Home Improvement

Week 2 of the second bathroom installation!

A little more work has been done by putting up studs (I helped a little with the shorter side):


There wasn’t much room to work, so putting together the shorter side was REALLY difficult for my husband. It kept on falling apart here and there, so we had to improvise and lean the frame on the open door to the basement:


Basement door in the back was open slightly, so the frame was leaning on top of it while I was holding one side and my husband was balancing on a step stool with one foot on the wall to nail the studs from the top.


Bathroom fan will go above toilet. It will have a humidity sensor, so will automatically turn on to keep the room from getting too foggy.

There is some water damage from the upstairs bath, but we’re hoping it’s not too extensive and only the top layer will have to be replaced…but that’s for another renovation, and another post. :)

Plumbing is the next step, stay tuned!


Our house has one bathroom upstairs, and we thought it would be better to have  second one downstairs. My husband has been planning this for several months and now that the weather is getting warmer, it’s a nice time to start tearing things down. Our house is 233 years old, so we learned a lot about how people built their homes way back when.

First thing we noticed was all the odds and ends that held together the walls. You won’t see a lot of nice, even 2x4s, but rather an assortment of wood pieces, whatever pieces could be salvaged and used as support while the main beams of the house were nice and sturdy. See where that red leveler is? That wide plank isn’t a support beam, but was probably used as a surface to nail the inside wall to.


Future site of new bathroom. There was no insulation in these two walls, so I stapled large table cloths over the doorways and pretty much avoided using this room all winter


Drainpipe in corner will be covered with drywall. Doorway will be from the porch. One more layer of flooring to be removed.


View from the porch. To the left of the opening is that framed-out drainpipe, door will go here. Coat closet on the right. Door to the kitchen hidden by hanging coats.

I think he’ll work on this over the weekend again, so I’ll post more pics soon…stay tuned!

November 8, 2011 was our last day living in Hawaii.

My husband and I packed our two cats in their carry-ons, made sure we had their paperwork for the plane, got our luggage and left our 600-square foot apartment in the middle of Honolulu for good.

Bathroom on the left by the TV, kitchen (out of the picture) on the left. Cozy place for two adults and two cats.

Balcony and kitchen. Sammy likes the warm air from the wine fridge. :)

We had been married for about a year and a half and our plan was to purchase a home on Oahu. Though we tried to secure a couple of homes, it just didn’t work out.

We looked at a condo deep in Wahiawa valley:

2 bedroom condo with balcony, about 1,000 sq ft.

A tiny plantation house near Lake Wilson, also in Wahiawa:

Old plantation house w/separate studio, both about 600 sq ft each. See how close you are to your neighbor?

We were also in escrow for about ten months for a house in ‘Ewa Beach, but problems with the title and mortgage company had to be addressed in land court, and that prevented us from taking that last step into ownership.

When it seemed that nothing was working out, we decided to move and find a home elsewhere. We visited my sister and her husband in upstate New York and really loved the area, so that’s where we decided to move the first week of November. For the first 4 months we lived in a studio above a garage in a tiny little town called Deposit.

Our rental car and rental home, about 600 sq ft. of the top floor. Bottom is storage for the owners.

There’s a lot I had to learn about living in a colder climate, like driving in the snow:

My husband didn’t let the lack of a garage stop him from working on the car:

Who needs a garage??!!


Although we started looking at homes while we still were in Hawaii, we were now able to see listed properties in person. There were a few that looked promising, but we happened across a lovely farmhouse that was in a great location and going for a great price!

My husband & the home inspector, Dec. 2011.

After a long wait we finally purchased our home in March and were moved in by April. Along with the beautiful house and property, we also got the lady of the house, Trixie:


We started doing some home improvement projects, both inside and outside:

My outdoor project: stone steps going down to the creek.

Ripping out the old ceiling in the dining room.

My husband working on the plumbing.

But in addition to renovations, we also had a couple of get-togethers:

My husband’s birthday dinner: Thanksgiving in July!

And received our first official guests:

My in-laws visiting from Germany.

New York is great, but I miss my family:

Always lots of food at my parents’ house, especially when my two uncles stop by with their own dishes (pork ribs, smoke meat, poke, sushi, etc.)

and having friends over for dinner:

Christmas Eve dinner with friends at our apartment in Honolulu.

But I prefer the weather and changing seasons in Upstate New York over the daily dose of sunshine. Granted I’ve only lived here for one year, and the first winter experience has been one of the most mild ones in the area, so maybe the lady at the Post Office was right in saying, “After a few years, you’re gonna MISS Hawaii!” I really do love it here, and my husband does, too. The people are nice, the weather is great, we live far enough away from the city to have peace and quiet, but close enough to head into town when we feel like it. :)



We inherited our dining table set from our former neighbors who gave it to us when we moved into our new home (thanks again, guys!) It’s a nice set, and is big enough for six, maybe eight people. One day at JoAnn Fabrics I came across some upholstery fabric in a very cool pattern (remnants bin, additional 50% off!) This would be great for updating our dining chairs, just to give it a personal touch. It has a random/geometric pattern that makes it fun, but not over the top, and the brown in the fabric goes well with the color of the wood.

I love the mix of textures as well as the pattern.

I had my fabric, staple gun, heavy-duty scissors and a screwdriver. This is really easy to do: I unscrewed the seat form the chair frame, put it on my fabric, cut, staple, and screwed it back in. Easy peasy!

The corners are the hardest to do, but just cut away some fabric and fold nicely. You don’t want it too thick, it’ll be harder to screw the seat back in.

The old chairs have a cream colored seat. It was nice, but I felt like something more funky.

Four chairs reupholstered for less than six bucks…awesome! And Trixie likes the new fabric, too.

This is a great project because you can update the look anytime you feel like it, and no sewing involved! BUT…if you notice something, I did a major mistake: TWO of my chairs have the pattern running in the opposite directions! Haha, well, I can either get more fabric or just deal with it. ;) In the meantime, maybe my husband won’t notice, shhhh!!!

Happy Friday, everybody, hope you have a wonderful weekend!


I planned on priming the rest of the kitchen this weekend, but when Sunday came along, I didn’t really feel like it. It was cloudy, windy, warm, rainy, humid…not my favorite weather to be doing much of anything. My husband and I checked out a couple of antique stores–just to see if there were any coffee tables or nightstands we liked–and came home with a nice, old piano bench:

A few nicks and scratches, but I can deal with that. But that cover has got to go!

The cover wasn’t even hinged on, and there were something like 200 staples holding this flimsy fabric to the particle board.

My husband helped me cut two pieces of plywood with the grain of each piece running in opposite directions. I screwed them together before adding the old top, which had some padding.

Saving the old bench top (but ditching the maroon fabric) I now had a super thick bench seat.

A while ago I purchased a remnant of fake leather from JoAnn Fabric, figured I would use it for something, someday:

I stapled the opposite sides first, then went in a clockwise direction and stapled all around, 7 on the long sides, 5 on the short sides.

I folded the corners as neatly as I could (which wasn’t very neat) and cut the extra fabric before stapling them down. And here is the finished product:

This updated white seat cover looks cleaner and can be a traditional or modern look.

The inside is not very neat and clean at the moment!


And here is the finished product in our bedroom:

Though our king-size bed might be too large for this piano bench, it’s the perfect spot for putting on/taking off your shoes, or a perch for our cats.

Happy Monday! Busy weekend again with more home improvements.  But before I start showing those pictures, I want to share a recipe featuring our Flavor of the Week: basil!

This is one of those herbs that’s supposed to be really easy to grow, but I’ve always had trouble growing them in pots. Either the soil was filled with bugs, slugs destroyed them, or it was just too hot for their roots. I used to always buy huge bunches for $2 in Chinatown and they had both Thai and sweet basil varieties. The Thai basil has darker, thicker leaves and a more “peppery” taste. I made pesto with both varieties, and couldn’t taste much of a difference.

Here is a quick n’ easy no-cook topping for your pasta that can be kept in the fridge for a few days. If you don’t have enough basil, cut it with some baby spinach (they’re milder than the grown-up kind!) Add some cream and warm up before adding cooked pasta, or serve over chicken. Any way you slice it, it’s delicious!

Add more or less basil, if you like (less here.) The lemony creaminess of the pine nuts can shine on its own.

Lemony Pine Nut Pesto
The lemon combines perfectly with pine nuts, but feel free to use pecans, walnuts or cashews. Inspired by Pine Nut Cream recipe from Going Raw by Judita Wignall.

3/4 cups raw soaked pine nuts or other raw soaked nuts
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, mashed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup basil leaves, torn
1 cup baby spinach leaves, torn

Add nuts to a food processor or blender and pulse or blend on medium-low until pasty but coarsely chopped. Add lemon juice, garlic, salt, and oil. Blend for a few seconds until combined. Blend in basil and spinach, turning off machine and scraping down sides when necessary. Enjoy on pasta, as a veggie dip, or sandwich spread.

On to home renovations!

KITCHEN: I primed more of the kitchen, as well as the cat’s litter box:

Primed cabinets on the right and wall on the left. And there’s our new fridge!

The cabinet doors went from red to white on the cats’ litter box, Trixie was the first to try it out.

Put a new pattern on the display cabinet:

The original burlap looked dull against a white wall so I replaced it with some fun polka-dots!

Primed the formerly red plant stand and covered the glass top with the same fabric used in the cabinet.


The other morning Trixie and I noticed this beautiful purple hibiscus in the back yard:

Looks healthy, but I think it would like more sun.

I’ve seen tons of these plants in red, white, and yellow at Lowe’s but didn’t think anyone would buy one to plant outside…won’t the freezing temperatures kill it? Apparently not!

Purple hibiscus

There were some other trees crowding it out and blocking the sun so I asked my husband to clear the area around it. Now there’s plenty of sunlight to reach the hibiscus, and looking at the newly cleared space is giving me some outdoor ideas…

The whole area behind the hibiscus is now cleared. It would make a lovely sitting area.

I am not much of a flower-planting person but after seeing this hibiscus, I think I’d want to add more color to this part of the back yard…and maybe add an herb garden!

Normally Mondays are when  I share a new Flavor of the Week, but this weekend was once again filled with home renovation projects that took up more of my time than I anticipated, so it’ll be postponed until next Monday. Today’s post is a mix of home renovations and a very fun and frolicky episode of 23 Paws, sponsored by Cinnamon at Eat, Pray, Tri! I’ll start with the serious business of home renovations first. :)

It all began on Saturday with my husband opening up a wall panel out on the porch and discovering an infestation of these picnic crashers in a corner post which has supported this lovely house for over 200 years (I made the picture small in case anyone doesn’t care for bugs/insect pics, click on the picture to see a larger view):

Carpenter ants

Carpenter ants! The closet on the porch had some water damage. After opening up the wall panel, we realized how extensive the damage really was. These carpenter ants are eating away at one of the main posts of the house. It seems their nest has been exposed, but we’re definitely having an exterminator come over to get rid of them once and for all!

After seeing this damage, I got really upset…more like mad…more like pee-ohed! I felt invaded by these tiny creatures, and the added expense getting rid of them just pushes back other projects we had planned. There was nothing I could do about these ants, or about the rotting pillar, and I needed to take my anger out on something…ah, the kitchen floor!

Before: cracked and water-damaged vinyl tiles made the kitchen floor uneven, dirty, and our chairs always got caught up on the curled-up edges of the tile.

After: the bare wood floors are nice and even, no water damage.

It took about 2 1/2 hours to remove all the nailed-down sheets of tile, and the thousands of nails that were used excessively to hold them down. The next day, my plan was to move out the stove and a section of cabinets to remove the rest of the old tile. The cabinets were nailed to the floor as well as the walls, but my husband and I were able to pry and saw it free! After that, I decided to start painting.

Still had enough anger the next day to prime some of the cabinets, part of the wall, and spray paint the handles shiny silver.

All in all, it took about 5 1/2 hours to pry the cabinets from the floor & walls, get rid of the tile underneath, and paint just this section. Still lots more to go, and if it weren’t for the discover of the ants, I would have never been motivated to get started. Funny how these things work out, isn’t it?

Okay, now to the fun part of today’s post: it’s 23 Paws, hosted by Cinnamon at Eat, Pray, Tri23 Paws is a monthly meet-up for bloggers showing off pictures of their favorite animals in action. Since the first half of my post was all serious and a bit stressful, here are some not-so-serious and very relaxing photos of my cats enjoying their favorite plant: catnip!

Here’s Sammy hogging the catnip shortly after I planted it. I thought that plant wouldn’t make it through the week, but it’s pretty resilient.

That catnip plant that used to be picked on grew like the weed that it is! Sammy is going nuts over a freshly crumpled leaf. That’s his drool that he’s lying in. :)

Awww…Wolfie had a whole branch of catnip and Trixie cautiously looked on.

Trixie, unabashedly giving herself to the allure of the catnip.

Do you have any catnip for your cats? How do they react to it? :D

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