Thursday, May 31, 2012

Back to Base-ics, Part 2

I warned you there were issues with the old-house walls while the baseboard project unfolded...since this blog serves as a sort of diary for me to remember the ups and downs of life in my historic home, settle in for some photos and probably a little bit of whining.  This is all very funny when you discuss it with a sense of humor.  I'm still trying to decide it I have a sense of humor about it yet.

Cutting the boards was easy, putting nails in them was easy...and absolutely everything else has been hard.  Almost every piece required some kind of customized "tweaking" (insert funny You've Got Mail quote here).  First came the normal step of learning to cope...a technical term that involves an awesome hand saw that creates a snug puzzle-like fit for boards in a corner, but one that provided endless opportunities for me to make funny (to me) jokes all day long.  I learned to cope.

Then came the corner with the wall of cabinets and a fancy curved board at the bottom.  It required coping, a stencil and a customized cutout to create this magic:

I used the hand saw on each of the lovely curved corner pieces, too. Not a single one fit without significant measurements and cutting.  I got quite good at shaving 1/8" off one side of the little piece of wood without severing my fingers in the process...that fraction of an inch was often what it took to make it lean against the wall properly.

And then there were the corners in the hallway where the corner piece, and the baseboard itself, were too wide to allow the door to open.  (At this point I began to realize that the person who constructed my home must have been completely high...or at least blind.  Maybe they didn't own a measuring tape?)  That dilemma required a half-hour game delay in which I photographed the problem, created an entire Shutterfly album, and sent it to dad as a cry for help.

He immediately called with a response: just sand down the outside of the corner piece.  Ummm yeah.  Guess I should have thought of that before I pondered whether it would be really bad to remove the door and give my guests a view of the water heater every time they walked into the house.  A little sanding and sawdust later, and the door opens perfectly.  (Thanks dad!)

Though the corners were a challenge, it was the walls that made me crazy.  The areas that looked perectly straight and ready for baseboards were actually suffering from Waveitis, TotalCrookeditis and JustPlainImpossibleitis.  One of the examples was my fault...when I did such a great job repairing that hole in the dining room wall, I apparently followed the line of the rest of the wall instead of a ruler.  Look at that angle!

Symptoms of that Crooked Wall Syndrome continued throughout the house.  The symptoms of Waveitis, however, did not become clear until I started using the caulk gun (the only kind of gun I think should be in public buildings, by the way...) to seal the boards to the wall - the gaps between the boards and the wall sometimes continued for a full foot down the length of the wall!

Perhaps the most interesting challenge, however, was the part of the hallway wall where the plaster came out about 1/2" farther at the bottom than the rest of the wall.  Chipping the extended plaster away was both dangerous and questionable - I'm not really a fan of inadvertently weakening walls.  Jason came up with this creative solution to neatly carve out a portion of the baseboard so it fit against the wall perfectly.  (I must confess that I was the heckler in the crowd who repeatedly issued doomsday "you're just going to waste time and baseboard" criticism until the project was completed and it worked perfectly.  Oops.)

I had hoped to wrap up this post with glamorous shots and victory songs about finalized baseboards, but unfortunately for you (and even more so for me!), that hasn't happened yet.  I continue to spend hours before and after work crawling around on the floor sealing the boards and applying blue tape for when I am finally, finally ready to finish this project.  I'm growing rather attached to the blue running stripes...perhaps I should change my accent colors to work this into the decor?

My sore back muscles are making me feel like an old woman, I'm tired and I'm trying to convince myself that the dried caulk looks like a French manicure (it doesn't).  But I still wouldn't trade this project for any number of contractors.  Partly because I love the connection to my house that comes from this kind of work...but mostly because this is bringing out too much evidence of my freakishly perfectionist character flaws, and I'm sure professionals would somehow mess up a wall that would drive me crazy forever.

More details and evidence of my character issues will come soon...until now, I'll continue to live in rooms that look like this:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Back to Base-ics, Part 1

The only thing I didn't like about my house when I first toured it with my realtor was the gross baseboards.  The house had flooded years ago and though I am grateful to those baseboards for keeping the water from soaking into the wall, they definitely showed signs of their battle...they were water-stained and had to go.

 I pulled them off in celebration of Bulk Trash Week and for almost a year have been enduring this lovely unfinished sight all around the house:

This weekend was designated as No More Procrastinating - Just Get It DONE Time.  I got out my measuring tape and began the awkward process of measuring the walls around the furniture.

(To those of you who are wondering why I didn't first move the furniture since clearly I'd need to move it to add baseboards later, I ask you: really, you're expecting logic of me?!  After all we've been through together?!)

My close-enough measurements were added to this close-enough sketch of the rooms (I do have graphing paper somewhere but as we just established, logic isn't my strong point and this notebook paper worked fine since I was just calculating how much of my hard-earned cash would have to be turned over to Home Depot.)

The Home Depot visit could be a blog post of its own.  (Why, exactly, do they store the same items on opposite sides of the warehouse?  I appreciate the forced exercise but not so much the wasted time.)  Long story short: found the boards I wanted at 75 cents per foot - it's a nice surprise when my great taste leads me to the lower cost items rather than the $3.00 per foot ones!  While in search of a cart for toting the monster boards to the cash register, however, the across-the-store discovery of the same item occurred - only THIS time the boards were in a contractor pack that amounted to 53 cents per foot.  SCORE!  Then came the hard part: convincing Home Depot employees to cut the boards from 12 feet to 6 feet.  My Saturn Ion is unexpectedly awesome about carrying large items, but 12 feet was going to stretch its abilities.  After negotiating with two separate orange-aproned friends who were concerned that I'd have them cut the boards only to decide not to buy them, a compromise was reached: they tore off the tag from the contractor pack, I took it to the register to pay for it, brought them the receipt, and then they worked their board-cutting magic.  Into the Magic Saturn they went (the boards, not the Home Depot employees) and voila the project had officially commenced.

Lest I leave you thinking I walked away with my fiscal conservation skills in tact after that 22-cents-per-foot savings victory, however, I must confess I spent all that and more on specialized pieces for rounded corners. They were almost $4 each!  I'm sure it has something to do with them being out of solid wood and specially carved to match, blah blah blah.  $4 each?!  I bought enough for all the rounded corners of the house (28, for those who care enough to feel my pain), but secretly hoped that I'd find a solution that allowed me to return each and every one of those overpriced beauties.  Spoiler alert: I didn't.  YouTube offered countless tutorials about how to cut the 22.5 degree angles so it smooths around a corner but let's just face it: THIS looks amazing and I'm a perfectionist who can't stand it when all the little lines don't match up perfectly and this is my house that I love dearly.  So the $100 investment seemed worth it to get it right.

Then came the "fun" part: cutting the boards.  (I use quotation marks because this part lost some of its appeal as the quirks of an old house - and the shortcuts used by those who lived here previously - made the project *spoiler alert* more and more complicated!)  Jason, my trusty sidekick/contractor/guywithbetterideasthanYouTub,e did the cutting...both because I'm terrified of power tools (it's a healthy fear that comes with past experiences and being a klutz) and because my wonderful father would only loan me the super-cool miter saw if I promised not to use it without someone else there.  He has, after all, spent a lifetime studying my klutzy ways!  Here's the cutting team in our safety goggles (ok yes, mine are sunglasses...but since I never got near the blade they did the trick of keeping sawdust out of my eyes).

Our garage workshop:

 (Thank you to the bird who thoroughly covered my car in gross things while I parked it on the street for one day.  You helped me understand the value of this garage.)

I forgot to mention that I finally got around to moving all the furniture to the center of each room, but not everyone was totally happy with it.  This little guy glared at me when the books fell over mid-move.

The first board was cut, the ceremonial first nail shot into the wall (thank you, nail gun!), and the project was on a roll...more photos and details about those ridiculous quirks of old houses to come!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Et cetera

Went through this:

To become this?

Well now another one of these:

Has become this!

So now I'm the happy owner of these:

Note: the creators would like to thank this movie for the lifelong obsession with "etc" and the inspiration it provided for this post.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A New Viewfinder

My cute green Canon Exilim has been a loyal companion since my parents bought her for me years ago. She's survived countless falls from my careless fingers, multiple vacations shoved in small travel bags, and she helped me share my house adventures that included two years of house-hunting as well as the home improvement challenges I've shared with you on this blog. But she's tired and she deserves to rest for awhile...and I deserve to get high-quality pictures of moments, successes and experiences that matter to me. It was this photo of my friend's law school graduation that convinced me a technological investment was necessary - it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get a good shot.

So I did what I do best when I want to procrastinate on making a decision: I researched. Every time I searched "best travel camera," this Sony was at the top of the results.

I didn't have a very complicated list of things I wanted because I don't know enough to create a complicated list. I wanted a few things:
  • A camera small enough to travel with, and small enough to avoid making it a target for thieves;
  • A camera with zoom capabilities strong enough to let me see details;
  • A camera that showed detail - after I dropped my Canon a couple of times, things began to come out fuzzy;
  • A price no more than $300 (the amount I expect to get as a refund of retirement contribution glitch at work).
The Sony fit all of them except the last one...I couldn't find it any cheaper than $330, plus shipping.  I discovered an "open box" item at my local Best Buy, however, and scored a victory thanks to the persistence of a great employee.  I got the camera for $280 simply because it had been opened.  Still a lot more than I've ever paid for a camera, but worth it given how much I will use it.  I've already captured some treasures as I learn to use it...this is my favorite:

These comparisons proved I made a good upgrade (hopefully it's obvious, but photos from the new camera are on the right):

And I got to prove that the investment was worth it when I got this shot of another graduation last weekend.  I was finally able to successfully capture one of those moments when life is so good your throat actually swells with gratitude and joy.

Even more impressive when you consider that I was sitting back here:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Things That Make You Say "Wow"

1) I'm writing this blog post from 36,000 feet in the air. I thought wi-fi enabled planes were the end of that coveted and rare occurence: uninterrupted reading time. But after I discovered that flight complications will keep me in the air for something like seven hours today, interruptions seemed welcome. My activities keep getting interrupted by a banner telling me how long I still have in the air. Thank you for the painfully slow countdown, Southwest Airlines. 2) The grass on the Capitol Mall has weeds just like my front lawn does. This makes me feel much better for some reason. I got a lot of time to evaluate the critical weed:grass ratio this weekend when I celebrated the George Washington University commencement - the only university to hold graduation on the Mall! And yes, I took a picture to prove it...but the Wi-Fi-in-the-Sky doesn't want to let me load a photo so you'll have to take my word for it. I'm sure there are more wow-inducing things but I can't think of them at the moment. Since I still have four hours and five minutes of flight time, it's safe to say I'll have a chance to add them later if I think of more.

Monday, May 14, 2012

& More

I get to take a virtual road trip over to Hating Martha today - it's quite a privilege and I completed one of my favorite home decor projects I've ever done for the occasion. Check it out here.

Here's a sneak preview of the "before":

Friday, May 11, 2012

More Inspiring Than Pinterest

My dad is one of those people who rarely relaxes. His ability to envision things, and then not rest until they're accomplished, is both intimidating and wildly inspiring...and, since I am lucky enough to be in his life, it's also directly beneficial. In honor of him, and because I haven't created anything yet this week to share with you, I'm sharing the brilliant ideas I got from a too-short visit yesterday. First there was the makeshift greenhouse that I think is both ingenious and very adorable. This old window protects seedlings while they're "hatched":

Then they move to a sheltered area of the garage until dad gets time to plant them:

And then they go into one of the two amazing raised garden beds he built himself:

The new season of crops is still getting started, but their winter food from the garden was amazing. The plants are watered largely through a DIY grey water system that reuses water from the sink and washing machine - they live in a town that has pretty notable water supply limitations, so I think this is a very impressive way to use - and reuse - resources. Soon they'll have peas, beans, asparagus, lettuce, raspberries and who knows what else growing in their own backyard. "Jealous" doesn't even begin to summarize my feelings on the issue.

The raised beds look simple now that they're created, but since I still haven't managed to figure out how to make my own I don't think it's as easy as it looks.

Another one of my favorite Dad Projects: this amazing water/pond feature, also utilizing water from the kitchen sink:

And look at this garage - it looks like something I'd see online and think "no one's garage actually looks like that." It has a whole wall of pegboard, and every inch is used effficiently. That's a lot of stuff in a small space, but it's easy to find everything and - unlike my own garage - nothing ever seems to creep away from its place to take over the garage or to block my car from entering without great trepidation.

Of course, my amazing dad is also a great cook...I love every minute I get to spend with him and his sidekick (i.e., mom). Love you guys!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Follow Up On Foliage

Remember when I planted this eggplant?

It has gone crazy with joy over the Phoenix heat!

And on a less organic but equally awesome note, I found the perfect flowers for the bookshelf! As I mentioned in my last post, I needed something stunning to serve as the decorative note that pulled the overall style together. I found cheap-looking flowers for about $40 at Wal-Mart...but I didn't want cheap-looking. Others I found were well over $100 - yikes! Instead I had a Michael's breakthrough. Their silk flowers are buy-one-get-one-free right now, so I got to splurge on the high-quality flowers and a nice vase. For a total of $35, I got this gorgeousness:

Forgive the tags still attached to the stems - I wanted to be sure they're perfect before I remove them!

Now I just have to find out how to make that fake water that goes in the bottom of the vase...

Happy Tuesday!