Bathroom Refresh | Reveal

Several months ago I mentioned I wanted a bathroom refresh.  It was easy enough to change out the accessories, but I was a little discouraged when I still didn’t feel like it was enough.  That’s when I realized I needed a new rug (isn’t that how it always goes).  I’m loving the bold colors, and the new look. 

Bathroom Refresh 1
A little color via new accessories was all it needed (and correct white balancing).

Mike couldn’t care less about the accessories, but he was a little apprehensive about the rug.  To be fair, I didn’t tell I bought a new one, I just threw it down when it was delivered.  He hated the colors at first, but the function of having a rug under both sinks and the shower won him over! 

Bathroom Refresh Rug
The rug is this one from Target.  It’s actually a runner, but it was the smallest size they had and it just barely fits.  It’s really soft and is the perfect punch of color this room needed.  And, like any new accessory or anything colorful, it’s grown on Mike!

Bathroom Refresh Angle
Along with the rug, I also updated the accessories on the counter.  I basically switched out the giant decorative sponge for the faux succulents that used to live on the back of the toilet and a candle.  I know, a candle in the bathroom, what a novel idea!

Bathroom Refresh Counter
Over the toilet, I changed out the black and white pictures for a Clare Elsaesser print, ‘Undertow’, and a quick homemade painting on a cheap canvas.

Bathroom Refresh Toilet 2

Bathroom Refresh Artwork
  Bathroom Refresh Artwork 1
On the tank I added my Himmeli Air Plant Holder and while I am not the best at remembering to soak it every week, it seems to do really well here.  I think the moisture from showering helps.  And, in another admission of laziness, I never sprayed the copper holder with a sealant, but the moisture that helps the plant doesn’t seem to discolor it, yet.

Bathroom Refresh Airplant
The bathroom is too small to get everything into one shot, but I deep cleaned it on a weeknight, so I was going to take as many photos as I could!

Bathroom Refresh Elements
The rug was the largest purchase at $73, and the print was $25.  The air plant was $11 and I’d say I spent maybe $10 on other supplies and reused things from around the house.  So, under $120 for the refresh, not bad!

Bathroom Refresh - Before and After
I finally feel like it reflects our style more, and the rug has added a lot more comfort when brushing my teeth, so that’s a win!

Later I want to share our secret weapon for keeping the rug in place, so look for that soon.  I don’t mean to be dramatic, but it’s a game changer around here!

Painting the Foundation

Since we upgraded the porch foundation.  Well, technically created one.  I needed to do something about our house foundation. 

Foundation Before


When we replaced the basement windows we knew we would need to paint the blocks since the grout sills made it look unfinished.  That was almost five years ago! 

Basement Window Before

Not only were the sills raw grout, but there were spots that Mike patched with concrete, and areas where the stone had started to deteriorate.


I honestly didn’t know what color to paint it, and then it became one of those unfinished projects you know longer see.  After adding in the faux stone base on the porch, I finally had a direction.  I took a piece of the stone panel to Sherwin Williams and had them color match to the darker stones, but realized that SW7019 Gauntlet Gray was a perfect match.  I got a gallon of SuperPaint in Satin.

It was actually pretty easy to paint.  I grabbed Mike’s creeper and scooted my way down the drive and used a small roller with a 3/4” nap and an angled brush.


It went on pretty thick and I thought I got away with only 1 coat, but in the different light I can see some spots that are a little thin.  That’s okay because I only did the one side!  That’s right we’ve been living the last few weeks with one side a different color.  When I get the energy I’ll do the other side.  We’ve removed some of the plants so it should be easier, but it’s all garden beds and mulch over there so I can’t use the creeper :(

But this is the side I see everyday so I’m still happy!

Foundation After

Foundation After Angle 2

I only went as far as I could reach under the deck.  You can’t see it unless you get under there, but I promise never to make fun of painting around things again

The window sills look so much better now that they blend in with the rest of the block.

Basement Window After

And I’m not sure what will happen to the deteriorating block over here now that I’ve covered it in paint, but I do know that it’ll give it a little more protection, and if it starts looking crappy again I can always paint it!

Deteriorating Stone Covered

A pulled back photo shows how the new porch faux foundation now matches the house foundation.

Foundation After with Porch

It’s not a huge difference, like a new house color or anything, but it’s something I’ve wanted to change for years, and it feels awesome to finally have (half of it) done!

We also capped the porch and started landscaping again.

Porch After

We added the boxwoods and hostas back, and so far they don’t seem to have been that traumatized by the moves.  We’ll see next year. 

This detail shows how Mike capped the railing and beefed it up.  He used the Azek trim to cap it, then ripped down pieces to finish off below.  We still have to fill all the holes, but from far away you can’t tell, so we’re in no hurry!

Porch After Details

Porch After 2

In other super exciting news, we got a new mailbox!  We went back and forth on something DIY’d, or super modern, but in the end we went with something similar to our old box, just bigger with simple lines.  Mike made the flag that attached to the side with a magnet.  Maybe I’ll have him disassemble it to show how he made it.

We’ve made some garden beds around the house and yard, and plan to use the dwindling days of summer to get the outside looking as good as the inside, finally!

Wrapping the Porch

Now that all the vacation recaps are done, I can get right back to our on-going projects.  We’ve got a few that have been outstanding for a while, but we’ve spent the last couple of weeks since returning getting them wrapped up.  One of those projects literally got ‘wrapped up’ – the porch!

Porch Wrapped in Tyvek

Last time we checked in we had poured the walkway.


You’ll also remember we added stone around the porch supports.  This is to act as a barrier between the dirt and building materials and prevent one of the original problems, the siding  and untreated wood sitting directly in the dirt.  Instead, Mike used Azek trim, a type of PVC trim board along the base.

Azek Trim

You’ll also notice we got new steps! 


There’s a place down the road from us that makes precast steps and we called in our dimensions and when we were ready, they delivered!  I love the look, and while they’re concrete, they’re hollow, so it’s a little easier to move around.  Mike installed the same PVC trim board behind the steps (there’s a hole behind the steps so we can access under the porch if needed). 

We knew we didn’t want the carpet to extend down behind the steps like before, and the PVC trim worked perfectly.

Before adding the siding pieces back on, Mike wrapped everything in Tyvek house wrap for a water and air barrier.

Then comes the exciting part!  For years Mike and I discussed ways to beef up the porch columns, eliminate the big siding box look, and generally add more curb appeal.  During some of the plans to completely tear off the porch and start over we discussed adding stone bases.  Since we  decided against starting over from scratch (thank god!) we had to come up with something different.  We talked about stone veneer, but we weren’t excited about the cost, or the additional labor.  That’s when Mike found faux stone panels!

Bucks County Gray_lightoom 1_0Via

The brand name is Exteria and it’s a composite panel made using real stones as templates.  They’re installed just like siding and give a stone look for a fraction of the cost and can easily be customized to the size and shape needed.

Exteria Creek Ledge Stone - Bucks County GrayVia

We found them at Home Depot, but right after we ordered, they stopped selling them (we know because we needed to order additional accessories).  I just did a search and Lowes carries them.  We had to contact the customer service department after Mike forgot to order the starter strip and they couldn’t have been nicer!  Susan the Customer Service Manager made sure we had all the right pieces and shipped everything free of charge for the hassle of Home Depot discounting the system right after we purchased!

We decided to add a faux foundation and column bases.  We figured this would give the appearance that the porch was more than an afterthought, and beef up the columns.  We went with the ‘Bucks County Gray’ color since it had both gray and beige colors to tie in with the tan siding, but still stand out.

Bucks County Gray - Color PaletteVia

Mike started by installing the starter strip along the bottom and reused the j-channel from the siding along the stairs and edge.

Exteria Creek Ledge Stone Install Starter Strip

Exteria Creek Ledge Stone Install J-Channel

It’s installed just like siding and the seams fit together and are barely noticeable.

Exteria Creek Ledge Stone Install Seam

The only part that gives it away is the corner pieces.  Like siding, there are corner trim pieces.  Since the panels are cut at the corners, there is no way to produce perfectly lined up stone corners.  The panels are cut, then the corners are clipped on.  I thought I’d be a lot more annoyed with the corners, but I honestly don’t notice them anymore.

Exteria Creek Ledge Stone Install Column Base

Mike cut smaller sections of the panels to create the ‘column base’.  We only needed one panel height along the base to create the ‘foundation’ look we wanted.

Exteria Creek Ledge Stone Install

After the stone panels were installed the siding that was removed at the beginning was pieced together and filled in above the stone.

Porch Siding and Faux Stone Panels Edge Detail

Porch Siding and Faux Stone Panels Corner Detail 1

Porch Siding and Faux Stone Panels Corner Detail

The top piece of siding was left off until after Mike addressed the wooden cap (the red wood piece).  He wanted to beef that up as well, but we also had to take into consideration that people sat on this ledge when we hang out on the porch.  The old aluminum wrap was dented and warped and we wanted something that would be more durable.

Porch Siding and Faux Stone Panels 2

Porch Siding and Faux Stone Panels 3

From a distance the corner faux stone pieces are indistinguishable from the panels, and with landscaping it’s become even less noticeable.  We’ve had people walking by compliment us on the change and I think it’s made a huge difference while still keeping the integrity of the house.

Danks in Europe | Wrap-Up & Gate 1 Review

At the beginning of our re-caps I mentioned I would wait to talk about the actual tour group experience and accommodations after I finished sharing all the cities we visited.  While it’s still fresh in my mind I wanted to share our experiences, mostly because I found a lack of information online while I was deciding to book our trip.

Like I said before, I used Groupon Getaways as a researching tool to see what kind of places Mike might be interested in visiting.  When I came across the ‘9 Day Crown of Central Europe’ it not only looked like an interesting group of cities, but the price was pretty good too.


The tour was through Gate 1 Travel, and was an escorted tour through the advertised  Prague, Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna.  What interested me was the transportation/ accommodations were included and one less thing I had to research on my own. 

Danks in Europe | Vienna

Our last stop on our 9 day tour through Central Europe was Vienna, Austria.

Danks in Europe - Vienna
After our river cruise down the Danube, we got in around dinner time.  Mike and I stayed close to the hotel and walked to Zum Hagenthaler for spatzel and schnitzel, and crepes for dessert.

Danks in Europe | Melk

After Salzburg, we drove a couple hours to Melk, Austria.

Danks in Europe - Melk

Before we got there though, about 20 minutes from Salzburg we stopped at Mondsee Lake, the lake from The Sound of Music.


Melk it wasn’t a large city, and we didn’t spend the night here, we spent a few hours exploring and then we got on a boat for a river cruise down the Danube.


Danks in Europe | Salzburg

From Munich we traveled to Salzburg, Austria.  Here’s where I would make a Sound of Music reference, but I remain one of the few people in the world who has not seen it!  Although I’ve been trying to remember to get to the library sometime soon to rectify this.

Danks in Europe  - Salzburg

Danks in Europe | Munich

After leaving the brewery in Pilsen we left Czech Republic and headed on to Munich, Germany. 

Danks in Europe - Munich

Danks in Europe | Pilsen

Next stop on our journey was Pilsen, Czech Republic, home to Pislner Urquell brewery. 

Danks in Europe - Pilsen

"Urquell" in German or "Prazdroj" in Czech both mean "the ancient source".  Pilsner Urquell is the original pilsner and first pale lager beer. 

A quick history: Before 1838, there were around 250 citizens that had brewing rights in the city.  The beer was bad, and it wasn’t selling, so the officials got together and in 1839 founded a city-owned brewery.  A Bavarian brewer, Josef Groll, was recruited and in 1842 the first modern batch of Pilsner was produced. And, a neat fact:  Pilsner Urquell is hopped with Saaz hops which is the name of the homebrew club Mike was President of. 

The campus of the brewery was massive and we started in the visitors center and was then bussed across campus to the modern bottling plant.


You can imagine that Mike and I have been to a brewery tour or two, and the bottling lines are always my favorite.  I love watching them, same with shows like ‘How It’s Made’, those assembly lines get me every time!



The fascinating thing to me is that all the places we visited in Europe, glass bottles are returned, not just recycled, and washed and reused here at the brewery!

We walked through the older mashing tun / copper kettles and through the modern stainless steel ones.   




Then we went underground to the original fermenting area, the lagering caves beneath the brewery. 





What was unique was they have barrels open fermenting, which is a very tricky process because outside contaminants can’t be prevented.  What was even more unique, was the promised beer samples came from these barrel-aged casks, giving us the opportunity to taste the beer unfiltered.



The caves were considerably colder than above ground, which is needed for fermenting lagers, and one way that this was controlled back in the day was by filling these massive rooms with ice. 


The ice would be collected from nearby lakes, then thrown down the hole at the top and the room would be filled, leaving a small area on top that would allow air to flow over and cool the rooms below.  The ice would remain months after the temperature turned above ground.

Now, it’s a little more modern process with cooling units on the ceiling.


After our tour, we were on our own for a couple hours and Mike and I hit the campus restaurant, Na Splice, and Mike had a starter of pickled sausage with hot peppers and onion, then a pork knee, which was honestly bigger than a softball. 

Na Splice Lunch

With the sausage and half a liter of beer, it’s wasn’t a surprise that Mike couldn’t finish it.

Pork Knee

After lunch we grabbed some t-shirts and headed back on the road, this time to Munich!