Friday, July 26, 2013

Wall "Murals"

The wall "murals" were my second Pinterest art project for the new house. My first was this:

I saw this on Pinterest and knew we had to have one at our new house
 I found these (below) on pinterest and loved them. But I knew I wouldn't be happy with any of the colors offered and I didn't think the stickers would actually stay on the walls semi-permanently. So I decided I was going to paint the main wall color, then put the stickers on, and paint over them with the accent color, then remove the stickers to leave the design in the main wall color on the accent wall.

Of course the stickers didn't come in before our painting party, so when they finally came in I repainted a section of the accent walls for the stickers.  Then lucky for me Katherine was free that Saturday and came over to help me position the stickers properly. Positioning them on my own would have been pretty tough.
Bedroom stickers positioned
Living room stickers on
She stayed to help me stick the stickers on in the living room, which was a little more time consuming than I thought it would be. But we got them all on, painted over the wall, and positioned the bedroom stickers while we waited for the paint to dry.
Living room stickers painted over
 When the paint was just dry to the touch we started pulling the stickers off. My biggest concern about this entire project was that the stickers might pull more paint off than I intended. I started pulling stickers off near the door (where the new drywall is) and Katherine started working on the big flowers. As I started peeling, the stickers didn't want to come off and sometimes when they did they came along with all the paint and a little dry wall! NOT what I had intended! But Katherine was on the other side saying things like "Oh Heather, you're just going to LOVE this!" and "You had the BEST idea Heather!" So I thought it must be working much better for her! Soon I realized the stickers peeled off perfectly except where the new drywall was. Luckily that was only one small section with only a few stickers. I touched them up by hand with an art brush and they look pretty good.

After Katherine left, I stuck on the bedroom stickers. The next morning I went back to paint over and peel off and found a few of the stickers starting to fall off the wall- good thing I didn't plan to just put them on the wall and leave them! That's actually what they're made for so I was surprised they didn't stick well even for 1 day, but maybe they'd stick better somewhere less humid than Austin.
Peeling off the bedroom stickers
halfway finished Jeff was with me, so he took lots of pictures
Finished living room
Finished bedroom
Katherine was definitely right! I love the way both of these turned out!

Stained concrete floors at the new house

When Jeff and I were house hunting we saw a house with stained concrete floors and really liked them. Once we chose our house, we knew we'd have to do flooring immediately, the disgusting old carpet was probably the most offensive thing in the house (and there were a lot of offensive things!). We knew tile or wood floor wasn't in the budget and we definitely did not want carpet. With 2 dogs, and bikes in and out all the time, there is no way to keep carpet clean, and even very dark carpet still holds dust, dirt, and allergens that you just can't clean out -YUCK! So we started researching stained concrete...and researching....and researching. There are so many options and different ways to stain and seal concrete! Jeff decided he really wanted a high gloss shiny floor, I thought that looked cool too, but I didn't know if we could really do it.
Jeff wanted the floors to look super glossy/shiny like this. (this is NOT our house, this is just a random internet picture)
When we finally closed on the house we pulled up a little carpet assuming there was just concrete slab under it. Turns out that was a poor assumption, we pulled up the carpet (which was so dirty that we wore respirators so we could breathe, and really confirmed that carpet holds TONS of dust, dirt, allergens and who knows what else!) to find incredibly ugly brownish tile similar to what you see in many schools. Some of the tile came up with the carpet, some was broken, and some was still really, really stuck to the concrete slab with black glue. Getting all that tile up was probably the most difficult thing we've done at the new house so far. I guess I really hated that tile because I don't have any pictures from when it was still there.We took a little vacation time to work on the house and ended up spending most of it getting the old tile out, and then cleaning the black glue off the concrete. We used Jasco Paint & Epoxy Remover for the glue, it worked pretty well but it was nasty stuff! You do NOT want that stuff on your skin!

When we finally had bare concrete, we cleaned, and cleaned and cleaned some more. In all that research we learned, the most important part was starting with a very clean concrete slab. Mostly we cleaned with soap & water then rinsed with water and shop vacced it up, over and over. Then I cleaned with Simple Green and then soap and water one more time.
Cleaning the floors didn't seem to bother Connor at all!
Then the fun part began! We went to Conerstone Concrete Staining many, many times and talked with Mark the owner, he was really helpful, and really chatty (which usually ended up being really advantageous for us as he ended up answering questions we didn't even know to ask!). We decided to go with Kemiko stain in burnt umber throughout the house, Jeff really wanted blue in at least 1 room, but I was afraid that was a little too crazy. In the end, we decided to try the burnt umber with an overlay of blue. I did test patches in the master bedroom closets (they might still look patchy, I should take a picture), to figure out how to spray and the color combo. I started in the scuba room, I was really scared to start spraying because I knew once I had sprayed, it couldn't be undone! I sprayed the burnt umber, let it dry and then sprayed the blue over the top. The next morning,when it dried there was a white film over the top in some spots and the blue looked Really BLUE, I thought I might have overdone it, but luckily Mark had told us that the stain looks different when you put the sealer over it, it looks like it's wet, so I mopped the dry floor and actually liked the color, actually liked it a lot! There were some patchy, mottled, spotty places but we even liked that, made it look natural. I did go over some spots that didn't take the stain well with a tiny paint brush and watercolor art paint that matched the burnt umber color. Since I liked the scuba room, I went ahead and stained the office, hallway and bedroom pretty much the same. Then I mopped and mopped and mopped some more. For the first couple of moppings I used a little ammonia in the water to neutralize the acid in the stain. If there is any residue from the stain, the sealer won't stick well to the floor, I probably overdid it with the cleaning after staining, but I didn't want any issues with the sealer. I actually did over do the blue in a few places in the hallway, I tried to mop some of it off, which didn't work at all. In the end I LOVE the "too much blue" spots and wish I had overdone it in a few more places!
After staining, before sealing, cleaning yet again
A couple days later we mopped one more time and then sealed the floors with Chem-Coat acrylic sealer. I was worried about this step too, again, if you mess up it's hard to fix. You apply this with paint rollers, but Mark had told us "don't seal like you paint a wall" we had to apply the seal more slowly and evenly than paint, but overall it wasn't as difficult as I expected and the sealing went quickly. The only bad part is the fumes, man this stuff is strong! But we wore respirators, and I never took mine off, so I didn't really notice the smell until we were leaving the house.We did 2 coats of the sealer.
Finished office floor, you can see some of the blue in this pic and it's glossy/shiny!
After the sealer was dry, the floors were essentially finished, and we LOVED them!

About a week later the wall removal was completed and I was able to clean, stain and seal the living/kitchen/dining area. I put the umber stain on a little heavier this time and brushed it in with a long handled bristle brush. It ended up making the blue less visible, but otherwise I'm really happy with these floors too.
Don't look at the fact that we're still unpacking, look at the final stained concrete floor!
A few days after finishing all the sealing, we got a product called Mop & Shine from Mark, it's a mop on wax that will protect the floors for about 6 months. I used 2 coats of that as well, so hopefully our floors will be fairly scratch resistant (important since we have 2 dogs). Overall Jeff and I both love the new floors! And we did almost 1100 square feet for under $800 and that includes tools and chemicals to get the old floor out.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Couples Tri 2013 Race Report

Medals! Photo by Tom Marek
Yes! I finally did a race again! But no, the house isn't finished, and no, I haven't been training much. (I did ride 11.5 miles on Shoal Creek a week or 2 ago, just so I wouldn't have to say Couples would be my longest ride on my tri bike since April!) But Connie asked if I wanted to be her Couples partner again and of course the answer was Yes! This would be "Heather and Connie's Excellent Adventure's" 3rd Couples (and my 5th Couples total)! We had our traditional pre-race lunch at Blue Dahlia, enjoyed hanging out, and picked up our race packets. I got home and tried to remember and find everything I need for a race. We're not completely unpacked yet, and a few things I need for a triathlon, I haven't used since my last triathlon in Kerrville last September! But I eventually found everything and got it all ready to go. Instead of resting and relaxing in the evening, I unpacked boxes and touch-up painted trim.
Kim, me, Elle, JoAnne, Kim B., and Coach Jen. Photo by Tom Marek
Goals for this race:
1. Have FUN!
2. Finish (and maybe beat my time from 2011 when I raced with bronchitis and a sinus infection)
3. Don't do anything stupid (like crash, or run out of transition still wearing my helmet, or anything else that would make it look like I hadn't done a triathlon in almost a year!)

I woke up early on race morning and headed out to Decker. As soon as I parked, Kim Burkhart knocked on my window! She said "I'm so happy you're racing today!" I was pretty happy too! As she told me about putting her bike in the wrong car and almost showing up without it! (:o) I looked at her aerobottle and realized mine was still in my freezer at home! Oops! Especially oops because I have a small crack in my bike frame around my regular bottle cage so I never use it! I figured I'd be fine for 11.2 miles without a drink (but I guess forgetting my bottle probably counts as "stupid thing" #1).

In transition, notice my cool new Tri Zones top (I've only worn it once before) and my cool tri tats! Photo by Tom Marek
I sweet talked my way into transition without getting body marked since Connie had tri tats for us. I found her, and she applied my tats while I set up my transition area and triple checked it to make sure I had everything I needed. We hung out with the other Tri Zoners and laughed and talked while waiting for the start. I was having a lot of fun and I hadn't even started the race yet! Coach Jen jokingly said "you remember how to do this, right? First is the run, then the swim, then you bike last-haha!" Thanks a lot Coach Jen!

Jenny's new "shoe wagon" one of the many perks of being a Tri Zoner :) Photo by Tom Marek
As we got in the water I debated about where to start, I usually start as close to the front as I can get, especially at Couples, but I haven't been swimming much, so I didn't want to be "that" person slowing others down. So I got in the middle of the pack. Logan counted down, and I started swimming...well, not really, I got about 2 strokes in and was blocked in, I finally got around some people and immediately got stuck behind someone backstroking! Really? Someone backstroking started at the front! (Apparently starting in the middle of the swim wave was "stupid thing" #2). I got around the backstroker, got kicked by a few breaststrokers, and finally got a little space to swim as I came to the first turn buoy. After that first turn, I had a great swim! I really love swimming at Decker Lake and I kept seeing Tri Zones kits wondering who was near me (I guess I'm out of practice at recognizing everyone in the water). I passed a lot of people (I guess that's one advantage of starting in the middle of the wave) and felt good! Swim was 19:36 my second slowest Couples swim.
Running up the hill out of the swim. Photo by Amy Bush
I jogged up the hill to transition and heard people cheering for me! I got into transition and it took forever to get my bike shoes & stuff on! T1 was 4:39, (slowest Couples T1 ever) Yeah, I'm a little out of practice!

I got on the bike and coasted down the first hill, I really hadn't ridden a hill on my tri bike since Kerrville! Decker is a pretty hilly course with a couple of steep challenging hills. I was a little nervous about the hills, but I figured worst case I'd walk up a hill or maybe even flop over going 2 mph, not the end of the world. I got out on Decker Lane and remembered last year when I was riding at my very best for Couples, jamming down the hills and powering up them! I didn't feel like that this time, but I didn't feel bad either. I made the turn onto the short steep hill I was most worried about and actually passed a couple people on it! I was completely out of breath at the top and wishing I hadn't forgotten my aerobottle, but I made it and it wasn't even that bad! I saw lots of Tri Zoners and other people I knew and was having so much fun! I played tag back and forth with a few other girls and we talked each time we passed. I made it up the last big hill and passed a few people on that one too, but I was starting to feel it in my legs. I really enjoyed the bike! Even though that's a hilly, tough course, I really love it! As I got off my bike my legs felt pretty tired- I guess that's what I get for not training! Bike was 47:40, actually my second fastest Couples bike!
Very happy! Finishing the bike. Photo by Tom Marek
T2 was 2:32, not as bad as T1 even though I had to actually TIE my shoes! No quick laces right now.

I started the run and high fived Cindy and some other spectators. As I was running down the fence line, I saw Connie coming in from the bike, cool, she wasn't too far behind me! My legs felt tired and I had to take some walk breaks, but I was having a great time! Everyone is always so encouraging out there! Quadzilla was worse than I remembered, I walked quite a bit of it, high-fived Joni at the top and ran in to the finish, smiling at Tom & Ed on the way. Run time was 36:23, also my second fastest Couples run, not too bad.
Almost finished! Photo by Tom Marek
 I got my medal and a drink and said hi to a few people and jogged back out to the course to meet Connie so we could get a team finish picture.
Heather & Connie's Excellent Adventure! Photo by Tom Marek
I had a great time, I'm so glad Connie "made" me do Couples on my "off" year! I did a lot better than I thought I would too, overall time was 1:50, almost 10 minutes faster than the year I had bronchitis and only 9 minutes slower than my fastest Couples. And I didn't even do anything too stupid :) Thanks for being such a great Couples partner again Connie! And thanks to Tom Marek and Ed Sparks for taking great race pictures! And of course thanks to High Five Events and Jack & Adams for putting on an awesome event and to Tri Zones for being my team, even though I'm not really training this year.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Painting at the new house

I decided since I'm not racing much this year and since Katie's doing so well, I don't really have much to blog about except maybe the new house. Jeff & I bought a new (actually pretty old) house in May that needs tons of work. So I thought I'd recap a few of the projects we've finished and then blog about others as they're happening. Our first project was painting the entire interior of the house, we wanted to paint before doing the floors and at that time we were hoping to move in by June 1st, so the only weekend we could paint was the weekend after closing on the house, that meant lots of late night prep work that first week, but well worth it!

I wish I had come up with the idea of a painting party, but that was Red, or maybe someone before her. But what a great idea! Jeff and I picked up some bagels and coffee and got to the house about 7:30, Peylin showed up a few minutes later and then Ingrid, Shayla and Red. Peylin started the bright green paint in the bathroom, Red and Ingrid were in charge of closets and Shayla started the bedrooms. Paint was going up faster than I expected and I started to worry we wouldn't have anything for others to do later- haha!
Jeff, Shayla, Red, & Ingrid painting, and yes Red & Shayla are holding mimosas and Jeff a bottle of champagne, we know how to throw a painting party!
When Jody and Mel (with Ivan and Baby James) got there, they finished and edged in the Scuba room. Then Emmie, Annette, Carol, and Nicki started the huge job of painting all that brown in the kitchen white! The kitchen ended up being the biggest longest job of the day, I think they put 3 coats (maybe more) on all that brown paneling, but it actually looks pretty good now! And Jenny painted that awful wall paper aqua! Jim painted ceilings all afternoon and evening!

Katherine got extra white paint for us after we ran out (we didn't anticipate needing 3+ coats!) and she stayed late and helped with clean up and even came back the next evening to help us finish up the edging.

Linda, Vanessa, and Mohamed had Ironman Texas the next weekend so they were the supervisory crew. Linda was in charge of media-she did all the videos, Vanessa- touch up and Mohamed- lighting- he helped take down a ceiling fan or 2. Of course they all did a good job of keeping us company too.

It wasn't all hard work, we had a popsicle break and Eastside Pies pizza for dinner on the back porch. And as you can see in Linda's videos, even the work was pretty fun with so many friends!

The hand print wall was pretty fun too. That's the wall we removed, so I wrote "Do Not Paint This Wall" great big on it, later I found paint hand prints and signatures all over it- Fun!

By about 9pm the entire house was painted, Katherine helped us do a little touch up and edging the next evening, but we pretty much painted the entire house in 1 day! Thank you so much to everyone who came over and helped out, we appreciate it so much!

Katherine and I toasting to being finished!

Katie update

Photo by Amy Lynn Scarborough of GypsyPearl Studio
 Katie is doing much better than anyone expected, she's had no symptoms of nasal cancer in over 5 months now! Thought I'd put a little information out there on what we've done, just so people like me can find it. There isn't a ton of info on canine nasal cancer and I think I found every little scrap of it when Katie was diagnosed.

We've done a lot of different things for Katie and it's hard to know what is helping her most, I think it's probably a combination of everything. But Katie was having nose bleeds (the most obvious symptom of nasal cancer) every day before and now she hasn't had one in over 5 months and she seems 100% happy & healthy. I really don't know if she's cured, if she was misdiagnosed (although they assured us there wasn't anything else it could be), if she's in remission, or if it'll come back tomorrow.

When we found out Katie had cancer I started researching and found Lucy's site, Lucy has nasal cancer like Katie and has had no symptoms for almost 2 years now! The general prognosis for nasal cancer is 3-6 months without treatment and 12-18 months with full radiation treatment (which we were told costs ~$10,000!!!). So Lucy has actually lived longer than she would have been expected to live if they had done radiation! Lucy's dad must be a microbiologist or something, the site is super technical, but the link is a list of supplements she was on at the time of that posting. I chose some for Katie after reading pretty much the entire site (being a science nerd pays off every now and then!), and deciding what I thought would help her most. Katie's supplement list is below. We stopped giving her most of the supplements a month or so ago (I actually do think she may be cured, but at the first sign of any issue, we'll start all the supplements again).
Katie's Supplements:
With the morning meal:

Fish oil 1000 mg

Vitamin C 1000 mg
Glutamine 1000 mg
Arginine 500 mg
CoEnzyme Q10 100 mg
Red Ginseng 400 mg

Curcumin 500 mg

with the evening meal:

Fish oil 1000 mg
Arginine 500 mg
Milk thistle 150 mg

IP6 600 mg
Sometimes Curcumin again in the evening

I also switched both Katie and Connor to a raw diet, it was pretty scary at first, but it's no big deal now. They eat raw beef, pork, turkey & chicken (Bones included!!) and sometimes canned salmon (which is cooked). It's even a little less expensive than the really good dog food we fed them before. Jeff likes to call Katie "Killer" because she just plows right through everything we give her! Connor is a little more gentle and gnaws on bones for a while before he eats them. I think this has helped them both with general skin & shedding & dirty teeth issues. Hard to say if it helped with the cancer...

Probably the best thing we did for Katie was take her to a homeopathic vet. His name is Dr. Will Falconer, he has a great website and he really seems like the stereotypical holistic doctor, long gray beard, soft, kind voice, and he's super nice. Homeopathy is really different, he looks at the animal and treats them as a whole rather than the specific illness. I actually read a book about homeopathy before we went, so I had some idea of what to expect, it really is completely different than going to a regular vet or doctor! With Katie he was concerned that she has always been anxious and sometimes fearful/nervous (weird for a lab), so he chose remedies that addressed that more than cancer specifically, the idea being that if you make the animal's system function properly they fight off illness on their own- even cancer! He told me a couple weeks ago, that Katie has been an ideal patient, she really responded to the remedy he gave her and he thinks her system really has fought off the cancer and it's gone! Pretty cool stuff! She also isn't as anxious or nervous anymore, which is super cool too- and really, really interesting!

Katie. Photo by Amy Lynn Scarborough of GypsyPearl Studio