Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Blessings

I have been blessed with family on Thursday AND unexpectedly (and wonderfully) on Wednesday. Everything happens for a reason.  Had I not taken the dirty dinner dishes upstairs at the moment I did on Tuesday night I would not have heard my phone ring and would have missed the visit from family on Wednesday. 

Wednesday was full of baking cooking.  Pumpkin pies, cherry pie, chocolate pie, sweet potato casseroles with marshmallows and with brown sugar and walnuts, mashed potatoes, slow cooked cranberry sauce, bread sticks and dinner rolls, and green beans. I also make something chocolately for anybody who doesn't like pie. 

Grammy does the turkey, stuffing and gravy the morning of Thanksgiving.


The chocolate pie was a hit this year. I'll have to make two next year.
The last chocolately thing I made was a pretzel and peanut butter combination.  They were supposed to be truffles rolled and dipped in chocolate.  My roller was tired.  My dipper was even more tired. 

They turned into flat cookies.  And were delicious. I'll be making this again.

I hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Finishing Touches

As with all finishing touches, something usually unexpected happens.  As we were finishing the plumbing on the new bathroom sink, Walt Kowalski pulled the drain pipe up. And up. And up and up.
Too far up.  "Look how much extra is on this pipe!"
And then it hit him.  Argh, it's not extra. It's not connected!
There it is...W-A-Y back in the back of the crawl space.  Just enough room for him, but not enough room to be comfortable to work.

He fixed it.  What a pain in the...shoulder.

Miss Brenda commented on my bathroom painting mistakes the other day.  She said that when they remodeled their first house they had the same problem painting.  The problem was because latex paint was painted over oil-based paint without a proper primer. She said when their paint peeled it revealed a lovely mint green paint.  I wasn't lucky enough to fund the mint green paint until yesterday!

I removed a sticky telephone jack from the baseboard and several layers of paint came with it.   Behind those layers was the mint green!

Luckily, it covers nicely. It's there for the next person to find.  The quarter round on the baseboard finished the floors nicely.

Parts of the kitchen didn't have baseboard at all.  Previously cabinets were attached to this wall, so no baseboard was ever present.

Today is Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  The day of cooking for me.  The day of travel for some. As the Sargent in Hill Street Blues would say 'be careful out there.'

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Weekend Wows

Walt Kowalski had a personal day he needed to use. He strung it together with a couple of vacation days to make an extra L-O-N-G weekend. Together we get so much accomplished. Along with lots of small things, we got lots of big things done, too.

One of the important things we did this weekend was to cut the kitchen sink into the new countertop.
When we remodeled the kitchen at the Cat Ranch, cutting the sink in was one of the most stressful events for both of us. Measure, measure, measure, measure, look, look, look, deep breath, cut. 

This was the third kitchen for me, fourth for Walt Kowalski. We learn more with every improvement. The cabinets, countertop, and floor all turned out so nice.  We like it.

I have to install finishing pieces for each side of the cabinets by the windows. The knobs turned out well, too.

Then there was the bathroom. The vanity was missing a drawer.  A replacement drawer cost as much as a new vanity.  *sigh* A new vanity in the same size as the old vanity cost as much as a new vanity, new sink bowl, and new faucet.

The new vanity is a little smaller than the old vanity.  You can see the new hand towel bar.  I got that installed on the first try. As for the bath towel holder on the other wall, well that took me two tries.  I put the brackets on backwards on the first try. {insert eye roll}

We still have a few things to finish up, but we're very close .

Friday, November 21, 2014

Countertop Jealosy

I admit it, I am jealous of the countertop.  ALLLLLLLL it.  Think of the pies that could be rolled here.  Cookies cut out.  Breads kneaded. 


Ok, so this was before we cut the sink in.  But think of the possibilities! I'd just have to do the dishes in the tub.  But hay, it's clean!

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Cleaning is not my favorite activity.  I do it more often now than I did 8 months ago.  The Cat Ranch isn't dirty, furry maybe, but not dirty.  Clutter is a completely different issue.

The bathroom tub at the Bungalow is in poor condition.  It has only a small crack, which is fixable, but the finish of the fiberglass is worn off.  They make a spray-on paint product that will refinish the fiberglass.

The first step is to clean the tub.  Armed with SuperClean and a scrub brush I attacked.  I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed and let the SuperClean work. 

Have you ever used SuperClean?  It's great.  It is meant for cleaning and degreasing wheels and rims.  It cleans everything.  (Careful on some surfaces.)

I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed with my hand held scrub brush.  It worked, but it was exhausting.  I got the broom and scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed.

Huffing and puffing. 

Then I got up close and personal with the tub.  As it turns out, the tub wasn't stained, it was covered in hardened soap and gunk.  (Gunk is a technical word.)

A degreaser wasn't going to solve my problem.  I needed to scrape.  Scrape and scrape and scrape.

Sanding worked out best.  I had a fine piece of waterproof sand paper and gently sanded the soap and grim off of the fiberglass.

Now the shower sparkles!  The floor of the tub is a little worn, but acceptable for now.  No need for refinishing.

I also worked on painting trim.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New Kitchen

I struggled through the bathroom paint.  The ceiling looks MUCH better.  I was worried about the walls.  As they were drying, the paint looked terrible, but after the walls dried, they don't look bad at all.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen...

Walt Kowalski was busy hanging cabinets.

And a microwave. And a stove.

If you forgot what it looked like originally...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


I have made lots of mistakes.  Mistakes in life.  Mistakes at work.  Mistakes when driving.  Mistakes when cooking. 

Mistakes are part of life.  We learn and improve from our mistakes. Without mistakes we would not know how to be better, do better, think better. 

So often, I have found, that many of the "mistakes" I've made turn out to be blessings in disguise.  Small things like forgetting my wallet (or shoes, or keys, or phone) and having to go back, but because of that, I missed a huge traffic backup. 

Some mistakes have no magical blessings. Sometimes the magical blessing is learning "That was stupid. I'm not doing that again!"

Sometimes it takes years to find the mistake and years to find the blessing and years learn from the mistake. 

Then there are mistakes in remodeling.

These mistakes I usually find very quickly.  Usually with a thump to my head. 

I spent the day working in the bathroom at the Bungalow.  I learned from painting the kitchen that even though the walls have been painted, I needed to prime them first.  (I don't know what type of paint they used, but my paint doesn't want to stick to their paint.) Primer seems to help.

There's an old bathroom ceiling fan we plan to replace, so removing the old one before painting only seemed logical.

As I was removing the fan, I *should* have taken a knife and cut the old paint around the fan box.  {Mistake #1}

Instead, as I was removing the fan, I dropped it, and instead of the fan falling to the floor, the fan remained attached to the paint on the ceiling and dangled. Thinking that the fan was probably just barely attached to the paint, I pulled on the dangling fan. {Mistake #2}

The paint remained attached to the fan and peeled across the ceiling.  (What IS this paint made of!?!?!?)

I'll just peel a little more until it stops peeling and then sand. {Mistakes #3 through #7}

Well maybe if I paint the primer over it you won't notice it. {Mistake #8}

This situation has gone from bad to worse.  Sanding didn't even help.  It was a mess.  The only saving this is to smooth joint compound over the area to smooth it out.  *sigh*

It's better than it was, but set me back a day. 

The other important thing I learned about making mistakes, don't panic.  Or don't panic for long. Breathe and re-group. 

And make sure you have the situation partially under control by the time Walt Kowalski gets there. 

Monday, November 17, 2014


Walt Kowalski and I got a lot done this weekend, but little of it was planned. 

Black Friday sales started last week at the home improvement store.  We were waiting for appliances to go on sale and when they did we bought them all. 

Ok, not ALL of them but most of the white ones. 

Appliances at House #1 are now complete. Walt Kowalski installed the dishwasher.

The new dishwasher has blue spaceship lights.

Sunday we were supposed to hang the kitchen cabinets in the Bungalow, but the boys called and said "Let's split firewood!"  Knowing the weather was supposed to turn frigid, we couldn't pass on the opportunity.  It was a chilly day, but the fire kept them warm. 
I had a moment of panic this morning. 
Walt Kowalski said 'What time is Thanksgiving dinner next Thursday?'
I said 'Dinner isn't next Thursday. It's the last Thursday of the month.'
He looked at me.
I looked back at him.
He LOOKED at me.
I looked at the calendar.
Oh crap, it is the last Thursday of the month this year, which IS NEXT WEEK! Which is also when the Bungalow needs to be ready.
I have lots to do. 
I need to work in the bathroom.  (I haven't even started painting!)
I have to stain and poly the new bathroom cabinet and work on the shower.  The new fan is still in the box. The back bedroom still needs painted.  The closet isn't finished.  The kitchen cabinets aren't hung. The trim everywhere needs painted.
Don't forget about the potatoes!
Next Wednesday this turns into a cooking blog. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry, green beans, bread, pies, pies, and more pies.
I can smell the goodness already.
Ok, deeeeeeep breath.  The moment of panic passed.  I'll get it all done.

Friday, November 14, 2014


Friday cuteness.

If only all shopping excursions ended in such cuteness. Sorry, Oreo, no kitty treats on the shopping list today.


Please notice the Fluffinator looking longingly from the chair above.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


We butted the kitchen tiles tightly against each other.  So tight there is barely a grout line.  This is a different tile than we used in House #1.  These tile are 16x16. And they are square.  

Wait, the last were square, too.  Let me rephrase how I want to say that.  

It's hard to explain without seeing it, but these tile are almost vertical on the sides.  The previous tiles had a bit of a slant to the sides.  It is how they were made in the mold in the factory. When butted together, the other tiles created a small grout line with no spacers needed. 

Even though the tile are close, grout is still required.  {rats}

I don't mind grouting.  It's not difficult, just time consuming.  And messy.

Wax on
Wax off

Or rather...

Grout on
Grout off

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


I just read an article in a magazine that asked "Does anybody still dry their clothes on the line?!?!?!" Yes we do. 

I know many communities and housing associations ban outside clothes racks.  Pity.

I'm one of those people. I love using fresh air and a warm breeze to dry my clothes. Yes, some things get a little stiff after drying on the line, but nothing 5 minutes in the dryer won't cure.  (I've heard a little vinegar in the wash will help with the stiffness.)

I have lots of dress clothes that I never put in the dryer.  Most other clothes can go in the dryer but when you need a particular item NOW, I can wait until tomorrow when it's dry.

My limit... socks, unders, and towels.  (Remind me to write a post about the humorous and wonderful trip to England with Miss Wendy and Miss Brenda.)

I don't have a permanent clothes line and that's ok.  I follow the sun and the warm breeze.  Sometimes it's on the side of the house, sometimes it's late in the evening in the driveway.

Yesterday it was on the back patio.

Cocoa Fluff was not pleased I was outside without her.  (Ha you can see my pink clogs!)

The kitchen cabinets at the bungalow are done.  I finished another coat of poly yesterday. 

No, it's not part of the movie the Sixth Sense.  I didn't want any of the doors to stick to the cabinet.  I also didn't feel like taking all off the doors off.

It was a perfect day to stain and poly.  I could open the windows and doors to let the breeze in and not be overcome by stinky fumes. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


It is a puzzling time of the year.  The evenings get dark early.  Although, truthfully, I could work on a puzzle anytime of the year.  Crossword, jigsaw, Sudoku.
Jigsaw puzzles require more planning.  I have to have a plan where to lock the puzzle away so no cat teeth can taste the pieces.  No room, except for the garage, is truly cat free.  Pepper will walk on the puzzle board and sniff each piece until she finds the one that she likes best. Then she will carefully pick up a piece between her teeth, jump down off the board, and find a place to hid her piece. 
In the process of cleaning out storage, I found all of my jigsaw puzzles.  Boxes and boxes of puzzles.  One box contains 10 puzzles, individually wrapped, that I purchased years ago at a garage sale and never attempted.  Life just got busy and something else was funner.  Not that life's not busy now, but it's nice to have a hobby that is not connected to an electronic device.  And to have a hobby I can do sitting next to Walt Kowalski watching an electronic device.
I opened the box of 10 puzzles and just picked one.  Flowers.  Windows.  Lots of colors.  This one doesn't look too difficult. 
WRONG.  All those flowers look alike. The window parts were easy.  Walt Kowalski was sorting through the pieces as I was locking them together.

Then it got hard.  Flowers and flowers and flowers and flowers. I had more than enough done, you could see the picture.  No harm in quitting.  Nobody will ever know. 

I couldn't do it.  I came this far I was determined to finish and not throw it on the train tracks with a growing pile of other things. (Black iron that won't fit together properly, toilets that don't flush correctly, flashlights that blink off when you need them most.)

With a little help one evening, I rallied and kept at it.  Then the next morning I finished.  The flowers were so similar I had to organize the pieces into left and right pieces and up and down pieces.

With fanfare, I finished.  I started a new puzzle last night.  I'm glutton for punishment. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Finished Floors

Floors with Finesse.

It was a weekend full of floors.  Here's the back bedroom of the little called The Bungalow.  (Thanks Pap!)

Walt Kowalski working the floors around the doors and into the closet.  

Here is the front bedroom before.  This room must have been an addition to the house.  It didn't have the old hardwood floors like the other rooms. 


Befores and afters make it look like it happened in a blink of an eye.

And the day ended with a beautiful sunset.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cavities and Cabinets

When my oldest niece was 4 or 5 she had an appointment to see the dentist for a regular check-up.  It wasn't her first visit, but probably only her second or third.  When she returned she proclaimed, "I have no cabinets!"

"Wonderful! What about cavities?"
"I don't have any of those either."


I, however, have lots of cabinets.

Walt Kowalski and I planned out the kitchen for the little house mathematically on paper.  Using the home improvement store's website, we could select color, dimensions, and quantity available.  We even went to the store to look at the cabinets to approve.  We approved. 

AND I had a coupon. 

That rarely happens at the home improvement store. The goal then became to get as much as possible in one order to use the coupon.

We had a plan. They had all the cabinets available.  We had a coupon and a day off.

What we didn't plan for was the weather.  Rain.  Knowing we would have to leave the tailgate down, we decided to wait an additional day for better weather. 

It was slightly better weather the next day. The crowd at the store was slightly worse.  We ran into holiday improvement time.  This is the time of year when people realize they have company coming in a few weeks and want to make improvements NOW.  These aren't the usual people we meet at the store. They are pushy and have plans that are more important than everybody else's plans.

Mmmmmmmkay.  Sure.  May I have an extra shot of patience with my vitamins this morning? Thank You. 

We got tot he store, found two very helpful sales associates, one with a buggy to lower cabinets from the top shelf.  As we are selecting the cabinets we start to find many, many empty shelves. the same shelves that were full two days ago.

"Yeah, we had a contractor in yesterday that about 37 cabinets."


"But we are scheduled to get more of these unfinished cabinets next week."

That was great, except my coupon expired this week. 

It worked out anyway.  We got all but two cabinets on our list, which was all that would fit in the truck. 

I have several stains in my collection.  Gunstock is the color we used on the bar and ceiling in the game room.  Cherry is the color of the doors at the Cat Ranch. Walnut is color of the trim at House #1. Cedar is the color of Mom Kowalski's swing.

None of those were what I wanted. 

Golden Pecan is the newest color in my stain collection. It is just right.

Just a hint of color and it is a warm tone to match the floor and offset the dark countertop. 

Left is the unfinished color.  Right is the finished Golden Pecan.  (Without a coat of sealant.)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

New Holidays

Sunday Walt Kowalski cleaned off the kitchen table.  It was clean for approximately 3.28 seconds before a cat jumped up on it.  Yesterday I cleaned off the kitchen counters.  That lasted 5.47 seconds.  Same with the floor.  There was a tumbleweed when I returned home.

And. So. Many. Papers.

Which made me think there should be a few new holidays on the calendar.

Holidays such as:

- No Dirty Clothes Day

This would be the day when all hampers are empty and all dirty clothes are washed. (This is a very rare holiday at the Cat Ranch.)

- No Dirty Dishes in the Sink Day

Similar to the previous holiday. Also a rare holiday in our house.

- Clean Kitchen Table/Counters Day
- No Lost Keys/Phone/Glasses/Shoes/Bills/Remote Day
- All Floors Swept and Mopped Day
- Got Everything on the Grocery List Day

Some days:

- Remembered the Grocery List Day

Both rare occurrences in our house. 

There would be specific holidays for families with children, such as:

- Homework Without Tears Day
- Baths and Bedtime Without Meltdowns Day
- A Day Without Sibling Bickering

Although I hear that just a hour would be considered a celebration.

There would be some holidays that would work for both families with and without children.

- Remembered Everything Before Leaving Day (Homework/Instrument/Uniform/Lunches/Gym Clothes)
- Everybody Liked Dinner Day
- Everybody Agreed on the Same Movie Day

I like celebrating small victories.  I take all suggestions for new holidays.  What are some you celebrate in your house?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Step Stain

It was a beautiful autumn day yesterday.  The sun was warm and the breeze was just right.  I still needed my jacket, but not a coat.

A very nice, but very talkative, man from the gas company came to turn on the gas in both houses.  Now we can have heat and from the looks of the weather forecast, we are going to need it on Friday and Saturday.  Boo hiss.

The list of things I have to do inside the little house is long.  I have lots of projects started, few finished.  With the weather so nice I did the obvious thing...started another project.

The little house has a front door and side door.  Both have a small set of wooden steps.  Both sets of steps have been neglected. 

They aren't dangerous, they are weathered.  I should have brought my power washer to clean first, but I didn't.  A fresh coat of stain will have to do.

And it did.  You can see the before and after on the treads that weren't completed.

The stain on the steps dried to the touch quickly in the evening sun, but needed to cure for several hours. With new kitchen tile and new living room laminate, I didn't want to risk walking on them and tracking stain foot steps inside.

I didn't want a visiting 4-year-old to walk up the wet steps and into the house.

I got a strap out of Walt Kowalski's truck and tied it between the two end posts at a 4-year-old height.  Too high to climb over, too tricky to crawl under.  Perfect.

What I didn't predict was the visiting 14-year-old lifting the 4-year-old over the strap, onto the steps and stepping over the strap, too. 


Luckily I locked the door.  They had to knock before entering onto the new tile.  Shoes were removed and the new floors were safe.

I can live with steps with footprints outside.  They will get a new coat of stain in the spring.

We also turned the corner of the living room, down the hall, with the laminate. 

We have one row left to install.  It requires long, straight, lengthwise cuts to multiple pieces.  That requires fresh, non-tired minds and more daylight.  We had neither. 

Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Floor Realizations

I had a realization this morning. 

As I was standing in line with several 6 foot customers at the home improvement store at 7:15am, I realized that not only was I the only woman customer at the store at that hour, but all of the clerks were male, too.  I know many women work at the store, but at that hour on this day, the numbers were not in my favor.  This 5 foot lady with a ponytail on her head holding two chip brushes and a can of stain got several sideways glances, for sure. 

It was fine by me. 

I left the male-dominated computer industry and jumped feet first into the male-dominated remolding/construction industry. Trailblazer? Doubtful. Typical?  Definitely.

Along with the kitchen floor, we also started on the living room this weekend.

The living room had become our work zone.

The old hardwood was in poor condition.  Along with many years of spilled paint, there was staples from carpet padding, tack track, random nails, and loose floor boards.

We installed a thin layer of plywood to even the playing field.

The laminate goes down fast.

What an improvement.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Mudder

Mud.  Mudder. Not Mother. 

Walt Kowalski and I are a powerful team.  The things we can accomplish together in a single weekend are...exhausting. 

We had a long weekend planned.  The weather wasn't the best. Luckily, inside work was planned, not cutting down trees. 

The kitchen floor was the goal.  The old floor was carpeted and the floor boards underneath were rotting from sink leaks.  We removed the carpet, repaired the floor, installed a cement board base, and are ready for tile.  It is sturdy and durable.

Mud, mud, mud. Tile, tile, tile.
With two of us working together, it goes fast. We install as many full tiles as possible first, let the floor set overnight, then return the next day to finish all the cut pieces. 

Measuring and cutting all of the edge pieces takes the same amount of time as laying all of the full center tiles.

Being cold makes for a long day.  The heat isn't on yet.  The water is on, but it's cold water. Working on your knees, on a cold floor, with cold, wet mud all day makes you...cold. And tired.


It looks nice. The heat will be turned on later this week.  (If you don't pay the bill, they turn it off right away.  When you want a new connection turned on, it takes a week. *sigh*)