Seeds and a Plan

Spring has turned to a spurt of summer (86 degrees in April!?) and our projects are full speed ahead. The garden has been my territory this year. Turning over last winter’s cover crop and leveling soil, breaking new ground, moving plants, and planting seeds have taken over my life the past two weeks. It looks great. Two rows of raspberries create a beautiful border along the fence line, a new fig tree (from Matt’s grandpa’s yard) is in the northwest corner surrounded by calendula and row after row of squash, beans and potatoes are going to pop up any day. We have tomato, beet, cabbage and basil sprouted on the deck waiting for the right moment to go in the ground. This week I had another success: 3 chestnut trees popped up from my fall planting!

Indoors is a flurry of activity too. Matt is making final coats on the cove ceiling (a project that has proved to be a lot more drying time than anticipated!), progress on the hardwood floors and a to-do list that is a mile long. This week we decided that a plan might help, so I popped into project manager mode and made us a project schedule, linking steps in order of when they need to happen. This way we only think about the “now” steps, knowing that the “later” steps are thought about, just in the queue. That was helpful. On the to-do list now? Order tile for the entry, take out exiting wood floors in entry, install the removed pieces in the kitchen, then on to cabinet construction!

April Updates

The sunshine and warm weather has arrived! The 70 degree weekend was glorious and full. Friday night we spent the night at my in-laws and then drove out to Enumclaw to pick up our slate blackboard slabs (future kitchen counters!). We got 14 slabs (so so cool!!!) salvaged from an old school and are thrilled to report that all 14 made it back to the island intact.

I spent the rest of the day weeding and working in the garden. Sunday was a repeat of that, evidenced by a fresh new plot created for a bed of potatoes. I also planted our saved tomato seeds from last year. Matt plugged away inside the house with all the windows and doors open; music blasting. We are on the final stretch of wall/ceiling repair completing the curved plaster edges. So many skills to learn! It looks great.

We topped off the weekend with dinner in the backyard with friends. Grilled pork and pineapple skewers, coconut rice and fresh sauted chard from the garden. Cheers.

Slate Blackboard Countertops

I am bursting at the seams with excitement!

For months (years?) we have been trying to decide on countertop options for our kitchen. It currently has speckled white/black/grey granite 12×12 tiles. We don’t mind the granite as a material, but we do not like the grout lines or busy pattern.

Now that we are adding two new sections of countertop with the remodel (hooray counter space!) we were in decision mode:

Option 1, keep the existing tile and buy more so the new counters match

Option 2, leave the existing granite tile sections and add a different material for the new counters. Butcher block?

Option 3, replace it all!

We have gone around and around with these options. Money is a big factor. The value of just “doing it now” is weighing heavily on us (no kids, Matt is available for labor, the house is a wreck anyway…we don’t want to go back into kitchen remodel mode in a few years). This had us leaning towards option 3. But replace with what? We have poured through research and options. Originally we wanted concrete. Then we looked at granite and quartz. We liked the non-patterny aspects of the quartz, but did not like that it was man made. We liked granite, and really liked the honed finished options, but not the pricetag. So we were stuck.

Decision time has been a long way off up till now. We are needing to make some choices!

As of Monday, we had actually settled on the halfway point: Option 2. This was the most cost effective and most likely to be turned into option 3 at some point in the future. Then a meeting happened.

In my professional life I consult with school districts. At a meeting on Tuesday we the discussion happened towards the kitchen remodel and our selection of countertops. Low and behold, there was my solution. The district is rebuilding a school and has a huge collection of surplus vintage blackboards. These are not your modern painted surfaces, but solid sheets of beautiful, smooth black slate.


  • Natural material – check
  • Matte surface – check
  • Dark, solid color – check
  • Price – free is hard to beat! (though will require some serious cleaning up)
  • Salvaged/repurposed – check
  • DIY friendly – from what I can tell, yes!

After some quick research we think this will be exactly what we want. It checks all the boxes and fits our vision more perfectly than any other material we had considered.

Saturday morning we will load up the slabs, bring them home and start the process of creating the perfect countertops for our beautiful DIY kitchen remodel.



Break for the Sun

Three weeks ago I woke up to an email: RT to Tucson $127!

20 minutes later I was on the phone with my grandparents confirming they were in town. 20 minutes after that we had flights booked. 16 days later we were in sunny Arizona for some much needed sunshine and R&R!

After a record breaking wet winter (ugh!) in Washington, the desert was a welcome treat. We spent the week hiking and lounging, eating good food, more hiking, more pool time, and of course seeing family. We visited with great aunts and uncles, second cousins and grandparents. We ate fresh grapefruit and oranges for breakfast, made a tres leches cake from scratch, went to the symphony, Gaga treated me to a massage, and went out for Mexican food. Spent time in the sunshine. But the hiking. Did I mention we hiked? Some of the best hikes of my life!

Our first hike was a day trip to Chiricahua National Monument. We arrived to the park mostly being closed for construction, but we were still able to do the Heart of Rocks trail after a picnic with Grammy and Gaga. 7.4 miles was a good warm up for the rest of the trip! Scenery was stunning and the trail was almost empty.

Our second hike was in Sabino Canyon, only 10 minutes from Grammy and Gaga’s house. We got curbside dropoff (thanks grandparents!) and met up with some cousins to walk the road before peeling off for a longer trek. We walked and talked and then around noon (note: not the ideal time to start a hard hike in 90 degree heat!) we took off on a trail to do Blackett’s Ridge. This was a stunning hike, also very empty trail, and HARD! It was steep and uphill the whole way up. It felt longer than the 8ish miles it was, but totally worth it for the panoramic canyon views at the top.

After a day of rest we tackled our final (and favorite) hike: Seven Falls in Bear Canyon. Thanks to spring break the trail was pretty crowded (though not compared to I-90 trails in WA!) but we climbed up past the end of the trail to find some solitude. Highlight? Our own personal infinity pool at the top of one of the falls. Epic views and the cold water was a welcome relief from the heat. 11 out of 10 for this hike. We already want to do it again!

It was a wonderful trip. The perfect mix of relaxing and going. It had been 5 years since our last trip to Arizona and we are planning to make our next trip much, much sooner than that.

Great Expectations

I enter each weekend with great expectations. Drywall will be done, right? Ha. I am learning that remodels present many many little “projects” that must be addressed before the finishing touches are ready to start. I am trying to adjust my expectations accordingly too. It is hard!

In any project there are major milestones. You can’t start Y and Z until X happens. For us, the big X was getting new cabinets. I had been trolling craigslist looking for matching (or at least matching enough) cabinets to add to our existing set. We actually have nice cabinets already, so there was no need to replace them (nor was it in the budget!). The existing set will be painted white anyway, so as long as the doors matched enough it did not matter what finish the two additional ones were in. We could have waited for a PERFECT match, but that would have held up the whole project. So Friday we picked up the best ones we had available…and they were only $20 each! Solid cherry with a super similar profile. Perfect!

Now that cabinets were procured (as well as 6 sheets of cabinet grade plywood) and safely back on the island (which in the pouring rain was an adventure with the pickup…) we could size and start the new wall for the kitchen and pantry.

This section of floor will be covered in new hardwood floors (thicker than existing so it meets the existing kitchen) so instead of covering the beautiful old floors, I pulled them up for salvage. I was thrilled that they came up easily and intact! We will use them in creating new decorative thresholds where there used to be walls (and now have a gap in the flooring). Our neighbor graciously lent us use of his table saw and the flooring is now ripped into beautiful 1” strips. I sanded the edges and they are ready to go!

Matt built the wall, worked his way through some electrical challenges, I mudded in the basement, and we are making progress! We redesigned the south wall cabinet and counter, adding a section of upper built in shelves and a deeper coutnertop to make room for appliances. Designing on the fly? Yes please! I am so glad we can work through things as they pop up and have simmilar taste and vision.

Does it look how I envisioned after a full weekend of work? Nope. Is it awesome? Yes. Absolutely. And on we trek with the remodel.

Living without a Kitchen

The wall is down! Last week the wall came down and we spent the weekend making progress to get it finished. Electrical always throws curveballs in an old house (wires everywhere!) but we figured it out. Uneven rafters and old lath layers makes hanging drywall a not-straightforward process. Let’s just say drywall shims are the best invention ever. Even with all this excitement and progress (and boy does it look good!!!) the house remodel is officially getting old. We always knew it would take awhile, but I am getting really tired of living without a functional kitchen. Yes, it is temporary, yes it is worth it, but I really just want some hot tea.

Since our stove is right in the middle of all the action it is turned off and secured in plastic. And will be for at LEAST another week while we work on drywall/mudding/sanding/mudding/sanding etc with no wall between the kitchen and construction zone. So we are down to our toaster oven, regular oven and grill for cooking. I broke down and bought some Trader Joe’s frozen lasagnas. And a take-and-bake pizza. And Costco chicken. We do not want to eat out all the time so this is the next best thing. Matt has been great at coming up with meals still, but it is a lot of work to clean the kitchen enough just to make ANYTHING. Dust. Everywhere. Everywhere. We have to rinse every dish before we use it.

Other than that, things are great! Last weekend we took 2,500 lbs (!) of debris to the dump. Thank goodness for borrowing my dad’s truck. Four trips to the hardware store and we had the ceiling closed up finally. Matt has been tackling drywall this week and is learning how to do plaster curved ceilings. Our dining room has curved ceilings, but our new design requires that we put up some more to finish the space. Thank goodness for a detail oriented DIY husband! (follow along @seattleturtle on Instagram for more photos of the progress)

Meanwhile, I ordered 40 asparagus plants (bounty is what we are shooting for here!) and I am looking forward to starting seeds.

Sun Turtle Studio officially made it’s first Etsy sale to someone I don’t know! 8 total sales and a few more custom orders coming. I am working on a large scale white piece that I cannot wait to debut. Also in progress is design of my business cards. Technology to get the design in my head made into usable image files has been my issue. Should be solved soon if I can get things together.

Looking forward to the weekend! It has been a long week.

Do it All

The weekend goal was to finish demo. That means getting the beam up, kitchen wall down and a dump run to take all the debris out of our house. Of course, construction never goes quite to plan, so we are flexible with adjusting those expectations. Especially when it means balancing good quality sleep and breakfasts.

Saturday morning promised sunshine so we ate croissants and headed to the beach to hunt sea glass and agates. The sun was perfect for agate hunting and we came home with a handful! Awesome start to the day! Then it was time to change into construction clothes and get to work.

Matt made more progress on the demo, but it was slower than we both had hoped. By Sunday afternoon it was clear that we had some questions and needed to pause again. We called in our go-to resource, Shane, and he came over to take a second look. Our plan for installing the beam was good, but not quite as good as his years of experience. Thank goodness we called! We needed a different bracket and a different type of screw…and he recommended some additional bolts for the attic rafters. With inexperienced blank stares looking back at him he offered to show us exactly what we needed at the store. Can you say lifesaver? We trucked into town, and $60 later we were ready to tackle the beam.

While Matt went back to the project I picked up some more hobby work. Posted two new mobiles to Etsy and shared them on Instagram. I also made a neat connection to work as a day-of wedding coordinator for an island wedding this summer! I am so excited to help this bride out and use some of my creative wedding and planning energy in a local way! And I finished our taxes. Horray for finding money to finance our DIY remodel. As I was happily working away in our freezing cold house (the ceiling is open to the attic so all the heat just leaves), Matt discovered that the bolts were too burly for our drill so that meant another pause until we could borrow on Monday. Thank goodness for generous neighbors with tools! So we called it for the day.

Monday morning I had a work meeting on the island and worked from home the rest of the day. Flexible schedules are amazing. I worked away at the dining room table while Matt worked on the beam through the soon-to-be-gone kitchen wall. At 4:30 we were ready to hang it! It only took 3 tries to get the post heights just right and then it was set in. Screw in some brackets and it is in! Woohoo!

Today I am writing from a coffee shop before an all-day work workshop. I am excited to see the wall down when I get home! This will be the hardest week to live in the remodel (well…maybe cabinet painting will trump it…) because we will not be able to really cook. Our stove will be in the middle of the dust zone so it covered with plastic and cardboard. Not available for use. We will get by with the toaster oven and oven but we are a no-microwave household so tea and hot water are not really an option. Guess we will be reheating things and eating out!

Project summary:

  1. Remove french doors and fill in new guest room wall
  2. Widen entry to living room to add french doors and transom
  3. Open wall between new dining room and living room
  4. Remove old guest room closet
  5. Add supporting beam in kitchen
  6. Remove wall between kitchen and new dining room
  7. Drywall to close up all construction areas
  8. Repair/add and refinish hardwood floors
  9. Add additional kitchen cabinets and counter tops
  10. Paint all cabinets white
  11. Paint walls and ceiling
  12. Build built-in bookcases and new fireplace mantel in living room
  13. Move existing gas stove to new fireplace area
  14. Finish all baseboard and casing trim
  15. Move on to the basement!