Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Kitchen Renovation, Part 2: Let the Planning Begin!

About three months ago (has it been that long!?), I began my kitchen renovation by removing some upper cabinets. Though that process nicely opened up the space, it also made the remaining ugly cabinets more visible. I planned to make some inexpensive cosmetic fixes until I could completely gut and renovate the space. But I hit some snags.

First, my experiments with painting the cabinets failed. They're finished in some kind of oil-based (seems like kryptonite-based) clearcoat, and the primers and paints I have on hand will not stick. I'd have to strip the finish first, then paint. :( I don't like using chemical strippers. And the cabinets are so poorly made, they're hardly worth the effort.

Second, the garbage disposal side of my sink began to leak.  The disposal -- which shakes the entire cabinet and operates at the decibel level of a 747 -- has long been in need of replacement, but I'm not keen on installing a new garbage disposal on the crappy old sink.

I don't want to spend the next year putting time and money into a continuous series of patches to a kitchen that will eventually be gutted.  I think my better course of action is to move ahead with the full kitchen renovation sooner rather than later.

First step: Plan the layout. The general footprint of the kitchen is fine, but I don't like having the stove on the peninsula (or the requirement of buying a more-expensive slide-in range). I also think the sink should be under the window. Moving the appliances will require re-routing of plumbing and electrical; the expense of this work is part of the reason I was delaying the remodel.

Second step: Plan the cabinetry. There's a huge price range for cabinetry, from relatively inexpensive stock cabinets to somewhat pricey semi-custom to how-many-thousands-of-dollars-did-you-say?! custom cabinetry.  I will stick with stock cabinets.

Some of the cabinet companies offer free 3D design tools, which make it easy (and fun!) to determine which sizes and styles work best for you.

this is what my kitchen currently looks like

option A: same general U-shape footprint, stove and sink moved

option B: different U-shape, fridge moved to right side wall, pantry added
option B in dark stain

option C: cabinets and appliances on two walls only
option C in dark stain

I like the idea of an ebony stain on the cabinets (it looks dark brown in the renderings), but it might make the kitchen too dark. White cabinets would keep it brighter. Of course, I could also change the wall color.
purple walls are always an option in my house ;)
It's exciting to begin planning what will probably be the most dramatic improvement to the house. :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fears for Tears (or Lack Thereof)

Many of you sent good wishes for my dog Bean Sidhe’s eye problems -- thank you all again for that -- so I thought I'd give a quick update on our visit to the veterinary ophthalmologist.

I wasn't seeing any improvement in the ulcer. Then on Monday, I noticed her eye was beginning to look red. I didn't know if that was bad or good.  It looked sort of scary.  I was afraid that I’d get bad news from the vet.

Happily, the visit went well. The vet was wonderful. He was patient with all my questions and took time to explain everything thoroughly. The diagnosis is that Bean Sidhe’s eye has stopped producing tears. The dry eye is very uncomfortable and is impeding healing of the ulcer. Keeping her eye lubricated will ease the discomfort and help with healing. The redness in her eye indicates blood vessels and is a sign of healing. She doesn’t need further surgery. Whew! This was such a relief, I wanted to kiss the vet (well, mostly because he gave me good news but also because he’s really cute). ;-)  I will continue my efforts to convince Bean Sidhe that me putting goo in her eye several times a day is a good thing. :-/

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Monthly Homework Assignment: Prized Possesions

This month's homework assignment from Le Professeur Gothique is Prized Possessions.  This was a tough assignment for me. Though I own many, many things, I struggle to label any one of them a prized possession. For example, I love my car...
but I'm not attached to that particular car. I'd be just as happy with a similar car. It's the same with my New Rock boots, my bat soap dispenser, my purple toaster... while I would be disappointed if they were lost, I'd be just as happy with a new pair of boots, another bat soap dispenser, a new toaster.

What would I take if my house were on fire? I'd grab my dog, of course, and my "go bag," which contains the practical things that would be hardest to replace - documents such as my birth certificate along with a portable hard drive backup of all my music, photos, etc. If zombies were on the way, I'd get my go bag, throw in my purse, and the dog and I would be outta here.

(Maybe now you're wondering if I have a bunker in the back yard or five years worth of canned beans in the basement. Nah, I'm not a survivalist. I don't really expect zombies to attack me. (To any zombies reading this: I'm certain my neighbors' brains are MUCH tastier than mine!) But it doesn't hurt to be prepared in case I need to evacuate because of a natural gas leak or somesuch.)

How can I have a house full of stuff but no prized possessions? I simply don't get attached to things. It's not a choice, it's just my nature. In fact, I have trouble getting attached even when I want to.


How much stuff is too much? The answer varies by person. Some people are most comfortable in a Spartan environment.

Some people love to surround themselves with treasures.
source

So if there's no specific threshold, when does "stuff" turn into "clutter"? In my opinion, stuff becomes clutter when it becomes a burden; when it negatively impacts your life. When you constantly waste time searching for things, when you spend your holiday worrying that someone will break in and steal your stuff, when you avoid having friends over because you're embarrassed by your house... you have clutter.

I look forward to seeing other people's prized possessions and reading the stories behind them. :-)  Thanks for the challenging yet fun assignment, Le Professeur Gothique!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

DIY Step for a Small Pet

Despite her advanced years, my 14-year-old Miniature Pinscher is still quite capable of leaping onto my bed. But with arthritis in her hips, she really shouldn't be jumping on or off things that are twice her height. Steps for pets are readily available, but most are too large for my small bedroom and/or too tall for my relatively short platform bed. To get a step of the right size, I needed to make it myself. A wooden box would have been perfect, but I couldn't find one in the appropriate size. I decided to try a sturdy cardboard box.
sturdy cardboard box about 14" square and 12" high
To strengthen the area my dog would be jumping on, I stuck a self-adhesive vinyl floor tile to the bottom side of what would become the top of the step.  Because it would be hanging upside down, I also duct taped it for extra security. (It's hard to describe. In this photo, you are looking at the underside of the top of the step.)

I folded the flaps and turned the box over. I further strengthened the top of the step with another self-adhesive floor tile. (The cardboard top of the step is now sandwiched between the black tile on the underside and the beige tile on the top side.)

Using more duct tape and my handy staple gun, I wrapped the sides of the box/step with fabric.
top of the step (covered with beige tile) is facing you
in this photo, the step is shown upside down
To stabilize the bottom of the step, I used a third self-adhesive floor tile.
step is shown upside down
Then I added self-adhesive nonskid pads to the bottom.
step is shown upside down
To provide traction on the top, I used a piece of scrap carpet. It's held on with double-sided tape in the center and a staple in each corner.


And my step was complete! It's not elegant, but it coordinates well enough with the striped bedskirt and valance.

Of course, such a step wouldn't withstand a rowdy puppy or a large dog, but testing proved it's plenty sturdy enough for my calm 10-pound dog. She took to it immediately. She can even use it while wearing the dreaded E collar.

Total cost of the project was about $6 -- $1 each for the vinyl tiles (which were actually leftovers from other projects) and $3 for the nonskid pads.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Most Important Problem I Can't Fix

One of my strengths, and part of what I like to feature on GIY, is creative problem solving. I can usually find a solution to most problems. But when I can't find a way to fix something, I get frustrated. When that "something" is my pet, the frustration is compounded and intensified with worry.

I've been remiss in posting lately because I've been caring for (and worrying about) my dog Bean Sidhe.  On Saturday morning two weeks ago, I saw her pawing at her right eye. This put me into a slight panic because (1) a year ago, she needed surgery for an ulcer on her left eye and (2) she is deaf, and the thought of her losing her eyesight terrifies me. Within an hour, we were at the emergency vet clinic.

(An aside for pet owners: If your pet had an emergency, do you know where you'd go? I urge you to find out in advance where your nearest emergency pet clinic is and keep that information handy.)

The vet applied a drop of topical anesthetic and then used fluorescein stain to check for corneal damage. Bean Sidhe's entire eye stained green, indicating a very large eye ulcer. :(  The vet recommended an aggressive course of treatment: two types of antibiotic drops, atropine drops and Remend drops, plus an oral pain medication. All weekend, I put drops in Bean Sidhe's eye every two hours. Her patience and my new alarm clock were thoroughly tested.
looking like a Borg dog with the cyber eye

On Monday, we went to an every-six-hours routine. I had to get up in the middle of the night and I had to drive home from work in the middle of the day (38 miles round-trip). Despite the aggressive treatment, Bean Sidhe's eye wasn't healing well. The following Monday, she had surgery to remove the nonhealing tissue (superficial keratectomy). Conveniently, dogs have a third eyelid which can be pulled over the eye to protect it while it heals. The eyelid is held in place with a stitch, which in turn is held in place with a button. That's right, a button like you'd find on a shirt.
creepy button eye

"Hey! Get this thing off me!"
Poor Bean Sidhe. The collar itself didn't bother her much, but the limited vision combined with her deafness made her insecure. She wanted to be with me ALL the time.

Several more days of waking up in the middle of the night and driving home mid-day, and it was back to the vet on Friday for the stitch to come out. To my great disappointment, staining showed that the eye had only partially healed. :(  She's still in the E collar and her eye is still bothering her. I'm exhausted, frustrated and worried. I see that she hurts, and I wish more than anything that I could make it better.
we are very grateful for opioid painkillers

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Uncle Sam Bought Me a Roof

And new gutters!  Well, not really.  But Uncle Sam did return my money via a $1700 income tax refund, and coincidentally, the insurance deductible for the roof plus the cost of the new gutters was about $1600.  How 'bout that?!  Sometimes things work out. :)

It's fun to look at a little retrospective of the changes over time.  The house looked like this in May 2010, a few months after I purchased it.  Only the garage door had been replaced.

February 2011: Tree removed (it had broken under a heavy snow), minor changes to the landscaping, basketball goal removed, new windows

September 2011: Tree stump removed, new door, unused chimney cut down and boxed in, exterior painted

May 1, 2012: Faux chimney removed, new roof, new gutters


The yard has been sadly neglected, partly because I've concentrated on spiffing up the exterior of the house and partly because I was so overwhelmed with the desperate state of the yard that I didn't know where to start.  I was rescued by a wonderful co-worker, who has generously given me her time and advice, as well as free plants from her garden.  I am so grateful!  :)  Yesterday, she and her son planted a little tree for me as the first step in bringing life back to my grave yard (pun intended).

Coincidentally, my Colorado state tax refund was just enough to cover the cost of the tree, soil and fertilizer. ;)