3 Cheers for 3 Years

This week we celebrated the three year anniversary of the day we met down front wearing a white dress and a fancy tie, said “I do”, then boogied the night away. Before later going to Chick-Fil-A for milkshakes and waffle fries still wearing said white dress and fancy tie (that’s a good story if you haven’t heard it before).

So yea, three cheers for three years! Woot married people!

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In honor of the day we got all dressed up and married, we spent last Saturday night “roughing it” in one of our favorite places in the world.

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As I mentioned last year (when we took this same trip to celebrate our second wedding anniversary and one year in our little house), backpacking in Grayson Highlands State Park is one of our favorite escapes. The hike is only moderately difficult compared to some of the other adventures we embark on together, but hiking 1.5 hours into the wilderness and waking up in the mountains always gives us a recharge on our happy scale. And I decided to up the intensity of this weekend’s hike by running 14 miles before we left for our trip (which also happened to be the longest run of my life ever). #crazy

Like always, the beginning of the hike was filled with the excitement of tiny ponies and happy cows. Of course, I ignored all of the signs that said “Don’t pet the ponies” and made friends with this little fuzzy head. I mean seriously?! What’s it gonna take to get one of these for my backyard?

IMG_0690While I was squealing with delight at all of the tiny pony butts, Ross was taking pictures of the cows. He always seems to capture the most tranquil shots of these guys:

IMG_0698Once we picked out our camping spot (Ross found the best one ever), we enjoyed a delicious dinner of lasagna, wine, and dark chocolate. I made Ross take an “anniversary selfie” with me at the camp sight, but right before we snapped the picture, Eisley jumped in. I guess she figured she belonged in our original family photo, because technically she was a Bowden before I was.

IMG_0722Although the lighting is terrible in this picture, I wanted to show you what it is like camping with our little munchkins.  Clearly, Ridley doesn’t mind the “rough” conditions accompanied with camping.

IMG_0734Around 1am (when I was fast asleep and oblivious to the world), my three bedfellows woke up to the sound of sniffing and scratching at the outside of the tent. Ross later told me his initial thoughts were “Please don’t be a bear… please don’t be a bear” (although he claims it was more for fear of the dog’s safety than his own). He said he got really still and just listened… hoping to predict the behavior of the mystery bear in our camp ground.

Ridley let out a low, rumbly growl (which is so un-Ridley), of course, in his best efforts to protect his favorite mom who was still sleeping like a baby.

But then… the bear starting eating grass.

And then Ross realized, it was not in fact a bear, but just the cows from earlier…. the herd, passing through our camp site. Oh Grayson Highlands; you and your silly wildlife.

Not too much later a nice summer storm passed through, and proceeded to sit, stuck on the ridge, for the next 4-5 hours. I woke up several times through the night and just laid there listening to the sound of the pitter patter on our tent. Thankfully, we stayed very dry and warm, and it was actually a surprisingly relaxing feeling. Good ol’ mountain rain.

When we finally got out of the tent around 7am, the clouds started breaking up revealing the most perfect sunrise. This my friends, is why we are mountain people.

IMG_0744IMG_0746 We planned to pack out early since everything was so wet, but the sunrise sucked us in and we ended up having a relaxing morning at camp with hot quinoa cereal and coffee from our French Press. Even in the wilderness my Hubs is the best coffee maker in the world. :)IMG_0747.JPGIMG_0737.JPG

IMG_0755Thank you Ross, for teaching me to be more adventurous and rugged. I love that you love me better with no make up and dirty hair. You are my favorite husband and the best dad my fur kids could ever have.

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Happy third anniversary!

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I’ve been a bit quiet for the past few weeks, so I wanted to break the silence and come out with some big news and a life update. Before you start jumping up and down and screaming “Ooo! Ooo! I know, I know!” let me get the obvious out of the way first… No, I’m not pregnant… No, we did not adopt a third dog or a second cat… No, we are not moving. Now that you are settled down, and perhaps a bit stumped, please read on.

I have been going through a huge transition period in my life, which has come from (and given way to) a lot of soul-searching and routine-changing. The dust has settled, just for the moment, so I thought I would share with you.

The big news: I decided to leave my job, the place I called my work home and second family for over three years. It was not an easy decision, as I was very happy with my career progress and totally enamored with my coworkers, but ultimately it came down to the fact that I was spending a huge majority of my life home-alone (I had a remote office, for those of you who didn’t know), and I was facing the reality of the chance that I may never be in an office again (or at least not for a very long time). For those of you who know me well, you know I am an extremely social creature, and I decided that for my mental happiness, and long-term career potential, I should look elsewhere.

And honestly, the new position just fell in my lap. I heard about the job through a friend, and it all worked out in perfect timing. After a lot of debate and self-reflection, I felt very peaceful with my decision to accept.

This week I started my new role managing client relations and accounts for a team of financial advisors. I am flexing my analytical muscles and recalling my course knowledge from the MBA program on a daily basis, and it has been really good to learn something new. And so far, it feels great to put on a skirt and heels every day (although I am sure there will be days when I miss my working from home “uniform” of PJs and sweats).

So, besides the new title, what’s new for me? Well, I suddenly care less about doing dishes and folding laundry… It’s amazing how being out of the house 10 hours a day totally changes your perception of what is important during your precious hours at home. Which also means I probably won’t focus as much attention on big house projects in my free time, because I’ll be catching up on the little things. But you can always count on us to throw a few projects for you in there… In fact I have a few back logged to share with you soon.

So thanks for your patience while I get this new routine all figured out, and check back with us soon. I’ll try to post a least once a week moving forward, even if it’s just to say hi. :)

All About Grout

Y’all, the bathroom is done.

Actually it has been done for over a week, but I have been relishing in its beautiful completeness all by myself for the past several days. No seriously, I sometimes just walk in there and stare. It’s like my little secret oasis. (This all may sound so weird in reference to a bathroom, but when you have been dealing with a construction zone for 10 weeks, a finished bathroom is a luxury.) I still haven’t taken a bath in there yet (I really gotta get on that) but it is on my must-do list. Like stat.

But I know it’s not just me. Henry spends a lot of time “hanging out” in the bathroom too. It’s his new favorite place. :)

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Anywho, because you are really only here for the pictures, without further adieu, I give you, our bathroom.

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Pretty great, huh? I apologize that the lighting is terribly inconsistent. I am hoping one day we will have a wide angle lens for our camera and we can get some pro-quality shots for you. Or you can all just come over and see it in person; I am sure we could fit at least 6 people in there at the same time. Just be sure to take off your shoes! ;)

(Special shout out and thanks to Corey and Joe for the post title. Because let’s be serious, this bathroom is really spectacular because of that charcoal grout. Meeeow!)

 

Trimmed Out and Painted Out

Holy moly friends. We are literally two days away from having a finished bathroom. Two. Days. Not even a full 48 hours. By 5pm tomorrow my bathroom will be done-zo, and then I am heading out for a girls weekend at the beach to celebrate. :)

There were two key components to yesterday’s progress. The first was to make sure every non-tile surface was “touched” and given a fresh coat of paint. This not only gave the walls an extra brightness, but also covered up any dings, nicks, or stains that accumulated during construction since the first couple of coats of paint.

DSC_0013The second task, which is pretty evident in the picture above, was to scrape as much as possible of the old paint off of the reused trim, then prime and paint it. I was a little concerned it may be strikingly obvious as to what trim was new and what was old, but I am happy to say it all blended together nicely. And I love that we got to keep the original 80 year old trim in our renovated bathroom. :)

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You may also notice that the flowers are officially gone!

DSC_0021Yes, that is the same window frame from yesterday, just with a whole lotta love :

photo 4I am very happy with our decision to go switch to a window without segmented panels. The new window is so much brighter, and really “pulls in” the outside (which so happens to be a row of bamboo… and the neighbor’s black security fence).

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Another small detail about the window that I find just adorable is the small niches that serve as the “handles” to open the window. I feel like this little detail gives the brand new window a little character.

DSC_0022So that’s where we stand at the start of Thursday’s work. The plumber should be here today, and I am SO excited to get our fancy sink installed! :)

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A (long overdue) Bathroom Update

Friends, family, random people who stumbled upon this blog by searching “bathroom renovation that took for-ev-er”, I  have an announcement to make.

We are on the home stretch. The end is in sight.

There is a very good chance I will have a fully completed bathroom by the end of the week. (Insert a dramatic pause here to let this wonderful news soak in.)

The painters are coming for touch-ups today, the plumbers are going to install the sink and toilet tomorrow, and the electrician is finishing the wiring on Friday. I am so happy I can’t stand it. I would add an entire row of emojis giving thumbs up and awkwardly huge smiles if I knew how to do that on wordpress. Alas, I cannot, so you will have to settle for this awkward smiley face that doesn’t even capture half of the excitement that I feel. :) There you go.

Anyway, you are probably a little confused as to how we got so far in the progress of the bathroom when the last time we talked the bathroom looked like this: DSC_0248 Sure, that’s not a terrible-looking bathroom, but there was still a lot to be done. So let me bring you up to speed. While I was in Portland, I received daily updates from Husband on the shower tile installation.

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I just love, love, love some white subway tile!

And here she is all pretty and sleek, with just one row of  top tile to go, and pre-grout.

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When I got home from my trip, I discovered that the subway tile was completely finished and the floor tile was polished off with some snazzy charcoal grout:

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We opted for a darker grout to help make the white tiles POP! and also to help hide stains (dirt, dust, mildew, etc). We carried that same concept (and grout color) over to the subway tile on the walls:

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EEK! Grout “in progress” shots are scary. Good thing that stuff cleans up easily!

The most gratifying step in the whole process has been re-glazing the tub. Pre-reno our original cast iron tub had started to chip and rust. No matter how often or hard I scrubbed and cleaned the tub, it never looked clean. Which means I haven’t taken a bath (or as my family calls them “tub-baths”)  in over two years. Actually, it’s probably been closer to 3 years. Now I could go into a long-winded rant on the difference between a shower/rinse-off/tub-bath/etc but I don’t feel this is the time or the place for all that nonsense. Just know I have showered in the past three years, just haven’t taken a true bath. Anyway, for some crazy reason I cannot find a single picture of the tub “before” but just believe me when I saw it was rusted and gross, but we wanted to keep it anway. :)

So after it was sanded, re-glazed, and re-finished, boom!

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Oh she is so so pretty. And I love her so so much.

Also on the completed list, is the trim work and custom built-in:

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Ooo pretty!

Look at all that storage space!

photo 2 (2)The glass panels go in the mirrored medicine cabinet, which has also been installed, over here:

photo 1Whoa whoa whoa… is that flower trim I spy? Were we really so enamored with the original design of the bathroom that we brought back a little bit of that flower power goodness?!

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NO! Heck no! Definitely no!

We decided to reuse the original trim (including the window trim with flowers) to keep the historic integrity of the renovation, and of course to reduce, reuse, and recycle! You may notice they replaced the sashes in the window (yay new panels, yay bright natural light), and then they just popped the original trim back over the casing.

photo 4But don’t worry, the flowers still gotta go.

So that’s where we are now… so much done and the finish line in sight. Who wants to come over for a bathroom party when its done?!

photo 1P.S. Sorry for the terrible photo quality of these images… I took them all on my iPhone  in a scramble right before the contractors came over this morning. I promise semi-professional quality photos next time (which means I will have Ross take them.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Week in Portland’s Summer

Portland in the summer. The weather is perfect: hot but not humid. The sun is shining. The beer is cold and plentiful. Food is delicious and served outside. EVERYTHING is green and blooming (thanks to the 9 months of rain a year). It’s the stuff dreams are made of folks. At least my best dreams have beer and sunshine. :)

I was given the opportunity to head (north)west for a week to help run the Canary office in Portland while two gals were on maternity leave and another coworker was on vacation. Work was BUSY that week, but it was great to be in a true office environment during the insanity. I forgot how fun it can be to get dressed every day!

The Pearl District

The Pearl District

The Gadsby Building: Home to Canary NW

The Gadsby Building: Home to Canary NW

While I was there I also had the opportunity to meet up with a few of my favorite Portlanders. Janie (one of my very first friends in Portland) and I had a delicious breakfast before work one morning. Smoked salmon on a pretzel bread bagel and locally roasted coffee was on the menu, and great conversation was lined up for the entertainment. She has two (quickly growing!) little ones and a great new job in the Pearl, so we had a lot to catch up on! We didn’t manage to snag a picture of our get together (dang it!) but there is always next time!

Another Portland-must see are friends Vivian and Andy. Both bike racers who truly embody all that is great in the great NW, we caught up with a picnic in the park with a bike race view, Friday night cocktails (and beers!), and a sunset stroll on the waterfront. Seriously, spectacular.

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A sunset picnic in the park… which just so happens to be on top of a volcano.

  

 

Cold wine, yummy snacks, dear friends

Cold wine, yummy snacks, dear friends

 

Portland waterfront from the East Side.

Portland waterfront from the east side, looking downtown.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Portland trip without a little Southern twist! :) Amelia and I have been friends since we both first moved to Portland… we both came from NC and ended up in apartment complexes within a mile of each other when we first arrived. We became fast friends, and she was even in our NC wedding. Now our visits involve vegetarian food, secrets bars, and Forest Park runs.

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Cheers! #kidsinoveralls

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So there you have it. A quick recap of my fabulous week and a glimpse of the beauty that is Portland in the summer. When can I go back?!

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Panoramic Portland

Our Fabulous Fourth: Hiking the A.T. from Carver’s Gap to 19E

Eisley is terrified of fireworks. Well, really anything that goes “boom.” Fireworks, guns, thunder, cars back-firing, you get the idea.  So we have really made an effort to spend every 4th of July as a family, our happy little family of 5 where furry creatures outnumber humans, so that  we can make sure our little girl can be comfortable and hopefully a little less scared.

This year Ross and I both had Thursday – Sunday off of work for the holiday, so we decided to make the most of the long weekend by escaping to the mountains for a couple of nights. Henry (the cat) held down the fort at home, and we set out with the dogs.

We spent Thursday night at our friend Jeremy’s family cabin, nestled in the woods outside Banner Elk. The cabin was comfortable and quiet, with just the right amount of rustic charm: exactly like a mountain retreat should be. Jeremy had his dog Bailey and his parent’s dog Dakota there for the night, so when we added our two pups it was a bit of a zoo, but everyone got along fabulously.

And speaking of animals, this little guy also joined the party:DSC_0250

Now while I personally am not one to decorate my walls with dead forest friends, something about this dude made me smile. I think it was the silly smirk on his face and the position of his hoofs. I imagine he is saying “Here, hold my beer while I do this.” Ha!

Friday morning we hit the road for the more adventurous portion of the trip. Our plan was to hike the Appalachian Trail from Carvers Gap to Highway 19E, camping out one night along the way.

We parked our car at the Mountain Harbour B&B, a mountain hostel that serves as a perfect retreat for weary through-hikers and high country visitors. We paid $5 to leave our car in the field in front of the hostel, with the peace of mind that it would be watched over by staff and guests to prevent vandalism. Jeremy kindly drove us up to Carver’s Gap, and all we had to do was march the the 14 mountain miles back to our car.

This 14 mile portion of the Appalchian Trail travels along a ridge, providing absolutely fantastic views. You are out on an open ridge line for a while, then down into the trees, and then back up to the open ridge. It repeats this a few times, giving you alternating 360 views of the high country and generous breaks in the shade.

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A little over three miles in we stopped at the Stan Murray Shelter for a break and quick lunch of cheese, crackers, packaged tuna, and a chocolate chip cookie. I don’t know if it was the hike or the high-calorie content of the meal, but it was amazing.

This shelter is a popular turning point for day hikers, so from here on out we expected a significant decrease in foot traffic on the trail.

The next couple of miles were easy and shaded, providing us plenty of time to digest and get ready for the next big challenge on the trail. After passing the Overmoutain Shelter, (at a little under 5.5 miles from the start) we started the initial climb up. Although we were hiking “down” to our car, the majority of the trail was rolling, with a couple of very significant climbs. The initial climb to the first “bald” was pretty steep, but definitely manageable, and the views were totally worth it.

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We had a short little downhill, before the biggest challenge of the trip. The second hump was incredibly steep, and incredibly exhausting. It felt like we were climbing a ladder, but without a handrail. I knew it was pretty tough when even my super-athlete husband was moving slow! :)

Here is a view of the second hump from the top of the first:

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And this is where we started the long climb up:

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No matter how steep, the doggies thought it was the best day ever.

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We were told that the top of the second bald was an excellent place to camp, because you can see 4th of July firework shows down in the towns below. We had our minds set on reaching the top, and slowly drudged on.

When we reached the top we were met with a spectacular view and the unfortunate realization that there wasn’t anywhere for us to camp. There was only one spot at the top that looked like a good place to pitch a tent (the grass was much shorter from heavy use), but it was occupied by another camper. There was probably enough room for us to join, but we really like the idea of camping out in the wild alone unless we intentionally go with a group (which is a lot of fun too).

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So we trekked on… leaving behind the idea of a firework show at the top. We intended to camp at the next site we saw, but we just kept going and going without any sign of a resting spot. Yes, we could have “made” a camping spot anywhere, and just tossed down our backpacks and called it a night, but we wanted to preserve the fragile landscaping and rare plant-life as much as possible.

On and on we trekked. And on and on. This part of the trail was heavily wooded, and there really wasn’t an opportunity to put a tent anywhere. Unless we wanted to sleep in a tree. :)

At long last, when my legs were dead and I was feeling very hangry (hungry/angry), the trees parted and we found ourselves in a wide open field. Ross joked that he had never been so happy to see grass in his life.

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Just across the field we found an incredible site, stocked with boulder “tables” and a fire ring where some kind soul had left a pile of dry limbs for fire wood. We set up camp just as the sun was setting over the ridge (which of course provided fantastic lighting for a little photo shoot with the pups).

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We ate a nice dinner of dehydrated rice and beans, noodles, juice box wine, and s’mores before turning in early, all four of us huddled into the tent together. We could hear firework shows in the distance, but after 7 hours of strenuous hiking, covering about 12 miles, we didn’t even bother looking for a place to watch the show.

The next morning we woke up incredibly sore but refreshed to be out in the wild. We packed up our backpacks, and started the final hike back to our car. It took us less than two hours two hobble our sore legs back to the car, which we are guessing was the final 1 – 2 miles.

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Overall, it was a fantastic trip, and I highly recommend this portion of the AT for avid hikers. The views were incredible and there was a wide variety of rare plants to brighten our walk.

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What did you do for the 4th? Do you have any favorite hikes in the high country? Would you backpack 14 miles into the wilderness just to get your dog away from fireworks?

Riding the Wind

Friday brought some really significant progress in our little bathroom project. The painters showed up first thing in the morning and got right to work sanding the dry wall putty down to a nice smooth surface. You may remember from previous posts (here) that I HATE sanding. HATE. HATE. HATE it. So I was super thankful to have someone else doing the dirty work (literally, there was dust every where) this time.

Once the sanding was done, they got right to work priming the walls and ceiling. I was super excited to see the bright white walls, even if it was just primer. Then they threw me for a big loop: they could get ALL of the painting done in the next few hours, if I just told them what color I wanted to paint the upper part of the walls (we already knew we wanted the beadboard painted white). Now this might not seem like such a big deal, but all of a sudden I had to make a split second decision on the exact paint color I wanted, without Ross’s help, or else I had to wait until another day for the paint. I definitely was not prepared for this decision, but who am I to turn down progress?

So knowing we wanted a lighter shade of blue, I quickly flipped through the hundreds of colors in the Sherwin-Williams swatch book the painters had and pulled about 20 colors that immediately stood out to me. I sent Ross links to each color online, and he narrowed it down to 4 colors. From there I did a quick google search of each color, looking to see how other people used their colors. (Basically I searched Sherwin-Williams “color name” bathroom and then looked through the google images.) Of the four finalists, one shade consistently popped up on DIY and home blogs: “Tradewind.”

Product link here

Manufacturer link here

We thought it looked bright, relaxing, and clean, so we decided to give it a go.

Impulse decision made, I waited patiently for them to get the first coat on the walls. Ok, really I was sitting in my office biting my nails (nasty habit I know) but I like to think I was calm and collected about the decision.

About an hour later: done.

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The nook behind the door is going to be a built-in cabinet. :)

I have to say, I am pretty darn happy with my 5-minute paint choice. I am also impressed that the crew was able to apply a coat of primer and two coats of paint to the entire ceiling and walls in such a short amount of time. And I didn’t have to clean up any paint brushes after!  (Score!)

 

It’s a BATHROOM!

I know, I know… that may sound like a pretty lame revelation, but after 5 weeks of a bare shell our little hall way nook finally looks like a real bathroom. What made the difference you may ask?

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Tile, baby. Tile!

Yesterday the tile was installed and man oh man do we love it! It is very period-specific and oh so fun. I love walking down the hall and getting a little glimpse of these bad boys underneath the door.

DSC_0249I apologize for the weird lighting. Apparently a solitary light bulb hanging out of the wall doesn’t supply very photo-friendly ambiance. It is also sounds like a horror movie. “The single light bulb dangled from the ceiling, flickering with the pains of lost souls.” I dunno… I am definitely not a horror novel writer. In fact I was forbidden to watch scary movies as a kid because I had trouble sleeping for weeks. I still refuse to watch them. :)

I digress…

I am also aware that the tile looks dirty… mostly because… well it is dirty. The contractor used a dark grey quick set underneath the tiles so there is some residue floating around from that. You can rest assured that they will clean the tile well before filling in with grout (which is scheduled to happen on Monday).

Tomorrow the plan is for them to finish up sanding the dry wall, followed by priming and painting the ceiling, and priming the walls. Can’t wait! :)

 

Full Steam Ahead

After a few rather torturous delays we are finally making some headway on the bathroom renovation. Anytime there is a full room reno, contractors are obligated to get city inspections on every little detail. While I definitely understand the value of a carefully checked over room, there were times I was cursing the city regulations and begging for progress. A couple of scheduling delays thrown into the mix made for a slow two weeks of work, but finally (FINALLY!!!) we are seeing daily improvements in our little space.

Last time we talked, our bathroom was still a hollow shell, waiting for love:

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Since then we have had plumbing remounted, electrical re-wired (including installation of a new roof vent for our exhaust fan), inspections on said plumbing and electrical (plus additional inspections for framing and installation), new insulation packed in, dry wall installed on the ceiling and upper section of the walls, and bead board on the lower half.

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Yesterday the floor board was installed,

DSC_0250_2which means next stop… TILE!!!

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Full steam ahead!!!!!!!!