Sunday, September 30, 2012

How to rescue a cat from a tree

Yeah, cat rescues don't exactly belong under the umbrella of this blog, but since it is yet another chore that Scott and I figured out how to DIY this weekend, I figured I'd share our method with you. was a budget-friendly rescue, so I guess it kind of does fit here.

Our kitty, Anna, likes to go out hunting in the evenings. But on Saturday night she didn't come back. We expected the worst, and with good reason. In our neighborhood, just about everyone who has a cat has lost a cat. Bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and bears abound.

Somehow Anna managed to escape whatever must have been chasing her (in all her eleven years, she has never been a tree-climber).

But when she escaped, she got stuck. Stuck about 35 feet up in our neighbor's Cottonwood tree.

Here is how we got her down.

This belongs on a "good to know" Pinterest board, don't you think?

First we leaned our 22 foot extension ladder up against the tree. This, in itself, was not easy. It kept getting stuck in branches and was awkward to maneuver, to say the least. When Scott climbed to the top of the ladder, he was still nowhere near Anna.

So we did what any tax-paying American would do and we visited the fire department. Actually, I tried to call but I couldn't find a phone number for the one near our house and 911 seemed like overkill for this. The firemen I talked to were (predictably) not super eager to help. They were very friendly and they smiled (and only one was snarky, which is kind of amazing considering how stupid we probably seemed) and they took our names and phone number and said they'd call the ladder company and IF the ladder company wasn't busy MAYBE they'd come out.

That's pretty much what we expected, but figured it was worth a try.

Then we talked about contacting one of the emergency cat rescue people we found via Google. You know, tree trimmers who also make emergency cat calls? Wait, not cat calls. Cat-rescue calls?

But we're cheap and couldn't find prices anywhere and, to be honest, we've already spent enough on Anna over the past few months (teeth cleaning, teeth removal, bone biopsy...ugh). So, if there was any way we could DIY this rescue, we figured we'd give it a shot.

Or, at least Scott did.

He told me, "Don't watch what I'm about to do because you'll tell me it's a bad idea." And he might have been right. I probably would have. And I would have been so very wrong.

Here is Scott's $FREE$ miracle Kitty Elevator.

Yep, a large and very sturdy cardboard box screwed to the end of a long 2x4.

To make it super stable (and it was surprisingly stable), he put a piece of plywood inside the box and then drove two 2 1/2" deck screws through the plywood and into the end of the 2x4. Then, Callie (pictured above) put one of the kitty's favorite blankets inside the box, along with a can of food (per the firefighters' recommendation...we'd left it at the bottom of the tree for a while like they said to, but there was no way she was getting down on her own).

Then Scott climbed back up the ladder with the kitty elevator in hand. Now, every tree is different. Every cat is different. Every situation is different. This might not work for you. In fact, it might be insane to even think about it. For our tree and our kitty and our situation, it ended up being a perfect solution.

Once he got to the top of the ladder, Scott raised the kitty elevator up to the kitty. She was definitely willing to climb in (the sound of her meow even changed as soon as the box came near her) but the box was positioned awkwardly and Scott couldn't hold it steady. So he swung it around the tree trunk in order to lean it against another branch. Anna turned herself around and hopped in almost immediately.

Climbing in!
Scott gently lowered her down and then pulled her out of the box and -- you won't believe this -- she was actually licking her chops. She'd been eating that can of food on the way down.

Coming down.

Pulling her out of the box.
Apparently she was not traumatized from spending a night 35 feet up in a tree. And, to our surprise, she did not spend the remainder of the day sleeping. Well, not more than usual, anyway.

I don't think this would work for everyone but we had a few things going for us. First, Anna loves cardboard boxes. I suppose this is true of many cats, so maybe other cats would be happy to hop from a branch into a inexplicably floating cardboard box in the top of a tree. Second, there was some super tasty canned food in that box. Anna usually eats in the middle of the night and gets hungry again around 7:30 every morning. By the time we rescued her, it was about 9:45AM. She was well past her normal breakfast time. Being the semi-spoiled cat that she is, she really needs to be fed on time, lest her blood sugar fall into an abnormal range.

I'm kidding. Kind of.

The third thing that we had going for us was that Anna trusts us. She is not skittish. She doesn't run from us when we try to pick her up. She's not brilliant (obviously) but she's not stupid either. She was very unhappy in the tree. (You know the chorus of meows you hear when you drive a cat to the vet? That's what she was doing up in the tree.) I'm not sure that we would have had the same results if a stranger had tried to rescue her. Maybe...but she really likes us best.

Lastly, it really helped that Scott has significant upper body strength. He takes really good care of himself and he's strong. I could not have lowered Anna from the tree. I probably couldn't have climbed the ladder carrying the 2x4, actually. It takes strong core muscles to get up and strong shoulders to hold the elevator over your head and then insane balance and coordination to climb down while holding the elevator. For us, everything seemed to be in our favor, but this last one was probably the most important. Your elevator's gotta have a good engine.

So there you go. Tuck this little tutorial away for the next time you need to rescue a cat. I hope your results will be as good as ours were!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

No more ziplocks!

A few years ago I found a new way to reduce my dependence on oil...I decided to quit using ziplock bags. Because, as I'm sure you know, the manufacture of anything plastic requires a good bit of oil. To replace plastic bags I made a big batch of fabric snack bags. I made some of the bags the size of sandwich bags and some the size of the smaller snack sized bags.

My first bags...they're still in use!
That was two years ago. I haven't bought ziplocks since.

I know! It sounds so...un-American!

Yes, sometimes I get complaints from Scott when he's packing for the airport and wants ziplocks for his toiletries (I haven't had a problem getting through security with my toothpaste in my regular ditty bag). Other than that, I think we've adapted pretty well.

For my snack bags, I've used both cotton and nylon liners. I like the cotton liners better because I don't have to worry about what kind of weird chemicals were used to make them (although conventional cotton is sprayed with lots of pesticides and then later it is bleached...but I try to use fabric that's been washed several times). If I'm sending a messy sandwich in one of the bags, I just wrap the sandwich in parchment paper (I buy the pre-cut squares of deli paper at Costco) before I put it in the bag. My girls pull out their sandwiches wrapped in paper and use the paper like a plate when they eat at school. We use the bags several times (shaking them out when necessary) before tossing them in the washing machine inside-out.

I played with several designs before landing on this one. The rounded top is forgiving and the small piece of velcro is all you really need. I tried bags with full velcro closures, but they were hard to open and close. We've never had problems with this design -- the food we put in the bags seems to stay in the bags!

I want you to be able to join the no-ziplock revolution, so while I worked on another batch of bags over the past few weeks, I took (poorly lit because it was usually the middle of the night) photos of each step.

Let's get started.

First I cut out two pieces of fabric (one for the outside, one for the lining) using a pattern that I created. The pattern is made of one 8 1/2"x11" piece of paper taped to another piece of paper with a rounded top edge. I traced a mixing bowl to get the rounded edge. The total pattern height is 17 inches. When I'm cutting a sandwich bag, I use the full height of the pattern. For a snack bag, I fold the lower sheet of paper in half, so the total height is 11 1/2 inches.

Place the fabrics with the wrong sides together (these pieces are cut to snack size).

If you're going to use a ribbon tab on the rounded flap of the bag, now is the time to cut it. I make mine about 2 1/2".

Fold the fabric tab in half, center it (as best you can) on the rounded top edge, and pin it between the two wrong sides with the cut edge poking out.

Sew along the perimeter of the bag, but leave the flat bottom end open.

Press the seams open and then turn the bag inside out.

Press the edges flat and do your best to round out the top -- sometimes this can be challenging!

Fold the raw bottom edge inward and press it. You're going to top-stitch it closed.

Pin the pressed edge.

Top-stitch the bottom edge. Sometimes it is fun to use contrasting thread for this part...if you're confident in your ability to sew a straight line. I'm not, but I use contrasting thread anyway!

Now add velcro to the outside of the bottom part of the bag.

Fold the bottom part of the bag up toward the rounded flap. I use my best judgement on this rather than a precise measurement.

Once you've figured out where you want your fold, top-stitch all the way around the bag, starting from the top right corner of this picture, down around the curve, and then up to the left corner. I don't go across the bottom -- I just leave the fold.

You're almost done! Match up the rounded flap with the velcro on the bottom and add a piece of velcro to the inside of the flap.

That's it! The bag I was working on in the photos is a snack sized bag. For the sandwich bag, follow the same steps but make your fold in the appropriate place to get the size bag you want.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Changes on the way

Here is what I did around the house this weekend.

Looks like fun, right?

Tearing up the carpet on the basement stairs has been a long time coming. When I remodeled the basement last year, I purposely left the basement stairs covered in carpet. Carpet is great for collecting dust and dirt and debris, so I left it there to help keep the basement mess in the basement.

Ahhh, but now the time has come. I've decided to repaint the inside of almost the entire house. That means the basement hallway, too. But before I paint I need to finish the basement board and batten. And I can't do that until the carpet is gone.

So you see how this happens, right? I bet it happens to you, too. Scott calls it "scope creep." I'm sure that is some kind of official term. He's right, though. It started with new curtains. I want new curtains in the family room. I want them to have grey in them, but there's too much brown and green in my house to go with grey curtains. Plus, I'm tired of brown and green. So I need to repaint. I want to get all the painting done at once, so I've got to finish the basement hallway.

Whatever. It's long past time to get it done, so here we go.

Here were the basement stairs before we did the basement.

The carpet isn't hideous, but man does it hold dirt. Anyone who has ever torn up carpet can tell you...ugh. Nasty stuff. Sand, dust, hair and who knows what else that you can't see. So Saturday night I spent about an hour pulling up the baseboards and carpet and then another hour and a half pulling up all the carpet tack strips and staples. Here are the tools I used:

The gloves are crucial, obviously. And the crowbar and needle-nosed pliars are pretty self-explanatory. But that tool with the yellow handle? I bought about eight years ago it to pull upholstery staples from furniture, but I've also used it to pull thousands of staples from our floors as we've switched from carpet and linoleum to hardwood.

Once I was done getting all the hardware out of the floor, I gave the stairs a thorough sanding. They'd gotten a good dose of wall texture when the house was built, so I needed to smooth that all out before I could prime the floors. I was assuming that the stair treads would be solid pine like the rest of the stairs in the house, so I was a little surprised when I ripped up the carpet and found MDF. Bummer. If they'd been solid wood, I would have sanded them down and put a coat of clear sealer on them. Since they're MDF they'll be getting painted along with the risers and the trim.

After the stairs were smooth and I'd vacuumed up all the dust (aaaaalllllllll the dust), I put on a good coat of Sherwin-Williams multipurpose primer tinted to Kilim Beige. It is no-VOC and makes a great base coat for painting.

The stairs had lots and lots (dare I say at least hundreds) of little holes in them from the staples, but the primer filled most of them. I'll go back and fill the rest with wood filler before I paint the stairs.

Here they are after receiving a coat of primer:

You can see I didn't paint the top of the stringers on the sides of the stairs. Once I'm done with the stairs, the stringers will be topped with 1x2 or 1x3 trim, so besides pulling staples out of them, I left them alone.

I told Scott I was thrilled with the primer coat. I told him how happy I was with it, and that clearly the stairs look better already. My enthusiasm was met with silence. Hopefully he's at least happy he doesn't have to do the work for me. No honey-do list at this house.

Here's what has to be done to get to the finish line on the basement hallway:
  • fill and caulk holes in the stairs
  • paint the risers and trim white
  • paint the treads the same color as the basement floor, Restoration Hardware's Silver Sage
  • add trim to the tops of the stringers along the sides of the stairs
  • mark where the top piece of the board and batten will go
  • skimcoat below the mark, to smooth out the wall texture
  • install the top of the board and batten
  • prime the skimcoat
  • paint the skimcoat
  • add the baseboards
  • install the vertical battens
  • fill holes, sand, and paint the board and batten
Once all of that is done, I'll start prepping the rest of the house for paint. Vacuum the walls, clean all the baseboards, caulk the trim, touch up the trim, pull down artwork and photos and fill the holes that won't be getting used again.

And then...Scott will paint. He's agreed to paint every inch of our huge family room/loft/kitchen area under one condition: he gets to leave the tv on football all weekend long, if he so desires.

Uh, yeah. That's easy. I'm in.

Monday, September 17, 2012

When things go wrong

I wish I had some photos to go with this post but when things go wrong I don't have time to pull out my camera and start shooting.

Last week our top-loading washer overflowed. It is twelve years old and has never been serviced. Nope, not once. We are those kind of people -- the kind who don't maintain their appliances according to the directions in the owner's manual. (As a sidenote, do you? Do you have your appliances serviced regularly?)

So one night last week at about 10:30pm I started a load of laundry and something went wrong. Thankfully, as I headed up stairs to write a note to one of my kids (reminding her to do her homework in the morning) I heard a weird noise coming from the laundry room.

It sounded like a river. Something was definitely wrong.

So I walked into the laundry room and stepped in very large a puddle. Water was rushing over the side of the machine and straight down into the heater vent which is installed in the laundry room floor. I turned off the washing machine and then grabbed the basket of cleaning rags from the cabinet above the washer and tried to re-direct the flow of water. Then I just stood there for a second wondering what to do next.

So, like any normal person, I started yelling, "Flood! Flood! Towels! Bring towels!"

Apparently Scott though I was yelling "Blood!" so he brought one towel, not the ten I needed. Then he saw the flood and said, "That's not a job for towels. That's a job for the shop vac."

Duh. How I could spend so much time with that shop vac in my hand and not think to use it here, I have no idea.

So he brought in the shop vac and I sucked up two and a half canisters full of water (I'm so thankful the floor in the laundry room is linoleum and not wood). Then I towel dried the rest of the floor.

Scott went to check out the basement and found water leaking from the ductwork through the new basement ceiling. He wasn't game for dealing with the water for very long, but he did stick around long enough to grab a utility knife so that we could puncture the bubbles of water that were growing on the basement ceiling.

This was a genius move (it was my idea).

So Scott headed to bed and I hung out in the basement for a bit, lancing those bubbles and squeezing out the water. It was quite satisfying. A little like popping zits, if I'm being totally honest. And in the morning the ceiling looked pretty good. I think with some drying time and a coat of paint, it will be fine -- so thankful for our dry Colorado climate!

Here was my thought process as I worked to clean up the mess:
  • Bummer that we haven't had our machine serviced. We should probably do that now.
  • My laundry room floor is going to be cleaner than ever (and it IS!).
  • I'm so glad we caught this flood when we did or this basement ceiling would be demolished.
  • Wow, I am so lucky. So blessed to have such an amazingly easy life that THIS is the worst thing that's happened to me all week. All month. Wait...when was the last time that something worse happened to me?
And I really couldn't remember anything in my recent past that was worse than a minor flood in my house.

I love my house. I love being in my house. I love the comfort of being at home. Even when things go wrong -- when we fail inspections as we work on our basement reno, when the thermostat dies, when the hot water heater stops working, when the dishwasher doesn't get dishes clean, even when the washing machine overflows. In the midst of it all, I feel secure and comfortable and happy and loved in my home.

I hope you do, too.

Friday, September 14, 2012

{DIY} Thread Board

My friend Emily (the same one who talked me into adding the "favorite projects" page) pinned a thread board last fall and asked me to help her with it. Right, last fall. That's about how long it takes to get things done around my house.

Last week she said something like, "I'd really like to get that thread board done." And, truthfully, I really needed a place to stash my thread and so, together, Emily and I got working.

Here are some of the materials I used for my board. The brown board is actually the bottom of a door I used for this project, plus some scrap 1x2s. Once it was put together, I decided it needed a crown on top, so I added a 1x3 and some scrap moulding to balance it all.

Emily was in charge of getting the dowels to complete the boards. I don't know how she did it with her three year old by her side, but she headed to Lowe's with a spool of thread and a bobbin (to be sure the dowels would fit) and figured out exactly how many dowels we'd need.

We picked out some wood from my scrap pile for her board and cut, glued, and nailed until we liked how the boards looked. Then we finished them -- mine with General Finishes water-based stain, hers with stain and then a bit of paint left over from other projects. Hers also got a coat of brown glaze to add age, and then both boards got a coat of wax for a smooth finish.

The dowels were cut to 3" lengths and then inserted into holes we drilled in the boards. The drilling was undoubtedly the hardest part of the whole project! We made a drilling jig the width of each board with holes spaced evenly, and then used that jig to drill our rows of holes.

Emily's board needs a few more dowels -- she has a huge collection of thread (well, huge compared to mine). My collection, since I'm a use-what-you've-got kind of seamstress, is much smaller. Admittedly, I do need to add to my collection of thread. When I'm working on a project, the lack of variety does leave a bit to be desired! And since my board has room at the top, I may add a few more rows to mine too. Or maybe some hooks to hang scissors or a magnetic strip for containers of pins? I'll live with it for a while and then decide. For now I'm just happy to be able to see my thread!

To hang the board in my sewing closet, I screwed some picture hanging d-rings to the back, attached some wire, and hung the board from a lightweight picture-hanging hook. I'm happy to be putting some finishing touches on the sewing closet!

Lastly, here's a sneak peak at a sewing tutorial I've got planned for next week...snack bags. We love them in our family -- no more plastic bags for us!

Psst...for more on this sewing closet, check out this post.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dresser to TV Console transformation

My second 70's furniture revival in two weeks turns out to be a success!

Before (Actually, this was in progress -- I'd already removed
the center door and built in the center shelves.)


Truthfully, Scott and I like this piece so much that we measured to see if we could fit it into our basement, but, won't work. So it's for sale now. I'll be creating a "for sale" page on the blog soon where this piece (and hopefully more in the future) will be posted until it sells.

I created the paint color out of leftovers in my garage. Unfortunately the photos don't really do it justice. I'd call it something like "foggy day at the beach" or "seaside mist." It took a little of this, a little of that to make. I started out with a spring green base, added some aqua and then a lot of warm grey and a fair amount of black plus a little bit of beige-tinted primer, to get the texture right. I don't like working with satin paint and I pretty much refuse to work with semi-gloss paint, but there was a tiny bit of that in the mix and the primer helped temper the gloss to make the paint more agreeable to distressing.

Once the paint was dry I glazed with the same glaze I used on this piece, a tobacco-brown glaze that warmed up the cool grey paint color just a hint and added a bit of patina.

I really love the way that the original brown shows through the paint in spots. I finished up with clear wax which leaves the wood super smooth and touchable. Waxed finishes are my favorite. I'm not normally a very tactile person, but I love to run my hand along a waxed piece -- it has the most luxurious texture.

Don't you love how you can see the grain from this angle?
For the drawer pulls, I visited one of my favorite spots, the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I was looking for something kind of big and ornate and preferably something in a tarnished brass finish. This pull fit the bill perfectly and at only $1.50 per pull, they were a steal. And there were exactly six of them at the I knew they were meant for this piece!

The pulls were a little bit grimy when I picked them up, so I soaked them in a tub of vinegar and baking soda for about 30 minutes before scrubbing them with a stiff brush and dish soap. That took care of the grime and gave them a soft shine.

I love the bubbles from vinegar and baking soda! It's like a
mini-science project every time I use them to clean.
This piece required a fair amount of work to revive it from its former state of gloom. Between rebuilding the center, rebuilding some of the drawer glides, filling in a beat-up edge on the top, filling and sanding the former owner's initials (lots of "K.S. + J.E. = love!"), priming, sanding, two coats of paint, sanding, glazing, waxing, and dealing with the pulls, I probably put around twenty hours into this piece. Probably more. I should be better about keeping track! I think the final product makes the work totally worth it, though, and I hope its future owner will agree!

Psst...for more about where I got this dresser and to see (poorly executed) photoshop before and afters in different colors, check out this link.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Projects tab

At my friend Emily's prodding, I started a "favorite projects" page on the blog with photos of some of the most popular Friendly Home projects and links to the original posts. Some of them were done before I discovered earth- and people-friendly building materials, so please excuse the MDF and conventional clearcoat.

Check out the new page and see if there were some early projects you might have missed. I'll continue to add projects to the page -- both new and old!