Friday, June 29, 2012

Happy Birthday to E! (And some campy stuff, too!)

A little family update here and then we'll be back to making a mess and telling all about it.
First up:

My E. is the big One Two, y'all!

Hola Nana! You like this look, no?!

E. has had the most long and drawn-out birthday celebration ever. From the pre-birthday dinner with Daddy during his May R&R break, to his actual birthday dinner a couple a couple of weeks ago at Mr.Mambo's (ole!), to the upcoming birthday fiesta with Nana and the cousins in July. Wowza!

Then, there was camp week. Two boys, two different camps. Same week. During The Move.
Bring it on!

E. was off to Scout camp first.

One cool cat.

I'm not putting any pictures of the camp setup or any group shots here because I'm not sure our fellow Scout's parents want their kids' mugs up on the interwebs. You understand.

The next morning Z. left for church camp with the youth group.

Get ready to board the Party Bus! (...for Church camp.)
Seriously, 3 hours of Phase 10 games sounds like a blast to me.

My babies! What the living heck happened to my cute, little, squishy babies?!
Yeah, yeah, Mom. I know. They're big boys now, don't embarrass them.

Sometimes I just can't help myself with all the gushing. I sure do love those boys!

Smooches and Squeezes,

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I didn't burn my boobs off!

Okay, that post title was definitely TMI but I really am giddy with relief. Not just about having narrowly avoided a ladypart scorching but having finished The Move! Woo Hoo!

We had overlapped the move dates so that there'd be a few weeks where we could be in both houses to give me time to get everything done. With Big T in the Middle East, it was up to Z., E. and Me to handle the packing, moving and cleaning. (Fortunately, I got to hire some muscle for the actual schlepping.)
The Move week was also crammed with camp preparations so it was a wild ride.

*A shout out to our friend, Cory, for volunteering muscle, time and his truck for the last of the boxes and hooha at the old house (also for moving Big T's car). Thanks Cory, we appreciate you!*

In the days before The Move, I really thought, like an idgit, that I'd get to spend the week The Boys were at camp painting the floors with an icy Diet Dr. Pepper at my side and the tunes blaring. What an idgit.
That week was spent finishing up at the old house and in the spare hour or so of free time, locating underpants and towels and setting up computers....blah.

So, getting the floors painted is my current project and I have about 2 weeks to git 'er done. Because that's when you'll be here, Ma! Along with a gaggle of cute nephews and one sweet niece (Hi Maddy!).

I've been patching holes in the slab in preparation for the paint. There are some big, honkin holes.

I'm using a Quikcrete product with acrylic fortifyer for most of these holes.

I did buy a trowel but these picnic supplies have been much handier. For starters, the "Quik" in Quikcrete ain't for nuthin'; you make up whatever amount you think you can use in 5 minutes. So, the disposable bowls are a real time saver. I use the plastic spoon for mixing up the little batches and the plastic knife is great for squooshing the concrete mix down into the crevices. The hammer and putty knife are for prying any loose bits out of the hole.

Handy, but I'd rather be eating potato salad...

First step is to clean out the big, messy hole (gee, that sounds dirty. Sorry Ma.) 
An old toothbrush and the shop-vac are necessary for this part, too.

Next, you gotta dampen the hole:

Ignore the water spill on the right. Oopsie!

Then you mix up some of the Quickcrete and smoosh it in the hole. I underestimated the amount of concrete I'd need, so I did this hole-patch in two layers. The first layer:

Awww, it looks like a star!

The next day I layed down the second layer:

I tried to feather the edges of the patch, so that's why it goes so far past the hole's edges. I used the toothbrush, dipped in water, for the feathering part. I also used the toothbrush to get a rougher, "broom finish" on the patch, after it had dried for a few minutes.
The paint I'm going to use on the floor suggests the "broom finish" or a sanded finish as a good grippy base for the paint to adhere.
Again, I'm sure none of this is The Right Way to do it, it's just the way I did it.

Other than a decorative stepping stone, made for Big T's parent's 50th Anniversary, I've never worked with concrete. So, I was a little freaked out about mixing it right so that it would set up and getting the "broom finish" and all that. I guess it's harder to mess up concrete than I thought because it set up like gangbusters and the finish looks pretty good, too. Pretty good for ME, of course. The pros would certainly be less than impressed with my patches but I'm painting over this, so I can be okay with not perfect.

In between the patching and hunting for underwear we've been learning the intricacies and complexities of the two bathroom showers.

I'm not sure what twisted, tortured soul installed the handles for the HOT and COLD faucets in this house but he or she is somewhere getting a big laugh.

There are two upstairs showers and neither one has Hot and Cold handles installed correctly. For the hall bath, the hot handle faces straight up and the cold handle faces straight down when they're off. There is a center knob that controls whether the water will come out of the main faucet or out of the shower head. This is a life saving (or in my case, a boob saving) mechanism in this bathroom. If you've incorrectly configured the handles, at least it's just your toes catching fire. Because, I forogt to mention, this house has an on-demand hot water heater and the hot water that surges from that sucker is positively searing.

Now, in the master bathroom it's not quite so simple. There are three big problems with the master shower and they all converged in an unholy trinity to almost burn my boobs off the first night we lived here.
The first problem is the size of the stall: teeny-tiny. I've seen bigger, roomier coffins. Also, the door doesn't latch tight, so every wayward elbow poke flings the door open.
Next problem is the water pressure. Like standing under Niagra Falls. Normally a good thing. Not so much a good thing here.
The last problem is that danged knob configuration. These knobs both point to the left when they're off, BUT the hot water knob does a total 360, with no "stop" position.
So, on my first night in my new house I reached in to the shower, turned on the hot water and cold water to get it ready and I was too tired from the move to remember how to get it back to "off". Which I didn't realize until I was all done and ready to get out and started fiddling with the knobs.
Bad idea.
I did remember to turn off the hot first, but I couldn't remember exactly where "off" was and all I could get the water to do was go from warm-ish to freezing. So then, stupidly, I started fiddling with the cold knob. BAD BAD IDEA.
Warm-ish to freezing is much better than warm-ish to SCORCHING. I sure tried to fix that problem while I was still IN the shower but the hot deluge sent me screaming out. I got the dang thing turned off and decided to punish it for the next week by only showering in the hall bath. Until last night.
This time I studied those handles and kept the hot turned as low as I could and...I didn't burn my boobs off! Whew.
I know you wanted this whole tale written down for you, Ma. And I was glad to do it.
I can't wait for you to try the showers out for yourself in a couple weeks but I'll be sure to give you a master class on correct knob configuration before you do!

The Move is done and the Showers have been studied. On to floor paint!

Smooches and Screamin',

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"You are not coming out until you clean up that mess."

We are finally cleaning! Hah-Lay-Loo-Yuh!

I think when I left you last, Ma, I was tired and frustrated because that thinset was stuck on reeeeeel good, like cellulite, and it seemed like only raw, animal effort and masterful hand-eye coordination with the chisel was gonna make it go away (also like cellulite). Come to think of it, much of this demolition project did make me think of an ungainly, dimply bum. Huh.

Anyway, after spending some quality time with a knowledgeable older gent in H.D.'s tool rental department (not that kind of quality, calm down dear), I decided to go whole hog y'all, and rent The Grinder.

Now, all the tile forums and DIY chat pages did say that The Grinder would be effective at "sanding" down the thin-set hills and craters but that the operator of The Grinder would be cleaning grit out of every crevice and off of every surface in the whole blasted house forever and ever.

Really all I heard was, "BlahBlahBlah...THE GRINDER WORKS...BlahBlah"
What's that? This thing will WORK? Big mess and all that. Got it. It will smooth out this lumpy butt of a floor?

Really, I already grossed-up the whole first level (and a little bit of the second) with the sandstorm I created with Blades of Death, how much worse could The Grinder make it?

You're expecting me to say, SO MUCH WORSE, right?
I'll tell ya, it really wasn't so bad. But, mess is sorta relative and if you know you already have to wash every wall and every slat of every mini blind and everything else, well then, who gives a rip if there's a little more dust on there?

So, The Boys and I rented that Grinder and lemme tell ya, that thing is as heavy as a refrigerator. One of the  tool rental guys came out to the parking lot with us to give us a hand lifting it up into the back of the Matrix and was making cracks about people who rent big equipment and try to haul it away in little bitty cars, like I was trying to strap the thing on the back of my mule. Lookit, the seats fold down, pal, so stop rolling your eyes.

Once we got el Grinder back to MulberryHill House we worked for about 6 hours, just grinding away. We started off using it with the shop vac attached to it, which did cut down the dust but really slowed down the process because we'd have to clean out the vac's filter every 10 minutes. So, instead we opened all the doors and windows and just went for it. It was a huge mess, billowing clouds of muck and because it's Summertime in Oklahoma, beetles and bugs of all kinds got the Disco Party invitation from the lights and open doors.

Man, am I glad that's over. Because I never look quite so crazy as when I'm getting kamikaze, fly-by buzzings from fat, juicy June bugs; swatting the air, cussin' up a storm and getting madder by the second.
Not pretty.

So, today we cleaned. Mama, I've never been so happy (and willing) to clean in my life. It was marvelous to spend a day working at MulberryHill House and not have to beat poofs of tile grime out of my shoes and everywhere else and de-scuzz The Boys before getting in the car.

I wish I had fun and goofy photos of our day of cleaning, Ma, but our camera's batteries bit the big one. As soon as I grab more batteries, I'll put up some After The Storm pictures.

Now that the tile is out, it's time to move in!
Moving day is Wednesday!
Oh my.

Smooches and Squeezes,

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tour Schmour...

I'm interrupting the House Tour already in progress to bring you the reason I'm, uh, interrupting the House Tour.

The Boys and I are undertaking a massive tile demolition (made even massive-r by the fact that I've never demolished anything before, ever.) in our MulberryHill House and this project needs to be at a respectable stopping point in a week. A WEEK.
Because we move-in, in a WEEK. Like, 7 dang days.

I am not freaking out and I have not yet experienced any Phantom Debilitating Back Spasms or any incidents of Freak Wandering Eye, thanks for asking.
But, the week's not over yet.
I'll keep you posted, Ma.

Anyway, in lieu of touring our house and joining me in my "Someday!" reveries, I'll show you just what in the Sam Hill we've been up to for the past 8 days, or so.

A little o'this:

A couple-a tuff guys, fer shur.

E. going to town, kickin' up the dust.

Z. is showing that tile who's boss.
 Last Sunday, just after we put Big T. on a plane to the Middle East, I decided to bribe my Boys into helping me take all the tile out of the entry, living room, dining room and kitchen of MulberryHill House. (They required Video Game payment. A real bargain, considering.) Figuring, of course, that it'd be a whole lot better to make that huge mess before we move all our stuff in there.
Man, was I right about that. What a flippin' mess.
 Turns out, taking out tile is a royal pain in the keister. Really, "taking out" is a sweet euphemism. Pulverizing, slamming, busting; all much more accurate descriptions of the effort this project requires.

We started out with the sledge hammers and graduated to these butt-kickers:

Good times.

We rented the 20lb chipping hammers from H.D. and they made quick work of chiseling out the tile.

Howevuh...taking up the tile is the easy part.

The real beast is the "thin"-set mortar.
Lemme show you sumthin':

An archaeological dig?

Jumpin' jellyfish, that is a butt-load of mortar.
Dear, sweet Mammy, I wish I could tell you that this little corner, by the stairs, is the only ThinSet Crater location we're dealing with, but it is not so. We've got ThinSet Crater North, seen above.

Then, this here's ThinSet Crater South:

 ThinSet Crater North East (Now with 2 locations to serve you!):

Oh, I know, it looks like we're digging for buried treasure. I suppose in a way, we are. But instead of some sweet booty (hee!hee!) we just wanna find the slab. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?!

Apparently, yes.

Those Crater photos were taken last night. I'd rented a floor buffer with a hex-head attachment that sported these awesome-looking blades of death. The thing was supposed to laugh in the face of stubborn, stuck-on thinset, just beat the ever lovin' crap out of it.
Eh, not so much.
Oh, in the spots where the floor was mostly smooth and had just a widdle biddy bit of thinset, ol' Blades of Death was THE MAN. But, when the going got tough, Blades of Death was revealed to be a butter knife, in disguise. I kept thinking, maybe if I just keep this buffer in one spot (an Olympic sport if there ever was one), this thing will grind all that "thin"set down. But it would end up latching on to part of a Crater's ridge and trying to bolt out of my hands and make for Mexico.
At 1am, I finally gave in and decided that we should pack it in for the night. All that noise and dust was for almost nothing. (Well, other than the 3 of us got to learn to use another power tool.) The thing kicked up so much dust, in fact, that renting that floor buffer with it's mighty blades was more trouble than it was worth.

It's me! I couldn't believe that the great gobs of dust weren't showing up better in this picture, so I put in a few myself. You just gonna have to trust me. (Plus, look at my eyelashes and my hairline!) What did show up, quite well, is part of the Southern Crater on the right side of the picture. That's how deep this "thin"set is. Yikes.

After we swept up a Saudi Arabian sandstorm's worth of powdered mortar, I gathered up my big dust bunnies, Z. and E., and I sulked and crabbed all the way home.

Because it looks like it's back to the sledge hammers for the 3 of us!

Smooches and Grumbles,

Sunday, June 3, 2012

BEFORE Tour Part 2

Welcome back!

I know I've already invited you inside, Ma, but let's jump back outside to see a couple of exterior before pictures (and some planned fixes).
I already grabbed us some Diet Cokes so let's get crackin'.

Look Ma! It's your favorite time of day!
This is the view as you emerge from the roof-scraping canopy of branches over the driveway.
Not exactly "EEEEK"...but not "Ahhhh!" either. Well, truthfully, I'm kinda leaning toward "EEEEK", so here are some minor and major fixes that we think will spruce up the exterior of our MullberryHill House.

First up, a minor fix:

That is a monster bush, y'all, and it's hiding half the house. I'd love to sic The Boys on it with a couple of shovels but this thing would probably just laugh an evil, monster-y laugh, extend a gnarly branch and savagely bat the shovels out of their hands. I think we're going to have to chainsaw this menace.

Next up:

What the crap is that, you ask? C'mere. Don't be afraid. I'm gonna give you a closer look:

Ugh! What the crap, indeed.
Some previous owner decided that an enormous walk-in pantry was far more useful than a dining room, so alakazam! up went some walls and out came a window. This window. That's right, Ma, somebody took out a window and "artfully" boarded it up on the front of a house (if we're being generous and window box addition = art). You're right, they might have been nuts because, even if you decided you wanted a dining room-sized pantry, why, exactly, couldn't you have a window in a pantry? Especially a pantry this big:

MooMoo, big girl.
You could march two hippos, side-by-side, down the middle of this thing. Though I suppose any self-respecting Doomsday Prepper should be out there converting their perfectly good dining rooms into cavernous pantries, these guys must have been rookies. I mean, look at all that wasted space, people!
Anyway, I'm sure you figured out that my red illustration is where the window used to be and where she will be sittin' pretty again, someday soon.

Meanwhile, back outside:

I know this is a rotten picture angle but look closely and you'll notice that the three remaining windows on the front exterior are all different sizes. I think this willy-nilly sizing and non-symmetrical placement contributes to a haphazard, low-brow kinda look.
I don't know how else to put it: it makes you look cheap, Miss MulberryHill. I'm all about trying to love the imperfections but, girlfriend, you need a face lift.
So, we're going to unify the sizes of the windows across the second floor and put in another window, for a three-window-across configuration. Something like this:

Well, pretty much EXACTLY like this. (This was our original dream house plan, back when we were starry-eyed Arizona land owners.)
Other than painting the house white and the shutters black, this is IT, baby. This inspiration photo will probably drive a whole bunch of cosmetic fixes because we're shooting for a Victorian-lite (Diet Victorian, if you will, Ma.) farmhouse look and this one wraps all that up pretty nicely.
After she gets some re-aligned and re-sized windows, I want to add that decorative roof gable, for interest. (I'm not sure yet whether we'll do a single or double, as shown.) 
Actually, I was really hoping the roof had a workable pitch to install dormers but it's just too squat up there. Unless we want one of these at the attic entryway...

  ...the dormers are a no-go. Of course, we could always put up decorative dormers....?
As Big T would say, "Let's see what the budget says."
He's so right.

I'd ask if you agree, Ma, but who am I kidding?
You always agree with Big T.

Smooches and Squeezes,

PS. A belated Happy Birthday to Big T.! Your (20th) 30th birthday is nothing to sneeze at! We should do something BIG to commemorate this event.

Say, you wanna go on a cruise or somethin'?
We could take these guys:

So cute, even when he's cranky.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Grand BEFORE House Tour! (Part 1)

Hello my people!
Won't you come in?
Of course you will, I have Diet Dr.Pepper in the fridge! (Diet Coke for you, Ma.)

Front door with dentist-office-grade glass block sidelight.

Let's move out of the Land of 1000 Suns entry with all that magnificently faceted glassblock.
A view from the stair landing:

Is that a boob light you see glowing there? Why, yes it is!
 The past remodeling efforts to our sweet MulberryHill House have created a patchwork of oddly shaped and placed rooms. And you thought patchwork was only being applied to the floor, ceramic tile-style, in baby blue with itty-bitty, baby blue tiled baseboards! Silly!

I am very excited that our current project is taking up all this tile (and those baseboards). I'll have a before and after post on that in the next week or so. (Unless a wayward tile shard takes me out. Those suckers are as sharp as razors. Maybe I should teach the boys how to post...?)

In the picture above you can also see part of the staircase which is showing it's own "renovation" scars. The treads and risers are covered in engineered wood planks and finished along the tread edge with decorator basic moulding trim. Not very sturdy. (The trim, I mean. Not the stairs. Those seem to be able to take a beating. Many beatings.)
Other than those wood planks, which were pre-finished, all the other wood elements on the stairs appear to have been installed unfinished and hastily schmeared with some kind of rosewood-color stain.

The staircase renovation is going to be super fun because we're exploring the possibility of taking down this wall:

The wall on the right side of the picture, where the banister connects: Adios? I say YES!

And, Ma, we all know a dude's favorite magic phrase when they don't want to talk about tearing out walls:

Oh, no! Anything but THAT!

And, shoot, it might actually BE load bearing. So far, a couple of engi-nerds (as my friend, Angie, calls 'em) have given the wall a thump and kicked the tires a little and proclaimed that it just might NOT be load bearing, so here's hoping. Of course, the engi-nerds I'm referring to are my hub and Angie's, so maybe I have to get a third opinion.

Another view of the stairs.
But, just imagine how pretty a proper stair railing would look if it followed that staircase up to the second floor landing and didn't dead-end, like a bug against a windshield, on that wall. Picture it! (Sicily, 1943. A little GG reference for you, Ma.)

Wow, 4 pictures and a wad of descriptions and we're still in the entryway (foy-yay, for the fancypants people).

On to Part 2 tomorrow, then!
G'nite Ma!

Smooches and Squeezes,