Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Our First Harvest

So, we've mentioned before that we have a plot in a local community garden. We inherited a ton of spices in our plot--sorrel, oregano, tarragon, chives, rosemary, thyme, spearmint, and an enormous sage plant--and an inordinate amount of chard. And we don't really like chard, especially inordinate amounts.

We've also planted our own veggies since we acquired the plot in May. We planted various lettuces, corn, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, basil, and cucumber. Some of the veggies didn't take and some are thriving. And some needed picking. Badly.

Below are pics of our first major harvest beyond the occasional pickings of herbs for dinner and such. (And by "our first harvest" I mean "Andi's first harvest" since she does 90% of the gardening.)

Our haul from left to right: chard, spearmint (flowering in back), mini apples from the community orchard,
carrots, arugula.

The first truck load of chard.


The carrots. They're not long, but they have girth.
We are very new at this gardening thing so we purchased a book that was recommended to us by a friend: Golden Gate Gardening: The Complete Guide to Year-Round Food Gardening in the San Francisco Bay Area and Coastal California. It's been extremely helpful such that it tells us what plants thrive in the crappy summer weather of San Francisco, it spells out planting schedules, and it helps us identify weeds (although, another community gardener gave us an even better way of identifying weeds: if you don't want it in your garden, it's a weed.)

If anyone has any advice on how to grow big and tasty veggies in our garden, please feel free to comment!


Friday, August 20, 2010

The Utility Room Begins…

As we wrote in a recent blog (Dryer Dilemma, August 11, 2010), Priority #1 of our renovation is a new dryer, and hence, our utility room. This order of operations was solidified when we learned our bathroom washstand is backordered until January 2011.

So the utility room is now our pilot project for the renovation. Last weekend we sold the washer on Craigslist—$60 cash money—and banished the ancient dryer to the garbage area at the back of our house to await recycling. With the room cleared, we headed down to The Home Depot hell-bent on purchasing new appliances. We had visited The Home Depot to check out appliances before, and had our eyes on a beautiful stackable front-loading LG washer and dryer in powder-coat white.

They were there. They were on sale. We got a rebate. So we bought them. Cost: $1,490.89, including installation, stacking kit, and removal of the old dryer, but not including the mail-in rebate.

We set up delivery for Saturday, August 21 in hope that we could complete the utility room renovation before delivery.

Chartreuse. It looks better in real life.
Trust me.
The next order of business was flooring. We headed to Floorcraft, our local Marmoleum supplier. Andi and I agreed that since the utility room is a small space, we could get a little crazy with the floor color. Our original choice for the flooring was Scarlet, but that color was not available in tiles—only sheets. Our salesperson, Dennis, convinced us that Marmoleum is very difficult to install: sheet installation is for experts-only. He conceded that DIY bloggers should be able to handle tile installation, with some difficulty of course. (We think he was angling for an installation fee.) Heeding his warning, we picked this fantastic Chartreuse tile, which is the color Kermit the Frog would turn if he ate too many lemons.  Total cost: $487.22, including underlayment, adhesive, and installation tools.

With the flooring came our first delay. The Marmoleum has to ship from Pennsylvania and there was no way it would arrive by August 21 when the washer and dryer were slated for delivery. So we phoned The Home Depot and the delivery was rescheduled for September 2. Sadly, it became clear that we would have to launder our duds at Get the Funk Out, our neighborhood laundry mat, for the time being.

Flooring ordered. On to paint. There is a Kelly Moore paint shop about 6 blocks from our new apartment. We matched the chartreuse tile to two very subtle gray paint colors: Drizzle and Heirloom Silver. The lighter Drizzle is for the door, trim, and ceiling, and darker Heirloom Silver is for the walls and all of the pipes in front of the walls. “Darker” is a relative term—both are pretty light. Andi and I lugged 2.5 gallons of paint, primer, and paint supplies up Divisidero to our house, past the wig shop for trannies, five bars, two rib joints, and the Independent concert venue. Cost: $95.43.

Drizzle (left) and Heirloom Gray (right).
We started to rip out the floor. Andi had a minor meltdown when, as I was ripping out the Jimmy Carter-era linoleum covered in mouse droppings, a piece of the flooring hit her in the mouth. She was mad. It took some serious sweet talk, but I eventually smoothed that “killer rabbit” incident over.

Here we are, tearing out the linoleum underlayment.
The damaged linoleum came off much like an orange peel—in long and curling strips. Below it we found some decaying and discolored fiber board underlayment. We took our new crow bar and tore that out in a matter of about an hour.

The redwood planks under all of that crap.
Then the weirdness started. Below the fiberboard was an uneven material, black in some places and tan in others. At first we thought it was tar paper, used in the olden days as water-proofing, but as we tore it out we spotted a familiar pattern: elementary school flooring! We realized that it was another layer of vinyl flooring—probably from the time of the Kennedy administration—completely hardened and cracked from years of neglect. It had the same spotted pattern as everyone’s 1st grade classroom floor.

We decided to tear that layer out as well in lieu of using a self-leveling compound to level the floor. We wanted to do this right. But in order to properly remove the last layer of flooring, we needed to remove the staples that used to attach the underlayment of the linoleum to the sub-floor. There were hundreds of them. I spent a couple of back-wrenching hours yanking them out so Andi could tear out the vinyl.

I use “tear” in the present tense for this job. Andi continues to tear at the vinyl flooring, about 5 work-hours later. It is a tough job involving a ripping chisel (from Andi’s upholstery tool box), a hammer, and a lot of patience. Andi has been working on it diligently, and we have about 80% of it out.

There was a nice surprise as a result of all of this effort: removing both layers of old flooring revealed the original redwood plank floors in the utility room, exactly like the beautiful old flooring throughout our apartment. We considered leaving the redwood floors exposed in the laundry room, but decided we need something more heavy-duty, and water resistant, so we are sticking with the Marmoleum.

Total cost so far: $2,073.54 (not including our celebratory start-of-the-renovation drink).
Part 2: The New Floor coming soon.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Cool vs. Warm Colors and Great Friends

Last night some great friends came by the apartment: Whitney and Martin! They were in town from New York, where Whitney is a product designer and soon-to-be architect. They had great suggestions.

Martin & Whitney - two of our most dedicated blog readers.
First off, Whitney spotted the blue paint tests on our living room walls and suggested that we go with a warmer color. “The paint color sets the psychological tone for a room,” she said. I agree that San Francisco can be foggy and gray—maybe an icy blue is not the right choice for this room. I do love the calming qualities of a light blue/gray, however.

The famous Donut Painting by local artist Jay Mercado.
Whitney looked at our donut painting and suggested pulling a light yellow from the middle of the donut. Her pre-war New York apartment has yellow walls and light parquet floors in the living room, and it is the warmest, happiest room in the home, “like sunshine.” She also mentioned that if we do not want to go really yellow, we could pick a light yellow that would register as white to the eye, but still have a cozy feel.

Whitney and I consulted House Beautiful Colors for Your Home: 300 Designer Favorites, which I have checked out from the library five times. We picked some new colors for me to spot test. They are:
The yellows: Humble Gold, Pale Moon, Morning Sunshine, and Windham Cream.
I will trot on over to Ace Hardware after work to pick up “mini-pots” of these.

The blues that are currently on the walls are:
The blues: Borrowed Light, Light Blue, Yarmouth Blue, Gossamer Blue, Urban Mist, and Offshore Mist.
Dean and I were debating between Urban Mist (a little gray-ish) and Borrowed Light (a true light blue), before we decided to venture down the yellow trail. We might still return to blue, after we check these yellows out.

Do you like warm or cool living spaces better?

Another question: What are your experiences with paint finishes? Flat (or matte), eggshell, or satin?


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dryer Dilemma

Our untrusty rusty dryer and the mysterious
ductwork behind it.
Before we moved in, we knew the apartment had an old, shoddy, rusty dryer. But the previous tenants used it so we thought it would be ok. We were just excited to have our own W&D in our own apartment.

After unpacking, we decided to give laundry a whirl. The washer did exactly what it was supposed to do—clean our clothes—without feeding it a buck-fifty per load. The dryer, on the other hand, did not work. We ran the first load three times before we agreed that it was dry enough to hang somewhere else in the apartment to air dry.

Andi says this is not acceptable. So our new Priority #1 in our house renovation is a new dryer.

I did some exploratory work behind the dryer and found that we have a gas hook-up—which is good since Andi did a bit of research and found that most experts believe that gas dryers are cheaper to operate than electric dryers. If you can truly trust the recommendation of a California bureaucracy, the CA Energy Commission’s website pretty much spells out the differences between gas and electric, with additional tips on buying an efficient dryer:

It seems as though our utility room is a catch-all space for the mechanical systems of the east side of the building—ductwork, electrical conduit, copper water lines, gas lines—you name it, it’s all in there. You might notice from the pic to the upper left that the current layout does not allow a washer and dryer to fit in line with each other because of a duct vent that comes from who-knows-where in the garage. So we have this weird offset that completely ruins the efficiency of the utility room. Basically, we need a stackable laundry system.

Anyone need a decent washer?
Now we just have to pick one out. But first, we need to get rid of the two appliances that we’ve already got.

Since the washer works, we’re going to put it on Craigslist for a price that we’re hoping leads to a quick sale. We’ve never sold a washer on Craigslist so we’re only guessing at what that price will be.

The dryer, the bane of our clothes cleaning process, is a bit more difficult to get rid of. We want to be environmentally responsible and recycle our poor-substitute-for-a-clothes-line so I’ve combed the internet and think I may have found a recycling partner: Bay Area Recycle. For $25 they will haul out the dryer and take it to the Great Recycle Bin in the Sky (or more commonly known as Walnut Creek).

Why are we doing this? Why don’t we just let The Home Depot or Best Buy recycle our appliances when they deliver our new washer and dryer? The answer is simple—we might as well refinish the utility room floor while we are replacing our appliances. The current floor is a mess. It’s nasty linoleum that has a pretty large bit of water damage. But in order to refinish, we need the old appliances out before the new ones are delivered.

We’ve tentatively selected Marmoleum, linoleum made from renewable and natural ingredients, to replace the “unnatural” junk we currently have on the utility room floor. It comes in 13”x13” square tiles in over 120 different colors and is supposedly relatively easy to install. Andi’s mom and dad used it in the utility space of their new house and they absolutely love it. I’ve seen it—it does look nice.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Outdoor Fabric

Upholstering has slowed down because of the move, but now that we have most of the boxes unpacked I can re-focus on my loveseat. It is a perfect size for the front window bay.

The loveseat in its current state in our new bay window.
Last night I tied all of the springs for the seatback using a beautiful product called Ruby Twine. Dean used a drill to screw on a 2”x2” board for the front edge. (As a side note, I negotiated the price of the board down to $0.75 from $2.75 at Lowe’s because it was scrap. I am a fierce negotiator.)

I ordered some fabric samples from Duralee’s Thomas Paul line, which has amazing contemporary patterns. Dean and I like the invertebrate fabric featuring turtles, octopi, lobsters, and crab the best. What do you think? Please participate in the poll in the right-hand column!

From left to right: Birds and butterfies, birds and flowers (small sample), leaf pattern, and invertebrates.
I was ready to order nine yards of the invertebrates until Saturday when, on an urban hike, Dean and I came across the truly amazing store called Lotus Bleu in Hayes Valley. The salesman at Lotus Bleu showed me some truly gorgeous outdoor/indoor fabrics that were so soft and also UV and stain resistant. He said that he always recommends outdoor fabrics for indoor use because they are extremely durable, but advancements in the materials and weaving process make them just as luxurious as regular fabric.

Sadly for me, all of Lotus Bleu’s amazing outdoor fabrics are $80-90 per yard. My budget is around $30 per yard. But Lotus Bleu has inspired me to keep searching for outdoor fabrics before I commit to the invertebrate indoor fabric.
Has anyone ever used outdoor fabric on an upholstery project? Did it turn out well? Was it harder to work with? All comments are appreciated!


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Just Movin' In

It's been a hectic day. We are now in the new apartment! We woke up at 7:30am this morning to make sure we were ready for the movers at 9am. I know, I know--DIY bloggers should never use a moving company. But let me tell you a story...

When I moved in with Andi in July of '09, we moved my stuff ourselves. I packed my things in re-purposed boxes, loaded them into her double-ought VW Jetta, moved them in about a hundred trips, and still had about 15% left to do with about a week left on my lease. And then I had to take a last minute work trip to Singapore. I was gone for that last week leaving Andi to pick up the slack.
She was not happy.

She moved the rest of my stuff, sold the stuff I didn't want on Craigslist, and helped my roommate clean the apartment. The ordeal nearly ended our budding relationship before it really began.

This time we wised up and agreed to hire a moving company to save our sanity and avoid numerous "arguments". At the same time we were supporting a fantastic program that helps rehabilitate those who were homeless or have served time, typically because of drug and alcohol abuse, and get them the tools they need to not only survive, but succeed in their endeavors. The organization is called the Delancey Street Foundation and in SF alone they run a restaurant, a cafe, Christmas tree lots, and a moving company, to name a few of their services. If you'd like more info, check them out here: www.delanceystreetfoundation.org.

So now we're in. We're still in boxes. We have to set up all of our utilities. I'm posting this blog from my iPhone! But we're extremely excited. We're already finding many DIY tasks that need to be completed as soon as possible (although gorgeous, our new place is in shambles). List of potential pitfalls coming soon.