Monday, April 25, 2011

Week 18: Kitchen Cabinets are In

Today our kitchen cabinets were installed. As I mentioned in a previous post I boldly chose to go with cabinets with windows (to show off our collection of coordinating shamrock green Fiestaware of course!) and I think they look great! Our contractor is installing both cabinet and under cabinet lighting.

When looking from the dining room, these are the cabinets on the left side of the kitchen. You can see the space where the microwave will go.

These are the cabinets on the right side of the kitchen. We will use the large cabinet on the right as our pantry.

This is the cabinet area on the left side of the fridge. Our contractor put that coaxial cable there in case we wanted to mount a TV there in the future. Nice idea, but I don't think we'll be using it.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Moving Day

At this point our kitchen is still not ready, it is about 80% done. However, Justin and I will be out of town the following two weekends so it was necessary for us to move in today. Everything is super dusty and our kitchen isn't usable, but the show must go on.

Here is the vehicle we used to transport our stuff. Surprisingly it was pretty easy finding a spot to park that thing.  Since we moved out of Justin's apartment last fall, this truck was full of mostly my stuff and our unopened bridal shower/wedding gifts. We also stole borrowed some furniture from my parent's place (e.g. the dining room chairs and tables in the basement). They aren't in the greatest condition but we are hoping that they are just a temporary option until we can afford a proper dining room set. 

Here's Judy and Justin sitting on our stoop (wow, we have a stoop! woohoo!) taking a much needed break.

(**Note: See the stairs leading right to the front door? Supposedly that's bad feng shui. It means that money is going right out the door. Anyone know how to remedy this because this kitchen renovation has definitely been a money pit!**)
And here is the A-Team that helped us move. Otherwise known as siblings, a neighbor, a cousin and a former roomie. I know how much people hate moving so we are totally grateful that we had so much help today!

I think the fact that we moved in half of our stuff beforehand really shortened the time it took us to move in. I think if we move out (whenever that may be) we might not be able to do a self-move, but for now, we are totally happy we have good friends and family to lend a hand!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Have a Seat

Sectionals have come a long way from the ones that I remember from my childhood. You know what I'm talking about, the ones with funky patterns--huge, heavy behemoths taking up the entire living room. Some of them, like my in-laws' sectional, have recliners, which are pretty sweet.

Anyways, when the time came to decide on what type of seating we wanted in our living room, we both agreed that we wanted a sectional (versus a couch and/or chairs). Deciding what we wanted was the easy part.  Finding a good sectional in a style that we liked and the price that we wanted would turn out to be a little bit harder.

We searched the usual mall furniture stores and big box furniture stores, and discovered that most sectionals were super expensive, starting at $3,000 and up! gross strange as it may sound, we took our sectional search to Craigslist. I know that sitting/sleeping on something that strangers have sat/layed on might creep some people out, but we got over it. Although we were on a budget, we didn't want to get a cheaply made sectional, so we bypassed all the Value City-looking furniture and sought out something other than the typical microfiber sectional.

Have you heard the story about Justin's old couch from Value City? Basically, after plopping himself on said couch, he broke the the couch frame in half! Yes, he is a husky fellow, but I would attribute the couch breaking to the poor quality in workmanship. hehehe...I digress.

After searching around we finally found a sectional we both liked. It was a little on the pricey side (for being used), but we felt that it was worth it.  The sectional came from a quality furniture store (La Difference--aka: La Diff in Richmond), and it was in good shape.  

After checking it out in person, next came moving it. We asked our former roomie for his help in transporting this sucker. Both ends of the sectional fit in the bed of his truck.  Thank God for friends with trucks!

Getting the thing in the living room was tricker than we thought.  With some careful arranging they were able to get the job done (yeah, I didn't help move it, but I guess I was there for moral support).

Once the sectional was in the living room, we realized that it was a little bigger than we thought. Well, it's back to the drawing board as we reconsider our initial furniture arrangement.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Planning out the Living Room

A few months ago, Justin and I attended a interior design presentation held by our Realtors, Christina and Greg. The presentation was titled, "Three Simple Steps to Uncovering Your Unique Design Style:  What to do before embarking on your next design project." (If that title isn't us, I don't know what is!). Holly O'Brian, an interior designer, led the presentation. She was able to give us some awesome advice on where to find inspiration both online and in books, as well as find our design style.  Justin and I pretty much have the same style, classic and traditional, but I always try to add a bit of a modern flair.  After the presentation, I showed Holly our floor plan and she offered to do a complimentary CAD image of what our living room could look like. How cool is that?

Below is the drawing of the our living room that I gave Holly. Lovely, isn't it?

And here is the image she came back with:
Property of Holly O'Brian

She even made some suggestions on some furniture accessories.  Below are some storage ottomans from Crate & Barrel.

And here is an ottoman from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. It looks totally chic!
She gave us some really great ideas for our living room so you'll just have to stay tuned to see how our living turns out!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Week 17: Granite Planet

Since we are on the home stretch of the kitchen renovation, the time had come to select the countertops. I'm not one for being trendy nor caring too much about countertops.  I just wanted them to look good. I didn't really care about what material they were going to be either. I really liked the look of marble, however, it is expensive and hard to take care of because it stains. Justin wasn't too keen on silestone (manufactured material) so by process of elimination, we chose granite. Our contractor sent us a couple of granite selections to choose from.

I thought this selection (while nice) looked a little too generic.

I really liked this one because it had a nice marble look to it (excuse our contractor's reflection in the slab, lol).

This one reminded me of blood in water on rocks--gruesome, huh?

This one reminded me of a candy bar, I'm getting hungry just looking at it, ha!

From the research I've found on design blogs and such, dark cabinets look best when paired with lighter colored countertops because they really brighten the space. Because I like the dark/light combo, I really liked granite sample #2.  That's what we picked but wait until you see what we ended up with... J

Sunday, April 17, 2011

How to Grow Grass the Brioni Way: Part I

Let's go back in time shall we? How about three years ago?
Once upon a time we bought a house that had a lawn. In the picture below you can see it. Although, a little brown we had a lawn, nonetheless. After all, the previous owners bought sod in a last ditch effort to sell the house (our house had been on the market for over four months before we purchased it).

Then we had a five month renovation and the fall came...

Like the grim reaper, the fallen leaves killed our grass.  Because we were living in Gaithersburg while our kitchen renovation was going on, we didn't think to maintain the lawn. Yes, hindsight is 20/20 and all that jazz... :(

But once we moved in we found out that we had a bigger problem on our hands--Bees. Burrowing Bees to be exact. Just as their name describes, they're bees that burrow into the ground. Despite these little guys being harmless, the mass number of them hanging out in our yard made them more of a nuisance. Doesn't the sound of buzzing bees freak you out? It freaks me out that's for sure.

So we headed to our local hardware store Fragers, to find a solution to our bee problem. Surprisingly, all of the employees came to the bees' defense. They wanted to deter us from killing the bees claiming that,  "They're great pollinators!" Despite the Fragers employees pleas, we wanted them gone. With that said, they suggested sprinkling roach powder on the lawn and in the bee holes.

Here's a shot of Jill doing the dirty work...

And Judy looking on...

After we had spread the roach powder throughout the yard, we applied the EZ-seed around the area. Unfortunately, we didn't know that we had to prep the ground first (i.e. till the soil) resulting in the seeds being eaten by squirrels and birds.  The lucky survivors just sat on the surface of the dirt and grass didn't grow.

We decided to take a little hiatus on this project, but we weren't ready to throw in the towel yet! We had another trick up our sleeve! So our second attempt at growing our grass would come a year later...stay tuned! :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Week 16: RIP Window Casing

Sorry I'm going out of order, but I'll try to back track the best I can...I just wanted to post this while it was still fresh in my mind...

Above: A pic of Justin before the paint removal madness

In this post, I would like to bid adieu to our beloved window casing. You see, when first bought this house, we really liked its little historical details. However, upon closer examination of these details, Justin and I soon realized that instead of looking "historical and quaint" some of the things in our house were looking more like "old and beat up." Like the window casing in the living room. For some reason or another, all of the wood trim in our house is lumpy and bumpy. Probably as a result of painting on top of uneven surfaces (i.e.: not prepping the surface properly) and/or letting the paint bubble and then paining on top of that. It's honestly a huge mess.

A pic of Judy scraping away.

**Note: We have come to find out that those little white masks are not the appropriate protection when dealing with paint removal/fumes. In a later post you will see what we should have used. Oh, well...I'm sure I didn't need those brain cells anyway.**

In order to try to save the trim and details around the window Justin and I attempted to strip the paint of the window casing in hopes of fully stripping it of its many layers of paint, sanding it down and then painting it with a non-lumpy coat of paint, or possibly even staining it. But, alas that was not meant to be as one task turned out to be multi-day ordeal.

On Saturday, Justin and some of our friends applied an eco-friendly and well-rated paint stripper to our window casing and floor trim.

When we returned the next day, we attempted to strip the paint off of the windowsill and it didn't budge. It had so many layers of paint that it was barely coming off. We figured since desparate times called for desparate measures we need something stronger...something the salesguy at the hardware store referred to as "toxic." So, we bought the stronger stuff home in hopes of it removing more of the paint, but it was to no avail.

And even worse, we discovered this:

(Sorry that this isn't the best picture, not sure if you can see the splintering wood, but the more black, rotted wood was on the other casing.)

Yep, underneath the layers of paint we were able to remove (and still not all of it) we discovered that the wood was rotting.  Standing there, Justin and I looked at ourselves dumbfounded. We couldn't believe that we had spent several hours scraping and scrubbing something that couldn't be salvaged. Realizing that the window casing was beyond repair we moved onto the floor trim.

The good news was that it was coming off a bit easier than the paint on the window casing.

The bad news was that all of it still wasn't coming off. Again I returned to the hardware store to find something that would remove those last bits of paint. One container of mineral spirits and a few brain cells later we were on a roll. However, it was getting late so we had to save the rest of the paint removal/stripping for another day.

Despite us getting irritated and frustrated throughout the whole paint stripping ordeal we learned that as novices a lot of things that we will do in our house will be trial and error. Sometimes, you'll exert a lot of time/money/effort/etc/ and it won't turn out the way you want, like in the case of our window casing. But it doesn't pay to get down about it, you just take your newfound knowledge and use it as a learning experience. Yay, message! ;)

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's a Paint Party!

One things for certain, we are not paint experts. It took us several coats, to achieve color and consistency that we wanted in the living room. And at times it seemed almost like we were going in circles (e.g.: paint the wall - get paint on the ceiling, paint the ceiling - get paint on the wall - "It's a vicious cycle!"*) But we got it done...finally...

Here's our friend, TB,  Justin & Jill in action...

The living room, painted in the creamy, warm color of Manchester Tan (from the Benjamin Moore Historical colors of course!). Don't mind the ugly white ceiling fan, it will be making its exit shortly.

And here is the finished product...

Another angle of the paint job.

I love how the color changes from grey/beige/white/cream depending on the light. How versatile!

Anyway, while the painting in the living room was going on, I assigned my sisters to paint the downstairs bathroom. I picked out this really dark teal color called "Swizzle Stick."  I was hoping for a peacock theme in bathroom with teals, blues, chartreuse, and brown.

Here are some pictures of my sisters looking less than enthused.

In hindsight maybe this paint color wasn't the best idea. 1) My sisters can't paint within the lines! (but what do you expect from free labor?) 2) Their mistakes (e.g.: paint on the ceiling) were blinding obvious due to the dark color and 3) The glossy finish of the paint combined with its dark color made every hole and bump in the walls stand out. Why I picked a gloss finish for the bathroom (as opposed to satin or eggshell), I have no clue.  Oh well. I guess this is a learning lesson for me, but heck! We are keeping it! I'm a frugal gal at heart and too much time/money/energy/paint was already spent on the bathroom paint project. And who knows? With the right accessories it might turn out nice!

*If you know what movie that line is from you get a thousand cool points! :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Week 15: It's Primetime

While the kitchen is getting finished up, Justin and our friends (with a little help from myself) have been hard at work painting our living room. Remember how it looked?

Yup that me in our dark hunter green living room. The paint color was not doing the room any justice. It made the room appear smaller than it actually was--almost like a cave. wop wop. Justin and I decided that before we any furniture in the living room (besides the recliner and chair), we would paint the so we wouldn't have to go through the hassle of moving everything around. Yes, I know that people say that you should see how all your furniture and accessories coordinate before you pick a paint color, but since the color I picked is a nice neutral  (Benjamin Moore's Manchester Tan) I doubt that it'll cause any surprises.

But before we got to painting we had to prime the walls to hide the dark green paint. Boy did we have to prime!

(You can still see a bit of the green in this pic...)

And prime so more...

Stay tuned to see the finished product!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cherry Blossom 10-Miler - I did it!

Hello everyone! As the title indicates I finished the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler. Yay! I know I did not write many blogs about my training, granted I haven't been blogging much in general, but the main reason why you didn't hear much about it was because I was really scared. I was scared I wouldn't be able to finish. In the weeks nearing the race I was getting really discouraged with my training and the fact that my sister and Justin were so much faster than me. As my sister says, "If there is no evidence, it didn't happen." In other words, if I stopped blogging about the race and ended up chickening out and doing the 5k instead of the 10-miler then no one would know any better (except me). 

However, I continued to train and with Justin's encouragement I started to feel more confident. Despite not having run ten miles before the race (my longest run was about seven miles), the Cherry Blossom course is mostly flat which makes it a relatively easier run.

Anyway, here is quick synopsis of my very first race!

5:10 AM - Justin wakes me up after only a few hours of sleep. We were both up watching the UK-UConn Final Four game that ended around midnight. A tough Kentucky loss and a whole lot of nerves probably resulted in us not getting much sleep.

5:45 AM - Head to the metro. Breakfast consists of a granola bar and a banana. By this point I am banana-ed out. I have been eating them everyday for the past week. The metro garage already has a lot of cars parked there for race. Seeing the metro train fill up with runners was pretty cool.

6:45 AM - Get off at the Smithsonian metro stop and follow the crowds to bag check/port-o-potties/corral starts. Man, there are a lot of people here! **Sorry I don't have any pictures pre-race, my stomach was churning and I wasn't thinking of taking pictures at the time, maybe next time!**

7:00 AM - Get in line at the port-o-potties. Lines are crazy long and I can't believe that some of the people whose heats are about to start are still in line. Some people get fed up and leave the line while others like myself (me, Justin and Jill are in the last in the last corral) wait it out.

7:40 AM - Where the heck is Justin? While Jill and I were in line he went to go to bag check-in. Our corral is supposed to start in 15-minutes. Eek.

7:50 AM - We find Justin in a port-o-potty line and while waiting for for him I guzzle down a GU gel and attempt to stretch. I hear the announcer call for the Purple Corral (that's us!) to line up so we start heading over.

7:55 AM - The horn sounds and the purple herd corral starts. I put in my headphones (yes, I know it's against the rules, but I'm a rebel and couldn't imagine running without music), start my RunKeeper app and start running!

After that I kind of lost track of time, I was just so focused on running and the scenery. The scenery was gorgeous. What a great tour of DC! You could see various different DC landmarks (i.e. Washington Monument, Reagan National Airport, Georgetown,etc.), but my favorite part of the race was the stretch towards Hain's Point when you were running down cherry blossom tree lined streets. Runners were stopping to take pictures, but again I couldn't bear to stop so I kept trucking along. Come to think of it, I ran most of the course and only walked a bit when I the hill that was right before the finish line.

A proof pic with the Cherry Blossoms - Don't mind the heavy breathing look on my face >.<

A more enthusiastic pic of Jill

Below are a few pictures that I took after the race. Here is a pic of Justin and I in front of the Washington Monument after munching on our post-race muffin and banana (again!). 

Here I am in front a lone cherry blossom tree, medal and all. Not as pretty as the bunches I saw on the run, but it'll do.

Overall, the Cherry Blossom 10-miler was an amazing experience that was worth all the blood, sweat, tears, and stress. I would definitely recommend it as a good beginners long distance road race with a relatively flat terrain and scenic views.