Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dining Room Drapes

The dining room is on the south side of the house and since there is little shade on this side, it gets warm in the afternoon. You can stand by the windows and feel the heat pouring through. Admittedly, we need new windows. But we can't quite afford them yet. We still have so much left to do that will require moola. So, I got to thinking about how we are multi-purposing this room. We are using the serving counter as office/workspace and we are thinking about using it as a multi-media room, too. We figure that you could put a flat screen tv on the wall directly opposite from the windows. We could replace the dining room chairs with something more lounge-y like and it would be quite comfy. Obviously, though, the windows would let in more light than we would like. We would need good drapes to block the light. Drapes that block light are usually good insulators, too. So I went shopping.

I learned that buying such drapes can get quite pricey. However, at Hancock's Fabrics I found beautiful fabric on sale and ordered it. Then I went to JoAnn's Fabrics and found blackout fabric on sale. Some thread, labor, rings and a curtain rod later--we have blackout drapes. I completed them this past Tuesday. They are quite heavy and they definitely will block light, heat and cold. When open, they are a substantial counterbalance to the deep terra cotta wall and the bookcases.

One huge plus right now is that they give the dining room more of a finished look. I need something to look finished around here. We still have tons of trim work to do in the three rooms we have "finished". And the dining room and kitchen still need to be grouted, I need to finish the backsides of the cabinets under the serving bar. A few of the shelves for the bookcases need to be recut (I was tired and made a few sloppy cuts--now I pay for that.) And everything needs base trim and quarter rounds. So, I keep working.
This week I am beginning the grout work in the dining room. Grout work is not especially mentally challenging but it is physically challenging. Since I can't kneel--too many injuries to the knees--I stoop/bend over. I can only do that so long. Since I grout in small batches though, this isn't really a problem. It does strengthen my back and shoulder muscles. Yep, I noticed that this morning. I finished half the dining room yesterday. If the weather will cooperate, I'll keep working on it today. Oh, yes. It rained this morning. Still looks a little ominous out there. Obviously, I don't grout outside but I do my clean up out there and I try to keep the pups outside while I am working so that they don't get into the grout and leave little grouty prints everywhere. I can't make them stay in the mud and rain all day. So, I am waiting to see if the weather will clear. Chances are good for a little sun this afternoon. In the meantime, I can do a little prep work.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Master Bedroom

We made a concerted effort to get the master bedroom liveable. Phil screwed the backer board down. I laid the tile and grouted. Phil came back in and patched the wall and ceiling from where we removed the old closet. Together we painted the walls an icey blue that is almost white except when the light is low. And we painted the ceiling white.
Though there are still some things left to do: install ceiling fan, baseboards, touch ups on paint, drapes--we moved in. Hallelujah!! We have been sleeping in the living room on a trundle bed, the equivalent of two twin beds. It is so nice to be able to sleep together again. The pups love it that we have coffee and puppy cookies together in bed every morning. It is our time to commune together. We needed this. We all did.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Dining Room Lights

I haven't blogged in awhile. In mid-August we seemed to hit a wall. We were tired. Just couldn't muster the energy or enthusiam. We did some small things, I stayed with the grandkids while Katie went to Cancun, we rested a little. It helped that Dan the electrician was scheduled to come do some work the weekend after I returned from Fredericsburg.

Our air conditioner compressor went out. Thankfully it was under warranty. Took about a week to get it replaced. Dan checked the circuits feeding the a/c just to make sure they were all in good shape. He did replace one plug. Then he went to work installing the dining room light and the pot lights above the desk/serving counter.

Dan also installed two electric plugs under the counter. Yep, I know it's a mess. I think this shows the concept works well. It's getting used. Phil and I can both plug in without having to hunt for a plug. We sit facing each other, one on one side of the counter and the other on the other side. We have killed a good bit of time here. and who knew those little lights would be sooooooo handy. They brighten things up quite a bit. Putting those in was a good call.

Dan installed two more plugs in the master bedroom. That room only had two plugs. sort of inconvenient. That means we could only put the bed in one place. Now with the two extra plugs we can put the bed where ever. We also installed an extra tv cable outlet so we that moving things around will be no big deal.
While Dan did all this, I grouted the pantry floor tiles. Turned out to not be so hard. I was sort of so to get into this because I had it in my head that is was difficult. Physically it is but it takes no genius to grout. One of the tools Phil brought home from his Home Depot tile class was a bag that looks an awful lot like a pastry bag. The experts recommend filling the bag and squirting out the grout....just like cake icing. I got to thinking about it and decided that there is an easier way.
I took a one gallon plastic zip top freezer bag. Put my grout and water in, sealed it and squished it around a bit to mix it. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Squished it around again. Then I took it to my worksite, snipped off a lower corner and squished out the grout. Works just like the bag Phil bought but I don't have to clean it up. When done, I just throw it away. If I need to stop in the middle, I just tie it off with a rubber band or a twist tie. The grout stays good much longer than if it was open to the air. Woohoo!

I have grouted half the back splash and the tiles under the refrigerator and stove. Finally, no more cardboard under the appliances. Glad to see that stuff go. We'll be able to keep the kichen a lot cleaner now. By the way, I had thought about switching to a grey grout but Phil talked me out of it. I'm glad he did now. The grout goes perfectly with the wall color in the kitchen and dining room. Dirt color. You'd think we were all a bunch of UT fans with all this burnt orange!
Back to the master bedroom. I managed to get the tile laid last week. Phil worked on the walls this weekend Got 'em all patched up and textured. Then on Sunday, we painted. Phil likes blue. I don't do blue. Usually. But after 16 years together, I guess I can do blue. I chose a blue that is really quite pale. In strong light it even looked white. In the late afternoon, it looks pale blue. Seems strong to me even with the white ceiling. I am glad that I didn't pick a darker blue.
This morning I wen to work grouting. Got about 2/3 of the floor grouted. Can't stand up straight now but I'll take an Aleve and finish it tomorrow.
Recently Hancock Fabrics had a huge sale on decorator fabrics. I picked up curtain material for the bedroom and the dining room. The curtains for the master bedroom will be pale blue with a blue and green cornice. Gotta have a little green in the room. I'm hoping the green bedspread will work with the room, too. We'll see. The drapes in the dining room will be a luscious olive green with champagne, burnt orange and deep green floral. That fabric had to be special ordered but I still got the sale price on it. So after I get done with construction work, I'll have to haul out the sewing machine. I don't mind though. With a little work and creativity, we'll have beautiful drapes.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


The desk is a hit already! Phil and I quickly moved in and claimed our spots. It is wide enough that we can work at the desk together without being in each other's way. Woohoo!! We love it. And there is plenty of room for a dining room table. The space for the dining room is about 10 x 10. When we have company, we'll put the computers away and use the desk as a serving bar.

One challenge for us will be to resist dumping things on the end of the desk. You can see that we have already begun doing that. It is awfully easy to do. We will also need to get two chairs...alike. But that is later. Now we are working on tile.

Phil first laid out the pantry and under the kitchen appliances to get the hang of tiling. Then he tiled most of the kitchen. Today I tried my hand at tiling. Damn! That's hard work. I am convinced that if a tiler ever demands that you do something for it! Tilers have got to have tremendous physical stamina and upper body strength that is to die for. On the other hand, we got a good bit of tile laid for a couple of wimpy book worms.

You can see from the photo on the left that it is going to look pretty good. this pic was taken from the front door. We laid all the tiles with the dots on them today. We put the dots on them so we will remember not to step on them.

We have also put tiles out for Monday's work. They're the ones without the dots (to the right of the cat). We also put out the tiles which run at a 90 degree angle to that long run you see from the front door. We have them laid out just so we can stay on track. With this long a run of tile it would be easy to get out of line and make the whole thing look like amateurs laid the tile. So we are trying really hard to keep everything square as possible.

You can't see it but we have little spacers between the tiles. That helps us line them up properly. They hurt when you step on them in your bare feet, too.

I've been unpacking book boxes. I am trying to put the books out in some logical order. Not Dewey Decimal System or anything like that but by type: Theology, all Biblical References, Biographies, History, World Culture, Computer, Novels, etc. Within category by author or editor. That makes putting books up a bit slower than I would like but I would like to have some order to them, if possible. I'll get back to unpacking and organizing books after we finish the tile, though. Tile has got to take priority. School starts week after next for Phil and that means that I will do what I can and then save the hard stuff for him for weekends. He'll love that. On the other hand, I may be pressed to learn how to do some things I would not have tried. I'll love that.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Countertop Install

The guys from Best Countertops arrived at about 9:30 this morning. They went right to work installing the counter top. This time they were the correct color.

One of the guys spoke little English and the other, who spoke excellent English, was clearly his apprentice. The discussed things often in Spanish. While I could not understand everything they said, I could certainly understand what they were talking about. Gradually it became clear that there was a problem.

Apparently, the center piece and the right-hand side had been fabricated at the shop but it was four inches too long. At first glance that does not sound like a big deal. But...the right and left hand are mitered to the center section. They knew that if they trimmed the left hand they would be running the risk of not getting the angle correct. After much discussion, making up their minds about what to do, more discussion, changing their minds, and more discussion, they decided to attempt to trim the center section on their own. Sure enough, the angle was a little off but these guys are masters at figuring out how to make it work. And they did.

The wall is kind of mangled in a couple of places. Nothing I can't fix. The apprentice spent a lot of time "fixing" the left hand seam and he did a good job. The breakfast bar has a 1/4" gap between wall and counter that is filled with gobs of filler that is supposed to harden. I keep thinking this will be okay when it is covered by the backsplash. It was a tense morning. These guys did a good job.

The counter top for the desk/serving bar in the dining room was installed with much less drama. But, of course, it is a simple straight counter. We may have to add a support for the center but for now, it is fine. I may work with Dan to build some kind of support that can incorporate the electric we want want under the counter top.
It is very nice to sit in here and work on my computer and be able to look out the window. It is light and airy. Books are beginning to fill the shelves. Nice.
We will have to buy two chairs that will work at this desk. It is an inch or two higher than a regular desk but not as high as a counter top. That seems odd to me as it is supposed to be at table height...30 inches. Instead it is 33 1/4 inches. Mmmmm. I measured the kitchen cabinets. They are at about 36 inches with the counter top installed. I'm wondering if we will need to buy counter height chairs. Decisions, decisions.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Almost a Kitchen!

Yes!! It's almost a kitchen! Okay, not quite but at least its a functional kitchen. Here's what happened. The countertops were supposed to be delivered and installed on Thursday (yesterday). The guys got here 3 hours late and went right to work. I kept thinking something was not right. So I went and found my sample of countertop and compared it to the countertop they were installing. Sure enough, it was about two shades lighter. One of the guys called his office. Turns out someone made a mistake as they made out the work order. They offered me a $250 cash card if I would accept this countertop. I was insulted and told them the only way I would accept it was if they sold it to me at a 50% reduction. The manager backed off and said they would make a new countertop for me and that it would be ready on Monday. They will install the sink since I have Paul the plumber coming Friday (today) to do all the plumbing installs. And they said they would leave the main portion of the cabinet so we would at least be functional.

Paul the plumber brought his little boy Paul, Jr. to work with him today. He was a good little boy and was very helpful to his Dad. Paul installed cutoff valves on the sink and a new u-trap, and then hooked up the sink. He installed the dishwasher. Yippee!! And installed the line to the refrigerator for ice and water. Then he went out to the backyard and installed a pressure regulator to reduce water pressure to the house from 120 psi to 65 psi. That will keep all our appliances from blowing up. And everything works; no leaks. Ahhhh.

I cooked dinner in my newly functional kitchen. It's not done yet but at least its functional. The new sink is just perfect. I was able to get my entire wok into it. My new chopping block, which arrived yesterday and we had to put together (thank God for an education and a lot of common sense), was sooo nice. Admittedly the cardboard on the floor is a trip hazard but that will come up once we finish the floor and get little feet for the appliances. Admittedly there's no door on the pantry but that will be replaced once the floor is finished. Admittedly, the dishwasher is a tip hazard until the new countertop is installed but at least it works and will be anchored more better after the tile under it is installed. We really need to finish the floors. And that is the next project. To begin work on the tile in earnest.

And, I have started the process of unpacking book boxes. It will take awhile to get all the books organized. I have to find room for my books and Phil's and have them somehow organized enough to find particular books when we want them. For now, I have stacks of books in different places and particular sections designated for particular topics. It is nice to pick them up, touch them, smell remember them as the old friends we know them as. I look forward to unpacking them all.

Monday, July 28, 2008


It has been about 9 days since my last blog. I kept thinking I would get to it but at the end of the day....there was no energy. So today, I am blogging to get caught up and I am starting early in the day.

We bought more backer board and Phil got it laid. We still have a wee bit more that needs to be bought for the dining room. Meanwhile, I began painting in the dining room/office area. The dogs, Bucky and Sam, supervised. These are the walls before being toned down.

This next picture shows the walls after application of stain. Again, like in the kitchen, I dry brushed oak stain onto the walls and then went back over it with a cheese cloth covered sponge. I don't wipe the walls. I kind of smudge them. The resulting color is a bit richer and darker with quite a bit more interest than a plain painted wall. And this dried quickly, more quickly than the kitchen did. Don't know why there was a difference there but I was glad for it. One thing I did notice was that I had to be very careful "smudging" because the old texturing was very sensitive and tended to break off easily. That required touch ups later.

Here you can see the contrast between the walls and the bookcases. Keeping the bookcases white adds lite and color contrast to the room. They also keep the room from being overwhelmed by the color. Hopefully, we can start putting out books soon.
You can see in the distance and in the pic below that I have already started putting things on the kitchen shelves. Couldn't wait any longer. Besides, I think we are done creating a lot of dust in this space.

We have purchased counter tops from Home Depot. The guy who came to measure and make the template said we could have them installed by this past Saturday. No joy. The scheduler called and said the earliest they could do it would be August 1st. I was terribly disappointed because Saturday was Phil's birthday. The only thing I had planned to give him was a functioning kitchen. I was in a funk for several days. Then I decided to just start using the kitchen anyway. The old table top from the garage sale table, though too wide, now rests on top of the cabinets. We can at least prepare food in front of the window, with light. By the way, I made picnic salads and we bought Church's fried chicken, spread a blanket on the living room floor and celebrated Phil's birthday on Saturday. We did not work on the house. We rested!

Phil also finished the pantry shelves. They are super sturdy. Once they were all in place I screwed a 2 x 4 flat to the top of the canned goods shelf. This will provide for a little height for the those cans in the rear of the shelf. Make things easier to find. And then I repainted everything. Once dry--and I could hardly wait for that--I began unpacking boxes and loading the shelves. Between Phil's kitchen, my kitchen at Falfurrias and the makeshift kitchen we have here, I found lots and lots of dupes. I have enough poultry seasoning to season all the chicken on "Chicken Run". Won't need to buy any of that for awhile either. We will not be buying pork and beans for a while or pasta. Some things that we use a lot, we just have a lot of. And easily, one half of one of these long shelves is taken up by spices. So, I have decided to build a spice rack so I can free up the shelf space and see the spices. But it is nice to have everything in one place where it can be seen, sorted and used easily.
Today, Phil will lay his first tiles. He prepared all afternoon yesterday. Measuring, dry layout, consultation, adjusting, marking. He'll start with the pantry. Next we'll pull the major appliances away from the wall in the kitchen and get the underneath tiled. While he is working with all that and doesn't need me, I will be sanding and priming the stock from which I will make my spice rack. That sucker will be 18" x 36". Should hold all the spices I have and then some. I hope.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Little DVD Storage

I have been putting off the job of building a little storage unit for a space created by the kitchen cabinets. I have been putting it off because I've never done anything like this. Oh, sure Phil and I built bookcases but we had a plans we downloaded from the Internet. For this job, I would have to make my own plans. I was a little nervous. And I could put it off no longer.

When we installed the kitchen cabinets, the corner unit--a lazy susan and not quite as deep as a regular cabinet--left a gap about 6 inches deep. Wasted space! I thought maybe I could make a little storage unit for DVDs since this side faces the living room. So last night I went to work measuring and drawing. There was just enough scrap left over from the bookcases to make the whole thing from red oak. Admittedly, I did have to cut two of the shelves across the grain but I did strengthen them with a 1 x 2 facing. I tried, as much as possible, to emulate the design of the bookcases for continuity's sake. I think I succeeded. To my immense delight, the little unit slid right into place, flush with the wall. We'll put a piece of backing board on the cabinet to the right and it will then be flush with the cabinet. Do we paint or stain? That's the next question. But I won't think about it today. I stuck some DVDs in the unit for the picture so you can get a feel for its size.

While I was working on this project and doing laundry, Phil textured the one remaining dining room wall. He has gotten quite good at applying texture. He did a really nice job. After that he went back to work on the pantry. Each shelf has a center cleat that is 18-inches long and two brackets. Today he installed the center cleats and began screwing down all the brackets and then anchoring the shelves to the cleats. It is a tedious job. Lots of screws. He's not done yet. There's probably another full day of work left in there.

All in all, a productive day. Monday I'll be painting in the dining room and hopefully putting the finishing paint on the pantry shelves.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wrapping Everything in Plastic

While Phil worked on installing cleats for shelves in the pantry, I wrapped everything in the dining room in plastic. After the shelves are installed, Phil will be applying texture to the exterior of the pantry and around the opening to the kitchen. The most time consuming part of that task is preparing the work site. Since Phil also has to prepare for Fall classes and wrapping the world in plastic requires no special skill, I wrapped.

I covered the bookcases with huge sheets of plastic and taped it. I covered the ceiling fan with garbage bags and taped every possible opening. I covered all door openings with sheets of plastic which are are kind of folded back for now but ready.

Its actually a good thing I had nothing to do that required any skill. The cat was up in the middle of the night barfing. I mean really barfing. She's 22 years old and her digestive system does not work all that well. sometimes. I sat with her while she barfed. She was very vocal and clearly agitated. After a while I picked her up and held her and petted her. She relaxed. And peed all over my feet. I put her down and she crawled into a corner and went to sleep. It sort of reminded me of when my daughter was little and woke up sick in the night. "Momma, momma, I don't feel so...." and she puked cherry Kool-Aid all over me. "Do you feel better now?" "Yes" "Okay, go back to bed." Yes, that really happened. I still can't drink cherry Kool-Aid. Fortunately, I'm not into catfood. But I also didn't sleep all that good either. So, I'm tired and cranky today. I used a lot of tape and little to no finesse when I taped all that plastic up.

Meanwhile, Phil got 20 cleats installed--1 for each end of each shelf. When the taping was done and the cleats installed, I painted one side of each shelf. Tomorrow after he installs the center cleat and the brackets, I'll flip the shelves and paint the other side. Then we'll screw the shelves in place and we will have a pantry. That means we'll be able to put things in it. Functional! It won't be long now.

I went to Home Depot and paid the balance on the countertop. They should be calling me soon to let me know when it will be installed. I am getting impatient. It will happen before we know it and then we will begin to tile. Woohoo!


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ready for Countertops

We get done with one project and then we have another! We both wanted to just rest after we got the shelves done but Home Depot had a sale on countertops. So, off we went to Home Depot. I was uncertain about what kind of countertop to buy. Laminate is the least expensive but I really like a poured counter top. Granite is too expensive. So we looked at our choices. Surprise! Phil found the perfect laminate to bring the kitchen together. (This picture gives you an idea of what it looks like but doesn't show the color as well as it could.) This choice was much better than any of the other choices. "Sedona Bluff" by Wilsonart. So laminate it is. We paid for that and knew they would be calling us soon. And they did. We set up the appointment to have the template of the counter top made for Monday, July 14th. That means we had some work to do and a timetable for doing it. We went to work.
Phil laid cement backer board throughout the kitchen to level the floors and ready it for tile. The backer board had to extend to the dining room as well. We are creating a serving counter and desk area there. In this picture you can see the cardboard wrapped cabinets. I have tried various configurations. There are two 15-inch drawer units and one 18-inch base unit, vanity height. At first I thought I would kind of stagger them as you can see in this pic but in the end, I decided to put the two 15-inch units together to form the end base (and make the drawers very accessible for when we come home...the perfect place for keys, handbags, etc. and Phil gets one, I get the other.) This actually gives us a very open space where two people can work side by side on either side of the counter. Great as an additional place to eat, serve or work. You can see the backer board on the floor in the picture on the right.

Backer board is not hard to install: lay it down, position it and screw it in. Cutting around corners and stuff doesn't appear all the hard either. But Phil wanted to make sure he was getting the best coverage possible. That took a little time. Me? I would have just eyeballed it and screwed it in place. Phil's way is undoubtedly better but it takes more time. He ended up putting in two very long days. After the backer board, then he had to level and anchor the cabinets. That turned out to be pretty much a one person job. Great for me? No. It is actually stressful watching someone else work really hard. So, at every step I asked, "You'll tell me if I can help, right?" Occasionally he did ask for help and I was able to provide some, I hope. My questions and suggestions may well have given him some unneccessary grief so I tried to respect what he was doing. In the end, he did a very good job. All the cabinets are level and secure--ready for the counter tops.

At one point during all this, I returned "THE SINK" to Lowe's. Turns out, the sink base is not centered under the window. It is actually left justified. That big, beautiful sink would have been off center under the window, too. That would have looked dumb. So, back it went. I ended up choosing this one by Kohler. It measures 25 x 22 inches and if we right justify it in the sink base it will be centered under the kitchen window. That will look way better. Hated to see that big sink go but this one is still a good size. Looks small in the pic but it's bigger than it looks. It will work very nicely. Sadly, it was a good deal more expensive than the other. Stainless steel. At least it will match the light and the handles/knobs I plan to purchse for the cabinets.

Phil finished his work at about 10:00 p.m. Sunday night. We did go to church on Sunday morning, then out to lunch but he did not get much rest after that. He worked very hard. I think he was more than glad to get back to school on Monday morning. The countertop guy showed up, took his measurements, made his template. I sanded and primed wood. My next project is to build a pantry.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Kitchen Shelves...finally!

Yes! We finished installing the kitchen shelves today. It took way longer than we thought it would but they do look good. And I say that knowing that tomorrow I will spend the day buffing burrs out of the those places where we wacked the brackets while we drilled. I say it knowing that I will have to repaint spots on shelves and walls and one place on one wall will have to be patched. But they do look good and I should be able to do all the finish work tomorrow. And my shelves will look even better. I saw a kitchen in a magazine that had open shelving but they had made their brackets out of wood. They looked contrived. Ours look way better.

Here's what we learned. We have to work together. We have to be patient with each other. I tend towards dyslexia when I'm tired and get things measured and put together all bassackwards. Phil gets tired and bullies the wood. Eat. Remember to eat. Take breaks. It doesn't all have to be done today. Let the task dictate the rythm. Think about work arounds. We wanted those corners to come together neatly and our first thought was to run out and buy L-brackets. We stood there for the longest time before we realized all we really need to do was drill a hole and screw them together. Think alternatives.
Phil brought home yellow roses tinged with orange. They are beautiful. in the kitchen. Obviously accents in this room will need to be yellow and green. We'll have to find something to put above the stove with those colors. I think a little blue would be nice. Sounds like a trip to the flea market to me.
We will also begin putting base cabinets in place and locking them down. We have to have all this done by Monday because that is when the countertop guys will come to make the template for our countertops. They say the cabinets have to be installed before they can make the template. Makes sense to me. If they aren't installed they could get moved about and then the counter top wouldn't fit. We are paying too much $$ to have it not fit.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Kitchen Shelves

Thinking I could do better than one shelf in three hours, I gave it a try. Not only did I not do better, I did much worse. Managed to punch two holes in the wall that will have to be patched. This is no fun. Slept on it and yesterday morning, Phil and I set aside our egos and worked on this together. We mananged to get two shelves up without incident and in only two hours. Now we know what we are doing. Hopefully, we will get a few more up today. After they are all up, I will have to go back and patch the walls, apply touch up paint to brackets, shelves and the walls and I am okay with that. Let's just get them up. And they are sturdy enough, they will not be coming down any time soon. The main thing is that we have learned that we must set aside our pride and will to work together. And neither of us can invest our sense of self-worth into whether or not we can get a bunch of shelves on the wall. Just git her done. Move on.

We went to Fredericksburg yesterday after putting up the two shelves. We both had dental cleanings with Veronica. Visited with Mo and cousin Sandy. Spent a little leasure time at our home there. Raided my daughter's freezer for dinner and then headed home well rested and ready to go back to work.


Monday, July 7, 2008

A Microwave Shelf & the Sabbath

I did not ask Phil to try again but he did. After dinner, he went back to work on the shelf and got it put up. I know the picture is a little fuzzy but you can still see how it looks. I had originally planned to put a stainless steel restaurant style food prep table under it but I am now rethinking that. Especially since Phil has put the kitchen cabinets in place. Maybe a butcher block topped table...I'll look for plans for how to build one. In the meantime, it is soooo nice to have the refrigerator and the microwave in the same room. And egads! the stove is right next to it. Three appliances in one place!! I know it is only temporary...until we start putting down tile...but I am enjoying it.

Yesterday, we did not work. We both did a little planning but no work. One of the things we have been really enjoying is taking our Sabbath. For us observing the Sabbath means going to worship, spending time together, and resting. Going to worship has been difficult because with this move and my change in job, we have no church home. A church anchors us and we both miss it terribly. We keep trying different churches but have not found one we are happy with. We did find one where the people were sooo nice but I am not happy with the theology we heard there. By theology, I mean that I am expecting to hear about God's grace and mercy. Judgement is certainly an important topic but I need to hear grace and mercy. Yesterday we found one where the theology was right on but the people were as unfriendly as you could ever expect to find. We continue searching.

After our lunch, the newspaper and our nap, we both woke with our heads wrapped around the next project. Phil spent a good deal of time working on how the tile will be layed out. I mapped out how big the dining room table will be. yes, I plan to build my own table. When the neighbors across the street had a garage sale and in amongst the stuff was a 36 x 60 table. The base is metal with a small amount of curleyque. Kind of looks like it was manufactured in the 80's. I bought it for $15. The current fake butcher block top will be used in some other project. But the base will be painted flat black and I plan to make a table top that is 48 x 72. Back when we were in Fredericksburg, a granite company went out of business and I raided their abandoned scrap heap for large junks of polished granite. Got lots of different colors. It will be used now to make a mosaic table top to go on the metale base. It will be heavy but that is why the base needed to be metal.

We both have such grand ideas. These will have to wait until later. Right now Phil is trying to fix the a/c and we are planning to make a run to Navy Federal as we are out of checks. We can't order the countertops without a check. So, as soon as the a/c thing is corrected, we are off to do the other chores. Maybe we'll buy some backer board for the tile while we are there.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Shelves for the Kitchen

This morning I went to work on the shelves for the kitchen. I had primed, cut, and assembled most of the shelves yesterday. This was supposed to be an easy day. Supposed to be. Okay, it wasn't bad in the morning. The temperature outside was quite tolerable. The shelves previously built needed some wood filler, so after setting up my table saw, getting the primer, laying out the plastic, I sat down and filled nail holes with wood filler. Set those out to dry. Sent Phil off to Home Depot for a class on laying tile. Gave all the shelves a coat of primer. Cut wood for the remaining three shelves. Ate lunch and went back out.

It was so hot when I went back out. Couldn't believe it. The good part is that everything dried in half the time--wood filler, primer, paint, me. It quickly became apparent that if I was going to survive the afternoon, I had better paint in shifts. Found a little shade in front of the garage and assembled the other three shelves, filled nail holes with wood filler and set those out to dry. Took a break. Went back and primed the three shelves, gave the other shelves a little additional primer where needed. Went back in. This is a little like the scientists in the Antarctic who can only go outside for a limited amount of time only instead of cold, we're dealing with heat here in San Antonio. Went back out and painted everything. Lookin' good.

After a little rest and cool down, finally a breeze. Of course it was on the leading edge of a thunderstorm so I moved all the wood under the eave in front of the garage, put away some of my tools and went to work cutting cleats for the shelves. Finally, all done. Where's Phil?

After coming back from Home Depot, he moved all refrigerator and the base cabinets into the kitchen for a dry fit. Wow! I sure like the way it looks. The sink base is kind of poking out because we haven't cut the holes in the back of the cabinet for the pipes yet. Gotta decide how best to procede from here. Phil wants to level the entire kitchen area since that will have to be done in order to lay the tile. (He learned that today.) The cabinets are going to take some considerable leveling so why not pull them out and level the whole floor. That should reduce the amount of shimming and theory.

So Phil spent a little time researching what he will need to get that done. He is working on his plan for the tile.

Hey, hang one shelf! It would be easier to hang them before we put the base cabinets in place. You can see they are waiting. So am I. Phil went to work planning where the microwave shelf will go. Search for studs. Pre-drill holes for the cleat. I had intended for the cleat to go up first and then to mount the shelf on the cleat and secure the brackets. The secure the shelf to the cleat. Phil's idea is to attach the shelf to the cleat first and put the whole thing up. Only thing is the cleat is hard wood and the screws kept getting stripped. An hour and a half later, no shelf up, husband is totally frustrated and I am just trying to not lose my religion. Time for dinner. Quit for the day. These shelves will be here tomorrow. So will we. At least they are made.

July 4th in the hood

Yesterday, I mostly worked on making kitchen shelves. You can see the ones I completed in this picture. I take a length of board, cut it to size on the table saw. Then I take a length of 1 x 2 and cut end pieces and a front piece to face the board. I glue and nail the end pieces on and then face all with the third piece of trim. This will be mounted on a cleat on the wall and supported by two shelf brackets. Out to hold just about anything. I'll do something similar for the pantry.
At the end of the day, I shove everything back into the garage from whence it came. Locking the garage door is done by nailing a length of board at the top of the door so it can't be opened. Nailing it in place is the last thing I do each day. And it was what was doing when I hit my thumb. Man that sucker bled a lot. It's sore today but there's no blood blister and I won't lose my nail. Ha!

Late yesterday afternoon as I was preparing to cut another length of wood, some of the teenagers who hang out across the street came out and headed east. Five girls and one boy. One of the girls was falling down drunk or drugged. Couldn't tell which. Might have been both. I heard one of the girls say, "She took my shot". Probably doing tequila shooters or something. Parents were not home. Anyway, the guy was yelling at one of the other girls to take care of her friend. There seemed a general reluctance to do so as she was sitting in the street drooling like she was going to puke. That girl was way drunk. I put my stuff down and went out into the street. I asked if they needed me to call 911. No, No they said, we're taking her home. Are her parents home? Yes. You know she could die from alcohol poisoning or she could lay down, puke and die by drowing in her own vomit. She can't be left alone. Are her parents home? Will someone be with her? yes, yes. They picked her up and one on either side of her walked/dragged her down the street.

Another boy appeared on the scene just as they were dragging her away. He assured me that they would take care of her. How old is she? Eighteen. Still too young to be drinking alcohol. Were drugs involved? No. Just drinking. Go take care of your friend. Make sure someone stays with her.

The parents, who had just recently arrived, came out and got in their truck. Visited briefly with them. Voiced my concern about the girl again: too young to drink, to drunk to be left alone as could die by either cause which I voiced again. We didn't know. We weren't here. Hey, we're the grownups. We have to make sure they understand this kind of behavior is unacceptable. Yeah, yeah. Drive away.

The other day a possum turned up in one of the neighbors fenced in front yards. Their dogs were playing with it. They had no tags on--were they vaccinated for rabies and distemper? This couldn't be good for them to be playing with a possum who was playing possum but snarling and showing his teeth. Reverse lookup on the web showed no phone number. Googled the address and found a website with their address. Called it and left a message. Shortly after, the possum was gone from the yard. Later I saw them, introduced myself and told them my concerns. Yeah, yeah. If I didn't qualify as THE NOSEY NEIGHBOR after the possum incident, I do now.

The young man turned up later and introduced himself. Begged me not to call the cops. He's on probation. We talked. Actually, he made a lot of excuses and kept begging me to not call the cops. I talked to him like he was my own red-headed step-child. Told to him to take responsibility for this, for the care of his friend and to accept whatever grief his parents give him like a man. I won't call the cops if you don't give me reason to do so. Did he hear? I hope so.

That was 4th of July in our neighborhood.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Shopping for Supplies

Yesterday we were up early but for some reason we did not get out of here as early as I had hoped. When we finally did get moving, we were both hungry. Okay, so we stopped at Shoney's for breakfast. Shoney's has a breakfast bar. It was not very good. Edible but not good. Easy to not eat too much. Then on to Home Depot.

While I chose lumber for the kitchen shelves, Phil went shopping for a tile saw. After that, I chose two new fans. I had purchased flush mount fans from Lowe's but that wouldn't work in the living room. Home Depot had a small fan with a 4.5 inch downrod. That should work perfectly in the living room.

Phil and I then met and went over to the kitchen design center where we talked to Beth about the counter tops. I drew out the plan for the kitchen so she could give us a proper estimate. We looked at laminate by Wilsonart, Corian and Silestone. It was kind of frustrating because I was having trouble finding something that would go with our tile and our walls. Phil picked up a laminate and tossed it on the table. OMG!! It was a perfect fit. It has a little wall color, white, grey, and black in it. Stunning!! So the decision is made, we will go with a laminate. I'll have to return with a check so we can get the counter tops made. It will take two weeks.

Finally, we made our way back home. Phil helped me unload the car and we had lunch. I was beat. I took a nap. And then hitched it up and went to Lowe's while Phil went to the office.

At Lowe's I found the kitchen sink I want. I had thought to go with a stainless steel sink and I had thought to go with a single bowl sink rather than a double bowl. None of the single bowl stainless steel sinks were quite what I wanted. Not quite large enough and looked more like a bar sink than a kitchen sink. But, Lowe's had an American Standard single bowl. They claim that you can soak a cookie sheet flat in the sink. Now that would be nice. Of course, they don't say what size the cookie sheet is. Skeptic. But I do like the sink. So I bought it. I also picked up more primer, painting supplies, three pot lights for the desk area and a ton of little stuff we needed. Terribly expensive little stuff, don't you know.

All told, it took about eight hours to do all that shopping. I was beat. So much so that I took pictures only to discover that I had not reinserted the memory card in my camera. So the pictures are lost. Phil won't be too sad about that. He hates posing.

I spent today, July 4th morning, sanding and priming the stock for kitchen shelves. Began cutting and building shelves in the afternoon.

During a break Phil was going to put in new light bulbs in the kitchen flourescent fixture. When he removed the cover the whole thing fixture came undone on one end. Quick, quick!! Figure out how to fix it so the whole thing doesn't come down on our heads! Turns out the screws were too short to actually bite the beam above. Different, longer screws, two short tempers, a dangling light fixture. As soon as the situation was stable, I was out the door to do something I know how to do---make shelves.
More tomorrow. For now, I am beat. I mashed my thumb closing the garage door. No blood blister because I managed to mash it hard enough that it spit open on the backside of my thumb. Duh. On the up side, 7 shelves made.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008


I spent the morning evening out the paint at the edges on the kitchen walls. Took a good bit of time and concentration. turns out that where the bookcase and the wall meet is ugly. the bookcase is white flat enamel and the wall is terra cotta satin latex. The tinies slip and the unevenness shows. Spent way too much time trying to figure it out. The best way may be to go to Lowe's and buy an edging tool. Will do that tomorrow.

Later, I began cleaning up the dining room. Moved the power tools, supplies, wood, etc. to the garage. Phil helped to move the tools and sheetrock. The place is starting to look more like a house than a construction zone.

Dan the electrician came by at about 5:30 p.m. He started with the light over the kitchen window/future sink. He had installed the electric earlier, now the fixture needed to be installed. He also installed all the plugs and switches in the kitchen. And finally, he installed the flourescent light in the center of the kitchen. Once that was installed we realized we had not purchased the flourescent lights for the fixture. So one more thing is added to the Lowe's list.
We talked to Dan about a fan for the back room/living room. The ceiling slopes so we can't use a flush mount fan. There are two exisitng light fixtures that are basic, simple light fixtures. Not much to look at. Adding a fan will be a chore but Danny says it can be done. What will we do about the existing fixtures? The best thing to do would be to mount to small fans in the place of the light fixtures. The two I had already purchased are flush mount only so they won't work on the sloping ceiling. I'll use them in the bedrooms. I'll spend some time on-line. Maybe I can find something or someway to get a ceiling fan into the living room.

Kitchen Walls

Phil gutted the kitchen down to the studs. This was not part of the original plan. In fact, the original plan called for us to keep the original lower cabinets or even some part of them. When we really got down to work, we discovered that the kitchen sink had leaked so long the sink base was beyond saving. We hated the avocado green counter tops. And really hated the dark brown cabinets. Also note, no dishwasher. There just was not much we did like about the kitchen. So we pulled all the cabinets out. And that's when we discovered that we would need to replace walls as well.

Turns out, this house is not insulated. We learned that when we took the sheetrock off the outside kitchen wall. This picture was taken from the former living room. Note the bookcases are not yet built but Phil has started the wall to the pantry. The door to the kitchen has been widened. All the cabinets are gone. The stove is still functional but the kitchen sink will go after the plumber comes. After removing the sheetrock from the outside wall, Phil began construction of the pantry. But it soon became apparent to him that the remainder of the sheet rock in the kitchen would have to go as well due to its condition and age.

This picture shows the corner of the kitchen just adjacent to the the new pantry. Note the hole in
the ceiling. There used to be this tiny little pantry closet in this space. When it was removed, the ceiling was damaged. Phil would end up cutting this sqare and replacing that portion of the sheetrock. The walls were unredeemable. On the other hand, removing the sheetrock made it really easy for Dan, the electrician, to wire the kitchen properly. Prior to this, the kitchen was a typical 1950's style kitchen with one plug at counter level. Definitely not enough electric. Dan took a good look at our electrical system and went to work updating it. We'll end up paying Dan a good deal of money before we are done but at least we will be properly wired...and safely, too. Dan found two bad plugs in the back room, which will become our living room. Both were physically defective--one heating up and the other sparking. We'd like to avoid a house fire if possible. Dan says we have enough power coming to the house for all the things we want to do. First thing on my list, beyond improving the safety of the structure, is updating the kitchen. We will not want for electrical outlets in there. Dan wired us for one quad to the left of the sink, a light above the sink, one outlet to the right of the sink and one outlet on either side of the stove. He also added an outlet behind the location for the refrigerator.

Back to the walls...After Dan did his work, we called in Paul, the plumber. While we were waiting for Paul, Phil replaced the kitchen window. Looks great, doesn't it? Paul disconnected the sink and set it up for installation of cut-off valves and pvc piping. He also set up the plumbing for the dishwasher and refrigerator. Now Phil just needed to work around the new pipes and electrical boxes to put up the sheetrock. He worked really hard to get it put up correctly. Since he had never done this sort of thing before, it was a challenge. Just learning to cut sheetrock was new. I bought him a fine knife for this purpose. That made the cutting a bit easier. Sanding made no small amount of dust. Note the back of the chair in this picture. We seem to have had dust everywhere. Well, we still do. Phil finished the walls in the kitchen and then textured them...another new skill he has learned. He has moved on to the walls on the exterior of the pantry and the other side of the opening to the kitchen. Dust everywhere. I am grateful for the Shop-Vac. That gets rid of a good deal of it but we can't seem to escape it entirely. How do they make it look so dustless on those home improvement shows?

Enough whining. Phil textured the walls while I put the finishing touches on the bookcases. After that, I began painting. We going with a sort of Tuscan theme. The bookcase I painted white flat enamel and I used white ceiling paint for the overhead. You don't realize there are huge differences in white until you put these two side by side. Then I painted the walls a lovely terra cotta. It seemed very strong so I applied golden oak stain using a dry brush technique and a cheesecloth covered sponge. That gave the walls a kind of old look, sort of mottled. Phil says they look just like walls he saw in Italy. I thought they looked a little brushed suede. Either way, we like this technique and will use it on the outside of the pantry and in the dining room. I know it looks a bit garish in the photos but in person the color is quite nice, a good contrast to the white. Note the fan in the background of this picture. Dan put it in for us last time he was here and it has increased the air circulation tremendously. See the shiney spots above the passageway to the dining room....Phil messed up my paint job so today, I get to go back and do a little repair work. Not a big deal, the blue painter's tape did not do as good a job as I had hoped at giving me clear distinct lines so I have to go over those as well. So that is my job put the finishing touches on the paint in the kitchen. Phil, meanwhile, is already ahead of me sanding the outside of the pantry so I best get to work....more later. Deb

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Bookcase

We have a lot of books so one of the most troublesome things for me to figure out is where to put them all. Equally vexing is how to organize them so I can find THE book I am looking for when I need it. Having bookcases all over the house contributes to the lack of organization. And since none of my bookcases match, beyond the two here or there, they really don't work well in one room. So, I decided to build bookcases for all my books.

I have never built a bookcase before. The only thing I've ever built was a bed for my grandson. That was a success primarily due to the brackets which hold it all together. Built-in bookcases, on the other hand, would be a challenge.

I started by researching bookcase plans on the internet. I found these PLANS at Black and Decker's website. I followed the instructions for the kitchen unit closely as I could. Tried to do everything just right. When I was done, I had a very expensive built-in bookshelf. Looks great.

You can see it through the framed in wall of the pantry.

The only problem with the bookcase was that if I was going to complete the next phase, which was to build bookcases along a 16 foot stretch of wall, I couldn't afford to build it as the plans directed. The plans call for the entire unit to be made with red oak, with the exception of the sole plates which are 2 x 4's. Red oak is very expensive. So I went to work revising the plans. In the end, I chose to use a less expensive wood for the interior and for the shelves. This would have consequences during the building and later during finishing.

Here is a picture of the 16-foot wall before bookcases. Kind of bare, isn't it? I went to work. Most Fridays and half of Saturdays during April and May. Then we moved in at the end of May. I went to work on them full least as full time as my strength would allow. Carpentry is hard work and I am old, fat and out of shape. My husband, Phil, helped me with the things I physically could not do--like installing sole plates in the overhead, removing wood screws with stripped heads and stuff like that. Couldn't have done it without him. Especially when I came to the point where I discovered the wood I was using was warped and was causing the whole project to be out of alignment. He was able to muscle a couple of boards and 2 x 4's into place and shape for me. I think next time, though, I would go back to the store and buy straight wood. The warped stuff, no matter how straight it appears, is still warped. Later, when it came to making shelves, I discovered that two units were more suited to trapzoidal shaped shelves than rectangular. I ended up cutting shelves for each bookcase sized to the bookcase. This means that while the shelves are somewhat adjustable within each unit, the shelves are not suited for moving between units.

Here is a picture of the completed bookshelves. Look carefully and you can see that each upright has holes in it for the pegs that hold the shelves. I made a template out of peg board and a jig for my drill to make sure the holes are not too deep and went to work. Phil said that I drilled around 750 holes. Dang! There are a total of 27 adjustable shelves and 6 non-adjustable shelves. The fifth unit has an extra-deep non-adjustable shelf for my keyboard. The wood on the interior and from which shelves were made was the white pine 12-inch wide boards available at Lowe's and Home Depot. Doesn't matter where you buy them, just be careful to inspect for warping. Store them flat rather than on end to prevent further warping. I faced the entire unit with red oak. This gives the face of the unit a nice clean appearance that matches the kitchen unit which is just on the other side of the far right of this unit.

I'll talk about finishing the unit later.