Thursday, February 26, 2015

Snow Holiday!

In Chattanooga, we usually get one good snowstorm a year. And when we do, we stop to marvel.

A bluebird sunning himself on our window ledge.

We had a flock of bluebirds.

These sparrows had already built in nest in our gutter. When they got snowed in, they excavated a tunnel.
They have been popping in and out as they go about their birdly business.
No snowstorm would be complete without hot tubbing in the snow.
Afterwards, we had bowls of snow cream.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

DIY Bathroom Redo

If you've followed my blog for a while, you know I like to do DIY home repairs, mostly because I can't afford to hire a pro. And I like the challenge--we have a house built around 1920, so it makes things...complicated.

This DIY is a water closet. Yep, originally this bathroom was a closet. At some point, the owners turned the closet into a WC. And it hadn't been updated since. Sadly, I don't have photos of what we started with because this DIY started off piecemeal. For example, the faucet stopped working. I thought, "Simple, I know how to put in a new faucet." Except the sink was very, very old (and also very pink) and the openings in the sink didn't match modern faucets. So we replaced the pink sink with a white sink. Then, the toilet guts stopped working. And, of course, new toilet guts don't fit old toilets. So the hot pink toilet with the oh-so-attractive white toilet seat was replaced with a white toilet.

Then, the lighting died. We actually lived with a bathroom with no lights and no window for quite some time. Actually, it wasn't until my daughter moved out and I inherited her room as an office that I realized how useless it was. But I didn't want to pay an electrician. Electrical work is bit scary to me, so I didn't want to DIY it. I asked my son who's a college junior studying electrical engineering (he's getting good grades, I think that's important when you're putting your house and life on the line) to put in new lights. Queue first photo.

Why yes, that brown crumbly stuff is
"cellulose" insulation, i.e., shredded paper.
 Now I know what you're thinking, there's big hole in the wall! Yep, the original lights were wired into the medicine cabinet. EE son was appalled--do you know what kind of fire hazard that is? Son removed wiring from the medicine cabinet and commented, "Wow, I've never seen wires like these." He commenced Googling the very strange wires and told me to add a day to the completion of the lighting project.

Me in my painting gear.

Once the lights were installed and the mirror re-installed (this happened while I was shopping because EE son didn't want to teach me how to do wiring--I'm still sad about this. In any case, my youngest son helped EE son and, according to youngest son, when EE son turned the power back on he told youngest son, "Yell, if a fire starts." Apparently, it was supposed to be a joke. Youngest son (and mother who was shopping) were not amused.

Then came time to paint. The walls went from odd pink-white, perhaps the result of faded paint to bamboo green. I painted the walls. I painted the trim and the door white. It looked gorgeous. I even shined up all the brass door hardware. Check out photo. Left side, ugly hardware. Right side polished brass.

Everything was perfect. I bought a cute throw rug. I found some white towels that would accent the bathroom. I sewed an eyelet sink skirt. I even found a cotton-scented white candle in the back of a cupboard. I celebrated.

No longer are there any metal pipes. Everything is
modern PVC.
I celebrated too soon. An hour later, a drain pipe started leaking. And not just any drain pipe. It was the wall drainage pipe. So I removed all the pipes. I bought replacement parts. It seemed to work.  I did the happy dance. After all, I'd fixed hundred year old plumbing with a minimum of stress and inconvenience. I was a fool. Of course, the pipe leaked again. I fixed it again. It leaked again. I finally figured out the problem. One hundred years ago, they didn't mill pipes with the same precision that they do now. My pipe was about 1/64 of an inch off in interior width. So it looked good, but it would never be watertight with modern plumbing. I enlisted the help of my dad, a retired airline pilot/engineer/DIY extraordinaire. He made suggestions and bought parts. I installed the pieces. Fail. I tried other pieces. Fail. Finally, my dad found a rubber O ring. I put the pipes together using the O ring. No leaks...for 48 hours. Then, it leaked, a lot. I was ready to pitch a hissy fit. I got a flashlight, put on high-powered reading glasses, and discovered that O ring was so stiff, it twisted the nut off.  So I asked my husband, who is the strongest person I've ever met, to twist the nut back on. He did. It hasn't dared move since.

My bathroom is done! Here are photos.

Cool light installed by EE son.
Even the mirror looks normal now.

Sink skirt.
Scented candle and fluffy towels.
It all seems worth it now.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Top Five Reasons I Haven't Blogged in a While

I’ve neglected this blog. Sorry!

Here’s the top five reasons I haven’t been blogging.

1. My new book. I’m a third of the into my first draft, despite having started it in January with all of its post-holiday interruptions.

2. The bathroom redo. In my office (heretofore known as Ariel’s bedroom—Ariel is currently in grad school), there is small bathroom that was formerly a closet. Yes, a real life watercloset. But it was skanky. Hot pink sink. Hot pink toilet with an oh-so-attractive white toilet seat, water-stained wood paneling, no functioning lighting—you get the drift. So I decided to spruce it up. It didn’t want to be spruced. After I redid everything, ending with painting the walls, trim, etc., and buying a new rug, the sink drain pipes decided to leak. And I became a plumber… There will be a whole blog on this in the future along with pictures, so watch this space.

3. Book reviews. I just finished reading The Secrets of Life and Death for Publishers Weekly/Crown Publishing Blogging for Books program. Click here to read my review.

4. Being a mom. I know what you’re thinking. “You’re kids are grown. How can being a mom be so hard?” My kids are grown—this is true. But what no one tells you is that once your kids are grown, you don’t stop being a mom. You just have to be more self-controlled. And such self-control is draining. You can’t say to your adult child, “Dude, stop whining and clean up your room.” Instead, you say, “I’m so sorry that your friend/professor/boss/officemate/lab partner is an idiot. That must be super frustrating.” You might be tempted to give advice here. DON’T DO IT! Unless said adult child specifically asks for it. They don’t want your advice, they want sympathy and an understanding ear. (Husbands, take note this applies to wives too. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here.)

5. New robotic vacuum. You’d think that the robovac (Neato botvac) my kids and parents bought me for Christmas would save me lots of time. It vacuums my entire house (even under beds, couches, etc.) and does a much better job than I would. So it should be a huge time saver. Except, I like to watch it because it’s really cute. It makes happy singing noises. And it teases the dog. Not intentionally, of course. But Jezebel (our black Lab) does have a very hairy tail, so botvac likes to vacuum it. Jez is not amused. She views it as a demon-possessed object that ought to be destroyed before it kills us in our sleep. I’ve explained to her that botvac is our friend. But Jez keeps a wary eye trained on it, waiting for the day it turns to the dark side.

Those are the top five things filling my time, what about you all?
See, isn't botvac cute?!