Progress Here and There

This weekend Nik got 3 applications sent away, so we had some time to get more work done on the shower. The tile is almost done (being placed, that is. Grouting hasn’t begun yet)! The last step of tile-laying is around the niche, and it will be complicated – having these tiles meet at right angles is tricky, because it’s not just tile measurements as it’s been everywhere else. Around the niche, we also have to account for the thickness of mortar and tile on the tiles in the niche and around the niche to ensure they meet at the right place. Cutting as we go might be necessary for this section.

Here is our progress after this weekend:

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It was hard to get the whole shower in one picture…sorry for the bad angle. I also did just the inside of the niche, with the accent tiles, so we at least would know the thickness to build off of for the sides, top and bottom:

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We got a couple other projects underway or completed this weekend which felt good. We bought an old window frame upwards of 2.5 years ago from an old warehouse in Durham, with plans to make a collage picture frame. We first reglazed the panes (this actually happened so long ago, it was before we bought out house!). Then, trying to figure out how to attach the prints to the inside of the glass derailed this project for about 2 years – we thought of using little black picture corner attachers, but the adhesive side that would show against the glass wasn’t pretty. Then we tried directly gluing pictures, but the glue made marks on the photos.

We had about given up, so we looked up videos of how other people successfully mounted pictures into these DIY window frames. This lady with a thick southern drawl came on, and said ‘it’s so quick and easy you wouldn’t believe it’ (hah, we thought, there’s NO way, we’ve been thinking about this for years and everything we try looks ugly and noticeable). She instructed us to use invisible tape – yup, plain tape, and just tape the corners. We were unimpressed, and knew we would see the tape and it would look so amateur. But in our desperation to get this project done, I tried it.

And guess what? YOU COULDN’T SEE THE TAPE! So, 2.5 years later, and we finally finished this project, using pictures from before our wedding, our honeymoon, and our trip to Utah. Now we just need to find a place to hang it!

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I know this picture is blurry…but you can’t see the tape!!

There was one more project we did this weekend building a piece of furniture from scratch as a surprise for Nik’s best man’s new baby. I’ll wait a couple weeks until after we’ve given it to him to post that, in case they stumble on the blog in the meantime. I just wanted to mention it, you know, in case you thought we weren’t very productive this weekend!

I’m really hoping to get the rest of the tile in Saturday, so we can at least think about grouting on Sunday. After that, we need to patch all the drywall around the tile and finish painting the walls, caulk around the shower pan and finish installing the drain, and then finally install the doors and faucet hardware. I swear, this list seems to never get shorter…

Shower Tile, Phase I

Well, tiling didn’t go as fast as planned (it never does!), and Nik really had a ton of work work to do this weekend, between submitting edits for a publication he’s in the middle of, applying for jobs (which apparently require 16,453 different documents that I’m sure no one on these hiring committees actually wants to read ), and making lesson plans for the new upper level microbial ecology course he’s teaching. I’m trying to help where I can so he doesn’t have a nervous breakdown – but almost 10 years out from college, I just don’t have the motivation and work ethic that Nik still does to do that much work work outside of 8-5 M-F! He’s really committed to getting these things done and done well, which is awesome for him and it makes me proud to have such a driven and hard working husband. But unfortunately, the timing of all this work is bad news for our shower progress!

This is not to say that we didn’t get anything done on the long holiday weekend, but my lofty goals of finishing all the tiling and even getting the grout done certainly were not reached. While Nik was getting some writing done on Saturday morning, I started visualizing how the tile layout should be. We had a few obstacles to work around such as the niche, the faucet hole, and considerations such as the width and height of each wall. From past tiling projects, we’ve learned that it rarely works out to start blindly and hope for the best. When this is done, you’ll undoubtedly end up with a space that needs a 1/4″ more tile to cover it, or a tile that needs a circle cut right out of the middle of it for a spigot. Basically, Murphy’s Law applies if you choose to wing it.

So I decided I’d made some to-scale drawings of the shower walls, with all the trouble spots drawn exactly in place:

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Then I cut out little practice tiles (also to scale) and essentially tiled the drawings:

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One issue was the height was 76″, and our tiles are 12″ tall, plus the 2.75″ bullnose at the top, and 4″ of decorative tile somewhere in the middle. Not an even 76″. To make it add up, we ended up deciding that the very bottom row of tile would be cut 3″ lengthwise to make it only 9″ tall. Using my practice tiles was actually very useful, and guided a number of decisions about which rows would have the staggered start, where cuts would be around the faucet, and how we could do the niche with as little headache as possible. Once decisions were made, I started drawing cut lines on all the tiles for the back wall. Nik took a break to cut all these tiles, and that was Saturday.

Sunday we got some of our new fancy mortar mixed up (it has a higher latex content, so is more flexible and supposedly has the best grip for heavier tiles) and started laying tile.

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We got about 80% of the back wall laid, up to the decorative strip, then we ran out of mortar and decided to stop there. On Monday, I got all the tile cuts for the right wall traced out and Nik cut them and then we started laying this wall. The mortar didn’t behave quite as well this day, and we had to add more water a few times to keep it pliable.

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I think we were also moving slower because not only were we having to think about the levelness of the tiles on this wall, but we also now had to ensure they were lining up with the already-laid back wall. This wall also had some major concave curvature going on with the cement boards for some reason (I’m thinking it has something to do with the questionable stud work in our house’s framing), which made some of the tiles appear to be dramatically different thicknesses. We did our best to minimize the problem areas, but there’s certainly going to be some weird grout lines on this wall. It is what it is!

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We’re going to keep slowly working on the tile over the next few weeks. I decided rushing isn’t worth it, and the other things Nik is working on are much more important than getting our bathroom back a few weeks earlier. It’ll happen when it happens.

I also got around to lining the drawers of our vanity the other night, so we’re about ready to start using it again. It’s going to be weird walking in the other direction to use the  bathroom again after walking down the hall to the guest bathroom for so many months!

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Paint it Red

Well, we didn’t get to tiling last weekend but we did manage to spend about $350 on tile, special mortar, mirror mounting brackets, a few other things we needed at Lowe’s. The tile that got us was the stupid bullnose tiles for the edge. You think, oh the edge, that’s not that much, it’ll be cheap. But when we actually added it up, we needed 22 linear feet of edging, and at $3.58 per foot that definitely added up. We also bought 6 boxes of 7 tiles, 2 square feet each at $1.99/sq foot, knowing we’ll have some extra that we can return. And we finally picked our accent tile, which will go around the shower in a thin band, and also fill the back of our niche. I think strongly contrasting accent tile is trending out, so I wanted something neutral but still noticeable. Our tile choice had an option for small mosaic tiles in a 12″ square pack, so we decided our accent line would be 2 rows of this. Something slightly different, but not too eye catching:

Product Image 1So most of the shower will be horizontal 12×24″ tiles of that color, with the small accent. I even found a picture on the Lowe’s website of the two next to each other:

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To finish prepping the shower, I showed last time how we mortared all the seams with alkali tape. Then last Saturday we busted out the Red Guard waterproofing membrane. This stuff was like painting with hot pink pudding. We stirred it then started with a cheap brush doing all the corners and edges, then went at it with a very bushy 3/4″ nap roller to coat the rest. IMG_3935

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It dries red, so you know when it’s ready for another coat. We had plenty for a second coat, which is when they officially declare it “waterproof” vs just water resistant. I’ve never used the ‘As seen on TV’ Flex Seal product, but I imagine this is very similar. It was flexible, and seemed like a thin layer of textured plastic when dry. The gallon cost $50, and we had about 1/4th of the pail left over.

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After red guard, we went around with a silicone caulk gun to fill the gap between the shower pan and the bottom of the cement board. One of these gaps was at least a good 1/4″, which took several caulk applications to make me feel good about it. Tile will cover over this, and then we’ll put one more caulk line between the tile and the shower pan. Extra caulk sealing certainly never hurt anyone.

I also took some pictures of our newly-mounted mirrors, and the vanity with all the hardware and doors freshly attached. We had these handles left over from a previous project, and they don’t 100% match the faucets despite their color also being called ‘brushed nickel’, but for free I’ll take them! We still need to do some painting on this wall, since we thought we were rehanging the giant mirror, so that will have to wait until we finish painting the area around the shower:

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We decided to stay home for the long weekend, and buckle down on the shower. In theory, we should be able to get the tile mounted and grouted, with some time left over for Labor day drinks!

Back to the Bathroom!

When we started our master bathroom renovation, the big goal was to have it completed by the time we went on our trip, since Nik would be going to back to teaching soon after returning. Well, we didn’t quite make the deadline but we’re back at it in earnest, so I’m hoping within the next few weekends this project really starts to wrap itself up.

When we left for vacation, we were in the middle of the frustrating cement board installation on the shower walls:

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It was going very slowly, and we were really struggling to get the cement board to break in the right places – it can’t really be “cut”, so you’re supposed to “easily score and snap it”, according to the website. But, it’s 1/2″ thick cement fiber board, and unfortunately, neither of us is the Hulk.

But this past Saturday, refreshed and renewed, we got back at it, and began using a revised method of breaking the 1/2″ thick concrete boards by raising the desired part up off the ground on some 2×4’s, with the part we were planning to break off in the air, and then stomping on the break point that we scored with a blade. This worked about 90% of the time, and we were even able to use a modification of this method to bust out a circle using some scoring and a hammer to  go around the shower faucet.

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I think the big difference was moving the boards outside…where I wasn’t worried about what was under them. Previously, we’d been attempting to do this in the bathroom, over the newly tiled floor, so I think we were being overly delicate. Anyways…

We got the boards mounted and screwed reasonably well into the studs with the alkali resistant Hardi screws. A few of the screws crumbled edges of the board, but nothing bad enough to not move forward. Seeing all the pieces in place after finishing (and no more studs to be seen!) was such a refreshing sight! It made me feel like a legitimate contractor (if I ignored the fact that this single part of the project took us about a month and a half to do). So that was Saturday.

On Sunday, we ran some errands in the morning and ended up at Home Goods looking at mirrors. Nik has been worried about reinstalling our old huge mirror because he felt it would be hard to mount safely, plus building a nice frame around it would take time and I think we’re both about ready to be through with this project. We found some nice sized simple mirrors for $80 each, so we bought two to mount side by side. When I saw how excited Nik was at this purchase, I felt bad that I haven’t been giving him more breaks like this! We also got the sink backsplash affixed to the wall, and I sealed the doors with polycrylic. To fully wrap up the sink area, we need to mount the mirrors, caulk around the backsplash, install the doors and attach the pulls, and line the cabinets with new liners, most of which are easy jobs that we can get done this weekend:

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Later on Sunday, Nik got to work on some of his lesson planning for teaching, and I got to work mixing up a small batch of mortar to patch the shower seams. This involved smearing mortar on the seam, embedding a a 2″ strip of alkali resistant tape, and smoothing it over. I can’t remember if I mentioned our shower niche, but it’s that black thing:

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Close-up of the tape:

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Now that this is done and dry, the next step will be waterproofing everything by rolling on 1-2 coats of red guard membrane, which we may begin to tackle tonight. The next step is mortar and tile, which I can’t wait for!

Bathroom Break, Part II

As promised in the last post, I’m going to pick back up with our trip, at day 7.5! We have a (fun?) weekend planned of finishing our shower cement board installation so I’m excited to show an update on that next week.

So, back to Utah. After a morning of Canyonlands, we headed out towards Capitol Reef. In my googlemaps perusing, I saw a tiny little park off of our route, called Goblin Valley State Park. After a bit of research, I decided we’d be stopping there. The road leading to this park, both the highway (and by highway, I mean the tiny two-lane road) and then the side road, were so desolate, hot, dry, and remote it was actually a little scary. We’re glad we filled up with gas at the last station, a hundred miles back, because there wasn’t gas for another hundred at least! Goblin Valley is a small valley filled with short, sandstone shapes that look like little mushrooms, so-called ‘Goblins’. The park lets you walk right down among them which was really cool. We only lasted about 30 min, because it was so hot, but we got some good pictures!

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After leaving here, we got to Capitol Reef National Park. We kind of just did a drive-through, with plans to hike some trails in it the next day, but those plans ended up changing. We did stop for a scenic point called the Goosenecks Canyon, however, although cloudy skies obscured the famous sunset at this place:

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We stayed at a nice resort just outside of Capitol Reef, which was a bit touristy (they had teepees you could stay in, but at $260 a night this was out of our budget!). It did have beautiful views, though, and they had a cowboy on site who gave us a short horseback ride the morning of day 8:

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After our horseback adventure, we packed up and headed out of the Capitol Reef area south on Scenic Route 12 (also called the “Million Dollar Highway”, containing a portion referred to as “Hell’s Backbone”). It was beautiful driving, unusual canyons and constantly changing scenery. We were aiming for a trail head in Grand Staircase Escalante National Park called Lower Calf Creek Falls, which was a long trail at almost 6 miles round trip, but we decided it was higher on our list than any of the hikes in Capitol Reef. We found a gourmet lunch spot a few miles before we got to the trail head, so we stopped and it was delicious! We sat on their patio, and Nik (reluctantly) had to share his space with the restaurant’s ancient resident patio cat, Jezebel.

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After our yummy lunch, we continued down the road, and it turns out they were doing construction on Hell’s Backbone. This portion of the road is essentially a narrow ridge along the top of a canyon – the ground literally drops off on either side of the road! And with the construction there were areas missing guard rails and road markers, and they actually had an escort truck leading each cohort of cars past the construction. Nerve wracking!! We finally reached the trail head to Lower Calf Creek Falls and it was a beautiful hike through a canyon with smooth, striated red sandstone, with an amazing waterfall at the end.

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After our hike, there was about an hour left to go to get to our hotel outside of Bryce Canyon. On Day 9, we woke up early to get into Bryce before the crowds. The drive in was surprisingly forested terrain, and it was chilly as well (Bryce has high elevation). Despite it being called a canyon, it actually was not formed by a river, but whatever weather elements caused it, the outcome was beautiful. These first two pictures are fun – that very high point in the top right of the first picture is zoomed in for the second picture and you can see teeny people standing up there. Just to give an idea of the enormous scale of this canyon!!

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We hiked the Navajo trail to go down below the rim, which was pretty intense going down into the huge spires, the technical term for which is “hoodoos”:

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And on our way out we stopped to see Natural Bridge, which was also beautiful:

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After our morning at Bryce, it was on to Zion! The last half hour of this drive actually entered into Zion National Park to reach the main town that everyone lodges at, and it was unbelievable. There were numerous tunnels we had to drive through because there wasn’t enough room on the side of a cliff to make a road. It was really breathtaking! We woke up super early on Day 10 to get into the park, because the crowds were intense and due to the busy summer, they only allow entrance to the park on a shuttle…which you have to wait for. Even at 7:15am, we had to wait about 30 minutes to board a shuttle! But it was worth it!

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We knew the park would get crowded so we picked our top hike and got started. We wanted to do the infamous Angel’s Landing, which is just steep and strenuous for the first 2 miles to Scout’s Overlook. At this point, most people turn back, but the adventurous ones can continue another 0.5 miles on a narrow, steep trail that at some points has 1,000 foot drops offs on either side of a 3 foot wide trail with a chain in the middle. It was pretty intense, and we were indecisive of whether we wanted to risk it. Several people die each year falling off this trail. But we went for it, and unfortunately there aren’t a bunch of pictures of the narrow, chain rope portion (since my hands were on the chain, not my camera!) but the view at the top of the final peak was fantastic. It certainly felt so high that angels would land here! Here’s some pictures of us on the way up, and finally at the top:

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After the exhilaration of not dying on that hike, we decided to do one more easy hike all the way at the north end of the park that is a riverside stroll leading up to the other infamous Zion hike, the Narrows. Where the riverside path ends, the Narrows begins…IN THE RIVER. Literally, the river is the trail. So only serious hikers who have the right equipment to essentially the bottom of a canyon, often wading and swimming, continue much past this part. Flash floods through these slot canyons claim lives each year so there’s a lot of information warning about weather conditions. A lot of people go up the Narrows maybe half a mile or so, just to see what it’s all about though, so here’s a picture of that (note that I couldn’t even begin to get a picture of the river and the sky in the same frame, that’s how monolithic the canyon walls were!):

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So, that was the end of Zion. After this last little hike, we headed out because it was getting really crowded. As in, the trails were wall-to-wall sweaty people. Crazy.

We headed out, grabbed lunch, and got on the road to Vegas! I don’t have many pictures from Vegas, but we stayed at the MGM Grand, and walked the strip for the evening. We got some food, but we were really too tired and hot to enjoy it – I was over 100 degrees even in the evening, plus, I think I was still on an adrenaline high because I kept thinking how only 8 hours before, I was on the top of Angel’s landing! We did see the Bellagio Fountains which were beautiful. And we spent $60 in slot machines, and walked away with 7 cents. The only other time I’ve played slots, I put in $2 and walked away with $60, so it seems the tables have definitely turned.

The next morning (day 11), we wandered around a little more, then caught our flight in the afternoon. We got home at 1am (with the time change), and it felt GREAT to sleep in our own bed! This was a perfect trip, because we obviously had an awesome time, and with how much hiking we did, we were also ready to go back to real life and our jobs after 11 days. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think Zion was mine, despite the crowds. What continued to shock us every place we went was that each park was so different. Different rock, different shapes, different trees, different landscape and animals. I was worried that we’d get tired of the “same national park scenery” but that was never an issue. Everything was amazing – you forget what unbelievable places are right in this country!

I haven’t added up exactly what we spent, but I’m pretty sure it was well under $4000, including all hotels, rental car, flights, meals, excursions, and our park fees. In grad school that would’ve been an insane amount to spend on anything, but now that we’re real adults, for the amount that we saw and did and the length of the trip, I think I did a pretty good job keeping it reasonable. It was certainly an unforgettable adventure, and I already want to start planning our next one!

Bathroom Break, Part I

It’s been a while since we had an update…but it was for good reason! Nik and I have been traveling for the past couple weeks, and we’re finally back and ready to finish up our bathroom. But since we have no progress to show from the last few weeks, I’ll show vacation pictures instead!

Nik attended the American Society of Microbiology conference for undergraduate microbiology teachers in Denver (to prepare him for his job search for a tenure-track professorship at a smaller liberal arts school where he’ll get to do teaching and research). I met him out there the last day of the conference, and this is where our trip began. We essentially road-tripped from Denver to Vegas (~1000 miles!) and stopped at numerous national parks in between, including Colorado ski country (Beaver Creek, specifically), Grand Mesa National Forest, Moab/Castle Valley Utah which was near the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Goblin Valley, Capitol Reef National Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Park, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and finally Vegas.

While planning this trip, I was worried that the busy itinerary might kill Nik…he likes activity, but he also enjoys relaxing, which I have a particularly difficult time doing. But by the end of the trip, he was the one that was asking if we could fit one more hike into a busy day – I think he caught the hiking bug! Also, we were in an insanely beautiful area of the country, and I think even a person who loathed hiking would have wanted more!

I had rough plans of where we were going each day, and was armed with a guidebook I bought that highlighted the best hikes at each park, but other than that things were flexible. Our hotels ranged from very nice resorts (still at reasonable prices, with the off season rates) to extremely spartan lodgings to save some extra money, but all of them worked out perfectly with our route, and at the end of each day we would probably have slept just fine on a hard floor, we were so tired! I’ll show some snippets from each day of our trip – I’ll do the first week in this post, and our last few days in another post (too many pictures for one post!).

To start, here’s a map of our whole trip route, with some of the stops highlighted. We did this in ~10-11 days, but the travel really wasn’t too bad. Most days we didn’t drive more than 3 hours in the car, and it was all unbelievably scenic.

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Day 1/2 – I met Nik in Denver, and we had some good food and beer, and caught up with some of my good friends from college, their fluffy malamute Yeti, and their sweet little boy Logan. Then we headed to the Denver Botanic Gardens, (which were amazing!) and ended with a beer at the Vine Street Cafe before heading out to the mountains.

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Day 3: Headed out to Beaver Creek, Colorado, and did a short detour off route 70 to the Loveland Pass (passing by Arapahoe Basin and a few other ski resorts) to really test out the rental car! The views were spectacular – the pictures really don’t do it justice! And there was quite a bit of snow still visible on the mountain tops. When we got to Beaver Creek in the afternoon, we decided to do a quick hike up one of the ski trails before dinner and found ourselves in beautiful lupine fields and aspen groves (which we mistakenly thought were birches at first).  A good first hike!

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Day 4: We headed out bright and early (6:30am!) from Beaver Creek to get to the Hanging Lake trail head about an hour west. We were warned the parking lot for this popular hike fills up early – and this was true! It was grueling though – my altitude-naive lungs were quite winded after the 1.4 mile uphill hike (think stairmaster nonstop at 10,000 ft elevation) to the falls, but they were so worth it! The water was so clear, I even got a good picture of a lurking trout – which my dad promised to identify for me, so here’s the pic, Dad!

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After the morning hike, it was onward Palisades, CO which is famous for its peaches and distilleries and breweries. We had great pitstops at the Palisade Brewing Company, Talbott’s Cider Company (we got delicious “Grow a Pear Cider”), and the Peach Street Distillers.  That afternoon, we headed to Grand Mesa National Forest. We passed isolated alpine lakes, and saw numerous yellow bellied marmots. And at our destination, we stayed in this teeny cabin, which was a little sketchy, but ended up being a comfortable evening.

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Day 5: We woke up bright and early in our tiny cabin, and set out for a couple short hikes. Grand Mesa is a high, flat mountain, so it was all alpine forests and lakes, and beautiful wild flowers. It was so empty here – it felt like no one was around for miles, just very peaceful and serene. And it was cold – probably in the 50s when we woke up. After our morning hikes, it was on to Utah that afternoon! We stopped at The Colorado National Monument which is right on the border of Utah and saw some impressive canyons and rock formations (and wild bighorn sheep!):

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After touring the Colorado National Monument, we headed on to Moab/Castle Valley Utah where we stayed for 2 nights, passing through the infamous Professor Valley, which made us feel so tiny. We got to Moab early enough in the afternoon that we did a quick evening hike through a beautiful wash in Arches national park, called Park Avenue.

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Day 6: This day was devoted to the rest of Arches National Park, starting with a 3 mile crowded and strenuous hike to Delicate Arch early in the morning, then views of Skyline Arch and Balanced Rock, and ending with a quick hike through the Devil’s Garden area of the park to see the super-wide Landscape Arch (305 feet across!). We ended the day with a late afternoon kayaking trip through the Colorado River, and dinner with a stunning sunset at the beautiful Red Cliffs Lodge.

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Day 7: We woke up to our second morning in Castle Valley (we were staying about 30 min outside of Moab, UT) and I took an early stroll around our beautiful bed and breakfast, with views of the red cliffs and the famous Castle Rock. Then we headed to Canyonlands National Park, and did a few short hikes to see views of Schaffer Trail Road, White Rim, Mesa Arch, and Grand View.

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Alright, so that’s just about the first week of the trip so I’ll stop there for now. Still to come is Gobin Valley, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante Park, Bryce, and Zion! I’ll try to post before the end of the week, with a promise to make more bathroom progress this coming weekend to show next week!

 

Coming Together

This past weekend was productive again, thanks to a 4 day weekend with July 4th. We hadn’t planned to go anywhere, and I was anticipating working Monday, but the company unexpectedly gave us the day off. Every time we have 4 days off in a row, we tend to travel to visit family, so 4 days off and staying at home was an unusual situation. It resulted in a lot of progress with the bathroom with things finally starting to feel like they were coming together. And after 4 days, I was definitely feeling antsy to get back to work on Wednesday. Win-win.

Saturday morning we got started with the shower pan, and everything went very smoothly with the proper mortar. We mixed it to a pudding-like consistency, then got the pan placed neatly in the middle. We checked the levelness of each side, and as we hoped, everything was level and sloping towards the drain. I was afraid to step on the pan for 3 days afterwards (even though the mortar should’ve been set within 24 hours), but I finally stepped on it last night and it feels super solid. Done!

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On to the wall paint. We were debating between two colors, both light gray and one that was more blue/cool toned and one that was more brown toned. We ended up going with the brown-toned gray and I love the color. Of all the expensive renovations we’ve done, getting paint on the walls so they’re not the awful yellow-white “landlord” paint is usually one of the pinnacle moments that transforms a room.

After paint, we started measuring for the floor trim. We added fresh baseboard and fresh shoe trim over that (~$40 for new trim). Getting the shoe trim attached was tricky, because unlike all our floor installation downstairs we actually removed all the baseboard to do this renovation, and remounted the baseboard higher. This meant when we shot a nail through the shoe trim, there was only a fraction of an inch of baseboard behind it, so in some places we couldn’t get good attachment with a nail. Liquid nails solved the problem in those spots. Then we filled and painted nail holes and caulked the gaps.

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Before trim

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After trim

Then we finished sealing the vanity with polycrylic – this is supposed to dry clear, but after earlier uses sealing stained furniture, we do tend to notice a bit of yellowing, which showed up more in some places on our white vanity. If it continues to yellow over time, we can always sand down and repaint…but for right now, it’s good to go.

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We then got the vanity top all unpacked and opened up our new Pfister Ladera faucets which we purchased at Home Depot for $99 each. When I picked out this sink top, I noticed it had what they called 8″ wide spread faucet holes, and I asked if the wide spread faucets are more expensive than standard faucets. “Oh, about $5-10 more” says the salesman. WRONG. It was hard to find a nice looking widespread set for under $120 at Lowe’s, while the standard 4″ center set faucets were all in the $50’s-$70’s, so we moved on to Home Depot which had a slightly less expensive selection. There is also a matching shower faucet set, which we haven’t bought yet, but when the time comes I liked the looks of it.

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Usually Nik does all the fancy plumbing work, but with two faucets to install, I sat next to him and watched each step and repeated. I noticed he assigned me to do the faucet on the side that I would use…reasonably assuming my disinterest in absolute perfection would result in a faucet head installation that wasn’t up to his standards. But, they both came out looking great in the end.

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We popped the vanity top onto the sink just to see how we liked it, and to decide if we wanted everything against the wall, or slightly shifted. We picked our location, then went through a grueling process of lifting one end of the vanity while I added a bead of silicone caulk around the cabinet tops, then slowly lowering the vanity top back down precisely to create somewhat of a seal. We got it done, but ended up doing another bead of caulk around the edges once it was in place to make it look prettier.

Nik finished up the actual plumbing installation and hooking things into the pipes, so the sink is functional! I still need to seal the countertops, since they are actual marble (a veneer, but still real stone) and Nik got a splash of water on them and confirmed they definitely get water stains. We bought Rock Doctor countertop sealer, so that just needs to be applied in a few coats which should do the trick. There’s also a backsplash piece which just needs to be adhered in place and sealed, and then the sinks are ready for use.

Next, Nik cleaned off the toilet plumbing area (I know it’s just old wax, but it looks like poop so I refused to deal with that mess). He purchased a new foam ring ($13) and got it situated around the hole. We lowered the old toilet in place and attached the plumbing, and Nik has since confirmed it is functional. It does still need a bead of caulk around the base, but that isn’t urgent.

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While purchasing faucets, we also browsed the lighting aisle for a new vanity light. Nothing really caught our eye, but we decided to go ahead and buy one since the old one had already been removed and we were down a light in the room. Nik got it mounted and installed in no time, and I think it fits the bill well enough, for $100.

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We’d like to get started on our shower soon, which will include installing thick cement board around the space, waterproofing it with 1-2 layers of roll-on red guard, applying mortar, tiling, grouting, installing the faucet hardware, and finally installing the shower doors. We might have to hold off a bit with the cement board this weekend, since we ordered a shower niche insert that unfortunately won’t arrive till Monday. We know the approximate dimensions we’d have to cut out of the cement board for this niche to fit…so we might go ahead and get that started this weekend.

I’ll leave you with a picture of our freshly opened sunflower from this morning…the bees have already found it!

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