Archive for category Home Improvement

Little Tweaks

I spent all of my Friday evening me time perusing blog after blog of DIY projects and home improvement makeovers.  Who’s living the dream now, Carrie?  While scrolling through fab-o ideas and wishing I could do the same thing, I realized that I have!  There are lots of little things I’ve done to the Corn Palace that I have not reported on in oh, the last year or so.  Sorry about that.  I’m not all home improvement all the time, but lately I’ve really been nesting.  Not sure if that is the cold weather forcing me to look at my walls a bit more or if I now have a talented assistant that is more capable than I.  Either way, things have been getting done.  And for those of you wondering, my kitchen is 99.5% complete!  All will be revealed in a separate post…it’s just that good!

Let’s start in the living room, which also happens to be the dining room since I’m a city dweller.  Here’s the earliest photo and post I could find, taken before the two work weekends with my parents right after I bought the house.  Those were the days!  And boy did this house need some help.

After the work weekend about a year and a half ago, this is what it looked like.  I got “new” 1960s chairs from my parent’s basement – my mom found them for a super duper price of $15 each, then recovered them.  They are the most comfortable chairs, and truly vintage.  My pops and I made the bookcase and tv cabinet, and the family painted the walls a sunshine yellow.

And here it is!  I don’t think I ever told you the story about painting the banister and floor landing pieces brown.  I wanted to warm up the space and the white banister was killing me.  I told folks about my idea and had little support.  I just thought they did not have the vision so I did it anyway.  I love it, and Corey and others admitted that it looked much better than they imagined it could.  Which meant I got a few free passes the next time I had some crazy ideas.  Nice.  Throw in a few pillows, accessories and an end table, and Ta-da!  I got that table, the coffee table and a side table from a carpenter who made them just for me with my dimensions and design.  I still need to do spiffying up with them, but for now they do what they need to do.

What else??  Let’s stick with this room.  Here is the plain ol’ couch.  Like the cardboard box table?  Keepin’ it classy.

A year later, here we are!  How ’bout those homemade ikat pillows?  Love, love, love.  And speaking of love, they were made with love by my mother as a Christmas gift.  Yay!  And I learned about ikat.  I love that my mother and Melissa have to teach me about fabric trends because I sure don’t know!  She did such a great job with the piping and getting the right blend of structure and fluffy. Thanks so much, Mom!  They look great!

Also notice that coffee table I was telling you about.  It was primed in brown, and I crackle painted the blue.  Crackle paint!  Also known as sorcery in this house ’cause it’s magic.  I still need to give it a clear coat – it’s sort of getting beat up.  The best part of the table?  It opens and holds all my tools, and it’s the exact right height for my dining room table.  So, when hosting dinner parties, it doubles as seating for three.  I’m smart like that!  One day I will design and build my own furniture.  I just need a workshop. One day.

Hmmm, what else?

My bathroom art!  I come from such a talented family.  My Aunt Bonnie made these 2×3 inch stamp art of ferns.  I had them “commissioned” and she made them to fit my bathroom just perfectly with the right colors.  Thank you, Aunt Bonnie!  She also had the mats and frames, and I painted the mats with the subtle colors of the leftover bathroom paint.  It was Aunt Bonnie’s idea.  You can’t really see it in this photo, but trust me they are beautiful.  And check out my awesome towel rack from Chiasso.  Chiasso has a ton of modern stuff, but the right pieces placed throughout the house gives it some pop.  You won’t find these towel racks at a big box.

So, what have we learned?  1. I desperately need a new camera to take better photos.  Most of these were taken with my phone.  Boo.  2. My family does all the hard work, and I just support and enjoy!  Thanks to everyone who has helped with the house in one way or another.  I can’t believe it will be two years in April.


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Kitchen Remodel Day 2: Budget Buster!

Day 2, Friday, started off well.  I immediately booked an electrician and plumber for the day, much to my surprise.  That was helpful for my daily stress level.  I took a quick trip to Mickey D’s for breakfast…I can totally see why people in construction keep a large soda nearby.  What’s a construction zone without a few empty McDonald’s cups hanging around? And man, those chicken biscuits are slammin’.

We had our daily plan all laid out.  My first task was to purchase a dishwasher.  I drove to the Sears Outlet allll the way out in Prince William County.  I was armed with a box – literally a rectangular prism – with four lists, one for each of the long sides.  I listed all the qualities I wanted in a dishwasher on one side.  I knew I wanted a Kenmore, white, 24″ built-in, plus other qualifications like a time delay, eco wash options, and very quiet.  Another side had a list of Consumer Reports Kenmore models listed in order for 2011 and 2010.  Still another side had a list of a few of the models I found online.  The final side had directions in case my phone died.

On my way to the store, my Dad let me know that both the plumber and the electrician were working on the kitchen.  Jackpot!

I looked and looked and looked for a dishwasher.  Yes, I’m indecisive, but there were so many choices!  And some of them were refurbished, so there was an extra layer of complexity.  I kept hearing Mike’s sage advice, “At some point, you just pick one.”  Done.  Don’t worry Aunt Bonnie, I ended up buying a new one still in the box.  It is hot.  Not quite as hot as my sink.  (I never knew I could love an object that couldn’t love me back!  That sink is hot.)  But the dishwasher is sexy, too.  I think I’ll leave them both a surprise for now.

Today was a budget busting day, for sure.  It ain’t cheap to have a plumber and electrician come visit you.  Then to buy a sassy dishwasher on top of that.  Whew!  And now I’m extremely thankful that I will have income incoming soon.  I probably would have bought a cheaper dishwasher, but the plumbers and electricians had to come (piece of mind that my house won’t have hidden leaks or burst into flames).  Have I mentioned how pretty my dishwasher is?

Since the electrician had to string a wire each for the new microwave range hood and the dishwasher, there were many holes in the wall to be patched.  Turns out one wall is standard drywall, but the other is lathe and plaster!  How exciting to have such old walls!

I spent the afternoon at the DC Dump taking care of a few pieces left over from the previous kitchen that didn’t find a new home and couldn’t be recycled.  Seriously, what city service has 4.5/5.0 stars on Yelp?  What city service has any reviews on Yelp?  Then, the lumber department at Home Depot was so empty that after waiting 15 minutes for someone to cut my plywood, I called the store to get a sales person to help.  Called.  No one picked up, then I finally spotted someone in an orange apron.  By the time I got home, it was around 6:00pm, so not much left in the day.  Haha!  Not true.  Dad and I made a subfloor!  That was fun.  Two sheets of plywood and about five different rounds of measuring and cutting and testing.  The cutting situation is us on the sidewalk holding the plywood on the retaining wall with our hands while using the table saw.  It takes two for public chaos folks.

Mike arrived for reinforcements!  Dad kept patching the walls, Mike got a bunch of drywall mud and I got dinner for the crew.  We finished up the patching, then I got to writing.  And now it’s now.  Late.  Almost 2:00 a.m. and I’m watching some of the saddest Oprah episodes from this last season while catching up on my DVR.  As if I don’t have other things to do.


Kitchen Remodel Day 1: Woof!

Not a blog post about cute dogs, but rather about taking apart a kitchen.  Woo hoo!  Dad got to DC no problem, and we pretty much got right to work around 4:00 on Thursday afternoon. I spent the previous day cleaning out the kitchen and playing tetris trying to store it in the living room.  There is stuff everywhere, including under the sofa and packed under the kitchen table.  Everywhere.

Demo Day wasn’t anything like you see on HGTV with hammers and pieces flying all over the place and breaking camera lenses.  No, no, this was tame.  The upper cabinets came down pretty easily.  They were dirty and gross and sticky so we cleaned them up a bit.  Icky.

The bottom cabinets were tougher to remove, mostly because they were secured to the wall with some bit of bubbly foamy adhesive stuff and hidden nails.  That’s when we used hammers and brute force.  Oh yeah!  We put the cabinets on the sidewalk and marked them as “Free” and “Take me home” so hopefully someone would put them to good use.

Part of the fun is discovering what’s behind what’s “permanent”.  Under the cabinets on the floor was a subfloor, but no tile.  In other words, they tiled to (and just a little bit under) the cabinets.  Guess we’ll have to do something about that.

Dad and I got Taylor Gourmet for dinner, including an extra foot long that we saved for lunch the next day.  Yum.  We returned to find someone had taken one of the cabinets.  By the end of the night, another one was gone.  By the next morning, another one was gone.  Hopefully my neighbors will enjoy them and put them to good use!

I didn’t sleep well on Thursday night.  Once we uncovered the plumbing for the sink, we realized the lines came out directly where the new cabinet was going to go.  Reroute the plumbing?  Ugh.  I would have to find a plumber quickly on Friday morning.  My electrician was also unable to come on Friday because of  a death in the family, so I would scramble for an electrician, too.  That kept me up.

So, this is how my kitchen ended up on Thursday night…


The Kitchen Plan

I wouldn’t be PlannerMegan without a plan, right?  Now that you’ve seen the “before” photos and seen just how drastically unorganized and chaotic the kitchen it, it’s time to share what’s going to happen in that tiny little room that feeds us.

The objectives:

  • Add a dishwasher
  • Increase storage with larger cabinets (going from 24″ to 42″ cabinets with doors will make a huge difference)
  • Increase counter top area by replacing the large sink with a smaller one
  • Add a range hood
  • Gain functionality, space and organization

I’m only working along the one wall to keep costs down.  Plus, I like the wall with the open shelving and butchers block storage.  There may be one or two surprises for that arrangement, but for the most part it stays as is.

The Appliances.  I have some major rearranging plans for the mid-term, so I’m not sure how long this kitchen may last.  For now, the fridge and stove stays.  They work just fine, fit with the new style and it would not be that environmentally friendly to just buy new ones for the sake of buying new ones.  I hate when remodels are advertised as environmentally friendly and they replace stuff that could be reused.  I also bought a used microwave and hope to buy a used dishwasher, so that should help keep costs down and less junk in the landfill.  If any of the appliances break, I’ll think about replacing them with new.  We’ll see.

The Workers.  I have a great three man crew ready for action!  This crew includes my Dad, HiM and me.  Yup, we’re doing it ourselves.  I have an electrician scheduled for Friday to make sure we can add a dishwasher and microwave to the wall without issues.  HiM will install the rest of the electrical, and the three of us will do everything else.  How fun is that?  I’m really pumped because I know we’ll make a great team.  Corby has also offered to stop by to help, but Corey just wants to get the hell out of dodge.  Bless his heart.  I don’t blame him.  If anyone else wants to assist, let me know!

The Schedule.  We really only have four days to do this since I start my new job on Monday, May 23rd.  Yeah, no pressure. We’ve pushed the renovation date back a few times.  I remember telling my parents back in early April that I didn’t want to push it back too far because I might be working full time, and they laughed at me!  Now who knows what she’s talking about?  But no worries.  Dad will still be here during the day to get things done, so no issues there.  And I’ll probably save the back splash project for another weekend, unless this weekend goes so swimmingly that I have extra time.  Of course I would like to just have it completely done, but it’s okay if there are still projects even if I’m terrible at finishing those projects later.

Break it down (I hope to blog the progress every day)

  • Wednesday – clear out kitchen, create make-shift kitchen. Goal: completely empty by the end of the day.  Oh, and get my hair done and give killer improv show at Yola at 7:30.  Priorities!
  • Thursday – demo day.  Goal: old cabinets removed, tile out, down to studs by end of the day. Take stuff to dump.
  • Friday – electrician in the morning, hardwire for microwave and dishwasher. Start to put cabinets in.
  • Saturday – install cabinets, microwave, molding, door knobs, etc.
  • Sunday – install dishwasher, countertop, sink

So that’s a lot to tackle, but it’s completely do-able.

The Budget.  Ah, yes, the budget.  My early estimates were for about $3,450, then I bought cabinets!  Those puppies are not cheap even for a little kitchen like mine.  My revised budget has me spending about $4,300 for the entire project.  I’ve already spent $3,527, so making my budget seems pretty tight now since I still need a dishwasher and tiles and a bunch of small things that will add up quickly.  But totally do-able.  Having the time off has allowed me a great chance to research products and find some good deals.  It’s been a fun challenge to stay within my means.  Plus, it was daunting not knowing if I was going to be employed.  Now that I know I’ll have income again, it isn’t as scary and I’ve been able to splurge on a few items like my kitchen sink.

Initial Estimate Revised Estimate
Sink 500 300
Dishwasher 400 350
Cabinets & hardware 1,000 2,200
Counter tops 600 500
Range Hood/Microwave 250 250
Tile 200 200
Misc 500 500
Total 3,450 4,300

So there you have it, folks.  That’s the plan.  I should get to purchasing a dishwasher and cleaning out the kitchen.  I don’t really have anywhere to put stuff, so that’s sort of an issue at this point.  But blogging isn’t helping me to figure it out any faster, so onward!!  Thanks for reading!

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Kitchen “Before”

When I finished the bathroom, my one regret was that I didn’t have many “before” photos to compare.  I couldn’t appreciate the “after” in the best way because I wasn’t remembering the “before”.  Each time I walked into the bathroom, I would see the flaws that I created, and forgot how nonfunctional and not-so-pretty it was before I got to it.   Not this time!  I took a ton of photos to share.  Yay!

By the way, I’m not clear if this is a renovation or a remodel, so I’ll just use them interchangeably until someone sets me straight.

The whole reason for the renovation is to add a dishwasher.  One of my pet peeves on HGTV’s House Hunters is when the potential home buyers comment on how much they hate the kitchen.  The house hunters complain that it’s too small, lacking stainless steel appliances or drastically needs an update because it hasn’t been touched since the mid-80’s.  Uh, that’s okay folks.  Many of those kitchens are completely livable and functional!  We’ve created a snotty home-buying culture and it’s disgusting.  Don’t even get me started on how big garages and master closets need to be for these people!!  Bigger is not better.  But I digress.

So, we need a dishwasher.  Better said, I would like a dishwasher.  Could we live without one?  Sure.  But if I’m taking out cabinets to make room for a dishwasher, I might as well take out the whole shebang.  We need more storage.  The counter tops made of tile need another grouting and the front tiles are starting to loosen.  There is no back splash so the walls get dirty easily.  There is no hood over the stove to filter the smells from the cooking.  The cabinets are pretty cheap Ikea from quite a few years back and not exactly sturdy MDF.  Again, we have lived with it for a year and could probably live with it for another few years, or even until I sell the house.  But why not invest in my house, add value AND enjoy a fun and workable kitchen?

So, on to the photos!  That’s what you came for anyway.


Thanks Aunt Bonnie!

A few weeks ago, Aunt Bonnie and I went to Ikea, Home Depot and Best Buy for some kitchen shopping.  (AB is my aunt who lives in Rockville, MD that I always talk about and some of you have met.)  We always have fun together, especially at Ikea where both of us like to dream and think of creative uses for odd things they sell.  She is a master of storage as evidenced by her Craft Cave of Marvels, a mid-sized and neatly organized basement room that houses all of her stamping materials from floor to ceiling.  It’s so much fun to get lost and explore and create down there.

I was telling AB about my plans to build a half wall to separate the entry from the rest of the room.  I was planning something quite elaborate in my head – a built-in with shelves, painted the same color as the wall, with white molding and possibly a column to really differentiate the spaces.  We found this nice piece instead and it’s so much easier than building a wall! Thanks so much AB!  I promised her photos and I don’t want to disappoint.

The very clean living room, Sept 2010

The very clean living room, Sept 2010

The not-as-clean living room, April 2011

The not-as-clean living room, April 2011

Looks like a cozy entry way

Looks like a cozy entry way

So organized!  Or at least appears that way!

So organized! Or at least appears that way!

I like the simplicity of the black square piece, and it can be used in other parts of the house easily in the future.  It also works as a purse holder or an end table for that side of the sofa.  The baskets handle our mail and extra stuff very well.  Corey and I now have a system!  And it looks great.  Plus, my coats aren’t all over the dining room chairs, and that’s an added bonus.  The traditional coat hooks are perfect for the space and match the molding detail beautifully.  Of course I get this up in spring when coats aren’t such a big deal, but it’s still working.  Thanks for helping, Corey.

Thanks to AB for the great gift!  It was closer to her birthday, and I got the present!


“Free Time”

When you are immediately given a surprise gift of free time,  it would be easy to think of all sorts of things you would do with it.  The possibilities are endless!  I could spend a whole day just getting caught up on emails and saying hello to friends that I have not been in touch with as much as I would like.  House projects are jumping out at me, especially since I’m at home during the day.  Once the weather gets nice, I’ll be sure to de-weed the garden.  Then you quickly realize how hard it is to get to everything on the wish list.  Like blogging more!!!!  Such is life.

So what have I been doing with my time?

Job search:

This is going well and I remain optimistic beyond what should be considered “normal.”  I have a better idea what gets me excited and which direction my career should head.  I attended the NCAC APA Conference and was reinvigorated remembering what planning used to be to me.  It was great to see so many familiar faces and to hear about a variety of planning topics, something I really enjoyed in planning school.  I also got my law and ethics credits for AICP, so that was an added bonus.

Thanks to so many fabulous people, I have been able to make some contacts and hold some informational interviews that have been helpful.  I’ve applied for a few positions, and every time the resume goes out it makes me feel good.   Thanks to Mom and Salsa for getting my resume polished.  I feel really good when I send it out because it’s a strong resume.


Subsidized Corn is still going strong after an amazing trip to the Adelaide Fringe Festival.  We have a show this Thursday at 9:30 at Source if you want to catch us again.  Just confirmed: April 22 at 8:00pm at DC Improv, SubCo will be taking the stage again.  We practice weekly at Nick’s new house, so that’s one free way to get out and about with friends!

SubCo is also organizing our first ever entry in the 48 Hour Film Project.  Basically, you get 48 hours to create/write/direct/act/edit a 4-7 minute short film using a line of dialog, style and prop that is provided to you.  Everything is new to us, so there is a steep learning curve.  I’m so excited about this and what the Corn can create!  The video below was filmed in Lenoir when we did the Kernels for Carolina…most of it is Laura’s greatness putting together snippets of us playing around with the camera.  She’s very talented!

My FIST team Pledged lost our first match, and it was disappointing because we want to perform together more!  So, we may set up a show just so we get that chance.  Alaina, Sarah and I had a blast remembering our college sorority days and geeking out on all things Southern Belle.  To celebrate, I hosted a Southern Belle Covered Dish on Sunday night.  The menu included fried chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs, cornbread, pecan bars and banana pudding.  Yum. We heard that eating your colors was a good thing, so we went with yellow.  We will be doing this again for sure!

Since I have some time, I signed up for a UCB Intensive course in New York next week.  Totally thrilled.  This idea came to me at 4:00am on Friday when I was reminded that life is too short to not be doing something that you love.  I am staying with a very gracious friend in Brooklyn and living like an actor for a week.   I would never take a week off of work to do something like this (I would rather go abroad or far away if I have a whole week), so this is just perfect.  I’m excited about feeling New York’s weekday vibe, seeing some improv shows, and taking in a few museums and coffee shops for people watching.


Uh, yeah.  Now is the perfect time to remodel my kitchen, right?  Might as well!  I have the time to wait on electricians and plumbers and such…if I even need them.  Dad and HiM will be helping me with the demo and installation, and I can’t wait to see how the three of us work together (I have a hunch it will be a very positive experience).  So far, I’ve shopped for appliances and cabinets and counter tops.  Today I research everything, tomorrow I order everything.  No pressure.  I want to start it earlier rather than later because I’m not sure when I’ll have a new job and I’ll be able to enjoy it more by being at home!  A special thanks to Aunt Bonnie and HiM for shopping with me and to Cameron for suggestions and inspirations.  I will save some of it for a surprise.

Dave, Hirman and I in the Cherry BlossomsWhat else have I done with my time?  Clearly not blogging!  Dave and Hirman stayed with me this weekend and we went to see Cherry Blossoms and fireworks and Smithsonians (photos on FB).  Aunt Bonnie and I went to Ikea yesterday and I put together a bookcase when I returned.  I’ve had several work lunches with folks, yoga with Shauna, and volunteering at WIT.  Corby and I took a long walk on Saturday, and ended up at Bojangle’s at Union Station.  It opened on Thursday and I received four texts from four people letting me know.  Talk about a network in action!  The house was really clean for awhile, and it will be again today, too, when I’m done with it.  It took about a day or two to get the Australia photos somewhat organized.  All 876 (from the Corn alone, not including my Wellington and LA photos) are online, but now I need to choose my favorites, label and organize so you know what you’re looking at.  It just takes awhile!  I also have a few things in the works, like a baseball extravaganza and another cabin in the woods weekend.

I set my alarm every morning and get up at a very reasonable hour everyday, despite some insomnia that has been creeping in.  I don’t watch tv during the day unless it’s on my “lunch hour” when I watch HGTV-usually some sort of kitchen remodel project-so it’s sort of homework.  My routine has me showering in the early evening for my evening social activity, whatever that day may bring.  I find that the busier I am, the more I can get done.  At this point, I’m running out of phone minutes, but I love seeing people in the evenings!  It gives me something to look forward to and a reason to get my work done and not lollygag or dilly dally.  I really just wanted to use the words “lollygag” and “dilly dally.”

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