7:24 p.m. — Monday, January 2,
Last week, Heidi and my dad helped us paint and tile the kitchen. How great to finally have some color on the walls and tile on the floors!
The first paint color we tried was the color I had been thinking about for quite some time...
...But once we got it on the walls, I realized how much I didn't like it. It looked like our walls got hit by a school bus. Or as Lori put it, "It looks like someone forgot to add brown sugar to the squash." So Heidi and I tried it again.
The 2nd time's a charm.
Once we had paint on the walls and were able to take a better look at the tiles we had been considering, it became apparent that our favorite was the same tile we had used upstairs in the master bathroom. After looking at some other tiles at Home Depot and realizing they didn't work quite as well, Ryan was finally OK with having the same exact tile in two different rooms.
How funny that HE took convincing to make something match this time!
So back to Home Depot we went to pick up the tile, which was still on display since last time we bought it. BUT surprise, surprise...we were promptly told — after finding no cases of it left on the shelves — that this tile was discontinued in NJ! So after considering a drive to Bethlehem, PA, Heidi and I ended up in good ol' Staten Island, NY, which was much closer, though we certainly did not enjoy the time wasted merging FIVE MILLION TIMES before crossing the Goethels Bridge.
This was our motivation for being very careful with the tile when laying it out..."We don't want to have to go back to Staten Island!"
So after loading 16 1/2 cases of it in the truck, we were off! That night, we began laying it out in preparation for my dad coming the next day.
We got a pretty good idea of where the important corners were in the room.
When my dad came, we drew our main corners with chalk lines and laid out the whole floor off of those lines with 1/8" spacers.
When that was done, my dad made all the cuts for the edges. Heidi and I drew measurements (with or without diagrams) on random napkins, shims, or pieces of cardboard we found lying around in the kitchen and ran those orders up to the master bedroom a.k.a. workshop where my dad made all the cuts. This dry-fitting and cutting process took a whole day. Here are a couple of the more interesting cuts...
The next day, my dad came back and we cemented the whole floor into place. This took another full day. We were very happy that all our hard prep work of laying the floor out dry in EXACTLY the right position paid off. The floor lined up perfectly from one day to the next, right along our chalk lines, and no additional cuts had to be made.
The next day, we covered most of the floor with plastic...
...in preparation for people coming over for our 5th-Annual New Year's Eve party.
We got engaged at the first one! We felt a little funny having people walk on our newly-tiled-but-plastic-covered floor, but better to feel funny than to have someone spill something between the cracks and prevent the grout from sticking later on!
And thank you SO MUCH to Heidi and my dad for putting in two full days of such hard, precise work. We couldn't have done it without you!!
So that's where the floor stands now. It is ready to be grouted and sealed...then we can finish up the trim in the kitchen and perhaps FINALLY pick out countertops. That would allow us to install the permanent sink and faucet, hook up the DISHWASHER, and run the water lines for the fridge. Once we do that (and touch up a little of the paint), the kitchen will be DONE!
And until the floor is grouted and sealed, the fridge stays in the hallway =)
5:49 p.m. — Wednesday, January
For our kitchen, we are going with laminate countertops (as opposed to granite or Corian) because — even though I am in love with black granite and swirly brown Corian — we really couldn't justify spending a minimum of $60 per square foot for a solid surface material when a whole 4'x8' sheet of laminate costs $40.
So recently, Ryan started cutting and reinforcing the MDF bases that will be screwed down onto the cabinets under the laminate.
The 4' x 8' sheets of MDF were a bear to carry inside and down to the basement — but heaviness and sturdiness are good things here.
After we made the long cuts with the table saw (above)...
...Ryan used a "straight edge" i.e. extra piece of baseboard trim to guide his handy circular saw for the interior corner cuts. He got some extra use out of the clamps he purchased for and used during the kitchen cabinet installation...
...and highly recommends them to anyone ever in need of an extra set of hands. At first, we weren't so sure about them because they're plastic and all, but they really do the job and the price was definitely right.
Ryan was meticulous about eliminating as much of the dust left from the circular saw as possible, since most of our stuff is still down in the basement.
Here's the finished base for the kitchen island. The edges are reinforced so the counter will be the proper thickness when we screw it down and add on our wood edging.
There's nothing like the smell of MDF in the morning...
Here are some more shots of the kitchen — this time in daylight, though the floor is still covered in plastic — for a better idea of where these forms are going:
The top of the island is currently pieces of cardboard under pieces of beadboard under a lovely green Christmas tablecloth I got half price. Hi Mom.
The walls to the right and back of the refrigerator have yet to be painted, but there's no rush since the floors aren't grouted (Hi Dad — Saturday! ) and the fridge is still in the hallway. Whenever we have to go back and forth between the island and the fridge, we ask each other, "You know, designing the kitchen this way was really not very efficient. Was this your idea?" ;)
Aaah the last remnant of our old purple countertops, remaining purely
to hold our temporary sink and new faucet in place. Looking forward
to installing our new double-sink — but only after we finally
choose our laminate!
12:31 p.m. — Thursday, January
Sometimes Ryan and I feel like the only people in the whole Northeast who actually LIKE the winter. We enjoy the break from the heat and humidity. We look forward to fluffy white goodness and flannel sheets and cableknit sweaters.
Well...that sweater thing is probably just me. ;)
But no matter how much we're enjoying this moderate winter, I can't help but get antsy for spring and gardening when my PERENNIAL CATALOGS start coming in the mail. Why do they send them to me in the dead of winter, when spring and planting are months away? What a TEASE!!
Last week, my Michigan Bulb Co. and Spring Hill Nurseries catalogs arrived. I eagerly flipped through the pages, making mental notes as such: "I want this...and this...and this..." So then I forced myself to stop being crazy and make an actual wish list. Yes, it is again proven that we are People of the List. Is there a PofL Anonymous out there?
Here's how my Spring Hill WISH list looked:
- mixed - 3 for $11.99 (p. 13)
I made sure to only write down plants within our zone — Zone 6 — so thankfully a couple of the more extreme and expensive plants I wanted were banned from the list. I also had a coupon for $25.00 off a $50.00 order. So the grand total, including the coupon, was $206.84.
Ok, so apparently I got a little carried away. I was definately not crossing out the Columbine, Poppies, Canterbury Bells, Japanese Iris, or Lavender, as those have been at the very top of my mental list lately. And there were a couple others I wanted for sentimental value, like the Forget-Me-Nots and Lilly-of-the-Valley (not to mention the Sweet William from Michigan Bulb) because they remind me of Oma's garden.
So time to rethink some things:
New grand total: $162.87.
Still yikes. Not low enough. So then I went to the Michigan Bulb catalog and after noticing how a lot of the photos were EXACTLY THE SAME (minus some Photoshop fixes), I saw that everything was cheaper — from a third less to half the price. Then I realized the difference: instead of a tiny little plant coming in the mail as with Spring Hill, Michigan Bulb sends their plants as bulbs or bare root. So it takes even longer to have blooming, mature perennials.
As if waiting until Spring was not long enough?!
Then I started wondering why on earth they would send me a catalog for bulbs in the winter instead of in the fall or late summer, when bulbs should be planted. I was talking about this during lunch yesterday with a friend and co-worker of mine, Tamara, who is an avid gardener. She said that as long as you are physically able to get those bulbs into the ground, winter is a fine time to plant. Granted, the ground is not snow-covered or even frozen at the moment, but planting now? In January...?
After taking a look at her cottage garden pictures this morning, I Doubt No Longer.
Click here to see the rest of her Yahoo! garden photo album. (I was laughing a few minutes ago when I heard her say that she loves planting flowers that "look like they're from outer space" — judging by the exotic passion flower above, I'd say she does!)
I'm trying to get photos of Ryan's mom's old garden, too, as she similarly had a cottagey kind of garden. I'm not sure if pictures exist of Oma's old gardens, but if they do, I would like to post those, as well. In the meantime, here are links to get yourself these catalogs, if you'd like:
Here are some other garden sites that Tamara recommended to me and has used:
And here are a couple quirky garden blogs that I enjoy:
8:01 p.m. — Tuesday, January 17,
This fall, I drew some sketches on graph paper of our current yard plantings so I wouldn't forget anything come this spring. When little shoots start popping up out of the ground, I will be ready with my chart to quickly identify what's on its way.
Or so that's how it's supposed to work ;)
12:51 p.m. — Tuesday, January 24,
Last Saturday, Dad came up with all his helpers (Mom, Oma, & Opa) and together we all grouted the kitchen floor tile.
Ryan and I hit up Home Depot early that morning for "grout bags" — no, not bags of grout, but grout bags...bags you put grout into and squeeze out through a narrow tip, kinda like icing an industrial-sized cake. This sounded like a great idea — much less mess and cleanup required afterwards — but it was nearly impossible to squeeze the grout out through the tip of the bag. So after messing around with that for a while, Dad decided to bite the bullet and got down to traditional grouting.
Heidi, you would have been so proud. None of this "Stand around talking about it" stuff, but "Let's get to doing!" stuff.
After making sure we had enough buckets and sponges...
...we got to work. Dad and Ryan began spreading the grout across the tiles and down into the cracks with the grout floats...
...while Mom, Opa, and and I followed behind, wiping as much of the excess grout off the face of the tile as we could, while careful not to disturb the grout lines until they were a little firmer.
This of course required a lot of scrubbing, and a lot of rinsing. Scrub, rinse, repeat. Scrub, rinse, repeat. We joked that Oma was the "water girl" as she constantly changed our grimy buckets of water for clean ones. We'd probably still be down on the floor scrubbing the tile if we didn't have her continually passing around clean water.
The actual grouting of this room only took about an hour, but it was the clean-up that took many long hours. Grouting is a mess.
The white residue that gets left behind is virtually indestructible. The really difficult part is that it all looks so clean when it's wet, but then when it dries, you realize you haven't gotten much farther than the last time you scrubbed.
Because of this disappearing act, we had a difficult time figuring out what grout was loose on top of the tiles and what grout was stuck down in the indents on the tile surface. We scrubbed until we could scrub no more, using any kind of brush or sponge that we could find:
And when we were done, we were left with this:
So then we started to get creative. Ryan went out and bought all sorts of attachments for the end of his drill, thinking there must be a better way to get all this off than scrubbing it by hand. This was one of them:
But we found that the abrasive pads left dull spots on the tiles, like these in the back:
You can even see the new tile (above, with no grout haze) was dulled in one spot when we tested it out. Then Ryan made his own scrubbing brush for the end of his drill, by cutting off the two heads of these hand brushes...
...and fitting them onto a clamp attachment for his drill. This worked OK, but it took grout out of the grout lines (a.k.a. the only place the grout is NOT supposed to be removed) way too easily.
Sooooo this past weekend, by the time the grout was nice and hard, we stumbled upon a local Sears Hardware. Ryan and I were like kids in a candy store, mouths agape, as we wandered up and down the aisles. This was way better than the big box stores. They had actual VARIETY. We immediately knew we'd be returning for frequent visits.
Anyway, Ryan found ANOTHER brush for his drill, this time one with bristles pointing down, so it was less in danger of disturbing the grout in the grout lines. (Sorry I don't have a picture of it.) So we tackled the kitchen floor once more, Ryan using his new drill head on the center of all the tiles, and me following behind with a dental pick, chiseling out the grout stuck in all the cracks on the tile surface. After a few hours, we had only completely cleaned the area under the fridge and between the kitchen & dining room.
Then we decided to give our aching backs a break and play with chemicals. Ryan broke out the Apple Cider Vinegar (since we didn't have regular vinegar) and poured it directly onto the face of a few tiles. We brushed it around and waiting for it to dry. Miraculously, it took all the haze off the tiles! It was so wonderful, seeing the tile restored back to its original color. It did nothing to solve our dried-on grout problem, but after a thorough scrubbing of the floor with pure vinegar mixed in water, we at last can say we are DONE with the scrub, rinse, repeat.
A few days ago, Ryan's mom sent us some articles about how to loosen the grout stuck on the tiles. It involved dissolving sugar in water and letting it sit on the tiles for a little while. This weekend, that's what we're going to try. I figure that the tile itself is made to go in the kitchen, so it must be able to stand up to any kitchen products we can throw at it. Or on it.
Like always, we're setting small goals at a time. For now, we would like to at least get the floor under the fridge and stove cleaned and sealed so we can get them back into the kitchen and out of the hallway.
2:06 p.m. — Thursday, January 26,
Sometime within the next month or two, Ryan and I will be meandering down to North Carolina along the eastern coast for a week-long vacation. Anyone have any recommendations where we should visit along the way or stay once we get there? I have never been to North Carolina (save driving through it on the way to Florida), and we've have heard some great things about Charlotte, so we're looking forward to going exploring.
Plus, we're planning on making a bunch of exploratory stops along the way, such as:
- Barnegat, NJ (of course) ;)
Funny how much I'm already mentally planning out our "plan-free" meandering vacation — haha. And I've ordered our AAA TripTiks already. Well, one thing is for certain: our vacation will NOT involve working on the house.
3:25 p.m. — Friday, January 27,
Two weeks ago, I started some herbs from seed in the bright hallway window upstairs.
Yes, that would be a shelf made of two vent covers and an empty spackle bucket, if you were wondering. Lots of thyme popped up right away and has been growing and spreading like crazy. I think since those seeds were so tiny, I accidentally planted way more than I intended. The chives and dill shot up shortly thereafter, and the parsley is on its way, but I'm a little disappointed in the lavender — the one I wanted most!
So far, the lavender is 0 for 4...
What a sad, unbalanced herb tray. If you're seeing a little green in the lavender, above, that would be more thyme. Yeah, a little carried away ;) Maybe I pushed the lavender seeds in too far...? I'd better go back and read the package again. Oops.
I also bought a box of mixed perennial wildflower seeds and three seed packets (eggplant, snapdragons, and sweet William) at my local $1 store. When it came time to pay, the seed packets were only $.10 each! So I know where I'll be going for all my seed experimentations from now on. I can try all sorts of random things for only $.10 each, and I won't feel guilty about planting annuals that will never return post-winter (like snapdragon) at that price.