Main bathroom reveal

Our last major project on the house is done! Well, the last project on round 1 of home remodeling. We could really use some better kitchen cabinets and central heat, but we knew we probably wouldn’t be able to get to those things for a while. So we set aside enough money to do a few major projects, and now they are ALL DONE. Hallelujah!

The bathroom was a problem for a lot of reasons. First, it was butt ugly. After bringing the rest of the house out of the ’80s (see mom’s bathroom remodel), the dated bathroom just looked awful.

The linoleum was ugly and stained. It just had to go. It also seemed like the floor was uneven, because water from the faux marble sink was always dripping onto the floor.


The previous owners had replaced the mirror cabinet and light fixture. However, they picked new ones that are the opposite of what we would have picked. The 3-mirror cabinet was always sticking out because the shelves were too tiny to hold much of anything. We had to keep way too many things on the sink because they just didn’t fit anywhere else. And really, when your bathroom is that ugly, you don’t fret too much about clutter.

The shower was not actually that bad. I sort of enjoyed that the faux marble walls didn’t have grout to get all moldy. But when we took off the shower doors (I can’t stand shower doors!), it left some marks and scrapes on the walls and tub. The fixtures were also pretty old and grimy, and the drain plug didn’t work correctly.

The tub edge.

The other super weird thing was the light switch situation. There were two switches at different heights for the light and fan. The fan switch was in the place that seemed more appropriate for the light switch. So we really wanted to get them re-wired so that they were on a double switch in a place that made sense. The fan was also super loud.

Then there was the toilet that used about 6 gallons per flush. The one we put in mom’s bathroom uses .8 gallons per flush. So yeah, we wanted something a leetle more efficient. (With the drought, something like that really does make a huge difference).

At first I thought we could get away with just tearing out the linoleum and the toilet, sink cabinet and mirror, and then maybe refinishing the tub. But eventually it made more sense to tear all of it out and start from scratch. There were a couple of imperfections in the drywall that made us concerned for what was underneath. So, better safe than sorry.

Side note: Do you watch “Renovation Realities”? We love that show. And what you learn from watching it is that something, or a few somethings, will always go wrong and cost you extra money and time. Sigh.

So, when Mike tore out the drywall, he did find some issues. The subfloor had some damage and there was a good-sized hole underneath. So, new subfloor.

Check out how the wood connects on the right. Face palm. 

Then there was a stud that had been cut and repaired in a completely unsafe way. When he went to replace it, Mike cut a hole in the water pipe nearby, so we had to pay a plumber to fix that. While she was there, we also had her make sure all the sink pipes would work when went to put that in.

Another issue: there was no insulation in any of the walls. So while we had the walls off we put some in the outside wall.

And then when he went to install the shower fixture, Mike realized that the pipes there were not going to match up. So, we had to call another plumber to bring that up to date.

New pipes!

After ALL that was taken care of, we were able to put the walls back up. Mike enlisted a friend for help since I am not in any kind of shape to do drywall. Another side note: why is it purple?

Without a light, the bathroom was dark and scary for a while.

Once the walls were up, we could tackle the tile. As Mike learned from the first bathroom, tile is not actually that hard as DIY projects go. The worst part is the prep — cutting all the tiles or tile sheets to fit around corners and such. We did have to buy a tile saw, but that wasn’t too expensive. Mike laid all the tiles for the floor and shower and then I came in and did the grout.

We decided to put subway tiles all the way to the top of the shower.  So much better!

It was a lot of work for a super pregnant lady, but I think it turned out great.

I also painted the walls, the same shade of blue/gray that we used in mom’s bathroom. We just wanted everything to look clean and simple. Mike had to tackle the very smelly job of refinishing the tub since it would not be good for me to inhale epoxy. He got a respirator and it was really only bad for one day.

Once everything was dry and the grout sealed, we could put the bathroom back together.

We used the Hemnes furniture from IKEA for the cabinet and mirror. The mirror cabinet is huge, but it actually holds everything with room to spare.

The shallow sink also allows for more storage underneath. And Harper’s little stool fits underneath the sink, which is nice because the bathroom is pretty small.

The fan we put in the ceiling is so cool. It’s about as silent as a Prius and it comes on automatically when it detects humidity. The light fixture has turned out to be a little small for the room, but that would be easy to replace if we wanted to. IKEA makes a 5-light version.

The toilet has worked great so far. On a rare occasion you might have to flush twice, but even if you do, you’re still only using 1.6 gallons. Oh, and Mike got a super fancy toilet seat that has a slow-close feature and a built-in child seat. So, no more Elmo potty ring taking up space. 

We decided to kind of hide the towel bars behind the door. With four of us using the bathroom, it can look pretty messy, but this tidies it up.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to walk past the bathroom and see it looking so good. It finally matches the rest of the house! And it was the one thing we really wanted to finish so that we could concentrate on what really matters — our new kiddo!

*I finally had a chance to go over all our receipts and figure out the cost for this project. It came out to about $3,850. The IKEA furniture and light fixture came to about $600. We had to pay the plumbers $765. The toilet and fancy seat were about $250. Each set of tile was around $400. So the rest was for drywall, mud, paint, grout, various supplies and some new tools we had to buy. At least with the tools we can use them again for future projects. The bathroom is fairly small, but I think for a complete remodel (down to the studs and subfloor), we did really well. And with the way houses have been selling in this neighborhood, I’m sure we’ll see a return on our investment. 

Refinished table and chairs

On the long list of things I’m thankful for this year is our beautiful refinished midcentury table and chairs. I’m excited to share how we transformed a pretty broken down set into something that looks like it came out of a West Elm catalog (and for a fraction of the cost).

So, way back in January, I think, we found this dining room set at the Cordelia Junction antique mall. It was covered in dishes, but I could see how cool it looked underneath. Although the set appeared to be missing a chair with arms and one without, it had all the other pieces, including two table leaves. And it was exactly the midcentury style I’d been hoping to find. So at $125 with 20% off, we felt like it was a deal not to be missed. Into the car it went.

The table itself was pretty bowed in the center and a little wobbly.

It also had quite a bit of damage to the surface and it was a pretty blah color.

Mike started by repairing the wood so that the table would be nice and flat and more sturdy. Then came the sanding part, which was not easy. Every curvy arm, nook and cranny of those chairs had to be sanded rough and then fine. We have very little free time these days, so he worked on it when he could. Eventually, all the parts were ready to be stained.

The staining went pretty quickly. We chose something darker, and a little more cherry colored. We felt it went with the rest of our furniture better.

Then we came to the final stages. While Mike was applying several coats of the clear finish, I decided to replace the nasty fabric on all the chair seats.

It took forever to get the fabric off the first seat, but the rest came off pretty easily. I used a hammer to pull out a lot of the staples and mostly just ripped the rest of the fabric off.

The seats had a layer of soft material underneath, but I added another layer of batting just to make them a little softer. Then I cut a square of (much more attractive) fabric around each seat and stapled it on.

It’s a little tricky to fold the fabric around the rounded corners, but overall it’s super easy. When in doubt, add more staples!

I thought the seats looked about 1000 times better when they were done.

Unfortunately, just as Mike was about to finish all the clear coats on the table and chairs, we had to get started on our bathroom remodel. So the table had to be put on hold for another 2 months. And just this week we finished the bathroom (more on that in another post) and so we could finish the table.

Doesn’t it look amazing? It’s just exactly what I wanted for that space, and I think it turned out so well. I’m glad we didn’t pay a huge amount of money for it, since it will be getting a lot of use by little ones in the next few years. I think with the initial cost, the sandpaper, stain, clear finish, batting and fabric, we probably came in less than $300. This one at West Elm is $600 plus $350 per chair.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that my mom had found some midcentury chairs out on the curb that we decided to incorporate into the set so we’d have 6 chairs. I covered those seats in matching fabric, and they fit in amazingly well. I think this project was meant to be!

New house tour

It sounds weird, but one of my favorite parts about the new house is that it needs work. We’ve already started tackling some projects and it is awesome to watch the place transform. 

First up, we had to address the electrical issues. Most of the outlets were for old 2-prong plugs, plus the fuse system was out of date and frankly dangerous given how many computer and appliances we’ll be plugging in.

So we got a credit to fix the big issues. Then we paid extra to have the workshop wired and lights installed.  

The old lighting came from an extension cord run through this door. Super safe!

I’ll have more photos of the inside later. We plan to install drywall later this summer, and that will really transform the space.

The second thing we had to do was get a new door for the workshop. The old one was so rotted that the bottom literally fell off. 

We wanted to change most of the locks in the house, so we got a locksmith to help us with that. The front door lock/plate was that ugly brassy color, so we were not too sad to get rid of it. 

The front door is actually pretty nice, but I have this idea that it would be cool to paint it orange. The only problem is that we really like having a screen door for air circulation. So I’m torn on whether or not to replace or remove the screen door. Or maybe just paint the screen door instead. 

The next big project was the flooring. We knew it would be best to address the ugly carpet before we moved in, so we started right away. Friends helped us rip out the old carpet and remove all the staples and tack strips. Then we hired a flooring company to sand and refinish the oak floors underneath. 

This is what it looked like underneath the carpet. I can’t imagine covering up that beautiful floor!

One issue that we will have to address later is the floor heater.

It’s big and not great for a toddler, but we don’t have the budget for a central heating system right now. Thankfully it never gets very cold!

The living room and dining room don’t need much else, other than new window treatments and a new light fixture above the dining room table. This one is new, but not our taste.

Between the awnings and the huge grandma curtains, these two rooms are really dark. Hopefully the changes we make will bring in lots more light. 

Both the hall linen closet and the kitchen pantry need shelves repositioned and painted.

Mike is great at building little shelves, so that should be no problem. What worries me is that we are used to having a second big hall closet that we won’t have anymore. 

The main bathroom is functional, but pretty darn ugly. Shower doors make me crazy, so those have to go. I hate, hate, hate mini blinds, so those have to go too. 

The shower head and faucet can be easily replaced with something more modern. 

Same with the sink cabinet and faucet (I’m thinking IKEA). We will probably pull up the vinyl flooring and replace it with hex tiles. 

The kitchen is really not so bad. Believe me, I saw much worse when we were house-hunting. I’d like to paint the cabinets white to make it lighter and more spacious looking. The drawers are lined with cute paper, but I’m thinking this chevron lining will look great. 

It has to be better than the pieces of stained linoleum I found nailed to the bottom of some cabinets!

We already got a new microwave to replace the ancient one. We’re also thinking of adding some shelving underneath the bar area. We need it for storage much more than we need it for seating.

Harper’s room doesn’t need a thing other than curtains and possibly a paint color. I’m thinking about light green. We could paint our room or leave it as-is.

Mom’s room has these ugly vertical blinds. We all agree that we hate them, too.

Her room wins for the wackiest item, though. What do you think might be underneath this crazy carpeted bench? 

It’s a safe!

We found out that the previous owners had a gas station, so they would put the money here at night. Fortunately it turned out to be moveable. 

Mom’s half bath needs some work. The sub floor needs to be replaced, so we’d like to tile the floor while we address that.

I hate the wallpaper, and the sink cabinet will probably go too. 

The garage has some pretty nice built-in shelving, but everything could use a coat of paint. Strangely, it looks like there are floor tiles on the walls, but I think they are actually kind of cool. 

So is this mirror. I think I might spray paint it and use it in my booth at craft fairs. 

How about these relics?

Also strange, the door to the house looks like stainless steel. 

Outside: One of my favorite parts about the house is the deck.

I can imagine us having morning coffee out there or playing with Harper. We really haven’t been able to use our current back yard much, but this one should be a lot better. Plus, the deck is nice and low so Harper can’t go tumbling down a bunch of steps. We’ll probably toss the old chairs and get some new patio furniture and a grill. 

The little side yard needs some adjustments to the gutters and some new grass. 

Out front we have new house numbers and a new doorbell, which I will show you later. Of course there are lots of other little things like drawer pulls and light switches. A million things to toss in the cart at Home Depot.

It feels so good to be making progress everyday. I just wish the moving part would happen magically!

The ultimate recycled blanket

Remember this guy?

Well, after a few years of constant use on our couch it was looking a little rough around the edges. The yarn had started to get fuzzy and pill. And I was just starting to wish for something new. I was all ready to find some yarn on sale and start a new blanket. But if you’ve ever made a blanket yourself (especially one of this size), you know that it always ends up costing more than what it would have if you just went out and bought one.

So I thought about if for a while and decided that I would try to make a new blanket out of the old one. I’ve always loved those colors, and they go so well with our orange couch. So I pulled the whole thing apart.

It took me the better part of a week to get the pill-y yarn wound into huge balls. But once it was done it really did feel like a fresh start. And there were only a couple parts that needed to be cut out because they were beyond repair.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on the new blanket here and there. I improvised a color block pattern as I went along. And I finally got it finished!

I love how it turned out. It’s obviously not as attractive as a brand new blanket would be. But since it will most likely be claimed by the dogs most of the time, I’m OK with that.

Reggie loves it already.

Speaking of blankets, my sister just finished this adorable love birds quilt for a friend of hers who was getting married.

I’ve never made a quilt before, but I have the ultimate respect for those who are talented at sewing.

And I hear that Megan’s cats were a big help in the process. Especially Vladmir.

San Diego

For the last part of our trip we headed down to San Diego. Though it was pretty chilly, we went to the beach (Mission Beach) so Mike could get a surf lesson.

The other guys in his group were actually traveling members of the Rock of Ages cast. I can’t imagine how you could spend much time in that freezing cold water, even with a wet suit, but Mike said it wasn’t bad.

I just hung around the beach and tried to soak up the sun.

For lunch that day we took a recommendation from one of Mike’s coworkers and went to South Beach Bar & Grill for fish tacos.

Though I don’t think they needed the cream sauce on top, I really liked the teriyaki marinade on my mahi and the salsa fresca. I’ll have to remember that when we make fish tacos at home.

For dinner we went to Toronado, which is known for its beer selection. I don’t have any photos of the food, which was really good comfort food type of stuff, but Mike did snap a photo of their huge list of Belgians. I’m not a huge beer drinker, but I do really like Belgians.

We felt like Toronado was the kind of place where we’d be regulars if we lived there. Overall, though, I didn’t connect with San Diego the way I did with LA. People always say such great things about SD, so I expected to love it. I think maybe we just need to spend more time there (when it’s warmer!).

Anyway, some other sights we explored while we were there:

The border fence. Unfortunately the park right near there was closed.

We did go across the bridge to Coronado and walked along the beach for a while. Part of the beach is on the naval base and there’s an airport landing strip so close that planes just zoom overhead.

We got some history lessons in Old Town San Diego.

For lunch that day we had the most amazing tacos from Tacos El Gordo in Chula Vista. I can’t even explain what was so good about them, they just were.

My favorite were the spicy pork tacos (far left in the photo above). They’re made from meat that’s shaved off a big rotisserie, kind of like a gyro.

I’ve never had so much love for a man in a hairnet.

Our hotel was pretty close to the Torrey Pines State Reserve, so we explored that a bit.

The geology along the beach was some of the most incredible I’ve ever seen. The beach was just covered with all sorts of interesting looking rocks, some with shells stuck inside, some lava rocks, some petrified wood and sandstone.

Not that we needed to do anything to appear nerdier, but we had a really good time just picking up all the rocks and trying to figure out what they were.

Curlews looking for goodies.

Our last adventure was to the Green Flash Brewery, which was recommended by a lot of friends. We thought we were just going for a tasting where maybe a few other people would be there, but it turned out to be like a huge happy hour party.

I was feeling a little sheepish, as I was wearing slightly ripped cargo pants and a fleece jacket amongst people still in their work clothes, but I think it’s the kind of place where everyone fits in. And, as a bonus, they had food trucks outside. Score!

We tried a couple different types of pierogies with a garlic dipping sauce that were really good.

The perfect end to a foodie-centric vacation, I’d say!

Road trip: Los Angeles

Not to be confused with the real one. 

It’s about time we got down to LA, right? We finally had the time, money, and organizational skills to plan a trip to the LA area, so that’s what we did for our “spring break.”

Last time I was driving through on my way to Orange County, I noticed the gorgeous Pyramid Lake area. So I suggested to Mike that we camp there the first night to get in a little nature before we surrounded ourselves with Bentleys and Botox.

This turned out to be a bad idea for several reasons. First, even in southern California it is frickin’ freezing at night. Like actually 30 degrees. So we froze our butts off in our little tent.

We also got to listen to our fellow campers screaming about Jager shots all night. Fun times. And most importantly, that night turned out to be one of the ones when KU was playing in the NCAA tournament, so we actually went to a barbecue restaurant in Santa Clarita for a few hours to watch the game. So much for nature.

Rock chalk!

On the plus side, Rattler’s BBQ was really good, and KU won the game. I also discovered a new food —tri tip, which I did not realize was a big thing in SoCal. It’s like somewhere in between steak and brisket, and it’s really good.

In the morning we woke up to the sound of dozens of quail wandering around our campsite. They’re actually really interesting looking birds, and we saw lots of them on our trip. But we had to get moving onto the city, so we headed into LA in search of coffee and breakfast. It was about that time that we discovered that our first neice, Grace, was born that night while we were freezing in our tent. Welcome to the world little lady!

We also discovered that Proof is an amazing place to have coffee and breakfast.

Proof was one of the restaurants I learned about from Joy’s blog. Every pastry there looks divine, and we sampled the quiche and a morning bun. Highly recommend!

So appropriate that there really is a Bentley sitting there.

Next we decided to do some exploring by car around Beverly Hills, various other neighborhoods, and up to Mulholland Drive. We bought a cheesy star map, saw the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air house, etc. etc.

By lunchtime we decided to head to the beach in Santa Monica. To me it is exactly what I think of when I think LA. Brightly colored, beachy, full of palm trees and people on cruiser bikes.

It was the perfect place to do this.

Mike found this Italian deli pretty close to the beach where we got some yummy sandwiches.

Bonus points if you can tell what’s wrong with this picture.

And we continued our good eats that night when we went to Berlin Currywurst in Silver Lake. (Which is a super cool neighborhood, by the way). Apparently currywurst is a foodie trend I have not kept up with, because we saw at least two more restaurants that had it in LA. But we finally tried it.

It’s basically sausage cut up into chunks and covered with a curry sauce. You pick it up with a little toothpick thing. We also got seasoned fries that you dip in mayo, just like you would in Europe. What’s not to love about that?

Also in this neighborhood we saw an Isetta parked on the street.

We finished our night with Intelligentsia coffee, which is seriously intense! I thought Blue Bottle held the title on coffee snobbery, but now I’m not so sure. The people were really nice, though. In fact people generally were nicer than I expected. I actually loved LA. We both did. It’s got a huge personality, and so many different things going on. It surprised me, in a good way.

The next day we decided to pack in as much sightseeing as possible since we had limited time. The weather was a huge fail — cool and rainy, at times even pouring — all day and night, but we made the best of it.

Before the rain had a chance to get going, we went to the Hollywood farmers market. It’s a great size — just enough vendors to find everything you’d want. If I lived around there I’d definitely go regularly.

We got to try another new food, these Thai coconut pancakes. They remind me of Dutch poffertjes, but with coconut goo in the middles. Very yummy.

Best part? The little leaf boat they come in.

We had a so-so pupusa (I’m about to give up on finding a better one than the ones at the Des Moines farmers market), but then Mike found this killer blue corn tamale.

And my favorite part was the Carmela ice cream truck. I got a real education from the guy working there about all the natural goodies used for their flavorings.

Despite the weather I ended up getting a strawberry-buttermilk ice cream sandwich, one of the best I’ve ever had. Bi-Rite still hold the title of best ice cream in my mind, but this was pretty close.

By then the rain had started falling, but we trekked up to Griffith Park to see the observatory. On a better day it would have been a great place to hike, but we pretty much just wanted to see the place where the famous scenes with James Dean were filmed.

You can also get a great view of the Hollywood sign up there.

Next we needed another indoor activity so we headed to the La Brea tar pits museum. For nerds like us it was a lot of fun.

In addition to all the fossilized bones (which they constantly remind you are not dinosaurs!), they also have a big glass room where you can watch people cleaning tar off new finds.

Yikes! Also, did you know there existed huge ancient sloths?

After that we had to find another place to watch the next KU game, so we actually stumbled on The Counter, which is right across the street from the museum.

It’s a build-your-own-burger place with a big bar where you can watch big-screen TVs. I loved it. I thought the food was excellent, and I liked that you could get half sweet potato fries and half onion rings (or other ‘fring’ combinations).

KU won again, so we were very happy. That night we met up with my college friend Tanner, who works for Entertainment Weekly. It was awesome to catch up with him in his very cool West Hollywood house.

I think we managed to squeeze everything we possibly could into those three days. But there’s more! We actually went to Orange County after that so we could take a trip to Catalina Island. And then we went down to San Diego for a couple days. But I think I will save those for other posts because this has gotten crazy long already.