Hello friends. I am here to report that I have successfully navigated my first – and hopefully only – plumbing experience.

I changed a faucet.

For some reason the lovely people who rehabbed our house before we moved decided they would put a faucet with two knobs in the kitchen. Well, I finally decided enough was enough and I would like to be able to turn the water on with my wrist when my hands were covered in goop, thank you very much.

So a couple of months ago…er, maybe more…Jeff and I picked out a new faucet. And last weekend I went to basic plumbing class. I learned interesting things about U-traps, the changes in plumbing technology over the last few decades (for real!), and how easy it is to change out the components of a faucet so you don’t have to replace the whole installation if you don’t need to. Too bad going from two handles to one wasn’t one of them.

Of course I made sure at the end of class I knew the right steps to follow. Like, you know, turning off the water to the sink before doing anything else. Which turned out to be impossible. Luckily, Jeff stepped in for that bit.

Then I started trying to take the wing nuts off. The one under the spray nozzle had so much gunk stuck to it. And the gunk fell on my face. Ew! Getting them started was an incredible challenge. I had to hit them with a hammer, bit by little bit, until they loosened enough to turn. Even then, Jeff had to hold the top part steady so they didn’t just rotate around themselves.

Getting the water supply tubes off the faucet leads was similarly challenging. It made me wish I’d followed the teacher’s suggestion of getting a sink wrench. But since I hope never to need one again, I’m just as glad I didn’t spend the money. Especially since it went into new water supply tubes. Turns out the ones that were in there were specially cut to fit the exact dimensions of the old faucet. With a pair of new lines in the center, instead of offset to the left and right, they no longer lined up straight. In short, dear readers, they leaked.

I would like to add a digression, however, that in order to put the old water supply tubes on the new faucet, I came up with a lovely hack the likes of which the internet adores. The nut meant to seal the tube to the faucet intake insisted on sliding all the way down the tube. So I grabbed a hair clip and put it around the tube (note that the opening is large enough not to pinch it!).

See? Hack!

After a trip to the hardware store for new supply lines, they went on as smoothly as anything. And no leaks!

Recarpeting the Cat Stands

Jeff and I actually first made our cat stands many moons ago, when we discovered that buying the suckers was going to be a serious pain in the wallet. We bought eight feet of 4×4, which the folks at the store cut down to two 3′ and one 2′ length for us, along with some scraps of (nicer looking) plywood for the base and the top. There was some slight awkwardness holding the first flat piece in place while we added the second – possibly they should have had two screws each. Still, it’s kind of fun (and occasionally handy) to be able to rotate the top around for cleaning, moving, etc. Then we wrapped carpet remnants from our house around two of the three posts, nailed them in place, and voilà! Cat stands.

Since Tinkerbell enjoys shredding the stands as much as the next cat, though, the carpet was getting rather the worse for wear. Short carpet fibers regularly swirled around the living room, and the longer warp or weft threads dangled irritatingly from the stand itself. It was time to seek out additional carpet. I kept meaning to wander over to the flooring place just down the strip mall from our gym, but December sent me into hibernation mode, and I kept failing to accompany Jeff to his personal training sessions.

Enter my mother and her new carpet! I spent New Year’s with my mom, and while exploring closets found the remnants from her recent carpet acquisition. I asked, she said yes, and they made the trip home with me.

I then killed two birds with one stone and gave Lily a nice long walk while simultaneously visiting the neighborhood hardware store for tack nails (actually intended for carpet!). Amusingly, after I’d pulled the old carpet off, Tink actually tried to maul the post-less old carpet she was used to, knocking it into Lily’s water dish.

I cut out the first piece of carpet for the 3′ stand, found that it wrapped much more tightly than I’d anticipated, and began improvising. The first side I could indeed attach with several moderately-spaced new tack nails. I also put a couple on the opposite side to keep it tightly wrapped. Once the carpet covered the original side for a second time, though, it was too thick for the tack nails. I got the last couple of the longer, original nails out and dug through the discards I’d pulled from the old carpet for a few more straight-ish ones. A little lumpy visually, but effective.

I cut a shorter and narrower second piece of carpet for the 2′ stand. It still wrapped too tightly. I decided to let the extra width billow out, since I was out of long nails. I tacked down the beginning and end with moderately-spaced lines of tack nails on the “left” and “back” sides of the post. I didn’t like how off-center the result was, so I added a couple of tack nails on the “right” side (and I think the front of the left, too). That forced the extra width to the front of the post, which you can see in the photo below.

Completed cat stands!

Craft Area: Sitting Room

Don’t you just want to wedge yourself in that chair and stay forever?!

And now we get fancy! Along with more serious work and tips: Like many of my projects, I went to the big box store with only some idea of what I was doing. We were covering a stairwell, which I don’t particularly want forming a chimney of fire, so I figured I wanted the fire resistant drywall. The guy on the sales floor made sure I didn’t buy stuff that was way too thick, and helped cut it down to the very weird measurements we needed. (And Jeff and I bribed a theatre friend with dinner to transport it all to our house in his truck.)

Jeff and I adhered the drywall many weeks later with Liquid Nails (cutting out an awkward corner where there’s brick sticking out of the floor, and squaring up the far left hand vertical). Then he informed me about the need for mud and tape. What? I just want things to look pretty! So back to the hardware store again…

And finally this fall I got out the wallpaper I’d tested at the work station only to discover pre-pasted is insufficient to secure it to the wall. Cue the  recurring theme: to the hardware store! I used another internet tutorial, and let me tell you, I don’t have a work table big enough for pasting wallpaper, and that’s okay! I just laid it down on the floor…got a little paste on the carpet…bookended it, shuffled it over, finished pasting, and hung it. I think it looks pretty good for a first try. My corners could be better, and it could be less wrinkled, but it’s not completely sideways and the pattern’s lined up well.

As for the decor: the table and crystal basket are more family pieces, the globe and flower prints are thrifted, and the armchair (which someday I might try reupholstering) is from Craigslist.

Craft Area: Display Area

Don’t look too high up – you’ll see over the curtain into the storage area!

Ah, there’s that Cersei progress shot again, taken by pure serendipity. Here is where I can finally share more cleverness and methodology: I didn’t want to have to deal with the City’s permit process and inspections to add a real wall, I just wanted the appearance of one (there’s a support beam and then the furnace and water heater right behind here). So I bought some brown bedsheets at the thrift store, got a giant tension rod, and hung the sheet up as a curtain – cutting a small hole in it to hang the oriental print on a nail already in the support beam.

Fun thrifted items here include: a telescope with wooden base (I thought about painting the tube bronze, too, but couldn’t do it), a former library art piece (of the check out-able variety!), and an old timey map of the world (you know, the kind where coastlines aren’t quite right). And we got the rug on Craigslist!

Craft Area: Natural Light

Giant window ledges may also be known as cat perches…above which looms the one piece of ductwork I forgot to spray bronze with rustoleum.

Turn to your left away from the work station, and you finally get some natural light…well, during the daytime of course! There’s another window just out of frame to the right. Both are curtained with some handy dandy thrift store finds, with cozy butterfly pillows made from vintage prints and backing from the stash (and can I add that I was too lazy to hand sew them shut? I just jammed the stuffing down, tucked the flap under, and ran it through the machine one more time). Still on the list of things to do is acquiring some trim to make especially the top of the window more formal looking.

You can’t see it very well, but the brighter picture has a crowd in Victorian clothing gathered below several hot air balloons – yet another thrift store item, and perfectly suited to the steampunk theme!

Craft Area: The Work Station

Where my sewing machine should be! Some day my electricity will come…

Let’s start off with a picture again, shall we?  The desk and clock were really at the heart of the whole plan – old family pieces that my dad wanted to be sure had a home, at least for a while. They didn’t really fit upstairs anymore after moving things around yet again, but I like old things, and I like crafting, and I like steampunk, so the steampunk craft area concept was born.

The shelves of the grandmother clock hold some old family glassware as well as knick-knacks I just like the look of. The lamp came as a bonus with a couple of happy lights, and I sprayed it with more bronze rustoleum to fit the theme. I also sprayed the edges of an old bulletin board (not that you can really tell, it sucks in the moisture like crazy!) and covered the  board itself with a sample of the wallpaper for the stairwell to help decide on orientation. Jeff came to the rescue with fishing line to hang the board up. I have this theory that someday I’ll use it to pin up sewing pattern instructions.

The big thing still missing here is electricity. The lamp needs to plug in and so will the sewing machine when it moves down. Though I kind of hate the idea of taking up the rest of the desk space with it…

Anyway, the last thing you need to know is that the print on the desk is from a surprisingly versatile New Orleans artist. Go see it in more detail and check out their other work! (We have a print of this one, too, and don’t know where to put it…)

Craft Area: The Entry

Your first view of the basement craft area from the bottom of the stairwell. Complete with chicken supplies.

Let’s start off with pretty pictures, shall we? Say you’re coming down the stairs into the basement, and ta da! A nicely plastered and painted fieldstone wall, with bronzed plastic pipe and some art hung up with fishing line. And yes, it’s a bit crowded with chicken coop supplies…loppers to cut raspberry cane, epoxy shield, gravity feeder, feed scoops, a stray CO detector… Moving on… How did we get here?

The fun, easy part was spray painting the pipe. Rustoleum is your friend. They make an antique bronze finish that is just lovely. Although possibly I should have dusted the tops of the pipes first…

The wall was a slog! First the research. I can’t even begin to recreate the rabbit hole of finding out that field stone basements should be coated with lime plaster and how to make it. I think the reasoning had something to do with drawing the moisture through the wall to react with the lime instead of decomposing the stones? And most of the formulas are proprietary. Looking back, though, I can crib from Wikipedia for the basics:

Lime plaster is a type of plaster composed of sand, water, and lime, usually non-hydraulic hydrated lime (also known as slaked lime, high calcium lime or air lime).

I can also tell you that I ended up working with a proportion of 3 parts sand to 1 part lime (by volume), and then adding enough water to make a nice slurry. You have to be careful both sourcing the lime (you want something like this product, not the type of lime used to fertilize lawns – it’s a different chemical compound) and mixing it (powdered lime is hazardous, so you should wear a breath mask until it has reacted with the water).

I used a big plastic tote to mix my plaster in – and with a lid, it stays usable for over a year! I started out using an extra garden stake to do the stirring which was both very silly and very hard. My uncle recommended a power driven mixer attachment, which was a godsend. You just stick it into your screw gun like any other bit, and use it like you would use an automatic mixer for batter in the kitchen.

Given my general impatience and penchant for skipping steps, it may astonish you to know that I did indeed scrape the old plaster before apply new, and waited several days for the plaster to dry before painting the wall (with one of several cans of antique white I picked up on sale years ago. Yes, there’s a hardware/home goods stash, too).

Oh, and in case you’re curious about the art: the piece on the left was a framed-tile thrift store find, and the banner (supposedly a scarf?) was a present from my dad – it commemorates the new Japanese garden at the local botanical institute/sculpture park.

New Topic: The Basement Craft Area

Clearly woodworking did not turn out to be a topic which leads me to complex planning, introspection or eloquence. It may surface again from time to time as needed (I do foresee building an indoor [basement] fence/gate in the next year or so), but I don’t see it becoming a mainstay activity.

In other news, Jeff’s caught up again, but in terms of my wobbly-wobbly time tricks, I’m a little short on content to get you to my current costuming activities. So let’s do a little retrospective, and introduce you to the area where someday I hope to actually make said costumes: the basement steampunk craft area.

This has been a very multifaceted, long term project – and you  can probably guess that it’s not done yet! There’s still the need for that last little essential: electrical power for the sewing machine…

But first, wander with me back in time (and across the internet, because I’m lazy and can’t be bothered to go photograph an unfinished wall of my basement), and you’ll see where it all started: fieldstone walls. The ones in my basement had been plastered at one point, but there were still some bare stones peeking through, and an awful lot of cracks in and chunks coming out of the plaster. The floor was bare concrete (hence the acquisition of the epoxy shield I repurposed for the chicken coop). And while the inside of the stairwell had been drywalled, the part facing the basement was naked 2x4s and plywood. Oh, yes, and the pipes and everything were exposed on the ceiling, too.

Not actually my basement! Just a fairly representative image of a field stone wall from the internet.

Coda: The Gate

Then we got a dog.

(Confused? This series started with an intro/bench, an arbor, and chicken coop part 1 and part 2.)

Luckily, she’s a small dog. There were only 3 spots in the back fence to patch (though I’d gotten pretty good at wiring wire mesh to wire mesh from finishing the chicken run, so…more wouldn’t have been too bad, I guess?). Which left the glaring omission of a gate. Which brings us back to the arbor. And more hinges. (And more wire mesh!)

This time I went solo to buy wood. Bad plan. Somehow I bought 2×6. And asked for not quite the right lengths. Back to the mother-in-law’s. Received some 2x2s and borrowed the handheld saw again. Got Jeff’s help on the hinges, latticed it like the sides, added mesh and voila! Now your sneak peek is reality:

This time the gate really should exist!

The Coop: Part 2

So many more steps. (Missed Part 1? Read it here.)

Get out the cement sealer (epoxy shield). Mix it. Wait an hour. Roll it on the whole darn coop (I’d actually bought OSB, not plywood – it really needed that water protection). Stop for the day to let it dry.

Get out the actual paint. Roll it on the whole darn coop. Stop for the day to let it dry. (And I think I did this part over two days?)

Realize how many gaps there are. Caulk the snot out of it with every tube in the house.

Try to attach the fourth side. Realize with a nesting box the full length of the wall, it would attach to the outside of the other walls. Borrow mother-in-law’s handheld saw. Hack a bunch off. Decide this wall should hinge too, or the coop will never get cleaned. Drive to hardware store. Attach wall.

Think about how mesh for run will attach. Add door and trim to be compatible with both that and covering the exit.

More minor adjustments (not to mention enclosing the run), and it’s ready for chickens!

It’s a chicken coop!