Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 26, 2007 | 0 Comments

I hope you all had a fabulous turkey day. I did. I'm still eating turkey.

JD is now officially 15. He spent his birthday shopping to burn the cash presents that he got from his party and relatives. He bought video games and mechanical pencils. He's a chip of the ole geek.

He's growing up so fast. At the beginning of the year he was still shorter than SSB & I, and now he is closing in on 6 feet tall! His clothes are like electronics -- as soon as you leave the store with them, they are obsolete.

He is getting straight As in school, even while taking honors classes. He actually said that his honors science was very much like the science he took while homeschooling -- over 4 years ago!
But he likes that he knows the stuff, it makes all the social things he needs to keep up on that much easier to deal with.

We went to my parents' house and had a big dinner. There aren't too many things that my mom cooks well, or even to the point of being remotely edible, but I always look forward to her Thanksgiving stuffing. Yummy!
My dinner contribution was pumpkin pie I made from scratch from pumpkins I grew in my garden, because I'm awesome like that.
(keep checking the "Sylvana Recipes" menu, cause if your good, I might just post the recipe!)

And, I finally got to spend some quality time with my friend, Punky. We went bowling, shopping and then out to eat. It was great to actually get together and DO something rather than sitting around talking. It is very hard to keep a good friendship going on just talk.

While we were out, her 12 year old daughter called almost every half hour to see when she was coming home. Punky complained that her family never gave her a moment to herself. I told her that she would have to TAKE time. Like, for instance, quit answering your phone!!
Later that night, her daughter actually convinced her aunt to drive her an hour to the city that we were in to find us. She faked illness, but immediately after we picked her up from where they had stopped to call Punky on their cell phone, she was begging to stop for food. We teased her all the way back about how she missed her mom so much that she hunted her down. And I teased Punky. She can complain all she wants about no privacy, but I know she LOVES feeling needed.

The last day of our holiday, we took my grandma out to eat at the bar and grill that I worked as a teenager. The food was still great -- and the dining room was now non-smoking! Yeh, all the way up in the boonies of the Northwoods! It was good to spend some extra time with her. She has a mischievous sense of humor that I love. I even got to see some very old pictures of her, her family and friends.

This Thanksgiving was definitely one of the best I have had in a long time!


sideshow bob said...

I liked going out to eat with Gramma...we should do that every time.

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Sylvana
Its fabulous news to hear about your talented son, now 6 feet tall who’s getting straight A’s. I can remember vividly a time when you were dragging yourself off to school, (I think he was 12/13 at the time) in a state of frustration to discuss certain concerns with the teachers/ school etc. So congratulations to you & yours /family
Best wishes

Leon J. de la Garza said...

it's been a while!

When i was 15 i was a mess at school..
hehe.. I didn't really care about it.

But ever since i entered college i got very good grades!
We dont use the "A,B,C" grading system over here, its a "percentage" thing.. you know 90/100, 40/100, i finished college with about 92/100 average grade.

Wich i believe rocks!

anyway, good to hear you had a good time! :)
I've been very busy lately.. umm.. with work.. and things of that sort..

hope you are well..

Heather said...

That's awesome about your son!! You must be very proud!

I have a friend whose family won't leave her be when she's out with me. Her cell phone rings every 30 minutes or so...and it's her mom 75% of the time just wanting to tell her something she saw on TV!!

Sylvana said...

SSB, way better than sitting around at her house looking at millions of pictures of all my cousins' thousands of kids!

Lindsay, the high school teachers LOVE him! Most kids by high school have become sullen, bitter education-haters. But JD enjoys learning and participates actively in class.

Leon, those are very good grades. The percent converts easily as the A,B,C system is based on percents. 92% would be an A in most letter grade systems.

Heather, I think it is kind of rude to continually answer your phone while out with someone. Maybe you should do it to her some day.

Bathroom Tiling - Day 32

Sunday, November 11, 2007 | 0 Comments

Mortaring the tile took a lot longer than we had thought it would. This was mostly because the sheets that we had were not laid square or evenly at the factory, so our layout got almost 1/2" skewed!!

Being the miracle engineer that I am, I was able to re-align the tiles so that you would never even notice.This involved stripping most of the rest of the tiles off the sheets and laying them in singly without spacers. Sounds like a mess? IT WAS!! I had to forgo the knotched trowel for the most part to ensure that I had enough mortar behind the tile. And mortaring single tiles resulted in the mortar getting everywhere.

But they cleaned up nice and all was well! Since our tiles had a glossy glaze on the face, the mortar basically wiped off when dampened a bit. It would have been a bitch with unglazed tiles!

We waited 48 hours for the mortar to cure before we grouted. After the first 24 hours we started to clean out the grout joints to make room for the grout. This meant taking a utility knife and scratching out mortar that had squeezed into the joint. The advice we got on this was that the joint needed to be at least 2/3 cleaned of mortar. This process took a lot of time, took a lot of blades, and created a lot of blisters. I did find that the carbide cutter that we had bought to cut the Hardibacker worked very well in removing the mortar -- however, it was also quite effective at chipping and scratching the tile. So I used that in bigger grout joints and areas where I could keep steady control over it and used the utility knife for the rest.
The grout went rather well. FYI - the grout mixed should be about the consistency of soft peanut butter. There were a lot of differing opinions on this on the forums that we were consulting, but peanut butter is definitely the way to go.

Hometime has an awesome video showing how to grout. We followed that pretty much to the letter and it worked.

We did have a mysterious problem with the grout we noticed shortly after finishing. The first half of the grout we laid in was sinking. It was well below where it should have laid. We considered mixing some more grout to go over it right away, but after consulting the forums again, we decided against it. I basically said - Screw It! It will just have to be low! We went to the high school play that JD had helped work on (he was an usher during the play -- very handsome and gentleman-like, and he built the sets -- they were beautiful! Hmmm... construction is in the blood, I think). When we came back and looked at the grout, it had strangely enough expanded back to where it should have been. I really have no clue what happened but I am so glad that we don't have to scratch it all out and redo it!

The new flange gave us a little bit of trouble. It would not sit flush (no pun intended) with the finished floor. We chiseled a little bit of material out of the floor around the flange, and bingo! it fit perfectly. Then it was just a matter of tightening the bolts evenly around the flange until they were tight and the rubber gasket was sufficiently compressed.

We had to turn down many a fine proposal for fun making in this fine November weather - but it was well worth the sacrifice -- WE HAVE A TOILET!!!

Isn't it beautiful?
It brought a tear to my eye.


Leon J. de la Garza said...

everything seems to be going about smoothly..

I see you now have a toilet, so you wont have to go to you neighbor anymore :P
Must be nice..

What can I say... umm.. there is really nothing new or interesting around here.. so..

I'm just visiting..
But do me a favor would ya?
Have yourself a great rest-of-the-week!

Sylvana said...

Leon, thanks. It is so nice to have our toilet back! And I was relieved to see that the tiling actually looked the way I had imagined!

You have a great week&end too!

pastamasta said...

Haven't seen anyone cry with joy over the existence of a toilet since my great-granny moved out of her 18th-century backyard-loo house in South Wales. It's very moving. ;)

Michael Manning said...

Better you than me. That is damn HARD work in my opinion. You did a fabulous job!

Sylvana said...

PastaMasta, if ONLY we had a backyard-loo during this! But in a sense, I guess our neighbor's bathroom was ours! :)

Good to see you around again, BTW!

Michael, hard work, but well worth it! And thank you for the compliment. Just a few more details to go and we will have a bathroom we can be proud of.

We're Tiling!!

Monday, November 05, 2007 | 0 Comments

We have made some very good progress since the last bathroom post.

We were able to get all the Hardibacker mortared in place. It is very important to mortar the backer into place if you are going to tile to reduce the amount of movement on the underlayment to keep things from cracking or popping. We used a 1/4" notched trowel for this job -- and as it turned out, we would be using the same size for our tiles. You have to be careful with mortar as once you get it mixed, you have a very limited time to work with it. It is very important to be sure to wipe down the mortaring surface with a wet sponge before laying out the mortar for two reasons: 1. all loose material/dust needs to be removed; 2. mortar need to be moist to cure properly and you want to be sure that the surface that you are using the mortar on isn't going to suck the moisture out of the mortar. Cement board is thirsty so we wiped more water on the cement board than we did the plywood. We laid out the mortar one sheet's worth at a time. Then using Backer-On screws (special screws made just for the Hardibacker product - they go through like butter and even countersink themselves!) that were just long enough to go through the Hardibacker, mortar, and then sink nearly but not all the way through the 3/4" plywood, we screwed the board down every 8" while the mortar was still wet. We read that we could walk on it right away but we still had to wait at least 24 hours before tiling.

We used the time to try to figure out a starting point for tiling. We also needed to make sure that we had enough tiles for the job, so we laid out the whole room.

Ooooo, ah! That's what it will look like when it is all finished! Isn't it lovely?
Oh, well. Enough dreaming.

We tried a couple of different layouts but ultimately decided that since the doorway was going to be the most prominent part of the room, we would start there. We squared up a line of tiles to the threshold and adjusted the layout from side to side until we were sure that we would not end up with funky or small cuts somewhere in the room where it would matter.

As we pulled up the laid-out tiles to make room for mortar, we drew outlines of some of the sheets of tile to give us some lines to go by. This was recommended by all the tiling sites. Funny thing is, they don't tell you how you are supposed to deal with the fact that the mortar most effectively covers any and all lines that you may have drawn!

Even though I am pretty good at eyeing up things, we used spacers. It helped to keep tiles from shifting when we laid new ones in and it gave us piece of mind that our tiles were in the right spot in our layout. Although many packages say that you can leave the spacers in place and grout over them, we both decided that this did not sound like the best way to do it as the grout would not stick well to plastic spacers. So, we put the spacers on end in order to be able to pull them up later. This is called "tombstone style".
We mixed small batches of mortar. It should have the consistency of cake batter. We used the 1/4" notched trowel to lay a bed of mortar to set the tiles in. First you kind of scrape a layer of the mortar into an area using the flat side of the trowel, then you get a good amount of mortar to notch in the area. The tiles should be wiggled into the mortar to ensure good contact.

Once the mortar is firm, take a small plastic putty knife to scratch the mortar out of the grout lines and then wipe mortar of the surface of the tiles with a damp rag. The mortar must be removed before it hardens or you will be trying to chip it out with a chisel! Depending on your tile type, you might be able to wait until the next day to wipe the mortar off the tile face.

This is as far as we got this weekend. We spent quite a few hours Saturday hunting down the right size tile spacers, and Sunday we went to our neighbors to replace her kitchen faucet while she was out visiting her parents. She's in for a nice surprise when she gets home and sees her brand new, beautiful faucet where the old, corroded, leaky one was!


Leon J. de la Garza said...


I admire your bathroom building skill!

it does look nice.
Alot of work though.. i didn't know about all that stuff..

and again i was confused with some of the words used in your post... specially "mortar"...
what in the world?

i've heard this word on video games, and it usually refers to a kind of missile launching thing... or is that morter?
hahaha i dont know..

from what i can gather it's something you mix up and put on something else.. haha :P

and dries up very quickly hehehe...

i finished what i had to do here (at work) so i'm freee to wonder around the web for a while..

keep up the good job!
and umm..

that's it

Sylvana said...

Leon, yes, mortar is also an explosive that you launch in battle; but this kind of mortar is actually a cement that sticks things together -- specifically in our case it sticks the tiles to the floor.

Shannon said...

You've inspired me to start a backyard project...building a mini-patio with planter...Um,so far I've dug a trench. :)
Once again, I'm so impressed with your DIY skills!

Shannon said...

I just read Leon's comment- :D ! I remember when I first heard "mortar" for an explosive...I was confused wondering why people used explosives to hold bricks together.

Sylvana said...

Shannon, I'm finally utilizing all those years of watching HGTV while renting ;) Who says that TV isn't educational?

SierraBella said...

Wow, I'm blown away with your mortar skills!

Sylvana said...

Sierrabella, bwhaahahaha!! ;))

Cheshire Tiler said...

It's not easy working with small tiles like those but it looks like the end project will look good. Worth all the hassle in the end.

Sylvana said...

Cheshire Tiler, welcome to my blog! It does look great. I can't believe that we waited so long to do it. And the tile isn't any colder to the feet than the vinyl that was in there before it.

I have to confess, it has been 18 months since we started this project and we aren't completely finished with it yet. It took us about a month to get it just about done, and then as is our way -- we left a little undone for a later date. Maybe this spring.

Slowly But Surely

Saturday, November 03, 2007 | 0 Comments

The work in our bathroom is going a lot more slowly than I had imagined it would take, BUT it is coming along fairly well -- AND I do work 60 hours a week at my jobs, plus try to keep up with my rental business, AND run around like a crazy person for all those last minute things that JD suddenly remembers he has to have done before five minutes from now.

One of these JD events was his annual bowling birthday party. He insisted on having it on the 2nd even though we were still in the middle of the bathroom project. Oh well, that unfinished bathroom wasn't going anywhere and all the kids were already expecting a party on the 2nd, SO...

I spent most of last week scrambling around trying to get all the last minute details together. I had him design the invitations this year. His idea was VIP passes. I came up with the material, but he created the images. They turned out really nice, huh?
The kids LOVED them!! JD said that they thought they were really cool. He also said that he told all his friends how hard I worked on them (I had to print the inserts, cut them to size, insert them into all these plastic covers, cut the lanyard rope, and string them up), what a good boy!

He also came up with the cake design this year. It has become a tradition for the kids to sing "Oh, Canada!" for his birthday, so he decided that this year he'd throw the Canadian flag into the theme. It was a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup DQ cake. YUMMY!!

Everyone had a great time, of course; and the parents were very impressed by it all. I'm already looking forward to next year's party!

BUT FIRST - Lets' get this bathroom done!


Leon J. de la Garza said...

that cake looks nice...!

so you're canadian?
i for some reason assumed you were from the US.

well.. nice nice.. hehe haven't got much to say this time.

I haven't done anything too interesting either.. except work.. n stuff..

so.. be well! :P

Sylvana said...

Leon, although Wisconsin is pretty close to Canada, I am not Canadian.

Leon J. de la Garza said...

Oh, how dumb of me...
hahaha your "About Me" specifically states you are from Wisconsin,United States...

that's just me being very.. umm..
what do you call it..?

can't remember the word, but i just seem to forget details very quickly for not paying enough attention.. hehe :P

Actually i'm very good at things involving logic, like programming, which is what i do..

but im not the best at remembering details hehe..

anyway.. umm.. cool!

"AG" said...

I haven't had DQ since June!

Nice cake and invites!

Sylvana said...

AG, we only have DQ for our birthdays. When I told the kids at the party that we had a DQ cake, their faces went from the usual blank teenage look to a barely containable excitement -- elbowing each other and whispering "Did you hear that? DQ!"