Saturday, February 26, 2011


Look what’s opening soon in our city… I drove by it the other day and just had to snap a pic with my phone:

I have never been in a Menards before, but I’ve seen it mentioned on several blogs. I’m super excited, and I know I’ll find out soon enough for myself… but what exactly makes Menards so awesome?? How is it different from Lowe’s or Home Depot? Someone give me the scoop!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What Lies Beneath (the bathroom floor)

You may remember my little tease awhile back about our bathroom downstairs... well, settle in and get comfy, because here's the explanation for the hole! I was going to wait awhile to publish this post because a lot more progress has since been made, but then I realized that's the point of a blog, right? It's a work in progress. Plus, this was already becoming novel-esque and you'll probably lose interest by the end. ;)

After nearly three years of letting our unfinished basement become a huge storage room for furniture, boxes, and dust, we’re finally doing something about it. Our basic floor plan is decided for the most part, but the one thing we know for sure is where the bathroom will be. So, that’s our starting point. And also, it’s probably going to be the most brutal part of the entire process, so we want to get it over with.

Unfortunately, before we can really start “finishing,” there’s some demo work to be done first. Long story short, the plumbing stub-ups are not in the correct location, but that’s because the stairs were built several inches farther north than they should have been. (We know this because we have the original plans for the house from the builders.) It’s going to be a small bathroom no matter what, but I’d rather not have my face just a few inches from the wall when I’m sitting on the toilet.

So where does this leave us? Knocking out the concrete floor to reconfigure the drain pipes, that’s where. Initially, we were just going to take out a small portion and move the toilet stub-up back a few inches, which seemed like it would solve the problem.

As you can probably imagine, removing the floor is quite an undertaking, let alone moving pipes around. We had a couple of plumbers come to give us an estimate for this type of project (including floor demo), which all averaged out to be at least $2000… 90% of which was labor costs.

But meanwhile, my resourceful husband was taking mental notes from them about how one would go about this process. He deduced that with a hammer drill, a sledgehammer, and a lot of elbow grease, he could probably knock this one out himself (pun intended).

I'll be the first to admit that I was very apprehensive about turning this into a DIY project. First of all, I know nothing about plumbing and what lurks beneath a concrete floor. But Luke seemed pretty confident in what he would find, and also assured me that floor was poured separately from the foundation walls, so this would not affect the structural integrity of the house. Good to know.

After I finally gave in, he excitedly purchased a hammer drill for about $70 (which I’m sure will get plenty of use in the future anyway) and got to work. First, he drilled holes in the concrete to help keep any cracks contained in one area. Then, starting at the shower drain, which was already framed out with 2x4’s, he chipped away at the concrete until he could really whack at it with the sledgehammer and break off some sizable chunks. Since it was kind of a one-person job, I merely offered moral support and snapped the occasional photo. It was slow going, but he was making pretty good progress:

It was in the midst of all this when we realized merely moving the toilet back a few inches still didn’t seem to do much to improve the overall layout of the awkward bathroom space. If we were going to all of this work in the first place, why not just take the as much of the floor out as necessary to relocate the shower, sink, and toilet drains wherever we want them? So, Luke drew up a new plan which utilizes the small space more efficiently. Basically, instead of having the sink, toilet, and full-size bath/shower all lined up on one wall, he rearranged it like so:

This is one of the benefits of having a husband in architecture.... he can make cool 3D plans with his nifty software. :) It's obviously not complete as shown here, so just in case it's not obvious, I labeled where the (smaller and custom-size) shower and sink will go. I'll provide more floor plan details in a future post; this drawing is just to give you an idea of the layout for now.

Back to the floor situation. We decided it would be best to cut an outline in the floor, so the concrete would come out cleanly without a jagged edge. We were able to rent a concrete saw for about $60 (for one evening). Knowing this part would get dirty, we stapled up some plastic sheeting along the joists to try and contain most of the dust.

But our two separate layers of plastic were no match. If you haven’t ever had the pleasure of dealing with concrete dust, let me just tell you that it is pure evil ground up into its finest, powdered form.

Even though we were only cutting a few feet of concrete, our basement was immediately filled with a cloudy haze, which eventually wafted upstairs to create a superfine layer of dust on everything. Luke even had to stop several times because he couldn’t see what he was doing. (He was wearing a mask and safety glasses, otherwise it would have been nearly impossible to stay down there for any length of time.) Meanwhile, I was just hoping he wouldn’t cut one of his fingers off. Needless to say, I also didn’t get any action shots of this process.

Luke is somewhere back here, sawing away...

But there was nothing to do at that point except finish the job at hand, and worry about the clean-up later. After a few hours, the outline to the two outer bathroom walls had been cut, so Luke then proceeded to chip away with the sledgehammer to make the hole bigger. (And yes, I felt like a lazy wife while all this back-breaking labor was going on.)

The Aftermath

Eventually, the hole looked like this -- roughly about half the size of the bathroom. It was now large enough to re-work all the drain lines and pipes to fit our new plan (more on that project later). After that, we’ll fill the hole back in with concrete (or probably hire someone to do that), and then we can really start finishing this bathroom! Whew....

Phoebe inspects the progress.

NOTE: In case you’re curious, we spent several hours vacuuming and dusting the house from top to bottom, plus changing our furnace air filter. But it was nearly impossible to get all the dust. Someone later told us that by spraying the floor with water before sawing, the amount of dust could have been reduced (by how much, I don’t know). But in our haste, we didn’t do a whole lot of research beforehand. Anyone else ever learn a lesson like this the hard way??

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Giveaway winner, etc.

First of all, I'm so thrilled about the response generated by the Magnetic Etsy Giveaway! Thank you so much to everyone who entered, and to those of you who checked out Marleah’s Creations. Marleah, who generously provided the awesome magnets for the giveaway, also had a little something to say:

I'd like to thank everyone who entered the giveaway for the magnet set, and of course I'd like to especially thank Amanda for hosting it! I really appreciate this chance to share my shop with all of you, and I'm so grateful for all of the wonderful comments that I've read. I know that someone mentioned a custom order, and I would be glad to do my best to fulfill any custom orders, depending on what I have available -- specific colors, a certain area from a map? If you are interested, just let me know!

Check out all the cool stuff in her Etsy shop, if you haven't already. So I suppose you'd like to know who the lucky winner was, hmm?  According to, it was…….. comment #11 by Oleander! Congratulations on winning the Robin's Nest Magnet Set!

In other news, I also surpassed 100 followers a couple days ago – woot! I hope that I’ll be able to do another fun giveaway in the near future… guess you’ll just have to check back and see, eh?

Also, I hope to share more about our basement bathroom situation soon, too... be patient with me!

* Fellow Blogger Shout-out *
For any of you who are interested in cycling, fitness in general, or food – and heck, even if you’re not – you should check out my friend Chelsea’s new blog, The Cycle Cow. She started it to document her preparations for the 100-mile (!!!) fundraising bike ride she’s doing this June, as well as other fitness- and food-related experiences. Let’s just say, it should be one wild and entertaining ride! (Pun intended.) Don't get left behind.... she's already on post #2!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Sweet Valentine's Treat

This weekend, I made some Valentine’s Day cookies for a church fundraiser and to bring to work. Instead of using my mom’s sugar cookie recipe (which is always reliable), I decided to try a new recipe that I had saved from Better Homes & Gardens (February 2010 issue).

Lemon Butter Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325. Beat butter and zest at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy (I don’t have a stand mixer, so I just used my hand mixer). Gradually add powdered sugar, beating well.

Combine flour and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Shape dough into a disc.

Roll dough to 1/8" thickness on a lightly surface. (Or, in my case, a heavily floured surface—I hate it when the dough sticks!) Cut with a 2 1/4" or 3 1/4" heart-shaped cutter; place 1/2" apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets (I just used my trusty baking stone).

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. (For some reason, mine took quite a bit longer than this.) Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes. Transfer to wire racks. Cool for 20 minutes before decorating.

And the taste test results? Delicious! I’m not usually a big fan of lemon, but the lemon flavor in these is very subtle. The texture is light, flaky, and crispy (which means it’s easy to eat a lot of them). They’re tasty just plain, but I also glazed about half of them with Sugar Cookie Icing (via AllRecipes), which dries nice and shiny and hard.

My decorating skills leave a little to be desired, but luckily that doesn’t detract from the yum factor. Plus, the recipe is super easy and uses very basic ingredients. I think it made about 30-35 small- and medium-sized cookies (which unfortunately doesn’t last long). I’d definitely make them again!

Did you bake any fun sweets for Valentine’s Day?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Magnetic Etsy Giveaway

* UPDATE: This giveaway is no longer accepting new entries. The winner will be announced soon!*

I have to admit, I haven't gotten into the whole Etsy phenomenon yet (buying or selling). It's not that I'm not interested - quite the opposite, actually. I'm afraid once I start looking at all of the shops and all of the cool handmade stuff, I'll want to spend too much time and money there. And someday, I think it'd be cool to have my own shop, I'm just not sure what I'd sell yet. That's kind of important to figure out first.

ANYway. My talented and crafty friend Marleah, on the other hand, does have an Etsy shop which she recently re-stocked with a variety of unique handmade items. Here's a sampling of what you'll find at Marleah's Creations:

This cozy scarf, measuring 5" x 60", will keep you warm and stylish! (And those of us who deal with these crazy harsh winters can never have enough scarves, am I right??)

These multi-tasking crocheted cloths can be used for dish-washing,
face-washing, or even as potholders!

This set of eight (8) glass magnets was created using an honest-to-goodness atlas.
Small yet strong, the magnets are housed in a sleek, silver tin.

Here's the really good part... To help get the word out about her shop, Marleah has offered to give away a Magnet Set to one of my lucky readers! She was even nice enough to send me a set of my own just for hosting the giveaway. The problem is, I like both designs and can't decide which one to keep! SO, being the indecisive person I am... I'm going to let the winner decide for me.  :)

How cool are these??

Robin's Nest - Sophisticated stripes and leaf patterns in blue, brown, & cream

Sherbet - Funky stripes and dots in orange and white

(I must apologize, my pictures are nowhere near as sharp as Marleah's -- just imagine these taken with her camera instead.) 

If you're like me and the mismatched magnets currently on your fridge are just the free, flimsy, fugly promotional ones (see Exhibit A), then you could really use a magnet makeover (see Exhibit B)!

Exhibit A
Exhibit B

Imagine how they would spruce up an office filing cabinet or a magnetic memo board, too. They look just as good when they're not actually being used to hold anything up!

Now, here's your chance to score one of these marvelous magnet sets for FREE!  
  • Leave a comment on this post and specify which set you'd prefer if you win (Robin's Nest or Sherbet). As always, be sure to include a valid e-mail address.
  • BONUS - To earn an extra entry, just visit Marleah's Creations and leave a separate comment on this post with a link to your favorite item in her shop.
  • Entries will be accepted until Tuesday, February 15, at 12 p.m. (CST). This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada residents only.
Easy-peasy, right? That's how I roll.

And hey, even if you don't win, there are other cool magnet designs in Marleah's shop that you can grab (for yourself or perhaps a fun gift for co-workers) for only $10, which definitely won't break the bank, am I right?

Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Down and dirty demo

I know, my posts have been a little boring the past couple of weeks. It happens. I'm woman enough to admit it. But trust me, that doesn't mean things haven't been happening around here!

So here's a little something to pique your interest. I may have mentioned in the past that we have a huge unfinished basement (or maybe it just seems huge because it's so...well, unfinished).

After nearly three years of doing absolutely nothing besides storing crap odds and ends down here, we finally decided that it's time to get started on it. And as of a couple weeks ago, this is what our "bathroom" looked like.

Wait a minute... this doesn't seem right. If it's possible, we made the basement even more unfinished than it was.

Yes, sometimes you have to work backwards in order to make progress.

Stay tuned to find out what the *$@# is going on down here.

P.S. I've also been making a few updates to my blog, namely the new pages listed above - "In the Kitchen" and "The Furry Ones." Take a gander, won't you? :)


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