Friday, September 29, 2017

Bathroom Update - AKA Slow Progress is Still Progress

Holy Moly, folks... I feel like it's been forever since I've posted. Sorta feeling like I've been swallowed by my bathroom!


So, let's see... since I last blathered about this topic there have been many trials and tribulations, but I am making progress.

I was gonna go through each of my hurdles and whine about them all, but I decided that you're probably not all that interested. So here's the abbreviated version.

I had to install a new toilet shut-off valve and deal with a lead flange and lead bend drain pipe that weren't installed properly to begin with. This involved a week or two of research, and I thought I might actually have to tear out the sub floor and have the entire toilet drain re-plumbed. But I managed to come up with a solution that didn't involve going that far.

So then it was FINALLY on to the tiling part. As it turned out, Lowe's wouldn't cut the tile for me after all, so I ended up buying a wet saw - which turned out to have a bent blade... which I didn't realize until CatMan told me that the thing should NOT be vibrating so strongly that it walks across the workbench. So that had to be returned and replaced.

I ended up re-working my pattern a zillion times to come up with something that was both aesthetically pleasing and minimized the difficult cuts... I still butchered a few pieces of tile, but at least I didn't saw any fingers off.

Then I had to go on an adventure figuring out which sort of mortar to use for the underlayment and the tile... and it got complicated - and I ended up having to drive all over town to get the right stuff.

And then I had a bit of difficulty using the "single component" grout which resulted in me screaming at the top of my lungs at 1 o'clock in the morning after many, many hours of fighting with the stuff. At which point I realized that the window was wide open, and I started wondering if one of the neighbors was gonna call the cops. Nobody did... and I'm not sure if that's comforting or not.

But anyhow, the final step (so far) was to paint the hideous plastic wall tile... which I just finished a few hours ago.

Sooo.... there is still much to be done, but here's how it looks so far:





It's sorta hard to get a decent angle for a photo in such a small room, but you get the idea.

So tomorrow the toilet goes in... Oh, I can't wait to not have to run down to the basement bathroom umpteen times a day! And I really hope that the flange extender/repair system that I bought works!

I had to special order baseboards because I needed a funny height - but they should arrive next week. And now that the wall tile is all painted, the wall is looking quite dingy to me. I think maybe I'll paint it a very light gray color.

And, of course I need to replace that horrible mauve colored tub surround... but I did manage to get the shower diverter valve fixed... which means that I don't actually have to tear out the wall and replace the faucet, I can just do the tub surround. And once that's done, I can have the tub resurfaced.

Of course... doing all this makes me want to replace the sink with a vanity and replace the medicine cabinet... but that will mean tearing out the plastic wall tile and dealing with all that... so I think that part will have to wait a while.

I do think I'll get a new towel rack and replace the mini blind with a cellular shade though. And next time I have to deal with the sink I'll probably try to replace those plastic train pipes with chrome - it would look much better. And I really would like to deal with that horrible hole in the door...

Gah! Well, so far my little project, which I naively waded into thinking it would take me 2-3 days has taken about 5 weeks. Oy!

I suppose that's to be expected though, when you don't really know what you're doing, and every step of the way you have to stop and do a bunch of research and then bumble your way through. Thank God for the interwebs though. I can't imagine how anyone ever managed a DIY project without it!

Anyhow, that's pretty much what I've been up to for the past month! If I wasn't so tired, I'd go back and fill this post with cute kitty pictures, but instead, I think I'll just go collapse in bed.

Hope you're all happy and well, and enjoying the beginning of autumn!




Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Floor Too Far...

Well folks, I knew I was getting off easy by uncovering those beautiful floors under my horrible avocado green shag... apparently I shouldn't have pushed my luck.

I decided that I really needed to pull the horrible carpet in the bathroom. Partly because it was just horrible - really, who puts carpet in a bathroom? - and partly because one of the nests of carpet beetle larvae that I discovered was right at the bathroom doorway - and why would they stop at the doorway?


I didn't really feel up for a whole bathroom remodel. I didn't want to pull the toilet, or do major demolition... just wanted to get the carpet out of there. So I crafted a plan. I figured I'd just pull up the carpet to expose the ugly linoleum underneath, and then I'd cover that with a layer of cheap peel and stick vinyl flooring. Not a long term solution - but enough to give the room a small facelift and deal with the current problem.

And so I waded in. It only took an hour or two to get the carpet out, and here's what I found:


Alas, it was not just ugly, but also damaged beyond the point where my peel and stick solution was gonna work. But more seriously, I discovered that the toilet had been leaking for God knows how long. Soo.... out the window flew my "easy makeover" plans.

But I watched a few videos on pulling up linoleum and it didn't look too difficult...

And so, once again, I waded in. And... hmm...


None of the YouTube videos mentioned anything about tar paper! And the heat gun/iron/steamer removal method that looked so easy in the videos, only turned this flooring into a melted mess - which made removal much more difficult.

Turns out this floor was vinyl, not linoleum - which, I guess requires a different removal method. And the tar paper was used for waterproofing in older bathrooms. So after a few days of chiseling, scraping, grunting and cursing, I was left with this:


Gotta say, I was feeling pretty darned hopeless at this point. I scoured the interwebs with a new set of search terms, but everything I found showed people using steam or heat to remove this stuff. I don't know if I was dealing with a qualitatively different sort of tar paper or what, but heat just turned this stuff into... well, into tar - like roofing tar. I was lucky if I could get off one square inch at a time.

But then... then... I stumbled upon an unlikely savior! Late one night in a Googling frenzy I happened upon a video of a young woman in a similar situation, with a rather unorthodox solution. She took old towels laid them out on the floor, then saturated them with diet Coke and let it sit overnight. Then the tar paper just scraped off like butter!


It sounded sorta crazy, but it did trigger a memory from long ago. When I was in college I was on a work study program, and I spent my freshman year working in the cafeteria kitchen. One day while working on the cleanup crew, the fry cook handed me an empty pitcher and asked me to fill it with carbonated water from the soda machine. I couldn't quite figure out what she was gonna do with the stuff, and I was totally shocked when she dumped in on the griddle and the thick layer of grease just slid off! Turns out the carbonic acid in the carbonated water eats through grease.

Soo... perhaps the diet Coke woman wasn't crazy after all. And at this point, I really didn't have much to lose. I decided to use plain carbonated water instead of Coke, so I laid out my old towels, saturated them and let it sit... and sit... and sit...

It took 24 hours of soaking, and a razor blade floor scraper, but.... finally... success!


Whew!

But now what? Well, it turns out that vinyl peel and stick flooring isn't recommended for bathrooms unless you have an impervious layer like old vinyl or linoleum underneath it. So I've spent the last week or so doing extensive research on every flooring system on the market.

I seriously considered a next generation vinyl floating floor system - no glue, really easy to install, and waterproof, but there were just too many issues for me to want to go that way. First of all, it's vinyl... which means plastic. And while people are singing the praises of these systems, there are a few caveats to their use. You're not supposed to put them in rooms with a lot of direct sunlight - and this bathroom has a west facing window which bathes the room in sun all afternoon. The sunlight is problematic both because it heats the floor and causes expansion, and because it can cause discoloration. I have a friend who put white vinyl in her kitchen, and 2 years later she has a horrible yellow swath across the room from where the sunlight from the west facing window falls.

But more seriously, it really limits what you can do with the room going forward. Apparently you're not supposed to put permanent fixtures (like a vanity or pedestal sink) on top of this sort of flooring system, because the floor needs to be able to expand and contract with changes in heat and humidity. And since there's a real likelihood that the sink will need to be replaced sooner rather than later... well, I just didn't want to limit myself in that way.

So... ceramic tile it is! You know what they say... in for a penny, in for a pound!

And that's meant that I've had to immerse myself in researching underlayments, and tile, and mortar, and grout. Holy Moly! Who knew there were so many variables?

But after looking at quite literally thousands of different options, I've finally decided on a charcoal colored porcelain tile that gets rave reviews, should look great, and will leave many different doors open for whatever direction I decide to go with the rest of the room down the line.

And... the nice fellows at Lowes will cut the stuff for me as long as I can provide measurements!

So now I just have to work the puzzle and do a lot of math - oh... and pull the toilet... and then actually lay the tile... Oy! Wish me luck!

So tell me, have you ever gotten yourself in slightly over your head with a DIY home improvement project? I'd love to think I'm not the only one....



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

State of Confusion

Do you ever feel confused? Just confused in general?

I hate to admit this, but confusion is a bit of a life long affliction for me. Things that seem to be obvious to everyone else, just leave me perplexed. I've forever been told that the problem is that I don't pay close enough attention. So my whole life I've tried and tried and tried to pay closer attention, but honestly it's never really helped my confusion.


But today I had a bit of a revelation. It's sort of a long story, so bear with me...


OK, so yesterday was the solar eclipse - 92% here in Denver. I knew we wouldn't be seeing darkness, or the sun's corona, as you would if you were under the "path of totality" - but I had heard over and over that we would see crescent moon shaped shadows everywhere, and for this I was very excited.

I charged the battery on my camera, and I got all of my morning chores done early so I could be completely free for the entire time of the eclipse to witness the spectacular shadows.

And so I sat out on my front porch in the sun with my pinhole camera waiting for the shadows to appear. Once I could see the eclipse happening through the pinhole camera, I started to hold up random objects, waiting for them to cast moon shaped shadows. I tried everything I could think of - I held up my hand, held up my camera, held up rocks, and balls, and sticks, and leaves, and even the neighbor's cat.


I figured eventually something would cast one of those moon shaped shadows, but for all my trying, I got nothing.

See? Just leaves
So finally I gave up and decided to go pick some cucumbers in my garden. I guess I just figured I'd missed it... maybe it only happened at the height of the eclipse? Or maybe we weren't in the right place to see it? I was sorely disappointed though.

But today... today I hopped on the interwebs and discovered that several of my blogging buddies had posted pictures of these amazing crescent moon shadows... and suddenly it hit me.



It wasn't the shadows that were supposed to be moon shaped, it was the light between the shadows! Gah!! Why didn't all of the people on TV just say what they meant?

Then I had a funny feeling. I went and got my camera and looked at all of the pictures I'd shot during the eclipse. I did remember taking a few shots of some "funny light" on the back deck as I was heading out to pick the cucumbers... and sure enough:



Good GAWD!



Suddenly, a million other "moments of confusion" from throughout my life rushed through my mind.

I remembered my 9th grade science teacher trying in vain to explain to me how they could tell the distance of the moon using triangles and the Pythagorean theorem. She kept saying that all you need is three points and an angle... so you've got your location, and the moon, then you just pick another "known point" and you've got it.

Now, in my mind "your location" was the earth. So if you've got the earth as point one, and the moon as point two, then how can you possibly know the location of a third point, because wouldn't said third point also have to be an outer space object? So how could you know it's location without first having some other "known point" to find it? It's an infinite loop of sorts. I think that poor woman spent half an hour trying to explain this to me.


Finally it was my brother who explained that the mysterious third point could also be on the earth. WHY DIDN'T SHE JUST SAY THAT?!?!


And then there was the movie that CatMan and I watched last week.


I think we had to stop it 5 times because I got lost. Finally the big ending came and I totally did NOT understand. CatMan tried hopelessly to explain that xyz character had ended up with the money from the drug deal at the beginning.

"Drug deal?" I asked in perplexed confusion. "What drug deal?" It took me until the next day to realize that the entire plot revolved around this drug deal at the beginning of the movie which I totally missed because all I saw was something about a big suitcase and a key to an airport locker. If there was this big important drug deal that the whole plot revolved around, WHY DIDN'T THEY JUST SAY THERE WAS A DRUG DEAL? I guess it was supposed to be obvious... sigh.

And then there were all the posts on Facebook about Charlottesville, and what, if any blame should go to the "BLM people." Now... in my world "BLM" means the Bureau of Land Management - much of the forest land here in Colorado is BLM land.


Soo... I was confused about why the BLM had anything to do with Charlottesville. The best I could figure it had something to do with Cliven Bundy and his standoff with authorities over grazing rights on BLM land... but I didn't know they were in Charlottesville too. It took me several days of puzzling over nonsensical Facebook posts to realize that in this context BLM meant "Black Lives Matter."



Good lord! WHY DIDN'T THEY JUST SAY WHAT THEY MEANT?!?

So. My revelation is this: My perpetual state of confusion has absolutely nothing to do with paying attention. My problem is that I fail to make the right assumptions about what people meant, as opposed to what they actually said!

Perhaps I just suffer from "literal brain" syndrome. Sorta like the character in my favorite childhood books, Amelia Bedelia. Now she was a person I could understand!


Well anyhow. I'm not sure what good my little revelation does me, but it is interesting.

In the meantime, the flowers in my front yard have finally bloomed.


Hard to get too confused about that!

Hope you all enjoyed the eclipse... whatever you saw in the shadows!!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Finally Gone!

Well folks, I did it! The avocado green shag is officially history! I'm "otterly" thrilled!


So... here's my living room before:


And after:


I must say, I can't really believe the difference. It feels like a whole new house. Sooo much cleaner, and the whole room feels bigger.

Here's the other half of the room - with a brand spankin' new area rug which I love, love, love!


But the green shag wasn't just in the main room, it was also in the attached room - which was originally a bedroom, but at some point the house was remodeled - I think they used it as a dining room, but I use it as my office.



And it was also in the hall:


Whew!!


Of course, the work is not yet done as there are still a few issues to address. When the house was remodeled a wall was removed, and where the wall was there isn't any flooring.

That funny looking leopard fur cigar thing is Smoky's favorite toy...

I still haven't quite decided what to do about it yet. I found a few pieces of pre-finished hardwood at the Habitat Store that are a pretty good color match, so I might use them... the other option would be to just get a big hunk of oak and stain it to match as closely as possible.

There's a similar issue in the doorway to the hall - I guess they decided the door wasn't wide enough, so there's a small area there that will also need to be patched.

But all that can be dealt with later. At the moment I'm just thrilled that the floor is in such good shape and that I finally got it done!!!

I did uncover a few nests of carpet beetle larvae in the process of yanking, so hopefully I've finally got them all. Haven't seen a beetle in a week or so... keeping my fingers crossed!

I'll probably get a few more area rugs, and I have to paint the molding... actually I should probably paint everything... well, one thing at a time.

Anyhow, Jasper was a little freaked out by the wood floor at first, but as you can see, he's decided it's OK.



So that's what's been keeping me busy! Hope you're all doin' well!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Melancholy



I've been feeling blue of late, and this song won't leave my head. Nothing's wrong particularly, I just can't shake this sense of deep sadness. Maybe I take things too much to heart, but honestly, it just seems like everywhere I look, I see people being horrible to each other.

I suppose largely it's political. It just seems like our polarized politics have given people license to hate and blame each - and I seem to see humanity eroding everywhere I look. Discussions on NextDoor.com over stupid things like fireworks or graffiti have turned into virtual shouting matches, and don't EVEN get me started about healthcare, or Syria, or...

Maybe it's just me. Maybe I just need to have a thicker skin, or learn to ignore it all, I dunno, but it really feels like something fundamental is broken, and people are taking it out on each other. Well, at least I don't feel angry or scared anymore, just sad.

Anyhow, in other news, the carpet beetles have been trying to make a comeback, so I've finally begun the project of tearing out my hideous avocado green shag carpeting. It's rather slow, mostly because I have to cut it up into chunks to haul it outside. And ripping out those horrible carpet strips along the edges is the worst part. But the oak floors underneath are in remarkably good condition. Can't wait to get it all out of here!



And the front yard is looking much better. The volunteer marigolds are coming along wonderfully, and a few have started to bloom. Can't wait until they all do.


I also stuck a few other plants in there. This dianthus is doing quite well.


I'm slowly working on digging out the other half of the yard. It's too hot to plant anything now, but if I can get most of the weeds and remaining turf out by fall, my stepmom has a bunch of low water plants that she's going to separate and give me, so maybe by this time next year my xeriscape will finally be done!

CatMan and I have been riding up a storm. On one of our last rides, we ended up at Riverside Cemetery.


Riverside is Denver's oldest cemetery, and I must say, it really does put things into perspective. I think I'm already older than most of the people buried there.

The ones that always get me are the little babies. There are just sooo many who died before they even reached one year.



Well, that's about all the news from the funny farm. Here's wishing you all the same level of peace that Jasper seems to have achieved in this photo.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Darwinian Gardening Takes an Interesting Turn

Soooo... for about 20 years now, I've been slowly working on converting my front yard from grass (which is notoriously difficult to grow in this arid region) to xeriscape - AKA low water plants.

I'm slow and not terribly deliberate in this process, and my approach is decidedly "Darwinian" in nature. By that I mean that I don't put a lot of effort into it, and I figure that whatever can survive with a fair degree of neglect gets to stay, and if a plant dies out, it means it's not intended to be here in the first place! I'll admit it's a process fraught with fits and starts, but I have had some success.


My general plan has been to put plants around the edges, and leave a small patch of grass in the center part of the yard...


However, as you can see from the above photo, it would appear that mother nature has other plans! Apparently the neighborhood has been invaded with some sort of lawn fungus, and the majority of the grass in my front yard is dead.

Slightly out of focus, but you get the idea
Basically it was just dead brown grass with LOTS of bindweed poking through.

Soooo... I decided that since the grass was already dead, there wasn't much to lose by digging out the bindweed roots. Holy Kazoli folks! I didn't take any pictures, but there was a rather incredible network of roots about as big around as my little finger running horizontally under all that dead grass, with tap roots going straight down every few feet.

I'm under no illusions that I've gotten it all, but it's gotta make a dent, doesn't it?

Anyhow, my initial thought was that I'd just dig out the bindweed, and in the process I'd aerate the grass, and perhaps it would come back to life. And after a week or so I started to see all sorts of green sprouts in the parts that I had dug, so I thought perhaps it was working.


But on closer inspection I realized that the little green sprouts were not, in fact, grass - but rather... wait for it....


Yes! Those are marigold sprouts!


This presents a rather interesting situation. And after thinking about it for a few days, I've decided that in keeping with my Darwinian tradition, I'm going to "go with it" and just let the whole area be taken over by flowers!

There will be plenty of grass to dig out, especially since I didn't remove the grass when I first started digging out the bindweed - but that's OK.

And... I decided that this might be a good opportunity to see if any of the dozen or so packages of flower seeds that have been languishing in the land of good intentions out in the garage for the past 10 years or so have any growing potential left in them.


Sooo... I've been digging out the remaining dead grass and what feels like miles and miles of bindweed roots, and sprinkling a variety of flower seeds in the area. I've also got a bunch of wildflower seeds that I gathered along the bike path last fall, so I added those to the mix.

I bought some more soaker hoses - although at the moment things are pretty wet out there as it's been snowing (seriously) and raining for the past 48 hours or so.

I'm sure lots of the seeds won't take, but that's OK - the yard can't possibly look worse than it does now, and at least I won't have to haul around the sprinkler and mow the darned thing! Plus, I've got a bunch of plants that need to be separated, so I can fill in any blank areas with plants.

Any way you slice it, I think it's gonna be an interesting experiment!


So, does anybody else out there have any experience with Darwinian Gardening? I'd love to hear what has and hasn't worked for you!



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Whether it's Cold or Whether it's Hot...

...We Shall Have Weather, Whether or Not!


You know, Colorado weather is many things, but boring is not one of them!

So... let's see here. Where to begin. Our spring snow melted off quickly, and the weather turned beautiful again... well, mostly beautiful! We have had a bit of sever weather...

video

You'll have to pardon my mutterings at the end of the video - I fear I'm too lazy to figure out how to edit them out.

Anyhow, I'm feeling lucky in terms of the hail because neighborhoods a few miles north and west of me got absolutely clobbered with hail stones that were baseball sized!

Other than that little adventure, it's been mostly gorgeous.

Random shot from a bike ride last week


And I seem to have gotten my gardening mojo back a bit.

I planted radishes for the first time this year, and I have to call it a huge success!


They were super easy, and I'm already harvesting a few!


Turns out I LOVE radishes! You can eat them either raw or cooked - and the greens are edible too!

I haven't planted anything other than the "cool weather" stuff yet... which is probably a good thing because, get this, we're expecting more snow later this week! Oy!


I probably shouldn't complain since we need the moisture, but honestly, I am ready for summer. But in the meantime...

The snow peas are looking good, though they haven't bloomed yet.

Snow peas
I've been harvesting green onions for months now. They're going to seed, but still taste good. I've kept this batch alive for 10 years now. When I dig up a clump, I separate them and re-plant the smallest ones. As long as they have roots attached they'll take hold and keep growing & spreading.

Green Onions (with a few catnip invaders!)

The garlic patch has been totally invaded by grass and creeping bellflower. I haven't tried to dig any up yet, so we'll see how it goes. I don't have a great track record with garlic!

garlic patch

I wintered the rosemary over by keeping it in a Wall-O-Water. Just took it off a few days ago, and it seems to have weathered fine. I'm thinking I should probably cover it up again what with the snow coming!

Rosemary looking a bit scraggly but not too bad.

I kept frost cloth over the greens all spring - not because of the cold, but in an attempt to keep the leaf miners from laying their eggs on them.

Covered greens.

In terms of keeping the bugs off, it seems to have worked OK

Chard and Spinach

However, the spinach doesn't handle the crazy temperature swings very well, and most of it has bolted after putting on only a few leaves. Sigh.

Spinach starting to bolt.

BTW - my attempt at growing indoor spinach was a complete bust. The LED grow lights turned out not to be powerful enough, and when I moved it to the window sill Smoky ate it all. Gah!

And speaking of Gah! Here's my asparagus patch...

Asparagus fail!

What? You say you don't see any asparagus? Just some volunteer chives and a few sprigs of bindweed trying to take over. I know! Not sure what I'm doing wrong, but I'm about to throw in the towel with this stuff. I even caved and bought a dozen more sets of roots this year, but only two of them sprouted (which you can see scant evidence of in this photo.) Perhaps I'm just not meant to grow asparagus!

Anyhow, the only other thing I've planted is a garbage bag of potatoes.

Potato experiment
This is a bit of an experiment. I've had mixed luck with growing potatoes for a combination of reasons. Our soil is mostly clay, so I think that gives them some trouble, and I haven't found a good way to properly mound them as they grow. Sooo... in theory, growing them in bags lets you add prepared soil rather than clay, and it's easier to mound. Plus, you don't have to (ahem) worry about destroying half of them as you harvest.

I've tried container potatoes before, but I over watered them, so I cut some nice drainage holes in the bottom of the bag, and I'm gonna be more careful this time. We shall see...

So that's the news from the Mile High city! Have you planted anything yet?