Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gypsy Camper update

We spent the Thanksgiving holiday week with my daughter, with our main project being working on the Gypsy Camper.  We were hoping to get it all done, but like all other projects, lots of unforseen complications arose and we didn't quite finish - which was disappointing, because we wanted to get it all decorated!  Here's a picture of the outside, which we did finish - along with a before/after shot:
My daughter is a big fan of pink.  We picked up all the polka dot colors from remainders/mis-mixes at the hardware store and the Habitat Re-store.  it took 2 coats of paint - the fun part was trying to carefully go over all the edges of the circles while people were inside, jostling about.  At one point, I heard my daughter laughing behind me as I am trying to carefully outline a turquoise dot and the whole trailer jumps as someone steps out.  It looks fabulous, eh? a Barbie circus trailer!

We also got a lot of the inside work done - redid the little kitchen for the most part, although I'd like to replace the doors on the cabinets, they're pretty warped and rough.  They're going to get another coat of paint as well for now.  We removed the stove and painted it with appliance high-heat spray - hopefully it will hold up well.  We also replaced the counter top, and the broken glass in the front window was replaced with a screen and an awning for ventilation.
The awning flips u  but in this picture, it's down. 

We also spent a lot of time doing the fabric items - curtains, pillows and futon cover.  But we coudln't get them placed inside, because there's still work to be done on the walls.  We found out that most of the electrical was non-functioning, so we had to rip out some wall areas to run new electrical all throughout. 

So here's the couch area, ready for the mattress, but you can see the side where we started to put up our map wallpaper, which then got ripped down when they had to get access to the wiring.  We are planning on doing white beadboard halfway up the walls, with the map collage covering the walls up to the ceiling.  The little bits we got done looked great -- right up until they found out they'd have to rip into them to get to the wiring. The window frames are all painted black, and it looks great to set off the map wallpaper.

I have lots of fabrics in my stash, so we went through them all and picked out the ones they liked, then pieced together a cover for the futon.  Boy, was that fun to get put on!

Daisy the Canyon Dog (a.k.a. Troublemaker, Bad Dog, Naughty Girl, Escape Artist, etc -- also, Sweetie Pie, Mouse, Snuggle Bug) is overseeing our work. 

I wish we had some finished pictures!  One more day and we would have had the whole thing all fancied up!

Monday, November 21, 2011


Yesterday was a rainy day, so I couldn't do any outside work, so I replaced all the old brass (tarnished/broken!) doorknobs in the house with nice new lever style knobs.
The old knobs had lots of issues - sometimes you'd have to turn them really far in order to open the door - and if you had something in your hands, well, you'd have to put it down to open the door.  So these lever styles one are so much nicer.  And the hardware being nickel looks so much more modern.

Last night, I heard one of the cats (Mercury, our trouble-making male) rooting around in the bathroom.  He's always looking to get into something.  He came trotting out with a narrow slice of plastic pipe from the trash - he spent all evening rolling it around and chasing it.
Goofy cat!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Working in the yard

We have had a couple of nice days - wait, who am I fooling? This is southern California - they're all nice days! but I really wanted to be outside and working with my yard, so I got a bunch of small things done.  First off, I dug out the overgrown ornamental grasses in the front planter box and divided them into smaller clumps, planting the rest of it in the back yard for now.  I bought 10 mums at the 99¢ store to add a little color.  The front entry looks so much nicer now.

This is what it looked like before--

And this is what it looks like now.

That's a big bag of lemons on our front porch for our real estate agent. 

I have a ton of lemons!

We also have a lot of avocados - we're bringing these when we visit my daughter for the holiday next week - we're not avocado eater and I hate for them to go to waste!

And I have a lot of lemons because I finally decided to get working on trimming back that overgrown lemon tree.  Here's a picture of what it looked like before--

You can't even see where it is!  There are so many random wild branches and suckers growing that you can't see the shape of the tree.

But it looks much better now --

Look! it's a tree!.  It still needs a bunch taken off from the top - there are SO MANY lemons up there!

I also trimmed the little tree in the planter box beside the garage - I don't know what kind it is, but it was leggy and you couldn't walk past on the sidewalk.  The bird of paradise is kind of overgrown, too - I might have to dig that up and divide it, but it looks much nicer now that you can actually see it past the overgrown lemon!  It sure would look a lot better with some grass growing, wouldn't it?!

I also put a bunch of stuff away along the back of the house, and hung up my windchimes and stuff.  Hard to feel like it looks homey with that wonky screen door and light fixture, but it's better anyway.

One thing we do need to do is fix the drainage issue - the water for the whole back patio collects right there, which is the low spot.  We need to jackhammer that section out and put in a drain.  We also want to divert the water off with a rain chain on this corner - the house doesn't have gutters but we're going to put one along the back corner, over the sliding glass door and the door off the kitchen, and have it flow into a gravel drain on the corner there -- that should help, too!

Meanwhile -- still no bathroom, and Dale worked a 21 hour shift last night, so he's just kind of like a zombie.  Actually, he just went back to bed an hour ago - so not much getting done this afternoon.  Maybe tonight and tomorrow, although he's on call all weekend. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Our Classy Kitchen

So far I've been showing the nice rooms, the ones that needed just a bit of work to make them comfortable, and while we intend to go through this house, room by room, to get it where we want it to be, there are some rooms that need less work than the others.  Then there's the kitchen.

There are so many things not to love about the kitchen.  The floor:

not only is it hideous, it's in terrible shape.

The tile.  Again, ugly, chipped, cracked.  And yellow, my very least favorite color.

And this horrible addition of tile behind the range from the 70s.  It was so hideous I hung a framed poster over the stove to hide most of it.  The stove is not centered on the tile backsplash, because someone installed a hideous gas line that sticks out ---

The 'new' gas line for the stove.  In the worst possible place, and a lovely feature you see as you walk into the kitchen.  Note my clever trash bin camouflage.

The acoustic ceiling tiles and the loudest industrial fan ever.  It works, but it sounds like a jet engine.


The outlet for the (ugly) room air conditioner. It just hangs out there.  The air conditioner itself is hideous, but until we can get central air and central heat, it is going to have to stick around.  The front panel is on the floor behind the space heater.  The space heater is there because this kitchen is also serving as our bathing area and it gets kind of COLD in here when you're doing your bathing out of the sink.

The "installation" of the dishwasher - just shoved up against the wall with the insulation/plastic all hanging out.  (but it does work! and I'm grateful to have a dishwasher after the last place we rented that didn't have one).  Just not loving the classy look.

The flourescent ceiling fixture.  More view of the lovely acoustic tile ceiling.  There was also a sticky ceiling fan over the seating area, but I took that hideous thing out as we were moving in.  When you turned it on, it rocked back and forth in a dangerous fashion - and it was, well, hideous.

The thing I dislike most about the kitchen is that it's completely cut off from the rest of the house.  All these things will be remedied in time, and there ARE some things that I do LIKE about the kitchen......

I like the wall hung faucet, deep porcelain sink, and the large windows that face the south side.  It's always sunny and cheerful in here.  (lovely cracked tile and the window itself, like all the windows in the house need to be replaced).

Like a lot of California kitchens, there are built-in breadboards.  This house has 2 of them.  Lots of big cabinets, and drawers I haven't even filled yet. 

Yum, Cocoa Krispies.

It has a nice dining area - it looks hideous right now, but Dale and I find ourselves sitting here often in front of the large window that opens out over the front porch, chatting at the end of the day.  I want to build in some window seats, it's a really nice place to sit.  Oh, lovely blue velvet curtains - those are there for privacy for now, since we have to strip down in the kitchen to wash up, and this front window is HUGE and faces the street.  After the bathroom is done, I'll change these to something more attractive.

The other thing this kitchen has that I like is a pocket door so you can close off the noise of the dishwasher and jet engine fan if you need to.  I love pocket doors. 

We're going to have to live with this kitchen for a couple of years - there are bigger priorities to get done  - if we first add on a bathroom, we can get a new appraisal and get more favorable financing terms, so that's the next thing in line after getting the bathroom done.  The addition off the master bedroom will enlarge the bedroom, add a bath and a laundry area and open out to the patio.  Then we'll get central heat and air done, running ducts and all, then finally, we'll do the kitchen.  So I have to make it livable for the next couple of years the way it kind of is.  Maybe change the floor and build the window seats.  Maybe add a pass-through to the living room to open it up a bit.  Some temporary measures until we can get the whole thing overhauled.  But for now, well, this is our classy kitchen!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I need to get some pictures of our master bedroom, but there is a pile of laundry to be folded on the bed, and I just am not up to it this morning.  But I did take a picture of one of the walls,  with the art arrangement.
The large colorful heart was painted by a fourth grader - I love how vibrant it is.  I was putting up an exhibit of works taught by a wonderful Bloomington, IN teacher - she taught a Jim Dine lesson and the students created some lovely pieces, so I asked the student if I could buy this for $20.  The other hearts are in frames I got at the dollar store.  Looks like I might need to straighten up a few!

Monday, November 14, 2011

more studio

After getting the room cleared of boxes and getting my tables set up, I was inspired to get the rest of the furniture in.  Still have lots of art supplies to move onto the shelves, but I finally have a place to put my red loveseat and Kandinsy-inspired rug.  It's looking like a nice cozy place to work!
The room serves a bit as a hallway - there's a straight shot through with doors on both ends.  The closet is in an awkward place in the corner, but since I am just using it to store large bins with fabric, I don't mind not being able to access the back corner right now.  We have some storage upgrades in mind down the road for all the closets, which are original to the house and have  two large drawers underneath, and doors with wooden slider doors that do NOT move very easily.  Last night, I installed steel rails and wheels on the ones in our master bedroom, which would not slide at all. 

Update on the bathroom progress:  slow!

Dale had to work another long weekend, so he hasn't made much progress.  He worked 12 hour days most days this week, with the additional Saturday being more like an 18 hour day, so needless to say, he's really tired and jumping into a bathroom rebuild was more than he was able to do.  However, on Sunday, he got the rest of the plumbing and venting done under the house, so we'll be able to get the floor all sealed up and leveled this week.  He's also got the shower framed and the bench built, so he's hoping to finish installing a new window and getting that mortar bed laid this week.  Maybe a few normal 8 hour days would come in handy!
Not his favorite job!  
This morning, I changed out the hardware on the built in linen closet in the hall.  The view of the closet is framed in the doorway so you can see it from the living room - the old pulls were tarnished 1950s brass. 

Hmmm...the cabinets are bright white....the color's a bit off....

Saturday, November 12, 2011


I am going to get this studio whipped into shape today.  This morning, I put together my IKEA desks - I really like the broad wall of desk space!
I've got to move my computer and printer in - I've saved some space on the left.  I also have a ton of artwork - one of the benefits of being an art teacher for years!  Although students often offer to give me artwork for free, I always insist on paying for it (unless it's a gift; one of my high school students gave me a painting as a graduation/leaving gift).  It's part of learning to be a professional artist, charging for your work!

Here's a wall of student work.  The large piece on the left is a current piece by a student I had way back in the 90s when I first started teaching, the one on the lower right is one of my very favorite pieces, and the top right is an abstract that was gifted to me.

I have lots more artwork to hang!  But this was a good start.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Succulent Border

I have LOTS of gardening to do, but, well - baby steps.  I have this foot-wide strip along the house and the driveway, full sun, some sad looking plants.  Here's the before:

Here's what I want it to look like:

So yesterday, I spent time (and sweat!) digging up all the raggedy plants.  Two of them are actually worth keeping, there's a nice overgrown/woody shasta daisy, and a mum back there, so I transplanted those out to the back.  The evergreen shrub in the front was a real mess - a really big gnarly stump with new growth, I had to cut it out and dig out the roots. 

So now I have it all cleaned out.  Those are some plants I bought last night - a fescue and a flat of a nice succulent groundcover.  I don't know why I bought anything - I have a ton of plants I've been getting free. 

So I had to come home from school for lunch today and plant for a bit!  It's going to look great eventually-- I still have some plants to move to the very back corner, but I gotta get back to work!  I can't wait for them to fill in.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Making it comfortable

One of the hazards of moving into and renovating a place at the same time is that with all the dust and mayhem swirling about, it's hard to focus on 'decorating' - while we're busy hauling in cement board and having water running through the yard, thinking of where we're going to hang our paintings and place furniture kind of takes a back seat.  But I decided the heck with it, I'm going to make one comfortable space where we can relax.  And I'm going to have to try out several different ways to place furniture in this weird living room, so I might as well get started.

Kind of cozy!

(What you can't see is the pile of drywall behind the couch).

The little red loveseat is going in my studio, but it looks nice here for now.  Eventually, it'll just be Dale's massive recliner and the chair with the dots, along with a table between them. 

The reason the couch is still in here is because I went to IKEA over the weekend to get my studio desks and bookcases, and they were out of stock! Yikes - but it's a good thing there's an IKEA about 25 minutes away, I'll just keep checking to see when they get them back in.

Dale's making progress on the bathroom.  The kitchen is *shudder*...another story......

Sunday, November 06, 2011


So - Friday morning Dale was off work, ready to get a lot accomplished on the bathroom.  I got up and put a load of laundry in the washer, and 15 minutes later, Dale comes out to the kitchen, asking, "Did you hear that gurgling in the toilet?"  No.....but when we go back to the bathroom, all the drains are full of water - sewer water.  Yikes.  That means there's a blockage somewhere.  I have to go to work, but instead of getting going on the bathroom, Dale goes out and rents a snake to clear out the main line.  But he runs into we call a plumber (our last resort).  He comes out right away, and says it will be $160 to clean out the line.  Which is not great, but oh well, what can you do.  He hauls in his equipment and 1 hour later, he's got a broken cable and delivers us the bad news:  We have serious roots, and they are going to have to dig up the  main line.  Estimate:  $900.
 This is halfway done on Saturday. 

The roots are red because they've sucked the color from the clay pipe.  They were completely blocking the line. 

After they got this first blockage cleared, they had to call in a guy with a hydrojet to clear out the rest of the line all the way to the street.  

So here are the brand new pipes and clean-out all ready to be reburied into the yard.

Dale had to hang out with the plumbers all day and couldn't get any work done on the bathroom. So - unexpected delay, unexpected cost, and we'll likely have to get something done in the next year or so about the rest of the pipes, because there are a lot of roots and this will probably reoccur -- but for now, we're good to go -- but the bathroom is still further away from getting completed!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A slight delay in the plans!

While we knew it would be difficult to get the bathroom done before we moved in, we are essentially optimistic folks, but we're also pretty easy going when plans don't go as they should.  Dale got called in to work last weekend for an emergency, and ended up putting in a 20 hour shift.  And we had to move out of the old place, into the new.  So we are bathing in the kitchen right now, brushing our teeth, washing our hair and generally getting washed up and all in the kitchen sink.  It could be worse - when we had bought our first house together back in Indianapolis, we had the same arrangement for a month -and we didn't even have hot water!  So this is almost luxurious.

So - right now, this is our lovely bathroom.  That's the shower to the right.  Where the ladder is, the bench will be.  you can see on the bottom right, the water hookups for the vanity. 

On the other side of the room is the shower in the back (getting the layer of plastic before the cement board.   We have two shower faucets, one on each side of the shower.  It's 6' long, big enough for two people to shower if we needed to.  We wanted a hand-held shower on the right in case we just need to wash something off in a tiled room.

Finally - the one thing that Dale did was temporarily install the toilet so we didn't have to run to the fast food restaurant to use their facilities.  We did for a day, then he got this rigged up for now. 

We're hoping to have a functional bathroom by the end of the weekend - although I'll be out of town all day Saturday at a conference, with any luck, he'll have the basic construction done and I"ll be laying tile on Sunday!
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