2013: The year of “MAKING IT HAPPEN”

Our holiday memories this year center around traveling. We visited our families for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, which made for lots of fun and lots of driving. (My little Honda passed the 100,000 mile marker somewhere around Kalamazoo, MI!) Aaron reinjured his knee playing ice hockey and now receives consistent encouragement to visit a doctor, and we’re both enjoying the benefits of our Christmas loot: eating lots of air-popped popcorn, drinking homemade lattes, and keeping warm in wool socks. We really lucked out in the loot department this holiday season.

And now, without much time to really refresh over break, we’re heading full-force into a new year of grace and growth. After Aaron’s four-and-a-half years of PhD slaving, we’re close to the end of this grad school thing, though without a solid graduation date yet. It could be this year. Or it could be later. We don’t really know. It’s hard to even think about “resolutions” or “goals” for the new year because so much is unknown about the future. I suppose this is always true, but it seems very apparent that everything about our life – employment, family, church, house, income/finances, location – could drastically change in the next twelve months. Or it could all stay the same!

During our possible-moving-scare last spring, we had a walk-through with a Realtor to discuss exactly what this house needs before advertising it for sale, and since we have a list to work on, our plan for this year is “make it happen” at home by finishing one house project each month. We slacked off on projects of all sizes this fall while Aaron was hunting and I was drowning in work. I may still be drowning this spring, but we’ll be able to get stuff done together. First up? Finishing the kitchen. Shocker, I know. And luckily (for me!!), our bathroom plans were heartily approved for resale interest, so we’ll start working on that when it gets a little warmer.

But for now, we’ve been working on all the little finishing details for the kitchen project and we’re hoping to wrap them up by the end of January! It’s really embarrassing and disheartening to know we started this all two years ago. Next time we redo a kitchen, we’re hiring out some of the stuff and  we’ll take time off work for our labor instead of squeezing all the magic into weekends.

So this is what the year has looked like for us so far. I’d say it’s pretty exciting!

head lamp; fashionably spray-painted vent.

Aaron is wearing his head lamp while installing our fashionably spray-painted vent cover.

Happy New Year!

Summer 2012 – That’s a wrap!

Chilly air is invading my cozy blanket pile on the couch and I’m getting up hours earlier than usual in the mornings. I’d say these are two signs that summer is definitely over! Now between lessons and tutoring, I’m doing lots of thinking, studying, laughing, piano-playing, singing, crock-potting, and generally ignoring piles of unfolded laundry. (I suppose that last part was true even in days of relative underemployment.) I like being busy and I’m looking forward to keeping this pace for the rest of fall! But I knew this active season would come, so I tried to make the most of my final days of relaxation earlier.

So, knowing I would be juggling “real” work now, I spent a little time working on some projects while Aaron was busy in Japan this summer. Oh yeah… He just got to visit another side of the world. While I did crafts in Iowa. No biggie! He can make it up to me later.

The biggest project I tackled was taking care of beautifying the dining room rug. I mentioned before that I basically hate how it looked, but after this makeover I’m very happy with what we have. it’s amazing what cool things come from a small budget and lots of creativity!
I started with this:

I was going for this  inspiration look:

A tutorial convinced me I could do it. And watching Jack Bauer‘s American super-hero stunts powered me through four hours of work. By the end, I was exhausted and telling myself things like, “I can’t stop and go to bed. I have to secure the perimeter! We can’t wait for back-up – GO, GO, NOW! Someone get me the President on a secure line!!” to keep my spirits up. And finally, after six episodes of 24, I had a beautiful rug!

I will confess: I made lots of rookie mistakes. I mean it! Lots of them! If you come over and move my table… well,  just don’t do that. You’ve seen enough here. Most of the crookedness happened because I didn’t realize the sides of my stencil weren’t square. Even though I started out carefully, my uneven edges and inadvertent rotations ended up really messing up the pattern even though I was following my guidelines. And I should have spaced out my repeats more for the look I was going for, but overall it’s totally fine. I should stop thinking about the mistakes. It is still pretty cool, and I think the diamond pattern actually makes it feel really connected with the kitchen tile backsplash, too.

I really enjoyed this project and I would absolutely do it over again. Now I’m looking for an excuse to do this somewhere else in the house!

And I’ll mention this here because I put it on my 30-before-30 list: Now that we’ve been married over four years, I am 90% done with my wedding scrapbook. This book goes from the proposal to our honeymoon… just missing a few random bridal shower pictures in the middle.

And yes, that is the same stencil from the rug on the coffee table. It isn’t that I’m so decoratingly coordinated or anything; I just worked with the supplies I had available when rug inspiration struck.

The final bonus of our summer? Several sets of company (but not enough pictures to document their visits), and now I can’t help thinking we have the absolute best cousins and niece ever.

I’m almost tired just remembering all we stuffed into the summer. It’s definitely over now! And between hunting and teaching, I’m thinking the big projects and vacations may have to slow down for a bit now, too.

finishing the tile! (kitchen, pt 9)

It’s been a while… we misplaced the camera cord, and then my favorite free photo-editing website  became part of  the “Google+” social network and went berserk, losing some of the best features in the process, which made me dislike Google+ more than I already did. Yes, I’m a little bitter. And to think all this frustration took energy that should have been channeled towards house projects! For shame.

Well, the last recorded kitchen update had us with half the tile laid and no grout, like this:
We grouted it right away, and then had to take a little unscheduled break in the tiling for a minor freak-out while deciding what to do about  Aaron’s job offer in New York, but we got busy with the rest of it on another sunny weekend. And when I say “got busy,” I mean that I spent hours chipping out the old cork flooring and ended the night with five blisters on my hand. There are no pictures of this process. I was in a hurry, and my goal is always to get the project finished, not just get a good blog post out of the whole deal. I also have no pictures of Aaron with the tile saw, but rest assured that he slaved away to get everything cut correctly while I spread the thinset adhesive and laid the tile in place. As usual, we are modeling superior footwear safety measures during all construction projects.

It was so fun to see everything start coming together. I’m amazed at what a difference the new streamlined flooring made! You can see that the first half is already grouted while we’re laying the second half.

I started talking about my dreams for the bathroom overhaul on the schedule for this fall. Aaron looked at me like this:

Finally, we got all done:

The tile floor was a little higher than the previous cork/linoleum/carpet combo from before, so we had to make the back door shorter.  This was the perfect opportunity to use the antique plane Aaron’s grandpa passed down to us earlier this year.
 And then, just when the dining area was completely tiled and we could shut the back door again, we proceeded to cover most of the new floor. This is where things got, if you’ll pardon the pun, a little rugly. Since we don’t want our table or chairs to be scooting harshly along the floor, we decided a rug was needed right away. First, I got one rug that was the perfect style, but was a foot too long.

Then I couldn’t find anything in the right size that looked good. Rugs are expensive, and I have West Elm taste with a dumpster-diving/hand-me-down budget. As we often say to ourselves, “Wal-Mart clearance shoppers can’t be choosers.” After driving all over looking at what was available, I picked up this yucky, boring, dull, “off,” brownish one because the price was right ($19.99) and I have some DIY ideas up my sleeve to jazz it up in the future.

For my records just as much as sharing with you, for the floor we used “Rialto White” 12′ and 6′ tiles to make this pattern. For the counter’s back splash grout, I used a mixable recipe and I thought I just hated the grouting process. I would not recommend the Spectra-Lock Stain Proof mix-it-yourself grout to anyone. It was sticky, it made the tile shiny, and my hands are itchy just thinking about it.
 Because I was unhappy with that experience, I shelled out an extra $6 and tried a different  pre-mixed style for the floor and I really LOVED IT. For the kitchen floor we used TEC Sanded Premixed Grout in Vintage White. It went on and wiped off smoothly without adding any unwanted shine to the tile themselves. I think there was a lot less waste with this kind, too. If we do more tiling, which I’m hoping is the case (hee hee), I’m getting this kind again.

This “Vintage White” color is a little “yellower” than I would have chosen, but the tile has a slight gray tint and they balance each other out to mimic the carpet, which was our goal! We are so happy it’s done!

(If you want to catch up on our kitchen project from the start, you can see all the posts HERE!)

And on another house-related note, this week is our 3 year homeowners anniversary! Our potential moving scare gave us a chance to pause and reflect about what we have going on with our house, so we have culled a little furniture and finished a few other “little” projects that have been waiting around forever. We also did a bunch of spring cleaning, gardening, and organizing. It’s such a good feeling… and there are pictures to share, so stay tuned!

painting, staining, and tiling, oh my! (kitchen, pt. 8)

We have put our noses back to the grindstone and accomplished some great feats in our DIY kitchen remodeling progress. I think by condensing picture updates I’m telling myself the project isn’t taking that long. Right… 

Anyway, this weekend we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. This is great, because I love St. Patrick. (Here’s a quick recap of his life from last year.)  However, I couldn’t summon the strength to get excited about corned beef and Irish-style fine adult beverages this year. While this might be because it’s been unseasonably warm in Iowa, I’m guessing it’s because I exerted myself laying tile.

Yes, I was tiling. We have done a lot of work in the kitchen lately. This update is way overdue! Do you remember the blue wall? It’s no longer offending us with it’s brightness. We’re all cream, all the time now. Aaron’s height comes in very handy for painting rooms with vaulted ceilings.

All the backsplash tile is installed and grouted. The new wood around the island is in the middle of the stain-and-seal process, and the brackets are ready to install. (We also desperately need trim here. I know, I know.)

And what is this? Our garage looks like the tile department of a hardware store!? Get out of town! 

In order to get started on the tile project, we had to clear the whole kitchen floor. This means Aaron had to disconnect the stove and shuffle the appliances out of the way.

 We ripped up the carpet (a two-person, four-hand job, so no pictures), chipped up the cork and linoleum floors underneath, and started laying down concrete backer boards.
Incidentally, I was in a tank top the first night we did this and got concrete and fiberglass from the boards scratched all over my arms and neck. I was entirely miserable for about 24 hours, but then the real work began. Aaron says his thinset mixtures look like milkshakes.
True to our usual form, we would start these projects after dinner and work into the night while wearing clothing that’s pretty much inappropriate for the job at hand. (For further examples, see my skirt and bare feet in Part 3 and Aaron in part 7.) I’m also in flip-flops:

As frugal and responsible homeowners, we found encouragement to continue improving our home while listening to the Dave Ramsey radio show playing in the after-dinner time slot. It was motivating to yell “We’re (going to be) DEBT FREE!” every time one of his callers gave a debt-free scream. (Aaron, however, called the debt-free-except-for-the-house guests “cheaters.”) Our resolve to work late would wane about 10:30, when we both found ourselves really, really annoyed by the host of the next show. We may have just gotten tired then. The late hour may have had something to do with it, too, but we would get really cranky and complain about the radio programming while wrapping up our work for the day. Anyway, this was basically what we did every night from last Saturday until now, when we have ended up with this:
 I really wanted to find rectangle tiles to make a herringbone pattern, but tiles of that shape were out of our budget, so we used Rialto White tile in 12′ and 6′ squares. Since we’re extending the tile into the dining room – I mean, even two educated adults can’t manage to keep white carpet under the table clean – we’ve only laid half the tile, and I’m going to put the grout on for these tiles this afternoon. We won’t have the fridge and stove back up until Monday afternoon at the earliest.

Since I was laying the tile while Aaron slaved at the tile saw, I ended up in all sorts of strange body contortions trying to protect my knees and spent several hours a night doing the equivalent of deep lunges and squats. So I feel like the lower half of my body might fall off at any point today. And like I said… we have more than half the total square footage to go.

Installing the tile has been a much bigger project than we expected, but it’s pretty enjoyable and it looks AMAZING. Every time we walk past the work already completed, one of us says “This is unbelievably better!” Considering that the previous kitchen flooring was dirty, ugly, dark, thin carpet, I bet anything could elicit this response from us. But for now we’ll just revel in the excitement of an upgrade!

(PS: Wanna catch up on the kitchen work from the very beginning? Read all about it here.)

a glorious harvest

Even though we’re staying home for a modest Thanksgiving celebration, our cozy house has been bustling for days with culinary preparations and we look forward to enjoying all the wonderful things we love doing for the holidays: logs blazing in the fireplace, hot wassail, music, excessive cheese consumption and a little extra luxury reading. Aaron says these are slightly pretentious activities, but the truth is that we’re just really awesome.

With our other traditions, I’ve noticed that we always get into philosophical money discussions around the holidays, too. These conversations ask not so much “How much are we spending on travel and gifts?” but “Do we like the direction our lifestyle is taking us? What do we want to correct in our current financial path?” Even this year, after we absorbed a significant income reduction and made some noticeable cuts in our spending so I could quit my day job and teach music at home, our conclusion is the same as in the past: we are happiest when we live simply. A shared attitude of renewed contentment is one of the things I love most about this time of year…. but what does it say about our general cultural prosperity that a graduate student and self-employed musician can make a conscious decision to be more frugal? Our cup of blessing overflows! We praise God for the rich supply he has brought us and pray that our lives will become wholesome grain for His glorious harvest, too.

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
all is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God’s own field, fruit as praise to God we yield;
Wheat and tares together sown are to joy or sorrow grown;
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring thy final harvest home;

Gather thou thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified, in thy presence to abide;
Come, with all thine angels, come, raise the glorious harvest home.
– “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” by Henry Alford, 1844

…Okay, did you think this was going to be a post of thoughtful Thanksgiving commentary? I’m way too ADD to stick with one thing for very long. Those who want to see what our kitchen looks like can now offer thanks for this gift I present: Check out this video of how un-finished (and yet, so beautiful!) the kitchen is looking these days!

punctuated equilibrium (kitchen, pt 7)

The way we move forward on this kitchen project is rightly compared to the theory of punctuated equilibrium evolution. The idea with PE is that the world evolved inconsistently, with long periods of stasis and rapid evolutionary change occurring at various points along the way. This is supposed to account for the gaps in the fossil record. Of course I’m not on board with this in regards to life and origins, but it’s definitely a great analogy how things are progressing in this DIY kitchen adventure.

And before I get started, I need to get something off my chest: We have a whole room in the back decorated with a hunting theme. Deer skulls, turkey  talons, rustic art, signs that say things like “We interrupt this marriage to bring you HUNTING SEASON,” antique rifle ads, etc.  While this isn’t something I mention often,  I can’t deny it after sharing the following pictures.

In order to move the refrigerator, we had to reconfigure the funky kitchen pantry, which was just a big hole in the blue wall. That hole took space from the closet of our hunting-themed back bedroom/office/potential-nursery-if-we-had-a-baby-here-but-the-poor-thing-would-probably-get-speared-by-antlers. It looks like this:

closet with pantry cut-out

And Aaron, working hard as usual, took off the lid to that wood box, which was basically the pantry ceiling.


There are a million skipped details here about moving outlets, ripping up carpet, and splicing wires. Basically, Aaron is a wiring and outlet-moving champion. He did require the use of an assistant, which means there were no free hands for taking pictures. After lots of this beastly wiring was finished, we cut up into the drywall and made space to move the fridge to it’s new home.

wall cave, sweet wall cave

Yes, that blue wall is indeed hideous and it will not be like that forever. But for now, I’m really glad the fridge is safely where it belongs – a cave in the wall. Before the project is complete, we will create built-in shelves on both sides of the fridge, put trim around them and stain it to match the woodwork. I have some great inspiration for this area’s final look. I’m really excited about painting the wall (obviously), adding a clock, and using the built-in cabinet shelves for wine storage and baskets!

fiat lux (kitchen, pt 6)

This might be a cheater post, since I’m calling it a kitchen update, but… oh well. I’m not going to apologize for that. There is definitely more progress than just what I have written here, but this is all I have pictures of so far. With the big job switch up, I’m mildly underemployed for most of this summer and we’re hoping this will speed up some of the kitchen work. I should have more time to blog about it, too. We all win!

We had one puny can light above the main part of the kitchen. We love that the ceiling is super dark, but this cool effect is totally lost without effective lighting. In this picture, it totally feels like the darkness is overtaking the whole room instead of sharing awesomeness with the whole room.
I knew I wanted a track light there, and when we were stove shopping I noticed a sleek 6-bulb unit in the clearance rack. Since I anticipated a little over $100.00 on this, there was no shock at the sticker price of $127.00. But you know, I’m not one to pay full price for that kind of thing. It was marked down to $23.00 (yes!) in satin nickel, which is the wrong color  (it’s pretty, but in our kitchen – no!). No fear: I knew I could spray paint it (double yes!), so we put it in the cart and grabbed some oil-rubbed bronze spray paint for my cheap-o DIY transformation.

This is the silly explanation on why I really wanted to spray paint this track: For our house, my rule of thumb is that light fixtures match the color ceiling they touch.  So the stuff in the main living area with dark ceilings will always have oil-rubbed bronze metal fixtures. Any hardwired lights we replace for bedrooms, bathroom and the back of the hall would have white or lighter silvery metal to flow with the normal white ceiling. This just seems the most streamlined way for us to go and I’m happy with our plan!

So, after we got sick of the boxed lights laying around forever, Aaron used his man power to turn off some of the electricity to the house. I should probably mention that when we turned off the lights, it was the middle of the night on Friday. Some people stay up late and get drunk on the weekends, we choose to work on house projects. In this case, with the help of a head lamp.

Aaron claims this headgear will be handy for his many future spelunking expeditions.

And after Aaron spent a half hour of finagling with it, I went to the garage and sawed some wood to create a brace for the fixture box while he was still holding the light up to the ceiling with his arms. He’s basically Atlas. Or, as he would mistakenly call himself, “Achilles”. (Nice heels, babe.)

statue of a greek god, cropped for obvious reasons

Finally, at last, we got everything up securely and connected all the wires and installed all the futuristic curly fry light bulbs. In our kitchen, it was like the first moment where God cried out “Let there be light!” Suddenly we knew this was how it was supposed to be in here all along.

before, with just the one can light

after, with six lights on a track

the view from the dining room. don't worry - the blue color and weird curtainy thing on the pantry are practically history!

just for today

It feels like there is so much going on right now! Or maybe it is more accurate to say that my to-do and to-finish list is so long that my blood pressure rises when I think about it all. I actually feel much like I would in the midst of a stressful semester at college, with papers, tests, social commitments, and personal goals pressing heavily on me all at the same time. Of course I know these things will somehow all come together – or that if they don’t, my life won’t fall apart – but they create this sense of burden and obligation over me anyway.

Here is an annotated list of what I’m feeling like I need to get taken care of this summer. I’m not kidding, I have edited some things off this list for the sake of brevity and privacy.

have Aaron help replace light fixtures in hall and kitchen
have Aaron help with redoing the whole freaking Kitchen
find art and hang the rest of the wall collage in the hallway, which includes scraping and painting the rest of the frames.
organize yarn collection that quickly spiraled out of control. Probably give some away.
have Aaron get rid of the big computer
have Aaron get rid of his books
get rid of a bunch of my books
OMG how do I have EVEN MORE CLOTHES I NEED TO GIVE AWAY!?? Do the less-cool clothes just asexually reproduce in my closet while I am at work?
Sort piano music
finish mirror collage on fireplace
paint brick fireplace
one more coat of stain on the outside brick
one more coat of paint on the garage door
finish the retaining wall
re-lay the stone walkway in the backyard
toss half the stuff in the linen closet
the laundry room. the garage. Oh my gosh. I know at least half of it is Aaron’s (stuff) too but I don’t know how this stuff spirals out of control so quickly.
sew covers for living room throw pillows
(gift project 1, started)
(gift project 2, planned but not started)
refinish a few places on the trim where it got scratched/dented/scraped
refinish the big dresser in the back room
try to get rid of junk from kitchen… I defs don’t use all my gadgets.
find out how to get important signature on retirement account paperwork
find out how to get my windshield replaced b/c of the crack
paint canvases
have a wine-and-cheese party
repaint some of the deck furniture
find a cheap lounger so I can lay out and work on things while getting a tan in my own back yard.

This is just the things I could write down while sitting here and not looking at anything. Does this make you feel stressed?

Anyway, in the midst of this all  I’ve been thinking so intently about things like “taking it one day at a time” and working on trusting God each day for daily bread, that is, in some way surrendering my innate craving for a preplanned weekly, monthly, yearly “menus” of what God will provide.  Not that I have already achieved these things by any means, but that I recognize the importance of striving for growth here.

Lacking time to record any further insights on this topic, which is hopefully more interesting than my outrageous homeowners to-do-list, here are a few articles and blogs from some great bloggers that have shaped my thoughts about accepting each day from it’s maker:

Wendy writes on Godliness with Contentment.
Ann writes about Hopes and Dreams.
Jen has some guest authors sharing about The Lord’s Prayer, word-by-word “This” and “Day

i pity the fool (kitchen, pt 5)

If this is where we are for the fifth installment of the kitchen project, I am a little scared about how many posts this will take up. However, things are now looking hot and lovely along one side of my kitchen. For this I am glad.

looking over the island

Wow! What a difference. I don’t wish to misrepresent myself here: I couldn’t fall asleep the first night the sink was in because of how awesome the faucet looked. Joy bursts over in my heart every time I glance at it. The towel is behind the sink because we haven’t caulked between the counter and the backsplash tile yet and I’m trying to keep water from getting in there. Hopefully that helps.

it looks so much brighter in here!

This picture is a more accurate representation of the color now. With a shiny stainless sink in place of the grimy pink one, and a white-based countertop instead of the yellow one, it really looks like we added more lights already!
We were a little surprised at the way the tile looks after being grouted and sealed. Maybe you remember from the video that they looked a little powdery and grayish? They are definitely more yellow and brown than we originally thought, but I love the textured look and we’re still really happy with the tile we chose.

looking good!

The tile was remarkably easy to install. I am mildly allergic to the adhesive we used, so Jenny did that part of the job to avoid aggravating my rash further. Both the big mosaics and the border had a mesh backing, so we just lined the tiles up and squished them onto the tile glue. After Jenny left, I spent nine hours laboriously grouting 3/4 of the backsplash. It was awful. Then I realized I had the wrong tool, which was making my life miserable and wasting lots of grout. I purchased a $3 grout floater at Lowes and finished the last section in 15 minutes.

still need to cut out the tape and caulk the edge!

How do I feel after making these huge accomplishments? What do I want to say to anyone who might come against me in these conquests? I feel like a warrior, like a mighty champion, like a powerful and conquering victor. More specifically, I feel a little like Mr. T.
And I pity the fool who would undo what we have done here.

gift of self (kitchen, pt 4)

We made quite a bit of kitchen progress this weekend. The internet may not have enough room for me to write everything that happened at the Hummel house during those few short days, but we have the highlights here. If you are bored and only care about my kitchen progress, just scan down and watch the video at the end.

Of first importance, our lovely friend Jenny came. Taking extra time off of her job at Hillsdale, she drove hours and hours alone to help me with hard manual labor for the whole weekend. When we first met in a freshman dorm, Jenny and I knew we were kindred spirits because we both grew up helping our dads build things. Our friendship deepened on a ride to Wal-Mart where we discovered other mutual passions like hot tea, well-raised children and traditional hymns. From there we led a small group Bible study together and served on a Christian students leadership team before living in the same dormpartment for senior year. So yes, we dissected various aspects of the royal wedding (the folds in her skirt extending to the train of the dress! trees in the church! such a tasteful bouquet!) and chatted about life and love while sharing deep thoughts and feelings during our visit, but we both have know-how when it comes to things like hammers, circular saws and power sanders so we made the most of our unusual similarities with my kitchen project. I don’t know many women who would take time off from work and spend a full day driving to help a friend demo and rebuild part of her kitchen! Jenny is truly one in a million.

Our first adventure included a trip to Lowes on Friday night… Finally! After  six years of friendship we could do a project together! All the male employees asking if we needed assistance as we filled the cart with materials needed for our weekend plans. I suppose it’s not every day they see two giggling girls loading a cart with porcelain tile and comparing circular saws, so we can’t blame them for offering to help.

having the time of our lives

We bought everything we needed for installing my tile backsplash. There were a few things that needed to happen before the tile could go up, but these challenges seemed more exciting than insurmountable.
The old countertop? Oh, we’ll rip that bad boy out, easy.
The sink? It gets a little tricky, but Aaron can help us.
What else could stand in our way?
Please, try to stifle your laughter.  We were doing the best we could and our first evening of ignorance was blissful.

It was pretty easy to remove the laminate from the countertop, which made the kitchen look like this:

so easy! I could demo kitchens for a living!

Then we had to start pulling the wood countertop off the cabinets. This was more difficult than the ease with which we pried off the laminate cover. There was a little swearing (all me) and for a time I tried to convince myself I could leave the counter as-is, add some oil and call it butcher block. But the lovely faux-granite counter was already sitting in the basement and we were at the point of no return, so somehow we managed to press ahead with the demolition. The wood was secured with glue and finish nails, so Jenny dug around with one of my little tools and got the practically-headless nails removed… What a woman.

nails in the counter

After the nails were out, it was time to remove the pink sink (oh happy day!) and get the counter up and out. We were planning to use my car jack to get extra leverage since the counter was so heavy and long. Aaron customized the length of an old, splintered axe handle for this undertaking.

look at him go

He wanted to hold it while watching hockey. Perhaps it felt like a stick in his hands, making the game all the more real to him.

Aaron watching hockey

So with Aaron’s help we disconnected the plumbing, ripped out the sink, and then we were able to pry up the old counter. I’m not going to lie, it was a difficult and crazy job. Jenny was a demolition beast. She has such a way with crowbars.

What a classy lady

You will see behind her the jack from my car. We used this to pry the counter up and it was amazing. We used the custom-length axe handle and got it right up under the edge of the counter. Twist, twist, twist, pop! The counter creaked off and we were able to take the whole thing out to the backyard in one piece. I imagined this process taking fifteen minutes. It actually took a whole day.

this was an excellent trick!

It was a very busy weekend, but we were so blessed to have Jenny with us. We are so grateful for the self-gift that she was to us during the quick trip. There are very few things as precious as time spent with a dear friend!
Overall the weekend included:
lots of splinters
3 trips to Lowes
2 trips to Ace Hardware
2 trips to grocery stores
2 hockey games

I will have more pictures of the finished counter and tile backsplash soon! I pity the fool who tries to take off the counter we so laboriously installed!

Here is the basic gist of this post in video format. I love how Aaron turns on the circular saw as if on cue when I’m talking about the support and shims he was cutting. There is also a preview of the tile we chose, and I mention that Aaron found our sink on the side of the road. That’s right folks, somewhere in the UP of Michigan, he got this baby for fa-REE.  We are unashamedly frugal. Unashamed!