Moving to a new domain

I decided to move to a new domain, but all the content remains.

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A Little Water Problem.

Nothing too exciting to report on the kitchen progress today. The frames for all the upper cabinets are painted and the first half have had the protective top coat applied. We got seven of the doors deglossed and four are painted. In the morning I’ll top coat the four doors and the second half of the frames and then we’ll move on to the next batch of doors. We’re limited on space for painting or we could easily do more at a time.

I mentioned the water problems last night, so here’s the story:

Around Halloween, I commented to Lyle that it smelled pretty musty in the basement and I couldn’t figure out why. It was cold and dry enough outside that we weren’t running the dehumidifier down there, and were actually running a humidifier upstairs – there should be no dampness in the basement. I’ve always had a much more sensitive nose than he has, so he kind of blew me off.

A week or two later, I went down to the bathroom in what functions as our guest bedroom and noticed that the carpet was wet. Not just damp, squishy. Oh, boy. To make matters scarier, the area that was wet is right next to a very poorly placed sewer clean-out. (Side note: You could say that our basement is very poorly designed overall. You’d be right.) Strangely though, it didn’t really smell like sewage, just dampness.

Lyle started trying to find the source of the water. We assumed it was the sewer pipe, because that was the most obvious answer. He pulled down a section of wall, which was easy to do because it was just ugly fake wood paneling. We went upstairs and flushed the toilet several times, assuming that water would trickle down from a leak. Nothing happened. We ran water in the sink in the bathroom right by the wet carpet but nothing happened there, either.

We were stumped. First thing Monday morning we called a plumber. He showed up around an hour later and got to work. He looked at all the things we’d looked at and then pulled a few more chunks of paneling down. No leak. Then he asked the fateful question: What’s on the other side of this wall?

The utility room.

The water heater.

Just out of curiosity, he suggested that perhaps he should take a look at the water heater.

Here’s a question for you: When the plumber discovers that your water leak is caused by the drain valve on the water heater being open a tiny bit, should you be more overwhelmed by embarrassment for being so dumb, or relief that you’re not going to be spending a pile of money to fix a leaky pipe?

We chose the third option, which was to be extremely grateful that they didn’t even send us a bill.

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Kitchen Upgrade on a Budget – Painting the Cabinets. Part One.

No, you’re not seeing things; you get two posts in one day!

Today we were ready to tackle the cabinets. Lyle has mostly recovered from the floor adventures (apparently it was quite a workout with all the up and down and pulling on stubborn carpet) and I wanted to get going ASAP so the floor can follow.

Lyle took the doors off one set of cabinets while I was gone to work and marked where they belong. We discussed how to do things and agreed that for now, leaving the hinges on the doors was a smart choice. We’re going to take all the doors off, paint the frames, and then move hinges from the doors back to their original places on the frames, and finally paint the doors. While it logically shouldn’t make any difference if hinges get moved around, this is one of those things that if we don’t keep them in their original spots, it will, somehow, come back to bite us.

I borrowed some storage totes from Dad so we had somewhere to put all the stuff we’re taking out. Let me tell you, those cabinets hold a LOT of stuff. A lot.

All this stuff:

came out of these cabinets:

And those represent about 1/3 of the cabinets. We may have to either reconsider unloading the cabinets, or do one section at a time to avoid completely running out of totes. At some point in the future we’re going to have to do something about the inside of the cabinets, because they’ve been painted at least twice and it’s in terrible shape and chipping off. As much as I want it done, though, I have absolutely no desire to be the person who paints them, so it won’t be part of this project. I know that long-term, it would save time to do it now while they’re already empty, but it’s just not going to happen.

The first step in actually painting the cabinets is to degloss. The kit comes with two bottles of deglosser and plenty of scouring pads. This is a relatively labor-intensive process, but nothing complicated. You just have to pour the deglosser on the scouring pad and scrub everything down really well. Then you wipe with a damp rag followed by a dry rag. Repeat until the damp rag comes back clean. This section of cabinets took me around 45 minutes or an hour.

While I was doing that, Lyle was removing the apron from above the sink. Another feature of my kitchen that I’ve never loved, it lends to the very country feel of the room and I didn’t want to update everything else and leave that.

Fortunately, Dad left his reciprocating saw and there was just enough of a gap on the right side of the apron to be able to get the blade in and cut the nails without doing too much damage to the wood.

It already looks better completely without the apron, but we’re going to take it down to the lumber yard and have them rip it down so it’s just straight across. That way, the base of the lights will still be covered but it will have a more contemporary look. We may shorten up the light fixture so the individual lights don’t hang down so far, but we’re not sure whether it’s possible or not. The good thing is that it’ll be relatively simple to take the fixture down and find out – nothing like the good time we had putting it up. The apron was very much in the way when we did that and made it a much more difficult job than it needed to be.

After the deglosser step is done, we let everything dry for about an hour and then put on the first coat of paint. This step went very quickly and was pretty simple. Everything I’ve read said that you’re better off to do several very light coats instead of one heavy coat, so I was careful not to get too crazy with the paint. An hour or so after the first coat, it was dry to the touch so I did the second. I may decide in the morning, with better light, that a third would be beneficial, but there will be plenty of paint and it takes almost no time so I don’t mind either way.

The grey paint gives the room a completely different look than what we originally imagined, but I think it’s going to really look nice when it’s all done. If it doesn’t, I won’t be admitting it because the grey was my idea (even though Lyle agreed with me).

The doors are headed downstairs into the room that got almost gutted when we had our little water issue a while back (Did I forget to post about that? It’s a fun little story – not.) to be dealt with in a nice, out-of-the-way spot. I think tomorrow’s plan is to get the rest of the doors taken off and frames painted, but that depends a lot of whether I end up having to work all day. I’m hoping for not but we’ll see what happens.

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Kitchen Upgrade on a Budget – Tearing up the Floor

Friday Lyle decided to get back to tearing up the floor and hopefully get it all done. He started with the carpet. The basic technique was to pull up and edge and then ram the flat end of a wonder bar under the exposed area to loosen the glue. Then either using his bare hands or a pair of pliers to get a good grip, he pulled until it quit coming loose. Lather, rinse, repeat. To say it was hard work would be a huge understatement. (This may be why he is so fond of home improvement projects – he always gets the difficult, miserable jobs.)

Once he had most of the carpet ripped out, we decided to go ahead and try the scraper attachment. I picked up both  a 2″ and 4″ Spyder scraper at the lumber yard. It’s a pretty cool little gadget that lets the reciprocating saw do most of the work for you. When I got back home, Dad had arrived with the saw and a big ice scraper. He started with the Spyder and tried to get the edge of the yellow linoleum to come up. Unfortunately there was a bit of a learning curve and he dug a little deep trying to get things started.

Next, Lyle decided to try using it in place of the wonder bar to get the carpet loosened. He had the learning curve issue too and almost gave up, but discovered that with a little bit lighter touch, it worked beautifully. Not only did the carpet come up, he was able to get under the linoleum and it all came up together. What was revealed below proved that we hadn’t even begun to appreciate the beauty of the original linoleum.

Beautiful, no? That red stripe runs all the way around the kitchen, about 6 inches in front of the cabinets and along the perimeter of the room. I’m sure it was top-notch (and a totally custom job) 60 years ago, but it doesn’t translate so well these days.

Unfortunately, either because the rest of the floor had more traffic or because it worked better with the linoleum still glued to the carpet, the rest didn’t come up nearly as well. The Spyder scraper still did a good job, but rather than getting underneath the yellow layer, it basically just peeled the top layer off, leaving the whitish bottom layer. On the bright side, the most difficult part of that process was that the rechargeable batteries wore down faster than they recharged.

Pookie was a good little helper and took care of vacuuming up all the little chunks and obscene amount of dirt and dust that came out of the carpet. Seriously, it was absolutely disgusting and proved why carpet is bad for people with allergies and asthma. Nasty.

It appears that if we soaked the remaining layer with hot water, it might come up pretty easily. But there are enough gouges in it overall that we concluded it would never be a smooth enough surface to apply peel & stick tile, so we’re going to end up doing the 1/4″ underlay anyhow.

For now, though, the floor is on hold. Lyle is (rightfully) paranoid that when the cabinets get painted, there will be drips, and he doesn’t want paint drips on the brand new flooring. It’s probably a good idea from a design perspective as well, because we decided on a very light grey for the cabinets and I have a feeling that once they’re painted we may end up returning the flooring we picked out and choose something completely different.

Saturday we made a quick trip to the big box store to pick up the cabinet paint. After a fair bit of research, we decided to go with the Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations Kit. It comes with almost everything you need, including deglosser and scouring pads. Everywhere I’ve looked, it gets almost universally rave reviews and appears to leave a really nice, smooth finished product which is exactly what we wanted.

We chose the Winter Frost color, because there is a fair bit of grey in the granite tile, and the lightest shade of the glass tile has a hint of grey, too. Somehow, miraculously, when we got to the store, we discovered that the kit was on sale, 20% off. That sort of thing never happens to us.

Unfortunately, the $30 we saved on the paint got more than used up paying to repair the giant rock chip we got in the windshield on our way home. Sigh.

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Kitchen Upgrade on a Budget: Trimming out the Counter Tops

And why carpeting a kitchen should be illegal…

We’ve been thoroughly enjoying and appreciating how much different the kitchen looks now that the nasty Formica is gone. The final step (well, almost final – there are a few tiny details to deal with) was to trim them out.

At one time we had discussed putting the granite tile on the front, but that was another of the things that was problematic because of the corner cabinets. And since the tile saw we have is a joke, it would have been really difficult to cut the tiles down to size. After much discussion, we decided to trim it out in oak. We considered using cherry, but the local lumber yard only carries oak, so that’s what we decided to go with.

Several years ago, shortly after we moved in here, I ripped out all the carpet in the rest of the main floor and put in engineered oak flooring. We decided to try to get the trim to match the color of the flooring, even though the flooring doesn’t extend to the kitchen – just seemed like it would be nice to have it all tie in together.

The people at the lumber yard were nice enough to rip the 1×6 board down to the 2 1/2″ width we needed, and we were lucky enough that one board was just enough to do what we needed. I took a scrap of the flooring along to match the colors as closely as possible and picked out a shade of stain called Pecan. I also picked up a can of polyurethane finish since there’s a good chance the trim will be getting wet, at least on occasion. I have a 3 year old who loves to play in the sink, and the water doesn’t always stay there, after all.

We were going to get the trim all done on Lyle’s last day home before he had to go back to work, but after the battle of the carpet (more on that later), he wasn’t really up for it, and I needed to do a little grinding on the tile around the sink before it could go up. So while he was gone, I got the angle grinder back out and took care of the funny edges, and then started measuring.

Several trips out to my miter saw (and for the record, yes – it is my miter saw) later, I had all the pieces cut to the right size and with the correct angles for the corners. I pre-drilled the nail holes (and may or may not have broken three 1/16″ drill bits in the process) and attached the boards first with construction adhesive and then finish nails. I had to wait to attach the last board because I ran out of drill bits and had to wait for my dad to pick some up on his way home from work, but overall it was a pretty quick process.

I sanded the sharp corners and rough surfaces down with the palm sander and wiped off the last little bit of sawdust that remained. I stained the very first board and sent before and after pictures to Lyle to see what he thought.


Honestly, I was less than thrilled with the results. It came out exactly how I intended but I just wasn’t loving it. It was giving me a very 1992 feeling. We discussed other options, from painting the wood to match the cabinets, to going back to the original idea of using the granite.

Once he got home and saw the stained boards in person, he actually liked it a lot more than he did from the pictures. We decided to go ahead and stain and seal the whole thing; if we decide to change it out later on we’re really not out anything. After staining the rest, I am liking it more than I did before. And I think painting the cabinets will make all the difference in the world.

Meanwhile there is still the problem of the floor to deal with. I have absolutely hated this floor since we looked at the house. It is carpeted. Why? I have no idea. Carpeting in the kitchen ranks right up there with bathroom carpeting on the disgusting meter. We have talked several times about ripping it out, but knew it was going to be a huge job. Unlike a lot of other stuff in this house, we were pretty sure it had been installed correctly, ie. glued down very, very well.

Sadly, we were right. Most of the other projects we’ve tackled, we built up in our minds to be ten times worse than they ended up being. Once we were done, we laughed at ourselves for dreading it so much and putting it off for so long.

The kitchen carpet is not one of those projects.

While the stove was pulled out Lyle and Dad started attacking the carpet. This process involved pulling back an edge (not easy), then jamming a wonder bar under the exposed edge to loosen the carpet from the glue, yanking really hard and starting all over again. They cut the carpet into sections to make it easier, or perhaps I should say less difficult. To say it was a pain in the butt (and hands) would be an understatement.

Originally Lyle assumed that the lovely yellow linoleum was the only layer and if he could rip it up we’d be back down to the original subfloor. Oh, how wrong he was. Pulling up the yellow layer revealed what I assume to be the original. I’m sure it was beautiful in 1952, but 60 years later it looks like a nightmare.

You can only see a little bit of the original stuff there on the right, but let me assure you that in person it’s quite impressive. We They attempted to get underneath the yellow layer, thinking that perhaps it would be easier to remove than the carpet.  It came up in small chips.

I did find a scraper attachment for a reciprocating saw when I was at the lumberyard, and we may still resort to it, but Lyle’s concerned that if we do that we’ll just end up with even bigger gouges. At this point, we’re not sure exactly what the end result is going to be – he has about 3/4 of the carpet pulled up and there are big gouges in the yellow layer anyhow. It may be better to try to scrape the yellow layer off and hope for the best, or we may end up just giving up on that and putting 1/4″ underlay on the whole mess.

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Lest you think I’m not knitting

Don’t worry, there’s been plenty of that going on, too. I’ve had several projects on and off the needles lately, I just haven’t been blogging them for some reason.

First is a pair of socks for Pookie. He picked out the yarn quite a while back, and I just finally got around to making the socks. I didn’t use any particular pattern for them, they’re just a scaled down version of a generic toe-up sock pattern I’ve made several times, and I did a basket weave texture for interest since the yarn is a solid. Put on your sunglasses, because these are bright!

Modeled by Pookie

Modeled by Pookie's Scentsy Buddy, Pooki

These are made with South West Trading Company’s Tofutsies but I couldn’t tell you the name of the colorway.

I made a pair for my niece using Wendy Johnson’s Dainty Anklets from her latest book, Wendy Knits Lace. Anklets aren’t really practical around here, especially in winter, so I made them regular socks (But I really wanted to make the anklets because they’re so adorable!) using Knit Picks Felici in the Berries colorway. Absolutely perfect for a six year old girl.

Tater Bug's socks

See that little bit of yarn hanging off the bottom one? That’s all that was left of the entire ball once I bound the second one off. That’s called “cutting it close”.

Then I decided to make Wendy Johnson’s Seaweed socks using Malabrigo Sock yarn in the Caribeno colorway. I love this yarn. The depth of color is stunning, and it is so soft and squishy I can’t even describe it. The sock was looking lovely:

but I kept thinking that it felt too soft for socks. A little searching on Ravelry confirmed my suspicions with several complaints that socks wore out very quickly. So I frogged it and will find something else to do with the lovely yarn.

I just finished a pair of Poor Poet’s Mitts by, you guessed it, Wendy Johnson. I don’t have a picture of those yet, though, and you really can’t see the detail in the yarn I used, so picture the ones in the link, only with a variegated purple yarn. They’ll be nice for when I’m working and the office is cold – my hands are always like ice cubes.

Here, by the way, is a better shot of the sweater I made for my niece. She was more than happy to model it for me:

Boodie's Sweater

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Kitchen Upgrade on a Budget – the Backsplash

The original plan for the backsplash was to use the same granite tile we had for the counters. I’m pretty sure if we’d had some other plan – any other plan – we wouldn’t have put this off for the last year. We tried and tried but we just couldn’t wrap our brains around a layout that would work for the counters, backsplash and area behind the stove without having funny little pieces patched in. Once we decided the granite wouldn’t work back there, the counter itself became a whole lot more doable.

We considered just painting the wall, but decided that would look funny and require more patching that I was interested in messing with. Another idea was a row or two of four-inch tiles with paint above, but that would have also required patching.

A couple of weeks ago when we were at the big box store looking for something else (the bathroom, to be exact) I walked past the clearance tiles. They had several boxes of glass mosaic tiles in two different colors. One had three different shades of brown and the other was sea blues, and they had both 1″ squares and 1″x2″ subway tiles.

I mentioned to my husband that I really thought the blue subway tiles would look nice (I’m a little fond of blue) and he immediately shut me down. He was sure the blue wouldn’t match anything, and glass tile would be way too much work. I only brought it up two or three more times over the next couple weeks before he finally agreed that the glass subway tiles would look nice. The brown ones. I know when to pick my battles, so I happily agreed.

Thursday we went back to the big box store, and to my surprise, my tiles were still there, and in more than enough quantity to do the job. Even better, the subway tiles, which had only been marked down a little bit the last time we were there, were marked way down now. We picked up 3 boxes of tile, an extra bag of mortar, a set of tile nippers, and some 1/8″ spacers. We also picked out the flooring (more on that later) and some extenders for the electrical boxes. The plan was to get started tiling first thing Friday morning.

Pookie had other plans. He’d been coughing all week but Friday he was working on wheezing a little too, so we had to make a trip to the doctor. 45 minutes at the doctor’s office wasn’t going to get me off track, but the hour and a half wait at the pharmacy certainly didn’t help. (He’s fine, by the way – just the proud new owner of a nebulizer which has helped greatly.) By the time we got home and had lunch, it was almost 1:00 and I had to work at 3.

Silly me, I thought about how quickly the counters had gone and decided we could at least get a good start on the backsplash before I had to leave. I had Lyle make up the whole 25 pound bag of mortar (against his better judgment) and set to work. We’d already done some of the cutting in the morning before the trip to the doctor, so I figured we’d just blast right through it.

We had a couple of electrical boxes and a window to work around, so those took some time. By the time we got the first wall section done, it was pretty clear that it wasn’t going to be done before work. I worked through until I absolutely had to leave, right around the time we got to the window. Lyle decided to go ahead and finish that whole wall and leave the rest for me. He, to put it mildly, hates home improvement projects. By the time he got that wall done, the mortar had set up too much to keep using – should have listened to him and only made up half the bag.

I had to work again Saturday morning but was ready to get busy when I got home that afternoon. The last wall went pretty quickly and we lucked out and discovered that the area behind the stove fit perfectly with two sets of tile stacked on each other. (The tiles came on 12″ x 12″ sheets). While we were working on it, my dad came over to get his weekly Pookie fix and admire our progress. He said I was welcome to come work on his kitchen when he starts redoing it. I may be up for the task if he doesn’t get started any time soon.

As we got more and more tile on the wall, it was quite obvious that we’d made the right choice – the tile looked amazing.

Sunday morning (today) it was time to grout. I figured since the grouting had gone so quickly with the counters, this would also be a quick, easy job.

I was so, so wrong.

Just a hint, if you’re crazy like I am: 1×2 inch tiles require a lot more grout and a lot more effort than 12×12 tiles. A lot. A really, really lot. Also, when some of those tiles are back in a corner that’s really hard to reach, and a bunch of them are up underneath cabinets, your back will hurt when you’re done. If your back has any idea what’s about to happen, it will probably start hurting before you even get started.

Three and a half hours later (I think the counters took maybe an hour) I had to stop grouting to get the house ready for a Scentsy open house that I had planned before we decided to get going on the kitchen. To say my house was is a mess after the last ten days of DIY madness would be a bit of an understatement. An hour and a half was enough time to get the living and dining rooms presentable, me showered and most of my stuff set up for the open house. The only person to show up was my neighbor, Codee (Hi, Codee!) who has probably seen the house looking worse than it did today and was more excited about checking out the progress than noticing the mess.

I got all but the last two feet done before I ran out of grout (as in, the batch I had made was gone but I do still have enough left in the bag to finish), and I’m going to be leaving it like that for a while. I still have to put those little corner pieces in on the counters, and that can’t be done until I get the trim pieces put on the front. I’ll want to grout when that’s all done, so it makes sense to wait and do it all at the same time.

Once you’ve applied grout, it hazes over on the tiles and you’re supposed to wipe the excess off. In my case, I had to wipe it off several times, so what Codee saw when she got here looked like this:

Once Lyle got done putting the outlets and magnetic knife block back in place and I finally got the haze all wiped off, it looks like this:

We still have to get the trim pieces put up but that will require grinding a little bit off of the tiles in front of the sink. Somehow when I installed those, I let them hang over the front edge and I shouldn’t have. They were the very last pieces I put in, so I’m using exhaustion as an excuse. I may get that done this week while Lyle’s back at work, but we’ll see. The plan is to attach 1-by strips of oak stained to match the floor in the dining room and then apply several sheets of poly to seal it.

Next up: trimming out the counter edges and a discussion of why carpet in kitchens should be illegal.

Oh, and here is a shot of the counters, complete with grout, that I wasn’t able to include last time:

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Kitchen Upgrade on a Budget: Tiling the Counters

Once I had all the demo work done, it was time to get busy putting things back together. The first order of business was to install concrete backer board. I was lucky that the builder had used a nice, sturdy 3/4″ plywood as the base for the original counters so I didn’t have to do underlay as well.

My dad was nice enough to stick around and help me do the backer board. It was a relatively easy, if messy project. I picked the coldest weekend in two months, so I wasn’t enthusiastic about doing anything outside – cleaning the mess was better than freezing my fingers off.

We set the pieces of concrete board on the counter where it was going to go, then used a carpenter’s pencil to trace the outline on the underneath side. Then we flipped it onto the saw horses and cut it with a circular saw. The problem with a circular saw is that inside corners are a challenge. It occurred to me that I had a brand new pruning saw in the mud room (it was a filler item to get a gift card with a Christmas gift) and it turned out to be the perfect tool for the job. It may not work so well to prune trees after this, but since it was $5, I’m not going to worry about it too much.

Once the backer board was all cut to size, Dad decided to call it a day. I couldn’t blame him, he goes to work at 4 in the morning and it was around 8 by the time we got that part done. I decided to wait until morning to attach the backer board to the underlay, but once Pookie went to bed I decided to just go for it.

Installing backer board is a pretty simple process, once it’s been cut. You put down some mortar with a 1/4″ notched trowel, put the board in place and screw it down with specially coated screws. Then to make sure the seams don’t lead to cracking, you put mortar into the seam, run a line of concrete board tape across that and put more mortar over the top. Similar to how you’d mud a drywall joint, but not nearly as precise.

Saturday morning I was ready to get going on the tiles. My first order of business was to get everything laid out so I could figure out how to deal with the corner cabinets. I knew I wanted full tiles butted up to the front edges, so that pretty well dictated how everything else would go.

I had really hoped to avoid having those tiny little corner pieces to cut and install, but there was just no way around it without making a bunch of other cuts to every single other tile on in the room. This little issue is pretty much what caused us to spend a year not doing anything about the counters. Looking back, it was a pretty minor thing to deal with.

We had bought a cheap tile saw at the same time we bought the tiles, assuming that since there weren’t too many tiles, and mostly simple cuts, it would work pretty well. We were wrong. To be fair, it did a great job making the cuts. It’s just that every time I turned it off, the blade came loose because it was poorly designed and the wing nut (!) that held it on the spindle would come unscrewed. After fighting my way through three tiles, I gave up.

I called the local rental place and they said it would be $75 to rent a tile saw for the day. I’m cheap – enough said. My next call was to the local lumber yard that also has some rentals. They didn’t have a tile saw, but they did have a suggestion. The owner told me he’d recently done some tiling at his house and made all the cuts using an angle grinder with a diamond blade. He suggested that I bring a piece of my tile down and see how it worked.

An hour later, I was back home with a brand new angle grinder and diamond blade. Cheaper than renting a tile saw, and we have another useful power tool to add to our collection. What more can you ask for?

I spent the morning and most of the afternoon laying out and cutting the tiles. Using the angle grinder wasn’t quite as fast as the tile saw, but hey, at least the blade stayed where it was supposed to, and I could make really precise cuts with very little trouble. The grinder was also extremely messy. After clearing out the haze of dust from making a few cuts, I decided I was going to have to tough it out and do the cutting outside.

I found a pair of gardening gloves (the kind with the rubberized palms) to keep my hands warm and threw on an old jacket that I don’t really care about. I would go inside, mark the tiles where I needed to cut them, and then go out and make the cuts. I was able to manage about three cuts at a time before my hands got too cold and I had to go back in. (Don’t laugh at me, it was twenty degrees out there, and I absolutely HATE being cold.)

I had all the cuts made by about 4:00 and everything was laid out and ready to go. Pookie woke up from his nap shortly after that (kid can sleep through anything) and we spent a little time cuddling before I took him over to spend the evening with his grandma. I’m not sure which of them was more excited at the prospect, but I was glad to have a place for him to go and have someone pay him some attention, because I’d pretty much had to resort to letting the TV babysit all day.

Once I got home, I got to work. It took approximately two hours to lay all the tile, start to finish. That includes the twenty minutes for mixing the mortar because you have to mix for a while, then let it sit, then mix some more before you can use it.

The actual installation was pretty easy and uneventful. The only really aggravating part was trying to get the last few chunks of tile lined up, cut and installed around the sink opening. Those didn’t end up being perfect, but it’s amazing what a little grout can hide.

I applied the grout Sunday morning, and it was a surprisingly quick and easy job. I had to wipe the tiles down a lot more than I expected to, but once I figured out to wipe with a clean paper towel after I hit it with the sponge, it went much better. I was out of town for a couple days, which worked out nicely because the sealant says to wait 48 hours after installing new grout, so I sealed everything on Tuesday. If I could go back and change it (and technically I could, so I suppose that should say, “If I was ambitious enough to go back and change it”) I’d have gotten slightly darker grout. The color we bought looked great when the tiles were dry, but stone darkens when wet, and stays that same darker color when sealed, so the grout ended up being a couple shades lighter than the granite. It looks nice, but it would look more like a solid slab if the grout were closer to the color of the stone.

I failed to upload any pictures of the finished product, so you’ll just have to wait and see them when I remember to take pictures with the new sink. That was a whole ‘nother project, but my handy-dandy husband dealt with that mess. Suffice it to say, I am beyond thrilled with my new counters. I won’t claim that it was a perfect, professional job – there are a few tiles that stick up a tiny bit more than the ones around them, but I honestly don’t think you can tell unless you run your hands across it.

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Kitchen Upgrade on a Budget: Demolition

I’ve mentioned before how much I hate my kitchen and all the big plans we have for giving it a facelift. A complete gut job would be wonderful, but since I never remember to enter any of the dream kitchen giveaway sweepstakes, it won’t be happening any time soon.

A year or so ago, we decided to re-do the counter tops. After much consideration and contemplation, we decided to go with granite tile. We even went so far as to buy all the materials to do the counters and backsplash. We talked and talked about how to lay it out, but my husband is very apprehensive about these kinds of things and kept putting me off when I’d suggest it was time to get busy.

The big issue is that we couldn’t figure out how to make everything work out with the area behind the stove. I wanted that area to be symmetrical, but everything I tried to make that work, caused other issues with the counters. We even made arrangements for a local handyman to come do it over the summer – then we never heard from him again.

A couple weeks ago, we decided to use our tax refund to just get it over with. The plan was to replace the counters, paint the cabinets and get rid of the nasty carpet. My husband was still very leery of doing the granite, so I did some research and hit upon this idea for using hardwood plywood. We agreed that this would be a brilliant idea, despite the fact that we already had all the stuff to do granite.

Then, in typical fashion, I changed my mind. Again. Some friends of mine were discussing their kitchens and several of them raved about their stone (both granite and marble) tile counter tops. I decided that I was going to do the tile, and we could figure out something else for the backsplash. This decision was made easier by the discovery of some really nice glass mosaic tile on clearance at the big box store. If it’s still there the next time we go, it will become my new backsplash. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I usually have several days off in a row when my husband is gone to work, so I declared that THIS weekend was going to be the time to do the counter tops. I’d get the laminate all taken off, remove the sink and put down the backer board on Friday. Saturday I’d get the tile installed and Sunday I’d grout.

Here’s what we started with. The pictures don’t do justice to the ugliness or poor condition of the laminate. It’s white with gold flecks. There was a burned-through spot under the dish drying rack, and the seam by the knives was peeling. You can see that the laminate on the front had already started peeling off in spots. Sadly, I neglected to get a picture of the lovely avocado green sink in its natural habitat, although you can see a hint of it.

Thursday I got a little ahead of myself and started attacking the laminate. I really, really hate that stuff. It came off quite easily, which didn’t really surprise me. How sad is it that the plywood underlay actually looked better than the laminate?

Once all the laminate was gone, my dad came over to help with the sink removal. Cast iron sinks are really heavy so there was no way I could do it by myself. Plus, I’ve never installed or removed a sink, so I wanted someone else there to make sure all the connections were taken apart correctly. The reverse osmosis system gave us some trouble, but the biggest issue we had was just that the thing weighs a ton and didn’t want to break loose from the counter very easily.

A pry bar did the trick though, and it came out without putting up any more of a fight.

Once it was out,we took the faucet apart. The drain assemblies were tougher and had to wait for my husband to get home and deal with them. The bottom of the sink was dated 1972, which certainly fits with the hideous color. There was some brief discussion of painting it because it’s in perfect condition but a little research convinced me that paint wouldn’t last, so we decided to go with the stainless sink I’d already bought.

Once everything was hauled out and vacuumed up, the demolition part of the project was done. Stay tuned for more!



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Couldn’t say no if I wanted to.

It took me about six weeks to finish my Marigold sweater. Not surprisingly, Pookie was very interested in what I was doing. He loves to “help” by holding the yarn and stabbing the needles back into the fabric if I’ve left it lying around somewhere. Fortunately, while he’s about as helpful as you’d expect a three-year old to be, he never manages to hurt anything.

Nearly every time I picked it up, he would ask what I was doing. One time he even asked if he could knit. Of course I immediately said yes and set about finding some safe needles and scrap yarn for him to use. I held his hands and showed him the motions several times, and he was very excited. Of course he was determined to do it himself (he’s three, after all) so I let him have at it.

After approximately two minutes of stabbing the yarn and wrapping it around the needles, he had a huge mess, but that was okay. He’d lost interest anyhow. I’m okay with that, because the important thing was that I took the (very brief) time to let him participate in what I was doing. Some day he may ask again when he’s more ready to actually do it. Or not – that’s okay, too.

He had one other request as he watched me knit, though. “Mommy, will you make me a sweater?” I’m pretty certain that nothing short of losing all ten fingers in a tragic yarn accident would have stopped me from saying yes. He was absolutely delighted when I told him that of course I’d make him a sweater, just as soon as I was done with mine.

I set about finding a pattern, and settled on Sirdar’s creatively named “Design B – Cabled Sweater with Round Neck or Hood“. At least they’re very clear about exactly what the pattern is for, right? For yarn I decided to try KnitPicks Swish DK because it’s a soft Merino wool, but more importantly because it’s superwash. If there’s one thing I am certain of, it’s that any clothes made for little kids absolutely must be machine washable.

I asked Pook what color he wanted his sweater to be and he decided on red. Specifically the Serrano colorway, which looked a little orangey on my screen but actually ended up being a really true, clear red. At the same time I was shopping for his yarn, I ordered some of the same yarn in the Twilight colorway because my sister thought the sweater would look really cute on my niece, too.

Unfortunately, I was in a hurry when I ordered and didn’t follow the cardinal rule of yarn ordering: Make sure you’re ordering enough. The pattern called for 4 balls of yarn and like an idiot, I ordered four balls of yarn. I failed to check that we were talking about the same amount of yarn from one ball to the next. We weren’t.

Oh, but it gets better. The sweater for my niece, we decided should have the hood. I was smart though, I ordered six balls of yarn for that one. Score one for thinking ahead, right?

Not so much. By the time I was through the back of Pook’s sweater, I knew I had a problem. The front and back were each going to take tw balls of yarn. Fine if I was making a vest, not so great for a sweater with sleeves. I ordered more. At the same time, I ordered a ball of Stroll yarn to make my older niece a pair of socks (more on those another time).

The yarn arrived in record time considering it was only about ten days before Christmas, and I got the sleeves made and sewn on. I changed them a little bit from the pattern, adding cables for some extra interest. I was apparently a little too determined to get it done, because I knit so much that my carpal tunnel issues flared up. Ouch.

When I showed the little man his sweater, he was delighted. He didn’t want to WEAR it, but he thought it was pretty great. He did agree to wear it a few days later when we rode the 1880 Train to see Santa Claus (who Pook refuses to talk to and wants absolutely nothing to do with, by the way). It was the perfect sweater for that, because in addition to being Christmasy, it was nice and warm so he didn’t even have to wear a coat for the trip. Apparently it was really comfy because he fell asleep about ten minutes into the trip and avoided having to have any interaction with the suspicious looking fat guy in the red suit.

As for the hooded sweater for my niece? Well, I should have ordered 2 more balls of yarn for it when I ordered more for the first one. For some reason, I was still convinced that six would be enough, even thought the hoodless one took six. Yeah, brilliant.

But, as of a couple of hours ago the hooded one is also finished and waiting to be washed. I apologize for the poor quality photo, I’ll try to get it replaced with a good one tomorrow. The color is way off, in fact this color, despite being two completely different brands and types of yarn, is exactly the same as the Marigold sweater.

And I am officially sick of double seed stitch.

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