Thursday, November 6, 2014

Halloween 2014: Chef

Life is rather somber and stressful these days, and I wasn't able to muster my usual enthusiasm for Halloween.  I did at least manage to dress up for work.  I reused a costume from a few years ago: myself as a chef.  This is what I'd look like if I ever tried to actually cook anything, complete with holes burned in my clothes and soot on my face.

Why am I holding a little golden trophy?
There was recently a chili cook-off at my office.  The day before the cook-off deadline, the organizers encouraged entries for vegetarian chili because there was only one entry.  Now, normally the idea of me entering a cooking contest would be utterly ridiculous.  I can barely boil water.  But I can make one thing worth eating, and it happens to be vegetarian chili... so I decided to participate.  I was absolutely gobsmacked when I won the trophy for Best Vegetarian Chili.

So here you have essentially the worst cook on the planet holding her cooking contest trophy.  Too weird.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bathroom Remodel: New Shower Faucet

My old three-handle compression faucet has been replaced with a one-handle ceramic disc faucet. No more fighting with obnoxious handles! Yay! :)

I started with hard-to-turn handles that I hated:

The plumber replaced the valve after cutting a large hole in the wall similar to this:

Then he installed the new handle. I thought I'd end up with the round faucet escutcheon layered over a remodel plate similar to this:

But the plumber was able to make adjustments to allow room for the oval escutcheon/cover plate which could be used on its own.
I think it looks less silly than the layered escutcheons. What really matters, though, is that I can turn the handle with the slightest effort. :D

Having the faucet replaced was a nerve-wracking enterprise. I was afraid tiles would crack or fall off when the plumber cut into the wall, especially after he pointed out that some of the tiles were loose. It would be impossible to find exact replacements for 40-year-old tiles. Also, I had no idea what he might find when he opened the wall, though I was certain he would find at least one oddity. I just hoped it would not be too serious an impediment.

When he got to work, there were loud, scary rotary tool cutting sounds accompanied by the occasional sound of something falling. Then there was the even louder reciprocating saw which seemed to make the whole house vibrate. Then there was the sound of the torch igniting. When the plumber finally emerged from the bathroom about an hour later, I was almost afraid to go in and look. :P

Whew! Everything looked great! No cracked tiles and very neat work on the installation. :D

So what oddities did he find? There was a weirdly placed stud that he had to cut away (thus the reciprocating saw.) But even stranger -- the main water line and the water heater are in the basement, but the shower plumbing does not come up from the floor. It comes down from above. :/

Overall, converting an old three-handle faucet is not an inexpensive project. I paid $178 for the faucet kit, $58 for the cover plate, and $500 for the plumber to do the work. But I believe it will be worth the money. I use the shower every day, and I was very, VERY tired of fighting with the difficult old handles.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

New Faucet Delayed

Yesterday was supposed to be New Faucet Day. Alas, the plumber had major "unforeseen circumstances" that delayed him. Three hours after my appointment time, his office called to see if we could reschedule. :( GRRR.

I'd already planned to take the day off work due to construction at the office. If I'd taken the day just for the plumber, I would have been really annoyed.

I made use of the time by clearing items out of the bathroom cabinet in preparation for replacing the vanity and by reorganizing the linen closet to give the items a new home. I want to paint the bathroom, but I'm not sure my pet circumstances will allow it. Clingy blind dog + paint in a 3' x 5' space = disaster waiting to happen. :P

Now I'm off to argue with the faucet handles to see if I can convince them to give me water of a comfortable temperature. And I was so looking forward to a cooperative shower experience today. Sigh.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Bathroom Remodel: Shower Faucet

My bathroom remodel begins in five days! :D Hooray!

I'm starting big with the most complicated, most expensive, most functionally significant portion of the remodel -- replacing the shower faucet. As I mentioned in a previous post, the tub/shower handles have been a real pain for some time. They are hard to turn, and it's difficult to make small adjustments so that the water isn't too cold or too hot (and that's when the cold water isn't turning itself off). I have previously replaced the faucet stems, but it was only a temporary fix because they wore out after a couple of years.  The long-term solution is to replace the valve inside the wall.  For that, I need a plumber... and that's why this will be the most expensive portion of the remodel.

Replacing the valve will require cutting a sizable hole in the wall, something like this: 
From The Family Handyman

I do NOT want to replace the tile, so I'll need a large plate (escutcheon) to cover the hole, something like this:
From The Family Handyman

Not ideal, but I can live with it. My main concern is that there is little room for a cover plate because the handle and tub spout are very close together.
By the way, that's not mold (ick!), it's cracked grout.

I had to order everything, so I wasn't able to measure the tub spouts or see the finishes. I ordered two faucet kits and three cover plates in the hopes that some combination of them will work.
Moen Brantford

Pegasus Estates

Premier, Cleveland Faucet, and Lasco cover plates
It turns out that all the finishes are quite similar.
Moen Brantford handle with Cleveland Faucet cover plate
Pegasus Estates handle with Lasco cover plate
Pegasus Estates handle with Premier cover plate

I would be okay with any of the combinations, I think. The real joy will be having a shower that I don't have to fight with. :P

Friday, September 26, 2014

Inexpensive Craft Room Storage

Just a quick post to share a couple of ideas for inexpensive craft room storage.

I wanted to rescue my wrapping paper and rolls of leftover wallpaper from the awkward back corner of the closet, but I did not want to pay big bucks for specialized storage boxes. I discovered a much less expensive solution in these $2 plastic bag dispensers from Ikea. They are perfect for rolls of paper. I attached four to a scrap of wood and then screwed the wood into the wall studs so it can hold some weight.

For storing craft paints and glues, spice racks are a great solution. They're readily available at thrift stores for just a few dollars. I have two that I painted and decoupaged with Halloween papers just for fun.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bean Sidhe Loves Carrots

My last post probably gave the impression that my dog's life is spent anxiously trying to stay close to me. The reality is that she is usually lying next to me or in my lap, snoozing in her comfy bed next to my desk, or gleefully asking for her favorite treat -- baby carrots. She absolutely loves carrots. I wish I liked healthy snacks as much as she does! :) 

Last video of my dog. Promise!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Dog Underfoot

What have I been doing lately? Lots of planning and not much else. I have a long list of projects I want to work on, but my beloved dog Bean Sidhe is making that difficult.

She's elderly (16) and has been deaf for a while. Her eyesight began to fade recently, and now she is nearly blind. She still gets around amazingly well, probably at least partially by memory.

As for me... I'm not getting around very well. In fact, it's rather difficult to move around the house at all because of the dog. She can't hear me, and now that she can barely see me, she has to be very close to me to know where I am. That means if I'm walking, she is right under my feet.

The inconvenience of this is exacerbated by the layout of my house, which has a long, narrow hall with three doors. Bean Sidhe stands in the middle of the doorway to ensure I don't slip past her when I leave the room. There's also a laundry closet with bifold doors, which she inevitably stands in front of. Of course, she can't see or hear the door opening toward her.

I now open all doors verrrry slowly, or sometimes even carry her through doorways so she doesn't hit herself on the door. I always look down when I am walking, and I never wear shoes in the house for fear of accidentally stepping on her.

Here's a little video showing a minute and 44 seconds of what my life is now like.

It's much easier to just be still.  So for the last few weeks, Bean Sidhe and I have been spending a lot of time sitting on the sofa or surfing the web gathering project ideas.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bark Bat and the Apples

There are three trees in my back yard. One is a boring pine tree. The second is an apple tree which functions as a good marker of time as it goes through seasonal changes.

It's especially pretty when it flowers.  Here is it on May 4.

Shortly after, on May 12, enduring a late spring snowstorm.

And a few days ago, September 6, weighed down with apples.

LOTS of apples, thanks to the frequent rain we had this summer. So far, I've picked up about six bucketfuls off the ground. Many of them had been feasted upon by the bunnies.  :)  And there are still approximately a gazillion left on the tree.

The third tree is a maple which I am sad to say has died. :(  The bark has been peeling off it... creating the Bark Bat. 

Doesn't that piece of bark look just like a fruit bat hanging in the tree!? Even zoomed in, it looks like a bat. :D

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Visual Reference to GIY Projects

Because it can be time-consuming to wade through loads of blog posts to find projects of interest, I wanted to create a visual reference to GIY projects. Blogger's tools are somewhat limited, so I decided that Pinterest might be a better solution.

My Pinterest is here. I created boards for four categories of GIY projects:

It's a little weird to link the blog to Pinterest, which will then link back to the blog, but maybe it will be useful.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Does It Come in Black?

Hey, what do you know, toilets come in black.

I came across this while looking for ideas for redoing my bathroom. Hmm... Intriguing. Would I want a black toilet? Certainly the color would go well with the bathroom's color scheme of black, grey and purple. But shiny black would probably show every tiny piece of dust and lint, which would drive my neat freak self crazy.

A Google Images search seems to indicate black toilets are found mostly in contemporary or modern style bathrooms.


Would a black toilet work with the sort-of-Victorian, kind-of-gothish, not-sure-how-to-describe-it style I'm going for in my bathroom? I am not sure...

What do you think of the idea? Anyone have a black toilet?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Lucky Find: Black Headboard

My bed, which I built myself, lacks a headboard. I've had plans to make one for a while, but they've been filed away while other projects took priority.

Yesterday I was scouting for bathroom vanity options at a secondhand store, and I happened upon a black wrought iron bed frame.  I'm a sucker for wrought iron.  The frame was in decent shape, it was the right size, and most importantly, I could take it apart so that it would fit into my car.  And bonus, it was on sale!  Only $14.

Batman tape was holding some of the pieces together. :)

After purchasing the frame and taking it out to the car, I discovered that I did not have the right tool to take the headboard apart. I needed one of those little star-head wrenches that come with ready-to-assemble furniture.  I had several at home but not one in my car tool bag.  Argh!

Standing in the parking lot, I could feel the sun beating down on me. (Oh, Burning Orb, why must you roast me?!)  I'll do just about anything to get out of the sun, and if that means fitting a queen size canopy bed frame into a compact car, well... I WILL find a way.  I shifted and slid and twisted the headboard until finally it fit!

Well, most of it.  :)  One of the legs was sticking out the rear window.

I'm tall, so I normally have the driver's seat pushed all the way back.  But to fit the headboard in, I had to pull the seats forward.  I now know what it would be like if I had to drive while sitting in a coach airplane seat.  :P  I felt like I was driving one of those tiny circus cars that 40 clowns come out of.  Too bad I couldn't get a photo of me in the car, but even my arms aren't long enough for that kind of selfie. ;)

Thankfully, the drive home was only about 10 minutes (and entirely clown-free).  Car, bed frame and I all made it into the garage safely.

It's not what I'd planned, but I think it will work to fill the vast purple expanse at the head of my bed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Autumn Shopping Begins!

Autumn and Halloween merchandise is starting to show up in the stores.  I'm not seeing many bat motifs, but there is a lot of owl and raven stuff, similar to last year.

Of course, I bought some Halloween cottons.

And I found the most bat-tastic salt and pepper shakers:
from Jo-Ann

Unfortunately, the "tree" is not very sturdy.  When you take one bat off, the tree falls over, taking the other bat with it.  :P  If I want to actually use the shakers, I'll need to anchor the tree to something heavier.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Planning the Bathroom Rejuvenation

As usual, I have spent most of the summer at home hiding from the hot sun.  (Oh, how I love air conditioning!)  I've been watching too much DIY Network and thinking about my next big DIY project -- redoing the bathroom.

This project is best approached with some smart planning because there is only one bathroom in the house. Any delays in the process will be problematic.  I'm not keen on parking a port-a-potty in my driveway or washing my hair in the kitchen sink. :P

I've decided on the general look that I want; now I'm pondering the details, such as sink, faucet and vanity.  What I want is something like this:
Or this:

What I can afford is something like this:

The harsh sting of reality.  :P  It's time to get creative!  I started a Pinterest board to gather ideas.

Next, I have to figure out how to replace the flooring... a portion of which is, of course, underneath the toilet.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sewing Storage

My sewing storage got a little upgrade with some new IKEA pieces.  I purchased Borgsjo shelf units in brown, which coordinates well with my dark walnut flooring.

The shelves in the left cabinet hold a bin containing trim, a box of lace, and a box of patterns. The boxes are the type that hold reams of paper (nice and sturdy!) covered with self-adhesive paper to make them prettier.

This size box works well for patterns.

(Though I keep frequently used patterns clipped to a hanger in the closet so that I don't have to iron the pattern pieces flat every time I want to use them.) 

The upper shelves hold my sewing tote along with boxes of ribbon, trim, notions, etc.

The shelves in the right cabinet hold my fabric stash (which is currently quite small!). I always pre-wash my cottons before adding them to the stash so that I can pull them out and use them whenever the mood strikes. Every piece of fabric has a label pinned to it so that I can tell at a glance how many yards I have without having to unfold the fabric.

A set of Antonius sliding baskets hold my scrap stash (which is currently quite large!). Pieces of fabric smaller than one yard are rolled up and rubber banded. This keeps the scraps tidy and allows me to easily find what I'm looking for.

I need to get creative and find ways to use all those scraps!  :)

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Nice, Hot Shower. Or Not.

When I left my last job, I had to put house projects on hold until I had an income again. Top of the list to be finished the moment I have the funds is my bathroom. In particular, the shower needs major help.

The tub/shower handles have been a real nuisance for a while now. They keep getting more and more difficult to turn. Even better, the cold water handle sometimes turns itself off, which makes for a REALLY HOT shower. The only way to prevent the cold water from turning itself off is to turn it on full blast, which makes for a REALLY COLD shower. If I fiddle with the handles enough -- five or even ten minutes -- I can finally get them to settle down and provide water of a tolerable temperature.

I had the same problem about two years ago. In an adventure much like the one TanteFledermaus posted about here and here, I tried replacing the faucet stems. This was tricky, especially trying to work with mechanisms inside a wall, and eventually I had to call in a professional. The new handles worked fine for a year or so, then started up with their old tricks. :(  I don't want to have to constantly replace the stems. I want to install a newer type faucet that is easier to use and doesn't wear out so quickly. That is definitely a job for a pro.

As if "auto-scald" handles weren't enough, things got even more interesting last night. See the hose and the showerhead here...

They are supposed to be connected to each other. And until last night, they were. I was holding the showerhead when suddenly the hose broke free and started writhing around spraying water like an out-of-control firehose. That was fun. :P

It could have been much worse, though. I had dyed my hair, and the hose and showerhead stayed attached long enough for me to rinse it. Whew!

Luckily, showerheads are an easy DIY replacement. Good thing, too, because washing my hair in the kitchen sink is not an appealing prospect.

I have to say... reliable, comfortably hot showers are something we often take for granted. Until they're gone. :/

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dining Chair Revamp

Changing the seat covers is an easy way to revamp dining chairs. A coat of paint sometimes helps, too. :)  For my new (old) dining chairs, I kept the look simple with basic black-on-black.

I found the chairs (and matching dining table) on craigslist. The chairs were sturdy, but the seat covers were in horrible shape.

The original covers had been gold, like the chair on the left above. The seats were later covered with a beige fabric (by someone who should never be allowed near a stapler again).

After pulling out what felt like 10,000 staples, I removed the beige fabric to reveal... more staples!

When I tried to remove the ancient gold fabric, it practically disintegrated. After pulling it off the first seat in strips and strings, I decided to leave it on the other seats. To help smooth out the worn corners and provide a bit of padding, I added a layer of white fleece.

For the main cover fabric, I used some black velvet that I had on hand. I laid it out, placed the seat on top, and cut the fabric about 2-3 inches larger than the seat.

Keeping the fabric taut, I stapled it in place, paying special attention to folding the corners.

I spray painted the chairs black and put the seats in place. Done!