Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sorry I never update!

Now that school has begun things are totally getting out of hand over here (well, that and the patriots/red sox/nascar events on the weekends). I promise I'll be back soon to continue the saga that is the kitchen - though I have to find my camera under the pile of junk to bring you always thrilling shots of window install, drywall, tiling, cabinets, and the like. Just wanted to let you all know that another blog I read is doing a great giveaway and today is the last day to enter. So get over to Biochemista, learn about healthy living, and enter to win from AllModern.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


No, we are not back to the future (though the thought of jiggawatts is reminding me of the post below)! We've been collectively dreading the thought of bringing up the required amount of blue board (sheet rock, plaster board, drywall, yada yada yada) since we wrestled with the few pieces required for our bathroom renovations over the past year. Funny how a house that was built prior to the invention of drywall would not take into consideration the ability to fit a 4'x8' sheet up three flights of stairs. doh. Even our drywaller (bringing in a pro for this one boys and girls) didn't like the idea of it, and offered a 50% discount on the project should we find a way to procure the materials and get them into the condo. Procurement was obviously as easy as a shiny piece of plastic with the letters S A V I (not necessarily in that order), and borrrowing the "BIG GREEN TRUCK". Surprisingly, I have become aware that you, dear reader, may not have met the "BIG GREEN TRUCK" yet. Here she is from a sunnier day during demo
The beast can still tackle 80mph on the highway, but sounds like a B52 doing it!! Mucho thanks as usual to B's Mom (by way of B's Dad - the previous owner) for use of such a beaut. 

Clearly, this still left us with the dilemma of how to get the 25 sheets from the truck to the condo. Realizing that this may be a great opportunity to flex the good ol' engineering grey matter, the brainstorming commenced. Plan 1.0 went a little something like this (note: Plan 1.0 was not executed, merely conceived). 
  1. Screw pulleys (x2) into the roof of the back deck
  2. Lower ropes through pulleys down to the back yard
  3. Build "fixture" connecting the ropes with a 2x4 for the drywall to rest on
  4. Tie up the drywall and haul it up 
While in Maine for the weekend I explained Plan 1.0 to my Dad. I believe one of my Dad's many great mantras involves having the "right tool for the job" so he automatically convinced himself (and later me) that Plan 1.0 had to go. Luckily, he totally pulled through by suggesting the use of a ladder hoist. A ladder hoist is primarily used to haul heavy buckets of shingles to a roof. Within 12 hours of the initial suggestion a ladder hoist was found for rent at 495Rental and put on hold... Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado I present...

The hoisting!!! It was so totally awesome (sorry for lack of vocab, but seriously, it was)!! This was our Friday night test run, and by the time I got back from dance on Saturday morning all the drywall (and cement board for the floors) was in the house stacked neat and tidy. Ahhhh... life is good. Special thanks to Mr. Matthew Coolidge, Mr. Steve Sheehan, and Mr. Matty Maguire for their support in the loading/unloading process!

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's Electric, boogey-oogey!

Work is essentially constant at the house lately, and I'm having a hard time naturally segmenting the projects into posts. I promise I will try to document everything, but I am sincerely sorry if some of it is out of chronological order!

With the successful sign-off of our plumbing inspection, it was time to approach electrical. Thanks to the before-mentioned ghetto renovations by previous owners EVERYTHING had to be re-done. The Mike Holmes mantra of "if you're going to do it, do it right" continues to rear its ugly head throughout this process. Even our breaker box had to be moved, since its previous home on the wall was obliterated during demo to make room for a pennisula with breakfast stools. The box's new home is secure on the wall of our new laundry closet. LAUNDRY. CLOSET. *le sigh* Clearly, I'm righteously pumped about this future laundry location!

Let me preface the remainder of this discussion by mentioning that, to me, electrical work looks mostly like this... 
courtesy www.xkcd.com

Yet again, B saves the day by being handy enough to do most of the work on his own. Personally, I don't recommend this model if you are new to renovations, or do not feel comfortable, as electricity isn't something to handle lightly. Again, this is a permitted project and must be overseen and signed off by an electrician prior to inspection by the City inspector. Another family friend (Phil) was a fabulous addition to our team, and was able to button up everything B had started within one day. Keep in mind that for a rough inspection all wires must be visible, all staples should be in place, and outlet/switch lines should be stripped and capped. Since kitchens require a plethora of electrical (good lighting, plenty of lighting switches, and outlets for small, medium and large appliances) mapping out a diagram (however crude) is critical. If nothing else, it self generates a heavy shopping list for your local HD. A tip: buy more staples, they go fast! Also, keep a Sharpie around, with so many wires running everywhere it's nice to mark them when they reach the box. Here are a few crummy pictures from my phone (for now). 
Newly wired switch box with marked wires
Light switches for entering from the deck (plan ahead so you don't end up in the dark!)

An lastly, if you know enough to stay far away from electricity, never fear! You can still contribute to the project. Typically for me this would mean providing yummy homemade vittles, but under the circumstances the men will have to settle for the following...
Big A$$ sammich full of steak, thanks D'Angelo!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wet 'n Wild

Hello Virtual Friends! 

Hands down the number one question we get about our renovation: "When is it going to be done?" DUHHHH - trust me you'll know, it'll be right around the time we aren't walking around like dust covered zombies, and actually return your phone calls

Number two question: "How did you learn how to do this?"

This question hasn't gotten any easier to answer, but after a little foot shuffling and nervous chuckling the answer usually incorporates the following:
  • Experiences in our first projects. Our "lessons learned" list from the bathroom projects is mighty long and in many ways a kitchen is like a bathroom on steroids
  • Transferable skills. Bernie's summer jobs as an auto mechanic don't directly relate to home repair, but the fearless approach to hands on problem solving really helps
  • Engineering school. BAH! In theory, technically this should help us, but mostly it just gives people a warm fuzzy that we know what we're talking about. Trust me, I still wish I was a plumber or electrician. Though I do try to remind B of my great project management skills (some might interpret this as "nagging" or "supervising" but I consider it more of a "direct, involved management practice")
  • Good Genes. The beloved patriarch of the Purpura family (B's mom's dad), Sal, passed down the basic skills, the get-it-done attitude, and the overall aptitude. Though I sadly never got to meet "Pupa" I am constantly assured that B is just like him!
All that being said, we are always quick to admit that mistakes often get made. And that is really what I wanted to write about today (sorry for all the lead in). As I mentioned, last week we ventured into plumbing land. For permitted projects a plumber is required, and thankfully we have a great friend who does great work (thanks, Billy!). B was able to set-up a lot of the stuff prior to his arrival, and as a result they were able to knock out 90% of the work in one (long) day. Work included installation of laundry hook-ups and drain, addition of water hook-up for fridge, new flex tubing for hot/cold sink, gas line for the stove, and movement of the baseboard heat. Nothing like shiny new copper pipe!

Saturday the boys set out to level the floor so the sub floor could be laid (but not screwed down, as the rough plumbing must be visible for the inspection). After another 12 hour day that consisted of precision cutting and leveling, the MDF was down, and the new wall sections were framed (I know I need more pictures).  Another shout out B's Dad, and the one-and-only John Burrows, Class of 2000. :-)

Fast forward to Tuesday, when the owner of the second floor unit emails us to say that the 2nd floor tenants have a "wet ceiling". B is on his way to hockey (all this work, and he still has time to be a hockey-stud. swoon.) so I am dispatched downstairs for investigation.

Whoops! Luckily the wetness neatly corresponded with the heat pipe in the floor of our unit, so I can at least ID the source and shut down the water to that location. Also luckily, there were replacement ceiling tiles in the basement, which were installed the next day. Even more luckily (are you sensing the pattern here?) Billy the kid plumber was scheduled to be back in the morning to prep for the inspection anyway. Wednesday morning the root cause was found: a pin hole in the baseboard heat from driving a nail through the pipe. This also explains why it took the better part of four days to get that bad. Thank goodness the subfloor, cement board, tile, and cabinets were not installed when this issue was found. 

All in all, I'll explain this like I explained my recent appendectomy: if something bad had to happen, this is the best thing that could have happened. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I said "Brrr, it's cold in here!"

Say hello to my new friend!

Isn’t she a beaut?? Now I know you may think we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves here (like you really need a floor or walls to have a new fridge?!?!), but it was actually quite critical that we found a fridge early in the process. This is important because unlike stoves and dishwashers there are actually about 5,467,312 “standard” sizes of refrigerators ranging in price from $1,000- $3,000. Since our cabinet layout requires the width of the fridge, we wanted to make sure we could find something that fit that wouldn’t force us into an obnoxious price point. Additionally, there are certain Zoolander-like concerns re: refrigerators (i.e. “how is it supposed to work, if it can’t even fit in the building!”) After copious online searching, and a trip to the Sears scratch and dent outlet, I have to say I was initially super stressed out. When you are doing a budget kitchen you really can’t blow the budget on a fridge, but it looked as if we weren’t going to find ANYTHING we could afford. But then… finally… CRAIGSLIST!!!!! I know, I know, this isn’t the solution for everyone, but it turned out to be a really great alternative for us. We have a deposit down on this baby, and let’s just say, we’re saving about 50% for something that has been only very gently used. I’m already having dreams of polishing the finger-prints off every other day, and let me tell you, they are sweet sweet dreams. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Life in Dirt Land!!!

Sorry for the terrible delay in posting. Looks like this blog thing is not really for me, but I am doing my best. The work in the kitchen continues on an almost-daily basis, though visually it is getting harder to see progress. Here's a few of the things we've done lately...
  1. Finished removing all debris from the room. So far we are at 4,000lbs of building materials brought to the transfer station, which means we've muscled down roughly a ton of junk a piece from the third floor walk-up **flexes**
  2. Removed non-critical electrical (done by B, I don't mess with electricity after my dubious success in "electrical engineering for mechanical engineers" class). As per the norm in this house, ghetto work before hand resulted in many single outlets each having their own breaker. These have been removed, all new electrical materials have been purchased and a diagram has been made of future outlets/switches. 
  3. Removed base-board heat from along the wall that has been removed. The little experiment was quite the funny one. Basically we had to turn the AC in the front room where the thermostat is located to cool the room to a reasonable temp. With the center section of the pipe removed and the hot water shut off, B then went to the basement. We communicated via cell phone as he turned the water back on. I then ran to the front room and cranked the heat on the thermostat. Still on the phone, I ran back to the kitchen with a bucket and waited to see which end the hot water would start gushing from. Once I got water upstairs, B was able to shut off the main supply again, and now we know which way the water is moving through the heating system. Naturally the supply side is not near the existing walls (that would be way too easy) so we'll have to cap that and have the plumber put a new supply line in when he arrives Friday.
  4. Stuck new drain pipes from our unit to the basement. Our new laundry closet will require more drainage, and though we couldn't really see down the scary dark shaft next to the fireplace, this turned out to be a fairly painless task. Thank goodness, as busting through a wall in either of the two units below us was NOT part of the plan. Hopefully this should speed some of the plumbing work this weekend. 
  5. Extended the gas line to new stove location. Again, I did not participate in this task (are you sensing a trend re: tasks that require real skillz?). After some out-of-the-box thinking, B was able to extend the existing line behind the "kitchen chimney" (not to be confused with the fireplace chimney or the front room chimney), to minimize the space we will lose from that wall. Viola! He is so fancy and impressive :-) 
I'm sure there has been plenty of other action while I've been off gallivanting at dance and what-not, but this gives you a quick glimpse of how many projects are required before you can even start the big stuff!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Demolition Girl!

Hi everyone. Back from another hectic (but fun - and filled with people I love) weekend. I'd love to tell you all about it, but I really owe a post about the kitchen! So I'm sure you remember it in all its dingy black-and-white glory??? Well I'm proud to say that's totally gone. In its place? A large, cavernous dust cave. How appetizing! Now, if you're even 1/2 as obsessed as we are with HGTV (honestly Mike Holmes is like a god in our house), you will probably assume, as I did, that demolition is this fun little activity that never takes more than 20 sped up seconds to complete. You will then stand in the middle of your clean empty space and admire your work without a speck of dust on you. Biggest. Lie. Ever. So far our demo activities have been progressing for OVER A WEEK now! It doesn't help that the old owners were the kings of band-aid solutions. B spent a whole day just removing the disgusting paneling and cabinets, only to reveal multiple layers of "kitchen" themed wallpaper and plaster walls. He also discovered a "secret door" (i.e. a doorway that had been paneled over for convenience). So far we have removed:
  • All cabinets, counter-tops, and appliances
  • The entire ceiling - drop ceiling installed 15-18" below horse hair plaster with slats
  • 3.5 of the four major walls (one wall is being completely removed and the living room side still has to come down, hence the half) - paneling, three layers of horse hair plaster with slats down to chair rail height, with hard wood wainscoting below.Oh, and there were even two layers of backsplash... total hack job!
  • The entire floor - 4 layers of linoleum, and a layer of hard wood (and no, the hard wood is not salvageable *weeps*)
I don't have all my pictures with me, but here are a few. 

Did I fail to previously mention the incredible spaghetti pile of electrical wires? My bad. 

The doorway on the left edge is the secret doorway. The doorway on the right is the former kitchen entrance. Good view of what the inside of a horse-hair plaster wall looks like. Hopefully this wall (the final frontier) will be down tonight.

I will have to draft a second post with more pictures for you when I get home. Till then, put on a nice clean white t-shirt for me, and go dice some veggies in your nice clean kitchen. ;)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Flashing Lights, lights, lights.

Wow, what a great 4th of July weekend. The weather cooperated in a major way as we got a weekend of beautiful sunshine and a light sea breeze in Falmouth. I even managed to swim in the ocean, you know it must've been really warm (see below for proof!)

I believe this picture was taken just AFTER Josh got in trouble with the lifeguard for a flip contest with the little girl on the platform. Perhaps Dinna and I scoring them wasn't helping either. Needless to say, B was seated firmly and securely on the beach with Mrs. Levy, SCAREDY CAT!

The barbecues were indeed plentiful and delectable. A huge shout out (again) to the Levy's for hosting us, and being so generally awesome. So glad Ando and Shazam could also join us for the occasion. Here are a few more shots to sum up the great time...
 Being "pink" with the ladies next to one of the fanciest Oak Bluff mini-houses EVAH!

 Strange grown up prom picture of us!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Renovations and Celebrations!

I guess its not looking good for this blog so far! A week with no posting :-(  Anyway, in celebration of another great week here in MA let's talk about some exciting upcoming activities...
  • July 4th!! Yes, this means cool beer, hot BBQs, and the beach. The weather report seems to be lining up well for the occasion. B (my better half) and I will be guests of the lovely Levy family! Josh and his fiance are some of our most awesome friends, and after spending a weekend with his parents last year I can see where he gets it from. I'll attempt to take some pictures and post them early next week. Until then, you can find us at Shucker's in Woods Hole. 
  • Kitchen Renovation!! For some reason unbeknown to us, B and I apparently have an affinity for gutting various parts of our house on major holidays (a future post will surely show our bathroom, which was ripped out last Thanksgiving). I'm guessing this phenomenon is due in part to the vacation time from work, and our collective inability to sit still for very long. Below you can see some pictures of what it looked like before I left this morning (and for the preceding three years). 
  • Why yes, that IS the cheapest ugliest linoleum HD offers for sale! What a great eye you have for the aesthetically unpleasing :-) Also, please note the washing machine that is doing double duty as a countertop.
  • See that big white wall of paneling there? And that ugly commercial drop ceiling (completing the black and white look)? I anticipate the disappearance of these items by COB today.  Eventually EVERYTHING will be coming out, and I can't wait to update you on our progress. But for now, I'll just let these ugly images burn your retina's for awhile. 
Well folks, gotta break for now, but I promise to be more diligent in my quest to update the world with my doings!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Geek Fest!

So it's only the first week and I'm already skipping blogging days. :( 

But if you're one of the over 1 million estimated happy new owners of the iphone4 (like me), I do believe you'll forgive me. Frankly, most of yesterday was spent "dealing with" iPhone in many steps.
  1. Purchase iPhone4: As I was unable to pre-order the phone on the first day due to characteristically BAD planning on the part of AT&T wireless (and YES I'm blaming them), pre-order for pickup on day 1 was out of the question. Sadly, so was pre-order for home delivery, as they will only ship to your billing address. Naturally, my billing address is still up in the woods o' Maine (thanks M&D for supporting my technology habit, I promise to pay you back for the service), which pretty much negated the whole point. So, after some inter-office "strategery", careful blog reading, and a couple of phone calls I decided to try my luck at... wait for it......... The Shack! That's right ladies and gents your local RadioShack will be selling Iphone4. To make a long story short I am the proud owner of 1 of only 5 iPhone4's delivered to my local Shack, and the only one that was NOT purchased on pre-order. Seriously, I expect to be struck by lightening as I'm sure I have now used up a lifetime of luck. 
  2. Attempt to authorize iPhone4 on home PC. --> FAIL! turns out I have to update iTunes
  3. Spend approximately 1 hour "off the grid" downloading and installing iTunes 9.2, as my old 3G had already been de-activated by signing the paperwork at said Shack. 
  4. Restore old settings to the new phone: Actually went quite smoothly. 
  5. Add music: slow but mostly a function of the computer, not the phone. another hour essentially "off the grid" while synching
  6. Time to PLAY!!! I first tried the camera, one of the enhanced features I was most excited about. Worked great until I tried to use the flash. When using the Manual flash "on" pictures starting becoming terrible and totally washed out. Perplexed, I decided to look at some other things for awhile. Eventually my little brain managed to figure out that "doh!" the flash wasn't working properly due to the protective coating I left on the back. The LED was reflecting into the plastic causing a huge amount of glare. Needless to say, camera functionality looks beautiful now. Excited to get the iMovie app and really start playing around.
  7. FaceTime: Luckily, another early adopter decided to stop by for a beer on the deck, and after finagling with the wifi password we were able to trial the FaceTime feature. Yes world, in words of Beyonce and Gaga, "you can watch me on my video phone"!!! Picture quality was a little grainy, but this could be due to the poor lighting on the back deck. I'm excited to see how users end up utilizing this tool in the future. I expect that until wifi is not a requirement the full effects wont begin to materialize. Again, I blame this on AT&T and the service issues. 
Alrighty gang, i'll pick this up with more overall impressions soon! 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Daily Grind: How I contribute to a 16 Billion dollar corporation

Trust me, there are many days when working for "the man" feels like being a single sardine in a giant ocean. There are also many days when I simply marvel at the amazing cafeteria, in-house bank, and olympic-sized swimming pool. Today is a special day because its the one day per year that my company announces the work I do to the world! So, without further ado here is the EMC Sustainability Report http://www.emc.com/collateral/magazine/h7215-sustainability-long-bro-hr.pdf  **Cheat by going straight to pages 39-41 to see my team's contributions** While reading this morning, I felt a little twinge of pride... looks like I might care more about my J-O-B then I think!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

First Post: Naming the blog

Hello World! If you made it here, congrats, you're only about two clicks from the end of the Internet!

I thought I would briefly introduce myself and explain the method of naming the blog. I'll post later on "why" I decided to start a blog, after I have a better understanding of exactly why that was.

About Me: I'm 25, live in Boston, and participate in the following (note: this list is in order of approximate time spent participating, not necessarily in order of things I love to do). 
  • Engineering - well technically, product compliance for a large technology firm 
  • Schooling - back at my alma mater for a graduate degree in Engineering Management, whatever that is
  • Dancing - teaching dance to adults and children in Brookline at www.dancefitstudio.com
  • Renovating - two gut-job bathroom reno's and an upcoming kitchen blowout
  • Blogging - I HOPE! 
  • Other random and occasionally spastic things I'm sure you'll here about in upcoming entries?
 Now that we got that out of the way... on to the blog name. I am insanely intrigued by Alice's concept of "losing her muchness" in the new Alice in Wonderland movie. For some reason, this idea that we lose a bit of ourselves, or the selves we want to be, as we get older seems to resonate at this stage of my life. It's funny (to me) because most "great" women who speak about their lives, talk about "finding themselves". Perhaps I still have a bit more of losing myself, and rearranging myself, before I can "find" myself. 

And Massachusetts? Well, I'm sure that seems obvious. What I found interesting though, is only now am I actually associating myself with this geography. Apparently sometimes it takes eight years of adjustment to realize a place is really your new home. 

Alright, I think this is a sufficiently long post number 1. Don't want to burn myself out on the first day.