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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Remodel...Master Bathroom - Completion

Putting together the finished product takes a lot of coordination.   Many people are involved and many tasks have dependencies...something has to be done first before the next step can start. 

I put together a 23-step plan, both in English and Spanish, identifying what needed to be done, by whom, and by when.  For example, my tile installer couldn't install the new floor tiles until my plumber completed construction of the bathtub support structure...and it had dried for several days.  The cabinet-makers couldn't install the new vanity until the tiler had installed the floor tiles, let the cement dry, and grouted.  The countertop people couldn't cut (out of the slab) the new countertop to size until the new vanity was installed.  The new glass tub/shower enclosure couldn't be built until the new tub was in place in order to get correct measurements and, likewise, the new mirror couldn't be cut to size until the countertop and backsplash was in place.  Therefore, I believe the egg came before the chicken!!

The entire demolition and installation process, AFTER all the shopping, buying, designing, and ordering, took 2 weeks.  If anyone (of about 10 people) missed their deadline, it would cause slippage on the whole effort.

Ok, so here's the breakdown of the costs:

  • Bathtub + plumbing drain kit = $105
  • Bathtub new supporting structure = $150
  • Bathtub new acrylic/aluminum surround = $220
  • Cabinet/vanity = $350
  • Countertop (marble) = $142
  • Countertop install = $85
  • Faucets = $50
  • Light Fixtures (2) = $80
  • Mirror = $50
  • Paint = $25
  • Plumbing install = $50
  • Plumbing move = $50
  • Sinks + plumbing kits = $135
  • Tile, Floor = $226
  • Tile, Walls = $183
  • Tile, Installation = $230
  • Toilet = $100 **
  • TOTAL = $2,231
What would that cost in the USA?  A minimum of $5,500.

**  As with any project, things change, primarily due to discoveries along the way.  Even though my house is only 15 years old, apparently in the past they installed toilets differently than what we're used to.   Instead of bolting them down, they cemented them directly to the floor.  So, we had to take the good ol' standard tools of EC (hammer and chisel) and chip away the cement around the base to loosen the old toilet enough to lift it off.  I was going to re-use my old toilet.  But, when I found out we had to chip off all the remaining cement that covered the entire bottom of the toilet (and not break the toilet) I said 'no way...I'll buy a new one'.   $100 later, I have a new toilet that uses the 'new' technology of a wax ring and bolt-downs.

If you want to refresh your memory of what the bathroom looked like before, and some of the demolition photos, just go back 2 posts and re-view the photos.

Picking up from where we left off, here's the finishing touches:

Eduardo installing the new marbled creme/beige wall tiles.  Bye Bye green!!!!

Plumbing has been extended to the right, ready for the new vanity.

Tub surround, floors, and wall tiles almost finished.
New vanity cabinet in place, waiting for the marble countertop.

The new vanity WAS clean before the marble arrived.  UGH...more dust everywhere (from drilling the sink and faucet holes).

My new sinks and tower-style faucets.  Though the sinks look like rootbeer-colored marble, they ae in fact glass.  Installed them myself!!

The finished look.

New toilet (duh).  I installed this by myself, too!!  So far, no leaks!
Floor tiles are rectangular (vs square wall tiles) and are a dark brown, almost charcoal color.

New towel rack.

Tub done, new plumbing and light fixture installed.

New bronze aluminum frame with rippled acrylic panels tub enclosure completed.


Well, next week is a national holiday with special focus on Cuenca's Independence Day...an all-week celebration of many fiestas, parades, runs, younameit.   I'm sure it will provide a bounty of which to write about and post photos.  Check back in a week or so!  TAH!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Spanish - The Difference a Letter Makes

I first learned Spanish when I was in the 8th grade, junior high, in the little country town of Port Angeles, WA, back in 19 (muffle, muffle).  I kept questioning (which I did a lot of later in life) WHYYY am I learning Spanish when there isn't a single Spanish person around for at least a hundred miles??  Where and when would I ever use it?  Likewise, other students opted for French or German.   The use of those would be even FURTHER away!!!

Years later, when I was 18, I moved to San Diego which is right on the Mexican border.  I began using my Spanish, what I remembered of it, working in the hotel and restaurant industry.   But, I got off to a bad start when I pronouced a co-workers name as Jesus (Gee-zus) instead of Jesus (Hay-zus).

My Spanish in the ensuing years was pretty rudimentary.   'Mas frijoles por favor' (more beans please), 'Dos margaritas por favor' (2 margaritas please), 'Donde esta el bano?' (where is the bathroom?), and '!@#$@$' (^## (#&*(@+)  (expletives I won't go into here).

Fast forward many, many more years when I purchased some Spanish lesson CD's at Costco in preparation for my trip to Panama, and later that year to Cuenca.    The CD's were tedious and I didn't have the attention span to study (my sister inherited that talent...not us brothers).    But, I was able to re-load old memory disks long collecting dust in my brain and revived some of the knowledge I learned lo' those many years ago.

Slowly but surely, I have expanded my vocabulary....a little more every day.  Right after I arrived in Cuenca and took possession of my newly purchased house, I launched in to remodelling (which you would KNOW if you've been reading my prior blogs!!).   NONE of the workers spoke a word of English.   So, I was forced to use what I knew, body language, and the good ol' internet and it all worked out very well.   As I roamed about the city, I would see some of the same words or phrases repeated.  I would try to remember them so when I came home I'd enter them into Google Translate to see what they mean.  Also, if I was in a wi-fi area, I could connect using my cell phone and look up words on the spot, like at a restaurant if I didn't know an item on the menu.     Coupled with english-speaking Ecuadorian friends who'd help me out and my asking 'Como se dice....pointing to an item such as a bathtub?' (translation 'How do you say.....?') and the person I asked would respond 'TINA!!' very loudly thinking I'm also deaf...my Spanish-speaking skills continued to grow daily.

Finally, I decided to enroll in Spanish classes as a result of a promotional offer for free classes for the first week.   Though I know a lot of words, I don't always know how to assemble a complete sentence AND use the proper tense, etc.  There were only 2 of us in the 'class' to the 1 teacher who was great.  My classmate sorta annoyed me as she kinda hogged a lot of time.  After a week, I decided I would enroll in a different time slot....which I have yet to do.

Now you're up to date on my Spanish capabilities and history.   Let me share with you some of the idiosyncracies of the language.  There are soooooo many rules, just like there is (are?) in English.  If you tried to teach English to someone, you'd probably get stumped over and over when asked 'why?'....because who remembers the rules WHY...we just know HOW

Trying to learn all the rules in Spanish....feminine vs masculine ('a' ending vs 'o' ending), past tense vs present, modifying the base word based on pronouns (he, she, I, we, they), and those gawd-awful rules that conflict with what you were first told, is mind-boggling to say the least.

Example:   If 'Esposo' = Husband (ends in 'o'...masculine), and 'Esposa' = Wife (ends in 'a'...feminine), then when you read text referencing 'Esposos', wouldn't you think that's a gay couple of two men?   WRONG!!!  EHHHHHH!!!!  (bad buzzer).   It means a 'couple'.  Couldn't they have come up with a word like 'Esposoas'?   Then what ARE the words for two men in a relationship, or two women in a relationship?  I dunno.

To make matters more challenging is the verrrrry slightest of difference between two words, let's say just one letter, can mean a world of difference in the resulting meaning.   Be vehwy, vehwy careful!!!!
  • Vieja = old woman, Viaje = trip
  • Caro = expensive, Carro = Car
  • Casado = married, Cansado = tired (don't make the mistake of saying 'I'm very married')
  • Venga a mi casa = Come to my house, Verga = (starts with 'c' and ends with 'k'...another word for penis).  (You don't want to run around town saying 'verga' 'verga' 'verga' when you meant 'venga' 'venga' 'venga'!!!)
  • Fuera = outside, Fuerte = strong
  • Pero = but, Perro = dog
  • Por Que? = why?, Porque = because
  • Cuando? = when? = Cuanto = how much?
  • Cuarto = room, Cuatro = 4
  • Ciudad = city, Cuidad = care
  • Jugo = juice, Juego = game
  • Lave = wash, Llave = key
You get the point....

Then, there's the same words that have a different meaning depending on the context (like our 'cool' (temp) and 'cool' (nifty).
  • Escalera = stairs, or ladder
  • Cafe = cafe/restaurant, or brown
And, of course, there are multiple words you can use to say the same thing.   But, which one do you choose?  There are RULES!!!
  • 'El' vs 'La' (the)....based on whether it is masculine or feminine.  If you want to say 'the building', you must know if it is a masculine building or a feminine building.   HUH?   So, if it's a pink building it's 'La Edificio' and if it's blue it's 'El Edificio'?????   ARRGGHHHH!!!!
  • 'Su' vs 'Tu' (you)...based on whether it's informal or formal (I'm not going there)
  • 'Saber' vs 'Conocer' (to know)...based on whether it's intellectual knowledge or knowing the building is pink
  • 'Pequeno' vs 'Poquito' (small)....based on whether it is size or quantity.

So, if you're wondering why I'm not flatulant in Spanish yet, just think about all these rules one has to know.  And, ask yourself if you can answer the question 'In English, what are the rules to determine when it is proper to use 'me' and 'I'?'.  HA!!!   Ain't easy is it?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Remodel...Master Bathroom - Idea & Demolition Stage

I THOUGHT I was done with my remodeling of the house.  I had decided earlier I was only going to give each of the 3 bathrooms (well, 4 if you count the maid's bathroom) a coat of paint, new mirrors, faucets, and some artwork on the walls.   Which I've already done.  BUT....

#1.   I hate the green-colored tiles in the master bathroom
#2.  The grout in the white floor tiles is dirty
#3.  The vanity cabinet is disgusting
#4.  I don't have a bathTUB in any of the bathrooms...just showers

So, I broke my own rule and decided to spend a minimal amount of $$ by simply replacing the vanity cabinet, countertop, sinks, and faucets.  The rest would remain as-is.  After all, I wasn't in the mood to chisel off all the existing tiles in order to replace them.   The cost of Plan B (Plan A was the initial re-painting which was already done) would be around $600.  I can live with that.  

I got to thinking of my new kitchen floors and thought...'hey, they were able to install the new porcelain tiles right over the old...I wonder if they can do that in the bathroom, too?'.  UH OH.  Answer = Yes.

So, I explored the idea of replacing the tiles, too, since I wouldn't have to chip off all the existing tile which would be a nightmare task.    Tiles are cheap here.  Labor is cheap here.  UH OH.   About $400 to do the floors and walls?  Not bad.

Gee, I wonder how much a bathtub would cost?  I don't need anything fancy like a jetted tub as I KNOW that is out of my budget (as if I have a budget!!).  Just a plain LONG tub (everything is short here) that I can soak in.   Many were pricier than I wanted to pay, but a little diligence in my search rewarded me with just what I needed for a mere $70.   And, I saved a lot of money in the sink, faucets, and countertop categories.  Again, by digging around, I found the marble countertop at a huge discount because it was being liquidated.  Designer sinks can be expensive, but as luck would have it, a hardware store just got in a new line of glass bowls with very interesting colors and patterns from China (natch) that cost only $39 a piece!   Likewise, faucets are grossly overpriced especially if they are anything interesting or designer-ish.  There was no way I was going to pay $200 - $300 for the type of faucet I wanted.   But, I got what I wanted for only $50.

Well, since a full remodel of the master bath, versus Plan A or B, wouldn't cost THAT much....and NOTHING like it would cost in the USA, I switched to Plan C.

Plan C:
  • New vanity cabinet
  • New marble countertop
  • New glass sinks that sit on top of the counter
  • New tower faucets
  • Move water lines and sink drain over a couple feet to accomodate the new vanity in new position on the wall
  • Large slab mirror
  • New paint and paint color (to go over what I just painted 4 months ago)
  • New wall tiles
  • New floor tiles
  • Demolition of old shower tile basin and glassed enclosure/surround
  • New walled and tiled bathtub support structure
  • New bathtub
  • New glass tub enclosure with sliding door
  • New hand-held shower massager
  • Keep existing toilet
  • Keep existing tub faucets
  • Keep existing fixtures for toilet paper, towel rods, etc
Plan C is just Plan B tweeked a bit.    ;-)


I ordered the cabinet from the same place I got my closets and kitchen cabinets.  Ditto with the countertop, creme-colored square wall tiles, and dark cocoa-colored rectangular floor tiles.

I ripped out the ugly vanity, countertop, and faucets.   Then, chipped out the wall tiles where the new vanity will be located, and painted the walls.   No more GREEN!!  My reliable crew of Patricio/Carlos/Rene returned to relocate the water pipes, rip out the old shower structure, and build a new supporting structure for the tub to sit in.

So, here's the before pictures and shots of the demolition.   Unfortunately, I had better 'before' photos but they were in my camera at the time it was stolen. 

Next Post:   The 'After' (hopefully, not with 'math').

I know it doesn't look so bad.   But, the tiled basin doesn't make for a comfortable tub-soaking, and the green tile.....Noooo.

ICK.  And, it smelled.   15 years old.  OUTA HERE!!

The new vanity will be moved to the right more to make more room entering the room and center it properly underneath the overhead skylight.

Rene using his handy-dandy hammer and chisel to carve out a channel in the brick/concrete for the plumbing.  Not as simple as cutting into drywall is it?

Wall carved out and ready for the plumbing to be extended to the right.

Rene using a small sledge hammer to demolish the old shower surround structure.  Didn't have to care about damaging the floor since it's being replaced.  Same as when I painted...I could slop it all over...no problemo!!

Ready for the new mini-wall to be built to support the new tub.  Saved part of the old shower wall to re-use.

Patricio building the new support wall.

With tub sitting in the new wall.   The gaps are for pouring sand thru them to create support underneath the tub.  The wall looks pretty crude and the bricks are crooked in some places.  Will be interesting to see the final result!!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Four Short Stories

I have so many things to write about, but I've been saving them because the events aren't completely done yet.  For example, I'm remodeling my master bathroom, but it's not done yet.   I went to Quito, my car was broken into and my camera stolen (yes, I was stupid and left it in the glove compartment), so I'm missing half of my photos.   I started taking photos of roadside shrines, but I don't have enough yet.   I started taking Spanish classes, but had to put it on hold for a bit.   Soooo....what do I write about?

Well, I guess what I'll do is sorta like what we all do in the kitchen.   Put a little of this and a little of that, plus some of those, and oh what the heck toss some of these and push MIX.  Voila...a complete dish, or in this case, a published blog article containing 4 short stories.  

Roof Construction

Huh?  You're starting with how roofs are constructed?   Okaaaay.   I've mentioned how most houses are built here...with brick and/or concrete.  And, the fact there's very little to burn should one catch on fire.  But, lying underneath that peaked roofline is eeery construction.    Take a look at my photos of the insides of MY roofline.   What forests exist here are primarily Eucalyptus and Pine trees and, in the jungle, lots of bamboo.   There's very little in the way of fabricated 2 x 4's, 2 x 12's, etc.   Most 'lumber' here is rudimentary pieces of wood not having any perfected dimensions.  Throughout the city, there are 'lumber' yards with criss-crossed stacks of wood planks, sometimes 20 feet high, drying out.   But, that lumber is primarily used for making furniture, not in house construction.    When you look at the photos of my roofline, you'll see raw, young tree trunks used in the spans.   Then, a rippled fiberglass-like sheeting is placed over that to provide the primary protection from rain, etc, then tiles overlayed on top of that to create the finished look and secondary level of protection from the elements.

There's virtually no such thing as insulation (as we commonly know it) here.  Ceiling tiles are somehow cemented to a web of bamboo which is connected by wires to the tree trunk 'beams'.  How they get it to look even is beyond my comprehension.   If you lift off a ceiling panel, you're immediately in the attic space.  The ceiling tile is all there is between you and the roof.  Ok, so enough already on roofs!!

The grid you see on the bottom is bamboo to which my ceiling tiles are cemented.  That's all there is between my interior rooms and 'outside'.
 My Martha Moment

I have been trying to find artwork to compliment bare places on my walls but don't like a lot of what I find, or it's too expensive.   Then I got an idea utilizing the 2nds (failed inspection) dishes that Artesa sells (see previous posts).   On Fridays, from 9am - 12pm, the 2nds room is open to the public where you can scour through HUNDREDS of dishes of all sizes, shapes, colors, and uses and buy for 70% off retail.   I bought 39 items for $35.   This is where Martha comes in.   Even though I own a glue gun, I forgot I owned a glue gun.  So, I bought some LocTite and started matching plates of different sizes and colors and created my own pieces of 'art' (though some might debate that term).   Then, I set to finding the right locations to hang them on my walls.  Some went in my kitchen, most ended up in my sunroom.  I could easily lose control and have them all over the house, but I'm trying to retain control and use them sparingly and wisely.  I like them, anyone else who doesn't can 'build a bridge and get over it' (my favorite saying).

My purchases.

I glued some smaller espresso-sized plates to larger coffee cup plates to create more colors and depth.  Then, hung them above my drab kitchen window for a spash of character.

Inter-mixed plates among my wall plants in my sunroom.

Ok....laugh all you want to.   I think it's kinda whimsical and it's not like I hung it in my living room.  It's out in the sunroom.

I'm a Rose-Aholic

I finally admitted it to my family recently.   I need a 12-step program to treat my Rose-Aholism.  

When I had my waterfront house (for sale for $659,000 on 1/3 acre...anyone interested?   ANYONE??) built in Bremerton, WA, I had this huge piece of land as a blank canvas for designing my landscaping.  I swore I would not plant roses because they require so much work to care for them.   I ended up having over 30 rose bushes!!    I can't help it when I see the beautiful array of colors and the fact they produce and produce over and over versus a lot of plants that bloom once and then they're over.   I could make some reference to the similarity of an orgasm here, but I won't.

My house here in Ecuador has a very tiny front yard, divided in 2 sections...about the size of two bathrooms.   As of a few days ago, my inventory now consists of THIRTY ONE roses!!!!    I even cut out part of my lawn so I could put more in.   My resistance is even more impaired by the fact I can buy them at 3 for $5.00!!!!    ARRGGHH!!!!

So, here's some photos of a few of my posies.  Not the greatest pictures because they were taken with my cell phone since I'm digital-camera-less these days.


When I did a house-swap with a couple from Salinas back in August, they emailed me one day and told me they found a SCORPION in my master bedroom closet area!!!    I always thought these varmits resided in hot climates like New Mexico and Arizona, not cool high-altitude places like Cuenca!!!  So, I did some Googling and discovered I was mis-informed.  They DO reside in many more common locales than I thought.   That didn't set well with me.

Last week, I went to pick up what I thought was a dead leaf off my sun room floor and retracted my hand just in time because that 'leaf' was a TARANTULA!!!    I've heard they can jump so I wasn't about to get near it.   I stomped on it.  Turns out, it was already dead, probably due to my kitties.  But, UGH!!!   I told some friends about it and they were like 'oh yeah, it's common here'.   UGH!!!!  It was the size of a 50 cent piece.   Apparently, they're not dangerous....nor are the scorpions.  I DON'T CARE!!!!!


About Me

My photo
Palma, Mallorca, Spain
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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