Sunday, September 18, 2011

Renovation Ramblings - Chapter VI: Color Conundrum Solved

Alllllrighty then! ANOTHER busy day!

Last night, I checked out the wall colors in artificial light (grant you, it's a more "yellowy" light than what our new light fixtures will emit...), and I decided that the Martini Olive was just a tad *too* bold. It would end up being oppressively dark in there if I had that shmeared on ALL of the walls. The blue looked *much* friendlier!

Although, in the bright, early-morning light, the blue is REALLY-REALLY BRIGHT (like, grab my sunglasses bright!) But that was with no window-treatments. Incidentally, the bathroom window is the only south-facing window we've got, so it really is the brightest room in the house.

Anywaaaaaaayyyyy, if it's too bright, we can just lower the matchstick blinds in the morning. Overall, I really think that the Blue Green Gem is the *best* color choice. And, in the evening and early-morning light(s), I was able to see that the blue *did* pick-up the light-blue tiles in the mosaics and *did* look like a good match. I think (HOPE) I'll be happy with it!

I didn't bother trying to snap pictures - Droid (or even the "good camera" for that matter) really can't capture the tone adequately...

I made a quick-trip to Big Lots, first thing this morning. Their latest ad had a relatively inexpensive "Tablet" PC / e-Reader that runs on the Android Platform. Before I got my Kindle, I had purchased a couple of Google eBooks (that I was trying to read on my Droid [first generation] phone). Well, Google Books don't transfer to Kindle...

Anyway, I wanted the Android Tablet and I *needed* more plastic, see-through bins to complete my Bathroom Purge. So I was there, right at opening time. Made my purchases and wandered back home...

Bathroom is now "mostly purged!"

This is the corner where all of my sh*t is usually piled up

I *really* don't like the Harlequin pattern (so I'm kinda glad my sh*t covers it - most of the time!)

All three sections of the Medicine Cabinet are EMPTY!

Empty, but not clean.

I'm sure there's gonna be a lot of dust during the job, so I'll probably have Aida do a massive dusting, once the job is done.

Hardware/Towel-Racks/Gee-Gaws have been removed...

And holes have been spackled

Bathroom has a noticeable "echo" now!!!

I even emptied out under the sink. I left some stuff in some of the lower cabinets/lower drawers, and I'll ask the workers to mask it off completely (if they can).

The Linen Closet...? Welllll... There is just WAY too much sh*t in there (and no place to put it!), so I've pulled out anything/everything I might possibly need, and I'll have the workers mask that off, as well. Hopefully it won't get *too* terribly dirty in there (although it is SOOO jam-packed, I'll probably only need to remove/clean the very TOP layer of "stuff" in there!!!)

I plan on taking a Super-Long shower tonight, and hope to squeeze in one FINAL shower, tomorrow morning, before The Gang shows up to start demolition. I'm bracing myself for being without a shower for appx a week-and-a-half (Ewwwww!).

Luckily, the weather has been quite nice, lately, so I *could* dive into the pool to remove the "surface stench." And, I'm past-due for "blondification" so I figure I can schedule a hair appt around Weds to get my touch-up *and* get my hair washed!

I had contemplated calling one of the local Health Clubs to see if I could do a "one-day membership" or something - just so I could gain access to their showers! (Or Worst-Case: I could get a hotel room, but I really don't want to spend THAT much money!).

Slightly OT, but I'll get back on track!:

Friend DV called me yesterday. She basically wanted to extol my culinary prowess, and went on-and-on about how WONDERFUL my Peach-Spice Jam was, and share how she'd used it. Her hubbie is a BIG Fisherman and they always have an ample supply of salmon on-hand. Apparently they grilled up some salmon with a mild Cajun Spice and then, toward the end of cooking, they shmeared on some of my Peach-Spice Jam and cooked it up. "Fan-f**king-tastic" (I think those were her words!)

She also put it on crock-pot Pork Roast (again, toward the end of cooking). In both cases, she proclaimed it was "Orgasmic." She said the added spices/sweetness really "made" the dish! So - if you ended up making a batch of that particular jam, there are a couple of "alternative" uses for it. Me? I just love it on buttered toast, but now I wanna try it on pork!

Honestly, I think it sounds so good (and I am *already* running low on my stockpile!), I may just hit-up the local Farm-stand to see if they still have fresh peaches. If so, I may whip up another batch!

Anyway - I digress (So what else is new?!!). As we were chatting, she asked "What's New?" and I told her about our upcoming bathroom reno. Well, bless her heart, she TOTALLY offered up her shower - "Every day, if you want!" Well, I don't want to be a nuisance (but then, stinking up the whole house could be viewed as a different type of nuisance, yes?!). I figure I'll pack up my toiletries and a towel, and head over to her place every-other-day. How Cool!

(Yep. I *am* the type of person who HATES to ask for ANYTHING! But, when it's offered, I'll more than likely accept!)

So... Tomorrow's the Big Day! Destruction starts first thing in the morning, I'm sure. I'm hoping I'll have my "revised estimate" early, as well... Wish me Luck! (I hope I don't need it!!!)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Renovation Ramblings - Chapter V: Color Conundrum

Okay, so I've been a bizzy li'l beaver! This morning, I woke up, and started some of the Bathroom Destruction!

Matchstick blinds, towel bars and fru-fru shelves over the toilet are GONE!
(I still need to spackle the holes left behind)

And I've begun purging the vanity and - GASP - "organizing" the linen closet (which is HUGE, completely stuffed, and will NOT be purged!)

Medicine cabinet contents moved to the bedroom
(And no, unfortunately, this isn't ALL of it!)

And - oh sh*t - it turns out that Joe the Bathroom Renovator wants to complete the painting BEFORE most of the other work is done (Damn!!!). Yes, that makes sense b/c then there's less cut-work to do (I remember what a PITA it was to paint the bathroom because of all the "edges!"). But, OTOH, that's not good because I really can't pick a good color without having the new tiles and light fixtures in place. Damn-Damn-Damn!!!

And there are about 800-quadrillion color-choices!

Now, one would think that - with all the colors in the "accent tile" - I should have no difficulty selecting a complementary wall-color. Well, one would be MISTAKEN!!!!

I managed to narrow it down to three
Which quickly got narrowed down to two!

I did NOT like the color on the right, once it got on the wall. The "swatch" had me thinking that was gonna be the Perfect Match! Ha! It ended up being waaaaaay too grey. This is why it's a good idea to get actual paint-samples up on the wall - before making your decision!

Martini Olive on the left. Blue Green Gem on the right.

I really like the Olive because it is a dead-on match to some of the greens in the mosaic tile. But it is a *very* bold color and might end up looking too dark.

Both colors with Mosaics and Floor Tile

Plus the green is a slightly "warmer" tone - which might pick up on some of the warmth in the floor tile (which has NO green, but does have hints of rust, at least).

P is partial to the blue paint. But P makes no bones about the fact that she is not fond of greeny-yellows (or yellowy-greens!) so I think she is a bit prejudiced!

Di is unavailable :::sigh:::

I like the fact that the green *is* a dead-on match. The blue is not an exact match to the light blue tiles. It's "close" - but not "exact" (and I could NOT, for the life of me, find an Exact Match for the light-blue tiles!!!)

Okay, let's Step Back, shall we?

Yeah, that Olive Green is definitely a "bold" color. Plus, as I think about it, it *might* pick-up on the greens in the accent tiles a bit too much. :::sigh:::

Let's look at it in afternoon, direct-sunlight, shall we?

Hmmm... Actually, with the direct-sunlight, I am *still* on the fence! I think I need to wait and look at it in "artificial light" at night. I have a sneaking suspicion that the green is gonna be too dark/too green. The blue is definitely "light and bright" (but has almost no "warmth" to it). But - maybe - the blue will help the light-blue tiles (which are the least-prevalent color in the mosaic) "pop" more.

Gawd! I can't decide!!!

Renovation Ramblings - Chapter IV: Maybe a little ranting...

Okay, Thursday and Friday ended up being a bit of a scramble. Yes, we finalized tile, grout and fixture selections, but there's still a buttload of stuff to get done!

I'd stopped at OSH in Redwood City, on my way home from my Dermatology Appt. - only to learn that OSH doesn't carry shower doors anymore!!! (Aaack! Then why do you have a display up that says "This item is IN STOCK"?!!!). Turns out it *can* be Special-Ordered, but I didn't have time for that - I had to get home for a conference call - so I figured I'd check with the OSH's down my way.

Well, we're down to one OSH (the Big One closed - GASP!), and they don't carry shower doors, either. So I figured I'd surf the 'net. No luck there, either (and Contractor's Wardrobe is a wholesaler - won't take orders from regular peeps!). Turns out that Home Depot *does* carry CW. Not that specific model/configuration, but I figured I could ask about Special Orders...

I have something of a love-hate relationship with Home Depot. Most of the time I lean more towards "hate" to be honest. And yesterday was one of those days. I looked at what they did have in-stock, and nothing thrilled me. So I hiked back up to the front of the store to hit-up the Customer Service Desk. There were 4 orange-aproned associates milling about, behind the counter, and one customer ahead of me (being helped by a 5th orange apron). It was definitely a case of "Invisible Customer Syndrome." In fact, when the one gal was done with the one customer, she got up and walked away!!! So now I have to do the laser-beam look and try to burn holes in one of the HD Associates with my evil glare. I finally get someone to (grudgingly) acknowledge my existence and she ends up sending me back to Kitchen and Baths - "They do Special Orders over there." (That's odd, it says in Great Big Letters on the Ginormous sign behind you that "Customer Service" handles Special Orders - but What-EVAH).

So, I hoofed-it back to Kitchens and Baths (in the back, opposite corner of the store). Nobody there! I wander around, trying to find *anyone* who can, maybe, CALL someone to come and help me (???). Nada. Every time I spotted someone in an orange apron, and started walking toward them, they would dart into the closest aisle and make a break for it.

Again, I didn't have a lot of time for dilly-dallying because, again, I had to get home for another conference call...

As I headed toward the exit, I encountered a Sales-Register Associate who saw my look of consternation and actually asked if she could help me with anything. I explained that I was wanting to find out about Special Ordering a shower-door. She directed me to "Customer Service." I told her I'd already been there, and they referred me to K&B, but nobody was working the K&B Dept. Well, bless her heart, she actually picked up her phone/walkie/talkie/communication device and tracked down someone to help me. (Yay!)

Hoof-it back to K&B. Met up with JJ, or whatever her name was. I told her exactly what I wanted, and she pulled out a catalog for Contractor's Wardrobe. She'd never heard of the "Radiance" glass style (and it wasn't listed in her catalog). "Well, it's on their website - and it's an option for both the model 2000 and 2400 shower doors." Amazingly, she picked up the phone and CALLED CW directly. (See? If you can *corner* them, they *will* eventually help you!!!)

Anyway... Long Story Short: Contractor's Wardrobe doesn't do the "Radiance" glass anymore.


So, the shower-door pictured in my last post is a No-Go. I am trés bummed!

So then I called Joe, the remodeler, and asked about what was included with my original bid. Clear glass "standard" door (allowance $240.00). Asked about the Euro-Style. It's more than double the price, dammit!

I'm not thrilled with the "standard door" so I ended up going to Lowes and buying a frameless, clear-glass, Euro-Style door with towel bars on the outside *and* inside (I really like having the bar on the inside, as well). It was $250.00, but I expect that he'll subtract *something* from his Contract since he's no longer supplying the door (but he'll "up-charge" something for labor, I'm sure).

Side Note: Kudos to Lowes. Once I'd located the shower-door I wanted, I started searching for a cart. As I was wandering back to the front of the store, a Lowes-Dude magically appeared with a flatbed cart and ASKED IF HE COULD HELP ME!!! Once he picked me up off the floor (heh!) I told him "Yes! And how fortuitous that you have a flatbed cart! I want to buy a shower door."

Well, damned if he didn't drag the cart right over, load-up the door on the cart, ENTER IT INTO THE COMPUTER so they could easily ring it up at the register, AND he accompanied me to the check-out counter AND loaded it into my truck! Un-freaking-believable!!! I was in-and-out in no time!!!

HOME DEPOT: ARE YOU LISTENING???? (To be fair, this *does* happen at Home Depot every once in awhile - usually around 4:00pm on a weekday afternoon. But it really is the Exception rather than the Rule)

I've already gone over-budget on fixtures. I'm under budget on tiles (because I bought the tub-tiles myself). They, apparently, didn't give me an allowance for towel bars, toilet paper holders, etc (but they did allocate 2-1/2 hours labor for installation - are you f**king kidding me?!). Guess what? I'm installing the towel bars and toilet paper holders ($50 TOTAL) myself. I'll expect *that* labor cost to be taken-off the final bill.

Right now, I feel like I'm getting nickel and dimed to death, unfortunately. Here is where the "rant" comes in. See, when I got the original bid, I figured we'd stick with a tile countertop. Bigger, "fresher" tiles - but something that would complement the tub. Well, Joe doesn't like all the "labor" that goes with laying tiles, so he assured me that he could get me a solid-surface countertop for the same price. Okay, shift gears.

Searched high-and-low, and found a suitable countertop. Well, it turns out he could have gotten me a "better deal" if he could have found a "remnant." But I don't see how he could expect to find a "remnant" that would work since our countertop is HUGE and oddly shaped.

Anyway, Long Story Short (again!), "because of the color you selected (it's a standard Silestone Color I found at Home Depot!), and the odd shape of your countertop..." The price is now double what was originally estimated. (Well then why did you say that solid-surface would be the same price???)

If I weren't completely out of time, I'd probably say "Screw You" and go back to tile (let him eat the "labor cost!"). But now I've pretty-much fallen in love with the quartz and, quite frankly, I'd rather eat ground glass than set foot in another Tile Store at this point!

Anyway: The Long and the Short of it is: I am trying to keep the costs as close to $10K, as humanly possible. DH is paying for "half" of the original bid ($9800.00) and not a penny more.

Anything above that is "On Me" (hence my purchase of tiles, shower door, towel bars, etc.). And this doesn't even take into account the possibility that we may find something unsavory behind the shower - once the tile and walls are all ripped out. If that happens, all bets are off! (and there might be some "new" negotiations with the spousal unit if that occurs - but we'll burn that bridge when we get there, right?!)

Anyhooooo... As it stands right now, I think we're at $10,100.00 (according to my re-calculations - which I have provided to Joe, the remodeler-dude). I'm waiting for final confirmation on Monday *before* I sign the final contract and authorize work to begin.

I am under a fair amount of pressure, however. DH is overseas right now, for a week, at some Electro-Geek Trade Show in Switzerland. I want the "worst" of the work to be completed while he is gone (he doesn't deal well with "disruptions!"). I really don't want to postpone the job. But, at the same time, I don't want my time-constraints to force me into making bad financial decisions. I.e. if the revised estimate is >$500 over the original estimate - I may have to put the brakes on this project!

Now, don't get me wrong, I can totally "own" the fact that I made a few "more expensive" decisions. I'm okay with paying the add'l $ for those items that came in over-budget. But I do expect to see some "credit where credit is due" (literally!) where I have made choices that result in less labor...

Right now, I'm feeling a little annoyed with the contractor I've selected. But let's see what the revised estimate looks like, on Monday, and I may revise my position!

In the meantime, I have to decide on a paint scheme (AAAAACCCCCKKKKK!!!!)

Next up: Color Conundrum!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Renovation Ramblings - Chapter III: Flummoxed over Fixtures...

Wow! It's been a busy couple of days!

First up: Big Studio Update!

I believe I'd already mentioned that my heat-shields were installed ("Shields-Up, Cap'n!"). Well, last night I did my Very First Firing - Yaaayyyyy!!!

It was just a "burn-in" to season the heating elements and burn off any manufacturing residue (or whatever), but I am here to tell you - My Kiln Works!!

First firing was a "Fast Glaze" to Cone 04 (1945* F). Took just over 4 hours...

99* to go!

It got all glowy-orange inside!
Looked kind of spooky in the dark!
(This was after the kiln had shut itself off, and I was heading off to bed)

Side-Story on the kiln: Right after I'd turned it on, I'd fired-up my Netbook and started making a spreadsheet to track my firings. I am primarily interested in keeping track of firing times/temps and the types of ware (/types of glazes) I am firing. Of course, I'll also be tracking stuff like start-time/stop-time/temperatures and total firing time, right?

Well, DH - ever worried about the PG&E Bill - had poked his head into the studio; Seen that the kiln was on; and IMMEDIATELY said "You need to keep a log of how long and how often you run the kiln!!!" I slid my chair aside and gestured to my computer: "Already started, dear!"

Well, a lengthy discussion ensued, about amperage/voltage/KWh costs/and yada-yada, so I ended up adding a couple of columns to my spreadsheet where I can calculate the total # of hours, % of total power (i.e. "Fast" Firing Profiles will run @ 100% of capacity, "Slower" profiles are slightly less); a column to convert that to Kilowatt Hours; and a calculation to determine HOW MUCH that particular firing cost (Last night's firing @ 4:08 @ 100% of 28amps x 120v, ended up costing a whopping $4.17!).

I wonder if that will show-up on my e-Bill? ;-)~~

Next up: Garden Update!

My cool-season veggies are sprouting!

I only planted 'em on Sunday, but I'm seeing "activity" on all of 'em!

Awww, look at the babies!!!

And last - but *certainly* not least! Bathroom Update:

Di came over today and "blessed" my Tile Selections (Yayyyy!). She agreed that the Goldilocks floor tile was too dark and waaaaay too expensive. So she (wisely!) told me to leave the non-contenders at home. "Don't EVEN tempt yourself!" So we took the "Final" tiles to the bath showroom today and selected the grout colors. #365 "Canvas" for the tub surround (pale beige that is a dead-on match for the tub tiles, and will complement the mosaics nicely), and #50 "Nutmeg" - which really is the color of nutmeg - for the floor tiles (which will be laid on the diagonal). It will make the tiles "pop" very nicely. Grout Selection went AMAZINGLY well!

Faucets/Fixtures have been selected (Yayyyyy!!!):

Delta "Dryden" Line - Sink Faucet

And matching Tub/Shower trim.

I had a $550.00 allowance for faucet/shower/bath stuff - and that would have been the "Lahara" Line from Delta. I probably could have done brushed nickel with minimal impact $ to the budget, but Lahara really didn't speak-to-me like the Dryden line did. Actually, had I just left-off with this, the budget probably would have been fine. But, I wanted a separate hand-shower, as well. The Dryden hand-shower didn't have a lot of "features" to it, so I ended up adding this baby:
Grohe "Euphoria" Euro-Style hand-shower

It has three different spray patterns. And mounts to the wall with a Euro-Style sliding bar assembly. And it has a built-in soap-dish. (Although we are having a niche built into the bathtub wall, as well).

I really, really like it. Even though it threw me ~$100.00 over budget (Ooooops!)

Shower door :::sigh:::: is still "TBD. This is one that I found at OSH (Orchard Supply Hardware which, I think, is just a California chain. *Not* a Big Box Store).

The glass pattern is called "Radiance"
I like the "squares" and the fact that it's semi-obscure glass.

It comes in two styles. This one, and one that's more "Euro-Style" (with a more "rounded" handle). Both of them are "frame-less" - which makes for a much cleaner look. I checked with AKB today and it looks like I've got a $240.00 allowance for the shower door. The one they offer is also frameless - with totally clear glass, or with a couple of choices of patterned/obscure glass (none of which thrill me as much as this glass pattern does). I need to go back to OSH, tomorrow, to see how much this shower door is gonna cost...

And Lastly (Eeeeeeek!!!) I just learned TODAY that I need to make my paint selection *earlier* rather than later. Seems that they like to complete the painting BEFORE the tiles go up (Makes sense, less "cutwork" to do). But I was rather hoping that could wait 'til after the tiles and new light fixtures were in (and I could see the general "tone" of the room).

No such luck!!!

Aaaaaack!!!! Too many choices!!!!

The good news is: I have a million colors to choose from - with the mosaic tiles.

The bad news is: I have a million colors to choose from!!!

Guess who's gonna be hitting Kelly Moore this weekend to pick-up itty-bitty paint samples???

Job Starts Monday (Oh My GAWD!!!)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cool Season Garden & Kitchen Witchery...

And lest you think that *all* I do is p*ss and moan about the upcoming bathroom reno!

Yesterday, I started my cool season veggie seeds (Cauliflower, Broccoli, Cabbages):

And I made eight more jars of Sweet Corn-Apple Relish!

And my Limoncello is Turning Yellow!

Renovation Ramblings - Chapter II: Quartz Quandary

Okay... I think I promised another chapter, so here goes...

So anyway… I’d brought my chosen tiles to the Kitchen/Bath Showroom and – with the help of the sales-girl – tried to find a suitable “match” from their extensive selection of itty-bitty quartz countertop samples. I did find a couple – but nothing that really thrilled me. We were kinda doing the “Wellll… It’s not like the countertop is “touching” the tub tiles” thought-process, but that’s just another way of saying “Nope. That doesn’t match – At All!”

Close ain’t close enough, and besides, I have to think about matching the sink (which, most-definitely *will* touch the countertop!). We found one that was a dead-on match for the “Goldilocks” floor tile I’d picked up (kind of a deep, honey color), but THAT tile is $6.25/sq ft! (Waaaaaaaaay the hell over budget). And another sample that was close, but still a little too "yellow."

I went home, frustrated, after that – and did some work-work. But I still had countertops on the brain and decided I really needed to pick-up some freebie samples and bring ‘em home to see them in their natural environment, as it were…

(I really am driving myself f**king batsh*t crazy over this, ya know?!!)

Sooo… I went to Lowes to look at their selection of solid surface countertops. Asked the sales-droid about Silestone and he kinda sneered something about Silestone being a “Competitor’s Product” and muttered “Home Depot” under his breath. Ummm, okay. Sorry, I didn’t know! (Jeez!), but he showed me a display of “their” Quartz Countertop equivalent. Okay. There were a couple of possibilities, so I asked if they had small samples I could take home. “No, but we have this pamphlet showing all of the colors.”

Uhhh, no. Paper pamphlets do not take the place of actual samples. So, sorry Lowe’s, I won’t be buying your Silestone Equivalent Product! :-P~

Back to Home Depot… Lo and behold, they DID have little 3-4” square samples – of SILESTONE even. They didn’t have sales-droids to help me, but I managed to help myself to several samples which I brought home… Funny thing there was: There was a Home Depot “Associate” (who was NOT wearing an orange apron) who happened to wander up behind me.

Ohhhh great! I know these guys. They want to sell Home Depot Remodeling Services – BUTTTTTT – they don't like to deal with the "just-the-wife!" (Been There, Done That!). (Go back to the Kitchen Reno Project [October 2008] – or even the first couple of Bathroom Reno posts [circa February 2011] to hear my rants about THAT!) (They're all buried under Home Improvement.)

“So have you heard about what we’re offering today?” he begins.

“No. But if it has anything to do with Kitchen or Bath Renovations, I’m not interested.”

Undaunted, he continues “Well, we’ve got a special promotion right now!”

“Yeah, well, the kitchen is DONE and the bathroom is underway.”

“Are you planning on having your kitchen or bathroom updated?” (I’m sorry, are you DEAF?!)

“Kitchen is DONE and bathroom is already contracted.”

“Well, how far along are you on your bathroom? We can yada-yada, blahda-blahda, Lifetime Guarantee, all done in one day, ya-ya-ya-ya-ya”

“Contract is signed. Work begins next week.” And I pointedly turned my back on him.

He continued blathering but I pretty-much ignored him completely as I continued on my quest to find quartz countertop samples. I found three different “contenders” for the new counter-top and brought ‘em home…

Here is Bachelorette #1:

This is Silestone “Beige Olimpo” quartz
Mosaic backsplash behind, Tub Tile to the left & right, and Metropolis Sabbia underneath
The Sabbia *does* have some hints of the honey-tone in it – but it doesn’t really show-up in this picture.

The Beige Olimpo *does* go – amazingly well – with the Crossville “Goldilocks” floor tile. But Goldilocks is INSANELY expensive (and really isn't a contender). Plus, I think it’s gonna be too dark in our bathroom.

Beige Olimpo, on top of Goldilocks floor tile
Tub tile to the left. Mosaic backsplash to the right

Yes, that combo would be perfect if our bathroom was bigger and I had a bottomless budget. But… “Ain’t gonna happen!”

Bachelorettes #2 and 3:

Tigris Sand is the top tile.
Blanco City is the bottom tile
Sabbia Floor Tile is in the middle

Tigris Sand looks good next to the mosaic. It’s not too far-off, tonally, from the floor tile (and would probably go well with the “Sedona Beige” sink), but it is definitely more “warm” than the tub tile on the right.

Blanco City? Well, I’m starting to warm-up to that tile. Tonally, it goes quite nicely with the floor and tub-tiles. But it’s speckled, so I’m not sure if it will “compete” with the mosaic backsplash. And I need to check it against the “Sedona beige” porcelain sample (for the sink).

Blanco City on top of Mosaic Tiles
Will the speckles be “too much” I wonder???

Did I mention that I am driving myself f**king batsh*t crazy over this?!! I haven’t even *looked* at grout colors yet! And the job starts in EIGHT DAYS!!!

Well, I have enlisted Di’s assistance again. We’ll be going back to the showroom on Thursday afternoon to FINALIZE the tile, grout and quartz selections – ONE WAY OR ANOTHER!!!

Then, of course, there's Faucets and Fixtures... And the Shower-doors to decide on... Holy Crap! Thank goodness I've already selected our light-fixtures and at least *some* of the tiles.

Jeez, for such a small bathroom and (relatively) inexpensive job, this sure is turning into a mental mind f*ck!!!

I'm sure there will be more b*tching in the days to come... But, with any luck, we WILL finalize the tile selections this week!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Farm-Share Casserole

Yep, another Droid pic!

Okay, so sometimes - even with the "small" bi-weekly CSA deliveries - one can get kind of overwhelmed with veggies! Well, especially since my Garden has been generating MASSIVE quantities of produce (yes, mostly tomatoes).

So I've been having some significant "challenges" with fitting new-stuff into the fridge. And no, there are no "Science Projects" lurking in the back corners! Okay, there was one *starting* in the Crisper (Evidently one month is about the "max" you can hope for with those "Forever Bags" I was yammering about earlier)!

Annnnnywaaaaaayyyyy... I decided it was time to clear-out some veggies. And I needed to do it in a Big Way. (Well, big for DH and I). So I decided to make a "Jeez-it's-Time-to-Clean-Out-The-Fridge-Casserole." And, even though I'm not in marketing, I'm reasonably sure that's not a real good name for a recipe, so I've decided to call it my "Farm-Share-Casserole!"

QT's Farm-Share Casserole

Ingredients (adjust it to suit your needs / refrigerator contents)
  • 1-1/2 lbs summer squash - it could be ANY kind of squash. I happened to have Patty-Pans and Yellow Straight-necks.
  • 1 small- to medium-sized eggplant
  • 2 lbs skinned tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 carrots, grated
  • 2-3 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 stick of melted butter
  • 1 package (5 oz) garlic-butter croutons
  • 1 can condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 can of French-fried onions (or you could skip that)
  • Several "shakes" of McCormick Perfect Pinch "Salad Supreme" seasoning (or whatever suits you!)

Pre-heat oven to 375*F.

Slice/chop the squash and eggplant into decent-sized chunks (3/4" - 1") and dump them into a large bowl. Start heating a saucepan full of water. Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic cloves. Once the water starts boiling, use it to blanch your tomatoes (for easier peeling). I cut out the stem ends, then plopped 'em in the boiling water for appx 1 minute. Removed and peeled the tomatoes, and set 'em on a cutting board. Then I poured the hot water over the squash/eggplant chunks and left 'em to steep while I sauteed the onions and garlic in appx 1 tbs butter (to which I added a teeny bit of Olive Oil to prevent burning)...

While the onions/garlic were sauteeing on medium heat, I grated the carrots and chopped the tomatoes into smallish chunks (1/4-1/2") and held them on the cutting board.

Once the onions/garlic were well-cooked (transluscent and soft - but not brown), I dumped the bowl of hot water and squash/eggplant chunks back into the saucepan and turned the heat up to high. Tossed in a few shakes of seasoning. Let 'em cook til they were tender - probably about 10-15 minutes

Then I dumped the tomatoes/carrots/spinach into the now-empty bowl while the other veggies were cooking...

Once the squash and eggplant are fork-tender, remove from the stove and pour off the water. You *could* let 'em cool at this point. I chose to just dump 'em into my baking pan. I used a 9 x 12 x 2-1/2" disposable aluminum pan. I didn't feel like ransacking the cupboards to find my casserole dish, but I'm guessing you'd need a 2.5 quart (or bigger) casserole to cook this.

Next, I combined ALL the veggies in the baking dish. Threw in the Chicken Soup. Blorped in the Sour Cream. Added about 3/4 of the bag of cheddar cheese and half a bag of croutons. Drizzled-in the melted butter Mixed everything up real good. Tasted it. Added more Seasoning...

Topped it with French-Fried onions and the last of the cheese, then tossed it in the oven for an hour. About 10 mins before the end of cooking, it was starting to brown-up, so I put a sheet of aluminum foil on top - to keep it from burning.

It's done now and it is deeeeeee-lish!

Only thing is: It's a little runny. I suspect, if it were cold, the cheese would help solidify it, a bit. I think - next time - add some bread-crumbs or chopped crackers to the mix to give it a little more "body."

Not a bad way to dispose of overly-abundant Farm-Share fare!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Renovation Ramblings - Chapter I: Back-Story and Tile Torture

I was gonna title this Renovation Rant, but I think it’s too early for that. And, with any luck, I *won’t* have any ranting to do (Yeah, hope springs eternal!!!).

Okay… This is gonna be a long post! So if you’re not interested in bathroom renovation projects “Move along… Nothing to see here!”

If you ARE interested in bathroom renovations… Well… Grab a cup of coffee (or a stiff drink!) and get comfy! This is gonna take awhile!

First, a little background… This is why we are renovating the bathroom:

Water Damage

Water is seeping up from under the tub at both ends of the tub.

By the way, this is the ONLY bathroom in the house. :::sigh:::

We’ve had it repaired a couple of times. First time, we used a “Handyman Service” (that now calls itself a “Renovation” Company – Hah!). DH more-or-less handled that project and they were approaching it in a “hunt-and-peck” sort of fashion. “Welllll…. Let’s try this…” (which didn’t work), then “Let’s try THAT…” (which also didn’t work). I think it was originally an attempt to save money but – in the long run – it ended up costing MORE than a full-blown renovation would have cost. We *did* end up with a brand-new tub.

But everything else in the bathroom screams 1980’s:

Totally stylin' diamond-pattern tub...

Matching vanity (with cracked and chipped tiles)

And, Ohhh Baybeee!
The TOTALLY GLAM 1980's Brass "Hollywood" Light Bar!

Pretty much, we paid as much as a full-on Bathroom Reno would have cost; Dealt with the pain and agony of having OUR ONLY BATHROOM out of commission for a couple of weeks; Ended up with a bathroom that looked just as crappy and “dated” as when we started; And – added bonus – the bathtub leaks returned just over a year later! We’ve had the floor replaced a couple of times since then, but – now that I have inherited some money – I think it’s time to do it all over again. Only THIS TIME, we’re doing it “Right!”

This time, it’s MY project. And this time, we’re ripping everything out – back to the studs – in order to identify and fix the source of the leak. Since it’s all gonna be ripped out, might as well Update while we’re at it, right?

And, this renovation is gonna cost less than the half-@$$ed job that was done previously………

So anyway, we signed the contract a couple-three weeks ago. And the project is set to begin on Sept 19 (Holy Crap – 9 days away!!!). Friend, Di, and I took a trip to the Kitchen/Bath Showroom (where they don’t have a huge selection of things to look at, unfortunately). They did give us samples of porcelain colors, however (which was good – I would have totally selected the wrong color for the toilet and sink if I hadn’t brought the samples home!). Then we headed off to the tile warehouse.

Bullnose Tile, Inc in San Jose (I’ll give ‘em a shout-out) is an excellent place. Doesn’t look very big from the outside, but they’ve got TONS of stuff to choose from – and their staff is extremely helpful. Di and I wandered around aimlessly for awhile – looking for inspiration. Pausing periodically. Many “Hmmmmms” were uttered. Then one of their helpful sales-peeps appeared and I showed him my sheet of glass mosaics, explained what we were looking for and he TOTALLY took it from there. He found a couple-three PERFECT tiles – and when I asked about purchasing the sample tiles, he waved me off and said I could borrow ‘em for free. Yay!

For the first go-round, we chose an Antique White tile that was absolutely dead-on, color-wise, for matching the tub. That’s the tile on the left, in the photo. And I fell in love with Metropolis Sabbia (the tile on the floor). And, of course, I am already “married to” the glass mosaic that’s propped up on the top.

Clockwise from top: Vineyard Glass Mosaic, Laguna Bay,
Metropolis Sabbia, and Antique White

The Vineyard Glass Mosaic Tile is what I started with. I bought it at Home Depot – back in January. It was funny because, when I first saw it, my initial reaction was “Ehh!” But when I brought a sheet of it home, I totally fell in love with it!

The picture really doesn’t do it justice. It is GORGEOUS!
Pale yellows, greens, aquas, cobalt blues and deep purples, with streaks of metallic copper

So yeah, I made my Very First Decision back in January! This will be the “accent stripe” in the tub (4 tiles wide – stretching around the perimeter of the tub at eye-level), and full 12x12 sheets will be the back-splash on the vanity.

Then, like I said, the guy at Bullnose Tile had suggested the Antique White tiles for the tub surround. It was absolutely perfect, color-wise, and it did have a little bit of “stoniness” to it (not a totally “flat” color, but also not too speckled-y/textury so it won’t compete with the accent tile). Trouble was: It was $4.90/sq ft. I have a $400 tile allowance for the tub-tile, and a $100 allowance for the floor-tile. Pretty much, I was blowing the budget – right out the chute – if I went with the Antique White tile…

Bummmmer! So, off to Home Depot I went. I wanted to find something similar, but cheaper. I ended up finding Laguna Bay @ $0.99/sq ft.

Laguna Bay Tile
(Home Depot lighting is waaaay different than home lighting!)

Side-by-side, in the bathroom
(Plus this is a Droid pic so doesn’t really capture the colors accurately!)

So the Laguna Bay tile was “close” – but definitely more on the “beige” end of the spectrum (almost pinkish, even). The Antique White was definitely “warmer” (more toward yellow) and, like I said, Dead-on for matching the tub. And, what’s more, we had found some quartz countertops that were *also* a dead-on match.

But, unfortunately, The Budget won-out!

Actually, that was partially-driven by the fact that the Sabbia Floor-Tile was a Budget-Buster, too. And my “justification” was that – by saving on the tub-tile, I could shift that allowance over to the floor tile, right?! :::shrug:::

Anyway, I had to hit two different Home Depots to find both the tiles and the bullnose (from the same “die-lot” or whatever), but I got ALL the tub-surround tile that I need (and then some!) for appx $170.00. It’s all stacked up in the living room!

The Bad News, though, was that my original quartz countertop selections were now null and void. Those are waaaaay too yellowish. So I went back to the Kitchen/Bath Showroom again – only to discover that they didn’t have ANY close-matches. Boo! Hiss!!! I did find some “complementary colors” but nothing dead-on.

Okay… This *is* taking a lot longer than expected, so I think I’m gonna stop for now.

Next up: Quartz Quandary!

Friday, September 9, 2011

When Life hands you Lemons...

...Make Limoncello!

So, obviously, I've been on this weird "Homesteading" kick lately. Preserving fruits and veggies from my garden... Baking... Jamming... What the HELL is wrong with me?!!

(Don't answer that!!!).

Actually, I've been surfing Netflix a lot, lately, and getting into all of the "What's In Your Food" documentaries (i.e. King Corn, Food Inc., and several documentaries about Genetically-Modified foods) and, frankly, it kinda scares me.

Don't worry, I'm not gonna get all "Activist" on you, but I will admit that some of that stuff *does* bother me (I feel, pretty strongly, that High Fructose Corn Syrup and other Highly-Processed foods *are* related to the current "Obesity" and "Diabetes" Epidemics). Honestly, I rather like the idea of knowing what-goes-into-what-I-eat. And I am, kinda, becoming an advocate of being a "Locavore" - eating only food that was produced locally - because I agree that it is much "kinder" to our planet...

But enough about that!

On a simpler level: I've really rather enjoyed all of my Kitchen Witchery. And I truly love"Creating" stuff - be it artwork or jam (or a big-@$$ mess in the kitchen)! So, when one of my FB friends posted about how they'd made-up a batch of Limoncello, I thought "COOL! I wanna make some too!"

So - Big Surprise! - I consulted Google and found this site. And I pretty-much followed their directions to-the-letter.

But then there was the small matter of not having any lemons (I need to find space for a lemon tree!). Sooo... Enter the world of Freecycle! I put up a "Wanted" post and, lo and behold, I got a couple of responses from people who had overly-abundant lemon trees and were most eager to share the bounty!

I wish I could say that this was an "economical" venture - given that the lemons were free! But I did have to go and purchase all of the "materials" for making Limoncello (Lemon Zesters, Brita water-filter jug and extra filters. Oh, and vodka - duhh!). But - other than the booze - those were one-time investments, so I'm not gonna sweat it (and now I've got all that I need for FUTURE Limoncello Adventures!)...

Okay... Onto the recipe and pictures........................

Get yourself some fresh, organic lemons:

I used 18 of 'em

Okay, they don't absolutely have to be organic. But if they aren't, you'll probably have sticky labels and wax to scrub off of 'em. Regardless, you *do* need to scrub them with a veggie brush and hot water...

Next, get yourself some vodka:

I used 2 @ 750ml bottles of Smirnoff 100 proof

It doesn't have to be "Top Shelf" stuff. But the higher the alcohol content, the better. Everclear (150 proof) would be good, but I couldn't find any.

Run the vodka through a water filter pitcher four times. I got the cheapest (~$10), smallest (5 cups) Brita pitcher and it was the perfect size for one bottle of vodka... This process does take awhile though. I didn't time it, but in the time it took me to zest all of the lemons, I had only managed to quadra-filter one bottle of vodka...

Next Step... Get yourself a fine lemon zester and start scraping:

Kinda messy, but it sure smells good!

I'd read that the Micro-plane zester was "The Very Best," but I ended up buying an OXO zester that looked identical (and was on sale). That's the larger grater at the top of the photo. I'd also picked up the smaller one ('cuz it was super-cheap), and I was glad that I did.

See, you want to be careful to take off on the thinnest outer layer of zest and not get any of the pith (white stuff under the outer yellow skin). Evidently, if you get any pith in your Limoncello, it will be bitter. The bigger grater/zester thingie was good for getting wide swaths of lemon-skin off, but it was kind of difficult to control and I was afraid of hitting the pith. So the littler zester was good for doing some "fine-tuning" work and zesting the smaller sections that the wide zester missed!

End up with nekkid lemons:

The white patches were from where the bigger zester was a little too, umm, zesty!

Next, dump your vodka and lemon poopies into a large glass jar:

I used an empty 1.75 liter tequila bottle
(which I'd washed thoroughly and disinfected in the dishwasher)

At this point, there's only one bottle of vodka in the jug (the other bottle was still getting filtered thru the Brita pitcher). But I wanted to get the lemon skins in the jug with the vodka before they dried out.

Close up of my Science Project!

Next step: Well, I dumped the second bottle of vodka in the jug and shook it up good. The jug is gonna sit in my kitchen for a week (and I'll shake it up about once a day). Then it's going into the closet where it will sit and steep for 45 days.....

Hopefully I won't forget about it - but I'll post an update whenever I move onto the next step!!

So now... I've got 18 nekkid lemons!

When life hands you leftover lemons from making Limoncello...
...Make lemonade!!!

18 lemons yielded appx 4 cups of pure lemon juice. I just squoze 'em by hand, in to a large bowl (and I scooped out some of the pulp - Mmmmm!). I poured that through a sieve to remove the seeds (but I still scooped some of the pulp back into the juice). 1 cup of raw juice went into an ice cube tray (for adding to iced tea!). 3 cups went to make lemonade!

Lemonade Recipe

3 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (with or without pulp - your choice!)
3 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup granulated Splenda
11 cups cold water

Make a simple syrup by mixing sugar, Splenda and 3 cups of water in a sauce pan. You might want to tweak the sugar:splenda ratio (I kinda wish I had, but that's just b/c the higher sugar content messes with my Blood Glucose #'s). Heat it on medium heat 'til all the sweetener is completely dissolved.

Pour the lemon juice into a glass jar. Add the Sugar/Splenda Syrup. Mix it up. Then add 11-12 cups of cold water (I was planning on 12 cups, but my jar holds less than a gallon!). Refrigerate and ENJOY!!!

Just shy of 1 gallon of Super-Delicious, Fresh Lemonade!

A VERY belated Limoncello update can be found here!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rejoining the Human Race...

Well, after having been utterly and completely ROBBED of a Three-Day-Weekend, I am slowly starting to return to a quasi-normal state.

Thank goodness for P. Bless her heart, she checked-in on me yesterday to see if I needed anything. To be honest, I was totally craving hot tea with toast and jam. I had the tea and jam - but nothing toast-able - and I was feeling waaaaay too gross to go out in public to buy a loaf of bread at the grocery store.

Just as I was working up the nerve to ask her to pick me up a loaf of GOOD bread, she suggested that she might pick-up lunch from Le Boulanger - *the* very place where the GOOD bread comes from!

So she brought lunch over! Bowls of soup (French Onion for me - Mmmmm!) and a couple of sourdough rolls. I made fresh salads for the both of us, and we had lunch, al fresco, at the Tiki Bar. Weather has been absolutely PERFECT this week (mid-80's to mid-90's)

And she left me a simply scrumptious loaf of 9-grain bread - which satisfied my Toast 'n Jam Cravings quite nicely.

I've still got a bit of a lingering funk goin' on (couldn't sleep fer sh*t last night - too congested). And, since I'm such a Caring and Sharing Soul, I have given my cold to DH. So now *he's* all punky too. Yes, we are quite the pair!

Bummer part is: We've got concert tickets for tomorrow night. B-52's, The Human League and Men Without Hats. I was totally looking forward to that show - and we've got Fan-Freaking-Tastic Seats (5 rows from the stage!).

Looks like I'll have to Craigslist 'em :::sigh:::

But... Other than that, I *am* starting to feel a bit better. I'm hoping to completely rejoin the human race by the end of the week. And I'm getting ready to tackle my next "Preservation Project:" Limoncello made from fresh, organic lemons!

Monday, September 5, 2011

I want my money back!!!

Warning: Incessant P*ssing and Moaning ahead...

Well *this* sucks!!! Freakin' 3-Day weekend with damn-near perfect weather... It was even nice with "light breezes" on the bay!

Friday afternoon, as my work-day drew to a close, I started feeling *really* punky: Slow-Mo, Brain-Fog, Nasty Deep (and none-too-productive but ohhhh-so-exhausting) Cough...

I was Down for the Count!

Saturday Morning? Not much better. In fact, I stayed in bed the ENTIRE FREAKING DAY. Moaning, whining, hacking... Generally hating life.

Sunday, I felt a wee-bit better (thanks to the double-shot of Nyquil, the night before), but could only muster enough energy to sit out by the pool for an hour or so... Coughing was beginning to subside, at least - but The Bug seemed to be lodging itself in my sinuses...

Nevertheless, I was positively jonesin' to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE so we did go to dinner @ Fish Market (My treat - hoping to appease DH who is *most* frustrated with the current turn of events!) (Believe me Babe, you're not *half* as frustrated as *I* am!!!)

Sunday night, it settled into my right ear. Couldn't "pop" it to save my life and resorted to snorting Afrin (Ewwwww!!! I *hate* nasal spray!!!). At least now my ear is back to popping again - grant you, at random intervals - but it's better than being completely plugged-up and aching!

Monday morning, DH quickly generated Plan B when it looked like I wasn't gonna be in any condition to sail. He met a sailing Buddy on the plane to SoCal (Seems they both "commute" to SoCal on a similar schedule and they seem to have struck-up a friendship). So they met up at the marina and are out sailing today. "Waaaaaahhhh!!!"

I actually really *did* want to spend a day on the boat this weekend. Do the BBQ Thang and everything (this time I wouldn't have forgotten the hamburger buns - I swear!!!). Instead, I am stuck at home, with a box of Kleenex (actually, I ran out of Kleenex, I'm now sitting here with a roll of toilet paper!!!) (Yes, I am pathetic!), and a bottle of Nyquil. And three whiny, demanding dogs :::sigh:::

I am NOT having fun!!!

No sense crying about it, though - Gawd knows, if I do, I'll probably f**kin' suffocate!! Grrrr!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Big Mamma-Jammas!

Kellogg's Breakfast Mutant 'Mater harvested from my garden today:

Holy Crap!!!

*Almost* a pound...

That is all!

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