Thursday, February 22, 2018

Introducing the Taj MaJohn

I am assuming there will come a day when the doorbell will ring and I won't fling open the door and say "Come on in! Want to see the new bathroom?"

The mailman is hoping that day comes soon.

You know how you plan a project, and you wait and wait and wait and save money for it, and you put up a Pinterest board with nine sections and 209 pins, and you spend five times more than you originally thought you would, and then you hate it?

One of those things did not happen at the House in the Corner.

People, I flat-out love our new bathroom. It is everything I hoped it would be, and I'm just going to go ahead and show you all the before-and-afters then spend the next few six months boring you with the process and the decision-making and what we'd do differently if we were remodeling another bathroom. (Spoiler: Exactly one thing. One minor thing. Also, we're never remodeling another bathroom.)

So. Let's refresh your memory.

The upstairs bathroom had last been remodeled sometime in the 1970s, which we could pinpoint by the use of harvest gold fixtures. (I could do an entire post on how I would vote for any candidate promising a law banning all fixtures and appliances in any color but white, but I will spare you that post.) Some time around 1996 we slapped a coat of lipstick on that pig by painting the (veneer) vanity and putting up some wallpaper and then for the next two decades we spent all of our money on gallons of milk and shoes that were outgrown between the time the Boys tried them on and when they walked out of the shoe store.

Finally, last year, the bathroom remodel rose to the top of the expenditure queue and on January 2 the first workman showed up. Last Saturday the last workman left, and hey! Come on in! Want to see the new bathroom?

Don't disparage my wallpaper--I loved it 22 years ago.
Again refreshing your memory: The bathroom is actually two rooms, the east room (above) that contains the vanity and toilet, and the west room that contains only the shower. This is a dandy set-up for a large family in which modesty is prized because tooth-brushing and showering could be accomplished by two Boys simultaneously. So the door you're looking at goes into the hallway.

This vanity. Oh, my heavens, this vanity. A complete post will ensue, but this is the artistry of a young Small Town craftsman who repurposed a middle school science lab table Husband bought at a surplus auction. It is very possible our own Boys did experiments at this very table, and it is my favorite.

Now you have walked over to the east door, and you're looking all the way through the two rooms to the laundry room door. Notice that it is no longer possible to get a harvest gold toilet seat replacement. It's an advance of civilization.

But a new tall height toilet comes with a matching toilet seat! You can see here the only structural change: The connecting door was widened to accommodate what we assume will be matching walkers some day, as we plan to age in place in this bathroom house.

And now you have walked all the way into the laundry room and are looking back at the tub. So pretty! (I did that tile work myself, hear me roar.)

No more harvest gold tub! In fact, no tub at all (there's one downstairs) because a friend who's a designer pointed out that we're not going to want to step over the side of a tub to get a shower when we're old(er) and decrepit(er). She was also the one who suggested the black grout with the subway tile and that right there is why she's a designer.

And that's enough for today. As threatened promised, I'll be delving into some of the details in the next few posts, including the reason I'm calling it the Taj MaJohn. (Hint: It isn't just because it's a splendid wonder of the world.)

Now, though, I think I hear the doorbell.

Come on in! Want to see the new bathroom?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Going With the (Ice) Flow

Kansas, for all its weird weather, does not normally have thunderstorms in February, so I was discombobulated when a peal of thunder clapped just as the instant alert system woke me at 6 a.m. to tell me the school where I have one of my gigs will be closed today. The thunder was signaling freezing rain and treacherous driving conditions. 

"Not a problem," I thought, "since it's not my day to work anyway." And I snuggled down into the blankets and fell back asleep. 

What didn't register at that dark-early moment was that I had been cleaning the house for two days in preparation for hosting my women's group tonight. I belong to two women's groups that meet regularly, one that is un-fancy and is at my house every week so they've seen it through renovation grime and dust bunnies and all manner of housekeeping faux pas. The other group is just as lovely but only meets here once every decade or so, so the renovation grime would be the sole impression of the House on the Corner.  I did not want that and had shoveled out roughly a metric ton of dust over the past several days.

When I came to full consciousness I realized that the meeting was going to be cancelled. This is a hardy group but we are no longer teenagers and this glaze of ice is the perfect recipe for broken hips all around. 

Darn it anyway. 

Clean house, new bathroom all ready to show off, and cheesecake in the refrigerator. For at least 10 minutes I sulked at the wasted preparation. And then I remembered that just 12 hours I had been sulking because this happened:


Now, instead of being embarrassed to serve this flawed effort to my lovely group, I could put out the call for anyone willing to brave the elements to come over for brunch. Within a few minutes a friend and I were sitting down for mid-morning cheesecake, and it turns out mid-morning is the very best time for a sliver of heavy dessert and a cup of coffee. 

Tonight, when I'm cozy in my jammies and warm robe at 7 p.m., I'll miss my group but enjoy the Olympic figure skating. 

Cheesecake, anyone?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

I Am Doomed

Pardon me if this post has even more typographical errors than usual. My hands are slippery, and they might be sliding off the laptop keys.

I am into my cold-and-flu season routine of hand-washing/hand-lotioning/hand-sanitizing/hand-lotioning/repeat/repeat/repeat/repeat/ad nauseum. Or rather, repeat/repeat/repeat and in hope of no nauseum.

Yes, indeed. I am that annoying person who watches the spray from your uncontained sneeze with equally uncontained horror. I am the one pulling her sleeves over her hands before grasping doorknobs, and the one who actually wipes off the grocery cart handle before shopping.

Am I a germophobe? Most definitely not, as my experience growing up on a farm, serving in the Peace Corps, and raising four sons testifies. I enthusiastically embrace the five-second rule and have been known to wipe a dropped pacifier on my shirt before sticking it back into a baby son's mouth.

But, people, may I respectfully posit that this flu season is bringing out the very worst in people, and that by "very worst" I mean deadly flu germs.

A case in point was my Sunday experience. (A disclaimer: I love my church congregation as if they were my family, but this case at which I'm pointing felt like the most bizarre family reunion ever and I've been to some bizarre family reunions.)

Anyway, I play the piano for our congregation's worship team, which practices early Sunday morning. After practice, we always gather for prayer, and that moment involves forming a circle connected by our linked hands.

This year, however, is the worst flu season in decades. People are dropping like aching, fevered flies, and they are DYING from this flu.


And 80% of flu, cold, and diarrheal germs are passed by hand-to-hand contact. 

Ahem. Anyway, when the moment came for us to join hands for prayer, I suggested that perhaps The Almighty would appreciate us keeping our hands and our germiness to ourselves in the interest of not KILLING THE PEOPLE CREATED BY THE CREATOR. "After all," I pointed out, "80 percent of flu germs are passed by hand-to-hand-contact."

People, the rest of the worship team laughed. So I stood outside of the circle, hands folded during the prayer, with my own personal petition being a silent plea for attitude adjustment. This plea was not completely successful, as I could not resist pointing out that our congregation also is putting into place a security plan because there was a church shooting in Texas. And that while this is a sad and necessary step, we are much more likely to kill each other with our dadgummed hand-holding and WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT THAT?

So. I do what I can, wash-wash-wash-lotion-lotion-lotion-sanitizer-sanitizer-sanitizer and I continue to love the ones who pooh-pooh the Liberian Elbow Bump.

I'm definitely going to be getting the flu.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

You Have to Laugh

We have reached that stage of the bathroom remodel where the completion date is both tantalizingly close and tantalizingly far away.

This is a very dangerous stage.

Oh, I don't mean it's dangerous in a Money Pit bathtub disaster way. No, once the original terrifyingly crash-y demolition of the harvest gold cast iron tub was completed, it's mostly been decisions, followed by check writing, followed by more decisions, followed by pulling out a credit card, followed by more decisions, followed by paralyzing indecision, followed by a worried look at the savings account balance followed by a soup├žon of hand-waving and Gallic emotion.

It has been a journey of self-discovery, in that we have discovered that I have excellent taste, and that my Husband is a serial pamperer.

Do I really want tiled shower walls instead of an insert? Yes. Yes, I do.

Do I insist that the vanity be a hand-crafted piece of furniture that is both beautiful and meaningful? I do, indeed.

Do I really, really think it would be a shame to cover up that beautiful tile work with a shower curtain, and that sliding glass shower doors are not a want but a necessity? I absolutely think that.

Do I know that my eyesight is fading and that I refuse to be one of those old ladies whose chins are covered with whiskers they do not see? Sadly, yes.

And that is why today there is an electrician bumping elbows with our wonderful carpenter. The carpenter has widened the door to accommodate what we assume will some day be matching walkers. The electrician is installing the connections needed for one of those fancy hotel-style swing-out magnifying mirrors.

In all of these decisions Husband has deferred the final decision to me, the one who will inevitably choose the more expensive (but so wonderful!) option.  Bless his accountant's heart, he is amortizing the cost of this renovation over the 30 years we've lived with the dreadful harvest gold option, and when you put it that way it doesn't seem nearly as expensive.

But last night, when I told him that the connection box for the swing-out mirror was going to have to go through a wall that was Sheetrocked over plaster, I think I heard this:

I'd better make sure those matching walkers are really nice.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Ma Belle

The upstairs hallway has become a remodeling obstacle course.

The Great Bathroom Remodel of 2017 2018 continues apace, which is to say it is the typical remodel project in that it is taking twice as long and costing twice as much as expected. But progress is being made!

For the past two weeks we've had the tile guy working upstairs, which is longer than we had expected but not as long as we had feared. We had not known the tile guy before the day he appeared, and that happened when I was out of town.

"So, what's he like?" I asked Husband eagerly.

"Well, he has a pretty strong Spanish accent so I'm not sure what he said his name is. Melissa, maybe?"

Husband is brilliant and has a superb mind for numbers but he is not quite so keen on the subtleties of spoken language. The accent, it turns out, is French, and the tiler's name is Michel.

Michel came here from France five years ago and is a true tile artiste. He has wrangled the un-square walls and wacky foibles of the House on the Corner as if he were Michelangelo connecting God's finger to Adam's on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. There is no "Whoops--didn't quite come out even" in his work. When the towel rod was just an inch too close to the projected location of the shower door, he was popping those tiles off and re-positioning them almost as soon as we had pointed out the miscalculation.

His communication process, however, has a measure of Gallic grumbling and hand waving that I am unaccustomed to in our run-of-the-mill phlegmatic Kansas craftsmen.

He was especially unimpressed with my choice of black grout for the shower.

"Zee black? Eeet is DEEFEECULT!" he handwaved. "With zee white, frah-frah-frah (he pantomimes efficiently whisking away the excess grout), but with zee black? FRAH-FRAH-FRAH." And the intense scrubbing necessary to clean off the tile being installed was truly heartbreaking.

Fortunately, I have had four sons and am unmoved by handwaving and difficulty, because the black grout looks amazing.

This morning Michel arrived to begin grouting the floor tile, and he asked if I'd checked on his progress yesterday.

"I could not love it more," I told him. "Do you like it?"

He grinned.

"But of course!"

He is zee best.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Goodbye, Harvest Gold (With Before Pictures!)

Toilet room, looking west to east.
I've been meaning to write this post for a few weeks, but non-blogging inertia is a strong force to overcome. When I reached a head count of five persons asking me how the bathroom remodel is going, though, I knew the day had come for some Before pictures.

Husband and I are of an age when we have begun to think "Hmmm, I believe we have no more children living in this house."

Yes, you are correct that this entire blog is founded on the notion that no more children are living in this house, but it takes a few years before that sentiment sinks in. The actual moment it began to sink in for me was when Husband said "Do you think we should be looking at downsizing and getting a smaller place?"

That was the signal for me to completely lose my composure. I loooooove the House on the Corner (with a few exceptions for extremely annoying quirks) and every board and nail is freighted with memories and sentiment. I love the1927-era ironing board that's built into the corner of the kitchen. I love the stairway that has a grand-ish entrance from the living room and merges with the humbler entrance from the kitchen halfway up. I even love the stains on its hardwood floors that could not be removed when, on my hands and knees, I stripped those floors 15 years ago.

So as I blubbered to Husband about how I wanted to move straight from this house into the retirement home, it prompted a conversation: Then how do we want to change this house toward that goal? Easiest answer ever: Do something about the bathroom.

The bathroom in the House on the Corner is built like a series of railroad cars. Enter off the upstairs hallway and you'll see a narrow room with a vanity and toilet. Through a door on the other end of that room is another narrow room, this one holding a bathtub. Continue through the door on the end of the tub room and you'll find yourself in a laundry room.

And actually, for a large family, this set-up is not so bad. One Boy could shower while another Boy was brushing teeth or I was doing my hair. Husband could start a load of laundry (entering from a second door through a bedroom) while the toilet room was occupied.

So we were okay with the unusual physical layout. What I was not okay with was the decor.

We moved into this house in 1987, and at that point it was easy to carbon-date the most recent bathroom update. Know how?

Tub room, looking west to east from the laundry room.
Yup. Harvest gold tub, harvest gold sink, harvest gold toilet. Also harvest gold-flecks in the vanity Formica.

And in spite of the nice white tile I put up, and the wallpaper I quite liked when I hung it 20 years ago in a lipstick-on-a-pig effort, harvest gold appliances don't lie.

Did we want to live with this vintage look for the next couple of decades? We did not. So we called in a very nice decorator, and Bathroom Remodel 2017 began.

Except that it didn't begin. Very Nice Decorator pointed out that that the door between the toilet and tub rooms needed to be wide enough to accommodate a walker. (Ouch.) Do you know how hard it is to find a carpenter who wants to take on the piddly little job of widening the door between the toilet and tub rooms? When we started this project last summer we hoped to be done by October. Instead, the carpenter we wanted was able to do the first demolition on Jan. 3, and we're hoping to be into our new digs by...Easter? Maybe?

That's okay with us. We're not inconvenienced all that much, with only two of us sharing the downstairs bathroom. I do have to point out that if a footprint of our house were superimposed on a map of the United States our upstairs bedroom would be located in Seattle and that downstairs bathroom would be in Miami, so I have become much more adept at deciding whether I REALLY need that cup of tea after supper or whether I will follow my new no-liquids-after-after-super rule.

Today the tile guy braved icy roads and is upstairs as I write this, mixing up grout and working his artistry on the new walk-in shower.

For all who have asked, progress is being made.

I'm putting these here as reference for future progress pictures

Here's the toilet room looking east to west:

I walk across the room to stand in the door that's visible in the vanity mirror, and here's the tub room looking east to west:

Beyond that narrow door is the laundry room. You may not see that.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Merry Chaos to All!

Ho, ho, ho! And I know, know, know. Christmas is so last year, but as indicated by today's representative photo, my mind is still in a place of joyful chaos.

People, Christmas was just about as wonderful as life gets. As we gathered around the tree on Christmas morning (well, practically Christmas all day) Husband and I were surrounded by one of his favorite brothers, all four Boys, and TWO Lovely Girls, and it was as if this we'd been waiting all our lives for this exact configuration of loved ones to be together. So much fun, so much laughter, so much happiness.

So much chaos.

Notice the clock on the wall as the final presents were being distributed. Yes, it tells us it's quarter of three in the afternoon, which is exactly 45 minutes past the time I'd invited guests to be at our house for Christmas dinner. I had texted them at 1:30 to let them know they should have another glass of eggnog at home, and I texted them again at 2:30 to tell them to make that two glasses of eggnog.

Somehow, in a process that involved a LOT of improvisation (the potato recipe originally called for 90 minutes in the oven) everyone pitched in and the chaos was tamed and a meal on the table by 4:14 p.m. I only was unglued for about 30 minutes of the prep time, which included rolls that WOULD NOT RISE. (Thank you, Boy#1, for pitching in with the kitchen duties calmly and letting me fret un-calmly.)

The next day cars began pulling away from the curb, and the House on the Corner settled back on its foundation for a few days.

But only for a few days because the start of the new year meant the start of a long-awaited bathroom remodel and the chaos has ramped up to DefCon red levels: As I write this a craftsman with a sledgehammer is demolishing a cast-iron tub in the room above my head. If, as sounds entirely probable, the room above my head suddenly drops a floor and becomes the room on top of my head, tell my family I love them.

And apparently, I love chaos.