Monthly Archives: May 2013

Fireplace Renovation (in Technicolor)!

My fiance’ and I recently decided that we didn’t like our fireplace…. so we did what all young homeowners do…. we decided to disassemble it in hopes of an easy fix of simply swapping out the old mantel for a new one. Like most of my home improvement projects, it went pair shaped almost immediately. However, in the end (with the help of my future father-in-law), we came away with a fireplace that we’re really proud of. 

This first picture was the original fireplace. As you can see, it was completely bland with a strange type of wood (complete with water stains) that didn’t add anything to the room. The wood was really splintery and the tile was as neutral as could be.



This next picture was taken after the removal. As you can see, the drywall decided not to cooperate and we were left with huge holes. We were able to re-drywall and my finance’ did most of the sanding.



The last set of pictures are the final solution. A new mantel, new tile and grout, and a new coat of paint on the wood, ceiling and walls. Overall, I’m more amazed by the transformation every time I see it. We went from a room we were embarrassed about to a room we are proud of.







There is still a little bit of work to be done, including changing out the outlets and outlet covers to white and some minor painting left to be done, but we’re definitely better off than we were!

If you’ve done any home projects you’re proud of or want to offer feedback on the fireplace, please feel free to drop a comment below.

The 2013 Camry Hybrid Review!

I recently purchased a new 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid. This is the first new car that I’ve ever owned so it’s exciting every time I get in the car. When I received the car, it literally had 3 miles on it. So far I’ve had the car for a little over a month and the odometer is slightly over 1200  miles. I’ve filled up with gas just once (I’m almost on ‘E’ at the moment) and am averaging just a tic under 40 mpg. Since the car is a hybrid, I named him Wattson. so…. without any further rambling…..


Wattson in all his glory


Since I have two weimaraners who often ride in the car, one of my main requirements was a leather interior. Unfortunately, Toyota made this a huge pain in the butt. In order to get leather, I had to upgrade to the GPS package. However, if you add the GPS package, you also have to buy the Blind Spot Monitoring….

Anyway, to focus only on the leather, the interior looks incredibly sharp. I’m also really impressed by the dash (picture below). The dial on the left shows what source of power is being used by the gar. The middle dial is the speedometer and the right is the cumulative average of mpg. Additionally, there is a screen located in the middle of the speedometer that displays additional information that can be toggled from the steering wheel. This includes mph for the trip, range left (how many miles until I run out of gas), overall mph, etc. It’s definitely an added bonus to have all the information in front of me without having to take my eyes off the road.

Verdict: A+



As I mentioned earlier, I was required to get GPS in order to get leather seats. The GPS is average at best. I’m used to the Android GPS powered by Google Maps so I’m used to the best. From the day I bought the car, the map was already out of date as it didn’t have my financees’ address in West Virginia (even though her apartment complex has been open for over two years).

With Android, I can say “Navigate to Target” and it’ll bring up the address of the Target and navigate appropriately. With the car, I need a physical address or I need to do a crazy tedious search using Bing. Overall, I’m not impressed.

The great thing about Android Navigation is that the map is constantly being updated by Google…. the car GPS requires I buy an upgrade from Toyota in order to get map updates. Overall, the GPS doesn’t add much to the car.

Verdict: D-

Heated Seats & Dual Climate Control

I’ve never had heated seats before so I wasn’t sure what to expect in regards to how much I would like them. After using them, I can honestly say they are awesome. What I like most about the Camry version is that it also heats the lower back.

Dual Climate Control is another feature included in the car. I like it a lot, but I’m not sure how valuable it is because the vast majority of the time I’m driving alone.

Verdict – B+ (Would bump to an A if the seats heated the whole back).

Keyless Ignition

I think my favorite feature of the car is the Keyless ignition. In order to unlock and start the car, all I need is to have the key fob close by (usually in my pocket).  To start the car, I simply put my foot on the brake and hit the start button. The first few times I started the car, I wasn’t sure if it was on because the electric motor is so quiet. This is definitely one of the coolest features of the car.

Verdict – A+

Backup Camera

The backup camera was another feature I wasn’t sure if I would like… however, after using it for a few weeks, it’s completely and utterly awesome. Whether helping me back into tight spots or alerting me to on-coming vehicles, it’s a very cool feature.


Verdict – A

Blind Spot Monitor

Another feature I had to pay for in order to get leather was Blind Spot Monitoring. The way it works is when I’m driving on the highway and a car is in my blind spot, an orange light appears on the side mirror. Initially, I didn’t think this would be useful or cool. However, the more I use it, I definitely see the value and am glad to have it. This comes in handy nearly everyday with knowing if I have enough room to merge and also helps keep my eyes forward because I don’t have to turn my head to check the blind spot.

Verdict – A


One of the stranger features of the car is the ability to utilize apps through something called ‘Toyota Entune’. The main apps are Pandora, weather, gas prices and OpenTable. The concept is that I download the Entune app on my smartphone (Android or iOS) and then the car apps use the data from my phone to function.

I’ve used most of the apps and the most useful is the Pandora app because it shows the current song and artist on the GPS screen. If I’m streaming Pandora from my phone via Bluetooth, the artist and song name do not display. However, the app on the car  constantly loses connection and would be described as spotty at best.

As for the other apps…. the weather app is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. When the radar map is pulled up, there is no re-positioning the map to zoom in on a particular location so if you want to check the weather in specific location (rather than a general location zoomed out), the User is out of luck.

The images below show what I’m talking about. The middle picture is the initial view of the map. The bottom picture is zoomed in twice. Columbus is in the top right and nearly out of view. It’s absolutely pointless.


As for the others…. I think it would be incredibly tedious to make an OpenTable reservation on the car rather than the Android app. I also don’t see the value in gas prices as this is a simple app download as well.

I think the worst part of the apps is that they come free for the first three years, then Toyota thinks I should pay a monthly fee to use them. This is beyond asinine because I’m using my own data from my phone in order to make them work and they aren’t offering anything I can’t get a better version of from somewhere else (most notably, the Google Play Store).


Verdict – F


Since I’m already over 1100 words, I’m not going to review every feature of the Camry. Some of the other neat stuff that was left out is the eco-boost option, the electric only mode and the plethora of settings from when the doors lock to how long the headlights should stay on for.

When I was buying a car, I wanted something that was eco friendly. The reason being that I would much rather give my money to the car companies rather than the gas companies. The Camry Hybrid absolutely delivers on this. So far I’ve been averaging around 39 MPH. Combine that with how sharp the exterior looks and how the Camry Hybrid was rated #1 in total cost of ownership by Consumer Reports, and I couldn’t be happier with my choice.

Overall Grade after 1200 miles…. A

As always, feel free to drop a note with your thoughts in the comments.

Engagement Pictures – Tobey and Lillian Edition

My fiancee’ and I recently had an engagement session with our photographer Britt Lakin of Britt Lakin Photography. Since the weimaraners are what brought us together (we met at Alum Creek Dog Park), we thought it would be a good idea to start the session with the dogs. In the end, it didn’t work out as well as we expected because both of our dogs refuse to listen but Britt still managed to get some great pictures. As a reminder, Tobey is the Gray and Lillian is the Blue.

Also, quick update on Tobey after his surgery to remove seven tumors (All non-cancerous!)… he had his final set of staples removed on Tuesday so he is now clear to go through metal detectors and is doing well overall.

S&M WEB-16

The fam


This picture fully captures why the engagement
session was difficult with the weims


Tobey in all his glory

S&M WEB-10

Lillian being awesome

As always, feel free to drop a note in the comments.

Internet Commentors are Awesome! Twins Edition

First let me say, I love the internet. I think we all do. What I don’t like is whenever someone expresses an opinion  there are instantly trolls who try to argue and insult. I just received the below comment on my rant about how Burt Blyleven is a horrible announcer (I’m currently watching the Twins game, but listening to the Baltimore announcers because I can’t handle the same catch phrases over and over again… I get it… people get circled). Anyway, the comment made me literally laugh out loud because I could do a better job than Burt. Coomer did a better job in the series in Boston. Tom Kelly does a better job any time he subs in. As I’m listening to this, the Baltimore announcers are more enjoyable than Burt. My point is still valid, that rejecting advanced statistics and railing against them shows how out of touch Blyleven is. I really don’t care if he’s replaced, because with the MLB package, I can always listen to the visitors feed, or on certain days, I can listen to Dan Gladden on the radio feed while watching the video feed.

Anyway, I thought the comment was hilarious.


If you want to rip into me for anything I’ve written without actually reading it (My entire point was without advanced statistics, Burt Blyleven never would have been elected to the hall of fame), feel free to drop a note in the comments.

Quick Sunday Update

It’s amazing how fast life is moving right now. With Tobey still recovering (he’s doing well, but did reopen one of the wounds, so he needed three new staples on Friday), lawncare, work being extremely busy, and my wedding fast approaching, there just doesn’t seem like there is enough time in the day.

In terms of the yard, this year, I’m trying something new with the yard. I’m cutting the grass at 4.5 inches. My thought is this will trap the moisture better, which should help regenerate the damage spots from the yard. Another added benefit is that it also hides the damage spots. The downside is that I’m mowing almost every other day. Pictures below.




If you have any yard tips or any other comments, please feel free to drop a note in the comments.