Adventures in home improvement: Our adventure installing laminate flooring in our attic. It was easier than we expected, you just need the right tools.
Installing laminate flooring in our attic was the first real big DIY home improvement project we attempted after buying our house. Our friend Rick had done it before and offered to help us and lend us his saws (thanks Rick!). He is not a professional, and neither are we. I’m sure there are more professional details that we missed, but overall we are very happy with the result and feel empowered to do it again in our basement later this year.
**Note: This isn’t a professional “how-to” guide. We didn’t know what we were doing. Just a breakdown of how we did it and how it turned out.
Prior to starting, we measured our attic space to get a good guesstimate of square footage, and ordered our supplies from Home Depot. We ordered roughly 400 square feet of the TrafficMASTER Glenwood Oak laminate flooring at $0.68/sq ft, 400 square feet of foam underlay, and a laminate flooring installation kit for $17.98. Total for everything was just under $400.00.
The tool kit came with 50 wedge spacers, a plastic tapping block (we called it the tappy square), and a steel pull bar. In addition we ended up needing a hammer, sturdy flat head screwdriver, a box cutter, and a rubber mallet.
We also needed a chop saw for cutting the boards to length, and ended up needing Rick’s table saw as well to make cut outs in the boards for going around a banister and some other awkward protrusions.
Before we could get started however, we had to rip the existing carpet out. We let our boxes of flooring acclimate to our house climate for two weeks while we worked on preparing the attic.
We wanted to install a laminate wood floor in the attic because I planned on using it for my art studio, and the previous owners had a cat box up there and you could still smell it in the carpet. The nasty carpet had to go.
Paddy removed all the carpet and carpet pad with a box cutter-knife, cutting it into strips and rolling it up as he went. It didn’t take very long and we were able to load it all in my truck and dispose of it at the local dump.
I would definitely recommend using gloves for this and being careful with the sharp carpet tacking nailed around the edges.
Next, the super fun part: prying up the pokey carpet tacking and pulling all the staples out of the subflooring with a pair of pliers or a screwdriver. This was definitely the most obnoxious part of the job.
Finally, our subfloor was ready.
Next, we unrolled the foam underlay and cut it to fit the floor with a box cutter. The foam underlay is necessary because it provides extra sound proofing, extra cushioning under the floor for comfort, and in some cases it can act as a moisture barrier to protect the flooring. We ended up using exactly 300 square feet, and had one roll to spare. We’ll save it for when we do the basement.
We thought we would be able to install the flooring without removing the siding at the bottom edges of the walls, but we had to remove that too (this is what we needed the hammer and screwdriver for). We pried off all the siding and saved it to put back on when we were finished.
Once all the foam underlay was down, we were ready to start. We took two planks right out of the box, and then measured the remaining length of space and cut a plank to size. They are made to fit together tongue-and-groove style, so we could fit the three pieces together on end, and then lay it down flat as a single long row.
It is recommended to leave a tiny bit of space between the flooring and the wall for expansion. That is what the 50 plastic spacers are for that were included in our flooring kit, but we didn’t end up using them. It seemed that we were doing an okay job of leaving a tiny bit of space on the ends as we went.
On the next row, you want to have the shorter piece at the opposite end of the wall as the short piece in the first row, so that the seams are staggered. If you don’t stagger your seams, it won’t hold together properly. We alternated short lengths right and left per row as we went.
When cutting the shorter lengths, make sure you cut the correct end of the plank so that the tongue and groove will be on the side you are going to lock in with the other pieces, and the cut side will be against the wall. When cutting the shorter lengths with the chop saw, we also learned that you should always cut with the plank upside down, as the saw blade chews up the finish a bit on the side it cuts into.
Once we had the next row of planks fit together properly end-to-end, we tipped the entire row up and in to fit in with the groove on the previous row. Next, we needed to make sure the planks fit together tightly so that no seams were visible. This is where the tappy square and the steel pry bar comes in.
You hold the tapping square up to the edge of the flooring, and hit it with a hammer to hammer the plank tightly into place and close any gaps in the seams. No seam should be visible.
If a seam is on the end joint of the plank, you can use the steel pry bar to hook in between the end of the row and the wall, and then hit the curved part with the hammer to pull the plank into place.
Installing the rows was the easy part. The hardest part was when we needed to cut out an awkward shape. Rick needed to use the table saw for the precise cuts or cuts down the length of the plank. He was able to use the chop saw for a few of these, but the table saw was the better tool. If you don’t have a table saw or a friend who has one, you can rent one. Don’t forget to use eye protection.
I was kind of surprised at how fast it went. We did it over two days, but we could have knocked it out in one had we had time and energy to do so.
After it was all installed, I touched up the paint around the edges were the siding was, and then Paddy nailed it back on lower to line up with the flooring. This covers up the gaps around the edges left for expansion, and helps further secure the floor.
Overall, installing laminate flooring wasn’t so hard and we are super happy with our floor. We got a good coupon for our local hardware store and invested in a chop saw for when we get around to installing laminate flooring in our basement as well.
Crafty Adventures: Making my own Carmen Miranda costume for Halloween
I get really into Halloween. I start planning my costume in August. I love the experience of crafting a unique costume that isn’t a cheap out-of-the-bag costume that I may see ten other people wearing when I go out. Last year, I wanted to be Carmen Miranda. It took a little work, but my Carmen Miranda costume ended up being a success. Here’s how I made it:
Since I’m not a talented seamstress, I usually start with a pre-made costume or garment and modify it. I looked around at some of the “samba lady” costumes online, and didn’t find much that was my size, or that didn’t involve a bikini top.
I figured what I really needed was something strapless with a big slit up the side of the skirt that I could add ruffles to. I looked at some costumes on HalloweenCostumes.com and found a Jessica Rabbit costume that I thought might do the trick as the base. It came in plus sizes too.
The dress showed up, and it fit but was a bit big. Not wanting it to be too tight, I decided to keep the slightly too big size and modify it to fit me better.
But first, ruffles:
I bought all of the red and yellow ruffles that Joann Fabrics had. There was a bit more red than yellow, so I made that my main color, and it matched the dress anyway. I was hoping to make it a bit more colorful but I could only find other ruffles in white, black, or pastel colors that didn’t really go with the bold Brazilian samba look.
I started with a yellow ruffle along the hemline of the skirt and up the skirt slit, overlapping at the top. Next I added a red ruffle underneath it. I hand sewed everything, since my sewing machine died last year and I hadn’t replaced it yet. It wasn’t that bad, it was something productive to do while watching TV.
For the armbands I bought some extra wide elastic, made arm bands with it, and sewed four tiers of ruffles alternating yellow and red. Unfortunately, I didn’t account for the fact that if you sew something non-elastic to elastic, it prevents the piece from being elastic.
I solved this by cutting it back open and sewing a small additional elastic strip to give the band some elasticity. not the nicest looking job, but it was on the inside of my arm so no one could really see it. I did the same thing with the second armband, leaving some of the elastic open.
The top of the dress had a big sweetheart neckline that was a bit too big. I folded it down and hemmed it, trimming off the excess fabric. I then took some yellow ruffle and sewed it around the top of the dress. The lack of elasticity in the ruffle actually helped out quite a bit here, as the dress was a bit big and it helped tighten it up.
Last, the most important piece of the Carmen Miranda costume is the fruit hat. I ordered this one online from another costume retailer, intending to add some fruit to it:
Not surprisingly, it arrived much less glorious and more deflated than the web photo above. That giant green ostrich feather at the top was only about 6 inches long. This wasn’t a problem as I wanted to add a lot more fruit to it anyway. The grapes were nice, but the little pineapple on top was pretty pathetic. I went to Michaels and bought more grapes, two bananas, two lemons, an apple, and an orange and two big red and yellow ostrich feathers.
The thing that was most helpful to me in embellishing the Carmen Miranda costume fruit hat was a glass head that Paddy acquired from an old roommate. It sat out in our garage for ages and I once asked if we could get rid of it but he wanted to keep it, and now I’m glad we did.
I was able to put the hat on the glass head and superglue the extra fruit and feathers to it while it was upright. Assuming that you are a normal person who doesn’t have glass heads in your garage, you might be able to get a styrofoam wig head from a craft store to use, or just ask your best buddy to model it for you.
Wearing the fruit hat was a bit of a balancing act. I had to bobby pin it to my head around the rim of the velvet turban part, but it was still a little slippy. I had some flower hair clips that I ended up clipping in the back to secure it further, and they worked well.
I added some bracelets and beaded necklaces, and some spangly chandelier earrings, and voila!
Somehow, my Carmen Miranda costume fruit hat stayed on crammed into a car, at our friend’s Halloween party, crammed into a car again, at another friend’s Halloween party, and then out at the bars on Capitol Hill in Seattle. It got me a free drink from a guy dressed as a widow carrying around a framed photo of an old man. Finally, just after we were kicked out of the bar at 2:00 AM, I was eating a taco at a food truck and my fruit hat dove off of my head and crashed onto the sidewalk. I’ll call it a success.
Our quick weekend getaway to Orcas Island, WA: Rosario Resort and the Moran Mansion, farmers market, great food, and beautiful island scenery.
Paddy and I are originally from San Juan Island, a neighboring island to Orcas Island in the San Juan archipelago. Even though we grew up close by, we have really only been to Orcas Island a handful of times in our lives.
While most tourists bypass the other islands and head straight to Friday Harbor and San Juan Island, Orcas Island is not to be overlooked. It is geographically the largest of the four main San Juan Islands, and has some of the most stunning scenery combined with small town laid-back island life.
We made our ferry reservations in advance, and caught the 6:30 PM sailing on Friday from Anacortes. We left Seattle at 3:30 and traffic wasn’t too bad. We arrived the Anacortes ferry terminal within about two hours. We grabbed a snack at the little Cheesecake Cafe ferry terminal kiosk and soon were loaded onto the boat heading to Orcas Island.
*Note:Ferry reservations strongly recommended for Friday evening sailings, and are an absolute must in the summertime.
There was a spectacular fall sunset on the way, and the weather was weirdly warm despite the strong October breeze.
We arrived Orcas Island starving, and followed the train of cars through the dark about 15 minutes into the main town of Eastsound in the middle of the island. After a quick stop at the Island Market for beer, wine, and some light breakfast items for the morning, we walked next door to the Lower Tavern for dinner.
*Note: The grocery stores close around 8:00 to 9:00 PM, so be sure to get your snacks and beverages early.
The Lower Tavern is your basic local bar with a variety of burgers and pub grub. There is a pool table, neon beer signs, good beer selection, and locals a plenty. Service was good, and the food was your average pub fare. This is one of the less-expensive places to eat on Orcas Island if you are looking for somewhere casual.
After dinner, we drove another 15 minutes east and then south to Rosario Resort, one of the oldest hotels on Orcas Island. Rosario is the 40 acre former estate of Seattle shipbuilder and mayor Robert Moran, who built his mansion here over 100 years ago. The mansion is now the main building at Rosario, hosting a spa, bar and restaurant, and a museum of the upper floors of the Moran mansion.
Surprisingly, Rosario had the best priced room I could find on Orcas Island. We had reserved the least expensive room, a hillside king at $120/night. It was a bit far from the main mansion, down the road and up a steep hill. The room was nice, and included cable TV, a fridge, microwave, coffee maker, and a nice balcony overlooking the bay. We were visiting in October, and the price of the room drops further in the winter season to $99/night (when I last checked, anyway). The only complaint we had is that the water pressure in the shower was pretty low. Other than that it was a very nice room.
We slept in the next morning, enjoying the view from our room and the sound of the waves on the shore below. We had coffee and snacks we had bought the night before in our room for a light breakfast, and then headed down to the Mansion to check out the museum.
The upstairs floors of the Moran Mansion are preserved as a historical museum of the Moran family. There is the main music room in the middle, with a two story pipe organ. I read that every Saturday you can come hear an organist play the organ and then have access to the library rooms on the third floor mezzanine, which are otherwise closed to the public.
The museum has a lot of the original furniture from the Moran family, as well as photos of the Moran family, models of Robert Moran’s ships that he built, and other early turn of the century artifacts.
Rosario Resort also has two outdoor pools for the summer season, including one for adults at the main mansion and a larger one for families down by the harbor.
After touring the museum, we headed back to the town of Eastsound for the Orcas Island farmer’s market. In the fall it is located indoors at the Oddfellows Hall on Saturdays from 11:00 to 2:00.
The farmers market had lots of locally farmed fruits and vegetables, hand crafted jewelry, felted hats, and other gifts. Island made foods such as sausages, chocolates, baked goods, pasta, coffee, and jams were also available for sale. I scraped together some cash to purchase some huge and amazing-looking gloves of garlic from the farmer with the sausage (his credit card square wasn’t working on his phone). Bringing cash is recommended.
Paddy tasted a bunch of jams from Girl Meets Dirt at the table next door and said they were all delicious. He bought her peach chamomile preserves and miraculously got his card to swipe on her phone square. With flavors like rhubarb lavender, pear balsamic, and fig basil it was difficult to choose.
I also recommend Island Thyme bath and cosmetic products–especially the lip balms and the bar soaps. My Mom on San Juan Island often puts them in my Christmas stocking. I’m a lip balm and lip gloss junkie, and theirs is one of my favorites.
If you can’t make it to the farmers market and still want some preserves or other locally made products, you can visit the Orcas Island Food Co-Op which is open daily in East Sound.
After the farmers market we were hungry, so we decided to have lunch at Rose’s Bakery & Cafe in Eastsound. It was a nice little spot and the food was good, although a bit overpriced for what you got. Our sandwiches were $16.00 each, Paddy’s mole chicken sandwich came with about two tablespoons of coleslaw and my fried green tomato BLT came with about two tablespoons of potato salad. I know that things are more expensive in the islands, but cabbage and potatoes aren’t high-end ingredients. It seems that the side could have been at least a half cup’s worth. When we left Paddy was still hungry. Not exactly what you want to feel like after spending $16.00 on a sandwich. Good quality, but not sure if we’ll be back based on the prices.
After lunch we headed east towards Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park. Moran State Park is host to several hiking trails, a campground, and two large lakes–one with a nice swim beach in the summertime. The last time we were on Orcas Island was about 12 years ago in October, and we tried to go up to the top of Mt Constitution to see the view from the tower but about three quarters of the way up the mountain we found ourselves in a dense fog prohibiting any kind of view whatsoever.
Unfortunately, we found ourselves in the same situation again as we ascended the mountain. We did enjoy the spooky mist and forest views, however.
When we neared the top, instead of this:
We got this:
*Note: Go to Mt. Constitution on sunny days only if you want to see the view. Also, be sure to have your Discover Pass with you for parking.
The rain was getting heavier, and we kind of felt like hibernating. We made a quick stop in Eastsound for an afternoon snack at Brown Bear Baking. After surveying several delectable items including chocolate croissants as big as my face, I selected a chocolate muffin for Paddy and I to share. It was delicious–very chocolatey with a nice crunchy top. We headed back to the room for some R&R.
The sun broke through the clouds around 4:30 as we were watching the tail end of Footloose on TV. (Side note curiosity–how long did it take for Kevin Bacon to stop finding glitter everywhere after filming the end dance scene?)
We were getting hungry and were trying to decide where to go for dinner. We decided on the Inn at Ship Bay just east of Eastsound. We called to find out if we needed reservations and were informed that they were completely booked for the evening but there were some spots at the bar open at the moment. We jumped in the car and snagged a couple of the last spots at the cozy little bar with a view of the sound.
Dinner was outstanding. It was a splurge, but well worth it. I ordered the Apple Pye cocktail, with apple liquer, bay leaf, vodka, and ginger beer. It was fall in a glass, and very strong.
For dinner, we started with the Mangalitsa pork belly appetizer and the tomato goat cheese tart. Both were fabulous. The pork belly was nice and crispy on the outside and the quince and apple puree complimented it nicely.
For entrees I had the weathervane scallops with the sprouted lentil salad, and Paddy had the sirloin steak. We also couldn’t pass up on dessert–the goat cheese bourbon cheesecake with apples. It was a perfect fall meal, and we would recommend Inn at Ship Bay highly for dinner.
After dinner, we headed back to Rosario. Paddy wanted to have a drink at the Mansion bar, and I wanted to go soak in the hot tub in the basement spa.
I had stayed here at Rosario once when I was a kid with my parents in the 1980’s. The indoor pool back then was a big, white, milky, creepy experience with pipes going across the room over the pool. It kind of felt like being in the belly of a flooded ship.
I was pleased to see that they had re-done the entire pool and that it was much nicer looking. There was also a sauna.
I got a locker padlock and a towel from the front desk lady in the gift shop area at the spa entrance, and made my way back to the little changing rooms and lockers. The changing rooms are all individual and unisex and just outside the main pool area. One thing that I’m pretty sure hadn’t changed since the 1980’s was the dingy green carpet in the changing room area and hallway that smelled like about 30 years worth of chlorine that had dripped off of hundreds of wet bathers festering away in it’s fibers. I have no idea why this area is carpeted, and is something that they should probably address.
Around the corner from the small wall of lockers is the hall leading to the outdoor adult pool and a very creepy exercise room. If there is one area that is haunted in this 100+ year old mansion, it is the exercise room. I am sure of it.
I found the womens showers and rinsed off, then climbed into the jacuzzi tub. The tub was huge and no one was in it, which was very nice. It was heavily chorinated, however. I smelled like chlorine the rest of the night, despite rinsing off afterward. If you have sensitive skin, you might want to evaluate the chlorine levels before getting in.
After I changed I found Paddy at the Mansion bar, which was hoppin’ busy. There was live music and a roaring fire in the fireplace. We headed back to the room to relax and watch a movie.
Sunday morning brought beautiful rays of sunshine. It was a shame we didn’t have time to go up to Mt. Constitution to take in the view before catching the ferry, but we had reservations for the 8:45 sailing back to Anacortes.
We got in line for the ferry about half an hour before boarding, and walked down the hill to the little Orcas Village Store in search of coffee and sustenance.
We ordered some espresso at their coffee/deli counter and some surprisingly delicious chipotle bacon breakfast burritos sitting pre-made in their warm food cabinet near the counter. There were also pastries, bagels with salmon cream cheese and other deli items for purchase. The breakfast burritos were really good.
Soon enough the ferry rounded the corner and we were loaded onto the boat, which made stops at Shaw and Lopez Islands as well.
It was a nice little weekend getaway. When we come back to visit Orcas Island again, we’d like to see a bit more of the island itself–hiking in Moran State Park, Cascade Falls, Deer Harbor, and Doe Bay. We’ll be back.
If you are spending Halloween in Seattle, there are a lot of options for a spooky good time. Here are our recommendations for Halloween fun in the Emerald City:
Pumpkin Patch and Cider Tasting
If you are spending Halloween in Seattle have the means and enthusiasm to carve a pumpkin, one of our favorite October day trips is to Dr Maze’s pumpkin farm in nearby Redmond, WA. It has all the standard things a pumpkin patch should have–a corn maze, kettle corn, fruits and veggies for sale, hot apple cider, and a pumpkin patch where you can pick your own pumpkin. The reason we like this pumpkin patch the most is the fact that it is just down the road from the Minea Farm, a working farm with a 100 + year old cider press still in action. Buy a cup of hot cider and watch the cider press from the viewing window, or buy a gallon of fresh pressed organic cider to take home. They also sell apples, eggs, jams and jellies, honey, and other things made on their farm. Minea Farm is located at 13404 Woodinville Redmond Rd NE, Redmond, WA.
Horror Movie Exhibit
The EMP at the Seattle Center has an exhibit that has been running for a couple years (not sure how long it will run for) called “Can’t Look Away: The Lure of the Horror Film.” See real iconic horror movie props such as the facehugger from Alien, the axe from The Shining, and the script from Night of the Living Dead. I haven’t been to this exhibit yet but hope to before it goes away.
One of the longest running Haunted Houses in Seattle is the Kube 93 Haunted House in the Georgetown neighborhood just south of downtown. I actually haven’t been to this since I was a teenager, but I keep meaning to go again. It’s a little pricey at $23 per adult, but they really go all out. They run the haunted house all through the month of October and even the last weekend of September.
Haunted Seattle Ghost Tours
Spooked in Seattle offers ghost tours of Seattle, including one ghost tour a month on the last Friday of each month in the Seattle underground, the part of old town Seattle that the current city was built on top of after the great fire of 1889. We’ve been on the regular Seattle Underground Tour, and it was spooky on its own without looking for ghosts. We’ve been on Spooked in Seattle’s regular city walking tour where they take you around Pioneer Square and downtown and tell you about reported ghost sightings in the historical part of the city. If you are interested in Seattle’s history and want a little spooky Halloween in Seattle fun, this is a good way to get a little of both.
Spooky Burlesque Shows
If you like dinner theater, burlesque shows, and Tim Burton, then you are in luck. The Triple Door downtown hosts a burlesque-style performance of the Nightmare Before Christmas, called This is Halloween every year. I’ve been to a few shows at The Triple Door, and this is dinner theater at its best. Food from the attached Wild Ginger restaurant is served prior to and during the show and drink service is available throughout. I saw the show with some friends two years ago as a girls’ night out and it was great fun. Get your tickets in advance, especially for weekend shows.
Seattle’s top spot for year round Burlesque shows is The Can Can downtown (right next to the entrance to the Pike Place Market). They love to do theme shows, and last year I went to a Halloween burlesque show called “Zombie Cheerleaders From Hell.” It appears that they are running it again this year. The title is a little misleading, (I don’t remember any zombie cheerleaders), but it was full of classic and devilishly spooky song and dance numbers, pasties, and humor. I did notice that their ticket prices have gone up a bit–the $40 ticket price used to include a cocktail credit but it appears that it is now just admission. The performers are great and the shows I’ve seen have always been fabulous, so if you have the dough and want to see a unique little part of Halloween in Seattle, I’d recommend it.
Other good places to check for burlesque shows are the Columbia City Theater in Columbia City, and The Jewelbox Theater at the Rendezvous in Belltown. I checked their calendars for this October and both of them seem to be doing a Rocky Horror theme burlesque show of some kind, and The Jewelbox Theater has a “pole dancing Halloween recital”. I don’t know what all of those shows entail, but I’m sure whatever they are they will be at entertaining at minimum.
Creepy Circus Show and Dance Party
One of the best Halloween events I’ve been to over Halloween in Seattle is the Emerald City Trapeze annual event Carnevolar. Hosted at the Emerald City Aerialdome in Sodo, they usually do 2-3 shows over Halloween weekend. The evening starts with a trapeze act, followed by a stage show including dancing, aerialist acts, and other circus performances. Every Carnevolar has a different theme. I’ve been to the Vampyre Circus and The Haunting. Last year I think it was Funhouse, this year it is The Funeral.
After the performance, a DJ spins into the wee hours of the morning and the whole place becomes a dance party. Costumes are strongly encouraged, and from the two times I’ve gone people get very into the costumes here. Don’t be the boring lameass without a costume.
Psycho at the Symphony
If you’re up for something spooky but a little more low-key on Halloween night, The Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall downtown does a live performance of the score to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho along with the movie.
Halloween Night Fun in the City
Lastly, of course you can always spend Halloween in Seattle out on the town. Every bar in the city will have some sort of Halloween party going on, but if you really want to be at the heart of the action, the Pike/Pine corridor on Capitol Hill is the place to go. It will be busy, so go early if you want to snag a spot to sit and people watch, or go later and wait in lines and bar crawl like everyone else. One year when Halloween was on a Friday, we went to Linda’s early at 9:00 and snagged a booth. We had the intention of moving on to other bars, but as Linda’s became more and more packed our booth started looking a more and more appealing to stay in. The entertainment pretty much came to us–it was an endless parade of costumes.
Whatever neighborhood you end up in, finding booze and people in costumes shouldn’t be too difficult.
Whatever you decide to do, Halloween in Seattle is always a great time. Don’t forget to bring a costume.