...said in my best Michelle Tanner impression.

The other day I was doing my daily facebook stalking viewing when I came across one of my best friend's status:

Anyone who's a fan of inexpensive Swedish furniture and meatballs knows what those flags mean:

Not a minute later, I was on the phone giving her my "order":

Although I already had a project in mind for this frame, I actually had her pick up a couple Ribba frames, because with the closest Ikea over an hour and half away, you can never have too many Ribba frames.

The specific project I had in mind for the larger frame was something I had seen in a fellow blogger's post:


It's a cut-out of road map of Savannah, GA, where her and her husband spent their honeymoon.  I loved the graphic look, as well as the sentimental value it had.  I knew I wanted to do something similar, and chose to do our neighborhood.  We actually live in a small division of a much larger city and chose to highlight our area, as well as some of the surrounding areas.

I started by using the dimensions of the large Ribba frame and sized a Google map of our neighborhood to fit.  I then used Photoshop to draw each of the streets.  I then removed the map layer and was left with my black and white street map. I then printed it out on 6 - 8 1/2" x 11" sheets of paper and cut and taped them together.  I then taped this map on top of a piece of card stock and taped it to my cutting board.

(The following pictures are actually from my first attempt, which was done in a smaller size and I tried using a three-ply cardstock.  About an hour after starting to cut, I realized that my little fingers couldn't handle the three-ply and went back to the store to get thinner cardstock.  Just trying to keep it real for ya!)

After everything was secured down, I started to cut out everything that was white.  I cut anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour a day, sometimes more, sometimes less.  Pretty much whenever I felt like it, and it took me about two weeks to finish.  It may have taken less time, but sometimes I had to take some unexpected breaks due to the working conditions:

You know Benelli likes to help out when he can.  And it never fails, if you're doing something and Benelli wants to join, no matter how many times you push him off the table, he will get his way.  That's why Mike and I finally got smart and got him something that would let him feel like he's a part of the action and still let Mom and Dad work. 

Back to the project.  After I cut everything out it looked something like this:

And removing the template, I was left with this:

I then added some blue paper backing and loaded it into the Ribba frame. 

I'm really happy with the way it turned out, and for those that know the area, it's been fun pointing out our street and finding their houses.

UPDATE:  Not an hour after I published this post, I came across an Etsy shop that features an artist that makes these cut-out maps.  She's even been featured in museums!  Her shop is amazing, and all I can say is, I'm glad we don't live in Toronto.  There's a reason she's selling that for $1,100, wow! 

Inspire Me | Bathroom Edition

Since the weather here in the Northeast is anything but cooperative, and we're stuck inside waiting to start our outdoor projects, I figured I'd share with you our plans for the upstairs bathroom.  

Because we don't have a bathroom on our main floor, our upstairs bathroom is the main bathroom.  Not only do we use it on a daily basis, but guests also use it when nature calls.  Keeping this in mind, we wanted something spa-like with a modern feel, but with some traditional pieces that would not make it feel out of place in our 84-year-old colonial. 

So, although these aren't necessarily the exact fixtures and items we'll be using in the final bathroom, here is an idea of the direction we're heading in: 

1. As most of you know, I love a good paint color.  Not only is it relatively cheap, it can set the mood for the entire room.  Even in a space that is mostly tile and cabinetry, like a bathroom, paint it still important.  I'd like to try Gentle Tide by Glidden, which can be found all over the web and used by some of my favorite bloggers like Young House Love and House*Tweaking.  It's been described as a light blue-gray with a green undertone, and I think it'll look great with the dark woods and white fixtures we plan on using.

2. For the shower I'd like to use white subway tiles for the surround.  Although early on Mike said we would not have a tile surround because of the maintenance and the fact that white tile can look "unclean" after awhile, we've actually haven't had any trouble with the existing white tile that's most likely been there since the 70's.  I think with a light gray mortar, the tile will pop a little more, and also reduce the yellowing of the mortar after time.

3. From Day 1 I've told Mike that whatever we chose to do in the bathroom, it had to include this shower curtain.  I actually found it at Target while I was shopping for our living room curtains, (what, like you only look at one thing in Target when you go there?).  The waffle material screams spa, well I guess you don't really want screaming in a spa, so it whispers loudly.

4. For the vanity and the new shelving behind the door, we know we're going with a dark espresso finish with shaker style doors.  This will add the warmth the bathroom needs and and prevent all the white from looking like a hospital.

5. As for the hardware on the cabinets, we plan to use our default favorite.  These satin nickel pulls will add a modern touch to the more traditional dark cabinetry.  They'll also tie in with the hall linen closet, since we used them there too.

6. For the flooring we both decided that something similar to the existing small, white, square tiles would be nice in the new bath.  But, one thing had to change and that was the stark white tile with white grout.  One of the biggest bathroom gripes Mike has is my hair.  Not only does my hair require a lot of tools and accessories, (by building shelving behind the door we hope to wrangle all of my stuff), having long dark hair means that the bathroom floor also has long dark hairs, all over it.  Though I try to keep it to a minimum by vacuuming in there regularly, I don't want to worry that our guests decided to come over on one of my vacuum off days and can see every single long hair in there.  That's why we plan to bring in some hexagon tile with some gray veining in it.  Not only for the nice detailing it brings, but also for the added hair camouflaging characteristics.  And, I like that fact that the hexagon tiles bring a little more detailing in then the simple square shapes we have already.

7. We're still undecided on the countertops, but whatever material we decide on I like the look of the light-colored Silestone here.  Something that ties in the warmth of the dark wood, but also complements the white sink.

8. I'm in love with this sink.  The mission style is modern, yet functional for everyday use.  Both Mike and I liked the idea of using vessel sinks, but I was scared of the everyday practicality of it.  The giant bowl sinks look neat, but how do you clean underneath it?  And where do you put the soap?  I like this because it has modern lines, but also has room around the edges to set your toothbrush down, or put soap down on the ledge.

9. Because the sink has a single hole for the faucet the fixture was pretty easy to pick out.  I simply googled "single hole brushed nickel faucet" and this one stood out as being modern, while still working well with the other fixtures picked.

10.  The lighting is still under discussion.  Currently we don't have any overhead lighting, just two boob lights over the vanity.  While these mostly light the room just fine, while the shower curtain is closed, (which just so happens to be every time we shower), little light gets through to the person in the shower.  This is where we'd add some can lighting overhead, with some down-lighting from something similar to these fixtures above each sink.

Although we're a long ways from starting the demolition, I'm looking forward to implementing some of these designs into our new bathroom.  What do you think?

How is Santa Going to Visit? Removing Our Chimney

Remember this science experiment happening in the guest room?

Well, after our adventure removing the old and installing the new water heater and furnace, we were free to remove the chimney.  We plan on doing it stages:

1.) Remove from roof.
2.) Remove from attic.
3.) Tear out from upstairs bathroom, (during bathroom renovation)
4.) Tear out in kitchen, (during kitchen renovation)
5.) Remove remaining from basement.

This is also the order in which we'll do the major interior renovations, upstairs bathroom first, kitchen, then basement bathroom and family room.

Some of us were a little more excited than others to start the roof removal part.  I woke up Saturday morning to loud pounding and found this when I went outside in the front yard:

And found this in the back yard:

Mike made short work of removing the brick from the chimney that extended above the roof.  My yard too soon looked like this:

And I'm glad my new car was in the garage, because we had some jumpers:

 After removing the bricks we were left with this:

A giant hole kind of defeats fixing the water leaking through the bad flashing.  After the brick line made it past the roof, Mike used the brick flinging method to remove more of the chimney that's in the attic.  While I preferred to travel through the attic access inside, Mike opted for a more unconventional method:

Yes, there were many times during this project that I held my breath. 

The following photo has two purposes, one showing how low the chimney was removed into the attic, and two because I try to find any excuse to show off Mike's backside.

Okay, back to PG rating.  After the brick was removed, the hole in the decking was cut to the rafters on either side of the hole.  This is done so that load of the new decking will be distributed equally to the rafters.  As I tried to generally keep my visits up the attic to a minimum, I only have a photo of the cut hole from the safety of the ground outside.

A piece of plywood was cut to fit the hole and put into place, not sure how Mike got it up there since he definitely didn't come inside to do it.  It's probably best I wasn't watching.  Not only did he magically bring the plywood up, he also carried up these cut 2x6's, which were added to the cut rafter that used to sit against the chimney.

At this point Mike felt like a little photo shoot.  I let him pick the poses, his inspiration being the Sword in the Stone with a construction interpretation.  First up, crowbar in the chimney:

Next, King Michael pulling the crowbar from the chimney. 

Umm, we're kinda dorky.  Maybe it was the confined space getting to our heads.

After putting the plywood into place, Mike then added felt paper and shingles to completely erase any sign that a chimney used to be there.  I could have helped, I do know how to shingle, I just prefer to not do it 30 feet above the ground. 

Even with the few years difference and the expected fading, the patch is barely noticeable.

Plus, this means we can fix the water damage in the guest room and never have to worry about that again!

Our Friend Craig

Craig, as in Craigslist. 

Mike and I love a good deal, I mean really love a deal.  That's probably why I get a Craigslist posting in my email box at least once a week from my partner in crime.  Some are useful, like this DSLR camera (something I've been shopping around for awhile now):

And some are downright weird, like this one that gives me the heebie-jeebies:

So it came as no surprise when I got a call from Mike saying that he had found another gem on Craigslist:

Yes, that is a furnace (the listing didn't include the plenum (big gray metal top), which one of the guys on Mike's jobsite made for us).  You see, one of the major projects we have planned since we moved in, is to remove our chimney (seen in the floor plan below) that is currently taking up prime real estate space in between our kitchen and dining room.  By removing the chimney (and the closet), we can then extend the kitchen into the dining room and create more of an open layout.   

This was the plan, a plan that was to be in the future, far into the future.  That was, until we noticed this:

No, it's not some alien life form growing in our guest room, it's water damage from water leaking through the flashing of the chimney on the roof.  This just shoved our future chimney removal straight into the very now present. 

For those waiting for the connection between the chimney project and a new furnace, here it is.  The function of the chimney, since we don't have a fireplace, is the venting of the fumes from the furnace and the water heater.  We knew in order to remove the chimney, we would need to replace both of these to higher efficiency models.  The higher efficiency units use a condensing process, which cools down the exhaust gases down so that they are able to be vented using PVC piping, which can vent horizontally out the side of the house.  We thought we would have time to shop for some deals and save up for the new units, seeing as how a new high-efficiency furnace can run close to $2,000-$3,000.  Not something we were looking forward to spending.

Cue the angels singing as Mike found a slightly used high-efficiency furnace on Craigslist.  The seller had a house almost exactly the same square footage as ours and recently put a large addition on.  This created the need to replace his perfectly fine working furnace with a bigger one.  For only, wait for it, $275!  That's right, if it takes a poop in the next five years, who cares, it was less than 10% of what we were originally budgeting!  

Not only were we super lucky that we got it, (when Mike called to arrange to pick it up, the guy said that someone else had called and wanted it too, Mike asked what he could do to ensure he got it, and the guy replied "Well, who ever gets here first can have it." I'm glad I wasn't in the truck when Mike sped off to get it!) we were also lucky that we bought it when we did, because you'll never believe what happened next.

After feeling calm and collected after jumping up and down for the awesome deal we just scored, (not to mention finding a new power-vented water heater for less than $600), we planned to spend the following two weekends installing the water heater and furnace.  Weekend one came around and Mike installed the water heater with little trouble. 

First the old one was disconnected:

Then it was moved out into the garage, and the space was ready for the new one:

Then Mike moved the new one into place, and hooked it up.  Here's the new one we were installing:

And it was that easy.  Okay, maybe not.  There was some re-piping, soldering, trips to Home Depot, drilling through the siding, installing the new PVC vent pipe to the outside.  But as far as installing a major household unit, it was relatively easy, for Mike.  I was there for moral support and the occasional holding of the pipe.

What did we do with the old water heater, may you ask?

Sold it on Craigslist, of course! 

Later the next week, it was Thursday night while we were busy planning on the furnace switch and enjoying our weeknight, when I noticed the thermostat wasn't responding to the call for more heat.  It was about 62 degrees when we usually keep it around 68 degrees.  Some more investigation led to the discovery that the old furnace decided not to wait until the weekend to get replaced.  It stopped working right then.  

Now, what are the chances that we electively decide to replace our furnace on Saturday and the old one gives out on Thursday?  I told Mike that after we moved the new one into the basement, the old one looked at it and thought, "You think you're going to replace me? Well fine then." and died right there. (I also thought the old furnace would have an Italian accent, not sure why).

So Thursday night we began the much more complicated process of switching the furnaces.  It began the same way as the water heater, first disconnecting the old one:

And exposing all the guts and insides:

Then, completely removing the old one, (all 150 pounds or so of it):

I'm not going to try to pretend that after the new one was put into place it was cake after that.  Mike spent Friday night and most of Saturday morning (as in, he didn't stop until 5 am on Saturday morning) hooking up the new furnace.  This included rewiring, re-piping the gas line, adding the PVC vent pipe, and all the electric hookups. 

One thing I learned was how I'll react if we were ever to have a fire in the middle of the night.  You see, at 5 am on Saturday Mike felt confidant in his work and turned the new furnace on.  This caused some dust to be pushed through the vents, setting off the smoke alarm upstairs.  I'd like to say I stay calm and collected and crawled on the floor before finding the source of the smoke (like they taught us in elementary school), but no, I ran around in my underwear running into walls, flailing my arms.  Benelli thought it was some sort of late night game and was excited.  I was less so when I found out what time it was, and that Mike hadn't been to bed yet.  After I calmed down and realized that not only dust was coming out of the vents, but also warm air, I was excited that my handyman was able to get it working.

And through all of this, there was only one casualty, our poor ceiling:

The ceiling had to be removed to add the new PVC vent pipe.  Adding one project just to finish another...story of our lives!