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October 31, 2010 / Mark

Half Bath – Part 1

As we said before, we have some pretty fun plans for the half bathroom. When we moved in, we agreed that the decor in the half bath was… not what we wanted. We looked at a bunch of options to improve it, from putting down a wood floor to re-tiling the whole thing with stony pebbles and earthy tiles. We ended up settling on tiling the floor, putting up beadboard on the lower half of the wall, painting upper half and replacing the toilet and sink.

This is how the bathroom looked before we got started:


A few weeks ago, we took all the tile off the walls. That was the easy part, they just popped off with a tap of a hammer and chisel. We found some interesting things hiding behind the wall too! Check out the newspaper from 1961.

The next step was to get the sink and toilet out. The sink didn’t have any shut-off valves on the water lines, and I mistakenly picked up 1/4-turn valves that were one size too big, oops! With the water still off in the house, I had to make a quick trip to the hardware store to get what I needed.  Once I had the water lines buttoned up, the bathroom sat as it was for another week, waiting for time and motivation to tackle the floor.

We’re lucky to have some very helpful friends. Chris came over to help us remove the tile from the floor, which was a very noisy and dusty experience. We ended up using a pneumatic hammer to blast the tile off, while trying to be careful of the concrete that the tile was set on. At the time, I figured we could just leave the concrete in place and set the new tile down on top of it, even though it would be pretty tall, and the back corner behind the toilet was cracking a little bit.

Then fast forward one more week to yesterday, Jeremy and Erin came over to help us cut and place the tile. We ended up deciding that the concrete should come out, which meant more demolition! At least it was much easier and faster than taking the tiles out. We brought it down to the sub-floor, cleaned everything up and put down Hardiebacker for the tile to set on. I had recently picked up a Ryobi cordless impact wrench, which was an amazing tool for putting screws through the concrete backer board and into the wood subfloor. It was a piece of cake compared to using a normal electric screwdriver! After almost 11 hours of hard work and two food breaks later, here is what the bathroom looks like now:

Once the thinset cures, it’s time for grout and sealant, then we can start working on the walls!

Many thanks to Chris, Jeremy & Erin for all their help on this project!

August 17, 2010 / Mark

Garage Door Opener

Our house is wonderfully adorned with two garage spaces, and two garage doors. When we moved in, just the southern garage door had an opener attached to it, which is fine for the summer, when we don’t need to be parking inside. However, as winter approaches, the need for that second opener increases, so that we can both keep our cars out of the frost, neverending snow and general cold weather abuse during the winter.

After some searching around, I settled on a Chamberlain belt drive; it seemed to have the fewest unfavorable reviews, and had some pretty neat features, like a battery to allow the door to be opened while the power is out.

Installation was actually pretty fun. Nothing hard or challenging, just rather time consuming to get all the hardware together, hooked up, aligned properly, and then doing all the wiring for the sensors and the internal control panel.

Although this is a pretty minor concern for us, the most noteworthy thing about the opener is how quiet it is. Press the button, and you’ll hear a quiet hum of a motor, and all the normal squeaks and groans you’ll hear from the garage door itself.  Now we I just have to focus on keeping the garage itself clean so we have room to park in there!

August 1, 2010 / Sarah

A Recycled Desk

Our last [free] weekend of the summer just ended – we now have Ellen & Peter’s wedding, an Exley family reunion & an excursion in the Poconos to look forward to and here’s hoping we can squeeze in home improvement during the week. We recently had a nice upgrade here in the office – a new desk! Emphasis on new, because it’s actually not. It’s a desk made-over from a door and some a-frame horses. The best part? The total: $15.

We already had all the paint/polyurethane supplies & bought the door for 15 dollars from Habitat for Humanity’s Rochester Restore. That price-tag had me smiling, and knowing we were recycling a door made the project even more fulfilling. So I have oodles of space now, as opposed to my tiny square of a desk before!

We also re-organized one of the office closets, and made a rug switch-a-roo. We took our Pottery Barn striped yellow/brown rug out of the office and put it into the guest room to add more texture and pattern – then the guest room rug made a new home in the office! It’s a cream-white rug which really brightens up the office, like our house mantra…. light, bright and airy!

Office before: Blocky, Compartmentalized, Too much furniture

After: Desk in Mark's old desk location. He's on the other side of the room now. Yes, that's a blue flower I painted on the wall - Mark wanted to test that paint color, but obviously it's not going up :)

Closet before: Boxes we hadn't even unpacked, an unofficial linen closet, old college notes we don't need...

\Closet After: Binders are organized, put all our bags into an IKEA organizer (hanging), arranged a filing cabinet, and that white "suitcase" is all the stuff that came with my new cochlear implant!

We also squeezed in some yard work. We mowed down a huge patch of weeds at the edge of our yard and planted grass seed, which is coming in nicely. In the meantime, we are loving summer and all the surprise plants that came up in our garden. For instance… this purple blazing star…

Blazing Star, Adirondack Chairs, what could be better?

Why hello Viking... care to share your plant secrets?

June 15, 2010 / Sarah

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

Life as we know it:

So! It’s been way too long since we’ve posted. If you consider filling up the shelves in the living room a project, then we did get a project done, but otherwise…  the adventure so far has just been  a steady collection of furniture, getting together with friends, working full-time, making lists of things we need, and chasing after the kitties outside. What we can give you though is a list of things that are soon to be in-progress!

  • Half-Bath: We plan on taking out the ugly peach-pink toilet & sink, and putting in a new toilet (from the master bathroom) and a new white vanity (already purchased). We bought a new Kohler toilet for the full bath (which flushes half the water our old toilet used, points for being eco-friendly) and are putting that old toilet (white) in the half bath. Gotta love all-white appliances. We plan on putting up white beadboard in the half bath on the lower half of the walls. Then we want to paint the top half and find some nice tile for the floors. I found a nice table in someone’s trash pile the other day that I plan on re-finishing for the corner of the half bath, to hold TP, candles, a plant, etc.
  • After getting over the deer eating half of our new plants in the front garden (we’ve since sprayed them w/ garlic oil and are nursing the eaten ones back to health), Mark and I whipped up a backyard plan – which will involve maybe a re-finished outdoor furniture set, top soil, ferns (LOTS of ferns!), grass seed, more flagstones (we will wear workboots to transport them, Brooke!), some lattice/trellis wood to put up around the house,  and maybe borrowing our friends’ power washer……
  • Kitchen Painting!

Other than that, I am currently on the last couple days of recovering from my cochlear implant surgery. This is my second cochlear implant, meaning I already have one on my left side, so I now have a bilateral hearing system. I go to get my stitches out today, and hopefully then I”ll be able to wash my hair! (It’s been a week, ugh!) I have to wait till July 20th to get activated (turn the implant on and start hearing on my right side) but I’ll be so busy leading up to the big day so I’m sure the time will pass quickly. Soon enough though I will be able to hear with both ears!!

More to come later… I will say this, we’ve been enjoying raiding people’s trash piles!!! :P

April 21, 2010 / Mark

Making A House a Home

Picture update time! There are a bunch of things that happened which significantly changed the appearance of the house, and it’s time to fill you in on how it looks now! The pictures are at the very bottom of this post. After Sarah had given me an awesome early birthday present, I felt the need to take a picture of the box, with an upside-down chair on it. We have been using the chairs to eat dinner in while enjoying the relaxing spring Rochester weather. Our two kitties are also enjoying the outdoors, chasing bumblebees and sniffing everything in sight. One thing we kept them away from was the dessert we made. Bananas, vanilla pudding, Nilla wafers and whipped cream all add up to make an amazing afternoon snack! Anyway, let’s get down to business.

After we finished up the master bedroom, we took a break for a week while deciding what to do with the next room. After testing out a color called Cool Cucumber, and deciding that it was way too close to white for what we wanted, we went for something a little more bold. No surprises here, it’s bright green! Armed with some lessons learned from the last room, we got to work, and decided to paint everything without masking tape. Ridiculous, I know, but it actually worked out great in the end. The prep-work was a lot of fun; we took down the light fixture on the wall above the sink, as well as the cabinet.

Before getting started on the walls, the trim around the windows on the door were prepped and primed. The window frame was really really annoying! Painting the right side of the frame wasn’t a problem for me, being left handed…. but the left side was really awkward because of the space available behind the toilet. After the primer had dried, we got to work on the walls, doing the edging with a Sure-line edging tool, commonly referred to us as the Shurfine for some unknown reason. It’s little red tool that has two wheels that roll over the wall you’re not painting, and a pad soaked with paint for the wall that is being painted. It makes a nice line of paint up to the edge of the wall that is a few inches thick, and then we just went over it as closely to the ceiling as we could to get the streaks out.

Of course, being clumsy, I hit the ceiling a couple times with the roller.. fortunately, there was some paint in the basement leftover from when the ceiling was painted in the past. Oddly enough, the paint smelled like chocolate? We couldn’t really figure that one out, hahaha. The trim was then gone over the same way, and painted white.  After being blinded by bright lights early in the morning one too many times, I took the time today to replace the switch with a digital dimmer.

Thanks to great efforts from my parents and Sarah’s dad, we managed to get a ton of furniture moved to the house over the weekend.. literally. It’s great though, things are filling in, feeling like home, and is just much easier to live in now. A few pictures in the album show just how much furniture appeared in the span of 48 hours. The last one was taken just a few minutes ago, as I was writing this very post!

While Sarah’s dad was here, we decided to make use of our fire place. We have a ton of trees in the back yard, so finding sticks and twigs to start a fire was no problem, and he happened to bring up two small cherry logs with him to help support furniture in the trailer. Things were off to a great start, but as soon as the fire died down a bit and wasn’t nearly as hot, a little bit of smoke started getting into the room, and ended up setting off both smoke detectors. We opened all the windows and put a fan in to get the smoke out, it got pretty chilly in the house that night! It was decided that until something is changed in the fireplace, fires will be an all or nothing deal.


April 20, 2010 / Sarah

The Great Room

First off: we are fully moved in! Many thanks to Wendy & Jim (Mark’s parents) and my Dad who came up this past weekend. We acquired some things, new and old, and the house is slowly but surely feeling like home. My great-great-grandmother’s dining room table & buffet have come into the mix, and we are loving our dining room/living room duo. The Great Room truly lives up to its name.

We haven’t had time to upload pictures, we’ve been a bit busy (probably an understatement) and my two jobs have been so time-consuming as of late. Besides we’ve got a bit of organizing to do, but our office, master bedroom, master bathroom, and kitchen are pretty much good-to-go for now and we will tackle the sunporch and living room soon.

Today we will plant some daylilies after work in our garden. The daylilies my dad brought up from his house (thanks Heather) and will look great once planted! Mark also got a lawn mower & a set of power tools for his early birthday, and after the first fresh cut of spring, the lawn looks incredible…. we should really get a truck load of topsoil/mulch for the trees and lawn. There are a couple of deep holes & divots that we need to fill, and some grass seed to put down. For some reason everyone wants to celebrate Mark’s birthday early, because I got him some Adirondack chairs as an early gift, too.

As always, more to come later…

April 8, 2010 / Sarah

Bring on the Thunder

So it’s been a week now, officially, that we’ve been homeowners. And let me tell you, the feeling hasn’t really sunk in. I think the fact that we have none of our furniture or kitchen appliances over at the house yet contributes to this, but that’ll all happen in due course, just have to be patient.  I will say though, that I love our new bed. I don’t know where this king size bed has been all my life. Besides the fact that I have to use an imaginary megaphone to talk to Mark alllll the way on the other side of the bed, we have lots of space to stretch our long legs out, and it’s definitely the perfect fit for this 5’11 & 6’4 couple. We’ve stayed at the house 3 nights now (we still wander over to the apartment from time to time) and knowing that we are waking up in our very own house gives us, well, I have to say it… the warm fuzzies!

Last night, Mark and I were debating about curtain colors in the master bedroom when we heard a loud booming noise which coupled with a huge rumble in the floor beneath our feet. At first, I thought this might have been a random occurrence from my flushing the toilet 5 minutes prior, and then we went down to the basement to make sure it wasn’t a laundry or pump issue (we were doing laundry). Everything was kosher in the basement, so I made my way outside, and it was POURING. It was Thunder!! Probably Mark’s favorite natural phenomenon, and # 3 on my list of scary things, but now we know what a thunderstorm sounds like in the Casa. I know, I know, thunder, big deal – but hey, we love hearing cool sounds in new places!

So let’s see what’s been finished so far…. The master bedroom painting (minus a few touch-ups), installed washer/dryer, got old washer/dryer donated and picked up, got some floor re-finishing quotes, re-arranged shelves in living room, brought over all our plants, clothes, got some MAIL (thank you, parents!), decided paint color for guest room & master bathroom, and a lot of yardwork has been completed. Unfortunately, it’s been raining all week so a lot of the leaves that I blew around w/ the leafblower to dry out have gotten wet again, but that’s nothing a little sunshine this weekend can’t fix!

I don’t have any project pictures to post today, but I did go onto Google StreetView and found some pics of the house in all its Springy-ness. I figured a picture of the house with lots of GREEN would give you a good idea of just how many trees there are, and how nicely set back the house is from the quiet neighborhood street. Enjoy!

Shot 1


Shot 2

Note that the color of the house will not remain the same (thank goodness)! We are hoping to tackle a house-painting project within the year….

P.S. GO RIT HOCKEY! (Playing in the Frozen Four in Detroit tonight & Saturday!)