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!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jessica Simpson and Automagic Flushing Toilets

Call me harsh, but Jessica Simpson might be dumber than I imagined. Or rather more out of touch with reality than I imagined. Her maltipoo got snatched by a coyote and she has a reward out to get her back. Really? In one identifiable piece? I mean, I'd be heartbroken if it happened to my dog but there is no way in Hollywood hell a little 10-pound maltese-poodle can defend itself against a coyote. The sad reality is that the dog was scrumptious dinner prey, for the coyote and she is not "with us" anymore. She is in Doggy Heaven. It's silly to get all Twittery about finding any part of her. I know, I am heartless. But seriously, it's just so beyond realistic to expect the dog survived. It's more likely Kanye West will tell me my music video sucks.

Onto more bathroom/toilet discussion, because it seems to be a recurring theme for me lately. I don't like automatic flushing toilets. Nope. Don't like 'em. And it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with everyone else. We have auto-flushing thrones in the new building at work, and it seems that 80% of the time I use that restroom, I run into an unflushed toilet. It has created this reliance on the toilet - that it will flush itself - that people don't STICK AROUND to see if their waste actually got sucked down. Now, I'm not someone that gets my knickers in a wad about everyday stuff like farts, poo, etc. But I really don't need to see stale pee or poo when I go into a bathroom, especially if it is from the ass of a faceless stranger. These auto-flushers are breeding Flushing Laziness. I even think that they are messing with heads of people using the manual flush bathrooms because at no other place I have worked, have I run into so many unflushed or partially flushed toilets. It's like, the boogie man is in the stall with them and they run out like their ass is on fire before determining the outcome of the flush. What is wrong with society these days!!!

Also, more bathroom stuff, as much as urinals freak me out (I'm sorry, the whole concept of them is creepy) they do offer the unintended benefit of early warning that you're walking into the wrong bathroom. Ever do that? It's like "WHOA! Wrong door!" So, I'll give urinals that kudos.

I other non-potty news, the credit crap? All squared away! Yay! Haven't check my FICO yet but it had better be near or above 800 or I am going to be a bit tweaked. Just a bit. Yeah. And the saltillo tile floor? One 10x10 room left to go! And I think I have my wood flooring picked out for the living room/dining room (planning to do the Home Depot 12-month no interest deal, just to soften the blow), and also, lets throw some more ands into this sentence, and I installed the stone veneer on the fireplace. I have some drywall patching and painting to do around it, and it still needs a mantle. But it's already much better. I will post some pictures later this week.

I'm off to use the potty now and will most definitely be monitoring the flush. Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Long Overdue Favorite Things

This is way overdue and I feel like I butthead because I missed the Mr. Linky, but, I will preface that fact with (1) I am almost done the dang floor (and I spend minimum 3 nights a week after work laying or grouting, and it seems to always take precedence over everything including dinner), (2) after I spent a small fortune on the piano I realized that I wanted to rip out the fireplace BEFORE it arrived since that process would generate dust and I wanted dust at a minimum after the new piano arrived. Number 2 took up all of Sunday and involved tearing out a bunch of brick... and then realizing we should do a dump run and that was several hours of coordination: borrowing the truck, loading 1600 pounds of tile, brick, old window panels, etc, driving to the dump and unloading for, by the way, only $48. Yeah. 1600 pounds of trash for 48 dollars. Way too cheap. Makes it too economical to accumulate crap and just dump it, in my opinion. It was so cheap it made me feel like just going back to the house and trying to find more stuff to toss out. Because I'm weird like that. Anyway. Lets get the point already, sheesh.

Favorite Thing #1

At the moment, it's the new Piano. Here are pictures, you hecklers.



And you get to see my new hairdo. And my face. Whatever. Those are my parents - my father looking at the "sold" ticket. It's a Kawai GE-20, 5'1" baby grand. Satin black, ivory keys (has that "Steinway" look). Plays like butter. Or like bacon. Whatever you prefer. This weekend I'm going to carve out some time to learn some Norah Jones songs from my music book, so I can sing and play at the same time and drive my husband batty.

Favorite Thing #2

My 3/4 dreadnought acoustic guitar, the Baby Taylor. It is so small - and so easy to play. I lurve it. I'm still learning but I am not going to give up. At the moment I can play Amazing Grace, as you know, and also the chords for Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac.


I tried to take a pictures of it near something so that you could get an idea of scale. It is really just "cute".

Favorite Thing #3

Kirkland Signature Vanilla Organic Soy Milk. Seriously - this stuff is good and it's cheap. A pack of 12 costs like 12 or 13 bucks.

Favorite Thing #4

Ikea. Really, I know The Husband is not a fan but I love Ikea. Sure, I wouldn't buy just anything there (some of their stuff is just cheaply made, but price reflects that), but there is almost always something I covet when I browse the store or catalog.

Favorite Thing #5

Short hair. After my recent hair cut, I am so over long hair. I think I am done with it.

Favorite Thing #6

Diet colas. Any of them. I don't discriminate. Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Diet Dr Pepper, Coke Zero, Pepsi One, Walmart's Diet Sams, Diet Rite, etc, etc, etc. Bad habit but I just can't help myself.

Favorite Thing #7

Dogs. I would love to live on a huge farm so that I could have a dog of each breed. I love them all, big and small. That rhymed! I'm such a dork.

Favorite Thing #8

Yoga. It's like the only execise where 1 hour is just barely enough. Yeah, you don't necessarily burn as much as if you ran the full hour and unless you're doing Ashtanga, it's not all that much of a cardio workout, but it's really a very complete exercise - works both your body and mind.

Favorite Thing #9

HGTV. I can't believe I didn't think of it until number 9. I watch numerous shows on this channel. I also watch the DIY Network, so I guess I love all television shows relating to home improvement.

Favorite Thing #10

Real Estate. It's kind of a weird thing but I am addicted to checking listings in my city on a daily basis, especially my immediate neighborhood. Honestly, I would love to just flip houses for a living but I just don't have the capital to do it. People are flipping houses in my city now, and making bank. It's crazy. I had the same idea at the end of last year but, alas, layoffs trounced my plan. Nevermind that these lower-priced foreclosures are getting bombarded with offers (I mean 20+ offers, a number of them are all cash offers). But anyway, at least I know I had the right idea. Just didn't have the means to get 'er done.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Waiting for Buyers Remorse...

On Saturday, I may have lost my mind, folks. Temporarily. So, remember how I was blah-blah-blah-ing about a piano? Well, I have been bird-dogging Craigslist for weeks for a Yamaha or Kawai (or any other good piano brand for that matter) baby grand. Because, really. I have been playing for 24 years, and if I'm going to get a piano, it's going to be a baby grand because it's what I've always wanted. I grew up with a small upright and dreamed of having a baby grand. I think my wanton for a grand piano dates back to 1994 when I used to play a friend's baby grand (some very good brand I don't remember anymore) and wished I had one, too.

Friday I hit up my first piano store to check out a used Kawai - a 20-year-old GE-1 for 6K. I was not impressed - he had me try a Weber which is now made in China and it was not good. The Brodmann, assembled in China parts from Europe, was pretty nice, but at 4'11" for $7500, it's not really a great deal. I'm sure I could have talked him down but why bother. I didn't love it. 4 or 5K for something I don't love is just dumb. I thought I had hit the Craigslist jackpot when I saw a post for a 4-year-old, still under warranty Kawai GM-10 baby grand for 6K (which I'm sure I could have talked her down to 5k-ish) - made an appointment to see it for Sunday. Knowing that I could very well buy this piano as it was the best deal I had seen, I wanted to go play some others at piano stores just so I had a feel for what I liked and didn't like. I haven't yet decided if this was a good move or not because I was offered a deal I could not refuse and am now that much poorer. I'm telling you, tiny elves took my brain this weekend.

The first place we go to was owned by this sort of slick character who played very well, but was intent on selling me a Chinese piano. Now, there may be some good Chinese pianos out there but the vast majority I have tried have been sub par. He was intent on selling us a 5'8" (big-ass piano) George Steck for $6500, which, for a 5'8" is an excellent price. If it sounded good. Brand new, it sounded worse than the 5' used Yamahas and Kawais. He also tried to sell us on a new 5'5" Baldwin, but those are also now made in China and while it sounded very nice, it felt just OK. So we walk out, noting the Baldwin as an option, and went to buy the fireplace stone (I had a coupon for 10% that was about to expire) and on the way there, we drove by another piano store and said "let's check that place out on the way back."

Two hours later we were 10K poorer. I shit you not. We walked in and I tried an older Kawai, but it had a player on it which I didn't need. I played 4 new Kawais, one that was way out of my price range (but sounded fabulous, so I immediately got up stopped playing it so I didn't get pulled into an alternate reality that included a 20K+ piano), one that I knew could be at the high end splurgy part of my range (or just outside my range), and two others closer to my target. The cheaper two included the GM-10 that I was supposed to see the next day. Overall, I liked the GM-10. But not like I liked the splurgy one. The sales manager knew that he couldn't compete with the used deal I could get and the only piano I really liked more than the GM-10 was the GE-20 (the GE line is a step above the GM line). I mean, when I played it, it just felt and sounded perfect. He asked me, honestly, what number would make me forget about the used piano lady. I told him, if we're being perfectly honest, 8K. Of course he couldn't do that and apparently they rarely sell it under 12K (which I think that number might be more like 10-11K, with tough haggling, based on my googling). But I guess he wanted to make a deal (seeing as we're in the biggest economic slump of our lifetimes), didn't beat around the bush and said, 10K (cash) for everything. Tax (which is is 8.75%), delivery, take the old decrepit piano off my hands, one free tuning, and of course, the piano. Essentially, I got the piano for less than 9K. It has a sticker of about 19K. I mean, 6K is painful. 10K is a bit more painful, but once you pass the 5K mark, the pain for me is pretty similar. I think he correctly gauged that my subconscious threshold was 10K. So I took the deal.

But it's my "forever piano". Really. I will never buy another piano again. And you can blame my husband, indirectly. He always says I should get what I want not get the cheaper thing because "it's a good deal." And so I followed that advice. I got the one I really wanted which happened to be a good deal, but was not the cheap route.

Seriously. I must be crazy.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Career In Politics Is Not Up My Alley

So, I twittered that I was at my local Congressman's first in-person townhall on Wednesday evening. He's a Republican so I wasn't necessarily expecting to agree with everything he said. But, I actually thought he did a decent job TRYING to be partisan. He wants to find a solution that gets everyone covered. That's cool with me, if that's his goal, too, we are on the same page. I don't need the public option - I think it could be a good option, but if it is a deal breaker, then let's find a compromise without it. That being said, in a nutshell, the townhall experience left me kind of depressed about the whole situation we are in here in this country. I questioned why I even decided to go, but because I bitch (no other word I can use, it is what it is) a lot about our current health care situation, I didn't just want to be a whiner without actually doing anything. So I went.

First off, our townhall was fairly civilized, unlike others I have seen on the news. At least it was until the end when I got up and left out of disgust. 3,000+ people showed up - so many we didn't all fit in the auditorium. Which kind of shocked me. I managed to get a seat inside, but I also showed up 45 minutes early. At first, the questions were good - people were chosen at random, raffle style. I never win anything in raffles or lotteries, and this time was no exception to the rule. Though what would I really have been "winning" if I got to ask a question. I see both sides of public and non-public options, and really, I just want some kind of solution that allows all of us to get health insurance without it costing our first born and also without getting rejected for trivial things. But towards the end, the townhall just got stupid. I guess we at least managed 90 minutes of a sanity. The second to last question I stayed for was this woman talking about the constitutionality of the bill. Really? This is about effing health care - stop throwing around the Constitution - there is nothing I despise more than hiding one's anger and self-righteousness behind "The Constitution" and "Freedom" and blah, blah, blah. Please. Spare us all the aggravation. The question before the Constitution on was another woman saying that she likes her VA benefits and her Medicare benefits (which, we know, is a publicly-funded, single payer program), but she doesn't want the public option in our health care reform bill and does that make her a hypocrite. What? He didn't really answer her question, and, well, how do you answer that anyway? I, personally, think it kind of does make her a bit of a hypocrite: it's OK for me to have it but I'm not paying for anyone else to have it? And HOW IS THIS QUESTION HELPING US FIND A SOLUTION. I don't care if you feel or don't feel like a hypocrite. The man did not get elected to make you feel better or justify your feelings.

The point where I got up and left was when this other woman asked where Obama is getting all the money to pay his czars. Whatever that means. Seriously, what kind of question is that? Is that health care related? And then the entire place started cheering and stomping their feet on the bleachers. I had enough at that point. What good did that question do in this debate? We are trying to find a solution to our healthcare problem and they are acting like children. One woman had a picture of Hitler and something about Obama written on it.

I'm sorry, but I left feeling worse than when I walked in. People complain left and right about Congress and the Senate and how they can't come to an agreement, etc, etc. But really? We act THE SAME WAY. In fact worse. We resort to childish crap and crazy accusations. It's like McCarthyism all over again. And I'm not even going to get into the insanity of the energy that is being wasted on the latest thing about Obama's speech to school children. I am appalled that the media is wasting it's time on this "story." Seriously, everyone in this country, hey, including me, needs to calm the f**k down, think rationally, treat one another with respect, so that we can get this country back on it's feet. Enough with the selfishness.