The saga of the bathroom

A long, long time ago, in a land far  you may remember me mentioning that we had no second floor bathroom, which is our main bath. Other than that it’s a toilet in a closet in the basement, or the third floor bathroom. I’ve actually been embarrassed about the state of our house for a long time because of this project. Well I figured it was time for an update!

We still have no bathroom.

On December 31, 2013 the saga of this all began with a leak dripping into our center hall, AGAIN, just above the radiator by our front door. The leak was coming from our main bathroom just above. The ceiling was discolored and at the advice of a plumber who had come over when it had leaked previously and couldn’t find anything, we opened up the ceiling so we could see where the drip was coming from. No such luck. The leak happened after we showered, and was sporadic. We couldn’t replicate the issue no matter how many times we filled the tub, ran the shower, jumped in the shower…. nothing. It leaked when it wanted to leak.


We went back and forth with the same plumber a few times, with him basically telling us he had no idea what the problem was. Fast forward to June 2014 when I was walking Abby and ran into one of our neighbors. We got to chatting and I told him about our issues (because all our houses are built very similarly) and he was like, “Oh, that’s your main stack. It’s gone bad. Call “Plumber X” down the street. He does this work all the time.”

A few weeks later, Plumber X came down and gave us an estimate and asked what our insurance company had said. Insurance? The Man and I had never thought of that, but we were lucky enough to get some compensation for the damage. Because the bad news? The stack is located in the front wall of our house. THE LIVING ROOM WALL and THE GUEST ROOM WALL. Plus the hole in the ceiling. Plus the rest of the pipes were corroded. Plus all the pipes are laid in the original wet bed. All said and done, we were going to need to gut EVERYTHING.

I liked our bathroom. Off white and sage green, a vanity we had updated, a cheap mirror and light fixtures that I had spray painted silver… Very simple, but in keeping with the house and it worked.


before this all began

We began demo in late July, early August. So now, it’s been six months, and we have nothing. New pipes, a new stack, but nothing else. Why? Because apparently Plumber X doesn’t believe in finishing the job. After demo and re-piping finished in early September, he just never came back. Toilet was picked, tub was picked, fixtures picked, inspiration photos shared, a layout, insulation purchased, and I had the bathroom electrical rewired. But nothing.

I pestered, and in October he came back with his finishing guy so we could get a quote for dry wall in the bathroom, replacing an entire wall in our guest room (which Plumber X put an irreparable crack across doing demo), closing the wall up in the living room, relocating the linen closet, putting in a sliding door so we could have a full size vanity, and redoing the ceiling in the center hall. Measurements were taken, plans laid out, tile discussed. Never got the quote.


This is the wall where our vanity and medicine chest and toilet should be.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving after more pestering, I told him I was having 11 people in my house for the holiday and at least needed the toilet and the old vanity hooked up. He promised it would be done and HE would do the wall repair in the living room so I could paint it because that’s where our Christmas tree goes. I also said I needed the estimate for the final work and he said no problem. Never showed, never returned calls and texted. Thanksgiving came and went.

Finally mid December, and he comes over again and says he has the estimate. What he had was a wrinkled copy of the original one, and he proceeded to tick off what he had done and make generalizations about the price of what was left. I told him I was going to have possibly 25 people over the day after New Years. I NEEDED A BATHROOM. Here are the dates we’d be home, here is what we wanted, and once again not a problem. And once again, never showed.


The back of our linen closet where we should have a tub and shower head

The Man finally got involved a few weeks ago and once again Plumber X promised he’d stop by. Shock of all shocks, no show. He’d get the estimate, he was meeting with the guy. No estimate. Now most of you are probably reading this and thinking, “FIND SOMEONE ELSE ALREADY!” Easier said than done. This guy lives on our street, knows our house, knows what we want, and has no problem with us leaving Abby home while he works. Plus? Abby LOVES him. Do I really want to start over again with someone I don’t know and don’t trust to leave alone in my house? I don’t have endless vacation days.

Yesterday, The Man and I went to the Philadelphia Home Show. We had gotten the tickets through Groupon, mostly because I wanted to go see Jeff Devlin from DIY/HGTV “I Hate My Bath” (and a bunch of other shows I’ve drooled over). He gave an awesome talk on some basic “dos and don’ts” of renovating. The Man and I spent half the talk laughing because all of the “don’ts”? Yeah we had basically done them. But I have to say I did learn a lot (and scored his business card!!). The major point? We screwed up, we should have done this differently, and we should have given up on Plumber X a long time ago, even if he does live 5 houses away. And what did The Man learn? That his wife TOTALLY geeks out when she meets someone she admires.


IT’S JEFF DEVLIN! And yes, I currently HATE my bath.


little happy homemaker

You would think that being a writer I’d be spamming you with new posts on a daily basis. Well, my friends, that is simply not the case (as you can readily see). It seems like during the spring and summer I tear into project in the house full gusto, but once the months turn chillier and the daylight hours grow shorter, I’m completely content to settle in with a good book and try to destress from work.

Halloween was boring at our house this year. I’ve been working crazy hours so the pumpkins and fall leaves and other assorted decorations didn’t get put out, save for our candy holder. Oh, and I dressed like a peacock for the day.

2013-10-31 09.41.54Now, the Man made fun of me, as he was taking the picture because the running joke is that our house is the “Where’s Waldo?” of peacocks and it’s scary that I could throw this together. But in my defense, the scarf is from my sister-in-law, the pin was my grandmother’s, and no peacock is complete without the rocking headband my aunt Susan gave me a few years ago. Needless to say I was one sassy admission coordinator on Halloween.

2013-10-31 15.54.52And oh yeah – I’m a LOSER so I did my nails turquoise too. The best part of Halloween was the card we got from Aunt Susan, which TOTALLY looks like Loki (if you could get him to sit still).


Then there was feline Friday where I totally failed at posting a picture of one of my fur-babies BUT… it was for a good reason. I was finishing a crocheting project for a friend!

2013-11-03 12.04.34It’s a bunny buddy blanket that I pieced together from, oh, 4 different patterns to create. And Luna was more than willing to model it for me.

Then the weekend commenced and so did crazy errand running, and of course fall cooking! The day started out with the Man and I going to an estate sale which was boring but we each scored a good book to read. After he went to bed (he works nights still… ugh) I made two loaves of meatloaf (one to eat, one to freeze) with a honey/ketchup/Worcestershire sauce glaze, roasted cauliflower and potatoes with garlic and Parmesan, and cornbread on Saturday for dinner.

2013-11-02 20.35.24


I also threw a loaf of Italian herb bread in the machine yesterday, and made two loaves of butter bread today, one of which is on the cooling rack at the moment. And then, of course, I cleaned my house like a crazy person and did about 5 loads of laundry.

I know my cats get a little frisky/crazy this time of year and love running aimlessly around the house. I kind of feel like I did the same thing this weekend. Good thing because it’ll burn off all the yummy carbs I cooked.

Hope you all had a fabulous fall weekend!



putting it to the test

About a month ago, I convinced one of my organization clients to buy a new vacuum. She needed one that had a power head for area rugs, could do a decent job on bare floors, a hose for getting stairs, and should be able to combat pet hair. I also thought she should have a HEPA filter and that it be bagless. That’s a tall order for a vacuum, especially if you don’t want to spend a fortune.

I have had the same Eureka that I spent about $69 on for 7 years and have always been happy with it. So after doing some research and making recommendations, my client purchased the perfect vacuum. It is a shining beacon of hope for all us pet owners who are looking for one machine to do it all. Namely, the Eureka Suction Seal Pet AS1104A. Okay, it kind of sounds like the name for a cyborg, but trust me – you want this vacuum to invade and take over your life.

Ever since using hers, I have been in awe, wanting one of my own. But money doesn’t grow on trees here at Casa de Restoration. So for the past month I have been religiously checking the internet for a sale, worked some extra side jobs, and finally found the deal I was waiting for. While the list price is $200, I scored the vacuum yesterday for $99.99. Yes, I just put that in bold AND italic because I am excited and thrilled beyond belief at both the price AND the performance.

Because I am a complete and utter dork (see above excitedness and gushing and giddiness over a VACUUM) I decided to bring it home and put it to the test. As you know, when I did my dining room restoration we purchased a black wool area rug. No big deal. Except if your cats are obsessed with keeping their asses off the perfectly good wood and tiles and gravitate said furry butts towards anything that is plush and attracts cat hair. So they lay on said area rug constantly. In fact, I’m pretty sure they’ve made it their life’s mission to force me to vacuum every day for the rest of my life. So here is THREE DAYS worth of cat hair on one area:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI vacuumed the whole rug with my old vacuum, and then vacuumed the whole rug again immediately after with my new bright red shiny vacuum of the gods.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe canister on the left is what my old vacuum picked up. And on the right, is what was left behind and picked up by the vacuum of magnificence. (You need to click on the pic to enlarge and fully appreciate the difference.) Needless to say, I am impressed and excited and thrilled and… oh you get the point. The best thing about this vacuum is that when it says it does bare floors, it actually does. It doesn’t kick around the debris or blow the dust all over the place like virtually every other vacuum I’ve owned. So now I have one vacuum that can do the whole house instead of two (which may seem minor, but is a huge selling point for me).

So… on to the price.  I have always dreamed of owning a Dyson but am not into selling my soul, first born, and drugs to afford one. Yes, I have a handheld one that I got off the shelf for $80 a few years ago (it was a birthday gift… I have a thing for cleaning tools). And if you are like me and love scoring a good deal, trolling the internet for the lowest prices is ALWAYS a plus before making a big purchase. I found the vacuum here on sale, and Best Buy has a price match guarantee, and voila! LOTS of savings and instant gratification.

Just as an FYI, I am not getting paid to endorse this vacuum (but hey! marketing people! I’m willing to test out any product for review if you send it to me!) I am just a complete and utter dork who is really proud of her new purchase. So if you’re in the market for a vacuum, I cannot say enough good things about this one. And it was well worth the wait!

it’s all about nails…

I figured since I’ve tortured most of you with my failure to post pictures of the finished dining room, I’d make you wait just a liiiiiiiiiitle longer. Instead, I wanted to share some painting advice for anyone who is about to tackle a project of their own.

Personally, I think the worst part of painting is the set up and the clean up.  Both can take hours, if not days depending on how much taping, draping, and spackling you have to get done. In my case, I was somewhat lucky with this room because the tile floor meant I didn’t have to set up drop cloths all over. Instead, I used one drop cloth and moved it with me around the room.

When it comes to tips and tricks, I don’t have many, but one of them is to keep in mind nails.


pre-painting nail glamor shot while sitting on the radiator

Yes, I’m talking about fingernails!

After doing work in the house and sharing photos, I’ve actually had people ask me how I kept my nails at the same time, joking that I must not have actually done the work. Now I’m the first person to tell you that my nails are not strong at all – they break if you look at them wrong. But, along the way, I’ve learned some tips and tricks. First, there are a bunch of benefits to having nails when you’re doing painting.

  1. nails make it much easier to rip painters tape, smooth it down, and get it wedged in those teeny tiny corners
  2. nails are perfect for picking off those tiny little fuzzes and hairs that invariably land on your freshly painted wall
  3. nails are great for scraping those tiny little paint splatters off the floor without using a tool that may otherwise scratch delicate surfaces

Now all that is fine and good, but prepping your nails is just as important. If your nails are anything like mine (thin, abused, used as tools) then they’ll be prone to getting paint IN their cracks and crevices, especially at the tips. If you’ve ever gotten latex paint on your nails, you’ve probably experienced the same thing I have: you can’t get it off. Sure, it’ll come off the surface near the cuticle. But if your nails have splits or are dry, chances are you’ll end up having to cut them off to get the dye the paint leaves behind to go away which, as a somewhat girlie girl, I hate having to do.

So, that being said, I do something very counter intuitive the night before painting. I push back and cut my cuticles, trim and file my nails, and then put on a strengthening topcoat, making sure to coat the tips. The day I paint, I also do something very unusual. I SLATHER any part of my skin that will be exposed while painting in moisturizer. Why? It will come off even easier when you shower.

If you are stubborn (like me) and paint with oil, you’ll want to pay attention here. In addition to moisturizing yourself before painting, you’ll also want to invest in Goo Gone. While there are products like Goof Off that will remove oil paint pretty decently, I hate using it on wood, and DEFINITELY hate using it on my skin.  I try limiting my use of all harsh products like paint thinner and turpentine. What I’ve learned is that Goo Gone and a good cotton towel with a nub is FABULOUS for removing oil paint from wood, my glasses, and especially skin without any of the normal harsh side effects most chemicals have. I’ve also soak my brushes in a mixture of really hot water with some Goo Gone to get most of paint out before resorting to paint thinner. (As a side note, I could dedicate a whole blog on all the things I use Goo Gone for from removing label adhesive to cleaning my stove, but we’ll discuss those later…)

Hope you find some or all of these tips helpful! What do you hate most about painting prep?

i missed earth day but…

It has been a crazy few weeks here at casa de restoration (it sounds good but I didn’t take Spanish so that is probably wrong…) and I can’t wait to share with you the recent crazy!

Last week, The Man turned 31  so I took off Monday and Tuesday to celebrate. And by celebrate, I mean he had drill on Saturday and Sunday and we didn’t get to do anything, and we spent Monday and Tuesday attacking the gardens! I would say that he was disappointed, but after a weekend at drill, he seemed happy that we went out for a birthday sushi lunch pre-gardening.

The amount of gardening refuse we accumulate whenever I decide I’m going to garden “just for a little bit” (which invariably turns into 4 hours or so) has been amazing.  I think the Man wanted to kill me last week when we had to take it to the curb. (And I think the garbage men may kill me if I continue on this trend…)

alllllllll from the garden

alllllllll from the garden

What pisses me off most is that my little yellow collapsible gardening bag was taken by the garbage men. And by taken, I mean they threw it out.  So while I am in mourning for my favorite gardening garbage receptacle, I soldiered on.

I meant to share these pics with you for Earth Day, and I missed the boat, but better late than never!  If you remember, a few weeks ago I began attacking the front of the house by removing some bushes. While the Man was at drill, the attack continued! This time, I drafted some friends.

Meet Kat.

hi Kat!

hi Kat!

Kat is my very tall friend who can reach things that I can’t. He is also has INFINITELY cooler power tools than I do.  While he originally came over to use my driveway with my painting friend, Julie, I innocently asked him for his opinion on removing the columns and he either a. decided I couldn’t be trusted with tools or b. figured I was just pretending to be clueless and he was going to get roped into helping anyway.

2013-04-14 17.35.18Kat was able to unscrew everything holding the columns together and find the seams to split the columns apart in about half the time it took me to get the ladder and find the battery to my drill. We already knew that the columns were not supporting anything so we were surprised to find a giant wooden 4×4 inside each of them.

4x4 brought to you by Kat and Julie

4×4 brought to you by Kat and Julie

Once the columns were off, we found a surprise:

2013-04-14 17.42.42A bazillion anchors that fell THROUGH the columns when the Man and I tried to attach a flag holder to it. After the third time the flag holder came loose on a windy day, my hatred of the columns was confirmed, and the columns’ death note was signed, sealed, and delivered. I cannot tell you the squeals of joy that erupted from me as the beams came down. And the transformation is truly amazing.






Rest assured, there is a master plan to this transformation, albeit a slow going plan. However, I’m already in love with how the front of the house is opened up. The columns just don’t go with the period of our house, and now we had room to put our bench on the front steps, which I’ve wanted to do since we scored it at an estate sale the summer we moved in.

bench love

bench love

Monday and Tuesday moved to tackling the ivy in the backyard. And by tackling, I mean I have a vendetta against the ivy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we moved in the house, we had no idea that the pavers along the back of our property existed. Why? BECAUSE THEY WERE EATEN BY IVY. One of the reasons I hate the ivy so much is because we have gorgeous day lilies and yucca plants that were so overgrown you could barely see them.  While I made a lot of progress last year, it truly is a battle to get to the ivy roots and remove them without damaging the other plants. Over the fall the ivy started creeping back over the pavers, but after a few hours of work, I think it came out pretty good!

clean again!

clean again!

I have to say that removing the ivy is backbreaking, but the satisfaction afterwards is immeasurable.

post ivy-pulling glow

post ivy-pulling glow

All in all, the 4 day gardening extravaganza was a success.  AND I’m very excited because I finally get to use our rehabbed wheelbarrow (a $5 score at an estate sale!).


And when all was said and done, I finally sat back and relaxed.  As the two year anniversary of being in the house looms, I can’t wait to show you the continuing projects, inside and out. If you had told me a few years ago that this is what I would be getting joy from, I would have told you that you were crazy.  But here I am, and I couldn’t be happier with the house, and myself.  Happy belated Earth Day!


leaving on a jet plane…

I hate it when the man has to leave. Last year when he had to go on a two week training exercise, I re-did our master bedroom which was a huge surprise for him to come home to.  So now that he’s leaving again, I have to pick my next project.

We just had the rest of the knob & tube wiring removed from our house, so I’ve been left with patches all over the house from where they had to go in the walls. Thankfully, because the guys at Reali Electric are AMAZING, none of my woodwork was harmed.  And their new addition (well, new to me since we had them in our house last year) Angie is a goddess with spackle. You can’t tell where the holes they made in our textured plaster ceiling were. And I don’t mean just one tiny hole. I mean a plethora of 3 inch long holes all over our foyer and upstairs hallway.

So now I’m faced with two weeks to do projects.

What would you like to see me do?

spring cleaning

I’ve always enjoyed the act of organizing, cleaning. There is a peace that my brain finds in my hands moving deftly to put papers in their place, stack magazines by genre, line books up neatly on their shelves by color or size. Clutter sets me on edge, makes me uncomfortable. There is a certain pride I have in having everything neatly in its place when people come to visit, and often when someone comes over I will apologize for the house being “under construction” or messy.  I guess other people take comfort in the fact that my house often looks “normal” – papers out, shoes in the hallway, jackets thrown on the back of chairs.

If renovating a house has taught me nothing, it has taught me to accept the state of the house. Combining the furniture the man and I owned with what we inherited of my German grandmother’s – Oma – has been the biggest challenge.  The man and I have always been drawn to antiques, furniture with a history. And when my uncle Dieter offered to give me everything of Oma’s, I jumped at the offer. Not surprisingly, though, the early 20th century furniture of Oma’s didn’t match the Ikea furniture of my early 20s.

Craiglist has been my best friend, and with spring cleaning in full effect, I’ve started posting some of our old furniture. Last spring I was able to sell two dining chairs and a filing cabinet, but was never able to sell our couch.  After five different revisions of the ad, trying to catch the attention of people surfing the listings for a good buy, I finally posted an ad that described what the couch really was.

Loving Couch To be Adopted by New Home – $300

Selling my loving, comfortable, huge, Ekeskog Ikea couch

This couch took care of me when I fell down an escalator and could only sleep flat on my back, held me as I cried because of a sad movie or the loss of a loved one, and seated friends and family for get togethers, gab sessions, and game nights.

My couch is no longer needed though. She has a smaller replacement and needs to find a new, loving home to go to. She is a pretty girl in good condition. The pictures don’t do her justice. Her cover is fully removable and washable (and I’ll make sure she is spic and span prior to pick up). Because of her large size, she takes up way too much room in my basement and needs to find her new home ASAP.

I really was reluctant to get rid of it. That couch had been through a lot with me. In a house full of antique beds, dressers, prints, and books, all with their own stories, my couch had its own story. And now it will have a new one.

It always strikes me as silly the things that I am sentimental about, but the spring cleaning continues. As we plan a garage sale, I’ve added soup bowls that I used as a little girl, my first set of copper bottom pots, and travel mugs that I used in high school, to the piles of artifacts of my past life that I’m parting with.

My couch was a adopted by a woman who has relocated to Pennsylvania from North Carolina to take care of her ailing parents.  She has another adopted couch that will keep mine company. She is building her own home, just as the man and I are trying to build ours. When it came to haggling over price, she offered me about $100 less than I had asked in my posting, and after a few minutes I gave it to her for $50 less than she offered. Knowing that the couch was needed made me feel better about it. And now it will have a new history.

And the spring cleaning continues.