Friday, July 31, 2009

bit by bit...

So after a huge amount of hammering and sawing, I have unfinished oak treads and risers installed. The guys did a great job, and any thoughts I'd had that perhaps the stairs were a DIY project were banished by the long hard day put in by both carpenters, one of whom came back for a couple of hours this morning to finish up. Next Wednesday the flooring crew comes in to do the landings, and then to sand, stain and finish, after which I'll be posting more pics.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

a new project - stairs!

I worked very hard this weekend, and I can feel it in my back, but I'm happy because FINALLY I'm having the stairs redone. It'll be seven years in October since the fire. I won't rehash why it's taken this long to complete these final projects except to say there was a contractor fiasco. This is the last big project of what remained to be done, and I'm very happy to finally have the end in sight.

I worked hard this weekend because the man who’s redoing the stairs is scheduled to start next Thursday, and I needed to get them ready. Before the fire, the stairs were carpeted. I don't like the look of carpeted stairs, and I hate vacuuming them. After the fire, I got rid of all the wall to wall carpeting in my house. Every floor, upstairs and down, is now either hardwood or tile or, in the game room, Pergo, so at first, I decided to have the stairs tiled too. I found some Mexican tiles that I loved, and in anticipation of having this done, I had a carpenter put down cement board over the wood. Kath immediately said it was a bad idea, arguing that tile is too slippery for stairs. I wanted the tile, but worried she was right, so I decided to wait “for a while” to make up my mind. The stairs have now been covered in cement board for about six years. A couple of years ago, vowing to not spend another Christmas with cement board covered stairs in the front hall, I decided to bite the bullet and simply have them carpeted again. This was definitely the cheapest alternative. But about that time I was having the fence built, and one of the guys from whom I got an estimate walked through my house. It turns out he was a builder in another life, and when he saw the stairs, he asked what I was planning to do with them. I told him I was going to carpet them. He advised against it, pointing out that on the bottom step, the carpet would meet the Saltillo tile, and no matter what type of carpet I picked, that would never look right. Originally the lower stairs were open, and so although they were carpeted, the carpet never abutted the Saltillo. After the fire, I had the lower stairs rebuilt to match the upper stairs, so all 12 steps are closed in. I realized he was right, so I put the carpeting idea on hold, but the prospect of finding someone to remodel the stairs in wood (to say nothing of the price of doing that) was daunting.

This summer I decided the time had finally come when this project needed to be underway, so a couple of weeks ago I started getting estimates. A friend who had had the stairs in his townhouse remodeled told me the approximate cost, per step, so I had a ballpark figure in my head for what it should cost. However, he had no landings; I have two, and it turns out landings are a separate expense, and not a small one. The stairs themselves (risers and treads) will be constructed by one contractor; when he’s done, a flooring contractor will come in to do the landings and will then sand, stain and finish everything.

The good news is that I’ve found two guys who seem to know what they’re talking about, and whose numbers, although not cheap, are in the ballpark. But before any wood can be installed, the cement board needed to be removed. To save money, I decided this was something I could do myself. I started Friday night and ended up working all night Saturday finishing up. The carpenter had used construction screws on the top floor landing, an area approximately 9’ x 4’, and those pieces of backer board came up easily, but for reasons unknown to me, he decided to nail the rest of it with 3” nails. My guess is that’s what he had in his truck. Most of the nails were slightly counter sunk, so the only way to remove the cement board was to force a pry bar under it and pry it off. There was no easy way to do this. For most of it, I had to start with a chisel. In some places, to make the cement board flush, he’d placed sheetrock behind it. It appeared that he had glued a couple of sections. For the tile to adhere properly, all of the cement board should probably have been glued, but thank goodness he didn’t do this, because removing the glued sections took forever. When the last of the cement board and sheet rock had finally been removed, I was left with a zillion nails sticking out of the wood. I was able to remove most of them, but some simply could not be pried loose, so I hammered most of those back into the wood. I discovered a couple of areas on the plywood on both landings that my Bengal cats Mia and Leo had nailed (i.e., sprayed with urine – which is why they are no longer living with me), so I painted those with a coat of Kilz, and I’ll probably apply a couple more coats before the remodeling starts. I'll post more pics as the project progresses.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

I love the 4th of July! My favorite thing is the fireworks, which they do two nights in a row in Texas (do they do that in other states, too?), but I also love the food. This year, A is cooking ribs, which we'll be eating here at my house tomorrow afternoon, along with coleslaw and corn on the cob and homemade strawberry ice cream, and I'll probably make my 4th of July flag cake, pictured above. There's a heavy dose of grand marnier in the raspberry filling that always makes it a big hit. Alex, Chris and Silas are driving in from Chicago and will arrive late tonight. Silas is sporting a new tooth, and he and Alex will stay with me (woo hoo!) while Chris goes off to Australia for a couple of weeks.

Happy Independence Day!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Cringe TV - the Mark Sanford scandal, or Don't Cry For Me, Argentina...

A couple of weeks ago, over at Women On, Lisa invited writers to post on Cringe TV, the kind of stuff that makes you cringe when you watch it, referencing an NPR article that cited the stories then circulating about Jon and Kate Plus Eight. I read the article and found it interesting and thought about writing something, but hey! It's summer. The commute is long and hot, and when I'm home, if I'm not inside reading and making various pasta salads and drinking ice tea, well, the deck needed refinishing, and my flower beds needed work, among other things. So I didn't write anything, and didn't think I was going to write anything on that particular topic...but then the Mark Sanford story broke, and it's pushed me over the edge.

Would someone please tell the Sanfords, both of them, to just shut up? And it would help if the "news" media would develop some sense of journalistic integrity and just stop interviewing the two of them, period. In case you've been somewhere that you've managed to avoid this fiasco, I'm referring to the Governor of South Carolina and his wife, and their ENDLESS venting of their feelings, his and hers, about his having an affair with his soulmate (his description - puh-leez!), with whom he recently spent a week in Argentina (where she lives) while telling his staff he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Sanford is a conservative Republican, by the way, a member of the God Squad who, while in Congress, opposed gay civil unions and abortion, among other things. He was, of course, an outspoken critic of President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, voting for impeachment and calling for the President to resign, saying, "I think it would be much better for the country and for him personally (to resign)... I come from the business side. If you had a chairman or president in the business world facing these allegations, he'd be gone."

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak, he's not considering resigning, himself. In a message posted on his website, he writes that for God to really work in his life (I'm not making this up!), he (Mark, lover-boy Sanford) needs to stay in office.

Uh-huh. Dunno about you, but when I vote for our elected officials, it's not because I think public office is a way for God to really work in their lives. What a dumb ass. And as if that weren't enough, he will not shut up about it! And now his wife is talking too. At first, I felt sorry for her, especially after he said Maria Chapur is his soulmate, but he's going to "try" to "fall back in love" with his wife. This was in the news conference a couple of days ago in which he mentioned he's "crossed the line" with other women, too. But since Jenny Sanford has taken to quoting the bible in her smarmy comments about the situation, I'd like her to shut up too.

Hank Stuever, who writes about TV and pop culture for The Washington Post, is quoted in the NPR article as saying: "People now spend a considerable amount of time deconstructing what just happened to them," with the result that "our worst instincts are reflected back on ourselves."

The endless press coverage of this sordid story is a textbook illustration of that statement. The Sanfords have four young sons who will no doubt eventually read every word each of their parents is now saying about this miserable situation. If only someone would please point out to these two bible thumpers that those are four excellent reasons for the two of them to shut the hell up.