Grow a little more yourself, cook it yourself, build it yourself and never stop learning.
Author: The Suburban Homestead Nerd
If you are looking for a survival site to aid in your hardcore prepping, this isn't it. If you are hoping to learn how to harness human waste for electricity or how to build your first home wind turbine out of pipe cleaners and chicken poop, you've come to the wrong site. If you want to learn to cook and can a few things, build some organizational items or laugh at the rotten luck I had today, welcome!
For years friends and family have urged me to write it all down and share my stories a the things I've learned, so here we are.
My name is Allison and I am a married woman in my forties. Most of my adult life was spent on the developmental and manufacturing side of the pest control industry. As crazy as it sounds, I loved it. My company believed in a safer, well-proven route to rodent, mole and insect control. The red tape and good-ole-boy politics were astonishing and the refusal to change from an unnamed entity protecting no one, drove me into early retirement.
My husband and I fostered to adopt two beautiful boys starting on April 4, 2007 and life has never been the same. I couldn't imagine my life without our sons and my husband is a hard-working, good man.
Despite seeming to have it all, depression started creeping in as I hit my mid-thirties and the diagnosis was the end of menopause and the ADHD I had been diagnosed with in my childhood. I realized I had to do more than stick to my daily grind. I had to find new trails to blaze as I had done in my single days before motherhood and I became a self-taught Jack of all trades.
I want to share some basic skills, insights and humor with you. Thank you for coming along for the ride.
UPDATE: For the last four years, I've been lucky enough to work with an amazing convention company, putting on Comic Cons and Anime Shows throughout the Southeast US, as their Guest Relations Coordinator. I have worked with the most amazing people and become part of the greatest family one could hope to join.
I wasn't abducted by aliens, I promise.
I don’t know who needs to hear this today, but IT’S OKAY IF YOU HAVEN’T YET PAINTED YOUR MASTERPIECE OR COMPOSED YOUR MAGNUM OPUS.
Sometimes when you feel things more deeply, you need more time to process. Your friends who ARE running marathons and writing best sellers during quarantine are NO BETTER OR WORSE THAN YOU, they just handle things differently. We are not all built the same, which is a WONDERFUL TRUTH when you embrace it!
Did you shower today? Yes? Awesome job! No? Run and do that. It’ll take ten minutes.
Did you and your children survive the day together up until now? Yes? That’s a win!
Giving power to the guilt over not being where you thought you should be at this stage in life can only hold you back further. Set small goals and just put one foot in front of the other.
A few days into quarantine, I realized I was stuck, like so many others- afraid to plan for next week, when I was unsure of what tomorrow would bring.
One day, I decided it was okay to slow down and smell the roses. I gave myself a break and started to look for forward momentum again. I started to try recipes I hadn’t made in a while, I started a garden. Slowly, but surely, I’m coming back to life. It’s been almost two years since I’ve blogged, so trust me, I get being stuck, but I’m celebrating the small victories.
I thought a nice comfort food would be a fun recipe. Since many of us are stuck with what we have on hand, or what we can find buried in the freezer, I chose Nestle’s Oatmeal Scotchies recipe (butterscotch chips were buried).
I used to hate oatmeal cookies, but these were pretty good and I’ve already reached my quarantine fifteen (still can be an overachiever!). I can pretend these are healthy because, duh, OATMEAL.
To those who have asked, here’s the recipe and to those who need a small step forward, here’s a tasty one. Enjoy!
NESTLE’S OATMEAL SCOTCHIES RECIPE
– 1 1/4 cups All purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon Baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon Salt
– 1/2 teaspoon Ground cinnamon
– 1 cup (2 sticks) Unsalted butter ; softened
– 3/4 cup Granulated sugar
– 3/4 cup Brown sugar ; packed
– 2 large Eggs
– 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
– 3 cups Old-fashioned oats
– 1 & 2/3 cups (11 oz package) Butterscotch morsels
PREHEAT oven to 375 degrees
COMBINE flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats and morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
BAKE for 7 to 8 minutes (chewy) or 9 to 10 minutes (crisp). Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Let me just start out by saying that I am not in any way, shape or form affiliated with Lucas Arts or Disney. They are not behind this and this is simply my art (ish?) solely to pay homage to a story I’ve come to treasure.
Anyway, almost 2 years ago (sad, I know) I started a journey that would test the limits of my patience, my building skills and my marriage. The conversation started a little like this:
Me- “I should totally build a cat house for Bella and Izzy to hang out in. I’m going to try to make it resemble Luke Skywalker’s house. You know? I’ll just put it on a little pedestal.”
Jamie- “How little? Because we don’t need, or have room for anymore furniture. They already love the 94 inch tall one you built them…and the separate litter box cabinet.”
Me (a little irritated)- “Not very big. Don’t worry, I think I’ll sell it anyway.”
Here’s what happened…
I did make a pretty cute little replica of the house and even built a platform for it to sit in. Getting the smooth texture proved to be a giant pain in the rear, so just this little piece took far longer than I’m willing to admit.
I wanted to mimic the underground construction of the Skywalker moisture farm (just my putting that into writing leaves no doubt as to the depths of my nerdiness, does it?), but make it easy to lift out for cleaning.
I thought about calling it “Catooine,” the wind-swept, desert planet and lovely hideaway for the feline who’s had enough of your human nonsense.
Side Bar- I loved the cat tower that I built for my girls a few years ago and wanted to incorporate some of the conveniences it offered. I also have had several years to figure out what it’s lacking.
Here’s ours again and while my girls never complained, spending hours sleeping up there, I have always regretted not adding a litter box cabinet underneath.
I figured anyone else who has dogs would enjoy being able to feed the cats out of the reach of the canine menace, so I decided to make this one more practical by including a counter top. Since it was a nod to Star Wars (NOT affiliated in any way), I went crazy with shapes. As a result of this, I have been recently (and oft) overheard telling people that, “If I ever build anything that is not a square or rectangle, please slap me. Hard.”
Of course if you’re going to have a 2 tiers, you need an easy way for your cat to reach the top. Rather than add steps, I decided to use the second tier as a nod to The Empire Strikes Back and started building what I hoped would resemble icy paths and an icy cliff. Again, waaaaaayyyy too much time was spent shaping, sanding, tiling, texturing, etc., but I used broken tiles and white grout for the floor and was pretty happy with the results.
I was liking my results, but I remembered regretting not having incorporated a litter box cabinet into mine (rather than building a separate piece), so the bottom was turned into a cabinet.
I should point out that once I deviated from plan A (just the house), most of this was already cooking in my noggin. I just waited to do most of the finish work until after the rough idea was put together.
Well, you need access to the litter box cabinet that dogs and kids can’t access, so a secret entrance, disguised as an ice cave befitting a Wampum, was in order. As were ice sickles and scratching posts, icy glitter along grout lines and a strong, epoxy-type protectant.
And, heeeeyyyy…if tier was is a nod to A New Hope, and tier two was a nod to Empire, then tier three needed to recognize Return of the Jedi!
This may have been the first time that Jamie really started questioning my sanity and I can’t really blame him. I spent A LOT of time on this and I love him for putting up with it. I began to see this more as an art piece and less as a build, taking time to really enjoy the creative process (mostly).
I carpeted the outside for scratching, added “Endor” greenery and also added a tree trunk step to make it easier for older cats to climb. Sadly, a battle must took place during construction and the resulting blaster marks remain.
Tragically, this was around the time that we lost the amazing Carrie Fisher, so I decided to add a little tribute to the woman who reminded us all that even princesses could kick butt…on any planet…and look great doing it.
This is where the Ewok village was born and I can’t bring myself to add up all the hours I spent working in this thing…although, I could shut myself in there and hide sometimes, which was lovely. I loved doing some of the detail work, but the hanging net was my boys’ favorite. FYI- there are NO droids or Wookies in there.
The inside walls were covered in carpeting, with felt accents, and the floor was covered in outdoor carpet for easy cleaning and sanitizing. I put a screen on the back to prevent moisture build up and a magnetic closure door on the front. There is room for a litter box and to store food and extra litter.
I was feeling pretty happy and thinking I could be almost finished, but then my 11 year old told me I couldn’t make this thing without a Death Star. Ugh! He was right.
Thus began another grueling period of forming and smoothing, but after forever, I had my hollowed out canvas.
Figuring what to do on the outside of the space station presented another opportunity for me to sit back for days, staring at the orb I’d grown to hate, plagued by the conflict raging in me…
Side Bar 2- how the “creative process” works in me:
OCD vs. Thinking Outside of the Box
Anywhere from minutes to days to weeks are spent formulating a plan
Gather materials and begin
Think of a really cool add-on or change and spend 1-3 days trying to figure out how to make it happen (this step happens repeatedly during any given project)
Walk away for days or weeks to avoid being committed to a mental institution
Implement crazy changes
Find original sketches and laugh heartily about the differences between it and the finished product
So, yes, this project was crazy.
Anyhoo, I thought that a yarn ball Death Star had to be the way to go and that a hand carved light saber (which looks more like a pen) would be a great way to keep the Yarn Star from spinning.
By removing the saber, you can grasp the Yarn Star penthouse and pull it up and our for easy cleaning or clearing low doorways.
And, of course, I had to make custom pillows, but you should know that I am a self-taught seamstress.
So that’s how a small cat house became an all in one litter/storage cabinet, counter/feeding area, scratching posts and sleeping areas, know as The Cat Tower around these parts.
It is now listed on eBay, so wish me luck…and thanks for not calling me crazy to my face if you knew what I’ve been doing.
It weighs a lot, but since I’m going to go with local pick up (I may deliver) on eBay, I haven’t tried to weigh it yet. Below are rough dimensions.
A short slide show…
UPDATE- Apparently, the base cabinet of what was almost called “Cattooine” is also a wonderful place for children to hide and eat candy.
As our family life gets crazier, jiu jitsu keeps us busier, and my growing boys eat more like small horses, I’ve realized just how hard it is to snack healthy. Add to this the alerts going out on social media daily telling you that everything from chicken to cereal will give you cancer, or simply drop you where you stand, and a mom starts to think more about finding healthier alternatives to daily favorites. No, I’m not cowering in fear, but you guys know I like to take on projects, so this month I decided to try my hand at a favorite around here- breakfast tarts 😉
I did some research and found a recipe on tablespoon.com which seemed fairly simple. I just did things a little differently…and will in the future. I think next time I will make my own crusts so these are a little easier to shape. I never claimed to be a baker and I think my additions to the recipe will attest to this.
Homemade Pop Tarts
1 box refrigerated pie crust (2 layers)
1 small jar strawberry preserves (good quality) I used blackberry that we made last year
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk (2 – 3 tsp)
Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Unroll one of the pie crusts and square the edges. Cut into rectangles. Place 1 tsp of jam in the center of a rectangle and top with another piece of crust. Crimp all four edges. Repeat until all of the pie crust is used.
Start to get upset because you can’t make twenty perfect rectangles with the crust you have. Pull out the rolling pin and try to make more rectangles with the crust you cut away in you futile attempts to make above perfect rectangles. Laugh at yourself through the tears as you end up with a few rectangles, some trapezoids and some kind of half-moon-looking, sad, little thing. Keep the swearing to a minimum when you accidentally get a little crimp crazy and poke holes in the crust.
Fix said holes like the baking MacGuyver you are and carry on.
Bake the pop-tarts for about 7 – 8 minutes or until slightly brown. If you don’t want to add extra sugar with the glaze, you can use an egg wash on the tops with some white sugar.
Perhaps it was the fact that my tarts ran the geometric shape gauntlet, but I found mine needed to cook from 8 to 10 minutes. Just watch them carefully, you want a nice golden-brown.
Allow the pop tarts to cool for 5 minutes. Meanwhile prepare glaze by adding milk to the sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Pour over pop tarts and sprinkle with decorating sugar. Serve warm.
You need to hear this…FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!! LET THEM COOL FOR MORE THAN FIVE MINUTES!!!! I cannot stress enough the importance of cooling these taste bud obliterating, hot lava-filled, innocent looking hell-born treats! Seriously, walk away. You can glaze them while they are hot, but I’m telling you right now, if you take a bite within the first hour, you will likely lose the power of speech and the ability to taste for a good 24 hours.
Leftover pop tarts can be stored in an airtight container. To serve warm, heat in the microwave, or flat in a toaster oven. (Placing in an upright toaster oven is not recommended).
These are really delicious and my family loved them! So much better than the hard, store-bought variety. Enjoy…and don’t forget to let them cool!
Prepping for the super bowl in our house usually goes like this:
Me: “What do you guys want for our football, finger food this year?”
The crew: “Creamy taco dip, baked taco dip (another time) and a veggie tray!”
Me: “Seriously, guys, don’t you want something different this year? Spinach artichoke dip? The big sandwich?”
The crew: “Nope!”
Without further ado, I give you crazy easy to make…
Creamy Taco Dip
8 oz cream cheese, softened at room temp
8 oz sour cream
1, 1 oz packet taco seasoning
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar jack or Colby jack mix
1 cup lettuce, shredded
1 medium tomato, diced
sliced or diced olives
chopped onion (optional)
Chips for dipping
Blend the cream cheese, sour cream and taco seasoning with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
Spread mixture onto a 9 x 13 cookie sheet, then top with the shredded cheese (IMPORTANT: the shredded cheese will absorb moisture and prevent the vegetables from making a watery mess of the creamy mixture, so definitely sprinkle cheese before veggies).
Sprinkle evenly with the lettuce, tomato, olives, etc.
Chill for 30 minutes, if desired, and serve with chips.
Super easy and delicious!
Alternatives for healthier dip that still tastes great:
On a personal note, I’m sorry for the long hiatus. I’ve been helping a friend whose home flooded last August rebuild one room at a time and I’ve been down with sinus issues…a lot. I’m hoping to get back on track, but I thank you for your patience and loyalty!
Today I feel steeped in blessings and happiness. But we also remember those who have lost so much and for whom this time if year is painful. May we all feel the joy and share a little with those struggling. Make spreading hope your super power. Merry Christmas!
As the faithful among you know, things have been very busy around here, even more so since we enrolled the boys in a martial arts class. After watching their first couple of classes, I realized they were getting a great workout and not realizing it because they were having such a blast. This got me thinking about my own health and how much I hate working out. Seriously, we owned a treadmill and I used it faithfully for a long time, but I’m not good at sticking to an exercise regime…especially when I’m walking and not going anywhere or sweating and not feeling like I’m accomplishing something immediate. Yes, ADHD sometimes robs me of my ability to see the forest for the trees.
Anyway, at 43 years of age I decided to give the adult MMA class a try since they were offering 3 classes plus free MMA gloves for $19.95. You have to understand that, until a year ago, I couldn’t handle even watching that display of “barbarism” on TV and would get annoyed with Jamie when he turned on UFC and the like, so this was a huge leap for me.
I’m almost 4 weeks in now and I can’t tell you how much I love it. If you’d have told me a month ago that I was going to love MMA and talk about it almost as much as Crossfit people (sorry, Crossfit people), I would have laughed out loud. I am having so much fun while getting a great workout and learning skills that could save my life someday.
What follows is a harrowing tale of mental and physical survival I attribute to skills learned at Gladiators Academy in Youngsville, LA…
Last night I was walking under the oaks, thinking of the great people we are meeting and the wonderful things we are all receiving since joining Gladiators Academy for my MMA and the boys’ jiu jitsu. It occurred to me that Eric Scallan and co. might actually help me become the warrior woman I always thought I could be and I smiled. I suddenly knew the things that have been holding me back most of my life…EPIPHANY! I’ll skip the details, but it was deep and I was ecstatic, tough, soft, proud and happy all at once.
Two seconds later I walked onto the patio and a giant spider landed on my foot. Naturally, I freaked out in a very unwarrior-womanly fashion.
First there was a stuttered scream, smothered by fear and choked into a whisper- not unlike the squeak you might imagine from a mouse taught to speak machine gun…if you imagine such things. Simultaneously, there was leg movement similar to a flailing, kicking, hip-hop karate, quite different from the kicks I’m learning in my MMA class.
But that frickin’ spider was not letting go, and as I danced like Ralph Macchio being electrocuted while doing a high kick, trying in vain to shake the little devil off of my foot, I felt the pool deck under my heel disappear.
My senses returned to me instantly and I threw my body away from the pool, toes gripping the cement through flip flops, my head violently thrusting forward, and arms pumping. It flashed through my mind that I likely bore a strong resemblance to an Olympic speed skater, with none of the grace or fluidity. My arms still protectively held my phone and wine glass out in front of me, initially to protect them from the water, but I realized with horror that these precious items were once again in peril. While my jiggy-rocket-ski jump maneuver had saved me from falling backwards into the pool, I was now dangerously close to face planting onto the cement. I tried to summon the warrior woman within, but all she could give me was, “Don’t spill your wine and break another phone.”
I somehow managed to step away from the pool and looked down at my foot, staring with terror at the heavy, alien presence still clinging effortlessly to my metatarsals. My eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light in the pool area and the parasitic monster I’d imagined with 8 hideous, red eyes and dripping fangs finally came into view…
3 oaks leaves. 3 frickin oak leaves transformed me from “warrior woman” to Jerry Lewis doing a can-can on an old $.25 hotel vibrating mattress in 2 seconds.
This, morning I am just thankful to have remained dry, without a broken nose and of course not to have spilled my wine or broken another phone.
I can only credit my survival to the training I am receiving at Gladiators. For now I suppose I’m just a part time warrior woman…or maybe spiders and leaves are my kryptonite?
If you are seeking inspiration, or like I was, aren’t even sure you need inspiration, follow this amazing woman’s journey on Facebook and YouTube:
It’s that time, for many of you at least- the time to start making comfort, cool weather food- soups, chili, gumbo, etc. Here in Louisiana, it’s still hotter than Hades and just as humid, but I decided to defy logic and go for a hearty meal last week when the temperature dipped down to a frigid 85 degrees (sadly, it only lasted for a couple of hours). Also, now that school is in full swing again and the boys and I are taking some martial arts classes (I’m sore in places I didn’t know existed), I have rediscovered my slow cooker. It has been a huge relief to come home to a meal already prepared on those later school nights. This was a ridiculously easy, successful experiment and was a great way to clear a sliced ham out of my freezer.
Crock Pot Ham and Bean Soup
Prep time: 15 minutes Serves: 4 (with leftovers for the next night)-8
About a pound of cubed ham, or hocks
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 bay leaves
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 lb great northern beans, rinsed and picked through*
7-8 cups chicken broth
salt, pepper and Tony’s to taste
Optional- a dash of thyme
Add all ingredients to the crock pot, stir and cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for about 4 hours.
Discard bay leaves and serve.
I mean, really, it doesn’t get much easier than this. It was a huge hit!
For a fun twist, you can layer canned, uncooked biscuits on top a few hours into cooking for easy dumplings.
I added a little extra broth for more liquid comfort.
*If you live with all males, as I do, be sure to implement the “take it outside rule” not long after serving. You’ve been warned.
As most of you know, our house is on the market. Things have been fairly slow because of first, the massive amount of layoffs from the oil industry this area relies so heavily upon, and then the devastating floods that we are still recovering from, and in some places, still experiencing.
I was so determined to make something happen to sell quickly about a week and a half before the flooding started, so I decided that it was time to update the kitchen. For this house, with the land and the pool in this area, we are within a very reasonable price range, however, my kitchen definitely didn’t have a whole lot of “wow factor.” In fact, I hated it. Stained and cracked old laminate counter tops with no backsplash to break the monotony and nothing to emphasize the window looking out over the yard. I couldn’t imagine other people walking into the house and not feeling the same way.
I ran through my options- granite (not for the $4000 I was quoted on our current income, thanks), tile (meh), Ikea laminate (a trip to Houston isn’t doable these days), butcher block (expensive and no room in the garage right now, even if I wanted to make my own). I scoured the internet, home improvement stores and my own garage, coming up totally empty. Finally, I decided to try something crazy.
Jamie was at work, so I was safe. He couldn’t make fun of me or choke me (just kidding, he wouldn’t. Just eye rolling and wondering what the heck he married because “she’s at it again”) if he wasn’t here.
I measured my counters, headed to Home Depot and purchased the following-
Lots of 1×2 strapping
A few 1×3 straps
Carbon Gray wood stain
1″ nails for my brad nailer
Polycrilic, polyurethane or acrylic resin clear protectant
Plastic Wood filler
A cheap, new sink on clearance for $70 (SCORE!)
A new bargain faucet
Plastic drop cloths
Step 1- Remove old sink (if replacing)
Since we’ve been in this house, people have complimented the old, cast iron kitchen sink, but they have not had to use it. It’s a 3 bowl sink with 1 shallow (3″ deep) bowl in the middle and 2 “larger” (8″ deep) bowls on the sides. Sure, it looked coolish, but try to wash a pizza pan or have your kids wash anything larger than a dessert plate without Niagara Falls on the counters and floor. Totally, impractical and that sucker was coming out.
If you aren’t replacing a sink, skip to step 2. The first step in removing a sink is to disconnect all the plumbing underneath. Have towels and bowls ready to catch drips and start by turning off the water at the wall valves. Then you will disconnect the water lines and the drains. I won’t kill you with details here and YouTube is where I received my instruction. Next, I scraped all the old caulk from around the outside of the bowl, removed old glue from under the lip of the sink and checked for removable clips underneath (there were none).
What I didn’t know was, that what the sink lacked in user friendliness, it made up for in weight. If you every need my help disposing of a huge body, just call because that would be a cake walk compared to getting that sink out of the counter top and then the house. Thank God we have a hand dolly because that monstrosity would have stayed in the middle of my kitchen floor until Jamie came home to help me lug it out to the garage.
Sure, it looks nice and innocent
No turning back now
The heaviest sink on Earth
Before I continued with the demo, I built a frame using 2×4 studs to hold the new sink since it was smaller than its offending predecessor.
Step 2- Remove old counter tops
Anyway, chore from hell complete, I began tearing apart the nasty, laminate counter tops. I debated about purchasing plywood to lay underneath the design I had in mind, but the wood under the laminate looked like it was in good shape and wasn’t going anywhere with all the glue and nails the installer had used. I kept the wood and saved money. This was not a fun job and about halfway through, I started wondering what in the heck I had been thinking. I heard Gob’s voice from Arrested Development in my head saying, “I’ve made a huge mistake,” several times.
If you need to replace the wood underneath, you can simply purchase plywood, but you may have to add 2×4’s to give you stability. For what I did, you will want to eliminate the chance of things falling through cracks into your cabinets and have something to glue and nail to.
Step 3- Cutting and placing
I decided to go with the 1×2 strapping because it was A) $.92 a strip and, B) would give me a look close to butcher block when completed (though I was thinking, “Please, God! Let that be true!” at this point). I opted to cut my strips into 2′ pieces and staggered them similarly to a hardwood floor design, obviously needing to trim edge and corner pieces to fit. I removed my stove to make it easier to work, installed the new sink and began to lay my pieces, first gluing with wood glue, then pulling them tight and nailing with pins from the brad nailer (nail gun). I then used the 1×3 straps to trim the edges and around the sink, setting them in place with Liquid Nails and pins from the brad nailer and was done with construction. I was so frickin happy at this point, but I was only half way there…
Step 4- Sanding, putty and more sanding
By this time, Jamie had been home for a couple of days and was leaving for work again. His demeanor, plus the fact we were washing dishes in the bathtub and couldn’t use the kitchen, did little to convince me that he could see the end result that was in my head. I pressed on, telling myself that my vision would be realized and he would eat ample helpings of crow…I prayed that would happen, anyway.
If you have carpal tunnel, as I do, this is another point at which you will start to question your own sanity. Lots of stretching and ice is recommended. I use an orbital sander and the vibrations can be rough, so be sure to take lots of breaks.
First I sanded the wood after the glue dried. You’ll need to do this because the strapping is cheap wood. It’s hard enough to find straight pieces not full of knots, let alone smooth ones. I strongly recommend building a plastic cage like I did to keep the dust from invading and covering the rest of your entire house. I also put a fan in the window to blow the dust outside and you will absolutely need a respirator of some kind and eye protection. Simply attach strapping to the ceiling with plastic sheeting hanging down and weight the bottom of the sheets with more strapping to eliminate too much movement, like so-
Initial sanding complete, I was ready to vacuum the sawdust that remained and start to fill the gaps with putty. Originally, I intended to only fill the large gaps, but my OCD got the best of me, so I spent a VERY, VERY long time filling ALL the gaps between the slats and the nail holes. The plastic wood I tried this time was the perfect product for the job. It dried quickly and went on pink, drying to a natural wood color. I just prayed that it would stain like wood as the label claimed. I sanded the dried putty and wood slats to a smooth finish, then prepared for stain.
After Plastic Wood application
Dried Plastic Wood
Dried and sanded
Step 5- Staining
This is when I allowed myself to get a little excited, catching a glimpse of the finish line for the first time. I started to stain, brushing it on and wiping it off in a few minutes, and my vision was becoming reality. I wasn’t sure about the color because I had pictured a slightly lighter gray with green undertones (tying kitchen, dining and living together), and would maybe have gone with an ebony if I’d known. The staining was finished fairly fast, but I wasn’t in love. I took a little mahogany stain I had in the garage, lightly ran some over the top of the gray and was happy with the result.
Step 6- Backsplash
I originally thought that there was enough glass tile left from the previous owner’s work in the bathroom to complete a backsplash in the kitchen. I was mistaken. Working on a tight budget, I headed to Home Depot again and realized that there was no way I could justify the cost of new tile for the job. I thought about using some red cedar I had, but it just didn’t look right.
Eventually, I decided to try ripping the 1×2 strapping in half with the table saw (a terrifying job) and at first was discouraged that I couldn’t get all of the pieces to the same width. This was a blessing in disguise because I realized it was adding character to the overall look. I cut these into 12″ pieces, stained them with 4 different stain colors I had in the garage and staggered them, trying a few different variations before deciding on the final layout. I used a lot of Liquid Nails and a few pins from the brad nailer to attach them to the wall.
I’m pretty happy that I didn’t have enough tile!
Cut to 12″
Playing with the design
Step 7- Polyurethane
I only had to wait a few hours for the stains to dry and was able to come back and apply the polyurethane to the counter tops and the backsplash. This would take longer to dry- 2 hours to the touch, 48 hours for light use and a full week until we could roll full steam. I opted to leave the plastic up to keep the cat and children from doing damage, but I was unable to protect it from myself. I decided that 2 hours was a long enough wait before replacing the stove without risk of scratches. It wasn’t.
I touched up the area around the stove, the paint on the cabinets, caulked around the sink, picked up some clearance fabric Andrew chose and whipped together curtains, then finally was able to stand back to view the finished product. I’ll be darned if it didn’t exceed my expectations. Jamie was shocked and really loves it. My friend Sandy, who is also my realtor and tough to please (TOTALLY, KIDDING, SANDY! You’re are amazing and you know it), was very happy with the results as well, even trying to get me to do her counters. It’s still a small kitchen, but it’s a heck of a lot nicer than the old, gross laminate! Would I do it again? Um, I’ll get back to you on that.
Oh, and I should tell you guy that this whole project was around $200!
Anyone who knows me knows that I am resilient. In fact, I am probably resilient to a fault. Take the last few months; my husband was laid off from his lucrative job, getting another very quickly, though making far less money, but we managed to pick ourselves up and are making it work. No complaints. My carpal tunnel is so bad right now that even this post has taken me over a week to write, and our financial situation has ruled out medical treatment for a while. But that’s okay too, because I can do a lot to treat it on my own and I refuse to stop living my life.
There is more, but I won’t bore you with it. The point is that there is little in life that I have allowed to truly bowl me over. The last 2 and a half weeks have been a new experience for me and it’s a sad coincidence that the day I finally publish this post marks 11 years since the horrors of hurricane Katrina…
It’s been over 2 weeks now since Louisiana began battling historic flooding and the struggle still rages on. It’s hard to live in the midst of it and not be blind-sided by a multitude of emotions: Guilt for being relatively untouched, while neighbors not too far down the street are throwing out most of their belongings and some may even have to level their homes, starting over. Fear that we could have been next since the forecast calls for more rain every day for awhile and my emergency alerts would go off when the first drop would fall. Sadness, such sadness, over the loss of life and property. ANGER over the judgmental and ignorant comments appearing all over social media. FURY over the national news media basically ignoring us the first week of this tragedy and really continuing to do so. PRIDE for a state fighting the label of racism it’s worn for so long, where strangers of all creeds and colors are bearing each other up and helping, from clean up to life saving. SHOCK, mostly shock, that something this huge can still be happening in our home state.
Those aren’t just my feelings, but also those of others I’ve spoken to. I’d like to walk you through the last couple of weeks and give you a look around…
It was Thursday night, August 11, 2016 and here in Southern Louisiana we have crazy hot summers, so usually, an afternoon pop-up thunderstorm is a given. It started raining that evening and I thought nothing of it when it poured all night and then all day Friday. School had been cancelled due to expected thunderstorm activity, but I wasn’t worried since this happens sometimes down here.
On Friday morning I went to work in the garage, building a hot tub cover (it’s hideous, but functional) and did the thing I always tell myself NOT to do- worked without a radio. My kids were there, so we talked and worked in comfortable silence.
Yes, that’s a little rain out back
I stopped to take this shot during work
Jamie was due home at around 5:30 pm and I would pick him up in the same place I always do, just a mile from the house. He called to tell me he was almost there, but then told me to hold on. He was being detoured and couldn’t get where he needed to go. Police were blocking the road and he would call me back when he knew what was happening. I assumed some idiot had been speeding on the wet roadway and it was closed to clean up an accident. When he called back minutes later, he told me that he would have to back track 30 minutes to park because he couldn’t get through due to flooded roads being closed.
Below is drone footage of the truck stop he was thinking of returning to park:
Well, perhaps this was a storm to be concerned about… No problem. I told him I’d call the Walmart 2 miles from the house, get him permission to park there and be right over to pick him up. Eventually, he was able to find roads open to get him there and I hopped in the car to go retrieve my man.
Every road out of our neighborhood was flooded and there was no way I could get to him. He was forced to sleep in his rig in the Walmart parking lot with other truck drivers in the same boat (no pun intended). 2 miles away! My concern over what this storm could bring us went up a few notches.
I wasn’t scared of the storm, but the fact that roads were flooding and Jamie was a mere 2 miles away, unable to get home, rattled me. Alone with 2 kids, during 90 degree heat and horrible storms, with power failure likely…Ugh.
Luckily, our power failure lasted less than a minute, but because the T.V. antennae we ordered couldn’t be delivered with the road closures, I was forced to rely on the internet for my news. Let me tell you, that sh** is slow during storms!
What I could glean told me that towns around us were starting to flood and tons of roads were being closed. Sleep was hard to come by that night and my kids were scared, despite my assurances that we live on one of the highest spots in the parish and that I would be up all night checking on things.
The boys and I woke early, Andrew delighted to tell me that he had heard me go out every hour to check the property and water levels (I didn’t tell him that it wasn’t every hour). The rain was still pouring, harder and more constant than I’d ever seen, and I’ve lived through several hurricanes, including Andrew (the storm, not the child, in this case).
For the first time since we moved into this house 2 years ago, the pool was overflowing, as was the hot tub I’d emptied days earlier. Thankfully, whoever built this house was a drainage genius and we were still dry.
Jamie decided he was going to walk home from Walmart. He would make his way down the railroad tracks near our home, but would first have to wade through hip and chest deep water to reach the tracks. He later told me he was able to “balance beam on some concrete construction barricades in the manner of an Olympic gymnast” to keep mostly dry. He must have been pretty scared for us, but didn’t let it show, as only he can do. He had been watching the news in his truck and felt like he had to get home to us. Though I’m so glad he did, it had to be pretty scary news to make him leave the safety of his dry rig, risking serious injury or worse, to walk home to us. My knight in shining, soggy armor.
Being the concerned and loving wife I am, with a dash of tomboy thrown in, I suited up to go get him on the 4 wheeler, rather than force him to walk the full 2 miles. Sadly, he had moved the keys (why do men do this?!?) and it took me over an hour to find them (on the lawnmower. Huh?), and as I was preparing to head out, he walked in the door.
He was soaked, but home safely. He told me that the entire area where he parked was under anywhere from a foot of water to 5 feet and that he’d hardly seen a soul. There were no cars out because people couldn’t get anywhere without a boat at this point.
He took a much needed hot shower and then we braved the moments where the weather changed from heavy downpour to hard drizzle briefly to drive across the street to check the flooded roadways surrounding our home. If, God forbid, evacuation orders came, we needed to have a way out.
The road across the railroad tracks, driven every day by thousands of people, was more of a raging river than a flooded roadway and a large section of it was washed away. Somehow, this really conveyed the magnitude of what was happening in our area.
Mandatory curfews started going into effect and the rain just kept on coming. Something so many of the Judgy-Joes don’t seem to understand is that a large portion of what was flooding was not in a flood zone. We are not in a flood zone, but this is what our highway looked like:
I’m not sure how many thousands of shares this video got when I posted it to our local news station’s page, but I know it’s not because of the awesome quality or commentary. I think it was people trying to wrap their heads around what was happening here in our own towns, our own communities. It was happening to our families, our neighbors and our friends. It wasn’t those poor souls in New Orleans or Baton Rouge- close enough to leave us shaken, but far enough away to give us a sense of safety. It was happening to all of us.
I believe the death toll at this point was at 9 and there were still people and animals being rescued. The destruction we saw on the internet was mind boggling.
By Sunday morning cabin fever was starting to set in and I worried that my husband would swim to his rig, if need be, to retrieve some things out of it, so I was thankful that one lane on an alternate highway had opened up. We rode in stunned silence, taking in the destruction our non-flood zone area had been dealt. Debris and standing water were everywhere, people with hollow eyes passed us by, watermark levels on buildings were a few feet high in areas and some homes and businesses still had water coming through the doors. These are just pictures from our neighborhood:
2 houses down our street
A neighbor’s yard, 2 houses over
My boys made the best of flooded streets
Another neighbor’s Yard
Jamie surveys a flooded highway near the house
The scope of our situation became clearer as the rain began falling hard again, so Jamie ran into Walmart, grabbed a T.V. antenna and we headed straight home.
The neighborhood kids made the best of things. Mine took out an old boat with friends and sank it repeatedly, while some of the older kids in the neighborhood rode up and down the street on 4 wheelers, pulling each other in the ditches on knee boards. I’m sure most of us saw this video my cousin’s friend posted as the storm was getting geared up (before the severity of the situation became clear) since the Olympics were on:
Maybe because our television viewing was limited, as was phone and other service, plus we had a rare opportunity to have all of us together as a family for more than one day, but I still didn’t really understand how big this thing really was and was glad for the time spent connecting without technology. Or maybe the shock was kicking in and my overactive self-preservation instinct was protecting me, but it just didn’t seem real.
That night I hooked up our antenna and again delved into the internet due to a bad bout of insomnia. I was again shocked by all that I saw. Interstates closed and washed away, homes under water, to the roof lines in some cases, people being saved seconds before drowning, livestock and pets in peril, 11 dead at this point and lives changed forever by mother nature’s power. For the first time, I was pretty scared, but I saw some things which restored my faith in my fellow Louisianans. This video in particular made my heart swell with pride:
All creeds, all colors, all orientations had become “one people,” and I think it’s a tragedy that these examples of unity were not front and center in the national media every day!
And let’s not forget those awesome folks in the Cajun Navy who have rescued thousands when others couldn’t! Have tissues handy.
Monday, Jamie was able to go to work and left early, leaving me with a growing fear and sense of powerlessness. He had to go, and believe me, I am grateful he is such a diligent provider. I just meant that the full force of what was happening was starting to hit me hard. Rivers were rising all over, some not set to crest until days from then and already 6-10 feet over major flood stage.
The schools were cancelled and the rain kept falling, but the people of Louisiana rallied around each other unlike anything I’ve ever seen personally, outside of the horrors of 9/11. Some shelters were asking people to stop donating certain items because they were overstocked and my friends at Animal Aid For Vermillion Area were wading through chest deep water to rescue cats, dogs, horses, llamas and more.
The Cajun Navy had had hundreds of boats on the water at all hours, rescuing trapped people and animals and delivering needed supplies. I didn’t speak to anyone who wasn’t out helping or donating their time, supplies, or just simply their prayers.
That night, I again made the mistake of searching on the internet and social media for evidence that our story was getting national attention from the press and found very little. What little I did find was peppered with comments from ignorant people wondering why we would bother to rebuild in flood zones, or saying that the rich people losing their $300,000 homes were being introduced to karma, pictures of floating caskets, people saying that this “red state was sure not opposed to big government now,” many jack wagons stating that the caskets were old news and not part of a 500 or 1000 year flood because they saw that during Katrina, and moronic, judgmental zealots saying that the wrath of God was falling on this state. My blood began to boil.
I may not have mentioned this, but much, if not most, of the flooded areas ARE NOT IN FLOOD ZONES AND HAVE NEVER FLOODED BEFORE. EVER. The amount of rain that fell in a short period of time has rarely been seen since Noah’s days. In fact, the Baton Rouge area, which was incredibly hard hit, was where many people who were evacuated from Katrina were taken for rescue. It’s been estimated that 90% of Denham Springs was damaged. The people who were saying that we all just need to pack up and move don’t seem to understand the whole flood zone thing, but more importantly, don’t seem to understand the whole Louisiana cultural pride thing and love of the area which keeps so many here.
If you follow this blog, you’ve seen the pictures of the beauty we are surrounded by. What I can’t show you in pictures is how many of the people here live in the same neighborhoods as their parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. I can’t photograph their traditional weekly dinners, their time together sipping drinks on the porch or the weekends they go as a family to a fais do do in the park together. I don’t have pictures of the gumbo they cook for one another during sickness or surgeries, and I can’t provide evidence of the lines of family generally waiting outside hospital rooms when the need arises. These are not easily walked away from in the best of times and it’s far harder when you know you are needed.
As for people being unimpressed with caskets floating and the amount of water our “laughable 1000 year flood” brought us, a thousand year flood doesn’t mean it only happens every thousand years. It means this 1,000-year event has a 0.1% chance of happening in any year, Pretty good odds, I’d say. Katrina was hell on Earth and the loss of life was horrible, but that was also a much smaller area than the 20 parishes (counties) now declared disasters. Roughly, 110,000 homes are estimated to have been damaged, but the number is climbing and the death toll stands at 13. Estimates say that the damage stands at about 21 billion dollars, but of course this can’t include businesses losing money until they can get back on their feet again, if ever. Again, many people who survived Katrina moved to these areas to escape the odds of a repeat and have now lost everything once again.
People went to bed Thursday night and woke Friday morning to literally feet of water encroaching upon, or in their homes. Preparation was not an option and I ask you to imagine how most areas would handle this kind of rainfall?
Here’s a map showing the parishes declared disasters, but keep in mind these are only parishes declared disasters. Remember that the surrounding parishes sustained heavy damages as well and some are still flooded and this flood was an equal opportunity destroyer. It didn’t just take the rich, it took the poor, the middle class and all in its path.
To the wrath of God people I would say that more people communed with God and represented him over the last ten days than they themselves will ever hope to see or achieve in a lifetime. Take a seat, judgers. Whether or not you believe in God, compassion and love have reigned here.
Many on social media asked, “Why is the president playing golf instead of visiting Louisiana when Bush was berated for just flying over after Katrina?” Others insisted it was because the governor told him he’d just be in the way and take away much needed manpower. Whichever side you choose, people weren’t too concerned with what Louisianans thought, and just days, or hours in, were already using our tragedy to further their political and other agendas.
No one was bothering to ask the people here in Louisiana what we thought. Had they done so, they would have heard that the prevailing opinion was “keep the government out of our way. We have first responders, police and each other. We’re good and there isn’t time to waste.” I began to think that people who weren’t in the thick of it and had the strong opinions I mentioned above, should take long walks off short piers.
Over the course of the first week, the water in many places rose and more people flooded. I was in the towns of Kaplan and Abbeville on Thursday August 18 and got the following photos. What the photos don’t capture, and people don’t usually talk about after flooding is the smell. Rot, decay, fish and more horrible odors surround you at all times. They say smells conjure the most powerful and deepest buried memories, that olfactory is the strongest sense. I’ll never forget the smells and you know people trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered dreams will cringe at the slightest hint of those odors for the rest of their lives.
Flooded home in Kaplan, LA 8/18/16
Flooded home in Kaplan, LA 8/18/16
Donation overload at the Shelter in Abbeville, LA 8/18/16
Homes being emptied of destroyed possessions in Abbeville, LA 8/18/16
Kaplan, LA 8/18/16
The number of people in shelters was going down a bit, but there are, as of today, August 29, 2016, still thousands unable to go home.
Sunday, 8/21, the boys and I went out to try to help a little. All we could do was hand out ice cold drinks and snacks to first responders and people doing clean up. That is what I’ve done all week (my stupid health issues), so don’t think I’m any kind of hero. There are thousands of real heroes out there gutting flooded houses, rescuing and more. I just felt like I had to do something or I would go crazy. Survivor’s guilt? I don’t know, but I also wanted the kids to understand what was happening. Looking at pictures and walking amidst the devastation are totally different. Praying for the suffering is great, and handing someone a cold drink or a bag of chips might seem small, however seeing the tired, but grateful smile on the face of the suffering homeowner who’s lost everything, or on the face of the exhausted first responder, after this small gesture, is a lesson in loving others not soon forgotten by a child…or anyone.
We were shocked that main roads were still flooded and to see a lot of water still standing. Mosquito breeding grounds were everywhere and talk of Zika and West Nile Virus were already hitting the news. Things looked like they could be drying up, but it was still devastating.
Andrew talking to the officer on duty
A St. Martinville, LA highway still closed 9 days in
Flooded in St. Martinville, LA 8/21/16
A displaced visitor in the pool 8/20/16
Visitor rescued and skeptical of my intentions
Other visitors didn’t mind the rain
On Monday, August 22, I dropped the boys off at school and headed to the town that my family hales from. St. Martinville (the highway closed in the above picture is the main way into town) is an historical and beautiful place in which the local residents take much pride. Main Street and the downtown area looked pretty good, but soon I came to other flooded roads and was shocked that a large portion of homes still couldn’t even think of clean up, let alone rebuilding, because they were still flooded. I returned on Friday, August 26 and found that most of these places were still flooded. This was 2 weeks after the nightmare started.
10 days in St. Martinville, LA 8/22/16
No wake zone signs on the side of the road
A home still flooded in St. Martinville, LA 80/22/16
A home likely not expected to flood, but precautions taken and then abandoned. St. Martinville, LA 8/22/16
Lake Martin Bird Sanctuary St. Martinville, LA 8/26/16
Big alligator on the side of the highway eating an armadillo
The fact that there are still thousands of people living in hotels, with friends or family and in shelters right now, makes it very hard to understand why the situation is almost, once again, being completely ignored by the national media. There are areas like Loreauvile, where flood waters won’t subside for a month and kids are getting from their homes to the bus stop by paddle boat…if their homes are liveable. I get that this is an election year, that Ryan Lochte was an idiot and I have no interest in a political, or any debate, but I would ask you why? Why is the media focusing on the issues that divide us- politics, race, religion, etc. Not too long ago, all eyes were on Louisiana for very different reasons, but now that we have managed to destroy our differences and come together, there is barely a camera to be seen. Is good news in the face of devastation that boring? Is the unity we are all professing to fight for not that interesting when it actually happens? Yes, there will always be small-minded, racist morons in the world, but they seem to have lost their voice in my home state. That’s news in and of itself, people!
I write this asking you to remember Louisiana today. Remember us in your thoughts, your prayers, your donations. Adopt a pet who was displaced during the storms and know that we are still here, still helping each other, but still hurting. Reach out to those in need-hundreds of thousands have been touched by this in some way! The end of this one will not be for a long time, if ever, for many people.
I leave you with another video and an article. The video captures the tragedy of the last few weeks and the tenacity of the wonderful people. The article captures the humor and again the tenacity of the Louisiana spirit.
Tens of thousands of Louisianans have had to throw away much, if not all that is precious to them-baby pictures, photo albums, wedding dresses, rare books, furniture, everything down to the studs. It started like this-
And yet in the midst of the growing racial tensions in our country, one of the most notoriously racist states in the country shed its reputation, found love and was virtually ignored when we did this-
When the rain stopped, thousands faced this-
Many homes are still flooded, so they wait for the water to subside, check on things from time to time, pray, and do this-
If they were “fortunate” enough for the water to subside, they had to do this-
Now they wait for insurance adjusters or FEMA and live like this-
While their suffering continues, the national media still ignores their plight and focuses on this-
I do not suggest that none of the above are important. Obviously, most are, but come on, folks! We are one nation and there are stories which need to be told to raise awareness as to what is a continuing struggle fortens of thousands in Louisiana. They still need our help and I thought all of the fighting and focus of the press was to spotlight suffering and to bring about unity… My 2 cents.