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Another Kitchen Renovation

2011 July 23

In May after our house had been on the market for a year with zero offers, we switched Realtors.  We brought in the big guns, and she came in guns blazing determined to sell it quick for us.

She had some staging comments but nothing unexpected.  The greatest piece of advice she gave us was to not drop the price, but instead to update the kitchen.  The reason we hadn’t done that was we thought it would be too much money and still might not get us a buyer.

Here’s a before picture of the kitchen:

Our new Realtor assured us we could accomplish a kitchen face lift for cheap and she even had a small army of contractors that could do the work at very good prices.  The first thing on the list was granite counter tops.  I am not a big fan of granite, but if that’s what the buyer’s want, then fine, granite they could have.

We thought it would be $3,000-$5,000 for granite but the estimate including installation came in at $1,900.  Done.

We had to hire a carpenter to level the cabinets and add a little more support to a few of them.  That didn’t cost much.

Here’s a picture of the cabinets after the carpenter did his magic and leveled them and created supports for the heavy granite.

At this point the new wood floor was installed.  That was also less than expected.  For a factory finished hardwood, we paid $1100 installed.  And it looked amazing.

I then headed down to IKEA to buy some new appliances.  We got the Nutid oven, the Eldig cooktop, and the Luftig range hood.  Pretty good deal for under $1300.

Our existing dishwasher was fine, and we decided to get a refrigerator off of Craigslist to save several hundred dollars.  We found a good stainless Frigidaire for $400.

The existing cabinets in the kitchen were made from 200 year old attic boards, so we felt that they needed to be saved.  They were looking a bit tired, but otherwise were fine.  Plus, they were huge, so ripping them out wouldn’t have added a lick of functionality.  Our realtor brought over a can of gel stain that had poly in it and suggested I try that in the dents and cracks to bring out the distressed areas.  I did some internet research and discovered that distressed (“reclaimed”) wood is all the rage.  Ok, I thought, but let’s take it up a notch.   More dents = better!

I got a handfull of nails, screws, bolts and other miscellany and wrapped it up in a cloth and proceeded to beat the crap out of the cabinets (and the few pieces of new wood that were added by the carpenter).    Then I applied the gel stain and was amazed at how great the cabinets looked.  It really brought them back to life.

Here’s a picture with the finished look on the right and the unfinished on the left. It’s kind of hard to tell at this point that they were going to look good.

The cabinets ended up looking amazing. It was risky bashing them with blunt metal objects, but it really paid off.

Here are some after pictures:

Total cost of kitchen renovation was just under $6000.
Appliances from Ikea: $1300
Craigslist fridge:  $400
Wood Floor: $1100
Granite Counter tops $1900
Carpentry:  $350
Electrical:  $300
Plumbing: $50

We received an offer when we were still in the middle of renovations, and they hadn’t even seen the finished product.  We closed in less than a month and were super happy with our decision.  I think dropping the price $10,000 would have  been a mistake.  It turned out to be a much better idea to spend $6,000 on the kitchen.  It breathed new life into the house and got it sold!

We moved into our tiny house in Freeport two weeks ago and couldn’t be happier.  We are almost unpacked and everything fits just fine.  I’ll post some pictures when we are completely unpacked in another week.   We are having house guests mid-August so we have a deadline looming to keep us motivated!

The Tiny House Renovation Project

2010 December 27

We purchased our tiny house back in June.  It was sold “as-is” by the estate of a deceased woman.  She had 8 children (all girls) and lived in this 1,100 square foot cape.  The house was built in the early 60’s and was built solidly.  We loved the bones of the house, but to really live there we had to make a few changes.


The kitchen was the most obvious place to start.  Standing in the existing kitchen, I just couldn’t picture myself living there.  There were only a handful of cabinets and the room was completely closed off from the living areas. I couldn’t picture myself preparing a meal in this space. We had to do something drastic.

The rest of the kitchen. That’s it. That’s all there was.

The kitchen was completed closed off from the rest of the living space

There were two rooms next to the kitchen, a full bathroom and a large laundry room.

Here’s a view of the bathroom (to the right).

We decided to remove the full bathroom and use that space to add to the kitchen.   We added a half bathroom to the laundry room since it was large enough to easily accommodate a toilet and sink/vanity.    We added a tub/shower to the upstairs half bathroom, since it also had plenty of space to accommodate this fixture.

We started by demolishing the existing kitchen, ripping down the walls between the kitchen, living room and bathroom and demolishing the existing bathroom completely.

The kitchen and bathroom area after demolition was complete.

We left the center chimney for now.  There’s a strong possibility that natural gas will be coming to our street.  Once it does we will purchase a direct vent natural gas heater and will no longer need the chimney.  Then we will demolish it and probably build a kitchen island/breakfast bar in that general area.  For now, the chimney is an “architectural element”.

This was about the time that I rented a Chevy Tahoe and took at trip down to IKEA in Boston.  Turns out, a Tahoe isn’t really big enough to fit an entire kitchen including microwave and dishwasher.  But the car loading angels at IKEA somehow got all 155 boxes (9 flat carts) into the vehicle with the dishwasher strapped to the top.

I’m not saying I could see out of the vehicle on the way back to Maine, or that it was safe,  but I did make it, so I was pretty relieved.

The next step was putting all the cabinets together.

This was a daunting task, but it got easier with practice.

Jeremy and I are good at demolishing things, but not great at making them look pretty again.  So we hired a contractor (Jim Dance and Larry) to put it all back together and install the kitchen.  Jim is the same contractor that transformed our beach house in Pemaquid.

Here’s the kitchen without counter tops, flooring and trim, and pulls, and some appliances.

Here is the kitchen almost complete. We had a wood floor (birch) installed which comes close to matching the existing floor in the dining room.

All that is missing at this point is some paint and lighting.

The after pictures!


The kitchen was by far the biggest impact, but we also renovated two bathrooms. We added a half-bath in the laundry room and we added a tub/shower to the upstairs bathroom to make it a full. We also added new vanities, removed wallpaper, and refinished the floors.

This is the laundry room that was to the right of the full bathroom next to the kitchen that we demolished.

All we had to do was remove the wallpaper, have the floor refinished, paint the walls and have a toilet and sink added.  It definitely looks better now.

The upstairs bathroom looked like this when we started, it had a closet but was only a half-bath. It had plenty of room for a bathtub behind the door.

We added a shower/tub, a new wood floor (maple), new lighting, and a vanity that I found on Craigslist.

Here is another picture that shows the vanity and the lighting.

Here’s the tub/shower that we added. Eventually we’ll have glass doors put on, but for now, it’s fine with a curtain.

The bedrooms really didn’t change much. We painted the walls and refinished the floors.
Here are the before and after pictures of the master bedroom:

We finished the remodel in early September and found a tenant right away. We have our current house on the market and once it sells, we will move into this smaller house. We have given away a large portion of our things, but have to keep minimizing in order to fit into 1100 sq ft comfortably. It’s been a fun process, and we are excited about living in it someday.

The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules | Live the Life You Want

2010 September 11
by laura

I’ve been reading Chris Guillebeau’s blog, “The Art of Non-Conformity” for quite a while now.  He writes about living the life you want to live by breaking or rewriting the rules that may be confining you.  He has a goal of traveling to every country in the world (he only has 67 out of 192 left to see), so he also has great travel hacking tips, interesting travel stories, and just great life advice.
The Art of Non-Conformity

He has just published a book which although has the same name as his blog is not in fact a compilation of blog posts, but more of a guidebook of lifestyle design.  He was kind enough to send me an advance copy which I plowed through in two evenings.

I was captivated as soon as I read the first chapter, which is titled “Sleepwalkers and the Living World”.  It immediately reminded me of one of my favorite lines from a movie, one that has stayed with me for years:

“My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.”  – Patricia Graynamore, Joe vs. the Volcano

I wholeheartedly agree with Chris that a huge number of people you see everyday and interact with are in fact asleep.  They are numb, they believe almost everything that they are told and they do what they are supposed to do regardless of whether it makes them happy.

The book is a how to guide for waking up and smashing through the barriers that are holding you back from living the fullest life possible.  It’s not filled with cliches; it is chock full of ideas on how you can figure out what you want to do and and how you can start to move in the right direction.

It’s a quick 250 pages but it will get you thinking.    He will be at Longfellow Books on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 7 PM for a talk and book signing.    Or you can buy his book on Amazon.

9 Miles in Nashville

2010 August 16

I went to Nashville this past weekend for a friend’s bachelorette party.  I’m in the middle of training for a half marathon and the training schedule told me I had to run 9 miles (all in one day!).

Nashville was hot and humid.  It was 103 degrees during the days we were there with 93% humidity.   So I knew I had to get up early if I was serious about getting this done.

I got up at 6 AM on Friday, despite the fact that we had each drank a pitcher of peach/white wine Sangria the night before and the room had been spinning as I passed out fell asleep.  It would have been easy to use being intoxicated the night before as an excuse.  Very easy.  But I remembered a wise man telling me that he had one of the best runs of his life hung over so I figured it was worth a try.

I started running as the sun was coming up.  It was tough to get going but by about the beginning of mile 3 I was getting in the groove.  It didn’t seem quite as hot anymore and I knew I would be able to do it, no matter how slow and sweaty I was.  No matter if I had to stop and walk occasionally.  I would be able to finish this run.

I love running in a new place.  I ran down a couple of the Music Row streets and I did a few loops around Vanderbilt University.   I saw places I would not have gotten to see if I hadn’t gone for the runs that I did when I was there.

I completed the run (8 miles of it outside, and the final mile on the treadmill in the hotel because it just got too darn hot!) and had the rest of the day to celebrate my little victory.  I do think that running and sweating flushed out the toxins because I did not feel the effects of being drunk the night before like I was expecting.  I think I might have inadvertently stumbled upon a hangover cure.

To commemorate the occasion, my very awesome boss wrote me a song.  Friday must have been a slow day at work!


I did 9 miles in Nashville
My dog had run away
I did 9 miles in Nashville
I hope that he’s ok
I did 9 miles in Nashville
My truck had just let go
I did 9 miles in Nashville
Oh Lord please save my soul


When the road is long and your gas is low
You need to get on your feet
When your friends are there to guard your back
You know you can’t be beat
It’s only 9 miles in Nashville
To take your cares away
After 9 miles in Nashville
She’ll be with me in just a day

I did 9 miles in Nashville
This heat is killin’ me
I did 9 miles in Nashville
I hope I can make her see
I did 9 miles in Nashville
Gittin’ her back is the only goal
I did 9 miles in Nashville
Oh Lord please save my soul


Bridge (full chord change from B to C sharp)

If my dog came back
And my truck would run
I get to you somehow
Damn this heat and this dusty road
This is all I can do right now

(Chorus)  and Fade out

The Tiny House Plan

2010 July 10
by laura

In my last post I mentioned that we were putting our house on the market and would be moving into a tiny house once our current house sells.

Why on earth would we move our family of four from 2300 square feet of luxury into a house of 1100 sq ft which is less than half the size?

In a word…


We have lived in our dream house now for nearly 7 years.  It’s great.  It has 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, 2 living rooms, a big kitchen.  It’s perfect.

We can totally afford it.  We have a tenant in a detached in-law suite behind the garage who pays a big chunk of our mortgage.

So what is it?

I guess the question is ‘do we need all this space?’ and we are thinking that the answer is ‘no’.   We don’t.

We have several rooms that we never use.  We have closets that are full of stuff that we don’t really need.  We have to paint the house every 5 -7 years and that takes either time or money.  We have to clean it, we have to maintain it.   We have to maintain all the stuff inside of it.

Yes, that’s what home ownership is all about.

But, it doesn’t have to take up so much of our time.  If we cut the size of our house in half, it accomplishes several things.

One, we have half as much house to keep up.

Two, we have to get rid of at least half of our stuff, and will free up more time and energy by not having all this stuff around.

Three, we will not spend as much money on the house.  The mortgage payment will be lower and the maintenance will cost less.

Four, we will probably leave the house more.  The kids are getting to an age where they will be doing more and more activities and we will be out and about more anyway.  It will be nice to know that we aren’t sacrificing time that we need to spend maintaining the house, and will be able to enjoy living instead.

More life, less house.  That’s what we are thinking.

We may be crazy and we may get there and realize it is just too small.  But I kind of doubt it.  I think it’s going to be great and we are going to love the freedom that will come with it.

Right now we are in the midst of demolishing the old 50s kitchen.  If it’s going to be a tiny house, I at least need it to be functional.  I’ll post some before and after pictures in the next post.

6 Month Review

2010 June 18
by laura

Yikes, the last 6 months have flown by.    Much has been accomplished in this short amount of time.  I will recap my goals for the year with where I am at today and see how I did, and what I still have to do before the rest of the year slips by.


It’s going well.  I love my job and I love the people that I work with.  We successfully moved into a new office space in January, which I helped to get built out.   I am getting more organized and I am finding more ways to add value.

I’m happy with the progress I’ve made so far.


I’m very pleased with the progress that I’ve made here.   I’ve been working out seriously 3 to 5 times a week.  I’ve been alternating a seriously kick-your-butt class at the YMCA called GRUNT with running.    It has already had a serious impact on my body and my fitness level.

My running speed is improving.  I was 6 minutes faster in this year’s Seadogs 5K than last year.    That’ s better than expected.

Oh, and I’ve lost 20 pounds so far this year.

Affiliate Marketing

Still plugging along here.  I’ve created one content rich site so far this year (3 is my goal).  I still need to carve out more time for this but based on the next list item, I don’t imagine that will happen until the fall.


We have spent the last month in a full out decluttering/house fixing up sprint.  We purchased a new house this month, a fixer-upper of course, so we needed to get our house on the market.    The new house is half the size of our current house so we have to purge!

We managed to clear out at least 7 SUV-loads full of miscellaneous crap to Goodwill in the last month.  I cannot describe how amazing it feels to get rid of stuff.  I thought I was doing a decent job all along of de-cluttering, but I was not.   I was fooling myself.  Only in the last few weeks have I gotten serious.   I am showing no mercy with my possessions.  If I don’t use them daily or at most weekly, they are going.   I am not allowing things to remain “just in case” I may need them “someday”.  It is all going.   The house looks amazing and it is so easy to keep neat and clean.

The next house, we have dubbed the “tiny house”.  It will be a real challenge to live in 1100 square feet but I think it will be really fun.   We will only bring furniture and possessions that have a designated place to live.  If they don’t have a spot, they aren’t coming with us.

Why are we moving into a tiny house?  I’ll post about that next time.

2009 – A year in review

2009 December 27

At the end of the year, it’s always nice to look back and see what has been accomplished, what hasn’t and to reflect on what has been learned.


I started the year knowing that I was miserable at the company I worked for and that I needed to make a change.   I knew there was a potential opportunity somewhere in the murky unknown future to work for my friends but when it could happen was a great unknown.

I’m not one to sit back and wait for things to happen,  so it was a very difficult situation for me.  I found myself agitated with the lack of control I had over my life.  So I halfheartedly looked for a new job.  I even went on an interview.  But I knew even in the middle of interviewing that my heart wasn’t in it, and that I wanted to work for my friends.

I couldn’t stand to not be in control of my destiny, to wait for something to happen.  It was very difficult time for me.  Eventually, and this is the weird part, I surrendered to the universe and trusted that it would happen if I just had faith and relaxed.

And it did.  I went on vacation for two weeks and I had this unshakable image in my head that I would be giving my notice on the day I got back from vacation.  This seemed illogical to me and I didn’t know how it would happen but once again I decided to trust and surrender.

The Sunday night before I went back to work, my friends came over and offered me a job.  I gave my notice the next day, my first day back from vacation.  I’ve been there 4 months now and am ridiculously happy.

Lesson learned:  Tell the universe what you want.   Be very clear about what you want and have some faith that it will happen.  Let go of trying to control the situation.

Goals for 2010: Be the best Project Manager I can be.  Become more organized, develop new processes, become LEED Certified.


My goal for the year was to run the Beach to Beacon 10K, and lose a little weight and gain a little fitness in the process.

I did run the Beach to Beacon 10K in August and also the Trail to Ale 10K in September.  I ran several 5K races as well.  So far this year I have run 193 miles and I’ve lost about 15 pounds.

Lesson Learned: Having a fitness goal gives me a reason to go to the gym, or to go for a run.  Knowing that I was going to run a competitive race like the B2B really kept me motivated all year.

Goals for 2010: Run the Maine Half-Marathon (21K) in October.  I will have plenty of time to train and it will give me a goal that will last most of the year.  Also, I plan to increase my year’s mileage to 500 miles.  I want to get faster – I’d like to average 11 minute miles in the half-marathon.  And finally, I’d like to lose the last few pounds before I turn 4-0 in June.

Affiliate Marketing

I didn’t have a goal for the year other than to learn all that I could.  I love AM and I am doing pretty well for how little time I spend on it.  I love the unlimited scalability of it.  I love waking up in the morning and seeing sales that have come in when I’m asleep.  I love averaging 300% ROI and knowing full well that I can do better.

Lesson Learned: After playing around with CPA for half the year, I don’t feel okay about it and won’t continue to put effort into it.  I will concentrate my efforts on products that I would buy, that have real value.  I have yet to see a CPA product that didn’t feel scammy to me.

Goal for 2010: Dedicate more time to AM in general.  Fully develop three new content-rich websites in areas that interest me which have multiple monetization avenues.  I already have two sites planned out and ready to implement.   I will spend more time on link building and article writing.


Our ongoing quest to declutter and simplify has been going well this year.  We have gotten rid of all the baby stuff and a huge amount of books and miscellaneous dreck.   The house is looking great.

Another ongoing goal is to fix up the house.  There’s nothing wrong with our house, but it is 210 years old, so it always needs something.  We’re trying to get it to that perfect state with all upgrades completed so if we find another dream house further up the coast we’ll be ready.  It’s hard to think about selling our house though because it is so wonderful, but we do love fixer-uppers and we do dream of moving to Damariscotta.    However, we both love our jobs so our goal isn’t to move this year.  It’s just to have the house in “sale-ready” condition…just in case.

Lesson Learned: Decluttering and simplifiying creates an awesome environment.  What also comes from simplifying life is a lack of want.  We don’t need or want stuff anymore.  If we do need anything we tend to purchase it at a resale shop so we can give it back to Goodwill when we are done with it.

Goal for 2010: Get rid of more stuff, continue updating the house, keep on enjoying life in a very old house with a great soul.

I always feel better after writing and/or saying my goals out loud.  Once they are “out there” I cannot take them back and I feel accountable.  Even if people forget, I don’t forget that I told them.  Also, I’m a huge believer in asking the Universe for what you want, because the Universe will conspire to give it to you.  Goals are part of that process.   And, as my friend Hollywood knows…Goals Work.
What are your goals?  Use the comment section to put yours in writing and send them out to the Universe!

A Runner is Born

2009 September 6
by laura

Running was never my thing. I remember when I was in high school in the mid-eighties that we had to run 3 miles in order to pass Junior year gym class.  I did it, but  I hated every second of it.  I didn’t run again for years.

Then when I moved up to Maine in my early 30’s, I took another stab at it.  My husband (a runner) and I did some 5Ks together.  I didn’t take them very seriously.   My last one of this era I had to walk because I was  pregnant.  I took another 5 years off from the sport, raised my babies to toddler-hood and didn’t think much about running.

This year I surprised myself by adding “Run a 10K” to my life’s to-do list.  Where did that come from?

Then I surprised myself even more by rallying my husband (who had run it twice before), his family and our friends to run the Beach to Beacon 10K this year.

The race was on August 1st and it was amazing.

I had technically been training for this since January.   We did have a rough two month stretch in March-April when we were all sick.  My husband even had a bout with pneumonia.

August 1st came up quickly.  I was shocked at how fast it arrived.  When we started this adventure on treadmills at the YMCA in January, I thought we had all the time in the world.

I don’t think this incredibly wet Spring and Summer helped any either.  There were weeks where there were only one or maybe two days that it didn’t rain.   But still I progressed, gradually increasing my distance.  I had never really ran more that 2 miles without stopping before.  But I found myself doing 2.5, then 3, then 4.5.  I am not fast, these are slow miles, but I did them one after the other.

The Monday before the race my husband and I did a trial 10K run.  I finished despite it being a very hot and humid day.  We celebrated with brunch at Bintliff’s.  They didn’t seem to mind that we were dripping with sweat!   I was ready.  The weather wasn’t going to be worse than that – so I knew I’d be fine.

At this point I liked running okay.  I hated the first mile, but I usually had a smile on my face walking back to the car.  I still didn’t think of myself as a runner.

I’m pretty sure running produces the same chemical or hormone that is produced immediately following childbirth. I remember clearly my husband giving me the “are you kidding me” look when following 12 hours of labor and an hour and a half of my son’s head being stuck, I announced “I’d do that again!”. And I did.

Up until the race, I still didn’t enjoy running. However, during the Beach to Beacon, something changed.  I changed.  I became a runner.

I’m not sure when it happened exactly.

It could have been when running past a group of spectators that were blasting music through a professional sound system, a bunch of us started clapping along to the music when running past.

It could have been when running through town, turning the corner onto Shore Road, with hundreds of people lined up on both sides of the street, when I realized I was grinning from ear to ear and actually enjoying this. And I was doing something that all those people watching were not doing.

Or it might have been when I saw the finish line and knew I had something left. I began to sprint and passed a half dozen people before crossing the line. Then kicking myself for leaving that much extra in the tank and vowing to run sub-60 minutes next year.

For the rest of the day, and the days that have followed, I have a sense of peace and contentment that I don’t remember ever having had before.

And I do know one thing…. I’ll do it again.

Domestic, Exotic, Wild (…a visit to DEW Animal Kingdom)

2009 June 23

This past weekend we took the kids to DEW Animal Kingdom in Mount Vernon, Maine.   DEW is an interesting place.  It’s a refuge for unwanted domestic, exotic and wild (D.E.W) animals in the middle-of-nowhere in Maine.

Started by Bob Miner, a Vietnam vet who found a way back from reclusiveness through the animals, DEW has built up quite a menagerie of creatures.

When you first enter the park, you are presented with the normal animal park assortment of barnyard creatures such as sheep and goats.

My daughter made fast friends with one older looking goat.

First she gave him a big hug.

Hugging a Goat

Then she went in for the kiss.

After passing by some bears, kangaroos and wallabys (wallabi?), I spotted this handsome fella.


In my opinion, the Hyena was the scariest animal in the park.  Bob told us that they can run at speeds up to 18 MPH which they can sustain for an hour.  There’s no out running these guys.  And just look at the way this hyena thinks that my son = Lunch.

Hyena Staredown

Hyena Staredown

Man that’s creepy.  Here’s a video that shows Bob feeding the Hyena while it whines (laughs) and devours huge chunks of meat without stopping to chew.
Here’s another video of Bob and one of his tigers.  He is missing an eye but can still catch birds for a snack.
If you ever find yourself near Augusta, Maine, DEW Animal Kingdom is definitely worth checking out.

Arrrrrrr….Pirates Invade Damariscotta

2009 June 23
by laura

On Saturday, June 13th, the town of Damariscotta, Maine was invaded by Pirates.

The town was well defended by cannons and armed militia men.

Pirate Invasion

However, the Pirate ships would not turn back.  And the Pirate invasion could not be stopped.

Pirate Ships

The town was looted….to benefit the Lincoln County Family Holiday Wishes organization.    I was impressed by the event.  It seemed that the entire town was dressed up.  I even spotted a Pirate Dog.

Pirate Dog

And the costumes were not of poor quality, these were theatrical costumes, not the Wal-Mart Halloween variety.

Pirate Kid

Pirate Queen

A great event, for a great cause,  in a great town.  If you want to see amazing photos of the event, click here and here.