Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Discovery

For as long as I can remember, I have loved Samoas. Yes, the Girl Scout cookies that are so good that 'you always want samoa'. Get it? That was the witty sales pitch I admit to using more than once as a young girl in green trying to sell cookies. Samoas have always been my favorite of the GS cookies. One year for Valentine's Day my husband even bought me 2 cases of these cookies because of how much I love them! (...except he quickly learned that I could never eat that many cookies!) But it was a great idea because you can only get them once a year and feel like you need to stock up to make it through the year!

Flash forward to 2 weeks ago as I was walking through HEB, and a cookie package caught my eye, Keebler's Coconut Dreams. The package had an image of a cookie that looked like a Samoa and since Keebler is the creator of Grasshopper cookies which definitely can hold their own against Thin Mints, I decided to give them a try.

What a fantastic surprise! These cookies are delicious! While I have not done a side-by-side taste test to compare them to Samoas, they taste pretty darn close to the real thing. And just like Samoas, these cookies are extra good when cold, so I'm keeping my package (okay, to be fair, I'm on my 2nd package by now...) in the refrigerator.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

We're Ready!

This pregnancy has been great. It has been fun, exciting, eye-opening, a learning experience, a bonding experience, and also tiring, scary, emotional, and stressful. Nine months (or ten actually!) have gone by with something new each day - the way the baby moves, maybe, or a new piece of advice from a friend or coworker - and we are now so ready for little Preston to arrive.

As of my last doctors appointment, I was 2 cm dialated and 80% effaced. She said she thought I would deliver about a week early, which would be around 4/15. I am not thrilled about my baby's birthday being on tax day, however, so I am doing lots of walking in the hopes that he will make his debut sooner! We have another appointment with the doctor tomorrow to see if anything has changed in the past week.

I must confess that I am getting a little nervous about how long labor will last and how painful it will be, but I know that it will be worth it in the end when my little baby boy is placed in my arms... right, moms? Plus, there is always the epidural to help with that!

There are a few things still on our to-do and to-purchase lists that we plan to tackle this weekend so that everything will be just right and we will feel ready when Preston blesses us with his presence. I don't think Phil is as worried about getting these last things done before Preston comes, so maybe that's just my nesting instinct kicking in. And to be truthful, he is probably right-- things like hanging pictures on the wall can probably wait... but of course I want everything to be perfect. :)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Baby ____'s Nursery... A Work in Progress

With a lull in home projects upon us, we of course decided to create a project for ourselves, and getting the nursery ready was the perfect one! We started out with an empty room with all the walls painted chocolate brown, and white trim and shutters.

We decided that we wanted to have a dark wooden crib and lighten the walls, so we purchased wainscoating panels, chair rail, and new paint for the walls. We bought everything on a Sunday morning and were able to get all of the wainscoating and chair rail up by the end of that day. Luckily Phil had planned to take 2 days off of work the following week so he graciously spent his days off doing all of the caulking and painting that were needed to finish off the project.

Next we decided that the lighting in the room was not bright enough, especially at the entrance to the room where the built in drawers and shelves are located. We did not want to embark on a huge electrical project which is what we could have done if we wanted to try to keep the ceiling fan and branch off of it, because we would have to split the fan and the light onto separate switches and it would have been somewhat complicated since there is only a single wall switch currently. So we decided to just remove the ceiling fan and replace with a light fixture, and tie in new recessed task lights at the built-ins on the same switch. It turned out to be the perfect amount of light and we are very happy with the result.

AND finishing up the lighting meant we could put together the crib and make the bed, to make the room really look like a nursery! We also bought a matching dresser that can be used as a changing table on the top surface. Here is a photo of me standing in the nursery next to the crib:

Next we need to get a glider chair/ottomon and a small table with a lamp and clock on it, and do some decorating on the walls. As soon as we decide on a name we will be putting individual letters spelling out his name on the wall above his crib, so the pressure is on for us to make a decision! Suggestions are welcome. :)

Just a little something I'm proud of...

Working in the sign business is rewarding in that you get to see a finished product on a building and know all the effort that you put in to coordinating those signs paid off in a big way to provide wonderful advertising and exposure for your customer. I love driving past "my" signs at businesses across the city, state, and country. In December we finished a very large project for a new theatre in Frisco, TX and I had an opportunity to fly up and see the signs in person both at day and night, and attend a VIP opening event. So I thought I'd share some photos of the beautiful signs!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pregnancy Update

Today I had my 25-1/2 week doctor's appointment. She reports all is well with my weight gain, the baby's heart beat, and my vitals. I go back in 3 weeks for my next appointment and glucose screening, to test for gestational diabetes. I am really hoping that one comes back negative because I would really have to put my sweet tooth in check and change up my diet!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all of our family and friends a happy holiday season. Santa came to our house this year and the we enjoyed having the kids around and spending the weekend with family. We hope everyone had a safe and happy Christmas and trust that 2011 will be everyone's best year yet! We certainly have an exciting year of adventure ahead of us!

2010: Year in Review - BRYN MAWR HOME SALE

Since our renter's one-year lease was up at the end of May, we made the decision to put our home on the market for sale in June. We met with a realtor to determine the value of the home and get feedback on the types of upgrades we could put into the home, spending the least to make the most 'bang for our buck' so to speak. We started June 1st with our upgrades and projects to get the house ready to put on the market and by the 2nd weekend in June we had it listed. Some of the things we did in those 2 weeks included landscaping (mowing, edging, weeding, replacing all of the mulch with new mulch, pruning the roses, planting new small perennial flowers, and adding new flower beds with plants in the back yard), changing out all the ceiling fans in the house, re-painting the 2nd bedroom, kitchen, and hallway, re-painting the exterior shutters, replacing one window, patching any wall cracks that had shown up in the past year, staining the fence and deck, replacing the kitchen counters with granite slab and installing a white subway tile backsplash and of course cleaning the place spotless. It was a lot of work and a lot of late nights but we got it done!

We also decided that staging the home was going to be important to get it sold in the least amount of time for the most money so we decided that rather than spending a few thousand dollars to hire a staging company, we would just rent a moving truck and move some of our furniture pieces into the house for the time it was on the market. Since much of our furniture had been purchased when we lived in that home, we knew it would fit well and after the home was listed, we got lots of compliments on our staging efforts appearing professional! We also purchased an exterior patio furniture set including a table, chairs, umbrella, and outdoor rug to be placed on our back deck until the home sold and we picked one that we would like to keep so that we could bring it to our new home when we moved all our furniture back (good trick, eh?).

Our realtor was Kerri Hoermann of Kuper Sotheby's and she did a wonderful job. One of their services is to provide professional photos of the home for the listing which I believe made a huge difference in the presentation to get it sold.

We had an aggressive strategy and within 30 days we had a contract! It was a wonderful experience and we closed on the home in July, actually coming out ahead (financially) from the whole experience. We really loved the character of that home, the neighborhood and all of our neighbors who lived there, and we definitely miss them! Hopefully the new owner enjoys living there as much as we did.

2010: Year in Review - WEEKEND RENOVATIONS

At the beginning of January, I drove to Houston for a girls' weekend with friends and during that time, Phil kicked off what would prove to be a year full of renovations on our home with the scraping of the popcorn off the ceilings upstairs. We had completed this messy task in all the rooms downstairs but hadn't touched the upstairs and we couldn't stand it anymore. But as anyone who has embarked on this type of home renovation knows, one project always leads to another. So after we scraped the popcorn off the ceilings, textured, and painted them, we had to paint the walls. We chose hues of browns, blues, and greens not far off from the rooms downstairs and by February we had all the rooms painted (Jack helped us with this while we were in Miami).

But of course, then we decided to be ambitious and try installing crown molding. So we embarked on that project for all the rooms upstairs (except the bathrooms). We self-taught ourselves how to make the proper cuts, line it up properly, etc. so it was a bit of trial and error but it was really a fun project because we could really see an immediate difference. We ended up having to buy a new miter saw that had a tall enough 'fence' for the crown molding we selected, but fortunately for my husband, I firmly believe that these types of tools are a good investment so I never have any problems spending our money on things from Lowe's or Home Depot. Installing crown molding is definitely a lengthy project if you want the finished product to look professional, because first it has to be painted, then after installation of all the molding, the corners, seams, and nail holes need to be filled with wood putty, then sanded, and painted again with 2-3 more coats and finally caulked at the top and bottom. We used oil based paint for all the molding so that added an even more challenging aspect to the project (Phil does all the painting when we use oil based paint... he is meticulous and patient and the end result is always wonderful).
During this past year, we also decided to close up the pocket door entrance to our master bath from the hallway so that its only entrance would be from our bedroom. So we spent a weekend framing up the opening, installing new drywall, texturing, and painting. It was our first time doing a somewhat large area of drywall and texture ourselves and although most people wouldn't even notice the imperfections, we are not entirely satisfied with it and may end up re-doing this at some point in the future.

This year we also replaced the carpet upstairs. This was brought on by a coupon received in the mail for a great deal on carpet at CW Floors, where we had originally purchased our hardwood floors and kitchen tile the year before. So we selected a color and pattern of Stainmaster carpet and placed our order. We had a few weeks before the install date and in that time we decided that we needed to finish up things like painting all of the doors, door frames, and moldings, and replacing our baseboards. So we jumped head first into that project, ripping out all the old baseboards and carpet and installing all new baseboards, which again involved LOTS of painting with the oil based paint on Phil's part after it was installed. Fortunately I am able to help him during installation by measuring, holding, and planning while he does the actual saw cuts and nail gunning. We got it all done just in time for the carpet installation.

Next, we decided that we would install crown molding in all the rooms downstairs. This was another few weekends of work but again such a great end result!
Our other big project last year was the remodel of the guest bathroom upstairs. We ripped out the existing vanity, mirror, light fixture, and vinyl tile flooring. We left in place the tiled bathtub and the built in cabinets but otherwise it was mostly an overhaul. First we selected and purchased the new freestanding vanity from Cabinets to Go in Houston. We then matched the cream paint color on the new vanity and Phil used a paint sprayer to paint the existing built in cabinets and medicine cabinet to match the same color. This took 3 coats but was good practice with the spray gun because next year we want to use it to spray our kitchen cabinets! Next we embarked on our first tile project ever! We purchased 8"x12" travertine tiles from Floor & Decor for a great price, and bought a new wet saw so that we could install the tile ourselves. We watched a few YouTube videos and lots of HGTV to get tips and then went for it! It turned out pretty good and a few days later we did our 2nd tile project by installing 3"x6" white subway tiles along the back wall behind the vanity, up to about 42" above the floor. Next we did the patching of the wall where we had removed the old light box and relocated the electrical feed. Then we were ready to paint the wall, install the vanity, install the new mirror and light fixture, then finally hook up the plumbing, clean up and decorate. It all sounds so simple and quick when I list it here but especially with the holidays in there, this process took almost 2 months of weekends to complete. But we are very happy with the finished product and now we are ready to try some other tile projects.

Here is a photo of the bathroom BEFORE (when we bought the house):

and AFTER:

The last project we did just before Christmas was to install a new garbage disposal in our kitchen sink! We had lived for over a year without one and were very ready to change that. We picked a mid-range disposal (they range from very loud to very quiet and different horsepower) and brought it home after work on a Friday night and installed it. Putting the disposal in is the easy part because we already had electrical in place for it. The more tricky portion was reworking the plumbing pipes to accommodate the new setup. This required some critical and creative thinking on our part, probably mostly because we are not expert plumbers. :) The first night we worked for about 2 and a half hours and got it all completed, but the next morning we tested it some more and found a small leak. So we went back in and made some adjustments and have been leak free since before Christmas. We gave it a good test by having Christmas dinner at our house and lots of dishes to go with it, and were able to appreciate how great having a disposal really is!

On the forecast for 2011: painting the kitchen cabinets, installing an over-the-stove microwave, installing a tile backsplash in the kitchen, some landscaping, and of course furnishing and decorating the nursery!

2010: Year in Review - February

The first weekend in February we packed up the 4Runner and headed southbound for Mexico to visit my parents! We ended up leaving around midnight, crossed the border in Laredo, and drove all day until about 6pm where we stopped at a hotel for the night before waking up the following morning to drive the remaining 4 hours or so to La Ticla, where my parents were camping.

The first glimpse of the ocean after many, many hours of driving through the mountains is always very exciting so we did make a quick stop that morning at a lookout point.

As soon as we got to La Ticla, my parents shared with us that just 2 nights prior to our arrival, there had been an armed robbery at the campground in Ticla where they were staying and although they had not been targeted or involved, things were a little tense so we decided to play it safe and pack up and head to another campsite for the week.

We ended up at a clean little campsite (we happened to be the only campers there for almost the entire week) located at the bottom of a hill where there was a restaurant and bathrooms. Best of all was the beautiful view from our campsite and even more so at the top of the hill.

We made day trips throughout the week to our favorite spots like Marueta and El Faro, where we found great swimming spots and beautiful beaches.

We spent our days reading, playing paddle ball, laying in the hammock, sunbathing, swimming, and taking walks on the beach. Every evening we enjoyed beautiful sunsets (are you noticing a pattern yet with the types of things we love to do on our vacations?).

2010: Year in Review - JANUARY

The year started out with Phil loading up the Nissan Sentra with all of Felicity and Ethan's belongings and driving nonstop through the delightfully wintery conditions from San Antonio, TX to Saginaw, MI. Talk about quality time together! When they arrived, the temperature was about 3 degrees and Phil doesn't own a heavier jacket than his North Face fleece, so the cold weather experience certainly didn't win him over!

A few weeks later we traveled to Miami, FL for an extended weekend to spend time with my aunt and uncle on their boat. We were able to enjoy some beautiful sunsets, delicious meals, and lots of reading and relaxation!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I Need to Buy a Chef Hat

After seeing the movie Julie and Julia a few weeks ago, I have been inspired to start cooking more frequently.

We purchased a crock pot the week before I saw the movie, so that was a baby step in the right direction for me. First we made a Pot Roast which turned out to be very tender and delicious, and so very easy to prepare! Phil browned the roast and then we just put in cut up onion, potatoes, celery, and baby carrots and a can of beef broth with some seasoning and it was delicious about 6 hours later!

Next I made a Southwestern Chicken Stew that my friend Lesli gave me the recipe for. It is basically her adaptation of a recipe that was in the SA newspaper in October.
  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken (we used the pre-cooked and pre-seasoned chicken breasts that HEB sells so I just heated in the microwave and then cut into cubes)
  • 1 sm can green chilies
  • 1 can whole black beans
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 cup salsa
  • Juice of 3 sm limes
  • 1 sm can tomato sauce
  • 3 chicken buillon cubes (I used 1/2 can chicken broth instead)
  • 3 whole bay leaves (I omitted these because I did not have them)
  • Dash of cilantro
  • Dash of pepper
  • Dash of McCormicks mesquite chicken seasoning
  • Chili powder to taste
  • 2 t. dried onion
  • 1 cup white rice

Dump all ingredients into crock pot. Add water as needed to cover ingredients (I did not need to since I used the chicken broth). Set pot to low and let cook for at least 8 hours or until mixture is piping hot. Before serving stew, prepare rice and stir into crock pot mixture. Service topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, and/or tortilla strips.

Phil and I both really enjoyed this recipe and it also made good leftovers!

I used the crock pot again to make my friend Kate's award winning chili! I don't think I should give out the recipe here, but I can divulge that it included butternut squash which was my first experience working with the ingredient, and the chili turned out to be so spicy that Phil and I both ended up appreciating the butternut squash in the recipe as kind of a neutral flavor to tone it down. It was delicious enough that I plan to prepare it again tomorrow while I'm home sick from work!

For Thanksgiving I had plans to prepare another dish with butternut squash that I had seen in Real Simple magazine. However, we ended up not needing extra food with everything else on the menu so we brought the ingredients home and I made it on Sunday for dinner. The recipe is called Roasted Butternut Squash with Mustard Vinaigrette and the receipe can be found here. Let me back up and say also that when shopping for the groceries for Thanksgiving we found out that 3 butternut squash cost us $15 so I was a little nervous that the recipe was going to turn out badly and Phil would be upset that we wasted $15 on it! Fortunately, the recipe turned out great. Mine even ended up looking pretty much like the photo! (Special thanks to Phil for peeling the butternut squash for me... as we continue to prepare recipes we are learning the things that we should upgrade in our kitchen. One such thing is our potato peeler; it is in sad shape.)

On Sunday evening I also had a need to use up a bunch of red apples that had gone uneaten for a few weeks. I decided to look online for a random recipe for Apple Crisp, which if you don't know was basically my favorite thing in high school. The cafeteria served this delicious crispy, cinnamony, sweet dessert every so often and I would always try to eat as many of my friends' servings as I could, in addition to my own. I found a recipe that ended up being perfect, and so simple to prepare! It is certainly not healthy by any means, with the main ingredients being butter and sugar, but it turned out to be mouth-watering, and even the leftovers taste good (it stayed crispy on top, didn't get soggy as I feared it would).

I have a few more apples left so tomorrow I am planning on baking an apple cake and maybe making hot fudge pudding cake from my mom's recipe just because I feel like having something that reminds me of home/childhood while I am sick (home for the next day and a half with strep throat).

Truth be told, I know that my cooking skills need quite a bit of work but I know also that the old adage "practice makes perfect" certainly has some truth to it, so I think that the more cooking I do, the better I will be at it and the more comfortable I will be in the kitchen. I still consider myself a novice but hopefully am on my way to being a decent cook! I am interested in trying new recipes now, so please send me your favorites!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

New Home

We started looking for new houses earlier this year without any real timeline or plan for buying. We knew we were interested in a larger home in a quiet, established neighborhood somewhere between my work and Phil's. We found a realtor who began sending us listings for homes that met our criteria, which at first included a swimming pool, no exceptions. But as we thought about it more, we opened ourselves up to houses with backyards big enough for a pool to be added in the future in neighborhoods with pools, and that's what we ended up buying. We were not in any rush to buy, which put us in a much stronger buying and negotiating position. After driving around neighborhoods in our favorite areas we narrowed down our search to one particular subdivision. We found one particular home that had been on the market for almost a year, through various listings. We looked at it once, then thought about it for a few weeks, then looked at it again as it continued to grow on us. We then brought Phil's mom to look at it a third time and when my parents were in town one weekend they also drove by the house and looked in the window. Again, we were in no rush since we had a place to live, but were interested in the house because of its potential. This time we were much more knowledgable when we looked for homes and not as emotional as first-time buyers tend to be. We could see this house's potential and that it had good "bones". Neither Phil nor I are in love with the open-concept floor plans that are so popular today. We prefer smaller cozy rooms and we loved the traditional feel of the house, in our favorite neighborhood. It was a very good deal and the sellers were motivated since the house had been on the market for so long. After about a month of negotiations with the seller, we finally came to an agreement on price and considerations. At the end of May, we moved in to our new home! The house was listed as 5 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, with a 2-car garage, fireplace, eat-in kitchen, formal dining room, totaling just over 2600 sqft. This was a BIG change from our 1174 sqft little home! As it turns out, we had quite a few empty rooms with absolutely no furniture in them at the new home once we moved in, which made it look kind of sad. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

When we bought the house, we had a list a mile long of projects we wanted to do to improve it. The first thing we did when we moved in was scrape off the popcorn ceilings from every room downstairs. We decided right away to focus all our energy (and money) downstairs and probably won't even get to any upstairs projects for a few years! We talked to different people and were told to spray water on the ceiling, let it sit, and use a scraper to remove the popcorn. Well it was slow going, using an empty Febreeze bottle to spray with, me going ahead of Phil to get it wet, then him scraping. Not to mention the mess!

We laid down plastic on the floors to cover the carpet/laminate, covered the windows, tried to cover and do one room at a time, but nothing stopped that white powder from getting on everything I owned. One day I showed up at work and looked down on my white pants to see little white Cooper paw prints. As we got better at it, the work went a little more quickly but one evening Phil found a video on YouTube showing that if you add vinegar to the water, the popcorn texture would come off more easily. So we added vinegar to the water and it slightly improved our pace. Our biggest finding ended up being the use of a big pesticide spray bottle to spray a thick coat on the ceilings since they have those continuous spray nozzles, and once we figured that out (still with vinegar), Phil was able to go at least 20 times faster, doing multiple rooms before I even woke up in the morning!

When we moved in to the house, we decided that we would make what had been called the "master bedroom" downstairs into a TV room, so that the room with the fireplace could be our formal sitting room. The room originally had a large walk-in closet in it, and during the course of the popcorn ceiling scraping, we decided to tear out the closet and make the room bigger. My mom had come to stay with us to help us get settled into the new house, and little did she know she would be able to partake in some demolition! We had lots of fun swinging around a hammer and knocking the wall down! Here is a before picture...

...and a during picture...

...but no After photo just yet! We still had a long way to go!

After the demo of the closet was complete and the popcorn was scraped, Jack helped us get the ceilings lightly textured and painted, and re-painted all of the rooms. We went with a much more muted color pallete than in our other house, but still just could not deal with cream colored walls.

Another weekend project we did in the middle of August (yes, the hottest part of the year in South Texas) was installing recessed lighting in our new TV room, completely DIY style. We carefully marked off 5 light locations, cut the holes, and then climbed into the attic to wire them, one at a time. I would help Phil think the wiring schematic through, then he would climb up there and I would be his eyes and ears below while he did the wiring in the sweltering hot attic. It would start out fairly comfortable in the mornings but after about 11am, it was awful up there. The moment you went up, you were immediately drenched with sweat! But we did not want the project to be un-finished so we made it happen. So on Saturday we got all of the recessed lighting wired and working, with the new double switch installed in the wall! On Sunday we needed to wire the room for surround sound, and relocate the cable TV connection to another wall, so we accomplished that as well! We then had to patch the ceiling areas where the old light fixtures had been, and install the recessed lighting surrounds that we preferred (we went through 3 or 4 before deciding on the best fit/lighting for our room). It was a full weekend with a total I believe of 5 trips to the hardware stores!

So after we removed the closet in the TV room, there was a gaping hole left in the carpet in the middle of the room where the wall had been. It was L-shaped and could not be hidden, so this gave us the extra push we needed to make a decision on the new flooring we wanted to put in. We researched for a few months, visited multiple flooring stores, had about 10 wood samples to choose from, and finally made our selection. We chose Scandian's Bonita Collection in Timborana Cafe, which is an Engineered wood. We had decided that an Engineered floor was the better way to go for our needs than solid hardwood, after researching and discussing with flooring professionals. After living in the house for a few months, we had also decided that the white tile in the kitchen had to go. We decided that it would be a complete mess to try to do the tile project after our new hardwoods were installed, so we added the tile project to our scope. We selected Emser's Umbria Savera travertine in 16"x16" tiles. Most tiles come in either 12"x12" or 18"x18" so we were very happy to find a stone we liked in a middle size.

We decided that to cut costs and keep the project within the budget we had set, we would do the existing flooring removal on our own, except for the carpet. We started with the tile removal in the kitchen, initially with a hammer but quickly learning that borrowing Jack's sledgehammer was the way to go. The tiles came up easily so as Phil broke them apart, I bagged them up and vacuumed up the area. We had the tile up in the kitchen, half bath, hall, and laundry room in just a few evenings. The difficult part was that the tiles went all the way underneath the cabinets in the kitchen. Since we were not removing the cabinets, we did not want to remove the tiles and leave the cabinets with nothing to sit on. So we had to buy a tool and grind the tiles so that the edge of the tile would be flush with the edge of the cabinets. The ceramic tiles kicked up a lot of red dust and every surface, seen or unseen, became coated with it. This would just be another round of wiping down the walls, cabinets, counters, etc since we had already done this once after the popcorn ceilings came down!

Removing the laminate wood flooring from the dining room and fireplace room was very simple and I was able to do it myself. The material was fairly new and in very good condition so we were able to donate it to Habitat's Home Store so that they could re-sell it. We are not complaining that it's a good tax deduction, either!

The floors were installed at the end of August. Here are some Before and During photos...

Once the floors had been installed, we decided to install new baseboards. We bought all of the boards and painted 2 coats of bright white oil based paint on them, then with Jack's help we got them cut and nailed to the wall. Jack also helped us with caulking them. We have a final coat of touch up paint on them to cover the small nail holes, which is on our To Do list still.

While we were doing the baseboard project, we realized that if we wanted to install molding/trim around the openings from one room to another, we needed to do it at the same time, otherwise we would be cutting the baseboards to the wrong size. One project ALWAYS leads to another with home ownership!!!

So we bought molding and painted 2 coats (Phil is a perfectionist when it comes to these details so he did all the tedious painting, and it looks really good). After we installed them, we had some gaps to fill with wood filler, and then everything had to be painted again with one or more coats of paint. We also decided to paint the french doors from the office to the TV room white rather than the orangy wood color they were previously. With the white trim and dark floors, they just didn't fit in anymore. So we have painted the trim 2 coats, and the doors are in line to be painted next.

We are co-hosting a couples baby shower for our friends Jennelle and Greg at our house on November 7th, so now we have a deadline to get all of our To Do list complete and some new furniture here before we have a large group of people over.

Two weekends ago we drove to the outlet malls and bought 3 new area rugs at the Pottery Barn outlet. We got a very good deal for really nice rugs. The following week we started shopping around for furniture, and last weekend we purchased a sofa for the formal sitting room, and matching chair/ottoman which will go in our office downstairs (just off the front entrance hallway).

I should mention that Cooper had really been loving the carpet in the house when we first moved in. He loved gripping his nails into it and running at full speed through all the rooms in the house as we chased him. It was lots of fun but we decided, to his dismay, to pull up all the carpet and install the hardwood and tile floors. (We do still have carpet on the stairs and all the bedrooms upstairs, which he enjoys but is not able to run around like he could downstairs.) But he does seem to enjoy the new rugs and now we see him just laying around, always on a rug. Sometimes while I do dishes he will lay on the rug under the dining room table and watch. Other times he will lay in the formal sitting room on the rug and watch while I cook. I will not be surprised this winter to see him roasting smores in the fireplace, of course, with his paws firmly resting on the rug.

Here are some of the latest photos taken as recently as today. We still need to buy more furniture and finish a long list of projects in the next month, so we will post more photos as we go. Hopefully just reading this post has tired you out and you can see what has been keeping us so busy that we have let our blogging lapse!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Becoming Landlords is Tons of Work!

While we were in Dominica we spent part of our vacation working with realtors and contractors in the process of buying a new home. We finally closed on the new house the last week of May, but we will write more about that in future posts.

We decided that rather than sell our little house, we would find a renter for it. We tried to find Trinity students but that didn't work out, and we ended up getting very lucky to find a personal friend who was looking for a place and we are now renting to her, someone we trust to take care of the house and be a responsible renter! The timing also worked out perfectly because she moved in right as we moved out, so we were able to avoid having to go any period of time paying double mortgages.

In order to prepare the house for the renter to move in, we created a very long list of repairs we needed to complete. We installed a privacy fence first. Then we replaced the old, yellowing laminate flooring in the laundry room with fresh new tile. It turned out really nicely!

We also had the bathtub professionally refinished, initiated a pest control plan, re-leveled the gate so it would properly lock, repaired the running toilet, touch-up painted in all rooms, replaced the flooring under the sink, and thoroughly cleaned the house from top to bottom. It was so much work and we wondered why some of these projects hadn't been done sooner so we could enjoy the results!

We also swapped out the refrigerator with a side-by-side one that was in the new house so that the renter would have the benefit of a water and ice dispenser rather than the old refrigerator we had been using while we lived in the house.

After she moved in, we also installed a sprinkler system so that she would not have to worry about hand-watering the yard and that it would stay in good condition and maintain the value of the home and its curb appeal. This was a big investment but we consider it just that, an investment, so it was worth it.

We are not sure if we will keep renting the house out forever, but for now it's been a good situation and we are happy with how everything turned out.

Felicity can correct me on this one if I'm wrong but due to my blogging hiatus, I can't confirm the name of the last waterfall we went to. I think it was Sari Sari. Anyway it was also fantastic. The weather had been rainy in the previous days and the waters were rushing very quickly which limited us on the waterfalls which were safe to hike to, and we could definitely tell when we got to these falls because the rocks were very slippery and the upsplash from the falls was big! (It was also quite wet and cold.) Felicity and I stayed on the lookout deck while Phil climbed down to the actual falls and he was gone for about 20 minutes. Just about the time we started worrying, he turned up again and said the views were gorgeous down at the bottom.
Last, we visited Titou Gorge which was a cave made of tall gorge rocks and formed swimming areas inside. Very pretty but it was dark inside so we didn't get very good photos. There was quite a bit of treading water involved while holding the camera in a plastic bag over our heads, and the water was freezing! So needless to say it was a quick visit, but one Felicity really wanted us to see because on a sunny warm day it is said to be even more gorgeous!
During our entire stay, Felicity and Karthik were wonderful hosts and cooked us delicious home cooked meals including pizza, Indian food, burritos, and one of my other favorite things was getting to drink Coke and Fanta from the glass bottle (just like in Mexico). We did not get to visit all the waterfalls we would have liked if time allowed, nor did we get to scuba dive (Dominica is supposed to have some of the best diving in the world) so we would like to someday return!
Our travels home involved us leaving Felicity's house before 4am so we could drive across the island, return our rental car, and make our early flight. Apparently Phil was out of sorts because he left his wedding ring in Felicity's house and to this day still doesn't wear a ring on his finger since it's currently living in Dominica...

Our last stop of the day was Trafalgar Falls, which is a breathtaking double waterfall. We enjoyed the hike to get there and Phil and Karthik climbed further up the rocks to get closer to the falls. It was an absolutely spectacular sight.
The following day we rented a van so that we could explore the steep mountainous terrain of the island without any worries about wearing out Felicity and Karthik's new vehicle. We drove from one end of the island to another and learned just how beautiful it was!
Here is Phil doing his ritual of putting sand in a bottle to bring home from each of our beach vacations. This was a black sand beach we happened to drive by during the road trip that day.

We drove to Scotts Head where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean but we happened upon it on a cloudy day so we weren't able to see its true beauty. We did take a walk along the rocky beach... until it started pouring rain!

To warm up from that adventure, we next stopped at Screws which are natural sulfur hot spring pools. The water is a murky brown color but the water is warm and feels like a nice hot tub! They managed to reduce the sulfur smell somehow in the actual pools themselves, but when we were driving nearby, there were some spots that smelled terrible!