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Let Me Tell You About This Bird and How He Helped Me Get Over My Fear of Commitment.

You know that feeling you get when things just work out?

Like when friends come over to visit and they all want wine and you happen to have exactly the right number of unbroken wine glasses so no one’s forced to drink cab from a highball.

Like when you suddenly crave “Shit on a Shingle” for dinner and you just happen to have enough milk in your fridge and dried beef in your pantry to make it.

Like when you finally decide to wash your pillowcase and you’re so careful to set your pillow in a precise location so you can keep track of that special soft spot where your head always fits perfectly and then some reckless person (most likely yourself) thoughtlessly moves your pillow to another location and now usually there is no way to detect that spot until you actually lie on the pillow in every configuration imaginable and you know you’re in for a long night, except — wait!  There it is.  Your spot.  And you got it perfect the first time.

It’s that feeling.

That feeling that comes when you think you’re in for an ordeal, but instead the process is relatively effortless and surprisingly stress-free.

And that is exactly what happened when I emailed my boss to decline is offer of a full-time position.

I thought he might be upset.  Or worse, disappointed.  But instead, his reaction was one of relief.  See, as a small start-up business owner, he wanted to do what it took to keep a decent employee (one who actually shows up and does her work) on board.  In my case, he thought that required offering me a full-time position.  Even though, it turns out, he had the minor problem of not knowing whether he’d be able to afford me.  So he was actually relieved when I declined, and he may have let slip a note of envy.

See, when I explained to him that a full-time position is no longer my primary goal because I’ve realized now I have more time to do some other things that I’m passionate about, he replied that one day he hopes to be in the same position.


Does anyone sense the irony here?

My boss is a self-made African-American male with a wife and 2 very young sons who runs a very successful small business, and he happens to be 2 years younger than me.  And yet, for some reason, he thinks I’m the one in the position to which he should aspire.

Okay, not entirely.

He drives a very nice car.  I drive a 12-year-old Tracker.

He wears very nice clothes.  I still wear things I owned in high school.

He owns his own business.  I work for an hourly rate.

He has 2 happy, healthy, and dare-I-say adorable kids.  I have 2 dogs who once swallowed an entire bag of chicken bones and I had to feed them cotton balls to ease the sharp passage of shrapnel through their intestines.  True story.

I’m sure he doesn’t go home at night and wish that he was me.  But.  There’s something here.  An affirmation of sorts, that tells me I made the right decision.  That tells me when I cut out the shoulds, good things can happen.

So this is good news, right?  I celebrated by hanging item numbers 3, 4 and 5 on my walls.

If you recall, I’ve only had one thing hanging in my house for quite some time.  In the laundry room.  Where I maybe spend 0.00001% of my time.  Makes sense, right?

I think it has something to do with my fear of commitment.

So, in light of my goals for the new year, I hung some stuff.

Three things, as a matter-of-fact.

I hung them in the guest bathroom.  Approximately 6 feet away from the one other thing hanging in my house, and yet where I spend a significantly longer amount of time.

(Please ignore my unpainted trim.  That’s still on the 2012 task list for this money and time-sucker of a house.)

Let me tell you about the bird.  The bird is special.  My friend Alaina’s mother, Jan Krebs, is an artist.  She’s my adoptive mother from back in our college days, and one of the first people to teach me that life should be reserved for doing things you love.

I’ve always wanted a Jan Krebs original, and as of Christmas this year, that wish came true.  It’s not a painting, but some type of carved ceramic that has a rough texture and looks fabulous in person.  I knew that this couldn’t just be something I let sit around on my console table or propped up against my backsplash like so many other pieces of art I have around.  Not this time.  The bird would be the start of a movement.

And I didn’t stop there.

The tea light holders were purchases I made on a trip I took to Europe in 2004.  I bought them in a tiny shop in Strasbourg, France.

Well?  What do you think of my progress?

First, the bathroom was a paisley-infested crime scene:

Kate's Guest Bathroom Crime Scene

Then, it was naked:

Guest Bathroom After

And now, we have life:

Yep, I now have bathroom art.

This must be what it means to feel grown-up.

…and the Husband Ran Away with the Toilet.

When I think about our huge guest bathroom remodel, my biggest regret is not buying a new toilet.  We replaced the old, yellowed seat, scrubbed out the inside with a pumice stone, and viola — the toilet looked new again.

Then it broke.  And still, it seemed the more economical decision was to replace the parts inside the tank that needed replacing.

Then something went wrong with the tank.  I’m not sure what, but it required the purchase of a new tank.

After that, the toilet decided it wanted to start flushing, on occasion, of its own accord.

And frankly, I was okay with that.  I mean… I only have so much energy to expend on a toilet, you know?

Then a couple of days ago, I noticed some type of store-bought packaging sitting in the bathroom with — you guessed it — toilet parts inside.  I guess some of my earth-friendly endeavors have worn off on Justin (or the water bill wore out his wallet), because he decided he no longer wanted our home graced with a ghost flushing toilet.

I thought it would be a quick job, but as is the case with all DIY projects, you have to account for the unexpected.

I try to do that, and I try to stay patient, but nothing — and I mean nothing — prepared me for the moment yesterday when Justin yelled from the bathroom, “Can you please open the door to the garage for me?”

Uh oh.

I walked over to the garage door and held it open butler-style, as my husband, arms encumbered with the disemboweled body of our porcelain God, ran past.

Apparently something was wrong with the way the toilet was screwed into the floor.

Apparently parts of our subfloor are now stripped.

Apparently this is going to be a much bigger job than we expected.

Apparently… toilets can also be metaphors for relationships. They’re always more work than you think, but worth the extra effort in the end.

Guest Bathroom Befores and Not-Quite-Afters

You don’t have to say it – I already know.  You’re mad because I’ve been lax in my home renovation updates.  And I want you to know that I understand.  It’s okay to be upset.

It’s like 4 months ago I tricked you into thinking this blog was going to have actual DIY projects and before-and-after photos.  I took you out to a nice dinner, opened the car door for you, wore a fancy suit – then, when we started to get comfortable, I began complaining about your cooking, making jokes at your expense, and wearing my holy underpants.

It’s inexcusable, I know.  But the thing is, people change.  Interests change.  And while it’s still incredibly important that we get this house in shape before we have to sell it, I’ve got bigger fish to fry right now than picking out flooring to replace the worn-out carpet in the living room or scraping popcorn off the rest of our ceilings.

But.  That doesn’t mean I can’t show you some things we’ve done already.  There are several rooms in the house that, while not complete, are vastly improved from the day we moved in.

Aside from the remodeled kitchen, our guest bathroom has probably seen the most change.  I showed you how it looked like a crime scene for several months while we attempted – in vain – to remove the maroon paisley wallpaper.  But lucky for us, and our guests, it now looks a whole lot different.


Guest Bathroom (before)


Guest Bathroom After


Kate's Guest Bathroom Wallpaper Removal



Kate's Guest Bathroom Crime Scene



We tiled the floor with porcelain tiles bought at Restore Warehouse for a fraction of what they would’ve cost at a tile store.  The actual DIY process of tiling the floors was not captured in photos.  Let’s just say it consisted of approximately 48 hours of intense stress, sweat, near-filing of divorce papers, and maybe a little blood.

Curved shower curtain rod

We tore out the old brass shower doors and had the nasty yellow tub refinished.  Then we hung this nifty curved shower curtain rod to make the shower extra roomy.

Decorating the Toilet

I haven’t hung anything on the walls yet, but I have decorated my toilet.  Because I’m cool like that.  We added the wainscoting and chair rail (all that white trim on the bottom half of the walls) because when we ripped out the vanity, we may have damaged the drywall.  Just a bit.  So this was our solution.  Happy accident, right?  We only had to re-do it once.

And I bought this nifty cylinder thing to hold the TP.  Pedestal sinks look pretty, but they’re sure not ideal for storage.

And um… we can wash our hands.

Rolled-up Towels

We can dry ’em, too.


And if we find we need to do dirty, smelly things in this pristine new room, then at least we have this.

Any questions?

Scene of the Crime

For right now, I’m keeping my “Choose My Own Adventure” poll open.  Thanks to those of you who voted so far, and for those of you who’ve stopped by but haven’t, why the f*** not??!  Please go vote immediately.  This is my future we’re talking about.  (Dramatic, much?)

We remodeled our guest bathroom about 2 years ago.

Here’s what it looked like when we moved in (unfortunately I didn’t have a wide-angle lens at the time – or for that matter a DSLR camera – just my little point-and-shoot, so you only get snippets):

Kate's Guest Bathroom Before

The above picture was taken while standing in the bathroom doorway facing slightly left.  The doorway you see ahead/to the right leads into the laundry room with the lovely forest-green aluminum blinds.  (By the way, if you’re ever showing your home for sale, please do not leave the toilet seat up.  It’s unseemly.)

This is looking straight into the bathroom and through to the laundry room.  You can kind-of, sort-of see the fugly, almond-colored bathtub with brass shower doors to the right.

Kate's Guest Bathroom Before

Here’s a better look at that bathtub/shower combo:

Kate's Guest Bathroom Before

We removed the confining shower doors almost immediately after moving in (that tub is tiny), but we were left with an extremely unpleasant shower door residue/fungus/mold-like substance, the likes of which I will share throughout the progression of this remodel.

And we can’t forget the huge-bulb brass light fixture with the charming paisley maroon wallpaper:

Kate's Guest Bathroom Before

The whole thing took us maybe 6 months to complete, and that’s NOT if you count the attached laundry room.  Which is just about done.

Oh, and we still have to paint all of the trim (in the ENTIRE HOUSE!).


Anyway, if you compare this to our kitchen remodel, the hubs and me taking 6 months to complete a project is not a shocker.  In fact, it’s almost timely.

So, did a gruesome murder happen in my bathroom?  Not exactly.  But, here’s what our guest bathroom looked like for probably 5 out of those 6 months:

Kate's Guest Bathroom Crime Scene

As one friend put it, “This looks like a crime scene.”

I promise you I’m not embellishing.  We seriously had guests stay at our home and shower in this bathroom while it looked like this.  It looked like this for a long, long time.

I have no shame.

Kate's Guest Bathroom Wallpaper Removal

What can I say?  We were naive, enthusiastic first-time home-buyers when we made this purchase.  We were excited because only one room had wall paper (this room), and our master bathroom just had a wallpaper border.  We thought we were getting off easy.

But this. room. was. hell.

In all its fury.  In my version of hell, I would be removing paisley maroon wallpaper for all of eternity.

Kate's Guest Bathroom Wallpaper Removal

Here are the tried – and failed –  methods with which we attempted to remove the wallpaper:

  • Dry peeling (simply using a putty knife and our fingers to pull off the stubborn paper)
  • Spritzing with water and then peeling
  • Spritzing with a vinegar/water mixture and then peeling
  • Spritzing with Dif Gel wallpaper stripper (two different formulas) and then peeling
  • Using an electric steamer (borrowed from our neighbors) to harness the power of heat and moisture and then peeling

Nothing worked.  Nothing.

Finally, the hubs ended up taking an orbital sander to the bathroom walls.  He quite literally sanded the whole mess off the surface.  This worked, by the way.

I realize this doesn’t fall withing the traditional code of wallpaper-removal methodology, but you can’t blame us.  We were at our eye-twitchingly wits-end.  My fingernails were navy/maroon paisley.

You. Can’t. Blame. Us.

So no, a murder did not happen in this room (that we know of).  But a double-suicide?

Almost, my friends.