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Our 2017 Year In Review

We’ve reached the end of 2017 and I can still hardly believe I’ve just written this.

As we look back on the last 12 months we can absolutely say that this year has been packed full of projects, adventures, milestones, and experiences. We’ve tried our best to keep everyone informed of our latest goings on throughout the year, but it has admittedly been difficult given the length of time it tends to take to write blog posts (on account of verbosity I tend to bring to writing blog posts…and the speed at which I execute the projects that I most enjoy writing about). We also haven’t been recapping parties and vacations as we have in the past on the blog, instead giving most of those updates incrementally on Instagram, but in an effort to get you up to speed…

Let’s get started on our Year in Review!

We kicked off the year by enjoying a fireworks display in Old Town Alexandria, plotting and planning for what we wanted to accomplish in the coming year. We knew it would be a busy one, but knew we’d also have a lot of fun along the way.

We started the year with a trip out of town to the west coast. It was both of our first times in Los Angeles (we stayed in Santa Monica), so we decided to really do it up tourist style and headed to Hollywood. One of the highlights of our time in southern California was enjoying the Warner Bros. studio tour.

And on that tour, seeing the prop house was unreal. Imagine the coolest antique store you’ve ever seen and then spread it across three football fields…but you’re not allowed to purchase a single thing. It was a little bit of torture combined with a ton of fun.

After LA we drove up the coast and stopped at several of our favorite places between LA and Northern California: Santa Barbara, Cambria, Carmel, and Napa Valley. 

It was in the middle of the non-stop rain that hit the region early in the year, which was the first time we’ve ever experienced this sort of weather on the West Coast.

When we returned home we did so full of inspiration and vigor, ready to take on the year. We knocked out the final few items on the quick office makeover we’d started at the end of 2016, and set our sights on finishing our next project in our Foursquare house, the living room.

We did partake in some of the fun Alexandria has to offer, like enjoying the annual George Washington Birthday Parade. After all, it’s one of the three annual street parades (in addition to St. Paddy’s day and the Scottish Christmas Walk) that make our amazing town what it is.

But back to our projects. Our Foursquare living room was another of our very long running efforts. By the end of February we were excitedly nearing the conclusion of our efforts, and we couldn’t wait to enjoy it. 

As the weather began to warm we turned our sights to the outdoor projects we’d needed to tackle. One of the maintenance tasks we need to tackle every few years is the repainting of our row house front cast iron stairs. 

This year we switched to using a water based alkyd paint so we needed to first prime and then paint. It gave an odd look for a day as the front stairs were primed gray, but they were soon gloss black again.

We enjoyed all of the #LeeStreetRats in Old Town had to offer (follow that hashtag on Instagram for more fun) and all of their changing scenery throughout the year, like this lovely Easter celebration.

We also went to work overhauling, repairing, and repainting our massive porches on our Foursquare.

And we also spent a lot of time planting and cleaning up our gardens.

It was several months of effort, but by the end of the summer much of we’d wanted to accomplish was done and our exterior was repaired and repainted, and the porch floors were looking quite wonderful.

In May we claimed “Victory at last!” over the longest of our long running renovation projects to date, the master bathroom in our row house.

We’d finished up the built in cabinets, and though we do still have some small items remaining in the bathroom, we decided it was done enough to call it done, and then to put off the remaining things that were needed for it to actually be done.

Over the summer we enjoyed our neighborhood tradition of “Oldies in the Alley” again. Our neighbor, in an effort to ensure younger generations (like their children) understand the glory of black and white movies, setup a sheet on their garage and occasionally show films for the neighborhood. On this night we were enjoying the classic, Casablanca. 

We had to do it up right, so Wendy mixed up a few French 75s for us and our neighbors to commemorate the evening. 

Enough fun, back to projects. After the paint on our door began failing from being tortured by the weather for many years, Wendy decided to clean up our back gate and put on a fresh coat of black paint.

We also wanted to seal in the patina on the rusted cast iron grate, so we applied a coat of Penetrol and admired our freshly painted door.

This was just one of the many little maintenance projects that we had to take care of, but didn’t have time to really write about. We were far too busy with much more pressing matters than to bore you all with posts about painting a gate. 

In June I attended Milwaukee Tools’ 2017 New Product Symposium on behalf of Charles & Hudson. It was my first time at a big tool event like this, but I learned a lot and it reignited my ongoing obsession with power tools.

Over a year after we found an antique cast iron Irish road sign in an antique store in Kilkenny Ireland, we proudly hung it on the built-in bench we’d put together under the stairs in our Foursquare’s hall. It’s now one of our favorite pieces of decor…but the hallway project is nowhere near complete.

After our friend Dan and I ate our way through all of the ice cream shops in Alexandria (thirteen to be exact), we put together a guide to our favorites.

Right at the end of spring, after 14 years of struggling along, our old, loud, and inefficient air conditioner finally took its last breath. We ended up doing a complete replacement with a variable speed high efficiency heat pump. This required us to redo all of our duct work, plan for a future boiler to supplement the heat with a hydronic coil, and design a whole new system with our contractor. We also were able to reclaim a significant amount of space from our attic in the process. 

As the spring gave way to summer, we got our fair share of amazing rainbows across the water. There’s really nothing quite like the view with a giant double rainbow.

In July Wendy and I spent a few days in Golden, Colorado as a result of a trip I needed to take for work. We took in the sights of Denver, Golden, and a few surrounding towns, including Morrison by the Red Rocks Amphitheater.

Morrison is one of those unexpectedly fun towns to stop in and we both had a wonderful time. Of course, no stop in Golden is complete without a quick trip to the Coors Brewery.

Just a few weeks later Wendy and I ended up in Portland, Oregon for a few days covering the KEEN Utility media event. Like the Milwaukee event we were there for Charles & Hudson and spent our time on a whirlwind tour of the KEEN headquarters and factory, as well as Portland in general.

We had a ton of fun in spite of the fact that Portland was experiencing record breaking heat above 100 degrees. We certainly found a few good places to cool off.

In between our small trips out of town we spent a little bit of time refinishing a small piece of furniture Wendy picked from the trash that will serve as our pass through table to our side porch.

We also got to see a bunch of baby pigs at a neighborhood farm!

In August our neighbor and friend that owns a World War II Stearman biplane and took Wendy and me up for a once in a lifetime experience.

Open cockpit at about 1000 feet is one of those things that people seldom get to experience, and we consider ourselves very fortunate to have a friend that is both an expert pilot (a retired commercial pilot) and willing to take us up in his labor of love that he has spent years restoring. He also flies on the weekends in the “Flying Circus” if you’re ever interested in checking out his plane.

My final tool trip of the year was spent at DeWALT’s “Tough in the South” event in Nashville. 

Like the others, I was attending and covering the event for Charles & Hudson, and once again had an amazing time learning about DeWALT’s new tool offerings for 2018. Let’s just say, after all of these events, my Amazon wish list is far from empty. But some of the best parts of the events were all of the other blogger and social media influencers I had a chance to get to know. 

At the end of August we had an article published about restoring transom window lifts in Old House Journal.

In September I made a steam box so that we’d be able to finally start restoration of our original double hung windows…

And shortly after we started working on the first of our windows (which is still in progress and hopefully soon to be done, btw).

Around this same time I spent some time building a kayak storage rack from a bunch of driftwood. (Wendy didn’t approve of this “monstrosity.”)

In October I got to witness the oldest building on the National Mall, the Lock Keeper’s House, being moved to its new location just a few dozen feet away.

And Wendy had finally tired of our red dining room enough that it was time to change its color to something more appealing.

After a little effort and a lot of paint, we now have a practically new dining room.

In totally random news, on the way to our Foursquare we found a dog running on the side of the road, picked him up, and got him into Lost Dog rescue where he’s currently awaiting a good home. His new name is Yogi and he’s a very sweet boy. We’ve been visiting him and walking him often. If you’re looking for a rescue, he may very well be your man. (Email or message us for details!)

For Halloween Wendy and I went with the Audrey/Elvis party theme from Big Little Lies, and I think we really ended up pulling it off.

In November Wendy and I went on an amazing vacation to celebrate both our 15th anniversary and my 40th birthday. We started the trip in Madrid, Spain and then drove through the Douro Valley and down the coast of Portugal.

This was truly a bucket list trip for us, as we spent the night of my birthday in an actual castle tower. We’re talking stone walls and slits for windows where I should be shooting arrows castle. It was spectacular.

Honestly, words and photos can’t do the absolute serene beauty of Portugal justice.

When we returned from our trip, Wendy threw me a 40th birthday party at our Foursquare. It was so much fun to have friends and family out to the house, sitting around the fire pit, spreading out in the house and yard (something that can prove tricky in our 15′ wide row house), and dining outside on the wraparound porch.

At the end of November our hearts collectively broke when we lost Mel, peacefully and unexpectedly. He was 17, lived an amazing life, and leaves a void in our hearts so much larger than that of his tiny seven pound feline body.

He was the most wonderful companion in so many ways, and we’re still absolutely broken hearted and can’t get used to life without him.

As the calendar rolled to December, we threw a little neighborhood Scotch tasting party to kick off the holiday season.

We were also grateful to have the party serve as a hard deadline to get our Christmas decor out, given we weren’t feeling at all festive or motivated following Mel’s death.

Our projects didn’t slow down at all. I finally finished one of the main remaining details of the bathroom by stripping, squaring, and painting an old door for our bathroom closet.

In a classic case of serendipity, Old House Journal also featured our master bathroom renovation in the February 2018 issue. It’s a giant six page article on our entire journey, so look for it at your favorite bookstore if you don’t have a subscription.

As the days grew shorter and the year drew to a close, we received our first snowfall just a few weeks ago and had a wonderful time with Lulu running around and enjoying the pleasant snow.

But our playing in the snow was actually just a little break from the latest project that we began. Our final new project for 2017, which will ultimately lead us into 2018, is the dining room renovation at our Foursquare. The fruit and flower wallpaper border had to go, so we began removing all of the drywall and uncovering the original plaster walls. Like the living room project on the other side of the house, we’ll restore these walls and make them wonderful again, all in 2018!

Oh, and one more little project for 2018 is to get this tall case clock we won at an auction back up and running. 

It’s a mid 19th century German Black Forest movement in an American case. Both the movement and the case need some work, and I’m really looking forward to getting it operational once again. 

There you have it, that’s our 2017 year in review. Lots of projects and adventures and a whole lot of fun. We had highs and lows for sure, and the heartbreak of having to say goodbye to a beloved family member. Looking back on the year where so much happened almost makes my head spin and I can see why we always feel just a little bit tired.

But it’s also giving us inspiration for the year to come and what 2018 may hold. Here’s to 2018, may we all complete many projects and have a great time doing it!

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About Ashraf Akkilah

Ashraf Akkilah
Architecture and design is my passion. I'm an architect who is interested in building design and decor trends. I'm also interested in sculpture design and landscaping. I'm "outdoor" architect who love to be involved in the project site and supervise finishing and final touches works. I had contributed to many construction and decor projects.

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