Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Welcome, 2024!

As I grow older and older, new year no longer feels like a new start. Work continues, renovation continues, and life continues as it is. But I still like to set an intention for the upcoming year. In 2023, I hoped to evolve into a more active and fulfilling life; and I think we somewhat achieved it by becoming foster parents for shelter dogs. It was not the exact fun activity I planned at the beginning of the year – I was thinking more about hiking and snowboarding, ha! But seeing our foster pups finding their forever homes was immensely satisfying.

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But looking back 2023, there were also things I should have done, or at least gotten started. Interestingly, the reason I didn’t try was not because of the fear of complete failure, but rather less superb results. This is easily seen from my work projects. Since having my own lab, I no longer have access to the top-notch technology and equipment I used to have during my postdoctoral training. I could have developed some cheaper and less impressive alternative strategies to achieve basically the same results, but I just stayed away from these experiments all together. Subconsciously, I might be thinking that if I could not done it in the best way possible, I should not even try it.

Because of the same attitude, I did not perform as many home projects either. Post-renovation fatigue was real and we took a good a couple months not doing any home renovations after our kitchen renovation. But during 2023, there were a few projects I really wanted to tackle, but we didn’t. One example is rebuilding our back fence.

When we moved in, we had wooden fence at the very back of our property and chain link fence on all other sides.

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We have since replaced the chain link fence with horizontal cedar fencing. Slav and I built the fence ourselves which is still holding up very well after five years.

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We did not replace the back fence at the time due to limited budget and time. But we knew that the time of this back fence was numbered. Although it looked OK from distance, it had many splits and broken boards. In 2021, some fence panels started to detach from the posts; we had to add supports from the back.

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It was also built with different wood species. Some panels are made of cedar boards, which naturally turned grey. But some are made of redwood, which stayed yellowish red all year around. Finally, I could not take the patchy look anymore and painted the yellow panels grey/black to match the rest.

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When 2023 started I wanted to have the back fence replaced so bad. But when the Fall came to the end, we realized that we have missed another year of opportunity. Slav did not have as much time in his hands, so we were afraid that we would not be able to do as good a job as we did for the side fence. Once again, we tolerated a really bad situation for the fear of not to have a perfect outcome. It is almost silly to let the concern of not being perfect to get in the way of the good.

Another example is the need of changing the color of the garage door. Since we installed the new roof, painting the garage door in the same color as the fascia and soffit has been on my to-do list. But at the same time, I was worried that painting such a large surface so dark would not work. In the past six years, I have changed my idea so many times on what color to paint – red, white, almond, even painting a mural on it. But every winter, we ended up with the same, boring brown. So one day I asked myself – if the color I picked does not work, what will be there to lose? We might have to live with a color we do not like for a few months, but we have been tolerating this color we hate for six years now.

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It is interesting that when it comes to gardening, I had a lot more tolerance for imperfection. Maybe it is because I can always get it right the next year? But I could apply the same attitude to hardscaping project such as a fence, or my work projects. Not trying it obviously does not yield the results I am hoping for. So why let the perfect be the enemy of the good? For 2024, on both work and home project fronts of things, I would like it to be the year of

Don't Let The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good

That means I need to identify the most important tasks I want to accomplish, for work and home. I will put the fear of imperfect outcome aside, and just do my best to achieve the best outcome possible. I might not be about to get an A+ I hoped for, but as least I will finish what needs to be done and likely learn from the experience. So here you have it, my 2024 intention! Watch me in 2024, everyone!

Merry Christmas and A New Back Entry

I cannot believe that I am saying this, but Merry Christmas, everyone! There is so much I need to update you on since September. First of all, both Daz and Xopa were adopted!

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Daz and Xopa lived together in our house for just a couple weeks, before they went to their respective homes. I am glad that they got to know each other before heading to their new lives. They were so stinkin cute together.

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Then we brought home our current foster, Yuki (aka Yoyo). Yoyo is a very, very, very shy dog, much more closed off then any foster dog we’ve ever had. During the first a few weeks, she was too nervous to even come out of her crate. So we had to leash her and walk her 6-7 times a day.

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But Yoyo has a brave soul. She is getting more confident and brave slowly. Now, Yoyo comes out of her room often, to hang out on the sofa with Charlie and Roxie or go outside to play.

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As you could imagine, with Yoyo keeping us on our toes, we could not make much progress on the home projects. But Slav did manage to complete some electrical work, and we finally installed a new back door:

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The back door project has been a long time coming. Shortly after we moved into this house in 2017, we replaced the storm door. To provide a way for our dogs to go outside, we decided to install a doggy door too.

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At that time, we did not replace the backdoor (see the picture below). It was in a really rough shape. But considering we were still renovating the interior, we anticipated a lot more wear and tear at the back entrance. So the plan was to wait until most of the major renovations are done before upgrading the back door.

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When I say the door was in a rough shape, it was really bad. Years of the old paint has yellowed, and started peeling off in places.

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The door used to have blinds on it. But it was damaged and only the old hardware stayed.

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During the kitchen renovation, we pried off all the door trims at the back entrance, left both back door and the garage-to-kitchen door bare:

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After finishing the kitchen last May, we did not have time to tackle the back entrance, so these two doors remained trimless for the entire 2022-2023 winter. Without proper trim and weather stripping, the doors let in lots of cold drafts. So before this winter hit, we decided that adding trims and weather protection on the back entrance had to be done.

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However, it was not an easy decision what kind of backdoor we should get. The picture above illustrates the problem we had at the back entrance – the two exterior doors both open to the same small landing. We used the garage door often and also kept the back wooden door open all the time for the dogs, so the back door almost always stayed in the middle of the hallway like this. Although the original plan for adding the storm door is to boost up security and insulation for the back entrance, but in reality, the wooden back door did not provide any insulation or security, but stay as an permanent obstacle instead.

Slav and I discussed a few days what type of door(s) we want at the back entrance, and eventually agreed on just one exterior door for the back entrance, and install the doggy door on it. In this way, we eliminated the third door, and a new exterior back door will provide a lot better insulation value than the old storm door, even with a doggy door on it. After some research, we picked up this metal one in white that could stand the elements, and Slav took the old door down:

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It is always cool to peek inside the layers of walls when we do renovations. The 6-mil plastic was used as house wrap in the 60s; you can see them a lot around the doorways and windows, but only on the upper half.

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The blue wire shown below was for the doorbell. We eliminated the doorbell at the backdoor so this wire was tucked back into the framing.

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It is interesting how the bottom of the door frame is missing – I wonder if this was intentional for water run off? We anticipate that this is the spot where spiders and other critters came in.

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You can also see the brown board lining all the framing. I suspect this was the insulation board for the brick veneer to attach. Our house, built in 1964, is not insulated. We have added insulations to the exterior walls as we renovated each room.

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The header:

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Slav scraped off old glues and fillers, and used the Great stuff to seal all the remaining cracks:

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We had to trim the floor tiles to install the new threshold. Slav used an angle grinder to cut the tiles in a straight line, then chipped away the broken tiles and metal edge.

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From the side you can see where the water damage occurs. This spot is right below the doggy door. With the new door threshold, the moisture will not get in so easily and the subfloors will be better protected.

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We are not new to the game of installing pre-hung doors. Slav installed the new door frame, the threshold, and the actual door within an hour:

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We also got a new double-flap doggy door for the back entry. Slav pre-cut the opening before installing the door:

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This new doggy door is slightly taller than our old one, and the double flap mechanism is supposed to prevent cold air from coming in. In the picture below, we only installed one flap to let our dogs get used to this new door, before adding the second layer of flap from the inside.

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This is the new door threshold! Isn’t it neat? I was very excited to see it. It is weird sometimes as a homeowner what you start to appreciate.

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One nice aspect of the pre-hung doors is that they always come with everything, including the exterior trims:

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The gratification was instant and very satisfying:

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We were able to finish everything before dark, and Slav even had time to add the lock. We enjoyed using the keyless entry for the front door so much that we got one for the back door as well.

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This was how the door looked from the inside! The pre-hung doors do not come with interior trims. But otherwise everything was in place by the end of the work day.

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The new weather stripping was water tight and effectively prevented draft.

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Slav added a metal trim inside the threshold to cover the cut tile edge. It looked like it was always there. I love his attention to detail.

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The only thing left for us at this point was the interior trim. The next weekend, Slav spent a day to trim out the two doors using the same interior door trims we have been using for the first floor:

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The space between the two doors are extremely narrow, and the width between the door frame and the walls are not consistent. Slav did a good job filling it with trims he cut longitudinally:

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He also did a good job at the corners and around the existing stairs and baseboard:

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After all was done, Slav caulked and I filled all nail holes with wood filler.

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Then painted everything white!

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We successfully wrapped this project up in early November. Since then, we have been using this new back door for over a month. It still opens inward, but without the second door it worked pretty well for our family. We could block the doggy door from the inside with its cover panel if the weather is really windy. But 99% of the time, we can leave it open and we do not feel any draft next to the door.

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It feels so good to cross another project off the list in 2023. On the home renovation front, 2023 has not been a productive year at all. But we have made big strides at our respective work and successfully adopted out four foster dogs! There is always next year, we tell ourselves. Stay warm and Happy holidays, everyone!

Finishing the Office Doorway

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When installing the guest suite door back in May, we installed some simple wooden trims that is flush against the drywall. I thought flush trims would look cool on this door, but as soon as it was installed, we knew it was not going to work.

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As you can see from the picture below, the guest room doorway is right next to Slav’s office doorway, which was finished with wider and more decorative trims. It looked weird when the trims on these two doorways were so different.

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We immediately decided to add the same decorative trims around the guest room doorway to match. A few weeks ago, we finally got it completed!

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It actually did not take long to install – only half a day to cut the trim boards to size and nail them onto the doorway up. But between work assignment and adoption events, it was hard to find the time. After Slav installed the trim, I patched the nail holes to get it ready for paint:

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While the miter saw and nail gun were out, Slav also installed the baseboards next to the doorway. They were taken off when we worked on the kitchen which was finished a year ago and had not been properly installed afterwards.

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Believe or not, we still had not installed the baseboard in the kitchen either! Slav took the opportunity and patched the missing baseboard in the kitchen too. These are small details to finish but makes such a big impact:

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The baseboard at the living room corner was taken off during the kitchen renovation too. Finally, they are back up:

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With the new stair railing, Slav had to cut the trims boards to fit around it, and use caulk to fill the gaps. I think he did a good job:

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It might look messy at this stage but after I sanded the wood filler smooth and painted the baseboards white, it looks really good!

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When our contractor finished the kitchen, all the base cabinets were finished with stock baseboards, which is very thin. Slav used a leftover piece of baseboard from the kitchen island to replace the thin baseboard on the cabinet exposed to the room. I think it looks much better.

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After all the nail holes were patched and sanded, I came in with the white trim paint and gave everything a couple coats.

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This new trim offers the right proportion to the door and looks a lot better than the old flush trim. Don’t you think?

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Slav did a good job scribing the trim to fit the narrow space between the doorway and the wall.

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When it came to painting the baseboard on the bi-color wall, I decided to match the baseboard color to those on the walls. For the left half on the white drywall, I painted this portion white:

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And for the right half on the green wood board which is part of the kitchen cabinet, I matched the cabinet color and painted it green!

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Isn’t it neat? I like this look a lot more intentional than just painting the whole piece white. Oh, you can see our second foster puppy, Jaz in the photo above too. She has been adopted!

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I also finished painting the new baseboard in the living room and kitchen.

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The cut side of the green baseboard was coated with the same green color of paint as the cabinets too.

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It feels so good to complete the main floor trims, yet again! Trims and baseboards are such a important piece of room finishes. But they are never a high priority so we always put the trim work off for months after finishing a room. Next time, I need to remind myself to finish the last “5% of work” sooner than later!

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