Saturday, December 24, 2005

Clean Slate

The tub's out, the toilet's still providing extra seating in the dining room (I'm not sure whether to be pleasantly surprised or find it hilarious that the cleaning ladies dusted it), but at least everything's painted:

Silent Bob likes the new Marmorette:

Beige. Just like her personality.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Bonfire of the Vanities

It's really too bad that Portland has one of those pesky no-burn restrictions, because good lord, would I love to torch this sucker and dance with abandon around the wild, flickering flames:

That ugly-ass POS motorscooter took me hours to remove, mainly because the man who installed it, bless his heart, attached it to the studs with 3" screws. My neck still hurts from wedging myself under that damn thing with an battery-operated screwdriver, which was thankfully designed with a light to illuminate your work. (Note to Stockholm: I'd like to officially nominate whoever came up with that little improvement for a Nobel Prize of some sort.)

Probably the worst part of this little endeavor (worse than the sore shoulders) is the aftermath:

This is what's fallen through the partially open bottom of the vanity over the fifteen or so years that it's been crouching in that spot. I have NO IDEA where that toilet brush came from, and that oversize Barbie futon is certainly not my brand of maxi-pad. Ew.

Even worse, though:

The p-trap, or whatever the hell that thing is called. It's hard to tell from the photo, but it looks like someone washed their irish wolfhound and then expressed its anal glands into that thing. Smells like it too. Canine anal juice and rotten eggs blenderized with dry cleaning fluid might be a better description of the stench.

Anyway, the grossest part is probably over. Next up on the agenda: moving the light fixture receptacle. Which is going to be a whole ton of fun with old plaster and lathe walls and wiring that dates back to the Eisenhower administration. Wish me luck.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Stop Me Before I Demo Again

The new bathroom's been done, what, a month now? And I'm already ripping apart the downstairs bathroom. I've sent the leprotic tub out to Stanley Avenue to be sandblasted, refinished and painted, and you can see where I couldn't paint the walls years ago when the tub was in the way:

Yeah, I know. The colors are kinda Kuntry Kutesy. I messed up on that one, I'll admit it, so I'm repainting. The walls are going to be repainted two-tone beige (darker above the chair rail). I'm also removing the old vinyl tile:

It comes up pretty easily when the subfloor is wet from the effort of disconnecting and removing the tub (oops), but gets a bit harder as you get further away from the water spill. This is where you quickly reacquaint yourself with Mr. Heat Gun, who has more than earned his keep in the five years since I paid $20 for his valuable services.

I have a target of getting the floor up, the toilet temporarily removed, the vanity demo'ed, the light fixture moved, the woodwork sanded, and the walls painted by Thursday when the linoleum installer is coming. And did I mention Michael's out of town? Pray for me.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

New Construction

New rowhouses, almost completed near Alberta in NoPo:

Pretty cool, huh? Turns out my former coworker's husband is working on it. Nice to see more modern residential design on the east side.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Money Shots

Well, here it is, the ne plus ultra, the Final Final, at least when it comes to this bathroom. All that's left is to cough up the dough for a decent set of towels and crud up the shower with all my girly potions and unguents.

Low perspective of the kneewall, looking in from the hall:

Pressed up against the terlet, looking out of the door:

A better shot of the shower:

Shower wall (notice how the tile follows the angle of the ceiling#8212;I'll bet there was much cussing over that):

The back wall of the shower, showing the niche:

Shower pan and angled seat-like thing where I hike up my legs to shave 'em:

Another one of the seat/ledge:

Vanity (an Ikea kitchen piece which everyone thought looked like ass until the cabinets went in):

Speshul terlet with softclose seat (below wall cabinet from Target's Isaac Mizrahi line of bathroom accessories):

Some interesting notes: The crown molding, which would have been impossible to miter together because of all the angles, was actually coped with a jigsaw and fitted together (a technique I'm totally psyched to teach myself). The privacy film on the windows (necessary due to the fact that my next door neighbor's teenage daughter's bedroom window is directly across and only about ten feet away from my bathroom window) came from Ikea, and wasn't too hard to install. The equivalent stuff from Home Depot cost 10X more and didn't obscure enough, uh, "detail". It is a clear glass walled shower, after all.

So there it is. The money shot. Now I have to decide whether or not it's worth continuing the blog, considering that I ain't doing anything like that again any time soon. I guess I could post photos of cool houses in Portland (or ones that put the "bung" in bungalow) and details of other projects I'm planning. I'll have to see if the ordeal of painting crappy kitchen cabinets is a worthy enough topic to blog about.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Not with a bang...

It's done. Final inspection has been passed, everything's working. It's actually been physically finished, intact, for weeks now, but I didn't want to post for fear of jinxing it.

Whenever I used to hear some over-bred suburban yuppie talk about how awful and stressful her latest kitchen remodel was, I would roll my eyes with derision. Talk about a first-world problem: "Wah! I couldn't fix Snotleigh and McTravesteigh mac and cheese for six whole weeks while the electricians rewired the entire house to accomodate the restaurant-quality twelve burner gas range I'll never use except to heat up jars chocolate sauce that I'll gobble down whole in the middle of the night in order to feed the growing sense of emptiness in my soul! Wah!"

Well, now I'm that whiny waste of skin. All in all, the project wasn't that bad. I got along with everyone involved (with one exception) and got a pretty sweet bathroom out of the deal. Christ, though, it took its toll. I've never been comfortable pigeonholing myself as an extrovert or an introvert—frankly, I swing back and forth between the two like a schizoprenic Courtney Love on a stripper pole. What I finally realized in a big way is that while I enjoy the company of others and can do well in social situations, I need time and space to recharge. In the mornings, when I running around getting ready for work, interruptions throw me off track and I start dreading the rest of the day. It's a trite Cathy-ism, but you really shouldn't try to talk to me before my first cup of coffee. I've managed to alienate just about every neighbor and coworker by snubbing them in the morning.

God, I hate Cathy.

Anyway, I had to be on. I had to be on and friendly and not growl at people starting at 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning and lasting into the evening. It was the evening (going into late night) intrusions that finally broke me and turned me into a shreiking she-harpy Gorgon of Doom and killed my excitement and goodwill and happy-smiliness on this project. The lesson I learned is not to put up with anything that annoys me for even a day. Because first, I'm paying these folks to come and do a job for me, and I should be able to determine when that job gets done. I mean, I have to be here from 8 to 5 (although I do goof off in the office and, well, write in my blog so maybe that's a bad reason). Second, if I keep bending over backward to accomodate people, not only will they keep doing whatever it is that's annoying me, not realizing that I'm turning into a twitchy repressed freak, I'll eventually lose my shit all over them and that's not pretty.

I also learned a lot about where my limits are, how to take what I'm being offered, that Michael is a clever, supportive man, and that while tile guys are fairly high up in the construction food chain, they are shithouse-crazy oversharers and there's a reason why they do a job that requires them to be isolated from others.

Because I haven't wanted to jinx it, I haven't taken photos since I took the painters tape off the Frameless! Shower! Doors! I promise I will take photos this weekend and post them, because it really does look beautiful. Prettier than any other bathroom because I drew the plans and picked everything and suffered through, what? nine months? of construction. It was worth it.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

It Ain't Easy Being Green

I got the plants in! I chose Saturday to work on it, which was kinda stupid, since rain was forecast. So I'm thinking, Hey, gardening in the rain is cool! It'll soften up the earth and make digging so much easier! What didn't occur to me until it was too late was that gardening in the rain means getting seventy different kinds of muddy. Even that was fun until I realized that I'm the loser who has to clean it up with someone (read: me, loser) tracks mud into the house. Oh well. I waited until it dried a little to take photos:

Here's the rose glow barberry, cordyline red star, and Huntington carpet rosemary:

Also, mounds of dirt above the slope where I still need to ritually sacrifice the roses (I pulled one out on Saturday!) and get some nicer plants in.

Here's the "razzleberri" chinese fringe flower:

It should get to be about 3' x 3', so hopefully it'll fill it quite a bit and provide an exclamation point at the end of the yard.

I also went out and bought a bunch of tricolor sedum and another firepower nandina to fill in around the rocks. Ground cover's one of my highest priorities, seeing as how without it to soften the rocks, my front yard will resemble a quarry or low-rent beach renewal project you'd see in some trashy Delawere beach town.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Rock Me Amadeus!

The rock slope project is completed! It only took me a week (although it was PMS week, so LAY OFF, OKAY! *sob*), but the slope's done and I just bought a metric shedload of plants.

There are a few disappointments. This batch of basalt seems smaller, on average, than the last batch. Which is good for my back, actually, but it does look a little mismatched to me. The new side is also much less steep as the other as a result of putting in more planting niches. I also still haven't gotten around to preparing the planting area above the slope. I don't like the roses—scratch that, I HATE the roses—but it feels wasteful and ungrateful to just get rid of them. Does any one want any unkempt roses that are probably mostly suckers by now?

Among the new (hopefully not moribund) plants I bought: tons of creeping rosemary (I'm hoping it'll do something like this:

to soften the rocks a little), a "razzleberri" chinese fringe flower:

(yes, I know the name is awful and self-consciously cutesy in that Vaseline-toothed Miss Texas way, but I like the foliage, damnit), several cordylines that look like this one:

as well some ajuga for groundcover and a few other things that slip my mind at the moment. I think I got another nandina, actually, but only one beacuse it's the end of the season and Christ are there ever some pitiful-looking plants haunting the nursery section of Home Depot. It's almost as depressing as the aisle of grungy used toys at the ghetto Goodwill.

I'm aiming to get the plants in the ground this weekend, and I'll try to take some photos. In the meantime, I'll wrestle with my inner laundry-scoop saver and figure out what to do with the damn roses.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Rock On, Part Two

Current status of the rock slope project:

I know, the photo quality sucks. It was really foggy this morning and I was taking photos at the same time I was shoehorning a fried egg down my gullet and power-walking to the bus stop at 8:23 AM.

Yes, I've still got LOTS of work to do—the rocks are going to the top of the steps, where the painted part of the concrete starts, to align with the other side.

There will definitely be more planting holes than on the other side, though:

Hey, you think I can get thrown in the stripey hole for misusing my recycling bin like that? I swear, I emptied the rocks out of it before I put it out on Monday night.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Last weekend Michael was away on his big vroom-vroom motorcycle trip. Lonely and seeking a purpose (besides lounging, unshowered and partially dressed, staring slack-jawed at hour upon hour of HGTV programming), I decided to order up two tons of basalt and work on the yard.

The front yard slopes and is dominated by a large cedar tree which blocks light and drops needles year-round. Hence, grass doesn't like to grow (and even if it did I sure as hell wouldn't want to mow it) and previous attempts at planting groundcover were, well, disappointing (see below). So last year, on a whim, I ordered three and a half tons of basalt for the south side of the front yard. Michael convinced me not to rock the whole thing, and leave some planting beds, which have worked out pretty well, I think:

Emboldened by my previous success and determined to repeat it, I've begun work on the north side of the yard. Here are the before pictures:

I've dug out most of the slope and probably gotten about a third of the rocks placed. I'm using less density this time, since the south side got some complaints before the plants grew in (you know who you are, Nosey Parkers) and the north side gets more direct light so there are more opportunities for new plants to play with (and, eventually, kill).

I'll be posting photos as the project progresses, but it's going to look pretty dismal until the plants go in.

* What can I say? K-Fed's the shizzle.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Floored, Part Two

The floor's in! The floor's in!

The blue stuff coming up around the sides is the insulation between the radiant heating elements and the wood. We ended up using a different Kährs product, a solid wood instead of a laminate, since the wood veneer was too thin and between the moisture and the heat from the radiant there was a risk it could peel up. This was more money per square foot, but with a space this small it's worth it. Finding a floor that isn't tile that works with radiant heading is a challenge.

There's also progress being made on the siding:

I assume the vertical board nailed to the side near the front is to attach the decorative bracket made to match the original ones.

On another note, here's something that inpires confidence:

WTF's the question here? Is someone not sure what's supposed to come out of the spigot seven feet above the shower pan?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Random Graffiti

The First Step is Admitting You Have a Problem

"Hi, my name is Alexis."

"Hi, Alexis!"

"And I have a problem with furniture scale."

You see, part of me wishes that I lived in a one-level, open-plan ranch house with acres of open space joining the living room, dining room and kitchen. That's the same part of me that apparently saw fit to purchase two hulking dark-gray armchairs and a 53" long glass-topped rectangular coffee table for my living room.

I've lived with this set-up for years now, only surviving by pushing most of the furniture far away from the high-traffic areas and moving fairly cautiously amongst (or over) the furniture when I must. Enter: Michael. Michael appears to be missing the part of his brain that conceptualizes how his body takes up space in relation to his surroundings. To wit: he bangs into stuff. A lot. Well, it seems like a lot to someone who looks like Courtney Love's scruffier and even-more-coked-out little sister just by brushing up against a surface with a hardness greater than that of gypsum. Yes, that's how badly I bruise, so quit giving me shit for acting like Sam Jackson in Unbreakable.

In any event, Michael barks his shins on the coffee table. Often. So often, in fact, that I wince a little whenever his phone rings in anticipation of the audible barking of shin on glass. Add that to the problem of Silent Bob bonking her head on the underside of the table when she's trying to jump up no longer seeming cute rather than the cause of her incipient feline senility, and it seems certain that it's time to replace some furniture.

The table isn't too hard. this more or less fits the bill, although I would prefer something smaller, maybe 30" in diameter rather than 34":

I have no attachment to the Ikea coffee table. After all, that's what Ikea is for: disposable furniture that never makes a serious enough impression on you, whether positive or negative, to keep you from pitching it into the nearest unattended dumpster when it becomes inconvenient. Kinda like a guy you meet online (kidding).

The chairs, though, are another matter altogether. I love them dearly and irrationally. They're comfortable to sit in as well as flop one's self over, the gray fabric hides a multitude of sins (I'm looking at you, Bob), and they're pretty stylish without being all "Hey! Look at me! I'm a trendy seating unit purchased by someone who spends too much time concerned about interior decorating and hence has no inner life to speak of!" Or something. Anyway, I like the chairs, and getting rid of them will be difficult to rationalize, considering they're the first "real" (ie, not Ikea, not scrounged) furniture I've ever bought. I suppose they could go into the guest room, but I really don't want to encourage guests to stay that long. On the other hand, the backup TV (for when I want to watch "What Not To Wear" or Michael wants to watch football and neither of us are feeling generous enough to force ourselves to humor the other, offending-TV-watching one) is in the guest room…

This leads us to FURNITURE SHOPPING! Which is really fun, as long as I don't let my inner penny-pinching Frugal McCheapPants get too mouthy. Or let myself go crazy in Ikea, where I will buy yet more disposable furniture.

This appeals:

The color works, and the size is right, but it doesn't look like it encourages floppy TV watching and/or idle flossing during the evening news.

This one has a nice mid-century look and a fairly small footprint:

But doesn't come in any colors that won't look like ass in 2.4 seconds and, well, the price seems little high for a store that's aimed at hipsters who get sniffy at Pottery Barn.

The real challenge will come with the eventual purchase of a real sofa. What makes the current sofa somewhat unreal or virtual? Well, I'd say that when it's a twice-over hand-me-down and you paid more for the eBay slipcover for it than you did for the alcohol-fueled thank you dinner for the poor schmucks who helped you move it, your couch may not be real. At the very least you should be ashamed of still owning said couch in a non-trashed setting (garage/basement = okay, living room = not okay) if you're over the age of 30. Which I am. Which is why I end up looking at couches like this on craigslist:

Pray for me and my living room.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Trim... and Pussy!

More architecturally appropriate trim, courtesy of Barb the contractor:

That's the door leading from the landing at the top of the steps into the New! Bathroom! The color's Rodda "Wheat". Anyway, the trim is great. Too bad the guy who converted the attic to bedrooms back in the 80s didn't bother to match the trim.

Only tangentially related to the project, and in the most inaccurate way possible, here's Silent Bob in her new favorite basking spot, the old carpet at the top of the stairs:

Aw, cat muffin:

Give me a break. I only recently started figuring out how to photograph a mostly-black cat. Took me a mere five years, too.