Wednesday, September 10, 2014

DIY Tutorial: Broken Mirror to Chalkboard

This might be the busiest/most exciting year of my life so far.  As I've mentioned in posts previously, Chris and I have moved and we're also planning our wedding that's in less than a year.  Balancing house and wedding priorities is a really great way to completely stress yourself out.  At the moment I've tried to alternate house/wedding/house/wedding...but sometimes the house projects are way more fun.  The best case scenario is when a house project doubles as a wedding project!

Craigslist is my bff and also a big point of contention between Chris and I.  Why would I want to drive all the way out to east jabip to pick up a piece of junk....WHY WOULDN'T I?  Those are the two viewpoints.  When I found a fabulous, HUGE, valuable yet cheap vintage art deco mirror on the Craig for $25 I had to have it, so with heavy feet Chris accompanied me...because hello?  Craigslist Killers.

When the mirror was presented it had a slight flaw that wasn't in its posting pictures.  It had a teeny 4 inch crack in the glass starting from the bottom.  I thought I could fix it with a glass repair kit so I still agreed to take it for a discount.  And it was offered for free!  I couldn't turn down free but my other half saw it as me taking home trash.  As we packed it into the car the crack made its way all the way through the mirror.  Needless to say it wasn't the most pleasant ride home, or the most pleasant Friday night, or the most pleasant Saturday morning.

But hey, stuff happens.  People get angry.  Instead of letting the huge broken in two mirror loom over us for the weekend and instead of that Friday night going to waste, I attempted to turn the mirror into something else completely.  I had seen the same scenario on Little Green Notebook where their gorgeous scroll mirror got damaged in their move to Phoenix.  With some modifications, I adapted their salvage techniques and turned my broken mirror into a fabulous chalkboard.

There she is - my fractured mirror.  I removed the glass very carefully and realized that the backing I expected to be my future chalkboard didn't exist.  Behind the mirror was an open frame.  Quick on my feet I decided to use the glass as a stencil on plywood to create my own chalkboard base.

If you look really closely, you'll see that I'm using two pieces of plywood underneath the mirror.  Having a 4 door sedan means I can't lug home huge products...which is a total bummer because I think this prevents me from getting all the Craigslist things I I had to improvise.  I traced my mirror and then used a jigsaw to cut out the curvy corners.

Voila!  Using another piece of plywood behind the front, I was able to get the two pieces in line with each other by gluing it to the back with wood glue.  Now I had the issue of a gap in the surface of my chalkboard.  And I also have the issue of losing the pics of the next two steps!  So I'll summarize...

I used joint compound aka sheetrock aka spackle all over the surface of the plywood so that the crease was covered and an even surface was made over the entire piece.  Once it dried I sanded it with a sanding block to an even level.

Then, I painted with chalkboard paint on the spackled surface.  After two coats and allowing it to cure overnight I was able to "prime" it with chalk..aka write all over it and erase to leave that chalky base.

The mirror was supposed to live in our entry way being a grand focal point as you entered and left our home.  After it went through trauma, we re purposed it as a chalkboard menu and gave it a home in the kitchen above our table.  (Also I totally realize I left the O out of Chalkboard.  Butttt Harry looks so cute in front of it I couldn't not show this!).

Here's the final product put to good use in our kitchen!  I love how it's both beautiful and functional.  The black and gold pop against the freshly painted Frost white walls.  Just goes to show that you can turn a bad situation around and still create something beautiful.  Now the bad memory of retrieving and breaking the mirror isn't so bad after all!  And did I mention this was FREE?!  To go back to the brief point about wedding and house projects being two stones, we're planning on using this board as signage for the reception likely as a list of the menu.  Love it when my projects serve dual purposes!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dog Beach

My California travels have shown me that the West coast is exceedingly dog friendly.  The city of San Diego especially with its dog friendly bars and dog friendly beaches left me full of envy.  Only in the past year has a dog beach in the Philadelphia/South Jersey region become available to pet owners like myself.  As the summer comes to a close, we took a weekend trip to make sure Harry got to experience the sandy salty fun.

The beach, known as Longport Dog Beach, is located in Somers Point right next to Ocean City, NJ.  Parking is available in a smaller lot preceding the beach.  Make your way through a jungle-like sandy trail and arrive in a puppy paradise swarming with happy go lucky dogs.  Retrievers are usually out in the water enjoying a peaceful swim while other water loving dogs play fetch in the waves.  

Harry's not a big fan of water as I tend to take all my dogs when they are way too young into my parents pool for "swimming with Mommy".  In the past three dogs I've raised, the experiment has always resulted in a water loathing animal.  Naturally Harry is an example of the experiment gone wrong.  He didn't mind trotting through the water following me and the fishy smelling shell I was baiting him with, but he wasn't in awe of the crashing waves or even the slightest sea foam that threatened his paws.

Checkin out the blonde babes...
What was enchanting for Harry was the unlimited opportunity for digging without consequences.  He'd start digging and as he got more voracious he'd smush his face into the cooler damp sand and promptly sneeze, observe, and repeat the process.  A park without boundaries is always a thrill for dogs who spend most of their lives in some form of captivity - home, backyard, dog park, leash.  When there's a huge open area to safely run free, Harry takes full advantage.

Taking Harry to the Longport Dog Beach was one of the highlights of my summer.  I love watching him have fun and of course he was super tired when we got home.  If you need to fill your Labor Day weekend with one last bit of summer, the dog beach is an awesome way to do it!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Harry Bought a House!

It took him two and a half years.  Harry saved up all his dog money for a down payment on a house with a backyard because the roof deck wasn't cutting it.  Dog money you ask?  Oh yes.  Unbeknownst to the human community, dog money is exchanged between dogs for services, favors, or bets.  Harry's primary source of income is his gambling winnings from racing in the dog park (second is the income from his sexual favors, also given in the dog park--helloooo why do you think dogs hump each other all the time?  Dog money).
Wide stance back legs....awkward
Harry is still a bit shaky walking around his new place, probably because he's realizing how broke he is.  At first his legs were wobbly, then they progressed to just being wide apart as though he needed the extra stability.  More recently he's grown accustomed to the floors and has found a lounging spot where the sunlight hits the living room carpet.  His observation deck is located on the landing between the first and second floor.

Very serious touring pics...wanted to make sure nothing went unsniffed.
Obviously the big ticket item in the house Harry bought is the expansive (for Philly) backyard.  He was cautious at first, but then he couldn't believe it was all his.  He ran a few circles and promptly pooped in it.  Of course there's footage.  Obviously I wasn't expecting him to immediately poop in his brand new yard, but it turned out to be a very special memory.

Harry's new house is still pretty empty and it took a while for us to move all his stuff.  Almost immediately after moving, we went on vacation to San Francisco and Harry spent the week with his cousin Pickle.  While the frequency of blogging died in July, the subject matter should get more fun as we have a ton of upcoming projects - Harry related and not.  Thanks for sticking with us while we were away!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

He's Allergic, Harry Doggy Woggy

All week long I've sang the "Harrified" version of the electric slide.  This time last year Harry started itching, and we visited the vet several times and dosed Harry with a multitude of antihistamines, steroids, and antibiotics.  We then put Harry on a strict hypo-allergenic diet of what looked like corn pops and cost more than our monthly grocery bill.  After a while we introduced new foods to the hypo diet and watched for reactions.  Aside from a horrible explosion after the egg series, Harry didn't react to anything except his former Blue Buffalo dog food and cream cheese.  We went two months on a venison and sweet potato diet which was significantly cheaper than corn pops and at the start of this month Harry started itching again, developing two major hot spots.

Before Harry had a chance to completely inflate with an allergic reaction we reached out to our dermatologist at UPenn.  It seemed as though Harry was displaying strong signs that he had been suffering from environmental allergies all along.  We scheduled a skin test only two days later.  
His bad side (side where he had swelling from itching)
Harry's skin test consisted of him being put under sedation (not completely knocked out, but drugged), shaved in a patch, and pricked with 74 different allergens.  After each allergen was injected, the doctor recorded a reaction.  It only lasted about 20 minutes and we were called to pick Harry up only an hour and a half after we dropped him off.  
Harry's patch and all the dots are his allergy injections :(

Upon arrival we were given a packet of what Harry had gone through and a long list of Harry's allergies.  Harry is highly allergic to grass, yeast, dust, and mites.  But then he's also slightly allergic to a slew of other things, humans included.  My dog is allergic to me.  Here's the list:

On the bright side, we finally figured out what Harry's allergic to.  From now on we have to dose Harry for the rest of his life with allergy drops.  We opted for drops instead of shots because neither of us are comfortable with injections....but the drops are kind of a pain.  Harry doesn't like me sticking anything but treats in his mouth so this is a process he's going to have to get used to.  The first set of drops are diluted so that Harry's body starts to adapt to them.  Then as we move on he'll be put on a stronger solution.  In high season we'll likely have to pair it with a zyrtec.

Only a week or so of steroids left and then we'll see if the drops are working.  I'm so happy we went ahead and did the test.  It was a little expensive but I can't imagine having another year of breakouts, panicking about Harry's health.  If you're thinking about doing this test, I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

DIY Tutorial: Souvenir Style Sign

When the foo and I travel I become a hoarder.  Any paper product be it a ticket, receipt, brochure, or sometimes even a decorative bag I stash it in a corner of my suitcase.  My bag is like the wallet of Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch me if you Can.  Then when we come home the hoarder's pile of paper treasure sits in craft storage until I think of something to do with it.  Our Peru travels inspired me to to decoupage a frame with travel mementos.  It's taken me up until this past weekend to do something with the paper collection from our Eurotrip of September 2013.

On said Eurotrop, foo and I hit up four countries:  England, Netherlands, Belgium, and France.  As you can imagine, I collected a decent amount of "treasures".  I tried to make a point of getting a newspaper from every country, but failed in Belgium.  However, because it was absolutely necessary, we did end up with a map from each country.  I decided to use this as a backdrop for a letter sign that we'll be hanging in our new home (yea more on that later) and also at our upcoming wedding (whattttt).  It just so happened that visiting four countries gave me the perfect number of maps to spell a special four letter word.  

To start, I needed four frames - one for each of my letters.  I bought Ikea RIBBA frames particularly for their ability to stand if set on a table (dual purpose people - wedding & home decor).  I printed out the word LOVE using Arial Bold font in size 350 and used them as a stencil on my maps.

I used the frame matting to make sure I got all map and no ads in my end result.  Most of the maps we got were fo frizzle!  Measuring on all sides of the letters, I ensured I was centered.  Above is Amsterdam.  When I positioned my matting I tried to get some cool landmarks in sight.  Above you'll see Centraal Station in the upper right and in the bottom right is the famous church, Zuiderkerk, known for being a subject in a number of Monet paintings.  The O is surrounded by the many canals of Amsterdam.

Once I got my letters centered I taped them in place.  Using an exacto knife (on top of a cutting mat) I cut out each letter carefully.  Above is letter E, ending the word LOVE and also our Eurotrip as Paris was our final stop and the location of our super romantic engagement on the Ponte de Artes bridge.

Once cutting was complete, I layered the map over white paper and secured it inside the frame.  I actually just flipped the grey paper that came inside the IKEA frame.  

Final product!  It's not hanging on the wall yet, as we're not officially moved in.  Our wedding has a bit of a travel theme in our cocktail hour and I'm hoping we can use this as decor somewhere on site or set up on a table.  I love how each letter is unique but still cohesive.  Also, I'm ecstatic that the letters go in the exact order of our trip.  L is a map of London, O is a map of Amsterdam, V is a map of Brussels, and E is a map of Paris.  Plus Paris has the Eiffel Tower in the bottom right corner.  Once we've got it hanging I'll add more pics.  But for now I'm super jazzed!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Pickle Sitting

It's about time we returned the favor.  After multiple Harry-sittings acquiesced by my sister, the foo and I took it upon ourselves to do the same with Harry's newest fur-cousin, Pickle.  As Pickle is only six months old and only in his forever home for two months, he was a bit shaky when we picked him up.  A few belly rubs, lots of hugs and kisses, and a house tour lightened him up.

During his week-long stay, Pickle got a little broken in.  His shrieking yelp responses to slight noises outside our city condo decreased over time and he walked outside with more confidence each day.  Being a city dog is a tough attitude to succumb to and unlike Harry, Pickle wouldn't settle for peeing on anything other than plush grass (aside from plush carpets).  It was funny to watch the two of them walk together:  Harry with an intense determined stride and Pickle keeping up with quick feet.  On their leashed walks, Pickle would sometimes run underneath Harry giving the city of Philadelphia an amusing show of a harried sweating woman (me) untangling two excited and oblivious dogs.

We did experience some puppy behavior the first day which resulted in social media dog shaming.  Pickle seems to suffer from anxiety when left alone and during his first four hours of unsupervised crate time he managed to dig a hole directly through our carpet.  He was eerily silent as I opened the door to his destruction, as if he knew he had done something bad.  We ended up tossing the rug and replacing it with a rubber mat so Pickle couldn't do the same on hardwood.  I imagine he could dig his way to China with those thick front paws of his.

Speaking of front paws, I decided that these were Pickle's most endearing feature.  Soft but thick, unlike his rear paws which are akin to a typical toy size dog, Pickle's fat puppy paws were my favorite part of him.  They seemed like they belonged to a bigger dog.  Pickle was happy to have me obsess over them.

Having a small dog is nice in that you can easily take them wherever you want to go.  Though we didn't get a chance to dine out with Pickle, he hopped in the car with us for a few errands - something that we generally leave Harry out of.  The scary part of having a small dog is constantly worrying about stepping on them and stressing about them falling down the stairs.  Pickle's famous paws often slipped on our hardwood stairs but he usually caught himself before sliding all the way down.  Pickle's long body slides and rolls while his little feet scramble.  It sounds so horrible, but since he was safe it was kind of funny to watch him excitedly get himself together.

Pickle and Harry got along quite nicely.  Harry forgets how small Pickle is sometimes and how one swipe of his paw can take Pickle down, so we had to supervise their playtime.  The two of them would play with their toys separately or engage in some sort of tag.  If we had more room in our place I think the game would've gotten extremely intense.  On Saturday, we took the two of them to the Schuylkill Banks dog park.  Pickle had never been, but after spending a little while in the small dogs park he was introduced to the big dogs park and shown around by Harry.

Despite their normal jolliness with each other, Pickle and Harry suffered one disagreement over a bone.  Bone time was meant to be a let's relax and get our aggression out on this rawhide type hour.  Unfortunately it turned into no sharing no caring hour.  A few snarls and a scary bark led us to a separation for the rest of the evening.  Pickle held a grudge that night and wouldn't let Harry into our room without freaking out.  Apparently dog memory doesn't necessarily last 20 minutes.  
This didn't happen after the bone fight...
Now that Pickle has happily returned to his family, Harry's been sleeping.  He's literally been groggy and sleepy for two days.  I expect he'll be back to normal tomorrow, but for now he's enjoying some peace and quiet before he starts missing his cousin.  It was fun being a Mom to two dogs for a week, but I think that we're ok having an only child for now.  That's the nice thing about nieces and nephews - you enjoy them and then you give them back!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Pet Friendly Portland

The past three weeks have felt increasingly crazy.  Wedding planning, house hunting, and general life make for a stressed out soul.  We did manage to fit a vacation in, cramming a West coast adventure into less than a week.  Our recent trip to Portland and Seattle fit the criteria of our "Cities of America Tour" and it was a great time to experience spring in the West.

First off, Portland is a supremely dog friendly city.  It was the first place I've been where a majority of lodging was advertising pet friendly.  The foo and I are super users of the website AirBnB for our vacations and most hosts had a house dog or were open to you bringing yours for the stay.  If flying wasn't so traumatic, we'd have loved to bring Harry with us!

The city itself is very walkable but if you're not into walking, Portland boasts one of the easiest public transit systems around.  They weren't advertised pet-friendly but there were certainly transit dog sightings on our short stay.  Portland is also integrated with public parks and surrounded by the ethereal view of Mt. Hood.  A stroll through Washington Park is perfectly ok to do with your dog beside you, and in May the rose gardens (which are huge and free by the way) are in bloom.  Forest Park is another free dog friendly adventure and a must see in the Western city.  

My compulsion to visit Portland was driven by the fact that the city is home to 53 individual brewers operating 73 breweries in the metro area alone.  I am a big fan of beer, and a big fan of dogs (obviously) and there's a brewery in Portland that combines both:  Lucky Lab Brewery.  While you taste all of their craft beers on tap, your dog can play outside on the canine patio with other brew loving pooches.
Photo courtesy Neighborhood Notes
One of the most memorable sights on our trip was the Columbia River Gorge.  That area of Portland itself is home to 90+ waterfalls, 77 of which are on Oregon's coast, the rest on Washington.  Of these the biggest one of all is famous Multnomah Falls, the third highest year round waterfall in the world at a drop of 627 feet.  The Gorge is surrounded by a public "highway" which feels more like a country road.  You can spend the day biking, hiking, or driving from waterfall to waterfall and of course, you're welcome to bring your dog.   

All in all, if you're thinking of vacationing with your pet via a road trip, Portland is a great place to spend a few days!