Saturday, November 20, 2010

Her New Look!

Bounce on over to Wordpress to check out Her New Leaf's new look. Click here! Reset your readers and subscriptions to the new address!

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Job Is Ridiculous.

I sent my mom an email earlier today asking for suggestions for blogging topics, but funnily enough, this afternoon one fell into my lap. Literally. Let me explain.

First of all, note the title of this entry. Ridiculous. I've mentioned before that I loved my old job and I was really sad to leave it. But I found a new job that I thought I would like almost as much. Not exactly. There is one huge difference between my old job and my new job: parents. My old job was working with kids at a residential school, so I almost never had to interact with the kids' parents. In my new job, I see parents every. single. day. And anyone who works with kids will surely tell you that dealing with the parents is the worst part. It's true.

Let me tell you about "Anxiety Mom." Anxiety Mom is the mother of a new client I recently started seeing 2-3 times per week. Anxiety Mom is (clearly) anxious. I understand that having a child with special needs is extremely difficult and that while I choose to work with these kids, their parents have no choice. I really get it. But Anxiety Mom is off the charts. Anxiety Mom is anxious about everything.. everything having to do directly with her child's health and safety. And completely oblivious to everything else.

When I got to La Casa de la Anxiety today (hey, I live in southern California, everything's Spanish here), the live-in nanny answered the door and let me in. I went up to the little girl's room and found her, along with Anxiety Mom there. I got started with my paperwork and Anxiety Mom told me that her daughter had to go to the dentist today, and asked if I could go with her. This type of request isn't really unusual as we assist families in all aspects of their lives, including the more challenging ones like going to the dentist. I said sure and asked what time we'd be leaving. A.M. said 3:30, and my shift was set to end at 4:30, so this was fine. A.M. left the room and I started working with the little girl.

We were dancing and listening to Hannah Montana (her favorite activity) and stopped to take a break to read a book. The two of us were sitting on the rug when she leaned forward and puked, right in my lap. Now, many of you are cringing right now, but honestly, this is part of my job. I have been scratched, bitten, snotted on, peed on, smelled, licked, and had my hair pulled tons of times. I knew that this little girl has tummy problems with reflux and things, so this also wasn't very unusual for her either. This was one of those occasions when (you childcare people/mommies know what I mean) you get vomitted on/drooled on/burped on and you can immediately identify the last thing that kid ate. Today it was vanilla yogurt. ANYWAY, I went to the top of the stairs to yell down for the nanny (because I know that Anxiety Mom is not to be bothered with trivial things such as these) and she came up to help clean up. And despite the fact that so many wise, wise people have told me to do so, I did not have a change of clothes in my car. So I wiped myself up to the best of my ability.

It was almost time to go and Anxiety Mom was anxiety-ing all over the place, packing books and toys and snacks (why would you need snacks for a trip to the dentist?). Actually, she was telling the nanny to pack all these things. The nanny tells A.M. that the kid had puked (on me) but that she seemed okay, and A.M. didn't seem concerned. We finally get out the door and A.M. chooses this minute to ask me what time I would be working til. "4:30," I said. "Damn," she says, "I thought it was 6." So I tell her that I can just follow her in my own car and leave at 4:30, and she agrees. I walk around the corner to where my car is parked. As I am turning around in the next door neighbor's driveway, I see Anxiety Mom, in her expensive-looking silver SUV, speeding away. I hustle to catch up but get stuck at a red light, literally a block away from La Casa de la Anxiety.

I knew that the dentist was off of a particular street to I just continued to follow along, wondering if I would ever catch up and be able to identify A.M.'s expensive-looking silver SUV, since those kind of cars are not exactly few and far between in sunny Los Angeles, California. I don't see her but quickly hit traffic and know that there is no way we'll make it there before 4:00, leaving my therapy session to about 30 minutes in the dentist's waiting room. And my leg smells like vanilla vomit. At this point, I start drafting this blog post in my head, because this whole situation is just too ridiculous not to share. Anxiety Mom doesn't have my cell number because we're not allowed to give them to parents so that A. we don't get to chummy (lol) and B. the parents don't make us crazy (too late). So I wait until I'm damn well ready and call my office. My supervisor is basically laughing at me because she had just received a call from Anxiety Mom and probably had to endure her version of what had just happened. She said she was texting me the address. I'm stuck in traffic on the freeway with my windows all the way down trying to rid myself of the vanilla vomit scent.

I finally get there at 4:10 pm. Anxiety Mom says, "Sorry! I totally forgot you were following me!" Weird, because I spoke to you as you were getting into the car, but whatev. At least she was apologizing, which is new for A.M. Last weekend I was "late" to an appointment because I assumed they weren't home after I rang the doorbell in 15 minute intervals for 45 minutes. When I finally realized they were inside (and she realized I was outside) she ignored me when I said, "I guess your doorbell is broken" and instead offered her kid a snack. ANYWAY, I started playing with her kid in the waiting room and Anxiety Mom starts sniffing around. "Do you smell throw up?" she asks the kid. I seriously cannot believe this is happening, because the nanny JUST TOLD HER that the kid threw up on me, and she was totally unconcerned, both with the fact that it happened, and with the fact that I was covered in vanilla-y vomit!! I could not even think of how to deal with this situation, so I ignored her. And then the receptionist called her daughter's name. And then I left.

So that was MY Monday afternoon, how was yours??

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

Ok I know I'm a little late on that. But I wanted to show you our Halloween costumes!!

Recognize us?? I hope you do but I'll give you a hint in case you had a long day..

The Flintstones!! It was a last minute decision - I was literally walking the aisles of Michael's texting my mom and Crafty Friend Shellby and I finally decided. I texted Marcus to see what he thought and he responded, "As long as I get to wear pants." What a good sport!!

It was very easy to put together. I was going to fashion a dress out of a few white t-shirts but I decided to check in the Marshalls next door and I found a perfect one on the sale rack for $10. Done! I bought M an orange tee shirt ($2.50) stuck on triangles of black duct tape ($3.99). This part took forever because the tape kept sticking to the scissors. Ick. According to Crafty Friend Shellby, they make such a thing as non-stick scissors! I'll have to pick some up for my next duct tape cutting project. I made Fred's tie out of blue craft foam ($1). I made a paper template first, taped it to the foam, and cut around it. I made a strap and sewed it on and attached a little button in the back. (I meant to take photos of all of these projects but, let's face it: I'm not a very good blogger). Here's a pic of Marcus playing with his tie. He loved it.

I made Wilma's necklace out of something called Model Magic. It's a puffy air-dry clay that is pretty perfect for this project. The only problem was that Michael's only had white in the "party pack" for EIGHT DOLLARS! That's a lot. But I had a 40% off coupon (never go to Michael's without one), so I bought it anyway. The pack was six individually wrapped packages of clay and each package was only enough for one bead. Check it.

Looks like cream cheese.

So I had to go back (with another coupon, obv) and buy some more. I made the beads and strung them onto a ribbon. I probably should've started this project sooner because the clay didn't have time to dry completely and by the end of the night, many of the beads had shlooped right off of the ribbon. Don't know what "shloop" means? It's a word that Marc and I made up that means whatever you need it to. But my Model Magic necklace was definitely shlooping. Check it out:

Now it looks like marshmallows.

It's hard to see my hair in any of the pics we took that night, but it was fabulous. I was not blessed with thick or voluminous hair so I had to stuff my bun with a wad of tissue paper. I also got some orange clip-in extensions at Michael's because I didn't want to mess with that toxic colored hair spray. Bonus! The orange hair glowed under blacklight.

We sported our costumes at a party with new friends Megan and Matt!

I am so glad they invited us, I'm thanking them by making them internet-famous (at least to my ma, gran, and aunt Jo). Hopefully they don't think I'm a super creep for posting this. And stealing this picture from Facebook. We need all the friends we can get. I will make up for it by posting the following pic!

Wilma and Fred tearin' up the dance floor and Marcus, with his requested pants.

And check out Crafty Friend Shellby's Zazzle shop for all your paper good needs!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

First Graders Are Funny

As part of my new job, I work in a first grade classroom three days per week. I love it. Six-year-olds are hilarious.

Every morning the teacher gives the class a prompt for a journal entry. But today the teacher was feeling sick and I assume didn't feel like dealing with it, so the class was allowed to write whatever they wanted. Most of the kids sat there for a while until they came up with something, but this one little girl got straight to work. I went over to see what she came up with. See if you can decipher this first grader's spelling, I'll post the "translation" in the comments. (The title should be a hint since I helped her spell it.)

I wut to tocbat fanle is viara sethl byecase its fnu to have a fanmle.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Kitchen Makeover Reveal!!

I know you've all been waiting patiently to see our finished kitchen so I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is.. here's some pics! The bad news is.. it's still not finished. But it's close enough, so here ya go.

We installed all the cabinets and counters, attached the doors, and sealed the counter tops. The shelves on the right were actually one column of six shelves from IKEA that we sawed in half to make two. Here's a close-up.

I love the way open shelving looks in a kitchen! Adding shelves here also helped brighten up the room rather than blocking the light from the big window. This shelf has vintage coffee and tea canisters (probably from a thrift store, I've had them a long time), jarred collections of sea glass and shells, and blue one-of-a-kind pottery created by an age 15 Marcus. Who knew he was so crafty?

The E-A-T on the windowsill are old wood letters, a gift that Mom found on Etsy. I was in the market for the word because we've had it in our kitchen at home for a long time. I found a girl selling vintage letters on Etsy and I sent her a message asking if she could give me a price for the E, A, & T together. She responded enthusiastically, "I sold the E but I can save the A & T for you! I'll make you a custom listing!" I had to respond and break the news that I wanted all three and just A + T does not an EAT make.

We just have the tiniest windowsill but I like how they lean there.

Notice the big hole on the other side of the kitchen? We have yet to install our range hood. Marcus thinks it will involve him climbing into our tiny attic and has been putting off further investigation of the issue. We'll get around to it eventually. Oh yea, and don't mind the open cabinet above the fridge. We had to return the doors we bought because they were the wrong style and haven't gotten around to installing the new ones yet.

We installed a few IKEA storage solutions. Here we have a rail with hooks for cooking tools. I also keep a glass with straws on the counter. I have a thing for straws. I drink coffee and tea with straws to avoid staining my teeth. I need to buy some of these cool reusable stainless steel straws to be a little more eco-friendly.

On the other side of the stove we installed a magnetic knife strip. I also stuck up our blue vintage spoon, another gift from Mom from Etsy. I wanted to hang it on the wall somewhere but we quickly ran out of wall space.

So there ya go! We still have a few things left to do but the kitchen is usable. We still need to install the range hood, cabinet doors, toe kicks, and drawer pulls. Right now you have to open the cabinet below the drawer you want to open or pry it open from the side, LOL. I love how the counters came out - the polyurethane made them super shiny and almost sparkly!

Last night the kitchen was put to the test when Marcus decided to make us chicken parm. And everything worked! Except for the fact that the recipe he used called for four cups of bread crumbs for two chicken breasts, but that's not the kitchen's fault.

Whaddya think??

Friday, September 24, 2010

Power Tools!

Marcus here, guest-blogging this evening because Kira's hard at work assembling drawers.

As you might recall, this is what the room looked like when we last posted:
Coming along, right? But with the backsplash installed and painted, and the plumber due to arrive Friday morning, we had to really accelerate our progress.

So, we did some measuring...
...and some sparky Dremeling...
...and some more measuring...
...and some installation...
 ...and spent lots of time inside cabinets...
 ...and ended up with this!

Pretty good, right? Tomorrow, the plumber is supposed to arrive between 8 and 9. He's going to install the dishwasher and garbage disposal, so we should be able to wash all of our dirty utensils somewhere other than the bathroom sink. Life's simple pleasures.

Cutting the rail for the wall cabinets was a learning experience. I started with a hacksaw and gave up almost immediately, switching to a Dremel with a cutting wheel. Of course, the cutting wheels lasted about 20 seconds before exploding into glowing bits, so it took 6 or 7 discs to get through the whole rail. For my next cut, I used a Sawzall, which was a much better choice, although using a wood blade at first made the job rather difficult.

The countertop was pretty fun, overall. I got to use a brand new jigsaw and an ancient circular saw that makes an unholy racket unlike anything I've ever heard. The truly impressive noise, when combined with the smell of newly sheared wood and spraying sawdust, made for a fun day, although I'm quite sure Kira didn't enjoy it half as much as I did.

Aside from the plumbing, there's a few steps left, the most important of which is finding a tiny bag of parts that I need to secure the last floor cabinet to the wall. It might require a trip to Ikea, but I'm impressed with how long it took us to lose something. Kira's best efforts at organization were foiled when she left the house for work and left me alone with power tools.

The finish line is drawing near!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Kitchen Reconstruction

Soo.. Where were we? Oh yea, so there was this giant hole.

Remember? It was the size of my tiny fist of fury? It was no match for Marcus' newfound wall patching skills.

He used a mesh patch and more Quick Patch. That's his hand, btw, I didn't suddenly sprout werewolf arm hair. This patch took DAYS to dry. I must admit that I wasn't particularly helpful this week (have I really been that helpful at all?). I got a new job and have been driving all over west LA to train to work with different children. It's been fun so far but it's really messing with our renovation plans. Anywaaay.. Next Marcus primed and painted the kitchen in "Freshcut Honeydew."

This was when we realized how freaking shiny "semi-gloss" paint is. How shiny is "high-gloss"? Notice how that patched section of the wall isn't yet painted. It was still wet and the area was going to be covered by our wallpaper backsplash anyway, so we didn't bother.

Speaking of the wallpaper backsplash, that's what we decided to tackle today. I didn't take any pictures of the beginning of the day because I was too busy being cranky and mean. It was just one of those days, ya know? We're both getting sick of this project and sick of living in a house that is a disaster. Every time we put something down (pencils, tape measures, sandpaper), it disappeared into the mess. Seriously, look at this.

We both just want to be finished. So we blazed ahead, following the directions on the wallpaper packaging. It was pre-glued, so we just had to dip it in water, wait five minutes for the glue to "activate," and stick it to the wall. Except the guy at the Depot told us that they didn't carry "wallpaper stuff," so we had to improvise a dipping method. We used a big ol' plastic bin we had lying around that wasn't quite wide enough, but whatever, we're clearly not professionals. We cut our first piece to size and slapped it on. We quickly realized that the combination of super-shiny semi-gloss paint and super-slippery wallpaper paste was not going to lead to good adhesion. It was okay because we screwed up that first piece but chopping it to shreds while trying to trim the excess.

The paper we're using is a texture, paintable wallpaper with a texture that mimics pressed tin ceiling tiles. They are popping up in famous internet kitchens all over.

Ours will be painted semi-gloss white. So after we trashed the first piece, we re-evaluated (read: Googled) and decided to sand down the finish on the paint where we were trying to hang the paper. We also decided to use a straight edge to trim the edges because duh, the directions said to, we just didn't. Attempt #2 was much more successful so we continued on.

Looks pretty good, eh? Marcus painstakingly trimmed this piece over and over (while the sheet was dry) to fit around the window, only to mess up the placement of the hole for the outlet by several inches. So we trimmed around and added another piece to finish out the wall.

Here's a closeup on the pattern. It looks two-toned in this photo because the paper backing was still wet, but as it dried it all turned white. It still needs to be painted but the glue needs to dry for at least twenty-four hours. While hanging, I remembered that the semi-gloss white paint we have is nowhere near the same shade of white that is currently on all the trim in the house (as we discovered when we repainted one of our hallway doors, which is now significantly bluer than all the rest). This means we will need to repaint all the trim on the windows and doorways in the kitchen. They probably need a good repainting anyway, but this adds even more steps to an already "taking-too-long" project.

So I got to cleaning, sanding, and taping all the trim.

Sweet paper, though. We placed in as many base cabinets as we had built to get a picture of everything.

This picture is not so great because I forgot to take one when there was still natural light in the room and just made Marcus go take one. Coming along, right? At least there are no more giant holes in the walls. Project should be totally finished by next weekend, we're so excited! If only someone would finish it for us..

Monday, September 13, 2010

Kitchen Destruction, Part II

Kitchen demolition has been somewhat slow going, mostly because of the constant looming feeling that we don't know what we're doing. We've been guessing and second guessing and researching each step of the process as we go along. To delay the big part of the job (removing the sink cabinet unit and counter), we've killed some time patching holes. Many, many holes. Holes in the paint, holes in the walls, basically the whole thing is one holey hole!

Marcus has pretty much mastered the Ready Patch - he's already gone through these two cans and we definitely need at least one more to repair the damage we did today.

I started by removing the toe kicks around the base of the cabinet while Marcus assessed the plumbing situation. This is where the internet came in because the extent of his plumbing experience thus far has been installing a new shower head and fishing my roommate's earring out of our sink's  U-bend. He eventually got everything disassembled (after turning off the water and power, of course) and then got cracking.. Literally!

He bashed out the "backsplash" and began prying off the counter. I put it in quotes because there was only one row of tile on the wall, but it still did a pretty significant amount of damage coming down. Check out this hole!

I tried to put my thumbs up there for scale but it's actually making the hole look smaller than it is. It's about as big as my fist. Though I do have small fists. And I could probably never punch through a wall. Anywho.. this hole means another trip to the Depot and a purchase of some mesh tape to fix this lovely hole.

Marcus finally got the entire counter out in sections. Notice I haven't said "we" in any of these descriptions. That's because it became apparent to me that the noise and the mess combined with the fact that neither of us really knew what we were doing was really just too stressful for me, and the stress was turning me into a "backseat demolitionist." So I removed myself and worked on another project to keep myself busy, which I will post about soon. So after HIS long day of work, we dragged the unit out into the yard and were left with this:

One problem we see now is the floor, or lack thereof. The IKEA base cabinets come with adjustable legs to allow for slight differences in the level-ness of the floor, but this is kind of a big difference. We're thinking we'll just fill the hole with a few sheets of plywood. But check out the sweet linoleum we found underneath!

I believe my grandma actually still has a very similar pattern in her kitchen!

Tomorrow I'm ready to see a really serious transformation - we hope to get all the walls patched, sanded, and primed, so that the following day we can paint them in the color we selected called "Freshcut Honeydew." Yay!

What are your best painting tips?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kitchen Destruction.. err.. Demolition

Remember this pic?

You were probably wondering why we had an entire IKEA kitchen in our dining room. One of the good things about renting a house owned by M's family is that we get to do a lot things to make the house "ours" that we wouldn't normally be able to do while renting. We wanted to tackle the kitchen, which is good both for us and for the future value of the property when we move out.

Here's what the kitchen used to look like:

It's a long galley kitchen with not much room to edit the layout. Did you spot the strange part? There are no base cabinets or counter on the entire left side! We're not really sure why this is or how long renters have been living with it like this, but we've been living with it this way for three weeks and it's really annoying. Between the fridge and stove there is about three feet of space, and to the right of the stove there are another two feet! Holy wasted space, Batman!!

We researched affordable kitchen options online and ended up at our favorite Swedish furniture store, IKEA!

Here's the plan I made using IKEA's Kitchens & Appliances workbook. It's a catalog with all of IKEA's kitchen products, and in the back there's grid paper and scaled punch-outs of their cabinets and appliances. It was actually fun! I then used the pricing guide to look up each piece and total up what our whole kitchen should cost. We made a "must list" and a "wish list" and once we saw how things were adding up, we found out we'd be able to afford pretty much all of the items on our wish list while still working within the budget Marc's family gave us.

We worked with an IKEA associate to tweak our plan a little and order all of the pieces we'd need. Several hours later, my car looked like this:

We were able to fit everything in one carload and have our counters, range hood, and dishwasher delivered the following day. It took us a whole week to muster enough confidence to start working on the kitchen. Today we finally got our hands dirty!

Here's Marcus working on the first cabinet. Please note, however, that this is about two hours into "starting" the project. First of all, these cabinets are made of metal. I've never really seen anything like them but they are heavy! We could see that the cabinets had been painted over many, many times and there were probably at least 4 or 5 layers of paint attaching them to the wall, as well as whatever hardware had been used to originally hang them. We used a knife to score around the box and pulled and pried and lifted but the thing didn't budge.

M ran to "The Depot" (as we call it since we go there about every day), and got a crow bar, mallet, and chisel. Eventually we figured out a system and got them all down. And so you don't think I was just taking pictures the whole time, here's a little proof:

The left wall of cabinets was a little tougher to get down because they were all attached.. even though we didn't know it. There were tiny screws attaching them that had been painted over a hundred times, just like everything else. We had to chisel away the paint covering each one and hand screw each one out.

Sticking your head in stinky, dirty, old cabinets isn't that fun. But once they're all down, you've got this!

Dirty walls with water and smoke damage in about a hundred different colors! That dark paper stuck to the walls are the original delivery tickets that we found on several of the cabinets. Unfortunately they don't have a date on them but they are from Sears and Roebuck and addressed to a Mr. Wayne Ward, so these cabinets must have been here since before M's grandparents bought the house in the 60s. That means they had been there for at least fifty years! What a piece of history!

And check out these holes!

Each cabinet was held up by four or five old, rusty screws or nails. Each one left a huge hole in our old plaster walls (check out my finger for scale). Does anyone have ideas for how to repair these? Most of them will be covered by new cabinets, but on the window wall we're installing open shelving so the walls need to be repaired and smoothed really well. After we got them down, we felt quite accomplished, so we rewarded our efforts with some In N Out. Later this week we'll be removing the base cabinets and counter, luckily there's only about half as much of that as there should be!

What's the biggest/best DIY project you've ever taken on?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Making Ourselves at Home

Apologies! I've stayed away way too long. But here I am, returning to the blog-o-sphere. Since I arrived in California 2.5 weeks ago, there's been a lot of cleaning, fixing things up, and sitting around the house waiting for Verizon installers/repairmen to show up. Seriously, we've spent at least three entire days waiting around for these guys (or more? I've lost track). We've also waited for satellite guys, tree guys, and IKEA delivery guys (more on that later). Having all these "guys" makes us feel like real, responsible homeowners. Check out what we've done with the place!

Here's our living room! Most of what you see here can be found at your local IKEA! Lol, really, it can. The two comfy couches Marcus found at a steal from Craigslist: $30 for both of them! The couches were actually my favorite simple project we've completed so far: both couches were super low and saggy when we got them. You know, the kind of couch that you sit on and have to get someone to pull you back out of? We found some wood table legs and hardware at Home Depot and screwed those puppies on! Granted the legs and hardware cost more than we originally paid for the couches in the first place but whatever..

Here's a pic of Marcus' little desk nook behind the couch. I thought it was kinda weird to stick a desk there but it works. We needed to break up the room somehow because it's big! If you're wondering why there is a bike stuck in there, it's because the rest of the room looks like this:

That's what an entire kitchen looks like, disassembled, in boxes. We have yet to think about how we're going to tackle this project, but I'll be sure to blog about it when we do.

Here's a bit of the bedroom. I like how the bed looks all dressed up like it's in a hotel or something. It's hard to get a good pic of the whole room, but here's some more.

I've put less thought into the bedroom so far, so this is pretty much it. Like by big new floppy beach hat? It's actually sitting on a makeup mirror but I like how it looks like its own hat stand. The big ugly wall thing is a heater - there are two of them in the house. Any ideas for making it look less ugly? Oh, and see that little pic propped up on top of it? Take a closer look:

That's M and me, drawn by me, based on the artwork of Nan Lawson. I drew it for him for his birthday this year, my only complaints are that our little faces don't look happy enough, and my feet are floating above his. Other than that, I love it, especially the little individual whiskers that make up his beard.

So there ya have it! How do you make a house a home?