Saturday, October 29, 2011

Like Buttah(cream)

The sad 'before'
So, after about four months of sitting in my garage and staring at me with disdain for my lack of follow-through, the supplies for the tiling job finally got moved into the house.

With the momentum from the satisfaction of last weekend's completed projects, I decided it was high time I bit the bullet. My biggest concern was that I go into every project with a lot of what we'll call 'lack of skill' and just call the results good enough. Mistakes are happy accidents that I use to make things look rustic. There is nothing rustic about a tile job. You either do it correctly and it looks nice, or you do it wrong and it looks like you've got a hillbilly's teeth stuck to your wall until you're ready to hire someone to come rip it out, replace the backerboard and start all over again.

With much trepidation, I put the kids to bed on Thursday night and messaged a picture to J with the tiles laid out. He said that he commented to a co-worker 'Guarantee she'll be working on this still when I get home.' Yes, yes I was.

It all started innocently enough, I called my neighbor to see if she thought I should just forego the decorative 6x6's I planned to insert at random intervals. She offered to just come over and help me see how to lay it out. My issue was, I told her, I didn't have enough hands to hold the sheets up on the wall and figure out placement of the decorative tiles at the same time.

C: Weren't you just going to lay them out on the floor?

Me: Of course, I was! (while in my head I was thinking she was a genius, because you know that I fully intended to just slap those puppies up. Fast forward to what would surely have been Jared coming home to a gigantic mess and me sobbing in the tub.)

Like pretty maids all in a row
Obviously I had measured the things to death, so I knew exactly how many sheets, and fractions of sheets, I needed on each wall. But the placement of the 6x6's? That would have been tricky business to try vertically. After painstakingly laying out each wall and placing the 'pretty tiles', I cut out the extra 2x2's and dropped in the 6x6. I can't even imagine how much time this saved me in the long run even though in my head I was already feeling itchy at the tedium of it all.

Tiles laid out, it was time to bust out the mastic; how hard could it be, right? Surely I haven't logged nearly a thousand hours (I hope this is an exaggeration, but 100 would be a gross underestimation) of DIY and HGTV for naught. With the soothing, encouraging voices of Amy Matthews and Marc Bartolomeo (but mostly Marc) in my head, I popped the top of the bucket (after taking a Blizzard break, because it was offered, and I don't turn down free ice cream), dipped my trowel, smoothed it at the proper angle against the wall...and my heart sang.

It was exactly like consistency of thick buttercream. I slapped some more on the wall and oh! my! gosh! It was just like frosting a cake! Though I have to say, I think the trowel was right-handed, I was able to get 'er done. God bless prior planning because taking those sheets from their spot on the floor directly to their designated position on the wall left behind the chance of an ulcer, and by the time J walked in the door I had the first wall completed, and was starting on the second.

Then comes the hitch. All along I knew that the wall shared by our bedroom had about 2/3 of an inch more tile than it's matching side, which would require me to nip a row of 8 tiles. After watching a how-to video online, I realized that this was going to be, being who I am, I decided to think of other options.

It's neither the wall you'll see when you walk in the bathroom, nor the one you'll look at while you're bathing, so I decided at 11:45pm that I was not going to use the extra tiles at all. I made the spaces between the sheets just a little larger and there's a tiny space where the bottom tile that was already there before sticks out further but it looks fine. At about 1am, I finally laid my weary head down, with the prayer in my head that I didn't wake to the tinkling sound of tile falling off the wall. I felt pretty good about it, though, because I'd been thorough and consistent with the pressure I applied to each tile. It was very much like decorating a cake.

This afternoon, I taped over the decorative tiles so the design wouldn't get filled in (thanks for the tip, Heather!), and I prepped the grout. It was a tiny bit thinner than the creamy peanut butter that Marc (yes, we're totally on a first name basis) always recommends, but I didn't have any more to add that was the right color, so what are you gonna do? H was my faithful observer through the process, as he always is when I'm working on a fun project for the house.

At one point, I got super nervous that I wasn't going to have enough grout (which was special ordered in the color to match the existing grout), and after dropping about the tenth big glop of what I thought was a substance more finite and precious than the breast milk I painstakingly pumped for H all those years ago, I asked him to leave the room because 'mommy might have some cuss words slip out'.

Relief washed over me as I was about half-way through the last wall and realized I'd have enough (with the assistance of a bowl scraping spatula to get the dregs out of the bucket and onto the trowel). Just before J left for work, I had him be my second pair of eyes to see if I'd missed any spots. I have to say, I was still skeptical of the process as I set the time for my 20 minute wait before I could start sponging off the excess.

Sponge in hand, I began the process of wiping, dunking, squeezing it out and wiping again, and it was not only quick, but very rewarding.

Tub cleaned out, buckets washed, and two hours later a quick wipe across the tiles with a clean damp cloth to get the final 'grout haze' off of them; I'm a happy girl. Later I'll use the extra silicone caulk (which has a sandy texture in it to look like the grout) that they left behind for us after finishing our house to go around the top and sides of the tile. Then, in a month, I'll seal it and this will be a fully completed project. All told, the supplies for the project, including sponge, spacers and the bit to stir the grout, was under $300. Using the sheets of tile were not only economical, but I think they're pretty forgiving and allow you to eyeball the spaces a lot better, plus they don't really slide around like the 6x6 tiles did (when I was pushing on them.) a great option for my first project.

More and more I'm finding that the hardest part is just getting started. Once you begin a project, finishing it is, especially in this case, a piece of cake.

Pretty good match on the grout! 
The 'bad' wall...not so bad, really.

The new view from our bedroom. Now to find some art or a cool sculpture to round out that wall!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wanna hear how the Walla Walla half went? Click on over to My Sole Sister!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Free Weekend

Life has been a whirlwind these days, and judging by the looks of everyone else's social calendar, I'm not anything special in that department. This weekend was the first in a long while that I didn't have a looming social engagement, and Jared had time off as well.

I was scheduled to host a birthday party for my running partner-in-crime at my house on Monday and my home looked as though it hadn't been cleaned since the Reagan Administration-which I admit seems impossible since it was just constructed last year. Yes, the dishes get done (when they overflowed the sink) and the floor is routinely swept of large debris, but the fronts of the cabinets were starting to get the telltale streaks of neglect and the sliding glass door looked like it has been given an artful fog treatment from dog noses and boy fingers. It was time to get down to business.

So, what did I do? Ah yes, took on some painting projects. We've had a table outside that I got at a garage sale, but no chairs to accompany it. I had been searching overstock for simple wooden chairs, but they were all still pretty spendy. I decided on Saturday night that I'd finally paint the dresser that's been holding up our cable box in the living room as I've given up on getting the Pottery Barn gem that I so desire anytime in the near future. I had purchased a quart of Behr Premium Plus in Red Chili about 6 months ago and there it sat on the shelf in the garage. Two coats later and some poly-magic (although I'm totally impatient, so my cable box and the PS3 are officially stuck to the top of the dresser. Sah-weet!)

Once I got going, I looked at the sad little IKEA chairs that went with the dining set for our apartment in Massachusetts and a lightbulb went on. I could just use those outside. Yes, they're kind of rickety and cheap, but they're just for outside. I knew I wanted them to be something other than just plain wood (we've got a lot of wood going on in our house, and the exterior is brown, so I wanted to punch it up a little bit). Remember how indecisive I was in my quest for the perfect shades of blue and gold for the bedroom and sitting room? Well, those little paint samples did not go to waste, my friends. Sponge brush in hand, I lightly sanded each chair and then just brushed a pretty rough coat over each chair and then coated them in a Satin Poly made for indoor/outdoor use. Voila! I have a cute outdoor seating area that picks up on the colors in the umbrella from World Market and makes our NEW patio looks so much more inviting! (It's amazing how productive you can be when there are toilets that need a thorough cleaning-boy toilets especially!)

Yes, I said new patio. I nabbed the contractors I saw working on our sidewalks and they gave me a number that sounded good. Two days later; Houston, we have a patio. That means we get to put our grill outside permanently, where it will be tied into the gas line from the house so I can use it all year 'round without replacing propane tanks!

Sunday, I started baking for the party, and doing a half-hearted clean-up of the house. Top to Bottom: Peanut Butter Pretzels dipped in chocolate, Chocolate Candy Corn Cookies and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars-all delish!

I know myself very well, so I knew I'd just mess around until the next day in order to treat my family to the raving loon who always comes out to play when there's a deadline that ends in company looming ahead. The difference is that this time, I actually planned and executed so that I was done several hours before guests arrived. I went to bed last night after the party with the satisfaction that comes only from clean sheets and a sparkling house. Waking up this morning, the first thing I did was make my bed, which always starts the day off on a good note. Then I made my kids make their beds. Dishes were done, beds were made, floor was vacuumed, out the door to school and life is good.

 Having a clean house is really important to me. Clutter makes me feel overwhelmed, and I have enough on my plate to overwhelm me without that adding to it. So, I've decided that it's one thing I can really control (uh-oh, is this how it starts Fancy Nancy?) so I will. H is old enough to get little chores like wiping down light switch plates and door handles once a month, and he actually enjoys making his bed and putting his clothes in the laundry, so I better harness that happiness now, right?In light of this most recent acknowledgment in my own self-enlightenment, I've printed off a chart from IHeart Organizing so that I can better stay on top of household cleaning tasks.

I am still sitting here marveling at how much difference it can make to have just a couple of tasks checked off that ever-growing honey-do house list (Especially when it doesn't cost a dime!) in addition to a clean house, it even spurred me to weed my front bed and plant some daisy starts! What have you tackled on a recent 'free' weekend?