Thursday, April 23, 2015

Kitchen Upgrade Status: Backsplash Tile

You guys, I just spent the last 5 days tiling my kitchen backsplash. For starters, this is a peek into what I went with:

I haven't grouted yet, but boy am I HAPPY with how things have turned out so far.

Why did it take me 5 days to do this? I had A LOT of area to tile, not to mention that I still have to work a full-time job during the day and try to keep me and my husband fed, although we have been eating a lot of take out. That and you kind of need a oven and stove to cook, amiright? Well, almost...

I mean, take a look at this kitchen!

I went with Grecian White Interlocking marble tiles from Home Depot instead of the trendy glass mosaic tiles that are hot right now. After some thought, the glass mosaic tiles looked too busy and came across as something that would date the kitchen after time. I wanted something classic, yet modern. I love how the tile picks up the white and black from the cabinets and counter, as well as the browns from the tile floor in the kitchen.

It helped that I didn't have to do a lot of creative tile cutting, just a lot of straight, straight lines that put my closeted OCD tendencies into overdrive. It's a good thing too because if I had to go one more day inhaling fumes from that mastic adhesive, I would set myself on fire.

There were a few hiccups, mostly with figuring out what to do with the pre-drilled hardware anchor holes that we determined for the range hood before tiling. We decided to tile around them, as we didn't want to drill holes into the tile.

We also had to do several dry fits with the range hood to make sure all the anchor holes were in the right place and the exterior chimney fit where it was supposed to. Turns out it didn't, so we had to learn how to cut stainless steel with a cut-off wheel. Thank god for the internet!

After grouting we move onto the upper cabinets and facade build-out above them. Bye-bye orange paint forever and we're on the home stretch! It's already a HUGE difference from what it used to look like, no?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Winter Sowing Status

This week is dedicated to tiling the kitchen backsplash and so far I am over the MOON on how it is turning out. I will post pics when we are done.

In the meantime, I thought I'd update on this year's winter sowing status. So far, it's been much less successful than last year when I grew my seeds in individual styrofoam cups. I'd say I've had about a 40% success rate to date;

The tomatoes have done the best (thank god) with about a dozen sprouts. I only have 2 zucchini sprouts and 4 cucumbers. My flowers didn't do so well either with only 1 borage, 5 oriental poppies, 1 columbine, and 5 hollyhocks.

There are a lot of things that could have impacted what happened. For instance, last year I used a soiless seed starting mix and this year I used a potting soil mix. Last year I had fresher seeds (for some) and grew them in individual cups versus a big growing bin. I decided to try the bins this year, as last year the seedlings dried out very easily and others have had great success growing in large containers. I could have also planted some of the seeds wrong...who knows. Maybe next year I will try a mix of different growing mediums and techniques to see what works for me.

In the meantime, I will need to resow some more seeds and hope they catch up.

In other garden news, everyone else seems to be doing well. The fava beans are up and are taking off like rockets:

The garlic is doing well too!

That big green bed of lushness behind my winter sowing tubs is a cover crop of hairy vetch. I am going to till that under this week and will plant my tomatoes in that bed when they are ready. Of course, I panicked again and bought 6 Big Box Store plants of "Early Girl" just in case my winter sowed sprouts didn't make it.

Even my Russian Fingerling potatoes are up! I have two 2'5" x 2'5" boxes of these this year with a few extras tucked into one of the beds. We'll see how it goes!

In sad news, my rhubarb didn't do well from last year and I have only 1 measly sprout coming up. Oh well, maybe that will turn into something. Some of my perennials didn't make it or are struggling and I've done what I can to help them and only time will tell.

That is part of the fun of gardening, every season is an ongoing lesson in what works and what doesn't.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Kitchen Upgrade Status: Ducting and Wall Vents

See that big hunk of metal coming out of my kitchen wall...see it?

I've never been so happy or excited about a big hunk of metal before. But more importantly, check out this super sexy wall vent cap that it is attached to on the outside...

You don't know how much I have fretted and researched about that wall vent cap. I've learned MORE than I've ever wanted to know about vinyl siding, j-chanels, mounting blocks, and j-blocks these past few weeks.

But first, if you are ever looking for some high-quality exterior bling for your house, check out the AWESOME products offered at Luxury Metals. Do yourself a favor and don't buy those cheap, aluminum things they sell at the big box stores, or else you'll end up with something like this:

It may not seem like much, but there is a right way and a wrong way to attach something to the outside of your house if you have vinyl siding. The vent cap that is in the upper left of this picture is the WRONG way, my new, sexy range hood vent cap is the RIGHT way. BTW, the vent cap shown in the video above is also the WRONG way to do this. You see, you are not supposed to just slap something to the outside of your siding, screw it in, caulk it, and hope for the best. Ideally, you want to have a flush surface to mount to in order to prevent future water leaks and your siding should be cut away to allow that to happen. In addition, that framing around the vent cap is called a j-channel, and that allows water to shed away from the hole you just cut into the outside of your house.

Unfortunately, many contractors don't go this route and many homeowners do not understand there is more involved. Doing something right often involves a lot of forethought and inconvenience, but I believe that it's better to do something right than to have to pay the price and do something over.

I am SO glad I didn't have the original HVAC company install this; I had a siding company come out to make sure it was done correctly. I have a feeling the HVAC company would have slapped this on the side of the house and walked away.

As you can see in the first pic, the sheetrock is back up under the cabinets and I am mudding and taping this week. Next weekend is tile and I'm so excited! After that is done, I'll actually be able to hang the range hood, hook it up, and see if all this hard work has paid off.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Washington D.C. Cherry Blossoms

This is the time of year when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom in northern Virginia. When we first moved up here, I made visiting the tidal basins to see the cherry blossoms in D.C. a priority. It's pretty much up there with seeing the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Whitehouse as things to see and do in D.C.

Of course, I couldn't just go see the blossoms, I wanted to go at DAWN to take pictures. My husband, a very patient man, agreed to get up with me at 4 a.m. on a Sunday to drive into D.C. to do this. When he mentioned that he was doing this to one of his coworkers, his friend laughed and said, "I can see it now, the pictures are going to be: cherry blossom, cherry blossom, MUGGER, cherry blossom."

Turns out, downtown D.C. isn't as safe as you would think, especially during weird hours of the morning, and BTW the only way you are going to find a public parking space in downtown D.C. is at 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

Well, we weren't mugged and it was a wonderful experience. I'm glad we were able to see it before it got crowded.

The flush of spring flowers everywhere right now is simply breathtaking. Forsythia, cherry blossoms, dogwood, ornamental cherry.,,sooo pretty.  It almost looks like a Disney movie set, no?

It wasn't long before it got really crowded and it was time to go. I hate crowds! I also hate the congested city traffic associated with such crowds. God, that makes me sound old!

The cherry blossom festival is pretty much a "been-there-done-that" one-time thing as far as I'm concerned and we haven't been back. I liken it to seeing stalactites and stalagmites...if you've seen one, you've seen them all!

Still, it's a beautiful thing and I highly recommend anyone who is in the D.C. area this weekend to see the cherry blossoms if they can.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Kitchen Upgrade Status: DIY Electricity

"I've got the power to energize..."

I've had this song in my head all morning. Man, Midnight Star waz da bomb back in the 80's. Sigh.

Anyway, the electricity portion of our kitchen was finished this morning. This gives us the green light to go ahead and finish installing the sheetrock and backsplash. But first, my kickass undercabinet lights...

You can also see they moved the power outlet/junction where the range hood will be installed to the left of where the old electrical socket was. This will be hidden behind the range hood chimney.

Next, we had the electrician put an outlet into my pantry so we could move our counter-top microwave in there and get it off the counter...

Why is it whenever you are trying to take a room photo, cats always seem to think they need to be in the picture? This is the best I could do at the time without losing my patience.

When doing DIY projects, it's best to know what you're capable of doing and what you should contract out. Electricity most often falls under the latter unless you are certified to do electrical repairs. Keep in mind that someday you MIGHT want to sell your home and electrical work that is not up to code can prevent a sale from happening until its fixed, not to mention dangerous.

Tomorrow, our ducting is installed. STOKED!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Refurbished Mid-Century Brass Chandelier

Sometime last fall, I spotted this amazing beauty on Craigsligst for a mere $100:

That picture of it on the table doesn't do it justice; it was AMAZING! And those herringbone glass light guards? AMAZEBALLS!

The lady I bought it from said that she never actually wired it up, as her bedroom ceiling was too low, but she said that she saw it hanging, lit up at the antique store where she bought it. The hardware was all brass, which made the chandy heavy as it was, but it also came with this weird thing-a-majig, which was used to wire it up:

Turns out, it was a transformer to covert electricity into low-voltage for the low-voltage lights, and the chandy couldn't be directly wired into 120 volts. That transformer looks small, but let me tell you, that thing weighed just as much, if not MORE than the chandy itself. I think my husband got on the scale while holding it and it was 6 lbs.!

It was a round brick. It was a 50 year-old round brick with Italian instructions written on it. Great!

So, we were faced with a strange conundrum, how do we wire this thing up, and would a typical ceiling electrical box support all that weight? Would we even WANT to use a 50 year-old transformer without worrying about our house burning down?  Umm, no. We were back to "if I do this, then I must do that" problem solving.

We went back and forth on whether to either re-wire the chandy for 120v and regular incandescent bulbs, or find another transformer that would work and keep it low-voltage. We even consulted with 2 professional lamp restorers in the D.C. area and they were stumped. So, this baby sat in our basement  for 5 months while we pondered and researched.

One day, I got lucky and stumbled upon a image that looked like my transformer. I discovered I had what was called a magnetic toroidal transformer. Once I knew what I was dealing with, I was off.

We eventually found this very likely candidate at Pegasus Lighting:

After speaking with their customer service about what we were trying to do, they felt confident that it would do the job, not to mention it was a fraction of the old transformer's weight. They were right!

We had to also do a little Macgyver-ing with the mounting hardware to custom fit the new transformer to the ceiling electrical box, but it worked and I could not be more happy! Isn't she gorgeous?

As you can see, I have decided to glamourize my laundry room. I'm going with a wallpaper accent wall, this chandy, and some rustic wooden shelves with brass brackets. It will be some time before I get to finish this due to the kitchen, but so far I am thrilled!

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