Navigate / search

So Our Mail Lady Thinks We’re Cool

Guess what I did yesterday.

It’s something I despise but, much to my shock and dismay, is pretty much a must-do for homeowners.

That’s right – yard work.


We actually have quite a bit we “should” do in both the front and back yards to make this place more presentable for resale, but when I start to think about the stagnant pond we need to take out, the grass we need to plant, the holes we need to fill in, and the termite-infested garden bed we need to demolish, I find myself fighting the intense urge to crawl back under the covers and not emerge until September.

And, considering I love summer, that simply won’t do.


Baby steps.

Just like everything else.

Last weekend, Justin removed this random trellis sticking out into our back yard off the side of the house which the previous owners had stuck there to support the equally random rose bush vine thingy that’s full of thorns that will claw at you every time you enter the back yard through the fence gate or back garage door, which lie on either side of the trellis.  Oh, yeah – he took the rose bush out, too.

I didn’t cry.

Here’s a photo I snapped of the trellis on Closing Day*.  The owners must have installed it just before we moved in, because it took virtually no time for the thing to start warping and the paint to peel and virtually start looking like a big ol’ catastrophe:

The “bed” for the bush had been loosely lined with some leftover bricks they’d used for the back patio, so yesterday I dug those out and decided to beautify our mailbox.

I forgot to take a “before” photo, but the mailbox was basically a naked post surrounded by spiny weeds and gravely dirt and over all just looked unkempt.  We recently replaced the “box” part of the mailbox for around $11 because the old one was falling apart, but I wanted to use those leftover bricks and some cheap-o flowers we bought on our recent trip to Big Bloomers to finish the whole thing off.

Because – you know – making stuff look pretty is what we do in the ‘burbs.

Forgive the crazy lighting in these photos.  The sun this morning is already pretty intense.

Turns out this, like so many other projects I start, was a bit more difficult than I’d originally bargained.

For starters, the ground at the base of the mailbox was not level.  Not by a long shot.  So if I’d simply laid the bricks around it, there would’ve been several holes and it would have looked like a 2-year-old decided to stack some blocks around my mailbox and never put them away.

So, after hauling bricks from the back yard to the front, I dug.  I used a tiny little garden trowel and dug through rocky soil, roots, grubs, and spider carcases (I kid you not) to have a relatively flat surface on which to build my little brick wall.  I’d sufficiently basted my skin with a fine layer of sweat and a flour coating of dirt and grime by the time I finished what I thought would be a five-minute project.

Of course, it wasn’t until after I finished the project and wasn’t completely satisfied with the overall stability/levelness that my neighbor told me I should have used a rubber mallet to completely level the bottom layer.

Oh well – I’ll fix it when this one falls apart.

Overall, I’m still fairly happy with how it turned out:

It’s definitely not perfect, but neither are the bricks.  And for that matter, neither am I.

And any time my inner perfectionist is annoyed at the slight misalignment and unequal brick sizes, I’ll remind myself of one, indisputable fact that makes everything seem okay:

It’s just a mailbox.

*I just this minute realized that tomorrow (4/20, baby) is our 4 YEAR Anniversary of owning this house.  Holy crap, where does the time go?  I guess that trellis didn’t deteriorate as quickly as I’d thought…

I’m Finally Out of the Closet

Okay, I have yesterday’s promised closet makeover pictures for you.  I apologize that this is pretty anticlimactic because, while I’m thrilled with the new sense of peace and organization this brings me, in the end, it’s still just a closet.

Except now it’s clean and painted and oh yeah there’s no taffy stuck to the inside wall covered with scotch tape.

Don’t ask.


After (empty):

All of the scratches and general dinginess have been smoothed out and painted over.  Justin hung the new shelf using some old 2×4’s we had in the garage, and I primed and painted them to match the shelf.

The really inexpensive hangars are from Bed, Bath and Beyond:

And both types of bronze hooks are from Target:

By hanging the hooks, taking out a few of the winter coats (umm, Katie?  Do you really need 4 winter coats hanging in a main hall closet in North Carolina for 4 years?), digging out some storage baskets I had hiding in another closet, and throwing out some of the junk, I was actually able to fit more stuff in here.

The dog leashes and car harnesses came in from the garage, Justin’s baseball hats finally came down from the top of the television in the bedroom, and everything is now much more accessible.

We can even still fit the vacuum in there, and we have some extra space for guest coats.  Apparently people appreciate that as opposed to flinging them over the back of a dog-hair covered sofa.

Go figure.

In the end, it really was worth the hassle.

Even though it might not look much different to you, cleaning out this closet helped clean me out a little, too.

Not in a literal enema sort of way, but in a figurative mind clutter sort of way.

Getting rid of crap you don’t need – both physically and mentally – is therapeutic.

Who knew you could get so much from a tiny little closet?

I can’t wait to see what happens when I move on to the walk-in…

Alaina’s Kitchen Before-and-Afters

Well, it’s finally here.  The post we’ve all been waiting for.

No, I’m not showing you a picture of my awesome abs.

It’s not because I’m shy.  And it’s definitely not because they’re not there.  Oh, they’re there.  It’s just that they’re hiding behind a small layer of leftover holiday pudge.  I’m sure they’ll come out when they’re ready.

This is a process, people.  It can’t be rushed.

So.  Do you remember my friend Alaina and how I started telling you about her kitchen remodel back in April of 2010?

Well.  I finally – finally have photos of the end result.

And let me just tell you – it was well worth the wait.

“A” and her husband Dirk gutted their dated, boxy kitchen (cabinets, floors – even some walls!) and completely transformed the main level of their house.

In case you missed them, here are the series of posts that take us through some of the more painful aspects of a full kitchen remodel:

Other Peoples’ Messes: How we Thoroughly Demolished Alaina’s Kitchen
Other Peoples’ Messes: Alaina’s Kitchen Progress
Other Peoples’ Messes: Alaina’s Kitchen – Wall Removal Before & Afters
Other Peoples’ Messes: Alaina’s Unique Flooring Solution
Other Peoples’ Messes: How Alaina Shopped for Granite Counter Tops

And if you want to see other kitchen related posts, you can read through the mess we created in our own much smaller and budget constrained kitchen renovation, including layout planning advice, how to choose the right appliances, and even a step-by-step guide to tiling your own backsplash, right here.

But now on to the good stuff.

Don’t mind the phrase, but I’m just going to start with the “money shot” because that’s what you all came to see.  Then we’ll follow up with some details.  Okay?  Okay.


Alainas Kitchen Remodel


Ummm…. WOW.  Even with the darker cabinetry and counter tops, the entire room is much brighter thanks to some strategic wall removal and an additional window behind the sink.

Back in the pre-kitchen remodel “dark days,” this lovely wall used to greet you when you looked into A’s living room from her front door:

Alainas Kitchen Remodel

Unfortunately, this is a load-bearing wall.  So it couldn’t come down completely.  But, with the help of a contractor, they were able to remove a portion of the wall to create a breakfast bar and pass-through, and, most important, stunning views of the lake right when you walk in through the front door.

Here it is mid-reno:

Alainas Kitchen Remodel

That small change really opened up the main floor.  Alaina and Justin are standing in what used to be their tiny, closed-in kitchen.

Here’s how it looks today:

*The brackets under the bar will soon be fixed by the granite installers and that wall will get re-painted.

They also removed the wall that divided the breakfast area from the main part of the kitchen, creating an eat-in kitchen (they already have a separate dining room).

Here it was before:

Alainas Kitchen Remodel

And here it is right after they removed the wall surrounding that open doorway:

Alainas Kitchen Remodel

And here it is today!

Beautiful, no?  And that’s not all.  We still have a special treat.  You might be noticing that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of space in the way of wall cabinet storage and food storage (that “room” to the right of the refrigerator is actually a utility room – not a pantry).

But no worries – See that doorway to the right of the microwave cabinet?  What used to be a narrow hallway that held their washer and dryer and leads to their office has now been transformed into a stunning “butler’s pantry”:

On the wall to the right, Alaina created a “message center” with a calendar, dry-erase board, and place to display photographs:

On the other side are two large pantries for food and small appliance storage, as well as a sink and a space for a future wine cooler:

I have to say, I’m pretty much in love with this new space.

From the stunning granite, to the custom cabinets – it looks as though this kitchen has always been there.  And that old monstrosity with the cheap white cabinets, worn linoleum flooring, and psychedelic backsplash tiles is but a bad dream.

Here are a few of the deets:

  • Cabinets:Travis Alfrey
  • Cabinet Hardware: Lowes
  • Granite Name: Atlantis
  • Granite Fabricator: World Granite and Stone Art
  • Granite Supplier: Cosmos
  • Fridge and Dishwasher: LG
  • Oven and Microwave: GE
  • Porcelain backsplash tiles: Best Tile
  • Pendant Light: Light Bulb City
  • Faucet: Lowes (They bought theirs on sale)
  • Range Hood:
  • Flooring: DuraCeramic, by Congoleum in “Sunny Clay”

So what do you think??

Painting 101: Bring Your Own Beer

I woke up this morning to more of this.

And some of this.

And a bit of this.

It’s less than inspiring, I can assure you.

Though it is kind of fun watching the confused looks on my dogs’ faces as they slip and slide across the yard.

When I assess the gray skies, icy roads, and pine tree boughs drooping under the weight of ice and snow, I come to 2 conclusions:

1)  Global climate change is not a myth, and

2)  I’m not leaving the house.  Ever.  Again.  (Unless someone wants to buy me a pair of snow pants, long johns, mittens, a scarf, and a hat.  I’ve somehow managed to purge these items from my wardrobe since my days of living in Minnesota, which is a bummer because I think the only fun thing to do in this weather is find a proper hill and go sledding, but that’s only if you own snow pants and have access to a warm mug of hot chocolate when you get home.  And I just so happen to have a little something called Snickerdoodle hot chocolate.  And if you ever visit me, I might just share some with you.)

It’s days like these when I wish I’d thought ahead about other home projects that we’ll need to finish before we can ever hope to sell this place.  Like painting.

It was just before I left for Miami when I promised you a post about painting.  That was sometime back in 2010.  (Does that sound weird to anyone else?  2010 still sounds like The Future, doesn’t it?)

Anyway.  Do any of you even care about painting?

Is it one of those mundane DIY home projects that seems pretty self-explanatory and this is a complete waste of my time?

Well, it might be because I have this insane habit of complicating things and a fear of making concrete decisions, but in my experience, painting a room always turns more laborious and time-consuming than I originally presume.  But I have improved significantly over the past few years, and now I can knock out an average size room by myself during a long afternoon.

First, the tools.  To paint a room in your home, you will need:

  • Paint – Have an idea of the room dimensions when you go to the paint store.  The clerk will be able to tell you how many gallons you need to cover around 2 coats of paint.  I honestly don’t really have a preference when it comes to brand, but keep in mind that almost any paint color can be matched to almost any paint brand.  You will also need to pick a color and sheen.  The shinier the sheen (i.e. gloss, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, etc.), the more imperfections in your wall tend to show through.  That’s why I’ve learned to pick “flat” as my sheen for the walls.  I think I picked eggshell for the kitchen, simply because glossier sheens do tend to wipe down easier.
  • Primer – If you’re painting over a bold existing wall color, you’ll want to start with a coat (or 2) of primer.  Paint experts will probably recommend that you use it regardless.  We always use it on our ceilings after we remove popcorn, because the bare drywall soaks it up like a sponge.  And we’d rather the drywall soak up inexpensive primer than paint.  Nowadays you can actually get paint that’s mixed with primer, but I have yet to try one of those products.
  • Paint Key & Stir Sticks – Seems obvious, but you’ll be surprised at how often people forget these two items.  The paint key is a little metal tool used to open the paint can (also works well as a bottle opener), and the stir sticks are those wooden sticks used to stir the paint if, like me, you buy the paint with the intention of using it right away but instead let it sit in your laundry room for weeks before you build up the energy to actually clear out and paint a room.  Most paint supply stores will provide these items at no charge.
  • Roller & Tray – Pick a decent roller handle and a package of nice-quality rolls.  I don’t use the foam rolls, and I pick something that says it’s made for smooth surfaces.  Because… you know… my walls are smooth.  And I hate cleaning paint trays.  So.  Even though it is arguably the less eco-friendly option, I buy the thin, disposable tray liners that sit inside a regular paint tray.  Just think of how much water I’m saving by not spending an hour trying to wash out a tray!
  • Paint Brush/Edger – This is for painting around your trim.  I’ve used one of those flat edgers before, which tends to work pretty well.  However, it’s annoying if you get too much paint on it (which happens to me a lot), so nowadays I prefer this perfect little short-handled brush to paint around the trim.

Paint edger

Short-handled paint brush.  This is the Wooster “Shortcut” brush, and I picked it up on a whim at the Home Depot paint counter.  This baby handled like a PRO.  I could easily cut-in around the trim without getting any paint ON the trim itself.  The best part?  I saved a ton of time and money from not having to use painter’s tape.

  • Painter’s Tape (optional) – With the use of a brush like the one above, I strongly urge you to try painting around the room without using tape.  However, if you still feel the need, splurge on something called Frog Tape over the typical blue tape.  I found that frog tape peels off much more cleanly with a lot less paint seepage.

Tip:  Remove the tape before the paint completely dries – it’s less likely you’ll peel your paint off with the tape.

  • Drop Cloth (optional) – You can easily avoid drippage by not overloading your paint roller, but if you want to be on the safe side, invest in a drop cloth to protect  your floors.
  • Helpers (optional) – These can make or break a project.  You decide whether it’s worth the risk.

So here’s what you need to do to have a perfectly painted room:

1.  Clear out the room.  If some furniture is large, you can just push it towards the middle.  But the emptier the room, the easier it is to paint.  Also be sure to remove your light switch and outlet cover plates.  It’s very simple to do with a screwdriver, and your finished room will look much cleaner by painting under the switch plates rather than over them.

2.  Fill-in any holes in the wall with mud and a putty knife.  No, not mud from your backyard.  I love, love love this DAP Fast ‘N Final Lightweight Spackling putty.  It’s the consistency of cool whip or a light frosting, and is SO easy to apply.  It goes on incredibly smooth and you can paint right over without even sanding!  It’s perfect for me, since I’m terrible at planning ahead.  (Although the reviewers on Amazon beg to differ.  Maybe I’m just a spackling pro?)

3.  Open up your paint, give it a good stir, and use your short-handle brush or edger to start painting around the trim.  I fill a small container with paint so I can easily carry it around the room with me rather than continuously running back over to the gallon bucket to fill my brush.  You’ll want to paint smoothly around every window and doorway, and also along the ceiling (or crown molding) and baseboards, and even down the inside corners of the room and around all of the light switches and outlets.  Also get any narrow spaces (like between a doorway and a wall) that are too narrow for the roller.  Basically, you’re outlining the entire room where it will be difficult for the roller to reach.

Yes, it’s tedious.  No, it’s not fun.  But get some good music crankin’, put on your big boy/girl panties, and muscle up.

THEN, do it again.  That’s right – you’re going to want to do 2 coats of this trim paint to ensure even coverage.  Don’t worry, though – the second coat goes much more quickly than the first.  You probably won’t need to worry about drying time.  By the time you finish the first coat, the place where you started will likely be dry enough to start round 2.

You can see in the above photo that I opted out of using primer this time.  The color I chose was darker than the other sample colors on the wall, and the walls were already fairly smooth.  Plus, I was just plain lazy. But the Glidden interior paint (my first time using this brand) seems to be holding up pretty well!  You can also see our ceilings were not-yet painted.  Normally I would recommend painting the ceilings before the walls, but I am not the ceiling painter of the house and was tired of waiting, so I went ahead with the walls first.

4.  Now that you’ve completed all of your tedious tracing, it’s time to color it in!  Fill the deep part of your paint tray with the paint, load up your roller (but not too much – you don’t want massive paint drippage), and start applying it to the walls.  I think it’s debatable about whether you should paint in a “W” pattern or straight up and down – in the end, you just want to make sure you get a nice, even look without any streaks or drips.  I use the “W” method.

And again, you’re going to do 2 coats.  If you took your time painting around the trim, this part should be a breeze.  And the paint might look uneven as you roll it on, but pay attention as it dries – it should even out and you shouldn’t see any streaks when it’s completely dry.

Now is not the time to quit.  You will get a decent shoulder workout.  This may be the time you decide to crack open a motivational beer.  When I feel like I want to quit because I’m covered in sweat and paint and my hands feel like they might snap off at the wrist, I know in my heart that it’s time for a beer.

In the end, it’s completely worth it.  There’s a huge sense of satisfaction that comes from transforming sterile, hospital-like white walls into something warm that can highlight trim work, photography, art, or just makes you feel more at home.

But I will stand by my original assessment that HGTV is full of CRAP, and this is not something you would want to do over and over again if you don’t like the color.  Choose wisely, my friends.

5.  Clean, clean, clean!  When you’re finished painting, you will be so tempted to just drop everything in the middle of the floor and call it a day.  But cleanup isn’t so bad if you used a drop cloth and a disposable paint tray.  The most important step is cleaning your paint brush.  Run it under warm water while gently pressing and flattening the bristles on the bottom of the sink.  Keep going until the water runs clear.  THEN, give the brush some good whacks on the edge of the counter or on a paper towel.  This will fluff the bristles back up and get your brush ready to use for the next go ’round.

Sooo… remember to fluff your brush by whacking it to get it ready for use.  (Man, why can’t I seem to avoid porn references in this blog??  It’s like I don’t even have to try.)

HGTV Lies!

This post is about painting.  And Florida.  But not about painting in Florida, because that would be silly.

I’m leaving tomorrow for some much-needed sister love in Miami.  As evidenced by the pasty, translucent skin of my underarm in the above photo, my sister isn’t the only one I’m craving to see.  Oh Sun, how I’ve missed you!  My Costa Rica tan lines are but a faint shadow of their former selves.  I look outside my window and everything is gray.  I need your vibrancy and colors back in my life.

But more on that in a minute.

First, I must dispel a vicious lie – a lie that’s been portrayed to innocent HGTV viewers over, and over and over again.  Even if you don’t watch HGTV, it’s likely you’re still a victim of this heinous untruth, because it’s often unwittingly spread by various self-proclaimed home improvement experts (aka. people who watch HGTV on a regular basis) to their unsuspecting friends and family.

And here it is, the thing you’re likely to hear at least once during any given hour of HGTV viewing:

Painting a room in your home is one of the EASIEST and LEAST EXPENSIVE things you can do to improve its aesthetic and value.  Oh, and don’t worry if you paint the room and hate the color, because guess what?  You can always paint it AGAIN!  Yippee!!

I just have one thing to say:  Clearly, anyone who can speak these words with any type of honest conviction has never painted an entire room by him/herself.

Okay, I have more than one thing to say, so I’m just gonna say it.  Painting takes work, my friends.  It takes foresight, furniture removal, special tools, patience, and often a certain type of meticulous skill for which most people are unprepared because they’re continuously lied to about just how easy it is!

And inexpensive?  Not really.  You need to invest in decent brushes that won’t expel bristles into your paint, paint that properly cooperates with your walls, painter’s tape (if you don’t trust yourself to cleanly cut-in without getting paint on your trim), drop cloths (if you don’t trust yourself not to spill), a roller tray, and rollers.  Depending on the size of your room, all of this can add up.

And unless you have a painting buddy, it takes a bit of time and can be difficult to stay motivated.

Quick note about the above photo:  Clearly, I have no concern about using a drop cloth because that carpet needs to be replaced anyway.  And that weird beige thing my dog is sitting on?  That’s the wingless, legless, headless remains of a rubber chicken.  And the purple bits scattered around the floor?  Let’s just say the rubber duck fared even worse than the chicken.

Have I thoroughly discouraged you from painting yet?  Okay, I’m sorry.  That wasn’t my intention.  If it’s any consolation, I’ve painted most of the rooms in our house (Justin does the ceilings – lucky guy).  It’s totally doable.  I’m just tired of seeing people go into the project with unrealistic expectations.

When I get back from Miami, I’ll write up a nice little post about some of the painting tricks I’ve learned over the past few years.  When you know what you’re doing, the task isn’t terribly daunting.  And with the proper skill, you can save a bit of money on supplies.  BUT, if you’re anything like me, you still wouldn’t exactly call it fun.

What would I call fun?  Visiting my little sister in Miami!

It’s been over a year since I visited Kelly, and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to this trip.

Last time I rode a boat.

And looked at Christmas lights.

And almost got in a fight with a feisty Latina.  I don’t care how old you are – cutting in line is simply not cool.  But that’s a story for another time.

Who knows what Miami has in store for me this year?  All I know is there will be drinks.  There will be music.  And there will be CAKE, because my baby sister is turning 24!

Catch ya on the flip-side.

Happy Hallo-schwing! (Or, Asphinctersayswhat?)

Ever since I was old enough to understand what it was all about, I’ve loved Halloween.  It’s a holiday where you get to dress up, stay out late, gorge on candy, and you don’t have to buy your ungrateful family members gifts (kidding, guys!).

So what’s not to love?

In fact, the only slight drawbacks to the holiday nowadays are the fact that (a) costumes cost roughly the same price as a black market kidney and (b) every women’s costume—whether it’s mechanic, dentist, or offshore oil rigman—requires fishnets and a push-up bra.

I’ve never been the type to dress up as a slutty cheerleader or slutty witch or slutty fairy on Halloween–not that I’m a hater.  In fact, I’m fully of the if-you’ve-got-it-flaunt-it-cause-it-sure-ain’t-going-to-be-flauntable-forever school of thought.  But my personal beef has always been more with the utilitarian aspect of these types of costumes.

The equation in my head goes a little something like this:  Delicate exposed flesh + 30 degree temps + five hours of bar crawling = Hells to the no.

While I fully appreciate the “You go, girl!”-ness of showing off the goods in the spirit of Halloween, I’m not passionate enough about it to risk losing said goods to hypothermia just to prove I had ’em to show off in the first place.  That’s a little too The Gift of the Magi for my liking.

Besides, I almost always go for the gag—the more silly, dorky and ridiculous, the better.  So given all these factors, when I finally find a costume I like, I will proceed to wear its ass out.  No lie–I will trot out that  bad boy year after year until either its vital components begin to disintegrate or I am no longer able to tell in which decade the Halloween photos were taken.

Here’s my lifetime progression of Halloween costumes:

– Tiger.  Worn age 1.  Comfortable, stylish, flattering.  I’d still be wearing it to this day if I could fit into it.

– Black cat.  Worn ages 4 to 10.  Crafted with minimal parental oversight, this unelaborate getup featured a black headband with ears I made out of paper Scotch-taped to it, a black leotard, black tights and a tail pinned to the seat of my britches.  Which, when you think about it, is basically every slutty adult cat costume, too.

– Mouse.  Worn ages 10 to 12.  Same costume as above, just different-shaped ears.  The cat tail made it somewhat confusing.

– From ages 12 to 17, I was far too cool to be bothered to dress up for Halloween, so I guess I just went as a punk-ass teenager.

– Flapper.  Worn age 18.  The store-bought costume was thin, insanely itchy and, three weeks later, I was still picking sparkles out of some unlikely nooks and crannies (uh, hello, like my ears, people?  Geez.).  In the spirit of the holiday, the day after Halloween I gave it to Goodwill so that next year it could go forth and haunt other poor, hapless victims.

– Nerd.  Worn ages 20 to 25.  This costume went the distance because it was comfortable, cheap and, c’mon, awesome.  Since I was a broke, unemployed college student at the time (unlike the broke, unemployed adult I am now), I went to Goodwill and bought men’s plaid pants, thick black-rimmed glasses, and a tie with ducks on it for like $4.  I then added white tape to the glasses, gelled my hair down into a slick part, acted like myself all night–and bam!

A word of caution, though:  Be sure to wear full-coverage underwear because you will be fending off unprovoked wedgies from friends and the occasional creepy stranger all night long.

– Princess Toadstool.  Worn age 28.  I think we all know by now that I’m not the princess type, but the hubs and our good friend Kevin were hell-bent on dressing up as Mario and Luigi, so it was either be her or Toad, and I don’t need to draw any more undue attention to the ginormous-ness of my head by wearing a gigantic, phallic-like mushroom cap, thank you very much.

And, yes, that is a blowup doll taped down on the table behind us.  It was that kind of party.

This year’s costume, however, is by far one of my favorites:

Wayne’s World!  Party time!  Excellent!

This was a last-minute Hail Mary idea–there was a party Saturday night and it was Saturday afternoon and neither my friend Christine nor I had any idea what we were going to be yet.

And the best part is this entire look cost me about $10.  I already had the plain black shirt and Chuck Taylors, but I found the flannel for $3 at Goodwill.  Then I went to Michael’s and bought iron-transfer letters and a black hat for $6 and had myself a little Crafty Craftertons moment.

And since I had some letters left over, I went the extra mile and made a T-shirt that says “Schwing!”

How ’bout them apples, Martha Stewart?

Happy Halloween, everybody!

(PS:  The title’s a Wayne’s World reference:




Now go forth and prosper with that information.)

Katie – 1; Metal Frame – 0

The promised monkey post is coming soon.


But I had to share this with you.  Now that I’m back home, I’ve been trying to distract myself with various projects I’ve been putting off around the house.  We’re going to be having several house guests over the next week or so, and it’s time some of these things get finished.

So.  I love maps.  I love looking at them, using them – hell, I MADE them for a living at one point in my life.  GPS?  No thanks.  Maps – yes, the foldy, papery kind – are far superior.

I’ve had this world map that my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas for years now, and I’ve never hung it anywhere.  The map itself is beautiful, and I didn’t think the black metal frame did it justice.  Enter this horrible reproduction painting I bought on a whim a couple of years ago and also never hung.

Yes, that is dust from 2 years of closet banishment.

I noticed the frame happens to be the perfect size for my map.  Easy switch, right?

Not so much.

It took an embarrassing amount of time, but finally – finally – I won.

I may not have been a fan of the metal frame, but no one can say it wasn’t quality.

Speaking of quality, I didn’t actually have a way to attach the map to the wood frame.  Enter the masking tape.

Classy,  no?

In the end, I think it was well worth the effort.

Go me!

Now.  Is it too early for a beer?

Feel-Good Monday: How to Swindle Your Neighbors

When I woke up this morning, the first thought that went through my head was, “Why am I still here?!”

I know that’s not an ideal mantra to start the day, but I couldn’t help it.  I wasn’t supposed to be laying in my own bed.  I was supposed to be sitting at the airport, waiting to get on my flight to Central America.  But now as I sit at my kitchen table, breathing in the aroma of my freshly brewing coffee, I’m realizing – if I was supposed to be there, I’d be there.

By the way, if you’re curious, here is a demonstration of how I drink my coffee (excuse the extra wide aperture and shaky hand.  I obviously hadn’t yet consumed any of the much-needed coffee at the time – which was a few minutes ago – these pictures were taken):

First pour cream into bottom of cup.

katie's coffee cup

Then pour coffee.

katie's coffee

Finally, dump in prolific amounts of sugar.

katie's sugar

Basically, the resulting beverage should taste like sugar-laden cream with a hint of coffee.  I like the smell better than anything.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

So.  I guess the fact that I’m sitting here drinking a cup of coffee-flavored cream instead of having my naked body scanned in 3D at the airport means I need to figure out what to do with my unexpected, extra un-paid week.

If I really feel like getting dirty, I could paint all of our trim or clean out the garage – two things that could desperately use my attention.  And knowing me, I might just decide to start one of those projects late Thursday afternoon when I should be getting ready for the long drive up to Frederick, MD so I can chill with Erin for a couple of days before we leave.  I find I work best under pressure.

But considering I still need to pack and take care of a few other mundane things before I head out, I should probably stick to small projects for now.

Our neighborhood has a community garage sale twice per year.  Yuck.  There are so many other things I’d rather do with my time than dig through other peoples’ unwanted crap so I can let it sit in my own garage until I donate it to Goodwill because I never did figure out how to affordably reupholster that old chair that would’ve been so perfect if it weren’t covered in that awful maroon velvet or where to hang that one painting that could’ve looked so cool in a retro sort of way if my entire house was cool in a retro sort of way.  Which it’s not.

And yet every six months I find myself getting up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday (which actually isn’t unusual anyway) to get to the “good stuff” before someone else nabs it.  What can I say?  We live in the stix and garage sales bring out my competitive side.

Plus, I love, love, love haggling with people.

At the last sale I snagged this set of mirrors.  The old lady wanted $15 for the pair, but I got her down to $8.  Sucka!

gold mirrors

Now I’m no designer, but I’ve watched enough HGTV to know nothing says style like gilded gold mirrors.  Right??

Okay, maybe not.  But I thought they might look cool if I spray painted them, because while the color is awful, the detail is kinda interesting.

mirror detail

So I covered the mirror part in frog tape and newspaper, bought some semi-gloss white spray paint, and went at it.  I don’t really care for spray paint with its non-environmentally friendly qualities.  But.  I wasn’t about to try to take a brush to the little nooks and crannies of these puppies.  In the end, laziness won-out.  But if anyone has “greener” suggestions, I’m open to ’em.

Spray Paint Mirrors

I’m actually pretty happy with the finished product.  Alaina thinks I should sand off some of the white for a more antiqued look.  I think Alaina should get her ass back in her kitchen and get it finished so we can see the final pictures already.  (You know I love you, A!)

What do you think?  I think I’m done.  Unless I decide to paint them a funky teal or something, which I’m seriously considering.

Now, as usual, I just need to figure out where to hang ’em.

finished mirror

Alaina’s Unique Flooring Solution

Do you all remember my friend Alaina and how we had so much fun demolishing her old kitchen and how she and her husband Dirk started the agonizing task of putting it back together again?  There was another progress check somewhere in there as well.  If you missed it, click on those links to catch up.
I asked her once to describe her granite counter-top buying experience for the blog, and now I’ve asked her to describe how she chose and installed her kitchen flooring material.  As with her counter top tale, I will periodically interject in this lovely green italic font, but here, in her words, is the saga of the flooring:
Flooring is a touchy subject.  You touch it every day around your house so it needs to meet certain needs.
Our needs (in no particular order):
  • Durable
  • Pretty
  • Easy to install because we don’t want to pay someone more than what the tile is worth to install it
  • Pretty
  • Not a temperature shock when you transition from different floor styles
  • Pretty
Now might be a good time for me to give my quick spiel on kitchen flooring.  Wood and laminate are great flooring materials because they’re warm, soft, smooth, and beautiful.  Unfortunately, they are both (yes, laminate too) susceptible to warping if exposed to water for long periods of time.  Since kitchens can have a considerable amount of water running through them (dishwasher, faucet, refrigerator, etc.), be warned that you’re taking a risk.  Tile, however, is much “safer” when it comes to water.  The drawback with tile is that it’s incredibly hard (this can be rough on your feet and back if you’re standing on it for long periods of time, not to mention the fact that you can kiss any dishes you drop good-bye).
Lucky for you (but too late for me), Alaina seems to have found the perfect kitchen flooring solution.
Considering all of these requirements of our floor, you might think it’s amazing that we actually picked one.  But we did, and we liked it so much that we purchased it twice!  We recently renovated our converted garage because it still looked, smelled, and leaked like a garage.  Yes, yes it did.  After discovering the source of the leak and fixing that, we gutted the room and fixed it up!  (I really hope to highlight this room renovation at a later date.  It is a fantastic garage conversion – perfect entertaining space, game room, movie theater.)
Through that project, we did a lot of research on flooring and found Congoleum DuraCeramic Tile(Sounds like something you’d contract in a trip to the Amazon.)
This “tile” is a limestone composite that comes in two patterns per color choice to offer variance in the floor.  It’s important to note that this is not a typical tile.  It’s softer than ceramic or porcelain tile, and warm to the touch.  Also, the installation process is quite a bit different than a traditional tile floor.

Congoleum DuraCeramic Tiles

With our dark cabinets and granite with a lot of movement, we wanted to pick a simple-patterned, light-colored tile.  I returned to my favorite flooring guy, Chad, at CarpetOne here in Durham, NC.  He provided me with every light color tile sample they had in the DuraCeramic, and from those, we picked 3 we liked best.
He even let us take those tile samples with us to look at granite so that once I picked my Atlantis granite slabs, I could pick my tile and order it.  We ended up selecting the “Sunny Clay” because it picked up the gold flecks in the granite we purchased.
Congoleum DuraCeramic Sunny Clay
Before they could install the new flooring, Alaina and Dirk had to pull up the old flooring.  Let’s stare at Dirk in complete awe for a moment, because ripping up FIVE layers of multi-flavored linoleum is NOT EASY!
Step 1:  Vigorous enthusiasm.

Tearing Out Floors

Step 2:  Quirky delirium.

Ripping Up Floors

Step 3:  Sheer exhaustion with a hint of annoyance directed at the person standing around taking the pictures.

Replacing Subfloor

Okay, back to Alaina.
We prepped our subfloor by cleaning it as well as we possibly could and actually ended up replacing some of it – due to rot from unnoticed small leaks.  It happens in an older home.
Then, in order to tie down some of the dust generated from the drywall, we primed the floor using a latex (not lamb skin?) primer.
Typically for a more square room, instructions recommend that you chalk-line the center of the room, but because our kitchen involved several doorways and paths, I did 3 chalk lines:
  • From the back door to the doorway at the bottom of the stairs
  • From the center of the main kitchen area
  • From the center of the doorway into the butler’s pantry

Here’s the nifty little chalk line tool, and uh… the chalk?

Chalk line tool

Then I plotted out all of the tiles so that I would know that the end of a row wouldn’t leave me with a tiny sliver of a tile.  This is a VERY important step, my friends!  As a seasoned tiler myself, you do not want to skip this dry-run, or you could find yourself making some very awkward (and visually unappealing) cuts at the end of a row.

Laying Out Tiles

Laying out duraceramic tiles

Because I had worked with this product before, and I had some more difficult cuts to make around the door trims, I “dry fit” every tile alone my initial path into place.  I made all of the cuts I needed and though it took me a bit longer than I expected, I am definitely happy that I did.  Trim sucks.

Bonus!!  Because these aren’t hard like porcelain or ceramic tiles, you do NOT need a tile saw or nippers to cut these.  A sharp knife will do the trick.

Cutting congoleum duraceramic tiles

Then I FINALLY got started with the glue!  Another big difference between this and traditional tiles – instead of dealing with messy mastic in small sections, Alaina applied special glue to the entire floor before beginning the install.  I glued my way over to the back door and from the butler’s pantry out to the kitchen.  Then I waited for the glue to tack up.  The 45 minute drying time is apparently just a suggestion, because it took more like 2 hours for it to tack up.  It was also raining that day so that might have had something to do with it.

glueing congoleum duraceramic tiles

Then, the first tile was laid into place, and the rest followed shortly after.  I separated my tiles out into the two patterns so that I could ensure I staggered them and turned them so they would look more like a ceramic tile.  (Way to finally make it look like you did some work, A.)

How to install congoleum duraceramic tiles

Dirk was a big help not only laying tile, but keeping me motivated to keep going until we had finished the project!  Oh did Dirk help?  I thought he just stood around taking pictures while you did all the work…

Grouting occurs within 48 hours of setting the tiles.  To do this, get your pre-mixed Congoleum grout, a grout float, a large bucket of water, a sturdy sponge and LOTS of patience.

Grouting congoleum duraceramic tiles

Grouting took almost as long to do as the tile installation, but when it was done, I had a very happy husband.

One final step was to remove the grout haze by taking an ammonia based window cleaner and scrubbing each tile, removing the cleaner with plain water.  And brute strength.

Remove grout from tiles

One more step big step complete!

You can see this is a bit of a tedious DIY process, but the end results are well worth it.  All the beauty and durability of a tile floor, but a much more comfortable standing surface.  Nice work, guys!  We can’t wait to see how everything comes together!