DIY Blackboard Kitchen Countertops: An Update

Remember wayyyy back, like over a year now, when I introduced our grand plan to DIY our kitchen countertops? Well, that is still the plan and I am THRILLED to report that we are actually now working on that project.

The house remodel scope significantly morphed, and ended up going far past the kitchen and dining room, so we decided to finish up those other spaces (keeping our kitchen usable) and finally ending with it’s demo…and the long awaited counters!

If you don’t know the story of how we came to choose salvaged solid slate blackboards as our countertops, you can check that out here. These beauties (or rather, diamonds in the rough) have been leaning against our house for the past year, patiently waiting for their turn.

While they have been waiting, so have we. We always a knew that they would work as counters, but were still just assuming that we could successfully get off the old 1940s adhesive that is awkwardly stuck all over the slabs. If we could not get it off cleanly, we were going to have to come up with Plan B for counters…and that was NOT the goal.

After a super rainy start to spring, this week blessed us with some sunshine, and an opening to get outdoors, set up the sawhorses and get to glue removal. I need to keep baby away from all construction fumes, so this is a solo job for my sweet handy husband.

He set out with two main approached: a heat gun (borrowed from our local tool library) and Jasco Premium Paint and Epoxy Remover. Much to our excitement, the heat gun worked like a charm to pull off big blobs of glue and then the residue remaining dissolved with the chemicals…and a significant amount of elbow grease. We are planning to use the “natural” more textured side of these slabs and it is stunning to see them really clean. It is a huge weight off our shoulders to know that we have a solution that works!

Two down, maybe 6 more to go? We have roughly 35 slabs to work with (!) but only need 6 for the kitchen. Extras will be practice for cutting, other projects or maybe passing them along to other inspired DIYers.

The forecast promises more rain this week, but then we hope to get back to our lovely counters, finish glue removal, demo the kitchen and then cut the new counters to fit!

10 Week Countdown

Today we hit 30 weeks in our pregnancy with Grain. My belly is a basketball and Matt is constantly cracking good hearted jokes about me being a turtle with my shell on backwards.

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Matt is cranking away on the remodel…we are going to need every last day to get this thing done. What is left? A lot:

-finish building/installing kitchen cabinets

-clean blackboard slate (old glue from when they were installed in a school)

-demo existing counters and backsplash

-install new counters and backsplash

-refinish hardwood floors

-install crown/baseboard and other molding

-paint kitchen cabinets, pantry and new fireplace builtins (this may be a post baby project)

Ambitious? Yes, but it is what we need to do. We scheduled the crowning piece for the final week in June: refinishing the hardwood floors! Two weeks before my due date could be an issue, but we have a place to stay nearby, with backup plans if baby has decided to come early. People keep asking about the nursery and I just have to laugh…not till the upstairs is done!

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We decided to put open bookshelves for cookbooks etc on the end of our new cabinet section. When all trimmed out and painted white, this kitchen is going to look SO GOOD!

Spring is still taking it’s time in arriving in the PNW. We still have not hit 60 more than a few times! The garden is so far behind and it has been so wet that there has not been much motivation to do anything. We have some tomatoes and squash started in the house, so when it does warm up we will get them outside (and free up space!).

Living in a remodel has been not comfortable, but we are managing it pretty darn well. Luckily our master bedroom is still an untouched retreat where we can have some sense of normalcy in our house. I have been doing a lot of sleeping, resting, taking baths…Matt has been fabulous at just letting me be however I need to be to grow little Grain. It is exhausting!

Since I do not have a direct role in the remodel physically, I am supporting with a constant stream of supplies, research, food and project management (ha!). Getting bids on hardwood floors was a focus last month and we are thrilled with the team we found. I need to order backsplash tile soon, and measure for crown and baseboard molding (I misplaced my list of lengths many months ago…ugh!)

Wish us luck in this last stretch! It is slightly intimidating, but we can see the light at the end of this long long tunnel. And there will be a baby to snuggle when we get there!

Oh Baby! 23 Weeks

Time is flying…how are we already in mid-March!? This little Grain sure is growing…and moving a ton now! It is so fun to feel him or her doing somersaults in my tummy. So far I have been able to stay pretty comfortable, especially once I figured out how to sleep with a pregnancy body pillow.

It took nearly a week of practice (it is like having another person in bed…poor Matt has no room!) but it is seriously a life saver. Particularly because my preggo brain decided to obsess about sleeping on my left side. We were told that sleeping on either side is fine, but left is best…which meant I would wake up all night just to check which side I was on. The body pillow helps me from tossing and turning and keeps me on my left most of the time.

Another comfort saving grace? My Storq leggings. Recommended by a friend, I splurged and got a few nice basic pieces of maternity clothes from Storq. Now they are my go tos and are SO COMFORTABLE! No pilling, no stretching out, and they look fantastic. High quality and super soft and stretchy…and dare I say fashionable? No rouching or traditional “maternity” looking style here. I am sold. Now I need to find a new bra that I love as much!

I have dedicated myself to continuing to be active, getting to the pool for lap swim and water aerobics at least once a week, and working out at my office gym at least 2x per week with cardio and weights or a class. I feel so lucky to have a gym at work with trainers that can help customize a prenatal workout. It still amazes me how much weight I have gained (gulp!) but my midwife is not concerned and I still feel healthy.

Cravings: kiwi (well, fruit in general) and dairy. Cottage cheese has become my go-to snack, and chocolate milk is my favorite treat.

The biggest challenge I have had is an onslaught of leg cramps. And not your normal “just stretch out your calf” ones either. These are wake-up-screaming-and-cannot-move cramps. Poor Matt has been scared out bed so many times now to help me stretch my leg. My midwife recommended taking magnesium, which I am, and it seems to have decreased the frequency of the cramps, but they still happen about every 3 days.

Little Grain, we are so excited to meet you! Daddy and I talk to you every evening and love to feel you kick and move. You are our constant motivation to keep making house progress, eating well, staying healthy and loving and supporting each other every day.

Another bonus this week…sunshine finally came out in our rainy part of the world! Spring is close!

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Pantry Progress 

When we bought our house, the sizeable pantry was a total selling point. Directly across the hall from this pantry was the door for the guest room. It was always an awkward entrance, making its own little hallway, and the light switch was behind the door when it opened.

As we started rethinking our new floorplan, and the guest room was being turned into a dining room, we knew this little extra empty space was a diamond in the rough. After nixing the idea of a walk through butler’s pantry (swoon…but it was just not enough space) we came up with a double sided pantry/china closet that stole our hearts.

It used every square inch of the awkward space, added TONS of storage, and will add a critical detail for any craftsman: the built ins. Matt designed the pantry to coordinate with the living room bookcase builtins to make the whole space flow together. It is still too cold to open all the windows, so priming and painting all these cabinets is on hold until Spring really rolls around. But the structure is built and they look fantastic. Not to mention sturdy and will hold all the canned goods we can stuff into it. The china closet side will have glass doors and will feature our extra serving dishes etc, while the pantry side will contain removable shelves and be covered with solid doors. He also added a double deep cabinet with hooks on the far right side to hold 4 folding chairs!

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A Week in the Life

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I have been meaning to write this post for a while now. I have always been curious about how other people live, and now that we are expecting a baby, wanting to capture how WE live pre-baby. I am sure it will be fun to look back on when we are a family of three with a very different schedule!

A few facts to start on:

  • We purchased a house with just under an acre of land nearly 4 years ago. At the time, Matt and I were both working, but always had the intention of being on one income at some point.
  • In 2014, Matt moved his focus home full time. Remodeling, cooking, cleaning, growing food. It has been THE.BEST.DECISION.EVER for our family. He is far happier, we have more free space to do things (only one work schedule to accommodate!) and had planned for this so financially it was an adjustment, but manageable.
  • I work in the city, and commute 4-5 days per week. Most of this is on public transportation (bus, water taxi, bus) but once or twice per week I will drive for work meetings, and get reimbursed for mileage. On these days I also make time to run our off island errands and do the bulk of our grocery shopping. Matt keeps a dynamic list of what we need and I can pick it up when I am out.
  • We have one vehicle: our trusty but little mini cooper!

Now that there are a few basics in place, our story becomes pretty routine.

I am up at either 5 or 6 depending on my work schedule that day, shower and dress while Matt puts together my breakfast and lunch. By 7 or 8 I am at the office and Matt is home doing is morning routine (take care of chickens, cats, doing dishes for previous night, playing some guitar). While I work so does he. Right now, the focus is our house remodel…which is extensive and we have been cranking on for nearly 14 months.

I walk in the door around 5:05 which means the work day is over for Matt as well. We make it a priority to not work past 5 o’clock on any day (unless there is a real exception that we need to keep going on a project) and get cleaned up and dinner going. Most of the time we whip something up from scratch, but recently I have been making a larger meal on Sunday that can get us at least through two nights of leftovers.

During the week, I usually shower off the work day (being on the bus feels kinda gross when I am back home), and start cooking while Matt puts away the chickens, plays a bit more guitar and winds down. Eating by 6:30 is the goal, and these days are in front of 2-3 episodes of something on Netflix. It is a low key evening, and we leave the kitchen a mess. Ha! Around 8 or 8:15, we are off to bed.

Weekends are a little more flexible, and we give ourselves space to sleep in and have a slow breakfast. Often we will make pancakes or waffles one morning, and then smoothies and eggs the other. We eat and hang out and listen to a slew of radio shows. By noon, we are usually moving towards more “productive” things: Matt working on the remodel, I am cleaning the kitchen, bills/taxes/paperwork, cooking, making sea glass mobiles for my Etsy shop, or in the garden. If the weather and tides cooperate we will do a beach walk. A quick pause for a snack if we need it, but often times we will just work through lunch. Dinner is not much different than the weeknight routine, but we may stay up till 10 (!) or so watching a movie. Big night!

We also try to pack in weekend adventures (though those are on hold with remodel taking #1, #2, and #3 priority!!!) of surfing/camping at the coast, going to Matt’s parents lake property, hiking, visiting family etc.

So yea, that is how our life generally looks these days. As we prepare for a baby this summer it was important for us to consider many aspects of this lifestyle to help us figure out what we needed/wanted for a car/stroller/sleeping arrangements etc. It was a worthwhile exercise to really focus on! We are certain that things will change as a family of 3, but this is a solid baseline to adjust from.

 

Snow Day

It is not often that we get snow on our little Pacific Northwest island. In the past few weeks, Matt has been quite vocal about that fact, beamoaning that we will NEVER get the snow that he always hoped to have in the place he grew up to live. Then, Sunday morning, we got a winter storm advisory. It promised 3-6 inches of glorious snow. Skeptical, but optimistic, I went to the grocery store to stock up on staples.

About 30 minutes after getting home the snow started. First very wet and more rain than snow. Then around 6pm the flakes started. They did not stop until nearly noon the next day! We woke up to 6 inches covering our little island world!

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The silence is my favorite part of snowfall. No cars on the road. It was magical. Matt and I walked around the property then retreated indoors for hot oatmeal and cocoa. I worked from home for the day, and he played in the snow. All was pretty great, and then the power went out. Typically we have backup heat with our natural gas fireplace…but it is still disconnected due to the remodel. Thankfully we had cranked out heat pump that AM and things coasted pretty well for most of the day.

By noon we had over 7 inches, and we could tell it was going to start warming up. Every branch was coated and drooping. It was stunning outside! Limbs were snapping all across the island, and we were lucky that the big on that broke in our yard missed the chicken coop by a few feet. Took out some of the fence but that is easily fixable.

By evening it was pretty chilly. We layered up and lit some candles. Played a few games. Watched the daylight fade from the sky. I cooked up a romantic dinner for two: salads and tuna mac&cheese with sweet pickles (one of our weird favorites). Comfort food at it’s best, eaten in a 46 degree house.

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The snow was such a treat!

Not So Stellar Weekend

Well, it was not terrible…but not great either.

Friday afternoon I went to the pool, only to find out there was a swim meet, so no workout for me. I caught a ferry home, took one look at Matt who had been texting me about itching all day, and turned back into the ferry line to take him to urgent care. Lack of medical care on Vashon is probably one of the more serious downsides to island life. We lucked out and only waited 20 minutes before he could be seen…verdict: allergic reaction to something, and the poor guy was covered head to toe in hives. Medicine has helped but he is still fighting the itching. Dinner was take and bake pizza after 9PM, which felt super late for me. I have been going to bed before 8 most nights these days!

Itchy guy meant the fireplace brick was on pause. It sat all weekend untouched. We really just milled around, cleaned, took care of house stuff, and went to bed early. A dear friend visited the island on Saturday afternoon so we did a beach walk for sea glass and catching up. Hot chocolate on the beach: awesome idea.

All in all it was a restful weekend, but not what we had intended. The fireplace brick will need to be revisited this week, and we have grout ready to go. We also have a table saw checked out from the tool library just waiting for book cases to be cut. I am all geared up to do our taxes, but the forms have not arrived yet. I did have a win in submitting my business taxes for the first time! And we made some killer eggplant parmesan. So at least that was progress.

That is how it goes though, some things are just out of your control.