Thursday, September 29, 2011

Masterbath: Fixing some more fixtures

The Master Bathroom Saga continues!

The husband got to spend some time alone at home over the past week and decided to tackle some of those manly jobs from the project bin: he installed the commode aka toilet aka the crapper in our Master bathroom.

Olin, our favorite plumber, told us he was confident we could do that on our own (*gasp!*) and after much googling for information and tutorials on the intarwebs, the husband decided to give it a go. If we got stuck, we had Olin on speed dial. Just in case.

You know, old house and all.

Thanks to our completely updated plumbing, things went pleasantly smoothly. Since we started with a piece of pvc piping sticking out of wall (water supply) and floor (waste pipe), the first order of business were installing faucets and supply lines (wall) and a flange (floor). Husband was a bit concerned about drilling into the tiles to anchor the flange but he found comfort in knowing that the actual toilet would hide any cracks and that it's easy to fix a broken mosaic tile (you just pop'em out and replace them).

[In Progress: Flange and water supply installed]

I was there for the part that revolved in installing the actual bowl. First, the husband stuck the wax ring into place and while he lifted the bowl, I was his guide to make sure he set it down right on top of the wax ring so that the screws slid right through the openings.

[In progress: Just like that we have a toilet bowl!]

Ours is a regular Joe kind of toilet, a two piece commode with an elongated bowl. I just can't get excited over toilets (Designer? One piece? Electric? Light show? Puuuu-lease ...) - as long as it's white, clean and flushes I'm a-okay.

[In progress: Getting the tank on]

After carefully tightening the screws that hold the bowl to the flange (and thus to the floor), husband installed the tank. It felt a bit wobbly at first and it turned out that our anxiety over losing our toilet bowl and/or tank to a crank due to over-tightening the screws lead to a not so sufficient seal, a slightly wobbly tank and after a couple of hours to a minor leak.

Luckily we discovered the leak before it could cause any more trouble than a wet towel from mopping up the small puddle that had collected next to our toilet. We tightened the screws, the tank stopped wobbling and just like that! no more leaking.

Here's the husband checking the seal making sure that no un-authorized drop could sneak by. Yes, we do DIY barefoot, in shorts and with sharp cutting devices next to our bare limps. Do as I say, not do as I do. Shoo-bi-doo :o) But look, we do wear knee pads!

One step closer to a fully fixture-ized master bath!

Stay tuned - we'll be tackling the vanity venture next!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Splish-Splash, I'm taking a bath!

After my parents' visit in August, followed by my husband's family's visit in September, we were a little sluggish to return to our DIY "fixin' up da house" mode. Sure, we've painted some trim (That one's a no-brainer ...on so many levels), started decorating for fall including replanting and planting some plants and we crafted some window treatments, but overall, we've been laying rather low.
Really. There's only so much DIY you can cram into a day or weekend after work and family and regular household chores.

Anyways, the BIG project that is still underway is, of course, our Master Bath. We were fortunate that the groundwork was part of our 203k renovation so demolition, plumbing and electric and the creation of the wall turning the then kitchen into bathroom and dressing room for a sweet master suite were done by the professionals.

Star of our newly created bathroom is the clawfooted tub rocking a free-standing telephone style faucet we scored for a steal at in Orlando


Looooovely tub! And exactly the kind of clawfoot action an almost 100 year old house needs. Decades of rental life had robbed our little old house most of its vintage touches so it was up to us to add them back in.

[Every which way: Positioning the tub]

We mused over just how to position the tub and finally settled on the spot that positions it parallel to the window to the backyard. Since we're on the same level as the top of the holly tree right next to our house, it makes us feel like we're in a tree house. We also have fun plans for the wall you look at when sitting in the tub that have me rubbing my hands gleefully. More on that later.

Olin, our favorite plumber, advised us to tile the floor first before he'd come by to install the faucet and drain for our tub. This required drilling holes for the drainage and water supplies through layers of tile, mortar, cementboard, plywood subflooring and God only knows how many more layers of floor/ceiling. He did it without breaking a tile. Amazing, this guy! It did, however, take longer than even he did anticipate but after much grumbling and running up and down from bath room to the little cubby in the ceiling above the laundry room where the plumbing is hidden away, he finished it up and left us with the first functioning fixture in our master bath!

And gosh, it's a pretty tub and faucet! I can't wait to see this room finished for a first luxurious bubble bath and ice cream...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Leaves blow

While it's still sweltering hot during the day, there's no denying that fall has arrived in North East Florida.

Just ask the Crape Myrtle on front of our house. It's fixing to get all nekkid, dropping leaves left, right and center. Grrrr! Adding insult to injury, our next door neighbor's yard service cut the grass next door and used a leaf blower to clean up the side walk in front of her house.


I kid you not.
A$$hat. (Pardon my French)

Hell-bent on revenge against both, lawn service man and leaves, I decided that I needed a leafblower. Only armed like that, I'd be able to survive fall.

So I started reading up on leaf blowers. Not like I had many pre-requisites. Electric is fine by me (I drive a gas hog, don't need to add a gas guzzling gardenening tool to my not so green side of life, right?), light weight would be great given that I'm short and not interested in bodybuilder style arms and inexpensive.

[Ta-da: My weapon of mass-leaf-destruction!]

After reading plenty of reviews, it appeared that the cheap-o leaf blower by Troy-Bilt from Lowe's fit my bill just right. Less than $50, enough power to blow stuff around, light weight and electric, it allowed me to check off all of my checkboxes. It also got raving reviews from a lot of guys who are usually the power-tool wielding family members. The hubby and I don't have that much experience with those outdoor tools yet, so we listened to what others had to say.

After much mocking from the husband ("A leaf blower?? Just for the leaves from that tree? Why not sweep? What's wrong with the broom?"), some subtle hinting from yours truly (Quiet blowing with rather innocent eyes and a sweeping motion with an imaginary leaf blower) and we walked home with said blower from the store yesterday. It's been raining, so the leaves are now sticky but the sun is back out and I'll update later with my first experiences!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kitchen: In for a window treat(ment)

After all the major updates in our kitchen, followed by painting some baseboard and door frame (read about it here) and adding vintage style open shelving (described here and here and here), it was time to tackle another project on our to-do-list for this room in our home.

While I love having a backyard view from my sink, seeing the ratty old mini blinds every morning just didn't brighten my day, nor did it brighten our kitchen. It just had to go. And fast.

[Before: Meh ... miniblinds]

I'd been patiently waiting for another sale at Calico Corners to snatch up a piece of that adorable "Dahlia" fabric (I talked about my fabric shopping woes here) but again, no luck. They didn't have it in stock and ordering it would take another 7-10 business day.

I'm patient, but not that patient.

So I browsed beautiful fabrics for about an hour, petted some lovely Ikats here, fondled some delicious Matelasse there, and then came across this pretty little number:

[What lovely leaves - Robert Allen Collection]

White linen with a scattering of leaves featuring colors that would work well to pull my yellow and white kitchen and my turquoise and white dining room together. Sold!

At home I pulled up my favorite "Miniblind to Roman Shade" tutorial up from the "Little Green Notebook" and got cracking. It worked great so if you feel crafty and need some easy-breezy window treatments check it out here: Miniblind to Roman Shade Tutorial

Following the instructions I cut out the thin strings that allow the miniblinds to tilt, careful not to cut the main string for the up and down mechanism.

[In Progress: Chop Chop!]

Our house cat "Boots" took off with one of the strings, and after she was done playing catch with it for a while she returned to keep a watchful eye on me to see if I'd create another toy for her during my project.

[In Progress: Extra string removed and ready to tackle step 2]

After that, I removed all but 5 slats and re-attached the bottom slat again before laying the shade skeleton on my fabric.

[In Progress: Fabric cut to size and ready to be attached]

I trimmed my fabric - one yard turned out to be the exact amount of fabric I needed for this project and then started glueing the hems. I usually -never- use any of those hemming tapes and glues. Sewing a straight seam through a sewing machine is easy and comes with the guarantee that IT.WILL.STAY.PUT. Something I can't necessarily say about some tapes I have used in the past.

I consider this a test: if it stays, great. It would have been much more difficult to run this through the sewing machine (but not impossible - just quite pin-ful to make sure the fabric doesn't move). If it doesn't, oh well, then I'll have to sew it after all.

[In-Progress: Looking good!]

So far this project had been surprisingly easy and it progressed swimmingly. Hanging the miniblind turned Roman shade back up, turned out to be a bit tricky and required me to drill a new hole into ancient pine but after just a few more minutes my kitchen window looked much improved!

[After: What a "window" treat!]

What a change! Now I really need to take care of the window trim.
And just for kicks and giggles, here's my "Honey Do" list for the kitchen as of today:

- rip out old cabinets
- rip out linoleum
- repair heart pine floors
- refinish heart pine floors
- re-plumb kitchen
- update electrical wiring
- hang new drywall
- finish new drywall
- prep, prime and paint walls
- repair base molding and add quarter rounds
- prep, prime and paint ceiling
- install ceiling fan
- install kitchen cabinets
- install appliances
- install cabinet hardware
- prep, prime and paint base molding
- prep, prime and paint trim around doorway to breezeway
- create open shelving with brackets and boards
- create/ add window treatment
- add a chalk board somewhere
- prep, prime and paint window trim
- finish trimming out the cabinet above the fridge

Optional/Possible future projects:
- update lighting*
- create built-in breakfast nook *
- add small round pedestal table*
- install back splash*
- add crown molding

Monday, September 19, 2011

With new eyes

After a while you get so embroiled in all of your projects and work - painting, tiling, laying floors, and so much more, that you end up seeing only those things that still need to be tackled, that still need finishing. Sure, you know how far you have come, how much better everything is now, but still.

That's when it's great to have visitors stop by who have seen the ugly nasty dirty ramshackled "Before" in all its glory. Visitors who love you too much to have told you that you were nuts for taking on this project. And visitors who now look at all of your half-finished rooms and projects and marvel at how much everything has changed. For the better, no less.

That's a really nice and very much needed breath of fresh air :o)

It also prompted me to poke through my many folders of pictures for the first ever pictures I took of our Ugly Duckling from our first tour and to team them up with Now pictures. Wow! Wow ... wow ...WHAT WERE WE THINKING?! Sure, it was all mostly "cosmetic" but don't let that fool you. Even cosmetic repairs cost hours of effort, funds, sweat and tears (not so much really, but maybe a groan or two).

Anyways, both the brother-in-law as well as the in-laws were impressed with all the changes (for the better) we'd wrought upon our little old house.

And so are we. Seeing the "Before" and "Now" side by side is really an eye opener, don't you agree?

Friday, September 16, 2011


Alright, this one's a quicky to tide y'all over until next week. The in-laws are here for a visit (their first after seeing the Ugly Duckling in all its grody glory back in December last year) and we're a leeettle beet beeezy (first with cleaning and tidying up and now with hanging out with the family).

Part of the getting the house ready for the visit from the husband's parents was changing the look of our front door wreath. That wreath hangs there pretty much all year. I'm easy like that. All I do is add seasonal bits and bops to freshen up the look. It doesn't lay claim to an entire afternoon and is very budget friendly to boot.

[Before: The summer look]

Yep, our Duckling had its own duckling: a happy yellow rubber ducky with a bright yellow felt flower that simply pinned on.

After a quick trip to the Dollar Store for some faux fall foliage, the first step was creating a clean slate by removing everything but the big "G". That one is a permanent fixture.

[In Progress: All nekkid!]

Once I'd removed the few summer decor items, I rummaged through my Dollar Store spoils and started wrapping. I'd grabbed a simple vine with colorful, yet not too gaudy looking leaves and a little pumpkin with a small flower arrangement around the stem, and I added these to my wreath. No five minutes later, it looked like this:

[After: All fall-sified!]

Done! Time invested: 10 minutes - tops. Money spent: $2 plus tax. Is it Martha Stewart worthy? Nawwww. I'd be delusional if I thought so but it's not going to stay like that for long. After all, there's Halloween coming up quickly, followed by Thanksgiving (Hurray for Tur-kay!) and finally my favorite season. Christmas!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bare-naked Back Yard Truth

While we've been doing some amount of work on the outside of our Ugly Duckling like shift our fence line (here), put up a make-shift patio (here) and getting started on planting some flowers (here), our outdoors is still pretty scruffy looking. Granted, until we replace the weeds with either sod (highly unlikely) , a wildflower lawn (pretty but unlikely) or perennial peanut (most likely), it'll continue to look fairly scruffy unless it's been weedwhacked just the day before. Tamed weeds look a bit more ...ahem, sophisticated than crazy growing ones.

And then there are the leaves . Pointy prickly holly leaves, green holly berries and a scattering of leaves and wilted blooms from the Crape Myrtles. They provide a constant blessing. Add to that a helping of tools and supplies and the need for an exterior paint job for our house and it's not so much "shabby chic" as "in need of TLC".

[Before: Please HGTV my mess!]

Fortunately, the blue box has been having a great sale for anything outdoors going on. A lot of items in the gardening department are discounted at the end of the season, so it's definitel;y worth dropping in and scouting out what your store has to offer. I found plenty of lovely things discounted by as much as 80% without any mentioning in sales flyers anywhere!

[Backyard stoop with curtains]

Curtains make everything look more civilized so I broke out the curtains we had hanging on our big porch over at Silver Street and after a quick run through the washer hung them in our little covered stoop.

One of my lucky finds at the blue box was a table for our backyard. We'd gone tableless until now and had dragged out a table from inside if we felt like having a meal in the back yard, but a dedicated back yard table would be so much nicer. Putting it together was easy-peasy and accomplished quickly, especially with Seamus supervising the project.

[Perfect match!]

Another lucky find was this box of string lights I added to the back stoop for a little sparkle!

Tossing this all together and giving the back yard patio a quick cleaning (you know, like moving all tools and saw horses into the shed and coralling all balls and other toys into a rubbermaid container) actually played a major part in transforming our back yard patio and stoop. Things are starting to come together. Granted, they are temporary fixes - we are planning to build a deck in its stead - but for now they'll serve us well and will be less of an eye sore to our neighbors to boot!

[After: Not too shabby]

Cost breakdown:

  • pavers: $0 (repurposed from other area of the house)

  • no-dig edging: $16

  • 3 bags of pea gravel: $10

  • new table: $25

  • lights: $7

  • hanging planter: $0

  • potatoe vine: $0 (it's a cutting from a plant I had already)

The bext thing about this little spruce up adventure? We are now actually using the back yard for more than just hopping into the pool and working on projects! There's a place to put your drink and a neat little area to sit and read a book. Is it HGTV worthy? Naww, far from it, but it's a lot better than before and that's what counts.

Baby steps, folks, baby steps.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Shelf Life - Part III: The Installation

Welcome back to the final installment of my kitchen shelf series! It's so nice to see you again!
Aren't you amazed that I can drag out a simple project like this over three posts?
Me too ... then again, I have a bunch of scapegoats I get to blame. There's work, laundry, picking up, feeding the zoo (we have a family cat and a porch cat and guinea pigs), gardening, laundry, mopping floors, fixing a minimum of 2 meals a day (home-cooked, no less), supervising homework, laundry, volunteer work, a new book I picked up at the library and much more.

Anyways, back to the shelves. The last time we saw them they were in pieces: brackets and shelf boards were painted white and ready for their installation. First I attached the brackets to the shelf boards.

[A shelf in the making: attaching the brackets]

After that I whipped out the trusted spray paint and gave the shelves and brackets another coat of white paint. The spray paint worked much better at getting into all the curly curvy corners of the brackets - much much better than a brush!

Then it was off into the kitchen for the installation!

[Before: Empty space between the corner cabinet and the window]

I used a simple wooden measuring stick from the blue box store as my template. I turned the shelves over and marked the spot for the hardware on the measuring stick, then held it against the wall and leveled it.

[All level!]

Once the measuring stick was level, I copied the marks for the hardware. Two drilled holes and a few minutes later, things started to look promising!

[Shelf No. 1 is up!]

This time, my measuring fu was running strong. While I'm usually off by some amount, I hit the nail right on the head this time. The lower shelf ended up nicely even with the bottom of the wall cabinet. Strrrrike!

Rinse and repeat - Shelf No. 2 went up just as quickly and without any problems.

[After: Project "Open Shelves" completed!]

I added a few things to pull the turquoise from the adjacent dining room into the kitchen and voila - all done! Now I have the perfect spot to show off my beautiful "Oresund" mugs from Anthropology.

[Prettiest cups ever!]

So what's next? The window, of course!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Coming to terms with the coffee table

My husband has this inexplicable thing for this coffee table. It's got to be sentimental, you know, one of the first pieces of furniture he acquired and to quote the husband "it's solid wood!". Right. It's a rectangular, solid wood coffee table. Other than that, it's plain. So plain, it's ugly. When I first encountered The Coffee Table it was golden oak with plenty of bachelor-pad-style stains and water rings. Still, it was solid wood and the husband liked it. Siiiiigh ....

Determined to make do with what we as newly-weds and initially single income family had, I tolerated The Coffee Table. Mostly, I tried to cover it up with runners and table scape arrangements. Then, one day, I had the bright idea to paint it. I'd tried to sand and remove all of the nasty stains but they'd soaked into the wood so thoroughly and deeply, paint was the only way to go because, you know, we couldn't just get a different table and replace my husband's beloved coffee table.

No, I don't think I have old pictures of it. In fact, until today I didn't have any pictures of it at all. No, I really am not crazy about this thing ...

A couple of weeks ago I decided that The Coffee Table was too tall for our current arrangement of furniture and in relation to the fireplace next to it. The Coffee Table was like the gangly awkward teenage cousin that stands out uncomfortably during a family reunion. Something had to happen ....something ...

That's when I broke out the saw and chopped off the legs.

Well, I shortened them and yes, I should have measured twice and cut once because they are now a little too short. Just a bit. like an inch, perhaps. I slapped some casters on them because we always push it around (it's large and often gets in the way or is either too far away or too close) and I needed something to stop it from scratching up my pretty pretty hardwood floors.

Over the next couple of weeks, the stump-legged version of The Coffee Table grew on me. Heh. If I added a shelf by placing it on top of a sheet of plywood cut to size and then added short legs (maybe fat round ones?), it'd actually not be half bad. There'd be room for small baskets underneath to corral and contain the mess of books and toys that seem to collect around it all the time.

Well, I haven't gotten to that part yet. I did, however, paint it again because a dark-brown table against a dark-brown couch against dark-brown floors just wasn't working. No, really.

And NOW I finally have some pictures! Phew! Took me long enough, hm?

I dragged the thing out into the back yard and gave it a thorough sanding. years ago, I'd used heavy-duty floor paint and it had worked like a charm but I figured it'd need some abuse aka sanding before paint would stick to it.

[No turning back now ...]

After sanding I wiped it down with deglosser. Yes, it's painfully obvious how much I want paint to stick. Must be all that flaky paint surrounding me. It's a bad influence.

There's no shortage of paint and primer around this house. On went a coat of primer! It actually held up to the "nail scratch test" once it had dried. It makes me happy when the primer doesn't peel off, yes, it does!

Our livingroom needed a splash of light, but figuring that white would be too bright (and it's really not a piece of furniture that would need any help sticking out like a sore thumb for the most part) so I grabbed the bucket of Woodlawn Colonial Grey and went to town. Well, I painted that is.

Two coats later I started to see the light. Oh my, so much better!

[A clean slate]

However, a grey table with no visual interest whatsoever is about as exciting as a lump of plumber's putty.

Stencil to the rescue!

[I'm loving this stencil. Really, I do]

Two shades of grey and some bright glossy white for a layered effect, and some stenciling later, I was slowly falling in love. This -could- actually work! So here it is in its current state: fresh paint, fresh design and sealed with Varathane for added protection. [A little bit of layering with two shades of grey and white]

Now I need to find some time to run over to the store to have them cut a piece of wood for me to build up that lower shelf I'm thinking about and buy 4 stumpy legs and all will be well with the world.

[All shiny and new-looking]

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shelf Life - Part II

Ahh, the woes of being a part-time DIYer: there's only so little time during the day when you - between work, family and household chores - you get to squeeze in some much needed project time. I'm still so very very glad we had a contractor to help us get the house to a point where it was safe and in working condition. Although, all things considered, I wish we'd included the trim painting in our initial reno bid. Oh well ... the lessons life teaches you ....

Anyways, after Part I: The Acquisition, today follows part II: The Beautification wherein yours truly describes the many steps leading up to the Grand Finale and Part III: The Installation.

[Before: Yes, I have a blue dropcloth :o) All the better to see the paint splatters!]

[Lined up and ready to roll!]

So a couple of days ago I returned successfully from a trip to the orange box and got started on project "Kitchen shelves". These pretty curvy curly brackets come in natural pine so I had to prime and paint them for my goal of having pretty glossy-white open shelves in my kitchen.

[Messy progress]

That's when things got messy. As cute as the curvy lines are, they are a ... treat to paint. At least with a brush. I needed a small brush to get into all the curvy nooks and crannies and really wished, I'd opted for spray paint.

[After: All prettified!]

Well, I did it. After several coats of paint and some in-between-coats sanding for a nice smooth finish, the brackets are looking all bright and white. Just the way uh-hu-uh-hu I liiiike them! The next afternoon I spent cutting a length of plain ol' 12" white board into 26" shelf boards and painted and primed these too. Wanna see?

Just give me a moment to dig out my camera and upload a picture!

Alright, here's one.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Shelf life - Part I

For once in my life I'm happily and eagerly swimming with the main stream. While I'm usually completely unaware of brand names, fashion and other things that are "in", this time I'm all line, hook and sinker for white kitchens (check!) with butcher block counter tops (check!) and open shelving (almost check!)!

I mean, what's not to love about sights like this one ...

[via pinterest]

[via pinterest]

[via pinterest]

Now that cabinets and butcher block counters are in place, it is time for some open shelving in the kitchen at the Ugly Duckling.

After some browsing online I settled for those little guys to hold my future kitchen shelves:


So far, our kitchen has been very straightforward and simple that I felt it needed a little whimsy in form of old-fashioned curly-cue brackets. They are about $15 a pair which is very budget friendly to boot.

At the first store, those little babies were sold out and back-ordered to boot. I whined about that here, but things started looking up when I discovered at them at a different branch in another part of town. Score! I picked up a 5ft long piece of white board as the top of my shelves and since we had everything else I could possibly need (screws, wood filler, primer, paint, etc.) at home, I was on my merry way in just under an hour after getting lost in the gardening aisles again. Ooops!

This is a three step program ...err, project, I mean. Part I: "The Acquisition" is thus accomplished and we cab move on to part II: "The Beautification" aka the prep & paint stage.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Quick little DIY fix

How's your Labor Day weekend? Did you have fun?

We sure did! Family time, splashing in the pool, watching movies - just some good ol' fashioned family time.

It was only Monday late afternoon when the DIY spirit reared its head again, after 2 days of blissful nothing, and while we were OCD enough to kick start three different projects, I'll share with you the one we actually finished!

Enter the stage: our darling vintage sink from the upstair's hall bathroom.

For now we're keeping the old faucets (my wishlist for house stuff is looooong and they didn't make the top) since, you know, they work and we have a long list of other stuff to do before wrangling with the installation of two tab faucets. What did bother me, though, were the missing "Hot" and "Cold" thingamajiggs.

[Before: Poor faucet, missing its button]

Before you start wondering, those 'inserts' that tell you whether it's the hot or the cold side are called hot and cold buttons. I kid you not. I'd expected something more .... I don't know, special plumber 'lingo, but button? Anyways, if you loose one of those you need - hold on, this is a killer - "replacement hot and cold buttons".

[Replacement buttons]

I found mine near the fittings and valves in the plumbing aisle at the orange box for some measly $4

[This is what they look like from the back ...]

I didn't like how the brushed nickle buttons looked with the chrome faucets, so I decided to go with the chrome pair instead.

Quick and easy - no tools were needed. All I needed to do was pick the right button for each side and press it over the screw in the opening. The crimp-y backside snaps over the screw and - voila! - no more gaping hole!

[After: All fixed!]

That's how I love my DIY projects: quick, easy and without causing side projects and extra work. Yes!