Baby, It’s Cold INSIDE

The Gingerbread Diaries

Things have been a mite chilly at the Gingerbread Dollhouse lately, though it wasn’t exactly a huge problem until this weekend.

It started just before Thanksgiving when we noticed that the downstairs heater didn’t seem to be doing much. Turns out it wasn’t doing anything–no heat or even air of any kind. There was a slight cold snap, we tried to call someone to come out, but it was the holiday week and nothing happened. Things warmed up, and it was put on the back burner. Meanwhile, we enjoyed the lowest utility bills we’ve seen in ages.

Sure, there was that one morning I was working on a blog post before work and I kept making typos because my fingertips were numb, but it usually wasn’t that bad.

And then there was a pretty nasty set of temperatures predicted for the end of last week–lows in the 30s and highs in the 40s, freeze warning weather. And we were still sans a functioning furnace.

Todd finally found someone to come out and take a look and it turns out the inducer motor was completely rusted out. And, of course, it wasn’t a part they had in stock so it was doubtful they could get it in before the first of the week. Fortunately, there must have been one nearby because on Friday afternoon there was a tap at the door (sending Duncan into a frenzy) and a stranger telling me he’d fixed the furnace and we could turn it back on.

Let me just point out that people in Thomasville are awfully trusting. I’m not sure that any service person in Tallahassee would have left without me signing something and leaving the bill, much less without collecting payment. But no, I didn’t even get his name. They hadn’t even called Todd to say they’d be coming back out that day.

The point is moot, however, since the furnace isn’t exactly fixed. They may have replaced the rusted motor, but no amount of cajoling could elicit anything more than cold air from the vents Friday night.

Fortunately the upstairs furnace has kept working, so it was slightly warmer upstairs when we went to bed. Saturday morning there was a very noticeable 10 degree difference between upstairs and down, and Todd went out and picked up some space heaters to get us through the weekend. Those and warm socks and blankets made the weekend bearable.

Hopefully, they’ll be able to come back out today and troubleshoot the remaining issue. Chances are it’s something simple–we reset to breaker and did what we thought to do, but there could be a reset button hiding somewhere (like the issue with the water heater from way back)–and we’ll feel silly for not realizing it. As long as we get the heat back on before the next set of cold night. it’s okay with me.

Hope your weekend was warmer than mine!


The American Privacy Fence Dream

The Gingerbread Diaries

If you recall the little dance we did while buying the house, namely the circle of hell that was needing a new roof to get insurance, needing insurance to get the loan, needing the loan to get the roof, ad nauseam, we’re now facing it’s little sister: the driveway/fence dilemma.

We’ve wanted to put up a privacy fence along the side and back yard pretty much since buying the house. It’s not that we don’t like our neighbors, it’s more that we don’t want to be in the fishbowl every time we’re out there. Now that we have Duncan, a fence is even more important—the side yard is adequate for him to run around a little bit, but the back yard is better for playing fetch and pretty much everything else.

The only thing is, the back yard is currently where we park. And that’s because (and I’m sure I’ve mentioned this in the past) we share a driveway with our neighbors and it’s really the only option right now.

I take that back: we could park on the street, it’s certainly not unheard of. Clay St is definitely wide enough (which comes in handy for parties), but it’s also a busy street and the idea of being in a prime spot to be hit in the middle of the night doesn’t appeal. We could also park in the front yard, like we did when we first bought the place and we’re too sure we wouldn’t get nails in our tires in the backyard during construction, but I don’t want to do that on the regular, either.

With a bit of landscaping, we might be able to put a driveway in on the other side of the house. I say might because it depends on getting city approval. Not for the landscaping, but for the driveway itself. And what makes that more of a question, is that the main water line to the house would run under the proposed driveway location AND the access panel would be very near the driveway itself. We don’t know, yet, if that’s really going to be a problem or not.

There are steps to take.

First, we called a local surveyor and it was weeks before Todd got a call back from him (or any of the others we called). Seriously, they must not need the work. He was finally going to come out, but was supposed to call Todd before he did (so Todd could be there? I’m not 100% sure). Suddenly, one day we come home and there are flags around our property line. Did we know he was coming that day? Nope.

Anyway, great, we knew where our property line was (which was where we thought it was, so no big surprise, there). But what about the report?

The report, survey, some sort of documentation of our property layout was really what we wanted. Because it’s that thing we have to turn into the city with an indicator of where the proposed driveway would go (just drawn in was what I was told) to get the yay or nay from the city. But we have no report. And he’s not returning Todd’s calls.

He’s also not hounding us to pay the bill he eventually sent, either, so see my point above about not really needing the work.

So, Plan B.

I’ve asked Todd to measure the neighbor’s/our shared driveway to get an indication of how wide a space we need to allow for (no, the city website is no help when it comes to driveways’ necessary dimensions or anything else). Then we’ll mark off, on the curb, the same amount of space and take a picture of the proposed site both from the front as well as from the bedroom window, above. Then we’ll sketch the driveway in on a blown-up copy from the property appraiser’s site and hope that suffices. If we have to jog the driveway a bit to allow sufficient space around the main water access, we can do that, too.

I just want our own driveway so we can get the fenced backyard, but they will need to happen more or less simultaneously, so that Duncan doesn’t have his hall pass revoked for longer than absolutely necessary.

Worst case scenario, we get approval for the driveway, build the backyard fence while parking on the curb, and then have the new driveway installed. And, really, all installed means is just to have the sidewalk interrupted and graded, the rest we can choose to do later.

My big wonder at the moment is whether we should go ahead and take down the ginormous azalea bush that sits exactly where the driveway would be now or later. Same goes for the sprawling but not very big in reality something-tree (it has white flowers but no scent, who knows what it is) that would need to come down to make it possible for us to park in the side yard.

And then there’s the idea of building out a deck onto the back of the utility room where we could store the grill on the same level as the rest of the house and reroute the stairs a bit, but that may be a longer-term project.


Progress: It’s Electric!

The Gingerbread Diaries

(Today, Thursday, is my “Friday” since I’m off work tomorrow to prep for the party. Since I doubt I’ll even think about blogging tomorrow, I wanted to get this update written up now.)

Can you guess what Todd worked on this week?

If you said wiring, you’d be right. On Saturday he ran all the new lines he needed, wired new switches and outlets and started the box for the light.


On Sunday he finished the “light box”– a framework or soffit that will allow the overhead light to sit level despite the fact that the ceiling will be sloped. We certainly could have mounted it flush with the joists, but I was worried about it casting weird shadows in the room.

While Todd worked on that, I trimmed the drywall to form the corner of the new wall–anything to get us closer to a completed bathroom.



Now, in order to hook the new everything into the existing wiring, he had to open up another portion of the hallway ceiling. So we have another hole in the house, but this one led to pretty quick results and we now have the hall light switch at the back door instead of 5 feet away. No more stumbling into the hallway to find the light switch–how novel!



A light switch in a logical place--not so common in this house.

A light switch in a logical place–not so common in this house.

And as he was finishing up with the bulk of the wiring, I asked about the bathroom light (it still isn’t installed). Namely, if it would be installed before this weekend. Turns out he needs to cut a piece of drywall to fit the bottom of the box/soffit before he can install the light.

Need, of course, is subjective. If he doesn’t cut the drywall to size and install it with the light, he’ll have to take the light out when we drywall the ceiling. And that makes total sense, right? “Might as well do it right,” he says.

And I realize… “might as well” is part of the reason this project is far exceeding its 9-week timeline. (Well, that and the floor surprises and other things we had to do in a very if-you-give-a-mouse-a-cookie way that we weren’t expecting.) Scope creep, man, it’s real.

And I can’t even be mad–at Todd or the project in general–because of course I want to do it right the first time and not half-ass it. Of course I don’t want to make more work or have to undo work to proceed with the rest of the project.

And yet…

But, no, the reason why I really can’t be upset about the scope creep is that I started it.

I totally did.

“Might as well” may be synonymous with scope creep, but so are “why don’t we” and “while we’re at it.” And two months ago I reopened the discussion on the bathroom renovation with “why don’t we install a pocket door” and “while we’re at it, why don’t we bump out the wall to meet the pipe chase.” This entire project has a foundation in scope creep.

I don’t know why I’m surprised.

There are three things I’d really love to see happen before 2pm on Saturday (when our guests are expected to arrive), and preferably well before then (as before as you can get in 48 hours, several of which will be spent at work or sleeping, pfft):

  1. Overhead light installed (with or without drywall)
  2. Sink installed (keeps getting pushed back for larger projects, completely understandable)
  3. Door facing and hardware

That third one’s kind of a biggie. See, right now, if you close the door to have it meet the other side of the doorway, it comes loose of it’s little guides, and just swings on its tracks. Even with the door facing there’s a 2″ or so gap. Thankfully we figured out last night that a 2×4 and the facing should fix that gap and allow the door to close without leaving its guides. And then we still need to set the hook and latch deal that keeps it closed.

Obviously, beyond those three items, we won’t be working on the renovation further this week, and I hope Todd will take the next week off to just chill. We shall see. I mean, I don’t want the project to languish for months or anything, but once the basics are covered I think we can take some time and approach the rest on a less frenetic, less hurried pace.

And thank goodness the next project is 100% outdoors!

All in All It’s Not a Brick in the Wall

The Gingerbread Diaries

Because our walls are drywall, you see.


Or, at least these are. The rest of the house is mostly plaster on lathe with some sheetrock repairs here and there. But I digress.

Week 8 has wrapped and we finally have the beginnings of walls going up!

(Direct link for the feed readers: GBD 2.10 | Bathroom Renovation, Week 8: Going with the Flow)

Now, I thought we’d be tackling the wall earlier rather than later, but hindsight (lovely thing) says that leaving this wall as a bare frame while we worked on everything else made a lot of things easier while we were still knocking around. But a very important thing happened this week:


We installed the new toilet. And since we do respect bathroom privacy in this house, a wall became kind of necessary pretty quickly. Plus, with the party only a week away, we figure our guests would appreciate walls, too. Just a bit…

We spent a good amount of time under the house on Saturday prepping the rest of the supply lines for the toilet, sink, and tub. I cut CPVC pipe and insulation to the lengths Todd called out–it was nice to be useful. I also had my phone out, playing music because music makes everything better, only to be punished for that effort when the phone slipped from my hands as we were crawling out from under the house and landed, face down, on the edge of a brick.

Casualty count: 1 Droid Maxx phone screen. Damn.

(And, of course, I’m only 3 months away from an upgrade so, yeah, I’m going to try to deal with the cracked screen until then rather than pay the exorbitant insurance fee for a replacement. I’ve got a screen protector on it, now, that’ll keep me from glass splinters. It’s not pretty, but it still works just fine.)

We also trimmed two sheets of drywall that evening for the section of interior wall behind the commode and the doorway opening between the bathroom and my office. After 7 weeks it was suddenly very strange not to be able to talk to Todd through that opening when I was at my desk and he was working in the other room! Still, I’m glad that we’ve got it filled in.

Apparently we’re doing the drywall the “wrong” way, but ask me if I care right this second?

Todd tells me, after we’ve cut the first few panels, that you’re supposed to use the 4’x8′ panels sideways and stack them so that they run perpindicular to the studs. That last part makes sense for stability and stress and all that, but for the sake of efficiency, if you have a space that’s less that 4’x8′, it makes absolutely no sense to chop a panel into sections and fit them in when one tall piece will work. And you’ll see in that first photo that we ignored those instructions, again, when covering the studs for the pocket door and will, probably, continue to do so for the rest of the dividing wall. The skinny strips left over from the first panels will work great for building the new corner of the room.

Rules are rules, but loopholes are loopholes. And common sense trumps even that some days.


Todd’s last task for the week was to fill in those gaps between the new subfloor and the exterior walls. This blocks all those problematic drafts and will keep the insulation that will be added when we do the drywall from sliding down to the ground.

The to-do list for this weekend is to get the rest of the dividing wall in place, I’ll add some privacy film to the window, we’ll get the sink mounted on the recessed wall and hooked up, and maybe even get the new outlet and switches wired.

But with the party next weekend, I’ll be focusing on getting the rest of the house tidied up, decorating the dining room for our luau theme, and starting the food prep!

I Tackled The Tile!!!

The Gingerbread Diaries

Yes, that absolutely requires three exclamation points.

Y’all, as many small, behind the scenes things we’ve accomplish over the last 6 weeks–and there have been plenty–the only thing, so far, that looked like real forward progress at first glance was framing in the new wall. And that was weeks ago!

But now, now I have something I can point to and not only claim ownership of (I was feeling very third wheel on a lot of the progress to date) but it signifies a major leap ahead in the finishing of the room (even though we’re nowhere close to being finished).

I present to you… our floor.


Tiled. Grouted. Done!

Since we laid the Hardie backer on Thursday night, that meant we could tile pretty much any time on Saturday. First, though, we needed a trip to Lowe’s for a few more things (including a bit to cut the holes for tub drain and supply lines through the cement board, since we didn’t do those ahead of time… for reasons) and then I needed to dry fit the tile.

Now, our tile came in sheets but it’s not on a mesh like some of the super-small tile patterns, it’s more like strong glue spacers behind the tile pattern? Easily cut with a utility knife. I started my dry fit in the back left corner of the room (the commode quadrant, if you will) and tackled the left border of the room as this was where most of the fiddly bits were for the plumbing lines. The compound tile nippers we picked up that morning were nice and easy to work with and fitting around the pipes was pretty simple.

The dry-fit, minus the part just in front of the door.

The dry-fit, minus the part just in front of the door.

The worst fitting problem was with the air vent–the interior corners were a bitch to cut, since two of them fell squarely into the larger octagons, and I had to recut one of them and piece it in. Such a pain. (And even after tidying up the hole post-grout, the vent still isn’t sitting in properly. I’m probably going to have to chisel out some of the tile. Grrrr!)

Except for that first line of tiles along the left side of the room, every other edge had to be trimmed since the room, despite appearing squared off, isn’t. So it took quite a good chunk of time to fit all of the tile edges to the plywood edges, and I had to send Todd back to Lowe’s (for the third trip of the day) for 5 more sheets of tile to finish out the dry fit of the front, doorway-side edge of the room.

But! Dry fitting everything meant that the actual tiling process went pretty quickly. Having everything already cut, and then stacking each column of tile last to first, and stacking them in a row just outside the room meant I could lay down the mortar for a row, then grab the pre-cut tiles, and just keep on trucking. It made for a long Saturday, but it felt good to get it done!

You can see where the excess mortar creates a slight haze over the tiles. It's a learning experience.

You can see where the excess mortar creates a slight haze over the tiles. It’s a learning experience.

Of course, this was my first time tiling a floor, so mistakes were definitely made. My mortar application wasn’t 100% even, with some deeper pockets here and there, and the excess mortar squished up between the gaps in the tile pattern. On the first row I tried to clean up as I went, but that just made for more of a mess. I’m still not sure that was the right decision, because I spent 6ish hours or so (however long it takes to watch/listen to Fuller House, season 1–all of it) on Sunday afternoon chipping away the mortar that had squished up enough to block where the grout needed to go.

At least the mortar cleaned up easily from the tops of the tiles it got onto.

I'm a messy cook, and a messy tiler, too!

I’m a messy cook, and a messy tiler, too!

After hours of chipping away, I was no longer in the mood to grout, so Monday night, as soon as I got home, I threw on my mortar-encrusted work jeans, strapped on my knee pads, and got to grouting.

Okay, a word about knee pads. We each bought pairs of heavy-duty gel knee pads for the renovation work, and I did wear mine during the dry fit and tiling. But they’re really only comfortable for a few hours. At that point it doesn’t matter how thick the gel padding is, the fact that the base of your knees and the tops of your shins have no natural padding of their own starts to come into play. And the straps of said knee pads eventually work themselves into a single spot behind your knee and start to create friction burns from the shifting as you crawl along the floor.

Almost a week later and my knees still hate me.


TEC Design FX Stain Proof Grout in 922 Silver

Back to grouting. The grout we chose is probably my favorite thing, so far, of the entire project. Dude. It’s disco ball sparkly! It’s pre-mixed, ready to go, and despite smelling like hair dye, it was really easy to work with. Grouting took a total of 2 hours, so not bad at all, and the change it made in the room was amazing! I mean, yes, the contrasting grout lines highlight where my spacing got off (the spaces we bought, the only ones Lowe’s carried, only work with square tiles, so were pretty much useless with the octagonal tiles that made up the majority of our square footage), but I don’t even care! Not only will the darker grout not show dirt as easily as white would have, it sparkles!

Can you see the sparkle? It's there, I promise!

Can you see the sparkle? It’s there, I promise!

Plus, most of it is going to be covered up or obscured by the tub, commode, sink, and rug. Uneven spacing is not the end of my world.

Speaking of the rug situation, I totally scored at Tuesday Morning (which I visited on Tuesday night). I had some time to kill before Beer & Cheer so I popped in to pick up a couple things for Todd’s upcoming birthday party and look at their rugs. I found two that had the burnt orange color I was interested in and the approximate size, but I wasn’t sure which one Todd would like so I bought then both. Thankfully–this is TM, afterall–the larger rug was $20 and the smaller one was $15, and if Todd hated them, I could easily bring them back.

The perfect rug would be the size of the one on the right with the pattern of the one on the left. But perfection is overrated.

The perfect rug would be the size of the one on the right with the pattern of the one on the left. But perfection is overrated.

Turns out, we like both of them for different reasons, so we’re keeping both, and we’ll swap them out at will. The larger rug is an indoor/outdoor rug, so super sturdy, which will be good for when we entertain and this room gets more traffic. The smaller rug is 100% cotton, so will be easy to clean and probably be the day to day rug choice. They both have two shades of orange and the grey in each kind of picks up the silver of the grout. I’m really happy to have that out of the way and to have gotten such a great deal on them!

So what was Todd doing while I was fussing with tile? He was under the house working on the supply lines for the tub, commode, and sink. Everything is now measured and cut, just needs to be assembled. Unfortunately, Thursday (when we thought he’d get home early enough to install them) he came home with a bad toothache and swelling and, yeah, not really in the mood to work. Poor guy!

The goal for the weekend is to get the toilet installed and put up the wall between the hall and the bathroom (and the old doorway to my office), since that’s the bare minimum of what needs to happen before the party in 2 weeks. Ideally, we’d be able to get the sink installed, too (though we’re having trouble finding the right faucet at the moment), and get the drywall up inside the bathroom so the walls look semi-finished, but that’s technically optional. The wall also involves the insulation (which we bought this week) and installing the vent fan, so we’ll just have to see how far we can get.

Here’s hoping Todd can get into the dentist today and will be feeling better soon!

PS! The videos are now up for weeks 5 & 6 in last week’s post. This week’s video will be up much more timely, I hope!