Monday, June 15, 2015

Project House Update: The List - Version 3.0

So, there wasn't a lot to show this year in terms of house updates. We did do a whoooole lot. Many projects, like the fireplace, have eaten up numerous weekends. Other projects, like the shop, have required so much planning that we haven't really seen any pay-off yet. And other projects, like getting the bricks resealed, took time and money, but the results are invisible to the naked eye.

Slowly, but surely, our house is coming along. We've finally have a significant amount of prep done and a bunch of our ducks in a row so that Version 4.0 of this list should be amazing.

If you'd like to go back and see what we've accomplished in previous years, click one of the older versions of this list below, otherwise, let's see what's changed!

June 2013: Version 1.0
June 2014: Version 2.0

* means something Dan wants to do and I am trying to talk him out of.
# means something I want and Dan is ignoring and hoping I'll forget/change my mind.
bold means something new or completed since the last version of the list.


Done: Painted, installed new light fixture, set up corner table, hung some art, modified closet 
To Do: New flooring, new baseboards, maybe repaint a more neutral and subtle color#, new light*, coat rack or console table.

Dining Room:

Done: Painted, hung curtains
To Do: Hang some art, new flooring, new baseboards, new light fixture, new chairs, redo dresser into china cabinet, maybe repaint a more subtle color.

Formal Living Room:

Done: Hung curtain rod and curtains, hung ceiling fan, painted, upgraded light fixtures, tiled fireplace, bought lamp
To Do: Make mantle for fireplace, new floors, new molding, build built-in bookcases, get fireplace working, arrange furniture, hang art.

Kitchen/Breakfast Nook:

Done: Painted, new ceiling fan in breakfast nook, removed awkward ceiling fan in kitchen, installed new microwave, purchased refrigerator
To Do: New floors, new cabinets, new range instead of built-in oven and cook top, new counter tops, additional lighting under cabinets, pendant lighting over the sink, new bar stools, finish painting chairs for breakfast nook, new windowsills in nook*, new sink.

Great Room:

Done: Painted, purchased entertainment center, hung art, hung TV, routed cables through the wall, new coffee table, added more seating, new ceiling fan*, hung star mirror.
To Do: New floors, new molding, maybe repaint a more subtle color#, widen doorway to entryway, add sofa table.

Master Bedroom:

Done: Painted, installed new ceiling fan, purchased dressers, new blinds blades, hung curtains, purchased bed frame
To Do: New floors, redo fireplace, install crown molding, new door (instead of stupid sliding pocket door)#, find side table for Dan, more lighting.

Master Bathroom/Closet:

Done: Replaced sliding glass door, removed and patched toilet paper holder, upgraded toilet room
To Do: Paint, new floors, new vanities, remove overhead dry wall pocket*, new mirrors, add wall sconces, french doors into closet, new shower*, new shelving and organization in closet, chandelier, twinkly lights around top, furniture (including a standing mirror and an island/ottoman)

Guest Room/Guest Bath/Guest Closet:

Done: Painted bookcase and end table, bought bedding, painted room, installed new ceiling fan, window treatments, magazine shelves
To Do: New floors, modify bed frame, new cabinets and counter top, new toilet, new shower doors, paint bathroom and closet.


Done: Paint, new lighting, hung art (1 and 2)
To do: New floors, add baseboards

Hall Bathroom:

Done: Hung some art
To do: Penny floors!, paint, remove wall to create one space, new toilet, update tub, new lighting, new cabinets and countertop*


Done: Hung art, new dresser
To Do: Stain shelving, remove desk and install cabinets, built-in cat box, new window treatment, paint, new floors, new lighting, new window, new ceiling fan, new desk(s).

Workout Room:

Done: New windows and window sills, wiring for ceiling fan, paint, ceiling fan, new lighting
To Do: new floors, new window treatment, base boards

Laundry Room:

Done: Purchased washer and dryer, electrical work on lighting.
To Do: Paint, new floors, move sink into garage, build platform for washer/dryer, purchase deep freezer, straighten out crooked pantry, install some shelving, find bench and storage for shoes, new lighting.


Done: Built Turtle's habitat, removed pokey bush
To Do: Remove gravel, plant some trees, fire pit, build housing to hide pool pipes, convert exterior shower into a shed, replace outdoor lights


Done: Removed fountain, planted some trees, removed a ton of dead cactus, new porch lights
To Do: redo driveway, paint garage door, new driveway lights, paint pergola

Other things we've done: new roof, updated pool solar heating, adobe bricks sealed.

Other things in progress: build Dan's external shop

Friday, June 12, 2015

Jurassic World Preparations

For being a self-proclaimed Jurassic Park super fan, this space has been remarkably quiet leading up to the premiere of Jurassic World today. And it's not that I'm not excited (because I AM), I've just been trying to avoid all the promotional stuff before seeing the movie so it wouldn't spoil it for me.

Have you noticed how rare it is anymore to not know exactly what's going to happen in a movie before seeing it from all the freakin' trailers and teasers and posters and interviews and toys and etcetera?

Anyway, I have been prepping for this movie. {Sidenote: by the time this goes up, I will have already seen the movie and I'll write a post about it next week.} To get myself psyched up this week, it had been the week of dinosaur outfits!


Classing up a Jurassic Park t-shirt with a blazer, some simple yet pretty earrings, and a pair of boots. My dinosaur-ness went unnoticed at work.

T-Rex Shirt Business


Day 2 was a weird day. I had just gotten this skirt from Express and I wanted an excuse to wear it. Since I was going to be in meetings all day Tuesday and not in the lab, I paired the skirt with some pantyhose and a pair of heels. Since the rest of the outfit was so professional, I was able to balance out my cheap, juvenile Forever 21 dinosaur print tee.

Because the rest of my outfit was a bit over the top, one of my coworkers commented and I made the mistake of telling him that the fanciness was to balance out the t-shirt. It spread through that small meeting of four people of my intentions to wear dinosaur shirts all week.

Forever21 Dinosaur Shirt Business


It makes sense when you wear a dinosaur t-shirt and a T-rex skeleton necklace to wear your pretend admiral jacket, right? I should also probably note here that all of these looks involve layering or blazers to class up the dinosaur shirts. In Tucson. In June. In a freak humid month. I'm now a liquid from melting.

One of my chatty coworkers brought up my outfit plan in a much larger meeting. My entire department is now aware of my plan. The pressure is on.

Hello Dinosaur shirt Business


By Thursday, I was down to dinosaur sweaters and kid shirts. To keep it a little more mature, I went with a sweatshirt over a long sleeve shirt, rather than my Christmas sweater. I'm so warm I've gone past the liquid stage and am now a gas. I also added in my insect trapped in amber necklace.

Since almost everyone I work with now knows of my obsession, people keep trying to find me to see what I'm wearing today. One of my coworkers even brought in his son's Lost World toys to show me. We've officially reached critical mass.

Dinosaur Sweatshirt Business

Thursday Night (for the premiere):

Since I'm not entirely crazy, I thought it was best to change into my dinosaur costume right before the movie, not at work. I wore it over the most breathable clothing I have in case I needed to remove it for some reason. Although, at this point, my tolerance for warmth has greatly increased. I think Dan was probably embarrassed by me wearing this outfit while walking from the car to the movie theater through a busy mall, but if it doesn't phase me, why should it phase him?

Dinosaur Costume

I love this onesie so much. Here's a little teaser of what it looks like on before my full post next week.

So freakin' excited!!!! Eeeeeieeee! Any bets on how many times I end up seeing it by the end of the weekend?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Project House Update: Window Sill

I'm sure you've been waiting on pins and needles for me to finnnnnally update you with the new window sills for the workout room. In my last post about these windows, we had them installed, but the sill were naked.

Here's what they look like now!

But let's go back to the beginning, shall we?

Apparently, I never took a proper 'Before' picture of the old window sills. The closest images I have to a 'Before' is this picture from when we painted the room and removed the old sills. You can see it sitting, torn out, next to the window.

And, nearly a year and a half after painting the room and buying windows, we finally installed the windows a few months ago.

Once the windows were installed, Dan and I debated back and forth quite a bit about the sills. He was in favor of trimming them in wood. There were two big problems with this:
  1. We would need to determine the wood we wanted to use as the trim for the ENTIRE house and then trim the windows, and we were nowhere near ready to make that decision.
  2. Wood trim window sills can be easily damaged, especially by water and kids. I had flashbacks to being a kid, overwatering plants I had on my windowsill. And since this room will most likely be a kid's room someday, wood seemed kind of weak.
I was in favor of tiling the sills, particularly in a tile that matched the marble tiles of the fireplace. However, Dan thought that individual tiles might not be strong enough if we laid them with the lip overhang we wanted.

He started down the path of trying to find some stone remnants from counter installers to use as sills. When these estimates came back in the several hundred dollar range, that idea died quickly.

We reached an impasse so we say, sill-less, for a while.

I don't know how Dan came across it, but he found that our local big box tile store actually sold window sills in their tile department. For just $27, we could get a 6"x73" window sill in the exact same marble as our fireplace tiles!

It was a great deal, but we didn't want to pull the trigger until we saw the stone in person. Unfortunately, they didn't have any in stock in our store, so again, we found ourselves inactive. Turns out, however, the website had our local store set as the Phoenix location, not the Tucson one. They had plenty in stock in Tucson. So, we quickly borrowed my parents' SUV and bought $60 worth of window sills.

It took a couple of hours work on my husband's part to cut them to size. The arched window was additionally challenging because the rear edge wasn't straight left to right. He had to shave about half an inch of material on the back side.

Once they were cut to size, he adhered them into place and he's been slowly working to caulk around them.

I love these sills so much. They just look so professional and classy. The stone has these beautiful blue undertones that tie it smoothly to the pale blue-gray of the walls.

Out of every room in the house, this one is coming along the fastest now. It's also probably because it is the simplest room in the house, but I'm so excited to check another thing off the to-do list!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Project House Update: Let's Go Shopping

This project has basically been in the works since we moved into our house in 2011, but no real progress had been made until recent months. So, let me give you some background in this post before all the craziness really starts to pick up in the next couple of weeks.

My husband is the definition of a 'car guy'. He's probably the epitome of the definition because I have never met anyone who knows more about cars than he does. It's his passion.

In early 2011, right after we got married and started hunting for a house, we had a list of things we were looking for in a house. Mine were more intangible things, like 'the bones' and 'the personality' of the house, while his list was very concrete. His big two issues being nice views and a big garage.

When we first saw our house, it had 'the bones' and 'the personality' for me and the views for him, but the garage was a small two car garage. More than adequate for the typical homeowner. But not for Dan.The compromise we made in buying our house was that someday we would build an external shop for him. In my mind, this was ten, twenty years out. For him, it was two years, tops. Communication, people. It's important apparently...

So we bought our house and spent quite a lot of time and money moving in and fixing it up, so the idea of a shop got pushed to the back burner. It was probably in 2013 when the idea of a shop started growing in his brain again. Dan's parents were trying to move to our city and had been meeting with contractors to build them a home. Just for fun, Dan started talking to these same contractors about his dream shop.

Let's be clear: Dan's dream shop, the shop the HOA will let us build, and the shop we can afford to build are three entirely different structures. So, back in 2013, he started by using his tablet to sketch up plans. The dimensions were dictated by the home owners association restrictions: 1500 square feet and 16 foot ceilings, max. He tried to maximize the amount of cars he could fit in that space. He made sure almost any RV on the market could fit in it, for resale value someday. He made sure he could fit in his lift so he could raise cars to work under them.

And then he got some quotes, just for the hell of it. These quotes were in the $100k range. That killed his enthusiasm pretty quickly.

When 2014 rolled around, we had a conversation about building the shop that year. I agreed with the condition that we'd need to really start saving for it and he would have to bring the cost way down. I simply could not live with myself if we wasted that much money on a shop.

Unfortunately for Dan, the year just got away from us. 2014 came and went without a shop. We did save the money we needed, but other projects came up, time got away from us, and contractors just didn't call us back. It's amazing the amount of contractors that just blew us off. You would think some yelling "TAKE MY MONEY!" would be someone you want to work with. If I'm remembering right, I think at least two contractors just never showed up for their scheduled appointments. That's a great way to waste everyone's time, guys. It did weed out a lot of people we didn't want to work with, though.

Around the beginning of 2015, we sat down and had another conversation. Our lives have gotten a lot busier lately and we needed to refocus on the goals and projects we wanted to achieve. Top of Dan's list was his shop, so he buckled down and got really serious this time.

He was persistent with contractors to the point of annoyance. He finally had a contractor he could work with and a quote. He wanted to get a second opinion of the quote, so he found another contractor to act as a comparison and ended up liking the second guy so much more than the first. Once we finally had a contractor we liked and who would actually call us back, it was time to finalize all the little details.

'The shop' had always been more conceptual than actual to me so this where we started to really run into problems. Up until that point, I had been under the impression that the contractor was only really needed to get the foundation down and the structure up. Dan had told me that. over time, he could do a lot of the other work needed, to save on cost. However, when talking to the contractor about city codes and the building process, he had changed his mind and the contractor had suddenly taken on the burden of the work. Which meant we had taken on the burden of the cost at the get-go. Although I had agreed to building a shop and Dan had verbally agreed to work with the contractor, when we got the first quote, I was flabbergasted.

The quote was over $90,000. It hurts my heart just to think about that number.

I knew it was going to be expensive, but not that expensive. That's an insane amount of money to think about. After seeing the quote, that's when things got ugly, I will admit it. I wanted an itemized list. A list of everything that was going into the quote so we could start cutting things until it became affordable. Dan was insistent that that's not how quotes like this work. I wasn't going to agree to spending this amount of money and he couldn't tell me what we would save by cutting things.

Over a couple of long nights of arguing, we sat down and went through his plans, detail by detail. Why he wanted windows there, why the door went there, couldn't we add lights later. I went through and questioned every single decision he had made. It was probably something I should have done years ago, but the evolution of this shop had been so convoluted that it went from idea to quote virtually in an instant.

After that, the new quote was roughly $85,000. This is when started to hurt. I made a line in the sand: it needed to be under $80,000, period. It was like kicking a puppy. He didn't understand how I could draw a line there when there wasn't anything else to cut. He had cut all the bells and whistles. It was an ugly realization for him that, to me, this whole shop was 'bells and whistles' and if he wanted it, he needed to consider the cost. And that cost was square footage.

He made a very good argument: you really can't go back in and add more square footage later. But, my argument, the numbers, pushed back harder. The cost of square footage he couldn't justify use of. By bringing in a wall a foot here and a foot there, you could quickly cut down cost with only really losing six inches of walk way on either side. And given that our contractor told us every 100 square feet we cut was roughly $5000, he wasn't going to win that one.

Our contractor told us he was having a discount for April where he would cover the cost of the taxes if we signed by the end of the month. This was the push Dan needed to finally get serious about the shop and we spent those last few days of April frantically working with our contractor to bring down the cost. We would talk and debate all night, send the contractor an email with our ideas before bed, and he would draw up the changes during the day. We would come home, review the changes, and start all over again.

April 27th, we finally signed papers. I think the contracted cost was somewhere around $81,000, which is still utterly insane to me, but it is Dan's dream. The contractor, the architect, and us have been working to make the official plans so we can get permits and get them approved by the home owners association. We're both hoping that we can break ground by the end of the month, but it's looking more like it will be in July now. We've been told it should be roughly a month between breaking ground and a completed structure.

This whole process has been incredibly new to me and I have felt really unprepared for most of it. It's been hard being a detail-oriented engineer and having to come to terms with the fact that the contractor isn't just going to tell me everything. I want to know everything, though, so I'm going to have to be annoying and persistent and not get left out of the loop. It's been great watching Dan draw up his dream and negotiate to get what he wants from the contractors, but it sucks having to be this negative 'voice of reason' and talk him down from his high. I know this whole process will probably get worse before it gets better, I just hope the end result is worth it.

PS: Let me say something here to anyone who is trying to work with a contractor for a project: you need to be 100% on the same page as your spouse before you sign anything. We didn't realize until after we had signed the papers that we did not agree on where on the property the shop would actually go. It was another couple of frantic nights of me not realizing how freaking large this building is going to be and where the hell was it going to go. Now, we've staked it and agreed on it's location and made sure it's not blocking any of our views, but we have to run it passed the contractor to see if it can be built there without any extra cost. Something we should have figured out beforehand.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Project House Update: Grout it Out

The tiling is done! I repeat: THE FIREPLACE TILING IS DONE!!

In a feat that has taken me weeks of very uncomfortable work, the slate tile sheets have all been successfully grouted. The edges are clean and so the tiling mess is done!

Just a reminder, here's what it looked like over two years ago, when all of this started: brown stucco, painted Mexican tiles, and too much saltillo.

And look at it now! It's gorgeous and I am so proud of Dan and myself. It almost makes drawing this project out for so long less painful. We needed to take our time and be perfectionists to end up with these results.

So, let me explain what I actually did instead of continuing to drool over my work. When Dan placed all the slate tiles on the curved fireplace surface, there was a gap between the edges of the sheets and the surrounding walls. He went through and snapped extra tiles and stuck them in the gaps, however, the line was still rough and, without working tirelessly with a tile saw, there was still a gap between then edge of the tiles and the walls. It would have been nearly impossible to cut tiles to fill that gap. In the image below, you can see were he started to fill in the gaps with tile fragments at the top.

What we decided to do to fill the gap was to grout it. This sounds easy in theory, but it turned out to be quite a mixed bag.

The first problem we ran into was the color. We both wanted the grout to blend smoothly into the tiles. To be unnoticeable. However, the slate tiles have a pretty unique color. It took some time and some specially ordered grout, but I mixed a variety of colors of grout until we had the perfect match. (In case you are wondering, it was three parts black, one part white, and two parts 'Admiral Blue'.)

Then, with a line of painter's tape, a ziploc baggie full of grout, and a glove, I piped grout into the gaps. It was like icing a really expensive, time consuming cake. Fortunately, the grout is water soluble, so mistakes were pretty easy to clean up. Perfectly clean tile borders!

That was the easy part. You know what took forever? The opening of the fireplace.

You can see in the image below what I started with. The opening of the fireplace had been so beaten up over the course of this project. Removing the original tiles around the opening tore up the inside surface and there was the new edge from the slate tiles. It was ugly.

It ended up taking me three layers of grout, but I grouted and smoothed the entire opening. When you see this much of the grout, it doesn't look like a very good color match, but it's a much better match in person, rather than in pictures.

The grout smoothed over the unevenness of the inner edge from removing the old tiles. More importantly, it curved around the edges of the tiles to match them to the curved opening of the fireplace. It does look a little rough, but after several weekends of grouting and developing a strong strategy, I assure you, this is as good as it possibly gets. You would have to really look hard to judge this grout job in person. 

And, fortunately, with the fireplace grate on the front, it is nearly impoosible to see. The grouted interior creates the illusion that the tile wraps around the edge.

I'm sol glad it's done. Now, we can start looking at getting flooring put into the room. We had been holding off until the tile was done so we wouldn't accidentally ruin brand new carpet with some messy grouting.

A future problem could be with the water solubility of the grout. If I tripped and threw a glass of water at the fireplace right now, it would undo all my work. But, for now, pre-kids, I'm not too worried. Something we'll just have to think about and solve in the distant future.