Monthly Archives: August 2010

Customized Cat Litter Disguise

Finally!   I successfully envisioned and finished an [almost free] project in one  easy week.

Here’s how it went down:

In this odd basement area that leads from the TV room to the guest bath  and laundry area, I’d already created a pet feeding station, complete with a pet pharmacy.  But the cat  litter boxes just sat there, making the space all kinds of ugly.  Not cool for overnight guests, who have to walk through to use the guest bath.

One fateful day, on my drive home from work, I was inspired to squeeze every inch of function out of that space.  When I got home and rushed to Ryan, saying –  “Come downstairs and let me show you my idea!”  – I called it a wrapping station.

Big mistake.   He proceeded to mock me right here on the blog.

But there was more to my idea than a cutesy display of scissors, paper, and ribbon.   Grabbing a measuring tape, I threw my plan into action.

One trip to home depot, $45, and less than an hour of carpentry later, I’d created this two-tiered hardwood work and storage table that could hide the crappers while storing stuff and providing a useful workspace.  In less than an hour, this table was done.  I was thrilled.

(Want seriously awesome, detailed furniture plans and tips on building?  Go see Ana at Knock-Off Wood.  She provides way better instructions than I ever could.)

I painted the table to match the bookshelf, and added a few coats of poly for extra protection.  To truly hide the litter boxes and the wrapping paper storage bins under the table,  I created a skirt out of some old fabric and a leftover tension rod.  I sewed the fabric into curtains and slipped them on the rod which snapped into place under the tabletop.

I stashed all my ribbon and tape in a large glass jar, and put some pens and markers and scissors in a smaller one.   A grid of critter photos, hung in old frames from my Goodwill donation pile, provided the perfect art for the pet-friendly space.

And some more old fabric and curtain rods provided a decorative touch on the little window.

This space not only looks cute now, but it’s multifunctional-as-heck.  I can fold my laundry, wrap gifts, groom the cats, or riffle through the storage that is stashed in the neighboring bookshelf.

A bookshelf, I might add, that looks much better now than it did when all this mess started.

So that’s my fabulous mini space-makeover that I’ve been dying to share.   Yes, I know it’s just a workspace / wrapping station.   Hidden in the corner of my basement, centered over two [sometimes stinky] cat toilets. But with the way my bedroom redo has been lagging, I just needed a fun, quick before-and-after.  It was easy, I was inspired, and supplies were cheap.   And now my house guests don’t have to see the cat litter on their way to their bathroom.

They may still smell it, but that’s a project for another week.

The best part?  Aside from the wood for the table, I used junk that was sitting around.  The entire transformation cost me $45.

Psst:  In case you missed it, here’s Part 1 and Part 2 of the Pet Feeding Station project.  Want to see more of our new borrowed abode?  Check out the tour.

I shared this at All Thingz Related, Sugar Bee – Craft Edition, and Coastal Charm.

Patio Saga

Sometimes, even the best-laid plans can go awry.  Or, in the case of our patio, the apparently-not-so-well-laid plans.

Recap:  With our landlord’s permission, and agreement to split the cost 50/50, we were going to install a brick patio to fix this big mess in our backyard next weekend.

We’d already drawn up plans in both Google Sketchup, and provided an estimate of cost to the landlord ($300-$400).  On Sunday, as Ryan headed to the store to get some tools and make sure they had all the supplies, I started digging.

Just as I finished breaking ground around the perimeter, Ryan returned from Home Depot with some bad news.  I’d totally miscalculated just how many bags of crushed granite we’d need to create the bed below the pavers.  The granite alone would cost over $350.   Add in the pavers and other necessities, and we were looking at a cost of about $600 + for the project.

“. . . scrrreeeech!”

We put the brakes on THAT immediately.

Sure, we could have skimped on the gravel bed and kept things within budget.  But doing a half-assed job would be unfair to our landlord.

So, after a moment of pathetic self-pity, I remembered just how many wonderful things we already have to  enjoy, and be thankful for, in our little rented home. I put my big girl pants back on and  looked at the bright side . . .

  1. Yay!  No backbreaking manual labor!
  2. Yay!  Saving money, finding a cheaper solution.
  3. Yay!  Finding a much more temporary, rental-friendly solution that could help my readers.  Because let’s face it, installing a brick patio is NOT an option for most renters.

. . . and then I started flinging options at Ryan.

Let’s revisit our needs:   The porch was too narrow for our outdoor dining furniture, and we wanted to move it to the yard.  The ground formerly known as patio-central was still scrubby, uneven, and the opposite of attractive.   So what options did we consider?


Ha! You laugh.  The mention of Astroturf only makes you think of tacky outdoor areas.  Or the Brady Bunch.  But it was the first solution I thought of to easily cover the ‘area formerly planned as patio’.   Astroturf has come a long way.  It can be a much more realistic grass color and texture now.

The cheapest version comes in all sorts of colors – fake green, gray, blue, brown, taupe.

Frankly, I was dying to use this option.  Just because it’d be funny as hell to tell you guys “hey, I used Astroturf.  No, really.”   (And it’s got its merits:  Enviro Girl mentioned it last week as a viable no-water lawn alternative.  And designer Brian Patrick Flynn used it in his backyard.)

How would we do it?  We’d grade the ground to draw the water away from the house and the astroturf.  Then we’d lay weed cloth over the area.  Finally, we’d lay the astroturf, and set 4×4 boards all along the perimeter, covering the edge of the ground cover.  We’d anchor those with rebar.  Or something like that.  But are you with me?

A mulch bed

Sure, it wouldn’t be gorgeous, but a mulch bed would at least look tidy, and be easy to maintain, and keep graded.  (Water runoff is an issue for this area.)   But it would probably be too soft and potentially dusty under the table.  Next!


“What if we bought a bunch of sheets of plywood, laid them down side to side on the ground, and anchored them in place with rebar and a border of 4x4s?”  Ryan looks over at me with that “I thought I had a smart girlfriend, but maybe not” look that he gets . . . all too often.   Ok, so that’s ridiculous.   It would look totally lame, and it would buckle and warp with every change in the weather.

Portable Wooden Decking Squares

I suddenly remembered seeing these snap-together decking squares at Ikea.  And now I know why people would buy them.  Snap together your own wooden “deck” right overtop of your cruddy ground?  And then dissemble it and take it with you when you move?  Hell yeah.  What a great idea.

But it’s probably expensive.  And Ikea was almost sold out of them last month. And did I mention expensive?

An outdoor carpet!

Duh!  Why didn’t I think of this much sooner??  If we could find one large enough that the table and chairs could all sit on it, that would do the job.  And if it got mucky, we could just hose it off.   

That’ the winning solution. It’s so easy to install it’s crazy.  I did a little happy dance at how my Labor Day Weekend immediately became exciting, now that no manual labor was involved.   The toughest thing I’ll have to do is find an outdoor carpet and put it on the ground. Wahoo.

Now you tell me:  are there any other solutions we should have considered?  Do you think I’m absolutely nuts for considering Astroturf?

For the love of foxes

I’d hoped to share a finished project today, but last night work got in the way.  But next week is going to be chock-full of the results of fun projects!  I absolutely can not wait to show you guys all the neat stuff that’s coming together over here!

In the mean time, I’ll leave you with my wish for a fabulous weekend, as well as some shots of the neighborhood’s wildlife.

This is one of the red foxes who was born this past spring on our block.  His siblings look gorgeous (and move quite fast, hence no photos), but he’s suffering.

Lately this little guy has been hanging around in the streets and front yards more during the day, and this morning I caught him doing some investigating in the neighbor’s yard. I got several photos before he looked up at me, startled.   For a few moments his eyes met mine, and he hesitated.  Then he nervously ambled on.

He kept dipping his head into the bucket; I don’t know if he’s looking for food/water or just investigating, but I made a mental note to let my neighbors know when they’re home.

I’m very worried about him, because he’s clearly suffering from Sarcoptic Mange – hence the severe hair loss and scabbing – and he may be underweight.  (Foxes are pretty lithe under all their bushy fur, so I’m not sure.)  I’ve called my town’s animal control and they said they usually don’t interfere, unless the animal is stumbling around on the brink of death.

Thanks to this little guy, my heart is now being broken on an almost-daily basis.  As an animal lover, it sucks to see the local wildlife suffering, especially to this degree.  But I know that if I tried to leave food out for him, I’d be doing more harm than good.  Sometimes, no matter how hard it is, you have to let nature take its course.  But it’s a total bummer when you see natural selection at work in your backyard.

Interested in a scarier tale of wildlife encounters?  Hop over to my adventure blog to read about my mountain-top grizzly bear encounter.

A seriously huge project!

As we’ve finally accomplished the biggest parts of our bedroom makeover (more on that on Monday) we’re diving headfirst into a bigger and scarier project.  It’s gonna be awesome.

Between this weekend and next, we’re installing a brick patio off of our back porch.  My fingers are crossed that we’ll be done by the end of Labor Day Weekend.

Why the rush? Because, as much as I don’t want to admit it, fall is right around the corner – and that means that it’s almost cool enough for nights spent sitting around the firepit.

But there’s more reasoning to this project than meets the eye. The main issue that sparked this idea was the muckiness of our backyard, especially after rain.  And that muckiness all happens right beyond the back porch.  Also, our back porch is great, but too skinny to comfortably accommodate our outdoor dining table and chairs.  Someone’s always stuck sitting near the edge, and we know that someday someone will back their chair up too far and go heels over head off the porch.

That being said, do you want to see the new grand plan?  Here it is:

As shown in the image above, the patio will have room for both a 60″ table and chairs and a grill.  We’ll also tuck a firepit into one corner.  A narrower length of patio will run the length of the house, covering the muddy mess and accommodating the water spigot and hose as well as the garbage cans.  Then, once our patio dining set is at home in the new space, we’ll set up an outdoor living room type space on the existing [covered] back patio.  From there we will gleefully curl up and enjoy many a rainstorm.

I just can’t wait!!

Now, if you know how we can get a coupon for Home Depot, please share!  And if you’ve ever tackled this sort of project before, and have advice or warnings, please dish the dirt!