Tuesday, February 9, 2016


In the course of just two weeks, I repainted the three bathrooms in my house. Same color, but in semi-gloss, to make up for the builder who thought flat paint in bathrooms was what "Austin hippies" wanted. This Austinite wants bathroom walls that are easier to clean and now I have them!

The builder's painter was sloppy and didn't remove or tape around the plastic utility plates when he touched up. The result was splashes of gray all over the plastic. I learned that a little finger nail polish remover took that paint right off without damaging the plastic plates. (I'd test that in an inconspicuous area before trying the same approach.)

Have to give the builder credit for selecting on-trend light grey paint.

I'm surprised by the over-the-top pride I feel having completed this relatively basic task on my own. It took a little less than one gallon of paint to finish all three bathrooms. The gallon cost nearly $45 (top of the line Valspar semi-gloss) and I spent about $30 on additional supplies (tape, tray liner, roller and detail brush). I sure hope that's less than it would have cost to hire someone to do the job, but I don't know because I didn't bid it out.

Half bath downstairs.

Repainting the bathrooms with semi-gloss was one of my 35 goals for 2016. Ultimately, I want to repaint the rest of the house in eggshell finish paint in the same color (the trim and ceilings are a contrasting cream). The flat paint wears terribly and after just one year shows every guest fingerprint (and shows evidence of effort to clean up said fingerprints no matter what the method) and I'm just not zen enough to let that be.

Completely unrelated, but pertinent to my 2016 goals, I made my first loaf of cinnamon swirl bread from scratch last week. This is delicious stuff and even better as french toast. I promise the further into the loaf, the more swirl, less marble.  (Thank you, America's Test Kitchen.) 

Cinnamon swirl bread.

This relates to my goal to try 35 new recipes this year. So far I've tried pasta e fagioli, lentil soup and this cinnamon swirl bread. I'm hoping this little project will help me find some new gems to work into my regular rotation.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Repainting: Master Bathroom

There are many things I love about my new house, but the interior paint job is not one of them. The builder used flat paint throughout the house. If flat paint works for you in high traffic areas, bless you. In my experience, it's a disaster. (Cannot even imagine the horror of living in a flat paint house with kids.) Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that the painter either diluted the paint or failed to prime. The builder and I had it out about this during the warranty period, but I settled for a free drainage system in my backyard knowing that I was capable of painting the interior (installing drainage is beyond me).

In January, I started the process with a trip to Lowe's to pick up supplies. The paint department manager rolled her eyes when I told her my builder had used flat paint in the bathroom. (Solidarity!) She matched the builder's custom Valspar color--a trendy light grey.  I bought a gallon of paint, FrogTape (it's as good as advertised!) and some accessories that I'd need to paint.

I went with the higher end paint, not what's pictured above.
Taping, painting and cleanup was a lot of work, mostly due to the high ceilings and the bathroom hardware, but I really enjoyed the project.  I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when I pulled down the tape and wiped down the counters. The crap paint job I started with had been bothering me for months. Each little water stain from a guest reaching for a towel after washing hands... oh, it was like death by a thousand paper cuts! Now the bathroom paint job is everything it should have been from the very beginning and it just fills me with joy to know that problem has been fixed (in that room at least) relatively inexpensively.

Painting the master bathroom used about 1/2 gallon of paint. I've still got 1.5 bathrooms to go and hope to be finished this month. Then I'll progress through the house, room by room, until the whole place is done (or until I break down and hire a painter).

Monday, January 18, 2016

Little Things

I'm still thinking a lot about goals for the new year and constantly revising my list, which I think is fine so long as I'm simultaneously getting things done. Something that's struck me lately is the importance of execution vis-a-vis extended evaluation. Sure, reflection has value, but too much of it holds back so many capable people.  This year, I'm trying to be more of a doer and less of a thinker.

Predictably, I'm fixated on my student loans at the moment. My lender has increased the rate on my loan a full percentage point in the last few months. This isn't the end of the world because the rate was so low to begin with and, thanks to years of prepayments, my loan will be repaid in full soon. I suppose my worry has more to do with the larger changes to the public and private markets. I'm hoping that the impact on home values and my employment will be minimal, but I'm nervous about it.

On to things I can control...

I'm working on discarding or recycling a couple of very old laptops. As a first step I've consolidating my digital photos and am now looking to back them up using some sort of cloud-based resource. Do you have a service you'd recommend for photo storage? I find Dropbox unreliable in my day-to-day work so I don't want to use it. Also, what have you done to dispose of or recycle your laptops in the past?

While I wasn't able to cross laptop disposal off my list, I did get a lot done this weekend.  I spent my time billing at the office, culling my closet, dropping off donations at Goodwill, stopping by the dry cleaner, visiting Costco and Lowe's for a couple items for the house, gardening, making a soup to eat for dinner next week, cleaning the house, washing the car, and making a little carrot cake. Sounds mundane, but it was... really great.

Tiny carrots from the garden that ended up in a carrot cake.