Countertops – Oh The Choices

I want a really groovy, funky, fun kitchen.  I don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it or sacrifice my retirement.  After all, part of our 10 year plan (Yeah….apparently I was supposed to have these throughout my life.  Oops.) was to get out of debt as quickly as possible.  Hence the downsizing to a smaller home.  The fact that this home has been part of the family for 47 years and we are buying it from the family – bonus.  The fact that this puppy needs upwards of $60K in INFRASTRUCTURE alone, BEFORE we even touch a remodel on all the rooms, well, that was a surprise-ish.  Wait…what was my point?

Oh, I want a really groovy, funky, fun kitchen.  I don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it or sacrifice my retirement……

Part of this kitchen plan that Mr. I and I have thought up (design is such a fancy pants word), was something really different for the counters of the island/peninsula that coordinates with the other counters, but doesn’t match.  We ran through many ideas.  One of the many was to have an under-lit counter with L.E.D. lights and a translucent top.  Oh, the ideas that ran through my head.  Mr. I thought this would be really cool.  I did to.  But, the materials to make this happen, well….actually I found many sites that talk about this.  There is glass, acrylic, Corian, quartz and many other translucent materials that would make it work.  However, how much money can you afford?  Take a gander at some of the products I found just through the magic of Pintrest and Google (I have linked the images from whence they came for both your convenience and to send these fine companies business):


Corian Under Lighting and Illumination
Corian by Dupont

Glass Counters with Illumination Under Glow

Back to cost.

Corian: the translucent and solid surface can cost upwards of $120 per square foot.
Glass: Tempered to be used as counters (the thicker the more expensive) is upwards of $200 – $250 per square foot.
Avonite: Acrylic engineered translucent solid surface around $50 per square foot
Quartz: $120 – 175 per square foot
Compare that to granite which is anywhere from $30 – $300 per square foot depending on the grade, design, thickness….yada, yada, yada. (Note to reader, I’m not a fan of granite, however, there are a few pieces that have stopped me in my tracks.  But to turn my head, it usually cost my wallet dearly.  Read on for details.)

Needless to say, all of this stuff is EXPENSIVE.  I know there is a creative way to accomplish this effect, and I haven’t given up on it, but I think I will start small.  A small bathroom vanity top or even a DIY side table or coffee table would be a good place to start to experiment with this idea.  Probably a better idea than trying to do a counter first.

I visited Creative Countertop Solutions in Nashville today.  This is the place in Nashville to find the most creative and luxurious countertop materials.  They had their front counter in under-lit Corian.  They had a beautiful quartzite bar with under mounted lighting.  They sell glass counter tops, recycled glass countertops, counters made of everything from Avonite to  amethyst.  Prices from $50 per square foot to $700 per square foot or more.  If you want something different, you have a nice healthy budget, and you need some ideas for residential or commercial applications, visit their showroom.  Ask for Don Gill.  He’s quite the renaissance man who tells great stories and shares wonderful ideas and a few pictures of his past art adventures.  Although we went a more affordable route….you know that damn 10 year plan and all….if I had the money, I’d just go let Don sell me all the gorgeous counter solutions that money could buy.  And they have more WOW stuff than you can shake a stick at.  But…..I have to be practical.  I don’t need to go down with the black Aphrodite granite strapped to my back.  I want to live to be debt free.  But DAMN are there some beautiful solutions up in there.

So, we’ll see how my cost effective solutions make my kitchen unique, comfortable and user friendly. Won’t be long now before we start the project.

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Kitchen Designers: I’m not one and I don’t even play one on TV

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Replacement Windows – The New Aluminum Siding

Remember in the 50’s and 60’s when the salesmen called Tin Men pushed aluminum siding down the throats of many an unsuspecting homeowner?  Hell, they even made a movie about them.   Yeah, even if you are too young to actually have been alive during their heyday, surely you have heard of them.  Well, let me just say, replacement windows and many of the people who sell them, remind me of the siding salesmen of days gone by.

What a freaking racket.

If you call a roofer, the roofer comes out, gives you an estimate and you either hire him, or not.  Same with HVAC, plumbing, electrical and other construction professionals.  But windows?? No, most come out to give you a dog and pony show.  The tricks they use.  The speeches they give.  I can think of many things other than sitting through one of these spectacles that are more unpleasant, but….wait…..I’m having a hard time thinking of many.  There is the display and presentation of the window.  Ok, that’s fine.  It is good to see a sample of the window.  There is the counting and measuring of the windows.  That’s fine.  But, I’ve found that if the company asks you a ton of questions before booking the appointment or they REQUIRE that both the husband and wife be present during the visit, run.  What that means is, there is a PRODUCTION in your future that both you and your husband will have to sit through.  Bearing witness to this awkward exhibition is uncomfortable at best.

One company we met with (I’ll not mention their name.  I have my reasons.) showed up with a big bag of tricks.  Glass, screen, and frames deemed inferior shuffle to and fro.  When you think your mind is going numb, out comes a heat lamp and a BTU meter so that you can really see just how inferior that “other” glass is.  The sales person stuck to an awkward script and showed us videos of their installation and then a video of the owner claiming, “If we sign today…you get another 7% off!!!!” Even with all their supposed discounts, they wanted more than $900 per window!  WHAT? As he said, they are proud of those windows.  No kidding!  The guy wouldn’t leave us a written estimate because they put it on their “contract”.  And they can’t leave you with a copy of that….for obvious reasons.  Obvious reasons?  What could those be?  They are afraid their competitors will get hold of it.  What?  How crazy is that?

Then they saved the best for last.  If you sign their contract for the windows tonight and you find COMPARABLE windows for less within 30 days they will meet the price.
So I said, “We already have.  $594 a window and the window looks just like this one only it is a triple pane instead of a double pane.”
“That’s not comparable,” he replied.
“Oh…of course!  You told us that this window is exclusive to your company.  So there is NO comparable window”
Silence.  Then…”But we’ll meet the price if you find comparable windows….” he insisted.
Husband and I just look at each other, then at him and we see our conundrum.  No need to belabor the point.  Just move on.

We witnessed dog and pony shows from several companies.

It is exhausting. And it is way too expensive.

So here we are with 18 windows that are in disrepair because no one touched them for 48 years. Reglazing them would be too expensive and would not provide adequate energy efficiency.

There has to be a better way.

Luckily, there is.  If you are in the Nashville area, I highly recommend Builders’ Window Supply. This is a family owned business that will treat you well.  Ask for John Pritchard. Their windows are VERY affordable, even cheaper than all the other quotes we received.  Moreover, they give an excellent warranty on the windows.  They sell to the trade and to public.  They are located on Sidco Drive in Nashville, TN.  Save yourself a lot of time and trouble.  Call them first (link above).  We got all our new exterior doors, interior doors and 18 windows from them.  They also recommended people to install the windows.  We went this route so that our contractor would be free to do other things.  They were in and out of our house in 1/2 a day.  To install the windows, BWS recommended Forst Builders (Stew and Crew).  After our experience we can recommend them as well.  They also are hooked up with Tennessee Valley Authority EScore program. If you hire them, they are approved with the EScore program so you can easily have your inspection and get a rebate on the installation of your windows.  It helps.  Give them a call. Great work. Nice people.

If your contractor wants to use Pella Windows, ask him to go through his channels to get you in touch with Shannon West with Pella Windows.  He will come to the property and measure.  Then he will give you a good price on the spot.  Great guy.  We were almost going to go with him, but Builder’s supply was a much better price.  Nice guy.  Call him.

Windows are important.  Not only to keep the elements out and keep the house at a constant comfortable temperature,  but also to help with THE VIEW.  When we first looked at the house, I quickly realized that a couple of the windows that face the back of the house needed to be bigger.  Forst Builders were able to accommodate.  They enlarged two back windows so that I could enjoy the view from my office window.  Thanks for that.  I look forward to THE VIEW.

That is all.
Carry on.

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Construction Arts

Here’s what I believe is the truth about many people working in the construction arts:

1.) I have had both good luck and bad luck hiring people in this chosen profession. If you have hired, or tried to hire, anyone to do repair work or construction projects, I’m sure you have your own stories, both good and bad.  I’ll leave it at that. 
2.) Only a chosen few understand business etiquette including, but not limited to, returning calls, showing up when they are scheduled. And apologizing when they stand you up.
3.) Warranties, from many that we have hired, are simply sales tools and mean ABSOLUTELY nothing. Don’t spend extra money for them.  If they offer it as part of their service, of course you need to take it.  Hopefully, they will honor it.  Cross your fingers.

4.) Some handy people are not creative…. Or handy.
5.) If you find someone you can trust and who you respect and even like, and IF their feelings are mutual, consider yourself lucky and hold on to that person as long as you can. Consider overpaying a little. Spiff them when you can. Bake them cookies, feed them, imbibe them after a hard day’s work if they appreciate that sort of thing. Make them a friend. This is smart advice even if you don’t own a home. If you own a home, it is required in order to survive your life as a homeowner. Unless you have mad skills, you need a good person to help you maintain and improve your property.  I was lucky.  After many frogs, I found a prince.
7.) If you can build anything, fix everything, never need help lifting that load or toting that pail…. Or bale…. Or never require bail for pissing in a pail after throwing back too many pale ales……Well then, never mind.
I would rather be stripped naked, covered in honey, strapped to a stake stuck in the middle of a fire ant hill in the middle of a public square than build or remodel a house. Been there. Done that. Got the T-Shirt. Hate the T-Shirt and would like to return it in exchange for the time wasted on such endeavors. Here I am. Doing it to two houses….AGAIN!!!  Fuck me runnin’.

That is all.
Carry on.

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Ice Damming

Result of Ice Damming (really it is DAMNING) on a ceiling.
Please… Someone see ‪#‎Jesus‬ in my water damage
so I can sell tickets and pay to fix it. 
This is what Ice Damming….damn it…. looks like the day after.

Dearest Fellow Nashvillians…. And anyone dealing with ice damming…. In the rain after the icepocalypse,

Here’s what I learned:
  1. Call your roofer. Make sure you are one of the first calls in his voice mail. I say this because it is Saturday. Your roofer is not going to call you back.
  2. Call your contractor/handyman/handygal. They can calm your panic and tell you that you are among the many phone calls they received this morning. If you are lucky, they will offer to fight the elements and the treacherous residential streets to come help you, like mine did. Since I knew he couldn’t make it up my hill this morning, and I didn’t want him hurt trying to get here, I told him to stay put. But my guy is great and did check on us during the day.
  3. Call your insurance company. Get in the queue early. File a claim. Hope for the best.
  4. Move the valuables to a dry place. Unplug your computers or electronics if they are wet. Dry them as best you can. DO NOT plug anything back in for 24-48 hours. Let it dry. Or take a wet vac to the most precious item. Make sure they are completely dry before you ever plug them back in. Any chance you have of recovery of these will happen ONLY if they are dry.
  5. Check Facebook. Complain. Bitch. Moan. You may just have a dear friend who was watching the net to pick up helpful hints. I was lucky. Thank you to my friend. I owe you a drink…. And dinner.
  6. Connect a water hose to your hot water heater, if you can. (There is a valve on the tank, but if you aren’t McIver-ish by nature, the rest of my steps may not help you). I was lucky again because I happened to have a tap including a hot water hose and hot water rated nozzle. Why do I have this? Because my brother (thank you @Randy wherever you are in the great beyond) hooked it all up back in 2001 when I started my company and ran it from the house.
  7. Make a note to ALWAYS have a hot water hose tap on any future house you own. It is worth its weight in gold. Not just in this instance, but many other times too…. You’ll figure this out when you think about it a minute.
  8. Put on your rain gear, if you have real rain gear (I’ll explain later), and head outside.
  9. Take the hot water hose and spray your downspouts from the top down. Don’t waste the hot water. Pick the critical downspouts first.
  10. Spray for awhile, then stop. Using the palm of your hand (that I’m sure is gloved in real weatherproof gloves…. Ha!) and slap the shit out of the downspout starting from as high as you can reach downward. Don’t dent them with your fist. Use your Palm to slap. S. L. A. P. Not
    P. U. N. C. H.
  11. Repeat this spray/slap process until you hear the ice in the downspout crack and fall. Then you should hear water running in the gutters again. Do this on the gutters you can reach with your Hot water hose. The ones you can’t reach with the hose? Slap them too…. For luck.
  12. You can’t go inside yet. Look around you. Is the two plus inches of ice preventing water from escaping the de-iced downspouts? Is water having a hard time escaping and you see it pooling at the foundation of your house?
  13. Look at those drainage pipes connected to your downspouts. You paid a lot of money to have those suckers installed so they drain water down your big ass hill. But, how do you hang your ass off that icy cliff to reach the business end of those pipes?
  14. Grab the lid of the metal trashcan that houses extra dog food in the garage. Visualize yourself sliding down the hill if you sit in the saucer shaped under side of the lid. Decide to sit on the top of the lid with the handle between your legs, almost to your “up in there” Then, a.) Argue with your husband as he tells you it will never work,
    b.) Proceed to sit on the lid and scoot down
    the hill just far enough to get to the end of the pipe.
    c.) Now, dig in the heels of your perfect weatherproof rubber boots (Ha!) into the side of that steep Hill.
    d.) Twist your ass on that lid so it digs into the ice and earth.
  15. Reach into the business end of that drainage pipes and pull what ice you can out. Shoot hot water up in there. Reach in again and see if you can pull out more ice. Shoot hot water again. Voila…. A chunk is freed. Water flows.
  16. Since you were victorious, repeat these steps on all downspouts.
  17. When you reach the far side of the house and free that downspout, you notice the black pipe that used to be connected to the downspout is gone. Bailey and Birdie must have redecorated. Water is running against the foundation. Not good.
  18. Take the shovel you’ve been using as an ice pick/walking cane to keep yourself from sliding off the front walk, down the hill and into the waiting ambulance, and dig a trench beneath the downspout so the water can flow down the hill and not pool at the base of the house.
  19. After a half an hour of trenching, ask your husband to go get some black pipe under the house so you can direct the water away.
  20. Husband said it was too slick to get to the place where the pipe is kept.
    So you,
    a.) start stomping off in the direction of where the pipe is kept, handy shovel/ice pick/walking cane in tow,
    b.) carefully climb the wet, icy stairs to reach the pipe,
    c.) pull out pipe,
    d.) see that your husband followed you to the base of the icy steps you just climbed. The same place you asked him to go 10 minutes prior. You see he is now ready to help pull the black pipe back to the misbehaving downspout.
  21. You carefully climb back down the wet, icy steps to return to the misbehaving downspout.
  22. When you return you see your struggling husband fighting with the pipe and the downspout. He believes the pipe is too small for the downspout.
  23. Trudge back through the ice (and rain…. Did I mention it is still raining? And there’s still all this ice?) to the place where the pipe is kept. Back up the icy steps. Under the sunroom (same sunroom where the rain falls INSIDE the room, thanks to ice damming) where the black pipe is. I search for something to “rigatoni” our pipe vs. Downspout.
  24. Trudge back down the icy steps and return to the misbehaving downspout. (did I mention this downspout is at the far side of this house? And it’s still raining? And there’s all this ice?)
  25. See your husband get all creative, up in there. He took the pipe end of a leaf blower and managed to direct the water away from the house. Creative.
  26. Make a note that you really need to fix that downspout….. When it’s dry and warm outside.
  27. Return to the driveway and realize that even though you dug some fine ditches on the far side of the house to direct water, you need to work on the driveway too. T. R. A. P. P. E. D. Water… Everywhere. Water is starting to go toward the garage.
  28. Dig more trenches in your newly, freshly, resurfaced gravel driveway (yeah, just paid money to have that done less than a week ago). Say to yourself, “Self…. It’s only money. You’ll make it up in volume.” (Did I happen to mention that the rain is falling quicker than the ice from the previous weather event can melt?) ice damming…. As far as the eye can see.
  29. Take a gander at the gutters you can see. All those screens up there that were supposed to prevent clogs? Yeah, they are caked in ice. The ice won’t budge. Say, fuck it.
  30. Finally, after realizing for the umpteenth time that you can no longer feel your fingers….. Because they’re wet. You can no longer feel your toes…. Because they’re wet….. You may need to go inside now. And you really need real rain gear.
  31. Go inside.
  32. Take a shower with what little hot water remaining in the tank.
  33. Return to your sunroom/office, with the new inside water feature and clean more. Try your best to remove the standing water. Luckily, the inside rain has slowed…. But it’s still dripping.
  34. Realize that although you didn’t know it yesterday, that was the last day you were going to enjoy that view. The last day you would get to sit at your working computer and be able to gaze outside and watch the birds feed, and the squirrels romp, and the shadows…. And trees…. The peaceful view you’ve loved for so many years…. Yeah, that’s behind you now. Too bad you spent the last few days working on your laptop at the kitchen island where there is no view. You should have been soaking in that view. But nooo…. It is dead to you now. Move on.
  35. Make lunch. Decide that 3 pm is NOT too early for a cocktail on a Saturday. So prepare to have a glass or two for lunch.
  36. After 8 straight days stuck in the house, you have a fleeting thought……… Why are your fat pants so tight?
  37. After lunch, sit in your chair. The same chair that is adjacent to the sunroom/office. The same room that has not been heated all day because you had to Unplug the waterlogged heater.
  38. Proceed to spend the next 2 hours writing this long ass dissertation about how to unclog your ice DAMNED gutters while your husband and dogs nap .
  39. Listen to your husband wake up from his nap and proceed to set up a new office for you in the dining room. But he stops by to say you probably won’t have Internet in there.
  40. Finish up your dissertation. Go to the fridge. Grab opened bottle of wine. Drink it. Start laptop and do a search: REAL rain boots, weatherproof gloves, weatherproof coat……… And key lime pie delivery in the greater Nashville area……and bigger fat pants.
  41. Go to bed.
That is all.
Carry on.
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Embarking on a new "Adventure"

Things are about to change.  There, I said it.  I wrote it.  I accept it…..well, some days are better than others.

We are about to downsize.  As much as we like our house, it is time to move on.  We have our reasons for doing this.  I won’t bore you with the excuses, right now anyway.  I also won’t bore you with the past 2 or 3 months worth of roller coaster emotions involved in a decision of this magnitude. Suffice it to say, although I swore I wouldn’t move again, we are moving.  Not far, just a few minutes away from our current neighborhood.  But for us, it may has well be another state.

What can I say?  We have become very rooted people.  We stay put.  We’ve decided to change that.

So, I might as well get on with it.

We are going to start a remodeling project on the “new” house.  It is a nice 1967 split level that is located in a little more urban area than we are used to.  The house has only had 1 owner, my in-laws, so we know where it’s been.  My husband and his family moved into the house back in 1968 or 1969 or 1970 or….there is some debate on the year.  The lot is smaller than our current lot. The house is smaller than the big ass house (really too big for 2 people) in which we currently live. The appreciation rate is smaller.  The street is busier. But that’s OK.  It will be more manageable.  That is what I’m telling myself.  My mantras: IT WILL BE MORE MANAGEABLE….oohhhhmmmm…..IT HAS FEWER STAIRS….oohhhhhmmmmm……UTILITY BILLS WILL BE LESS….oohhhhmmmm… get the idea.  I created mantras to convince myself of this decision. It will be a nice house for us. Well, after it is finished, anyway. Because although this awkward-ass house has been loved by the family since 1968 or 1969 or 1970, it has had minimal updates.  Scratch that….other than new carpet 16 years ago and a replaced HVAC unit along the same time,  and a roof here or there, it has had NO updates.  It is overwhelming.  However, the house has been kept in decent shape.  It has good bones, as my contractor, Sean Thornton, says.  I’m going to rely on his vision until progress is seen.  Because, I’ll be honest, from where I sit, I’m having a tough time seeing its bones.  I just see dollar signs and stress.

The work should begin in March of 2015 in earnest.  Kitchen will be gutted.  Walls will come down. Carpet will come up.  We are going to spread our aesthetics all up in that house as far as our budget will allow.  And I shall write about it and share what I’ve learned along the way.

One more home improvement blog? One more Pinterest kitsch-fest?

Hey now, I’m just gonna let it be what it wants to be.  But yes, there will be Pinterest-able posts of kitsch and kitchens.

You’ll survive.

Here we go……

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Ever since I read the funniest blog post ever and decided that one day, I will have a BACTWCY (big ass chicken that will cut you) in my backyard, my friends have decided that they will help me achieve my goal.  But there is something that is even funnier about this chicken story.

I’ve spoken about my Grandmother Dearie, if you remember, in a previous post.  Well, you see, when she passed away, I became the proud owner of every kind of chicken tchotchke you can imagine.  I always thought Dearie collected them because she loved them.  And because she loved them so much, I kept them.  Hence, I now have a house full of all kinds of roosters and hens.
 I have chicken dishes, chicken paintings, chicken glasses, chicken cups, chicken salt and pepper shakers, chicken candle sticks, chicken cream and sugars, chicken pitchers yada, yada, yada.  Dearie loved tole painting.  Tole painting lends itself well to chickens.  So I have wooden stand up hand painted chickens as well as chickens that were painted on wooden cutting boards, recipe stands….you get the idea.  I have chickens coming out of my ears.  And I remember when I was younger looking around at her house thinking when she died, I really didn’t want all those chickens.  But guess what….I’ve got all those chickens.  Mom, her daughter, has some of them too, so at least we shared the chicken love.  Well, enter the story from the funniest blog post ever.  Add my deep desire to own a Big Ass Chicken That Will Cut You.  I shared the story with Mom.  Here’s how that conversation went….

Mom: “Marla, Honey….  Don’t tell anyone you want a Big Ass Metal Chicken That Will Cut You!”

Me: “Why?”

Mom: “Because!  You have now opened the flood gates and you will get every damn chicken under the sun from now until the end of time!  And look around you!  You are covered up in Chicken Shit as it is!”

Me: “Really?  You Think So?”

Mom: “Yes!  How the hell do you think Dearie got all her chickens?”

Me: “I thought she collected them because she loved them.”

Mom: “Hell no!  She got so many because she told one person she liked ONE fucking chicken and the next thing she knew for years to come that is ALL she ever got for gifts!  No one knew what else to get her so everyone got her something with a chicken on it.  And THAT is why you ended up with so many fucking chickens!”

Me: “Oh….crap!”

Of course, this conversation happened before she, my mother, went out and bought me my first metal chicken that will cut me LACTWCY (little ass chicken that will cut you).  I guess she figured I was already covered in chicken shit,  she might as well add to the pile.  It is a disease.

So….be careful what you wish for.  Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched…..and don’t let that Big Ass Chicken That Will Cut You have babies that will consume your coop.

These jokes can’t write themselves up in here.  

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