Friday, April 29, 2011

Happy Arbor Day!

P and I celebrated by planting our new black mission fig tree.

Not much to look at now, but hopefully some day (many, many years from now) we'll have fruit!

That is, if it's alive by then.  Some people would recommend wrapping it for the winter and generally babying it in our climate.  I have more of a devil-may-care attitude when it comes to such recommendations.  I've planted it on the west side of our house, where it's nice and hot and sunny, but otherwise, no special treatment from me.  We'll see how it goes. 

You can ask my calla lilies what they think of the policy--you're supposed to dig them up each fall and properly store the bulbs away from frost.  I leave them in the ground, and what do you know, they've not only lived, but multiplied!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Weekend pic

P apparently got a little confused about what he was supposed to be demoing this weekend:

P: "See what happens when you buy cheap tools!" 

I hate it when he's right on that issue.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

P and I decided to enjoy the nice weather and our nice clothes, and took some pictures of ourselves in the yard after church.  I guess we never get too far from our DIY selves--I used a sawhorse and some wooden shims to set up the camera for the shots.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Our crazy kitchen

Before I get too deep into the nitty gritty of updating you about all the wonderful plumbing, etc., that P has been doing, let me explain a bit of the big picture: where the kitchen is now, and why we're messing with it.

Problems with the kitchen we hope to resolve with this remodel:
1. It's really dark in there, and we're suckers for light, bright spaces.
2. We love open floor plans--and this is not open
3. The cabinetry is in very good condition, but it screams early 80s.  P and I lived through that era once, and don't feel a need to repeat it.  Plus it's really dark, and is sapping the bit of light we have in there.  Have you ever heard anyone complain in a remodel that their kitchen has too much storage?  Well, then let me be the first.  We actually keep our shoes in one of those cabinets, because what else would we use it for?  Which leads to:
4. The side door leads into the kitchen.  This is the door we use all of the time, and there's no place for us to keep keys, shoes, jackets, etc.
5. The vinyl flooring also screams early 80s, and is not in good condition.
6. While there is a lot of cabinetry and counter space, I end up feeling cramped, and like I need more room to spread out.  I'm sure I could take some of the blame here in how I've organized things and work, but the bigger problem is the layout.

When you enter the kitchen via the side door, you turn right and see what I think of as the "core" of the kitchen:

This is the part of the kitchen where I do almost all of the cooking.  You've got all of the appliances--sink, range, refrigerator, and dishwasher--in a very tight area, with a bit of counter space.  And not to complain, but it's actually less counter space than it appears--I took this picture with a fish eye lens that distorts the foreground, making it appear larger than in real life.  (That's also why the pictures are blurry--I need to work on my focusing skills with this lens!)

To your right when you come in through the side door is the rest of the kitchen:

And across from it:

(What's that strange wooden box, you ask? Check it out:

Yeah, that's been a major obstacle in figuring out our new floor plan.) 

This portion of kitchen is a late 80s addition.  It added storage space, but since they didn't go to the expense of rerouting utilities, it didn't change anything about the way the kitchen really functions.  I do all of my work over in the "core" kitchen area, while all of the new countertop space over here goes to waste.  I know it sounds a little silly to say I don't want to walk five extra steps before chopping my onion, but seriously, no one cooks that way.

Want to see a floor plan rendering of this?  It's going to blow your mind:

How many zig zags can a single wall have?   They're a function of the last remodel--we're hoping ours will be a little better conceived!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Morning and Night: My life in pictures

Still Life: "Saturday Morning Quilting"

Not-so-still Life: "Friday Night Air Guitar"

(Good thing I caught P last night with his 80s rocker hair--he's scheduled me to cut it five minutes from now!) 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Grand Unveiling

At long last, I can share with you one of these large quiling projects that I've been dropping hints about.

P's sister and her husband bought their first house in the middle of January.  I decided to throw together a queen-sized quilt for them.  You know, something really quick and easy that I could finish in, like, two or three weeks.

Well, nearly three months later, here we are.

This is the first time I've tried piecing a quilt back.  I started really simple--not a bad start, if I do say so myself.  :-)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Weekend progress

I had an all-day quilting event on Saturday.  When I left the house in the morning, P was innocently sitting at the table surrounded by graph paper and engineering books.  By the time I returned home....

I knew something was up when I saw this exhaust system installed on the outside of the kitchen. 

And then P had to remove the ladder and other equipment preventing me from even getting in the door, and then I found this:

Stay tuned to find out what we've been up to.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Painting the foundation

We've been searching our to-do lists for outdoor jobs that will allow us to enjoy the lovely spring weather.  Remember how we painted our peeling porch steps last fall?  The foundation paint was in pretty good shape, but still, once I saw it against our nice fresh stairs, I wanted to freshen up the foundation as well--and make it match the stair color better.

Here was our house last fall, with the fresh stairs and original foundation color:

You'd totally say that foundation was a light blue, right?  Me too, until I got out the Kilz primer to touch up a rust spot where our old spigot had been leaking.  That primer matched the foundation perfectly.  Turns out it was a bright white, that only looked blue when compared to the warmer white of our siding.

I decided to use Benjamin Moore's Revere Pewter for our foundation.  That was the color we used for the stairs--the first time we painted them.  Then we decided it was too light, and had them re-tint the paint with double the amount of colorant.  I thought it would be great having the foundation the same color as the stairs, just a shade lighter.

Well, the contrast isn't as large as I had expected:

You can totally see the difference between the two shades if you look at the joint line, but taking in the house as a whole, you'd be unlikely to notice a distinction.  Oh well.  I'm not repainting this time.  I put on a slightly thick first coat, and since the previous coats were all in good condition, P and I decided that we could get away with only one coat of paint.  Living on the wild side here, people!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Even our trash is getting organized


The weather here was simply fantastic this past weekend--and we appreciated it all the more since it followed a week and a half of chilly rain.  P and I reviewed our to-do lists, looking for anything that could be done outside.  To the point where we even called up some friends with a more wooded lot than ours, and begged them to let us come over and chainsaw something, anything.  They readily acquiesced and keep talking like we did them some huge favor.  I think they did us the favor--I'm not sure how much of our landscaping would still be standing if they hadn't provided P with an outlet for his destructive urges!

But before we gassed up the chainsaw and belched out the fossil fuels, we had to offset its carbon footprint.  Or, more accurately, take care of a nagging item on our list: build a compost pile.

Really, this was all about aesthetics: we've already been dumping our compost in the back corner of the lot, but figured maybe our neighbors couldn't tell the difference between an eco-friendly pile and a good old-fashioned trash heap.  Especially since we're inclined to throw in almost anything biodegradable--paper towels, cotton fabric scraps from quilting, cardboard egg cartons, compostable plastic, even old drywall (if we're sure it wasn't painted with lead paint).  Actually, I'm not that concerned about our neighbors' sensibilities, but I did feel really bad when a paper towel would take flight into their yards on a windy day.  Not cool.

 Adding to our green credentials, we built the compost out of some old shelving that we inherited with the house.  P removed much of the shelving that the previous owner had installed in the garage, so he could set up his own systems.  And what do you know--those shelves proved a perfect size to make a great compost bin with minimal effort!



(The stuff to the left of the compost pile is larger branches, etc, that won't decompose any time soon.  We stack it up there until we have a full pickup load, and then take it to the yard waste pile at the local recycling center.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

March 2011--month in review

February we felt good, like we were really getting back into the swing of remodelling.  I'm not sure what happened to us in March.

Guest Bedroom
  • hang pictures
  • reupholster antique chair install closet doors
  • fix hinge-bound door so it will actually close


  • make and hang curtains still halfway done--mom, do you want to come finish the job you started for me?  ;-)
  • reupholster footstool
  • put laminate on top of craft table
  • paint and hang door

Hall Bath
  • skim coat walls a little more
  • repaint walls
  • really, really scrub grout--and if that doesn't remove yellowing, try one of those grout pens I got a magic eraser, and dang, those things are magic--it removed dirt from the tub bottom that I thought was there forever!  I also erased my fingernails, so be careful how you hold those things!  The grout just laughed back, however, so I guess we're on to the pen.
  • hang at least one picture/piece of art I'm thinking of buying something like this:

  •  install closet door knob
  • install hooks where I can hang my work clothes 
  • install new light fixture

Hall/Living Room/Kitchen/Dining Room
  • knock down walls to make these all a single space
  • install structural beam to replace structural wall  P has been brushing up his engineering skills and reading about beams
  • patch existing oak flooring where walls were removed
  • make new attic hatch
  • replace textured ceiling in kitchen
  • remove wood panelling and replace with drywall
  • remove vinyl floor in kitchen, and lay new hardwoods there and over exposed subfloor in dining room
  • commit to new kitchen plans I've been sketching ideas, and then using IKEA's kitchen planner to turn them into 3D renderings.  We won't be using IKEA products, so the measurements and appearances aren't exactly right--but "within a few inches" is good enough at this stage.  Good enough for me to see that I like where things are going!
  • build new kitchen cabinets (at least the lower ones)
  • get/make new countertops
  • install backsplash
  • run plumbing for gas range
  • install new sink
  • remove windows in dining room, and replace with french doors out to backyard spent a while staring at doors.  It's amazing how inexpensive a decent set of prehung french doors are, and how expensive screen doors are--seriously, it will cost us nearly as much to hang two flimsy screen doors as the entire french door assembly will!
  • buy fireplace screen and make the occasional fire    
  • replace hearth tile
  • make living room curtains (purely ornamental)
  • figure out window treatment for front windows that will maximize both light and privacy (plantation shutters?)
  • install new baseboard and crown molding
  • install doors on coat closet
  • fix draft under front door
  • install lots of new outlets to bring house up to newer codes for required number of outlets per room
  • install new lighting

Utility room
  • build utility room
  • buy and install new tankless water heater
  • run plumbing and install utility sink
  • run plumbing and vent lines for washer/dryer 
Master bedroom
  • lay hardwood flooring over exposed subfloor
Master Bath

  •  give ugly medicine cabinet a cosmetic face lift

  Crawl Space 
  • complete encapsulation 99% of the way there....
  • test house for radon
  • enjoy running lots of plumbing and wiring for new kitchen/utility room/great room in new, dry, clean space


  •  fix roof leaks P's still puzzling over the remaining leaks--sometimes water pours in, sometimes it doesn't.  Maybe something to do with wind direction? 
  • continue to work to make this a functional wood shop for P (so he can spend lots of time out there building me new kitchen cabinets!) P has spent a lot of time out there this month building himself things that are key (I hear) to his ability to build other things.  He now has the nicest utility cart known to man.  I guess I should have seen that one coming if the point of the project was to practice cabinetry skills before launching into the kitchen project.

  • paint foundation to complement new stair color
  • figure out how to make exterior brick look good after we cut into it to install afore-mentioned french doors
  • paint front door a more lively color (it should be easy to beat white)
  • work with P's brother A, a professional landscape designer, to come up with an actual design for our landscape
  • remove a few more azaleas
  • add more plants and beds to continue moving toward cottage garden look started my seeds and am happily doting on them 
  • grow a tomato that doesn't rot before it ripens started those seeds too--selected varieties that seemed less likely to split than last year's beefsteaks (i.e., currant tomatoes--even smaller than cherry tomatoes--and plum tomatoes)
  • try to agree on privacy plantings for west property line, and plant them so they have some time to grow decided to go with Yaupon (or similar) hollies here as well.  We placed an order with A, and are waiting to see some trees
  • buy and plant Yaupon hollies on east property line  see above
We made some progress this month, but I didn't get to cross off a single item.  Ouch.