Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bathroom paint color

Since P worked his magic and installed the bathroom floor--the floor we selected on a whim--it was time for me to stop agonizing and just select a paint color already.

I decided, based on some advice from my loyal blog readership (hi, Dad!), that it wouldn't create too much gray in the house if I painted the bathroom gray, as well.  Plus I couldn't think of anything else that would work.  My concern over choosing a color that would flatter our skin tones has only built over the past month of using the hall bath.  P was looking at himself in the mirror a few weeks ago, and said, "I look terrible!  Or is it the light?"   Yeah, it was the light reflecting off the paint in there.  (Since we rarely use that bathroom when the master is functioning, I didn't take "flattering" into account when selecting the paint, and was duped into "pretty.")

I got two paint testers: Behr's Dolphin Fin and Benjamin Moore's Horizon.  I was looking for a gray with warm undertones; nothing too blue. 

Dolphin Fin is on top, and Horizon is on the bottom:

Wait, you don't see a color on the bottom?  Try here:

I decided Dolphin Fin was too taupe.  Initially I thought Horizon too light.  I've painted dozens of test swatches on the walls of our house, and that's the first time that's happened!  Then I decided, despite my rant last week about people using off white colors, that it just might work.  Paired with crisp white baseboard and ceiling, I think (I hope!) that it will read as a light gray, rather than a dirty white.

Plus I'm always more adventurous in a bathroom--they're so small, the stakes seem lower.  Though this one has some much detailed cutting in work to do, I doubt I'll ever want to paint it again!  There's less than 1/2" of clearance between the frames of the bedroom and closet doors--still haven't figured out how I'm going to get a paintbrush in there!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Help! Mystery bushes

One afternoon last week, I was sitting in my cubicle when I (and everyone else at my workplace) got an email announcing that they had completed the new landscaping installation around our building, and there were leftover plants.  Help yourself.

Score!  P and I (mostly I, perhaps) had declared that this fall/spring, we would install some more bushes and trees.  But good ones are expensive. 

I ran straight outside, and was surprised to see that there were some nearly waist-high bushes remaining.  I quietly cheered my luck at having worn my jeans to the office that day, and stuffed the two largest in the trunk of my car before anyone else could claim them.

But here's the conundrum: we need to plant these, but we don't know what they are.  So we don't know how big they're going to get--which makes it hard to decide on a location.  (My guess is they're going to easily double or triple in size, or might even be more properly classed as small trees rather than shrubs--but I"m just going with my gut here.)

Anyone out there have any guesses?  Here's shrub 1:

And shrub 2:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Weekend giggles

An ad from our local paper:

I love it when people try to emphasize what they're saying with quotation marks, but just undermine it instead.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Magic bathroom!

A friend of mine coined the phrase "magic drawer" to refer to a drawer that magically refills with clean socks.  Her "magic lawn" was mowed by the landlord's landscapers, so she never had to notice or think about it.  I love the concept, and have freely appropriated it for situations where a person doesn't mean to be thoughtless of another's labor, but never bothers to notice that labor is occurring. 

It was no innocent coincidence that I decreed "date night" to pick out new flooring for our master bathroom a mere 36 hours before leaving on a four-day business trip.  And P is very good at taking a hint.  :-) 

To review, when I left, the master bathroom looked like this:

There was still quite a bit of prep work to do before laying the flooring.  P had to remove the rest of the old vinyl, pull all of the molding, take the toilet out (so flooring could be laid underneath it), and add the last 1/4" layer of subfloor to the repaired section.*

He also took pictures for my blog!  Isn't this guy totally dreamy?  (I'll ignore the fact that half of the pictures were of the toilet and icky toilet plumbing.)

Those tasks, in and of themselves, would have been a quite respectable set of tasks for three days (two of them weekdays, at that). 

But P is nothing if not an overachiever. 

I'll spare you all of the details of what he did--because I don't really know what he did.  It's magic, right?

Here's what I came home to:


Not bad for the cheapest laminate we could find, right?

Look how nicely he did the door frames:

And because he's a ridiculously hard-working guy, he also taped the new drywall in the closet:

I don't even try to keep up anymore.

I love you, sweetie!

*For some reason we can't understand, the subfloor in the bathroom has an extra layer of 1/4" flooring on top.  Perhaps it was to make the bathroom floor, just covered in thin vinyl, line up a little better with the bedroom floor (covered in carpet padding and carpet)? 

Whatever the original intention, we decided to match it by adding a 1/4" layer to the repaired subfloor.  We could  have laid a single, thicker subfloor.  But doing it in two layers will allow us more flexibility in the future.  In particular, it would make it very easy to lay one continuous type of flooring in both the master bedroom and master bath.  (i.e., if we remove the top 1/4" in the bathroom, we have a continuous subfloor extending between the rooms.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I'm no interior decorator--that's probably why I don't understand people's concern with finding the "right white." Especially when they want a white that's warm, not too stark.... we painted all of our ceilings and trim with just the basic, off-the-shelf white paint. the kind that used as a base for tinting anything else. and we love it.

I forget how much of a difference this has made to our house until I see something like this:

Yeah, what happened here is that I ran out of painting steam, and never got around to painting out guest bedroom door. The walls, ceiling, trim, everything used to be painted the same almond color as the door. Doesn't everything look so much crisper and cleaner now, with the brought white contrasting with the greige walls? I love it!

I'm always amazed by how much of a difference this paint job has made. With no contrasting true white in the room, the almond paint just looked dingy white. but with the trim painted a true white, it's easy to see how dark the old paint really was.  It definitely took some time to paint all of the trim and ceiling and everything, but it was so, so worth it. Both P and I love the way this room is turning out!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The wallpaper strikes back

On the whole, we were really lucky with wallpaper removal.  One wall of the kitchen was papered, and horror of horrors, they put the paper up on bare drywall--didn't even prime first!  It should have been a complete disaster, but the paper came down easier than I've ever seen.  Just grab one corner, and you could peal down the whole sheet effortlessly.

The hall was a little more involved, but still, quite reasonable.  The vinyl peeled off easily, leaving plain paper on the wall.  A little spritz of plain water, and then the paper peeled off easily with the scrapper.

Perhaps we were arrogant.  P was so eager to see the bathroom paper gone that he grabbed a corner, and:

Ouch.  What you are seeing there, ladies and gentlemen who have been so fortunate as to not have this happen to them, is damaged drywall.  Yup, P peeled the drywall paper right off with the wallpaper.  This is bad anywhere--the drywall will need to be repaired before it can be painted, or else it will look horribly uneven.  But it's particularly dispiriting in a bathroom, what with moisture concerns--we don't want humid air getting inside our drywall!

I spent a few weeks scolding P for being a spazz before beginning work on the bathroom paper in earnest.   I scrapped and scrapped and scrapped, and got a tiny corner done.  Ugly scene.  And then, in a fit of frustration, I moved over to the wall he had started on, and:

Yeah.  The two of us are not to be trusted.

I finally did what I should have done in the beginning, and called my mother.  I grew up in a fairly large, old house.  My mother stripped the wallpaper from every room and rehung it all--and then did some rooms a second time, a decade later.  She's a pro.

She recommended using the wallpaper remover from concentrate, rather than the gel (that I had been using).

The new stuff was better, but the going was still really tough.  The wallpaper was vinyl, so spraying the outside of it with remover didn't do much good.  I tried getting one of those wallpaper scorers, designed specifically for this purpose--it makes little pinholes in the wallpaper, so the remover can get through to the glue layer.  The packaging promised that it wouldn't damage the drywall paper.  Lies--it scored that too.  Bye bye, $6.

It must have taken me a few hours to get this far.  Most of the room yet to do, plus I was butchering the drywall.

P finally tried using this little scrapper do-hicky we already had on hand.

No magic bullet, but a definite improvement.  It would scrape off the outer vinyl layer, and then the wallpaper remover could do its thing.

Unfortunately, I don't seem to have a picture of what the hall bath looked like after I got all the wallpaper off.  Let's just say it was a really bad scene.  Lots of damage to the drywall, various layers of paint removed with others still on....  It was nowhere near being ready to paint.  Lots of unforeseen work ahead.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Date night

I declared last night "date night."

When P mentioned to a coworker that he had to be out of work on time so he could get to date night, she blurted out, "But you don't even have kids!"  And then had a good laugh at her own presumption. 

So what does date night consist of around here, then?  My idea was that we would grab some dinner at Chik-fil-a (to keep P interested, and to keep me from having to cook myself), and then get some flooring for our master bathroom.

Usually with this kind of thing we research exhaustively, try to balance cost and aesthetics (we don't want to chose something so expensive that we price our house out of its neighborhood--a very real risk around here--but we usually want something that we're going to be happy with for a long time, since we went to all this effort), and spend months making sure we're really happy with our decision before we commit. 

This time we're going down and dirty.  I want this project done.  (There's nothing innocent about me buying the flooring right before leaving P home alone for several days while I'm on a business trip.)  And there's a good chance that we're going to re-redo the bathroom within the next few years.  We know it doesn't function particularly well for us--it's so long and narrow that we trip over each other in the morning trying to get from one thing to another.  But given the constraints of the space, we haven't figured out how to solve this problem.  So we're just going to put the bathroom back together for now, and maybe at some future date we'll have a brilliant idea of how to make it more functional.  And then we'll do this again.  So there's no point in investing money in a floor that's going to be ripped out, or in making sure we'll love it for the long run.

I decided we would drive to the next town over, where a Home Depot and Lowe's are right next to each other, and just pick a floor.  No other research.  In stock only, no special orders.  Down and dirty.

Then P was browsing craigslist late Thursday night, and found a guy selling the same portable Bosch table saw P has been wanting.  Only lightly used, for $200 less than new.  With lots of extras that P wanted--probably another $200 worth--thrown in for free.  So half price.

I always wince at the amount P spends on tools (even though I know it pays off in us not having to hire professionals to do the job, and the next time around we'll have the tools on hand).  Finding tools on craigslist was my idea--he's been window-shopping for a while, but frankly, he's a really tool snob.  He reads the reviews, selects a particular make and model, and won't settle for anything else.  Oh, and he wants it to look brand new.  This is the first time he's found a tool he wants in acceptable condition.  All of this is to say that there was no way I could argue with adding another errand to date night.  We headed off along roads I had not traveled before, on our way to get the saw.

I'll be honest here--we were driving through some pretty unprepossessing areas, and I may have dubbed it "Hicksville USA."  Then P spotted a small sign on the side of the highway, and did a double take.  "Gluten free pizza?"  If living here has taught me anything, it's that places like these often have the strangest surprises.  I should know better than to make fun.

What a fantastic turn for date night!  I was diagnosed with celiac disease 7 years ago, and haven't had pizza from anywhere other than my own toaster oven since. 

So we picked up the table saw, and then backtracked to the pizzeria.  It was a tiny thing, with just two booths, in an unimpressive strip mall.  The crust had definitely been frozen, rather than made on premises.  Still, it was a decent crust, and had that nice pizza-oven baked texture that's impossible to replicate at home.  The toppings were good, and the guy at the counter was happy to explain which were and were not gluten free.  So if you're gluten free in the greater Knoxville area, I definitely recommend heading out to Cido's sometime.

Finally, we headed to Home Depot and Lowe's.  We had decided on laminate flooring for the bathroom--cheap, fast and easy to install, and easy to remove when we're ready for the big remodel.  We found some nice looking ones for around $2.50/square foot, but I decided we could make do with the cheaper stuff.  We went with the cheapest option we found: an oak laminate, on sale at Lowe's for $0.78/square foot.

It's a surprisingly good match for the oak floors we refinished in most of the house--a little darker "stain," but nearly as much natural variation in wood color as our actual wood.  It was cheap, and it seemed in keeping with the character of our house.  At least as much as laminate can ever be appropriate in a 50s ranch.

The boxes are now sitting in our bathroom, and I'm hoping they'll magically install themselves.  ;-)

And for you tool junkies out there, a few pictures of P's new baby.  Here she is, demonstrating the side extension arms (one of the add-ons P was particularly happy was included).

P had a much larger, professional cabinet-maker quality saw in his woodshop at his parents' house, so this smaller model is going to take some getting used to.  But it's not without its charms.  After years of working in a basement, he's particularly happy that he can wheel the saw outside to work on a nice day.  The stand collapses with the flip of a switch.  It folds up, wheels around just like a large suitcase.  Easy to move to exactly where you want to work, or fold up against the wall between projects.

Look, even I'm singing the praises of this thing.  I'm sure you're going to be hearing a lot more about this baby in the future.

Yeah, it was definitely a better buy than an iPad.  :-)

Friday, September 17, 2010


I'm spending my lunch break at star bucks, blogging on my new iPad. Well, mine until I arrive at the conference on Sunday. until then, I'm supposed to play with it, figure out how to use it, so I can help others.

Five minutes in, I've so far confirmed what I figured when these were released. it's wildly impractical, especially for the price. I can't type worth a darn. how am I supposed to touch-type if I can' feel keys? every place I'd love to have internet access doesn't have wifi, so lack of a device is the least of my problems.

but this experiment is only confirming my consumerist tendencies, as well. I WANT of these. it slides into my purse so easily! i've always been a Sucker for tiny technology. The plane ride is going to be so pleasant watching movies on this! Much better than my iPod nano screen!

But back to reality. p and I are going to go out tonight and spend nearly enough money to buy an iPad. But instead we'll come home with a used table saw and flooring for the mater bathroom. much more practical.


Update: After using the iPad for several days, my lust has diminished significantly.  I'm particularly disenchanted with using my finger to slide up and down to scroll--I find it a little too much like watching microfilm screens glide by, and inducing seasickness after prolonged use.  On a positive note, kudos to the Charlotte airport for the free wi-fi--I'm getting a lot of posting done on layovers!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ghost of the hall bath past

While the master bath project is kind of stalled out, I thought I'd bring you up to date on the work we've done on the hall bath.  It was one of those projects that took far, far longer than you would imagine that such a small amount of work on such a tiny space could take.

Today, for your viewing pleasure, the pictures of the hall bath before we began messing with it (from our visits before we closed on the house).

70s-tastic!  We both agreed that the mustard toilet seat had to go, but the wallpaper was a little more contentious.  P maintained that it was both dated and hideous.  I claimed it was so old that fashions had come back around, and it was groovy once more.

A close up: which one of us was right? 

We didn't need marital counseling over this one.  Whether groovy or not, the wallpaper was starting to show its age--particularly at the seams, which were subtly but noticeably discolored.

So the wallpaper had to go.  But not without an epic fight.  Stay tuned for the drama....

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Busy times

Things have been a little crazy around here lately.  I started work two weeks ago, and somehow this leaves both P and I exhausted.  Being a grownup is hard

We both took the day off of Labor Day off of work.  Yay!  So that we could spend 26 hours of our four-day weekend in the truck.  Boo!  In order to go see his parents.  Yay!  And then his brother, sister-in-law, and 16 month old nephew were kind enough to drive a few hours so we could see them too.  Yay!  As you can see, a good weekend overall, but it only added to the exhaustion.

I get one weekend to rest, and then well before the crack of dawn next Sunday morning (Boo!) I get to fly to Dallas for a few days for a business trip.  I know, who invites their temp of two weeks to go on a business trip, right?  Seems like a major vote of confidence to me, and I'm working to build brownie points at the company in hopes they will lead to something in the future, so this seems like a good opportunity.  And a lucrative one--overtime pay plus more per diem dollars than I'm capable of spending.  (I wonder how much money non-drinkers save over the course of a lifetime?)

So we're taking this weekend to rest and catch our breath.  I've penciled lots of naps into my schedule.  And lots of housecleaning.  It's not the type of project that leads to glamorous pictures for you (look! my broom!)--but actually, it should be good for blogging.  We've accomplished lots more projects around here than I have had time to show you--but who wants to show the world pictures of their messy house?  I'll try to remember to snap a bunch once the cleaning is accomplished and before we have time to get the place messy again.

Hope you enjoy too!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Reading nook

Visit thecsiproject.com 

A few months back, I showed you some pictures of my newly painted office.  But I haven't yet shown you any of my furniture or decorations.  This is my space to play with--to try out things that might be trendy or bright for P, but that I think are fun.

Here's my great little reading corner:

A good start, but it definitely needs a little more excitement.  I'm decorating slowly--figuring it out bit by bit, and drawing out the enjoyment.  The first call here was a throw pillow--I needed something functional to stuff behind my back while reading, and decorative to brighten up the place when I wasn't sitting there.

I spent a few weeks checking out at the pillows at Walmart, Target, etc., and a good bit of time surfing online--but I wasn't hitting that sweet spot of inspiration and budget.  Then Liz at say YES! to hoboken reposted these great felt pillows from purl bee that had made the blogosphere rounds this winter.  Plus easy-to-follow tutorial!

So I grabbed some felt, and made my own version:

The purl bee tutorial suggested just sewing the pillow form into the pillow case.  But my usual way of celebrating any new purchase--at least anything that comes near my academic books--is to spill coffee on it, so I wanted to be able to easily remove the case to launder it.  I was too lazy to insert a zipper, so I decided to just make a flap closure.  I underestimated the puffiness of the pillow form, and it kept pushing the flaps open.  So to solve that problem, I decided to add some buttons. 

Yeah.  In my efforts to avoid a zipper, I ended up making button holes.  This was the first time I had tried this since buying my new sewing machine.  This machine has an automatic button hole feature that I was really excited about.  There were a few hitches in learning to use it--I definitely should have started on some scrap fabric, instead of the pillowcase itself.  Or at least I should have learned that after ripping out the first misfire--or three.  Did I ever mention that I can be pretty stubborn?

But eventually I got the hang of it:

Viola!  A brighter corner!

The next step will be curtains.  I have some ideas for artwork for the corner, but I've chosen a pretty loud curtain fabric, so I want to see how the room looks with them in place before adding any other elements. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Quilt block

My modern quilting group does a block of the month.  Each month, a member brings in the cut fabric and instructions necessary to make a quilt block.  We make them, and bring them back the next month (or the next month we make the meeting, or whenever we finally finish) to give back.  Now she's well on her way to a completed quilt top! 

I thought this past month's block was particularly interesting.  It was from this tutorial, and is designed to use up pretty scraps from other projects.  I've never made anything like this before, and am proud of myself that it turned out!

Please ignore that dangling thread

I proudly showed my handiwork to P, who responded with, "Wow, it's um, busy."  Hmm.  He might have a point there.  But I have an idea for how to adapt this to something a little less busy--and that will use up the larger pieces of fabric I have on hand--not so many small scraps (which I haven't collected yet).  Stay tuned!  (for the long haul--I've got several other projects in the works to finish/begin/finish first!)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

One step forward, two steps back

The master bathroom is a little more habitable.  It has a floor, and we can use it as a bathroom in a pinch.  This is quite useful, because now that I am working, P and I are getting ready at the same time in the morning.  We try to stagger it so that only one of us is in there at a time, but there's always some point in the morning where we're both jammed in there together.

The bathroom project is a little stalled out right now.  We haven't had much time to work on it this week, and have been too tired to use what time we did have.  (Two working adults is brutal!  I know, welcome to life, right?  And we don't have kids.  Ay yi yi.)

Meanwhile, P tried to fix a nagging vibration issue on his truck.  We've taken it to repair shops, and spent a good bit of money (especially considering that it's a 15 year old vehicle!).  The problem has gotten better, not not completely resolved.  We're balancing wanting this truck to last us at least another few years, with not wanting to pay for repairs that don't actually solve the problem.

In one of those happy coincidences, P struck up a conversation with our neighbor down the block, who sometimes works in his dad's auto repair shop--and who has the same truck as us!  (But his is 23 years old!)  He immediately suggested a plausible explanation for what the problem was and why it occurred when it did.  (Basically, some guys doing a previous repair put it back together backwards.)  Better yet, the solution did not require a lift, so P could do it himself!

P happily went out and bought himself the required wrench, and used half a bottle of my nail polish (?) to mark the current location of the parts.  And then he spent a frustrating evening being completely unable to budge the part he needed to rotate.  So the vibration issue has been recategorized from a "well, it's a problem but we're generally ignoring it" issue to a "this is really gnawing away at me (i.e., him)" issue.

In other news, I read something about how you should stick--hmm, maybe it said poultry bones, ice cubes and nutshells?  don't remember exactly, and that's probably where the problem begins--in your garbage disposal.  Who would have thought?  Apparently grinding them up will scour it clean.

I didn't have any of those, so I substituted peach pits.  They knocked around in there for a few days.  Then, the next time I switched on the garbage disposal, there was only an electric hum--no grinding at all.

Shoot.  P had always been suspicious of that disposal, and scolded me for using it.

I stuck my tail between my legs, and went and reported the problem to him.

Thus began problem number 3: P couldn't find his favorite repair book.  How could he possibly repair the garbage disposal it if he didn't have a schematic of it?

P's favorite repair manual
We searched high and low, and darn if we can't find that book.  Meanwhile, as anyone who has ever had a garbage disposal knows, the situation with the kitchen sink was going downhill fast.  Debris as small as coffee grounds and grains ill clog up a garbage disposal if it's never run.  P was threatening to just remove the disposal, and I was retorting with "This is why I married a mechanical engineer?"

Clearly something needed to happen fast to break this logjam. 

So I walked over to the public library on my lunch break today, and checked out their copy of the book.

To be honest, I think P was slightly scared of working on the garbage disposal--he doesn't like the idea of all the gunk that does in there and presumably spends the rest of its days growing scary bacteria.  But with this his excuse gone, he had to tackle the problem.

He read the section of the trusty book on garbage disposals and studied the schematic.  Then he began by implementing the book's suggestion for how to dislodge a jam.  He stuck a broom handle into the disposal, and used it to manually turn the blades.

Viola!  Worked like a charm!  And, better yet, no one's fingers had to touch icky gunk.

Got to figure out where our copy of that magic book has gone....