Travel

McAfee Knob

January 29, 2018

A couple weeks ago, I joined Tim on a work trip out east towards Appalachia country. We had a free day in the Roanoke, VA area (before heading to Charlotte, NC for a couple days) and I said the one thing I wanted to do on the trip was a hike. I have never been east of Nashville and love hiking, so being in prime Appalachia Mountain hiking country gave us the perfect opportunity.

I did some research on hikes near Roanoke, and Tim had reached out to some coworkers and clients for suggestions. At first I was set on doing Dragon’s Tooth, but realized it was probably more technical than I was prepared to do. McAfee Knob ended up being the perfect hike. I read several different forums about the hike – what to expect, distance, time, etc. Turns out it’s one of *the* most photographed lookouts along the Appalachian Trail. Even though we went in January, I can see why! The views are great and the rock formations give you the perfect photo opportunity.

We did the trail on a Friday and got to the trail head parking lot about 9:30AM. We were the first car there, but the lot was about half full when we returned early afternoon. It’s recommended to give yourself a minimum of 4-5 hours roundtrip to do the hike. It took us 1 hr and 50 minutes to get to the top, and that was moving at a decent pace but also stopping a few times for some photos. It took us almost two hours to get down, and that included stopping to eat our lunch on the way.

*TIP* DO take the Appalachian Trail to the top! DON’T take the fire road. You could take the fire road, but you’d be doing yourself a big disservice. The A.T. is more technical on the way up, whereas the road is…well, it’s a road. And when I say “technical” it’s really not that technical. There’s some elevation change and stair steps, but it’s actually a fairly easy hike. (Tim and I both agreed that Poo Poo Point in Washington is still the hardest hike we’ve done.) You just have to keep an eye out for the trail to veer off to the right about a half mile in (from the parking lot) where there is a trail map posted.

The trail was pretty clear for the most part, but there were times that it was completely snow covered from the snow fall earlier in the week. The trees were well marked with white paint spots, telling you that you were in fact going the correct way. However, there were a couple instances that had it not been for footprints in the snow from earlier hikers, I wouldn’t be so sure of where the trail was going. The top was SO windy and cold, we didn’t stay up there long. It was only about 35 degrees when we set out that morning, and it was much colder than that at the top. Luckily, we were the only people at the top! We took the fire road back down to see what the difference was, and met several people on the way. We clocked exactly 8 miles when it was all said and done.

We hit up Parkway Brewing after the hike. We more than deserved a couple beers after that hike! We decided to keep going with the breweries and also stopped by Soaring Ridge Craft Brews and Big Lick Brewing. We hit up Black Dog Salvage and ended the night with dinner at Jack Brown’s.

—m.

Our House

Powder Room Mini Makeover

December 17, 2017

Psst: This mini makeover got posted on Apartment Therapy!

The powder room / half bath on the main level of the house was probably one of the ugliest rooms in this house. We guess that almost everything in the house is original to when it was built 20 years ago, and this bathroom screams 90s. The paint was a dark gray, the cabinet was builder-grade oak with a black top. The cabinet was also short! My plans for this bathroom were simple (and on a budget), but it has made such a big difference!

I didn’t get the best before photos, but here’s one I took and one from the listing. It was harder to take photos of this bathroom that I thought it would be!

The bathroom is small! It’s almost perfectly square at 4 feet wide and 4.5 feet deep. I knew instantly that this bathroom needed to be painted a very light color. All of the bathrooms were painted Polar Bear by Behr and all the trim throughout the house was painted a bright white. It’s almost white, but has the slightest bit of warm undertones.

Because of the bathroom’s small size, I wanted it to feel big as possible. So that meant replacing the original sink with a pedestal. Some people hate pedestal sinks because plumbing is exposed and you lose storage, but neither one of those things bothered me in this space. When we removed the oak cabinet, we had to replace and repair drywall — something I hadn’t considered when I decided on a pedestal sink. In the end, it took longer to install the sink than expected but still wasn’t a huge deal.

I actually had a hard time finding a faucet for the sink. The set I fell in love with was $300 and I couldn’t justify spending that. Thankfully, after lots of digging, I found an almost identical set on Amazon for only $70. Primed! It’s great quality and the style is perfect.

I also knew this space called for a statement mirror. I didn’t want just another rectangular mirror and round wouldn’t have worked (though I do love round mirrors). When I saw the hexagon mirror at West Elm, I knew it would be perfect. But of course, my budget told me no. So once again, I started searching for a cheaper alternative. And I found it! The mirror is big and heavy. I will say though that the gold (brass?) is much more yellow/orange than I was expecting but I happen to have a small tray that’s almost an exact color, so I was fine with it.

I had the hardest time figuring out what kind of light I wanted. Single light? Two or three lights? What style? Once again, it was Amazon where I found the light. Who would have thought that’s where I’d be ordering home items from. I love the globe style and how it’s a single light. It’s adjustable at the elbow, so we were able to have it tilted out away from the mirror. Tim’s single requirement for the light fixture is that it had to be able to take a regular (LED) bulb – no fancy bulbs that would need to be replaced more often. We were able to check all the boxes with it.

Other than the light, the other item I spent the most time looking for was a toilet paper holder. I wanted something modern, sturdy and either be black or ORB. Guess where I found it? Yep, Amazon. The holder is exactly what I wanted. It looks great with the sink fixtures and is really sturdy. It’s all one piece so the “arm” won’t ever fall. We moved the holder to be on the tiny wall directly across from the toilet instead of on the wall next to people’s knees. I added a lidded basket directly below it that neatly holds (and hides) two rolls of TP.

The tile floor will ripped out whenever we do the main floor overhaul. The tile is in great shape, but it’s just not our style. I’m still thinking about what kind of art to hang in the bathroom, but I’m super pleased with how it’s come together!

Product sources: pedestal sink | faucet | mirror | light fixture | toilet paper holder | basket from Target

—m.

 

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Our House

Our To-Do List for the House

December 16, 2017

I should actually name this post “Ultimate Wish List” because there’s just so much! We’ll change our minds a hundred times, too. We’ve made quite the progress since moving in the middle of September and it’s actually starting to feel like home.

Things We’ve Done

Painted Everything – we hired painters this time around. They did the walls, ceilings, trim and doors on two levels of the house. Worth every penny and it only took about a week. It would have taken me a year to do it all!

Replaced two ceiling fans

Replaced dining room light pendant

Removed/replaced other misc. light fixtures

Mini makeover to the main floor half bath (post coming!)

Replaced all the door knobs on the main level and upstairs

Replaced carpet in all four bedrooms, the hallway and two flights of stairs

Replace the flooring in the upstairs hall bath (this bath is also getting a mini makeover!)

Installed a new Sensi thermostat

Dealt with the mole problem in our backyard. (yeah that was fun)

To-Do List / Wish List

Finish the mini makeover of the hall bath

Replace a few more ceiling fans and light fixtures

Tear out the basement carpet and replace with plank vinyl flooring (happening this winter!)

Paint the basement

Minor landscaping

Master bath – this will be a total gut job. We have an idea of what we want to do, though.

Main floor overhaul – this will single handedly be the BIGGEST project we will be tackling down the road for this house. The kitchen, breakfast area and family room is one big, open space. We have big plans for this! It includes tearing out A LOT of ceramic tile and replacing with hardwoods, gutting the kitchen and a facelift to the fireplace and built-ins.

Getting art and decor hung up

New dining set that seats 8

A “fauxdenza” for the dining room

New shades/blinds for ALL of the windows

We also think we’re going to have to replace windows in a few years. (Ugh)

Of course that’s the shortened version of the to-do / wish list. There will be a hundred other things that pop up. I’m actually just the tiniest bit excited for winter this year because it means being inside to get some projects done.

—m.

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Our House

We Moved!

November 19, 2017

Yep, that’s right. We moved!

Which is the real reason as to why there’s been a lack of posts. But new house = new posts!

The decision to move wasn’t exactly the most planned. It wasn’t a crazy spontaneous decision either, but we did move a few years before we had ever planned to. I had been keeping an eye on the market for at least a year – just to see what was out there, keeping track of what homes were selling for in the parts of town that we’d consider moving to, how fast houses were selling. Our old house was a 3 bedroom, 2 bath ranch from the 50’s. We gutted and refinished the basement, new driveway, new landscaping, refinished the hardwood floors and so many other projects. We loved that house for the 7+ years we had lived there. It was suppose to be our “10 year house”.

However, our beloved ranch was only 1,000 sq ft (plus the basement) and when you add a baby in to the mix, things get to feeling more than just cozy. We got curious as to what realtors would say about our house, so we had a couple over to walk through. We wanted to see what it could be listed for and what projects would we need to do over the next year to get it ready to sell. Both realtors told us that we needed to know where we were moving to before listing our house (that’s how fast houses in STL were selling this summer) and we had next to nothing to do before listing. A good, deep cleaning and touching up a few areas of paint. So that’s when we decided to go full steam ahead and just try our hands with the market. We didn’t HAVE to sell, so if we needed to take the house off the market and try it again in a year, we would.

Spoiler alert: We got an offer for full list price the day our house hit the market. Thank goodness because we already had an offer on a new house accepted with a close date on the calendar.

The house we bought is not my dream home. In fact, I didn’t even want to look at this house. I wanted a 100 yr old house with creaky floors and all the charm. We ended up with a builder grade home from from the 90’s (which I consider a brand new house). I really, really don’t care for builder grade homes or neighborhoods. Tim, however, is all about it. Even though it’s not my style of house, there were so many positives compared to the negatives—the basement is finished, the yard is fenced in, the garage, the bedrooms, the schools. The neighborhood is actually pretty great too. We had more neighbors come say hi and introduce themselves within the first two weeks than we ever had in the 7+ years at our old house.

Tim really had to talk me into seeing the possibilities with this house, and now after being here for 2.5 months I’m actually starting to see them! We have already made a big dent in our to-do list. Light fixtures, ceiling fans, pant, door knobs and some carpet have been updated. (Full before & after posts coming!) But we have some big projects ahead of us – new kitchen, new master bath, flooring. We’re planning on this being our forever home so all will happen in due time. Pretty excited to get some charm and character in this place!

–m.

Travel

City by the Bay, Wine in the Vines

September 23, 2017

As if the past few months haven’t been crazy enough (more on that soon!), I snuck in an end-of-summer trip! It’s actually been planned for several months, but it was my first solo trip since having the baby. I will admit that it was strange to not have a baby and hauling extra stuff around.

So where did I go? San Francisco, Sonoma and Napa!

One of my really good friends lives in SF so I try to get out there once a year to visit. We’ve explored the actual city my last two trips, so I asked if we could do wine country this time. Um, yes!

We spent part of Friday, all of Saturday and part of Sunday in wine country taking a more relaxed pace. We only made one reservation each day so we were able to make decisions based on our mood. It was really nice to just go with the flow and not rush from winery to winery.

Friday
We started the trip at Gloria Ferrer for some bubbles. The winery was so pretty and had a great view of the vines. However, the flies that day were terrible! It was actually quite bothersome. I did the Glorious Tasting Flight which included the Sonoma Brut, Blanc de Noirs, 2014 Estate Chardonnay and 2013 Estate Pinor Noir. I don’t know much about sparkling wines, but I did really enjoy the Blanc de Noirs.

Next we headed to Scribe, where we had a reservation. (I do believe they’re required here.) Apparently it’s the “hip” winery right now. It’s so cute! Rustic and in an old estate home with great views of their vines. Scribe’s website doesn’t say much about their tasting experience, but we knew there was going to be wine and food. The wine changes fairly frequently and the food menu can change weekly. It was all so delicious! We started with a glass of their German style Estate Riesling (so it wasn’t really sweet), followed by a glass of their Estate Chardonnay, Skin Fermented Chardonnay and Caneros Pinot Noir. For food we were give a small board of charred peppers, almonds and olives. Then served meatballs, a garden salad, roasted vegetable medley, toasted bread and a slice of garden melon. This was a favorite of the wineries we visited.

Saturday
We headed to Frog’s Leap around noon after a couple girl’s from the city drove up to meet Nicole and myself for the day. We had such a good Saturday! We all loved the atmosphere at Frog’s Leap. It was so charming and casual. The staff was also extremely welcoming and never pushed a membership. We opted for the Garden/Cellar Tasting which allowed us to get our tastings from an outdoor bar and casually stroll the grounds. The tasting included their Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet and Zinfandel. We were also able to ask for a sample of their Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc, which happened to be my favorite two from FL. (And I’m a red wine drinker!) I’m kicking myself for not picking up a bottle of those.

Next we headed to Mumm for some bubbles! We grabbed a glass while we waited for our turn to sit for a tasting. I opted for a glass of the Bland de Noirs. All four of us girls got the Toast Today tasting option. It came with a tasting glass of Brute Prestige, Brute Rosé and Cuvée M. Not sure if it’s because sparkling isn’t my favorite type of wine or what but I would say my experience there was “fine”. We did all pitch in for a bottle to take back to the hotel and enjoy before going to dinner at Basalt.

Sunday
Nicole and I ended our wine country weekend on the Sonoma side as we headed back to the city. We ate brunch at The Girl & the Fig before heading to Cline for a walk-in tasting. It’s also super casual and you stand around one of their several bars and pick which five wines you’d like to taste. The gentlemen working that day let us try several extra, and I left with a bottle of their Rosé in hand. This is probably one of the cheapest tastings in the area–$10!

Our last stop was at Ram’s Gate. We had been told and read that you go there more for the view vs the wine, but we were pleasantly surprised by the wine as well! The tasting we chose to do included two Chardonnays and two Pinot Noirs. We both purchased a bottle of Chardonnay at the end of our tasting. The winery itself is gorgeous and decorated in Restoration Hardware. The views were great as well. The one thing I didn’t love about Ram’s Gate is that the Sonoma Speedway is super close so you can hear the races happening. However, I was totally okay with it the day we were there because we also got a surprise show by the local Blue Angels.

I’m ready to book another trip with a whole group of girls! Who wants to join me?!

–m.

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Travel

Going Dutch in Holland, Michigan

August 20, 2017

Oh hello! Long time no see–again. It’s been so busy the last five months – more on that later. But first…we went on a little vacation!

Our friends Matt & Ellen invited us to join them and their kiddos on vacation near Holland, Michigan. Ellen grew up going to the area every summer with her family, so she’s pretty familiar with the area. Michigan was on our list for a domestic family vacation so we jumped at the invitation. Michigan’s weather in August is b-e-a-u-tiful! I think the warmest it got while we were there was in the low to mid 80s.

We caravanned up north and stayed almost an entire week. We rented a house through HomeAway.com that was about a mile from Holland State Park. The location was great because it was on a quiet residential street right off Lake Macatawa, was within walking distance to the beach and a short drive to downtown.

We didn’t go up with an itinerary and wanted to play it by ear. The first full day there, we ladies got a run in, followed by a trip to the beach. [Note: it costs $9 per car for a single visit to the state park. $32 for a year’s pass.] School hadn’t started yet so the beach got pretty full. The parking lot actually filled up to where cars weren’t allowed in until 20 parking spots had opened up. We used this trick to contain the baby at the beach. It worked so well! We ended the day by hitting up New Holland Brewery’s Pub for dinner and Captain Sundae for ice cream.

The next day the ladies took the littles on a walk to Albert K’s Lakeside Cafe for breakfast while the guys got a bike ride in. I normally am not a quiche / frittata eater, but for some reason I ordered it that morning and it was so good! We spent that afternoon exploring the shops along main street Holland. I bought a couple things for E at this children’s boutique called Tip Toes, purchased a couple bottles from Fustini’s Oils & Vinegars, and chocolate from the local candy/peanut store.

It was back to the beach the following day. This time Tim and I walked down to the beach with the stroller. We popped into the Ottawa Beach General Store on the way home for some soft serve ice cream. The serving sizes were giant! I couldn’t finish mine.

Tim, baby and I headed up to Grand Haven the following day after a little morning exercise. We didn’t really have much planned this day either. We popped into the Toasted Pickle for a sandwich, explored their main street and then stopped into the brewery Odd Side Ales for a couple beers. We even left with a six pack of one of their beers. We ended the day by going over to Ellen’s aunt and uncle’s house for dinner and drinks. Their house is right on Lake Michigan about 10 minutes away from our rental. We didn’t get the sunset we were hoping for but it was still a beautiful evening with amazing lake views.

Mine and Tim’s last full day on the trip was mostly spent in Saugatuck. The whole crew headed down after breakfast at deBoer Bakkerij. It was Saugatuck’s sidewalk sale event, so we spent some time dipping in and out of the shops before heading over to Saugatuck Brewing Co. Which actually was right next door to an antique mall, so of course I ducked into there before heading home. I may or may not have left with one item. (I did.)

It was a great week spent with great friends. Tim and I had been wanting to visit Michigan and thought this was a great first introduction. I’d love to go even further north to Traverse City next time. Thanks Matt and Ellen for including us in your trip!

–m.

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