Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Now We're Cooking with Gas!

Today was a big day; the appliances were delivered!  Home Depot had a great black Friday sale that went on for 2 weeks before Thanksgiving, so we got a fridge and a gas stove at a great price.  They fit and look great, so that is one room almost completed.

I spent most of the day scrubbing the kitchen cabinets.  If I may, I'd like to give a quick PSA about smoking.  I scrubbed each cabinet at least 3 times with a very strong degreaser and am still wiping a dark brown flim off of them.  Smokers, imagine what your lungs look like if this is what sticks to a cabinet through indirect exposure of a cigarette.  OK, PSA over....if I was a smoker before, this project would have made me kick the habit. 

The rest of my day was spent doing yard work.  If you know me at all, you probably know that I HATE yard work.  When I say HATE, I am not exaggerating at all.  It's not like I just prefer not to do it; I would rather do just about anything than yard work.  Scrub a toilet, yes please!  There are so many reasons why I hate yard work, but I will just share a few.  It's dirty!  You dig in the dirt, then some of the dirt turns into dust and flies into your nose, mouth and eyes.  It buries itself under your fingernails, on your skin, on your clothes and even sometimes gets in your shoes - which drives me crazy!  Secondly, it smells.  I wasn't working on a rose garden here.  I was digging in a very neglected flowerbed that was overgrown and messy.  Weeds stink!  They have the most pungent smell that makes me sneeze.  I also kept smelling the faint smell of dog poop, but couldn't find it.  As I was picking up the clippings, I found the culprit.  Hey neighbors, keep your dogs off my yard!  Third, it hurts.  There are ants and other bugs who bite out there.  Also, the sago palms I was trimming were very angry; they kept biting me.  I have little pricks all over my arms and hands from those plants.  Guess they are cranky when taken out of their natural habitat, which I'm guessing is Florida. 

Today consisted of 2 trips to Home Depot.  The first trip was to the store by our house, and the employees were much more friendly this time.  I had to go to that store to get the items they were sold out of at my regular HD.  The second trip to HD was pretty fun.  My favorite employee (the guy who made my keys for me and always wants to help me) spotted me while I was looking for screws and said, "OH GOD!"  I told him not to make me feel so welcome.  He then basically took me by the hand and helped me find everything I needed.  The last thing I needed was a piece of hardy board and I needed it cut so it would fit in my SUV.  Although HD sells the blade to cut hardy board, they don't use it in the store, so he offered to cut it by hand.  He used to work in the lumber department and would cut it by hand all the time, but apparently he forgot how because it wasn't working out too well.  He was determined to help me so he called his boss to see if he could use the saw to cut it.  After a lot of pleading, his boss relented but gave a few conditions.  We had to gate off the aisle and be VERY sneaky.  Also, if we got caught, he hadn't given us the OK.  I offered to cause a diversion by either stealing something, assaulting another shopper, or faking a heart attack across the store.  I think he appreciated my offer to help but instead just made me the lookout while he quickly cut the board.  What I didn't know is that hardy board produces a HUGE cloud of dust when cut.  You would have thought a nuclear bomb had gone off with the mushroom cloud that was produced.  After he cut it, we quickly loaded it on the cart, put the gates away, and acted like nothing had happened while rushing to the front of the store.  He helped me load my car and I was on my way.  I told him if we had gotten caught to blame it on me because they wouldn't punish their top customer of the month.  I better avoid HD for a few days just in case they caught the act on camera and have a warrant out for me. 

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Back to work...fat and happy.

Happy Post-Thanksgiving everyone!  You now have my blessing to start decorating for Christmas.  If you started before Thanksgiving....SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!  I hope you all had delicious food, great fun with your families, and television problems during the Gator game...filthy!  Don't worry, we'll get 'em next season!

Steve and I had a great time in Florida for the holiday!  We got to spend time with our good friend and their family in Gainesville, which is where I ate WAY too much.  Delicious!  Then we got to go to my grandma's river house to spend time with family and do some bass fishing.  This side of my family consists of very successful landlords in Gainesville and Orlando, so Steve and I picked their brains for tips.  It was great to see everyone!

Today I ventured out to the house to see what my little buddies had been up to while I was away.  They were BUSY!  The house is painted, the kitchen and one bathroom floors are tiled, the countertops are on, the light fixtures are up (for the most part) and the door molding and baseboards were being installed when I got there.  It looks like a new house!  I made a very big deal about all of their hard work in an attempt to encourage more hard work through positive reinforcement. 

A fun surprise to me was that they needed more supplies from both Lowes and Home Depot!  What a treat!  This morning, I told Steve just to hold on to the credit card because I didn't expect to buy any more goodies. I guess I thought multiple trips to the hardware store for an entire week was enough...what a fool I am!  Because of this, there are a few items I will have to go get tomorrow because I didn't have enough cash on me.  I don't know how I would like a day without Home Depot or Lowes, so maybe I should just start buying things one at a time so I can really spread it out. 

There is a guy who walks around Home Depot trying to sell their custom kitchen program.  The first time he approached me I was trying to pick out the right kind of sand paper, and if you are in a Home Depot shirt, I will be asking you for help...that's a fact.  NASCAR fans beware.  As I saw him approaching, I immediately starting asking him about the sand paper and which kind I should get.  He looked at me a little confused and offered me no help at all.  I was the one confused here, he is wearing the appropriate t-shirt, he should be able to help me!  Then he started in on his pitch, "So enough about sand paper, let me ask you a question.  Have you considered remodeling your kitchen?"  I had so many problems with his opening line, I didn't know where to start.  But, before I could critique his sales pitch, I needed to know what kind of sand paper to get.  I said, "Yeah, we are redoing a whole house, that's what I need the sand paper for."  He got so excited, he thought he had a slam dunk sale.   As he got into the second phase of his presentation, where he is supposed to show me to the customization computer, I burst the little guy's bubble.  I explained that we are rehabbing a house for a rental and will not be designing a custom kitchen for it.  Then he wanted to know about my personal kitchen.  I told him I am very happy with it, and at that, he stormed off.  I yelled after him, "Wait!  What kind of sand paper am I supposed to get???"  HD lesson 1: The Home Depot employees have different kinds of shirts.  The ones with the small logo and do not require the employee to wear an apron and/or back brace, are salespeople and are to be avoided. 

Well, today as I was looking for 3" screws in the sea of every shape and size screw, the kitchen guy approached me again.  His starting line this time was, "Hey, I wanted to ask you....have you thought about remodeling your kitchen."  I was not in the mood for this again so I quickly said, "we met last week and I still don't want a new kitchen."  He gave me a dirty look and continued on his way.  Maybe after this project is done, I will spend a week mentoring this poor boy on selling skills.  His first lesson will be: Remain Friendly at ALL Times!  Customers will remember you!

I didn't see any of my other regular helpers at Home Depot today, so fingers crossed, they will be working tomorrow!

We need your help with something.  Steve and I are debating painting the kitchen cabinets.  There are a few pictures below so you can form an opinion.  If we paint, I think we need to change the cabinet handles and the hinges (because they match).  If you think we should, what color should we paint them ???  I am cleaning them tomorrow to get the nicotine film off of them, so they should look a little better after that. 

This is the master bedroom.  The new paint color is called Dapper Tan.  I LOVE IT!  I think it looks great with the white trim.  You can see that the bathroom still needs some work.
Notice you can no longer see the outline of the pictures that were hanging on the walls.  Also the 2 smaller bedrooms have the same light fixture. 
The closet looks totally different with just a coat of paint. 
The family room in Dapper Tan with the wood floors exposed and no dropped ceiling.  Such an improvement! 
This bathroom really hasn't gotten any attention except for demo yet.  We are waiting on the plumber. 
Kitchen with the new countertops and tile floor.  What do you think about the cabinets? 
Here's a closer view of the countertops.  They came out nice.
The carport and front of the house without the great wall of oppression.  Thank you Steve.  (notice the piece of rebar sticking out of ground from the wall though.  I put a coke can on it so I wouldn't accidently walk into it.  The wall is gone but not yet forgotten. 
Front of the house with no dumpster and only a few garbage bags.  My next project is pressure washing and cleaning out the flowerbeds.  They still have to paint some on the outside.  Also, no, I did not get a new car.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I wanna talk about me!

So far this blog has been a lot about the house and hasn't really focused on how the renovation is effecting me time to switch it up a little bit. 

Something happened yesterday that was still too painful to talk about last night, but I think I'm ready now.  First a little back story:

In the 9th grade, my mom took me on a rare shopping trip to Marshalls for back to school clothes.  I loved Marshalls because it was a rare chance to buy name brand clothes.  Now don't get me wrong, I was just as amazing of a dresser as everyone else in the 90s.  I had my Yaga shirts, jean shorts *jorts* (one pair of which were bright red...I'm assuming Bongo cause who else would make those!), and of course my 5-7-9 outfits (only because I was so skinny I needed a 0 and those were hard to find back then) with the mandatory coordinating scrunchy. 

On this particular Marshalls trip, I hit the motherload.  While skimming through the jean section in vain, because they are never long enough, I laid my eyes on a pair of Calvin Klein jeans and they appeared to be long.  I hurried to the dressing room to see if this was really happening, and after pulling them down just slightly on to my hip bones, that were conveniently jutting out, the jeans barely touched the ground.  I ran out of the dressing room to show my mom and to argue the fact that since they actually touched the ground, I HAD to have them, regardless of the price.  This may not seem like a big deal to normal sized people, but when you are a size 0 and standing at a towering 5'9", this is better than Christmas.

My mom agreed that I needed those jeans, not that I would have taken no for an answer, and so now it was time to accessorize!  This really was my special day because I found a white Calvin Klein shirt with the big CK on the front and a brown Calvin Klein belt with a CK on the piece that holds the extra part of the belt in place (which was the most important part of the belt for me because I had LOTS of extra leather).  This little detail meant I would have to wear the shirt tucked in so everyone could see how fully coordinated I was.  It was fashion perfection!  (I looked for a picture, but couldn't find one...maybe my mom has one.)

Well, yesterday, as I was carrying bricks to the front of the house, the belt got scratched to a point that might be too far to save.  Yes, I was still wearing a belt I bought in the 9th grade, but some things are timeless, and if I can still fit in it, I'm gonna wear it damnit!  Steve thought I could put leather oil on it and it might have a chance, but after he heard how old it is, I'm not sure he wants me to try anymore.  (I would like to acknowledge the fact that I know belts are not in style for women like they used to be, but I have a disease that makes my butt really big and my waist small, so I have to go up a size in jeans and have been too lazy to get them altered, thus requiring a belt.)

The loss of the belt is not the only injury I have incurred.  I have ruined my manicure, broken both of my pinkie nails, dropped something on my toe and have had a sore toe for the last 4 days, kicked a cabinet and broke a toe nail, and discovered random bruises on my arms and legs.  My feet are also so sore I think Steve might need to start carrying me...I wonder if they sell a Baby Bjorn in my size?
I'm just glad I have the weekend to recover and eat Thanksgiving food which I sure will heal me. 

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

!Viva Mexico!

Today I am flying the Mexican flag in honor of our AMAZING workers.  They are hauling butt!  When I showed up this morning they had taken up the kitchen floor, patched the drywall in the bathroom, floated the entire living room, and patched the holes in the wall from the amazing decorating skills of the previous owner.  You see, she was of the belief, apparently, that it is a sin to leave any space on your wall uncovered by a picture or knick knack NAILED to the wall.  The designers of HGTV could learn something from her. 

They helped me fill up the dumpster again, which only eliminated 2/3 of the remaining garbage.  Steve was headed out in the afternoon so I let him know he would be assigned the task of jumping on top of the garbage to pack it down so we can fit more.  My logic in having him do this goes as follows:  If the workers hurt themselves on God only knows what is in that thing, they can and probably will sue us.  If Steve hurts himself, it will be unfortunate, but he won't sue himself.  Makes perfect sense to me!

I went to the Home Depot by our house to get things they are sold out of in the store by the rental house, and the workers there were not as friendly as my usual store.  I have a feeling I am more of a rarity in the Pasadena store, whereas the store in Houston is probably inundated by housewives wanting to do small projects around the house.  I am guessing I was mistaken for one of those women rather than the construction professional I am.  I'll let it go this once. 

I made 2 trips to my regular Home Depot in Pasadena and was treated with the courtesy and respect I have grown accustomed to.  I even got to see my friend from Sunday who desperately wanted to help me with something but I shopped out of his department all day.  During one of my trips, I needed keys made and I thought he was going to scream he was so excited he got to help me.  Today he suggested I buy stock in Home Depot...I'm beginning to agree.  There is a guy in the tile department with bright red hair, a bright red beard, and a huge tattoo covering his arm of the Irish flag...in case we couldn't guess his heritage.  He looks at me with a sad look on his face everyday when he sees me in there.  I think he feels sorry for me.

Steve came by in the afternoon to knock down a brick half-wall in the carport area.  I think he desperately wanted to take down a wall...what is it when men and demo?  He now compares himself to President Reagan ordering the fall of the Berlin Wall.  I've created a monster!  While he was playing with sledge hammers, I was carrying bricks from the back yard and throwing them in the dumpster.  I am determined to bow hunt when we go back to Africa this summer, so I need to get strong enough to actually draw a bow....these fun little exercises should help. 

After the Great Wall of Oppression, as we will now refer to it, was demolished, Steve and I headed to Lowe's (Yes, LOWE'S!!!!!) to buy some baseboards, door molding, and cedar boards that were unavailable at Home Depot.  It was 8pm by this time so I was getting cranky and was tearing through the store like a bat out of hell.  Steve was left in my dust the entire time.  We took the materials to the house and added them to the collection that was delivered from Home Depot today so our great workers can stay hard at work. 

Marco told me they are working straight through the weekend and not even taking the day off for Thanksgiving.  We are headed to Florida tomorrow so I won't see the house again until Monday.  I can't wait to see the progress they will have made.  Maybe they will be almost done when we get back.  For their dedication, I'm flying their flag one more time!

My new home away from home...

So Sunday and Monday were spent at my new home, the Home Depot.  I am normally strictly a Lowes shopper because I am a Jimmie Johnson fan and he drives for Lowes, but they are a good amount more expensive, so my redneck preferences had to be pushed aside.  Disclaimer: I will continue to shop at Lowes for my own home's needs, but not for rentals.

Steve and I headed down to the house early Sunday to figure out what supplies and fixtures we needed to buy; everything from light fixtures, to dry wall, to light switch covers.  That shopping trip was one of the most stressful of my life.  I am an impulsive, find the cheapest, grab the stuff and get out of the store, type shopper, while Steve is more analytical and has to read about every item before he decides.  Needless to say, we spent a lot of the shopping trip on different sides of the store.  The good thing about our differences is that my grab-it-and-go style had me grabbing some of the wrong things, but my little reader caught it before we left the store.  I wrote down the item numbers for everything we weren't taking that day so I could have them delivered. 

While at the house, I met one of the neighbors.  Apparently someone had been out digging through the garbage on the porch and the cops were called.  Glad to know people are watching the house, but I hope they didn't arrest our 2 friends from yesterday as they were collecting the items they couldn't fit in their car the day before.  The neighbor lady filled me in on all of the happenings around the neighborhood.  Most of the homes on the street are owner-occupied and most everyone has lived there for over 10 years.  During hurricaine Ike, they had a tree fall at one end of the street and a telephone pole fall at the other, so they were trapped on the street for several days.  Everyone dragged their grills into the middle of the street and they had a big party.  I think that is one of my fantasies.  I love hurricaine parties!  She was very disappointed to hear we are putting renters in there and went on and on about how they don't take care of their houses and blah blah blah.  I found this extremely ironic because her house is the biggest eye-sore on the street.  Even with a dumpster and trash in the carport, our house still looks better!

We decided to hire Marco to do the work on the home.  He came highly recommended by the tailor at Steve's office and was the least expensive, so it was an easy decision.  He is a very nice guy who understands more English than he can speak....his helper speaks almost no English, so communicating with the workers is great fun. 

When I got to the house on Monday, they were hard at work prepping the house so they could begin floating the walls and sanding the trim.  The water inspector was scheduled to come that afternoon and so I needed Marco to put new shut off valves on the kitchen plumbing so we wouldn't have to advertise an indoor swimming pool when trying to rent it.  The dumpter guy showed up at the same time as the water inspector, and so while I was speaking with the dumpster guy, the water inspector went out to the box at the street and started messing around.  I thought he was checking the meter or something, but had a strange feeling he might be turning the water on, so I went inside to make sure the shut off valves were installed.  There they were, laying on the cabinets.  I said, "Marco, hurry, he is about to turn the water on, we need these installed!" and right as I attempted to screw on one of the valves, water started spraying out of the pipe.  It was like in a movie!  Water hit me in the face, all over my clothes, on the ceiling, EVERYWHERE!  I held the piece on as I scremed and yelled some naughty words (let's hope their broken English didn't pick that up) while Marco ran outside and told the man to turn the water back off.  Apparently, a piece that was connected to the pipe needed to be removed and they didn't have the proper tool for it.  Would have been nice to know 5 minutes ago!

Steve was doubting my construction knowledge last night and suggested we bet on it.  We called Dale to clear it up and guess who was correct......ME OF COURSE!  Rule #1 Steve, don't ever doubt your foreman!  I just wish we had bet something bigger than lunch.

Here are my realizations for the last 2 days:
1.  Women get treated much better than men at Home Depot.  That place is the biggest self-esteem booster!
2.  I need to learn more Spanish. 
3.  The water inspector should always check inside the house, especially when it is clearly being worked on, before turning the water on.
4.  Neighbors with cars and a boat parked in their front yard, should not throw stones.

I'll have to take a better picture of her yard. 

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Our First Endeavor

Steve and I have purchased our first investment property!  We closed on it last Thursday and have been hard at work ever since.  The house is a 3 bedroom, 1 and a half bath that was owned by a chain smoking hoarder and needs a good amount of TLC. 

We rented a dumpster that was delivered on Friday and we were afraid it would be too big and we would have wasted money...boy were we wrong!  Saturday, Steve, our good friend Dale, 2 day laborers we met in the parking lot of Home Depot (fine tax paying citizens I'm sure), and I spent about 7 hours removing all of the "treasures" from the house.  We quickly filled the dumpster and were not even half way done.  There were a lot of the large garbage bags the city sells in the garage already so we filled about 100 of them and put them in the carport (there is a picture at the bottom if you don't believe me).  Our 2 new friends were great workers!  They pulled all of the paneling from the walls, removed the dropped ceilings, peeled the lament tiles that were glued to the bathroom walls...I think the intention was better than the execution on that decorative idea...pulled up the rust colored shag carpeting, and anything else we asked them to do. 

Dale and Steve spent most of the time in the bathroom after we realized the drain had rusted through and the tile was cracking because the wall had water damage behind it...what a great surprise!  Thank God Dale was there!  He owns his own construction company and is far too expensive for us to hire but gives great free advice.  He helped Steve cut the walls out of the shower, with a big fancy saw that I'm sure gets men very excited, and basically demo the entire bathroom.

While they were playing in the bathroom, I was cleaning out the garage and the lady's shell collection off the back patio.  I wish I had pictures of the 'before' so you could really see what a hard worker I was, but you will have to take my word for it.  I told Steve that day officially went down as the "grossest day of my life."  I am much too big of a germ-a-phobe to dig through people's garbage.  I wore gloves, but still wanted to scrub my skin off when I was done.  This woman saved EVERYTHING!  I threw away about 50 empty coffee cans, about 15 empty milk jugs, about 60 plastic butter containers with lids, about 75 plastic paper towel holders still in their plastic wrapper, and many other things no person should save.  It was depressing after awhile. 

We accomplished a lot more than we ever thought we would in one day and were exhausted!  Our 2 new buddies made out like bandits because we let them take anything they found in the house they wanted.  They tried to take my tool box but we had to explain that was not up for grabs....little thieves!

Here are some before and after pictures:

 I'd like my friends who are smokers to notice the nicotine on the walls.  Now picture your lungs.  OK, climbing down from my soapbox. 

 This is the garage I cleaned out.  My pride and joy!
 On-deck for the dumpster.