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Thanksgiving 2012 – Food, Remodeling, and Disneyland!

That post title pretty much sums up our Thanksgiving break! It all started on Thursday with Thanksgiving at my family’s house in Temecula. We had a great time playing card games, perusing Black Friday ads, and stuffing ourselves silly–my crazy mom made two turkeys and 13 different side dishes!

The next day we were up and at ‘em on our latest remodeling project: our downstairs powder room! We had originally hoped to do a big remodel of our upstairs bathroom area, which has a dated full bathroom and a weird separate sink area. We really want to add a toilet and shower to the sink area to create a second full (ok, 3/4) bath upstairs, but some of the cost estimates we found freaked us out a bit. One contractor blog we found suggested it would cost around $4,000 just to add the toilet. Yikes. We’re not quite ready for that big of a financial commitment, so we’ve decided to keep saving our pennies and tackle a smaller project first.

And so, our living and dining rooms currently look like this:

Our living room is full of construction supplies... is our dining room.

Unfortunately, we forgot to take “before” photos, but the fun started when Robby tore out the existing (ugly and chipped!) sink and vanity cabinet:

Phase one: tearing out the sink.

Then we tore out the rusty medicine cabinet (who needs one of those in a powder room, anyway?), and Robby patched the drywall:

Robby's first drywall project. He did a good job!

Next, we filled in the missing floor planks and baseboards, and opened the wall to add blocking (horizontal support studs) for the sink. Unfortunately, we encountered a few unpleasant surprises at that point. One of the sink taps developed a slow leak, we found a vent pipe right where we need to add blocking, and, worst of all, we noticed that the plumbing is agonizingly off-center, which means we either need to move/angle the pipes or put up with a crooked-looking sink:

Annoyingly off-center pipes.

So frustrating! I guess it wouldn’t be a real remodeling project if we didn’t have to call in an expert. :( So, unfortunately, our project is at a standstill until we can get a plumber in to fix the pipes. We’re hoping to get that done this week, but until then, here’s a little preview of what I’m hoping the bathroom will look like when everything is done:

Kohler Archer pedestal sink.

Moen Banbury faucet and accessories (towel holder, toilet paper holder, and toilet flush handle).

Moen Sage mirror.

Grasscloth wallpaper.

I also want to build floating shelves above the toilet to hold towels, like this (image found on Pinterest).

Our bathroom may be in limbo, but we ended our vacation on a high note–at Disneyland! I had the amazing good fortune to win two park hopper tickets in a drawing at work, and we decided to use them before the holiday chaos begins. Our pace was somewhat slow since we were both tired and I had a sinus headache, blah. Still, we had a great time taking in the Christmas decorations, riding the rides, and hunting down fun things to eat. We especially liked the new Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure:


Christmas at Cars Land was so fun!

Definitely a memorable Thanksgiving weekend, although perhaps not very restful. :) We’re looking forward to spending Christmas with Robby’s family soon–although, I have a lot of work ahead of me since I decided to hand-make several of our gifts. Wish me luck finishing everything!

Nightstand Makeover

So this isn’t quite as exciting as my last post (how can you top Jeopardy!?), but it’s made a big difference in how our bedroom looks. I finally got around to painting Robby’s nightstand!

Pretty black nightstand!

Another shot of the finished product.

Here’s a reminder of how our bedroom furniture used to look (from this post on creating an upholstered headboard):

Before shot with mis-matched furniture.

We found my nightstand (on the left) on Craigslist a few years back.

My Craigslist find. Lucy's crate used to be next to it, but her snoring got to be too much so we moved her out into the hallway. Sorry, puppy!

The seller only had one, and since Robby’s current nightstand is nice solid wood I decided that I would paint his black to match…I just never got around to it until last month!

I had seen this tutorial a few times on Pinterest, and was impressed with the results. So I decided to follow the directions exactly, even though it meant dragging Robby to 2 different paint stores to find the right wood enamel. :)

Close-up of the finish.

I didn’t get quite as smooth a finish as the original painter, but I still think it turned out pretty well. And with the addition of new brushed-chrome knobs, our nightstands finally (almost) match!

I think this side of the room is finally finished! Next up: painting the dresser and getting a new mirror...

Memorial Day Weekend Home Improvements

The 3-day Memorial Day weekend could not have come at a better time. I have been so tired lately between working full time and going to school 2 nights a week. Thankfully, I’m just about done with my last few school projects (2 more weeks of class!) so I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. :)

I worked hard to get two papers done early so that Robby and I could relax over the holiday weekend. It turned out that the weekend wasn’t all that relaxing, but it sure was fun! Saturday started off with a whirlwind of spring (ok, more like summer) cleaning…floors, kitchen (I even cleaned out the fridge and de-scaled the coffee maker!), bathrooms, and a ton of laundry, until the dryer stopped working. Boo. (Note: it was a broken belt, and Robby fixed it a few days later!)

After finishing my chores, Robby and I headed to the hardware store for some patio-makeover supplies. We came home and cleaned off a year’s worth of leaves and dirt, then re-arranged our plants, adding trellises to  the climbing plants. Hopefully they’ll look better when they fill in a bit more, but for now I’m happy with my tidy little patio and balcony.

Downstairs patio

Upstairs balcony. I noticed after the fact that it's missing a spike, argh.

Oh, and we discovered some fun little surprises–several lemons, our very first baby pear, and two doves that built a nest in one of my hanging planters!


It's out-of-focus, but you can see the pear left of center. We've had the pear tree for over three years and had all but given up on ever getting any fruit from it. We'll be guarding our little pear closely!

A bit hard to see, but there are two doves in that basket!

Sunday started with church and a lunch of homemade pesto pasta salad and sweet tea. Then I headed over to Target to check out a rug that was on sale, and ended up coming home with a bit more than I expected, hehe.

New coffee table, rug, and baskets.

I’m loving the new coffee table, rug, and baskets! I think it makes the room look a little brighter, although a lighter-colored couch would help a lot…maybe someday we’ll trade ours out for a different one. :)

On a Sunday-night whim, we decided to see a late showing of The Hunger Games at the second-run theater near our house. I’ve been trying to resist the Hunger Games hype, but I actually enjoyed the movie more than I thought I would.

On Monday morning, we slept in, and then I made french toast. Yum! :) After that we headed down to Long Beach to visit my grandparents. We hit Robby’s favorite restaurant, Chick-fil-a, for lunch, and then tried to catch a matinee showing of The Avengers. Sadly, it was sold out, so we headed home. After a dinner of grilled chicken and pasta salad, we headed to bed early to get ourselves nice and rested for the rest of the week.

All in all, a fantastic Memorial Day weekend! And this weekend has been good, too–Robby and I spent the morning finding some great bargains on work clothes on Colorado Blvd. We had a great lunch at Le Pain Quotidien in Old Town Pasadena, and now we’re gearing up to try to see The Avengers again. Hopefully it won’t be sold out again!

Sayonara, 2011; Hello, 2012!

First, can I just brag about the fact that it was 75° today in Pasadena?! I love that. :) Robby and I started our New Year’s Day at church, and then we spent the afternoon kicking around Manhattan Beach. Tomorrow morning, we’re planning on walking 3 blocks down to Colorado Blvd. to catch the Rose Parade before heading back to work on Tuesday…sigh.

New Year’s always makes me reflective, and 2011 gave me a lot to reflect on. In a lot of ways, it was a hard year. I had some medical struggles (including surgery); we learned that it will be extremely difficult (if not impossible) for us to have biological children; we lost a dear friend much too young; Robby and I had far too many stressful work projects; and I took on the burden of returning to school while working full-time. When I think about those things, I’m tempted to say “good riddance” to a bad year!

We did have quite a few good times mixed in there, though. Highlights from 2011 include our epic kitchen remodel; the birth of our adorable new nephew Hudson; two great trips to the Hollywood Bowl; a birthday weekend at Disneyland; getting an article published in a journal; surviving an epic windstorm in Pasadena; receiving a new iPhone 4S for Christmas; getting to preview a Rose Parade float; and taking several great trips:

  • Our anniversary trip to Santa Barbara
  • My work trip to Philadelphia and Washington, DC (Robby came with me)
  • Our trip to Orlando and Miami (in an attempt to witness the penultimate shuttle launch, which was unfortunately scrubbed 2 hours beforehand)
  • My work trip to Dayton, Ohio (Robby wasn’t able to come with me)
  • Robby’s trip to Orlando, where he was able to fulfill his lifelong dream by watching the last-ever shuttle launch!
  • A trip to Atlanta for Robby’s cousin’s wedding and then on to Panama City Beach for a week with Robby’s family
  • Our Thanksgiving trip to Knoxville, Gatlinburg, and Birmingham

I have mixed feelings about 2011. Mostly, I’m just happy to have reached the end of it with a wonderful husband by my side, and I’m hopeful that 2012 will be a good year for us. Heck, 2012 already has two things going for it–we’re planning a trip to Italy and England in the spring, and I’ll finish my MBA in June! I’m already counting down the days (literally–see the sidebar over there on the right??) until I have more time to knit, bake, decorate, and plan our next remodeling project–maybe overhauling our 80s-style bathrooms? :)

I hope that 2012 is filled with blessings for you (and us)! I’ll leave you with this huge photo-retrospective of some of our 2011 highlights:

Christmas decor 2011

Since we traveled for Thanksgiving, we’re spending Christmas in Southern California this year. That gave me an excuse to pull out all the stops with Christmas decor! It took me a while to get everything up because I’ve been so busy with school (I actually just finished decorating today), but I love the final result. It’s so nice to be surrounded by cozy Christmas sights and smells. :)

Decorating our tree!

We went with a Noble Fir (real, of course!). I've really been enjoying the pine scent.

View from the front door. That lamp is new, and such a fun color!

View across the living room. I added (faux) wreaths to the doors, some pillows from Crate and Barrel, a snowman decoration from Robby's mom, and a hand-carved Nativity scene that Robby got in Europe. Also, now that we have a pantry, we moved our old dish storage cabinets out into the dining area.

Our dining room table, all decked out in fancy Christmas linens from my sweet mother-in-law (who also painted that waterfall picture!). The tablecloth is the perfect size for our little table--thanks, Carol! We moved the dresser from upstairs, and it's perfect for holding extra tablecloths and knickknacks.

Since we don't have a mantel, I hung our (homely) hand-knit stockings from the bookcase (which we moved to the upstairs landing). We have an odd number of stockings (one each for Robby, me, and Lucy), so I added a fun jingle bell wreath to balance things out.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!