never had any other desire so that one which I have had always, that I might be master at last of a small house and a large Garden.

-A. Cowley, The Garden, 1666

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tale of Toilet Triumph

And now in honor’s of Father’s Day: the Tale of Toilet Triumph Part II.

Which is actually very appropriate because after finally facing down the dire condition of our only bathroom and the necessity to swing into action (see previous post), the hero of our story rode into town: my Dad.

Yes, he rode into our quiet little town in his trusty Minivan capable of fitting a giant cartoned toilet into it along with large sheets of plywood...which had been our first obstacle. We hightailed it to Home Despot and I got the toilet I had picked out (eco friendly and water saving with two flush buttons...I’ll let you figure that out on your own) and whatever else was on the list Dad had composed of Things We Might Need. And then he scored me the extra 10% military discount at checkout...sweet.

Day One

Back at the homestead early the next morning, the Great Toilet Switch commenced under the steady eye of Dad, who had also filled the minivan with a trove of tools which were necessary for all aspects of the job. Including things which would never have occured to when replacing a leaky toilet you need a box of disposable latex gloves. First step (after coffee) was to disconnect and remove the old toilet, a job I gracefully delegated to my hubby since I was busy documenting (photo above).

Stickdown tiles were removed adjacent to the big iron poop chute (not the technical term) to survey the extent of the was extensive. The subfloor in the immediate vicinity in front of the toilet was toast and needed demo. I gracefully delegated this job for myself, since I love ripping things up.
See the red blob? This is an excellent tip contributed by Dad (of course): most DIY sources will mention stuffing the poop chute with rags to reduce the gagging in the room and generally making the job site more Dad knows that putting the rags in a plastic bag first makes 1) the likelihood of one of the rags disappearing down the chute less probable and 2) it makes unstuffing the chute way easier.

After everyone had a bit of destructive fun we had uncovered the problem area:

The toilet had leaked in the past and instead of replacing the oldest rotten sub-subfloor, new subfloor had been thrown over it and then the toilet reinstalled...and voila! the toilet was still ultimately on squishy rotten wood which would exactly recreate the initial problem.....but not until someone else (us) lived in the house! Also, it should be pointed out that I personally didn’t construct this scenario from the telltale heart of stained flooring layers visible above...That’s my Dad on the left sitting on the edge of our bathtub sizing up the situation, coming to terms we were in for some pretty major carpentry, and secretly hoping that the floor joists were okay.

More ripping up:
during which my little girly oscillating tool came in way more handy than my dad thought it would!

Eventually we had a big honking hole in the bathroom floor:

with freshly reinforced edges. And it turned out the floor joists were okay. So on that note we joyfully decamped for Mom and Dad’s condo where a functional bathroom and Icy Adult Beverages awaited.

Day Two (of what was hoped to be a one day project)

First layer of subfloor fitting jigsaw fashion around chute and water line:

Then a second layer of flooring to make it evenly match up with the rest of the floor:

Now let me pull back here for a moment to show you the whole room...
....and my dad still patiently supervising and waiting as I hammer nails in that he knows would take him about 2 seconds flat. And I should really point out here that he also did alot of the nitty gritty work too (sawing, measuring, leveling, screwing, nailing, fitting, schmearing, bending, cursing, remeasuring...), I just don’t have photos of it for some reason.

So all level, we schmeared some putty stuff into the seams and nail holes to make it nice and level. Then a coat of tile adhesive. And then fitting and sticking down new tiles. And then, finally, installing the new toilet (remember the new toilet, this post was about a new toilet).

And Voila:
a water conserving new toilet affixed to the Floor of Gibraltar.

This post was about a toilet, but in the end I realized it was really about my Dad. If it wasn’t for him I’d still be there wringing my hands in front of what would by now have been a rotten hole in the floor. Or we might have tried to fix it ourselves and ended up with a poorly installed toilet and a floor which would have failed in mere months.

Instead my Dad worked his tail off doing it the right way and teaching us how to do stuff at the same time. My hubby really looks forward to doing projects with my Dad because he is the best teacher in the world: patient and good at explaining the steps, knowing when to let him run with the job and when to take over the reins and get the thing done. He also retains his cool when the project throws a curveball: a leak springs, the coupling doesn’t fit, or the floor all the way to the joists is rotten...and then sets an example to persevere because in the end it will be fixed, and fixed right. And that is something to be proud of and celebrate with an Icy Adult Beverage.

Thank you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day. I love you.

Back from the Beach

Now if your job sends you out of town for 3 weeks straight, there could be worse locations than this:

view from my hotel room balcony.

That being said, I’m glad to be home!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

best and worst...

...and sometimes they are just the worst of times.

I'm not keyed up to elaborate but 2011 just has NOT been my year so far.

But I do feel bad for the bloglet, since its not her fault and I've left her alone to grow dusty with cobwebs in the corners. So I promise to spend more time with her. And to dust off myself too and remind myself of all the projects I wanted to get done!

Off to compose the ballad of American Standard...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

what lurks below the bath mat....a prologue.

Sometimes owning an 80 year old house is a voyage of can get to feel like every time you really take a couple of minutes to walk around the place you notice at least 10 things that are going amiss.

Sometimes, its a really bad time to notice the week before your entire immediate family is coming to the small house for Christmas.

Plan of action? Throw a rug over it and ignore.

This plan of "action" has never really worked, like when I used it the day after a college party to hide the unreturned keg on the balcony from my visiting parents (voila, it looks like a side table, right? wrong.).

It started innocently enough, just a bit of a bump appearing in the stick down tile in the bathroom. Then the bump grew, got company in other bumps, which all gradually lengthened and then rose up into techtonic ridges. At this point you didn't even need to remove the bath mat to notice something awry. Then the ridges split and were moist leaving moldy lines on the poor bath mat's underside and smelling vaguely funky. At this point the dear husband noticed.

Eventually in life you have to deal with what's under the bath mat.

Next blog: the great Toilet Tribulation and Triumph of 2011.

Friday, April 1, 2011

we now return you...

*tap, tap, tap* ....ahem, testing one, two, three...

Apologies for the unscheduled programming interruption, by which I refer to the complete blank void that the bloglet fell into.

But things like this:

remind me that the bleak late winter terrain DOES in fact usually swell and burst out in spring renewal. Its hard not to be inspired and I’m feeling the ol’ creative force welling back up.

So much to catch up with and with new projects leaping forth, I’ll be a busy bloglet bee (no fooling!)!
Welcome Spring!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

best laid floor o' nooks an' pantries

I had planned to post about a beautifully triumphant weekend in which we finally have a refinished breakfast nook floor...
After all, we did set aside an entire weekend for the endeavor. How long could it possibly take...we've already done the hard part (taking up 2 layers of vinyl and scraping up the majority of the black gooey mildewy mastic which was applied right over a nice pine foor), right?

*maybe*, whispered my ambitous optimistic and ultimately unrealistic project angel jumping up and down excitedly on my shoulder, *maybe we can even get to putting in the antique hutch and other furniture, after all we did get the fast dry polyurethane!*

Did I mention that our budget for this restoration job is about what a normal couple would spend going out to dinner? Not a special occasion type restaurant, more of a "its tuesday and I'm feeling oppressed by the task of cooking" type joint.
So we (I) made the amazing decision to save money by NOT renting the proper floor sander...we'll just use borrowed belt sanders (free)! After all, its a really small room!

UPDATE: As my aunt (and Robert Burns) observes about home DIY projects:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley.

We are still sanding.
And we have busted both of the borrowed belt sanders (Hi Mom...tell Dad we owe him a trip to harbor freight...) So back to sanding this evening (decided to ignore the nook on my Monday birthday and yesterday flounced out to a concert).

In the mean time: I'll show off some really sweet porcelain bird napkin rings. Goodwill find which was half off...a whopping 75c for the whole flock.
and they also qualify me for joining in over at Faded Charm for White Wednesday!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

new to me.

Before the frost set in I managed to score some green heirloom tomatoes. They looked really pretty sitting in my vintage lustre bowl but it was time to use them (instead of waiting too long and throwing them out). That great orange octagonal bowl, by the way, was a lucky recent score at a junk store in Roanoke ($4!). Not new (check out the chips and wear), but new to me and I love it...think of filling it with would glow!
I've never used green tomatoes before and couldn't even think of anything else besides "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe".
So that's what I improvised. First I sliced them about 1/4" thick and then set up 3 bowls: 1. corn flour mixed with a little salt and pepper 2. milk and 3. stone ground cornmeal (bought at the state fair from people operating an old portable stone was fascinating to watch) mixed with a bit of cayenne. The slices were dredged and dipped and dredged in sucession and piled on a plate while a pan of oil was heating up. The slices were shallow fried on each side til golden (about 2-3 minutes).

I served them up with a thrown together remoulade (yogurt/sourcream, old bay seasoning, bubbies real relish, cayenne, pepper), sauteed kale with hot sauce and cornbread. The cornbread was baking and the kale was simmering while I prepared the tomatoes so everything was hot at the same time (for once)! The cornbread incorporated some more recent finds: blue cornmeal from the state fair, pink himalayan salt, a "limited edition" pastured organic butter and my pastured farmer's market eggs from Faith Farms.

This dinner turned out to be fabulous, filling, and frugal (about $1 per person excluding the pantry items). Perfect seasonal fare for vegetarian night on an early fall evening. And a successful expedition into uncharted culinary terrain.

I'm also attempting to link into my first linky carnival...we'll see how that goes considering my technical shortcomings...

Pennywise Platter Thursday at the Nourishing Gourmet.