Archive for the ‘The Remodel’ Category

Little Projects

Thanksgiving is looming. I’ve been feeling compelled to get the house a little more presentable. We’ve been more or less living like animals for the last three years though, so there are a lot of bad habits to break. Things like wiping our feet and rinsing our dishes were a moot point when there were no floors and the bathtub was the sink. We’ve had floors and three sinks for a while now but I haven’t really had the will to push us back into the land of the civilized. I think the family feels like the rules have changed but in reality, we are just getting back to a normal way of life. You know, the way average people live. People who have never had a sheep in their livingroom. I have never been those people but Dave and the kids grew up normal.

While the family adjusts to the reality of life with walls, I have been sprucing up the joint on a limited budget. Crafting projects on the cheap, if you would.

Last night’s project was to build a “new” coffee table. Ingredients: an old, out of date and kind of ugly, though well-made, coffee table, which I took from a friend who got new furniture; an original door to the house cut down to size; two colors of chalk paint (ASCP in duck egg and old white); clear and dark wax. I painted it first, screwed the top to the base then waxed it. I spent two hours last night, including painting  and waxing and one hour the day before, washing the cobwebs off the door and building the jig/cutting the door to size. Total cost to me was $14, since I already had all of the paint except the old white

I’m pretty happy with the results, though the are places I’m less than thrilled with the dark wax. The dark wax is pretty new to me so the first part I waxed went a little overboard but by the end of the piece, I felt like I had the technique down. I may add some more dark wax to even out a few places, since I’m to late to use clear wax to remove the overly dark spots.


Painting on the couch. Do not try this without adult a supervision. If anyone else in the house had done this, I would have had a meltdown. Double standard? Yes. Let’s not talk about it. Let’s see the finished project!



One if these days, I’m going to get inspired to finish the room divider we will no longer need after husband finishes the bedroom doors. Then maybe I’ll sell it. Or maybe I’ll just hoard it with all of the other furniture in the attic.


Happy holiday nesting!


Task List and the Cabinet Connundrum

Warning: I cover a lot of ground in this post. Sorry for the disjointed, free association. Consider it a snap shot of my brain.

Yesterday, our list of stuff to do looked like this:


  • Prune fruit trees
  • Fertilize
  • Plant cover crop



  • Build new goat birthing shelter and enclosure
  • Electrify chicken coop for protection against predators
  • Fix horse electric fence (damn goats don’t mind electric fence)
  • Chicken duplex roof and nesting boxes need new shingles
  • Build stands for bee boxes
    • Ant proof bee stands


Garden of Good and Evil:

  • Amend garden beds
    • Add compost
    • Plant cover crop
    • Fix garden plumbing after pipes froze and burst
    • Fix greenhouse panels after wind knocked them out
    • Expand blueberry cages so chickens can’t keep eating the plants
    • Trellis raspberries
    • Plant garlic (better late than never) (Dave wanted me to say, better late than pregnant. I told him no but I’m doing it anyway because I love him and his odd sense of humor.)


I got exactly one of those items done. We can cross off fix horse electric fence. So what exactly did I do all day? Mostly, I drove around on the tractor. Blame Dave. I was all set to toil, and I did for a while. Then he asked if I would box scrape the back road and…well, that’s where my day ended. Playing on the tractor is a giant, enjoyable time suck. Yes, I could make a case that I was doing something useful but the case is weak. Driving the tractor was not on my list. I did help Dave move some rubber mats into the old horse’s dinner stall, using the tractor. That wasn’t on the list but it should have been. His stall had become a soupy mess. In my defense, I figured I would ride the tractor all day and on Sunday (now today) I would do all the garden stuff.

Procrastination - procrastination Photo

Why do today what I can put off until tomorrow? Alas, the short rain shower that was predicted yesterday, turned into an all night and most of the morning downpour. Now the garden is too wet to work in, without risking compaction. This is what I get for procrastinating.

Since it’s too wet to play outside, I will be self flagellating, forcing myself to suffer a fate worse than death and put together our order for kitchen cabinets. We’re getting a quote for ready to assemble cabinets, made in the USA but I have to figure out what exactly, we need. I was up until 2am looking at their literature but the options are endless and I eventually fried my brain. Today, I’ll tackle the task again, with a freshly caffeinated mind and some graph paper. If you think I freaked out over choosing pendant lights for the counter space, you should see me in action trying to choose a PERMANENT fixture. A while back, we went to the “Giant Not Orange Home Store” and had them do a CAD drawing of our kitchen cabinets, so I’m cheating and using that as the base for our quote. I figure the Not Orange Home Store takes enough of our money, loaning us one of their underpaid kitchen designers for an hour should be one of the perks of patronage. Not Orange Home Store didn’t have as many options though, so some things will have to be changed. If you are just dying to know what the Not Orange Home Store came up with, I have posted the pictures below. Feel free to offer up some thoughts. I’m not stoked on the awkward corner by the fridge, I think it will be replaces with an appliance garage and I find the design in the kitchen to be lacking in aesthetic appeal.

The floor plan

The floor plan

Cabinet breakdown around fridge

Cabinet breakdown around fridge


Cabinet breakdown around sink

Cabinet breakdown around sink


Cabinet breakdown around bay window

Cabinet breakdown around bay window

I don’t have the CAD rendering for that last area around the bay window, which is a shame because that’s the only area I really like. You can kind of get an idea from the cabinet breakdown. Not Orange Home Store didn’t have very many options for this area but The Cabinet Joint, where we getting a quote has some pretty nifty options. This area will have glass/chicken wire upper cabinets for storing the china and other pretty things, a wine/beverage fridge (this will free up an entire fridge shelf), liquor cabinet/barware storage, filing cabinets for all the paperwork which inevitably ends up on the kitchen table (if you can’t beat it, fix it with a better storage solution), storage for the lap tops and printer which lives on the table, and some really high cupboards for those items which only come out once a year but are still important enough to keep, like the nice linens and vases for fresh flowers (though I keep vowing to make those a regular thing.) This will all be topped off with an aged copper counter that tops the lower cupboards and the bottom of the bay window, which can be used as a bar area, buffet or seat during parties. I’m pretty excited about this area, though to be honest, if we run out of money, this is the last thing that will get done. Isn’t that always the way it goes?

Wish me luck as I build my quote. If you don’t hear from me tomorrow, send the men in white coats because I’ve lost my mind. You’ll find me on the tractor.

This Stove Will Kick Your Ass and Take Your Lunch Money

Or at least, that’s the impression I’m under after downloading the manual and specs sheet. Apparently, our stove has some demands or it will burn the house down. Good thing I looked up a manual before sparking up.

Like most of our larger household appliance purchases, the stove came from a Craigslist ad. It was love at first sight. I wanted a Wolf but I certainly don’t have the money for Wolf. This range had “the look” and the brand was one I recognized from Napa commercial kitchens. It was advertised as an American Range stove/oven combo with four burners and a two burner griddle. It’s former life was spent in a hippie commune where it was installed in a greenhouse turned mess hall. (Which is a brilliant way to use your greenhouse if you aren’t going to grow things.) The property had sold and was being turned into a meadery (a winery which produces meade.) I fell in love with the back story. If there’s anything I love more than bad ass appliances, it’s bad ass appliances with a story.

It was in Point Reyes which is a decent drive from here. Convinced I had found the perfect stove at the perfect price, I asked my beloved to clear his Saturday for a road trip, hooked up the motorcycle trailer and headed north. In the Dave/Marsha road trip tradition, the trip took three times longer than it should have due to inclement weather and navigational difficulties. By difficulties, I mean I get lost even with a nav system and I always take Dave down with me. However, if one is to be lost, there is no finer place to be lost than the area between Santa Cruz and Point Reyes. Long story short, we met the stove, fell in love, loaded it onto the trailer using a fork lift, then went to Napa to see Sarah where we pawned off an old couch we didn’t need and had amazing food. The stove came with a bottle of meade which  ended up getting poured down the sink because it tasted like someone drank paint thinner, vomited it back up and put it in a bottle. It’s only redeeming feature was it was a sparkling meade, so it bubble and fizzed its way down the sink. I hope the owner of the meadery never reads this but if he does, I hope he accepts this gift of feedback.I digress. Then I digressed again. Back the the stove.

Fast forward…The stove spent the last two years in the shipping container storage unit (also from Craiglist) and had to be moved inside by professional appliance movers. Turns, the stove was loaded in the trailer with a forklift because it weights 631 pounds. I would venture to say, a large portion of the weight has to do with this:

No, not the layer of dirt and schmutz which adds at least 10 pounds to the surface (cut me some slack, we live in a construction zone. Schmutz is our life.) I suspect a good bit of the weight comes from the cast iron burners and the half-inch thick piece of iron which is the griddle. *Excuse me while I swoon.* Like any girl, I am attracted to bad boys and this stove is the baddest of bad boys. I know this because I looked it up today.

We are ready to hook up the stove. (Yay for cooking inside and not having to use the grill as an oven, which can be done with some degree of difficulty.) Before we install the stove permanently, we need to fix a leg of the stove. We bought it knowing it had a minor issue:

Arg, sharkey! Ye weren’t expectin’ a pirate stove now were ye? That’s right the stove came with a peg leg.

I spent the morning online looking at the indecipherable parts catalogs, with no pictures, trying to find the damn leg. Finally, I gave up and called American Range. Parts rep says it’s company policy that they won’t release the parts numbers over the phone but they will send a parts diagram with the parts numbers to my email. Huh? Whatever, just send the list. (Which they did so immediately. Good customer service, parts guy.) The list also came with a specs sheet and the specs sheet made me weak in the knees. Then it made me concerned for my safety. This stove is from their commercial series. (Who knew?) Along with weighing enough that we need to reinforce our floor, it is also capable of pumping out 32,000 BTUs per burner. PER BURNER! To put it in perspective, your average kitchen stove runs about 7,000 BTU and some stoves have a special high heat burner for your pasta pot which runs at 12,000 BTU. The entire power of my last stove is contained in one single burner of the new stove. If Tim the Tool Man Taylor were here, there would be much grunting.

Then I get to the end of the specs sheet where it says this:

Clearances: For use only on non-combustible floors. Legs or casters are required, or 2” (51) overhang is required when curb mounted. Clearance from non-combustible
walls is 0”. When unit is placed next to combustible walls, clearances must exceed 12” (305) on sides, and 4” (102) from rear.

It’s a good thing I read that because the stove is going in the island. I could have burned the whole house down while trying to can tomato sauce (which by the way, I can hardly wait to do.) The island is to be made of wood, mostly reclaimed redwood paneling from the side of the house. Wood is combustible. Old wood is really combustible. I’m also a little bit unclear as to whether this means that the legs are enough that the stove won’t burn through the wood floor  or if we need a non combustible material under the entire unit. What I also don’t know, is how much non-combustible material is enough to keep the island from going up in flames.

All this pondering has really put a damper on my stove fantasies like the one where me and the stove are preparing dinner on a secluded beach in Belize. In my fantasy, the stove no longer has a peg leg and it’s not being used as storage for all of the kitchen utensils we have bothered to unpack.

My ultimate fantasy? This stove, installed in the island, right here, with walls and cabinets and all of those other kitchenly items surrounding it, while Dave and I cook for our family and friends. Is anyone else getting warm?

I guess I’ll start by ordering the leg and cleaning the cobwebs out of the inner workings. One of these days, we’re going to hook the gas and burn baby burn.

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

Recently I was in a deep black pit of despair, when I got a call from one of my favorite people, Captain Morgan. “I’m coming for a visit,” she said. “You clearly need help.” She was right, of course. I did need help. For weeks, Dave and I had been living in Chateau Moteaux with three cats, a dog and all of our stuff in disarray. The Chateau was leaking, the fridge inside had broken, we had no way to cook, no hot water or indoor plumbing, the toilet was 300 feet away, in the house and the electricity for the whole motor home was running off of one single extension cord. I was living like I was in the Eastern Oklahoma meth culture. All I wanted was a damn bathtub and some lights. If someone had told me 10 years ago that I was going to be living like this, I would never have believed it.

Speaking of 10 years ago, that’s about the time I met Captain Morgan. She was not a Captain then. She was Toni, (also not her real name but none the less, it’s the name she went by) a willy, Army Private and I hated her the very moment I met her. I was 19 and the base Commander had recently called me the “Most Powerful PFC in the Army,” a title I felt I had earned. I saw another powerful young woman as a threat to my crown. There was only room for one queen in the castle and I was sure she was there to usurp me. My cohort Dan (remember Dan?) insisted that we should all hang out. I bristled. I avoided. I whined. Eventually, Dan got his way. He is immune to feminine whining. Eventually, the three of us were inseparable and unstoppable. Almost 15 years later, we are still friends.

Toni was excited about coming out to help with the house though I don’t know why. It’s not like she needed something to do. She has her own money pi, which she spends her time remodeling but I was happy for her help and even happier for the company. The girl knows her way around a tool shed and from the second she arrived she was working. She spent two days hauling wheelbarrows full of wood chips to line the garden paths. She planted seeds with me. She would wake up early so she could break the mortar off of our old pile of bricks:

She broke the mortar off of this entire pile:

The woman is a machine.

One day she decided she was done looking at the weeds in the front yard. She marched into the tool shed to get a weed whacker, where she was informed by Dave that of the seven he has, none of them work. With military efficiency, she got in the car and off we went to the Home Depot, where she bought our housewarming gift: a rechargeable Black & Decker weed whacker. Dave loves it.

Toni was there when I decided to fire the drywall guy (more on that at a later date) and convinced me that if we fired him, we could do it ourselves. Thankfully, we didn’t have to fire him on the spot but it was touch and go for a while. Then she helped me paint the girls’ room a most gorgeous shade of purple. Here the lovely Toni models the first coat, which doesn’t do the color justice:

I think we got more done in the week that she was here, than we had in the three weeks since we had been living in the house.

The most important thing that Toni’s visit did was remind me that this whole house mess can be fun. We got a chance to use the fire pit, we got the Garden of Good and Evil all spruced up for summer and we got the house move-in ready.* She also has earned the esteemed title of first house guest. I tried to convince her to go AWOL and stay on the compound. I think she considered it but I guess doing jail time would really cramp her ability to finish her own house. It’s been two months since she was here and I’m ready for her to come back. Or maybe I should go visit her. I probably owe her a power tool.

*Move-in ready is a highly subjective term. In this case it means hot and cold running water and one bedroom with walls.

Records Keeping

Shortly after we bought the house,  I was checking the cabinets in the future laundry room, whene I found several pieces of paper taped to the inside doors. Each piece of paper was a record of what happened to and in the house. Someone had kept meticulous notes of home maintenance and major household purchases. I find the whole thing just fascinating.

This one is a hand written note about when the freezer was bought and turned on. I think the harder to see part talks about the curtains.

The next one is my favorite, for sheer entertainment value.

First it outlines in detail how much paint was used, on what day, to paint the house. Then it goes onto discuss the poisoning of the skunks. The part that’s harder to read says, “Killed skunk 1:00pm- Fri 5th of August- 1960. Skunk around all morning staggering and falling.” I find it interesting that someone found this noteworthy. I find it even more interesting that everyone else who has lived in the house since, also found it noteworthy enough keep these notes.

Here we have the original sales slip and warranty for a Packard Bell TV, from 1956. I wonder if it was their first TV or their first color TV? (Fun fact, the remote control was first offered in June of 1956. This TV did not have a remote.)

Not too far off from today’s prices!

Most of the records are from the mid-1950’s through the 1960’s but there are some notes that go through the 80’s. They are starting to show the signs of age. Being taped to a cabinet door in a damp room is not the Smithsonian-approved method of preserving records. I intend to showcase them as a quirky part of the house’s history. Maybe I’ll frame them and leave them in the laundry room, so others may wonder how the staggering skunk note made it 50 years.

Bathroom Tile

Long ago, when we first started searching for remodel supplies on Craigslist, I found a fabulous slipper tub with a hand shower and a pedestal sink. They were a matched set and they were lovely (and the price was lovely.) What I didn’t consider was that they were going in the hall bathroom, which is also the kids bathroom. We have a 10-year-old Boy who loves water. 10-year-old Boy + water + hand shower = disaster waiting to happen. Our solution is to tile the walls as high as we can afford.

The tile came in today and I’m so excited. The floor and first six inches up the wall will be small hexagon mosaic tile with a black flower pattern. Above that will be a black pencil liner. the next 4.5 feet will be white subway tile topped with a while tile chair rail. Everything will be grouted in a medium, warm gray color grout. Five feet of tile is pretty close to waterproof. It’s practically a submarine. Of course, 10-year-old boys were created to test statements like that.

Part of me wishes I had done another black detail. Oh well, it will be more versatile this way.

The Throne

Let’s talk about the state of the house. The ranch house, that is. The one we’ve owned for 19 month and haven’t slept in, for one, single night. It’s ridiculous, I know but there’s a reason we haven’t slept in it. It has no interior walls, no heat and most importantly, NO TOILET. Of course the toilet issue was rather recent. For the first 18 months, the house had a disgustingly moldy but functioning toilet. Then a couple of weeks ago, we decided to move the hall bathroom to a new location, between the kids rooms and turn the area that was the hall bathroom into a closet. I think we’ve already touched upon the reason why- the issue with the bathtub not fitting in the master bathroom. Moving the hall bathroom is just fallout from the rearranging that was done to accommodate the bathtub in its new location. You know how these chain of event things go: a butterfly flaps it’s wings in New York…

You see? There it is. The new hall bathroom. I know, it looks less than impressive right now but just you wait until we have walls (and a functioning toilet.) We had to buy new toilets and they are sitting in their boxes in their respective bathrooms, waiting for us to find time to install them.

Can we pause for a moment to discuss how nerve-wracking it is to buy a new toilet? First off, they are not especially cheap. Well, I suppose you can get one that’s cheap-ish but it’s also one of those items that you really, really want to work, each and every time you use it. No one wants to suffer that awful moment when you realize the toilet isn’t flushing all the way and now the water is approaching the edge of the toilet, so all you can do is grab your nice towels (the new ones you bought at Costco that are so fluffy and soft) and put them on the floor to soak up your poo water. Since there’s no way you’re leaving this seeping mess to its own devices, you have to bellow for your husband to bring the plunger but when he tries to come in, you slam the door on him and demand that he hand you the plunger through the crack in the door because some things are still sacred, even after five years together. You struggle with the plunger for 10 minutes, splashing more murky brown water around the bathroom, but still, no flush. The bathroom is considered bio-hazard, at this point and finally, you have to admit to yourself that there is no way you’re spindly little arms are going to be able to plunge through this mess. Finally you relent and call in your husband who is clearly horrified but you remind him that it would be best not to say anything about this, lest you have to blog about the time, long before you were dating, that you saw him covered in sewage, while attempting to fix a broken septic pipe. It takes him all of 45 seconds to undo the clogged toilet and he leaves, presumably to rinse himself with bleach. You of course will spend the next two hours trying to figure out how best to clean the towels, until finally, you throw them away and depart for Costco, to buy more, all the time wishing you have spent the extra $75 on the toilet that your dad recommended.

Because of this, I got on Consumer Reports to research toilets. Previously, when Dave and I were at one of those big box stores, we took a  moment to sit upon the thrones and test them out. The first thing I noticed is that the taller toilets were more comfortable. I decided right then and there that we too, would have a tall toilet. As it turns out, tall toilets are actually ADA compliant toilets, so extra bonus! This may be an important factor in my comfort  later in life, when I’m gored by a goat and become wheelchair bound. Other than that, I didn’t have much of an opinion on toilets. Apparently, there are other features. There are toilets that conserve water by flushing a little for “liquid waste” and a lot for “solid waste.” I didn’t see an option for nuclear waste. Those of you with small children who have entered that stage in their young lives, in which they enjoy flushing toys, should take note of toilets with a powerful flush assist, feature. Some of those are so powerful, they cause a change of air pressure, like the lavatory toilets on airplanes. Then there is the ever popular debate on which seat shape is best, rounded or elongated. rounded saves space, according to those in the know (and who an I to disagree) but elongated is usually more comfortable. Of course, seat shape is very much a personal choice and a matter of taste.

After all of that, we chose the Consumer Reports best buy, a Gerber Avalanche, which was fourth on the list but still ranking in the “excellent” category. It was also considerably cheaper than the Kohlers that were ranked above it. Then we discovered the next problem. You’ve heard of Kohler but have you heard of Gerber? No, we hadn’t either. Nor had most of the internet and all of the box stores. There is one single distributor in the whole area, Slakey Brothers in Salinas. Slakey Bros didn’t have the toilets but they ordered them for us. All in all, a very nice experience, which made me feel slightly less nervous about ordering what might be the SINGLE most important appliance in our entire house.

On a side note, I would like to extend a big thanks to Detective Paranoid for continuing to pay for his online, Consumer Report account. He gave me his password years ago and I have been using his account ever since. I don’t know what I would do if he canceled his account, since I use it for every major and most minor purchases. I you think I’m nuts about getting the right toilet, you should have seen me when we wanted to get a camera for Sarah. Talk about pressure!

Stick around. There are some more tomato ratings coming up this week. Now is the time to start thinking about what you want to plant so you can order your rare seeds in time for February!