19 February 2010

whether tis nobler in the mind to reglaze

... or to take arms against a sea of new tiles.

We have definitively decided to reglaze the guest bath tub and enclosure, rather than shell out for a new tub, new tiles and the extremely expensive labor required to install tile (not to mention the backerboard, waterproof membrane, etc., that underlies it all).

Reglazing is all the rage on shows like Designed to Sell, since you can dramatically change the whole look of a bathroom for less than $500, and with a single-day project that requires no messy, dusty demolition. But, as we have learned all too well from our recent Ikea smackdown, things can look deceptively lovely in pictures and video but cheap and yucky in person.

But it's hard not to believe when reglazers offer transformations like this:

To this:

Or, even more convincingly, from this:

To this:

It's not perfect, of course. It's basically an epoxy resin that's applied to the tile, grout and other surfaces, and it has a finite life -- typically about five years, though we're getting a guarantee for that full period. It can get scratched, and things like bath mats and hair dye can harm it, which isn't true with regular tile. But for the time and monetary investment, we really can't do any better that this: ~$500 per bathroom as opposed to $3000+ for new tile and installation.

Bonus: no more moldy grout, since the grout gets covered with epoxy too.

If we like the result in the guest bath, we'll do the same thing in the master. We'll see how it goes...

sometimes i wonder...

... what I get myself into.

The half marathon I ran in Las Vegas in December, for example ("ran" is being generous... I am not fast). It was really on a whim that I agreed to do it. And within a half hour of finishing, I had decided to run a full marathon. Now, not even having finished a real marathon, I'm already thinking about which one to do second (and third), and saying things like, "You know, I really could run LA next month. Do I really need to wait until May to run Green Bay?"

Evidently, I am more delusionial than I think sometimes.

Owing both to a heavily-packed spinning schedule and some annoyingly recurrent injuries (achilles tendonitis, IT band syndrome), I have not been running particularly often, but I have been pleasingly disciplined about doing my long runs. And I've now built up to a scary number, this weekend's task: a 20-miler. What is perhaps crazier than the fact that I am actually going to run this distance is that this doesn't sound like that big a deal anymore. I mean, I'll eat some pasta Saturday night, and I'll attempt to get a good night of sleep, but I won't really do anything differently. This, to me, is proof that anyone can train to do anything.... it's just the incremental progress that gets one there.

Because I teach spinning on Saturday mornings (and spinning and long distance runs don't mix), and teach yoga a little later on Sunday mornings, my only real time to do the long runs are early, early Sundays. But now that I'm used to it, I actually look forward to the runs. I've been starting earlier and earlier, before the sun is up (these days, waaaaaay before the sun is up), and I feel like I have the city to myself. It's really peaceful, and it totally clears my head. Plus, running 15+ miles before 9 a.m. makes me feel like kind of a rock star.

But, having said all of that, I am facing the inevitable boredom of running the same route every week, just going a little farther. I feel incredibly spoiled for saying that, of course. Here many of my friends are still digging their way out of massive East Coast snow, and I'm complaining about running in nice weather along the Pacific. But I just really want to mix it up.

So I thought, "How can I see more of the city, including parts I haven't seen before, when I have the space to myself?" The nagging achilles issue precludes running in the hillier parts of town, but I decided that this week, I will spend part of my run checking out the canals of Venice (Venice, CA, of course).

Venice, California, is now the city's center of modern architecture, with homes in Venice featured in Homes of the Times nearly every week. It was originally modeled after Venice, Italy, and there used to be many more canals. Though fewer remain, they are said to be quite scenic, and just really different from the rest of LA.

I say "said to be" because, despite having lived here for almost six years, I have never seen them in person. Shameful, I know. But I hope to change that this Sunday. Wish me luck!

18 February 2010

it's all about balance

Balance for me is finding adequate time to get away from everything, and to spend time doing things that are thoroughly un-work-like. I have never had a single day of vacation expire, because I take as much vacation as I possibly can. (And honestly, though I am a bit of a climber in all things career-related, if I could ski every day and still afford the necessities of life -- including, most importantly, health insurance -- I would make the switch in a heartbeat.)

Though I only started doing it seriously about five years ago, I live to ski. There is truly nothing that excites me or distracts me more, and nothing that makes me comtemplate making different life choices quite like skiing does. Should we sell our condo and move to the mountains? What ski town has the best job prospects? These are the conversations Mark and I have on virtually every chairlift ride.

So we just enjoyed a very nice trip to Alta and Snowbird, only eight short miles east of Salt Lake City. And even better, we had fresh snow every day, weather that wasn't too cold, and crowds that were downright sparse compared to what we're used to at Mammoth.

Though it's now back to reality, it was such a wonderful respite.


13 February 2010

stalling with inspiration

Since we are momentarily stalled on the bathroom project (the next big task is a BIG task indeed: tiling the floor), it's a good time to showcase a few more random inspirations I've found lately, many of which come from my new favorite blog: desire to inspire.

And one cooking inspiration, from Apartment Therapy: making homemade mozzarella without starter. We have casually looked for mozz starter for the last few years and have been unsuccessful. But now I'm dying to try this recipe.

I can't remember where this came from, but I love the shelves and hooks combo... could definitely see this looking great in the guest bath

I may have posted this before, but I love it -- I would love a mini chandelier in the master bath, and the pink and brown look so good with the green walls (just don't know if they would work with our green walls... or if Mark would ever approve of pink guest towels)

I LOVE this fireplace surround... neutral and subtle, but totally modern

The coolest canopy bed ever -- both modern and au naturel

Clean, white kitchen with a little splash of blue

This look is a tad too cluttered, but so very functional

Clever solutions to our eat-in kitchen dilemma... little table with storage above? or banquette? or bar mounted on the wall?

I sent this to Jenn as a surprise gift, but I am considering it for us too... very clever and modern, with that rustic touch (available here)

This is making me rethink the need to "ground" the bedroom with some darker furniture... so ethereal and dreamy

Possibly the coolest kitchen ever

11 February 2010

baby steps

Two more updates to the bath, before we take a week off from renovations.

I installed the new medicine cabinet all by myself. Of course, it's replacing an old one, but I still had to pull out the old one, and resize the drywall hole to fit the new one. And somehow, it actually managed to come out perfectly level!

Our new over-the-sink light fixture, in the one light box that is functioning. Mark is very electrically handy, except when he's shorting out bathroom fans.

10 February 2010

progress, and a set-back

In a few days, we jet off to Utah to ski Alta and Snowbird (yippee!). So the bathroom reno will have be put on pause for another week. But good progress in the meantime.

Mark cuts in

The walls are now SW 6170 ("techno gray"), and the ceiling is extra white, all satin finish

Sadly, in our first real mishap of the guest bath project, we may have killed our bathroom fan. While installing a 100-watt halogen fixture that the man at the lighting store swore would work in a standard circuit, and on a dimmer, the bathroom fan mysteriously stopped working. And the halogen fixture wouldn't work either. So possibly we did some harm to that whole circuit (though the breaker did not trip), or the fan's fuse blew (panasonic's site is not being as helpful as we'd like in solving this mystery), or the box we tried to install the halogen fixture in never worked anyway (it just had a plate over it before) and the fan just coincidentally died at the same time. Whichever way, we now need to go out-of-pocket to get an electrician to investigate.

Sigh. We were doing so well.

Are you dead?

05 February 2010

Ideas for inspiration

As I'm trolling all of my usual sources on design advice, I come across ideas that don't fit into the categories of the projects we're currently working on, but that seem like great ideas for the future.

Here are an assortment of some of my recent favorites:

Perhaps to go behind the door in the office, a big message center and place to pin up design ideas 

An umbrella stand in LA seems a little anachronistic (or what means the same as anachronistic, but for place instead of time? anageographic?), but I kind of love the idea even more because of it... and Jenn gave us that great vintage vase that could possibly even be an umbrella holder

I love just the pop of bright aqua blue in an otherwise white kitchen... maybe for our back wall in the eat-in part of the kitchen? (Mark?)

Would floor cushions like this work in our living room, across the coffee table from the couch?

Our fireplace is a total waste of value (it's not a focal point, it has no mantel, and it's so boring), but a cool tile surround in a neutral color would help it pop

04 February 2010

update: pink is dead

After about 2 hours' work and 2-3 coats of primer, the pink is officially gone. Hooray!

There was even pink paint all the way up in the skylight, but it's now gone for good

03 February 2010

down with pinkie

I really hope we're serious about renovating the bathroom, because we've passed the point of no return.

After a long, exhausting week in DC, I managed to muster an impressive amount of energy to rid our guest bath of pink. Together, Mark and I demoed (a sign that I watch too much HGTV, that I feel I can use "demo" in a sentence to mean demolish/demolition) everything in the guest bathroom this past weekend, except for the tub surround.

Taking a crowbar to that ugly, pink baseboard molding was one of the best things I've ever gotten to do, and it felt AMAZING.

Mark prying off the mirror -- impressively, he got it off in one piece

The wall behind the mirror had a lot of damaged plaster and drywall, from the icky adhesive the original installers used. We'll have to fix this to hang our new framed mirror.

Mark rocking the toilet off its seal

Hooray! The reviled toilet is gone! (But some pink molding remained)

End result of all of that crowbarring -- out with the remaining wallpaper, baseboard molding, flooring (turned out to be individual vinyl stick-down slats, not sheet vinyl, which ripped up the concrete substrate quite a bit), mirror, vanity and toilet.

I had a bit of an "Oh, s#&" moment this morning when I walked by and realized: We just ripped out a perfectly functional bathroom, and we have to do all the work ourselves to make it functional again. But what's done is done.

The only big decision remaining is the paint color, and we have some contenders in the running

After we prime and paint the pink ceiling and the back of the door, the pink will be gone for good!

02 February 2010

the endless flooring debate

What floor is best for the bathroom?

Person 1: "Cork is the best flooring for the bathroom. It won't expand or contract like wood floors."
Person 2: "Cork is terrible for the bathroom. It will just absorb all that moisture."

Person 1: "Bamboo is not so good in the bathroom if the bathroom gets regular use. It will expand and contract to some degree. Plus the finish won't like the water."
Person 2: "Bamboo is a water grass, so it's great in the bathroom. The finish will handle the water just fine."

Person 1: "Tile is great in the bathroom. But it can break if the subfloor is uneven."
Tanja: "Tile is cold, and I don't like putting my bare feet on cold things."

This is a case of too many choices. But somehow, despite all the choices, we actually managed to make one. During a whirlwind outing to HD in Marina del Rey, Lowe's all the way down in Hawthorne and the tile store down the street from us, we saw a porcelain tile that we love, and bought it on impulse.

We've been sitting on that decision for several days now, and I'm still happy with it. So I think we're safe.

Now we just have to figure out how on earth WE are going to tile the bathroom floor!

01 February 2010

my media debut

Last Friday, as my busy week in DC was wrapping up, I decided to make a quick dash up to the National Zoo to bid farewell to Tai Shan, the now-4 1/2-year-old panda cub with whom I have had a minor obsession since he was born, who is about to be shipped "home" to China to participate in a breeding program. Somehow, despite all of my time in DC, I had never managed to pay Tai Shan an actual in-person visit, and despite how busy I was, I knew that Friday was my last chance.

This is all pretty boring, right? No one cares about my interest in a cute, adolescent panda.

Evidently, not so.

Yes, that's me. On Good Morning America. Talking about how much we'll miss having the panda in the U.S.

My quote?

"I am sad. I got a little teared up, actually, watching him today," Tanya Hester of Los Angeles told ABC News after watching Tai Shan saunter around his pen, munching bamboo shoots in frigid sub-zero temperatures on Friday. 

(And for the record, they spelled my name wrong, and it was most certainly not sub-zero. Sub-freezing, yes. But I am not hearty enough to handle sub-zero.)

You can see the whole thing here, if you are so inclined.

Some other highlights from my week.

View from my temporary office, of the Potomac and the Kennedy Center

Colorful veggies at Dean & Deluca, on my one out-of-office lunch outing

As gourmet as my week got, the "hotel homemade challenge" not withstanding -- red quinoa salad

At the National Zoo, visiting Tai Shan, before the ABC interview

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