Home Renovations continue

I have, very slowly, been working on updating my house. While I was in nursing school, yes, like the entire time, we finished our guest room. Before nursing school I painted my office and at that point decided I hated the previous owners. Like a lot. At some point I need to put up some photos of the finished products. After I finished it, my office became my favorite place in the house. I swear it gets the best light and it just turned out so pretty. But I digress.

We have a third bedroom downstairs that was sort of functioning as our junk room. Everything we didn’t have a place for sort of just ended up in there. The carpet is terrible because it’s also the room where we housed a kitten during her first arrival and she tore it up at the doorway. Also, it’s the room where our ceiling leaked which had clearly happened before. We did have all of our books in there on cheap bookshelves we got from Target. Now we are repainting, pulling up the carpet, finishing the floor, and setting it up as a library.

The room had the stupidest chair rail ever. It was stuck out a good 1/2 inch from the wall which didn’t allow for anything to sit flush against it.

I removed it with glee! There was quite the paint story behind it too. I’m going to have sooo much spackling to do.

Wow, look at that orange sherbet color!

There quite an ice storm in lower Michigan today so the plan is to turn on a podcast, rip up some carpet and spackle my little heart out. Wish me luck!

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What I’ve been making

Judging by the level of activity around here nothing. Luckily things are not always as they seem and there has been some making going on. Many types of making actually: crocheting, sewing, baking, and especially mess making (under the guise of home improvement projects).

First there was my Halloween costume:

Up until this year I’ve never been to an adult Halloween party or really even dressed up. Typically I’m busy making my kids’ costumes; making myself a costume as well isn’t even a fleeting thought. 2017 has been a very different year though (I can hardly wait to write my annual year in review post (which will likely happen in February at this rate)).

My boyfriend loves Halloween and doesn’t have kids which means he usually does dress up for Halloween. In fact, I’m pretty sure he started talking about Halloween costumes in April. When I told him I’ve never been to a real Halloween party he decided we needed to find one or, better yet, host one. Which we did. It was small but fun and our costumes were the best!

He got his online but I made mine. Sewing with shiny super-stretch fabric and somewhat stretchy pleather was a new experience for me. It was a fun project though.

And then there’s the Viking hats…

Last Halloween I was working on a Viking hat with an attached beard for one of my baby nephews. A friend of mine had asked if I could make him some for Christmas. I just didn’t have time last year with classes and everything else but this year when he asked I thought I could do it. But he wanted five hats. Five!

I wasn’t sure if I could do that but I bought the pattern (last year I eye balled it but having actual pattern makes the process so faster) and some chunky yarn and made one hat, but only the hat. It didn’t take long at all so I thought, yeah, I can make five (especially since he’s paying per hat). Little did I know the horns would be annoyingly time consuming.

I’ve finally gotten all the hats, horns, and beards complete. Once I attach three more beards these will be done and I’ll be happy to ship them off (and get paid) so I can move on to all the Christmas presents I want to crochet.

Baking wise I did the usual couple of pies for Thanksgiving but that’s old news. Something new and different I made, though, was this peanut butter chocolate cake for my son’s 13th birthday.

My boy loves his chocolate and peanut butter and this cake hit the nail on the head. If When I make it again I’ll reduce the baking time just a smidge, it was crumbling, and make more frosting. The frosting was the bomb dot com!

And of course there’s been plenty of random meal making,

I think the home improvement stuff deserves its own post, especially since a lot of it is still in the mess phase, but here’s a couple teaser pics. Because this hasn’t already been a picture heavy post at all…

Finishing the Bathroom 

One thing I’ve learned about home improvement projects from fixing up my bathroom is that there is no hard and fast finish to these things. It’s not like those shows where they add one last touch, have a big reveal, pack it up and call it a day. Right now my bathroom is mostly done. Basically. I could add another layer of paint to those shelves and maybe I’ll caulk around the toilet. Oh, and there might be a small drip under the sink that will have to be addressed at some point…but the renovation is, for all intents an purposes, finished.

I panted, tiled, and caulked. There is a new sink and vanity, new faucet, and a semi-new toilet (replaced just over a year ago when something fell in the previous one and it stopped flushing. Turns out it’s cheaper to replace the toilet than get a plumber out.)

Here are some of the stages of progress:

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Some creative thinking/problem solving skills were employed to make this vanity fit. My choices were limited by the narrow space between the wall and toilet; of the few available I really liked this one (and the mirror that matches).

Not impressed yet? Well, it started like this:

And now it looks like this:

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Okay so the tub is still a little rough but that’s a project for another day.

All told the cost of this bathroom update was right around $700 including paint, tiles (from the Habitat for Humanity Restore), cement backer board,thin set, grout, grout sealer, the vanity/sink, faucet, some pvc drain pipe stuff, and an assortment of random tools and bits and pieces. Oh, and a reciprocating saw. If all goes according to plan (and really when does it ever?) you’ll be seeing some more of the saw’s handiwork in the spring. Now that I’ve dipped my toes in the home improvement pond I intend to do some serious wading

Bathroom Reno Part 2

It seems I am blogging about this bathroom renovation project at a rate that is proportionally slow to the progress I’m making on it. So as a reminder here are a couple “before” pictures:

And here’s the post about the destruction of this beaut (in case you missed it).

When I was looking ahead, tiling the floor appeared to be the most challenging and intimidating aspect of this endeavor, well, that and sawing. It turns out it was the most fun.

I had to start with a layer of thin set/mortar (they’re the same thing..Hey, it was news to me.) and cement backer board. My brother-in-law came over and helped with the cutting and manhandling of the backer board. Once we got it all cut and ready we headed back to his house to celebrate my niece’s birthday; later that night I had my first experience with mortar. It was fun. There’s something sort of zen about raking even lines through some smooth, grey mortar and then squishing it all down with a board. Joint tape is pretty fun too.

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Even with only the backer board down it’s an improvement.

And then, of course, that had to set for twenty-four hours. Almost everything does, turns out home improvement is yet another provider of lessons about patience.

During the destruction of the bathroom I saw that my toilet flange was broken around one edge. My brother-in-law none too gently hacked out the rest of it and, in the process, notices what looked like a crack in the drain pipe beneath it.

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I spent a morning stressing, Googling, and phoning a friend over those little lines down in that pipe. After assessing how difficult it would be to cut the pipe out and replace it but before actually starting to cut I decided to take a step back and apply a classic mantra: Keep it simple, stupid! (One of the very few things I retained from high school math.) After one more assessment and some basic reasoning I realized the pipe was not in fact busted, those were just seams. Crisis averted…but morning wasted. Doh! At least the flange was easy to replace. I got one with a built in rubber gasket that just slides inside the existing drain pipe.

By this time it was Wednesday evening (week one). I’ve got class until mid afternoon Thursday and the kids come back from their dad’s Thursday evening. It was becoming obvious that I was not going to have the bathroom back together by then. Ah well, onward and upward right?

Because my bathroom is on the small side I laid out all the tiles to see how they’d fit. I took some helpful YouTube video’s advice and measured the center of the room, laid a line of vertical and then another of horizontal tiles, adjusting as needed to fit before filling in the rest. I preferred the look of the tiles flush with the tub on one side which left about a two and a half inch gap on the other. There was a matching gap on the short wall that’s perpendicular to the door. I have a random assortment of smaller tiles in my basement, my first instinct was to see if any would fit. The closest I got was some 1×1 inch green tiles but they were thicker than the main ones and there wasn’t even close to enough for both spaces. Obviously a no-go but I liked the idea of a smaller tile mosaic border.

But first things first, I needed to cut some tiles to fit around the toilet opening, along the back wall, and around the floor vent space. I done mentioned my saw intimidation, turns out it was a non issue. My nice neighbor has a tile saw and was happy to lend it to me/teach me how to use it. Cutting the few tiles was really no big deal at all! I got that finished and the tiles refit Thursday just in time to pause and go pick up the kids. Little did they know it was going to be a frozen pizza, not even sit down together, dinner night. I had tiles to set!

Again with the thin set.

I was a little worried that I hadn’t used enough thin set with the backer boards (time will tell I guess) so maybe I overcompensated when I was laying the tile. At first I was making a giant mess but after a few I got the hang of spreading an even layer of mortar, raking it, and applying the tiles and spacers in an orderly fashion. My youngest thought the process was pretty cool and “helped” some. Mostly he watched but I did let him press a few tiles into place.

And then it was time to wait for the materials to set. Again. Friday and Saturday were both busy days and (I was working Friday night) so other than pulling the spacers out, nothing happened until Sunday…

On Sunday morning I got up early (for me), made my coffee and tried out some edging layouts with the glass/stone mosaic tile sheets I had picked up.

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These things are not cheap but I only needed two sheets. Also they’re apparently mostly used for back splashes and wall tiling but I found at least one website that talked about doing mosaic tiling on floors and the sides of the room are little to no traffic areas. Plus they’re the same thickness as the other tiles which, from what I could tell, was a key factor.

They were a little messy to put down and I definitely used a little too much thin set in a couple areas making them less than even but all in all the results aren’t too bad.

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I definitely like the what they add to the aesthetic of the bathroom..

Yes, I know, the walls are terrible. That’s something to take care of later in the process. After all the edging tiles were down I left them alone for a while and later that afternoon we grouted. BTW grout is Not the same as thin set. It also takes a lot of water to a little powder. My fifteen year old was roped into helping me with the grouting and we learned that the hard way. Let’s just say we had some extra grout mixed when all was said and done.

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Also, grouting is a messy, messy process. It cleaned up a little better than what you see there. After a day or two of letting the grout set, I applied a sealer. It was really not too exciting and didn’t change the appearance at all so I took zero pictures of that. I did take some of the purple paint on the back wall.

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Not the finished painting, obvs.

With the floor done and some paint on the wall it was time to start putting this thing back together. Well, at least get the toilet back in. It’s still not quite back together…but I’ll tell you more about the details of that another time.

Bathroom Renovation Part I: Destruction

As the super creative title of this post implies, I’ve recently renovated my bathroom. Well, technically speaking I’ve started some renovations on the small bathroom on the main floor of my beat up old house. Hopefully it will be finished this week. Originally I thought I’d bust out this update in a week but like so many things in life renovations never follow the schedule we think they should.

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I’ve been wanting to do something to that hot mess for a while but didn’t even know where to start. The peal and stick laminate tiles gave me the push I needed when they started breaking and pealing off revealing the wood sub floor beneath. Now that’s a classy look right there!

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One of my sisters had just tiled her bathroom wall and if she could do it I sure as shit could! which meant I had someone with first hand experience to tell me about the process. Between her and about a million YouTube videos on tiling a bathroom floor I had enough confidence to tackle tiling the floor. On top of that my sister had enough tiles left over from her wall to cover my floor.

So two Monday mornings back I found myself wandering around one of those big box hardware stores (you know, with the orange or blue signs) trying to convince myself that I am an Adult and I can handle this. There may have been a couple mantras being repeated as I wandered back and forth before finding the flooring supply aisle way at the back of the store.

Two cement backer boards and a 50lb bag of mortar later I was pushing an awkward cartful of goods out to my minivan.

That evening I took advantage of my teenage boys being home and destructed the bathroom…

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The toilet came out easily enough but the vanity put up a struggle.

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The hot and cold valves were on the inside of the vanity and they were not fitting through those holes. My goal in life this project was to do as little plumbing as possible. Taking the ends off these things did not mesh with that goal. Good thing I had bought a reciprocating saw (aka a Sawzall except that’s not the brand I got)! After some rough hacking the cabinet was free and it was onto scraping off the lingering floor tiles.

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And here’s what I found underneath. It’s really not as bad as it looks…other than that one corner. I’m not sure what happened there.

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It looks pretty rough and for a few minutes I thought I was going to have to do some leveling but after buying a larger level I discovered that this little patch of roughness was technically even. Booyah!

(That black ring from the toilet is a little ominous but I’m mostly sure it’s a result of the broken flange there.)

And then it was on to prepping for the tile.

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While I’m still not done, great strides have been made. Next time I’ll show you the finished tiling and maybe the painting too! Fun stuff all around.

The Things we Keep and the Things we Carry

It’s hot and muggy, we don’t have central air and there aren’t enough fans in this giant old house with it’s high ceilings and plaster walls. The stagnant heat makes us all a little cranky, that and everyone having consecutive days of various friends sleeping over. Everyone except me. I don’t get any friend sleepovers. (Sigh) The house is a mess, the kind of wild, uncontrollable mess that comes from six people being home all day. The piles are every where pressing in on me, mimicking the heat in their attempts to smother me.  Papers, laundry, shoes, dirty dishes, the debris of daily life in its natural state. Entropy in action. It’s surrounding me.

In the one small window of my dark bedroom there’s an air conditioner humming, the door stays shut to trap in the precious cooler air. It gives a momentary reprieve from the heat if not the mess. Here, too, the piles haunt me. Predominantly laundry that I haven’t found the time or space to put in its proper place. I’ve been lead to believe neither the “clean” basket nor the end of my bed is considered the proper spot, though my patterns of behavior especially of late beg to differ. Normally it doesn’t bother me but the heat and crabbiness of the day make me want this laundry to be somewhere other than the floor and furniture. In fact, I want all the mess to be somewhere else. I want it all gone. There’s just so much stuff. Why is there so much stuff?

A couple months ago I cleaned out part of my basement in the process of creating a work out area. My kids and I have been in this house for almost four years now, double the longest time we’ve lived anywhere else. As we were sorting through the stuff that had collected in the basement a theme emerged. Boxes. For some reason there were a lot of empty boxes in my basement, specifically the boxes that stuff came in. Packaging. There was so much empty packaging that I had held onto for some reason or another. There was a box from one of my daughter’s nicer dolls that was a birthday present when she was seven or eight, the packaging of a remote control helicopter I bought off Groupon three Christmases ago, even the box from my vacuum cleaner…and a few more. I have no idea why I kept them but there were So Many Empty Boxes. Occupying space with no known purpose.

I didn’t realize I was a collector of boxes until I saw it all compiled, it got me thinking: Why? Why did I keep all that empty packaging? Why bother storing it for years and years? Seriously, you could compose the history of my purchases with all the boxes thrown haphazardly in the corner of my dark, dank basement. It’s like I was never quite convinced that I wouldn’t be moving again soon. I might need to pack up all that stuff and transport it in a year or two like I had before. Or maybe I thought I’d be desperate at some point in the near future and have to sell stuff on Ebay, just to get by. I’ve done it before. Things are more valuable with their original packaging.

It wasn’t just the boxes that I was storing without awareness.

In the back of my closet there’s a dress. It’s a shorter black shirt style dress with bold, angry plaid trim and shiny metal loops and buckles reminiscent of punk rock fashions. Years ago I had a skirt that was similar, I’d wear it with a cut up t-shirt, ripped black tights, and my Doc Martens. But this dress, I’ve never even worn it. My former sister-in-law bought it for me at the salvation army maybe six or seven years ago. We used to be good friends and when she saw it she thought of me. Shortly after that the shit hit the fan and divorce ensued. We haven’t spoken in years, my once sister-in-law and I. I tried to reconnect with her after the dust settled but I guess blood really is thicker than water and she wanted nothing to do with rekindling our friendship. I still have the dress though. It’s survived many purges. I just can’t seem to let it go. I’m thirty-six now, it would be a little ridiculous for me to wear it but there it hangs in my closet.

There are other things too. Torn t-shirts and jeans with worn out knees that I meant to make into something useful and fun, a grocery bag of washed out tin cans that were supposed to become C3PO, my dad’s cross country jersey from college, a watercolor of me on my wedding day that was a gift from my ex husband on our first anniversary.

It always made me uncomfortable, this painting of me standing there in my elaborate wedding gown and fancy hair, but I still have it more than two years after the divorce. Partially because I’m not sure what to do with it, throwing it away doesn’t seem right. Partially because I forget it’s there (out of sight, out of mind) until I stumble upon it again while searching for something else. Then all those  feelings come back, the awkwardness and discomfort I felt when it was given to me, not knowing how or whether I should let on that I didn’t love this painting of myself for fear it would be perceived as personal rejection and scorn by my brand new husband. Even in the early years of marriage I knew I had to tiptoe around his unpredictable feelings. I knew that having a reaction that was less than he expected would be construed as total rejection of him as a person; I couldn’t not love the gift and still love him, not in his mind. So I danced around what his reaction to my reaction was going to be and adapted as I saw fit. That tailoring and filtering, the inability to be authentic, I’ve tried to get rid of it, to throw it out, but remnants of it hang on. Scraps of it are woven into the fabric of my being, something I keep and carry whether I like it or not. And I don’t. It’s there though, as real as the mess in my sweltering home. It’s just one of the things that holds on, gathering dust in the corners until it finds an opportunity to remind me of its presence. There are things I carry, without even realizing, that do not have a place in my newer life, the one where I don’t dance unless I want to. The one where I’m the king of my own castle, albeit a mess of a castle. But I can’t seem to let them go. I have trouble discerning between the things I should keep, the useful stuff, and the things I carry. The stuff that weighs me down, the stuff that should have been let go of long ago.

 

Dessert on the Brain

Clearly around here we’ve had food on the brain, especially dessert. I guess that’s what happens when we have a little time on our hands. I’ve been enjoying Pinterest and ran across a recipe for Pecan Pie Cheesecake. I HAD to make it. I mean who can resist that!?! I hadn’t baked in quite some time and had plans to see a bunch of my family over the weekend. Perfect plan bake cheesecake and force-feed everyone around me so I don’t eat the whole thing myself.

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The crust is made of Nilla wafers. Then a sticky delightful pecan pie layer is added.

 

 

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A well baked cheesecake layer.

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Topped with pecans and a tasty cinnamon, sugar, butter and pecan mix. It was a sicky tasty cheesecake. I think it may be one of my favorites. It was an involved process but not exceptionally difficult. I recommend giving it a shot.

On a side note progress is actually being made onthe guest room!! Walls are painted. The closet and trim still needs to be completed. Less than a week until school starts again so wish me luck!