Disclaimer: we aren't professionals

Thanks for reading our silly little blog! As the disclaimer says, we aren't professionals in either blogging or house stuff, but we try. This is mostly to let our friends and family know what we've destroyed so far in the house. We post irregularly and usually forget to take pictures, so thanks for your patience, and please feel free to comment with your thoughts and suggestions!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Subway tile!

I'm alternating garden and bathroom posts now. Those two projects are pretty much what we are working on, so it is an accurate reflection of life at the Wyatt Ranch, as we have taken to calling our little one-story house with all of its animals.

Here's that list of things that we've done since that last post:
  • Replaced rotten studs and top plate in the shower wall
  • Rewired the electrical outlets, wired for a fan, two overhead lights, and a sconce by the mirror
  • Painted the ceiling white
  • Moved plumbing when necessary
  • Repaired the sub-floor and put down Hardibacker. We will float cork click-lock over it. 
  • Put cement-board in the shower and sealed it with RedGard waterproofing membrane. 
  • Started tiling with white subway tile in a traditional brick pattern. We are using AcrylPro premixed ceramic tile adhesive. Some premixed mortars cannot be used over RedGard, but AcrylPro can. We checked the spec sheets. 
  • Put up sheetrock and have almost finished mudding it
Here's a shot of the wall to the left, looking in from the living room. The sink will be to the far left on this wall, with the toilet next to it (you can see the ring in the floor), and then the shower. We chose a fairly wide shower, at a full 36". We have protected the acrylic pan with its cardboard packaging. The RedGard coats the cement board in the shower. Chris used a thinner version this time because the price difference wasn't too much and the Home Depot guys told him it was easier to work with. It ended up being a little tricky to cut, but nice otherwise.

I had fun and drew a pretty unicorn flying to a rainbow on the cement board. When Chris painted over it, it was still visible. The end.

Then we started to tile! We are going with a simple white ceramic subway tile. We compared options from The Tile Shop, Home Depot, and Floor & Decor. The tiles from Home Depot and Floor & Decor were from identical manufacturers, but the Floor & Decor ones were a little bit whiter. We compared the tiles to our sink and the toilet finish, and decided to go with the whiter tile. It was a few cents less per tile, too, which is nice.

The tile is centered on the wall, and we have a strip of accent tile at the same height as we will install the board and batten later. My goal is to have a continuous line for your eye to follow from the front of the bathroom to the back. It will be about 42" from the floor, and will be tall enough to serve as the backsplash for the sink as well. We will paint it semi-gloss like the rest of the trim in the house.

The window has been tricky to accommodate. In the other bathroom, because we were using natural stone, we could just cut tile to fit and not really worry about exposed ends. We used stone for the entire window surround and sill, butted right up to the vinyl window frame. In this bathroom, the subway tile would have weird cuts on the inside of the window, so we looked for options for the sill and sides. We quickly decided 1x4 PVC trim would be great for the sides and top, and would allow us to tile right up to the edge with bullnose. For sill options, we considered marble, but couldn't find any ready-cut. There were marble thresholds at Home Depot, but they were double-beveled, meaning they would drop off where they met the vinyl window frame. We could cut off the back, and actually would need to rip down the whole thing to go from 4" wide to about 3.5" to make a reasonable overhang. I didn't want to run a 36" long piece of 1" thick marble through a wet saw, and neither did Chris (who would have to do the real work because I don't know how to use the wet saw).

We settled on these marble baseboard tiles, which were about $5 apiece at Home Depot. They were also 4" wide, but it is a lot easier to rip down 1/4" or 1/2" thick tile that is only 12" long. Chris did a great job trimming them down and setting them at an angle to ensure water runoff. The two visible seams are tightly butted and caulked with silicone. We think this will be an attractive and durable solution.

I do wish we had cut more of an overhang, however. The bullnose frames the window nicely, but there is a weird cut at the bottom left of the bullnose tile, and it's very tricky to cut the wall tiles perfectly. This edge isn't as nice as I would like it. I'm still trying to figure out if white caulk will help disguise the unevenness of the cut edges, or if we can just caulk it a warm grey with all the rest and not worry about it.

This is Maui, our very curious cat. I don't know if I mentioned this but in October we got a second cat. He's pretty much the sweetest little fur buddy ever. His tail is incredibly poofy, but he doesn't shed. He eats cockroaches and crickets if they make their way up through the unfinished bathroom floorboards. He curls up on your lap as soon as you sit on the couch, and he hops into your lap when you're sitting at the kitchen table drinking your morning coffee. He plays with Jezza. He's just sweet and cuddly and awesome.

As Maui sticks his face in the vent opening in the wall, have a look at our materials. We have the bucket of AcrylPro, a 4" palette knife, a fine-toothed notched trowel, a box o' tile, and our tile cutter. We got this guy from Floor & Decor for $10. It's a score-and-snap cutter that only works with ceramic tile, but it's way easier than taking everything out to the wet saw.

This picture seems kind of random, but I'm showing the boxes of cork flooring in the shelving unit and the mirror that will go over the vanity. That guy was $30ish from Target. It has a nice metallic finish and provides enough mirror space for party guests who are checking their hair or overnight guests brushing their teeth. Although who am I kidding, nobody has ever done a weekend visit and stayed the night in our house.

And oh btw the mantle is awesome. We still need to figure out trim on the secret doors. It's been 6 months... don't judge. You can see where there is no trim on the corner of the main section. That's where we have run into the trim problem. When you open the door, it folds back into where trim should go. I think we might just have an inconsistency in the trim there. I don't think many people would notice, and having that hidden storage is too valuable to eliminate for the sake of perfect trim. Feel free to disagree with me though :)

The inside of what would be the firebox is painted with chalkboard paint. It makes the sound bar suspended across the top almost disappear! I need to get some sort of filler; I could do plants but the cats would probably eat them and then barf them up, partially digested, on the rug. So maybe just one of those candle racks for fireplaces. I don't know. I'll figure it out when we have finished the bathroom and go back to the trim and do a final coat of paint on the built-in. 

So that's the bathroom progress! We were out of town last weekend for Chris' cousin's wedding (congrats Jacob and Erica!) and haven't really done much since then. We hope to spend a few solid hours tiling to knock the rest of it out. With one person cutting and one person setting tile, we move pretty quickly. 

Then it will be time to:
  1. Grout
  2. Put in shower hardware
  3. Finish the drywall (we're trying to minimize dust while tiling)
  4. Paint and install board and batten
  5. Install sconce light
  6. Put down the cork floor
  7. Install the toilet, vanity, and sink
  8. Install shower doors
  9. Do anything else we forgot
  10. Get started on the laundry room! 
So that's a lot, but we are definitely getting closer and closer to being finished! Yay! 

Have you used subway tile? 
Do you think it's a design staple or here to stay? (I think it's classic)
Did you do white or colored grout?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Garden update: June 15, 2013

So, where were we? Rainy spring. Not much growing. We can't start plants inside the house because of the cats, and the garage is full of bathroom reno stuff. Therefore, everything has been started from seed or transplants from the nursery.

Here is our little strawberry patch. I think I'm going to replant it because the dirt in the pots has settled. I mentioned gutters but I don't know about that yet. Either way it's a good little patch; we got a few berries and are hoping for more next year!
I got the little pink airplane lawn ornament from Target. It's kind of my favorite thing when the propeller spins in the wind. The garden markers are paint stir sticks from Home Depot that I spray-painted yellow on one side, chalkboard paint on the other, and wrote on with a chalk pen. I am happy that the chalk pen does not wash off in the rain!

Any time we are in the garden, Mimosa and Julep are right next to us, supervising. Their run is separated from the rest of the yard by 2" chicken wire strung along T-posts. They no longer have access under the deck, although we hope to fence off the deck perimeter to give them more sheltered space to hang out in. The gate shown in this pic was handmade by Chris; he ripped down 2x4s into 2x2s to fit a 4' opening. The opening is bracketed by 4x4 posts, and we made a little diamond design to reinforce the chicken wire in the center. Chris ripped 1/4 off of the center diamond 2x2s so we could sandwich the chicken wire.

The new chickens, Ygritte and Sweet Tea, are settling in. They are still confined to the coop. The red chickens aren't completely convinced that the new girls won't steal all their food, and the new girls get stressed whenever the red chickens are too close. The red chickens hang out in the run, where I have set up separate food and water and a nest box. The little ones are eating different food still, and are also still small enough and flighty enough to easily escape the run, so it's the coop for them! Still, 40 square feet for 2 young pullets is not a bad deal.
Right on the other side of the chicken fence is the tomato trellis (this year, that is. Next year it'll be beans). We have a lot of tomatoes ripening. Our friends Sharma and Julia gave us two tomato seedlings. One is a cherry tomato, and the other is a little grape tomato. We will be eating a lot of tomatoes this summer!

The squash are growing well; we have a lot of male flowers but no females yet. You can see the potato bucket there at the end.

More squash. We made a cattle panel trellis stretching from the squash box to the bean box and are growing spaghetti squash and luffa gourds up this side.

The snow peas have been champions this year. We have been eating snow peas for weeks. (As of this posting, late July, the snow peas have been done for about 3 weeks and I have sent the vines to the great compost bin in the sky)

Here's the pea trellis. We shifted it from diagonal to vertical, which was as easy as un-zip-tying the remesh from the metal tubing and having one of us hold up the trellis while the other slid the tubing off of the rebar supports, pulling the rebar supports from the ground and pounding them into the other side of the box, and sliding the tubing back down and re-zip-tying the trellis. Ok so that does sound complicated, but I promise these trellises are super easy to move wherever you need them!

This year Chris has an entire box dedicated to peppers. The sweet banana peppers are going strong, and we have a bunch of jalapenos.

Here are our spicy jalapenos. We are also growing a type we found at the Home Depot nursery called TAM mild jalapenos. I have made pickled jalapenos with them, but I haven't eaten them fresh yet. Either way, we have a bunch!

This is the deep root box. What that means is that we just created another 4'x4' box out of our 2x8 PT boards and stacked it on top of another one. Because we built raised boxes over weed blocking fabric, it is harder to grow root vegetables. This helps with that problem.
Anyway, we are growing purple potatoes and a mix of purple, yellow, white, and regular orange carrots. This box also contains bull's blood beets, which have red foliage as well as red roots, and some sad swiss chard that never really took off.

The pole beans are finally starting to take off. Last year we grew bush beans but not pole beans; with the new cattle panel trellis we are growing Kentucky Blue pole beans and asparagus beans. I love how they spiral up the supports. So neat!

The berry patch is separate from the main garden. It's on the side of our garage, south-facing, where it gets a lot of sun. It is a 4' by 24' bed, and we have 3 blueberry bushes (Sharpblue, Climax, and Pink Lemonade), 2 blackberries (I forget the names but one is thornless and one is traditionally spiky), and one raspberry. 

This is the Sharpblue plant. It's the first of the bushes to mature, and we have gotten quite a few berries! There are a lot ripening here. As of July, it's pretty much finished fruiting and is getting ready for next year. 

These are the Climax (foreground) and Sharpblue (background) bushes. They have grown since this picture was taken and I'm looking forward to bigger bushes and more berries next year. The edges of the bed are used railroad ties. We think they are a) old enough to not be releasing much creosote any more and b) far enough from the bushes to not worry about the creosote affecting the plants.

The blackberries are kind of awesome. There aren't that many, but the ones that we have eaten are delicious. We aren't huge blackberry eaters anyway. This picture nicely shows the drip irrigation system as well. It connects to both the rain barrel around the garage corner and the garden hose for dryer times. This year has been super-super-wet, so we haven't used the drip irrigation system much. It's nice to know it's there, though!

So that is our garden update from June. The verdict is: snow peas are great, pole beans are fascinating, and this year, we are actually getting tomatoes!  I'm going to borrow a question format from other blogs I've seen, so today's questions are:

What is your favorite go-to vegetable for your garden?
Do you have a berry patch?
How do you keep your squash alive?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

RIP, yellow bathroom tile, or: the second bathroom gets the hammer

Let's do some more catching up, shall we? This time it's about the bathroom just off of our living room. This was a sad bathroom, with a sad vanity, short toilet, and cracked yellow tile around a cast iron tub that had seen better days. The window was all rotten, just like in the master, and we quickly covered it with plastic to try to prevent more immediate damage. The sad part is that we used this bathroom full time before the master bathroom was renovated.

Our plans for this bathroom are to gut it and rebuild it with a shower pan instead of a tub. We will close off the closet, whose door we couldn't open without banging it into the door to the living room. We won't mess with the load-bearing wall running down the center of the house, but we will open up the closet on the laundry side to make that entryway more open. Eventually, maybe our laundry machine won't be crooked, and we will be able to open the washer and dryer doors all the way! Such luxury, one can only dream...

Anyway, let's jump ahead to the demo. We had a couple of friends come over to do the sledgehammering of the bath tub. They removed the window and just threw debris out on the deck. Apparently it was a lot of fun; I think I was in Virginia for my grandmother's 80th birthday, so I missed out.

Here is what we found:
A shakily attached shower next to a cast iron vent. We knew the vent was there; it's coming out and will be replaced with nice lightweight PVC. Oh and that stud is not attached to anything at the bottom... it's just hanging. Awesome.

The closet had already been painted and set up with wire shelves when we moved in. It was a shame to remove them, but they had to go so we could wall up the closet. Beer was an important part of the demolition process for Chris.
After removing the rotted studs below the window, Chris rebuilt the frame so we could put in a fixed vinyl window with frosted panes for privacy. We had done the same in the master bathroom; it's always nice to have experience.
This window was for new construction, since we had completely removed the molding and rebuilt the studs. When we replaced the windows in the living room, we used plain old replacement windows. We used a giant suction cup handle to hold it in place and adjust for square. 
Then we screwed into the studs from the outside, after sealing with the tape you see in the photo and generous amounts of silicone caulk. Unfortunately, there was still a gap in the window where brick molding used to be. We quickly trimmed out the window to prevent bugs and other bad things from getting inside, and to keep the air conditioning inside. 
Now back to what we found inside the walls. This wall is the one shared by the kitchen eating area. You can see the various workarounds that the previous renovators used to make the pipes fit. Basically it was a mess.
And this wiring looks totally safe and legit! 

Luckily, in the process of demolition, nobody got electrocuted, or spiked by a rogue nail, or dropped a sledgehammer on their foot. 

Since these pictures were taken, we:
  • Replaced rotten studs (from a roof leak that we fixed years ago)
  • Rewired the electrical outlets, wired for a fan, two overhead lights, and a sconce by the mirror. 
  • Painted the ceiling white. So glad we didn't have to replace that...
  • Moved plumbing when necessary; just small shifts, nothing major. Chris might say differently because he's the one who did all the plumbing work. 
  • Repaired the sub-floor and put down Hardibacker. We will float cork click-lock over it. 
  • Put cement-board in the shower and sealed it with RedGard waterproofing membrane. 
  • Started tiling with white subway tile in a traditional brick pattern. We are using AcrylPro premixed ceramic tile adhesive. Some premixed mortars cannot be used over RedGard, but AcrylPro can. We checked the spec sheets. 
  • Put up sheetrock and have almost finished mudding it. 
We are making great progress, and the end is definitely in sight! We have plans to put up faux board and batten, a la Young House Love here. I do have pictures of our progress as of yesterday, and I will post those shortly. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Why I've been silent: technology. I blame technology.

So, a long time ago I lost the cable that connects my camera to computers. That's bad, because my camera battery is running out. Also, I lost my camera for a while. It's a little point and shoot, but it gets the job done.

 Then I found my camera. Win! All I have to do is pop the SD card into the slot on my laptop...

 I went to a conference in April to present my paper on interoperability measurement in systems of systems.
Shameless plug for my papers:
IEEE SysCon 2012: Addressing interoperability in military systems-of-systems architectures
IEEE SysCon 2013: A Reliability-Based Measurement of Interoperability for Systems of Systems

Anyway, that was the last time that I used my laptop at home, because usually I just use my iPad (best Christmas gift ever, thanks Mom and Dad!). So I don't know where the charger went, and I couldn't upload the pictures.

Fast forward to July: I'm on the phone with my Dad, talking about how he found something he lost by remembering where he used it last. While still on the phone, I rummaged around in the conference swag computer bag and found my laptop charger! SUPER WIN!!!

And now you have pictures to look forward to. And maybe even regular posting.

HA! We have seen how that works out. Well we can always hope, right? It's not like I'm working on a thesis or anything.

April gardening update - spring in Atlanta

I say spring, but it was actually not very springlike this year. It has pretty much rained. And rained. And rained. So we haven't had a whole lot of sunny days. However, I'll show you how our garden looked on April 27th. The next post will be from June, and then photos I took today. Time to play blog catch-up!

I have decided I like it best when bloggers put captions above their photos, so that's what I'm going to do from now on. Just FYI. Heads up. Ok.

These are my highly technical seed-sprouting pots. I tried to start beans in here, but it was kind of only half-successful. The peat pots were a complete bust, and I think they might be better for starting seeds inside than outside. That's ok, they're cheap, and this whole gardening thing is a big experiment for us anyway.

We bought strawberry plants! And they made little strawberries! Just a few, though; I think I will try replanting these guys in gutters, as seen on Pinterest. Beeteedubs, follow me; it's the best way to peer into my mind and see what DIY gears are turning. Here's my gardening board.

Ok, moving on: our next experiment is using these fabric grow bags to grow potatoes and sweet potatoes. I am pretty sure they were these, although the cardboard tags on ours were a bit different.
10 Gallon Hydroponic Prune Pots Fabric Grow Pots (5 Bags)
Here they are in action. The purple seed potatoes were planted, we mulched with straw, and we'll just wait for them to grow. I expect to be able to move them easily with the handles. We shall see! 

The potato sacks are at the end of the squash row and the tomato row. Those beds are 2' x 12' long. Just to the squash bed's left are the collards and broccoli. Spoiler alert! Collards were great but the broccoli wasn't worth it. We got a few tiny heads and then they bolted. Better just to buy that at the grocery store. The collards were super easy and tasty in my pressure cooker, though.

Here we have some baby peas working their way up the trellis. We plant snap peas and snow peas. Another spoiler alert! The crunchy snap peas bombed, but we ate snow peas in stir fries for weeks.

This is a bed of onions, garlic, and shallots that I planted last fall. Another spoiler alert: the onions started to set flower stalks, so I had to pick all of them. They were little, most only an inch and a half in diameter. I chopped them up and made olive oil and onion pucks. Put your chopped onion in a muffin tin, fill each cavity with olive oil, and freeze. Pop out of the tin, put in a freezer baggie, and throw one in a pan any time you need to start a dish with onions and oil. Boom, done.

Here are more peas working their way up our diagonal trellis.

Our first planting of beets, swiss chard, and carrots got eaten by evil little bugs. This time, even though it's late to plant, we are covering the rows with white permeable fabric to keep the bugs off. It's held down in the corners with rocks.

Last but not least, a tribute to Waffles the chicken. She was eaten by a fox or coyote, we're still not sure which. We never found her body in the jungle that is our neighbor's backyard. We know she was dragged out of the coop and over the fence, but then the trail went cold. She's on the left there next to Mimosa. Julep is just visible on the far right. More on the chickens later. 

Anyway, that's a wrap for April gardening. I have some pictures from mid-June, and from almost a month to the day later. But, it's time to try to beat the Atlanta traffic and head home. Bah! Someday I won't have to commute.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Happy Spring! Let's talk dirt.

Today is the vernal equinox. In honor of it, I shall share our garden plans for the season (so far).

Sometime last year I discovered how awesome Pike Nurseries is. It's our local nursery but they have really good varieties of veggies, in both seed and set form. We gave up on planting tomatoes and peppers from seeds last summer and just bought some heirloom tomatoes from Pike. It worked great.

Anyway this year we are planning to do the same, but we picked up a cool variety of seeds to plant. We still have about 2 weeks before our final frost date, but that means we can plant lettuces, peas, and carrots and other root vegetables. They'll be ok if it snows (again) later this week. This is what we got on March 6th:

There you actually get a preview of our expanded garden beds, some pots I got on super-sale from Pike, and the new gate to keep the chickens contained to that corner of the yard. They can no longer get on the deck, which is really nice because this summer we won't have to clear chicken poo away before having guests over. Yeah, gross.

But back to planning! I have a nice, sophisticated Excel spreadsheet in which I will theoretically track garden plantings, but in real life I sit at the kitchen table and sketch on graph paper:

Oh, bonus! You can see some of the cool seeds we picked up. We already had carrot seeds, but we figure carrots are soooo cheap at the grocery store ($0.89/lb) that I might as well plant some colorful ones. Same thing goes for beets, which we haven't grown but are looking forward to trying. We also bought purple potatoes. We think we're going to put them in the deep box this year instead of constructing potato towers. Those worked well but we have 2 2x12 boxes and 2 4x4 boxes = 80 more square feet of space to use this year. 

Anyway, other plans: last fall I planted lots of yellow onions, shallots, and garlic, and those seem to be doing very well.

  • We plan to put tomatoes in the furthest left 2x12 box. We're going to make a cool trellis, I'm excited. 
  • We are going to put zucchini in the long box next to that. They can grow into the aisles without taking up extra soil space. I bought spaghetti squash seeds that will go on the ends and trail into the yard.
  • Next to that, we will put some broccoli and collards transplants under the pea trellis. That bed is hard to protect from squirrels but the sets should be well established enough to survive. Maybe. I hope. 
  • We also planted snow peas and snap peas already, along the trellis that we used for cherry tomatoes last year. I am trying to rotate crops.
  • In the deep box, we will plant our purple potatoes, rainbow carrots, and beets.
  • We already planted some swiss chard in the bed with the alliums (onions, shallots, garlic). That already has the PVC/chicken wire cage to protect from squirrels. Those little buggers dig up plants. We've had rabbits eat the plants too; I am hoping the chicken guards will help with that this year
We also have a 4' x 24' bed on the side of the garage. We have 3 blueberry bushes, 2 blackberry canes, and 1 raspberry cane there now. We would like to grow 1 more blackberry and 2 more raspberries. We also have some strawberry plants there, and are planning to put more strawberries in one of the blue pots on the deck. 

We also still have the herb box right next to the deck; it's doing great, and my chives and parsley are coming back. The sweet mint, lemon balm, and lavender survived the winter well, as did my sage and thyme. I planted my rosemary tree in the box and cut it way back; I hope it takes off this summer in its new home. I will plant more basil in the summer, and replace the dead orange mint with spearmint or peppermint. What am I missing? Let me know!

I also plan to plant herbs along the chicken fence so they can self-medicate. Here is one inspiration source: Tilly's Nest. I will update more on that once it becomes a reality!

Monday, February 25, 2013

*PAUSE* until camera is located

Mini-update: I lost my camera. I can't find it. It's just a little point and shoot but I can't remember for the life of me where I put it! My cell phone is just not sufficient for taking photos in low light, so until I find my camera I won't be doing any picture posts.

Here's a bit of what Chris and I did this weekend, though!

On Friday, I gave eggs to my boss for his birthday. Apparently he didn't know I have chickens, so he was like "What is up with the eggs?" I explained, and hope he enjoyed some delicious omelets or something this weekend. 

Our friend arranged a surprise birthday party for his wife - so sweet! He invited lots of people to come paint together at a local place called The Funky Paintbrush. Everyone paints the same basic picture but you can add personal tweaks. Here are two other friends, Ashley and Tina, working on their collaborative, horizontal-instead-of-vertical masterpiece! 

Another collaborative effort by JT^3. It was hilarious to watch these guys each take turns and discuss how best to proceed with the painting!

Chris and I with our beautiful masterpieces. I added the meteor because someone said my sky looked stormy, like a meteor shower or something. BOOM, done! I kind of wish I had drawn dinosaurs in the background instead of the little trees. 

On Sunday, we worked outside and did laundry. During a laundry break, both cats decided to keep me company. Hula's big fat butt got kind of in the way, though. I couldn't move my left arm. Maui was just tucked next to me in a seam of the cushions. 

Finally, today I took my painting to work and it is hanging on what I hope will grow into a lovely gallery wall!  Part of me is like yayyyy comfy cubicle, and the other part says "don't decorate! you're acknowledging that you'll be here forever! work on your thesis so you can graduate!"