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.

This is How I Spend My Weekends

Every once in a while I hop on Craigslist looking for a second dresser for my bedroom. So far I haven’t had any luck finding exactly what I’m looking for, but several weeks ago I found one that caught my eye. Only it wasn’t for the bedroom. This one would make an excellent media console. I didn’t need one, but it looked like a fun project, and at $75, the price was right.

These days my husband is really into running races, so after competing in a 10k nearby, he swung by and picked up the dresser.

Our old Craftsman electric sander was on its last legs and had never been really great anyway, so we upgraded to a DeWalt. I started sanding halfheartedly. It made the job easier, but there was still elbow grease required. Sanding is the part of any project that I loathe. But it had to be done.

Thankfully, I married well. While I was inside working on lunch, my husband finished sanding the big surfaces and started hand-sanding all the crevices. By late afternoon, he was done.

After that it was up to me to stain and varnish. About eight coats later, she was ready for action.

What do you think?


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.