10.24.2014

Remember How we Were Famous?

Not famous - let's not get ridiculous here :) But remember about 18 months ago while I was about 9 months pregnant how we let some folks inside our house to film us and talk to us about blogging? (read the post here)



Well, they made a short about it! We knew they'd be making a small documentary to accommodate the study Christopher would be doing (not my Christopher, this is USC graduate student Christopher in the button up in the above pic), and it's so cool to finally share it!

I was actually sent the short and information about it several months ago, but with all the business in life I completely forgot to write a post about it, and I also wanted to make sure it was okay with them to post the video here on this page. If you don't remember what all the fun was about, I'll do a quick summary from my post back in May of 2013:

The project they're working on is a two parter: the first is a research study titled "Authoring Realistic Learning Environments with Stories." Don't we sound professional? :) The second part was participating in a documentary aimed at bringing attention to the human and relatable side of their research.

The idea of the project sounded pretty cool and having them in our home for the evening was actually a really interesting experience. The purpose of the study is "to better understand bloggers, like you, who post publicly and frequently about their daily life to the Internet. This study aims to foster a greater understanding among the public of the ethical and privacy issues surrounding research using social media."


Sounds pretty cool right? And in Christopher's email to me a couple months ago he shared with me how his part of the project was going (the research study):

"As for the science, things are going well. I’m writing up my documents to propose my dissertation work. The short description of the problem I’m working on is sample bias in social media and web data. The longer description is about learning about groups of people (e.g. all Americans) by looking at web data, and dealing with the fact that web users and non-web users aren’t the same. A few years back, there was a lot of published research about predicting economic activity, politics, and other things by analyzing what people were posting on the web. For instance, a lot of papers claimed they could predict the outcomes of elections by looking at thousands or millions of Tweets. This work was flawed for a lot of reasons, but two important ones of these: web users are not like all people (e.g. web users tend to be younger), and there’s a selection bias for people with unusually strong motivations to talk about something (i.e. people talking about an election are likely to be more partisan). The second reason is less of a problem if you select your data smartly (e.g. analyze people who write because they always write, rather than just finding people writing about an election or a particular stock). The first is trickier, but is a problem that economists, government data crunchers, and political pollsters deal with on a regular basis when they conduct surveys. What they do is they re-weight survey responses to better reflect the population they are studying. If you know that 13.7% of Americans are 65 years or older, but only 8% of Americans who responded to your survey are 65 years or older, then you can adjust the survey by giving the 65+ respondents more sway on your final estimate for the population.

We could apply this to web users, except that we don’t have a basic demographic breakdown for everyone on the web handy. So, I’m working on trying to automatically infer a basic demographic backgrounds for a couple thousand bloggers like you, who post every day or close to it, about their lives. If we can accomplish that, then using the re-weighting techniques that I just described, we can use those bloggers as a survey panel on everyday life."


He sounds smart. The idea that we got to be part of such an interesting study is really pretty cool and I feel lucky to have shared our experiences with them and get to be an interesting footnote to someone's study.

Of course I'm sure you're also interested in seeing the video. Well, I was :) So here it is! (for some reason when I embedded it, it starts halfway through, so just slide the bar back to the start)



Whatdya think?

10.22.2014

Week 5: Rough Plumbing and Electrical

The name of the game this last week at my dad and Wendy's was rough plumbing and electrical. My dad and Chris have continued to replace can lights around the house from ugly ones from the early 90s to new, LED ones


Obviously some serious patching still needs to happen around the lights. That's waiting for me to get to once I have time to go over there and help out.

They also got 2 gimbals installed where the future pantry will be



Don't worry, that hole from the old recessed light in the first pic will get patched. We just haven't gotten to it yet.

They work really hard :)


Chris is used to my constant picture taking, but obviously not my dad :)

Zoe also needed to get in on the action as well


Chris and my dad spent the better part of a morning installing a box for the 3 gimbals in this built in downstairs. It did not go as simply as they would have liked (but when do things ever go simply?) 


Once the lights got installed it looked really good though. And it will look even better once glass shelves go in


The plumber is also working on the rough plumbing. New valves are going in in the two bathrooms upstairs


He also worked on bringing the water line in the kitchen over for the pot filler. This involved going down to the basement and cutting into the ceiling of the hallway


Nothing some patching can't fix. But now there is a water line for the pot filler!


It may look a little strange being off to the side, but we couldn't have it centered in the middle because of the studs that were already there. The stove (that's existing) is a 6 burner, so we decided to center the pot filler over the burners on the left side. 

In addition, there are two fireplaces in the house and so the plumber will also stub for gas to each fireplace for a gas insert in each of them. There are a lot of spare the air days in the Bay Area when you cannot burn wood in your fireplace (and many times they align with Christmas), and in all honesty, I find wood burning fireplaces to be a lot of work. It's a romantic idea, but it's always messy, needs clean up....I'm just lazy I guess. My dad felt like he would use them more (and a future buyer would as well) if they were gas inserts. So that's what they'll be.

And the saga of the counters? They're finally decided on! After doing lots of research my dad and Wendy decided against the recycled glass. They even thought about maybe doing the Vetrazzo again


It was quite the back and forth, but ultimately they went back to the mainstay of granite. They just kept going back and forth on the glass, and I think they just felt in their heart it wasn't right for them for the kitchen (and they're actually fairly high maintenance). And who doesn't love granite, right?

So this is what they picked out on Saturday



It's got some veining in it that makes it pretty interesting. The only downside is the backsplash that they loved really doesn't go with it, so it's back to the drawing board on that one (though they went looking for more on Monday afternoon). A different backsplash pick might change the cabinet colors, which might change the wall colors....so I'll keep you updated of course :)

10.20.2014

OMFGGGG We Worked on the Laundry Room Floor!

I'm not going to lie - it felt weird actually WORKING ON THE HOUSE on Saturday. We haven't in a really long time and I hope this helps light a fire under our ass a little bit to continue with the laundry room progress. It sort of has to actually seeing as we can't really do any laundry at the moment...but more on that in a bit.

Our laundry room has been sitting in need of the rest of the floor to be installed for a year now



And let us not forget that we actually purchased this flooring FIVE YEARS AGO



Oy.

But the point of this story is the OMFG that we got it done, so let's get back to making me feel a bit better about myself :)

Saturday morning Chris and I flew around the house and purged and cleaned and played with the little rascal that is Zoe


And we were quite excited for the afternoon (or at least I was) because after her nap Chris' mom swung by to pick her up for some grandma fun while we...drumroll please....worked on the house! It was finally time to get to that floor


That of course meant first getting everything disconnected and moved out of the area of the room that we would be working on. And thank goodness for furniture straps because that fucking washing machine was not light


Nothing like moving a washer in dryer that have been in place for 5 years to show you how disgusting your floor is


We had forgotten about this little patch in the floor that needed to be repaired behind the dryer


So while Chris worked on that, I cleaned up the room a bit - I swept and sponged the floor of disgustingness and got all of our materials and tools ready. Then it was time to patch the floor by the slider and behind the dryer



I guess this step is technically not required, but in order for the floor to lay more properly we at least wanted to get things on close to the same plane. It's not perfect by any means at all (what, you can't tell from that above pic?) but it certainly improved things a ton and now the new floor won't rock underneath the shake of the dryer.

While we waited for the patches to dry we did a skim coat on the walls and ceiling (we don't like the original texture we went with in here 5 years ago)




With the two of us working on it together we got the skim coat done in about 45 minutes, so that's pretty awesome. The best part? The patches were dry by the time we finished, so it was..........time to work on the floor! YAY!

Let me tell you, Chris was not super excited to work on this project. We took this task two separate ways: I was completely excited to get started because it had been on our to do list for SO LONG and I just wanted it to get done more than anything. Chris on the other hand wanted it to just be done more than anything :) And whenever a new project starts it always takes about 30 minutes to get into the swing of things and those first 30 minutes for Mr. Christopher were a little testy ;)


But we quickly found our groove and Chris installed things while I laid them in place and cut all the boards down to size. It was a good system that kept me a little ahead of him and we actually got about 75% of the floor installed in about 90 minutes


When we got towards the end things slowed down a bit because there were some weird spots we had to cut around




But it really went relatively quickly and we were pretty happy about getting to work on it by the day's end.

The last step after getting all the boards down was taking the Fein and cutting down the lip of the tongue and groove on the side of the floor closest to the steps to give the floor a little bit more breathing room for expansion and contraction (that little gap and the wood will be covered by a riser)


But by about 4:30 we were DONE! It felt REALLY REALLY REALLY good. And of course I snapped the most awful picture this morning at 5am when the lighting was terrible and I'm too lazy to adjust the white balance


But hey, I gotta tackle a to do list before that little bugger wakes up :)

Doesn't the floor look AWESOME!? There's still A LOT to be done in here, even before the washer and dryer go in, ugh. Nothing to get you motivated to keep working like grown up and toddler laundry piling up. We did a load on Saturday morning before we got started, and my dad and Wendy's house is only 15 minutes away with a working washer and dryer, so we'll likely do at least one load there before things get put back in place in here. What's the list before the washer and dryer (and utility sink) go back in? Sand the walls, texture the walls, paint and prime, install baseboards, paint baseboards, install riser and trim piece from upper level to lower level and paint them. Phew!

But again, let us enjoy a finished floor and think about that to do list a couple hours from now :)

Happy Monday!

10.14.2014

Week 4: Screw Dal-Tile

Remember how we had the countertop, backsplash and kitchen cabinet colors all picked out?



Weeelllll last week when we had a fabricator come in to take measurements to give us a rough estimate of what the fabrication and installation would cost they found a little wrinkle: we let them know that we were using a product called Trend Q 431 from Dal-Tile as the countertops. When we were at Dal-Tile we all really liked it and we ordered a sample of it. We told the unfriendly (and clearly unhelpful) woman behind the counter what material we were interested in using, where we would be using it ("in the kitchen in our house" was what my parents said) and we asked to order a sample. I even asked how much it was a slab: $1500. The sample didn't come for a couple weeks so I called again and inquired about it, told them where we were using it, and asked when it might arrive. Didn't hear a peep from Dal-Tile ever about anything special about the material. Then, when our fabricator called them to verify pricing and check on availability we got an annoying phone call: Dal-Tile had a minimum 10 slab purchase. WHAT!? It REALLY would have been helpful to find that out WHEN WE ASKED ABOUT PRICING AND TOLD YOU WHERE IT WAS BEING INSTALLED. I'm not sure I know of any kitchen in the world in a residential house that would require TEN SLABS to outfit it. Oy fucking vey.

So that set off an annoying series of events. My dad and Wendy (especially Wendy) really loved the counters. And they are pretty awesome. What sucks more is that the backsplash and kitchen cabinet color and wall color were all chosen after the material was picked out. There were Vetrazzo options that were similar, but that is horrendously expensive. Wendy and I tried to calm our freak out. I decided that Saturday we would go check out some other counters and we could look at more backsplash options. We could pick counters that would go with the existing backsplash (the top diamond tile above the counter material)...


...but we had soured on Dal-Tile and weren't super excited about buying any tile from them. Which would mean we should look at more tile places to switch out the bathroom floor as well


We already found the pebble for $3 cheaper a square foot, so we just needed to find something better than the Chevron.

Our fabricator was incredibly nice and asked what we liked about the counter material specifically and suggested a couple other brands with similar color combinations. They were super awesome. So Wendy and I headed to their showroom on Saturday morning to look at what they had. They had suggested a brand called Geos, and after looking at the website we had a color in mind we thought would be very comparable to the Dal-Tile counter. White Birch ended up being a pretty close match

original choice on the left, new one on the right

We looked around at several options. Wendy liked one or two others, but she didn't want to have to worry about picking out new cabinet colors or wall colors because that can quickly start an avalanche of choices that need to be changed. They let us borrow the Geos sample so we could bring it to the house and see how we liked it in the space.

We also went to another tile shop to look for new bathroom floor tile and possible new backsplash tile (Art Tile on Broadway for locals). We spent quite a lot of time there and although there were tiles we liked, nothing really compared to the backsplash Wendy and my dad already loved. The good news was that Art Tile could order the same tile (they work with that manufacturer as well) and get us a better price. Woo-hoo! They had a lot of options for the floor but there was one that really peaked our interest


Yes, I realize that's a lot of tile there, so here's a fancy key :)


The subway tile isn't too exciting. But we realized the old "Bone" color looked a little yellow, so we picked out a more neutral "shell" instead. Nothing too crazy, but still a little improvement. For the floor tile we picked out 12x24 tile that they had ripped down to 3x24 for the sake of being about to fit more color options on the sample board. It's got veining in it in shades of white, yellow, beige and slight shades of greenish/brown. We really liked the tile ripped down to 3x24 and will likely do that as well because the bathrooms aren't terribly deep and so we want to see some pattern on the floor.

My dad liked the picks when we were showing them to him on Sunday, but Wendy was having second thoughts about the counter choice. She liked it, but just wondered if there wasn't enough visual interest. What she liked about the original pick was the larger pieces of glass, and the new one had much less in terms of larger pieces (comparison again for reference)


There was a really cool piece of Silestone that Wendy had liked that I saw that she thought about again. I was excited because I had really liked that piece and it was my first choice. The reason we had chosen against it was because Wendy didn't want the avalanche of picking out different paint colors if it threw things off. It was a little brighter white and had flecks of metal in it. We told my dad about it (I had thought he would really like it - we have similar taste) and we decided that I would go back and pick up that sample as well, we'd bring it to the house also and see how it looked in the space


It's really difficult to photograph (especially with the camera on my phone because the damn camera battery died). But those darker pieces in the Silestone that look black are actually flecks of chrome-like metal. They reflect a lot of light and add a lot of interest. We reasoned that we might have to change the color for the bottom cabinets, but the wall color would probably stay the same. We haven't take the samples to the house yet, but that should be happening later today.

Phew! So that is the countertop saga. Was that long enough? :)

What else went on at the house last week?

Well, we found out that even though the wall here is a shear wall, we can still open up this doorway about a foot wider


That doorway being fairly narrow and the first thing right in front of you when you walk in the front door makes things feel closed off. So, luckily the engineer told us we can open it up to the right another 12-16" and even arch it to match the opening on the right of the above photo. Yay!

Chris and my dad have been hard at work replacing recessed lights



In much of the downstairs they installed these square, utilitarian recessed lights that are incredibly unattractive. So last week my dad and Chris took more than a dozen out and, patched and reinstalled 6" can lights


It definitely doesn't make for glamorous work, or make it feel like a ton is happening because there isn't a huge visual impact, but having better lighting will make the house feel less dark. And those lights reminded me of a school basement. They were horrendously unattractive.

We also called an audible and decided to work on this bathroom as well


Again, sorry for the crappy pic, I had to use the phone.

Originally we were just going to paint the cabinet and then call it a day. But, my parents figured they'd replace the counter, sink, etc. when they sold the house so we decided, why not do it now? The counter is so small anyway it'll be quick and not too invasive. This is a half bath with the toilet in a little alcove to the left of the sink so there really isn't too much to change. The floor will stay, the cabinet was already getting repainted, we picked out sinks and faucets for the upstairs bathrooms anyway, so we'll just use the same ones here. And he toilet has already been replaced (of course I forgot to take a picture).

There you have it, Week 4: annoying countertop discovery, different tile, lots of lighting being replaced, and a new bathroom to renovate :) Maybe, just maybe, we'll have all the paint selected this week :) I said fingers crossed last time, so I don't want to jinx it :)

10.09.2014

Week 3: Some More Demo and Questions

We won't have as much visible progress as that first week at my dad and Wendy's for some time - not until paint or tile starts going up will things REALLY get exciting. But, nevertheless work has been plugging away. Chris was only able to be on the job one day last week, but my dad was there a decent amount. And we had lots of appointments again - the tile guy to try to firm things up before we accepted his proposal, the hardwood flooring installer to go over details of installation of all the plywood for the subfloor, and a plumber. Originally we didn't think we'd need a plumber, but we have to run some water lines to the other end of the kitchen for the built in coffee maker my dad and Wendy picked out, the same as the one we installed at their old house



...as well as the pot filler above the stove.

Those are certainly jobs Chris can do, but plumbing really is not his favorite and it would go much faster to have someone else install those. While they're at it they'll switch out the twenty year old biscuit toilets with these ones we picked out


They're American Standard Cadet 3 Flowise Concealed trapway toilets. We have LOVED the American Standard toilets we've used in our own house. Toto seems to be all the rage now, but honestly I don't think they're worth the extra money at all. In the 4 years we've had our cadet toilet it's clogged once, and that's from the asshole floor refinishers who I think did it on purpose. And we all thought the concealed trapway was pretty cool. It's also part of the water sense program and only uses 1.28 gpf. 

He'll also replace all the valves for all the showers and tub fillers (which is actually a ridiculous amount in this house), install sink faucets, etc. The biggest pluses are those water lines, but it's a "while you're here..." to get all the other stuff installed. It'll definitely speed things up. He's set to start on Monday, so that's exciting. 

Chris also worked on removing just a small portion of the bathroom wall in the master. It used to look like this


And after he removed about 6 inches, it looks like this


It wasn't a bug chunk we were able to remove (because of venting coming up from the kitchen)...


...but we all felt like it made a HUGE difference in bringing light into an otherwise sort of cavernous bathroom.

And along those cavernous lines...we decided not to open up the bathroom even more to use that nook from the bedroom. I know that will be a bit of a boo hoo for many of you readers because I got a lot of feedback to try and incorporate it, but we decided against it. I know, I'm a bit disappointed too because I was really advocating for it to my dad and Wendy, but there were a couple factors that played a part in deciding against it


1. Despite alllll the windows around the house, there are very few on the east side of the house. It's actually kind of strange. Nearly all the rooms have an abnormally large amount of windows - except the east side. In fact, in the entire house I can only think of 9 (and it's a 3 story house) and 3 of those are teeny tiny privacy windows in bathrooms. To give you an idea of how weird that is compared to the rest of the house: the master bedroom alone has 5. As a result of the lack of windows, the house feels incredibly dark in the morning and throughout the early part of the day. By afternoon when the sun is high in the sky and tipping west the house is gorgeously light filled. But it definitely is unnecessarily dark for the first 6 hours of the day. If these two windows were included in the bathroom it would certainly do a lot to make the bathroom be brighter, but it would make the master bedroom incredibly dark. And while some people might like that, my parents love light filled rooms and would rather have the bedroom be light filled instead of the bathroom.

2. Another question would be: what would we do with that HUGE shower? One of you fabulous (anonymous) readers passed along this gorgeous pic as an idea

found here
And while that is a fabulously gorgeous (and practical) idea, the master unfortunately already has a tub already - on the other side of the room


I scoured Pinterest to look for other inspirational images and thought about just having it be a giant shower with two heads on the same wall and a super wide bench along the other. Kind of like this

Huge Shower
found here
But I feared having a GIANT shower would just be a little weird. Especially because the bathroom is long and skinny and literally 1/3 of the bathroom would be the shower. That's a little strange.

3. The logistics would be a bit much to make that change as well. No matter what layout we chose (if we decided to make it bigger) it would involve a plumber. There are only two shower heads in there now right across from each other and if you enlarged it by nearly 3 times I figure you wouldn't want the two shower heads 3 ft from each other. That would feel a little cramped. You'd probably also move the drain. Also, new framing would be needed, as well as new waterproofing. It would be smart to replace the windows too because they're currently wood windows and even though you could try to seal them, it would be smart to have them be a different material in a wet space. Then, there would also be A LOT more tile.

4. Bleeding into the logistics factor is the cost all of that would entail. Chris and I were talking about it and with needing a plumber, new framing/waterproofing, possibly replacing two windows, needing to buy a lot more tile and more time spent installing said tile it could easily cost $10k to expand the shower. I know that sounds ridiculous, but just the cost for the tile for the space would be $700, and the tile for the shower is less than $10 sq ft.

I know, it sucks that it's not being incorporated. I fought for it because I really liked the idea. And, for as nice as the house is we have all agreed that it's a ho-hum master bathroom that was really not planned out very well, so that is a downside, but I just don't think it makes a lot of sense. I know everyone has their own opinion about things and many of you may be disappointed - and that is totally fair - but it just wasn't in the cards for us.

Alright, now onto other things...

We've been testing the shit out of paint samples



There are paint samples ALL OVER THE HOUSE. We've decided on about 2/3rds of the spaces and about half of the ones that are left all share the same area (foyer to stairs to hallway for example) so we want to make sure the color that is chosen looks great in all places (again, lots of light shifting because of lack of windows on the east side of the house). Want to know how many paint samples? Well, there are 65 colors we've gotten samples of that I've painted around the house. And because of all the light shifts there are probably an average of 3 little squares of each color in each room. So that's about 200 swatches of color I've painted on the walls. I know, I told you it was a lot. It may sound crazy, but we are picking out colors for the ENTIRE house all at once. So while you might pick out 2-6 colors to test in a given room when you're renovating, imagine doing that in every single room of your house all at once. It makes a lot more sense now. But HD is still very annoyed with me when I come in with my pad of paper and 19 samples I need mixed up :)

We've gotten the fireplace and hearth fully removed


Where the fireplace was on the left we've added the extra blocking because we'll be - gasp - covering it up. I know, a bit of a bummer, but because of all the windows throughout the house there is actually very little space to hang anything up on the main floor (in fact I can only think of really 3 walls that are big enough to hang something), and my parent's really like hanging up artwork and mirrors. And this house has two other fireplaces as well. We still need to remove some of the blocking on the right and a built in will be installed there. We're also still hoping to open up that doorway to the very far right of the above photo. Here's the view from the other side

That's the view BOOM right when you come through the front door. Again, another weird thing for this house - it's very open and spacious on the main floor, but these really tight openings and thick walls (along with a lowest ceiling on the entire floor right above you when you come in the front door) make the foyer feel a little less than exciting. The only problem is this is a pretty important wall structurally and because of how they've wired things we'd only be able to open it up about 9" at best. We have an engineer coming today to let us know if opening it up a little is okay, and what we'd have to do to make that happen.

Aaaaand last but not least, there's a question mark of what to do with this amazingly clean sink base cabinet


I told you it was clean :)

We've got to modify the cabinet anyway to accommodate the stainless steel farmhouse sink we got. And clearly the bottom needs to be replaced as well. The base is 48" (ridiculously huge, I know) and Wendy is jonesing for a garbage/recycling pull out as well so we'd need to add that. Because of those factors we're wondering if it would make more sense to just rebuild the whole thing and get fronts to match the rest of the cabinets. It's all a question of what's easiest/most cost effective. And we still haven't quite figured it out yet.

Alright. So there you have it: week 3. I know it's not super glamorous, but these beginning stages after demolition are all about solving the questions that come up and figuring out how to work around the things you encounter. My dad and Chris will be working on a lot of electrical the next two days, so hopefully we'll have a lot of the old recessed cans replaced and some new ones installed as well. Oh, AND hopefully we'll get all the paint picked out. Fingers crossed!