2010: A Year in Pictures

When I saw Robin over at 3 acres and 3,000 sq. ft. post a year in review in pictures, I knew I had to snag her awesome idea. Thanks Robin!

Sometimes it feels like nothing get accomplished. I look at our house and stand in amazement that we've been here for 2 years and we're just finishing the kitchen even though it was started two years ago (just painting the trim left!!!) Sure we do lots of other stuff too, but when you live in the mess of a home renovation day after day after day after day after day it can certainly feel like there is never any progress. I love when people come over who haven't seen the house in a while and they gasp at things you've done and how things are looking. It's certainly a wonderful thing to hear, and it makes you think, "Yeah, I guess things are slowly improving" (with an emphasis on slowly).

So now, to make us feel like we've actually gotten something done, here's a summary of 2010 in the pictures it took to get us there.

Early January - organizing my art room, especially those AMAZING shelves Chris built me

January and February - solving the issue of a swamp on our side yard

February - working on getting power to the under construction garage

March - our garage was jacked up so much and the walls were cut at the bottom so you could SWING them, and we had a slightly dirty backyard

April - Chris poured the back slab of the garage himself while I was at work. By the time I got home he was just finishing up :)

May - we built a nice flower bed in the backyard to give Charlie the Cherry Blossom some company

Late May - I finally finished the bathroom demo started way back by ripping up the rest of the floor

June - we repaired and built in some extra support in the bathroom

July - we picked a house color (what, you can't tell the difference between all those slightly off-white colors?)

And plumbed for the shower

August - we revealed the FINISHED garage

September - we laid the bathroom floor

And ran an epic 52 mile relay in Maui with my mom, CBH and step brother

October - we started the wall tile

November - we decided to tile in the kitchen too

December - we finished the tile in the bathroom!

And then spent the rest of the year working on our Insurmountable Goal.

Looking back on it, it does look like we accomplished a few things :) I feel good about the progress we got done. We came near to completing our 2010 Goals, but nothing close to getting the wishlist done.

What will there be to look forward to in 2011 you ask? Well, in the next 10 days or so you'll get the bathroom, kitchen and foyer reveals (BAH!!!!!!!), our 2011 house plan and some questions about what new stuff you'd like to see on the old blog in the new year of blogging.

I hope you all had a wonderful and productive 2010, here's to success in 2011!



Are you ready to hear about how Porcher made our great sink debacle up to us?

Last week I mentioned how floored I was when I found out how Porcher was making it up to us after they heard the headache we endured with their sink. Here's how it went down in a longish story, but I wanted to give you all the exciting details!:

I drafted an angry letter about 10 days ago to send off to many representatives at Porcher and American Standard (who owns Porcher). Unable to find out exactly who at Porcher I should mail it to, I called the showroom we bought it from. Our amazing sales lady Gretchen over at Style Bath and Kitchen here in Oakland remembered me and was sad to hear about our towel bar problem (to add to all the other sink problems). She promised to contact Porcher and see who we should get in contact with.

The next day (Friday the 17th) while I was at work I got a message from her saying Porcher is aware of the problem and they're getting people on it. Hmmm, what does that mean? I hoped someone did indeed get on it.

Monday the 20th rolls around and an email pops up in my inbox from the Director of Design and Branding at American Standard. Whoa. He says he wants to help. Busy at work I put off responding. In the afternoon I get another email from him, this time with his office number to contact him when I get the chance. When I had a free moment at work it was already too late in the day (they're on the East Coast) and so I figured I contact him the next day.

Tuesday morning finds me delivering holiday goodie baskets for my brother to his tennants (he's in commercial real estate) in Walnut Creek when I get a phone call from an unfamiliar number. When I get back in my car I check my voicemail and it's Mr. Design and Branding (Mr. DaB) who is amazingly appologetic and asks me to call him. Popping in my hand's free while I drive to my "real job" I call him back. He is SO nice and appologetic. I spend the first 5 minutes of the conversation with my jaw dropped. I remember the words "this is unacceptable" , "I am so so sorry" , "we stand behind our products and are ashamed this happened" , "this problem has gone on far too long" and other absolutely wonderful things being said by him. How can you be mad when someone volunteers to admit how poorly their company fucked up? I was amazed.

He went on to ask what they could do to help us. I suggested the most cost-effective thing was to just send smaller grommets. But halfway through mentioning that he said, "I don't care what is most cost effective or easiest, I want to give you a product that is right and you are happy with." Well that just made me so happy again. After much conversation we decided on trying to get smaller grommets and then if that didn't work they would hire a tiler to come out and try to bore bigger holes in the sink to fit the original grommets in. If that didn't work, they would remove the sink, repair/replace any damaged tile and install a new, towel-bar-fitting sink. All at their cost. And he would ship the sink the next day to have it waiting in case of any problems. Holy crap in my pants.

Just when I was getting over the shock of his generosity he asked, "How is your kitchen going, do you need a new faucet?" (I had mentioned in passing that we were redoing our whole house bit by bit.) I laughed and said, "Well, our kitchen is finished, so could I take up your offer on a faucet for our second bathroom?" (I felt guilty asking to switch out the complimentary kitchen faucet for a bathroom one, but hey, he was offering.) He insisted that we take a faucet for the bathroom and told me to look on the website with Chris and send him some pictures of the bathroom so he could see what kind of style it was and offer some suggestions (the man is the Director of Design at American Standard afterall!)

And just because the universe likes to entertain me, Mr. DaB then asked if we wanted a toilet upgrade too! I was speechless. I sort of stammered and said that we actually had an American Standard toilet already installed and that we were very happy with it. He said, "Well, the [can't remember the name] toilet is designed to go with the sink you purchased, so if you were interested in an upgrade that would be the one to go with." I fumbled over my words in amazement.

I ended the conversation thanking him so much for his generosity and letting him know that customer service is extemely important to me (I would gladly pay more for an item if a company's customer service is top notch) and so I was thankful for his effort and sincerity; that our debacle with the sink did totally suck and frustrate us but it was really good of him to admit the mistake and get right on track solving it.

Chris and I talked that night. He had gotten the towel bar installed by shaving down the grommets. The bar was a little wonky but with some silicone we got it fixed in well. We thought about having the holes drilled so the new grommets "really" fit, but we figured that since the bathroom was so close to being done, we really didn't want to deal with the possible construction getting a new sink would entail. Despite how amazingly nice it was of them to offer.

Wednesday morning I called up Mr. DaB and relayed the decision of just sticking with the now installed towel bar sink. Mr. DaB insisted that he didn't want us to settle and that it was really important to him that our sink operate properly. I reiterated that we were totally fine with the sink now that Chris had gotten the towel bar in, but that if we did encounter any other problems down the line we'd take him up on his new sink offer. With that, I let him know that he didn't have to worry about shipping the sink. Surprise again, "We shipped the sink this morning already, so please feel free to use it however you like." FREE SINK!?! Helllloooo back bathroom.

Then he asked if I'd had a chance to look at faucets with Chris. OF COURSE! I let him know we liked the Jado Hateras faucet, but saw online that it was out of stock in oil-rubbed bronze

He said he'd try to see what he could do. I let him know, "We like cross handles, water to spout from higher up and oil rubbed bronze finishes. If the Hateras isn't available, feel free to pick out what faucet you think would work for us." Amazed at getting a free sink and faucet I didn't dare bring up the idea of the free toilet. He was being so nice I didn't want to take advantage of his generosity.

The next morning another email from Mr. DaB popped up in my inbox. In it contained the goodies we'd be receiving: not only the faucet, but also a toilet paper holder, hand towel holder, bath towel holder, and a robe hook. HOLY SHIT! I fired off a quick response thank thank thanking him, but he had already left for the Christmas holiday and wouldn't be back till January 4th (as his Out of Office reply told me).

I was shocked. I forwarded the email to Chris and we expressed to each other our bewilderment at such great customer service and all that he had done to ensure that we were happy. He truly went above and beyond the call of duty. Honestly, just having him admit that they made a mistake and were sorry would have been enough for me, but getting a free sink and lots of bathroom accesories was icing, ice cream, whip cream, chocolate sauce, sprinkles and a cherry on top.

I put off letting you guys know because I wanted to show you the goodies! Yesterday when I got home there was a pile of bathroom accesories, and today was a big, huge box that had the sink and TWO towel bars in case there were any problems

(insert many squeels of excitement)

After the amazingly annoying headache of a 3 months late arriving sink, one that was sent broken and a towel bar that didn't fit I am so thankful for what Porcher and American Standard (and Jado, another brand of theirs) did to make it up to us. We are so thankful and so happy for American Standard's generosity. Before, I wouldn't have recommended them to anyone, but now, I am so pleased with how on top of things they were the second they found out what was wrong that I would recommend them in a second.

I called Gretchen to thank her as well for all she did to help. She said that apparently the CEO got involved when he heard what happened, that she had never seen someone so high up take such responsibility and make sure a customer was happy, and that they resolved the issue super fast (4 days later, but really only 1 day after Mr. DaB got my phone number), especially considering it's the holidays.

And now, because we have all these amazing goodies...we've decided to move up the back bathroom reno! We were originally going to work on it down the line, but how could we let those splendid items sit, lonely and unused in the front room? They want to be in the bathroom! I guess it's more rotten floors to repair and tiling to be done! And, because we're sick and twisted, we're actually considering chair rail height subway tile again...maybe even higher than chair rail...

Thank you Porcher, Jado and American Standard!!!!!!


A Painted Pass Through

We've had the top of 2 sheets of drywall and a 2x4 as our "pass through" for well over a year

And with the goal of the kitchen being done by the end of this year we finally had the motivation to get a real pass through in there.

Our plan was to just toss a rectangular piece of poplar up there and paint it, but my step dad CBH had a pretty cool idea to make the edges of the side protruding into the TV room curved to make it look more built it.

I got to measuring and drew up the plans, and Chris got to cutting

After a fit or two and some trimming, we got it into place with some PL Premium and counter sunk screws

We tossed in some caulking to fill in the gap...

...added some decorative brackets

...then we slathered on some oil based paint cuz it'll get a lot of traffic, and called it a day.

It's already in full use

This project really took barely any time to do (in the grand scheme of things: spending 40+ hours laying tile), I don't know why we took so long to get it done. But that's just how many things go around here. We're still not quite done with the kitchen and I'm already brainstorming about what to do in the back bathroom.... :)

P.S. If you spy really hard in the last pic, you might be able to catch another task we completed to get us another step closer to finishing our kitchen: completed goal.

P.P.S. I really do not appreciate Georgia Tech losing today. I'm in last place in my bowl pool. Damnit.


Not Even a Week

We've got 6 days left to complete our Insurmountable Goal, which means we've got less than a week to complete the kitchen, bathroom and foyer. But we are OOOOHHHH so close, so we might - that's right we MIGHT - just be able to get it done. Fingers crossed!

The kitchen

What we've done in the 5 weeks since our goal:

1. Finished installing window trim and painted it
2. Finished installing backsplash and grouted it
3. Sealed the backsplash and counters
4. Installed the wall calendar and painted it
5. Finished electrical for stove and installed the new gas stove
6. Cut down, installed, painted pass-through
7. Installed switchplate covers (it's actually quite pathetic that this needs to be on the list, but it's one of those projects that takes 10 minutes but you never really get to it)

What we need to finish:

1. Install the side door trim and paint it
2. Paint door trim that's been installed already
3. Install upper cabinet trim and paint it (Chris has it cut down, we'll most likely install it today)
4 .Install baseboards and paint them

The bathroom

What we've done in the 5 weeks since our goal:

1. Finished installing allllllllllll that tile (all 951 tiles. I am SO glad that's done.)
2. Grouted allllllllll that tile
3. Sealed the floor and walls
4. Figured out shower enclosure and got it installed
5. Installed sink
6. Installed toilet
7. Installed mirror over sink and cabinet over toilet
8. Got bathroom artwork, installing it today
9. Moved in accesories (shampoo, toilet paper holder....) - I actually took the FIRST shower in the new (almost finished) bathroom on Friday! It was magical. NO MORE MOLDY BACK BATHROOM!
10. Installed the door

What we still need to do:

1. Install ducting for fan
2. Finish last touches on door reversal and get it painted
3. Finish shower trim installation (the tub spout needs to be put in, right now it's just capped off)

The foyer

As you can see we're currently in the processed of testing stains to try and match the original stain color. We're on round 2 at the moment. Chris has cut down the trim in the closet, but we're still sitting in the same place we were 5 weeks ago: nothing done :)

What's standing in our way:

We got A LOT of those things checked off

1. I participated in my two afternoon/evening fairs, day long fair and entire weekend fair (selling my custom hand drawn shoes and wooden alphabet baby toys)
2. A weeknd in LA
3. Family Christmas celebrations (an evening at a trampoline park in SF with my mom for our annual non-traditional traditional celebration? YES PLEASE!)
4. Attended 2 football games
5. Class is finished
6. I painted at my brother's
7. Our Christmas day tradition of watching movies all day (we watched 6) and we've got 6 more movies to watch to get us to 300 movies watched in a year (much better than the 48 we were looking at 5 weeks ago)
8. We made fudge earlier this week with Chris' sister and her boyfriend
9. I worked a 12 hour day doing utility at the CA North Coast section high school football championships

What we have left: no work on the evening of the 31st so we can make ourselves a fancy pants dinner and watch movies all night as we celebrate 2010 :)

I think we might actually be able to get there!!! :)

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! Now back to work! :)


It's a Christmas Miracle!

It's impossible, I can't stay away from blogging for too long. Things have been stressful and crazy and hectic and tiring, but strangely, being able to write about what happens on the house on this silly little blog is a nice way to break the craziness and see how far we've come.

With that, there have been some exciting improvements to the bathroom!

The mirror (purchased at Ross in a gross metallic-brown color and spray painted glossy white) and medicine cabinet are up

The toilet paper holder is in

A shower enclosure may or may not have been installed

And the miracle you ask? Chris got our towel bar installed!

And I cannot WAIT to tell you about how Porcher made it up to us! It'll take a couple days till I can reveal the news, but they absolutely went above and beyond the call of duty. My jaw was dropped. I was speechless. Can't wait to share the good news.

Until then, have a very happy holiday!!!


Blogging Break

It's been a rough couple of months for me. Home stress, work stress, personal stress. So I'm taking a break from blogging. I'll probably only be gone till the new year, which really isn't too long, but as a multiple-times-a-week poster, you won't be getting any new complaints, errrrr, news from me for a couple of weeks.

I hope everyone has a good rest of holiday season and I hope I've got a finished bathroom and kitchen to show you in the new year. Otherwise I may be absent for much longer because I'll have to commit myself to a mental hospital.


Visit Picardy Drive!

One of the great things about our neighborhood is the annual display of holiday lights that most of the houses on the street have put up every year since the Depression. Yup, that's right, for 60+ years (we even string lights from house to house).

We were in contract for our house during the 2008 holidays, and because we're one of the houses in front of the Big Tree on our street (a wider part of the street that's more prominent) neighbors asked our real estate agent if they could put up lights so our house wasn't left out. We OF COURSE agreed and were excited to get to participate once the house was ours.

The only thing that makes putting up lights on our house a LITTLE difficult is the architecture, so we've got to get a big ol' ladder out to help. And because I'm afraid of heights (something that's only started the last few years, grrrr), Chris gets to climb up while I try not to look up at him for fear that I may throw up. So I string all the strands of lights together and tape over the joints

(Chris rigged up a little assistance in the form of a screw on the end of a 2x4)

At some point hooks were put on the roofline of the house. Whether or not this was for lights, it certainly comes in handy

(can you see the hooks on the brown trim just below the roofline?)

Every year there is a get together on The Island where the Big Tree is (conveniently RIGHT in front of our house) for a tree lighting ceremony (the city of Oakland comes to put lights on it). We all mingle, chat, and eat holiday goodies. It's usually one of the early weekends in December, and this time we were tiling RIGHT UP to tree lighting time. We try to get our house done by the tree lighting, and so do most of our neighbors but there is an even more special day to have your lights up by...

Not only does our street have a neighborhood get together, but they also have a community get together every year where SANTA comes and your little ones can visit with him on The Island under the twinkly lighted Big Tree. There is hot cocoa and apple cider and you can stroll the street and see all the wonderful houses all lit up :) And this year that event is THIS Saturday, December 18th at 7pm!

Even if you don't have little ones who might want to visit with Santa, if you live near, in or around Oakland I encourage you to drive down our street (Christmas Eve is the most popular night) to see all the lights and have some good holiday cheer

(this is the view from our porch. See the strand of lights from house to house?)

And give us a wave when you walk or drive by our house! :)

Next year I'm going all out on decorations on the OUTSIDE of the house because besides a tree and stockings I'm not really a big fan of inside Xmas decorations. We were super busy this year, so we just have simple lights on the outline of our house and no tree :( but I've already started a list with decoration ideas for next year :) So pass along any great outside the house decorations you'd like to share!

Happy Holidays!


Bathroom Storage

We've got a small bathroom. And without a vanity that's got storage underneath, we've got a small storage problem. When we moved in the corner of the bathroom had a closet built in (not original, it was tiled all behind it)

That's a TERRIBLE pic, but you get the idea.

What we didn't like about it: it came out REALLY far into the room (even with the tub) and it made the room look even smaller because it took up the whole corner.

What we did like: it provided a ton of storage.

With a new and improved bathroom we needed new and improved storage. So we hunted around for a standing storage cabinet to sit in the corner. We wanted it tall enough to provide adequate storage, but small enough so it didn't fill the entire space and look ginormous. I also liked the idea of glass doors on it so it made it feel more open and not closed off.

We finally found one (good storage, good size, good looking, decent price) and when it arrived I assembled it

Then came the task of filling it.

I grabbed all of our medicine, toiletries, tampons (yes that's right TAMPONS) that were strewn all over the house and started putting things together (with all the handy containers I bought, hehehehehe)

After an hour or so I got things moved around, put together, and shoved into the cabinet all neat and tiddy. And now that cabinet has been sitting in our front room for, oooohhhhh, 4 months. It's nice when we're in the living room and need medicine, but it's kind of annoying to be in the bathroom, then it's "damnit!"

It's been on my to do list to label all the containers for (all those) four months and because I'm a Lazy Bones Jones I haven't done it. But with the bathroom being completed just around the corner I put it on my to do list (because then I'll actually do it).

Out came the label maker! :)

And like our (apparent) obsession with corn meal, if you need bug spray or sunscreen, you know where to find it