Finally! A Toilet! A Shower!

Let's mark this day down in history, or more aptly in my little one line a day journal: our bathroom is finished! Our basement renovation is finished! There were a few minor bumps in the road, but wow are we happy with the outcome; we're all confetti and streamers over here.

If you're in the greater DC, NoVA, Baltimore area we definitely recommend Andrey at Denmax. Fair price, excellent work, really hard working crew, excellent attention to detail; you really can't ask for much more.  Plus, they put up with a pregnant woman who's a bit on the OCD side of particular on a normal day. A closet wall that needs to be precisely 49.5" long? Seriously, F? That's just the tip of the iceberg.

And with all that I'm really happy to finally reveal our new bathroom, the final reveal of our basement/garden level renovation.

I have a hard time believing this is our bathroom, in our house, that we own. I love it that much. I want to pack it up and take it with me when we leave. I'm in love.

Just for old time's sake, this is what this corner of the basement looked like the night we I moved in less than two years ago. (S was stuck in Spain with a "broken" plane so I had the pleasure of spending my first night in a strange new house on an air mattress alone.)
I'd say it's come a long way, don't you think?
The basket weave marble tile and marble subway tile are both from Lowes. The shower faucet is a Moen, the sink faucet is the "Fairfax" by Kohler, the toilet is the "Wellworth" by Kohler, the fan is an ultra silent by NuTone. The vanity, mirror, hooks and shelf are all from Ikea. The shower door is a custom door that Andrey had made for us for a fraction of the cost of the ones we priced out. The guy is a miracle worker with the deals.

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The Modern Bidet

Come on, you know you want one: the modern bidet, aka a diaper sprayer.
We're going the cloth diaper route. We have enough diapers from thirsties, bum genius, fuzzibunz, kissaluvs, etc. to diaper twins, which we're definitely not having. Apparently the diaper sprayer is just shy of a total necessity, so we bought one and S installed it this weekend. I asked him to elaborate on the installation for you all, but he said it was just about the easiest thing ever: shut the water off, unscrew one piece, screw another on, stick two ends of the plastic tubing on as instructed and hang the sprayer on the side of the toilet. And then he coined it the modern bidet, in an effort to make this whole baby thing a little more comedic and a little less OMG-we're-having-a-baby.

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Shelf v. Art?

Our new bathroom is just a few brushstrokes of touch-up paint away from its official completion. I couldn't be happier with how it's turned out. Love it. Yesterday S and I tackled one of the final finishing touches when we installed Ikea's Savern glass wall shelf above the toilet:
We hoped to install at least one side of the shelf brackets into a stud, but to do so and keep the entire thing centered over the toilet would have meant that the two wall brackets would only be seven inches apart. The whole thing is nearly 20 inches wide, so at seven inches it just looked weird. After a little debate we came to the conclusion that we weren't actually going to put anything on glass shelves that would likely pull the shelf from the wall, so we used a few trusty anchors and called it a day.
We used a level, a quilting square, a wide, plastic quilting ruler, crossed fingers and some really creative math to get the four wall anchors lined up perfectly with each other and centered over the toilet; I was pretty relieved when the actual brackets lined up perfectly with the wall anchors.
We don't actually have anything on the shelves yet, but with such a small space it seemed more logical to have an extra spot to put a toothbrush holder or for our guests to put their makeup bags than to hang a piece of art. What do you prefer, the shelf route or the art-above-the-toilet route?

Just a tiny bit more work 'til this bathroom is ready for my mom's extended visit when the baby arrives!

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Woah, Patio.

Around 9pm last night we got a call from the contractor who was supposed to begin work on our patio on Monday. Apparently the forecast for Monday called for rain and he wanted to know if he could start work today, Saturday. S and I looked at each other and said, "sure, why not?"

So this morning S set his alarm for 6 and was outside digging up the existing plantings around the fence in the dark. The guys were here just before 8 and within twenty minutes they'd removed all the grass and were starting to dig down to create an area level with the front, left corner of the new patio.
After several hours and a half dozen trips to dump the extra dirt at some construction site where they'll use it as fill, we had a level area with a nearly two foot drop at the back corner - a far cry from the 8-10 inches we'd initially anticipated.
Needless to say, digging down two feet took much more time than just a foot. We'll be giving these guys a generous tip. Installing a retaining wall and the patio stones shouldn't take much more than one more day, so it looks like we'll be enjoying drinks, or at least iced tea, on the patio in no time!

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When we posted about our patio plans last week we mentioned we were contemplating putting a "gig offered" on Craigs List just to get an idea of how much it might cost to have someone help with the digging and leveling. Apparently professional landscapers scout out CL for jobs 'cause within 20 minutes of posting our gig we had over 25 quotes. And most of those quotes blew our budget or our what-we-might-pay-to-have-someone-else-dig since we hadn't really set a budget yet, out of the water. We disregarded the $350 quote since it was so far from the rest it just reeked of scam.

Then on Friday after work we were in the yard chatting over the fence with our next door neighbor when S mentioned the patio project. Our neighbor, who also happens to be the same neighbor who gave us our basement contractor's number, ran inside, grabbed the business card of the guy who installed landscaping stones and bricks in their yard this spring and told us to give him a call.

Just like the basement guy, this landscaping person has worked at several houses in our neighborhood. And just like our basement guy, this landscaping guy gave us a price, including all materials and labor (except the actual patio stone, which we already have) we couldn't refuse.

So we're getting a patio. On Monday. For just a touch more than the crushed stone, stone dust and other materials would cost us at retail. And that means we just freed up a ton of our (S's) time to get working on all the other projects on our to-do-before-baby list. Like staining the fence...if it ever stops raining.

Here's an non-artists rendition of what the patio may or may not look like when it's done. There's a little bit of a language barrier, so we're really hoping for the best!

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Old Navy, I'm in Love

I'm in loooove with Old Navy. Not the store, but ironically my favorite shirt this week is a long sleeve white and hot pink T from Old Navy that I may have to retire for a few days not only to wash it, but so that my neighbors don't think I only own one shirt. In reality I own more maternity clothing than any one person who works from home really needs, but I digress. I'm totally in love with this Old Navy:
Old Navy is Benjamin Moore's perfect deep, dark navy blue. And because the nursery is no longer Feeney's room I splurged on a quart of Aura and made the switch from the teal that matched Feeney's dog bed to a navy that looks amazing with the curtains I sewed that are just waiting to be hung in their new home.

I wasn't just browsing the aisles at our local Benjamin Moore dealer last weekend; I went there with the express purpose of buying a can of their Impervo paint in white to re-paint all the doors in our house, starting with the nursery. Last spring I'd started painting with a lesser quality, yet fairly expensive paint from a giant box store and stopped when perfectly dry paint was peeling off in chunks when we'd open a closed door. At my request, our contractor used Impervo on the built-ins downstairs and the doors don't stick a bit. Granted, it's the driest, least musty basement I've ever been in, but if it doesn't stick down there, then it shouldn't stick up here.

When I was looking for a can of Impervo on the shelves, I spotted several gallons of "Advance" paint, which is also a waterborne alkyd like Impervo:

So I asked the guys at the counter which I should use for my doors: Impervo or Advance. The three guys hanging around the counter looked at me, looked at my belly and recommended Advance. Apparently it's lower VOC than the Impervo. One old timer waiting for his paint did tell me that he's 78, has been exposed to everything under the sun and is still working every day. However, we both agreed that he's never grown a baby before so it's probably best if I go for the Advance. I also gave him a "pssshhh 78 is young, my friend." If he wants to see old and still kicking, I'd introduce him to my firecracker of a grandmother. If I didn't think she'd bite him.

After a seven month hiatus from painting, I nearly bounded up the stairs to start in on my project. I was super impressed with the coverage and sheen of the paint on the nursery doors, so I kept going...on over to the shelves that were yellowed from years of no attention...and then I moved on to the trim. Clearly this perfect white trim paint makes me very happy.
F @ 28w
(that's a back support, not skin)
Side note: what possessed me to buy overalls so large in high school that they'd still fit during the third trimester of a pregnancy? How did I not realize that baggy is not flattering? I should have listened to my mom.

S was working on another little project in the nursery while I painted and at one point turned to me and pointed out that I was making a total mess of the back wall of the bookshelves with my little foam roller, despite having cut-in with my 2" angle brush first.
I was all "oh don't worry, I've got big plans," which S knows is code for "don't question me now, buddy." And then when S wasn't looking I snuck down to my car, pulled out the quart of Old Navy I'd hidden in the backseat and transformed the shelves from Feeney teal to baby bee navy blue. We love it.
Now I'm actually looking forward to finishing the door project we started last spring, however, even with the low VOC content of the Advance, and even though we have a ton of windows upstairs, we may take the doors off and bring them outside to paint just for a bit more ventilation. If it ever stops raining, of course. I just wish we'd discovered Advance or Impervo before I spent days putting an ill-performing first coat on both sides of 11 doors....

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Airing Our Dirty Laundry

Actually it's clean laundry, but it's still out there for everyone to see. As I mentioned the other day, we're using cloth diapers for baby bee. We've got a dresser full with sizes ranging from newborn to big enough that this-kid-had-better-not-use-these-in-college-after-a-night-of-drinking, they're clean and ready to go, so there's really no going back now. With adding another member to our family and especially with one wearing cloth diapers there obviously will come a lot more laundry. And I don't like the dryer.

The reason for my disdain for the dryer is three part: first, my dad used to charge us 25 cents for every light we left on (it may have just been a threat, but it was so effective I can't remember) and he totally freaks out if the dryer is turned on when it's dry outside, no sun needed - my parents hang laundry in the winter. In Maine. Where the laundry freezes. If that laundry isn't in a frozen solid state of semi-dry, it's not going in the dryer. Bottom line is I'm scared to use "too much" electricity. Second, I let a friend borrow my favorite shirt in high school and her mom dried it in a dryer. It got pills on it. I never wore it again. Third, I'm really tall and I've got arms and legs disproportionally long for my body. Sleeves and pants shrink in the dryer. A quarter inch makes a huge difference when you're already struggling to make high-water pants look cool. So clothes drying rack it is.

A clothes line running across the old basement and a portable drying rack from Ikea did the trick up until now. But after spending the summer in Maine, where I obviously didn't use the dryer (except those couple times I had to preshrink fabric for projects with the dryer on high, OMG don't tell or they'll never let me back), I decided I needed a clothes line, NOW. So I mentioned it at least three dozen times to anyone who would listen, and guess what appeared on our doorstep the other day?
An anniversary gift from my parents. I was psyched; the last time I asked for something that many times I was ten and I definitely didn't get the puppy I wanted for at least eleven years. S was ecstatic; I don't think he could possibly think of something he wanted more - the eye rolls gave it away. Whatever, they're my parents!

So of course I fast-tracked "install laundry line base" to the top of our to-do list. And in record time - less than 24 hours from delivery - we were outside installing our Brabantia Lift-O-Matic All Weather Rotary Dryer. We could have installed it the first day had we not spent 10 hours discussing where it's best to hang one's underwear when one's home is located on a corner lot. "Over by the HVAC thingy, it's ugly over there anyway" won.

The clothes line came with everything we needed except a hammer and a piece of scrap 2x4:
Including a nifty base with a pointed tip that you just whack into the ground. The packaging said the diagonal span of the clothes line is just over nine feet, so we measured between the chimney and the fence, found that it would fit with two inches to spare, centered the ground spike between the two and whacked away.
S plopped the clothes line into the holder in the ground and we jiggled it around to get the base fairly straight.
And now we have a clothes line:
That folds up nice and small and has it own cover to keep it nice and clean. 'Cause there's nothing worse than taking clean laundry off the line and finding dirty spots from dirty, molding clothes lines.
The whole thing can easily be taken out of the ground for storage and the base even has its own little red cap to keep dirt and water from clogging the hole.
And because I'm kind of a fanatic about keeping stuff new and neat, we did store the whole thing in the shed last night and it was super easy to just pop it in the ground this morning, ya' know, when I wanted to air our laundry for the whole world to see.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go make sure I didn't leave the light on downstairs by the washing machine....

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Time to Move Outside to the Patio

As promised in our big project announcement, we can't go all baby all the time around here; we've got too many outstanding projects for that! So true to our word, we started planning our patio project over the weekend.

The view from our driveway to our side yard/back yard looks a little something like this:
To the right of the shed we have a slightly more private area that gets nice shade from the weed-tree (we don't know what it is, but our neighbors cut it annually and it grows like an absolute weed) on the other side of our fence. A few months ago we helped ourselves to a huge patio's worth of thick, square cut slate from the house next door to S's parents that was set to be demolished and have been contemplating where to build our own patio ever since.
The area next to the shed makes perfect sense - the area will have a little shade so we can actually use the patio and keeping it off in the corner means we don't sacrifice too much of the lawn space where we like to play ball with Feeney - or where we might need to put a little swing set in the not too distant future.

Last weekend we pulled out some leftover 4x4's to mark out where we'd like to put our new patio. We know our patio stones came from a patio that was approximately 20x25 and we certainly don't have that much space for a patio that big in our yard. At first we thought we'd just take up the area to the right of the shed, with the front left corner of the patio matching the corner of the shed. But when we had the 4x4's on the ground, it just looked too boxy. The whole area has a bit of a slope, so we're going to have to dig down to level the site and create a retaining wall with planter boxes along the fence. The slope naturally starts to level out at just about 18 feet from the back fence - two feet for a planter box and 16 feet for the patio.
If we leave two feet for planter areas on either side of the patio next to the side fence and the shed, then the width of our patio will be just under 12 feet, leaving us with a 16x~12 patio. Since we have so many nice big stones to work with, we'll also be able to create a walkway leading from the shed to the patio, including a front entry stone or two in front of the shed doors.
I'd love to do a curve at the front left corner of the patio to soften the angles in the yard, but time will tell if we can secure a stone cutter within our meager budget capable of cutting through the slate. Since this is a tight-budget project, we're planning to do most of the work ourselves. However, we may first put a "gig offered" on Craigs list just to see what the cost would be to get a little help with the digging. S has done a ton with the shovel in the past year and he's not opposed to taking a pass on more for the right price - especially since my bending and lifting tasks are limited to, well, let's just say they're limited.

We'll leave the 4x4's in the yard for a few days to get our eyes used to the new patio space just to make sure we don't want to change anything between now and when we scoop out the first shovelful of dirt.

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How to Sew Baby Leggings - It's Easy!

Totally not house related at all, but I'm really excited to share some of the projects I worked on this summer while I was at my parents' house in Maine. They generously let me take over their formal dining room completely with my sewing stuff, so I was able to whip up a ton of baby and nursery projects. It's so much easier to just sit down for an hour and work on a project or two when the machine is out and just screaming to be used.

This is a quick and very easy project to make baby leggings from a pair of knee-high kids socks. We're using cloth diapers and I've discovered that cloth fanatics loathe to cover up cute, colorful cloth diapers, making these little guys the perfect accessory. I've also been told they're great for cold days when we're out walking Feeney and baby bee is in the carrier with its little legs hanging out. The ones I've made are a little on the girly side, so there's a 50/50 chance they could end up as shower gifts...now what to do with the hot pink cloth diapers if baby bee is a boy?

Baby Leggings: a Tutorial 

one pair of knee socks sized approximately for a 4 year old (I used size L from crewcuts)
7" piece of 1/2" elastic
matching thread

Step one: cutting the socks
Stack the two socks evenly on top of each other and cut off the toe and heel gusset. You will use the center foot portion, which should be about 3" long, and the leg.
Step two: sewing the elastic
Pin the 7" piece of elastic in a ring with 1" overlapping, making sure not to twist the elastic. Sew closed with a wide, long zigzag stitch.
Step three: assembling the cuff
Turn the 3" foot portion of your sock inside out and slide it onto the leg portion until the opening edges meet, right sides facing. Slip the elastic ring you made in step two about an inch from your opening, just enough so your sewing needle won't catch it when your secure the seam.

Step four: pinning the legging cuff
Fold the foot piece over the elastic, meeting all the cut ends together. Pin in place.
looking into the legging:
Step five: sewing the cuff
Using a wide, long zigzag stitch carefully sew around the entire cuff making sure to catch all three layers of fabric and not to catch the elastic.
Voila, baby leggings!
The original cuff at the top will go around the baby's thighs and the new cuff that you added goes around their little ankles, keeping the leggings from slipping over the baby's feet. However, on a chilly day, pulling that little elastic cuff down over their feet isn't a bad idea at all.

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Congratulations to Us

So this is kind of cool - when we got home from a weekend in the mountains of Maine where we were without Internet, TV or any of those pesky things that clutter out lives (not that I don't looove the Internet), we were greeted by an email from House Blogging saying Our Little Beehive was selected as September's blog of the month.
And the little write-up, well it had us grinning from ear-to-ear:

Since purchasing their colonial style house in the Washington, D.C. area in 2009, F and S have been busy with a whole variety of DIY home improvements and crafty projects mixed in with a bunch of tasty recipes that make our mouths water just reading about them! Most recently, they’ve just completed their project to finish their basement, including a new staircase, a pantry, a den / sewing room, a bedroom, a bathroom, a laundry closet and some storage. Whew … just reading about it is enough to make use exhausted! Now they’re tackling an even bigger project - a bedroom renovation just in time for a new addition to their family - and we’re looking forward to reading more about both. Be sure to check out the latest happenings at Our Little Beehive!

House Blogging has an extensive lists of some of our favorite house bloggers and many more that we can't wait to check out. I have a feeling my reader list is going to get a whole lot longer this weekend!

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Curls Up Small

Vacation is over and the car is packed to gills with all the projects I worked on this summer that I cannot wait to show you. But for now all I can say is it's a good thing Feeney curls up small:

He's squeezed in next to the cradle that's stuffed with projects and on top of a bag of our dirty laundry. I have a feeling we're both going to need a good long, leg stretching walk after this ride.

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