Friday, November 16, 2012

Dorm-like fun

The last time we were up at the Superior Condo there was a lot of action going on in the building.  The immediate neighbors were "moving in".  The guy upstairs was working on his floors.  There were 2 other units occupied by owners.  We were, of course, bringing in lots of stuff and working on our place as well.  We haven't chatted with neighbors that much since college.
We were working on turning the brass accents on the door satin nickel, so we had the doors propped open all day long.
Mask around the metal and spray.

In order to avoid the runs, think fast and light while spraying.
Sorry about the bad pics, dark hallways plus clouds of spraypaint makes for lots of tricks on the camera.  For those of you who want to know what we used: Rustoleum Satin Nickel spraypaint.  The doorknobs are brushed nickel and they look great together.  The texture difference between satin and brushed is not enough to drive these perfectionists crazy in this application, especially when we were looking at $50-60 per door to buy new "armor" vs. $6 for the can of paint.

We got to check out the projects that the others were working on.  We shared tools, techniques, and inspirations.  The folks immediately next door have a fantastic backsplash that they tiled up in their kitchen over the weekend.  They also went out and copied our doorknobs and discussed our spraypaint experience.  The guy upstairs was doing a lot of work himself even though he hired a contractor - the contractors are all so busy this time of year when the tourist traffic is very low that they can't keep up.

The neighbors all seem to be a long ways ahead of us on the remodeling - they either had more time, more hands, or more money sunk into their projects.  They all had their ugly, dated flooring tore up by the time we left.  We're leaving ours until it's ready to be replaced, as in, we're ready to lay the new flooring and we need it out of the way.  The neighbors started with the mantra of "purging and painting" over the weekend, I was pretty impressed that they also tore out the carpet, tiled the backsplash, and changed up the locks (they had 5 capable people working).

The purging was extra fun with the crowd.  We laughed at the garbage that was left behind in each others respective units.  We watched how long the free items lasted up at the roadside.  It was amazing how quickly the junk just disappeared - during the most quite season of the year no less!

Anyone else out there laugh about the junk you find in a new-to-you property?  Anyone else using the roadside method of getting rid of unwanted furniture and stuff?  Anyone out there experiencing dorm-like fun with their neighbors?  If so, where?  I want to move in too!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Yes Mom, I know you're dying to see the "new" living room.  Here we go.  This is the full extent of progress that we've made so far.  It's finally at a share-worthy stage.
Brian got up early or stayed up late or otherwise snuck an hour a day for the past week to get the walls painted.  Bye bye pumpkin butter, hello cloud white.
We had a full window treatment plan purchased from Ikea that's been sitting in the closet waiting for the paint stage to be complete before getting on that.

Doing the detail work of getting the mounts up and level.

After only 6 years, we now have window covers on the east side.

The new chairs, side table, and lamp.
 The chairs and table were from HomeGoods.  The lamp is from Menards.  Eventually, we want to get a floor lamp for that corner (between the chairs and couch) and another end table to go next to the couch on the other end.  The table lamp would then move to the other end.
East end curtains all put up!
We even noticed that the main floor held more heat overnight with these up, so we can count this a one of our insulation initiatives.

We know what we want to do about art for the walls, just need to get on it.  We're taking it slow and easy, though (now that we have seating established again), so I don't expect it to be done by the end of the year.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Opportunity knocks

Looky what we put in...
 The black one around corner from the long row of white ones is ours.  That means that others could visit this place...  If you ask nice, you to could indoor camp at this fabulous location!  The ground rules are - anytime we aren't going to be there, you can go.  You're in charge of changing the sheets and cleaning up after yourself.  Remember, this is a construction zone, so keep your expectations low.
 Here's the new improved bedroom, much better than a camping mattress with too small sheets.  Now it's an 8 inch memory foam mattress with an old set of knit sheets and my special Grandma Jean wedding quilt.  It's still on the floor, but it's a pretty good night sleep (compared to the floor!).  The waves are so loud out on the shore, that you hear them inside when falling asleep at night.
 Here's our ghetto, almost camping dining room.  It's one of the ugly, random end tables that was left there along with some cheap-o plastic chairs, also left behind.  You'll notice that one of the windows is sitting on the floor.  When Brian cleaned the windows, he had to take off the extra pane to get to the foggy, dirty viewing layer.  It is assumed that if we put it back up, it would fog right up again and block the lake view.  We'll see what we decide to do about that...
This is the very much cleaned up living room, we got rid of the broken mood light picture thing above the mantle and propped up the cool street signs that we found on a different wall.  There's also a tiny little speaker sitting up there, we pulled that from the neighbors garbage pile (it seems everyone is cleaning out these condo units) to connect with the tuner that was left behind.  Now you can enjoy a true north shore experience and listen to WTIP radio while hanging with the fire.

So, how do I take advantage of this fantastic opportunity?  Comment here.  Tell me you're interested and I will let you know the details.  Depending upon the amount of interest, I'll put a little calendar together to let you know when we'll be there and when it's available for you.  There is no maid service, so you have to promise to clean up after yourself.  We leave the place in "ready for us to come back" mode, we will expect you too.  The sheets are fresh to us and the tools are piled neatly in the corner.  And, I've put so much energy into cleaning the grease out of the kitchen, there will be a damages assessment if you fry bacon while there!  Bonus points for hauling something useful there while you're at it!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hauling loads

When we go up to work on the condo, we stuff every inch of our car with tools and supplies.  It's challenging to determine what we will need to have each visit.  We can't fit it all in and that leaves lots of decisions about what we should or should not bring with us.

This particular visit's winners were: a mattress - no more indoor camping! and light fixtures - no more dark cave!  Tools & supplies for patching all the holes in the walls was the other big need, we want to be prepped for painting as soon as possible!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Caribou Falls

Another GREAT hike not too far from the Lake Superior property is the hike to Caribou Falls.  It's only a mile, so it's Noah friendly.  The destination is very worth the walk.  The falls are so tall and magnificent that the photos don't even come close to doing them justice.

A piece of the falls

Can you see all those stairs??  Noah was bribed with cookies when we got  to the waterfall, he's enjoying sweet victory.

The rock wall that the water falls down is absolutely huge and amazing.

More falls as seen from the bridge just a little further up.

Picnic rock or possible preschooler swimming hole for next summer?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Britton Peak

Another fun hike right near our Lake Superior place.  Britton Peak is a very short round trip from the trailhead to the vista.  Britton Peak trailhead is also trailhead to a new mountain bike trail system that they are working on up in the area.  We'll definitely be checking that out one of these visits!
Rock dome at the top

Pretty trail

It's apparently named after a war hero.

Grand views

Friday, October 26, 2012

Taking up running

You probably think it's a little odd that a cyclist would even think about running.  Why would you want to "pound pavement" when you can roll and feel the wind in your hair?  Well, fitness has to be the answer for me.  With work, Noah, and all the other obligations I've tied myself to, I haven't had time to keep my fitness level up to where I want it.  Think about the extra time it takes to monkey around with cycling equipment. Since biking is a very efficient, it takes a lot more intention or more time to get a good workout from it.  With traffic, stopping, turning, etc., you have to spend extra time to get out of town where you can turn up the intensity and back into town cooling down.  Time is my biggest problem...
I've heard a couple of times recently that studies comparing lazy skinny people and fit fat people show that fitness is a bigger indicator of overall health than size, though being fit and not carrying around extra pounds is best.  How do you define fit?  I've heard a number of definitions, all relate to how quickly you can move your body 1 or 2 miles - basically they are all running tests. 
Enough theory, back to why I took up running...
A couple months ago, I was pretty stressed about big stuff (thinking about moving across the country, if that counts as big stuff).  One night, after a particularly stressful day, I needed to do something to eliminate some nervous energy from my system and clear my mind.  I decided to just go for a run.  It really worked.  I felt a lot better mentally and physically when I got home.  I slept better that night than I had in quite awhile. 
Things have calmed down since, but now that I'm working more, I just don't get as many bike rides in as I would like.  The "beginner" kids on the bike team can crush me now.
As it gets cooler and less pleasant outside, it's again easier to run than bike.  When you eliminate all the wind chill of biking, you don't have to wear as many layers.  You make your own heat, big time.
I was still struggling with the footwear I had for running.  My shoes either didn't fit well enough to run in, were too heavy, or were fairly worn out.  What better way to inspire some good runs than a fun and comfortable pair of shoes to run in...
New this summer. Love them!
That's enough yackity yack about running.  I'm having some fun with it, and feel like I'm somewhat healthier for going.  How about you?  Trying any new fitness motivators?  Picky about your footwear?  Hoping I'll stick with crafty fun and home improvements topics on this blog, or just let Noah be the star of the show?  Have a good day!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Locking up

I mentioned already that we didn't get a key, like we thought we might.  In addition to that, only one of the 2 door's locks actually functioned.  We did all of our coming and going through the "hotel room" during our visit. 
Let me back up, before I get ahead of myself and describe the layout of this place better.  It's a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo.  It's separated into a "lock-out" hotel room and a one bedroom condo, so there are 2 doors to get into the unit and the door from the hotel bedroom to the living room has a locking mechanism on both sides.  Each bedroom and the living room also have sliding glass doors onto balconies overlooking the lake.
There are a dozen things to think about with regard to locking up.  How would we like the keys to be configured?  Will we ever intend to use the lock-out feature?  Are we going to be renting it out, or selling it?  If we plan to sell it off, what would the potential buyers want in the lock situation?  In addition to the exterior doors, there are a few places that can get locked for storing personal items while renting the place out (if we got that route).  We, of course, don't have keys for those locks either.
The existing hardware on the doors is ugly.  It used to be brass, but it's all worn/faded/scuffed and mostly looks junky. See for yourselves.
Before: no key and doesn't really work.

Before including kickplate

Progress - now we have a working lock and we hold the key!

We took measurements for the reinforcement plate and kickplate so we can  look to buy replacements or figure out what we need to do with them otherwise.  The local hardware store didn't have anything that resembled these.
We got the only "reasonably attractive" keyed door handle set that the local hardware store (town of 300) had in stock of which we could get a matching pair.  Having looked since we got home, we would have made the same style choice if we were faced with more choices during the moment.
Brian was able to install the first door handle fairly easily.  The second one was broken beyond repair and removal.  Next trip North, we need to bring a hack saw and use the brute force method to get the second old knob off so we can put in the second classy handle.
Ah, so many plans and so long before we get to go again!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Design Dilemma

You know us, can't have too many things going on at one time!  We've been talking for quite some time about doing something with our living room.  We purchased our furniture 12 years ago when we lived in a house built in 1999.  Then we moved to a house built in 1890.  The furniture didn't fit.  Okay, we did fit it all in the room, but it took up a lot of space and just didn't work.  We just continued to live with it because there were plenty of other more pressing issues to take on.  

Here's the room after we took out a few of the tables and added the rug (oops, that's not the rug, that's a throw blanket posing as a rug to see if we like it).

We posted the furniture on craigslist this weekend (along with a bunch of random things that we removed from up north).  We've put it on craigslist twice previously and not had a single looker.  This time I listed each of the pieces separately and had inquiries right way.  We decided to clear out the room and start with a blank slate.  The objectives we decided upon are: make it feel like a bigger space with similar amount of seating; pick a style that we like (we've discovered a lot about our style preferences in 12 years and "traditional" is not it); don't spend too much - aka we aren't shopping at pottery barn or west elm, even though they have great stylish stuff.
Brian has a tendency to pick out mid-century modern, while I'm likely to land on farmhouse.  Neither of those is entirely appropriate here.  We're working toward "loft" or "European modern" since we have the old structure, but are not into antique stuff.  We went to HomeGoods and Pier1 last night and I was able to put it all together in my head.  If I was a pintrest person, I'd pin you a bunch of images; if I was a photoshop person, I'd create a mood board.  I'm not, so you'll just have to stay tuned for during and after pictures.  We'll paint and replace the ceiling fans to complete the look at some point.  For now, I'm excited to get my furnishing and accessorizing on!  And, I'm thrilled that we've found a style that works for both of us!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hiking LeVeaux

Fall is such a beautiful time to hike in the woods.  We usually try to get up to the shore/hiking trails in mid to late September (at least ever since I quit teaching that's true, when I was teaching, we would go in mid October at break).  We were there on the late side of the "colors" season this year, but it was still spectacularly beautiful!


Noah the leader.  He usually wants to "be the train engine" when hiking.
On top of the mountian

Fantastic vistas even though all the leaves are down.  Can you imagine if the branches were yellow and red?!

Sometimes 4 year olds need to stop hiking and roll around in the grassy area next to the trail.

Somebody tired out a bit, good thing dad is strong and patient!

 A bit of advice for hiking with pre-schoolers...  Bring "enticement" junk food.  We forgot that on this hike and found ourselves struggling to coax him along the trail a couple of times.  Combine the snacks with a bit of a scavenger hunt - find/count 4 trail markers then you can have a ________.  Scavenger hunting is great even without the food.  Hunt for trail markers and try to be the first one to spot each.  Noah's a pro at finding and calling out the "blue stripes".  A few other trail games we play is train - who is the engine, who is the coal car, who is the caboose?  This works well on easier sections where it makes the most sense to walk single file.  A new one we invented this time is hide and seek - one member of the party races ahead a little ways and hides behind a tree, then the rest of the hikers have to find them.  Dad finds the best hiding spots and we'll miss him if we don't employ our best observation skills, cause you know he didn't go too far and is just off the trail somewhere! 
In addition to motivators along the trail, it's important to be comfortably dressed.  You can't usually find (or don't want to afford) hi-tech hiking gear for people who will grow out of it within just one season.  So using layers and carrying back-up options is very important - more on that here.

Friday, October 19, 2012

More Lake Superior talk

It can't be all work and no play when we go up to the new place on Lake Superior.  Here's some talk about what we did at the property for fun.

Do you see that pile of firewood?  We burned every single piece in the box over the weekend!  Also, there's a big puzzle in the cabinet (550 pieces).  Noah pulled it out and wanted to do it, it was a little advanced for him, but I was able to sit back and complete the picture over the weekend.

I think this rock beach is Noah's favorite feature of the "hotel home" that we've got.  He could throw rocks for hours if we let him!

Another favorite of Noah's is "exploring" on the big rocks.  He was quick to learn that the rule for walking on the big rocks is he must hold hands with mom or dad!

I couldn't get over the fall colors of the lichen on the big rocks!  It was intense and beautiful.

We heard the waves crashing against these rocks all the way inside.  Can't wait until the lake gets really moody in November!

One thing I was delighted by was that they had left behind "soap dishes" on the counters.  They have semi-bowl-shaped hunks of rock serving as a soap dish by two of the sinks.  Brian thought it was just asking to look messy and leave the soap/water pooling all over the counter.  I thought it brought a little outside in and helped tie the shore to the living space.  Not sure how that debate will end.  What do you think: charming or sloppy??

Monday, October 15, 2012

For the children

When I go around town and see all those hateful orange signs that say to vote no for "choice" it makes me feel sick.  I want Noah to grow up in a place where the definition of mom, dad, husband, and wife are understandable and he will have the option of creating a "traditional" family because 1) it will still exist legally, and 2) there will be girls who were raised with similar values.  We can still show loving kindness to those who choose differently, but we don't have to promote it in our education systems and allow judges and legislators to make all kinds of rules about how we raise our children.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lake Superior livin'

We're tired of pouring money into our house, but Brian really loves home improvement.  So, we've tried a couple of times to buy a foreclosure house around home or move to a new "project" house with no success.  Since he also keeps up substantially with the Lake Superior market, he knew this one would be a winner.  It would be fun to own while working on it because we have more opportunities to get "up north".  We can finally "prove" the concept to ourselves that you can make money by renovating properties, hopefully...
Every so often, you hear stories of foreclosure purchases being a real pain in the neck.  This transaction went so smoothly that it was surreal.  Do we really own this place?! 
Before we came up north for vacation in August, Brian saw this property and his interest was peaked.  He sent an inquiry to the lising agent just asking what the association costs would be and for any other information she might want to share.  The association fees were high enough that he didn't look back.  We did not visit while on vacation because the ongoing costs were deemed too high.  Then several weeks later, I prompted that the association would be okay as long as it included everything, Brian wasn't sure what it included and agreed to ask the agent again.  Before he got around to doing that, the agent sent him a notice that the price was being reduced and corrected her previous information about the association fees.  We decided at that price, we couldn't go wrong, but it's a foreclosure, so let's toss out a low-ball offer anyway.  The bank countered with the magic number that we were hoping to settle at or below and "the rest is history" as they say.
We bought the place without laying eyes on the property.  Only looking at pictures and realizing that with an association owned exterior and heating system, we have the skills to fix anything else that is wrong with it and it wouldn't cost more than we would want to manage.  We can have it as long as we want it and can choose to sell or put it in the rental pool when it's "ready".  Now, I have the big challenge of keeping Brian reigned in on the budget for the place!
Enough chatter...

Dang that's a fantastic view!
Love the wood-burning fire, hate the green plush carpet.

The ceiling was covered in hooks with these gaudy fake plants hanging everywhere.

Hotel sized bathroom and more of that awesome greenery.

Want to lighten and brighten that up!

2nd bedroom, it has a private deck overlooking the great lake.

What a sweet piece of shoreline!

View from the rock beach, our unit is hiding behind the big pine.
 This first visit's goals:  1) see what we bought. 2) clean it up so we're willing to sleep/stay in it.  3) get it properly locked where we hold the key.  When we asked the realtor, how we would get in/get the key, she said that there's a key in the kitchen and the door would be open for us.  The door was open for us, but no key to be found and neither door lock functioned properly. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Noah biking

Video links:
Noah rides!
Noah rides more...
We took Noah out to the nearest empty parking lot and gave him a few lessons on launching himself on his Spiderman bike.  He already knew how to pedal from riding our big red bike, and he knew how to balance and steer his bike from becoming a master Strider.  He was able to put the pieces together amazingly fast!  He's not really ready for hills yet, so we're challenged at our house for where/how to ride.  In the first video, he got launched so fast, I was not able to push record before he was up and pedaling.
He's pretty proud to be riding his Spiderman bike now; he told a bunch of people that he couldn't ride it until he was 4 - accomplished that goal!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

New Year's Resolution

I did pretty good with my New Year's resolution of taking and sharing more pictures up until bike team started.  We're between our bike team seasons now for a few weeks, so I'll try to get caught up... 

Scary teeth - January
Noah the Builder! (March)

Exploring Plummer House gardens - May

Camping for lunch on daddy and Noah day - May 

Playing at the Park Point beach, Duluth - June

Having a horse ride on our "wild west" trip - July

Canoe outing with our friends - July

Look ma, pedals! - July
That's a random Noah first half of the year wrap up.  I'll get some vacation/fun-outing posts and craftiness up soon.