Thursday, November 29, 2007

Project Runway, Season Four, Episode 3: Why?

Heidi: "This is a Project Runway first!"

You mean an episode nobody will be interested in?

Heidi: "Well, yes; there is that. But I was talking about menswear!"

We've had menswear before.

Heidi: "Not a challenge with ALL the designers doing menswear!"

That's true. Menswear should be interesting. What are you going to do to screw it up?

Heidi: "The challenge will be to design for a sports star!"

Ooh! Like an ice skater?

Kevin: "That's not a sport, dummy! Football is a sport!"

Football? Congratulations, Bravo! You really know your audience. Nothing goes better together than fashion and football. This sounds like the worst episode ever. I don't even want to watch it.

Heidi: "There will be hot male models in their underwear!"

oh, alright.

Other Eric wants to make sure everyone knows he figured out it would be menswear. He also predicted that Heidi would be dressed as Lieutenant Uhura. I think he's psychic.

So the designers go on a field trip with Tim:

Nick Verreos: "Ooh, I hope we are going to some fabulous Park Avenue penthouse!"

Will you shut up about the fabulous Park Avenue penthouse already?

Tim introduces the designers to Tiki Barber.

uh ... yeah ... that was my reaction too.

Kevin: "Well, I'm straight so I'll explain who he is. He was a famous football player and now he's a correspondent on the Today Show."

OK, not only do I know nothing about football but I don't think I've ever watched the Today Show, either. I'll have to take Kevin's word for it that he's famous.

So what exactly is the challenge?

Tiki: "See what I'm wearing now? Great! This is basically the only thing I wear. So try to make this exact outfit but different."


Tim: "There will be no creativity in this challenge. Just try to make something that resembles normal men's clothing that you would find in the store and doesn't look glued together. This is the week where you should just try to skate by and make it to the next challenge."

Tim: "Oh, yeah, this is classic 'make it work' time."


Tim: "Yeah, it isn't antique 'make it work' time but it also isn't modern 'make it work' time. I thought about vintage or traditional but I finally decided on classic."

Well, you can't go wrong with classic.

OK, so none of the designers make menswear. What will they do?

Jack: "I immediately took off my pants."

That's your solution to everything.

Jack: "Hey, whatever works."

So Jack is going to use the pants to make a pattern:

Jack: "Tim, would it be alright if I use my pants to make a pattern and share it with two other designers so we have a huge advantage over the others?"

Tim: "Of course!"

I don't know how I feel about that. I know it isn't against the rules to use anything in the room to make patterns as long as they don't bring in pattern pieces or pattern books. And they are allowed to help or not help other designers but this still seems unfair.

Whatever. I'm kind of over this episode:

Tim: "I'd like to bring in the totally hot, young, nearly-naked male models now!"

OK, you have my attention.

Kevin: "I guess the guys were good looking, though I wouldn't notice that kind of thing. The women were going crazy about them. And, don't say anything, but I think some of the male designers were checking them out, too. Do you think they might be gay?"

So Kevin is working very hard to make sure we don't think he is interested in his model:

Kevin: "So my model was there in his underwear but I was all business. I took his measurements and fit the clothes on him and I wasn't even staring at his butt at all. No, I barely even noticed him standing there. Why would I? I'm straight."

We get it. Some of the other designers were a little more flustered:

Chris: "Uh ... ha ha ... um ... hi ... do you work out? Wait, I'm supposed to be doing something ... oh, yeah, I need to make some clothes."

But Ricky is really freaking out:

Ricky's model: "The waist feels like it fits right."

Ricky: "OK, I'd really love to chat but I just don't have time."

Ricky's model: "Sure. Whatever."

Tim: "Ricky, you were just rude to a hot guy for absolutely no reason. I'm really worried about you. Have you been getting enough fiber?"

Tim has an announcement:

Designers: "Aw, crap."

Tim: "I never get tired of that reception. Now that it's too late do make any changes to your designs, I have a special guest here who will tell you everything that is wrong with what you are making."

Christian: "OH, MY, GOD! It's a totally anonymous Asian lady! I am so excited by this, for some reason! Asian ladies are fierce!"

Asian lady: "Yeah, I get that a lot."

So, the Asian lady is Mrs. Barber and she's there to check on the progress of the clothes being made for her husband.

She and Tim tell Carmen that her Members Only jacket is crap and she needs to start from scratch:

Karen Walker: "[Gasp] is that a new Members Only jacket?!"

Rosario: "What can I say. A lady likes to have nice things."

Oh, sorry. I don't know how that scene got in here. Anyway, Carmen is a little flabbergasted:

Tom Collicchio: "What's the problem? It's not like cooking; making clothes is easy. Just make a whole new jacket in an hour with no fabric."

Tom, you're an idiot.

I really wish Tim had mentioned that it was a terrible design BEFORE she made it.

Carmen: "No; it's my fault. I should have bought enough material so I could keep making jackets until Tim was satisfied."

Now for the regularly scheduled portion of the program where Elisa does something bizarre:

Elisa: "What? I'm not prepared for this? Oh, wait; I've got it! ... I'm just too shy to have my model undress because I've never seen a naked man before. So I'm just going to put the clothes over the clothes he is already wearing! Ta-da! How was that?"

Perfect! I think you have fulfilled your obligation of being a total weirdo for this episode.

Elisa: "Thanks! I really just pulled that one out of my ass!"

Now for a very special Saturn commercial:

Kara Saun: "I love driving my Saturn to the beach. I'm always inspired by the color of the water."

Isn't it usually blue?

Kara Saun: "Well, yeah."

That was fascinating. Back to the turmoil in the design room. Steven tries to find an appropriate metaphor:

Steven: "It's like the Titanic?"


Steven: "Well, everybody is running around like crazy and I think I hear Celine Dion singing."

Fair enough.

Steven: "What was it that they had on the Titanic right before it sank?"

I don't know; terrible acting and ridiculous dialogue?

Steven: "No; plenty of ice for mixed drinks! Who wants a cosmo?"

On to the runway:

Heidi: "All the outfits that are finished, no matter how stupid they look, are safe."

In my opinion, Christian, Chris, and Elisa should have been called out for making really dumb-looking outfits that Tiki would never wear on the air. Chris's looked like a StarTrek uniform and Elisa's model looked like a bounty hunter; it was completely inappropriate for the Today Show. Christian's was just silly.

I also thought Rami should have been out there as one of the best. The jacket was casual but it wasn't a Members Only jacket and it looked good. Steven's also wasn't bad, though the rise on his trousers was ridiculous.

So Kit, Jack, and Kevin were the top three. They were pretty good. They looked pretty well-made and were not too boring:

Jack: "I think mine looks like you could have just bought it in a store."

Why do we need a designer to make something you could already just buy in a store? Yeah, that was the problem with this episode.

The judges think Kevin's has a look:

Michael: "I think Kevin's has a look."

Nina: "Oh, yeah, I was just going to say that. It has a look."

Heidi: "I agree; it totally has a look."

What the hell are you talking about?

So Jack wins. He only made two pieces but they looked good. I just don't feel like there was any designing there. It was just a technical exercise; trying to make something that looked like store-bought clothes. Whatever. Congratulations, Jack!

Sweet P, Carmen, and Ricky were the bottom three. At first I wasn't sure that Sweet P was in the bottom because all they did was say nice things about what she made:

Michael: "I love the tie. I wish he were wearing that and nothing else."

Yeah, me too.

Carmen didn't have time to make a shirt so she just put the shirting fabric under the jacket like a shawl. The color was nice. The outfit didn't look well-made but I didn't think it was that bad. It was more interesting than Ricky's and it had more going on that Sweet P's:

Michael: "The crotch on that pant is insane!"

Nina: "And Michael has seen his share of crotches so I think he knows what he's talking about."

Michael: "Thank you, Nina."

Ricky's is a mess. He tried to make a totally boring business suit and failed. So it was neither well-made nor interesting. Obviously he's going to be the one to go home, right?

Nope; it's Carmen. That was totally the wrong decision.

Tune in next week when a tornado hits Wisteria Lane! Exciting!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Project Runway Season Four, Episode 2: Icon, the SJP episode!

Last week Simone was sent home:

Tim: "Someone has to be the first to go. I'm just glad it wasn't someone talented."

Wow, that was harsh.

We start the episode with the remaining designers picking models. Sweet P has to choose between the last two:

Sweet P: "I'm really sorry but I have to be honest and say that I'm just not in love with either one of you."

OH, MY GOD! This has never happened in the history of the show! She turned down both of them! America is shocked!

George W. Bush: "I feed so cheated. The fact that she couldn't find the right match from all those girls is really disappointing. I don't think I've been this upset since Ruben Studdard won American Idol."

Heidi: "Well, get over it. We have a famous person coming in I need everyone on their best behavior. No crying! This is an icon! Do you hear me? An ICON!"

OK, I'm really not holding my breath for an icon. We usually end up with Sarah Hudson or Nicky Hilton or some crap like that. So, here comes the so-called "icon." Who will it be?


It's SJP! Chris is crying, Andre is crying, I'm crying!

Heidi: "I said there was to be no crying!"

Sorry. So, yeah, we actually get someone cool. PR fans have been saying for years that SJP NEEDS to be on the show. The designers will be creating a two-piece look for Bitten's Fall/Winter line. And the winning design may be sold under the Bitten label.

SJP: "MAY ... MAY be sold. I would like to make that perfectly clear. I can't get away with what most of the celebrities on this show say; promising to wear the winning design to a 'major' event and then wearing it to the opening of a car wash or something. I could be stuck having to sell one of your crappy designs so the word 'may' is very important."

What's the catch?

SJP: "Oh, yeah; I think it's very important that every person on earth wear my clothes. To this end, I make my clothes so affordable that people really can't afford not to buy them. So your two-piece look will have to retail for $40. That way even ordinary people--people like you and the viewers at home--can look good. You're not going to look as good as I do--my clothes aren't magical--but you will certainly look better than you do now."

Heidi: "So, the outfits have to retail for $40 but you all know that the price of materials is only a small percentage of the retail price."

Designers: "Duh."

Heidi: "Right. So taking into account the actual markup, that will give you almost thirty-seven cents to work with. But don't worry about the labor cost. You go right ahead and design really intricate pieces that would be completely prohibitively labor-intensive."

Come on! Why is the cost of materials the only thing taken into account here? Even with slave-labor some the designs in this challenge are way too complicated and have too much hand detailing to be produced cheaply, no matter how inexpensive the fabric is. Determining the labor cost is a little more difficult than the price of the fabric but making something that could be cheaply mass-produced still should have been part of the challenge.

That being said, this was still a good challenge. Even the team element couldn't ruin it. Yes, the "T" word. We made it all the way to the second episode before we had to have one. I understand that it makes the early episodes easier to manage, because we had only seven outfits to look at instead of 14, but I still hate it.

Anyway, each designer has to pitch to SJP. Everyone is so excited to meet her:

Kevin: "I'm not gay or a woman so I don't get it."

SJP: "What's not to get? I'm me!"

It's true. She is.

Anyway, Kevin's pitch meeting doesn't go so well:

Kevin: "Here's my sketch."

SJP: "Oh; could you tell me a little about it?"

Kevin: "What's the point? We're obviously not connecting here and you're just going to criticise everything I say. I'm leaving." [Storms out of the room]

SJP: "What's up with Miss Thing?"

She picks Elisa, Kit, Victorya, Marion, Ricky, Christian, and Rami to be team leaders.

Sweet P wants to be on a good team. Sorry, but there isn't any way for you to avoid being on a team that has you in it. Just kidding! These are the teams:

Elisa and Sweet P

Sweet P: "Son of a bitch."

Kit and Chris

Victorya and Kevin

Marion and Steve

Marion: "I picked Steve because he seems easy to push around."

Ricky and Jack

Ricky: "I picked Jack because he's such a good designer. Oh, who am I kidding? I just wanted to spend some quality time with him."

Christian and Carmen

Christian: "I picked Carmen because she's fierce."


Rami and Julia

SJP: "See you on the runway! I've always wanted to say that!"

Well, I'm so glad that dream could come true for you.

In the design room Elisa is doing something weird, as usual:

Elisa: "Lay down and let me put this fabric on you. OK, now I'm just going to mark it."

Sweet P: "Hey! Did you just pee on me?!"

Elisa: "Yeah, that's how I mark it."

Sweet P: "You're crazy!"

Elisa: "I like getting organic human essence on the material. It gives life to the fabric. I don't understand why you're getting upset."

SJP: "I'm sorry but we can't afford all the urine that would be necessary to mass-produce that garment."

Tim is concerned that Elisa is cuckoo because she's hand-rolling all the edges of her fabric. That's why he thinks she's cuckoo?

Christian is loving his design:

Christian: "I think it's fierce!"

Of course you do.

Before we go to the runway Jeffrey Sebelia is telling us that he is inspired by driving his Saturn to Blends, which sounds like a coffee shop and I just don't care.

On to the runway:

Victorya's outfit is very cute. It's pretty and feminine and looks current and stylish, but it also seems like it would be fairly easy to mass produce cheaply and the sizing would be very simple because it isn't form-fitting. She wins! Her design will be sold as part of the Bitten line! Not "may be" sold; it will be sold! Congratulations, Victorya!

SJP: "I think it's Lovely!"

Other Eric invented a new drinking game:

Other Eric: "Every time she says 'Lovely' you have to spray on her perfume."

How is that a drinking game?

Other Eric: "I don't drink."

OK, I don't think he understands drinking games.

Lovely -- available at Target for $59.99

The judges also like Elisa's outfit:

Michael: "What's that mark on the fabric?"

Elisa: "Oh, I mark my fabric with pee."

Nina: "That is so cool!"

SJP: "It's innovative!"

Heidi: "Yeah, I think customers would love getting peed on."

Elisa: "Thank you. I refer to it as 'pee-morphic'"

Marion (with Steve) and Christian (with Carmen) are at the bottom. They are just horrific.

Heidi: "It won't make any difference to the judging but you know I enjoy making people cry so could you each tell us which team member you think should be sent home?"

They all say the two team leaders should be held responsible for the work, which is exactly as it should be. The team leaders had the opportunity to win the challenge so they should be held accountable for failure.

The judges say Christian's outfit is stuck in the 80's. Michael thinks it's just a pair of giant earrings away from being on an episode of The Facts of Life. It's just a boring sheath dress in a dreadful color with a really ugly jacket that has way too much detailing to be produced inexpensively.

Marion's outfit is droopy and makes the judges sad:

Other Eric: "The model looks like she's dressed as Pocahontas."

Michael: "She looks like Pocahontas."

Other Eric: "Damn you, Michael Kors; stop copying everything I say!"

Marion is sent home for his disastrous outfit.

SJP: "It's not Lovely."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Project Runway Season Four: the premiere: or the pointless tent episode!

Can you believe it's back? It seems like only five or six years since the last season!

First let's meet the designers:

Rami: He designed for Jessica Alba so he doesn't need your pity.

Chris: Larger than life (those are his words). He's been practicing making costumes out of heads of lettuce just in case that comes up.

Christian: Finally someone who went to my stupid little design school. Three seasons of "Parsons this" and "Fashion Institute that" and never anything about the American Intercontinental University!

The American Inter-what?


Carmen: She used to be a model so now she knows all about fashion. She's practically Heidi Klum.

Gillian: She was an illustrator and now she's sick of that.

Kit: Her nickname is "Pistol" because ... um ... I don't know why.

Kevin: He used to make jeans and he's the token straight guy this season. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Jack: Just Jack.

Steve: I think he's cute but Eric thinks he looks like a serial killer. Are those mutually exclusive?

Elisa: She started out making marionettes and then moved on to shapeless sacks that she calls "costumes." She's "on the edge of avant-garde." As opposed to being in the middle of the mainstream.

Marion: He owned a flower shop.

Sweet P: This is the result of Popeye and Olive Oyl raising an abandoned baby.

Simone: It doesn't really matter.

Victorya: She was born in South Korea and moved to Texas as a child with her nine sisters ... Oh, wait ... no.

Ricky: "This has been such an emotional year for me; I (sniff) lost my boutique (sniff) and this dress I made out of my jeans represents my whole life and it's a combination of my culture and my new life and it's like a phoenix rising from the ashes and (sniff) ... no! I said I wasn't going to do this! This just means so much to me! Waaaaaaaaa!"

Andre Gonzalo: "Wow, what a freak."

The designers move into their new digs:

Christian: "Ooh, beds! Well, la dee da, how fancy! I sleep in a pet carrier at home."

Kevin: "Yeah, I know what you mean ... wait ... what?"

Basically, that was all the excitement at the apartments. No joy buzzers, no huge fights over the closets, no stealing of "special pillows from home."

Now on to the show:

Heidi: "Hi, everybody! I'm Heidi Klum! Standing next to me is Tim Gunn!

Tim: "Thank you, Heidi!"

Heidi: "For what? Saying that you are standing next to me?"

Tim: "Thank you for letting me stand next to you."

Heidi: "OK. Why don't you tell everybody about the first challenge?"

Tim: "First let me say that I think this is the strongest group ever. Previous groups have been made up almost entirely of talentless losers but not this time! So, let me tell you about the first challenge: you know how in previous seasons the first challenge has been something really goofy? Well, to shake things up, this time we made sure the first challenge wasn't interesting at all! Isn't that crazy?! What will we think of next? So, see those tents over there? Well, inside the tents you will find nice fabric from Mood and you can make something out of that."

Designers: "We don't understand. Are we supposed to use the tents for something?"

Tim: "No. We just had some extra money in the budget so we put up some tents. Aren't they cute? NOW RUN!"

Phil Keoghan: "These 15 designers are here in New York City starting the first leg of a race around the world!"

Tim: "No, they aren't. they're just running over to those tents to pick out some fabric."

Phil: "And that's where they'll find their first clue."

Tim: "No; then they'll take the fabric back to Parsons and make an outfit."

Phil: "Once they've completed this task, they'll be handed their next clue."

Tim: "Oh, for the love of god."

So the designers are all running at top speed across the lawn because they all have to have that one amazing plaid fabric that is visible from space. Poor "larger than life" Chris finally makes it to the tents looking like he's just finished a half marathon but he still gets the fabric he wanted.

Back at Parsons Jack puts on his fabric like a cape and says he's a superhero:

One of the designers (Christian?): "Well, he looks like a superhero!"

The rest of the designers: "Yeah, he's cute!"

Jack: "Oh, my god, you guys; I'm right here! It makes me very uncomfortable when everyone is constantly talking about how good looking I am! Will you guys be a little more sensitive and show some class?"

Other designers: "You're right, Jack. It was very insensitive of us to make you feel like a sex object and we are sorry."

Jack: "Apology accepted. Besides, you bitches couldn't afford me."

Elisa is working with grass-stained fabric. She is measuring her model:

Elisa: "OK, first I'm going to measure you psychically by waving my hands around you and getting vibrations from these crystals and the magical fairies that are talking to me."

Model: "Why don't you use a tape measure like a normal person? Are you saying I'm fat?"

Elisa: "Then I'm going to sew the dress together while I'm wearing it."

Model: "Oh, my god; do you think we wear the same size dress?! I'm never eating again!"

OK, before the judging we go on a trip to the Broad Foundation in Santa Monica with Santino Rice. I'll be damned if I can figure out why. It would have been nice if he had explained a little bit about the Broad Foundation instead of just telling us he likes to go there because "art is fashion." Did you like what you saw? Do you want to visit? Well, too bad; you can't. The Broad collection is not open to the public; It's a lending collection that is available to scholars by appointment. I guess the point of that little segment was to demonstrate that Santino is special enough to get into the Broad collection.

Back to the show:

No, wait; first we have to vote on what we like best about Project Runway:

What's your favorite part?

1: The pregnancies.

2: The screaming.

3: The sex.

4: The drunken parties.


5: Tim Gunn.

You can only vote for one!

OK, FINALLY, on to the runway:

Heidi looks cute in a little gold dress. The guest judge is Monique Lhuillier.

Other Eric: "So that's what she looks like."

Christian's outfit is very nice. Eric doesn't like it but I think it's cute. It looks very well made. The judges agree with me and pronounce it good.

Rami's dress is beautiful! He really is a master of draping. The bust of his dress doesn't look as good on the model as it did on the mannequin but the back of the dress is gorgeous. He deservedly wins this challenge. He gets immunity for the next challenge. Congratulations, Rami!

Victoria's black dress is kind of interesting. It's one of the outfits left on the runway that you are not sure whether the judges think it is in the top or the bottom. Turns out they liked it.

Elisa's model was almost strangled to death as she got tangled up in the stupid train flowing out of the bottom of the dress. Heidi thought it looked like the model was pooping fabric. Michael Kors thought Elisa should have edited herself and left off the train. Elisa goes into a 45 minute explanation of the spiritual experience you were supposed to get from seeing the fabric flowing behind the dress. Too much talk, not enough walk.

Andre Gonzalo: "Seriously; what the hell is wrong with these people?"

Elisa: "You know, there was a little voice in my head telling me to cut off the train."

Tim: "Actually that was me. People often confuse me with the little voice in their head."

Ricky is in the bottom three because he made a little baby doll dress. It's true that it's a pretty boring design but it's very cute and well made so I'll give him a pass on this one.

Simone created an astoundingly bad outfit. There was nothing redeeming about it.

Other Eric: "I like the color of the waistband."

Wow, he really had to scrape for that compliment. The dress was boring, the jacket was a mess, and the whole thing was just so badly made.

This was an easy decision. Simone had to go. Sorry!

Next week someone makes a dramatic announcement!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Designing Erics: the remodel!



To start at the beginning, we were not really in the market for a house but we had been looking around a little bit because we were tired of using a community laundry room and a downstairs neighbor who kept us up all night blasting her stereo. But our apartment was cool and it was pretty spacious so we were not in any hurry. We weren't really finding anything we liked, either; most places were a lot smaller than our apartment, had bad parking, were in a bad location, had been badly remodeled, etc.

But then one day after looking around we drove to this neighborhood with all these cool mid-century townhomes where Eric has wanted to live ever since he moved to Los Angeles. There was an open house and Eric wanted to go in:

Me: "What's the point? We can't afford it."

Other Eric: "Come on! I've always wanted to live here!"

Me: "Oh, all right."

Cut to a few minutes later:

Me: "Um, that was kind of perfect."

Other Eric: "Yeah."

It had pretty much everything we wanted: it was built in 1964 and had some mid-century features; it hadn't been remodeled so it still had original details; it had the space we needed with two bedrooms and a den; two and a half bathrooms; a big eat-in kitchen that opens into the dining and living rooms; a laundry room; an attached garage with a storage room; a nice patio area; a community pool (which was featured on an episode of Desperate Housewives a few weeks ago); it's on a nice quiet street; and it was almost affordable.

It was priced about 20% below other units in the complex because it needed so much work. Oh, it was so awful: filthy rust-orange carpeting and fantastically horrific vinyl in the kitchen. Oh, OK, we kind of liked the vinyl but we had to get rid of it so we could put the bamboo floors through the whole downstairs.

Oh, and all the wallpaper in the bathrooms!


Oh, sweet Jesus.

But it was just such a relief not to see the generic remodel that we encountered in all the other overpriced condos we entered: the same granite countertops, the same tasteful lighting fixtures, the same beige colors. I know sellers and flippers are told to make a place as dull and generic as possible so the greatest number of customers will be bored into buying it. But I don't get it.

So basically every inch of the place needed to be refinished, though we haven't done everything yet. We had to rip out the wallpaper, the vinyl, and the carpeting, and repaint all the walls and cabinets. We put in bamboo flooring downstairs and carpeting upstairs. We kept the cabinets but painted them brown, we kept the flooring and the vanities in the upstairs baths even though they need to be replaced at some point. We kept the cottage cheese ceilings for now because we don't mind them. I know for resale they need to be removed but I don't know why people hate them so much; they really do help the acoustics of the rooms.

We also kept the tile counters in the kitchen for now because we can't decide what we want to do with them. We were going to get orange Formica counters and try to replicate the Brady Bunch kitchen but that just didn't happen. I thought it would be so funny to tell people, "Oh, yeah, we ripped out the granite countertops and put in Formica." But we decided it was stupid to replace the tile with Formica and we couldn't find a color we liked anyway. So we don't have the Brady kitchen but it still looks pretty cute. I don't mind the tile counters (though they are a little damaged around the sink) but the yellow just doesn't work with anything.

Anyway, here's how the schedule of the remodel was supposed to go:

Day 1: have the locks changed, the air conditioning serviced, and get an estimate for the floor.

Day 2: rip out the cabinets hanging between the kitchen and dining room, the vanity and the toilet in the powder room, and the florescent lighting fixtures in the bathrooms.

Day 3: refinish the cabinets in the kitchen.

Day 4: paint the walls.

Day 5: remove the wallpaper in the bathrooms.

Day 6: repaint the bathrooms and put in new light fixtures.

And on the seventh day I would rest.

OK, so obviously that's not what happened but I figured, even if everything took twice as long as I thought it would, I could still finish in two weeks, right. Well, no.

My mom did come out to stay and help me, so that was good. Eric had to go to "work" so I had to do most of the remodel myself. No, seriously, Eric had the downpayment and I get a lot more vacation time so it made sense for me to take time off to do the work. I took almost three weeks off (and I still had three weeks of vacation left).

But even when Eric wasn't at work he seemed to either be at the Hollywood Bowl or in temple. Is it true that the entire month of September is a Jewish holiday? I think he was making that up. No, I'm just kidding; he was great help, looking over my shoulder and telling me I missed a spot. No, seriously, he did help. I kid because I love.

Anyway, day one went OK except that I paid way too much for new locks and door-knobs. I was trying to do too many things at once and I let myself get conned by the locksmith. So apparently I ended up with the same locks used by the Israeli military or something like that. I guess it's good to have quality locks but we really don't have many suicide bombings in our neighborhood so it's probably more security than we need. And anyone could just smash our patio door if they wanted to get in that badly. That's why I like to do the work myself so I don't have to deal with people overcharging me.

Day two was when the schedule started to fall apart. Tearing out the cabinets was fun but much more difficult than I thought. They were not just bolted in like new cabinets; all the cabinets were nailed in piece by piece so the only way to remove them was to saw them apart. What an ordeal! But it was so satisfying to have them gone! Taking down the hanging cabinets really opened up the kitchen/dining space. And there were also cabinets that had been added under the breakfast bar. We thought about keeping them but the room looks so much bigger with them gone. And they were built right on top of the original carpeting! Ugh! That's so gross. Anyway, ripping out the cabinets took more than one day but it still went pretty smoothly.

Things really went to hell when we tried to stay on schedule refinishing the kitchen cabinets. That took forever! The cabinets, of course, had over forty years of grime on them so they were really difficult to clean and then we sanded them and put on primer and two coats of paint. As you can imagine, that takes several days. Oh, I tried staining them dark brown first but that didn't work so we went with dark brown paint instead. And, of course, when we put on new hinges they didn't fit because hing sizes have changed just a tiny bit since these cabinets went up. Why? Why would they change the size of hinges by 1/16th of an inch? It's insane! Anyway, I tried drilling new holes but it still didn't work so I had to put the old, dirty hinges back on. Yuck. And there are new drill holes, which Eric is thrilled about. Oh, well.

We cheated in painting the kitchen: I just couldn't face sanding down all the walls and ceiling so we painted right over the glossy paint, which you shouldn't do because it won't stick very well (painting over matt paint is fine). So we had a little peeling problem in a few places but I think it's fine now. I should have used a deglazer first but I thought the primer would be good enough. I think it should be fine but it was pretty tacky for a couple of weeks. I learned later that it can take a month for paint to completely dry. Weird.

Wallpaper! Here's where the shit really hit the fan. The wallpaper in the powder room was hell to remove. I almost lost my mind. I tried everything: the scorer, the gel, the scrapers. Eric suggested putting plastic wrap over the area where you have applied the gel because that way it can soak in longer without drying out. That actually helped a little But not enough. Eric finally figured out that we just had to sand the wallpaper right off the wall. It took forever but we finally did it. If the wallpaper had actually been something groovy and tacky in a cool way we probably would have just kept it but it was just ugly. Except that after we had sanded the flocking off it wasn't as bad.
Yeah, I kind of liked it once it was partially sanded away; it looked very antique. We decided to keep it on the ceiling to save some time and Eric got a paint color called "caraway seed" that really complimented the remains of the paper so that it almost looks like we did it on purpose. It's just the ceiling so it isn't overwhelming but it adds a bit of whimsy and visual interest to the room.

I really hated the powder room. That room was dead to me. I was close to buying drywall and just covering the whole thing. And we were in such a rush to finish the major work downstairs because we had the flooring guys coming. We didn't get it finished but we got most of the scraping done. When they came to put in the floor the room really looked like hell, with holes where the medicine cabinet, toilet, and vanity had been, and the awful unpainted walls. One of the flooring guys said it reminded him of something out of a horror movie.

But after the room was painted and the wood floor, new sink, and toilet were put in, it suddenly became my favorite room in the whole house! I'm sure it was just because it was the biggest challenge. (That cool mirror belonged to my great-grandfather.)

So the flooring guys did a great job! We bought the wood at Simple Floors, which is similar to Lumbar Liquidators, and had a local installer put it in. They finished the whole job in three days, including new baseboards and clean-up! Another unit in our complex was putting in floors for weeks! Our guys rocked!
Now, here's some advice in case you are thinking of getting new carpeting: most carpeting is in stock in a nearby warehouse and takes just a few hours to install so make sure you order it, oh, say, about three or four years ahead of time. Yeah, for some reason the carpeting turned out to be the real problem. It was such a nightmare! We had to change the date of our move because we couldn't get the carpeting put in.
I really thought the carpeting was going to be the easiest part so I just wasn't worried about it. Eric kept saying, "we need to order the carpet," and I kept saying, "you go ahead and order it if you want; that's not my top priority." I really thought we could order it anywhere and get it installed pretty quickly. And the carpeting upstairs, which we may need to replace in ten years, just wasn't as important a decision as, say, the wood floor downstairs that needs to last forever. And I kept saying, "if worse comes to worst, we can always just call Empire and they can install it the next day."

Well, that is if Empire can actually find your house to do the estimate. We wasted an entire evening waiting around for the Empire salesman and they kept calling the wrong number to say the guy was lost and we later figured out the guy was actually parked in the alley behind our garage but he never managed to find our front door. It was so weird. So we gave up and ordered some carpet from Lowe's. It was one of their "express" options that was supposed to be available in three days. We had a week before the move so that should have been fine. But four days, and then five days later and the carpet still hadn't been delivered to the installer. The carpet was sitting in the warehouse but for some reason they couldn't manage to get it to us! Ugh! So we had to cancel that order, change the date of the move, and try Empire one more time. I gave the Empire phone lady the address, and detailed instructions, and I explained that our house does actually have a door that the person can come to and knock on (!) and gave her the phone number that WE WANTED THEM TO USE BECAUSE WE WOULD ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO ANSWER IT!:

Empire phone lady: "Can I get an alternate number?"

Me: "NO!"

Anyway, Empire is, of course, over-priced. But they did actually install it the next day (once they found the house), the carpet is nice, and they did a good job. We are happy with it but I'm sure we could have saved some money if we had ordered earlier from another company. The carpet cost almost as much as the wood floor, which seems ridiculous.

Well, that's enough for now! I'll keep posting with more horror stories, project details, and updates. There is still so much to do!

Oh, yeah, we have a ghost! Our friend Aimee can see ghosts and she sees a woman sitting on our sofa. It's probably the original owner, Rosalind, who died here in the house a few years ago at age 92. That sofa is so uncomfortable I can't believe even a ghost would want to sit there. But I'm happy for her to sit anywhere she wants as long as she stops screwing with the plumbing. (Seriously, the toilet tank in the master bath cracked the day before we took ownership and nobody had been in the house! Spooky!)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Kitchen Nightmares!

Did you see Gordon Ramsay last night? I've never watched his show before but he was at a restaurant called Sebastian's, which is right by our house so we watched. Eric, who has lived and worked in the area for many years, always said what a terrible reputation it has, nobody he knows ever goes there, and that it always looks empty.

But it was still stunning to see just how bad it is. The guy not only can't cook but he has no interest in cooking. He just likes calling himself a cook and heating up frozen food. Who wants to go to a restaurant to eat frozen food? All he is interested in is his restaurant's "concept," which he thinks is marketable. Apparently the concept is "bad food." I guess he thinks bad food is somehow a unique idea. Has he been to Applebee's?

And a big, confusing menu is not a new concept, either. Jerry's Famous Deli has been doing it for years but they must have realized this because they recently renovated the menu so that it is easier to read (it's organized more like a Cheesecake Factory menu now.)

Anyway, Gordon changed things around and made it so people might actually want to eat there and I was thinking I might give it a try. They were making fresh pizza dough and roasting chickens in a wood-fire oven and the food looked pretty good. But by the end of the program, and from what I've read on the Internet, it looks like Sebastian went back to his old menu of terrible food. Everyone who works at the restaurant really wants to make good food except for the owner. It's really sad.

[Update: OK, so according to Sebastian's website, it looks like he has revised his menu. It looks like maybe it's a combination of his old menu and the one Gordon Ramsay recommended for him. Now the question is whether he is using fresh ingredients. If I knew I weren't getting pre-packaged food I think I would give the place a try.]