Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Tag: DIY (Page 2 of 2)

DIY Kitchen Island Top

before and after

I am lucky to live with a handy man. Slav and I like to make our living space nice and clean. Even though we are renters, we have never hesitated to make improvements on our rentals. Over the years, we upgraded window treatments, painted walls, refreshed bathroom fixtures, and planted gardens. We cannot wait to have a place to call our own and work on it!

From day one, we knew the Evergreen rental was just a temporary stay. We did not even unpack our books, pictures, and decorations, anticipating another move in a few months. By no means we are living in a rabbit hole – we HAVE to make any place pleasant to live, even just for a week! Since moved in, we finished the brick porch, set up an outdoor water station for our pooches, and planted a sunroom garden. We try to keep the cost down, of course, but these small improvements brought so much joy that they are well worth it, including the DIY kitchen island top we finished a couple weeks ago.

01 before

If you have watched our video tour, you might recall how small the living room is. With a full mattress as sofa, Slav’s standing desk, and a coffee table, even the smallest dining set could not fit in the living room anymore. The first a couple weeks after we moved in, we ate our meals standing around the kitchen island. We immediately started hunting for a small dining set, but a dining set-for-two was really hard to come by.

Then I had an idea – why don’t we make the island top larger? Paired with a couple bar stools, we do not need a real dining set. We did some research and set on just plain plywood to save the cost, then I got to work.

1. Basic shape of the island


The existing size of the island is 49.5″ x 24″. As you can see from the pictures above, the chimney is a foot wider. Extend the island top to span the whole width of the chimney will create sitting space for at least two people on the left side of the island, and extended it by a foot lengthwise or so will provide another sitting at the end of the island.

2. Using cardboard boxes to map out the shape


I prefer a curved island to one with corners. To make the design process easier, I used cardboard boxes and simply cut the shape I wanted. At the right side of the island sits the stove. I extended the island a bit more to make a round corner, which not only allows another sitting spot, but also make the end of the island a bit wider for computer use.


We got a pair of red stools off Craigslist while planning for the new island top.


Using cardboard helps me to get a good sense of the space. I originally wanted to make the island top a foot longer – the current island is 49.5″ and the new one will be 62″ long – but it made the path between living room and kitchen too narrow. So the final length of the new island was 59.5″ instead of 62″. We also refined the shape of the future island on the right side, to provide more space for cooking.

3. Cutting and sealing the new top


With the template in hand, Slav bought a piece of plywood (cheap!) and start cutting.


Freshly cut plywood has really rough edges, which needs to be sanded later.


After a couple round of sanding:


In the picture, we already applied the first coat of wood stain. We want to keep it simple and Slav likes the look of wood grains, so we decided to stain instead of paint it. We did three coats of stain, then sealed the top with three coats of polyurethane sealant. You can see that the top got significantly darker.


4. The result!


We love it! It is spacious, easy to clean, and fits the space perfectly. We only have two stools but this island can seat four comfortably. With more space to spread out, we have eaten hotpot almost every night. It feels so good to finally sit down for dinner.

After a week of use, the new island top now hosts a record player, our microwave,  and during the day, serves as my work station. The height of the island is perfect for me to work on my laptop standing up, and of course I can seat on the stool if I want to. This is how it looks now:


This island top is our simplest DIY yet, but it changed our living space so much for better. Want join us for a hotpot dinner? Come over (and bring your own stool)!

Budget-friendly Joint Supplement for Dogs

Home-made joint supplement

When we adopted Charlie from Rescue Ur Forever Friend (RUFF) at Halloween night, 2013, we were told that he was around 3 years old. However, he was not nearly as energetic as Roxie, who was born around January, 2012; and he already had grey hair around his mouth. Our Vet later estimated that he might have been older, more like 5~6 years, but neither of the Vets could tell for sure. To this date, Charlie’s birth year remains a mystery.

Not knowing Charlie’s age is not a big problem to us, except when it comes to decide when to start his joint supplements. Charlie has never shown any sign of hip problems. But he has very high pain tolerance, so waiting until him to slow down will be too late. Charlie also loves car rides. which requires him to jump up 3~4 feet with his 75-pound awesomeness. Recently, we learned that it is actually the jumping down from height that wear the hip joints of large dogs.  Based on all these concerns, we decided to start supplying him with Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), Glucosamine, and Chondroitin Sulfate, starting in 2016.


Bulk-order to save money

There are many articles describing the history, usage and resources of these three common joint supplements. Just like supplements for humans, they can be pricey. We decided to buy them individually in bulk, not only to reduce the cost, but also to ensure the quality of the supplements with our limited budget. After some search and research, we landed on the following three:

Human-grade Pure MSM Powder from Dual Health Body & Mind


Human-grade Pure Glucosamine HCl Powder from NuSci


Chondroitin Sulfate (for horses!) from Santa Cruz Animal Health


Based on how much Charlie needs and how long these compound can stay stable, we ordered them in 2~2.2  lb each. As you can see, these supplements themselves are not expensive at all, even some of them are qualified for human consumption. However, when we searched for pre-mixed supplements or same compound in the form of capsule, it becomes much more expensive. The recent exposure that many supplement capsule does not contain any active compound advertised is another reason we decided to buy dry compound directly.

Just to clarify, this post is not sponsored in any way and we are not advertising for these brands. For Charlie, these supplements are preventative, and he is not a very energetic dog to begin with. So we see very little change in his behavior. We did not perform any test that is more sensitive to measure his joint health either, if there is any. We also have not used these supplements in any other brand/form. If you are trying these supplements on your pooch who is older, or has already had joint problem, please comment and let us know if you see any improvement of your pet’s behavior or any slow-down of the progression of the symptoms.



The dosage for humans or horses are clearly stated on the labels of the products. However, dogs require different dosage per pound of weight from humans and large mammals, which can be found easily online. Treating pre-existing joint problem vs. preventative purpose require different dosage as well. We did not find much information on breed-specific dosage. Based on these information, we went with the most commonly used preventative dosage for Charlie, which listed in this table named “How to mix joint supplement for your pooch”.

In the top rows, you can see how we calculated the serving size for Charlie. At the bottom, I put in a table with built-in calculations so you guys can easily calculate for your own pooches after downloading the table onto your computer. All you need to do is to

  1. choose a dosage (in yellow color) depending on the treatment. I included the preventative dosage, so you need to up the dosage if your pooch is aged and needs treatment;
  2. change the weight for your dog (in red color);
  3. IF you bought different brands of these supplements, the active dose per serving size (in green color) might be different. It varies depending on the chemical structure of the compound, or the purity of it. This information should be listed on the packaging, so make sure that they are corrected in this table.

Based on this calculation, a 75-pound pooch like Charlie needs less than 1/5 teaspoon of MSM, 3/4 teaspoon of Glucosamine, and 2/5 teaspoon of Chondroitin Sulfate per day. Therefore, these bulk bags of supplements will last us for a few years. As dry powder, these compounds should be pretty stable. But we still want to limit the time opening the bags to prevent moisture from getting in. We make three-month supply at a time, by mixing ~1/3 cup of MSM, 1 and 2/5 cup of Glucosamine, and ~3/4 cup of Chonidroitin Sulfate together.


The mixture should be labeled, so everyone in the household is on the same page. The little handy spoon comes with the Chonidroitin Sulfate bag and made serving easier.


The rest of the dry compounds is put into sealed bags and stored somewhere cool and dry.



Strategy for better absorption

You probably have noticed that the suggested dosage for both Glucosamine and Chonidroitin Sulfate are per 12 hours, instead of per day. It means that for maximum effects, these two supplements should be given twice a day. Charlie gets fed at 7AM and 7PM, so we divide his daily serving of supplements into half for each meal. These compounds are better absorbed with moisture. Charlie is on dry food, so we pour a bit broth on the dry food to mix these compounds in, to which Charlie has made no complaints.

We hope by giving Charlie joint supplements early in his life, we can keep him healthy and happy longer. It does not cost us much with these bulk-ordered dry compounds, and as long as you work out the calculations, it takes five minutes every three months to mix the supplements. But it should made a big difference in your dogs’ lives.

Convinced? Questions? Let me know! Include a photo of your lovely pooch(es) in comments, because we can never get enough of doggy smiles.

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