Bathroom Updates- Insulation

bathroom wall with insulationHere we are, just weeks away from me trying to get ourselves booked on one of HGTV’s DIY rescue shows, but the end is finally in site. That doesn’t mean we’re on the finishing touches. Rather, it means I can imagine us almost being at that point. The two bathrooms might actually be done by mid-August.

We’ve got walls up with a base coat paint and the tile installer is coming tomorrow to waterproof the tub surrounds and possibly prep the floors.

But this is what the main floor bath has looked like for, oh, the last 3-4 weeks.

This wall will soon be supporting a wall-mounted vanity and sink. Those two circles near the top will be lights and there will be a lovely surface mounted medicine cabinet between them. The blue stuff is denim insulation made from recycled blue jeans.

The yellow stuff on the exterior-facing wall below is spray foam that we had to pay pros to install because we couldn’t get the required insulation value in on our own due to the depth of the studs. And when I say required, yes there was an inspection.


bathroom wall with insulation


I’m sure the rooms are going to be quite lovely when they are done, but I can’t wait for them to be done. If nothing else, I look forward to using a toilet without having to head up 14 stairs, where the temperature is about 5 degrees warmer than it is on the main floor of the house, which we tend to keep at a toasty 79 degrees.

By the way, I recently mentioned in passing that DH had been laid off and I’m happy to report that gave him much-needed time to work on the bathrooms. He started his new job yesterday!


Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep and Serta Pillow Giveaway

Serat's new icomfort store in lombard, IL

photo credit Julia Stotz

As a Serta Blog Ambassador, I had a chance to visit the world’s first and only iComfort Store in Lombard, Illinois. The store features all seven styles of iComfort models on display in an upscale environment.

At the store opening, I mixed and mingled with some of Chicago’s leading bloggers and the Serta PR team, so I asked them to share tips for a good night’s sleep, which you’ll hear in the video below.


In addition to helpful tips from my peeps, I received a Serta Gel-Memory Foam 2 in 1 Scrunch Pillow to bring home. And why not? A good pillow is key to a good night’s sleep. I like that the pillow lets me sleep however I want- it supports stomach, back and side sleepers equally well. The pillow is a satisfying mix memory foam and gel-infused memory foam, so my head doesn’t overheat, but is nicely supported (along with my neck). And it’s so wonderfully scrunchy!

One lucky reader will have the chance to win one of her (or his) own Gel-Memory Foam pillow courtesy of Serta. Serta Scrunch pillow

To enter to win a Serta Scrunchy pillow:

1. (Required) Comment once on this blog sharing your best sleep tip. Comment by 10:00 PM CT on July 23, 2012 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 roughly $79.95.

You can also have up to two 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. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel so you can keep up with Reluctant Renovator video blogs. Come back to let me know.

Winner will be chosen at random and notified by July 21, 2012 and will have two days to respond to me. If no response is received, a new winner will be chosen. Prize will be fulfilled by the PR agency.


Disclosure: As a Serta blog ambassador, I am compensated for my work with the brand.

I’ll be watching the family jewels instead of fireworks tonight

Originally posted in 2008 at Chicago Moms  Blog. Although referencing our previous home, it explains why we might be sitting out the fireworks tonight. My family returned home from watching the July 4 fireworks to find our home had been burglarized. The thief entered through an unlocked porch door. It was unlocked because the porch contains nothing of value- lots of stinky shoes and bathing suits and towels drip-drying on a rack- and we have a door with a deadbolt lock that leads into the main house. Only the burglar didn’t pry open that door, instead he removed a screen and climbed into our house through a large window that connects the porch and the house.

Ironically, when he stepped into our house, his foot landed just inches from a copy of Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew. However, the thief didn’t leave many clues behind. We didn’t even realize our house had been burglarized until my ten-year-old attempted to fall sleep in DH’s and my bed (a Friday night ritual) and asked why I left my jewelry on the bed.

Um, I didn’t.

I asked son #2 if he’d been going through my stuff prior to our picnic.


Then I noticed DH’s bureau was wide open.

There was a quick shout across the house to DH. A moment of panic. And then I called 911 for the fifth time in almost as many weeks.

I was instructed to get my family out of the house ASAP in case the burglar was still in there. I suspect he was long gone, but who am I to challenge an operator who’s surely heard it all?

So my boys, who were in their jammies, DH and I stood waiting out front for the police, whom we later learned got held up in post-fireworks traffic snarls. My freaked out boys were shivering partly out of fear and partly due to the fact that in summer their pajamas consist of a pair of boxer shorts.

“Maybe we should get the boys some clothes,” suggested DH.

I grabbed a solid four-foot walking stick from our front stoop and loudly tromped into the house. If a burglar was in there, I was ready to kick his ass. Unless he had a gun, in which case, he might have killed me. But I didn’t think of the gun scenario at the time, plus, we were pretty certain the house was empty.

We got clothes for the boys and called their grandparents (not the ones who rescued our kids during our ER visit in June, we like to spread the love) to pick them up for an impromptu sleepover. The cops came and stayed for two hours, taking pictures, asking questions, and dusting for prints. Our very own CSI: Chicago.

While the burglar didn’t take everything. He did get some key piece. I overheard my older boy telling his friends the next day that the burglars stole about $1,000 in cash and $3,000 in jewelry. I don’t know where he got these numbers. They are way off. Waaaay off.

Like he got maybe $80 in cash and, well, I don’t know how much in jewelry because all of my “real stuff” has been inherited.

He took a ring with great sentimental value and, now that I think about it, perhaps significant street value: a platinum and diamond cocktail ring from my Great Aunt Rose. Aunt Rose was the wild aunt who taught my brother and me games like blackjack and gin rummy and lived a glamorous life in Hollywood, serving as Jerry Lewis’s assistant for many years.

My mom gave Aunt Rose’s ring about a year ago. It was quite the bling ring, and though I’m not quite the bling gal, I like to think I was channeling her adventurous spirit the few times I wore it.

We didn’t insure it because I knew it wasn’t the kind of thing I’d replace (perhaps pure naivete), but I’m really sad when I think about it winding up in a pawn shop or simply being taken apart.

The thief may have also taken my wedding band. Years ago, my widower uncle passed on my aunt’s gold wedding band and matching diamond-chipped anniversary band. At the time, I was having health problems that swelled my fingers, making my wedding band tight and uncomfortable to wear, so I switched to wearing hers. I eventually switched back to my smaller, but nearly identical band, but as the swelling would come and go, so would the different rings. I’ll have to assume that hers got stolen, not mine.

But regardless, the family jewels are gone. And it sucks.

Post Script: a couple of weeks after this was posted, I found my aunt’s bling ring on the floor behind my bed. It must have fallen as the thief rifled through my jewelry box.

Bathroom Progress (or Not)

The bathrooms we started gutting back in early April are still gutted. Granted, every bit of piping including the main stack has been replaced. Out with the cast iron and galvanized steel and in with the PVC and copper. The HVAC and electrical have been updated, and because we’re going all legal with permits and such, we got ourselves sidetracked.

The electrical inspector (a woman!) raised an issue about the ventilation fan we had placed in our main floor bath which led to further questioning which led to us talking to the village and their inspection service which led us to needing to file for an insulation permit which led us to needing to hire someone to come in and apply toxic spray foam insulation (or rip out the studs and rebuild the room and get to use standard insulation).

Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

I will also note that my living room continues to look like a plumbing supply warehouse and the house is huge mess.

Oh, and our garage sale was a success, but here we are, what? 2-3 weeks later, already building up our next “garage sale” pile in the basement. And the garage hasn’t even been fully emptied from our last sale  despite two trips to the charity resale shop with donations.

Also, hubs got laid-off recently, but I’m mostly happy about that. He’s got time to finish the bathrooms now!



A Black (and White) Single Mama of Four is Homeless Because of Me

Skunk living under our front stoop, mama skunkSweet success; the skunk is gone! I’ve been sharing my skunk adventures with Facebook fans for several weeks now. Basically, we had a gentle and well-behaved skunk making its home beneath our front stoop. It was like deja-vu all over again. Last year, I called in a trapper to catch the skunk, but once the traps were set, we never saw our wannabe pet again.



This year, I wanted to avoid the $125 trap fee as well as the inevitably stinky front-lawn death scene that would take place if the skunks were caught (state law, yo), so we stuck with trying to make life unpleasant for the skunk by repeatedly covering up the den entrance.

That doesn’t really stop a burrowing animal, especially one that really likes its home.

Even our extensive yard work, what with the regrading and laying of sod, didn’t seem to bother the skunk.

Nor did the mothballs we tossed into the den.

The old window screen I tried to bury near the entrance didn’t do it either. Like fingernails on a chalkboard to humans, burrowing animals don’t like the sound or feel of their nails scratching metal. But I didn’t plant it deep enough.

Oh well.

But when my husband said he spotted a family of skunks walking across our fresh sod one night, I knew I had to take action. When I mentioned on Facebook that it was time to get serious, a friend of a friend messaged me that used kitty litter can make a den stinkier than the skunks do. Even better, she offered to provide some for me.

So yes, early one spring morning after dropping my kids at school, I drove out to the woman’s house to pick up a bagful of well-soiled kitty litter. The mostly sealed bag sat on my lawn for a few days.

The early one evening, my husband told me he saw the skunk leave the den.

I sprang into action, sprinkling the aged kitty litter (whose odor was so potent that my child helper abandoned the project) at the entrance and then fully buried the old window screen and covered it all up with dirt and a large rock.

Done and done!

Sort of. We figured she wouldn’t  leave her babies behind. I’m a mom, too. I get it.

Sure enough she returned for her brood. She didn’t spray. She just dug and dug and dug until she got her babies and then she left. At which point I covered the entrance with dirt again.

But like many a harried mom trying to wrangle her little ones, she forgot one slowpoke and returned for it about an hour later. The den has been sealed since then.

She’s not really homeless. Skunks commonly keep several dens in their territory; our stoop was just a favored home. I’m pretty sure she’s living nearby because we’ve seen presents from her on our driveway and garden. (In the form of poop, of course.)

The other day I was out on a walk when I noticed Mama Skunk digging up grubs on a neighbor’s lawn. It was close to 8 in the morning and already a hot, sunny day, so I’m not sure why she was still out from her evening romp (please don’t say rabies, because then we should have trapped her and put her down). I stopped in my tracks, looked right at her and said, “What are you doing here?!” She looked up at me and scurried away.

That was the last Ive seen of her.

Garage Sale, Day 1

Today is the first day of our garage sale, so I’m keeping it simple on the blog. Earlier this week, the boys and I conjured up a great bit of summer fun with duct tape, a contractor trash bag and water.

Take a look at the Water Blob we made and let me know if you try this yourself. It was hours of fun using inexpensive materials we already had around the house. The fun was extended by the boys hovering over the computer creating mash-ups with the video segments I’d filmed. Best deal of the summer so far.

Stop by the garage sale if you’re a local. You’ll get the blog reader discount!