Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Never-Ending Story of Our Renovation

So we're officially in week 7 of remodeling, which was sort of our deadline, and we sort of met it. I say "sort of" because while we are technically going to move into our house this coming Saturday, it's not entirely functional. But let's look at the bright side, shall we? At least we have a place to live!

This week and last has been focused mostly on the kitchen. We had to get the cabinets installed and pour the concrete countertops. We chose concrete for a couple reasons - we love the look, and it was waaay cheaper than going with quartz or granite. For comparison, the "absolute black" granite that we would have chosen would have been $2K just for the granite, then add in the cutting, polishing, and installation, and it would be just ridiculous. And there's very little we could do to reduce the cost and DIY. The concrete, on the other hand, was about $500.00 for the molds, countertop kit, and concrete, and then it's just a bunch of labor and a giant learning curve.

Installation of the cabinets

The cabinets with Durarock and countertop molds screwed in.

We used the counter kit from Z Counterform. Their videos make it look easy. Warning: it is not. It is also extremely messy! Monkeys throwing wet concrete around would have been only slightly worse. I just walked out of the room while Mike was dealing with it. I couldn't watch.

You have to put wire inside the concrete to give it something to adhere to.

Mike screeding the concrete....right onto the floor.

Screeding is when you level the concrete by drawing something across it, and it has to go somewhere. In our case, it went right off the counter onto the kitchen floor, which thankfully wasn't installed yet. So it landed on the plywood subfloor...still very upsetting for me! But concrete doesn't stick to flat surfaces, so Mike was able to clean it all up in a matter of minutes, and we are no worse for wear. It was a great exercise in just letting things go and believing it will all work out in the end! Seriously, who needs couple's therapy? Just remodel a house.

breaking off the molds to reveal Mike's handiwork!

at this stage, the counters need to cure for a few weeks.

The concrete goes in super dark, but dries a beautiful light gray color. It's modern, industrial, and fits our aesthetics perfectly.

close up of the edge. We may leave the pits, I think they add character!

Yep, we did an undermount sink on a poured concrete counter.

The counters will be curing for about 30 days (whoops! we sure didn't do that on the right timeline) before we can have them polished and then seal them, but they're hard and not susceptible to dents or dings, so we can move in and not worry too much about it. 

Next things to do - paint and put in the floors. 

painting with the new neutral - gray.

painting walls with vaulted ceilings is a lot of work!

I wanted light floors and Mike wanted dark. Since we wanted to go cheap (no one in the neighborhood has hardwood, so it didn't make sense to go all out), we went with a nice dark laminate that mimics hand hewn wood. Laminates have come a pretty long way since the first days of Pergo! As Mike and Tyler (our new BFF contractor friend) did the floor installation, I couldn't imagine how much dust hardwood floors would be to install, if laminate kicked up this much dust.

installing the floors in the living room.

Mike cut and installed all the underlay on the floors.

Kitchen floors installed. Please excuse our dust.

One major cost cutting factor in our remodel is the electric - my part time job is for an electrician, so we are getting parts at cost, and a big discount on labor. We installed six super nice, adjustable recessed LED lights in our living room. 

four of the six lights installed.

Finally, a glimpse at our almost completed bathroom! The tile is all in, the vanity is half installed, and I've got a first coat of paint on the walls. We may be living without the glass wall or door for a little while, as we're off to Chicago and LA next week, and we're strapped for time. I never thought I'd ever say this, but I can't wait to stop traveling and just stay home for a few months!

two views of the new bathroom

a peek into the shower from the vanity area

We move in this weekend and while we're living there, we'll still be finishing up all sorts of projects - installing the mirrors, pendant lights, and rest of the vanity for the master bath, all the trim, new doors (or possibly painting the old ones), kitchen backsplash, hood, shelving, closet organizational system, full remodel of the guest bathroom, and oh yeah - a secret reading area hidden by a swinging bookcase. And did I mention I bought a bunch of heirloom seeds for our not-yet-created garden and raised beds? It's going to be a busy spring!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


While parts of the US have been getting pummeled with winter storms, we spent the week in.... Iceland! Our weather there was actually nicer than the east coast.

Iceland is very stark and beautiful, and the culture is fascinating. They were discovered by the Vikings, colonized by the Norwegians and the Danish, used as a strategic military outpost by the British and the Americans, and finally, given their true independence. The US Navy base closed recently, in 2006, and was turned into what is now their international airport and a university. 

outside the town of Fludir

We did our best to eat local Icelandic food for every single meal. They eat a variety of things that come from the sea, like whale, shellfish (especially langoustine), various local fish such as trout, arctic char, salmon, spotted catfish, and ling cod, and meat, in the form of sea birds (puffin, cormorant, goose, duck), lamb and horse. 

Arctic Char, a local fish. Similar to salmon, but lighter and creamier!

smoked salmon and hardboiled egg on a croissant - ate salmon every day!

minke whale. it tastes just like tender, delicious beef.

The Icelandic horse is one of the cutest horses I've ever seen. They're super friendly, fuzzy,  and come in so many different colors. Once an Icelandic horse leaves Iceland, it can never come back. They are one of the purest breeds in the world. 

Icelandic horses

Mike and I had one day to ourselves where we drove around the island a bit. I got to go to a wool factory and get some yarn and raw wool to bring home for felting and crocheting. 

The wool factory!

We also stopped at this beautiful natural swimming pool - Iceland's first, from 1891. It is filled from a hot spring right next to the pool, so it was extremely warm, like 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The whole place was quiet, steamy, misty, surrounded by snow, and completely surreal. We got there before it opened and had the whole place to ourselves. It is probably the most romantic thing Mike and I have ever done together. 

The Secret Lagoon
Secret Lagoon GoPro selfie!

We also got married! Our friends and family flew in and spent 5-6 days with us, touring Reykjavik, the Golden Circle, and the Blue Lagoon. It was a little stressful, but thanks to Pink Iceland, and Hannes, our wedding planner, everything ran smoothly and we had a memorable wedding. I am excited to see our Icelandic wedding certificate. We also have my wonderful cousin, Dennis Kwan, to thank for the following pictures documenting our trip!

The Harpa Concert Hall - it is gorgeous!

Me in a vintage 70s Icelandic cape, and Mike in an Icelandic wool handknit sweater.

the cold, windy ceremony. we had all the elements - earth, fire, water, and wind.


after the ceremony, under the stars

at Gulfoss waterfall

the Blue Lagoon - like an enormous milky hot tub.

getting in-water massage treatments at the Blue Lagoon.

at Thingvellir National Park, walking between the Eurasian and North American plates.

Hallgrimskirkja church, and that's us, the tiny couple!

Since we've been together so long, we thought the wedding would be sort of anti-climactic, but it was really special. We feel like we've renewed our commitment to each other, and it was really nice to have that break in the middle of the renovation stress.

And now we are back in Bend, refreshed and busy at work on the house again. We'd like to move within the next week or's a rush to the finish! Updates in the next post!