How to Fire Pit So Hard


When we bought our house, I had visions of the brick pizza oven we were going to build near the back patio. Turns out, brick pizza ovens are pretty far down the list of house projects in terms of both time and money when you have a 1939 house that needs some love and repainting.

Last fall/this spring, we finally accomplished the goals of replacing the driveway and back patio. That meant the way was cleared for the fire pit of our lounging around a flame dreams.

We have a stack of cinder block left over from the last residents of our house, so at first we tried to go cheap and free. But it was ugly and I wasn’t sure the cement blocks would stand up to the heat over time. So one weekend, we go our rock on.


The first step was to dig out and level the area where we wanted the fire pit. Start with sand for stability.

I bought three of the stones I wanted from Lowe’s, measured and figured out how many stones we’d need. I also decided three layers stones would look best. Then I beat it to Lowe’s to count out those rocks onto the pushcart, simultaneously trying to keep the 3-year-old from wandering off or crack her head open after doing too many flips on the pushcart handle.


Next up: set the first ring, along with a level and a rubber hammer to pound them down.


We used construction adhesive to lock those babies in place. We didn’t do this with our planter out front, and yes, sometimes the kids take a tumble off a wiggly rock.


Then, layer and level as you go. Alternate the stone placement in a “brick” pattern. (Where one stone is centered on the seam of the two beneath it.)


We did a final step, which I’m not sure was necessary, but gives me peace of mind. We recycled the old heat-proof bricks that were in the deteriorating built-in grill next to the house and lined the inside of the fire pit with them.

Finally, more sand to fill in all the cracks and keep things from shifting.

We spent around $100 for this project, not including the tools we already had and those heat-proof bricks.


We tested it out and the following evening grilled some leftover Peeps.


Awww, yeah!


Then, even though the idea was to keep things inexpensive, I was lulled into buying four Adirondak chairs that will hold up to all this crazy Oklahoma weather. My wooden ones from last year are already cracking.


Since then, we had approximately 12,000 inches of rain in April and our backyard alternates between pool and mud pit. And we’ve dealt with water in the basement…

But as soon as it dries out, we’ll be fire pitting so hard.





The day before Thanksgiving, we ripped down the back splash in our kitchen. It wasn’t horrible, and I felt a little wasteful, but I knew we wanted to refinish the counters, so I figured if we were ever going to do it, this was the time.


It’s a good thing our Thanksgiving guests didn’t mind the ripped up kitchen.



We did Ardex concrete counters. I did tons of research and looking around online beforehand at various Ardex counters.


I won’t post a tutorial here, because there are many online. I will say, however, applying the Ardex is very easy and results in an impressive finish.


Mix the Ardex with water, sand the counters, apply, let dry, sand, reapply. Repeat several times.


And then, seal. That’s the simple part, right? It’s easy to do, but I had terrible luck with sealers. We tried two different ones, and have a third one that I haven’t yet tried. But the counter is totally destroyed by now, and we have to redo it. Some day we’ll fix it, and some day I’ll update you on the process. But it is totally discouraging and depressing. And annoying. It’s a character flaw that I don’t like redoing things I’ve already put effort into.


See how pretty it looked? Makes me sick.

But that leads into the back splash process, which I’m really happy with.


I chose marble subway tile, which I love love love.


We had a tiny helper.


We spent all this time protecting our counter work, and it was all for naught.


I’m not at all bitter.


The tile, however, makes me happy.


(tiny, adorable grouter!)

I went with a dark gray grout.


So this is where we are, folks.


Ugly iPhone photo, unstaged, half painted.

Actually, it’s worse right now, because we have no cabinet doors, and we haven’t had any for at least three months. We’re classy. And this all takes tons of time between two full-time jobs that include international travel and two tiny people who are cute, but need lots of attention. Also, I like to go to bed at a decent hour, in order to have brain power for tiny people and said job.


In retrospect, I would have chosen a lighter gray for the aesthetics. However, I do think the dark grout will be better for hiding stains.

And look how awesome homemade donuts look against the back splash!


Fortunately this tiny chef also looks adorable while cooking against the back splash.


In approximately 100 years, I’ll show you the finished resurfaced cabinets. Then it’s on to fixing the counters (or replacing them?) and the floor, which awesomely has suddenly decided to come popping up. You know what isn’t awesome? Tripping over a laminate tile while trying to unload the dishwasher/cook dinner/pour milk for a suddenly dying-of-thirst-RIGHT-NOW three-year-old.

And the list goes on.

The Kitchen Saga

When we purchased our home, we knew the kitchen needed work. First up, was the huge hole in the ceiling… left there by a water pipe that burst during a very cold winter while the house was unoccupied.


That same waterfall also dampened all the peel and stick tile on the floor and splattered on cabinet doors, causing water damage to the wood.


We knew a remodel was in our future, somewhere.


So we started with the obvious and fixed the hole, adding six can lights in during the process.



It was really dusty on the newly refinished wood floors.


And thank goodness for friends to help.


Because, let’s be real, when it comes to this sort of thing, I’m pretty useless. I’m a short 5′ 2″ weakling.


Next, we removed an old double wall oven that no longer worked, rebuilt the cabinet and did something with the gas line. (Moved it? I don’t know. I was probably packing up the other house when this was going on.)


I told my husband the house had to be “liveable” before I would move in.


For me, liveable means having hot water and a functioning kitchen. Also, no clutter, but that probably wasn’t going to happen for a few months.

[Sidenote: my awesome husband also swapped out the rusty, broken water-heater and installed a tankless water heater. They aren’t common here, but I love it! If you need a new water heater, go tankless!]

Eventually, we got here:


At some point we swapped all the hardware out,


painted and added a new light over the sink.


Then we quit for a while, and worked on other things. Lots and lots of things.


[Gratuitous cute kid picture.]

And then, around 8.5 months pregnant on the day before Thanksgiving:


Yep. Good timing.

So that’s just a teaser for the rest of what we did. It’s not quite finished, and I’ve been waiting and waiting to show the final reveal, but it’s just not done. Life and all that.

But get excited, because there’s marble tile and a tiny grouter in a tie-dyed shirt.

Dutch People and their Coffee

This is the latest addition to our casa:


It’s a little coffee station on an unused nook.

Our house has a funny little area off the kitchen that used to be an entrance/mud room. After whoever enclosed the porch to make our sunroom, it became an awkward nothing space. We added a second pantry/closet by adding a wall and moving the folding door that separated the living room from the kitchen to that closet.

And this week, we (really the handy husband) added two shelves and a table to make this coffee spot. He first had to add the electrical outlet, taking power from the kitchen behind.

We still need paint touch-ups, but this station will see daily use in this house.

The Room is Ready… But the Kid’s not Here


I think the best thing about having a new baby is getting to plan and design a new room decor. Last January, we turned our attention to our upstairs guest room and my handy husband took down all the ceiling texture. Then it just seemed like the right time to paint the trim, the room and redo the closet doors. In May, we had the upstairs floors redone while we are on vacation. And at that point, we knew we’d be expecting a little one in six months, so we figured it was time to move the toddler into new digs. So he got a room upgrade with a new toddler bed and the bigger room. I moved his curtains and furniture over, and he was ready to go.

Then it was time to plunge into working on the new nursery. I decided on chartreuse green and grey as my color palette, since it fit with the colors I already have in my house, but was far from classic and/or girly.


I made the Roman shades with some fun graphic fabric (tutorial here) and updated some curtains I already had in the guest room with green ribbon. Then, in keeping my tradition of having ugly 70s era chairs in my nurseries, I found an olive green velveteen one on Craigslist for $25. I probably paid too much. But we have a swivel rocking chair that will be good for nursing and story time.


My sweet friend, Cassie, custom-made the two canvases on the wall, and my other sweet friend, Emily, whipped up the panels for the crib skirt out of fabric I already had. The hamper was a consignment store find while we were in Eureka Springs this August. The fun graphic rug is one of the only thing I purchased new for the room, apart from fabric, paint, storage baskets and sheets. It came from


The changing table was found by one of my spies. It helps to have friends who know what you need and what are you looking for. The changing table I used before was an old desk, and while it worked fine for my 5’2” height, my taller husband and friends said it was back-pain inducing to use. So Emily texted me a picture of this table on the side of the road one day while I was at work. She said, “This could work for your room. It’s got $15 on it.” I swung by on my way home from work pulled all the cash I had in my wallet and offered the guy $8. The handy husband cut new center panels out of peg board (cheap and the right width for the existing channels!), I lined them with shelf liner for easy wiping, and then with a few coats of spray paint and some screw tightening, we had a like-new changing table with lots of storage room.


The changing table plus the addition of this shelf I already had made me decide not to add a dresser to the room. It’s pretty small (maybe 15×15 ft?), and with the window layout, there isn’t much wall space. My parents hauled that shelf up from Ecuador, where they made lots of wicker goods, when they moved in 2000. It was a bookshelf and a plant stand at their house in California, before I commandeered it for my apartment in Rancho Cucamonga. It’s been white, black, turquoise and now green.


We also refinished and added new hardware to closet while I was painting everything in here. We replaced the ceiling fan as well, since it squeaked uncontrollably after many fixes. We added these vintage handles my mom and sister and I found at a garage sale in Idaho two summers ago. I used all the knobs except four on a dresser update in our room, and these leftovers worked perfectly in here, and even match the glass doorknobs found throughout the rest of the house.


The handy husband polished the brass hardware on the door knobs, too. So the toddler’s room and the baby’s room have had every surface refinished like this, while our room, the room I did first, still needs the closet and the doors refinished along with the hardware. There’s also a broken vintage house intercom system speaker in our room that I need to rip out and patch. I did that in the toddlers room but didn’t do as thorough of a job when we were trying to get settled into our room.


Cassie also found this cool paper dragonfly piece from one of those global handicraft places. I’ve got it taking the place of a mobile over the changing table, so baby can watch while getting her diapers changed.


While in Jerusalem this summer, I found these cool glass globes in the Old City and decided I could make a reflective mobile with some. I added ribbon and tiny round mirrors with clear fishing line, and I really like how it turned out.


The mirrors and glass cast fun little shadows and reflections around the room in the sun light.


The toddler boy has a wooden fish mobile that we bought in Costa Rica while I was four months pregnant with him, so it’s neat that she has a mobile also purchased on one of our travels with her in mind.


So there you have it. The blog post my dad will complain about for month, because there are no kid pictures and he’s not interested in room design or budget decorating. But mostly because this will probably stay up for a few weeks while I get settled with a newborn. Because, I’m already 10 days past my due date, and I’m pretty sure this kid is never coming. But induction is set for Monday, so she’d better decide to come out on her own or get evicted.

What’s holding her back, any way? She’s got this sweet room all ready and waiting for her, stocked with enough clothes to keep any fashionista happy.

Wherein I Get Expressive About Wood


After we bought our house, we didn’t move in for a month. It was a short-sale, problem house, so it had been vacant for a year and showing its age. My husband replaced the water heater (go tankless!), the double oven, the kitchen ceiling (or is it replacing if there wasn’t one?), worked on the plumbing problems that led to the lack of the kitchen ceiling, had the furnace redone, replaced the garage door opener, rebuilt the cabinet space around the oven and fridge, and probably a bunch of other things I’ve forgotten. Oh, replaced the light in the dining room and installed can lights in the kitchen. Oh, and replaced the electrical panel. I… did most of the packing at the other house. Before we moved in, though, we had the wood floors refinished. But we could only afford to do the ground floor (after all that other work!), so we left the upstairs until later.


I feared that day might never come, but friends, that day was this month and May. We cleaned out one upstairs bedroom after Christmas in order to remove the texture on the ceiling. That led to vent replacement, fan replacement, trim painting, closet door resurfacing and baseboard replacing. So I thought, as long as the room is empty, we’d get the floors done.



My awesome DIY helper helped me clear the room to get ready.


Need this, mama?


So our guy came, and he sanded.


Original floors to the right, clean-sanded to the left.


Based on my extensive knowledge of wood, I’d say this is red oak. #totallymadethatup

When we go on vacation in May, we’ll move the furniture into this room, and have the other two upstairs rooms done.



And, le finished:


Rich, warm wood with a beautiful grain.

And the kid totally put scratches in it on Saturday. Awesome.