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

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Cozy Up for Winter

We are very much home-bound these days. It seems that modern culture does not orient towards home, but rather having fun outside of one’s home. To a lot of people, home is a spring board to bounce off from. But the pandemic came and changed lots of us. Home are now the center of many people’s lives. I also never felt so compelled to cultivate a nice atmosphere at home. After all, only a nice atmosphere at home can foster a good attitude for life, do you agree?

After refinishing the hardwood floor and trims in our main floor living space, I got into a nesting mode. I spent every weekend cleaning, organizing, and furnishing. It felt particularly important now the days are shorter and we spend more time inside the house. We made quite a few small changes to the living space, some small upgrades you might say. Let us take a look together, shall we?

Creating a front entry

If you have been to our house, you would know that we go in and out the house through the garage. 99% of the time, the front door is just a glorified watchtower for our dogs. But this has changed since Slav installed a keyless lock on the front door:

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I like how the stainless steel hardware looks on a white door:

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It turns out that all it required for us to utilize the front door is being able to open it without a key. OMG, I felt like such a sluggard…Anyway, we now use the front door everyday. Inevitably, shoes and handbag started to accumulate here:

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We wanted to add some storage for this space, and this bench in IKEA looked like a perfect solution:

PERJOHAN Bench with storage, pine, 39 3/8 "

We actually went to our local IKEA to purchase it. This was the first time we visited IKEA in two years. Unfortunately, it eas out of stock in our local IKEA even though the website said otherwise.  Let me tell you, the disruption of IKEA’s supply chain is real. On top of that, the shortage of workers made the customer service so terrible. After driving 60 miles, we still had to pay $6 to have it shipped to a local pick up place. But at least we were able to see it in person before pulling the trigger.

Such a small bench, fits perfectly in the space underneath the coat hooks.

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It is big enough to hold our daily shoes. I like that it provides a surface to put down my backpack and lunch box before taking off my shoes.

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This drop zone is at a corner of Slav’s office, just off the front door.

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This is what this corner looked like before getting the bench. The (also IKEA) rolling cart provided some storage, but not big enough for shoes and backpacks.

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Our beloved boot/glove dryer lives nearby. We use this boot dryer 24/7 during winter months for drying ski boots and gloves. I also use it to warm up our shoes and gloves in the mornings. There is always a pile of stuff next to it. I think this bench will be very helpful in holding all the wet gear.

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To complete the front entry, I added door mats inside and outside of the front door. The tan door mat inside is from LL beans. We have another one of these in the kitchen which held up really well, so this is a returned purchase. The one outside with tree pattern is from IKEA:

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Let us keep the front entry dry and dust free!

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Organizing my desk

With more and more people working from home, our houses became not only the hub we recharge, but also the place we create. Slav and I each have an office on the main floor which we use often.

Slav’s office

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Next to his desk, this IKEA cabinet houses our printing supplies and stationary. It is a beautiful piece of furniture, which I envy. But it would be a overkill for my office.

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There are all the stuff I keep around my desk. A small drawer would be nice.

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I also could use a monitor stand.

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We spotted this monitor stand in IKEA and decided to give it a try:

ELLOVEN Monitor stand with drawer, white

It took no assembly. The monitor sits on top, and my laptop can be stored underneath. The charging wires come out from the back. It is like someone designed this monitor stand just for me.

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All the stationery fit into the drawer. I also like how the white/bamboo color pairs nicely with my desk.

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This is how the computer corner looks now. Even Slav said it was “a nice setup”.

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And the rest of the desk is clean!

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New plant stand

I also picked up a new plant stand for my retreat room. A couple years ago, I got a three-tier plant stand from IKEA and have been happy with it.

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This time, I got a similar one in different shape:

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They match well when standing side by side. The new plant stand has a bigger capacity – I can now lift almost all of my plants off the floor:

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A clean and organized plant corner for winter!

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Adding comfort with a ceiling fan

Lifting the plants higher helps them to get more light. But winter can be tough for indoor plants also for the dry and still air in the house. I set a humidifier near the plant stands, but still wanted to more air movement. After discussing with Slav, we decided to replace the ceiling light with a ceiling fan:

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This low-profile Hunter ceiling fan works well with our low ceiling (92 inches). It is apparently very popular – we wanted the white color and it was sold out everywhere locally, including in Home Depot and Lowe’s. We eventually got ours off Amazon.

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It comes with a remote for turning on and off the light as well as adjusting fan speed. It is fairly quite and the lower settings provides nice air movement without bringing chills. Since it was installed, I have been keeping it on the lowest fan speed during the day, and I think it helps to unify the temperature and humidity in this room.

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Kitchen gadgets!

IKEA is famous for its small kitchen gadgets. It is almost impossible to walk away without taking any home. This time, I picked up this small tea infuser. We both drink loose-leaf teas, and the old tea infuser we have, the “duckling”, is too small for the fruit/flower tea Slav loves.

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The IKEA infuser easily holds a whole tablespoon of tea leaves, which is perfect for brewing fruit tea.

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I also like the long handle design for it to sit inside all the drinkware.

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Including Slav’s favorite water glasses. It is an IKEA favorite for only 79 cents.

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I prepared cold-brew tea with it and it was a success. Slav likes cold tea. Before, I always had to brew hot tea for him, then wait for it to cool down. Now I can simply take two teaspoons of Slav’s favorite fruit tea into the infuser, submerge it into room-temperature water for 15 minutes, then top it off with ice cubes.

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The duckling tea infuser now becomes my dedicated “Sichuan pepper infuser”. I cook with Sichuan pepper often. Slav enjoys its aroma, but hates to bite into them directly. With the help from the infuser, I can no longer need to pick every these pepper out before serving.

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Another small gadget I got for myself is this little milk frother. I start my morning by a cup of coffee. I am not picky about the coffee beans – anything freshly-ground beans brewed with a moka pot will do. But I do crave a good latte once a while. This milk frother allows me to have a quick latte with little effort and almost nothing to clean after. It is really a game changer.

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The soft things

The last thing we picked up in IKEA was a king comforter for our bed. Our old one has been with us for longer I am willing to admit, and it stopped holding its warmth. We selected this “slightly warm” comforter from IKEA.

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I use it with our beloved flannel bedding. So far, we like its weight and breathability.

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It came in this fabric packaging in good quality. I kept it for storing extra blankets in the guest room.

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With the new comforter we no longer need our old comforter and the king size flannel blanket. I washed them and sent them to a local homeless shelter along with some lightly-used winter clothes. Colorado winter is harsh. While we are fortunate to stay inside, we wish the same to all the unfortunate people that are force to camp out. Slav told me about an old Christmas tradition in Poland, which is to set an extra plate/seat on the dinner table. It is for a homeless or unexpected traveler who shows up at the door. But then he added “however in Poland, there is no homeless people… Everyone is taken care of.” This is certainly not the case in our country. People here do not have minimal security for life, and anyone, even people like us can become homeless one day because of illness, investment mistakes, and other misfortune. I hope our donation could help at least one person stay warm this winter, and I surely hope that the culture in this country could change for everyone to live without fear of losing their homes!

Have you been preparing your home for winter?

 

 

 

 

A Small Upgrade: Relocating the Coaxial Cable

Welcome to another small upgrade post! Without major renovation on our plate, we were able to address some small issues around the house. I am talking about old phone port to cover up, drywall cracks, old caulk, loose hinges, sagging boards, etc. Things like these still function, but are annoying to look at. Getting them taken care of is such a tension tamer.

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The safety hazard

One of the most exciting upgrades (we will share more in coming weeks) was moving the coaxial cable over our backyard.

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There were two cables coming into the house from the public utility poles – the electricity wire (high voltage) and the coaxial cable (low voltage). When we bought the house, both wires were installed pretty low to the ground. We raised the electrical wire higher when replacing the electrical panel. But the coaxial cable was still resting about 8 feet high from the ground.

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This cable is a big safety hazard. It spans across the backyard, and we had to always be careful when moving ladders or any tall objects. In winter months, when snow and ice accumulates on it, this cable sits at the height of our neck… We made several requests to the cable company to get it buried, only were told that it would cost us an arm and a leg, and the waiting time would be years long. However, relocating it in the air is free, and home owners are allowed to do it themselves. Well, I guess that settled it!

The game plan

Slav immediately came up with a game plan for moving the wires. All we want to do is to have it not over the lawn, where we walk cross a lot, and potentially raise it higher. Luckily for us, the coaxial cable actually originated from the very corner of our yard. We will not need to mess with this end at all:

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What we would be moving is the end where the cable met the house. The coaxial cable was hooked onto the fascia board above the cable box, which is located in the middle of the house.

 

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Here is the cable box. You can see the overhead cable coming in from the bottom, and making connections with the secondary cable going inside the house.

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The green wire next to the main coaxial cable is a ground wire. It runs into the electrical panel nearby, which might be the reason why the cable box is located where it is. The game plan was to keep everything in the picture intact, including the connecting box, the ground wire and the house coaxial cable. We will simply move the hook and the end of coaxial cable to the very northeast corner of the house, then run it back into the cable box along the house. We would have to extend the wire by a few dozen feet, but Slav was confident that it would not interrupt or slow down our internet.

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Relocating the main coaxial cable

Slav started by unhooking the coaxial cable from the box. Again, we will not move any remaining part, including the connection box, the ground wire, and the coaxial cable going inside the house.

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Then he took the coaxial cable off the wall. It was very easy since the nails holding them down were all loose from years of tension.

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Next, Slav remounted the hook to the northeast corner of the house, and reconnected the house-end of the coaxial cable to it.

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This corner of the house is the closest to where the cable comes from. In fact, this corner of the house is located about the same distance to the property line as where the cable comes from. So. the new path of the coaxial cable now runs almost parallel to the side fence. We are also fortunate that this side of the yard slopes down significantly, so when Slav tightened the cable, it sits much higher in relative to the ground, over 12 feet!

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Our raspberry bush are over 10 feet tall, the the cable is much higher than that.

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Now we can no longer see the cable from our backdoor. It actually runs over the roof of the garden shed and towards the house, almost parallel to the long side of the shed.

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Attaching and extending the coaxial cable

After hooking the cable back on the house, Slav started running the coaxial cable back towards the cable box. Instead of trimming the original cable, he attached the extra length under the soffit.

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And secured them to the wood trims using these coaxial stables. They are in black and less visible against the dark soffit:

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Slav used many staples, every 6″-8″ or so I’d say. It looks like an overkill, but the coaxial cable is rigid and needs these many staples to keep it straight and tightly against the trim.

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When the original cable ran out, Slav added another piece of coaxial cable using special connectors. He bought both the cable and connecters from Home Depot.

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The additional length of coaxial cable was brought into the cable box, terminated using the special connectors, and connected to the house cable:

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You can see the new connector in purple. Yay for having internet again!

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Finishing touches

Slav is the most thorough person when it comes to renovations. After cleaning up, he caulked all the prior nail holes, then brought out the trim paint and coated every single nail heads on the coaxial staples dark.

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The colors of the staples were pretty close to our trim color to begin with, Now with the touch-up paint on the nail heads, we no longer notice the coaxial cable under the soffit at all:

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And we can barely see the coaxial cable in the air either! This photo was taken from the middle of our yard, where the old cable used to be and at its lowest point.

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Instead of this:

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Now we have this:

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No more safety hazard!

 

Trimming out the Main Story!

Last month we refinished all the hardwood floor on the main story. Let me tell you, it made such a difference. The old floor had a yellow/orange tone and made the whole living space felt dark and dated. The new color no longer has the same amber tone, but more of a light wood color. It made the white wall paint feel cooler and the whole space feel cleaner.

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We did plan to upgrade some furniture. But before bringing stuff inside, there is another big task to tackle first – installing baseboards.

The “before” look without baseboards

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As you could see from the pictures, We could really use some base trim to cover all the imperfections along the floor line. In addition, the baseboard vents and returns were all exposed.

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We also need to add baseboard trims in the closet and murphy bed area in my home office.

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The floor finishing crew we used was very professional and kept everything clean for the most part. However, there were still visible marks on the wall where the sander scraped the paint. These marks needed to be painted over.

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Painting and installation

We are fully aware how much baseboard and trims elevate a space – it is like the lipstick on a full makeup – without it, even the best finishes can feel sort of a blah. But once you put it on, you have gotten a master piece! The same week of our floor refinish, Slav picked up all the baseboards on Friday and painted them early Saturday morning, so he could jump on the installation over the weekend.

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While Slav was painting the baseboards, I washed all floor registers and touched painted all the walls.

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Slav has installed baseboards in our basement. He worked from the longest piece/biggest space down to those itty-bitty pieces. We have quite a few problematic areas where the floor heights are different, or where the wood trims meet the white MDF baseboards.

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The results are quite impressive indeed.

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The new baseboard trims butt against vertical door trims, and Slav cut returns around all the vents:

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The little hallway between my home office and main floor bathroom took a lot of time to complete. For one, it has three doorways, two closets, and a couple turns. Slav made as many cuts for the hallway alone as for the rest of main floor.

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The kitchen doorway was also a pain in the neck to finish. The tile floor on the kitchen side was almost 3/4″ higher than the finished wood floor. We also took out a couple boards right against the kitchen tile and left the subfloor exposed.

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We have decided to tile this portion in the future kitchen renovation. So for now, Slav patched this portion with two layers of plywood subfloor.

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Then he cut the baseboard trims to accommodate the floor differences.

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Installing bathroom door trims

Since the nail gun was out, Slav also finished the trims on the bathroom pocket door. I have trimmed out the bathroom door from the inside, but the outside trims were never installed:

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The main reason for not installing the outside trims was that the drywall here needed repair. We have resize the doorway during the pocket door installation, so on one side and the top, there was some drywall missing.

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On the left side of the pocket door, the drywall was uneven too.

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Slav scraped the drywall all around, and started smoothing it out using drywall compound.

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It took 4-5 rounds of sanding and mudding before the drywall was smooth and the corners were sharp.

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He actually did the drywall work over a week before the baseboard install, so we could put up the vertical trim first. The baseboard should be butting against the vertical trim.

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Now the hallway is finished!

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The finished baseboard

It took Slav two full days to install all the baseboards, plus a few days of drywall work in the hallway, an evening of buying the baseboards, and a morning of painting them. All the baseboards cost us $400, including the white pre-primed MDF and a couple pieces of wood ones. We had the paint, nails, and glue to begin with.

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The following weekend, Slav caulked the baseboard and filled all the nail holes. After a bit of paint touch-up (we use Behr Ultra Pure White in semi-gloss on all the trims), the living space was ready for furniture! I think the dogs are just happy that all the floor sanding and nail gun noise are finally coming to an end. As soon as we rolled out of the carpet, Roxie planted herself right on it.

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We are considering getting a couple new furniture pieces. But for now, even with the old furniture, the living space feels fresh and vibrant. As the weather gets cooler, we are forced to work on garden clean-ups, which are fairly labor-intensive. Having a clean and comfortable place to rest again at the end of the gardening days has been very therapeutic!

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