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The cost per square foot of an ugly laundry room


So, projects take a long time to marinate around here. For example, I tore apart the basement bathroom 2 years ago, and only this spring did we admit we couldn’t put it back together again and hire a contractor.
Our laundry room has been terrible since we moved in- the previous owners put in drywall, and great cabinets, but then they just stopped- no tape, no mud, no paint. They had a solar water heater system, which I assume worked for them, but I don’t think the renters who lived here before us used it, and we haven’t hooked it up again. The panels are slowly decomposing on the roof, and the water tank has been taking up about 4 square feet of floor space in the laundry room, and even bumps out into the stairs. There is also another dead hot water heater that has been taking up space as well.
That is where the title of the post comes from. One of my colleagues this spring was house hunting in Fort Collins, and she was quoting home prices in terms of square feet, “Houses in old town are going for 300 per square foot, for an 800 square foot place. With a detached garage, can you believe it?” Well, no, I can’t believe it, because you made me do math first. Just tell me how much they want for the house! I can’t even remember the rest of the conversation, because I was still trying to carry the 1.
But it made me think- we have some stupid stuff laying around the house, old paint cans in the basement, two water heaters, a pink toilet (non-operational) in the garage. Two stereo speakers (probably also non operational) up in the loft over the work bench in the garage. How much is that space worth?

According to Zillow, our house is worth about $101 per square foot.

Those water heaters are taking up more than 400 dollars of space in my house.

I want them gone.
I was doing some reading recently on the concept of Wabi Sabi- which is kind of like shabby chic, except Japanese, so it is much cooler. The idea is that the things you surround yourself with should be imperfect and worn, and furthermore, don’t surround yourself with too many things- they could be curated, not cluttered.
As always, as a white girl interpreting a Japanese concept, I am sure there is a lot more to it than that, but one of the things that stuck out is the lack of clutter.  A house should have 10% of its space as storage. You should be able to put things away.
So, even though I spent maybe 5 minutes a day in the laundry room, I am making it nicer, getting rid of crap, adding shelving so that it can store more of the things I need and want.

I taped and mudded the joints on the drywall, then painted with some leftover paint. I knew the unprimed drywall would soak up a lot, so it would need multiple coats.  I was able to kill two birds with one stone, for the first coat I got rid of some “indian white” paint that has been taking up space in the laundry room for at least 12 years, and I was able to brighten up the room considerably.  Now a corner niche is pale green, and two walls are “aegean mist” left over from Kate’s room. It has made me so happy.

After the first coat of paint, but before the removal of the water tank.

After the first coat of paint, but before the removal of the water tank.

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Jello molds- not just for jello


There are tons of copper jell-o molds at the thrift stores I frequent. I never ever make jell-o, and if I did, I wouldn’t do it in a fancy mold shaped like a lobster, or a star, or a crown. I love these molds though. I covet them. The cost around a dollar each- I guess the age of making jello shaped like a fish is over, and people don’t even want them hanging on their walls anymore. Now they can be mine…all mine!!!!

Mostly jello molds, but there's a kitty cat cake pan in there, too.

Mostly jello molds, but there’s a kitty cat cake pan in there, too.

Several years ago, in pre-blog life, I used some as molds for concrete stepping stones. They weren’t super-successful. For example, my favorite shape was a curved fish, but in popping it out of the mold, it broke. I also probably pulled the stones out earlier than I should have- the longer concrete cures, the harder it is, so popping them out early meant they were fragile.
We had a half bucket of concrete mix left, though, so last week while the boy was at STEM summer school, Kate and I got messy.

Sun's out, guns out- look at those muscles!

Sun’s out, guns out- look at those muscles!

I had read on the internet (gardenweb has great information about concrete garden ornaments of all kinds) that adding latex paint as part of the liquid to concrete can extend the working time, and strengthen the finished product. I poured in some of the “Amethyst Frost” paint left from the last time we painted Kate’s room into the mix. It totally doesn’t change the color- the concrete is still grey.

Kate was much more persnickety about greasing her molds with petroleum jelly, so the ones she worked on came out much better than mine. We also got some marble gems at the dollar store, and she was in charge of placement. I would have gone crazy and carpeted the stones with marbles, but she was very reserved.

With the curved fish and a sea horse mold, I attempted to reinforce the concrete with mesh from an onion bag.  The delicate parts broke anyway, so I glued them with 9001 high strength adhesive. Once they are in place, there won’t be a lot of stress on them, so they should be okay.

I waited several days to pop them out of the molds, kept them covered with plastic, and misted them with water every time I remembered to, all on advice from the garden web forum people.

Cat+ craft project, quick, somebody pin me!

Cat+ craft project, quick, somebody pin me!

All in all, I am very pleased with the results- we have some good-looking stepping stone/border edging pieces. You should recognize that you cannot use the molds for food again- the vaseline helps the concrete to release, but there are still bits of gravel stuck to the inside. The molds are about a dollar each at thrift stores (rest assured, Mom, that I didn’t use the copper mold you gave me, with the flower design- it is still hanging on the wall in the kitchen). I have an idea for what I’m going to use the copper molds for now…watch this space.

First, we ditch the swingset…


IMG_0530There are about 8 inches of snow out my back window right now, and it is still coming down. Fortunately, I dumped the compost bucket before the storm started, so I don’t have to wade through it for a couple more days. I’ll go out for groceries, later, but mostly, this is a day for looking out the window and daydreaming. About peaches.
I have been reading “The Holistic Orchard” by Michael Phillips- I keep dipping into it, then re-reading, then thinking about how to blog it, and about how to apply it in real life. It is a lot to think about. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in having fruit trees.
I already have a couple of apples- an ancient tree of unknown variety, and a dwarf golden delicious. My hope is that with pruning advice from this book, I can get the ancient tree under control, and get some delicious, golden apples from the other.
I am also interested in adding peaches to the menagerie, in the corner of the yard that has been the home to our swing set. The swing set is set into the ground with concrete, which was thrilling when the kids were little, they could swing breathtakingly high, without tipping the whole thing over.  Cousins would cry. Little brothers would cry, too, come to think of it.  Nobody really got hurt, though.  BIMG_0529eing rooted into the ground made it really hard to mow around, and in the last couple of summers, wasps have made their nests in the tubes, which is thrilling and breathtaking in its own right.

So, the first big step to putting peaches there will be to get rid of the swingset- not today, though. It’s snowing.

Progress on the Duvet Cover


The previous owners of our house finished the basement in idiosyncratic ways- for example, when they installed the basement shower, the drain holes didn’t line up. That’s bad. They also put in a storage system in the playroom with a sewing closet. Open the doors, and there is a desk with a rectangular cut-out for a sewing machine, and little drawers for scissors and bobbins and ribbons and things. That’s good.
The result is that I can leave projects half finished and come back later, without having to clean off a table to sew.
The bad thing is that it is in the basement, which is cold and dark in the winter. In summer, it is great, because when it gets unbearable upstairs in the afternoons, we can go down and play with legos and sew. In the winter, I don’t get much sewing done.IMG_0038

But, today we have a project. So, today, we’ve cleared off the dining room table, brought the sewing machine up, and the ironing board, and we are making some bedding for Kate.

I mused to myself how I would be able to control my “control-freakiness” with Kate, and let her sew without hovering over her.  It turns out, I am not having to, very much. I helped her wind bobbins, pinned some seams on pillowcases, let her sew…and then she kind of got bored. We had 6 long panels, 84 inches by 22 inches, so we sewed them together, then sewed across the top.  Kate drifted off leaving me to zigzag the six long seams and press a hem  in the opening.IMG_0033

Thanks to my panel of experts, who advised me to leave a longer seam allowance, 1/2 inch rather than 1/4, and to zigzag the edges.  IMG_0044

For the opening where the comforter goes in, I have hemmed it, and am thinking about attaching snaps? I am feeling a little lazy, though, and have made comforter covers in the past without them. What are your thoughts? I have snaps in the basement…

Yeah...okay, probably needs snaps.

Yeah…okay, probably needs snaps.

Good-enough Twin Comforter Cover

9 yards cotton quilting fabric, 3 yards each of 3 coordinating fabrics

Cut 25 inches off each fabric length. Choose one that will be the contrasting trim for both pillowcases and cut in half along its width. Set aside.

Cut the selvedges off the long pieces of fabric, and rip them in half along their length. You will have 6 pieces that are 22 inches wide and 83 inches long.

Working with two strips at a time, pin right sides together and sew together with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, then sew the pairs together to make one big tube. Pin the seam on the top of the cover, and sew it together. I lined up my seams at the edges, although as I type this, I realize I could have lined it up any which way, so the strips wouldn’t have the seams at the same place. Next time…And of course, you could make the strips any width.

Take time to zigzag the seam allowances and press the allowances to the darker fabric.

The open end is where you will feed the comforter in.  I double-folded the hem and stitched it down, leaving the center open.

This is where I should have put in snaps… and I probably will.

For the pillowcases, sew the 12 inch long piece of accent fabric to the 25 inch long piece, along the width of the fabric, 38 inches. Press the seam toward the 12 inch side- it will be covered with the folded accent fabric. Fold and sew along the bottom and side. Press a half inch hem along the top of the accent fabric and topstitch down to cover the seam that attaches the two fabrics to each other.

 

The perfect is the enemy of the good


IMG_0032This is my motto, or one of them, anyway.  The idea is that if you wait until every thing is perfect, then you will miss out on the good- enough moments. For example, Kate has a new down comforter. Her room is on the east side of the house, so the sun wakes her in the morning, but it means it is pretty cold at night. Especially lately, because she closes her door for privacy. This fall when I saw her layering two comforters and three fleece blankets, in addition to pajamas, I was like, “would you like a down comforter?”
Short answer, “yes.”
So we shopped at all the linens and baths and beyonds and things, (which I hate) and I wound up ordering one on Amazon (which I love). While waiting for it to arrive I started sketching ideas for duvet covers, thinking about embroidery, and patchwork, and scalloped edges.
Now…this was before Christmas, the end of the quarter at my school, while Kate was sick and, even though I didn’t know it, I was about to catch the flu (at least I think it was the flu, I felt terrible, but I hope it makes me immune, because I still haven’t gotten a flu shot.) Seriously, it was a terrible time to start a giant quilty craft project.
So, I didn’t.

But I didn’t want to put the comforter on the bed just naked, it needed a cover.
I didn’t actually buy an official duvet cover- I got a king sized sheet and folded it in half and sewed it together. It was the best thing to have done (well, I acknowledge that maybe just buying a pre-made duvet cover would have been easier, but I have mentioned already I hate shopping.)
Now that Christmas is over, and the new quarter at school has started, and Kate is feeling better, and here’s hoping, that was the flu, not just a random virus and I won’t get sick, we went out and bought some fabric.

The middle one is Kate's favorite- it looks much better IRL- pale green with a swirly resist pattern. My favorite is the top one.

The middle one is Kate’s favorite- it looks much better IRL- pale green with a swirly resist pattern. My favorite is the top one.

We found inspiration in Last Minute Patchwork Gifts, by Joelle Hoverson, where I have found inspiration in the past. It was funny, as we flipped though it, Kate kept finding her quilt, and her brother’s, and one that I started for the guest room but still haven’t finished. It is a great beginner’s quilt book.

We found one that was 2 bold fabrics, in vertical stripes and agreed to adapt it.
We hit the fabric store and Kate found three fabrics she really liked in blues and greens.
We got three yards of each, so we would have enough to make pillow cases as well. (the book has directions for pillow cases with contrasting borders, as well.)

Here’s another opportunity to work on my belief that the perfect is the enemy of the good, because I am going to let Kate sew, as much as she wants to. It will be 6 really long straight seams, and they don’t really have to be that straight, in the grand scheme of things. No school for Martin Luther King Day, so maybe we’ll bring the sewing machine up into the sunshine and work on it.

This almost reads as a solid, but there are little dragonflies up close. Love it.

This almost reads as a solid, but there are little dragonflies up close. Love it.

Watch for photos of progress.

Here’s a question- as I understand it, you don’t finish the seams in a quilt with zig-zag or pinking shears because they will get quilted over, and aren’t likely to fray.  With a duvet cover, should we zigzag? Quilty people? Are you there?

Closet Flipping


New Year's Rockin' Eve, for the work wardrobe...

New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, for the work wardrobe…

A year or so ago, I saw a recommendation somewhere on the interwebs for flipping your closet- it was on Pinterest, and I tracked down the picture, but my virus protection said not to go there… so no link.

But, here’s what to do-on New Years Eve, take everything out of your closet and turn it around backwards, so the hangers hang opposite of the way they usually do. (This is probably like hanging toilet paper, everyone thinks the way they do it is the right way. Whatever.) When you put stuff back in your closet after wearing, put it in the right way. Then, on June 30, you will see what you have worn based on what direction it is hanging. Flip it again, and see what you wear from the end of June through the end of the year.
Think hard about what you haven’t worn, and why.
For example, this fall I haven’t worn any shirts that need to be ironed.
I hate ironing.
I also hate shirts that have to be buttoned and are gappy. I’m not even particularly well-endowed, but button-up shirts gap and I hate them. I don’t hate them enough not to buy them, apparently, but I hate them enough not to wear them.
I got these thinking they would be good for hot weather when school started, and I would want short sleeves, but something a little more structured than a tee shirt. Didn’t wear them.
This flipping trick is great for seeing patterns, and really knowing what gets worn and doesn’t.
Another example is this flowerdy dress.

What do you mean, flowerdy isn't a word?

What do you mean, flowerdy isn’t a word?

I bought it as a back-up dress for a wedding, in case I didn’t have the guts to wear the little black dress that I did wind up wearing. I have worn it once since I bought it, although not this year. With most “clean your closet” plans, not wearing something in a year means getting rid of it, but this is a great dress- it is a nice fit, and great for a wedding. I am keeping it.
I’m getting rid of the sleeveless button-front shirts, though.

Radical Apple Pruning


 

We have a giant apple tree that has been butchered in the past, then ignored, the butchered again, by the city tree trimming crew. It is probably about 50 years old, and most of the apples are developing way up high, because the major branches go up high, then bend over…after researching a lot, hemming and hawing and reading, online and in books, I have decided to renovate it. Slowly, over a few years, I’ll take off major limbs and train young branches to be the new major limbs, at a more convenient height. Convenient for me, not the squirrels.

Let me tell you about apical dominance… there is a chemical in plants that causes the  buds on the end of every branch to be dominant- it turns off the other buds back down the line. This chemical, auxin, is affected by gravity. If the end bud on a branch droops down, there aren’t many buds that will be activated. There will be buds on the tree up high, before the branch starts to droop. So we have very few apples down where we can reach them, and a bunch up high, which then fall down to be half-eaten by squirrels.

 

Another thing about apical dominance is that when the end bud is cut off,  other bud back down the line are activated. This is good when your pinch back flower chrysanthemums to make the plant bushier, so you get more flowers in fall, but not so good when the city crew whacks back your apple tree on a semiannual basis.

Since it is a standard tree, not a dwarf, it is really big. Branches are growing up into the power lines, and the city crews want to prevent that, but they don’t care much about the tree other than that. Every time the city comes to prune, they take out the center aggressively, which causes it to grow back aggressively. It’s pretty bad. There are seven major limbs, up to about 6 inches in diameter at the trunk, and they have kind of an umbrella effect, going up, then curving way down.
I have thought about it a lot, planning, and checking, and finally decided to take off one of the seven major limbs. Next year, I will take out another, never removing more than 25% of the leaf area at a time. Hopefully this will prevent major regrowth of water sprouts. I wanted to clean up the south side of the tree, since that is where I have recently sited a veggie bed and I wanted it to have more direct sun.

So, I chose my first limb, sawed it, then spent some quality time wondering how to get it down without seriously hurting myself. Seriously. It was tangled in so many other branches that even when it was cut all the way through, it just sat there.  I moved the ladder and made some more judicious cuts, then spent a pleasant afternoon cutting it into reasonable lengths for our chimenea.  Next year, I’ll select another limb from the North side of the tree, and work on that one.

The most helpful book for me in this project, which has mostly been a project about thinking, is Cass Turnbull’s Guide to Pruning. Tons of illustrations, tons of examples, written by a woman on a mission.

The Big Yellow Monster


I have been a member of the National Geographic Society for many years. The primary benefit of the membership in this prestigious society is the receipt of a magazine every month. Depending on the amount of spare time, and the topics, we either devour the magazines, or they pile up on the end table. The recent issue with the story about how dogs were domesticated, fascinating, and hit all the right notes on the Boy’s interest in dogs and evolution and selective breeding.

The thing is, I can’t get rid of these magazines- we hold on to them as reference material, in case we want to look back at the maps, re-read the articles. Cutting them up for collages? Never! People do, I know, but not us.
The reality is, though, we don’t look back at old issues, or at least we haven’t, so far. So we hold on to them. I have a vivid memory of going out to the icy cold garage one February, to find an issue with Olmecs in it, to do a school report when I was in Junior High.

Why the garage? I don’t know the origin of the decision, but there were so many issues of the magazine, and so little storage space inside, that somehow it seemed logical to keep them in the garage.
Get rid of them? Never!
Ours, almost 20 years worth, have been fitting well in a lovely built-in shelf in our entrance way. That is, they were fitting in well, when they were only occupying the bottom shelf, then they encroached on the second from the bottom, displacing my cookbooks, and craft books. The front hall is terrribly lighted as well, so even when you want to look for a map, or a story on the Mongols, it is hard to do.
Long story short…I’m not getting rid of them. Never! But I am moving them to the basement, where with some clever re-arrangement, they can have their own bookshelf, with a lamp nearby.
Philosophically, what is this hold that National Geographics have on me? I can recycle or give away other magazines and books, but not these. What do you have that you can’t get rid of?

Demolition


Need some elbow grease to finish scraping off that mastic.

If  remodeling all starts with a throw pillow, or a pretty Martha Stewart towel rack,or paint colors, or choosing tile, there’s still a lot of stuff in the middle to get through, before any of the fun pretty stuff can get accomplished.

Our basement bathroom remodel started with a sluggish drain, and it is turning into a big deal. And we have kind of a deadline- I go back to school soon, and I will be teaching full time, rather than half, as I have been for the past several years. More money=nice, less time= not so nice.
The clock is ticking.
So, I ripped off the ceramic tile from the walls. At first I was dainty, sliding the scraper under the edge, prying gently, removing it with my other hand and placing it gently into the trash barrel.
Then it got fun. It was loose enough in most places that it would just pop off- whoever applied my tile so many years ago did it the same way they constructed the shower. That is, they did it  half-assedly. There was no grout, and I think it was mastic, rather than thin-set mortar. The mastic comes off the concrete foundation wall pretty easily, but not so much on the drywall. It’s pretty sloppy.

I used the gentlest tool first, and it worked really well- I read a lot of advice on the web that advocated crowbars and stuff, and implied that the best case scenario for most people was replacing the sheet rock. In our case, it popped off pretty easily.
The main tool I used was a scraper- it has removable 4 inch blades, and I found it in the tile section of the home improvement store.
If you are looking at this as a how-to, rather than just an opportunity to laugh at my hapless DIY skills, make sure you wear shoes, and gloves, and probably long pants, and definitely DEFINITELY DEFINITELY EYE PROTECTION. Seriously. There are tiny chips of ceramic flying around. Your eyes are what you see with. Protect them.

The next step was yanking out the dry wall from behind the shower wall. Rotten drywall. Pretty gross. I used a claw hammer to pull it up and break off pieces. About an hour by myself. I’m not complaining about doing it by myself- it is a 5×8 bathroom- I don’t think anyone else could get in there with a hammer without either taking longer, or someone getting hurt.

The next step is mental- the reason the drain was so sluggish was because the hole in the shower pan didn’t line up with the hole in the floor. I need to figure out how to “fur out” the wall so that the backer board can line up with the shower pan.

The book that has been super helpful is Stanley’s Complete Baths– I read it when we were up in the mountains last weekend.  My niece would say, “what are you reading?” and I would say, “shhh, I’m learning how to tile.”

So, we are working through the messy part, and soon will get through to the fun parts, expect more photos!

Holy Smokes- it worked!


Every picture should tell a story, right? This picture tells the story of the nasty stuff in my shower drain.

Our basement shower has been draining sloooowly for a long time, and when we had the plumber out to look at it, Dave was his name, wearing his cute little booties to protect our rugs, he just shook his head and said there was nothing he could do. Seriously?
We had already tried to snake it, but the problem was, the shower pan drain didn’t overlap with the floor drain- it was a little 3 dimensional Venn Diagram- this side was the water that came down in the shower, and this was the water that pooled up on the floor, and there in the middle, was the water that went down the drain. Gross.

We needed to do something, so I thought about remodeling. For a while. I set up a board on Pinterest, even.
After putting it off most of the summer, I tore out the shower pan last week, and tried the snake again. Not effective. Then I read somewhere that using a wet-dry vacuum would work.
Really? Okay.
It does work- I borrowed my friend Molly’s, and plugged it in, wrapped a rag around the end of the hose and turned it on.
At first, I wondered how you would be able to tell if it was working, then I felt little jerks on the hose, and looked inside the canister. Globs. Nasty globs of, let’s admit it, mostly my hair. And a piece of plastic that the installers had used to bridge the gap between the drain holes.
I poured an exploratory gallon or 2 of water down the drain, and it made contented gurgling sounds. Yea!
Next step, doing something about the decomposing wallboard behind the shower wall. Seriously? Who installed this thing?

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