Fruits of My Labors



Yesterday I decided to tackle some tasks, a little of this and a little of that. When the sun started to set, I realized I’d been at it for hours. And while I got quite a lot done, you couldn’t really tell from the looks of things.


I had pulled out a plethora of tools and was searching the interwebs for tips on things I had never done (re-keying a lock, for example). Based on all the clean-up I had to do, you’d have thought I’d rebuilt a danged wall or something.


Some jobs (and some days) are like that. You put your time in, and then you look around and you don’t find much to show for all your work. Don’t get me wrong. I love getting shit done. For me, it’s what I imagine a runner’s high to be like. I mean, I get giddy and excited and absolutely thrilled when I accomplish things. It just tends to help if I can see the fruits of my labors.


Oh well. I still got a lot done. And I’m still giddy about it. In fact, I may have done a little dance in celebration of all my work. Who am I kidding? You know I did a dance.

Wary of Heat – Partly Melty



Okay. After very little sleep Monday night, and waking too early yesterday morning, I found myself dragging. Sleeping in a broken a/c, hot box of a house will do that. When I did get up yesterday, I immediately opened doors and windows in an attempt to let some cool morning air in. The inside temperature had gotten down to 84 degrees overnight, and after a few hours of morning air, the house dropped to 82 degrees yesterday.


And then I drove myself to an appointment and while everyone around me wrapped themselves in sweaters and light jackets (due to the office’s meat-locker temperatures), I sat there in my tank top and relished every second. It was as if I was trying to store the cold for later. I knew it wouldn’t work, but when you’ve got the vapors, you’re willing to try just about anything.


In the afternoon, I went home and found the needed part for the A/C repair waiting for me on the doorstep. I chug-a-lugged some water, put on a big hat, gathered all my tools in a bag and up the ladder I went. It was about 92 degrees outside, but it felt like 112 on the roof. Not wanting to dawdle, I got to work.


Did I also mention I was not wanting to electrocute myself? Because I wasn’t. Wanting that, I mean. In fact, I was so careful and taking such good care, that I hardly noticed the pool of sweat that was forming all around me as I worked. And when I hit a roadblock and needed to go to the hardware store, I didn’t think. I just went. Once there, I started to realize that folks were staring at me. And not in a good way. I can guaran-damn-tee I was the sweatiest white girl at the ghetto Home Depot and it wasn’t pretty. But I didn’t care. I was on a mission. And as soon as I’d acquired what I’d come for, I headed home. There, I chug-a-lugged more water then again climbed the ladder to the roof. This time I finished the job. And when I threw the breaker for the conditioned air machine, it didn’t trip. It didn’t sound like it was on, either. So I climbed the ladder a final time, to see if I could hear the running of the unit. I could, but barely. That’s when I realized that as of late, when I overheat, my ears clog. It’s been happening, but I hadn’t put it together. But I digress. Back inside, the a/c was on and the air output was cool. It worked. I had done it.


As of this writing, I am back in the land of cool, controlled air. (Dear lord – let’s keep it that way, um-kay?) Because I’m a wuss, it will probably take me a full day to recover from the last 30 hours of heat. Which is fine. My ears haven’t yet popped, but they will. Eventually. And I hope to get some solid sleep over the next couple of days. And to not melt. To paraphrase The Hulk, don’t make me melty. You wouldn’t like me when I’m melty. I know I don’t like me much during those times, even if I make for strange, sweaty entertainment at the Home Depot.


Wherever you are, I hope you’re reasonably comfortable and well. And I hope you’re able to maintain that. I super hope that for myself, too.





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.

Idle Hands?




Yesterday I shared a bit about how my fingers are sore from sewing. And sewing. And Sewing. Well I’m happy to report I worked my thumbs – double-time – and now the pillow factory is officially closed.


The weather’s getting clearer (and warmer), so I can think about tackling some board replacement on the patio where dry rot is setting in. And I still have to tear out a too-small mantel from the fireplace in the living room, then patch and paint the wall there. (That will be the last of the painting in that room – woo-hoo!) After that’s done, I can start painting the bedroom and dealing with whatever comes up in there. And then…


My point – and I do have one – is this: There’s always another job, another task on the never-ending to-do list of home repair. Fortunately, I’m handy and can tackle a lot of what needs doing. And I’m not even talking about the jobs I can’t do. Things involving electricity and roof patching, or bats in the belfry, for instance. Those jobs require outside help. And saving my shekels to pay for the help.


Although I’ve gotta tell ya – I am considering learning how to frame a wall so that I can build a closet. I’m not kidding. I think I can do it! And – how cool is it that I get to try!


Well – once the feeling returns to my fingers and thumbs, that is. Thank the lord I’m not a seamstress.

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!

There Is a God



For weeks now, there’s been a broken shower here at the new pad. I won’t bore you with the whole story, but suffice it to say the inoperative shower needed a specific part that is manufactured in The UK. That’s a fur piece from California, and ordering that part was such a pain in the ass that I wondered if the whole danged shower wouldn’t have to be ripped out and replaced.


But a few days ago, after emailing and calling and begging and pleading, the needed part finally arrived! So I watched and watched a video showing the repair job (thank goodness for the you-tuber) and summoned my bravery. I grabbed all the necessary tools (more than you think) and stationed myself in the broken shower. Mister talked me through it, as I asked for back-up, and guess what happened? It worked! The shower works! Not only is there actual water pressure, there is also hot and cold running water! Bofe! I didn’t have to call a plumber! Yippee!


Apparently there is a god. One who appreciates a nice shower. Hallelujah!

You Try to Do the Right Thing…



I’ve been painting the kitchen. And by painting, I mean I’ve been working on one wall at a time. For a while now, I’ve only had enough energy to tackle a single wall. So the world’s slowest painting job has been steadily proceeding.



Anyhoo… I’ve been trying to do the right thing and prep the walls properly before applying paint. Recently I moved to an exterior wall and started cleaning and sanding. When I reached the bottom of said wall, I realized the drywall was so soft I could push straight through. That’s right. Straight through – with my fingers. At first, I worried I’d find a leaky pipe inside the wall. After poking around, I discovered a crack on the outside of the wall. Due to a recent rain, water had gotten in that crack and wet the drywall from the inside. (Woo-hoo! No leaky pipe!) Capisce? Once that mystery was solved, I moved on to the far-too-easy-to-peel paint in that same area. I hoped it was limited to the immediate space around the wet drywall, but noooooooo. Apparently, the brilliant mind who originally worked on this part of the kitchen slapped up some paint on bare, unprepared drywall, so the paint wasn’t able to adhere. That friends, is not cool.



I sealed the outside crack, then did some extra sealing from the inside. Then I cut out the damaged drywall and patched in a new section. Presently, I’m 2 days in on a 3-day skim-coat and sand process. Once that’s checked off, I’ll apply drywall primer to the smooth /new sections. Then – and only then – I’ll be able to paint.



Doing things the right way is sometimes a real pain in the ass. But it’s still the right way. Even when it’s one wall at a time.




Have you ever brainstormed an idea, out of necessity or not, only to be shut down by others who believed your thoughts/solutions would never work?


Mister and I have been dealing with a leaky shower door since day 1 at the new pad. Thankfully, we have a second bathroom so cleanliness hasn’t been sacrificed while avoiding our leaky shower. But I digress. Anyhoo, we tried the usual quick fixes – silicone in cracks, new shower door sweep – and nothing worked. I just couldn’t understand why the door was so leaky on one side. And then I went and got my level. Turned out the install of the danged thang was all wonky. Not only was the stone on top of the short step-through wall crooked from side-to-side, it was also crooked from front to back. So water consistently ran toward the left side of the door and out of the shower.


I’d like to re-do that entire bathroom someday. Some day. But not right now, and not any time soon. I absolutely do not want to devote funds to that bathroom, funds that are needed elsewhere. So when I started looking into new framed doors (thinking a new door install could address the crooked opening), I was none too happy to learn of the costs involved.


So I started brain-storming. And I came up with an idea. I searched on the interwebs for some sort of how-to that would guide me in executing my idea, but I found nothing. My next step involved seeking guidance from repair guys at home improvement stores. I even asked advice from a dude at a stone/tile store. Each and every person I questioned had the exact same response: that won’t work. They’d never heard of such an idea. No one had tried that before. It won’t work, lady.


I began doubting myself. I mean, what do I know about tile? If even one guy had sparked to my idea, I would have latched on to that. But no one supported me. No one thought my idea was valid. I very nearly abandoned my theory. But then I talked it out with Mister and we realized we were looking at a fairly cheap solution, should it work. I decided to go for it.


My first step was to remove the existing framed shower door. The plan was to re-use it, so this was done with care. (Actually, Mister handled this job.) My next step was to make a template of the area of the top of the short wall beneath the shower door. (This was done with regular wrapping paper.) The template was merely a rectangle, which I then took to a stone shop, trying to match the size and approximate color of the travertine and marble already in the bathroom. I was told they wouldn’t sell me such a small piece, but then I asked about some of the scraps out in their stone yard. Those were old samples, not serving any useful purpose. They were happy to sell one of those to me, thank-you-very-much. But they wouldn’t cut it, so I had to do a little work to find a stone shop willing to take on my little job. I asked at one joint, and they recommended a guy. I drove over, met the dude, and he was happy to add my small stone piece to his work pile. I was told it would be ready in a few days.


In the meantime, I started trying to learn about how to actually install the piece of stone. I did some consulting with another home improvement store dude, and he advised me on mastic and installation (drying times, sanded vs. non-sanded grout, grout sealer, etc.). I had all my supplies and waited for the stone to be cut.


When I picked up the prepared stone piece, it was beautiful. The mason had not only cut it to the dimensions of the template I’d provided, but he’d also smoothed the sides. I brought it home and it was a perfect fit. It needed only to be installed.


I again got out my level and started adding mastic to the existing stone on top of the short wall step-through. I built it up more on the low side, then I added the beautiful new stone piece on top. With my level, I pressed on the new short wall topper until it was level from side-to-side, with a slight slant leading into the shower (not out of the shower, as it had been). Once I was satisfied with what the level was telling me, I walked away from the whole she-bang so that the mastic could dry completely for a few days. After the adhesive had cured, I filled in the gaps with my sanded grout. (I used sanded – and not non-sanded – because the space was wide enough to warrant it.) I let that cure for a couple of days and then I sealed the grout with sealant. The low stone wall was complete.


After the low wall work was finished and set, it was time to re-install the shower door. Because the entire shower is stone, I wanted to re-use the existing drilled holes on the sides of the shower instead of trying to drill new ones, lest I crack the stone. But now that the low wall was a bit higher, the holes in the metal shower door frame didn’t line up. That meant drilling new holes in the metal frame. So I marked where I needed to drill and I hit it. And let me just say – I absolutely used eye protection while drilling! The last thing I needed was a metal shard in my eye. With safety checked off, I proceeded to drill my holes and brought the pieces in for an accuracy check. I did have to tweak a couple of holes a bit, and it worked out great. Once the frame attachment pieces were secured to the sides of the shower opening, I reattached the shower door, then reattached the magnetic strip on the other side. Only the magnetic strip piece didn’t quite line up. It was off by the smallest of margins, and I almost flipped out. But I didn’t. I thought about Mister’s Daddy. He wouldn’t have flipped out. He would have figured out a way to deal with the situation at hand. So that’s what I did. I went through our tools and found a metal file. I secured the slightly-too-tall metal strip to my work table (oh yeah, I’ve got that) and started filing away. It didn’t take much, and I again held the strip up to the metal frame piece. It lined up perfectly! I reattached it and slipped the plastic sweep piece on the bottom of the door. I then ran a silicon bead along all the joints, smoothed it out and that was that!


Almost. I still had to test the door for leaks. I kept putting it off and putting it off until I realized my fear of failure was keeping me from using that shower. So I took a deep breath and got in the danged thang. Mister was outside the shower, on leak-watch. I splashed water and I splashed water, expecting the worst. And you know what? The worst never happened. There were no leaks. Not one.


If I had listened to all the naysayers, I never would have tried my repair idea. If I’d succumbed to their professional opinions, I’d either still have a leaky shower door or I’d be out a pretty penny to have fixed the door in some traditional way. But this home repair taught me something: just because someone’s not tried an idea doesn’t invalidate the idea. If we don’t try things, we’ll never know if they work or not. This particular repair worked. And I’m only out a little cash. No, the stone color isn’t an exact match, but it’s mighty close. My shower door doesn’t leak and I conquered a fear of failure. And, on this occasion at least, my idea was a success! I’m still beaming!