A new look

This year, Lane and I sort of reached the point of home renovations where we had finished all of the smaller projects that we could handle ourselves. We had taken sweat equity as far as we could and have shifted our focus to one big project every year or so as the funds were available. We had our windows replaced this spring and have been enjoying opening them and letting fresh air in all year. Then we found out that we were expecting a baby and thought that would be the end of renovations for a while – ha. Through an unexpected course of events, we were advised to file an insurance claim for our roof and siding and thanks to homeowner’s insurance, we have a new-looking home!

This is where we left off last year:


We did our best to tidy up the outside to add curb appeal, but it was like putting lipstick on a pig.

And now…


Ahhh so much cleaner and less scary looking! We decided to order a new entry door to finish off the exterior for now. I think we will especially appreciate the new windows, non drafty door and upgraded exterior insulation this winter.




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Very early on in our marriage, Lane and I set a goal to travel around the world. This morphed into “go on an awesome vacation when Lane finishes his MBA”. Little did we know, those plans would become travel to Sydney, Australia just before Lane starts a new job related to his MBA. We are so thankful for an opportunity to travel and for the perfect timing with Lane’s job transition. So with that, let’s get on to the pictures!

We started with a day in LA to break up some of the flying. Lane planned a really nice hike into the Hollywood hills

Sidenote: Other than this park, Hollywood is nothing like it looks on tv. It’s very run down and over-crowded.

While in LA, we spent a day with Lane’s cousin and her sweet family. They showed us around Santa Monica Pier, which we loved.

And there were so many fun playgrounds for the kiddos (and me!)

Once we arrived in Sydney, we wasted no time getting to the best zoo ever. We were able to pet wallabies, kangaroos, emus, peacocks, goats, and sheep! We had to pull ourselves away…

Wildlife photographer is inching its way up my list of dream jobs

From Featherdale Wildlife Park, we headed into the Blue Mountains. There some really spectacular views

Our hotel was just a few blocks from the Sydney Opera House. We enjoyed running through the Botanic Gardens to the Opera House that morning. Lane is convinced we’ll never have a better running route.

We did make our way inside the opera house for a tour. I love how the concrete is visible from the inside, which makes for views like this

We honeymooned on the Celebrity Solstice in 2011, and were so surprised to see it docked in Sydney! It was so fun to reminisce about our cruise (and plan our next one…)

We squeezed in a beach day at Bondi Beach. After the Chicago winter we’ve had, it was so fun to spend a day at the beach

Being the hopeless romantics that we are, we spent Valentine’s day at the Sydney fish market. Nothing says “I love you” like a room full of dead fish:) Joking aside, we loved the fish market. We were able to tour the auction floor and see the fish being purchased by the restaurateurs.

And for fun, one more shot of the harbor

More pictures are posted on my flickr page.


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Hello 2014.

I’ve been doing a good bit of reflecting on 2013 the past few days and what a year it was. We started 2013 moving into a house with no functional bathroom and and are ending it with a pretty cozy house that we love. Our first night in the house was NYE 2012 and we laugh now looking back at how we slept at the house and went back to the apartment to shower for the first few days.

2013 was a busy, busy year full of painting, landscaping, cleaning, and project finishing. 40% of our total spending for the year was directly related to the house! And with Lane aggressively finishing his MBA, our various volunteer and church commitments, and trying to maintain contact with other human beings, it feels like I spent every spare minute working on the house. Exhausting, but it’s so rewarding to not come home to half-finished projects everywhere. (Now we just come home to a bunch of 95% finished projects…)

While there will still be renovations in 2014 (I’m looking at you windows) and project finishers (how does our trim paint already need to be touched up), we’ll be much more focused on getting organized and having fun. We spent a significant number of hours in 2013 just looking for things, so organizing is a huge priority right now. And we’re working to improve things like our menu plan and chore chart (I use this guide and it’s amazing)

If renovations were our largest budget item in 2013, fun stuff was our smallest. So we’re making up for that in a big way with a trip to Sydney, Australia in February! We are so looking forward to a week of exploring, relaxing, and eating bloomin’ onions fresh seafood.

All in all, we have high hopes for 2014. Let’s make it a good one! From our snowy house to yours, Happy New Year!


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Master Bathroom Complete

We wrapped up our master bathroom renovation earlier this month, and I am pretty sure it’s my favorite room yet!

As a reminder, here is where we began


And here’s where we are today after adding a marble walk-in shower, flooring, vanity, and toilet


Hello glamorous.

My vision for this bathroom was always navy blue and marble (which I planned before all of blog world caught on to the trend). And of course the shower panel was a huge motivator for the entire project.


In short, it’s amazing. We have a rain shower, a handheld shower, 8 body sprayers, and even a tub spout that we don’t use. The water pressure is amazing and I can wash my hair so much faster, which is actually a bummer because I never want to get out of the shower.

Lane very specifically asked for a waterfall faucet. I think it works perfectly. (Tip – we always buy faucets and fixtures on Amazon. It’s cheaper and they have every finish available vs Lowe’s or HD who will only have one or two options)


We have quite a few bathroom electronics (toothbrushes, razor, waterpic, etc) so a charging station was a must. I found a standard orangey oak cabinet in the scratch and dent aisle at Lowe’s for $30, painted it mint, added a glass insert to the doors, and finished it off with chrome hardware. I almost gave up on this cabinet about a dozen times, but I love how it turned out! (There’s a wall outlet inside to charge everything)


Of course a bathroom wouldn’t be so without a toilet (I am now wondering why we don’t call it a toilet room)


I think even the toilet looks classy with the molding detail.

Looking at all of these pictures just makes me want to take a shower, so I think I will 🙂

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Making a Splash

Our bathroom wasn’t the only room to get some attention from the tile guys. We also had our kitchen backsplash installed – about 10 months after our kitchen reno. It was always the plan to have the backsplash professionally done so that it would be perfectly straight. I have a very precise natural sense of straight lines, so perfection in the kitchen was important.

The tile guys made very quick work of the backsplash, leaving us with this beauty

This project came very close to being a horror story when we discovered that Menards gave us 6 sheets of tile that were a different color design from the rest. And it just happened that they didn’t realize this error until 3/4 of the tile was already installed and we didn’t have enough of the correct color to finish. Fortunately Menards was able to correct it with tile from another store that they brought in the next day and our backsplash story has a happy ending.

Also happy was that the leftover grout from a previous project matched perfectly. Every dollar saved counts!


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Bathroom Tile

Weeks 2 and 3 of the master bathroom reno have flown by! We hit the one year mark of owning our home over the weekend, and although we’ve accomplished so much more than we ever thought we would in the first year, it’s still hard not to look around the house and focus on the unfinished projects. But that’s a different topic for a different day. Let’s focus on the bathroom.

But first, Lane had a birthday.

We celebrated with Hot Doug’s

And the birthday food fest continued into the weekend at Mago

When we left off with the bathroom, the room was all prepped for tile. During week 2, the floor tile was laid, and the final wall prep completed.


We had a difficult time getting our hands on the shower floor tile. Long story short, The Tile Shop is full of lies and misinformation. In the end, we got the tile on time, but we won’t shop there again. All of the other tile was purchased at our go-to store, Floor and Decor.

Last Monday, we came home to find this
We love, love, love it! I love how all the marble is slightly different, but it comes together cohesively.

And we had the bathroom painted Sherwin William’s Naval like the inspiration photos

Then for the main attraction

We have 8 body sprayers, a rainfall shower head, and a traditional shower head. We cannot wait to switch to this shower! But first, we have to install the shower door (done!), the vanity, light, mirror, and toilet. In the meantime, we’re really learning to be patient 🙂

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Bathroom Week 1

One of the most difficult aspects of a full house reno are all of the unfinished projects. If either time or money were unlimited (or even abundant) our house would be finished by now. But they’re not, which is why we’ve lived without a functioning master bathroom for almost a year now. We hurriedly finished our hall bath before moving in, and left the master bath with a partial subfloor for several months. And slowly, we had the plumbing fixed and then had outlets and lights added (who designs a bathroom with one light and no outlets?). Perhaps the most stressful part of the master bath is that we’d wised up from the previous bathroom remodel and decided to hire out. That’s right, I’m that person who’d rather do something myself than work with a contractor. Anyways, after months of planning and trying to get the bathroom started, this week was finally the week.

Because we all need a refresher, here’s the condition when we closed on the house

And then after the demo and pluming/electric

Then the crew got started and now drywall, backerboard and the shower pan are complete!

As for the plans for this bathroom, we’re going dark and moody with marble everywhere. We are so excited to see this room come together.

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