Cutting The Cord

It has been about a year since Clint and I decided to “cut the cord” with our satellite TV. Our catalyst was moving, which gave us about a month of no TV before moving in with my parents to work on our house. We have been going strong for about 6 months here at the new house and will never go back to paying for satellite.

To stream TV from the internet, you will need some kind of device. We chose the Roku HD for its cost effective price point, but you could also go with the new Google Chromecast (no Amazon Prime, though), the Amazon Fire TV, or any of those newfangled gaming consoles. We also bought a Roku Streaming Stick for another TV in our house and love it – plus it is only $49!

Although there are plenty of free channels available on our Roku, to get the most access to content, you will want to subscribe to some kind of streaming service. We currently have Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video. We also bought an HD antenna to get out local channels.

Here’s how the cost breaks down (for 1 TV) -
Roku Streaming Stick – $49
HD Ultra Thin Antenna – $9
Total hardware costs – $58 (less than we paid for one month of satellite!)

Our monthly costs are $7.99/mo for Netflix and ~$8.25/mo for Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime also includes free two-day shipping (why we got it in the first place, years ago), a Kindle lending library, and streaming music. All in all – a great deal!

Adventures in Kidhood

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As our school year drew to a close, Clint and I were excited to set off on another beach adventure with one of our favorite kiddos. I’ve already recounted our trials in traveling with a toddler a couple of years ago, now we have ourselves an official “big boy.” After remarking to Connor that he was “my baby,” he quickly informed me that he’s “already been a baby, and now he is a person.” Thanks, kid!

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We discovered that travelling with a kid instead of a toddler does not require fewer bags. Our car was again packed to the brink with clothes, swimsuits, beach umbrellas, sand toys, snacks, coolers, electronics (both mine and his – 3 iPads between us all!) and about a million other things.

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Although we set off with grand plans of water parks, movies, aquariums, and other exciting events, we ended up spending almost all of our time hanging out at the beach or the pool making friends. Hearing the phrase “Wanna play?!” from the mouths of children reminds me of that childhood innocence and the deep belief that everyone is inherently your friend. I think that adults could take a few tips from our younger counterparts in that regard.

 

All in all, we had a great trip. The three of us were exhausted by the end of the trip – Connor was even asleep before we pulled out of the condo parking lot! Clint and I stopped for a quick dinner with Mimi and Grandpapa (Connor’s 2nd shift stand-in parents) and then headed back home to get ready for our next trip!

 

I Survived Third Grade- Volume 2

I wrote about the first day of school back in August, so it only seems fitting that I wrap up my thoughts about this school year. As I left my empty classroom today, after learning that I will be moving to my third classroom in as many years, I definitely had a bittersweet attitude about my experience this year.

I absolutely loved my students, but it was a difficult and trying year. So many changes and challenges to overcome along with my students. Watching them grow into these interesting little people was the highlight of my year. Here’s to another year! But first, let me find my book and a cold drink for the next 2 months….

Road Trip Essentials

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Two words: pack light! Besides the obvious camping gear, here are a few things that were most handy on our month-long journey by car.

A good daypack is absolutely key! I used this REI Flash Pack has a roomy main compartment, two stretchy side pockets, and a nice place to put a water reservoir. It is also pretty budget friendly!
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Spotify Premium is well worth the $10 monthly subscription fee. Playlists can be made available offline on a mobile device, which was great for the many miles traveled with no cell service!

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I wore this pair of black, stretchy crop pants more often that I’d like to admit. They are comfortable for long drives as well as outdoor activities. They dry quickly for impromptu laundry in a sink. These were around $20 at Target, but you can certainly get fancy and spend much more at REI or Lululemon :)

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Baby wipes were a last minute addition to my car bag and I ended up replenishing them throughout the trip. They were fantastic for cleaning up car messes, taking off makeup at night, and the obvious on-the-go hand washing.

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Good luck travelers!

Book Shelf: 52 in 52

This year, I resolved to read 52 books in 2014. Really, this “challenge” is just an excuse for me to do more of what I love! . I’m tracking my progress using Goodreads. Join in!

Here are my favorites from this quarter:

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When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde
This book opens with the frightening scene of an infant abandoned in the woods, discovered by a hunter in the area. The two characters’ lives intertwine over the tumultuous years to come. This was one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time!

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
This quirky novel definitely kept me guessing. The title character, Bernadette, is a mother with a mysterious past. She abruptly disappears, leaving her teenage daughter and husband to search for clues. I know it sounds like a thriller, but the plots moves in and out of what I consider realistic. Certainly an interesting read.

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The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna
I LOVED this book. Ireland, a bit of history, flashbacks, great character development, heartbreak, and love – what more can I ask for? The ending was an amazing twist!

 

 

Bathrooms Behaving Badly…

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This bathroom went from pitiful to pretty in about 1,456 easy steps. When we bought the house, the water damage in the bathroom was one of the first things that we set out to fix. As you notice at first glance, it was seriously ugly. There was a weird mirror / medicine combo above the sinks. The countertop was a yellowy cream color. The vanity was dark and had been chewed up by someone’s dog over the years. The bathtub was literally sinking and the walls around the floor were soft. The last thing you want in your bathroom is soft, water damaged walls. Gross.

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We ended up more than gutting the whole thing – putting in new subfloor, studs, and extending the room about 2 feet out into our living room. This turned out to be a great call. I don’t miss the space from the living room and love having the extra space in our only bathroom. We also configured a linen closet for some extra storage.

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I’m in love with the end result. It is so clean and fresh – I can hardly believe it’s the same room. The color in this room is my favorite in the whole house- Benjamin Moore’s “Wythe Blue”. It is so calm and clean… I sort of wish I could paint every wall that color! We decided on a hickory vanity that was on the lower end of the budget. Most of the options that I looked at were well over $1000. I love the one we chose because its light and airy without that builder basic honey oak look. Its also real wood, which can be hard to find when you’re shopping on a shoestring. I decided to add hooks below our window for towels instead of a towel bar. I love them – much more storage than just one towel bar and they look cute, too!

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Any gut renovation is  going to be expensive, but we saved some cash by avoiding tile work. We have a vinyl floor and stock one piece tub/shower. This undoubtedly saved us thousands. The countertop is stock marble, which was way cheaper than a granite double sink, of course. We were also able to install it ourselves! DIY win. For the only bathroom we have, I feel like the space is well utilized. There’s plenty of storage and counterspace. I always said that all a girl really needs is a double sink and a walk in closet – I got both :)

Our Ikea Kitchen: Assembly and Installation

In my last kitchen post, I recapped the process of designing and buying our kitchen, in all its many boxes! Once we had unloaded and organized the boxes, it was time to start assembly.   If you’ve ever assembled Ikea furniture, the instructions are very similar. I feel like they are easier to process because of the lack of words and simple drawings, but I know others who hate the way Ikea instructions are written. Each box cabinet (both base and wall) goes together the same way, so we didn’t even need instructions after the first couple of our seventeen cabinets. Here are a few tips to get started with:

  • Start by assembling the wall cabinets so that you can hang them and get the out of the way
  • Invest $20 in a small, electric screwdriver – it was easier to handle in tight places than our big drill
  • Pick up extra pegs and screws while you are at Ikea – they don’t provide extras in the box!
  • Label the cabinet with its blueprint number after assembly so you don’t get mixed up when hanging them
  • Put the door and hanging hardware in a ziploc and label it with the cabinet number from your blueprint. This will help you stay organized!
  • Don’t even think about the shelves, drawers, and doors yet! These go on last

Our assembly process took a couple of days, but was a lot simpler than I thought it would be. Once we assembled all of the wall cabinets, we were ready to hang the suspension rail that supports the cabinets. This is a technique that seems pretty unique to Ikea, as none of my contractors had ever heard of such a thing! You will need a long (4+ feet) level and two people for this part of the project. The instructions are detailed enough about the actual installation of the rail, but are pretty vague about what to use to attach it you your wall. After some research, we chose some heavy duty cabinet screws from Lowes. The biggest caveat is to use a screw without a beveled head – you don’t want to sink the screw into the drywall. Ours looked like this:
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We had to use the impact driver to secure them to the studs – some of our studs are original to the house and they are rock hard! Clint loved the excuse to buy a new tool for this job.

After the suspension rail has been installed, its as simple as sliding on a few screws and nuts and adjusting the alignment of the cabinets. They will be nearly level because the rail is level when it is hung. Ours went up in about in hour!

Assembling the base cabinets is almost as easy, with the addition of attaching the adjustable legs. The legs are similar to those that allow you to level out your washing machine, and they make an unlevel floor a non-issue. You will have to cut holes in the back panel of some base cabinets to make room for plumbing to come through under the sink. This is kind of tricky, but the panels are thin and easily cut. A question that I researched a lot was how to attach the base cabinets to the wall. Posters at Ikea Fans suggest using a butterfly toggle bolt, which I had no idea even existed. It basically pops out against your drywall after you screw it into the predrilled hole. These worked great.

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Here’s our shell of a kitchen after a few hours of installation:

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Looking good, Ikea!