Basement Renovation – Removing the Old Bar and Installing New Carpet

As part of our basement renovation, we ripped out an old paneled bar. (We actually did that before we had the paintable wallpaper installed, that’s why the room looks a little different than the previous post in this series!) And, we had new carpet installed after the wallpaper. This post covers those two things!

Removing the Old Wood Paneled Bar

As I explained in the intro post for the basement renovation, we thought that this bar was a really fun feature when we moved into the house. However, it was in an awkward spot, and the space behind the bar just ended up kind of wasted.

Basement bar - before the renovation Basement bar - before the renovation

So, we decided to rip out the bar and install Ikea kitchen cabinetry in a more efficient layout. (More on that installation in the next post in the series)

First, we cleared out all the booze, soda, and other things we had stored in the bar:

Cleaning out the bar for demolition

Then, thanks to a crowbar, the claw end of a hammer, and a reciprocating saw, we were able to disassemble the bar within about 30 minutes! (Remember, we used the bar as a test spot for our paintable wallpaper installation, and to test paint swatches for the rest of the basement!)

Removing bar from basement Removing bar from the basement

Once we got the bar detached from the wall, we were able to move it … Revealing this green slimy sludge under the bar. YUCK!

Mystery green sludge

Then we just dragged the bar to our back patio, broke it down into smaller pieces, folded down any nails that were sticking out, and took it out to the curb on trash day.

Removing old bar from basement

The removal actually went much easier and faster than we expected. We thought it was a lot more “attached” to the floor and the wall than it actually was.

New Carpet Installation

Okay, sorry to jump around a bit, but after the paintable wallpaper installation (which I covered in the previous post in this series), we had new carpet installed in the basement. The old carpet was berber, and we were pretty sure that the previous owners installed the cheapest carpet possible to cover the hideous linoleum floor after their house sat on the market for more than a year. (You can see the old linoleum revealed when we ripped out the bar).

Old linoleum under the carpet

The berber carpet was constantly pilling, and if you vacuumed over a loose strand in the carpet, you basically ended up ripping up several threads of carpet. Oh, and the worst part was walking on it in bare feet. If the bottoms of my feet were even slightly dry, the berber carpet threads would like “stick” the bottoms of my feet like velcro. Awful.

So, we definitely wanted to nice, plush carpet for the basement. We even opted for thicker padding!

Here are some photos from the new carpet installation! For those local to the Northern Virginia area, message us if you’d like the flooring installers info! We’ve used them for three different flooring jobs in our house now, and we highly recommend them!

Carpet installation in basement Carpet installation in basement Carpet installation in basement Carpet installation in basement Carpet installation in basement Carpet installation in basement

It’s so much nicer than our old stuff! And we thought it went really nicely with the rest of the room’s freshly painted walls! Oh, and no more “velcro feet!” I can walk on the carpet with no socks just fine!

New carpet in the basement New carpet in the basement New carpet in the basement

The basement was already looking nice and finished at that point, but we still had one more phase … installing new Ikea kitchen cabinetry for storage and with a countertop as a “workbench.”

Friday Randomness 3-10-17

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  • Ken and I are in the throes of planning a vacation in September for Ken’s 40th birthday!  I think we’ve decided on a week in the Canadian Rockies. Seriously, Lake Louise, the Icefields Parkway, and Moraine Lake just look so stunning!  Can’t wait!
  • Speaking of birthdays, we hosted lots of family last weekend to celebrate my dad’s 75th birthday. He’s had a very rough few years health-wise, so we’re so thankful to be celebrating this birthday!

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  • I’ve had a really miserable cough for more than a month now! At one point I was coughing until I gagged and threw up, multiple times a day. I went to the doctor when the cough was at its peak, about three weeks ago, and they prescribed some good cough medicine. But damn, the cough is STILL lingering and unfortunately the cough medicine knocks me out, so it’s only really good at night.  I’d say the cough is like 80% better, but oy, can’t wait to be rid of this one.
  • We got a new faucet for our main floor half-bath sink.  How cool is this!  Our old fixture wasn’t terribly old, but it was oil-rubbed bronze, and a lot of the bronze finish had started to chip off. So it was time for a replacement!  It passed the “kid-approved” test when we overheard our 10 year old nephew and 8 year old niece talking about it, unprompted, at my dad’s birthday celebration.

new bathroom faucet

  • I’m working from home almost all this month thanks to Metro’s current SafeTrack phase affecting the Blue Line.  I commuted to work during last summer’s Blue Line SafeTrack work by taking the bus to the Pentagon station and then picking up the metro to downtown from there.  The morning commute was fairly quick and easy, but the afternoon commute was hellishly long waiting for a bus. So, I asked if I could telework this month, and was approved!  
  • I’ve been taking a break from credit card churning mostly because I’m 5/24, but have seen some good non-5/24 deals, like the increased SPG Amex bonus and I received an offer by mail for a 60,000 AAdvantage miles Citicard bonus.  But, now that we’re pursuing an offer on an investment property, I don’t want to jeopardize anything with the mortgage applying for a credit card so close to buying a house!

Have a good weekend!

New Orleans during Mardi Gras – Where we Ate


I wanted to cover all our dining experiences in New Orleans during Mardi Gras in a single post. I don’t think there was a single place that disappointed us!  Ken is not into “fancy” dining or seafood or any sort of foods that one cannot pronounce. So the restaurants we went to are relatively inexpensive and are great for folks not looking for anything overly elaborate!  

Jagerhaus

Address: 833 Conti Street // New Orleans, LA // 70112
Meal: Lunch
TripAdvisor Reviews
Yelp Reviews

Exterior of Jagerhaus

This place did not accept reservations via OpenTable. When I called a few weeks prior to our trip, they said that they typically accept reservations, but not during Mardi Gras. But, luckily we didn’t have to worry. When we got there for a late lunch, the restaurant was crowded, but there was no wait!

I had a “meal of appetizers” because I couldn’t make up my mind what I wanted to eat. A pretzel, hot German potato salad, and an order of pierogies.

Pretzel Hot german potato salad Pierogies

And a beer, of course. It is a German restaurant after all!

Beer at Jagerhaus

Ken had a burger:

Burger at Jagerhaus

Atchafalaya

Address: 901 Louisiana Ave // New Orleans, LA  // 70115
Meal: Breakfast / Brunch
TripAdvisor Reviews
Yelp Reviews

Exterior of Atchafalaya

This place was pretty far from the French Quarter, which we knew, so we just hopped in an Uber to get there. But I’m glad we ventured out there! The food was fantastic, and we walked around the “Magazine District” neighborhood after lunch! We made reservations for this restaurant, and they even called us the day before to confirm!

I had a Bloody Mary because I couldn’t resist the looks of their Bloody Mary “bar!”

Bloody Mary fixins. Bloody Mary at Atchafalaya Hot sauce on Bloody Mary Bar Horseradishes on Bloody Mary bar

I can’t remember exactly what I had, I think it was the Eggs Treme. And Ken had the Banana Foster french toast, and we split a side of brunch potatoes.

Eggs Treme at Atchafalaya Banana Foster French Toast Brunch Potatoes

Louisiana Pizza Kitchen

Address: 95 French Market Place // New Orleans, LA // 70126
Meal: Lunch
TripAdvisor Reviews
Yelp Reviews

Exterior of Louisiana Pizza Kitchen Interior of Louisiana Pizza Kitchen

Not to be confused with “California” Pizza Kitchen, we had lunch one afternoon at Louisiana Pizza Kitchen. We also had reservations at this restaurant for 2PM, but it was empty when we got there, even during Mardi Gras season! I guess it was an off-time for a meal, in between normal lunch and dinner times.

We started out with a Caesar salad, and then I had a pepperoni pizza and Ken had a cheese pizza.

Pepperoni Pizza Cheese Pizza Caesar salad

We even finished everything off with some dessert!

Dessert at Louisiana Pizza Kitchen

Red Gravy

Address: 125 Camp Street // New Orleans
Meal: Breakfast / Brunch
TripAdvisor Reviews
Yelp Reviews

Exterior of Red Gravy

I had an “Uptown” omelet, with meatballs, eggs, “red gravy” and a side of potatoes.

Uptown Omelet at Red Gravy

I believe that Ken had the Cannoli Pancakes:

Cannoli Pancakes at Red Gravy

With also split a side of “A Biscuit, A Basket,” which was biscuits with REALLY delicious home preserves.

A Biscuit, A Basket

Dat Dog

Address: 601 Frenchmen Street // New Orleans
Meal: Lunch
TripAdvisor Reviews
Yelp Reviews

Ken is a HUGE burger connoisseur, so we tried to go to “Port of Call,” a local burger joint with amazing reviews, one afternoon for lunch. However, it was PACKED. Like an hour plus wait. (They did not take reservations). So, we set out to find another restaurant, and we settled on “Dat Dog” just a few blocks away. Well, I shouldn’t say settle, because it was amazing!

Exterior of Dat Dog Menu board inside Dat Dog

I’m pretty sure that I got the Guinness Special dog, with Irish Guinness Sausage, Andouille Sauce, Onions, Shredded Cheddar Cheese, Bacon, & Yellow Mustard.

I’m not sure what Ken got, I think he might have just added a smattering of his own topping selections.

We also split an order of chili fries.

Dat Dog hot dog Dat Dog hot dog Chili fries at Dat Dog

Cafe du Monde

Address: 800 Decatur Street // New Orleans
Meal: Snack
TripAdvisor Reviews
Yelp Reviews

And of course, no trip to New Orleans is complete without a stop at Cafe du Monde!

Exterior of Cafe du Monde Menu board at Cafe du Monde Inside Cafe du Monde

We had been to Cafe du Monde previously, during our time in New Orleans back in 2008. However, it was a LOT more crowded this time thanks to Mardi Gras! The line was long to get in, but it moved quickly. We had a table in about 15 minutes.

We had an order of beignets and two hot chocolates.

Beignets at Cafe du Monde Beignets at Cafe du Monde Ken and I at Cafe du Monde

That’s about it. We did go to a few other places as well, like one hotel restaurant at the Intercontinental, right by our grandstands on Mardi Gras day. (Very few restaurants are actually open on Mardi Gras day, so the hotel seemed like a good option). We also ate at a place called Pierre Maspero’s. However, the restaurant was so dark that our pictures didn’t come out very good! And of course we had a buffet dinner the one night at the Bourbon Street balcony party.

What places do you recommend to eat in New Orleans?

Putting in an Offer on an Investment Property (and some due diligence questions)

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Ken and I found a good duplex as our first investment property! Before we put in an offer our the duplex that we liked, we had our real estate agent pass along some requests for information to the seller.  Since the property already has tenants, we wanted to make sure everything was reliable and above-board. 

These requests included:

  • Copies of the current signed leases for both units (and the garage, which is rented separately).
  • Copies of cashed rent checks for the past six months (to show tenants’ reliability for on-time payments)
  • Recent property tax bills
  • Copies of recent sewer and water bills (since the owner mentioned that these are paid by him instead of the tenants, so we wanted to know how much to budget for those bills)
  • Documentation of construction permits for recent renovations to the property (the current owner had done a massive renovation after he bought the house in 2011)
  • Whether the house had or required a “certificate of occupancy” verifying that it was eligible for a rental.  

Our requests were answered promptly, and required minimal follow up.  One of our follow-up questions was why the one tenant seemed to pay 2x the rent one month, but nothing the previous month.  The seller responded that he had been out of town and had just asked the tenant to hold the payment until the following month.  

The Downsides

But, there were a few things about the house and existing contracts that we weren’t crazy about.

  • First, the house is in a terrible school district. Literally one of the bottom 5 percent schools in all of Pennsylvania. However, since the duplex has smaller units (one 1-bedroom and one 2-bedroom units), we figured that the house might not attract many tenants with kids anyway. 
  • Second, the current owner allows pets, and one of the long-term tenants has a large dog. We were not planning on allowing pets as landlords, mostly due to liability and damage concerns. But since there’s already a lease in place and the tenant is stable and long-term, we figure it’s okay.  However, for future tenants, on our own leases, we probably would not allow pets.
  • The house does not have a washer and dryer. However, considering that the current tenants don’t seem to mind having to go to a laundromat, we figured it wasn’t a problem. It’s just something to take into consideration as an issue that future tenants may consider to be a deal breaker.  
  • The house is old.  Like so old that the city doesn’t even know how old it is.  One property record shows it being built in 1900, while another shows it being built in 1910. Old houses come with lots of maintenance issues. But, since the current owner had done such a major renovation, we’re hoping that a lot of the big ticket maintenance issues have been addressed recently.  (For comparison, he bought the house for $25,000 in 2011.  It was in really rough shape, he fixed it up, and is now selling it for $89,000.  When we asked him why he was selling, he said he had done this with a few homes, with the intention of selling when he needed the equity. He said that now he wants the equity in order to be able to put major repairs into his own home that he recently purchased.  Seemed like a reasonable enough answer for why he was trying to sell.)

Even with our few concerns, we decided that we would submit an offer of $82,000, about $7000 under asking price.  The house had been on the market for 7 months, and had started at an asking price of $119,000. According to Zillow records, the seller had lowered the asking price twice already in the 7 months it had been on the market.  We figured he must have been getting anxious to sell, so we hope he’ll accept the $82,000, or at least counter to somewhere in the middle at $85,000.  We’d have to wait and see until we put in our offer!  

Ruby Princess – Ship Amenities Review


In my previous post in this series, I reviewed our cabin, a mini suite, as well as my dad’s accessible stateroom. This post will give an overview of the ship and ship’s amenities!

Let’s start with the outdoors!

Outdoor Activities and Pools

The rear of the ship (aft, yes, I know), was home to a small pool and some hot tubs:

Pools and Hot Tubs on Ruby Princess (aft) Pools and Hot Tubs on Ruby Princess (aft)

There were also two larger pools, as well as some hot tubs, in the middle of the ship.

Pools and Hot Tubs on Ruby Princess Pools and Hot Tubs on Ruby Princess

One of the pool areas in the middle had a huge TV screen above the pool. Movies played at scheduled times. Since it was chilly at times even in June, (we were, after all, heading to ALASKA!) cruise staff passed out blankets during the movies so you could stay warm!

Pools and Hot Tubs on Ruby Princess Pools and Hot Tubs on Ruby Princess TV screen in pool area on Ruby Princess

There was also an adults-only pool area, called “The Sanctuary.” Entrance to The Sanctuary was an additional fee, and every time I saw that area it was almost completely empty.

Entrance sign for The Sanctuary, the adult only pool on Ruby Princess The Sanctuary Adult Only Pool area The Sanctuary Adult Only Pool area

The Sanctuary had plusher chaise lounge chairs and regular seating as well.

The Sanctuary Adult Only Pool area The Sanctuary Adult Only Pool area The Sanctuary Adult Only Pool area

As I mentioned, my 2-year-old niece and 9-year-old nephew were on this trip. During one of their drop-offs at the kids areas, one of the cruise staff said that there were only 40 kids onboard under the age of 12. That’s MUCH different than like a Caribbean cruise! So, there probably isn’t much need to escape kids on an Alaskan cruise.

There was a mini-golf course on the ship:

Miniature golf course on Ruby Princess Ken playing mini golf on cruise ship

And my nephew was a big fan of this sports area, which had basketball hoops:

Basketball and soccer area on Ruby Princess.

And here are just a few other random photos of outdoor spaces on the Ruby Princess:

Ruby Princess | Ship tour photos (exterior) Ruby Princess | Ship tour photos (exterior) Ruby Princess | Ship tour photos (exterior) Ruby Princess | Ship tour photos (exterior) Ruby Princess | Ship tour photos (exterior) Ruby Princess | Ship tour photos (exterior) Ruby Princess | Ship tour photos (exterior)

Bars, Restaurants, and Casino

In no particular order, here are some of the onboard restaurants and bars, as well as the casino!

Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars Ruby Princess Restaurants and Bars

This was the “Da Vinci” dining room, where we ate all our sit-down (non-buffet) meals:

Da Vinci Dining Room Da Vinci Dining Room Da Vinci Dining Room

The menu was posted for each meal outside of the restaurant.

Da Vinci Dining Room

 

Atrium and Grand Staircase Area

This was always a fairly crowded area. There was usually piano music playing on the bottom floor of the atrium, there was a guest services counter in the area, and several shops and bars!

Atrium on the Ruby Princess Atrium on the Ruby Princess Atrium on the Ruby Princess Atrium on the Ruby Princess Atrium on the Ruby Princess Atrium on the Ruby Princess Atrium on the Ruby Princess

The Theater

Princess Theater Princess Theater Princess Theater Sign XX

The Library and Internet Cafe

I never priced out how much it would be to use the internet onboard the ship. Mostly I just relied on my phone when we were in port. In between ports, there was no cell service or data, so the internet cafe could be an option for those that really need it.

The Ruby Princess Library The Ruby Princess Library The Ruby Princess Library Internet Cafe Sign Internet Cafe

Kids Play Area

This was a play area for younger kids. There was also an area for older kids, with like some big couches and TVs and video games, but I didn’t get photos of that area.

Kids Play Area on Ruby Princess Kids Play Area on Ruby Princess Kids Play Area on Ruby Princess

You could drop off kids that were potty trained. Non-potty trained kids (like my niece) had to be accompanied by an adult.

Kids Play Area on Ruby Princess Kids Play Area on Ruby Princess Kids Play Area on Ruby Princess Kids Play Area on Ruby Princess

There was also a little outdoor area of the kids play area as well:

Kids Play Area on Ruby Princess

Overall, the ship was great. The service was mostly good. I was getting annoyed with a near constant “upselling” of things like soda passes and alcoholic beverages. I even noticed that I got significantly better and faster service when I ordered beer or wine with my meals. When I went without alcohol, our service suffered. My sister had talked to a staff member in port, and he mentioned that employees get “time off” bonuses for selling certain numbers of soda passes or drinks. He was off the ship because he had achieved a certain amount sold. I understand Princess’s desire to incentivize, but the upselling really did leave a sour taste about the entire shipboard experience.

I still don’t think I have a “favorite” cruise line just yet. In the past 10 years, we’ve been on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and now Princess. I have always liked Carnival, but it’s been 15 years since I’ve been on a Carnival Cruise, so I’m guessing they could’ve changed as well.

Have you been on a Princess cruise? What did you think? What is your favorite cruise line?