May 30, 2010

Budget Bathroom Makeover



(Notice the towel wrapped around the faucet? That's a redneck temporary leak repair.)


This is a project which has gone on, and on, and on, and, well, you get it.

When last I left this story, in this entry, I had started painting. I had taken the toilet out of the bathroom when Hubby was gone one weekend. It was all I could do to get it out of the bathroom and into the bedroom, where it sat for several weeks. Surprisingly, you can get used to a toilet sitting in the middle of the bedroom floor, a ladder blocking the window, and various tools lined up against the wall, walking by without noticing as if everyone has a toilet by the bed.

After taking out the toilet, the plan was simple: paint the walls with some leftover paint and replace the floor tile with leftover tile. Just a few days, and the master bathroom would finally be finished. The original floor tile was just in the small area of the toilet and shower. There was carpet in front of the sink cabinet. (I know what you are thinking - carpet in the bathroom, ewwww. I knoooow, what was I thinking, especially in a tiny bathroom.) The tile was loose so it was a good time to take out all the flooring and tile the entire bathroom. Both tile and carpet were fairly easy to get out so it would seem to be an easy job.

When we bought the tile for the shower, we bought enough to do the counter also, but as time went by, I decided the less grout I had to clean, the better, so we replaced the hideous rust colored cultured marble sink/counter top with a less hideous light brown one. So we had enough tile to do the whole floor. It's not the large tile that is popular today, but with our uneven slab, small tile seems to work better anyway.

I laid it out in straight rows (and I swear I took a picture to show you but I can't find it now) but it looked so blah that I set it on a diagonal. That meant renting a tile saw, a lot more cuts, and a lot more time.

After the toilet was out, I remembered that we never had done anything across the top of the beadboard paneling we put behind the toilet. We had planned to put a row of tile across the whole wall at one time, so now that wouldn't work. So I bought some wood trim pieces and made a rail the same height as the backsplash around the counter. I also bought some oak crown molding for the top of the linen cabinet, and some chair rail molding (which Hubby dadoed) to make a mirror frame.

The old cabinets were that 1980's orange-y oak. Not only did they look bad with the new countertop, they had several chips and places where the finish was worn and peeled. I was going to paint it, and since it was going to be painted anyway, I thought it was a good time to try out gel stain in case I wanted to do it on the kitchen cabinets. It was a little more work than I thought it was going to be, but I liked it so did all the wood in the bathroom. I just hope it holds up as it seemed fairly fragile after just one coat of a gel finish. I've got four finish coats on now and plan to put on a couple more after I finish touching up a few spots.

Here is a photo with the gel stain on everything except one drawer which has the original finish. Quite a difference! (even though this picture brings out the reddish tones for some reason)

I also added crown molding around the ceiling. I already had the molding that we had taken out of another room; I just had to recut it. Then I noticed that the ceiling light fixture was not just the color of rusty metal, it was rusty metal. I really didn't want to spend any money on a light fixture that I obviously never look at, so I took it down and sanded the metal base, primed it, and then used a satin nickle spray on it.

So that's how a simple project got longer and harder. I still have to do a few touch-ups, replace the GFI outlet, and hang some pictures, but I couldn't wait.

Update with art - different camera that won't zoom out far enough and different lighting.

Besides the shower base and all the tile which were bought soon after we moved into this house in 1996, this is what we've done to get to this point:

Cultured tile countertop with sink - about $200 from a friend of a friend
Sink faucet $25 clearance item
Brushed nickle light fixture $15 clearance item
Brushed nickle door & drawer pulls $20
3 Chrome & brushed nickle towel bars & toilet paper holder $18 clearance items
Gel stain and gel finish $50 - gasp!
Tile saw $35
Wood trim pieces $25
GFI plug $8

Another update: Hubby and I were split on what kind of top coat to put over the gel stain. I wanted a gel finish because it seemed like the right thing over a gel stain. Hubby wanted a polyurethane because it was, um, cheaper. I won. But a couple of days after putting the doors on, I noticed a spot on the top cabinet, a small scratch that had penetrated to the bare wood. Then I was concerned that the finish wouldn't hold up very long. So I did an experiment.

I pulled a drawer from the cabinet in the shed. It was also original to the house, but didn't fit when we first remodeled. I did the same prep as the rest of the cabinets and put the same gel finish on it. I let it dry for a couple of days and then used blue tape to divide it into three sections. On the left and middle sections I put three coats of gel finish, and on the middle and right sections I put three coats of satin spar urethane. I applied it with a cloth just like the gel finish and it looked just as good. I know the tape says polyurethane, but I changed my mind after I wrote on the tape. So the middle section has three coats of gel finish and three coats of spar urethane. Then I waited a week for it to harden a little, got a sharp knife from my kitchen, and made scratches in every section. They all scratched as you can see but the section with gel finish only scratched all the way to the wood. The other two sections only scratched the surface but didn't penetrate to the gel stain part. They were fixable with a little sanding and more spar urethane. The first section could only be repaired with gel stain touch up and then finish coat, but it looked repaired.

My conclusion is that the gel finish alone just isn't hard enough to hold up to everyday use. Now I know what you are thinking (because I thought it too), you are never going to scrape a knife across your cabinets. I thought that until last week when I tossed my fingernail clippers in a drawer and shut the drawer. The sharp edge of the clippers caught the edge of the cabinet, nicked it, and the cut went all the way through the gel stain. Now I have two nicks to touch up and I am going to go over everything again with three coats of spar varnish.

April 18, 2011: It's been almost a year and I thought it was time for an update. Not long after finishing the bathroom, I pulled the laundry basket out of the bottom cabinet and it scraped against one of the doors (the inside), leaving a big scratch. I decided then that it wouldn't be able to hold up to everyday use, even with the sealer on it and I quit trying to be careful with it. I figured it would get beat up and I'd just paint in a year or two. But now I've decided the sealer just cured slowly because I haven't gotten another scratch or chip on it and I have really put it to the test, pushing the laundry basket in with my feet, kicking the doors shut, and just generally being myself. I still love it, and have decided to proceed with the kitchen cabinets.

Now a sneak peak for another project I've been working on. I hope to have it finished tomorrow.

I am linking this entry to Between Naps on the Porch, for hosting Metamorphosis Monday!

Until next time, may you have blessings and successful projects,

May 24, 2010

It Was Love at First Sight

I live near a town where turn of the century homes are everywhere. There are many grand Victorian beauties that have been on the covers of magazines. But this house is my favorite.

I don't know what it is, but there is something about this house that makes me smile every time I see it. The wide front porch with rockers and fans that invite people to sit and relax with a mint julep (but make mine a strawberry lemonade please). The bright, friendly colors - I absolutely love the touches of red with the yellow. The big, shady tree. If houses were people, this one would be a comfortable grandma with a big hug for everyone. It's an "ahhhhh, I'm home" kind of home.

Until next time, may you have blessings and happy home,

May 20, 2010

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Let me first say that I am not a morning person. Never have been. I am a night owl and my mind functions better at 10pm than 8am. My best R.E.M. sleep happens between the hours of 6 am and 8am. Cheerful morning people are the most annoying people on earth, and they’d better not start their “what a great day” crap with me until at least 9am. My family knows I am crabby in the morning and they respect my privacy ignore me like the plague in the morning.

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that today would be a bad day. In fact, I should have known when brother-in-law called me yesterday afternoon. Brother-in-law NEVER calls me. Ever.

After the preliminary greetings were out of the way, the first thing out of his mouth was “I can take mom to get her colonoscopy tomorrow……”

I waited for the “but….”

Finally, he said “I feel bad that you always take them to their appointments.”

Now, first of all, I don't take them to all their appointments, mother-in-law drives them to most, and I had not volunteered to take mother-in-law to her colonoscopy appointment. I knew she had one, but Hubby had told me earlier that he was going to take her so he could hear what the doctor had to say afterward. Not only would mother-in-law not remember everything the doctor said, she has a tendency to exaggerate the bad stuff and tune out the good stuff. She’s a bit (see, I exaggerate too, she’s a lot) of a hypochondriac and a definite sympathy seeker. So a sentence from the doctor like “You have a slight heart arrhythmia that you’ve probably had all your life and will continue to have the rest of your life without causing concern” turns into “You have an incurable heart problem and you are going to die.”

But Hubby was hosting a cookout at work and couldn’t go, and mother-in-law hadn’t consulted any of us before she made the appointment anyway. She told Hubby that she would just drive herself. Yeah, like the doctor didn’t tell her she needed to make sure she had someone to drive her. Hubby and I have both had colonoscopies, we know the drill.

So back to brother-in-law. I told him it was silly for him to even think of coming down here just to take her to an appointment when I’m 15 minutes from their apartment and he is over an hour away. Then I asked him what time her appointment was.

Him: “8am but she’ll need to be there early to do paperwork.”

Me: “Ugh.”

Him: “I can probably get there in time to take her, it’s just going through Dallas during rush hour. I know you don’t get up that early.”

Me: “And you do? No, I can do it. If father-in-law can get up that early, so can I.”

One of the last things I did before going to bed was cleaning and seasoning a cast iron Dutch oven for Hubby to use at his cookout. Seasoning a cast iron skillet means putting oil on it and baking it so food won’t stick to the pan. It stinks, a burning kind of stink. I don’t fall asleep easily any time, but especially when there is a burned smell in the house. I tried. But I tossed and turned until 1:30am when I gave up and aired-out the house. I finally got to sleep about 2:30am.

My alarm was set for 6:30am, but Hubby woke me up at 6:15am. Fifteen minutes shouldn’t be a big deal, and they probably wouldn’t have been after eight hours sleep, but not after just three hours and forty-five minutes. Hubby has lived with me long enough to know not to talk to me in the morning, not even to apologize for waking me. He doesn’t want to risk unleashing the crab monster. Instead, he turned on the tv. There is an anchor on the local Fox morning show named Tim Ryan. He’s surly and sarcastic in the morning. That’s what I like about him. Fifteen minutes listening to him and I am almost civil.

I made my usual ½ cup of oatmeal and I also made some tea. Yes, it was caffeinated tea. It was raining, I was tired and crabby, and it was 6 freakin’ 30 in the morning. Deal with it. I grabbed a bag of books and magazines, my thermos of tea, and an umbrella and was out the door at 7:10. Mother-in-law wasn’t ready. She had to go to the bathroom. Then again. Yep, I remember that part. Pure misery. We were taking their mini van and it was parked outside so I could park my car in their garage. Hail, you know. I didn’t protest.

Now a word about their mini van. It’s a Mercury. Need I say more? Ok, it’s a Mercury with one of those chime/beep alarms that beeps when it senses anything near by, which is great if that thing is a child or bicycle. But this beeps incessantly. It beeps when we go around corners. It beeps when we go over a speed bump. It beeps when we go through a dip in the road. It. Beeps. All. The. Time. Then it started beeping and a flashing light came on that said the left rear door was ajar. So I stopped, got out in the rain, opened and shut the door. The beeping continued, so I got out and did it again, in the rain. It didn’t stop beeping, and continued to beep all the way to the hospital.

Mother-in-law began fiddling with the knobs trying to get it to stop beeping, and then she started chatting and asking me questions. I don’t do questions in the morning, and she was beginning to unravel the thin layer of protective caffeine coating around my brain cells. I answered with various levels of grunts and she took that to mean I couldn’t hear her and began talking louder. I thought if she didn’t quit talking she wouldn’t need anesthesia by the time we got to the hospital - but I couldn't let go of the steering wheel. Finally, we got to the hospital and I let them out at the door at precisely 7:45am and then searched through the parking lots until I found an open space. It was quiet in the van and I thought about staying there, but it was getting warm and sticky with the rain outside.

Mother-in-law didn’t get called back to the pre-op area until 8:30, and father-in-law watched it rain while I looked at pictures in my magazine. I hadn’t had enough caffeine to actually read words yet. By the time I moved on to a book without pictures, it was 9:30am and a nurse was walking toward us, I assumed to tell us mother-in-law was done. Wrong. She said that mother-in-law was still waiting, and said one of us could go wait with her. So father-in-law went with her and I continued to read.

Brother-in-law showed up about 10:30am and told me he would stay if I wanted to go home. I felt sure mother-in-law was almost done, so I asked the woman at the check-in desk. She checked and mother-in-law was still waiting to go in, so I quickly took up brother-in-law’s offer and left. I told him I would put their van in the garage and leave the keys in it.

When I got to their apartment, I parked outside and locked my purse in my car so I would have less to carry with me. Then I opened their garage door and started pulling in when I noticed that it was going to be a tight fit. So I put the van into Park, rolled the windows down, and scooted over to the passenger seat to pull in the mirrors. Pulled the van in, punched the garage door opener and ran to get out before the door closed. Then I felt in my pocket for my car keys and they weren’t there. Yep, they went into the seat when I scooted over to pull in the mirror. I stuck my foot inside the garage to stop the opener and the door kept coming down. I pressed my foot against the bottom of the door and it kept coming down. Nearly didn’t get my foot out in time.

Now there I was with no keys to the apartment, no keys to my car, holding a ten pound sack of stuff, and a thermos’ worth of tea in my bladder. Oh crap.

And you know what? The day actually got worse from there. We had tornadoes, heavy rain, and hail.

Until next time, may you have blessings and taxi service,

P.S. Mother-in-law was finally taken in for her colonoscopy at 11:30.

May 19, 2010

All I Really Need to Know I Learned on the Internet

Oh true, I learned things from my parents, from public school, and from college, but the things I really use these days is free $52 a month, and comes from mostly unidentifiable sources. What could go wrong there?

Take growing apples. Spring 2007 we planted two apple trees. They had tiny apples on them when we bought them, but birds and bugs got them. 2008, late freeze, no apples. 2009, late freeze, no apples. I had decided that if we didn't get apples this year, I was going to cut them down and plant something that bloomed later in the spring. Then, lo and behold, one tree was covered with blooms this year, and the other tree had one bloom. The tree with lots of blooms, soon had lots of tiny apples, and I began searching for an organic way to keep pests and disease from ruining my crop. The infamous "they" say that commercially grown apples are sprayed with more pesticides than almost any other fruit.

I found this website describing the bagging process and other gardening websites also talked about bagging. The apples were growing in little clusters of two or three and let me tell you it nearly killed me to pull off the extra apples.

I bought some zip lock bags and put them on half of the apples, leaving the other half as my control group, but first I rinsed the experimental apples with vinegar and water. I figured it might destroy any bacteria that had already gotten into the little apples. After days of strong wind, the bags opened but didn't come completely off. I used a hole punch in the center of the zipper and put them back on. That seemed to work to keep the zipper sealed. Hubby said some of the uncovered apples have been visited by bugs, so today I covered them.

When the in-laws were over, they asked about the bags and I told them what I had learned. Father-in-law just shook his head and walked away. Mother-in-law had to take it a step further and tell me that farmers had been growing apples for years and couldn't very well put bags on every apple. Yes, but I only have one tiny apple tree and I don't want to use pesticides.

Mother-in-law persisted and I bit my tongue, smiled, and replied that I know why Santa keeps a list and I know how to spell her name too.

See the results of my bagging experiment here.

Until next time, may you have blessings and enjoy the fruits of your labor,

May 18, 2010

Batter Up!

Last night we took the in-laws to Arlington to see the Texas Rangers play the LA Angels. It was the first professional ballgame they had ever seen. It was a good game with a close score but the Rangers pulled it out. We had great tickets, courtesy of Hubby's cousin who works there. We were on the lower level, behind first base. When Hubby told his mother to watch out for fly balls, she thought he was kidding. None came directly at us, but they were being caught all around us. My plan was to hide behind the big guy in front of me if one came my way.

My little pocket camera is a bit slow anyway, and more so when it is zoomed. I almost got a photo of a home run being hit, but as you can see, what I got was the batter leaving the box. My camera is also blurry when zoomed.

Hubby would like to visit every ball park in the U.S. when he retires. I guess we're getting an early start, we've already been to three: The Ballpark in Arlington (or whatever it's name is this year), Kansas City, and St. Louis. Four, if you count the old stadium at Arlington. We each have a tradition at the ballpark. Hubby eats nachos and I eat a hot dog. You'd think watching young, healthy athletes would inspire us to eat veggies and lean meat, and if they sold veggies and lean meat at the ballpark..... um no, I'd still eat a hot dog. So far Kansas City has the best hot dogs and Arlington has the worst.

During the slower moments of the game, I shopped the stands for son-in-law material. Talk about slim pickins! I can see why Brownie and Lil are still single. There were several guys in front of us I will call mullet guy, weird hat guy, and tattoo guy. They were either betting on the ballgame or on how long it took the people around them to run them out of the park. Mullet guy was wearing an Athletics shirt with "McGwire" across the back. I don't know who he was rooting for, or if he was even rooting for either team. He wore dark sunglasses the entire night even though it had been raining until just before the game started. And the purpose of wearing sunglasses after dark is what? Weird hat guy had a knit hat with a bill, worn backwards of course since we were facing the sun. Tattoo guy was actually the normal one of their group, or was until his fourth or fifth beer.

A group of guys on our row were the instigators of the "Let's Go Rangers, Let's Go" chant and the wave (although they never stood for it). Their leader was wearing an orange bandana on his head and red plaid shorts. He seemed to be single. No surprise there.

People watching is always so entertaining.

When we got home, I glanced into the backyard and saw something just as Hubby pulled up to the garage.

"Back up!" I yelled.

He jerked the car into reverse and hit the gas like a gang of terrorists were coming after us. "What?!!" he asked, looking around.

"Look, it's an owl on the candelabra," I said, fumbling for my camera.

"Good grief," he said in exasperation, "just an owl?"

By the time I got the camera out and turned on, the owl flew away. I thought it was pretty neat. It's the first Great Horned Owl I've ever seen, and this one was perched in our backyard.

Until next time, may you have blessings and entertaining evenings,

May 14, 2010

It's Chiggar Time, Summer Must Be Close

All the elements are here to make it chiggar time: warm weather, tall grass, and rain. Just a short walk in the last few days and I feel their presence. Around my ankles. Around my waist. And all points in between. I am slathered with big, thick white blobs of Chiggarex, and bright pink patches of Calamine, something like a Dr. Seuss character gone wrong.

No picture. I thought you might be eating.

You're welcome.

I've written a little verse to mark this occasion. If you know the song "Crying Time" you can sing along. You know you will.

Chiggar Time

Oh it’s chigger time again, they’re gonna bite me,
I can see the red welts on my feet.
I can tell by the way the grass is growing
That it won’t be long before it’s itching time.

Now they say that chiggars really love the tight place
Where my socks and underwear are very snug
Well now, if I scratch the itch I’ll be a disgrace
Itching time is caused by just this little bug.

Oh it’s chigger time again, they’re gonna bite me,
I can see the red welts raise upon my thighs
I can tell by the way the grass is growing
That it won’t be long before it’s itching time.

Now they say that sulphur spread across the tall grass
Where the chiggars roam and congregate on stalks
It will drive them from the land and bushes en masse
Leaving me with pleasant turf on which to walk.

Oh it’s chigger time again, they’re gonna bite me,
I can see the red welts raise upon my thighs
I can tell by the way the grass is growing
That it won’t be long before it’s itching time.

Thank you, thank you very much.

Until next time, may you have blessings and sulphur,

May 03, 2010

Critter Cam

The other day I noticed this cute squirrel peeking over the top of the false frontier front on the shed. Then it climbed over and sat on the deer antlers Hubby nailed on front. I thought it didn't know how to get off when I noticed it was eating the antlers!

Critter cam caught a couple of squirrel pictures too.

Also caught a cat that thought it was coming through under cover of darkness. I think it's a cat that lives at the other end of the street.

When I first saw this next picture, I thought a raccoon had visited the critter pond about 1 a.m. But closer inspection showed it was a cat with a striped tail. I really need to move that camera a little closer to the pond.

I took out the plants and Hubby cleaned out the pond. The lilies have been blooming for about a week. I think this is Pink Opal with Arc-en-Ciel. Sadly, none of my tropical lilies made it through the winter.

A couple of the goldfish. Greedy things think it's dinner time.

Butterfly koi. They are traumatized after the cleaning and are staying at the bottom of their four foot pool.

In the front yard, coreopsis are taking over the flower bed.

Until next time, may you have blessings and candid camera moments,