Tuesday, May 19, 2015

DIY Cat Box Dresser

We've been making due with a few things around here with the knowledge that we'd be moving soon.  When we decided we weren't going to move (see below for the whole story), I decided that our cat box needed a better home.  First we had it downstairs, but there was no ventilation down there so it was unbearable.  Then, we put it at the top of the stairs, kind of over on the side of the kitchen, but it became problematic when our guests needed to go up and down the stairs.  So, we moved it into our dining room, up in a corner where no one ever walks.  It was out of the way, but it was visible from the front door and still a little smelly.

I started searching craigslist for a cheap dresser.  I found an add for a $50, solid wood dresser.  I went and purchased it, and when I got it home I realized it was not solid would, but rather really crappy laminate.  Grrr.  I need to work on my Craigslist skills.  I decided I would make it work anyway, since I liked the shape and it was pretty solid.

 I actually remembered to take a "before" picture!

The first step was to remove the four bottom drawer-fronts from their respective drawers.  I did this with a saw and some elbow grease.

First I had to get through until I hit the bottom and then I had to turn the saw sideways and get all the way through that last inch or so.  

 It took a bit of prying and pulling to undo some glue, but I eventually got all 4 drawer-fronts completely off.

Then, I sanded all of the edges down to prevent splinters, and then glued the top and bottom drawer-fronts together to create a cupboard front.  Very important--sand where ever you will place glue!  I used Gorilla Glue, andI held these together with rubber bands over night.

The next part was probably the most difficult, and also Rob and Casey's favorite. I wanted the space where the drawers originally were to be big and open cupboard space, so I need all of the stuff in the middle of the dresser gone.  This took sawing, banging with a hammer, and prying nails out, but I eventually removed all the structure from inside.  Then, I carefully cut into the side a small kitty door. When I finished, I sanded it as smooth as I could make it.

Then, I had to put this project on hold for a day or two because I had finals. Boo.

After my last test, I went to home depot and bought primer and paint to finish this baby up.  I walked into my house with my arms full of things, and immediately dropped my can of primer.

This put my project on delay.  The rug's a goner, I think I saved the couch, and I'm still working on the floor. On the bright side, none of it got on the dresser! :|

I took all the pulls off, and filled in some holes from what must have been even older pulls. I used Elmers Wood Filler.  Once it was dry, I sanded it down so it was less noticeable.

I then decided it would be smart to attach my doors with the hinges before I painted, in case I made some mistakes. Turns out that was a good idea.

It took my awhile to figure out hinges and what kind to buy, but turns out I did okay. I needed inset hinges, because of that little overhang thing.  I'm basically a hinge-master. I lined them up and drilled all my holes, then screwed everything in to make sure it then would hang correctly.

Then I took it all back apart so I could paint and prime.  First, I lightly sanded everything.  Laminate is not really wood, and its very thin, so I did not go to crazy. I just needed the primer to stick. I also used an adhesive primer so the paint would stick.

I took (what was left of) my primer and used a roller to apply it to the entire thing, including the door fronts and drawer fronts of the top two drawers.  While that was drying, I took my hardware outside for a little facelift.  I thought about buying new hardware, but the holes were already there and it was not bad looking.  I didn't reuse the plate on the back though. (See above.)

I wanted it to match my hinges, so I lightly scruffed them with sandpaper, washed them with soap and water, and spray painted them silver.

I thought my primer would take longer to dry, but I couldn't read the instructions since I spilled primer all over the can immediately after walking in the door.  It felt dry enough to me after about an hour, so I went for it!

I drew my inspiration for paint colors from this dresser.  Sorry that I can't post the picture...It's a weird site.

I wouldn't say I exactly nailed it.  I think I wasn't brave enough to go with darker colors.  It seemed to me that the swatches I picked out were identical to those, but in person, not so much.  They are much brighter.

I bought some Minwax to make it look antiqued like my inspiration piece, but I think because I chose matte paint, rather than gloss, it didn't work exactly like I'd planned.  It just kind of made everything darker, rather than soaking into the cracks and being wiped away.  So, I painted over that section and left it as it.

Anyways. I put all my hardware back on, and then set some wood down on the bottom that Home Depot cut for me. The drawer liners in there already were not strong enough to hold litter.

Then I loaded it up!  

Now our little box has a much better home.  And we have one more piece of furniture to move, which I found out we were doing the next day. Womp.

Ta-Da!  Stay tuned for more projects.

House Hunting

Because Rob is getting his PhD (that takes awhile, who knew?), when we moved out here, we thought about buying a house, rather than renting to possibly help save some money in the long run. You know, at least pay our own mortgage rather than our landlord's.  We gave it a very futile attempt, but decided it would be very difficult to do from across the country.  Instead, we put our faith in this little house that came up for rent.

Overall, this little house has had its ups and downs.  We like the location, due to the proximity to the school, but we don't like that it's on one of the busiest streets in Ft. Collins.  We like the huge backyard, but are getting a little cramped in its 832 sq. ft interior.  We like that there's a washer and dryer inside the house, but we could really use another bathroom for the three of us. Rob and I have also been sharing a closet that is one door-width wide.

So, back in January, we started looking a little harder at houses to buy.  My parents said they would help us with the down payment (and really the whole "actually buying a house thing" since we have no money).  Basically, they would be our landlords.  We got in touch with a real estate agent and began our search.  We were looking for something that three people could live in, but that potentially Rob and I could afford by ourselves in a year or two, or, something that would be just right for me and Rob, if Casey had other options. (Which she did.)  We also wanted it to be close to campus. After a few weeks of looking, we found a cute little condo.  We put an offer in, above asking price, and we did not get it.  We then found another place.  Before we could get our offer in, it was under contract with someone else.  We found another place.  We put in an offer above asking. We didn't get it.  We found another place that we really liked.  It was a fixer upper and needed a lot of work.  We put in an offer $10,000 over asking, but didn't get it in in time.  They were already under contract.

From there on out, we put in offer after offer.  Single family homes, town homes, condos; anything in our price range that worked for us.  We got nothing.  Within three months, the market was even worse than when we started.  We found a place we were crazy about.  We didn't want anything to get in our way.  We offered $20,000 over asking.  With the 17 offers they received on that home, ours wasn't even close to the best.

We were getting discouraged.  Our landlord had been showing our house to others, as we told him we'd be moving.  Renting prices had skyrocketed as well, so renting somewhere else was going to cost us way more than we paid this year.  We had no where to go.  We kept looking.  2 weeks ago, our agent took us to three homes for sale.  There were two that we really liked, but only one we could afford to put in a reasonable offer for.  The second was at the top of our price range already, and even though we liked it, offering $20,000 over was out of the question.  So, we put in an offer on the first one, and didn't get it.  At this point, we found out that our landlord hadn't yet leased our house for next year, and told us he would give it to us for the same price.  We committed to doing that, because the housing market seemed so grim.

If you know anything about my mom, you know she didn't stop looking then.  A week after we'd originally seen it, we saw that second house that was at the top of our price range still on the market. (A week in this market is equivalent to several months in any other market....It means its not selling.)  My mom decided to try for just one more.  She put in a low offer after our agent found out they didn't have any other offers.  They countered back a day later with asking price.  We accepted, and now we are officially under contract!

This place has 2400 square feet, two full baths (one of which is a master), and an unfinished basement that could be finished and rented out.  Finishing the basement will cause the value of the house will go way up and we can make some money in the end when we sell.  We have a master walk-in closet, a huge kitchen with stainless appliances, and so much more!   For all of this, we will be paying less per month than we do here. That includes the mortgage, HOA fee, insurance, taxes, and utilities. The only department in which this place has it beat is the yard.  We will have no fenced yard, but we do have some green space.  Also, we will no longer be on a busy road (in fact our house is tucked back in a little subdivision, quite a ways from the street).  While no yard really puts a damper on my hopes of getting a dog, the HOA rules don't allow more than two pets. A dog would not be well taken care of anyway, at this stage of our lives.  We're always gone!  It's for the best.

Needless to say we are very excited, and our landlord is likely very annoyed.  Closing date is a month from today, and we are counting down till we have 3 times the space we currently do with a lower monthly fee, and the potential to walk away with some cash in a few years.

Pictures to come!

Grad School Update

I have officially finished two semesters of grad school.  Grad school is not easy, let me tell you.

I finished out last semester with applying to the coordinated internship program, and at the beginning of this semester, I found out that I got one of the six spots!  I knew I had a class or two to finish up in the fall, in conjunction with the internship, and I thought I could then focus solely on the internship in the spring.  Turns out, I wasn't adding all my classes together right, and I still need 6 more credits on top of all of that to graduate! Hooray!  What that means is this was not my last semester from Hell.  I get two more!

But, if I can manage to make all of that happen, I will have completed this entire program almost a year faster than most people.  The reasoning is obviously to stop giving away my soul to the loan companies and instead start making money to buy it back.

I'm excited for my internship.  I have three rotations, one at the Department of Health and Environment in Denver, one at Poudre Valley Hospital, and one with a local school district.  Once I've completed the internship and all my coursework, I can sit the exam to become an RD.  I will officially then be: Andrea Wysong, MS RD.  That's a pretty meaningful title in the nutrition world, since it is not required to have an MS to be an RD.  Hopefully what that translates to is a real, big girl job!  I'll be right on track to get off my parents insurance and pay for my own with my big girl job on the verge of my 26th birthday.  THANKS OBAMA!

This summer, I have to take Medical Nutrition Therapy before my internship starts, which is supposed to be a pretty hard class. I also will be finishing up my thesis project, as well as working several jobs, one at a swimming pool, one doing research for Cornell.

This week is my week off before my jobs start, and before my advisor gets back from Ecuador (he's been there all semester) when I will have to put some serious work into my project.  My class starts June. 15th.  The fun just never stops around here!

To the Cayman Islands!

Over Christmas Break, I flew down to Florida to celebrate my Grandpa Don's 90th birthday!  This was after I drove home and back to Fort Collins for Christmas, with two cats in tow. We rode like this most of the way. #safe

In celebration we went on a 4ish day cruise that went down around Cuba to the Cayman Islands and back.  It was pretty fun! All of my grandpa's 3 children were there, and 2 of his 3 grandchildren.  (We missed you Olivia!)

We ate lots of food, explored the island, swam in the beautiful ocean, sunbathed on deck, took lots of naps, and relaxed! We also took lots of motion sickness medicine and watched a stranger die right in front of us from what appeared to be a seizure and then heart attack.  That put a slight damper on the trip, and my cousin and I are going straight to Hell for making thestral comments a very inappropriate amount of time later.

That's the beautiful water we swam in.  Victoria and I also played on these awesome inflatable toys up the beach a bit.  There was a rock climbing wall, a trampoline, and a giant hamster wheel.  

This is me willing the back of my legs to get anywhere near the same color as my shoulders and the front of of my legs.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

September through Thanksgiving in one fun post!

So, grad school AMIRIGHT?  Between the immense amount of work I've been doing and the immense amount of visitors we've had (I guess Colorado is like a cool place to live) I haven't even thought about blogging.  But right now I am currently on Thanksgiving break and even though I have a long list of work I have to do before school reconvenes, I miss updating my blog. So here we go.

Where to start.  Well, at first, I didn't think grad school was very hard.  It was probably 3 or 4 weeks into the semester before I really started getting pummeled with work.  I was disappointed about that false sense of security I was lulled into.

All of my classes are going fine. Even though I'm in grad school, I'm kind of being forced in a certain direction on which grouping of classes I have to take since I want to be a dietician.  I'm way more interested in the exercise physiology/nutrition sciences biochemistry type classes, but as instead I'm taking more like health education theories and epidemiology type classes.  While I understand those classes place in my education, its annoying because I've already taken them at the undergrad level.  So why are they forcing me in that direction you ask?  Well I think its because they don't usually get grad students with a background in nutrition in their program, so they assume that in order to meet my DPD requirements, I also need to be in the "community" masters program so I can fill the requirements and get my masters at the same time.  I asked why I can't be in the nutrition science masters degree and fill my remaining DPD requirements at the same time I the answer I got was "it just doesn't work with the coordinated program."  Really explicit, I know.

But, on the other hand, I'm not really that annoyed because I am learning TONS even though I supposedly already learned it.  My favorite (and hardest) class is an advanced nutritional science class.  I have to record the lectures and re-listen to all of them after class, hitting pause and hitting play over and over so I can understand what he's saying and put it in my notes.  Studying for that class takes literal days.  The first test I studied for probably 30 hours.  The second test was probably more than that.  Luckily for me, any grade above the median score in that class is an A.  

I am in the middle of (actually almost done with) my application into the coordinated program.  It's due on Dec. 4th, and I'll find out if I got in by February.  If I do get in, it'll mean I start in the Fall, and complete I think 1600 hours of work and when I get done I'll be ready to sit my exam to be a dietician.  That means that by May 2016 I could be a dietician.  THAT'S 18 MONTHS FROM NOW.
However, there's only 6 spots and I'm the only first year grad student applying.  So I'm not sure what my chances are.  I've been pouring my heart and soul into that application so we'll see.  If I don't get in, then that won't be so bad either.  I'll just take another year of classes that I'm more interested in and complete the other requirements that I'm more interested in as well.  It's a win-win either way.  By then I'll have in-state tuition also, so hopefully I won't be going into major amounts of debt to do another year.

I've also been doing data collection on my research project.   Its not really my research project and it was started well before I got here, but it's the project out of which my thesis will hopefully come.  What we do is run a person through a pretty rigorous strength training protocol for 100 minutes in the evening, and then the next day we feed them a drink with a lot of sugar in it (fructose, to be precise) and we draw their blood every half hour for like 6 hours to see what kind of response they have.  Then we do it again but without the exercise the night before.  We had 8 participants go through, but I only really helped with the last 2 or 3.  We actually just finished up the data collection, so the next step is to analyze the blood and figure out what we found so we can write some theses. Our advisor is out of the country next semester, so that's we're trying to wrap all that up in the next 2 or 3 weeks.  

I've also been doing TONS of grading.  I'm the TA for like 400 (at least) students, and each project takes like 10 minutes to grade.  IT'S REALLY GREAT.  Just kidding.  It's not that bad.  Also the department hired a few people to help me, so I only had to do like 1/3 of it.  Not so bad.

Every weekend since the beginning of October we've had visitors, too.  This is the first weekend we've had to ourselves in SO LONG.  First Rob's cousin came, then my mom, then Rob's friend from home, then Rob's dad, then Liz, then Rob's uncle, and then my mom came back last weekend.  It's been nuts.  When Liz was here, we hiked Horsetooth rock and dressed up as the three blind mice for halloween.

The hiking here is great, obviously.  Rob and I wanted to climb a 14,000 foot mountain this break, but I'm a little nervous about all the snow and the cold this time of year.  I got a new backpack for my birthday for when we do go on fun expeditions, though.

Update on the cats:

They don't like the vet

and they follow me everywhere.

They love to go outside and are very good about staying away from the road.  They love to climb trees and fences and roll in the dirt as often as possible.  Every night when I go to bed Winky snuggles with me, and every morning when I wake up Dobby is in her spot.  THEY ARE SO ADORABLE.

In other, WAY MORE EXCITING news,  I got a new baby cousin!  First one on my mom's side of the family, and he is almost exactly 24 years younger than me.  His name is Chandler and Rob and I are going to my aunt and uncle's for Thanksgiving.  I'm so excited to meet him!

Rob and I got belay-certified at the rock wall on campus.  I love it and hate it at the same time.  Its so fun but the wall is SOOO tall and I get so scared.  I'm also working on my finger strength so I can hold on for longer.  Its awesome that its free, though.  At Ithaca College it was not free. 

Andddd thats all I got for now.  Maybe more later.  Or at Christmas.  We'll see.  :)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Custom Textbooks

This post goes out to all the professors out there who think custom textbooks are cheaper and make students lives easier.

But first, let me explain what a custom textbook is just in case all of your professors are smart enough to not make them and you've never experienced one. Basically, they work with a publisher of a textbook and usually just take out a few chapters that this particular professor isn't going to use, and then sell the book to the bookstore for less money than the full retail price of the book because there is less content they are paying for I guess. Professors get all excited because they get to save students money and they think they're so cool.  But allow me to tell you why they're not cool.

1.  They change the ISBN number.  So, when you look up online what book you need for the class, and then you type the ISBN into Amazon looking for some used deal, nothing comes up.  Because its custom.  For your professor only. So it's like, rare.

2.  This means that the only place to buy the book is at the bookstore, so you can rarely get a used one.  And yes, it is cheaper than the full retail price of the original would be, but it's usually like $100 instead of $175 or something ridiculous like that.   And there's probably $6 used copies of the full edition (WITH ALL THE CHAPTERS) on Amazon but you can't get them because you don't have the ISBN like you do with all your other books.  YEAH THANKS FOR ALL YOUR MONEY SAVING HELP, PROF.

3. You have to by the book INSIDE OF THE BOOKSTORE DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF CLASS.  You have to go all the way there, stand in 10 million lines, and pay 10 billion dollars for this stupid custom edition instead of sitting on your couch paying Amazon and having it delivered to your door.

4.  Then on the first day of class we ALL get to sit and listen to the teacher give their spiel about how excited they are to be helping us out like this.

5.  At the end of the year, you can't sell it back to anywhere (like Amazon) except the bookstore. Because it's a custom edition. And they usually give you like, 1/3 of what you payed for it. (See how I'm still not saving money on this?)

So I had to do all of this, as you may have guessed. Except step 5, of course.  But after I bought the book, I took it home and not only did I find $6 used copies on Amazon after searching by author (because another thing about textbooks is that the edition doesn't matter so if you get the second most recent one you're really not missing anything), but I found a full 600 page PDF of the entire book FOR FREE on the interwebs.  Thanks interwebs.  I downloaded it into my iBooks and now I have it forever.  

So then I got to stand in another line to return the book.  But at least I got my $93 dollars back.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Advanced Human Nutrition

So today was my third day of grad school.  I'm taking 2 undergrad classes and 3 grad classes. I've been to all of them so far except one. Most of them are fine. Today was my second day of Advanced Human Nutrition, which sounds like something exciting but really is like a horrible combination of organic chemistry, biochemistry, and nutrition sort of.  On Monday, I thought the teacher was just trying to scare people who couldn't handle it away by lecturing continuously with hardly a breath, using words casually in a sentence that should never be used casually in any sentence.  Unless its a sentence about what the definition of those words are.

I was wrong.  He did it again today.  I brought my iPad to class and recorded all of his words.  Whenever I got to the point in my notes where I forgot the beginning of his sentence by the time he got to the end, or I didn't understand, or I spaced out for 2.47 seconds and missed way more information than you would think could fit in that time span, I just wrote what minute the recorder said down.   I did this many times.  Then, after class, I went back to that minute, played and paused and rewound and played again and looked up words and rewound and played again until I figured out what he was saying and could right it down in my notes.

And this is the beginning of a two-semester course.  Welcome to grad school.