Alphabet Abacus

I normally save art projects for my art blog, but because Chris and I build these out of wood, I figured they could fit in for a one time post.

My cousin Jackie gave birth a number of months ago, and I was WAY behind on her present (right before her baby shower in January when I was almost finished I broke it, damnit!). I finally finished it a month or two ago, but I had never gotten around to shipping it....I'm just a bad present giver!

My little second cousin's (is that the baby of a cousin?) middle name is King, so I thought putting "King Max" would be pretty cute (and the paper on the red blocks is "king of hearts," hehehe).

Finally finishing my cousin's got me motivated to make another one for my good friend Krislyn's baby (just UNDER a year ago we went to Lake Tahoe for her bachelorette party!) Krislyn is my fellow A's fan, so I thought of COURSE her future son needed an A's themed abacus

(I sell other abacus' in my etsy shop)

I LOVE making these toys. I love the fun colors. I love that they're all wood. I love that they're educational. They're just all around pretty damn awesome (if I do say so myself :) ).


Compost Update

Now that it has finally been consistently warm here in Oakland for a couple weeks (although Friday it RAINED), our compost has finally started breaking down. A little over 6 months ago I built us a handy dandy compost shelving unit

(the top shelf is for recent food waste, the middle is for food waste breaking down, the bottom one is for food that is broken down).

Although we could put things like paper, paper towels, and other similar products in our compost, we only put in food waste because we're planning on using the soil it creates in our second vegge garden (the one that will line the back of the house, more on that at the end of the post), so we want to limit the amount of chemicals in our compost because we'll be growing veggies we eat with it.

A little while ago I took down the top two bins to see how things were going and mix it around a bit.

First, I took down the middle bin - food that's in the process of breaking down (not totally graphic, but it is rotten food, so I give you warning)

I was actually surprised by how much things had broken down already considering it hasn't been that warm and there aren't too many earth worms making a home inside (we normally just toss in ones we find around the yard).

After I mixed things around I put the bin on the bottom (though it's not totally broken down, the two bins that have food waste inside are getting pretty full, so I wanted to start a new one).

Then, I got out the top one, our most recent food waste

This one isn't nearly as far along (as you can tell), but after mixing things around it looks a lot better

After I was done, I tossed this one back on the middle shelf and started a brand new bin for food waste.

Overall I'm impressed with our compost bin and excited to get to use the rich soil they make in our eventual second vegge garden that lines the back of the house

(we'll wait until we repair the back of the house - that GROSS addition - then get it stucco'd, clean things up a bit, and then plant some tasty veggies). It's so cool to see the process of how food breaks down and turns into soil.

Food we've noticed that hasn't broken down as fast: orange skin, avocado skin, onions and egg shells (that one I was actually very surprised about).

I can't WAIT to plant our vegge garden with the help of this soil!!!


Lemonade Take 2

After some blog love that mentioned my lemonade making, I thought I'd follow it up with lemonade round 2.

This time I made it while Chris was at work, so it was twice the juicing. And with my pore eczema ridden hands it got to be a little painful towards the end.

Meyer lemons fruit all year round, but they definitely go through cycles. I noticed the fruiting was starting to wind down a few weeks ago, so I thought I'd pick one last batch before it was dormant for a month or two (ONLY a month or two, I know, SUPER lucky).

So I filled up the sink with 2 bucketfulls...

...sliced them up and started juicing

After about 40 minutes of juicing I had a pitcher full of pure lemon juice

I got out some measuring cups and measured out how much juice to a pitcher

Once I got the right measurement per pitcher, I got out some freezer bags and made my own "lemonade from concentrate" mixes

And now that summer has (finally) hit us here in the Bay Area, tasty lemonade couldn't be more fitting!


Some Blog Love

I found two websites that were linking me to top 25 and top 50 home improvement blogs!!!!

I made the Top 50 Do-It-Yourself Blogs: DIY Must-Reads for Home Improvement Projects over at Homeownersinsurance.org, here's their blurb for Picardy Project:
"Meryl at The Picardy Project documents a multitude of DIY projects and also shows you how to make a stellar lemonade (assuming that you, too, have access to a bountiful Meyer lemon tree.)"

And here's a blurb about the article:
"You look upon your new (fixer) house, with its peeling paint and sagging floors, and think to yourself “I can do that. Couple weekends, little elbow grease…” Then you read the wisdom of these hardened DIYers, and you’ll either roll up your sleeves and get started (a little smarter) or, you’ll knuckle under and hire a contractor. Either way, there is much to learn, grasshopper. Read on."

And the Top 25 (!) Home Renovation and Remodeling blogs at arearugs.com (a website for "inspiration and design"). Here's their blurb about the article:
"If you’ve ever tried to renovate part of, or even your entire home, you know what a daunting task it can be. Whether you’re looking for guidance, inspiration, or you’re just curious to see what other people are doing to rebuild their homes, the blogs below feature renovations of all shapes and sizes."

Pretty awesome!!!! :)


Retexturing the Bathroom Ceiling

When we were working on my art room we had to remove the popcorn ceiling, repair the plaster ceiling, and then retexture the whole thing. That was not a fun project. Especially for room as large as a bedroom.

Thank god the bathroom doesn't need any popcorn removal or repairing. All it needed was some retexturing, something A LOT easier to handle.

First, after we had demo'd the whole room, there was still the curve of plaster from ceiling to wall...

...so I had to chip that away so we could repair the corners and have a smooth transition from ceiling to new walls

Next, we got out some tape used specifically for wet locations to prevent mold and shoved some plaster into the corners

(it's important to use tape when filling in large cracks and holes because it helps hold the plaster and joint compound together so you don't get as many cracks and get a better bond)

Once the plaster was dry (it dries pretty quick), we got out the big mesh roll (for the same purpose as tape), and covered the ceiling so our new texture stuck better and didn't have cracks

After we got all the mesh up, it was time to go over the whole ceiling with joint compound (the mesh closer to the camera is white, but it is up there)

When the job was done we got three coats up on the ceiling (with about a day inbetween each to let it sufficiently dry). When we get the drywall up on the walls we'll finish the corners and then do the very last skim over the whole ceiling to get the texture right (those 3 coats were just about smoothing it all out and getting everything on the same level).

Chris did about 2/3's to 3/4's of the first two coats himself (mostly because I'm too damn short so it's hard for me to reach up that high, so I'm much slower than he is). But I had the day off Monday, so I got the last coat up by myself, and MAN were my arms and shoulders tired!


How to Reverse a Door

Once Chris and I decided that we would go ahead and reverse our bathroom door to make it swing to the left, it was time to actually reverse it.

Obvisouly, the first thing we had to do was take the door out of the jamb. Since that was done months ago, we went ahead and removed the hardware from the jamb

As we were removing the hinges we found and old matchbook someone had used to shim to door

pretty cool.

We measured to see where our new hinges should go on the OPPOSITE side of the jamb (we normally would have tried to save the hinges, but they were kinda messed up and covered in a number of layers of old paint and crud, so we just picked up some new ones for pretty cheap)

After we measured it, Chris got the router and carved out the proper rectangle (at the proper depth) to fit our new hinges on the new jamb side

After we switched the hinges to the other side, we filled in the spots were the hinges use to be with bondo and then sanded them down (we still have another layer to fill it in properly)

We also had to change the hinges on the actual door. While they stayed on the same side of the door, they had to switch from hugging against the blue side to hugging the white side

(you see the hinge is hugging the far side of the door and there's that little white stripe between the camera and hinge? Now the hinge hugs the other way and the strip of white is on the other side. That may have just confused you more, I'm not super great at explaining things sometimes.)

Once we got the hinges reversed and reversed the hardware on the door, it was time to take the door outside and sand it down.

You may have never noticed it, but doors are beveled towards the INSIDE of the jamb, meaning that when you close the door, the side that's hinged is actually not perfectly square, but is instead sanded down on an angle to lead the door into the jamb in order to let it close properly.

See that little pop of light coming through between the door and the combo square?

That little bit of light is where the door is sanded down so that it can slide into the jamb and close properly. Because we revesed the door, we had to reverse the sanding so that the door could close in the jamb the OTHER way.

Chris got out the belt sander and got to work (I don't have one of him sanding the door down in the right spot, just the top, whoopsie)

(and we ALWAYS make sure to wear our masks when sanding down anything that was painted because our house was built in the 1920s so there's a good chance the paint has lead in it).

It took a few times of trial and error to make sure that we had sanded down enough so the door could close properly (a few times it creaked and came within about 2-3 inches without shutting). That's where a lot of Chris' sighs and eye rolling came in. I mostly stayed silent since I made him do it, hehehehe :)

But now the door opens and closes just how we want it to!


Reversing the Door

Not reversing the peephole like Kramer did

Although, I do look to Kramer for inspiration sometimes.

But really, this post has nothing to do with Kramer or Seinfeld.

Our bathroom is small - 8' x 7' small (and take away about 20 sq. ft. that is the bathtub and it shrinks even more).

Our bathroom door opened into the room like this

Which I couldn't STAND. I really wanted to reverse the way the door opened into the room (in this drawing it opens toward the right, I wanted it to open to the left.)

To me, with the room being so small, if the door opens into the middle of the room, it makes it seem smaller. You have to shimmy around the sink (it comes out futher than my "drawing" shows) to get to the toilet, and if you ever have to get anything (medicine, etc.) from the storage cabinet that will be in the corner you have to open the door all the way, walk around it, close it, grab what you need, open the door again, walk around the door...I thought that would be QUITE annoying.

Chris was not a fan of reversing the door though and REALLY didn't want to do it. He had already wired the lightswitch a few months ago to the left of the door and wasn't looking forward to changing it.

But a few weeks ago we decided we weren't going to do an addition in the attic (something we were thinking we would do in 5-10 years). I had really wanted to do one and Chris REALLY didn't want to (we have about 500 sq. ft. of usable space in the attic). We talked about it for a long time, talked with an architect and ultimately Chris convinced me not to do it

It seems like something a bit ridiculous to be talking about now, I know, but it would influence a lot of what we do to the rest of the house, so we wanted to tackle it as early as possible.

After Chris got me to agree that we shouldn't do an addition, we agreed that everything in the house then had to be "perfect." The things that would take a bit more time, but we knew would make the house better but we were too lazy to do...now we would do them.

LONG story short, the door was one of those things.

Therefor, I was able to convince Chris that we should reverse the door. Yay!

Now the bathroom will look like this

I know that doesn't seem like a very big deal and you must all think I'm crazy for thinking it makes a big difference. But now (well, once the bathroom's done), when you open the door into the room, you'll actually be opening it INTO the room, and not into a wall.

Chris wasn't super excited about reversing the door in the jamb and all the work it took to do it, but now it opens the other way! Yay!

And even Chris said it was better (after all of the sighing, eye rolling, loud exhaling, and pursed lips, etc. it took to get there)



Today was a great Father's Day.

As I have two great moms, I ALSO have two wonderful dads

(my step-dad Clarke, who was VERY excited by his Tim Gunn bobblehead I got him for x-mas)

(my dad, Chris and I totally rocking out to RockBand)

This morning we ran a 5K with Clarke as training for our family relay in Hawaii in September. 5K is a very short race, but each leg of the Road to Hana relay my family will be running (52 miles total) will be about 2.5-3.5 miles, so it was a great guage of where we're at in terms of speed of each leg.

Then in the afternoon (after a little housework of course) we headed out to Benicia to see my dad and Wendy and hang out with them and see a house they're interested in buying.

It was a fun, productive and relaxing day all around. And now Chris is looking at blueprints of one of the houses my dad and Wendy are interested in

I'm BEGGING them to buy the house that needs work (DOWN WITH MOVE-IN READY!) so I can be their project manager ;)



A Little Something Extra

When we were looking into what fixtures to purchase for the bathroom and we settled on Kohler, we had to figure out what rough plumbing valve we needed.

After we dropped the shower faucet...

...in our virtual cart, a tab popped up promting us to choose what valve we wanted. We looked at the spec sheet to see if it gave any indication of what valve to get, and it didn't so we still had a question mark. I waited until Monday and called Kohler's customer service center in the hopes of getting our question answered.

The phone call lasted MAYBE 5 minutes, and it was quite informative.

Chris and I are big on customer service and quality of construction. We are more than willing to pay extra for a product if we know it's made in the United States, has great customer service or we've had good experiences with in the past (for instance, Chris loves Sony as an electronics brand and has had great experiences with them, so we stay pretty brand loyal. Conversely, I've had HORRIBLE experiences with AT&T as a cell phone brand and will endlessly tell people how horrible they were to me - DON'T GET AN AT&T CELL PHONE!).

When I called Kohler their touch-menu was pretty simple, I was on hold for maybe a minute, my customer service rep was very nice, and she answered my question very quickly and made it make sense to me.

I felt a little guilty in the beginning spending a bit more on our bathroom fixtures than they would have all cost if we had bought Moen or Delta or some no name cheap-o brand, but with great customer service (and a quality of construction we already know of), I'm pretty satisfied.


Tile Delivery!

When I got home from work this evening, this is what the front porch looked like

Tile anyone?

Yes, you guessed right, that's all of our bathroom floor tile in all its glory! :) You may remember that I asked for your help to find white basketweave tile with a gray dot a while back. Some good suggestions found me looking on various websites, but I still couldn't find exactly what I was looking for (some had a dark gray - almost black - dot, and white with a white dot found itself a surprising close second).

Of course I made a spreadsheet of all the tile places I could find in the Bay Area (well not all, but 47, yes 47). I called all of them inquiring if they carried basketweave tile, and if they did if it had a gray dot, a LIGHT gray dot, and how much it was per square foot.

Few places carried basketweave (in fact many didn't know what I was even talking about, which to me, if you're a TILE STORE and you don't know what basketweave is, that's a little embarrassing). Even fewer had basketweave with a gray dot (black was everywhere, and most had cobalt as well), let alone a light gray dot, and those that did carried Walker Zanger or Akdo which ran upwards of $27 - $43 dollars a sq. ft. ($43 per sq. ft. makes me want to throw up).

When we went on our anniversary trip and decided to stop at a tile place in Fresno while visiting Chris' family I had a good feeling because they SAID they had LIGHT gray tile that was $14 per sq. ft. --> music to my ears! Alas, they were liars. They carried Walker Zanger with a light gray dot that was either in the high $20s or low $30s.

So, we were left to pay a hefty shipping sum to get our tile from Buytile.com (though the initial price per sq. ft. was only $12, so you really can't argue).

Upon receiving our lovely (and heavy) delivery, I unpacked all the boxes (bagging up the peanuts to save in case I need to ship something - it makes me feel better than throwing something away that's so wasteful and bad for the environment)

And here's our tile

Aaaahhhh, beautiful. I love the gray dot instead of the black, especially with our very light blue/green glass subway tiles for the wall to chair rail height and shower enclosure (please excuse my messy art room table the tile is sitting on)

(we'll be using those skinny pieces of tile for the trim where the tile meets the painted wall.

Now we've got about 175 square feet of tile sitting in the front room waiting to find their new home in the bathroom. At least it's not tools anymore - I guess we're making progress

And Chris is jumping on that trampoline as we speak, errr, type. What can I say, it's our post-dinner exercise :)