Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Kind of Rewards

I could start off by telling yow how crappy my ten-mile training run went yesterday but I'll spare you the mundane details surrounding my sand-bagged legs and instead talk about my bonus cash. Let me just preface this with the fact that no one is paying me to plug them, I am doing this out of the goodness of my heart for Discover Card.

Here is an example of why I love them (a snapshot of my "cashback" rewards statement this past month):

Opening Balance $ 64.06
New Cashback Bonus This Period
5% Cashback Bonus + $ 0.00
ShopDiscover & Promotional
+ $ 11.49
+ $ 19.70
+ $ 7.14
Everywhere Else + $ 0.25
Redeemed This Period
  • Discover CashbackBonus ElectronicDeposit
– $ 50.00
Cashback Bonus Balance = $ 52.64

If you play your cards right with Discover and use it for specific purchases yielding rewards, you can get decent cash back. Not much effort required other than thinking about which card to use when making your purchase (or booking travel - January through March is 5% on travel type stuff so I just booked a hotel room I was already going to get with Discover). Now that I'm over $50, I can get it electronically deposited into my savings account. Cha-ching! This is the second $50 reward chunk I have gotten since Thanksgiving.

Discover and American Express are my go-to cards. I just redeemed 10,000 Amex points for $100 Home Depot card. Love them too. One point for one dollar. They are not paying me to mention them, either. Though if either Discover or Amex wants to pay me, that would be Just Dandy. I am like June, trying to guilt Fedex into an endorsement. Seeing as she has a bazillion more readers than I do I think she has a better shot, albeit still long.

I pay these guys off each month, so I don't carry a balance (which probably aggravates the credit card companies a bit since I'm sure they'd love to make some interest money off me). This is sort of where I deviate from a lot of personal finance celebrities (i.e. what's his nuts... I can't remember his name, the one that has the radio show and the debt ladder of lowest to highest... [brain fart]) - I choose to use credit cards rather than cash or debit cards because I can use them responsibly and don't think they are the root of debt evil.

Anyway, here's to lower credit card bills now that the holidays are over!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How I Am Spending My Vacation Time

Or rather, how I am maximizing my holiday vacation time because, really, unless I actually leave the area, I can't not do something useful and just sit around and relax. Relaxing is for wusses! Ha! I kid.

I had planned on this project to take just one day, but it bled into two, which is not a surprise. Most projects go over on time, plus, I totally underestimated the time spent painting MDF. Holy moly, does that stuff soak up paint. I even primed it but it didn't really help. Three coats minimum. Two coats primer, two coats paint seemed to be ideal.

The office is the first room I'd like to finish as far as baseboard and tile sealing and such. I had the closet cleared out to do the sealing and baseboard and figured, now was the time to build some better shelving in there.

Here is what is looked like before (this pic is actually from June of 2008, note the crappy carpet is still there):

Here is what is looks like now with much better storage (I have 2/3rds of a shelf open, and more, if I organized it better):

(you can see the lovely dust on the filing cabinet that is sitting in the middle of the room. The office is now only 50% disaster area, as opposed to the 80% mess it was two days ago).

The total price was only the cost of two 4' x 8' sheets of 5/8" thick unprimed MDF: $60. I guess I could throw in the 4" roller and roller pads ($5) though I'll be using that to paint the new doors whenever we get around to replace the crappy plain slab doors we have now. I had the primer, paint, screws, tools, etc, from previous projects. And can I tell you how much I love my RAV4? Seriously. We strapped the two sheets with tie-downs (got two of them at Harbor Freight tools for like $5 a piece - this place is great for cheap, decent tools. I highly recommend them - they are all over the country - more than 20 locations in Texas for all you Texans that are reading). I think I may only buy RAV4s for the rest of my life. Unless someone comes out with a good SUV hybrid other than the Ford Escape. I have hauled so much stuff in that car, it's ridiculous (12 ft baseboard contractor packs, 8' pine boards, door casing, windows, etc).

Hopefully, I will be done with the baseboards and tile sealing in the office this week!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fireplace Redo - Bottom Line




What it cost:

Demo: $5
We borrowed a demo hammer from a friend and also truck to haul all the bricks to the dump, so maybe $5. Otherwise, you could rent a demo hammer from Home Depot as well as the truck to haul your debris.

Prep: $10
One piece of 3' x 5' durock - $10
Hand-full of concrete backboard screws - $0, I had a box leftover from 2004 when I re-tiled the bathroom in my condo.
Scoring tool for concrete board - $0, had the tool from 2004 remodeling

Stone work: $200
90 lb back of tinted mortar (bought from same place that sold the stone) and 2 boxes of El Dorado stone veneer (about 10-12 sf in each box from what I remember, I had quite a bit left over) - $185, includes a 10% coupon I found in one of those coupon magazines they send every month.

One pointing trowel, and one standard small square trowel - $15

Drywall mud and clear caulk for patching up the wall near the stone - $0 (again, had the stuff left over from other projects).

Firebox clean-up: $19
One can of black high heat paint - $13
Two new handles - $3 each

Mantel: $36
Two 8 foot lengths of 1"x8" select pine - $30
One can of stain - $6
Polyurethane coat - $0, have a can from a previous project
2" x 4" to mount to studs - $0, left over lumber in the garage
Nails, screws - $0, we have plenty of this stuff from other projects

Total Cost: $270

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Some Holiday Complaining Not Really Related to the Actual Holidays

How's it hangin', good folks of the internet-web? I am currently cursing my overzealous pre-bedtime stretching with cold muscles. If you haven't yet figured out, I'm the type of person that if she's going to do something, it's going to be 153% of where it really should me. I woke up at 4am with my legs, particularly my IT bands, screaming bloody murder. I should know better. Stretching cold is not the greatest idea, nevermind foam rolling your IT bands cold. My shins aren't too happy either but that I expect since I'm prone to shin splints with my Fred Flintstone feet. Can't I just train for this daggone half-marathon without feeling like I am falling apart?


I have a "tempo" run scheduled for this evening (where you run easy for 10-15 minutes, gradually build up to 10K pace for 10-20 minutes, and then cool down with an easy pace 10-ish minutes) and you are probably thinking that I should take a rest and not run. I'll probably make that decision tonight. I'm feeling much better now after taking ibuprofen and spending an hour on the couch at 6:15am icing my legs. It's really no fun icing when the house is like 62 degrees. Should I decide to run this evening you may hear screaming around 7:45pm Pacific time when I immerse the lower-half of my body in an ice-bath to nip any of this inflammation business in the bud. Sounds fun right? Right?? God. Why.

All in the name of breaking 2 hours for this half-marathon is why. Stupid goal-driven, type A personality.

Anyway, I've noticed that blogland has gotten less chatty in the last couple weeks. No doubt because everyone is out dealing with presents, holidays parties, etc, etc. This is the first year I don't have a single Christmas party to attend. Kind of sad in a way, but my company saves money by having the holiday party in January. It's strange, no doubt, I've never heard any company having the holiday party after the new year, but I'm all for being thrifty and I'd rather have a kick-ass party in January than a mediocre, lukewarm party in December.

And also, since this post is mostly my complaining and such, can we talk about how I'm 6 months from 32 years old and still have acne as bad if not worse than when I was a teenager? I hardly ever wear makeup and I've had to the last two days because my chin has a cyst that can be seen from space. This morning while I was icing the lower half of my body, I was also applying a warm compress to my chin at the same time. Nice. Maybe I will only be free of this acne business when I hit the Great Change. Twenty more years of acne. All I can say is I am so looking forward to 11 days off; sure two of the days we don't get paid because the company is technically "shut down" (unless we want to use vacation for the furloughed days), but it's just going to be nice not to have to commute to work, think about work, etc, etc. I can just caulk and paint baseboard to my heart's content.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Tree is Up!

I have joined the Christmas decorating masses, or at least the less competitive decorators I am certainly ahead of schedule compared to last year. I am happy to have a new topper that I grabbed at Target on the 26th of December last year. So much better than my previous star that didn't want to stay upright very well and totally got swallowed up by the tree. The tree is another 50% off score from Target in 2004. As you can see the baseboards are still not done in that area, or really any of the living room. Eh.

What is done, though, is... (drumroll)... the mantel!

It started as two 8 foot length of 1"x 8" select pine boards. Each was around $15. We mitered each side at 45 degrees so that the part of the "box" that was visible wouldn't have glaring seams.

We nailed everything together with Elmer's glue and 1 1/4" brad nails using the compressor and nail gun that we had from when I remodeled my first townhouse in LA. I remember I got the kit from Amazon - compressor and two nail guns. Seriously one of the best home purchases ever. I think I paid like $200 or something, I can't remember anymore, it's been more than 6 years. The top and bottom of the box you can see the seam but I am not going to sweat that. We used wood filler for any nail holes and small gaps - should you use filler for anything you plan to stain, try to me as sparing as possible just because it doesn't have any wood grain and you'll be able to see it a little too easily.

To mount it we put a 2" x 4", screwed into the studs, and then we nailed the top into that. Ideally we would have screwed the top of the mantel into the 2x4 but the angle was a bit tight and the nails are less visible.

As far as beating it up to get it to look distressed (and I hope it looks distressed considering I threw anything I could find in the garage at it), I used an orbital sander to get an uneven appearance, a hammer, the back end of the hammer, nail set (the little metal tool that you use to countersink nails), the metal hook of a tie-down (just swung it at it), and then I also twisted up two small nails with pliers and hammered into the wood, then sanded some more. There was no rhyme or reason to it.

Here is the mantel proudly showing off our stockings.

An the other bit of holiday decor - a custom runner thing my "nona" made me. She is always sewing something - a lifetime seamstress.

Now I don't feel like such a Christmas deadbeat. December 12th ain't bad.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Never A Dull Moment With Craigslist

I'm selling my guitar on Craiglist, the little guy, because I recently bought a larger one and can't really afford to keep both. I moved up from the 3/4 size just so I can start to play a real-sized guitar, rather than a travel/child's size guitar. I would keep it but I'd rather offset the new guitar cost with selling the old one at this point.

Anyway, so I listed it and I get the usual flake (dude who apparently didn't understand that it's called "baby" because it's a smaller guitar), one legitimate dude that is coming to see it today at lunch, and then one last night at 1:30am. Well, two emails within 10 minutes of each other from the same person. The name signed in the email was not the name on the email address, which was interesting. In the first one she says she wished I had put my number down because she would have called me to get it right away. Called me at 1:24am? Really? I would have been pretty irked. Another good reason not to list my number on the ad. And the second email was another "I'm really interested, call me at this number." I caught the drift that she was interested in the first email.

All seeming a little strange to me, I took her number and stuck it in Google. A whole slew of weirdness popped up, mostly hits indicating that she is -- this is good one -- a hooker. Swedish massage, escort, and what-not. Seriously. Now, it's not to say that prostitutes don't want to play the guitar. She may legitimately want to buy my guitar and not sell me sexual favors, but I'm thinking I'm not responding to this person. I mean, I'm all for non-discrimination based on one's "occupation" but I'd rather not have my address, email, and/or phone number in the hands of what appears to be a prostitute. Right?

I hope that guy buys the guitar today so I can just be done with this already. When did Craigslist get so skeevy?

Monday, December 7, 2009

One Hour and Fourty Seven Minutes

That is how long my commute was this morning. Yes, 1 hours plus another 47 minutes. When it rains in Southern California, you can expect your commute to double or triple. Meanwhile, for the last 47 minutes, I had to pee. In bumper to bumper traffic. In the rain. By the time I got to work, I was ready to strangle someone. Anyone. We need rain, of course, everyone knows California needs water/rain, but at this price? Holy Jesus, it was my worst commute day ever, in 10 years including the 4 years I drove to downtown Los Angeles on the 110 freeway. Got on the road on 8:11am, arrived 9:48am. How many miles? 32.5. Average of 18 miles per hour. Enough to drive you certifiably nuts. And guess what? In about 2 hours, I have to repeat it and it's unlikely to be much better given that the morning commute is 90% of the time better than the evening commute.

I may need a crown on several molars one I get home from the tooth grinding. I will probably be drinking at least two pints from the 'ol kegerator when I get home to unwind. And ice on my knee from having to drive stick shift in parking lot traffic for nearly 2 hours.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Wherein I Curse 19 Seconds. I MeanTwenty.

What's up with all you nut-bags out there? I say that lovingly, of course, since I may as well be the biggest nutter-bar out there. Ha! Well, maybe not, but, weird, I am still.

I think I mentioned that I had been busting my hump in the weeks prior to Thanksgiving in an attempt to get a good time in my local 5K Turkey Trot. That's basically how I began my 4 day vacation - with 26 minutes of discomfort. Or rather, what I had hoped would be 25:59 minutes of discomfort which ended up being 26:19. Who was aggravated? Yep, I missed my goal by 20 seconds. Stupid 20 seconds. However, it was the fastest I have run in four and a half years (woefully far from high school but "whatever"), so I am taking some solace in that fact. 26 minutes is seriously some kind of retarded 5K hurdle that I can't seem to cross and I'm sure if I busted my ass a little harder, it may have happened.

Anyway, those paltry 3.1 miles seriously kicked my butt because Friday I did nothing. NOTHING. Can you imagine? I just sat on the couch all day, watching TV. Didn't leave the house. I had visions that I would make serious progress on molding this vacation but none of that happened. And I slept. Oh boy, did I sleep. I napped pretty much every day, slept till 8:30, etc. I must have caught up on months of sleep deficit.

Saturday I did manage to paint two of the doors bright white (from the dingy off-white that no longer matched the new trim) and yesterday we constructed the box mantel for the fireplace from two 1 x 8 x 8 boards of select pine. Now I have to distress it (i.e. beat the crap out of it), find a decent stain match to the floor (tell me that's not going to be annoying), antique it up with glaze, coat of polyurethane, and finally mount the sucker. Still lots to do on that front.

Alright folks, time to wrap up. Pats game is starting soon and I'm still here at the office.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Conditioner is Not Just for Your Hair

Turkey-day in t-minus 2 days! I know, none of you people are even reading blogs right now - you're probably going crazy prepping and buying and what-not. Me, I'm "lucky" enough to have work start getting hectic in the last week or so. Not that it's bad to have stuff to do (hey, I'd rather be busy than not busy - we've had enough layoffs for one year, thank you. Even my BIL's girlfriend got laid off last month).

Anyway, lest you think I've let my home improvement projects go by the wayside, I am here to tell you "fear not!" I have been trying to get stuff done here and there. On Saturday, we hit up Lowes, since I had an almost expired coupon from Discover Card for $10 of $50 and on top of that they are giving me 10% cashback on Lowe's purchases through the 30th. Seriously - don't they understand home improvement stores are my kryptonite? Sneaky bastards. Anyway, so we dropped about $200 on baseboard and one more pack of door casing, wood for the fireplace mantel (exciting!), stain for the mantel, and some awesomeness called Floetrol.


Now, if you've ever dealt with latex paint on wood trim or furniture, you know about the whole brush marks and never getting a smooth finish. No Floetrol is not paying me to sound like a commercial. Trust me, with a readership of 16, sponsors are not knocking down my door. Anyway, after reading a post the Nester linked to about this blogger that painted her dining room furniture black and insisted that you should only use oil paint for this type of job, I remembered that oil paint is getting phased out across the country due to the fact that it's kind of nasty and caustic with the fumes, and it only cleans up with equally smelly stuff like paint thinner and mineral spirits (how can something with such a nice name like "mineral spirits" smell like such ass?). I thought: how could the EPA ban something like oil paint if there is no other viable alternative? This led to getting sucked into the Google Vortex searching for information about paint. I found out that you can add paint conditioner to latex paint that will help it lay flat! Holy Smokes! Where was this information when I attempted to paint my stools with high gloss paint only to end up frustrated with brush stroke marks all over it?

Here is a close up of a section of casing I did with the Floetrol. Maybe not the easiest to tell - but the finish is quite smooth.

One thing to note is if you use this stuff, it does make the paint a little more viscous - meaning, loading up the brush can sometimes lead to paint dripping everywhere. But it's a small price to pay for nice flat finish.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hump Day Update

Quite honestly, I don't know what to say anymore about all these blogger ladies* I follow popping out the babies (not to mention non-blog friends). Seriously. Lots of pregnant-ness going on. Starting to make me all atsy like I'm going to miss the train or something. Y'all are making me nervous! But, again, quite honestly, I don't know that I want munchkins yet. I am the only butt-head in my household working (yes, I know the argument of "there is never a good time to have a baby" but this is very much not even remotely close to a "good time"; it's not even a "just ok" time). I will not give into the baby peer-pressure yet.

* Katie, Tooj, Sherry, WI, Dooce

Speaking of peer pressure, I did get pressured to join the good cause of donating my cheek skin particles to the bone marrow donation registry at the beer festival we went to this past weekend. Nothing like getting accosted by do-gooders at the beer garden entrance and told sad stories about children with leukemia when all you really want to do is get in there and get some tasty brews and instead are kinda bummed out for the next half-hour. But it is a good thing to do, so I said, "why not?" and signed up. Is it wrong to now hope that my good karmic gesture get returned to me in some form, like, maybe a job for The Husband? I know, (a) it's very un-karmic/disingenuous of me for that to think of that way, and (7) I've likely just repaid some previous karmic bad-debt I had. Feh.

The house stuff is moving along, slowly. We installed casing on the doors and I've been caulking up the gaps and such over the past two weeks. The plan is to buy baseboards and fireplace mantel wood this weekend so maybe we'll have that stuff done before year end.

Alright, good folks of the interwebbings, I had a little too much Diet Coke, and pee fairy is calling.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Post With Lots 'O Pictures

In case you were just sitting on the edge of your seat, wondering where I am in my fireplace revamp, I am here to assuage your anxiety. Right. Yes, I am sure you were just writhing in agony from the unknown.

Well, I am here to tell you: it ain't done yet. It's a really fiddly update. Everything is taking forever and requires a patient hand. A reminder of what this bad boy looked like, pre-destruction.

After I installed the stone veneer, notice the scratched up area near the stone courtesy of the brick mortar that was removed, and the drywall mess on the sides:

First step was to get me a can of black high heat paint. Spray paint was not really an option - it would be damn near impossible to tape off and cover all the stone and still reach all the nooks and crannies. So paint and little brushes (cheapo brush kit from the Depot) were the plan of attack.

I removed the doors and, holy living cripe, they were filthy. Gave 'em a good cleaning and two coats of that paint (before reading the instructions that said additional coats were not recommended. Oops. Whatever, looked like dog terd with only one coat).

I also replaced the old, partially broken, handles with rustic pulls from Lowes, $3.97 each. Better than a poke in the eye with a stick.

Then came patching up the drywall. I am not sure that was better than a poke in the eye with a stick. That part took 3 days, with all the coats and waiting to dry and such. After sanding:

As for the texture, again, the spray can orange peel stuff would have been hard to apply without spraying the stone and we already talked about taping off jaggedy edged stone. Good luck with that, because I'm not doing it. I still have half a 40 pound bucket of drywall mud left over from the kitchen reno so I watered it down in my mud pan:

Then took an old kitchen sponge and applied it randomly to the wall:

Hey, it's not a perfect match but it's close enough. I also caulked (with the clear, paintable variety) any gaps where I wasn't able to get the drywall mud into.

Then I got to painting (which, by the way, friggin' Glidden changed their formulations midway through the painting of this room, so this area was the old formulation and then I got a new can of the same color and it is just different enough that it's kinda noticeable. In the dining area, I basically have to repaint two walls so that it's not all splotchy. Meanwhile the Depot paint people were like "Glidden has said it will look the same". Right.).

And here is where I'm at today. Notice the dusty floor. Fabulous. We still have a mantle to create and stain (matching the floor), molding around the hearth to hide the flooring expansion gap, and baseboards. And also new blinds. It never ends.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Medicine Cabinets?

Like many 80's tract houses, we have these bo-ring medicine cabinets implanted into the wall, on the side by the sink. So, not directly in front of you as you wash your hands, but on the side with yet another mirror, which to me seems odd.

Sorry for the flash - I didn't have the time to figure out how to take the picture without potentially blinding anyone who looks at it.

It provides some storage (not a huge amount) and it doesn't necessarily look bad, but it just seems weird to me that there is yet another mirror that is not really usable unless you contort your body to the side and if you stay in that position too long you end up with a charlie horse.

This bathroom, and the rest of them really, are going to get an overhaul at some point in the next 6 months or so, starting with the downstairs. I'm going to rip out the ginourmous mirror and replace with a smaller framed one, switch out the countertop for something tiled (that doesn't extend over the toilet), and get new cabinet doors with recessed hinges. I'll keep the cabinet frame, sink, and faucet, to reduce costs.

The other thing coming out is the horrendous 80's fluorescent light box.

Hello, Demo-With-a-Reciprocating-Saw! That has got to go - we have these light boxes in all three bathrooms. The Jack-and-Jill one upstairs has a light bulb (really, it's a tube) that is on its last legs and when you turn it on it's all psychedelic flashy. I should have a warning sign for any epileptics who might use that bathroom to exercise caution. Maybe not turn on the light when washing their hands. Seriously, these fluorescent light box fixtures suck and it's even worse that they are built-in with 2x4's and drywall. Makes replacing them that much more involved.

Anyway, what I'm wondering now is what should I do with the medicin cabinet? Leave it? Drywall over it and just have a wall with no medicine cabinet? Some kind of recessed storage? And is building out and trimming up recessed storage really worth the effort for the amount of storage it buys? I can't go any deeper into the wall there - the other side is the hallway into the garage...

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Have Been Known to Be a Ham...

Sooooo. I have the house to myself this evening and I went a little silly with the sound recorder on my laptop (since I would likely catch a lot of slack from the Husband for making a bunch of noise and also for recording myself). Girly Stuff mentioned something about not knowing if I sounded like Michael Stipe playing some obscure song (I can't remember what she wrote in her comment a while back), and I decided to subject you fine folks to my vocal prowess. Ha! Well, actually, it's an attempt at playing guitar and singing. Now, in all seriousness, I have only been playing guitar for about 2 months so cut me some slack on that part.

I had to put a random picture of something in order to create a video file since Blogger does not allow upload of sound files and after much research, I decided this here work-around would do fine.

Anyway, it's Angel From Montgomery, the Susan Tedeschi version. It's fairly easy to play though when you combine singing and then being aware of the fact that you are recording it and you would rather not screw up, it adds a bit more difficulty. At least for me.

Enjoy. Or stab your eardrums out with number 2 pencils.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What's Shakin' Bacon

Well, really, I have become boring. At least that's how it feels with this blog - I have nothing interesting to tell you good folks of the internets. But rather than leave you to listen to crickets here, I'm going to post about what mundane activities I have partaken in since the Great Craigslist Toilet Acquisition.

In answer to Girly Stuff, I haven't used a black toilet, but I actually saw one for sale on Craigslist and I was like "Now why would you ever get totally black bathroom pieces?" I don't like the idea of "hiding dirt" on a toilet. Picking darker flooring or darker fabrics for chairs to hide dirt is one thing, but a toilet needs to be a light shade so we know when to clean it, damn it. There. My two cents on dark toilets. I grew up with an avocado green one which was bad enough - luckily, one fine day it broke and my father replaced it with a bisque-colored one but kept the green seat!! Seriously, I'm all for reusing but there is no way I would have reused the avocado green toilet seat with a new bisque toilet.

One of the toilets has been installed as of yesterday - and, as always, it didn't not go 100% smoothly. The upstairs toilet used an old valve where the line to the tank was fused to the actual valve. And with our very hard water, when the Husband attempted to remove it, it broke from the corrosion. So that extended the install another 2 days (researching problem, buying the new valve, shutting off the water to the house, replacing, etc, etc). It works well and looks more spiffy than the other new one downstairs, though the seat is chair height which some people (you tall folks) like but when I sit on it, my feet dangle. Such is the life of the vertically challenged. I can't even catch a break on the john. Iffin' we have little ones, they'll need a stool to use the potty. I'm already making their life difficult.

In the kitchen, I have been dutifully installing the toe kicks on the cabinets. It really is a fiddly process - I have only one little bit left to finish, so, hopefully this weekend, the toekicks will be done and all that will remain is baseboards and then I can say the kitchen is completely done! More than one year in the making.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In which I Talk Yet More About The Potty

I know, you are like: "Enough already, woman, we are done hearing about the bathroom" or if you are a New Yorker if may sound more like "bat-room". Also, it involves Craigslist and you know I haven't talked much about Craigslist here on this here blog. Right.

Seeing as my house is 22 years old, things in it tend to go tits up right around now (plumbing, dishwasher, master closet railings, etc). Note to anyone looking at 80s houses - expect stuff to stop working on somewhat of a frequent basis. The latest is the guest bathroom upstairs. The in-laws were here and used said bathroom on a daily basis. Around day 2, the toilet sprung a leak where the tank and the bowl connect. I was reassured that it only leaked when flushed as if this was no big deal. So as long as we don't plan to use the toilet, it's fine. Considering we seem to have an overnight guest at least once a month, it didn't seem like a viable route to just not flush it. Rather than fix an old-ass toilet that likely uses more than 3 gallons per flush, we figured might as well replace her with a water-efficient model. They run about $100 for a 1.28 gpf model, so, not a huge deal.

Here is where Craigslist comes in. I really had no expectation of finding a toilet on Craigslist, I mean, seriously, even if it was water conserving, the idea of buying someone else's USED toilet crossed my boundaries of frugality. Though, when you buy a house that isn't new, you are technically buying the seller's used toilets. Just a thought. Anyway, back to Craigslist. For shits and giggles, I searched "toilet" in the "materials" section and up popped a posting about new 1.28 gpf toilets for $50. New-in-box, complete toilets. It's like the Craigslist Magic Fairies decided I needed a good deal on poopers. Turns out, this woman was stuck with boxes and boxes (at one point 226 of them) of new toilets in her front-yard that had essentially been abandoned. Her story was that as a favor she agreed to store them (I guess it was someone she knew or some company of someone she knew, I didn't quite understand the situation entirely) since the job wasn't ready to install them yet. It sounded like it may have been a retrofit scenario when the state was giving away high efficiency toilets to certain building owners/administrators (like multi-family apartment buildings) so the old hogs could be swapped out, thus saving the owners water-bill money and also helping out our drought situation. 226 toilets in her front yard. That must have been a sight. Anyway, after she tried to contact the owners of the toilets for several months without response, she sent a final letter informing them she is considering it abandoned property and started selling them. Because how long can you live with that many boxes of toilets hanging out in your front yard.

So, for the price of one new toilet at the home improvement store, I got two. I figured, grab 'em now and just replace the master bath toilet as well. She was down to about 8 boxes when I got them so I guess I timed it pretty well. Still haven't found a weedwacker, though. I like how Girly Stuff referenced her husband as her weedwacker. Mine is too, except, we have a big slope in our yard - not sure how far back it goes but it's at least 20 feet high at the top. It's full of dead overgrown (2+ feet high) weeds from winter rains. It's damn near impossible to manually pull them up so he needs to use a power garden tool. Our old one decided to stop turning on about half-way through the job of clearing out the whole slope. I guess it had enough wacking.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Zero Point Zero

We are in search of a gas-powered weed wacker over here in the chacha household and thus, have been trolling Craigslist. And I am seriously appalled at what people are giving away FREE. Granted, it's their stuff, they can do what they wish with it, but I could not imagine just giving this stuff away.

Like this stove.

How awesome is this vintage stove. This is worth some money. But I just don't have the time to try to get it - I mean, it'll get snapped up fast, I am sure, and with a day job, I don't have the ability to just take off and get it. One could snap this up, fix it up, and then resell it (because it certainly wouldn't fit in my house). Nevermind I don't have a truck to pick it up (I need a beater truck with a rack for those pesky long baseboards. But that's for another year, I think).

And these?

They look like the version I had in my old model house in the boonies (built in '99) so they aren't that old. Ten years tops. Double ovens, new, are minimum $1000. Plus, these are KitchenAid - a good brand, so new, the price is closer to $2500. I would think these ovens, if they are working, should run at least $300.

I also saw all kinds of wooden furniture, a great wooden pedestal table (dining room size), just free. What I would do with a pick up truck. Seriously, I maybe have to get a 4 cylinder pick up for my next vehicle. The automakers need to get on making a fuel efficient pickup.

Anyway, enough of my "I wish I had a truck to collect more junk." My point is, if you are looking for something, it wouldn't hurt to check the "Free" section of Craigslist because it just may be don't have to pay for what you need. I mean, jeez, if you just looking for furniture to fix up and resell or furniture for your house, seriously, check the free section. You just might find some lazy or uninformed folks giving away valuable stuff.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Productive Weekend

About 90 minutes after I posted that I didn't think I was going to get the flooring done this weekend because it hadn't come in, Home Depot called and said "your flooring is in." I was both happy and disappointed at the same time. Happy because it in on time, not happy because that meant I'd be working my hiney off on the weekend installing flooring.

The job was done in one day - from 9am to 5pm. Basically one work day. The stuff is easy to install. However, easy doesn't mean I wasn't sore the next day. Or today. For whatever reason, installing the flooring resulted in a very sore right inner thigh. I have no idea why. All I know is my right quadricep muscle and right inner thigh/hamstring is achy and whiney. It almost stopped me from sealing more tile and installing a section of toe kick in the kitchen yesterday. Yes, I am a diy work-a-holic - you are probably thinking I should have taken Sunday off but look who we're talking about. I can't NOT be doing something productive for a whole day. It's just not going to happen. I am probably going to be one of those old ladies that works until she's like 80. Anyway, installing the toe kicks on the cabinets is fiddly and annoying requiring fourteen million tweaks on the length of each piece. It took two hours to do 1/4th of the kitchen. And the IKEA kitchen dude? Did not calculate enough toe kick. I remember going "Is that going to be enough toe kick?" and he's like, "Yeah, and I'm including an extra one for filler and stuff." Yeah. Turns out I need two more 7 foot lengths. That's how off he was. Moral of the story is figure it out yourself. That is almost always the case when doing IKEA kitchen stuff.

Without further ado, pictures of the flooring.






The Husband is not second-guessing the color - that our dining room table is blending in with the wood because it is dark. Yes, it is dark - that is the trend now. There weren't any light colored floating floor options at Home Depot (that weren't crappy quality) and he didn't want to do bamboo again. I figure I will cross the bridge of "decor and accessorizing" when I am done with all the molding and such. There is still so much work do to but at least we have flooring in every room!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Rubber Manikin Chests

I will have you know that I am done - d. o. n. e. - installing Saltillo tile. I am not only "done" with the install but I am also "done" with Saltillo tile. Honestly, it's not something I would recommend you run out and do on your own unless you have an extraordinarily high level of patience. Or you like self-inflicted aggravation so you can complain about it to anyone who will listen. Saturday was the straw that almost broke the camel's back. I was so done with tiling. I had 40 square feet to do (a paltry amount I would have scoffed at as early as last week) and it was like running the last mile of a marathon. Not that anything really bad happened, I didn't wanna do it anymore and I just had some stupidly challenging area - a problem I created myself by not tiling the room in the same direction (should have kept going front to back instead of left to right half-way through) and now the back corner of the downstairs bedroom has kinda wonky grout lines. But I had mentally checked out of the process at that point and was not about to try to rectify the problem by pulling up the adjacent 30 square feet of tile. The desk will cover it. That's how over it I am with the tiling. I told my Inner Perfectionist to take a long walk of a short pier.

This morning I began the smelly process of cleaning the tile and grout with water and vinegar solution, letting it dry and then applying the final coats of sealer. At least this part does not try my patience like the saltillo tile that likes to be all different-sized just to screw with your head.

Which leads me to baseboards because, as of today, the wood flooring is still not hear ("hear". your say? What?), I mean here (man, that Ivy League education is really showing well) and if it doesn't arrive by Wednesday, I can forget laying it this weekend. Which means, I won't have it done until like the 20th of October because the in-laws are in town, and also because I am stuck compressing rubber manikin chests and learning about compound fractures all of next Saturday. Stuff I already know, but am required to relearn every year so that I can teach yoga. So, in case you're ever hanging out with me and go into cardiac arrest, if we have an AED nearby I will know how to use it. That is if my head doesn't explode during the crisis.

So baseboards. Do you know how long those things are? I mean, sure you can cut them, but, really, you don't want 40 million seams on every wall, so, ideally, you buy them at full length at the store and then cut them at install time. Except that full-length is sixteen feet. Sixteen Feet. Seriously, do you know how that makes transport a royal pain in the ass? I haven't even chosen which style and I'm already sweating how we're going to get them home. Even with renting the truck from The Depot, it's still a somewhat harrowing experience. For the last floor remodel I rented the HD truck, and my father and I loaded them up and we tried to tie them down best we could, but 16-feet? You end up with a large portion of the boards pointing straight up behind the truck cab and then the wind blows against them as you drive and you fear that you'll launch a 16-foot baseboard oncoming traffic. I drove very slow through very quiet side streets in the boondocks of my old town in the IE (Inland Empire) and I was still silently chanting some superstitious mantra to the baseboards to "stay put" as I watched them loll and bounce about. I could have them delivered via flatbed from the store but that's like $75. Seems like a lot to drive it about 3 miles down the road.

So yeah, I wish I could tell you that I worry about important things, but this is the crap I worry about. If you have any brilliant ideas about baseboard transport, please let me know. Maybe I am missing some industry standard way of dealing with this problem because every handy man can't have a huge flatbed truck at his disposal. Right?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Communist Hardwood

We picked our flooring for the downstairs and it's called "Manchurian Walnut" which keeps triggering my brain to think "Manchurian Debate" and "Manchurian Candidate", the latter being a 1959 book (and 1962 and again 2004 movie) about some dude who gets brainwashed into being an assassin for the Communist party. Which is fitting for that 50s era. But anyway, so I would imagine the Walnut tree used for the flooring is from somewhere in Manchuria. Manchuria! It just sounds like a word you should always say with exclamation points. And with your hangs on your hips and elbow out. Kind of like the Rum Captain stance minus the lifting of the leg.



The flooring is a "special order" from Home Depot and we are awaiting its arrival - 7-10 days! Ack! I am really hoping it's earlier - the flooring lady (I always name people like that, like "hair lady" for a sylist - I have no idea why I do that), said it's been shipping pretty quickly, so I am hopeful. I have a self-imposed deadline to have it done before the in-laws arrive on October 6th. Ideally, I would be installing on the 3rd-ish, though this plan may all be shot to hell because you're supposed to let the floor "acclimate" (i.e. languish in it's uselessness) in the room before installing. Feh. Achieving my deadline entirely depends on when it arrives. The one nice thing the Flooring Lady did for us was get us 12 months no interest financing. I was bemoaning the fact that it was only 6 months no interest, and apparently, you can call the credit center and ask them for the 12 month deal and sometimes they'll give it to you! Must depend on how much action the Credit Center Dude got the night before if he is feeling generous enough to give you the 12 months deferred. That makes the $1800 spread out to $150-ish each month. It essentially forces me to save that $1800 bucks by making me pay the $150 monthly rather than shelling out 1800 bucks from savings right now. I wouldn't use it if it wasn't 0% interest, though.

Here is the floor (link is to the Home Depot product description):

I don't recall exactly where I five-finger-discounted these pictures but, they are from some blogs that mentioned they used the flooring, though it wasn't the click stuff I got. However, it looks the same - it's the same flooring with 3 different options (solid, engineered, or click). I thought about doing the engineered wood with a glue down installation but from what I understand, floating installations are more forgiving of variations in the flatness of the slab. Also, it's going to be a whole lot easier to install. After 700 square feet of saltillo tile, easy install sounded really nice. I have delusions that it will be a piece of cake - which is stupid. Home improvement projects are never without snags, but I am an optimist when it comes to DIY. Or rather, I am foolishly confident. Which I think you need when you're undertaking DIY projects. Or else you'll never do them.

Somewhere around 60-70 square feet remain in the tiling project. I am so close! Tonight I'll tackle 30-40 square feet - so come hell or high water (sorry, Georgia, pun not intended), the tile will be done this weekend... let's not talk about the fact that I still have to clean the entire floor with an acidic solution (white vinegar and water) and apply two more coats (on top of the the 3 already on there) of sealer in order to be truly done. Bah.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love

Among the many project we have going on both in reality and in my head, is the revamping of our 80s red brick blah fireplace to updated stacked stone. It's not 100% done, by any means, but it's close. I still have to do some more scraping of the old mortar on the black fireplace metal front. Then paint it up with some high-temp paint. Doors are in need of revamp - perhaps I'll just take them out entirely and put up a black iron screen (Pottery Barn has me drooling over their options - maybe I can I find a cheaper version elsewhere). I also have some drywall repair to do on the sides and finally, a simple boxy wood mantel in a dark stain. So, yeah, we're about 70% there at this point.

Like most tract houses since 1980-ish, the fireplace is nothing more than a hole in the wall, with a prefabricated fireplace unit that fits into the space. All surrounding stuff is just slapped up against the drywall. In the two houses I've owned, all three fireplaces have been this genre. And I've noticed it in other people's houses as well. Makes updating simple - though it also means that those cheapy prefab units are really good for burning gas, and not wood.

The blah before:


For the demo, the Husband's buddy from his old job came and helped us out. He's always lending a hand with our DIY projects - which is great. We decided to send him a Swiss-made pressure cooker for all his help (he's a foodie).



At the end it looked like this:


The arrival of the new piano is what kicked our asses into gear. I wanted to get this thing demoed and prepped before it arrived so the dust would be minimized. So 8am Labor Day morning, I was doing this:


Fun with Durock (i.e. concrete backerboard)

But I am going to give you a little tip here. Don't go all willy-nilly into setting the stone before you finish fixing up the surrounding walls. I got all excited about creating the new surround and didn't think about how it would be a whole lot easier to patch the drywall and paint the scratched up black fireplace BEFORE rather than AFTER. So now I'm stuck fixing it up after, and it's going to be more of a pain in the butt.







Already much better right? I think the next time I post about the fireplace it'll be when it's totally done, mantle and everything.

In case you are curious about tools and materials and such, we used 3 hearth stones, and 2 boxes of stone veneer made my El Dorado Stone. Their products are nationally distributed - you can find it almost anywhere in the US. Cost was less than $200 including a 94 pound bag of tinted stone veneer mortar. I used a cold chisel and baby sledge hammer to do any small "cuts" to the stone - which I tried to avoid doing unless I had no other options. Generally, I was attempting to fit different options like a puzzle, but sometimes, there just isn't a match and you have to trim at stone down. I got two hand trowels - one is the a standard trowel using for mixing and scooping. The other was a pointing trowel which proved to be extremely useful for applying and cleaning up mortar, since it has that little pointy part. The one piece that was sort of MacGyver-ish was a metal strut that we used to span across the sides to support the stone at the top. I'm not sure what people normally do here but we had a leftover sheet metal l-shaped strut that I believe is normally used in counter top installation. We trimmed it up a bit with sheet metal snippers and a jigsaw. I let the first row on the strut dry overnight so that it would be strong enough to support the rest of the stones above.

When all it done with this fireplace project, it will have cost around $200-250 and it was totally worth it!