I’ve Got The Blues

August 17, 2011   //  Posted in: Sunroom   //  By: Emily   //  5 responses

Not emotionally, just in a painty way. A case of blue paint happies, if you want to classify the feelin’ I’m oozing after finishing my latest fixer-upper project.

We spent a lot of time working in the sunroom on our lappers over the weekend. It was rainy, and we had the still unscreened windows wide open to enjoy the breeze, and I stared at the ceiling a lot in thought, and it wasn’t before long that I decided I was ready to paint ceilings again. It had nothing to do with what I was working on, but seemed like a good distraction. It was so white in there.

A sunny, very white sunroom.

Ceilings are kind of a paint-in-the-ass (pun intended, although only after it was an accidental typo). Aside from painting the sunroom floor (and then stenciling on scalloped polka dots), the room has been mostly untouched. It’s a storage area for old Bombay Company tables that never really were my taste, but were purchased inexpensively several years ago and I haven’t been able to sell (even dirt cheap) on Craigslist.

I had a bit of a bee situation last summer where the buggers were making a home in the open roof and birthing themselves into the sunroom through an existing hole in the ceiling (my guess is that there was a light or fan up there once upon a time). In any case, the bees had rendered the room buzzy, and obnoxious to use. I combatted the issue in a very I-don’t-actually-want-to-admit-I-have-a-problem kind of way opting to block their entry with a piece of tin foil. Really, I should have sprayed up in there or organized an exit strategy for the beasts, but I was being passive.

A sunny, very white sunroom. With a not-so-hidden tin foil hole covering up a key bee access point.

In any case, they didn’t return this year (maybe having new siding installed sealed up a few weak points in the exterior). Or maybe they marched in another direction because one of their buddies got wedged between the foil and the ceiling in a desperate attempt to break on through (to the other side). And for anyone else who has this song by The Doors in their head for the balance of the post… you’re welcome. Dead bug alert.

See the crispy little guy who got trapped? Poor thing. He's been up there for a year.What I’m getting at, is that I decided that a flat blue paint would be a nice accent for the otherwise plain room. And come to find, I still had half a gallon of it left in the basement from when I painted the third bedroom a.k.a. my walk-in closet (which I recently pronounced as my soon-to-be my office).

The leftovers I’m referring to are Benjamin Moore’s Gossamer Blue, which is just a little darker than most blue ceilings I’ve gawked slack-jawed at. It’s also a little grayer too, which I like a lot. Enough to stand out and be noticeable, subtle enough to not compete with anything else in the space.

I cut into the top perimeter of the ceiling with an artists paintbrush rather than any painters brush that I had on hand; reason being: bead board. The stuff’s tricky, finicky, and needs a bit of TLC to make sure the paint gets in the nooks and crannies between each panel, so as you might imagine, prepping the edge took a few hours, but the first coat went on pretty effortlessly. At least on the flatter surfaces.

First coat of blue.

I used the same roller that I had bought and used when I painted the garage; a thicker nap, it is ideal for getting into the varied depths of materials like cinderblock and stucco, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to use it on the beadboard. It really did seem to help – more than any other roller would have, I’m sure, but I still knew that I’d need to do a second coat and hand paint a little more to make sure the paint was getting into each board crease properly.

Of course, at one point during the project I had to remove that horrid tin foil from the ceiling. Happy to report that the temporary seal wasn’t littered with dead bees… just a few came tumbling down. I was expecting the worst.

A second of paint coat was necessary, and the ceiling was looking much smoother and more consistently blue after it had dried.

Coat #2 of Gossamer Blue on the sunroom ceiling.Gray, or blue? Blue or gray? In different lights, it twists around on itself a little bit, probably mirroring the sky itself the same way the lake water does.

Sleek blue sunroom ceiling.

Time for other room accents. Like those curtains I was so excited about over the winter. Maybe real-not-garage sale furniture.

And a ceiling light to fix up that odd hole.


A Construction Work-pad: Modern Mexican Housing

August 16, 2011   //  Posted in: Other Pads, Work-pads   //  By: Emily   //  5 responses

We did one unplanned and unexpected thing when we were in Mexico last week that was so great that it deserved it’s own post.

The Grand Bahia Principe resort has been in the process of expanding inland to serve as a private golf club and homestead to some of the most wonderfully designed new-construction homes I’ve ever had the opportunity to see in person.

While it’s hard to scale exactly how large this private residence area of the resort is based solely on the map, we can attest to it’s massiveness. It also helps to show you how large the resort itself is (it was sort of 3-in-1!). The whole area above the 307 highway is the residential and golf property that’s still in the development phases, but is really beginning to take form and take on the presence this map would lead you to believe.

Architecture and art maniacs we are, so we spent an afternoon slowly driving our rental Dodge Attitude through the uninhabited streets of the Bahia Principe residences observing the golf course (which was fully open and usable by visitors for a small fortune) and the construction-in-progress on each street and courtyard.

From what we could tell, only half of the roadways have been completed and opened to the traffic at this point, and along those roads there were many handmade signs signifying where treed lots has been purchased by eager homebuilders, but only about a half-dozen properties stood in completed state. It was kind of amazing to see a future huge residential area in such early phases of development. The only true signs of ready-for-action growth were the electrical boxes at the end of each future driveway acknowledging where one future lot ended and the next began.

Roadway, check. Electrical run, check. Uncleared tropical lots, check.

A few in-progress homes peeked our interest initially, with roadside signage informing us that the new home could be ours (ours!) for a mere $799,000. Not the kind of money I had in my fanny pack but still didn’t seem exorbitant considering we were, you know, in an private compound on the Caribbean Sea. And no, I wasn’t really wearing a fanny pack.

Warning: This signage will make you ready to drop your life savings on a new house in Mexico.

You had us at modern, open floorplan, ocean view terrace, and solar-powered pool, Bahia Principe.

A few shells of homes stood works in progress (that we undoubtly wanted to explore tresspass-style but did not), simple structures made of concrete but undeniably attractive with modern form and style oozing from it’s pretty, pretty tropical lot. Who wouldn’t want a coconut tree in their backyard? And how interesting that throughout the whole resort, some large trees were preserved, even if they were in the way of sidewalks like this one.

The shell of a home-in-progress.

Once we got to a part of the compound where completed homes were popping up every half mile or so, we got camera happy. Colorado homeowners, Mexican homeowners, Californian homeowners, all thoroughly enjoying this quiet-but-soon-to-be-raging community in it’s infancy.

Really, we went ga-ga. Drooling down the closed windows of our air conditioned car, and snapping shots of every property and raving about the architecture.

One of the first we saw blew us away. This completed (and inhabited) home had an attractive open-air garage that blended in so nicely to the overall design that you wouldn’t have thought twice about it actually meant for vehicle functionality.

Beautiful, functional home with a sleek garage overhang.

And how about that front entryway? In addition to the wooden door, the attention to detail in design of the wooden accents above the door made our jaws drop. (Hello, contractors. Please come make my home look like this. I will give you rainbow cupcakes and coffee.)

An entryway that just makes me... happy.

The driveways were amazing in their own right. No snow, no ice, no heavy traffic = really nice, level driveways that heavily incorporate and allow retention of the pretty lush grasses of the area. This simple paver driveway was really sleek, complementing the house wonderfully. And so seemingly easy to manufacture, may I add:

Pretty home with a simple paver driveway option.

The x-molded concrete blocks used in this next grid driveway have always been highly desireable to me, although I’m not sure how well they would endure NY weather. In this design, the entire driveway looped up into a covered valet spot and while durable and driveable, it still helped to achieve that whole my-driveway-doesn’t-take-up-my-whole-front-yard effect. Essentially, a sick, mowable driveway. Nice.

Driveway or grassy yard?

When we came across this home for sale, we couldn’t resist getting out of the Attitude to see the property up close.

Pete in front of our future Mexico beach house.

How fantastic is this heavy, unidentifiable-to-a-poor-wood-identifier doorway? I swooned. And hugged it.

You had me at modern hardwood entryway.

Truthfully, with only two bedrooms and a small living space, it seemed tight and snug for anything long term. But we liked the overall design and openness of it a lot. Pete investigated the backyard and deck access while I ooed-and-ahhed photographing through the long, vertical front window panes.

Hi Pete. Maybe we should stop snooping.

The pool in the backyard was small – just enough room for a close-knit party or for a few people to dip in for an evening cool-down, but the outdoor living area that extended from the back of the house into the backyard was lush and beautiful.

Tiny pool, but happy outdoor living space.

Pete oozed over the double balconies from the upstairs rooms and looked over the pool in the backyard, while I studied the design of the pergolas built into the construction. I probably would have hugged them like the front door if they were within reach of my sweaty swollen fingers. Ooh, I want them, I want them.

Balconies, pergolas, hardwood happiness.

We didn’t get the pricing on the property, but definitely spent time admiring how well designed the structure was in entirety. Who wouldn’t want this? Bonus: I look right at home, don’t I?

Making myself at home.The last one we really liked was this monstrousity. Aside from the consistent modern architecture, the front walkway made of black stone was really stunning. I bet it looks wonderful when it’s rainy and shiny. Plus, great ground cover. I wonder if I can achieve anything like that with my myrtle.

Well-designed home, with a pretty black stone walkway.And how about the landscaping? The lush, mexican jungles led us to find and photograph some beautiful plants, some of which I recognized as species being sold as houseplants at Home Depot. Smile.

The color of this ground cover was lovely, even if it wasn’t blooming like I believe it does when it peaks.

Green, blue, purple ground cover.

And P.S. what are these – tiny coconuts in development? Smaller than acorns.

Are those baby coconuts?


A Gran Bahia Caribbean Getaway

August 15, 2011   //  Posted in: Beach, Casual Celebrations   //  By: Emily   //  13 responses


We’re back, tanned, and all relaxed after a whirlwind birthday-week trip to Mexico to celebrate Pete’s 40th! Neither of us had been to the Caribbean coast before, and Riviera Maya, the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula seemed like a good fit for a 4-day/3-night woo-hoo-hoo kind of getaway. At least, if you liked hot, sand, and sun, which Pete does.

Big clouds and the blue water of the Caribbean Sea.

Did I mention that this was a surprise birthday trip too (following the surprise birthday party)?

Pete knew we were going out of town for a few days… I did have to request that he took time away from the 9-5, you know, but he knew nothing about the itinerary or final destination and futhermore, he opted not to know any of those details until we made it out of Rochester and were sitting at our gate in our connecting flight city of Charlotte, NC. The guy really likes a good surprise, come to find. Lucky for him, because I’ve had all kinds of secrets lately. This was just the big one.

On a related but unrelated note, I’m also happy to report to you coffee addicts, that there are easily 5 Starbucks within walking distance of any gate in the popular travel hub of Charlotte. And good free internet access. Let’s hope other airports follow this as a trend.

Back to the vacation stuff. Our all-inclusive home for those nights was at the Gran Bahia Principe resort, about 30 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, and didn’t consist of just one resort, but 3-in-one. Meaning it was enormous. And when I say enormous, I mean… all synonyms for huge. Gargantuan. Ginormous. Whoa.

Gran Bahia Principe Resort, Riviera Maya, Mexico

And if you thought it was summer in the good ol’ USA, you haven’t felt anything. The sand, tiles, and grass were blazing hot – nearly unwalkable, and even though we jumped into every pool that landed in our path, we still left us with burned soles. Hot feet aside, without knowing beforehand how these all-inclusive places work, I can tell you after the fact that it was love from first private entry gate to last breakfast coffee con leche and with every pina colada in between.

Pools, palapas, and thatched roofs everywhere you turned at the Gran Bahia Principe.

I scored an amazing deal by placing the order for our trip a few months ago via Despite being completely skeptical after reading lots and lots of iffy, poor, and seemingly phony reviews, I wouldn’t give it anything less than a 2-thumbs-up experience. I’m serious, they didn’t even credit me to say that (although, hint, cough, hint). There were no cracks in their travel itinerary, and the resort was fabulous, although I’m not a whiner when it comes to beautiful weather and sparkly blue water.

Pete and I lounged in chairs on this pier our first day. People watching and the caribbean sea at it's finest.

The guest rooms throughout the resort were constructed as open-air villas, and that was refreshing when in the back of my head I was expecting a traditional hotel setup. Each villa was modern and well-maintained, although the colorful paint and hard-to-destroy tiled floors may have made for a good facade, what do I know. I was especially digging the vertically installed rectangular tiles in the bathroom. That single glass panel acted as a shower door and was static in place, which was cool and minimalistic except when you turned on the water, you had to lean far inside. And get showered just a bit. But what did I care? I was in Mexico, baby.

Note the vertical orientation of the rectangular tiles. And see how the only door is a static glass panel? I liked it, except turning on the water without getting blasted was tricky.

Hints of original mexican heritage and design were scattered everywhere; I especially loved the backsplash that extended all around the bathroom.

Pretty mexican tiles and countertop.

Our villa suite was accompanied by impressive facilities and plentiful food. I somehow also worked my way into a premium package that gave us two din-dins at our choice of 4-course restaurants on-site fo’ free, in addition to all of the other inclusive buffets, drinks, and activities that we were offered. Fabulousity. I think you’re going to find that I’m not crafty enough to articulate more synonyms for AMAZING, so get used to it.

Free dinners and buffets meant we ate really well, and we took it upon ourselves to try all kinds of new foods, although as excited as we were about sampling authentic mexican fish, apple yogurt, cactus, and palm hearts, we wondered if the non-USA foreigners were equally as excited about the very American cheeseburgers, baby carrots, and chicken wings that the resort kept stocked for the (presumably) non-adventurous travelers.

Am I a total cheeseball to keep reinforcing how awesome all-inclusive is compared to every other vacation we’ve respectively been on?

We did a whole lot of sitting around the beach and exploring the resort by foot. It was humid as could be, which explains the whole sexy wet dog look you might notice in photos of us as you browse through.

Accidental sunburns led to seaside naps, and there were no clocks anywhere and even our phones were turned off the whole time. This means that we never had an accurate sense of time for 3 whole days, which was kind of cool (even the clock in our room was wrong, somehow).

Walks on the beach were accompanied by curious iguanas and hand-sized crabs.

Mexican crabby. Pre-attack.

Sometimes both showed up at the same time, when you’re innocently zoomed in on a transparent crab, and scare you half to death while they stare each other down in an “I’M GOING TO EAT ALL OF YOU… and then maybe run up that human’s leg” frenzy.

Scared mexican crabby (and photographer), approached by mexican iguana.

And so the circle of life continues.

Very scared mexican crabby (and photographer). Mid-attack with a mexican iguana.

Actually, the crab got away by the tip of it’s pokey eyeball. Circle of life broken by frantic shrieks of a girl horrified about what she was about to see happen. That girl may or may not have been yours truly.

We made use of the unlimited miles on the rental car by two car trips during our stay too, one of which was to Playa del Carmen about 30 miles north on the sea beside the island of Cozumel.

Pete, and the beach at Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

The sand was much softer than that at our resort’s beach – less coral, I guess. Dare I compare the two as powdered sugar to Home Depot sandbox sand? It was possibly softer than any other beach I’ve traveled to, and that includes my previous favorite cashmere-sanded beach of Sanibel Island. Plus, Playa del Carmen was lined with fishing boats anchored into the earth, which made for pretty pictures.

Playa del Carmen beach boats.


Playa del Carmen. Looks like a storm rolling in, but it dispersed before reaching land.

We scoured and bartered our way through the touristy shops and came home with some fun treasures like these children’s bobble head toys:

Miniature bobble heads bought in Playa del Carmen. Dinosaur, turtle, and bull with rider.

We also bought ceramic hot pepper decor as a gift for mom and dad, the dog sitters, and serious hot pepper fanatics, and a new christmas ornament for this year’s tree.

Chili pepper decor, and a new ornament for the christmas tree.

I bought a few textiles too, which was exactly what I had planned to buy if nothing else. I’ll share those items with you once they’ve found a home. They’re still in the store baggies in my suitcase, which I’ll get around to emptying one of these weeks.

The shops and restaurants in Playa del Carmen were beautiful and as full of color as the photos already shown would suggest; we took assorted photos of the local merchandise, hostels, restaurants, bars, and street decor while we wandered and shopped, so be sure to enlarge to view full-size for full effect. You might even feel like you’re there.

  • Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
  • Beautiful sinks for sale in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
  • Restaurant in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
  • We had major adoration for the ornate mexican tile.
  • Me, and a fantastic die cut plastic chair in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. It was actually outside of a Ben & Jerry's so I'm not sure how authentic it is to the region.
  • Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
  • Dia de los muertos shops lined the streets in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.
  • Feral cat, sparkly woman wearing a cool non-DOC-approved helmet, and me.
  • Small park in Playa del Carmen. Pretty flags everywhere.
  • Dia de los muertos shops lined the streets in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.
  • Anything ivy-covered is fine by me. The painted pink window trim put me over the edge.
  • Colorful mexican textiles.
  • Heading down to the beach at Playa del Carmen.
  • Restaurant in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We liked the colorful tablecloths.
  • Dia de los muertos shops lined the streets in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

When it came right down to it, we spent much of the time driving around noticing two things: All of the friendly folks sporting M16s…

Big guns. Everywhere.

…and the multitude of vehicle makes and models that we had never seen before. We saw some ordinary Nissan Sentra’s and variations of the Volkswagon Passat, but also plenty of unusually named models, starting with our own Dodge Attitude.

Pete and our Dodge Attitude.

Of course, most of the car photos taken involved Pete making an “I have an attitude” face. Because, why not?

Pete and our Dodge Attitude.He also thought the Renault Trafic Passenger was the most badass of all of the passenger vans. And yes, just one “f”. That’s no typo. Possibly a cool fit for Kate + 8, which I do still watch on occasion, sue me.

Pete likes the Renault Trafic Passenger.

Nighttime at the resort was pretty too; it cooled off just enough for us to stop profusely sweating and only minimally sweat, and once most of the families were in for the night, we had nice opportunities to take photos like this, of the pool not so splashy at night with our great (but low-light) Canon G12 manual settings.

Poolside at night at the Gran Bahia Principe.

It was possibly the most work-free and travel-drama-free vacation I’ve ever taken. We even adjusted to the whole having-no-phone-access pretty quickly, forgetting even 24-hours later that we could iPhone-connect to the world of internets or dare to look at our missed calls without extravagant charges or taking it off airplane mode.

I’ve heard plenty of fantastic stories of people’s trips to Cancun and Tulum, but has anyone else been to this resort, or another resort on the 307 highway? If yay, do share.