December 13, 2010

TileRama in BiancaVision

Don't even think about speaking to me this morning. I am crabby as hell!
Every joint and muscle in my body hurts. My knees are killing me and my fingertips are raw. If we still lived in New York City I would say... (think very New York Jewish Mother here) "Oh My God, I've got to see a podiatrist."

Why all the complaining you ask?

Let's start with a 1912 craftsman bungalow, in South Pasadena, California, that I owned and restored twelve years ago. It was a piece of cake compared to 227 north street. Mostly stripping, refinishing and replacing woodwork, floors and bits and bobs that had been "updated" in the dreaded...
Duh, duh, dum, duh.... yes you guessed it... the 1970's. Ah what a tasteful and beautiful decade that was.

During that renovation I did my first and only tile job. Pretty craftsman tile counter tops, laid with mastic (a premixed tile adhesive), and for those of you who DO know how to do these things, I should not have used mastic on a counter top, but what did I know, this was in the days before the world wide web of easily accessible porn... Oooops, I meant information. Would I put tile on a counter top again? No Way! But it was a nice look for that house and the tile was beautiful.

The point of that sentence was not the counter tops, or the porn, but the "first and only tile job" part. So there I was yesterday with an under floor heating mat, a roll of Ditra, a sea of white marble tile and bags of two different types of dry thin set.
(little tiny voice here) 

"help me"

"Suck up and bust"!  I know that phrase does not really make sense, but it does kind of express what had to be done. First mix the modified thin set... "How do you do that?" Then spread some on the floor and comb it with a trowel... "comb it?" Lay the heating mat on top of the modified thin set, and rub down with a rubber float. "Gulp", then repeat process using unmodified thin set, unroll the Ditra onto wet mortar, and again rub down with a rubber float... Eeeek! 

 "help me"

Ditra is that mysterious orange stuff you see being put down under tile, on television shows. It is a membrane that is impervious to water and allows the tile floor to move separately from the structure, "uncoupling", so as to avoid cracking of the tile or the grout joints. It is a cool, high tech, product and we managed to get it down fairly easily, thin set and all.

Heating mat laid onto the wet mortar.

 Phillip with the mysterious orange stuff called Ditra

Butt shot... Hee Hee, at least he wasn't showing crack, Hee Hee Hee

So now the Heat mat is in place, and the Ditra is ready for the beautiful, pristine, WHITE, marble tile.
12 x 6 inch tiles laid in a running pattern like brick. White marble tile? I couldn't choose something else to learn with? I am certain that a journeyman diamond cutter does not practice on the real thing... 
Back to an earlier statement, Suck Up and Bust!

With trowel and thin set in hand, I took a deep breath and...

The first Tile, well two actually, its hard to remember to take pictures when your blood pressure has has just gone through the roof!

Well, the first couple of tiles were not too bad, time to move on.

In case you are wondering, the orange Ditra does not show through the stone when finished, or so we have been told... 
"help me"

Six hours after laying the first tile, I was only halfway across the room, it was eleven o'clock at night, and I could not stand up.  I am sure it is not advisable to stop the tile job in the middle, but, I could not go on any longer. It is very fussy work as the tiles are not perfect, nor of exact even thickness. The spacers are only 1/16th of and inch and my sore and raw fingers could hardly hold onto them after all those hours on my hands and knees. My eagle eye scanned a gazillion for imperfections, and I cleaned the mortar really well from around the tiles in preparation for tonight's sequel.

TileRama in BiancaVision, part deux
The day after the night before

December 03, 2010

Oh Crap, or crapper as the case may be

EEEEEEK! it's December third and we are moving into the big house in twenty nine days.
Yes it's true... come hell or high water we have to stop paying double for everything. So move in we shall. Think of it as camping, with running water. We have twenty nine days to get the gas sealed and up and running, both heating systems finished and blowing, the kitchen painted and plastered, our stove delivered and installed, kitchen counter tops, a temporary refrigerator, please Santa a dishwasher for Christmas, and tile and trim out the master bathroom. Our walls will not be finished, our windows will not function without something to prop them open, our floors will not be sealed and will remain covered in paper.... but live there we will.

One Moment Please...

My apologies for that. I was so overwhelmed by what I just wrote that I had to go have a sit down. If it were not 1:30 in the afternoon I would say it is cocktail time. WAIT... it's 5 pm somewhere...

One Moment Please...

Ahhh, nice icy cold vodka and tonic with a crisp slice of lime, ahhh, now I am more calm.

Hmmm, power tools and vodka, what a way to live!

Now back to "oh crap". Please meet the newest addition to 227 North street...

The Head, John, Crapper, Can, Porcelain princess, Commode, Loo, Potty, Privy, Stool, or if you insist, the Toilet. The first clean and sanitary piece of plumbing this house has seen in oh so many years, now graces the powder room and awaits your needs.

With a savvy eye toward detail you may also notice something else of note in the picture above, Yes there is a sink, Whoooo Hoooo!, but that is not what I am referring to... look closer... closer... closer...
A door! A working interior door with a door knob, lock, and everything! The first of twenty three interior doors has been hung and made operational. It is not finished but it works. The paint on the doors is being removed with an electric planer connected to a vacuum with a HEPA filter. I can remove all of the layers of ancient paint on the flat surfaces with the planer and a careful hand. The panels will have to be done with chemical stripper, but the planing gets half of the job of door stripping done fairly rapidly with minimal if no damage to the wood below. How I long for the days of guys with big vats of mysterious chemicals. The guys who would take your old doors away, work their magic, and return them to you all pretty, smooth, and clean, ready for new paint.

Stupid drassa, frassin, State of California! 

Phillip is slowly and painfully stripping the panels of the first of twenty three interior doors.

In Preparation for plaster we have begun the trim out of the rooms we are to move into. door and window casing will be followed by molding, and baseboards with a molding cap. The following pictures show window and door jambs and casings.

A shot down the gallery, and the pantry door in the breakfast room.
 One set of windows in the Breakfast room.

The triple window in the kitchen.

Now that my nerves are smoothed out by my new best friend... mister Vodka, we will move forward to that horrifying day, January first... moving day, as quick as we can. Think of us, sleep for us, and most of all, if you do see Santa, tell him the boys really, and I mean really! need a dishwasher for Christmas.

Santa Baby, slip a dishwasher under the tree, for me... been a good boy all year, Santa Baby...

PS... if you are saying to yourself, they don't have to have a dishwasher... they can get by without a dishwasher... We have been living without a dish washer for a year and a half, washing dishes by hand every day, and these two boys have had it! No more dish pan hands please!

November 24, 2010

Be carefull about what you say!

It all started as a "wouldn't it be fun to" conversation. Last summer we were bemoaning the fact that the big house has sooo many walls that will require dressing. Then we installed all of the art lights. There is a huge problem with art lights that no one mentioned before their installation, they are meant to light...
you guessed it, "Art"! Well now don't that beat all. I don't think posters from Z Gallery count as "Art" so we now have really big problem. That was the moment I was struck with enlightenment, a glow formed around my over taxed brain and I heard my lips moving and uttering a single phrase...

"Art in the Ruins"

Concept; invite artists to mount and show their art in the house for one evening, make an event out of it.
Add fun lighting (clip-ons), free flowing wine, a touch of diva music, and price cards on all of the pieces.
Allow the artists to sell their art to the public and in exchange we would receive a piece of art in lieu of any commissions.  Fun concept that would allow us to gain some art for the walls and at the same time support our artist friends. We laughed about it and moved on.

That was until sometime in mid October. An artist friend approached us and brought up "Art in the Ruins", as he was looking for a venue to sell his art so that he could donate all of the proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project. How can you say no to such a  noble request. A date was set, other artist were contacted and the first "Art in the Ruins" took place on November 18th.

Five artist were advertised and a sixth joined in the last couple of days prior to the event. The post card above was emailed out as a private invitation, and we initially expected forty to fifty guests, but the responses kept rolling in, and in, and in. Two days prior we were prepared for at least one hundred.
However, Thursday November 18th proved all of our expectations wrong when, at seven thirty in the evening we had already gone through one hundred pieces of stemware and a mad dash was made for another hundred. All in all there were over two hundred people in our home and they drank four cases of wine. Seventy Eight pieces of art were displayed, the house survived just fine and the artists sold quite a number of pieces of artwork.

A fantastic evening that really gave us a momentum boost. Would we do it again?
I think so, but perhaps in the spring when the weather is warmer.

The evening was documented by photographer Rick Tang who has graciously allowed me to post the photographs here.


November 23, 2010

just two more hours please

There simply are not enough hours in the day. If I were to be elected world leader I would start bay adding two more hours. A twenty six hour day, Sweet! Think of all of the things you could get done in those extra two hours. But I suppose as continuously tired we both are, we would just end up sleeping it away. So I suppose I shall think of a plan "B".

Speaking of B's

As they say, we are "making a Bee Line for home" We have given notice on our rental house and as of January first we have to be able to live in the big house.Which of course means we are working our butts off. Going early, staying late. In order to be able to move in we need a few essentials.
1.  A Kitchen
2.  A bathroom with a shower
3.  Some operable interior doors
4.  Heat

We are not asking for much. The Kitchen is on the move. Masking became the hateful word after we decided to spray the primer coat. Five days of masking. Green frog tape (Love Frog Tape) to seal all of the edges, followed by blue tape to hold the paper and plastics firm. Every edge, inside and out made ready for two coats of shellac based primer. And then Phillip sprayed...

And he sprayed...

And he sprayed...

And sprayed...

And then touched up and filled in with a brush... Nice Costume don't you think?

Soon the counter tops will arrive and we need be ready for them. We are testing paint. Oil base Enamel. We are not testing the color, we are testing the paint. It would seem that you can open a can of paint in the State of California and feed it to your kids for dinner. mmmmm, tasty! Good oil based paints are almost impossible to buy here, and the oil based products that have replaced them are questionable at best. I understand all of the controversy over V.O.C.'s, (volatile organic compounds), but sometimes I think this State has gone too far. It has led us to visit dark corners of mysterious alley's and whisper "pssst" over and over until the contact slithers into view. "psssst, need oil base"?. Where upon palms are rubbed and the elusive illegal paint makes its way to the trunk of the car.

Now we are doing a side by side comparison, and we shall determine which paint has the best look and feel.  Just remember when visiting our home... if you get hungry, don't eat the paint! instead head for the square for a tasty sandwich, as you never will know which paint we chose.

Moments from the recent past...

Halloween came and went and we had a fun and wonderful time. I just did not have a chance to get any pictures up, but here are a couple for fun.

and now, back to our program...

On a final note today I want to introduce you to a new friend of ours. He is long and sleek, a bit to the left, and a bit to the right. Sometimes he goes up, and sometimes down, but we feel strongly that he will always deliver! 

Please meet brand new, Mister Copper Water Main!