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!