Rental Tour (progress update!)

The rental looks completely different than when we bought it. The wiring is knob and tube so we knew that would be a project. Luckily, I have an amazing electrician brother who is ready to rough-in some recessed lighting throughout.

As the [gross] paneling came off the plaster was ruined. Much of the paint contained lead so Ross had to carefully and safely remove it. Glorius pictures of Ross in his mask to come.

We discovered some nast in the pipes (as detailed in this post) so Ross removed the old steel pipes, so we can install new clean, open pipes throughout.

The old flooring is mostly gone. You can see where we will need to patch in hardwood, in the areas where we have moved walls and uncovered areas missing hardwood. We found some old gym floor on Craigslist that we can use to patch.

There are three new support beams in the basement because the floor was not perfectly level. Now that floor could withstand an earthquake!

There are probably other changes I neglect to mention, so here is a solid video recap.

Video walk-through of the most current progress and photo updates below:

Entryway stairs and hallway (where there used to be a closet)

Entryway stairs and hallway (where there used to be a closet)

Kitchen window (where bank of cabinets used to be)

Kitchen window (where bank of cabinets used to be)

Newly framed wall where pantry or built-in will sit and new doorway for bathroom

Newly framed wall where pantry or built-in will sit and new doorway for bathroom

View of dining room and living room from newly framed kitchen doorway

View of dining room and living room from newly framed kitchen doorway

Upstairs hallway leading towards the bathroom (bedrooms on each side)

Upstairs hallway leading towards the bathroom (bedrooms on each side)

Upstairs bedroom ready for new layout (sink on left, tub and toilet on right)

Upstairs bathroom ready for new layout (sink on left, tub and toilet on right)

Chalk line showing the newer bigger bathroom layout

Chalk line showing the newer bigger bathroom layout

Chalk line showing the new upstairs walk-in closet (along the bathroom wall)

Chalk line showing the new upstairs walk-in closet (along the bathroom wall)

Second bedroom upstairs

Second bedroom upstairs

Then this happened…

We had too much time on our hands, so in addition to fixing up the rental, raising George and working our day jobs, we decided to throw a new baby into the mix. With challenges comes great growth…someone said. The great news – he is a relatively content, healthy baby boy. We named him Julius, which is a family name (as is George).

Our new arrival seconds after his birth

Our new arrival seconds after his birth

With George, we set out to have a natural labor and with Julius we attempted the same. Even if I change my mind during labor (which I have), if I choose to avoid interventions at the start, I believe I will have a greater chance for a vaginal delivery. I chose (for the second time) a midwife-attended labor at one of the best hospitals in our state for labor and delivery, HealthEast. After a 36 hour labor with George, I was pretty happy with an 18 hour labor with Julius. Both of them were posterior which is known for causing long difficult labors.

At about 13 hours, I accepted an epidural, which allowed me to sleep and then push Julius out. Contractions always make me puke, which makes me dehydrated and weak. The anti-nausea medicine they give me does nothing. With both George and Julius the epidural-induced nap enabled me to progress and re-energize enough to push them out.

Julius going home from the hospital

Julius going home from the hospital

If babies’ personality has anything to do with pregnancy symptoms, Julius will be completely different than George.

  • I had a very easy pregnancy with Julius until some back pain the last few weeks. With George I had early back pain but I think that was because of a long commute.
  • I was very small with little to no visible water retention with Julius – I was huge with hefty cankles with George!
  • Never in my life have I had acid reflux and yet I experienced severe acid reflux while pregnant with Julius. He is quite the little puker too – so I’m guessing Julius has acid reflux as well.
  • George was two weeks early and Julius was almost a week late (grrr…).
  • My water broke before I had a single contraction with George, and my water didn’t break until pushing with Julius.
Julius at three weeks

Julius in his ‘cocoon’

We’ve taken many pictures (of course!) but the above photo is my favorite – snapped while he was sliding off of the pillow on which I had him propped. The crochet cocoon is from this shop on Etsy – it is sooo soft. Almost as soft as a newborn’s skin.

I feel truly blessed! I am lucky to have been able to deliver my second son and I love being able to soothe him (and lose weight!) via breastfeeding. It is miraculous to have a healthy, happy little family! Two more hands to chip in at the rental…haha. 😉

Living room entry doorway

When we did our initial walk-throughs and brainstorms, Ross and I talked about opening the doorway between the dining room and the kitchen. This was important, not for ‘open concept,’ but for the primary reason of letting more light into the kitchen. There is a nice big window in the dining room, and although there is a big window above the sink and [now] light coming from the front door via the staircase hallway, the light from the dining room window was cut off by a wall. Expanding that doorway by even a foot or two would allow the light from the dining room window to shine into the kitchen.

View of narrow doorway from the dining room into the kitchen

View of narrow doorway from the dining room into the kitchen

 

Too-small and unfortunately-placed kitchen doorway

Too-small and unfortunately-placed kitchen doorway

Here is the same view, panning from the downstairs bedroom to the living room:

Here is the view from the opposite side showing the dining room window which should allow more light into the kitchen (after the doorway is widened up):

With our initial doorway conversation in mind, Ross went ahead and surprised me with another widened doorway! One I really wasn’t expecting. I don’t really like surprises – one time Ross wanted to surprise me by installing corner guard all around our house (what!? yuck! never!). But this surprise was a good surprise.

He [surprise!] widened the doorway entrance from the front door to the living room. I hadn’t even thought of this! It looks awesome, and makes a huge difference when you walk through the front door and are greeted with a large entrance to the living room on your immediate left.

We’ll have to find some hard-to-match trim for the new extended doorways but we already assumed we would have to make at least one trip to a salvage shop eventually. I love the new, wider doorways between both the kitchen and dining room and entryway and living room!

The doorway between the entry and living room before (notice the 2x4 wall near the door)

The doorway between the entry and living room before (notice the 2×4 wall near the door)

New, wider doorway after

New, wider doorway after

Too-small and unfortunately-placed kitchen doorway

Kitchen doorway before

 

Kitchen doorway after

Kitchen doorway after

Exterior Ideas

When I first laid eyes on the rental property, I fell in love with the simple bungalow-type of exterior. It is so plain that I can easily visualize adding a porch, some spectacular trim around the door, some chunky posts, thick window trim and black shutters. The white siding is so classic and any black trim or shutters will really be set off from the house. The upper window is begging…pleading…for some shutters.

Exterior

Exterior

I can see adding a few bushes in the front for curb appeal but for now I want to focus on the exterior itself, so it says “WELCOME…You. Should. Live. Here.” The exterior needs to look like it’s been loved… right now it looks like a jilted lover left standing in the rain.

Some ideas I have:

Extend the front steps into an actual porch like this. The current dormer above the front door looks to only be about a foot or two out from the house. If we add a porch, we would likely have to extend/rebuild the dormer. The current situation includes some flimsy-looking wrought iron which has to go, anyway.

I think we can lose the triangle part above the door and have the flat roof on the porch extended all the way across like this. I’d love to bulk up the trim around the front door like this inspiration photo (spied while driving to the post office this morning). Thick window trim like this house has (but in black) would be an awesome addition too.

front-door

 

For posts and railings, I like the idea of three posts, one on either side of the front door, then another on the left side of the porch. A little wooden railing would be cute – kind of like this. Here is a very rough sketch of what I’m envisioning (in my head it looks way better!). We might probably will change our mind on some of this but for now these are the key features I’d like to see. I’m sure Ross has some functional exterior upgrades that he will prioritize over the porch. Like, oh yeah, a new roof. Boo.

exterior-sketch

Valentine’s Day Fondue

Year one of our Valentine’s Day fondue tradition was a success! Well, as much as you can call a long, slow, technically-challenging dinner with a two-year old a success. George had a meltdown right before the dessert course, so naturally, we just skipped right to pajamas and a nighttime story. Unbelievably, the words “chocolate” and “dessert” failed to lull him out of his tantrum and he was throwing trains around the living room, so we called it quits. He didn’t fall asleep during his afternoon nap (we caught him reading his books to himself instead of sleeping, which is so heartwarming and cute that we overlooked the neglected nap). I think if he would have taken a nap he would have been fine.

Even without the chocolate fondue, pound cake, strawberries and bananas, we were plenty full. We had leftover shrimp, tenderloin, cheese, sourdough, broccoli and cauliflower, so we saved everything for lunch the following day. Chocolate fondue for lunch = yes please. Everything reheated well except the chocolate, which became slightly chunky the second day. Still delicious though!

Our meat and cheese fondue spread

Our meat and cheese fondue spread

The cheese fondue was worth every penny – BTW expen$ive gruyere cheese tastes similar to parmesan. The cheese and wine melted down really well and the nutmeg was a surprise ingredient for me. I’ve never eaten broccoli with such vigor. #nomnom I ended up using this recipe for the meat fondue. It called for chicken broth which I thought was odd, but with all of the cayenne it ended up being the perfect sauce with just enough spice. It was perfect for both the tenderloin and the shrimp – yummmmm.

Our tenderloin and shrimp cooking in the meat fondue

Our tenderloin and shrimp cooking in the meat fondue

Swiss and gruyere cheese fondue

Swiss and gruyere cheese fondue

Dad had the great idea to let George drink out of a “special” cup for the occasion. We mixed orange-pineapple juice with water and poured it into a white wine glass. George loved it and felt like one of the “grown-ups!” He is very good about holding glasses with both hands and was very cautious with his special cup. 😉 We had fun spending Valentine’s Day together – I think all of us enjoyed the family time, surrounded by those we love the most.

George with his kiddie-wine (orange-pineapple juice + water)

George with his kiddie-wine (orange-pineapple juice + water)

Marble Shower

When finishing the downstairs at our current home, I made the poor embarrassing choice of a small flimsy shower unit to save room for a linen closet to the right of the shower. My excuse = I was 21 and it was my first house combined with the unfortunate silence from the men in my life (dad/brother/Ross) who should have spoken up at the time [sigh]. A year of use and one crusty sliding door track later, we were ready for a new and improved shower – one that would allow a person to raise their arms to wash their hair, and one we would be proud to offer guests. Here is the downstairs bathroom shower ‘before,’ which doesn’t quite do justice to the crusty corners where it was sealed to the wall and the overall tiny size of the unit:

The shower unit 'before'

The shower unit ‘before’

Here is my bright, beautiful marble shower ‘after’ which makes me grin ear-to-ear…(thanks husband!!!)

Downstairs marble shower 'after'

Downstairs marble shower ‘after’

We chose to replace the tile floor with the same marble to keep it cohesive and hopefully make the small bathroom appear larger. We took out the linen closet and re-purposed the doors (flipping the bottom door upside down) to make a new above-the-toilet storage area. This allowed us to have a bit more room for towels, toilet paper and washcloths without taking up square footage (why didn’t I think of that earlier…?). Re-purposing the linen closet doors was my idea, and Ross built the cabinet base himself.

My super electrician-brother added a shower light/recessed can that is wired in with the fan. We were lucky to find most of the marble on Craigslist and purchased additional matching marble tile at Home Depot. It isn’t the exact same marbling (slightly more grey in some) but I hardly notice the difference in the tiles when I shower. Ross found cool pebble tile sheets that matched the marble really well and resolved our fears about a slippery shower floor. The pebbles are pretty close to flush with the grout so while you might think it would be uncomfortable to stand on, it is not rough on the feet at all.

I’m glad we took pictures along the way, because it is easy to forget all of the work that went in to making this bathroom sparkle. Here is the project as it progressed:

The old shower unit and linen closet is demolished

The old shower unit and linen closet is demolished

The shower starts to take shape with cement backerboard

The shower starts to take shape with cement backerboard

A ruggedly handsome husband applies waterproofing membrane

A ruggedly handsome husband applies waterproofing membrane

Tile is cut and installed

Tile is cut and installed

I love, love, love our downstairs shower. It is a nice treat to take a shower downstairs once in awhile, and I am more of a bathtub kind of girl, so it surprises me how much I enjoy it every time!

Bathroom before and after!

Bathroom before and after!

We’ve found yellow brick!

Remember our design dilemma about the metal chaseway next to the chimney? We wanted to cover it somehow without using drywall or cabinetry and without ruining the view of the brick chimney. We thought of using yellow brick to cover the chaseway to match the chimney. The closest match to this type of yellow brick we could find is Milwaukee Cream City brick. And…we couldn’t really find any locally. We contacted a bunch of salvage shops in the area who didn’t have any, and were this|close to giving up when….

The chimney and chaseway currently.

The chimney and chaseway currently.

 

out of nowhere…Ross landed on a Craigslist ad with FREE (!) yellow brick. A gentleman in Minneapolis tore out an old chimney and posted a curb alert. Or more accurately an alley alert.

Free yellow bricks WHAAAA!?

Free yellow bricks WHAAAA!?

It was a miracle because we were getting desperate. We even debated buying new yellow bricks and roughing them up in a concrete mixer…sooo glad we didn’t attempt that!

Brainstorming some alternatives to old yellow brick...

Brainstorming some alternatives to old yellow brick…

Ross went over after work one day and loaded each brick into the bed of his truck. Luckily it was still there – you never know with a curb alert! We should have plenty of brick to cover the chaseway, and them some. Craigslist doesn’t always come through but this time we nailed it.

A truck bed full of yellow brick

A truck bed full of yellow brick

 

Homemade Valentines

With George being two, this is the first year we can really celebrate Valentines Day. I’m glad the holiday is on a Saturday this year so we can plan a “family” date and not be rushed or tired. I thought a fun tradition would be a fondue dinner each Valentine’s Day. Based on the [expen$ive] experiences I’ve had at Melting Pot, I plan to try this meat fondue recipe to cook tenderloin, shrimp and spinach ravioli. I’m not 100% certain on the ravioli…that might be too much food.

I want to try this cheese fondue recipe with broccoli and sourdough bread. The gruyere cheese was kind of expensive – like $15! But of course we’d be spending a lot more if we went out to eat.

For dessert, I have an excellent chocolate fondue recipe from a coworker:

  • 12 oz bag Ghirardelli 60% cacao chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup Half-and-Half
  • 1-2 Tbsp coffee flavored liquor (or sub vanilla)

We’ll dip bananas, strawberries and pound cake. I’m sure George will freak. #chocolatemonster

I wanted to send Valentines to daycare on the Friday before the holiday, and at first I assumed we’d grab some Thomas the Train valentines from a store. After I thought about it – I realized that would be pretty generic, and it would be more meaningful to make valentines with George. We followed this toilet paper roll stamp tutorial and this Martha Stewart crayon wax tutorial. However, George was only interesting in crafting for about 2-3 minutes with each project. LAME. They turned out awesome though! Too bad it was kind of a mom-craft instead of a kid-craft. #womp

 

Homemade valentines

Homemade valentines