Monday, January 26, 2015

Something's Cooking In The Kitchen

I suppose a more accurate title would be Something's Curing In The Kitchen, but this'll do!  Unbelievably enough I finally got up the gumption to start pouring the first of the kitchen counter tops.  We had a whole week of spring-like weather and I just couldn't let that pass without doing some kind of house work.  A lot of times the hardest part of a project is simply starting, so I just took one step at a time and pretty soon it was going!  The nice weather made getting and hauling the sand and gravel enjoyable and easy and that was one of the biggest steps.
Now, in this first photo you can see that I have everything pretty much ready and in the next photos I'll give you some detail shots and more explanations.  As you can probably guess, the plastic sheeting is to protect my cabinets and also the stove that I left in place for the pour.

I ran my forms on grade, which is to say, I set the top of the form at the height I wanted my finished counter top.  To me, it's just so much easier to finish to the top edge of the form rather than try to make a grade line and keep it visible while you are pouring.  Of course, that's not that hard and what I had to do anyway on the sides that butted the backsplash area.  When I get my forms set to the right elevation I always mark it with a crow's foot and that allows you to see if something happens to knock your form up or down.

I then leveled my grade line across the back and around the sides and was pleased to see that when I measured up 2" inches in random spots it actually hit the grade line! ha!  I also partially ran a few long screws into a few studs to help "lock in" the counter top slab.  It would probably never move on it's on but expansion and contraction and all that jazz, you know.

There are several ways to do the edge form and I choose again, just to clamp mine to my cabinets with a 1" spacer between the cabinet and the vertical form, which is the standard counter top overhang.  Clamping does sometimes cause the form to roll out a little at the top but I'll show you how I remedied that in a minute.

The ends of the form were screwed off to available surfaces.  I always use screws also because they are much easier to remove than nails and will not pull out like a nail will.  Of course, there was very little pressure against this form but 2 inches of mud will exert a little.

This is looking at the inside of the edge form and you can see I caulked everything really good.  The concrete mixture will weep way more than you might think so I always caulk any crack really well.  A nice, smooth bead of CLEAR caulk in the bottom inside edge will give the bottom front edge of the concrete a really smooth finish too.  I know everything looks white but this is that caulk that goes on white but dries to clear.  The edge form and spacer are white though.  To the left you can see the 3/4" plywood that tops my cabinets and is the bottom form for the counter tops.

The very last step is to put in your reinforcing and in this case I used dog wire.  It's a 4"x2" grid wire.  You could use chicken wire, hardware cloth or even #3 rebar.  You also want your wire to end up about halfway up in the concrete rather than mashed down against the plywood.  An easy way to do this is to initially pour a blob of mud about every 12 or 16" and then pull the wire back up so that it's about an inch off the bottom.  I'm pouring 2" counter tops, btw.  The mud will hold the wire in place then as you pour the rest.

We mixed the concrete outside and then just brought it in with buckets.  I float the mud down as I go, pushing the concrete on grade towards the back first and working your way towards the front form.  With floating you are kinda pushing and patting and smoothing.  Not trying to get a smooth finish yet, just trying to get everything on grade.  I also vibrate the edges with a palm sander and tap the underside of the form with a hammer to compact the mud.  When bubbles stop coming to the surface you know you are done.  Don't vibrate any more or you can actually separate your mix too much.
In this photo you can also see two other tricks.  The side form against the stove is not nailed off as this was not possible without moving the stove and all that crap.  I pushed the stove over to the left as much as I could and slid in the edge form.  I then placed the wooden wedges every few inches and tapped them down until I got a good snug fit.  Once it's screwed to the front edge form and caulked good it's not going anywhere.  Always use wood wedges too because they won't scratch or dent anything. 
You also see 2 wires running over the slab.  I anchored 2 tapcons into the studs of that wall and then wired 2 little turnbuckles in the wiring, which ran over to the front edge form.  As you tighten (or loosen) the turnbuckles you can move the form in or out, however you want.  Works great.  I simply used a straight edge on the front edge to determine when it was good.  These are a tiny version of the large turnbuckles we use on big wall forms and such.  After you pour and get it floated down, you want to check your lining again and make sure nothing moved.

Okay!!  So, any questions??  I hope I explained all that correctly.  If I didn't, please let me know and I can address it in the next posts.  I'll do another on troweling the concrete for a good finish, removing the forms and all that.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pocketful Of Sunshine

I have tried posting several times lately, and even have a couple of unfinished posts in drafts, but just have not been able to get it together!  First, we went through this horrible gloomy week of rain or drizzle and absolutely no sunshine.  It was affecting everyone and I just couldn't think of much to write about.  I even ordered me one of those SAD lights to sit on my desk and changed the light bulbs in some of my studio lights to the daylight spectrum bulbs.  All of that actually does seem to help and just about the time I was getting up enough steam to post...the real sun came out and we all were rejoicing!  I stayed outside as much as I could to enjoy the sun and it has even been in the mid-50s (F) so the days have been really nice.  The thought of sitting at a computer did not appeal to me.  You can see that Chigger and the girls were rejoicing in the sunshine too!  Everybody is happy!

I've also been working on a new load of pottery, which we delivered yesterday, and that always takes up a bunch of time.  We are even getting eggs again! 

I've got a zillion projects I want to work on outside and am trying to prioritize them so as to get something started.  The two main ones are to start pouring my kitchen countertops and to rebuild the cold frame in the garden.  I miss growing my own salad greens and things.  Of course, the countertops are inside but you have to mix the concrete outside and it's so much better on a nice day.  Plus, I want to pour the bar tops outside and you definitely need a nice day for that.  We did pick up one big bag of portland cement yesterday but I'll have to wait until Monday to be able to get the sand and 8910 gravel.

And in between all of this I need to keep making pottery!!  I must increase my income.  You know I had thought of supplementing with restoration work here and there but all my leads on that have just come to an abrupt stop.  Nothing.  It was kinda odd actually.  But, that happens and then in a year or two I'll get some more jobs in that area.  But since I've been able to throw standing up and that is working so well it has renewed my enthusiasm for the work.  Coming up with some new colors and glazes is exciting too and helps encourage me.

I was pleased with this latest firing and need to make large batches of these new glazes.  I'm also down to my last scrapings of clay and am waiting for a new shipment to come into Atlanta.  Jack and I always have a fun time on our trip over there to get the clay, although this time will be a challenge with my butt joint hurting me.  Well, we'll just have to take more rest stops or something.

So, I hope you all are enjoying some nice weather or at least the sunshine.  I am SO very ready for spring.

Well, time to go!!  Lots of stuff to do!!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Easier Said Than Done

So, one of my goals for 2015 is to finish this kitchen!!  Really, I hope to finish the kitchen and maybe even the other side of this wall before the winter is up, or at least spring.  I don't really lack all that much, although there is a lot of unfinished square footage, it covers fast with what I plan to do.  First, is to pour these counter tops and the concrete bar tops that go on the low walls.  I'll probably form and pour the bar tops outside on a decent day and then place them once they are cured but the counter tops will be poured in place, obviously.

Then to do the tile backsplashes and wall tile.  This is the glass/ slate tile that will go between the concrete countertops and the bar tops.  And yes, that's about how much tile will be the too.  I have 2 inches of countertop (as marked by the crow's foot on the lower left on the wall) and then a 3" or 3 1/2" concrete backsplash which should fit right up under that electrical box.  Then the glass tile from there up.

On this other side of the wall I need to finish the sheetrock, paint those low walls and then make, or have made, the built-in bookshelves that go there on either side of the fireplace.  You can see where I have a temporary bookshelf on the other side.  And of course, I need to finish running the slate tile here and grout it, along with the mosaic work that goes in the off-centered strips.  That part may drag out a little longer as that mosaic takes a long time!  Ugh!  the little bit you can see I have done, down by the hearth, took 4 hours!  But, it's just something I've got to psych myself up to do.  I do enjoy the work but I tend to get a little antsy to be finished.  Doing a little bit every day or so is usually my best strategy.

Now, this will have to wait until warm weather but I also must finish this wall this year.  I have to etch and paint those metal sheets so that is why I need warm weather; can't do that in the house.  And then after the metal is up I'll install some sort of shelving to display sculptures and ceramics.  Or whatever.  Skulls of old boyfriends, I don't know.  And yes, that sheet hanging over the door will be replaced with an actual door!!  I have a really, super cool idea for the interior doors but again, I need warm weather to do those. 

So, if I can get all this finished before springtime I can then move on to all the crap that needs to be finished on the outside!!  Yay!!  I guess I should look at it like all keeps me from sitting down at least!  I also have not forgotten that I need finished flooring but that is a very last of the list item and I'm trying not to overwhelm myself.  haha!

So, do ya'll have any interior house projects going on for winter? 

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

Tonight's post is basically more rambling, and it's hard to pick a photo to go along with that topic, but I thought this one was as good as any.  It was taken not too long ago along one section of my driveway.  Anyway, back to my rambling....After Jack read one of my recent posts he immediately picked up on the bit where I said the last 2 years had been hell for me.  He noted that we had only been married for the past 2 years and I sorta cringed when he brought that to my attention.  Of course, he was just teasing me (I hope) and realized I meant my physical health, not my personal life, but it kinda bothered me after he mentioned it.  And if there is anything I have learned in life, and in 8 years of blogging, it is that many people will often assume the worst about you or something you said, never taking the time to ask what you really meant.  I've lost a number of readers over the years that way.  People get miffed about something they took the wrong way and never offer you a chance to clarify.  Of course, that's going to happen and mostly there is nothing you can do about it but I did want to take the opportunity to clarify that statement.  Jack has been a lifesaver for me the past 2 years and it was certainly only my physical ailments that I was referring to.  I could go into more of an explanation but at times it just seems like whining to me; complaining about my pains, that is.  Ya'll have heard it anyway.  And I am getting better so that's what I want to focus on.

So as I mentioned, I am coming up on 8 years of blogging.  That's a helluva long time to write about day to day life.  It's kinda funny because I always liked the idea of keeping a diary....but I could never actually do it.  I guess this is the only method I've ever stuck to and a blog is a really good way to record life's events and your thoughts at the time.  It's sad to me that blogging is not the community that it once was.  I guess I was fortunate that it was more popular, (or at least I had more entertaining things to write about), when I was single.  It was sort of like having a friend to dish to at all hours and you might even get replies at all hours.  Sad though that people seem to have let Facebook and other outlets steal their already short attention spans.  Of course, I've also seen a lot of the older bloggers pass away during the last 8 years.  I think many of them added to the community feel of blogging and with many of them gone (at least in the circle of bloggers I know) things seem kinda sparse and forgotten.  I have never really fit in, in any group or stage of my life, but at one point I was sort of a part of a friendly circle of like-minded people and it's always sad to see that go.  But that's life, you know.  People change, or think that you change, or just get swept away in some other tide.  It's also very interesting to see who sticks with you.  As in "real" life, it's often not who you thought it would be! But sometimes it is and that's nice.  But for those of you who enjoy reading here, don't worry, I'm not leaving.  I've just been in a reflective mood the past month or so I guess and thought I'd ramble a bit. 

But speaking of such things, there were a couple of questions for you guys out there.  You may not be able to answer any of them but I thought I'd try.  First, are any of you familiar with the blog Tossing Pebbles By The Stream? and it's author, Philip?  He used to stop by here regularly but disappeared about the time I got married, as did a number of people (haha!), and a couple of us have heard that Philip has cancer.  We were just trying to see if any communicates with Philip or knows anything about his situation?  I personally would love to be able to send him a card or such.  I always appreciated his comments here.
Another person who has dropped off that I am concerned about is Caroline over at Gingersnaps or And A Hive Of Silvery Bees.  She used to comment fairly regularly but has just seemingly dropped off the face of the blogging world anyway.  I have left comments on her blog but they go unanswered.  Does anyone talk to her?

So, I'll be back with some new stuff soon.  As I said, no year in review but I do have a number of goals for this new year and maybe if I write them down it will help motivate me! 

Sunday, January 04, 2015

January Hymn

Well, I hope everyone's holiday celebrations were what you wished for; whether that was days on end of food, family and festivities or just quiet days of leisure alone.  As I said in my previous post, we had a couple of nice dinners at home with family and that was about it.  Watched a couple of movies and went out once or twice.  It was nice actually.
But, I am ready to move on into the new year.  I'm not going to do a year-in-review thing like I usually do because....uhh....let's see...I didn't do shit this last year!  Yeah, that's it.  So, we will concentrate on what I hope to do in this coming year!  I don't really do New Year resolutions either.  To me, you're either going to change habits or you're not and a new year never seemed to motivate me that much.  I've already been sticking to my gym work-outs for about 2 months now, so I'll just continue that.  I'm to the point now that I look forward to going because the exercise really does make me feel better, physically and mentally.  Lifts my mood considerably.  And, I've lost about 8 pounds or so, so to see some progress is great and encouraging!  Can't say that it helps my pain any, other than I'm not sitting down, but it still helps me in other ways.  On days that I can't make it to the gym I have measured out a mile walking/ strenuous hiking trail around the house here and I do that instead.

My work break ends tomorrow also.  One of my stores has already called with a new order so I need to get busy on that and restocking my inventory anyway.  It's so nice to know I can make all these things standing up now and not hunched over in pain.  Maybe this year I can even come up with, or continue, some new designs and colors.  Jack says I need to get rich so he can be kept up in the manner in which he would like to become accustomed!  I said I would just like to have enough money to finish this house and have a real tub in one half and I do not mean the horse trough in the basement.  It does work, but I can just see me stepping out one day, after a nice long soak, to throw the chickens a little scratch and giving the UPS man a bit more scenery that he bargained for. Ha!!

So, speaking of scenery and getting rich (haha!), this year I finally got off my ass and designed a 12-month calender that features the critters and flora of my little Dragon Valley.  They are available to purchase HERE and you can preview so you know just what is inside.  This is a standard size wall calender but I may see about having a larger, jumbo size printed and available.  The standard size includes all Americans holidays and the spaces are large enough for penciling in notes and such.  And please know, I sincerely appreciate any purchases.  Many bloggers put advertising or other such means on their blog to raise a little money but I've never really wanted to do that.  I don't like the way it looks and makes the blog seem sorta impersonal.  However, a little money raised from photos I've already taken for this blog doesn't hurt, you know?  And all the photos featured in the calender were taken right here at home.  If these come out well I might do an all chicken one, or all flowers or such next year.

So, here's to a prosperous and happy new year!!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Out With The Old And In With The New

 As you may have guessed, I just have not had a huge amount of things to write about lately.  The holidays were nice but nothing spectacular happened.  Mainly we were just relaxing after my last minute push to get some pottery done.  I said I wouldn't throw again until after the new year and that looks to be true.  The post tonight is mainly just a bunch of random photos and random ramblings.  If the color looks wonky in the one above I'm not really sure what is going on there.

It seems the winter rains have started early this year because we have gotten several inches over the past couple of weeks.  One of the reasons that there has been a lack of photos on here lately.  Today was a beautiful, sunny day though and everyone was out enjoying it.  It was just a touch cool but the girls didn't mind.  I went on several walks and cleaned up one of my flower beds a little.  It was nice to have some sun finally because it seems the winter blahs have come early also.  I don't know if it's still my system trying to right itself after those steroids or just a larger symptom of something else but the last 2 years have sucked, to put it mildly.  Some days I feel pretty good but most days I have just had the life beaten out of me.

I am honestly trying to improve things for myself.  Trying to get working again and I'm going to the gym pretty regularly too.  Jack and I have made a point to take some time just for us the last few weeks.  We went to a movie one day and had a real nice time, a couple of other day trips and last night we had a fabulous time out at a real swanky restaurant in Birmigham, via a gift certificate from a part of Jack's family.  I had done a little restoration work for them and so it was a thank-you gift.  Very nice indeed.  We had a great time and the food was incredibly delicious.  Thank you so much Diane.

 So, the trick is to find beauty anywhere you can.  In the ordinary and the unusual.  Try to minimize the pain.

The creek has finally cleared and dropped back to a more normal level.  It's very soothing to sit here and just ponder things.  I need to build a more comfortable sitting area though.  A bench or something.  Tomorrow should be nice but the rains come back over the weekend so I better enjoy this while I can!

 A few of the girls have started laying again and Pumpkin finally started.  Her eggs are a little small of course, but they are gaining size quickly.

Jack keeps us mightily supplied with wood.  I'm so glad I don't have to deal with this anymore.  Splitting wood is kinda soothing in a way but I'm more than happy to let him take it over.  He is all very organized with it and has a winter's worth split at any given time, whereas I was always scratching and clawing to have enough.

I think the girls were so happy to have a nice day.  They stayed out grazing for quite a while.  There is still a little greenery to be found but it probably won't last much longer.  Unless we have a mild winter, which could happen. 

Big T (or Tillis) has become a fine rooster.  The girls are not scared of him and I think he's doing a good job.  He tries to keep an eye out for trouble and stays right with the girls all the time.  They sort of ignore him a little but he doesn't seem to mind.  It's sure a long way from the scrawny little, half-naked chick I used to let sleep on my shoulder to keep warm.  Maybe he remembers my comforting him and tries to be a more gentle roo.

So, as we look towards the new year I sincerely hope things improve over the last couple.  Not just for me but for all of you as well.  I think probably it will.  So, here's to the warm, sunny days.  A warm bed on the rainy ones.  Loving arms to hold you on either day and a fire in your heart.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Welcome Christmas

Merry Christmas to you all who celebrate this season.  Merry Christmas and Peace on your earth.  May we all be blessed in the coming year and greet one another with more love, compassion and fellowship than ever before. 
            "He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree."

Peace, Love and Goodwill to you all, my dear readers.