It. Is. Done.



So I’ve been working on a fireplace wall for, well, what feels like forever. And I am happy to report that as of last week, it is done.



Let me remind you of where I started. There was a too-small mantel on the wall and it had to be removed. For anyone thinking, Mikki! I like that mantel! What’s your beef? I’ll tell ya. According to L.A. County Building Codes, that mantel (made of wood) was too close to the fireplace opening, meaning it wasn’t up to code. And while that doesn’t mean much most of the time, if I ever have to get the heck out of dodge and this joint gets inspected (which is how we do in Cali), that mantel would be a problem. Let’s face it – if I’m about to be on the run, I will likely have one-too-many problems already. Wouldn’t need another. Anyhoo – the mantel had to go.



Once I removed said mantel, the wall behind it was pretty banged up. My initial plan had been to simply smooth out the rough spots and have a clean, unadorned wall. But the rough spots weren’t cooperating. In fact, they were downright stubborn. So I gave up on the smooth wall idea and shifted my thoughts toward something in the Venetian Plaster arena. That, my friends, was easier said than done, as I had only ever heard the words “Venetian Plaster,” and certainly hadn’t tried my hand at it. Cut to me, watching vid-jas on the YouTuber and then I got started. The texture part of the process wasn’t too bad. In fact, it went pretty well and I was quite pleased with the results. But the painting part? Not so much.



I was so challenged by painting that danged wall that I was nearly brought to tears.



The base coat was easy, I admit. I simply used the same color as the rest of the room. But it wasn’t enough. I knew I needed some accents to “age” the wall and get it to where my brain hole wanted it to be. So I got after it, and failed. I tried a different approach. And failed. I went through my trying and failing process a few more times. When I was just about to give up completely and accidentally burn the whole danged house down, I leaned against a counter and bowed my head. Then, in a high-pitched, Mary Tyler Moore “Oh, Rob” kind of voice, I said aloud, “I have not failed. I have simply found 5 ways that do not work.” And I started a fresh approach.



That’s when something amazing happened. It worked! I was getting the desired aged effect, without being overly wack-a-doo. (Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes wack-a-doo is exactly what I’m looking for. Just not this time.) So I finished the wall and moved on to the final details.



If the too-small wood mantel was a code problem, imagine what a failure wooden base boards would have been had they abutted the fireplace opening. This was another time I wanted something simple. No flourish, no scroll work. Plain, straight lines were what I was after. I went to a few of the big hardware chains to check out their tile and stone selection. It didn’t take long to understand that if I got something there, I would be limited to subway  or bathroom tile. And I wanted neither. So I put on my thinking hat and decided to go to an actual stone and tile store. There I found plain marble that was almost perfect. I say almost because I needed 20-inch lengths, but the best they could do was 18 inches. Okay. I thought about it for a second and decided I could live with cuts versus a solid piece. It would only be 2 inches on each outside end, and no – it wouldn’t be perfect. But friends – sometimes good enough is good enough. They couldn’t cut the pieces for me, so I took my tile back to a big chain store and had the job done. I then went home, applied the pieces and let them set. Once that had cured, I grouted the edges and the “baseboards” were finished. (At that point, I did have to miter some new wood around the tile hearth, as the old wood was cracked. The hardest part of that process was matching the stain to the existing wood floor. And the mitering itself. And securing it and filling the gaps and blah, blah, blah.)



The last step – for reals – was the baseboards on the sides of the fireplace, which would abut the front stone pieces. I needed them to be a height comparable to the stone, and simple as well. Again – I tried the big chain stores, all to no avail. That’s when I remembered the little neighborhood hardware store I often use. Not only did those guys have what I needed, they also ripped the board down to the right height and sold me only what I needed. That’s important, as it’s no fun to drive around in my old Volvo with a 12-food board hanging out the wing windows. But I digress. I got home with the wood, painted it, jigged out a notch for the gas starter key on one side, cut a straight piece for the other side and put the pieces in place. After that I caulked the edges and let that dry overnight. Then I touched up the paint and the job was finished. Truly. It only took forever and a day.


Had I hired a professional, this project would have been completed in a day or two, max. And I probably could have gotten the smooth wall I originally envisioned. But I would have been out beaucoup dollars, folks. And that wasn’t an option. As it happened, I already had a lot of the tools and supplies needed to make this wall a reality. So what was my final tally? Right at $118.00. (The wood strips for the floor surround ate most of that, as they came in at just over $60.00.) All in all, I’d say that’s pretty reasonable, especially since hiring a Venetian Plaster artist can cost an arm and a leg.



My takeaway from this experience is this: I can handle some jobs myself, as long as I don’t have a strict time schedule as a guide. I think the new area is not only adequate, but also pretty. One of my friends came into this room and said, “Wow! This is a grown-up’s house!” And I suppose it is. Which is funny, since 2 dorky kids live here. But that’s okay. Every now and then we pretend to be grown-up. And now we have a lovely place to sit while doing so. And by the way, if you want the look of Venetian Plaster in your home and aren’t in any hurry, let me know. I’ll only charge an arm. Or a leg. Never both.





In spite of my clumsiness, I am fairly handy around the homestead. This serves me well, as I am able to tackle quite a few tasks on my own and save money in the process. I also happen to enjoy home improvement projects, so that’s a plus as well. And yet! I am smart enough to know when I shouldn’t attempt a project. For instance, you won’t find me installing a new electric panel or re-roofing the house. Some jobs are best left to the professionals. And that’s where I run into trouble.


First, I want the absolute best people for the repair or improvement. This can prove challenging for obvious reasons, such as cost, but also for less obvious reasons, such as scheduling. Let’s face it – the best craftspeople are busy and expensive. So even if financial terms can be reached, it may take a while to work out the timing. And sometimes you just don’t want to wait. And I’m not even going into the time and energy it takes to find the best people in the first place.


Second, I have very strong opinions. Mister does, too. And sometimes our vision clashes with that of the pros. Now – as we are dealing with our home, we are going to be right. Even when we’re not. And while this should be a non-issue, it gets sticky when a for-hire contractor insists on getting his way. That’s when I have to figure out how to gently insist on getting my way, instead of calling someone a fuck-stick and flipping them off. (Just so you know, I haven’t done that. Not yet.) The biggest challenge in having strong opinions is relating that vision to a contractor. Common language has to be found so that my intentions can be understood. And because I’m such a friggin’ nice person, I often struggle with merely opening my mouth to speak my truth in the face of disagreements. I am terribly awkward in those situations. Really – I’ve struggled to the point of tears. I’m working on it, but I’ve miles to go before I sleep on this one.


Lastly, I have a wee bit of a problem relinquishing control of jobs around my home. I don’t’ know what it is, but it stresses me to no end. I mean – I know absolutely nothing about felling trees or grinding stumps, and yet when I need someone to perform those jobs, I lose sleep. I’ve been trying to figure out why I flip my gourd, but I’m not really sure. Maybe part of me feels like I should be able to figure out how to do just about anything around the house. Maybe part of me knows no one will ever care as much for my house as I do, and that even the highest-rated professionals aren’t emotionally invested in the new pad. But these are random reasons. Real reasons, granted, but I don’t know if all this stuff adds up to explaining my home control issue.


So where does that leave me? Not sure. But there’s no point in obsessing over it. For now, I have to figure out whether or not I’m replacing the tile hearth by the front fireplace. A few deck boards are in bad shape and need to be replaced. There’s always something needing to be painted or refinished. In short, there’s no end in sight to my personal list of home jobs. Hopefully I can tackle most of them myself. Otherwise I’m in for a few sleepless nights, waiting for some highly regarded professional to come and do excellent work in my home. What a nut-job I am.

Who You Gonna Call?



I am somewhat handy. Actually, I’m pretty danged handy. When a job needs doing around the New Pad, the first question I ask myself is whether or not I can handle it. So far – touch wood – the answer has mostly been yes. And though I am sometimes intimidated by a task, I know the only way to the other side is through the problem, and so I tackle the job. Eventually.


But there are times when my hands cannot solve a problem. Like when a fireplace needs rebuilding. Or when there’s a gas leak. Or, as I had to recently admit, when a shower drain is so clogged that no amount of toxic chemicals will clear the obstruction.


Let me tell you – I’ve been living with my clogged shower drain for quite a few weeks. Weeks, y’all! And I have engaged a plumber before, and he’s saved my bacon on more than one occasion, but I always feel like he’s overcharging me. (He probably isn’t, but I still feel that way.) So I decided I needed to try a different plumber for this pain-in-the-butt of a clog. After asking a couple of people I respect, and finding out they both use the same danged plumber, I made an appointment. Yesterday the dudes arrived, tried to clear the clog, couldn’t, then started talking about tackling the problem from the roof. I felt bad for them, but I also knew they’re the professionals and I went about painting a wall. They tried a new tact, without a climb to the roof, and it worked!


And now – praise the water gods – my shower is functioning as it should. I am so grateful I know when to say when and didn’t try to snake the danged thang myself. Hallelujah!

D-Squared T-Squared – Week 29 (Catching Up)



Week 29′s D2T2 again found me alone to pursue a creative endeavor. And I chose clothes.


Those who know me are aware of my lack of shopping genes. Pair that with my cheapness frugality, and I end up with a closet filled with the same-old same-old for years on end. But I’m a total girl. So of course I want to occasionally try and look cute. It just doesn’t always work. It’s hard out here for a pimptress, y’all.


Anyhoo, I stumbled upon an amazing blog that about made my heart skip a beat. It’s called WobiSobi and I am super in love with this gal’s creativity. She takes old clothes, thrift store finds and ill-fitting deals and turns them into super-cool, stylin’ duds. And a lot of her creations don’t require any sewing. Wha?


The first project I tried was her brilliant re-style of a man’s shirt into a gal’s summer shirt. I had an island-themed soiree to attend and I absolutely did not want to buy a darned thing to fit the wardrobe request. But I did want to honor the hostess’ theme. Quandary? Yes. Deal breaker? No. I asked Mister for one of his old island-themed shirts (something he was going to donate to charity anyway), and I started following the WobiSobi chick’s tutorial. This one was a sewing machine project. And it turned out pretty well.


Next came a zillion t-shirt projects. Okay – I didn’t tackle a zillion, but I did bang out quite a few. My faves ended up being this year’s Rock Camp Volunteer shirt (tutorial here), shown above. Then I tried a tie-in-front number (tutorial here). I also tackled her one-shoulder number (tutorial here).



I’m pretty enamored with WobiSobi and I look forward to discovering more of her cool ideas. It is incredibly satisfying to fashion an oversized men’s t-shirt into a cute girl shirt. With WobiSobi, I satisfied my closet’s needs and my wallet’s. Kudos to this awesome chick!




This past weekend I did something that was, for me, totally new and different: I took a DIY class at Home Depot.


Now that Mister and I have (finally) put down roots and are responsible for the new pad, I want to be able to improve the joint. Being a hands-on kind of gal, I’d prefer to do some of the improving myself, versus hiring someone. I had heard a commercial somewhere along the line, touting Home Depot’s classes for DIYers. Naturally, I had to check it out.


The class I signed up for was centered around crown moulding. When I arrived at Home Depot, no one knew there was to be such a class. I had to show various personnel my confirmation email, verifying that location’s address and time. Finally someone said that yes, that class was on the schedule, only they’d forgotten. And as I was the only person reminding them of the event, I was to be the only student. Yippee! They went about setting up the necessary materials and they even brought me something to drink while I waited. And then it was time to begin.


Cruz was the instructor, and that guy was awesome. He had me working a mitre saw in every direction and I was putting together interior and exterior angles like nobody’s bid-ness. As the only student, I got to ask every single question that came to mind. After an hour and a half, I felt pretty good about what I’d learned. Cruz sent me on my way with printouts and moulding samples.


I’ve now signed up for 2 more classes at Home Depot. And did I mention – the classes are free? I’m super looking forward to the next one: how to replace a toilet. I know, I know – D-O-R-K. I’m okay with that. I mean, I may not be ready for contracting work, but I am becoming more handy. And I like it.