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Updated: 2018-02-22T05:51:58.596-06:00


Japan 2017


I went to Japan with my brother and his friends.  While there, I got to catch up with some of my Japanese and Korean friends as well.  We had a good time.

Places we went:

Tokyo: Asakusa, Senso-ji (big lantern), Ueno Park (lotus pond), Kappabashi (fake food), Akihabara (electronics), Shibuya Crossing (lots of people), Meiji Shrine and Inner Gardens (iris), Ryogoku Kokugikan (Sumo Center), Imperial Palace, Tokyo station (vegan ramen)

Nara: Nara Park (deer), Kodai-ji (pagoda), Daibutsu (Big Buddha), Kasuga Shrine (lanterns)

Kyoto: Pontocho and Kiyamachi (night life), Sanjo-Kawaramachi (sushi), Nishiki Market (food), Kiyomizu-deru (temple and spring), Sannen-zaka (artisan shops), Arashiyama (bamboo forest), Fushimi Inari (red gates), Kizakura (sake and beer brewery), Kyoto Station (architecture)

Arima: Arima Gyoen (ryokan), Kin no Yu (hot spring)

We walked approximately 60 miles in 7 days.  My feet and knees are not happy, but I am glad we got to go to so many places.  And it was nice that a hot spring was the last day!

I posted a few more pictures on Instragram.  From now on, I'll mostly be posting things on Instagram, not this website.  If you'd like to continue following me, I'll be on Instagram; it's easier to post there.  Just ask me for my info.



We went to visit our friends in San Francisco and take a little vacation. The temperature was a wonderful 60 degrees, but the rain never let up. Nevertheless, we had a great time walking around San Francisco and driving around Sonoma County.

My, what a big nose you have!


I continue to participate in NaBloPoMo year after year, but I think it's been a few years since I actually completed the whole month without missing a day or two.  This year is no exception, but I am only slightly apologetic.



I like planting sunflowers, and I especially like planting a mix of types so that I have a variety for the visiting bees and finches who regularly stop by in the summer.

Bathroom Remodel: Day 13


 Everything for which a contractor is needed is compete!

The bathroom remodel is basically finished, minus the finishing touches to pull it all together: towels, linen closet baskets, shower curtain, and a little bit of painting on the door.  All of these things will be done by Monday (I hope).
 This morning we put up the towel bars.  This was not an easy decision because our bathroom is small enough that almost anywhere you put the towel bars they will be in the way of something.  In the end, above the toilet was the least intrusive place.
 The finished bathroom looks great.  I love the shower tile, I love the white/dark contrast. It needs some bright color, but we planned for that to come from the accessories, such as towels and the shower curtain.  I'm thinking red-orange will be my accent color, but we'll have to see.

I am also excited about the fact that I now get to hang a shelf and/or some actual grown-up art on the wall.  I may even take a trip to Ikea to make this happen!
There are only two things I regret about this bathroom.

1.  Despite my initial desire to try to keep the bathroom "traditional" to the time the house was built, we ended up going completely modern.  I was involved in all of the decisions that resulted in what we have, so I really can't blame anyone other than myself.  Does this mean I don't like the bathroom?  Not at all.  I still love it.  But sometimes I think about how great those tiny hexagonal floor tiles would have been.

2.  Now that the bathroom is all new, I really want other parts of the house to get a similar treatment;  I have the remodel bug.  Luckily, I have Sam to think reasonably and squash the bug before it gets me to spend too much time, energy, and money where it's not needed.

Bathroom Remodel: Day 12


 We are in the home stretch! All of the major parts are complete: the walls are painted, the vanity and medicine cabinet are installed, and toilet is restored. Lighting and trim are also complete.
The last bits to be complete are some touch-up caulking, and installation of towel rods, a decision that we have thought way too long about.

It's not a bad birthday present!

Bathroom Remodel: Day 11


 It gets dark so early now, and the bathroom photos look even better because the light is not coming through the window.

Today we got grout in the shower and the floor.  We stuck with darker colors (not that you can tell so much), but they provide a nice contrast to the white and are easier to keep clean.

 We also got shower hardware.  I have to say that I thought long and hard about that shower hardware and in the end, pretty much anything would have worked.  But now I have fancy shower hardware.
In the corner we have the new linen closet.  It is much deeper than the old closet so as to take advantage of the usable space behind the shower wall.  It is also not going to have a door.  This will be an experiment in my ability to keep organized.  I plan on buying "fabric shelves" to make it easier to access the stuff in the back and to keep visitors from seeing my collection of toiletries.

The lack of door also gives us a little more flexibility for towel rods on the adjoining wall.  There are very few options for places to hang a full-sized towel in this bathroom, and we want to be able to consider all of them.

Bathroom Remodel: Day 10


It turns out that I didn't have to go shopping today.  Yay!  But I did have to make some decisions about the linen closet.  In the end, those decisions will help me make decisions about towel bars.  Oh, the decisions!

The shower tiles are not quite secure enough for grout, so the contractor moved on to the floor today.  I love the floor.  It looks like wood, but is actually tile.  It took several tries to find a tile that matched the coloring of the wood floor in the rest of the house, but I am really glad we did.  It flows nicely between the hallway floor and the bathroom floor, minus the now more obvious hump in the hallway floor in comparison with the now level bathroom floor.

Bathroom Remodel: Day 9


 The tile is hung, and I like it quite a bit. The vertical orientation really does make the room appear taller.  Next up for the shower is the grout, which we chose to be dark in order to provide contrast and to be easier to clean.
It turns out that our floor is particularly uneven, so much so that our contractor had to add yet another layer of leveling stuff to about 75% of the floor. Once it's cured, the floor tile will go in.

Tomorrow I get to spend some time at the store picking out hand towel rings, towel rods, and toilet paper dispensers. I have a feeling I am not going to have a great time.

Not As Advertised


We painted the bedroom yesterday and today.

 The pre-painting conversation went something like this:

Sam: I want off-white.
Laura: I want bold.
Sam: Everything else in the house is bold.
Laura: Okay, off-white, as long as it's not yellowy.
Sam: Hey, how about this blue?
Laura: Bold! Yes! But not that blue. How about this blue?
Sam: Not that blue. Scratch blue. Back to off-white.
Laura: Grey/tan slightly darker than off-white?
Sam: Not too tan. Silent Smoke?
Laura: Deal.

Painting ensued.

Sam: This looks really white.
Laura: This looks really white.
Sam: Well, at least it looks better than the previous color.
Laura: True. Can I still complain to Menards?

Really, the color is nothing like the swatch, don't you think?

Yellow Afternoon


Okra plants, especially the flowers, are very beautiful. I told Sam that I would grow them ornamentally even if we never harvested the vegetables.

Bathroom Remodel: Day 8


The tile is going up!

The tile was a big decision when designing the bathroom.  I wanted something that was not too busy, not too peach/pink, and not too dark.  The first tile we tentatively agreed to was pretty much all these things.

We looked at another store and I found this, which I liked quite a bit more than anything else we had seen.  It is white with blue/grey/brown streaks.  That keeps the peach/pink out and keeps it light enough without being too busy.  Perfect.
The problem when installing this tile, however, is that the tile pieces themselves are very long, but the shower area is very small.  Initially, we were going to arrange the tiles horizontally, but this meant that almost every single tile would have to be cut.  That would introduce more lines and more of a cut-up feel.  I suggested vertical alignment, and my contractor agreed that it was a good idea.  This way meant more tiles could be full size, and vertical lines theoretically make the space look taller.

After he saw this progress, Sam said he thought the horizontal would have looked better, but we're too far along for any change now.  I think I like it, so we'll see how it all ends up.

Bathroom Remodel: Day 7


The photos don't show many dramatic changes, but most of the walls are up and mudded, which means the tile can't be far behind!
The shower plumbing setup went in today as well.  Sam thinks it might be tall, but I think once the shower head goes in, he'll find it to be just fine.

The contractor and I had a discussion about how tall to make the vanity mirror as well.  It's tough to balance the tall and short people difference.

Bathroom Remodel: Day 6


 And we're back on track!

It's the sixth actual day of remodeling, but it's been sixteen days since the construction began.

The long-awaited shower pan went in today, and we are very happy we waited for it.  It has a nice ledge at the bottom for soaps and shampoos, which will be helpful because we are not having any ledges built in to the tile on the upper half of the shower.
Some of the structure of the bathroom is up as well. The space behind the shower where the linen closet goes is framed in, and half of the drywall is up. The green, moisture-resistant wall surfaces give the entire bathroom a green glow.  The color does not show up well in this photo, but believe me, I thought for a moment that something was wrong with the shower pan .
At the end of the day our contractor said, "With all the stuff back in there, I am reminded of how small that bathroom really is!"


NaBloPoMo once again


I'm not sure how popular NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) is anymore, but I still enjoy giving it a try every November.

The next few days will be easy as the bathroom remodel will begin again, but the theme otherwise will be "photos from the summer that I never got around to uploading." These will mostly be of plants in my garden, like this sage plant just beginning to bloom in May.

I hope you enjoy.

Bathroom Remodel: Day 5


Our contractor was supposed to come over today just to finish up some sanding in the bedroom, but it turns out he got a call last night and the shower pan had come in!  So he switched it up, and came over ready to work on the bathroom.

And then he opened the box; shower pan #2 also had a big crack in it.  The thing is, we want a built-in seat in our shower, and this particular shower pan is the only one we can find that has a seat and is the correct size for our space.  So we are going to try one last time.  If it's damaged again, we will go without the seat.  As Sam said, "The first time is unfortunate, the second time is a coincidence, and the third time is a trend."  Let's hope there's no trend.

Instead of installing the shower pan, our contractor finished the ceiling in the bathroom.  It's at least a foot higher than before, and is a definite improvement on the previous one.

Bathroom Remodel: Hiatus


 Today is History Day.

Until the shower pan comes in, there's not much we can do.  Our contractor is going to come back a few times to finish the mudding and sanding on the bedroom drywall and fix up a few other spots so we can repaint the whole thing next week.  There won't be anything else happening for awhile after that.
In the meantime, I want to share this fun piece of history I found.  When we moved into the house, I went down to the library to do some research on when exactly our house had been built and if I could learn anything about its history.  I wrote a post about what I learned (Edward and Viola).

When our contractor pulled off the trim in the bedroom, I noticed that it had some writing on the back.  In case you can't tell (the photos aren't that great), the top one says "E. Kreutz" and the middle says "326 21st St."

If you reference that old post, you'll note that according to city records the owner of my house in 1924 was Edward J. Kreutz.  Confirmation! The address on these boards, however, is that of the house to the south, originally owned by William Schroer, who we surmised owned both lots and sold the second to Edward after building a house on it.  What does it mean, then, that Edward's name and William's address are on the boards?  Was Edward helping William with the construction?  Was this before the two lots had been officially separated into two addresses?  I'm not sure, but it is fun to conjecture.

Bathroom Remodel: Day 4


Today is Killing Time Day.

I forgot to get a photo of the wall before it was taken out, but trust me, it needed to be done.  It sounded like my house was being ripped apart while they were doing it.  I guess it was.

They took all the plaster off, leaving just the laths.  In this state it reminded me of my grandpa's barn.

Then the drywall went up.  They said it would be dusty.  They were right.  Even the rooms that weren't being drywalled are covered in fine dust.  Luckily, Millie was on the back porch, so we still have a black dog.

When Sam and I agreed that this was a good side-project to get done while waiting for the bathroom, we forgot one major aspect.  Once you drywall something, you have to paint it.  And when you move into a house and all the walls are already painted, there is a good chance you don't have matching paint sitting around.

Suggestions for new bedroom wall color?
I said yesterday that something drastic was going to have to be done about the warped floor.  The result is a concrete-related floor-leveling product that pours onto your warped floor, naturally flows to level itself, and then hardens.  We'll have a nice, level floor in 24 hours.

As a sidenote, while checking for the correct spelling of "lath," I learned that plaster and lath was used to build houses until the 1950s, and then it was discontinued for drywall.  My contractor had a youngster helping out today who I overhead asking, "Do people still use plaster?" The answer is no, and after all the problems we've had with it, I can see why.

Bathroom Remodel: Day 3


Today is Setback Day.

We started the day out well with new wiring, outlets, and switches for our lighting.  The vent went in without any problems.  And then we came across some problems.

Our floor may be not as water-damaged as we thought, but the boards have warped with age, thereby creating unevenness and significant frustration for our contractor who is trying to level the floor. It turns out that one side is 1/2 inch lower than the middle, and one side is 3/4 inch lower than the middle (that's the side with the most water-damaged boards).  This will require drastic measures to fix.
Our biggest issue of the day, however, came when the shower pan came out of the box.  It had a nice big crack in one corner, and is unusable.  Because our shower space is an unusual size, this shower pan had to be special ordered.  That means we have to wait for another one to come in.  They will try to expedite it, but it will come in next week at the earliest.
The shower pan has to go in before pretty much everything else, so in the meantime, our contractor is going to work on a new linen closet for this corner, leveling the floor, and fixing the wall on the other side of the bathroom.

The bedroom wall is bulging due to, most likely, the degradation of the plaster "fingers" holding the plaster to the slats and the consequent separation of the plaster from the inner wall.  We are surmising that the plaster was dislodged during previous bathroom renovations.  The bulge was present when we moved in, and it only took two days for Sam to poke his finger into it to see exactly what it was.  We've had the bulge and the subsequent hole ever since.  Might as well fix it while we have the chance!

Bathroom Remodel: Day 2


 Day 2 is More Demolition and Some Remodel

The floor and ceiling came all the way out today.  We were really worried about the floor being damaged, but lucky for us, it's really just in one corner.  We'll get a few boards replaced and all will be well.
 It turns out that our low ceiling was caused entirely by a big light and fan.  Take those out, and you have a much higher ceiling!

Our contractor thinks that, on the basis of fixtures and materials, the most recent remodel was probably as recent as nine years ago.  It didn't age well, though, because it wasn't installed well.

All the plaster is gone, all the old lights are gone, and we're starting to build.  We got a new hole for the vent and a new eight-foot ceiling.  It's going to feel a lot more spacious, I think.

Bathroom Remodel: Day 1


Day 1 is Demo and Discovery Day.

I missed the photo of the horribly botched job of the wall behind the shower stall before our contractor took off the random boards that were slapped on with no apparent rhyme or reason.  There had been no vapor barrier applied, so many of the boards were actually damp and molding.

The new window we had installed earlier is lovely, though.  It has privacy glass on the bottom half so that we can shower with the top half of the window open for ventilation while still avoiding eye contact with our neighbors.
The wall behind the toilet is pretty much what we expected.  What we learned here is that the seal around this big pipe where it meets the roof at one time leaked, and there is some water damage near the ceiling.  This most likely coincides with water damage in the attic.

I now also know where exactly the water damage on the basement ceiling came from; one of the times this bathroom flooded, the water went to the corner of the bathroom and right down the hole for this pipe.
Just like all of the electric elsewhere in the house, this bathroom has several sets of wires and outlets added at different times.  We even found one that had been (against code) just tucked in and walled over.  Goody.  Apparently the bathroom is not on its own circuit either, as the contractor very easily blew a fuse while trying to run some equipment.

At the end of the day, I was told that my bathroom was not cooperating very well.  Based on my experience with it in the five years I've lived here, I am not surprised.

Bathroom Remodel: Before


This is our main floor bathroom.  If we piece together the clues, it was remodeled in the late 80s by the owner of the house to be wheelchair accessible.

That function is no longer necessary, and the problems that come with a shower with no lip are numerous.  Therefore, we are having it remodeled.

It's not a bad bathroom, but I'm looking forward to a taller sink, a functional shower, and a wall that isn't pink.

Sunflowers in the fall


Summer left Wisconsin this week.  It is fully fall, with cool mornings and overcast days.  Lucky for me, I planted my sunflowers late, and minus a few droops from the rain, they are still going strong.

In the swing of summer


Britt found Millie a pool.  She mostly likes to get in and get out again, but when she's really hot, she'll lie down in it.

In the meantime, Sam and I have been doing a lot of work on the garden and building up our list of fun plants around the house.

Hops (four varieties)
Tomatoes (four varieties)
Cucumbers (two varieties)
Romanesque (fancy broccoli)
Eggplant (two varieties)
Soybeans (edamame)
Tomatillos (two varieties)
Lettuce (various)
Dragontongue beans
Snow peas
Snap peas
Eden's Gem Melons
Volunteer squash (probably Delicata)
Hot peppers (five varieties)

Other edibles:
Red raspberries
Black currents
Blueberries (new this year!)
Pineapple sage
Mint (so much mint!)
Alpine strawberries

And all sorts of random flowers.  It's been a productive spring.

Gardening in garages



You know you live in a good neighborhood when almost all of the garage sales include plants for less than $2. The homeowner knows exactly how the plant grows, and is often willing to dig up some extra if you need it.

Today I got two types of Lamium for the shady front of the house, some creeping sedum for the dry, sunny spot under the eaves, and a hen-and-chicks just because. 

Sam and I also stopped by a little, local greenhouse and bought a Cranesbill geranium for by the front steps and a rosemary plant for our herb garden.

Now if we can keep everything alive during the weekend's late frost, we'll be good.