Friday, October 18, 2013

Strained and Torn Calf Muscle - What Happened? (you need to know this)

Hi everyone. Having come back from vacation about a week and a half ago, I was in desperate need of rest from vacation.

But first, an update on my leg condition. It's been hard to walk around since I got back. My right leg still wanted to give out every once in a while, and just thinking about going up and down the stairs caused me to sleep on the loveseat downstairs in the rec room. This is the diagnosis:

So you know when your coach or aerobic instructor tells you to warm up your muscles before you start vigorous exercise? This is the result of neglecting that instruction. This is different from a leg cramp in the calf, which is massaged and relaxes slowly over a few hours or a couple days. A tear or strain (micro-tears) requires muscle repair and rehabilitation.

This is basically what happened:

When I arrived at the airport to go home, I was met with the check-in attendant who immediately said "Oh, here you are!" and then proceeded to radio to the pilot that the "last" passenger was checking in. Apparently the plane was ready to leave early. Never heard of that before! I got a "priority" stamp on my boarding pass so they could whizz me through customs check and away I went.

I ran and ran, and after reaching the hallway of departure gates, mine was at the very end... so I ran and ran again. I was so exhausted, but I just kept running through it until I arrived completely out of breath and a little wobbly in the legs.

When I went to sit down at my window seat, I turned my leg towards the seats to go in, and that's when it happened. It was like someone pushed the inside of my knee to knock me down, and I felt a little "pop" like two pieces of "something" inside my knee shifted. It wasn't painful, which was why I didn't immediately think anything of it. But the pain started after I sat down -- first kind of sore and then every once in a while when I moved it I felt a pinch that would make my flinch.

 Every attempt to get up and move after that (I moved to another seat to give the two ladies I was seated with some breathing room to sit down), my knee would give out again. And each time, the "after-pain" got worse.

I just want to say just how awesome the flight attendants were on my Westjet flight home. I mean -- exceptional. They checked up on me every 30-45 minutes to find out how it was going. They were the ones who insisted to have a wheelchair ready when we land -- just in case. They carried my bags out and showed a great deal of compassion. Yes it's their job -- but I'm saying, they did their job very well without making it into some huge fuss.

The doctor at emergency did just what emergency doctors do. They diagnose as best as they can from the information given, and then give you anything that would require immediate attention. Since it didn't seem like a major situation, a pair of crutches was enough to get me back home.

Next two days just got worse. I was unable to walk on the foot at all, and hopped to the bathroom on my crutches anytime I had to go to the bathroom. I really reduced my water drinking those days! But then it started to get a little better.

Physio started two days ago and Steve, my physiotherapist, analyzed it and gave me some exercises to do, just until it was too sore to continue. The best part was the cold pack machine which they wrapped around my leg for 15 minutes... and every 5 minutes it would slowly compress and squeeze your leg... oooh feels SO GOOD!!!

I'm relieved that I'm walking around without my crutches already. I can almost walk up the stairs normally though coming down is still a real hassle. And today when I received some massage therapy, he found the exact spot of the tear. Everytime he moved over it, I could almost feel the whole length of the horizontal tear. And it was indeed very very painful.

So just doing my daily exercises he gave me to keep rehabilitating the muscle, I'm hoping I'll be back on my feet and walking in the sun by end of next week.


Yes, there has been some progress in the kitchen. Dishes that were unpacked have all been through my new fancy dishwasher! And it's amazingly quiet. If I don't try to listen for it, I can't hear it. If I have some music on, it might as well not be running, it's so quiet!

I'm working on moving my piano back to its original spot in the room before I do anymore weather and temperature damage to it. I'm a little nervous about the condition of the hammers and keys. But it'll be nice to play music again.

I have lots more kitchen pictures to post, and am working on the before and after shots. I'm excited to show them to you all!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Where I Am...

Well, the trip turned out to be a filled with lots of adventure, but not necessarily the good kind. I loved that I could hang out with my brother and cousins in LA, and get to know my nieces and nephews. And I can finally cross off that "go on a cruise" off my life to do list.

Unfortunatley, I developed a bad cough and congestion while in Southern California. The windy season started and I'm just not used to hot and dry weather. To make matters worse, most of the cruise was very UNsteady. We had a major storm warning the night of embarkment and had to go out to open water to avoid the storm, meaning that the Astoria layover was cancelled. Then nearing LA, the waters got choppy again. It's okay, I didnt get seasick. But it was not fun walking around the ship. And it wasn't pleasant for my brother who was in the cabin with me listening to me shout "Stop moving stop moving" to the ship every 30 minutes.

And to top it off... my knees started to buckle on me on the airplane on my trip home to Vancouver from LA. I had stepped off a 2-foot high curb in SoCal earlier that day, landing with my foot rocking onto my ankle. It was painful for a while, but I felt lucky that it was not a full-out sprain. Now perhaps the steps I took on the plane may have been a result of that.

Well I was brought out of the airplane on a wheelchair. Five hours later, I came out of the hospital on crutches. It was supposed to die down in a few days. But today, when my brother and I were moving the fridge and stove into the kitchen, I had another major buckle and my knee is back to being sore again. Doctor's visit will be early this week, you can count on it.

So to make a summary, I'm sick, I'm injured, I'm still recovering from the trip (I still have to unpack), and sitting here with my leg up to give my knee a rest.

While I was gone, my brother bought some temporary pendant lights ($15 each) to see how the kitchen would look like. Solomon installed the sink and the garburator that my brother bought and found a way to make the dishwasher fit the not-so-good space I was given for it. Other than that really there hasn't been much movement forward. But things are coming together.

  1. Baseboards
  2. Sealant on the grout
  3. Backsplash and magnet walls
  4. Lining all the cabinetry with cork (ooh can't wait to show you this!)
  5. washing all the cooking and eating items in the dishwasher before putting them away.
  6. transition strip between the kitchen floor and the rec room carpet.
  7. Finish sanding drywall and painting
The kitchen is roughly useable, but I have to be careful with where the water goes since the backsplash and caulking hasn't been done.

Sorry no pics this time... will resume that part next time.  :)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Vacating For Vacation

Tomorrow I will be embarking on my first cruise. Its probably a vacation way way long overdue. It's a repositioning cruise, so I will be simply cruising from Vancouver to LA, stopping at Astoria and San Francisco on the way.

The kitchen reno is dragging on and on. Life gets busy and you begin to lose steam at the end. However, I did get some great items for the kitchen which are being shipped as i typed this. And I'm very excited about it.

So to all those following my kitchen blog, I will be incognito for about 10 days. See you back again on October 11th (unless there is a way I can find internet offshore if I have something to publish)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

EUREKA! I've Figured Out My Splash Wall

So if you recall, I have been struggling with trying to do something unique with my splash wall.  Basically I want to turn it into message board where I can hang up stuff like a calendar, or notes to myself, or a recipe I want to try.

A picture I saw in a magazine gave me the idea. They use burlap here as a covering

Well I searched around and burlap is so ridiculously cheap. But I researched into the properties and nothing assures me that this could be free from bacteria or odors. So that was out the window.

Then I came across marmoleum.

You can buy them full wall size and they are both tackable and self-healing. It also has anti-bacterial properties and can be cleaned when needed. But when I saw the $2600 price tag on that, that was out the window too.

I honestly was thinking, maybe this is something that cannot be done. Maybe that's why no one has it.

Then I came across a product called MagTack from in California.

I talked to a sales rep named Ed who promptly sent me a sample of the material. It's thin, it's light, and uses magnets to hold stuff up, although I need to get rare earth magnets to make sure it's strong enough. No problem! I headed to one of my favorite places on the net, and bought myself a bunch in a few sizes!

But I still was left with the problem of the covering. Afterall, I didn't want to put the MagTack up as is... it just looks like a big magnetic sheet. The splash wall is where I insert my creativity, my character, my style!

Then Solomon our contractor, in one quick second, offered a solution -- WALLPAPER!

Why didn't I think of that!? Brilliant! I have emailed Ed to get his opinion on how wallpaper would hold up on MagTack. My suspicion is that it will be just fine.

I promptly went researching different kinds of wall paper, and found some that are both meant for the kitchen (washable and durable) AND some that even look kind of like tile! I have ordered some samples from Graham & Brown and am excited to see the possibilities.

Here's what I chose:

And how about this neat idea from Home Depot!

I could paper over the MagTack with this and then paint it the same colour as the original wall colour! How cool is that!

I am genuinely hoping this is going to work. If it does, I will be so excited!

I am also planning to put the MagTack directly on the side of the pantry. And that I can definintely cover with fabric since it is far enough away from the food preparation area.

Just imagine. A floor-to-ceiling "wall" that is fully magnetic to post up pictures, notes, maybe some proverb to remind me to be happy, or pictures... the list is endless!

So I guess it's time to visit the local fabric store to see what the have! So excited!!!

Oh and the total cost to buy 24 feet of this MagTack in rolls... around $156 USD. Very affordable.

Ladies and gentleman, I think we have a winner!!

Getting Grout Done

Yes it's true! The grout was done today. Solomon our contractor came by and grouted the floor with my brother. Yes, our first tiling experience means some of the tiling is less than perfect.

But the grouting definitely lessens the flaws.

Thing is, I think the grout ended up being slighting whiter than what my brother expected. But you know what? I'm okay with it!

What's left for construction?

Solomon installed the sink and the dishwasher today (both big problems for us as a result of the cabinet company we used. More on that later.)

So now the next step will be for us to do another cleaning of the haze of grout still left on the tiles, some sealer to protect it from liquids, and the baseboards.

I will need to do some wall touch up after but really not that much.

Oh and pendant light outlets in the ceiling have to be placed in the right spots and the ceiling re-boarded with drywall.

Oh, and the exhaust duct from the hood fan still needs to be installed.

Then after that, the appliances move in! No, wait...

I have to get the splash wall done behind the sink before we can start using water. The last thing I want is water rolling down the cabinets where I can't wipe them!

Arg, which means I have to go pick out 4-inch high splash tile to so along the wall where it meets the counter.

Oh and there's no exit piping yet from the sink. Peter the pipe fitter is coming back to install that part.

And I still have to cut the cork to fit the cupboards as a non-slip surface since I don't want to bother with contact paper.

My head is spinning... so many little things here and there still to do... important things. So important that they have to be done before I start cooking in the kitchen!

I had hoped we could get this kitchen done by last Thursday, but this is how it is just as I was made aware of from the beginning. Always delays....ALWAYS. The sad thing is, by the time the kitchen is set up and everything is wiped down and all the kitchen items (plates, cups, utensils) have been thoroughly washed, I will be leaving on my cruise to California (I leave this Sunday). So I will have to enjoy the kitchen when I get back.

Oh the Mortar and the Moaning

It is Wednesday, September 18th (I think)

Next step is the part I was dreading the most. Mortaring the floor tiles.

A friend loaned us his tile cutter, probably one of the lower end models that cost around $50 or so. My brother struggled with it to try and make it work with our unusual-sized 13-inch tiles, but no matter how hard he tried, he could not get a straight cut all the way to the other side. So we decided, we need to invest in one of our own knowing that we had other renovation plans in the wait.

We went to Home Depot and bought this Ryobi wet saw tile cutter for $240. Since the box was clearly opened, they agreed to take off $40 from the price for us.

The first thing right away that gave my brother a sigh of relief was that he no longer had to be hunch on the ground. This came with a stand! Second was that nice straight cut was almost effortless with the way the machine was designed. This is why being under-budget is so awesome -- so we can buy new toys for future renos!  Yippeeee!

And so the tiling began.

We started with the portions that took full tiles. The picture is deceiving since we decided to lay the tiles diagonally.

My brother and I tried our best to mix the mortar to its proper consistency and kinda failed the first time. It was way too goopy and lost its shape after the serrated part of the trowel went over it. What ended up happening was the tiles would move after they were placed down. So we had no choice but to pull up all the tiles we laid (about 7-10 of them) and start again.

Here's the thing with placing down tile that you have to pull up later. The tiles are not malleable so picking it up in its stiff form with goopy wet mortar is kind of like trying to pull a massive suction cup off a smooth surface. It definitely worked out my arms and back -- not that I cared for it much. So don't go too far or you will have lots of hard pulling to do.

And in the darkness of the back patio, I was spraying water over the tiles to remove as much mortar as possible, while my brother mixed a better batch of mortar. Boy, did I wish it was a hot summer day!

So when my brother and I finally put enough powdered mortar to get a nice stiff paste, we ended up with a massive bucket of mortar. This meant, we had to keep going until the mortar was done. The clock struck 10pm, and we were still going. It would have been nice if we could have mixed a little mortar at the beginning to test it out, since we were complete noobs to this process.

Well, the nice thing about laying a good portion of the full tiles the night before is that it is strong enough the next day to walk on and makes it a lot easier to measure the cut pieces along the edges.

And this is where finally my forte was... or at least I thought. Not as easy as it looks.

 There are three things that made our tiling work that much harder:
  1. The tiles were of an unusual size and of pretty substantial thickness (good enough to use in outdoor patios). So we were working with big dense piece of porcelain.

  2. Because of the cork underlay, we were instructed to install the cabinets first before laying the cork and tile down. This meant having to cut very unusual pieces to fit around the various parts of the cabinetry.

    If we were allowed to place the tile down first, we would have ended up with just a bunch of small triangles to fill in all the edges.

  3. Our choice to use a diagonal layout to hide the flawed perpendicular angles of the walls (which I still agree with despite the extra work) meant we were doing way, way more cuts.

But ya know, sometimes taking the harder road means not having to be reminded that you took the shortcut every time you look down at a flawed floor. I am pleased with the final result.

With my other brother visiting us from LA during the tiling process, we of course had to enlist him to help out. Why? Because apparently I'm still too much of a wimp for this kind of intense and continuous manual labour. And an interesting comment popped up as I moaned and groaned and verbally cursed and despised the kitchen I was building while I was pushing the mortared tiles down to try and get it flush with the tile beside it:

Brother #1: Clearly Somi has never gone tree planting. (a BC summer job to help re-forest our greatest natural commodity).

Brother #2: Oh that's right. If you have tree planted, this work would seem easy compared to that.

Somi: What do you mean?

Brother #2: The first year planters, sometimes you had complainers, and because the work is so hard and the environment is so rugged and unforgiving, you stay away from anyone complaining because the last thing you need while you're working is to be reminded how freaking hard it is.

Somi: Oh I see. (Let's out a big *SIGH/MOAN*)

Brother #2: Like that, that's what I mean.

Wow, standards are high! But it was a little wake up call to how my demeanor could make the job much harder to accomplish.

What ended up happening is I measured and penciled the cuts that had to be made, numbering each one to a place on the floor where it belonged -- by myself. Then my two brothers (God bless them!) took it on themselves to do the cutting and mortaring.

Did I mention that I think my brothers are the greatest brothers in the world? I mean it!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cork Underlayment

So now, I'll back track a bit to show you what onerous and tiresome work my brother and I have been doing the last week. It is time to put down the cork underlayment.

My brother and I had struggled over how to deal with the moisture barrier. In the end, we did notice that none was used previous to us, and yet the old linoleum seemed to hold up fine. So we decided to take Stephanie's advice at Cancork and use special fortified mortar that has some water sealant protection.

Honestly, as the renovation goes on and my brother and I get more tired, we are being less and less picky about things that would have mattered to us at the beginning.

OUR NEW MOTTO: "We'll fix it later with mortar." hehe

My brother drew these clever little lines in the mats so that when we pulled them up to mortar we would remember where they went. I'm sure glad I was addicted to puzzles as a kid... well still am, but that's a different story.

Had to make a little pathway so that we didn't dent the mortar underneath.

then we started laying out tile just to check out the configuration and get some of the cut tiles done right. The gap markers are not installed right in this picture. Originally I didn't like how wide the gaps were so we thought about using them this way instead. But in the end, we felt that there's a reason why the gap had to be larger and so we used them the proper way..