Home Office Upgrade

I’m not exactly what you’d call a “DIY” kind of girl. I’m more of an “order online while wearing yoga pants and drinking red wine” kind of girl. That’s a thing, right? I mean, I want to be… I have a whole Pinterest board just mocking me with all the amazing, homemade, affordable crafts I could be whipping up to turn my house into the rustic farmhouse wonderland I’ve always wanted it to be.

But Joanna Gaines lied to me. It’s not a magical fun time with perfect results. By the time you round up all the necessary parts and tools and shop for all the stuff, you realize you’ve spent hundreds of dollars and made about 6 extra trips just to get everything you need. By then you already hate your project with the fire of a thousand suns so you have to make ANOTHER trip to get some more red wine and cookies for stress eating, and at this point wonder why you ever got off the couch in the first place. And you haven’t even started the “DI” part of DIY yet.

Ughhhhh. But I keep trying. I keep buying supplies and I keep hoping some of these things are going to turn out. I mean, the bottom line, truth of the matter is that DIY projects are A LOT OF WORK and you kind of have to know what you’re doing going in or you’re going to go crazy. I prefer to be the “idea girl” and watch Gil execute on things. Or shop. I really just prefer to shop.

But sometimes life throws you off balance a little, like when you take a new job at a start-up where you aren’t making nearly as much as you were before and realize YOU CAN’T AFFORD SHIT ANYMORE.  So you have to get creative.

Or in my case, you have to have in-laws who are creative and willing to share their time and skills (I’ll get to that part in a minute).

When I first started redoing my home office, I had a lot of grand ideas. Since I work from home and spend a ton of time in here, we made it one of our first projects to try to get totally done, so I’d have a zen space for my sometimes very stressful days.

This was a kid’s room before and while I don’t have pictures of the weird giant flower pictures that were bolted on the wall, I do have evidence of the terrible shade of yellow and icky curtains that were happening:

office - before

Blech. No thanks. Gil and I painted the walls a nice taupe and tore those curtains down, and my parents and I replaced the baseboards. And I added a giant fur rug of course.

office pic.jpg

But on the opposite wall, I had wanted to do some kind of show-stopping accent wall. Like a giant wall of flowers. Or since I was on a rustic kick, some kind of wood wall. Luckily for me, Pinterest had the answer. There is a company called Stikwood that sells these peel and stick wood plank pieces. Now, I haven’t seen them in person so I have no idea if it’s just super thin real wood, or if they look more like stickers. Either way, I was really impressed with the pictures and was ready to buy.


Only one problem. For the size of the wall I wanted to do, it would run me around $1,600. Ouch. Maybe if I still had commission checks rolling in and my old mortgage on the condo, but in this life that wasn’t gonna fly.

So I did nothing. We just painted that wall and I figured at some point I would figure out what to do with it. In the meantime, I had shared the Stikwood site with my mother-in-law and she LOVED it (because we basically have the exact same taste in things). And she IS what you would call a DIY girl. She has done so much work on their house, from stenciling the walls, to creating these beautiful mosaic pieces in the yard and in the guest shower.

So she decided to DIY the look and she and her husband bought the supplies and made it happen. This is why you always want someone else to go first on these kinds of things… she told me all about the things she learned on the project and what she’d do differently. And that she and my my father-in-law had time this summer if I wanted to do my office wall.

SOLD! So we planned a weekend for them to come down and help us. And then Gil and I adopted a dog a day before they arrived. I’m a great planner that way. (Don’t worry, we all survived just fine. The dog didn’t start running away until weeks after, but that’s a story for another day).

Guys, we did the whole project in ONE DAY. It was a long day. And super hot. And weirdly humid. And I wound up sweating so much I rubbed my inner thigh and butt skin raw. BUT I MADE SOMETHING WITH MY HANDS THAT LOOKS LIKE A REAL THING.

Well, I helped. My mother-in-law and I did all the prep work for the wood – we sanded it, stained it, painted it, and sanded it again. The boys measured, cut, and nailed it all in. I’ll show you exactly what we used to do it, but first LOOK AT MY GORGEOUS OFFICE WALL. LOOK AT IT.

office - after

office - after close up

office wall after

It looks BETTER than that Stikwood stuff. And guess how much the whole project cost me? Guess!!! Less than $300.

We got bender board from the garden section of the hardware store, and it was a weird light reddish color when we got it and really rough. I think it was around $2/board. Cost for wood: $160. We just sanded those strips down and then hit them with Minwax stain in Espresso. It took way more stain than we thought it would since we tested a few and the wood soaked it up so fast, so I had to go out for more. Cost for the stain: $50

office stain

Once the stain set, we painted over it with white paint. Cost: $30

office paint

Once that dried, we just hit it with an orbital sander to get the desired effect, which we already had so didn’t cost us a penny.

There was the unforeseen cost of extra brushes, rags, etc as well, along with one bra casualty when I exploded one of the stains all over myself.

ruined bra

But all in all, coming in under $300 and turning out something even more beautiful than the pictures I see on Pinterest almost makes me want to DIY this whole house.


I Can’t Be An Accessory To Chicken Murder

So a couple months ago, we got chickens. Our friends really wanted chickens but didn’t have space at their place, and Gil had been saying he wanted them since we bought the house, so when spring rolled around we headed over to our local feed store (guys, I live somewhere with a local feed store – wrap your head around that for a minute) and picked up 4 hens so we could share all the eggs amongst the four of us.

They were 12 weeks old when we got them (so, like preteens in chicken years?) and the nice people at the feed store told us they’d start laying at around 6 months old. They also told us they were all lady chickens, because we did ask. Why? Because I DEFINITELY DID NOT WANT A ROOSTER.

I initially vetoed the idea of chickens because I thought you had to have a rooster to get eggs. I must have slept through biology in school because when I said that to Gil he just shook his head at me. Apparently you don’t need a rooster in order for chickens to lay eggs because OBVIOUSLY they come with eggs, just like humans, and you only need rooster sperm if you want little baby chickens in your eggs instead of just delicious breakfast ingredients.  Also, I might still need a biology refresher because I just realized I said “they come with eggs” and don’t actually understand how any of it really works.

Anyway, we brought our 4 hens home and everything was going great. We named them Dolly, Shania, Loretta and Reba. Unbeknownst to us however, our redhead Reba turned out to be a total cock. (OK, that was really bad, but there was no way I could get through this whole thing without a terrible cock joke, and I just had to get it out of my system. First and last one, I promise.)

Seriously though, one of our hens is apparently a rooster. How do I know? Well, it crows and it has sex with our other hens and doesn’t lay eggs. So either it’s a rooster, or a barren and very vocal lesbian hen. Either way, all that noise isn’t really working for me. Especially since it apparently didn’t get the memo that THE SUN ISN’T EVEN OUT AT 4 AM, SHUT UP YOU STUPID BIRD.

So once we figured this out, my first thought was “We have to kill it.” My second thought was “Whoa Courtney, the country has hardened you.”

This was all about a month ago, so since then we’ve been waffling over killing it. My boss grew up on a farm in upstate New York so he had an endless amount of tips for the proper way to kill and prepare it so we could eat the freshest chicken in the world. Turns out, that is A LOT of work. Like, you have to pluck all the feathers and cut all the nasty parts out and it really just sounded like “and then Gil has to wahwahwahwah, and then Gil will need to wahwahwahwah but Gil will also have to be careful to wahwahwahwah.” Because I’m really more of a supervisor when it comes to this kind of stuff  – I’m not trying to get chicken guts on my new summer maxi dresses.

So the other day we decided to see if we could even catch it. We had put it in a different part of the yard because it would not stop mounting the other chickens and it was getting aggressive. Gil and I tag teamed it and chased it around the yard until we could corner it. It took a couple tries because that thing is FAST but we finally caught it with the help of a trusty bucket.

Gil pulled out his knife and looks at me and is like, “Well? You ready?”

No. I was not ready. I was not ready to be an accessory to chicken murder. Especially because Gil wasn’t sure he wanted to do all the work required to actually be able to eat it. Beheading it and burying it in the yard just felt very backwoods mobster to me.

So we let it go and put an ad on Craigslist, as one does. We live in the country so it didn’t take long for someone to hit us up and arrange a time to take it off our hands. We both felt relieved, and were looking forward to the weekend so we could close the chapter on the big red cock that had been causing so many problems. (OK, I lied that I was only going to make one cock joke, but you knew that, right?)

So on Sunday,  we were heading to the airport to pick up friends and decided to drop the rooster off with its new family on our way. We just had to catch it and get it in a box for transport. No problem, right?

Wrong. So wrong. We should never have practice caught it before. Because as soon as it saw both of us it took off in a dead sprint. Gil and I are a lot of things, but “speedy” is really not one of them. So there we are, chasing this thing around the yard, each of us grabbing at it as it zooms past us and just laughing hysterically. I’m in a crouch, basically the same way I used to play 3rd base, trying to shuffle around and block it as it shoots past. We finally cornered it on a woodpile and Gil got a bucket over it, but then we had to figure out how to get it in the box for transport.

Guys, I am a badass country girl now because I just told Gil to hold the bucket up a bit while I reached in and grabbed this big ol panicked rooster to safely transport him to his little traveling container. BOOM. Rooster apprehended.

Your next question is probably why is that box INSIDE YOUR HOUSE? That’s a good question, you should ask Gil. We were running late to get the airport and were trying to get out the door and for some reason he decided to come through the house instead of around it and dropped the rooster IN OUR BEDROOM while he changed.

When the box started rocking, I turned around and told him if that rooster got loose in our bedroom he was going to have a whole new problem to deal with. Although, if it DID, I’d have way more material to share with you guys, so, silver lining?

Spoiler: it didn’t. So Gil still gets to sleep in the house instead of the barn.

We Are Officially “Those” Neighbors

So, it turns out when you buy a property on 7 acres, it requires a lot of upkeep. I know, when I read that back to myself it seems insane that one wouldn’t fully realize that, but what I can say? I’m a city girl in the country, figuring it out as I go.

When Gil and I bought the house last year, we had a deal. He would take care of the land, the barn, fixing things in the house, helping me hang everything I bought, doing small renovation projects, and I would…. wait, what exactly WAS my side of the deal? Oh, right, he was going back to school full time and working at a local high school (more for the experience than the pay) so I agreed to take care of everything on the financial side for the house, because I could. That way he could focus on school, his job, and the 4 mile long list of things I wanted him to do around the property.

So, it’s been going really well so far. He’s done a ton of work in the house and I’ve been decorating up a storm, so things have been slowly starting to come together. Our well broke at one point (yep, we live on a well in California – seemed totally reasonable to buy a property on a well in the middle of the craziest drought in history) and since neither of us have any idea how wells really work, we called in a professional. $1,200 later, and it was good as new. But other than that, the property itself hasn’t given us much trouble.

Until a few months ago. See, California got rain this past year. Lots of rain. More rain than we’ve seen in years and years and years. Record breaking rain. Which was amazing because we’ve been in a drought for so many years that we had forgotten what rivers and lakes were supposed to look like. And I was thrilled, because the ground water was great for folks living on wells like we do.

HOWEVER. I did not consider that it also meant that the grass (weeds?) on the property would start growing at record speeds. Across 7 acres. And that no one was coming to take care of it for us.

So I started nagging Gil to figure out what we were going to do about it. What kind of mower did we need to handle it? Could we get a push mower? Or a riding one I could tool around on like something out of a movie? How much would it cost? Not more than a couple thousand dollars, right?

I mean, how cute. I thought we could just get a riding mower for 7 acres of 5 foot tall grass. Turns out that belief is not based in reality. And the heavy duty tractors cost upward of $10,000 which we couldn’t afford in that moment. We didn’t really know what to do. So we did what any responsible adult couple would do: we ignored it.

Well, not entirely. We bought a weed whacker. A WEED WHACKER. Which I’m pretty sure is meant for someone’s front lawn in a suburban neighborhood, not 7 acres in the middle of the country. But to his credit, Gil was out there sweating his balls off, hacking his way through our property. But at the rate he was able to go because he’s a human man, it would take about 10 years to get through the whole property.

Sidenote: I really wish I had a picture of Gil weed-whacking on 7 acres to show you, but I know when not to push my luck.

So anyway, a week or two later when I was out of town for work, I got a call from Gil. Our next door neighbor had stopped by. He must have seen Gil out there with his weed whacker and just laughed at the poor naive city folk infiltrating his neighborhood. He knocked on our door and asked Gil what was up with our grass, and if we had plans to cut it. Cue TOTAL MORTIFICATION.

We had become THOSE neighbors. The ones making the rest of the neighborhood look bad. Those entitled city people who decided to buy a farm without knowing anything about actual country living. People tease me that I am a living embodiment of Green Acres, and I’ve never felt like it was more accurate than when Gil called to tell me that.

green acres

In fairness to our neighbor though, he wasn’t coming around to criticize – I think he truly just felt sorry for us. Plus, it would have turned into a fire hazard once the rain let up, and they do live next door to us, so it’s just good sense. But when Gil called to tell me I wanted to die of embarrassment.

Our neighbor was really just offering to help us poor city schmucks out by bringing over his tractor to clear the brush for us. Which he did, because he’s a wonderful guy, and we offered to pay him whatever he thought was fair because we’re city people who have no idea what it should cost to have someone mow 7 acres with a tractor.

So now, I just keep thinking about what’s going to happen this fall and winter, because we will be right back where we were. Luckily, we have a plan. A super practical plan. That nothing could possibly go wrong with. We’re going to get a bunch of goats and let them roam the whole property and eat all the grass.

But as it turns out, you need something called a “goat rated” fence to keep those fuckers where they’re supposed to be. And I don’t know much, but I have a feeling that fencing 7 acres with heavy duty fencing is going to make quite a dent in my Amazon Prime and Homegoods spending money.

So we’ll start pricing fences, and when I regain consciousness after fainting from the sticker shock, we’ll start to really plan out our timeline. Until the next project that requires our immediate attention pops up. Because, you guys, apparently living on 7 acres IS A LOT OF WORK.

Gil & Courtney Go Country

I’ve been MIA for months, and it’s really made me feel bad, but to be fair, I’ve been a little overwhelmed.

I sold my condo, and Gil and I bought a new house on 7 acres that needs some work, and uprooted our lives in the city to move 3 hours south and become country people. Which, honestly, I thought just meant being able to not wear pants with the drapes open since there are no neighbors close by, and having sex really loud with the windows open. Gil has informed me that sound carries out here since there are no buildings to absorb it and since it’s pitch black out here, a neighbor could easily see in at night when our lights are on.

Fine. Country: 1, Courtney: 0

Although our neighbors across the road (it’s not even a STREET out here guys – we live along a mile long dirt road we share with a handful of other houses) have a for sale sign up and are planning to move, so if they happen to see my butt through the bathroom window while I’m getting ready for bed, I think I can live with that. And the sound traveling thing? I am currently choosing to believe that is false, and proceeding with zero caution.


There are other things I don’t think I was prepared for out here as well. I envisioned basically having a very glamourous farm property like Chip and Joanna Gaines on Fixer Upper, and that I’d magically develop the design chops to make the inside of this place look like one of the “after” houses on their show within the first month or so. Turns out, shit is EXPENSIVE when you’re trying to furnish a whole 2100 square foot house and make improvements because the previous owners did a lot of weird, questionable stuff. So you’re damn well going to keep the high quality pieces you already have, and then work around those. We’re making progress, but like everything we’ve encountered so far, it’s more work than I thought it would be.

Plus, it’s like this twisted catch-22 with everything. There are cracked tiles in the master bath and the tub leaks. Well, they only way to access the tub for repairs is to rip up all the tiles. (Nice work, whoever installed that). So we could do that… but then I’m paying to have tiles I don’t even LIKE repaired, to fix a tub I want to replace eventually. So maybe we should replace the whole tub then. And maybe just rip out ALL the tiles and replace them with ones I like. At that point, why not just renovate the whole bathroom? Then it starts to sound like a huge, expensive project, and I decide maybe we should wait. Now I finally understand why my mom hasn’t changed out the flooring in her kitchen in the last 20 years. She’d basically have to renovate the whole first floor.

It’s this same logic that is the reason we don’t have door handles on some of the rooms. They were so old and defective they would lock and stick, and then I’d start screaming from my office because I couldn’t get out, and claustrophobia aside, it was inevitably when I was trying to get out to the hall bathroom to pee, so things got a little dicey. Panic and a full bladder do not go well together. Finally Gil just took the handles off.

So, a normal person would just replace the handles. No. I hate the doors. I don’t want to spend money on something I hate. We’ll just get new doors. But that means picking doors I like that don’t cost a million dollars and that Gil doesn’t hate. And then priming and painting those. And picking out all new hardware. And sanding and painting all the door frames. There are like a million doors in this house. We’re both working a ton of hours right now, so instead of all that, we choose to live our lives without door handles at the moment so at least I can pee without having to break through a window or ruin the carpet in my office.

And then there are the little things that I didn’t think about. I can’t flush tampons out here. I know, you’re not really supposed to flush them anyway, but I definitely do that sometimes. No wet wipes for my tushie anymore either (and I ALWAYS flushed those)! Which if we’re being honest, those are pretty clutch after sex, so I’m bummed about it. BUMMED…. get it?

In the past, if there was a plumbing problem, one quick call to the landlord or home warranty company, and they’d come clear the pipes (although I never really had that issue with any of our toilets in recent memory). But NOW…. now if I accidentally flush anything other than the bare minimum, I risk DESTROYING our septic system and triggering a poopacolypse. Because we have our own septic system now. I mean, I knew that when we bought the place, but now I’m realizing I never really thought through what that actually MEANT. I basically live on top of an underground poop farm. Or lake of poop? I admit, I have no idea how a septic system works, but that’s how I envision it and now apparently if I anger the septic gods, there could be a poop eruption on our property. Gross.

So OK, no flushing things. But now I have to research things like whether I can use bubble bath. I can live with throwing my tampons in the trash. But I don’t think I can live without bubble bath. Also, by “research,” I clearly mean that I will tell Gil I’m going to to it, and he’ll research it to tell me if it will destroy our house or not.

Spoiler alert – it’s been a stressful couple months and I AM going to go buy bubble bath today because bubble baths can solve almost any problem and we have a second bathroom with a non-leaking tub I can use. I’ll report back on how that goes.


But honestly, even with all the adjustments and new challenges we are encountering along the way, I wouldn’t trade this house or experience for anything. We finally have a home where we both have seperate space to do our own thing (even if those spaces are works in progress) and we are basically alone out here, which was the goal. When I stand on our deck at night, I can see more stars than I realized there even were in the sky, because there isn’t light pollution out here. The only sound I hear is the whinny of a horse or two on one of our neighboring properties. No traffic, no sirens, no screaming babies. Just quiet.

AND I’ve gotten to see deer up close and personal – which for a city girl, feels weirdly magical, like something out of a Hallmark Christmas movie.

It really is everything we wanted for ourselves at this point in our lives. There is always work to be done, but when I look out our kitchen window to the views and realize that this really is all ours, I have zero regrets.



When It Rains, It Pours

It makes me really sad that I haven’t had the mental or emotional energy to write in so long. There has been A LOT going on and it will take many blog posts and many nights to really do it all justice, but here’s a short recap:

  • Diagnosed with sleep apnea – slept an average of about 2 hours a night for the first 6 weeks after I got my CPAP machine. They keep telling me I’ll die an early death without it, but so far all it’s done is spike my blood pressure and anxiety and prevent me from sleeping through the night.
  • Was in the ER for mystery stomach pain and abnormal blood work. Many tests and almost $6K out of pocket later, still no definitive answer other than ovarian cysts and possibly IBS.
  • Found out there was extensive gum damage and swelling as a result of the sleep apnea and a medication I was on, and wound up having to have multiple gum surgeries (another $7K out of pocket).
  • Somewhere in all this, decided moving to Colorado was really too far away from my (and Gil’s) family, so completely overhauled our relocation plans.
  • Sold my condo.
  • Bought a new house on 7 acres, 3 hours away from where we are now.
  • Struggled to find homeowners insurance on said house. Finally able to obtain it if we were classified as a HOBBY GOAT FARM.
  • Oh, and Gil proposed on a trip to Colorado so now we’re technically engaged. I say “technically” because we were already committed and we’re waiting til he finishes school to get married, and then we’re eloping so no one will even know it’s happening until it’s already happened. But I have a badass ring and am officially his property now… wait, no, that doesn’t sound right. But we’re engaged, and that makes me happy.

So to recap my recap…. it’s been really overwhelming the last few months, but things are turning around. And I’m getting GOATS. So there’s that.

Right now is all about talking about packing (we move in less than 2 weeks and haven’t exactly started) and debating over which kind of goats we’re going to get. Essentially the only thing my brain can handle at this point is researching different kinds of pygmy goats and how friendly each different breed is – not thinking about all the work that has to be done on the house, or the headaches I’ll have getting my new home office set-up, or all my unresolved health stuff and the fact I have to find all new doctors and specialists.

I’m focused more on the goats than the packing, because that’s way more fun. Gil also keeps threatening to eat our future pet goats, so I don’t think we’re done debating about this.

Also, I decided it would be a fabulous plan to go on the hunt for a 12 foot tall dinosaur that I could park at the end of our dirt driveway at the new house so people could ALWAYS find us, and I could say things like “Just turn left at the dinosaur.” I’d seen them in Half Moon Bay, so this past weekend my parents and I went out looking. We found it. And it was glorious.


Unfortunately for me, it turns out that “glorious” comes with a hefty price tag: $3K. Considering the numbers on all that house paperwork I just signed and all the medical expenses this year so far, even I couldn’t justify that cost. Trust me, I tried. I really did. But also, I’d like to live in that house for years, and I’m not sure parking a 12 foot tall dinosaur in the road is the best way to get off on the right foot with all my new neighbors.

So I went on the hunt for something more “appropriate” – and just 100 feet into the metal gallery I was shopping in, I FOUND IT. My beautiful new rooster. Literally just a couple inches shorter than me, and as loud and obnoxious as you can imagine – it’s like my metal spirit animal.


And I checked with Gil – it’s definitely a rooster, not a chicken. I asked how you can tell the difference and he just shook his head at me. Then again, when he told me he wanted to have chickens on our property so we could have eggs, my first question was if you could just rent a rooster instead of owning one, since I didn’t want to be woken up at 5AM. Turns out chickens make eggs all on their own, without a rent-a-rooster making the rounds. I had no idea. I’m totally going to rock this whole living in the country, having a goat farm thing.

But back to my amazing find at the metal gallery.  It’s ALMOST $3K cheaper than my initial pick, so it would be really irresponsible for me NOT to buy it. Because not having some sort of animal statue at the end of the drive just really isn’t an option. PLUS, now I can tell people to turn left AT THE GIANT COCK.

I couldn’t fit it in my car, so he’s not actually mine yet, but he will be. Gil agreed to go get him for me (it’s about 45 minutes away) with his truck and then bring him back to pack him into the moving truck we’re renting. Forget engagement rings – THAT is true love.

So basically I’m living exactly the life I want right now – where transporting a 5 foot tall metal rooster is my number one priority, and the only thing I’m allowing myself to stress about is what I’m going to name him.

Considering the year I’ve had so far, everything else can just wait.