Friday, July 31, 2009

Path obstructed

The dog park has remained closed since the last post, until 2 days ago. Then it's been rainy and gross so we haven't gone, until today. I got off work and there were storms in the distance so Obi and I headed to the park for some quick excercise hoping to beat the rain. We got to the bridge going to the back of the park and hit this:

It was so close to open! There was still room to run a bit so Obi came home less frustrated than last time. Not quite his usual level of freedom though.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A plague of plague

Our dog park has the plague.

We love our dog park. It's the "Westminster Hills Open Space and city dog park," 3000+ acres of off-leash doggy-running happiness that Obi visits 3-7 times a week. Either Steph or I usually run the 4-mile round trip trail to Mower Reservoir and back while Obi runs along chasing prairie dogs, rabbits, and the occasional coyote. Yesterday the Bean and I went with Obi near sunset for a quick visit and the entrance was blocked. The sign on the barrier said that they'd tested the fleas in the park after an unusual number of prairie dogs started dying off and the results had been positive for The Plague. I tried to explain to the Bean and Obi why we were skipping the visit to the park due to a scourge of the 1340's, but the Bean was just annoyed and Obi was really upset when we drove away without his usual exercise. I'm hoping he didn't stick his nose down the wrong prairie dog hole when we went running Wednesday morning...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kitchen counters- picture heavy happiness!

As mentioned here previously, I have been replacing the counters in our kitchen. Since we moved in they have been the one thing on the main floor of our house that looked like they didn't fit with the obvious care taken to make the rest look nice. The existing counters were the cheap functional stuff found in every college apartment in the country; off-white, easily stained, easily ripped out and replaced before the next tenant moved in, if necessary. Not counters for a home, IMHO. Consequently we have very few pictures with the old countertops visible. This was taken the 1st day we looked at the house...that's the realtor in the picture:
We did get 1 shot prior to me tearing everything apart. The picture doesn't at all show the stains and scratches that covered these counters. This is just before everything came out:
So first I had to remove the old counters and rebuild from the cabinets up. This required a .75" layer of plywood sealed against moisture, followed by a .5" layer of Hardibacker cement board. (Throw on a .25" layer of thinset w/ a .25" tile and you've got a tiny bit of extra counter height. This will cause problems later of course) Here's me working on...something. I was in and out of the house on a bright sunny day, hence the shirtlessness. Avert your eyes if this scares you.Now one thing I did in the bathroom that I thought served me very well was laying out the tiles prior to putting down the thinset. My handy tiling book doesn't say to do this, assuming that everyone will cut as they go, but I like a visual and measurements without the pressure of thinset wanting to dry on me. When working with multiple intersecting grout lines there's a lot of minor adjustment as well, which is complicated if the tile is sitting in a bed of cement. Here's what that looks like (the tiles against the wall aren't cut to size yet obviously):
Getting closer, this is the view after the thinset was down, prior to grouting and sink replacement. If you look closely, the lines between tiles are deeper than they should be, due to the conspicuous lack of grout. Also you can see the symmetry of the counter- originally I'd laid this out as 2 12" tiles towards the front of the counter with a 7" tile at the back, as evident in the above pic, but when I laid it out I decided to move the smaller tile to the center. I think it looks nice that way.Then Steph said "Let there be Grout!" And there was grout. And it was good. Steph is a lot faster at grouting than I am. This is the final finished countertop. Due to a miscalculation on my part (and an astute observation by Steph involving an edge that was done weirdly when the prior counters were installed) I ended up short 4 pieces of bullnose and had to order more and wait for a week to get it, so the final finished product took a bit longer than hoped. But here it is! :
The tile is as textured as it looks. It's full-body porcelain (the color goes all the way through the tile) so it's pretty much never going to chip or crack and if it does (i.e. somebody launches a cannonball at it or misses when tossing a bowling call across my kitchen) you shouldn't be able to see the chip. This next is the edge that I stressed about, since there was such a small tile at the end. The bullnose at the front of the pic was tricky as well, since I had a 36" deep counter and "12 inch" tiles tend to be more like 11 3/4". My bullnose didn't quite fit, so I ended up cutting down 2 pieces and making a slightly more complicated end. I've been told it looks good by the only people that matter in such things, so I'm happy with it!
And now the sink. The light is a bit funny in this pic (the sink is black and all one color, not grey), but we are very happy with how this looks in the new countertop. There's a slight flaw in the tile work around the sink, but my in-laws tell me I'm being too picky, so I won't even say what it is :-) I will say though that Russ had to help me re-work some plumbing- the slightly higher counter meant the pipes didn't quite line up, and I moved the whole sink back maybe 1/2" somehow. Not a big deal, but there's a giant vent pipe under the sink that was positioned so that it was pressing against the underside of the telescoping faucet, pinching the telescoping mechanism. We cut the pipe off and dropped it about 1.5" lower and everything is fine now.
A couple more angles, just because. This is the corner by the dishwasher. Everything started with the tile at the corner of the angle-cut bullnose. If that hadn't been straight none of this would have worked.
And the other pieces of the counter, behind the sink by the stove. The left edge here by the hall is what threw me- the old counters had a non-rounded edge there , so I had a non-bullnose edge planned, which wouldn't have matched the rest of the kitchen. Adding bullnose to that edge makes complete sense visually and practically, it just screwed up my math. Better right than fast though, eh?
So those are the counters for now! We will be doing a border of some sort everywhere the counter meets a wall, to break up the corners a bit and cover some flaws in the drywall. The old counters had been caulked in place and had been there awhile, so the wall is a bit of a different texture 4" up all the way around and it needs covered. We'll also do a backsplash around the stove, but we want to take our time with that and come up with something we'll really like. For now the counters are done and I'm quite happy with my 2nd major commission of DIY.

Special thanks to The Home Depot for existing and Jim at A World of Tile in Westminster for patience, helpfulness, and taking my money :-)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Red Rocks, 04Jul2009

Every year Blues Traveler plays a 4th of July show at Red Rocks. I've always thought that sounded kind of cool. The kids are in Illinois with their biological father, so tracking down a firework display wasn't as necessary. On top of that Lewis Black was opening for Blues Traveler and since he's about my favorite (living) comedian Steph and I decided to go.

The show started at 6, which is seriously early for a concert, so they had an extra opening comedian. He was some local guy and pretty bleh, but Lewis Black was hysterical. Better than when we saw him on his own at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House awhile back. Then an opening band, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, who were really really good. By the time the main even rolled around it was dark and the clouds had blown over without soaking us. (Whew!) Between bands we sought a seat higher in the amphitheater where we could see the city over the top of the stage.

I'd heard that this is a cool show to see, with the fireworks and all, but it really has to be experienced. From the top half of Red Rocks the entire Denver metro area is spread out in front of you. So there we were, live music going strong, stars out over our heads, my arms around my lovely wife, with 20+ fireworks displays erupting in the distance. I'd say if there is a heaven it has to be something like that.

Bed now. There's a lot more going on this weekend, but it's late. Kitchen counter pics forthcoming!