13. November 2016 · Comments Off on DIY Stairwell Transformation: All Done! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Back in October, while the contractors were working on the bathroom, Dave and I stained the banisters of our stairwell. Wow what a difference it made!


This is just before taking off the masking and putting on the polyurethane gloss coat.

We used the General Finishes Java Gel Stain. Be sure to take your time thoroughly masking the areas. I used brown paper instead of taping several inches down the balusters. After “washing” the oak-colored surfaces with liquid sander deglosser, I used an old clean sock to apply the stain on the broad areas. If you put the sock over your hand, like I had, be sure to wear a rubber glove — the stain will stain your skin for several days. For the fine detail area (such as the underside of the railings near the balusters), a small foam brush worked just fine. More »

13. November 2016 · Comments Off on Half Bath Mostly-DIY Transformation: A Bunch of Little Things · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,
The half bath as of today. There's one more task before I'll be truly happy with it...

The half bath as of today. A bunch of small improvements have turned it into an elegant space we aren’t embarrassed to show to visitors. There’s one more task before I’ll be truly happy with it…an updated mirror.

If you thought the upstairs bathroom was small, well, the half bath on the main floor of our house is REALLY small! Nonetheless, we were frustrated with the white tile counter—mostly because of the grout—and went with a similar resurfacing as the upstairs bathroom. But a different color.

The next thing about to happen is a frame around the large mirror. Dave and I can’t stand those mirrors, but as we learned from the kids’ bath upstairs, removing the mirror might take the wall with it…but we found a website called MirrorMates.com that offers peel-and-stick frame pieces for plate-glass mirrors such as these. So we ordered one. I’ll let you know how it looks. More »

12. November 2016 · Comments Off on Bathroom Transformation: The Final Reveal · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,
Those little touches like faucets, mirrors, and lighting took us months to figure out.

Those little touches like faucets, mirrors, and lighting took us months to figure out. We are all very happy with the green color that Timmy helped to choose.

This past week we finally were able to put the finishing touches on the upstairs bathroom. At the last minute (while I was in Hong Kong) the plan for the bath towel bars changed: we decided to find a double-towel-bar version in the same design. Installing it was trickier than we thought, and some wall repairs had to be made. In addition, we had the bathtub and tile around the bathtub resurfaced as an alternative to replacing everything in that space. It’s more economical, and besides, the existing bathtub was VERY GOOD quality. There were some chips on the enamel that the resurfacing resolved.

Here are some pictures of the finished product. It isn’t the biggest bathroom, so it was a tight squeeze to get all the pictures I wanted. Enjoy some before-and-after collages too. More »

02. October 2016 · Comments Off on It’s Not Hooch, It’s ‘Booch! · Categories: Uncategorized

I recently tried kombucha for the first time and it wasn’t bad! However, at $2-3 per 16 oz. bottle, it wasn’t exactly something I’d buy to keep on hand all the time.

Note I didn’t say “I think it’s the most delicious thing ever!” It wasn’t bad.

I’ve been trying to cut back on drinking diet soda, and these days I only have it when I’m getting a “combo” of some sort at a restaurant and they hand me a drink cup for the soda fountain.

Kombucha is an interesting hybrid: slightly carbonated, and slightly sweetened, thanks to the fermentation process required to make it. I’m not going to explain the whole thing here, but feel free to read more about it.

This made a good alternative to soda. I’m not going to speak to whether this beverage is going to save my life, cure cancer, or whatever. I’m just looking for something relatively low calorie to enjoy. Since the fermentation “eats” most of the sugar in the sweet tea, you’re left with something more tangy, but still very tasty with very few calories. I’ll take it!

For the cost of two bottles of kombucha from Whole Foods, I got what I needed to make my own at home.


The fuzzy white thing in that bag is the SCOBY, which stands for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast”. I ordered this one through Amazon for about $6. The liquid it’s suspended in is raw kombucha and is critical for a good start to your own fermentation.


I had this other stuff on hand: a 1/2 gallon jar, coffee filter for the top, 5 tea bags (I used Twinings Earl Grey, since it’s what I had on hand), and sugar.

I brewed the tea at a concentration of 5 tea bags per 4 cups of water. I then mixed in a cup of sugar, stirring it to dissolve the crystals. I then added it to the jar with enough ice to mostly fill the jar. This cools the tea enough such that you can add the SCOBY and raw kombucha that it came in without killing the bacteria or yeast.


Use a coffee filter, tea towel, or some other porous covering to allow gases to escape.


The SCOBY is floating on top here, but within a few minutes it sank to the bottom.


Fast forward one week…the original SCOBY is still at the bottom, but this new one formed on top. So there are now two in this jar.


In one week this kombucha is ready to enjoy…you can allow it to continue to sit at room temperature and it will continue to ferment, or you can pour off the tea and allow the SCOBY to sit at room temperature in a cool dark place until you need to use it again. I’m letting mine continue to ferment for now.

29. September 2016 · Comments Off on DIY Stairs Transformation: Our Trickiest Stain Job Yet · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

We’ve been doing a lot of little updates around the house lately. The most recent one I shared was with the fireplace last spring. I’ve been working full time off and on since July, but now I have a break for a couple months and I can return to our “honey-do” list.

There are some items that I usually do around the house in the fall: waxing the vehicles, cleaning out closets and the garage, and getting folks in to do preventive maintenance for our HVAC system. But this fall we are adding a couple of other things. More »

22. September 2016 · Comments Off on Blue Apron: No, They Didn’t Pay Me to Say What I’ve Been Saying · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,
This was my family's favorite Blue Apron meal so far.

This was my family’s favorite Blue Apron meal so far. The chicken was flavorful, the potatoes were delicious, and that’s a homemade honey-mustard dipping sauce!

I know you’ve been seeing the numerous Instagram posts about our family’s Blue Apron meals. Unlike many of the other reviews out there, Blue Apron did not send me a bunch of free meals in return for the publicity.

However, I did take advantage of a promotion they often offer to new customers: your first four meals are delivered for the price of one.

I’ve been getting their meal boxes periodically for 2 months now and I wanted to summarize my thoughts on the program. This is a data dump of the features our family likes, as well as the things our family doesn’t like. I’ll try to organize the thoughts so it can be useful to someone. More »

07. August 2016 · Comments Off on Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two · Categories: Uncategorized

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun read for those who crave the nostalgia of the original Harry Potter novels. But don’t expect much more than that in terms of significant creativity or mind-blowing plot twists.

This isn’t a novel. It’s a screenplay that’s been published in book-form. Open up the book and you will find that settings are succinctly spelled out, there are stage instructions, and each character is listed with his/her dialogue. No back stories, no exposition, no clever punny geography lessons.

Because this is a screen play, you’ll hear that the reviews of the West End production are fantastic. You’ll read about how death-eaters will emerge from the aisles and audience, for example. I’m sure those visuals will be wonderful to experience in person.

As for the story itself, there’s a lot of back-and-forth in time and settings, and really, only those who are familiar with the original 7 novels are going to truly understand and appreciate what’s going on. For example, there will be mention of the Triwizard Tournament from the mid-1990s, and numerous scenes (due to time travel) where the Beauxbatons Academy female students’ cheers are half-hearted compared to those from Durmstrang’s. I feel that only those who have read Goblet of Fire will fully understand the irony and humor of those scenes.

The relationship that Harry has with his middle son Albus is worth exploring more deeply, but as a screenplay this will be difficult. You will only know what the stage directions and dialogue tell you, compared to how a novelization might present the story: filled with glimpses into Harry’s and
Albus’s inner conflicts about whether their relationship has a future or not.

However, if you take a step back and just enjoy the story, this is a fun, fast summer read. I read it in 5 days, my sons will probably read it in 1-2 weeks each.

View all my reviews

04. August 2016 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 50: Get Away from the Crowds with the Palmer Trail at the Garden of the Gods · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,
The Palmer Trail at the Garden of the Gods is our family's favorite hiking spot.

The Palmer Trail at the Garden of the Gods is our family’s favorite hiking spot.

It is clear that the Garden of the Gods is among the most popular locations to visit in Colorado Springs. Trip Advisor will tell you that it’s the #1 tourist attraction in Colorado Springs, ranking higher than Pikes Peak and the U.S. Olympic Center. I even wrote about Garden of the Gods as one of my first-ever “Colorado Discoveries” posts. There are several reasons why it’s #1 for tourists: it’s centrally located in the city, it’s ADA-friendly, it’s not 14,000′ high, and there’s no cost to visit.

However, because it’s so popular, it can be very crowded. More »

04. August 2016 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 49: Air Force Academy Graduation & Thunderbirds Airshow 2016 · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,

AF Academy’s football stadium got a new scoreboard this past spring. It’s very nice. Each class designs a crest that is shaped for their class ring. This crest is very interesting to me because of the flames towards the bottom (this class reported during the Waldo Canyon wildfires in 2012) and the icicles at the top (they had their “Recognition” training during a blizzard in 2013).

For the 3rd year, our family was able to go the USAF Academy graduation. This year I was able to go in non-orders status, so I didn’t have to wear my uniform. However, you won’t see any pictures of me in this post.

We were especially excited this year because it’s a year that the President speaks to the graduating class. So we were able to hear President Obama give an uplifting, humorous speech to the graduates. Since this is an election year, the whole country was paying attention this speech. More »

03. August 2016 · Comments Off on Mother’s Day 2016: The Red Pandas at the Denver Zoo · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,
As my sons get older, their posing together for photos is becoming more and more rare...

As my sons get older, their posing together for photos is becoming more and more rare…

Almost exactly one year after Timmy and I spent the day at Denver Zoo to celebrate his stock market contest win, I took both boys up there for Mother’s Day in May. Dave was in Pennsylvania visiting his own parents, and as I’ve said for many years, I only ever want a fun day—doing something I want to do—with my sons. More »