Handymen, plural

In just over 6 months we have had 4 handymen.

The first handyman was awesome. He was honest and did great work. But he left to serve indefinitely in a toxic waste site in Japan. Which is so great for him and the people he is serving, but a little inconvenient for me.

The second guy had the giggles in an uncomfortable way. Think 23 year-old pothead mixed with the Joker. He did good work, but he wouldn’t call us back after the first couple of projects and left one undone (and unpaid, of course). Then he changed his number.

Then there was Ed, about 60 years old, who swore like a sailor and spoke with “s” sounds that whistled. He wasn’t all that interested in work, though by the looks of his car, clothes, and hair, could have benefitted from some extra cash. But every time I called him to do a job he would try to talk me into doing it myself. Like tiling and installing appliances and bathroom fixtures.

Finally, our latest handyman is reasonably priced, but insecure in his recommendations. I think my decision-making quota has been satisfied for the next 10 years, and am so done with researching options on the little things. And though he does great carpentry, his time management skills are lacking. He works ever-so-slowly, taking lots of breaks (off the clock), and is never, ever on time (I’m talking 2 or 3 days later than he says he will be here). But the bar has been lowered: he’s nice and honest, and we are too close to being at a sweet spot with the house to start over with a new handyman.

Too f*cking close.


Backyard boom!

Unknown-1Remember Gob Bluth, the pathetic magician brother from the TV show Arrested Development, and how he threw handfuls of pennies to [attempted] great effect? I was fearing that would be us, only with wads of hundred dollar bills, and it was to coax along the endless backyard project.

Here’s the sad state it was in just a month ago. It was 4,000 square feet of dirt and gravel staring us down.





I blogged about it here wherein I swore I wouldn’t let my yard get me down. But the more pregnant my belly grew, the more despondent I grew toward my ability to tackle this looming project. My husband had pulled up all that old, crumbling concrete by himself (well, ok, he had the help of our 3- and 5-yeard olds). But even with my dear husband chipping away at it with a pick-axe 3 hours a day, it wasn’t enough, and we brought forth those wads of cash.

Though Gob was unsuccessful in his magic effects, ours worked!



It’s pretty amazing to have grass in the backyard. It was coincidentally completed on our one year anniversary of closing on the house.

I ambitiously claimed we would tackle this project ourselves by the end of June. Turned out having a June deadline was ambitious enough, even for hiring it out. So we hired it out.

Since the completion, our neighbors have been coming over to admire it with us. They are just as relieved as we are that the gravel didn’t get the best of us.

RIP my mental state

Before: speechless

Before: speechless

Ever heard about how when laborers died while working on the Great Wall of China, they were just buried right there within the wall? I think I can relate. My mind is buried in the bathroom we just completed. I acted as our general contractor without any experience, so it’s a wonder I didn’t lose more than my mind.

Some of you are asking about our unexpected construction, so here’s the story. We were putting in a pocket door in the bathroom and found the previous owners lied in the disclosure statement about some major HVAC, plumbing, and electrical issues which were exposed when we opened up that wall. So out went the issues, along with 6 months of our lives. We gutted the walls, ceilings, studs, framing, we even had to jack-hammer out the concrete floor. And then we had to decide how to put it all back together. Here’s a photo of the new framing, plumbing, and electrical.


During: New framing, plumbing, & electrical

Like I mentioned in my post How to go crazy in 6 months or less, I am cursed with unrealistically good taste (read: expensive), all things considered, and also serious indecision, both of which were major factors in lengthening this reconstruction process.

catrin bathroom

Keeping in theme with our 1931 Tudor home, I took inspiration from Apartment Therapy’s A Nod to Old-School Classics dream bathroom design board and then tried to decide how to make that work in our space and budget.

There were many a sleepless nights spent anguishing over the pros and cons of different grout color (I went with delorean grey), high-end or budget tile (I went with high-end SoHo basketweave on the floor and budget Home Depot subway on the walls) and paint (I went with Benjamin Moore Aura in 75% Soft Chamois).

Though my husband tried to assure me I was putting too much pressure on myself, I wanted it done impossibly perfect. This post was really helpful: Buyer’s Remorse? Purchaser’s Paralysis? from Young House Love.

We salvaged the cute pedestal sink that was in there before,


but other than that there was nothing we could keep. It took a lot of time to remove debris, insulate pipes and walls, coordinate framers, window installer, plumbers, electricians, tiler, and paint and trim. And at each stage we had to wait until we could either learn how to do it ourself or save up to hire it out.

We laughed. We cried (a lot). We conquered. Here are the after photos.


How to go crazy in 6 months or less

Here’s how I drove myself up the wall:

1) Purchase a sweet little house while whole-heartedly trusting the sellers, their realtor, your realtor, all without good cause.


2) Discover major problems in the house and immediately set to fixing those problems.


3) Act as your own general contractor while your husband is off whistling to work everyday.

4) Maintain unreasonably high standards considering your budget, your timeframe, and your do-it-yourself skills.


5) Make sure to schedule the construction during the cold, dark winter months when you annually suffer from seasonal depression, which I can’t even begin to explain except by directing you to Hyperbole and a Half’s Adventures in Depression.


Illustration copyright Hyperbole and a Half.

6) Throw in a broken condom.

Fool-proof recipe for creating a f*cking mad house. But it’s pretty much settled now so don’t call CPS. Birds are chirping, tile is laid, kids don’t have to try to cheer up a crying mother.