Monday, July 31, 2006

Blinded by the ... Lighthouse

I noticed on Friday that the painting crew did not put a primer coat on the new walls before they started slapping on the yellow. Unfortunately, by the time I noticed, they were already on the last wall. This concerns me for a couple of reasons. One, according to the written estimate, I am paying for "primer coat plus two top coats on new walls," and I didn't get a primer coat. Two, I agonized over that color. When creating test boards, I went by what the estimate said... primer coat. To me, that has always meant flat white. So, I took scraps of wallboard and primed them with white paint, and then tested my colors.

According to Martha and all the other color gurus out there, what's underneath really does matter. The color you see on top changes, albeit subtly, depending on the color of the underlayment. Artists know this. I know this because I've tested lots of paint on lots of different walls, old and new, over the years. I challenge you to try it yourself. Paint a single light color over two completely different base colors, say one green and one cream. Stand back and appreciate the chameleon effect of those "true colors shining through." With a good quality wall paint, and at least two coats, this color concept may not be as important as shifts in lighting, but it does matter. Also... did I mention I'm paying for that primer coat? This painting stuff ain't cheap.

So what do I have now? Grey drywall + BM Lighthouse = that greenish-yellow tinge I was so trying to avoid. Argh. I've put a call in to the CertaPro manager. In the meantime, I'm not going to fret too much. If you learn nothing else during a remodel, you learn what constitutes major problems, setbacks and aggravation and what is usually easily rectified. This one is a mere speck in the grand scheme of things. Onward...


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Not a Bowl of Cherries

Wild swamp blackberries

Reading this blog, one might think that this New Jersey kitchen remodel has all been a piece of cake. And comparatively speaking, it has been. Compared to the forced remodel-from-hell in Minnesota, this one has been a dream. So far. Knock on wood. Shhh.

So far the disappointments have been few. The first one came with the arrival of the farm sink. Remember the sink from eBay I raved about? Well, yes, it was a steal on sale for $555. I had a funny feeling, though, not long after I bought it. First of all, I had problems paying for the darn thing. With half a grand at stake, I wasn’t settling for Paypal protection… I wanted bona fide Mastercard protection in the unlikely event I might be scammed somehow on this transaction. But, Paypal wouldn’t allow me to use my Mastercard unless I first had a zero balance in my Paypal account. So I had to empty my Paypal account of cash. And change all my current preferences. Which sent up all kinds of alarms at Paypal, and they kept sending me messages telling me something suspicious was happening with my account. Yes, I know. I’m the one doing the suspicious stuff. But thanks for your concern. So it took me about 24 hours to pay. I think that’s the longest I’ve ever waited before sending payment on an eBay purchase. I typically pay within minutes.

After payment, I usually get a response from the seller regarding shipping details. Instead I got an email from eBay warning me that the seller had “requested personal information” about me. Weird, but okay. They just wanted to verify my already Paypal-verified address, I suppose. Making sure the person who paid them $555 was the same person who actually purchased the sink. Dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s. Good.

But still I had this little nagging worry in the back of my head. Enough to make me pester the seller with emails about shipping ("has it shipped yet?" "when was it shipped?" “can you give me a date? ETA?”) and tracking ("do you have a tracking number for me?" "that tracking number doesn't seem to be working" "WHAT carrier was that again? I've never heard of it"). And when I finally figured out the obscure tracking, it told me the sink had been delivered. Yesterday. It didn’t list an address. Just my town. I’ve tracked tons of packages. I know how it works, and this didn’t sound right. Shipping companies don't list my town as the holding facility for packages en route. The big town up north of me that starts with a P is the town always listed.

Now, I knew that I did not have said sink in my possession. It wasn’t even hiding under the deck like the pine flooring that came from Maryland (another story). I had seen a UPS truck parked at the house across the street yesterday. My neighbors are still in France. Perhaps their immigrant servants took delivery, unawares. Was my sink on their front porch? So, I emailed the seller again, asking what the tracking meant. He said, no, it’s just been delivered to the town and is waiting to be delivered to the house. Well, that’s odd. My town center consists of about 4 tiny historic houses, an old-fashioned fire station, 2 big churches and 2 big ponds. There is certainly not any UPS delivery warehouse hiding out among them. But, I sat on my hands and waited another day.

The sink arrived next morning while I was out buying sample paint. Naturally, I couldn't wait to open it. Only I did wait because the oversize package was so darn heavy I couldn't even shift it from where it stood on end, teetering at the edge of the porch steps, where it had apparently been unceremoniously dumped by the mysterious UPS-not-really-UPS delivery man. With a package measuring about 4' long x 3' wide x 2' deep, I had to wonder... Was this a kitchen sink or a bathtub?

When DH got home we began the daunting task of unpacking a box sealed within a bag glued inside another box filled with that hard, yellow foam-type insulation that comes out of an aerosol can. It was a bit like an archeological dig, opening that package. And when we finally lifted the prize from its foam grave, before we even opened the inner box, we heard an ominous "clink." Not good.
Despite all the ingenious packing, the whole front corner of the sink was cracked off all the way through the bottom to the drainhole.

The good news is the seller was extremely accommodating, and offered to send a new sink at once. I counter-offered to drive in to Brooklyn and pick it up myself. They assured me that wasn’t necessary. I had to agree. What are the odds a second sink would also arrive damaged? Indeed, the replacement arrived lightning fast and seems to be in perfect condition. So far. Shhh.

I don't have everything yet, but I do have the kitchen sink. Two of them, in fact.

Now, about that paint job.... argh.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Light to Guide the Way

The lighthouse in St. Michaels, Maryland

After much agonizing, I finally decided on a color. Two things helped catalyze the decision.

1) We visited open houses this weekend, where I discovered what my house has been trying to tell me. It didn't want dark, deep and rich. It really wanted to be light. It said, "I am not a 1920's neo-colonial with dark woodwork and high ceilings. I am a light airy cottage with big windows." The other houses we looked at somehow clarified this for us.

2) My sister, who has a special eye for these things, honed in on a color from 1000 miles away, in another state, over the phone. I've always trusted her design expertise. So even though I had already previously tried (and literally tossed out) the color she picked, I decided to go dig the board out of the trash and consider it again. Lo and behold, it was somehow perfect. Not too peach, no hint of green, not at all muddy. I originally tossed it because it was light, but once I listened to the house and stopped looking at darks, and with a little push in the right direction, I found my color. Benjamin Moore's Lighthouse. And guess what? It's on the same color strip as my other yellow, Morning Sunshine, just one shade lighter.

Sometimes, we waste a lot of effort searching for something without realizing that what we really want is right under our nose. We simply need to slow down, listen more closely to our surroundings, and be willing to alter our perspective, even if only a little bit.


Not the greatest shot since we haven't emptied the room of junk, but we officially have a FLOOR! It is a good shot of my ceilings, though.

And a closer view:


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Pick a Yellow, Any Yellow

Or not.

You only have 25,000 shades, hues and values to choose from. Who knew there could be so many varieties of a basic primary color? I have purchased about 20 sample cans of yellow paint and taken home hundreds (yes, hundreds) of paint chips during the past week, searching for that perfect shade. None of them is the right one. I don't even think I'm getting close. They are all either too dull, too bright, too cream, too peach or, worst of all, too lime green. It doesn't help that each one changes depending on where I place the sample board (and when). Under the florescents, everything looks puke green. In the sunlight, they're either too yellow or too pale. At dusk or on a cloudy day, most look muddy brown. In the hallway, they look different from in the kitchen.

Picking the sage for the laundry room was easy. Three sample colors and voila! I chose Benjamin Moore's Hollingsworth Green from the historical collection. But yellow? Maybe I just don't know what I'm looking for. Do I even want yellow? If not yellow, what else? DH doesn't want sage. Should we be bold and go red? What does the house want? My house in Minnesota begged me for yellow, a deep rich yellow. So naturally I thought that was MY yellow -- Benjamin Moore's Morning Sunshine. Funny thing, when I bought the sample and tried it here in NJ, it just looks like peach sherbet gone bad. But I swear it's yellow in the other house.

The paint companies, like Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore, now have this neat online program, a personal color visualizer, that allows you to choose a room and paint it with any of their gajillion colors. Supposedly, it will help you pick a color. It sounds like a great idea, and it's so fun to play with that my daughter pushed me off the computer so that she could "decorate." The drawback is that the color you see on the monitor is not necessarily accurate, and the same color swatch will look three different shades on three different computers.... and who's to say what color it will be on the actual wall? And quite frankly, when you're trying to decide between a swatch that is only 1/100th of a shade different from another, well, the subtleties become impossible to appreciate.

How is it that I can strike out so many times? I'm literally dreaming about yellows. When I close my eyes during the day, I see swatches of yellow. I can describe it. I can almost see it, that perfect shade. A warm, rich, deep, golden yellow that complements red accents and has no hint of green. But not too dark. A Monarch yellow, cheese yellow, Rudbeckia yellow, a Tuscany yellow. Yet none of these colors is speaking to me, neither at the paint store nor in my house. I fear I will break the bank looking for yellow. My painters will be here next week, and I'm fresh out of color.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Summer Morning

Summer is almost over. How depressing.

I fear I'm running out of energy for this kitchen project. For some reason today the thought of building cabinets and calling flooring guys, arranging for PODS and picking out wall colors (ack!) is making me very tired. I need a vacation. (ahem, but you ARE on vacation.) No, I need a real vacation... like in the mountains somewhere near a lake or in a fully finished and furnished house on the coast of Maine somewhere. With no computers, no deadlines, no neighbors, no nothing. But alas, just thinking of hunting up such a place makes me tired.

Or maybe it's the 105 F heat index outside for the past few days making me feel this way. Oh, and the constant flow of contractors in my house every day is starting to get on my nerves. I'm not complaining. I am still so grateful for them. But it has somehow changed the dynamics. Of everything.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Ka-ching! Ka-ching!

Yesterday, we left the house in the morning intent upon buying a $25 part for the lawnmower, so we could finally mow the lawn-as-hayfield.

Now that we have hired helpers to work on the house, we're kind of confused about how to spend our time. What? We don't have to spackle? No painting? No woodwork? Nothing to install? What's a DIY family to do?

Well, shop apparently. By the end of the day, after buying the $25 lawnmower part, we had added another $3000 to the credit card.

Among our purchases were the Frigidaire Twins. After lifting them into the house (what would we do without the tractor?),
and plugging them in, DH said it's beginning to look like we're opening a restaurant. As of today, we own six refrigerators/freezers. Craigslist, here we come.

Frigidaire Twins, still sporting their white protective coverings

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and Trimmed


Wednesday, July 12, 2006



Tuesday, July 11, 2006

When It Rains, It Pours

Keep your fingers crossed for me!!!

I can barely contain my excitement. Two different contractors showed up at my house today to give me estimates! The phone-tagging trim carpenter and a drywall/taping/spackling contractor. Waaa Hooo!! And the best part? They can both start this week...the spackler dude could start tomorrow. If I agree to his price. I am supposed to get the final estimates later tonight. So I sit here, hoping, hoping, hoping that they will be within reason so that I can say "Yes! Bring it on!"

Meanwhile, here is a shot of the new kitchen. Compare it to the same view just three weeks ago.


Friday, July 07, 2006

Vive la Difference!

This is the hallway last summer. (Wow, it seems like eons ago!)

And this is the hallway today.

This is the Yellow Alien that helped us drywall the ceilings.

When cutting out the holes in the drywall for the cans and vents, DH slipped on his goggles and mask and claimed, "Now it's MY turn to do surgery."
So, I couldn't resist....

His surgery:

And my surgery:


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Looking Up

I originally intended the post with this title to be about our new ceilings. But I must digress a moment.

Just yesterday I said things might be looking up. Well, I’m beginning to wonder. With the trusty cordless phone ever-present in my pocket as I trudged around outside today, digging through garbage bags, tossing around junk and generally traumatizing the resident mice, snakes, spiders, bats and phoebes of the corn crib, I began to feel the silent creepings of the typical New Jersey run-around.

This trim carpenter and I have been playing phone tag for four days now. How ridiculous is that? And tonight, I’m getting the ominous vibe of “he knows it’s me calling and he’s just not picking up.” Hopefully, I’m just paranoid. But past experience tells me I’m not. Maybe I offended him somehow. (I’ve never called more than once in a day – and always as a return call.) Likely, he took a surreptitious drive by my address and saw the forlorn, abandoned character of the place. That, or he just thinks I’m nuts. Maybe it’s my answering phone message mentioning birds and bunnies. Maybe it’s my Southern accent…he thinks I’m nuts, poor and dumb. Or maybe he can somehow hear a quiet desperation in the messages I leave. I try not to sound desperate, really I do. But perhaps I’m too transparent, and it comes through anyway. Desperately Seeking Spackler.

This brought to mind something about last summer that I had forgotten. We hired two contractors last year to excavate and build the concrete block foundation for the future garage. We signed the written contracts, mailed them back… waited and waited and called and called and…….. guess what? We still haven’t heard a peep from those jerks. Not a word. And these were people we knew personally. People who had done work for us before. It’s not like we don’t pay. We always pay. On time. We tip even. With a 10 year-long ongoing renovation, we’re good repeat customers. So what the hell is it? God, I wish I knew. Somewhere, sometime, somehow, we pissed off the NJ Construction Gods. Our name is mud. Time to move. (Well, that’s good for a laugh.) Or hey, who knows, maybe I am just nuts.

I promise I’ll post pictures of our new ceilings tomorrow. For now, where’s the chocolate?


Do You eBay? I Do!

Blanco Pot Filler in Stainless Steel

What's the most fun part of a kitchen remodel? The shopping, of course! I'm fairly frugal and always looking for a deal, which is why eBay is one of my favorite haunts. Would I buy a house or a car on eBay? Probably not. Okay, no. But everything else is up for grabs -- as long as the shipping is not too exorbitant, and as long as the price is better than what I could get it for locally. And some things just aren't available anywhere else. I've bought many things on eBay over the years, from mealworms to clothing to tractors. Kitchen accoutrements are one of the best bargains going.

Last summer I purchased a garbage disposal for the MN kitchen (still yet to be installed!). Now begins my spending spree for the NJ kitchen.

What makes eBay fun?

Sniping! I prefer to snipe by hand, rather than use a sniping service. That takes all the fun out of it. Yesterday, I sniped this brand new Rangemaster hood insert (regularly $500+) with only 2 seconds to go. Look at the times of the last few bids.... look at the seconds! Exhilarating, I tell ya!

Last week, I purchased a new, never-used stainless steel Blanco pot filler faucet. Savings? Only about $50. This one was purchased outright, through the Buy It Now feature. But I was so excited, I had DH install it (temporarily of course) as soon as it arrived. I also wanted to make sure it really worked.

What's next on my eBay shopping list? The Whitehaus fireclay farm sink (a steal at $550), the Frigidaire Twins, maybe the Kohler Vinnata. But right now, the weather's cool out so it's time to go clean out the corncrib and garage. Cheers!


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Just slap a coat of paint on

Lots of progress was made on the house this weekend. For starters, I hired painters! Woo-hoo! Certa-Pro actually showed up, gave us a reasonable estimate and a date they can start (July 24). This is the same company we used to paint our house in Minnesota, where they did an incredible job. Of course, now this means I have a deadline! We must have all the walls and ceilings taped and mudded and all the trim installed within the next 2 weeks. Luckily, the painter recommended a trim carpenter who may be able to help us out. Things might be looking up.

I admit, I abhor painting. Pick up any decorating or house magazine, and they all tout the same stuff: "Painting is DIY easy... quick... cheap... best way to transform a room..." Blah blah blah. What they don't say is that painting is a tedious, boring, detail-oriented job whose quality can either make or break the overall aesthetics of the finished project. Whenever we've painted, the results are almost always terrible. Just slap it on? Yep, looks like it. DIY painting is not for impatient homeowners in a hurry with a backlog of other projects. Maybe it was okay back when we were young and had more time than money and were less discerning about the results. But now? I'd rather build walls than paint them. Leave the finishing work to the pros.

Speaking of looking up.... We have ceilings!


Monday, July 03, 2006

Swinging into Summer