Pinning and Pining

Our bathroom is a whopping 28 ft².  Inside this teeny-tiny space is a bathtub, pedestal sink, toilet and hamper.  The bathtub is your standard hard-to-clean 100-year-old model.  One could say that we have a double sink, except that it’s actually double faucets.  :/  It’s a basin faucet with separate spigots for hot and cold water.  If Necessity were the mother of Invention, I can’t figure out why she would have given birth to this.  Necessity must have liked to customize her own warm water for every splash.

We have an old school tankless toilet that one might find in an actual old school.  I like that it never clogs.  I don’t like how the valve leaks though.  We’re waiting to hear back from the handyman who came by on Saturday to survey the damage but then never returned…

Despite its small size, this bathroom must have been a real beaut in its heyday.  There are white subway tiles on the walls, penny tiles on the floor and a white carrera marble threshold.

In spite of its small size, we have managed to make it work.  Storage, however, is a big issue.  There is a teeny-tiny medicine cabinet for the presumably teeny-tiny medicines people took back in the day.  We inherited an étagère made of MDF from the former tenant that worked well before the days of leak.  Apparently, MDF and water aren’t friends.

With a little boost from the Pinterest Challenge, I set out to find a more water-friendly solution.

It seemed that chrome was the way to go.  Pottery Barn had a really nice one found via Pinterest but at $549, that was never gonna happen.  Scouring of the interwebs yielded a pretty comparable one for $88.  But, it was still too much.

Target had a similar one on clearance for $15.  However, it only had two shelves and we needed that third for more storage.  I hemmed and hawed and finally, eureka!

Given the large amount of clearance between the bottom shelf and the top of the toilet, I was able to transfer the shorter bottom legs to the top and added another shelf.  Voila!  I’m pretty proud of my $529 savings.  :)

Some Cheese with My Whine, Please

Lately, life’s been a little rough – some patches larger than others.

In no particular order…

My father passed away.

While zooming downhill at CicLAvia, I was thrown off my bike by Oblivious Oliver perpendicularly turning into me and now, both knees are scarred, left elbow is nice and gnarly and my left hand is always feelin’ a little hinky.  The funbags were the only thing that kept my chin from making friends with the asphalt.  Being that we were only 40% of the way through the 20+mile ride, I had to hastily brush the gravel out of my wounds, trek on and rely on adrenaline to numb the pain.

The irises in our window box that Husfriend’s friend from Montana was so kind to send has been hosting some gnats that have long overstayed their welcome.

Our hanging fruit basket has become suicidal and comes crashing down as it pleases, full or not.

The water damage to our ceiling and walls caused by our neglectful upstairs neighbor was finally “fixed” by one of the resident handymen whom Husfriend has dubbed “Glue Sniffer.”  Of course, a little spackle and paint would fix soaked 100-year-old lath and plaster walls.  So now, the moisture and stains have seeped through to the surface and it looks worse than before.

The kid that lives up there is overweight, uncoordinated and likes to run around to boot.

Nothing new but the dog always hogs the bed.  She’s cute so I pretty much let her do whatever she wants.  Bad, I know.  She’s also tiny so I’m always mindful of snuffing her in her sleep so I never really get to sleep.  :/

And today, she’s not speaking to me.  She’s upset that I sprinkled 0.35ml of water (aka flea meds) on the back of her neck.

I did get a break though.

I broke my tooth.  A quadrant of my molar is just kicking it in the back of my mouth, hanging on by whatever is not its root.

So, I went to the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC.  For those that aren’t in the know, the school offers dental work for less than half of what it’d normally cost in exchange for your soul.  Kidding.  Sort of.

Basically, you eventually become assigned to a doctoral student who meticulously works on your mouth as their assignment.

I say “eventually” because my first 3-hour visit consisted of waiting in line in hopes of becoming a patient as they only accept 14 new patients per twice-daily session. more waiting, an oral cancer screening and x-rays.

Within 4 four weeks, I will be notified of the date and time of my second visit with my assigned student dentist for another 3-ish hour session where they’ll study my mouth and hash out a game plan.

Then, 4 weeks after that, my fractured tooth will finally be fixed.

I just hope I don’t swallow it before then…


Yesterday, Pepsi exchanged our change for some handy household items.

We opted for $59.50 in Amazon credit instead of paying the nearly 10% fee.  These Coin Stars are very smart.  It’s either take 10% of my money up front or entice me to eventually spend 100% of it.  Not bad.

With our shiny new Amazon credit, we got some cedar balls, a set of washer hoses, a hose mender to attach said hoses to an adapter that’ll convert our full-size washer/dryer to a portable unit that’ll attach to the kitchen sink, some cloth strainer bags to make homemade almond milk and a wireless switch outlet.  I would say that’s a pretty good haul for “free” money.

I’m very much looking forward to receiving our new stuff.  It’ll mean some minor and major fixes to the abode to make life a little bit easier.

I’m excited to make some homemade almond milk.  Husfriend wants to try walnut milk too.  Looks pretty easy and I’m sure it’ll be tasty so we’ll see…

The wireless switch outlet is basically a remote control for anything that you plug into it.

I like that it looks like a traditional switch that’s missing its wall.  :)

I had one for the living room lamp but it finally crapped out.  I tried replacing the battery, which was dated 2007, but it still didn’t work.  I’ve had it for over 10 years.  I’d say that’s a pretty good run for a <$20 device.

Speaking of changes, Walter the Washer had his name changed to Stan.  My friend Sara suggested it and I think it’s very fitting considering he’s moved in with Dorothy.  Hehe.  :)

When the hoses and the mender arrive, we’ll finally be able to use our washer/dryer.  We’ve been through so many incarnations as to how to connect it to a water source.  My sister‘s man, Nathan, is a general contractor and he explored some water line options for us.  The original idea was to have the washer/dryer in the dressing room opposite the bathroom where it’d share a permanent water connection with the bathroom sink.  However, it turns out that the plumping is so old that he wouldn’t have been able to connect a new water line to the current plumping without it basically crumbling to pieces.

So, the washer/dryer has now been moved into the front hallway closet.  It was a surprisingly painless move considering the doorway is 27″ wide and the washer/dryer is 27″ wide.  I removed the entire door, set it aside and summoned the Husfriend to help slide the washer/dryer into place.  The magical furniture sliders from Home Depot really helped with sliding that puppy across the carpet with ease.

At one point in time, before our time, our kitchen had a window between the refrigerator and counter.  Apparently, seismic retrofitting meant having to sacrifice the window.  To allow more light into the kitchen, they cut a hole in the opposite wall for what we now call the service window.

When you walk in the front door, the “laundry room” closet is to your right and the service window into the kitchen is to your left.  This will be the conduit for which water will travel to and fro the kitchen sink.

Note the old fashioned icebox that we believe used to drain directly into the sink.  I think it’s pretty nifty.  We now use it to house our pots and pans.

Although our kitchen is small, I think it’s laid out very well with neatly-packed-to-the-gills cabinets that extend all the way to the ceiling and numerous drawers.

I did a little of my own retrofitting and turned an old built-in ironing board cabinet in the kitchen into a spice cabinet.

I imagine it was from the days of yore when the women folk were required to live in the kitchen with one hand cooking, the other ironing and one hip supporting a tot.  :/

Burial at Box

I finally had to give up any hope of resuscitating our beloved kaffir lime leaf tree.  She will be missed…

In anticipation of Spring, new life has sprung throughout our home.

My sister picked up two fiddle leaf fig trees for us which I’ve replanted in the old stomping grounds of our kaffir lime leaf and bird’s eye chili trees.  The fig trees were a whopping $10 for both from Sprouts Farmers Market.

Aren’t they purdy?

They are my new obsession and hopefully, one day, they’ll grow up big and strong and take over our apartment like they did in this place in Elle Decor:

Life has also sprung up in our window boxes in the form of chives, Thai basil and Italian parsley mingling with luscious Persian Buttercups from Lowes.

On the south side, we have rosemary, sweet basil and thyme, from Home Depot, flanked by generic “color plants” from the good ol’  99¢ Only Store.   I wonder what color they’ll actually be…

These window boxes have traveled with me far and wide throughout the last decade.  I have had them since my second apartment  in Downtown San Diego, which happened to be two doors down from my very first <200 sq. ft. apartment.   Yep, <200 sq. ft. comprised of one room with a coat closet and a bathroom.

The best times were had in that tiny apartment.  I managed to squeeze a queen bed, padded storage chest (which doubled as the guest bed), desk and buffet cabinet into the one room.

I even had a roommate.

This guy:

Who incessantly did this:

Kashmir is his name and yelling is his game-o.  :/

The 3.2 cu. ft. mini-fridge and the buffet cabinet, with rice cooker and hot plate on top and dinnerware, silverware and pantry inside, worked in tandem as the “kitchen.”  I hosted dinners and cooked real meals in my Barbie kitchen.  The folding coffee table doubled as the dining table.  Grossly, dishes had to be done in the bathroom sink.

The 17″ monitor worked triple shifts as the computer display, Nintendo Wii Sports display and television display from the computer’s analog tv tuner.  And when that wasn’t enough, the same Simpsons, Season 7 DVD set was projected on the walls.  Every day, the two windows above the bed and storage bench welcomed the unwelcome aroma of Asian Fusion from the restaurant below.  The view from the two windows would have made any mason proud.

My poor mother cried when she saw the apartment for the first time, asking what was so horrible at home that I would pay to live here?  The comforts of home were no match for that first priceless taste of independence.

The second apartment was two doors down in the front of the building and three times the size – a staggering 600 sq. ft.  Moving day was just me and Kashmir walking back and forth down the hallway with our stuff.

We’re moving on up, Mr. Jefferson!

Woe is Me

We hadn’t anticipated being away for so long, and upon our return, we discovered some agricultural casualties.

Our poor kaffir lime tree that Pepsi’s maternal grandma gave us:

And, our poor bird’s eye chili tree that my sister gave me:

Tree, our calamansi tree, was holding on for dear life:

Our plants are usually pretty neglected but the globes had kept them alive until now.  There’s only so much water the globes can hold though.   The chili tree is an obvious lost cause but I’ve been trying to resuscitate the kaffir lime tree.  So far, no luck.  :(

On the other hand, Aloe, our aloe plant fared very well in her too-small house:

We also came home to discover some major damage to our ceilings and walls.  We were told that our upstairs neighbor’s bathtub overflowed.  I’m not even sure how that could happen to this degree.  I mean how long do you have to be away from the tub to notice that your apartment and the one below is probably flooded.  Hmmm…

It now looks like the set of a horror movie.

The ceiling of the hallway:

Bedroom wall:

Living room wall:

We’ve been told that maintenance will be in to assess the damage and make all the repairs so that should be fun.  That was three weeks ago…

Dorothy’s Homecoming

Given that we pretty much cook every day, sometimes, several times a day, the dishes pile up very quickly in our small kitchen.  So, we figured it was time to pony up and get some help.

It didn’t take long for us to find Dorothy the Dishwasher hanging out on good ol’ Craigslist.  She was perfect.  She did everything the big girls do, just in a slightly smaller package.  She was portable and could double as counter space or be whisked away entirely when company came over.  She lived with a small family not too far from us, who were in the process of moving, so we quickly headed over.

The family was very nice and threw in a half bottle of detergent to seal the deal.  :)  The woman remarked that having a dishwasher would “save our relationship.”  Hehe.

The only problem we had in our relationship up to that point was that was we hadn’t thought far enough ahead as to how to get her home.  Although compact, she was quite heavy and would not have fit in the backseat or trunk of the car.  It also wouldn’t have worked to rent a truck because we’d still have to somehow get her onto the truck bed.

The only thing we had was our trusty dolly.  And, we were only about 2 miles from home.  So, off we went…

It wasn’t the best solution because the load was a lot heavier than the intended weight for the dolly, but hey, we had to make do.  So, there we were, two renters and their precariously packaged dishwasher strolling through the streets of LA.  We got many a strange look from the passersby.  We even encountered a man whom Husfriend surmised was an aspiring comedian who remarked “Most people walk their dogs!”  Chuckle, chuckle.

We eventually made it home, dropped Dorothy off and hopped on our bikes to retrieve our car and all was good again.


I have been here in the good ol’ Midwest for almost a month now where there has been plenty of time to miss home and ponder the things I’d like to finish when I get back.

The Bathroom:  Our bathroom is so old that it was literally falling apart.  The ceiling sagged, there were huge cracks in the wall and the drywall in the shower crumbled.

I peeled off the thick, old layers of navy blue, sparkly gold, tan and various whites off the walls and filled in the holes and cracks as best I could, using about a gallon of spackle.  Everything was then sanded and Kilzed.  I painted the ceiling generic contractor white.  The rest of the walls were painted with “custom” gray that I mixed from a pint I found in the Home Depot bargain bin and a gallon of white.  After taping off the ceiling border, I painted the top half of the bathroom grey.  The bottom half is white subway tile.  It came out really nicely except that when I went to remove the tape, it took off some of the ceiling paint.  Crappy.  There’s also a little bit of gray paint splatter I have to clean up off the tile.  And it’s been that way since then…

The Kitchen Floor:  While Husfriend was away last year on what we’re now calling his walkabout spending the winter alone in the snowy Midwest, I had the brilliant idea to spruce up the kitchen floor on the same day I was supposed to pick him up from the airport.  It started innocently enough with tearing up a small corner of  linoleum tile that had started to come up.  Curiosity got the best of me and next thing I knew, I was moving appliances and was buried in easily several hundred pounds of nearly 100-year-old flooring.  There was gray linoleum, commercial flooring, black and white checkered tiles, and lots of crud holding it all together atop some pretty nice hardwoods that was covered in hardened glue.

This is how it all began:
Then it got a little worse:

I hauled about 10 of these boxes downstairs to the dumpster:

It remained that way for several weeks while I recovered from all the lonesome heavy lifting.  I guess when you’re running off of DIY adrenaline, you don’t realize the toll that schlepping 3-4 hundred pounds of flooring will do to your body.  

I finally gave in and rented a commercial sander.  “Gave in” simply because I figured I could purchase a hand sander and do the whole thing myself.  Given my dangling DIY track record, Husfriend wouldn’t allow it.  The commercial sander was no walk in the park either.  Imagine squatting with a 40-lb electrical baby between your legs that you have to keep from cutting you and from touching the floor too much so as to not grind a big hole into it.  Fun times.  Being the Frugal Fran that I am, I figured I could get it done in one Friday afternoon and not have to pay for additional rental days.  Six hours later, I had to call it a day.  I finished the next day but ended up having to keep it until Monday when the shop opened up again.  Damn.

And that’s the way it’s remained since.  Raw hardwood…

The Laundry Room:  We scored an amazing deal from one of my favorite stores – Craigslist.  :)  We got a full-size LG washer and dryer in one for 75% off retail delivered right to our door.  Gotta love that Craig.  Now, Walter the Washer needs a home.  So far, he’s been crashing in the kitchen.  Husfriend doesn’t mind, but I do.  Walter’s nice but too big for such a small space.  Most one-bedroom apartments don’t come with their own laundry room so Walter’s moving into the front hallway walk-in closet.  He’s ventless and can’t see so the closet shouldn’t be a problem.  However, we’ve got two slight issues – Walter’s just a little too fat for the entrance and there’s no water source.  When I get home, I’m going to have to jam the jamb so he fits and convert Walter into a portable unit so that he can connect to the kitchen faucet the way Dorothy the Dishwasher* does when she’s at work.  Dorothy lives in that same closet now.  I don’t think she’ll mind a new roommate.

In case you’re wondering how we’re able to do all this as renters, let’s just say we have a very lackadaisical landlord.  The funny thing is, the only thing in the lease that is to remain once we leave are the crusty blinds (which I have since already replaced).  We also plan to stay in this apartment for a very long time.  It’s on a beautiful tree-lined street in the middle of Los Angeles.  Who knew those existed?  :)

*There’s a cute story about bringing Dorothy home that I’ll share later.