Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Six months have gone by ...

and as usual, much has happened.  My Federal case is over and legal costs were in the thousands.  I did not receive reinstatement so I can't go back to work Federally - not that I wanted to but it would have been nice to complete 30 years instead of 28.  Now receiving Social Security, free medical through the State of California (thank you!) and my days are my own.

The stress of the last two years are gone and I've returned to the life I love doing.  Taking care of me and my girls and doing what it is I like to do.

Here are some pictures of my girls.  Now thirteen years old they are my favorite things to take care of.

This is my Sissy.  She is the most vocal and most loving.  She wakes me up, talks to me, follows me around like a dog and, altho' I hate to say it, she is my very favorite.

This is Celia, the oldest sister (there are four in all).  I call her Momma because as little girls she took care of her smaller sisters.  Momma sleeps with me while the other girls come and go throughout the night.  She is a bit chubby.

Here are CiCi and CiCi Bon lounging on the bed with Sissy.  When they were little I could not tell CiCi and CiCi Bon apart.  They all have different personalities.  CiCi Bon is the baby.

Not sure I ever posted this picture below.  It is a view from the living room down the hallway and into the kitchen.  Out of view is the doorway to the bathroom as well as the rest of the kitchen and the pantry.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Last Remodeling Project:  New Drapes

It took a good two months before I was able to obtain the 300-thread Egyptian Midnight Blue 100% cotton material I wanted for the bay-window's custom-made drapes.  I ordered the material four times and the seller(s) either lied, grabbed my money, then claimed the material was 'back-ordered' or purposely sent the wrong color (Teal Blue, a very light washed out blue).  I finally found the material from a small independent fabric wholesaler and he gave me a very good price.  The yardage arrived within a week of the order and today was the day I sat down to measure, cut, sew, hem and hang the drapes. The bay window faces the west and lights up beautifully by two p.m. each day casting the room in a beautiful blue light.

Over the last ten months I undertook a complete remodeling of my apartment.  Today it looks nothing like it did last year.  The new features include a custom made loft bed that stands six feet tall and required a separate custom-made set of stairs for entry.  In the living room I added a hand-woven Oriental 10' X 15' rug from China, hired carpenters to create two custom-made dressers, replaced every door within the apartment with louvered double-doors, added a new shower and toilet, Turkish sheet towels, light fixtures and probably fifteen gallons of white semi-gloss and flat paints.

The work on the apartment is now done.  Here are the new drapes:

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

Where have I been?  March is almost over and this is the first chance I get to post?  Crazy.

To begin with I'll go back to my last successful project.  As you know I'm in a rent controlled apartment and management will do as little as possible to upgrade my place.  They won't paint or replace an 50-year old sink, I had to buy my own refrigerator and after my front door was bashed in, while I was at work, rather then fix the molding and fix the door they simply turned the door around, pulled off the hinges and placed them on the opposite side.  To put the door lock in they had to turn it upside down.  So now the door opens in the opposite direction (into the kitchen) rather then into the living room.  All the other apartment entry doors in the building open into the living room except mine.  The hall is just four feet wide so a visitor has to step in to the hallway and toward the kitchen so I can close the entry door to grant them access to the living room.

Why do I put up with it?  Because I'm paying no where near the $2,200 my new neighbors are paying for their apartment.  FAR FAR less.

Sometimes you wonder how a building owner can be so terribly stupid and in my case our building owner was removed as building manager and replaced, by court order, by a management company.  This happened to the building owner because he was a total shit and harassed the hell out of his long-term tenants in an attempt to push them out so he could triple and quadruple the rent.  Wisely we banded together, hired a fine lawyer and sued the bajeebees out of the guy and that lawsuit ended up costing the owner his right to directly manage the building.  The building was placed in a trust and each of us was guaranteed, by the court, we'd have the right to live in our units without harassment until we decided to move on.  "As far as this court is concerned, you can live there until you die..." was the Judge's words.

Which brings me to my recently completed project.

The building was built back in the early 40's as a hotel for servicemen.  Toward the end of the 50's the owner converted the hotel rooms into 20 apartments and 6 SROs (single room only).  Two of the apartments had two bedrooms, four apartments had one bedroom and the other twelve apartments consisted of a living room, an alcove (large enough for a full size bed) off the living room, a hallway, bathroom, kitchen and pantry.  All 20 apartments have a non-working brick fireplace with a gas connection for a small gas heater.  Years ago I replaced the small gas heater with a set of ceramic (gas) logs and this served me well until a year ago when the management company announced they were replacing all the heaters with better, safer, more economic heaters.

I thought for sure they would allow me to keep the gas logs but no, they came in and disconnected the logs, pulled them out of the fireplace, extended the gas pipe outside the actual fireplace then sealed up the fireplace entrance with a thick piece of sheet metal.  Next came the new heaters which ended up being a huge piece of crap that put out very little heat and were constantly losing their pilot light.

Take a look:

When you walked into the living room this was the biggest eyesore.  I could cover it with a table and table cloth but that was silly because you could still see it and you couldn't actually sit at the table because the heater took up too much leg space.

I have completed remodeled the living room and now down to the last two project items and both are pretty easy (drapes) and minor (drill a hole through a wall for an antenna cable).

Last week I completed the most glaring eyesore project: the heater.

At first I was determined to simply cap off the gas line and move the disabled heater into my one and only closet.  Management surprised me, after nearly 50 years, and decided to replace all the windows in the bay window with new frames and double-paned glass.  They were only doing this for those of us living in the front of the building.  Years ago I put up shutters in an attempt to drown out the street noise.  I may be four floors up (top floor) but fire trucks, ambulances, screaming drunks, horns honking and all the other street noise you can think of was often overwhelming.  If I was on the phone I'd have to wait for the sirens to go by before I could hear or talk.

With the new windows came the building manager and my apartment was the first to get the new windows because - I'll be honest - it was the nicest looking apartment of all those in the front of the building.  At that time I complained to the building manager about the heater and asked if I could have their permission to cap the gas pipe and move it into my closet.  He said it wasn't possible.  City code required the room to retain the heater but the heater did not have to be connected and working.

So I couldn't move it.  You walked into the finished living room this is what you saw:

and it was horrible!

So what to do?  What if I hollowed out a credenza and covered the heater?  The credenza could be low enough that I could place a cushion on it for sitting.  I put together a quick rendition, sit down and when I leaned back I cracked my head on the protruding bricks.  The credenza idea would not work.

But the idea was good and I expanded it.  I needed additional storage space, especially for things like sweaters, underwear, socks, t-shirts, etc.  What if I hollowed out the two bottom drawers of a four or five dresser?  I saw this as the best option and began looking for a dresser.  I went to IKEA and found the design that was perfect but the dresser wasn't deep enough and would have to be modified in height to fit exactly under the protruding bricks.  I spent a few days looking everywhere and it came down to the fact that I would need a custom made dresser.

That could cost some big bucks if I went to a professional cabinet or furniture maker.  I thought I would try my luck on Craigslist.  I put up an ad offering to pay a handyman or retired carpenter $150 if he could construct the dresser out of old or surplus wood.  I got a slew of responses - some indignant and rude (can't be done - are you crazy) to many offering to take on the project.  Not only would the builder have to adhere to my strict size requirements but he would also be required to deliver the dresser to the front of my building.

I got offers from a prop carpenter, a guy "good with his hands", another guy who sold his services putting together IKEA furniture and was confident he could build the dresser himself, a retired carpenter who wanted $300 - but the best offer came from a high school woodworking teacher who wanted to take on the project for his advanced woodworking class.  He thought it was a great idea and but he couldn't accept payment for the work itself altho he could use the $150 for wood and materials.  And he promised to deliver the dresser himself within two weeks.

We closed the deal and payment was to be provided to the school via PayPal upon delivery.

Two weeks to the day he arrived, with two of his students, with the dresser:

  Two days later I had it repainted and now when you walk into the room you see this:

BIG difference, huh?  You have no idea that within that dresser sits that God-awful ugly heater!  And I got it all for just $150.

Here's a panoramic view of most of the living room.  I am sewing new floor to ceiling drapes out of Midnight Blue Egyptian cotton and, tho' you don't see it because I've photoshopped it out of the picture, an amazing outdoor (tiny, the size of an iPad) digital antenna needs to be mounted outside my Bay Window (rather then sitting behind my computer screen as it does now).

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Girls Get Their Own Bathroom

Based on information provided by the original landlords this building was built back in the forties as a hotel for sailors who came into the port of San Francisco.  All three floors consisted of single rooms and a few double, some with bathrooms but most without.  Those without were served with a community shower room and separate toilet.

Fruit-Cabinet In Kitchen Converted For The Girls

The owner of the building was a man by the name of Weinstein.  Mr. Weinstein established a group of six Weinstein stores that were copy-cats of Woolworth's famous Five & Ten Cent stores.  Mr. Weinstein decided to remodel the old sailors hotel and convert the rooms into twelve one-bedroom and two two-bedroom apartments.  He left six rooms as they were, three on each floor, and these rooms were without kitchen facilities, although they had a small sink and running water, with toilet and shower access down the hall.

Each of the apartments had an alcove off the living room.  This room, generally eight feet wide, eight feet long and sixteen feet high, could serve as a second or third bedroom with the additional of a curtain.  Legally Weinstein could not advertise this as an additional bedroom but upon viewing to a potential resident he highlighted the advantage of the alcove.

The bathrooms in the apartments were small with a stansard-sized claw-foot bathtub, a toilet and a sink with medicine cabinet.  The kitchens were large enough for a four-seat table, refrigerator and stove.  The kitchens also included an open-air fruit cabinet three by three by two and a half feet.  The cabinet was built to extended into the large airwell and had a set of doors.  The outside wall of the cabinet did not exist, instead the back of the cabinet consisted of steel screening.  In the summer a resident could open these doors and receive a soft cool breeze throughout the apartment it served as a cool storage space for fruits and vegetables.  Off the kitchen was a small pantry with shelves, a wooden counter with built-in large sink and a group of four large drawers.

I moved into the apartment back in the late sixties.  The story of how I got the apartment is for another time but I moved in alone and paid sixty-five dollars a month plus utilities of about six dollars a month on average.  Over the years I used the fruit cabinet more as a storage area because the apartment was short on storage.  There was a small closet next to the alcove and off the living room and another small closet in the bedroom.  Each was barely large enough to turn around in.

After the Prieta earth quake of 1989 the four kitchen windows broke and fell out.  By that time the building was being managed by a Muslim and he did little to nothing when it came to repairs.  For those of us in rent controlled units we were on our own.  I replaced the windows with wooden frames and sheets of plastic, taped up the doors of the fruit cabinet and painted over them effectively removing the cabinet from use and view.

On Mother's Day in 2000 I brought home four baby girl cats, all sisters, and offered to me by a neighborhood vet who had spayed and given them their first set of shots.  I love these girls and each has a separate personality.  Now at thirteen they are my dearest companions.  We have never spent a night away from each other.  For years they've used a large litter box that has to be changed on a weekly basis, rain or shine but I don't mind.  I have always fed them the best food I could and because they are indoor cats made sure they had plenty of things to do and play with.  The litter box has had a variety of spots within the apartment - under the kitchen sink or under the bathroom sink usually.

As I began to remodel and repaint the kitchen I did it in sections.  The ceiling first, then half of one wall following by the next wall and so on.  Everything above my waist has been painted cake-icing white in a semi-gloss.  With the bay windows being replaced with new windows next week I decided to unseal that fruit-cabinet and see what was still in there and how I could utilize it once again.

Inside were clay pots, bags of dirt and some rusted gardening tools.  I took everything out and down to the trash bins.  The screening at the back of the cabinet had deteriorated so that, with the doors open, I had a full breezeway and I could hear all of the conversations of my neighbors below and across from me.  At first I decided to block this breezeway with another frame-scheme: built a frame to fit snugly, encase the frame in thick plastic and screw it into place.  I knew it wouldn't last more than a year or so and I'd have to re-cover the frame again.  After making the frame and putting it into place I put the cat's litter box in the cabinet and realized it was the perfect little bathroom for the girls.  I would not have to drop to my knees to scoop out the soiled litter and with a small carpet placed on the bottom the girls could wipe their feet before jumping out of the cabinet and traipsing litter into the kitchen.  I tried it for a few days and the girls loved it.  I could close one half of the cabinet doors leaving the other ajar allowing them to enter and leave on their own.

Now that I had a bathroom for the girls I wanted to improve upon it or really finish it off.  I pulled out the plastic covered frame and with hand saw and portable drill I cut six inch wide pieces of wood to fit perfectly, used a sealant gun to seal them into place then screwed them tightly to prevent any rain water from entering.  The wood blocked all the sounds of the neighbors whereas the plastic did not and I was sure the noise from one or two of the girls who love to dig and paw their way in the litter for ten minutes before finding "just the right spot" would drive my neighbors nuts.

Once the back cabinet wall was in place I painted everything inside and out, replaced one of the hinges on the left cabinet door so it would open and close freely and am now awaiting for the paint to thoroughly dry before adding a piece of black outdoor runner rug custom fitted followed by the large plastic litter box.

I'll report on the finished project in a few days, once everything is dry and in place.  I want to give it another coat of paint but for now, here are a few pictures of the cabinet.  I WISH I had taken before and after pictures but now, all I have are these "almost completed" pictures:

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thursday, January 31, 2013

New Windows

Notice slipped under the door announcing installation of new windows would take place February 20 and 21.  I was informed of this update earlier.  I will have to remove all sixteen shutters from the bay window and replace them with drapes. 

Updating My Home Life
Back in June of 2012 I found myself home 24/7 - the first time in many many years and needed something to fill my time.  I had boxes, old furniture, clothes and crap filling up the place.  I looked into getting it all removed and the City agreed to haul it all away.  Every resident is allowed to place items on the sidewalk for City pickup.  I had a huge sectional sofa, wing chairs, kitchen and side tables, four large carpets and boxes and boxes of computer items from printers to scanners to cords and technical devices. 

Then I repainted - something I hadn't done for years.  I purchased a custom-sized six foot tall queen-sized loft bed that I had to install myself and a beautiful 10X15' handwoven oriental carpet out of China (delivered by UPS right to my third floor apartment door).  Furniture that was useable I sold on Craig's List and used that for additional remodeling.  I removed all the old doors from every room - kitchen, bathroom, living room, closets, bedroom, pantry and replaced them with double louvered doors.  Everything was painted cake icing white, including the floor, all semi-gloss.  The white makes all the new space appear to be even bigger than it is.

To get in and out of the bed I needed a ladder of some kind.  I have four cats, all sisters, and they needed a way to climb into the bed too so I found a company up the coast who makes outdoor furniture out of aged Redwood.  They offered a beautiful tall stool that when expanded offered three steps.  I had them custom build the stool/stairs to 36 inches (3 feet).  That height makes it perfect for me and the girls to climb into the bed.  I then bought a 5 foot highboy dresser to slip under the loft bed.  Looking at the picture below you can see the beautiful hand-woven oriental carpet.  The bed is 7 feet long and almost six feet wide - plenty of room for me, the girls and an overnight boyfriend.

I removed and discarded the bay window shutters and in early January my building manager dropped by and offered to replace all of my apartment windows with double-paned glass and to put in a shower over my bathtub.

Other items related to the remodel include repainting four kitchen chairs and recovering the seats in the same drapery material that hangs below the loft bed (used for storage).  Here are a few pictures related to the home changes:  a full shot of the carpet, the loft frame as I was putting it together and the Bay window before all the shutters were up and painted white:

Why The Blog?

I dunno.  I just decided to start recording my life and putting it out there as a record.  More tomorrow (or another day....) :-)