Flirty Thirty and Thriving

Today Derek turns the big 3-0. This past weekend I threw him a little surprise party at our friends house (because let's face it, their yard is legit). And I made it a Fiesta theme. Because. Why not?

He was under the impression that we were having dinner over at our friends Max and Carrie's house, because they just moved in and wanted to have a nice dinner. Or something like that. Little did he know, but all of his friends were waiting in the backyard to surprise him. Including his childhood best friend Ari who drove in all the way from Denton. Needless to say good times were had all around.


I hope that you enjoy your day Derek! There is obviously no other way to end this post, other than to share my all time favorite photo of him, getting who knows what kind of award, but is clearly oh so excited about it. Here's to 30 more Der Bear!

Out of Sight. Out of Mind.

For those of you who didn’t know, historic neighborhoods tend to be very.. cozy. Our house is literally 5 feet away from our neighbors to the right, and about 10 feet from the neighbors on the left. Luckily we have over 26 windows, which we love. But. Most of these windows are along the walls that look straight into our neighbor’s windows. The most awkward of which is the bathroom window. It’s not that bad during the day, but at night it’s basically a glowing fishbowl of teeth brushing and sprinting into the shower.

The house came with cheap-o mini-blinds on most of our windows (which have since been replaced), which works for us, but we didn’t want to really have blinds in the bathroom or kitchen because then we wouldn’t be able to open either set to let light in without A. being on display to the whole neighborhood or B. having to see unsightly junk in our neighbor’s side yard.

Let’s get a closer look.

People think I'm kidding when I tell them about how messy our neighbors' house is. I mean. No one wants to look at that while cooking. Or doing anything really.

Our front door is a craftsman style which is original to the house, but it also has windows which makes it really awkward when answering the door (or more importantly pretending like you’re not home). That being said, frosting the windows seemed to be the best option for us. We've used this method in the past, and it's such an inexpensive way to gain a little privacy, but is still temporary in case you change your mind down the road.

To prep the windows we would be frosting, I first cleaned them with ordinary glass cleaner, and used a razor blade to scrape off any excess paint from previous sloppy painters. There was a LOT of paint to scrape. And neighborhood watch stickers. Because those keep you safe.


So much cleaner already!

We picked up a roll of frosted film, along with an applicator kit and got to work. After cleaning all of the windows with glass cleaner, we cleaned them again thoroughly with the application spray. We made sure to scrape off any fleck of paint or dirt so that we had a squeaky clean surface. Remember: Any speck of anything on the window will create permanent bubbles.

We cut our first piece leaving 1" extra on each side, which will be trimmed later. Then we placed a piece of scotch tape on each side of the film and press it together without sticking the tape to itself, and peeled it apart to separate the film from the backing. We made sure to only peel the backing halfway off the film. This will help it not stick to itself when applying it to the window.

One person was the sprayer (me) and the other person was the get-sprayed-on-er (Derek). We soaked the window, and both sides of the film (yes, even the sticky side) The wetter it is the easier it will be to squeegee and get all of the bubbles and imperfections out. We were also able to life it back up and re-apply it as need be because it was so wet. 

We then stuck it to the window and removed the rest of the backing. We were sure to leave the extra inches on each side of the window surface and started squeegee-ing away! Derek was the squeegee-er and I was the cutter.

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While squeegee-ing we were sure to work from top to bottom and left to right getting out as many bubbles as possible. Once all of the bubbles were pushed as close to the edges as we could get them, it was time to trim off the excess. We used the blade that came with our kit and lined it up with the window panes and carefully trimmed along the edges on all four sides. I saved the corners for the end so that the excess film won’t fall onto itself and create a huge mess.

Once all of the extra film was gone, we continued to squeegee all of the remaining bubbles and push them to the edges. Depending on how warm it is outside, you only have 24 hours until the film officially adheres incase you aren’t satisfied with any imperfections that might show up.

The whole project took about an hour (after the cleaning/scraping). This is definitely an easy fix for anyone who is needing a little privacy while still taking advantage of as much natural light as possible. And now for a little before-and-after action.

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The bathroom has a lot more privacy now too, especially at night.

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I’m still trying to find the perfect mirror to go above the sink. Right now we have to do the toothbrush tango. And I can only imagine what a pain it must be to shave in these conditions.

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We also removed the screen door that was just hanging on by a thread. It didn’t even close all the way and it blocked our pretty craftsman door. Now all we need to do is repaint the exterior, decide on a color for the front door, and swap out the hardware and we’ll really be in business!

I plan to frost the back door as well, but it has a lot of extra elements (like a cat tapestry) that need to be taken care of before it can be frosted. Meow.

Ditching the Popcorn Asbestos We Can

One of the first things we knew we would change ASAP during our first walkthrough of our house was the disgusting popcorn ceiling in our living / dining room. Every other room in the house as close to a Level 5 gypsum board finish, but the biggest room of the house had super attractive popcorn caked on the ceiling. 

We’re assuming they wanted to hide some cracks or leaks since it had been used as a rental for so long, and popcorn ceilings tend to be a quick fix. Why? I have no idea. We were sort of in a pickle though because we knew our house is 80 years old, but we had no idea when the popcorn was applied. Meaning. We had no idea if the popcorn contained asbestos or not. We had initially planned to scrape the ceilings ourselves but the fear of the unknown (and the type of cancer that runs in my family) was weighing heavily on us, and we both agreed that professional abatement was the way to go. We knew that we needed to have it removed before we moved in. Otherwise. Holy mess. So we had a few contractors come out to give us their bids, and they got to work right away.

They covered our freshly refinished floors with paper, then literally covered every surface except for the ceiling with plastic. It was like a plastic fortress.

All of the white on the floor? Yeah that was popcorn.


They removed all of the popcorn, reinforced our ceiling in a few areas, retextured it with a nice orange peel finish, and painted it flat white. They couldn't go back in with a Level 5 finish because cracks in San Antonio are absolutely unavoidable, and the orange peel had helped to hide any that have crept along when our house shifts after a good rain. Let’s take one last look at the before.

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Isn’t it so much better? It honestly makes the ceilings look higher. Probably because we no longer have stalactites hanging over our heads. We had them completely remove the gross (and sagging) ceiling fan and crystal chandelier (which we gave to a neighbor) because we knew were going to replace them. Also we knew we wanted to have our dining room near the fireplace and our living room where the chandelier is. It just didn’t make sense to leave them up even though we didn’t have anything to go up in their place.

Although it was really hard for us to not DIY this one, in the end it was the safer choice to have the professionals take care of it. Also. That would have been pretty messy. Luckily because they Dexter-ified the whole room they were able to just roll it all up and our freshly refinished floors were left in pristine condition.


Not Really a Fan of Our Fans

I don’t know if I’ve emphasized it enough, but our new house probably hasn’t been cleaned in 20 years. Not even kidding. It is seriously an asthmatic’s worst nightmare. We checked the air filter before sanding the floors and it literally had an inch thick of dust on it that peeled off like dryer lint. Barf. That being said, the ceiling fans were just a nightmare. Not only were they severely outdated, but they were caked in layers of dust. They were missing bulbs, the blades were drooping, and not one single fan matched the other. Clearly they had to go. Here are some before snaps I took during our final walkthrough.

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We wanted to replace them with something clean and simple and a little more contemporary. I had found these babies, and for $89 + free shipping I made them mine.

Derek had conned our friend Chris into helping him install all three fans, while I continued to stain the floors. They simple followed the wiring diagram that was included with the fans, and it was pretty straight forward.

The electricians that updated all of our electrical (as part of our negotiations), sort of botched the ceiling when removing/replacing the other fans so we plan to patch all of that when we paint our ceilings.

I just love how a five-blade fan looks over four. And not having a droopy light kit. Aren't they just so much fresher?

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I love instant transformations like this. Swapping out ceiling fans is such a simple way to update your home without spending a whole lot of money. But mostly, I’m just glad that I didn’t have to clean the old ones. So sick.


How to Refinish Your Floors the Hard Way | Part II

Well. After burning the midnight oil for a week straight, the floors were finally done. And we were T-I-R-E-D. But honestly, they were totally worth all of the sweat, back aching, hunching over, being covered in dust from head to toe, 40 rounds of vacuuming, and wearing crazy respirators which got a lot of stares from our new neighbors. Seriously. They look SO much better.

Last week, I shared with you guys our sanding process (and mistakes), but now for the fun part. The stain!

We knew we wanted to go dark, but not too dark that you wouldn’t be able to see the grain of the wood. I didn’t want them to look painted, you know? We originally wanted to use a water-based stain, but unfortunately they didn’t have enough quarts in the color we wanted so we had to opt for Plan B: oil-based stain. So we picked up 1 quart per 275sf, and two gallons of oil-based polyurethane.

Before applying the stain, I went through each room thoroughly vacuuming the floors (and walls!!) and dusting every surface with a microfiber cloth (several times). We didn’t want a single spec of dust to mix in with the stain. I even wore towels over my shoes so that I didn’t track anything onto the floors.


We were a little nervous about applying the stain, and how long to let it sit, so we tested it out in a closet first. We took turns brushing it on with a 3″ brush in small 3ft sections. We made sure that the entire area was thoroughly covered with stain, then let it sit for 1 minute.

We told you it was dark.

Just kidding. After the 1 minute mark was up we took a t-shirt (from a huge bulk bag we picked up.. and definitely went through the entire pack of 100 cut up shirts) and wiped it up with the direction of the grain, revealing this loveliness.

It was a little lighter that we had hoped so on the second run we let it sit for 2 minutes.


We continued this method following each patch of fresh stain along the grain of the wood, that way we could blend it better, and as it dried the new row would start along the planks of wood creating nice straight rows that blended seamlessly. It took forever.

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You can see how we worked our way back toward the exit of the room. No one stains baby in the corner.


As you can see it’s a little rough looking without having the polyurethane, very rustic. The wood had some previous damage that we just couldn’t sand out, like that dark spot on the right side of the guest room (below). There were also several boards that just appeared darker, which was completely out of our control.

But we really like how it sort of just adds to the charm and character of an older home.

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Once all of the stain was laid down, and we let it cure for 24 hours, I went back through and thoroughly cleaned each room using my same method (and my same cool towel shoes).

And no, that isn’t stain on the walls, we had pulled up the quarter-round trim before sanding, and it peeled the paint up on the baseboards. But we aren’t really worried about it since we definitely plan to paint all of the trim with a fresh coat of white ASAP.

After cleaning, it was time for the part that we dreaded the most. The polyurethane. This part just made me so nervous because once it’s down, there is no turning back. We decided to choose a satin finish so that it wasn’t too glossy and wet looking (like a basketball court). The satin has a nice subtle sort of waxy sheen that really warms up the room.

We poured the poly into a watering can, and used a lambskin applicator working it in row by row the full length of each room. We used a pretty OCD method for each row: zigzag to the right, zigzag to the left, squeegee at a 45 degree angle to the right, then squeegee to the left, then squeegee back and forth along the grain of the wood to finish before moving onto the next row. This really helped to work the poly into the floor nice and even and thin. You don’t want it too thick because it will never dry, or dry inconsistently creating bumps and bubbles. The beauty of this poly is that it self levels as it dries, creating a nice even coat (like nail polish or oil-based paint).

Above you can see the difference between the side with poly and the side with just stain.

Obviously the poly is still wet in the above photos, it won't be that shiny once it dries. Once we finished one room (making sure to have a safe exit) we moved to the next, repeating the same method for each room.

We let the first coat cure for 8 hours before applying the second (using the same exact method).

Above you can see the nice satin finish (on the right) once the poly has cured vs. the freshly applied second coat of poly (on the left). See how much softer it is? So smooth!

We let the second coat dry for 6 hours and then applied the third and final coat to each room.

I realized that there are a lot of photos of Derek doing the dirty work, but I promise I did just as much poly-ing. So. Let that be on the record.

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Although this was probably (by far) the hardest project I’ve ever taken on, there is no feeling like having that sense of accomplishment after taking on a new adventure neither of us had any experience in, and finishing it through together. Even though we did stay up until 3am more than once during the work week, and spent two entire weekends breaking our backs. It was very much worth it in the end. This place quickly started to feel like our home.