Powder Fun Time

We had our deck shoveled in Breck yesterday and this was the photo Curt received:

And this was the snow report I woke up to this morning:

Son of a! It's supposed to continue dumping snow all day today and tomorrow! We'll be slumming it up and back in I-70 traffic tomorrow with the rest of the weekend warriors because our house is rented. What a bummer, especially since last weekend we were up there and conditions were less than stellar - extremely icy and windblown. I've never been in fresh powder anywhere near this deep so I'm pretttttty excited to rub my face in it!

And on Sunday, we'll be pulling for these guys.

Go Hawks! :) #bandwagon #12thman


New Red cb2 Triumph Chairs

The room off our kitchen/dining area, the non-tv living room, has been the most unloved room in our house since we moved in last June. We have gone around and around about what to do in there...what type of furniture, what layout, what makes sense for our use? We've never had a "sitting" room and I'm not into formal rooms anyway, but I DO like having this room without a tv. There is enough space over the fireplace for a tv, but we've been going strong with just one tv in each house for the last few years and we don't really want another one, especially just around the corner from the tv we already own.

When we moved in, I put a newly craiglist-purchased leather and nailhead couch against the longest wall which looked terrible. I was trying not to block any of the windows. That lasted about a week before I moved it under the front window. We moved a chair and ottoman from our loft area to this room which didn't go with the nailhead couch at all. We finally moved that chair, ottoman and couch up to Breck before Thanksgiving and then this room had no furniture at all other than the bowling lane coffee table Curt built. This was unfortunate, because I really like this room. I get home from work before Curt and I never go into the other living room with the tv. In fact, a couple Sundays ago while trying to catch the Seahawks play-off game, I realized I didn't even know how to turn our tv ON... 

Anyway, I like sitting in the non-tv room after work because I often have something going on in the kitchen and it's always where the dogs hang out on their bed. I can read the mail (I just learned which mailbox is ours!) or my Kindle or iPhone which is usually in my purse from my bus ride (I'm too lazy to go upstairs to get the iPad). But oh how this room has vexed me. Then I saw this picture on Pinterest and loved the cozy library-ish feel and the style of the low-slung leather chairs. That's the vibe I've wanted in our room ever since. 

Our room doesn't look a whole lot like that other than the corner fireplace, but it gave me some direction. We bought a different couch for our tv room and moved the one in there to this room so at least we had somwhere to sit. We hung a big world map from IKEA on the wall which made it feel more library-ish. Then I read on this blog post (the before) and link (the after) the idea about using the front/formal sitting/living room as a "reading room." That's totally what I want. It's what we do already in there, even if "reading" means staring at our iPhones/iPad. It gets nice light from three windows and has a cozy fireplace. It hasn't gotten a ton of use yet because we weren't settled on what we wanted furniture-wise in there, but after living in the house about six months, I finally purchased some chairs for this room. These red leather Triumph chairs went on sale at cb2 for $129 apiece and we saved $60 on shipping since cb2 recently opened a warehouse in Aurora where one can pick up purchases. Pretty sweet. Curt was a little skeptical about how comfy they'd be but there were dozens of reviews on their site stating how unexpectedly nice they were to sit in.

He picked them up Thursday at lunch and we put them together on Sunday evening.

The bare orchid was a gift from my coworkers and the succulent is in a pot made by a friend who brought it to our house-warming party. It matches the wall color exactly!
They are super bright and modern and the angular lines go great with the bowling lane coffee table, but probably don't match the style of the couch at all. I kind of like that; what can I say, I know nothing about furniture! Our room doesn't look anything like my Pinterest pic above and actually looks a lot like a typical sitting room after all, but I'm still relieved to have this area slightly more furnished and colorful because it's the first thing I see every day when I come home from work. We sat on the new chairs, along with the dogs, last night to watch a show on the iPad so they passed that test. Maybe we need a rug too? Next up in this room is redoing the tile and mantel on our fireplace, which is directly behind the red chairs. I deliberately/awkwardly left it out of these photos. But...small progress! 


Somewhere New: Steamboat!

I already mentioned that my plans and goals for this year mostly revolve around adventure, trying new things and going new places. One of the things Curt and I talked about when we realized that our cabin was likely going to be rented much of the ski season (helping to chip away at our ginormous annual property tax, insurance, HOA, snowplow, heating and cleaning bills) was that we wanted to venture out to other resorts in our state. This provided the perfect opportunity to get out of our routine - we want to be outside playing in the snow, but we no longer have the option of being at our house in Breck every weekend. Knowing that holiday weekends are no fun at the five very busy mountains on our Epic Pass anyway, not to mention the ridiculous I-70 traffic jams, we took advantage of a friend with a relative in Steamboat Springs to take a little road trip where we hoped we'd find smaller crowds.

In spite of really wanting to go to Steamboat, I will admit that I dragged my feet big time last week. I was still feeling crappy from bronchitis and was overall tired from constantly coughing for the last two weeks, not to mention it hadn't snowed in almost a week. Steamboat has a reputation for the best powder in the state and I was okay with waiting until February or March to take this trip if it meant better snow conditions. I'd also wiped out on a patch of icy sidewalk near our house and bruised both palms and smashed my pinky finger so I wasn't looking forward to snowboarding at all. I debated having Curt go with our friend by himself, but in the end he talked me into going, and as usual, I was so glad I went.

We were lucky to stay with a family member of our friend so we dropped the dogs off at a kennel, drove up Friday after work and basically went straight to bed. Steamboat Springs is only three hours away and we thankfully didn't hit any traffic. We got up early Saturday, ate a quick breakfast at The Shack in town and headed right to the mountain. What we learned right off the bat was that even on a prime holiday weekend, Steamboat was a lot more mellow than any mountain I've been to in Colorado. People were not in a rush at all. Lines were short. It surprised me that many of the runs were pretty flat, especially on the far right side but even on the back side where we only took one run because the lines were longest back there. Steamboat has slow lifts and a bunch of them were 2-man. It all added up to a super relaxed time and I had a blast. 

We moved backwards across the mountain - starting in the center and then heading to the far right, then to the back, back to the front and then to the left.
At the end of the day, we finally made our way to the far left side of the mountain where the runs got steeper and that was where I had the most fun. Steamboat is known for their trees and even I could go in and around plenty of trees on almost every run. It's not every day you get to ski through aspen groves! The views were incredible and quite different than in Summit County, because Steamboat is surrounded by flat land unlike any of the resorts on our Epic Pass. Many times I had to stop to take in the surroundings because the views were so beautiful. The weather started out frigid and near zero in the morning but warmed up to over 30 degrees later, so we were all really overdressed.

Curt took his first picture of me snowboarding ever, on our first run of the day, and I am barely moving down a cat track. In fact I think I'm about to sit down right here. Not exciting.
At the top of Sunshine Peak
Lunch (drink) break at the mid mountain lodge Four Points
People offered to take our photo all day long everywhere we went

Best bacon bloody ever!
With our buddy Stephen who hosted us at his uncle's house. Stephen is an old friend who moved to Boulder last year. I met Curt and Stephen on the same night back in Seattle in 2000!
At this point in the afternoon, I was sweating buckets in my down parka, double base layers, turtle fur and brand new leather mittens
At the top of Pioneer Ridge, my favorite area of the mountain based on our first day here

We were able to hit every area of the mountain because it's on the smaller side. I think we rode every single lift. When we go back in a month or two, I know where I will spend more time. We boarded all day, making our way across the front side as the lifts closed behind us, one by one, staggered every 15 minutes. Some days, I can't wait to get off the mountain because I'm cold, but this was such a gorgeous day that I truly did not want to stop. We headed to town for happy hour at Cantina and then ended up at an awesome divey Cajun bar called Sunpie's that I can't wait to eat at on our next visit. 

The best part about our weekend in the 'Boat is that we bought a ski pass that includes two days there and two days at Winter Park. So not only am I looking forward to our next (hopefully powder) day at Steamboat but we will also get to check out another resort we've never been to when we hit up Winter Park. It was awesome to get out of our normal surroundings and see more of Colorado outside the I-70 corridor. It was one of those perfect days where I almost can't believe I live here. I never ever pictured myself living in this state or loving the snow or even being able to stand upright on a snowboard much less ride one down a mountain. I used to cry cross-country skiing. Sometimes I wonder how this all happened!


2014: Choose Your Own Adventure

I have not wanted to log into my blog recently. I was not ready to end or recap 2013, much less start thinking about goals for 2014. I'm behind on all sorts of updates and info. Well, too late. 2014 is here! Unfortunately, we both started off the year with bronchitis which hasn't left us yet. It didn't stop us from snowboarding in more than a foot of fresh powder over the very first weekend of this year, which was pretty awesome, but we are paying the price this week for sure. What were we thinking going out in subzero weather, already feeling sick and sucking air? I'm not quite sure, but I guess we were both excited to be back in Colorado after a week and a half in the Pacific Northwest visiting friends and family.

I was surprised to read many FB posts and hear elsewhere during the last few weeks of the year that many of my friends were happy to see 2013 go. Every year sees ups and downs, and while the last year brought some stress and sadness to us and those around us with a little bit of family turmoil, friend/family changes and moves, loss of a family member and a family pet, what struck me about 2013 was how positive it seemed to me, overall, in spite of these things. We were able to spend a lot more time with family and friends back home in the last year compared to any year we've lived in Colorado, and that had a big impact on me. One on hand, I feel more rooted and happy in Colorado than I ever have, but on the other hand, I feel as close to and appreciative of our friends back home in OR and WA than ever before. This is good and bad. Happy and hard.

Best weekend of 2013 at the Gorge - Curt's cool iPhone pic
Another thing that stands out about 2013 is that I felt more inspired by others than in years past - especially by women, and even more so, the women around me. Maybe I just paid closer attention. Not only do I feel surrounded by interesting, smart, courageous, funny, risk-taking, healthy, generous and kind women in my daily life, but I read a ton of non-fiction books by women last year that each had a different impact and stuck with me throughout the whole year (some standouts were Wild, My Life in France, The Happiness Project, Lean In and A Homemade Life). They were all thought-provoking, motivating or made me more curious about something or willing to change something about myself. I've talked about them a lot because they've been on my mind a lot. I also read a lot of other blogs that inspire me and give me ideas, but last year I discovered even more women out there that I can learn from or be challenged by or can just relate to.

Wise words from this woman
We started off 2013 by talking about a potential move, and that finally happened midway through the year. It was not without hiccups and delays and expense and annoyance, the least of which was not getting the house we originally wanted (a running theme), but moving just one mile away into a better neighborhood made a tremendous impact on my quality of life. My daily routine is so improved, and as someone who spends a lot of time outside in the neighborhood hitting the pavement by taking the bus to and from work, along with walking our dogs, the little parts of my days that got nicer all added up to me being a lot happier. It was not an outcome of the move that I expected, but has been delightful nonetheless. One of the best parts about walking home from my bus stop is the gorgeous unobstructed view of the city skyline that on most nights is graced with over the top colors reflected from the unbelievably gorgeous sunsets over the mountains to the west. Sometimes the little things in life make the biggest difference! A good lesson. We are also slowly making over room by room of the house to fit our personalities more.

Revamped kitchen
My favorite things in the new house, or any house. Penny and Greta!
Updated master bath
We closed out 2013 with as much snowboarding as we could handle with as many friends as we could cram into our cabin each weekend. We also celebrated three wonderful holidays - Thanksgiving in Breck, Christmas at the Oregon coast and New Year's Eve in Seattle. Many of these pics are borrowed from friends.

homemade tofurkey
Our friend Jamen, who I went to junior high and high school with back in Twin Falls, Idaho - small world!
3rd year in a row celebrating Thanksgiving in Colorado with my little brother Paul, Boulder's finest resident!

Pacific City, my favorite place on the Oregon Coast
NYE dinner in Seattle
Obviously VIP! ;)
Now, it's the beginning of 2014, and Curt and I have talked about our plans for this year - this fresh start with 12 new months, all a blank slate. We have set some goals real estate wise to change things around a bit and give us more flexibility and unload some debt, but beyond the practical and financial and boring things, we've spent more time talking about the fun trips we have planned or still want to plan. We want to get out into some new places, see some new sights and have some new adventures. All of the boring financial steps we've taken over the last 10 or so years - things that kept us home and tied up our money - have finally started to reap some benefits (especially thanks to renting our Breck house out on VRBO, which had its ups and downs). This lets my practical to a fault husband relax his purse strings a TINY bit. He has already seen a lot of this world; I have not. Doing it together makes me excited. Just exploring more of Colorado thrills me and we've acquired backpacking gear to make this summer likely full of fun (and many mishaps, I'm sure). We hiked our first two 14ers (Sherman and Quandary) last fall and can't wait to tackle more this year.

October trip!
We have a few house/DIY projects on our plates too. Bigger projects this year include finishing our basement in Denver and adding a kitchen and built-in dining area to our basement in Breck. Smaller projects include re-tiling our fireplace in Denver (starting this weekend with demo!) and adding a new reclaimed wood mantle to that. I also want to make a starburst mirror out of pine beetle kill scraps. Just something I saw online and liked.

We might even build a more lodge-looking reclaimed wood bunkbed for our basement in Breck after seeing some very cool ideas in the new modern/rustic hostel that just opened in Breck.

I'll get right on all of this as soon as I stop hacking up a lung every few minutes :)


Concrete Counters - Prep & Pour

After spending the previous weekend installing our IKEA cabinets (here and here), we spent this last Saturday pouring our concrete countertops! I didn't document this at all when we did it last year in Breck with the help of a bunch of friends (on our fifth wedding anniversary!) because I was busy grouting five bathrooms that day. And this time, on Saturday, I left at 9:30am to take our dogs to get their annual shots and when I got home less than two hours later, the concrete was already 95% poured. Bummer! But I managed to catch a few more steps at least.

Our kitchen looked like this the Sunday prior. Cabinets were in and Curt cut 3/4" plywood sheets to fit the shape that we planned on pouring our concrete counters, and screwed them into place. 

This time, unlike last year, he also put plastic sheeting over the plywood. Apparently this helps prevent moisture from seeping into the plywood, which could cause cracking. We did have two hairline cracks appear in our counters in Breck on a very narrow strip of concrete behind a sink, so I guess this is a good idea. We didn't fasten the sheets, just laid them over the plywood. An advantage of the plastic sheeting is that you can extend it down to the ground, protecting the cabinets themselves during the messy pouring and finishing steps. Another recommended method we read about online was using cement backerboard, which would also work to not draw moisture out of the concrete and cause cracking, as well as provide a super sturdy and solid surface to build on. 

Curt had already cut a hole on the plywood for the sink, but he also needed to add 1x4 edges around the hole. We didn't need to use the plastic edging from Z Countertops because the edges didn't need to be nice here - the sink has a slight lip around the three sides which covers up those edges. Curt used the same 1x4s to make butt end forms for the sides of the stove and the refrigerator where the edges didn't need to be 100% perfect.

But to back up, as you can see above, he already put the plastic edging all around the plywood bases. We used Z Counterform products for our counters in Breck and have been extremely happy with them, so we ordered the same materials this time (except the concrete mix itself, which I think came back to bite us). They offer multiple styles of edging though I prefer the chunky plain square edging myself. They ship you long strips that you trim to fit and screw into the plywood to hold them into place. The forms themselves need to be completely level also, because they determine the height of the concrete. It's also important to get the corners mitered well at 45 degrees. A few of our corners took multiple tries with the saw to get them perfect. Curt added duct tape outside the corners so they don't shift at all when you start spreading heavy, wet concrete up against them. These plastic edge molds just break off when you're ready to remove them. I was shocked when we removed these forms last year to find glassy smooth and shiny concrete sides with super sharp edges. They were smoother than anything we could have achieved by sanding.

Smooth and shiny once you break them off!
The next step is to cut wire mesh to fit into your edging. This is similar to what you'd do for any other concrete pour - it adds strength. In the photos above and below, you can see that we added a pretty big overhang to the right, where there was previously a half wall. This caused Curt some concern because we didn't know how it would turn out. Would we need to use brackets underneath for support? Would it be too much weight? When he researched this online, there was not a whole lot of info. Our overhang is about 10.5 inches which affords enough room underneath to sit comfortably on our stools.

So, we used 6"x6" mesh along with 3/8" pieces of rebar (you can see the thicker pieces of rebar in the photo above) added to the overhang area in the hope that combined, they would add enough structural support. The pieces of rebar were attached to the wire mesh using wire ties. We also propped up the corners of the overhang with 2x4 supports because the plywood was leaning down, and we wanted everything to be level. We're planning on leaving those supports there for 28 days - the full length of time concrete takes to cure. At that point, we're hoping not to need brackets or corbels of any kind underneath to support the counter. 

After all that prep, Saturday was finally the day to pour! This was what it looked like when I left for the vet with my dogs.

And this was what it looked like when I got back home, less than two hours later!

We bought 15 80-lb bags of concrete mix from Home Depot ($16 per bag) but only used 11 bags. Curt did not use a standard mix that has pea gravel, he used a mix that is much stronger and meant for counters.  We borrowed an electric barrel mixer like we used last year. Funny story - Curt picked up the mixer Friday night from our friend who lives a mile away. When he went to set it up Saturday morning, he couldn't find the detachable legs. He backtracked in the car and found the legs on the side of the road, thankfully! They must have fallen off the trailer the night before. Curt should have been on Sanford & Sons...

Curt mixed two bags of concrete mix at a time. We also used Quikrete liquid concrete color like we did last year. We used very little dye last year because I wanted light gray counters and I got exactly what I wanted. Curt was hoping they'd be darker so he decided to use more color this time around. Our counters are still not dry so we're not sure exactly what color they will be! In order to get the color consistent for each batch of mix, you mix the dye into water first, then concrete, so the proportions are the same each time. We used one bottle per five gallons of water. Each bag of mix, according to its packaging, should get 1 gallon of water. Even though Curt added an extra quart of water per bag of mix, our concrete was still maybe too dry when it was poured, which is we think what caused the texture problems like bumps and air bubbles/holes we're watching come out as it dries. Boo.

While the pour itself didn't take long, there is more to do after just getting the concrete into the forms. It needs to be "worked" and smoothed and troweled for quite a long time to get it looking good. Curt put an ad for a concrete finisher on CL and he found the guy pictured below who had only done floors, not counters. Smoothing concrete is the same no matter where you put it, so I don't think it was his fault that we have some flaws. He charged Curt $100 for about 4 hours total of work so it wasn't a huge loss either way. But he really struggled with the concrete as large bubbles appeared throughout the surface. Usually air bubbles appear at the edges, and you use a vibrating sander to shake them to the surface. Curt did use a sander but I think our concrete was a little bit too dry for it to be super effective. Most of the edges look nice and sharp but the most prominent edges on the outside of the bar and where you enter the kitchen are not solid - they're full of air pockets. The vibrating part was supposed to be my job and I wish I had been home in time so Curt would have been more able to closely monitor the concrete mixing itself.

Later Saturday evening, after the surfaces were hard to the touch, we covered the concrete with more plastic sheeting. We didn't do this last year but it's supposed to slow the drying process and prevent cracking while it slowly cures. It's been interesting to see how it's started drying over the week because some portions have dried quickly (probably close to our floor vent) while others are still damp under the plastic. At first I thought the color was way too dark but I think as it dries it will be the lighter gray color I wanted. The same thing happened last year and then it just finally dried to a super light gray.

We took the sheet off this side because we just couldn't wait any longer, and it's getting closer to the final color, and more even
The bumps throughout the concrete are going to be interesting to tackle. The concrete surface itself is very smooth, but it just has mounds the size of a quarter or larger all over the place. I'm assuming once I start sanding that these will pop and then we'll have craters. This is common in concrete countertop projects - at least with DIYers! - and we've read that people have had lots of success making a slurry of wet concrete to patch the holes. While we didn't have to do that last year, we are going to have to give it a shot this time around. We can also reattach the plastic edges to the sides that are full of holes and see if we can bulk them out a little more. My biggest concern is matching the color, but I've read there is a lot of room for error and that it takes a LOT of dye to make drastic changes in the color of the concrete. So, we shall see what happens when I started sanding these suckers...