it didn’t go completely to waste LOL

Breaking out the sewing machine for fun with fabric

Breaking out the sewing machine for fun with fabric

The weather is changing, holidays and house guests will be upon us soon – time to pull the switch. My long awaited furniture arrived a couple weeks ago, just in time to start taking advantage of the cooler weather. I got a 6 person dining set and a couch and 2 armchairs – they look great and go nicely with the two plantation chairs that I have had for just about forever. They are they best chairs for sitting outside to watch the thunderstorms roll though with a cocktail in hand 🙂

I love it – its exactly what I had in mind – it is all really comfortable and sturdy and for such a great price – I never review stuff online but I had to rate this 5 stars on Amazon. It really looks like the expensive resort furniture that was the original inspiration. However all the natural colored cushions felt a bit bland – it needed a boost

My bargain lime green garden stool - perfect spot for a cold drink

My bargain lime green garden stool – perfect spot for a cold drink

I found a great lime green garden stool in HomeGoods for only $50 and discovered a website that has great prices on outdoor fabric. I picked out two or three prints that would coordinate with the rug and they shipped them out within a couple days.  All in all it cost less than $50 and I have some fabric to spare

It only took a couple hours on a sunny Saturday morning to recover all eight throw pillows and bring a little color into the mix – clearly the final result is Pillow Puppy approved

My outdoor oasis is complete. I officially need never leave the house again! Now where is my frothy cocktail?

My Glam Home Office

My Glam Office

My Glam Office

Since I am lucky enough to have the flexibility to work from home some of the time, having a dedicated space just for work has been really important to me. I used to work remotely when I lived in Seattle and having a room with a door helped get me in the right mindset. In the room means I am on the clock and working  – both for me and my family.

My old home office in Washington was not 100% dedicated – the exercise machine ended up in there and there was a futon so it also doubled (or tripled really) as a guest room. As a result  I never really personalized the space – it just had too many functions….

In our new house there was a room that had previously been used as a home school classroom  that I quickly realized would make the perfect home office for me. This time it would have no other function and I could make it exactly what I wanted 🙂

wallpaper close up

wallpaper close up

Before we even moved in I had seen the most amazing wallpaper in a photo on Houzz.com. It was shown in a dining room but it was the exact thing I wanted for an accent wall. I had to track it down though and I was sad to discover it was to the trade only – bah! Fortunately I had already found a source in LA that could order designer fabric so I asked them to get me the wallpaper too. (see my earlier post)

Happily they were able to order it – although they did ask me to check with my installer about how many rolls I needed…. Ummm, I didn’t have an installer…  I went online again and found a calculator here that lets you put in the details and pattern drop etc and spits out a number of rolls. I let them know “my installer” said I needed 4 rolls  – no need to let them know I was doing it myself LOL

Fortunately the wallpaper arrived a lot faster than the 4 months the fabric took so when it arrived I was excited to see how it would look. I had already bought myself a nice big glass topped desk for my mac and an awesome Acrylic desk lamp that makes me happy just looking at it – Designer Porn!

So one evening after dinner I decided to just get that wallpaper up -how hard could it be one big wall with no weird angles – easy right?

Wallpaper night from hell LOL

Wallpaper night from hell LOL

NO – it was a giant mistake – the ceilings are pretty high so the pieces of wallpaper were super long – the glue was practically drying on it before I could get up the damn ladder – I was too short to do it myself so I had to enlist both husband and teenager and it took hours  longer than I would ever have thought. Turns out “English Designer Wallpaper” is thin and fragile –  we had to add extra glue under the seams adding to the frantic air of tension. Everyone was grumpy and exhausted by the time it was done…. I had nightmares that I would get up in the morning and the whole lot would have rolled off the walls and onto the floor…..

The next morning, I was extremely relieved to see that nothing had peeled off and it looked great.  Lesson learned never start wallpapering anything after 7pm LOL

decal close up

decal close up

That weekend I started painting since that stylish new wallpaper made the cream walls look dingy. I picked a silver grey for the two side walls and a deep French grey for the opposite wall to set off a decal I had purchased before we moved in.

Fav decal, retro chair and spray painted stool

Fav decal, retro chair and spray painted stool

The 7 rules to understand design and designers was a favorite of mine for years and I had discovered that the artist had turned it into a wall decal. I had ordered from his website and it was shipped from France before we even moved in. I wanted to be able to see it from my desk so I put it on the opposite wall in the corner with a great bright blue retro chair. The iron stool next to it I found half price online but when it arrived it was more galvanized nail color rather than the silver the site promised – yuck!  I enlisted my teenager to spray it bright white for me to match my desk – gotta love Rustoleum.

fun with accessories

fun with accessories

I picked up a couple of credenzas online also that my fantastic teen helped me build that look good with the desk and I had fun buying accessories like the bookends and trunks and a visit to The Container Store got me a bunch or folders and boxes in that same bright blue accent color that is in the wallpaper.

rare time Coco actually slept on her bed

rare time Coco actually slept on her bed

Coco always slept in the corner while I worked so I bought a pretty matching dog bed for her which she refuses to use –  instead sleeping behind me in a new corner LOL. The other dogs are more than happy to take turns on the dog bed so it still gets used after all

boxes on boxes

boxes on boxes

The final touch took the longest – I needed a rug – all the hard surfaces meant I sounded like I was at the bottom of a well on conference calls. I saw a great peacock blue flat weave with an indigo repeating pattern online but with no source info. It took me forever to discover who made it – Madeleine Weinrib – longer still to find out how to order it LOL

Eventually I found them and discovered it was only one location in New York but the image they had of the rug online looked like a completely different color  – after exchanging emails they assured me the bright blue was truly the color so I went ahead and ordered it and waited anxiously for its’s arrival. Fortunately it was the perfect shade of blue and my glam office was pretty much complete.

I love working here – I feel creative! I might have to reassemble my old drawing desk that has been in storage since we moved. I am pretty sure my teenager could spray it white to match the rest of the furniture – now where did I put that Rustoleum?

Flea Market Finds

My perfect find!

Today we drove out to Renninger’s a huge flea and antique market near us – it’s been a while since we have been but since it was the first day of fall and and a good 10 -15 degrees coolers than it has been in months (okay 86 isn’t exactly cool to most people but Florida summers are hot hot hot)

new orchid additions

I usually pick up a couple of cheap orchids and today was no exception 🙂 We bought some fresh produce and saw a dog just like Gizmo – a real first since she is a Chorkie and we thought pretty unique looking in her own scrappy way… but apparently she has a little twin called Koda running around the market.

I saw the weirdest chickens I have ever seen in my life – they look like Fraggles – according to the owner they are “silkies” Once we have our house with acreage I may need to get some for the sheer comedic value of having these fuzz balls wandering around LOL

 

My men geeked out and found a bunch of old school games for the original xbox and the Nintendo 64. I am such a packrat and still have all my old game systems –  so they have spent the last half hour dragging them all out and setting them up – there goes the rest of saturday afternoon. Now if we could only find some Dreamcast games…..

You looking at me?

We also picked up some delicious cinnamon glazed pecans that are completely addictive – once you start you cant stop. We have gotten them at a number of festivals or shows since we have been in Florida so everytime we see them we have to stop for some

Then just as we we thinking of leaving I spied some iron horse heads with rings in their mouths – all rusted up but so cool –  in a old junk stall. The lady wanted $100 for the pair but I haggled her down to $75 which I think is a good deal –  but then what the hell do I know?

She said they are old hitching posts and they do look like they would fit on top of fence posts – I just knew I had to have them so they came home with me and are awaiting their new home in the barn I plan to have sometime soon…

We made out like bandits – everyone came away with something to make them happy and I managed to resist bringing and new puppies home which is a feat unto itself 🙂

St Pete’s and melting clocks

My men on the giant beach chairs

Been a little while since I posted – life has been a little busy lately –  but we did get to take a few days away for a quick family vacation last week.

St Pete’s Beach is just a couple hours away from us and there was a little retro beach resort I had wanted to try called Posctcard Inn. So I called them up and booked 4 days with them after discovering they were indeed dog friendly. We packed up two of our 4 critters – the well behaved ones (4 dogs in a hotel is just not doable not if you want to maintain your sanity)

 

On arrival I was delighted to find the hotel every bit as cute and quirky as I had hoped – the rooms and the styling of the whole place was causal, 60’s surfer chic –  I loved it!

However, I was much less delighted to discover that apparently the cast of Girls Gone WIld – Spring Break Madness spend their off time here…. I have never seen so many stripper heels with bikinis and tramp stamps alongside falling over drunken frat boys congregated in one place.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge – too scared to take pictures of the tramp stamps

We consoled ourselves with the notion that it was a sunny Sat on the beach – school was out and maybe the next day things would quiet down and sure enough after a noisy evening, the next morning was peaceful and quiet – of course the partiers were likely sleeping it off till noon.

We spent the morning on the beach – picked up a few nice shells – read my Kindle – got a little sun – had a couple beach cocktails – all seemed perfect…. till we headed back up to cool down and were greeted by a 50ft inflatable of Captain Morgan! *Facepalm*

Captain Morgan – Harbinger of doom

I knew we were doomed. They were in full party set up mode complete with DJ stage and pop up bars all over the place – we had to fight our way back to the room through the crowds. Sunday night was apparently Captain Morgan All You Can Drink Pool Party Night – who knew?  Well, all of the afore mentioned tramp stamps and frat boys did and they brought all their friends and distant acquaintances….

Don’t get me wrong – having a few cocktails at the beach bar on vacation is my idea of fun too – but I am (sadly) not 22 anymore and MTV Beach Party was never my style – even worse when you have your 15 year old with you. “Hey honey – this is what I don’t want you to do ever – or you are grounded till you are 30!” My God I sound like somebody’s aged mother LOL

Tired Grumpy Hotel Puppies

The party went on till 3am and amidst complaint calls to front desk I spent most of the evening hiding in our room searching for an alternate hotel. I was finally saved by a Hilton – not on the beach but inland close to the Dali museum that we were planning to visit anyway.

So next morning we packed up our tired crew and unloaded at the HIlton – not so stylish but mercifully quiet with a nice pool and we headed out to the Dali Museum.

 

 

I have been wanting to visit since I moved to Florida – they have the largest collection of his work outside of Spain and although I am not a huge fan of Surrealism, as a designer I always enjoy a good art museum.

Dali Museum

The Dali Museum did not disappoint – what a fantastic building in a great setting on the waterfront. Very modern, box like structure with natural stone accents and some organic glass billowing out.

 

 

 

Helix Staircase in Dali Museum

The interior is centered around a soaring helix staircase with great views and of course several galleries of Salvador Dali’s work.

View from staircase

We picked up some souvenirs in the obligatory gift shop and headed outside to the gardens which were really lovely – modern and almost zen like but with a little color and natural chaos thrown in.

Melting clock with mustache sculpture in background

No self respecting Dali museum could be without a melting clock – believe me it was hot enough to melt clocks – we were dying out there but wanted to be sure to see everything. I made everyone pose with the iconic Dali mustache sculpture and we walked though the “labyrinth” which was a little disappointing since it was really more like a spiral path – if you have no choices to make on which direction to take when walking through, then you can’t really consider it a labyrinth or maze IMHO

Adding to the collection

My favorite element of the garden was the wishing tree – you are supposed to tie your wishes to it and everyone seems to use their wristbands from the museum. I loved seeing all the fluttering colors moving in the breeze so we added ours.

Wishing Tree

There is something sweet and touching about adding to a living, growing collection of dreams and wishes – even if it is just proof of a shared experience.

The next day we drove to Busch Gardens to try their latest roller coaster Cheetah Hunt – it was a blast – really fast and fun. They actually have a lot of great rides and seeing the animals up close is fantastic. I particularly love the tiger enclosure.

Dear God somebody save me from this heat! said the Meerkat

It was ungodly hot  – 95 degrees and about 90% humidity so were were exhausted and sweaty in no time – not even the water rides could provide much releif and whatever effort I had made around hair and make up were quickly rendered futile

Clever Snow Tiger

Even the animals were conserving their energy – mostly lazing around in the shade or laying in the water like this smart snow tiger

Peacock Display

Eventually we had had enough of the heat, but since we had taken advantage of the Florida Resident Deal we can come back as often as we like till the end of the year for free (Seaworld too which is much closer to us and also a fun park)

Feeding the birds

Before we left we wandered through the aviary and got to feed the birds which put a smile on everyones face.

Happy Teen

Our vacation may have had a bumpy start but it all worked out in the end 🙂

Flower filled weekend

New Cattleya

With all the work traveling I have been doing lately I think I was due a stay at home sort of weekend – so although we planned to go to the beach or a theme park,  instead we ended up being homebodies and messing around in the garden all weekend.

Saturday, I went to a local Orchid Show with a friend and of course came back with a couple new plants to add to my collection LOL  I got a lovely yellow green Cattleya and another one (whose name escapes me right now) that is about to bloom and is completely new to me with deep raspberry colored flowers and an odd bulbous base.

I took about a million photos of some of the prize winners on display at the show, but unfortunately most of those were either not for sale or too expensive for me – a very small version of one awesome stripey one was listed at $100 – way too rich for my blood  – I maybe obsessed, but I am not crazy!

Meewon's first orchid

Meewon bought her very first orchid (muahahahahah – evil laugh – welcome to my obsession >8) a lovely yellow Phalaenopsis which is probably where most people start – easy to care for and so very pretty.

 

 

 

 

 

I also picked up a fun plant stand made out of a PVC pipe from a local vendor. It has a solar powered light on top and notches cut into it so you can hold 5 little 6 inch terracotta pots staggered around the pipe – it’s on castors so I can move it around the pool deck to my hearts desire.

Funky plant stand

Originally I thought it would be perfect for Eric, who needs a place to put his growing herb garden but it was really crying out for flowers, so instead we hit a great local nursery about 15 minutes away, the next day and picked some up. I ordered Eric a 5 shelf plant rack for his herbs instead.

Jonathon had been wanting a cactus, so we picked up a couple of those too and he started a cacti garden in a shallow pot on the pool deck. He managed not to damage himself while replanting thanks to some heavy duty gloves and used some compressed air to clean off the dirt from the spikes  – he plans to add a couple rocks to complete his miniature arid landscape.

President Hibiscus

I found a beautiful bright red hibiscus at Lowes for only $15 – which was a complete steal if you ask me! It is apparently a President Hibiscus and has flowers the size of my hand – something I could never have dreamed of growing before moving here and makes me happy just to look at it!

 

 

 

 

 

I could not resist this Stargazer lily either, which is pretty much the best smelling flower of all time!  Back in Washington it was a special occasion, cut flower that I would buy and put in a vase – not something I could actually grow…

Stargazer Lily - nothing smells better...

Everything grows here – it makes gardening way more fun – annuals practically become perennials – even impatience last forever – we even have a Bird of Paradise plant in the yard! We planted our Christmas Poinsettia and it is growing like a weed. We have a tomato plant that is over a year old and still producing fruit… Although we are in a pitched battle with our ninja squirrels to see who can get to them first! Basically we get to eat whatever they leave behind…

Last year I got some Jasmine and Gardenias (which are a really close contender for the best smelling flower of all time) which we planted in big blue pots. (Frankly all our plants are in pots since this is a rental and I want to take my garden with me when we go) I had a tough time with them last year since they got infested by bugs and all the buds dropped before flowering – which was just heartbreaking 😦

Gardenias - also smell beyond fantastic...

This year, however, they are going nuts  – a million buds and now beautiful white flowers that smell completely amazing! So after repotting all our new plants this weekend (we are swiftly running out of space – believe me!) we got to sit out by the pool while I wrote this, surrounded by our lazy puppies  and with the heady scent of gardenias and stargazer lilies filling the air – perfect!

Much better than the usual stinky dog poop smell which is what we normally deal with since we have four dogs in a hot humid climate – occupational hazard I guess.

 

 

Even Coco approved – although this angel face puppy thinks that her poop smells like gardenias all the time. So says the Princess Puppy – best not to argue with her really…

Angelic Coco

It’s a frothy drink kinda day!


Ultimate beach drink!

I have been traveling so much for work lately and getting sick every time I get off the plane that I haven’t been blogging as often as I mean to.  Basically, I am sick and tired of being sick and tired right now – which is way too boring to write about.

However the good news is I am planning on a few days off soon at the beach with my husband and as soon as we get the chance I am ordering a frothy drink with fruit, and flowers served in something silly like this little number from Coconuts at Cocoa Beach.

It is a truly foolish beverage – I know it screams tourist – but nothing puts you in the right vacation frame of mind like this – this is what I am dreaming of while counting down the days till I get to chillax.

After my foolish cocktail I am going to lay in the sun – just like Sunny likes to do. Nobody knows how to relax like a lazy dog and Sunny is the chillaxin king. He has relaxation down to a fine art and I think we could all learn a thing or two from him.

it's a dog's life

He also likes to watching TV from the couch

Don't touch that remote

We are going to head over to Sanibel Beach – apparently it is a world class shelling beach and I need to add to my new collection – perhaps I will find a conch shell big enough to use for my foolish cocktail – who knows?

Here’s to frothy drinks and being lazy dogs every once in a while….