Monthly Archives: December 2011

A Quick Update

tween room painted gray with Benjamin Moore

Me: You sure you want to paint your room blue? Tween: Yes. Me: Sure? Tween: Yes. Me: Okay, I'm going to get the paint. Tween: No, make it gray.

Sorry, I don’t have time for deeply reflective end-of-year navel gazing at the moment. I’m working my way through a client project and my boys are on school break. I decided to use this first week of break to practice with my Science Olympiad team. I’m coaching food science and scheduled my group for three, three-hour sessions. We’re capping off our marathon sessions with a Cookie Cafe tonight at the new house.

Only it’s still a construction zone.

That was not the plan.

You know that scene in Poltergeist where the mom is running down a hallway to get her daughter only the hallway starts stretching out before her getting longer and longer?

I feel like that mom.

The end is in sight, and each day there’s a little more progress, yet the end goal seems to be moving further and further away.

At any rate, our appliances arrived last week. I was certain that we were to be called within 30 minutes of delivery, so rather than wait around the house, I ran errands close to home, waiting for The Call. It never came and it turns out my painter signed for the washing machine, dryer, disposer, microwave, dishwasher, range and refrigerator.

Yeah, he’s helpful like that. I wasn’t so thrilled with our appliance provider, though.

Our counter tops were installed earlier this week. It was touch and go for a while there. We hit a major road block a few hours into the day, but managed to get things resolved without any f-bombs, threats or extra money spent, unless, you count the “beer money” we gave the installers when they finished up.

We decided to hire a painting crew–yes the same one from the thing on the living room ceiling (which they were very agreeable about resolving). As power painters, I thought they’d be in and out in a few days. They are not.

Which is good.

The paint crew of 2-3 guys is doing an astonishing amount of patching, especially on our old walls. I would have only spackled over a few of the larger nail holes. So far, the pros seems well worth the money. I’ll chime in when the work is done.

Only the painters’ work is not done because all of the trim isn’t in yet.

All of the trim isn’t in yet because we were waiting on some of the new doors.

Oh, and install on our luxury shower? Delayed due to a tile issue. The issue was noticed and resolved in the same day, but not in enough time for the plumber to finish his job. Which means he’s coming back…when? Good question.

And how could I forget? The fancypants new bed sleep system arrived. It showed up the afternoon of the nearly-botched counter top install. I was nervous about getting the heavy mechanical base up our flight of stairs and maneuvered into the room, so it’s just as well I wasn’t there to fret about it. Apparently workmen do not appreciate it when you anxiously stand over their shoulders watching their every move (nevermind recording it for. your. blog). While the delivery men were making their way up the stairs (with the help of our painters!), I was stranded in a parking lot, waiting for a knight in shining armor to show up from AAA and jump my car.

Speaking of the sleep system, remeber this?

Actually, I feel like I’ve cleared my head a little now that I’ve written this post. And watching that video I shot the day we closed on the house, I realize how far we’ve really come.

Spam commenters and internet stalkers aside, I’d love to have you over in the new year! Just gimme a few more days weeks months to get ready.

Droid Bionic Giveaway

Win a motorola droid bionic smart phone

See, I even saved the packaging for you!

I’m finishing up my time with the Verizon Wireless Midwest Moms Program with a flourish- a big giveaway with one of the devices I tested. I knew from the beginning that I’d be keeping one device and passing along the other and early on it was clear to me that the Motorola Xoom tablet was my top pick. Therefore, one of YOU gets to keep my Motorola Droid Bionic smart phone.

Not that I’m passing along sloppy seconds. Indeed, because I was worried about damaging, misplacing or outright losing the Bionic and its associated cables and charges, I didn’t actually use it that often. As noted in this post by Amy Oztan, knowing an item isn’t mine to keep affects how I use it. In the end, I don’t think think that served me or the brand well, but it’s a bonus for the person who wins it!

In addition to learning a valuable blogging lesson, I can tell you that the Bionic’s photo quality is good on still shots.

You can capture some pretty sweet video with the Bionic.

And the Verizon data service worked well.

It didn’t play so nice with Hootsuite, though. Especially when I tried to post pictures.

But it’s still a pretty nice phone. The key features of the Bionic, as told by Motorola, include:

And did I mention it is so very gently used?

Not only that, the winner will also receive a sleek silicone phone cover.

Win it!

You want this phone, eh? Ideally, you have( or plan to have) Verizon data service so you can take full advantage of theBionic. 🙂

1. (Required) Comment once on this blog by 11:50 PM CST on December 28, 2011 for a basic entry. US addresses only. No purchase necessary to win, but the winner must be 18 years of age. The prize has a retail value of approximately $580. Winner will be randomly chosen by the WordPress plug-in, “And the Winner is.”

You can also have up to five optional extra entries; I need a separate comment for each of these items, so I can count each one as an extra entry:

2. Tweet about the entry and come back to let me know you did.

3. “Like” Reluctant Renovator on Facebook and come back to let me know.

4. Subscribe to our newsletter, Progress Notes. We send one update a month featuring our progress and advising you on our fabulous home product finds and giveaways. Come back to let me know.

5. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel so you can keep up with Reluctant Renovator video blogs.

6. Follow @RenovatorKim on Twitter.

Winner will be chosen and notified by December 30, 2011 and will have two days to respond to me. If no response is received, a new winner will be chosen.

 Disclaimer: I was not paid for my involvement in the Midwest Moms program, but I did receive the two mobile devices mentioned above as well as a Verizon data plan.  All opinions are my own. I will be shipping the phone to the winner in early 2012.



Overhead Sewers Explained Thanks to a Special Christmas Guest

When we were looking for a home, we knew that overhead sewers were a useful feature given the amount of flooding in the Chicago suburbs, but we didn’t know exactly how overhead sewers work to prevent flooding. Thousands of dollars in the plumber’s pocket and a messy front yard later, we get it. And now I’m here to share how overhead sewers work to prevent basement floods of the most disgusting kind–sewer back-ups!

A special holiday visitor stopped by to help me explain.


So there you have it. Good thing we’re “function over form” people, huh?

Now tell me, how much would you pay to keep your neighbor’s from flowing into your basement during a heavy storm?


Say Happy Chanukah with Edible Dreidels

Sweet jumbo marshmallow dreidels are a fun way to “top” off a festive holiday meal. I show you how to make the edible dreidels in the video below.


Clearly I was naively optimistic a few weeks ago when I suggested we might host the family Hanukka party this year. The house just isn’t ready. But we’ve got dibs on the 2012 party.

Whatever and where ever you celebrate, I wish you all the joys of the season!

Remember our fab Zojirushi rice cooker giveaway is still cooking.

What a Difference a Year Makes

A year ago we were on the hunt for a house in our current school district. We searched for months. I was a modern day Goldilocks looking for a place to settle down, only nothing felt just right. Every house we visited seemed too old (and overpriced), or in the wrong neighborhood (and overpriced), or lovely and updated, but overpriced. We saw a few low priced short sales and foreclosure houses, but those were in such a state of neglect that we didn’t give them a second look.

A trip to to the store to check out new appliances for a house we had not yet found, let alone bought, seemed like a flight of fancy, so I indulged myself further with a visit to the store’s Santa.


It turned out Santa was wrong. We didn’t find a house by the end of 2010. It took until the spring of 2011 before we found The One. It was old and musty, but it was priced right. It had potential. And we could afford to bring out that potential*.

Santa’s elves, disguised as Abt delivery men, are paying a visit to our house this week. Turns out a houseful of appliances weighs too much for Santa’s reindeer.

Do you think they’ll bring cookies? I’ll be happy as long as they don’t mess up our fabulous newly sanded, shiny wood floor.


living room new floor

Here’s a similar view from earlier this year. The worn green carpeting was actually a gift from the owners. It protected the hardwood floors for the last 30-40 years.

Green carpet dining room

 * Mostly. I think. Ask me once we finish paying for all this work. And some furniture.

Getting Organized: Medical Bills

Organize medical bills, test results and moreAs I look into the future, I know I want it to be less cluttered than life is now. I flip-flop between feeling reassured that once we have more space, things will feel less cluttered and living in fear that big new house means so many more spaces to clutter up.

I’ve realized that one of the largest sources of paper clutter is the never-ending stream of medical bills, invoices, and EOBs from our insurance company. I tend to let it build up and then here’s how I tackle it.

It sounds kind of old skool here on the doorstep of 2012, but that’s how I roll with certain things. I don’t do banking or medical stuff online. Do you?

I developed a spreadsheet listing patient name, date of visit, doctor seen and brief explanation of the problem. For each visit, I also record our expected payment, actual payment, date paid and the form of payment.

This may sound like a lot of work,but believe me it’s a lot more work trying to remember which family member saw which doctor on what date, etc when the bill arrives weeks or even months later.

But what about all that paperwork? For years I kept it in a boring old three-ring binder. I used sticky notes to create tabbed sections for doctors, dentists, prescriptions, etc. But a couple of years ago I received a review sample of KnockKnock’s snazzy medical organizer pictured above.

It’s got the basic three rings and so much more, like dividers with pockets to hold, say, a CD with MRI results. It comes with pre-printed divider tabs with categories I didn’t know I needed, but do. And I love the handy notepad tucked up front that helps your plan questions and checklists for upcoming doctor visits.

Each January, I empty the previous year’s’ content into a file folder and start fresh and empty. Even though it’s not so very different than what I created on my own, I’ve developed quite a fondness for this organizer over time. Kind of like how the food in vending machines is always more tantalizing than what you already packed for a snack.

How do you tame the paper tigers around your house? Your tip may be featured in a future post.