Friday, November 23, 2012

Gobble Gobble

After just over a year in our first house, we decided to host our first Thanksgiving dinner. I always help my mom cook for holidays, so I wasn't super unfamiliar with cooking a big holiday dinner.

We had homemade green bean casserole, six cheese mashed potatoes, honey and bourbon glazed apples and sweet potatoes, cranberries, stuffing, challah rolls, and of course turkey and gravy. For dessert were mini pumpkin pies and mini apple pie cheesecakes.

That hardest part of the entire day, was trying to get everything cooked and done (and hot) at the same time. I actually had a surprising amount of down time that I was not too fond of having. It's hard to sit around when you know there is so much left to do.

But everything seemed to come together. And everyone said the food was delicious (who knows if they were really telling the truth...).

Our first turkey!

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Now it's time to put up all the Christmas and Hanukah decorations. The bitter cold and flurries definitely make it feel a bit more like the holiday season.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Favorite Things: Clean Freak Edition

Yes. I'll admit it. I'm a bit of a clean freak. So in today's post I'm going to share a few of my favorite things.

First is our scooba. I've named ours Henry (I figure if it's going to clean my house, it should at least have a name). Now you're all going "what in the world is a scooba?" Well it's from iRobot, the makers of the roomba. Only unlike the roomba which is a vacuum, the scooba is essentially a robot mop. It is meant for hard surfaces, like our wood floors. You fill it up with a bit of floor cleaner (specific to your type of floor) and water, press a button, and off it goes. We have the 230 model, but there is a new 390 model that also vacuums small particles while mopping (so you don't even have to sweep before!) Best part, it makes a pretty amusing dog toy while it cleans your floors. 

My next new favorite cleaning thing is our washer/dryer. We have an all in one washer and dryer. Meaning you toss in the load of laundry, set the wash, set the dry, and let it go. I'm the type of person that puts a load of laundry into the wash and then start doing other things, and completely forget to move it to the dryer. An all in one machine is by far the best laundry invention for someone like myself. Not to mention it is amazing for those who work all day. The LG machine we have allows for you to set a delay and also has a cool down cycle after drying. When I worked full time, this was a life saver. It allowed me to throw in a load before going to work (or even the night before) and set it to go on about 2 in the afternoon. It would then wash and dry the load and be ready for folding when I walked in the door. And even if traffic was bad, the 4 hour cool down cycle kept the clothes from wrinkling. It even sings to you when it's done.

Now if you're not looking to spend a lot of money, here are some of my quick clean freak loves. 

I keep one of those Oxo squirt dish cleaners with a mixture of dish soap (like Dawn or Palmolive or whatever you like) and vinegar in my shower at all time. Before getting out of the shower, I real quick wipe the shower with the cleaner. It adds maybe 30 seconds to each shower, but it eliminates having to scrub the shower clean each week (or month or year, depending on your cleaning habits). And it actually keeps my shower looking cleaner than it ever did with weekly scrubbings. I keep a container of premixed dish soap and vinegar in my linen closet upstairs, and refill the cleaner once a week when I clean the rest of the bathroom.

Dryer sheets. I use these to dust everything. They leave a small film on surfaces which helps to prevent the dust from sticking (at least from what I've noticed). Meaning less dusting, which I'm sure everyone would like (really, who likes to dust?) It's the best for electronics that are basically magnets for dust. You can even rub dyer sheets on baseboards to help prevent dust build up on those. And if you own the wonderful washer dryer combo I talked about before, you might be like me and have an abundance of dryer sheets since they were bought at Sam's club that you'll never use again (no need for dryer sheets with that machine). Best part, no sprays or anything needed. And you get that great fresh laundry smell around your entire place!

And of course, what clean freak post would be complete without a cleaning wish list.

I'm slightly obsessed with finding the perfect vacuum for my house. I have a big upright vacuum. It works well. But it's a huge hassle to carry it up and down the stairs every week (or to get my husband to do). I also bought myself a stick vacuum (basically a dust buster attached to a stick so you can stand while using it). Which is fine for the hardwood floors, but doesn't work well for the rugs. But I think I found my perfect match. It is a handheld vacuum, but has the suction of an upright along with a spinning brush. It combines the best of both of my current vacuums. Light enough to go up and down stairs easily, but powerful enough to get those rugs clean. I know "they" always say you're not supposed to give women vacuums as gifts, but I would be pretty excited to get this one. 

Interested in any of my clean freak items? Just click the pictures! The pictures will link you to where to buy them!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Bit Of Privacy

I wrote earlier about installing our front fence and that we had one for the back sitting in the garage waiting to be installed. Well, it's finally done!

Like the front fence, we used a WamBam product. Only this time we went with a 6ft, semi-privacy, white vinyl fence. We decided to go this route to give us a bit of privacy in our back yard, to block the view to our yard from the street and near by condo building a bit more. But we didn't want to completely close off the yard, which is why we decided on semi-privacy rather than a solid fence. The panels have small gaps between each slat, allowing light (and wind) through, but are still small enough to give the sense of enclosure and privacy. 

Once again it took a full day and six people to get the fence installed. Our handy, dandy contractors found a drill bit that would allow us to drill into the soil (and through all of the crazy roots in the yard) which made installation a whole lot simpler. 

The fence was installed pretty much the same way as the front fence. Anchors into the ground, post covers, and panels. Once the anchors were in, the installation was pretty simple. And I'd assume that installing the anchors might be easier if the soil was a little less disagreeable than ours is. Hence the use of a 3ft drill bit.

Somehow, the addition of a privacy fence actually makes our yard feel bigger (at least to us). And it checks another box off the backyard to do list. But with it being fall, and winter approaching (hopefully not too quickly), the rest of the projects will probably have to wait until spring.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Wall

Since living in our apartment, I have had numerous comments about "the wall". Well everyone is in luck! We're decided to do something similar in our bedroom in the new house and I'm going to dedicate this post to showing everyone how it was done!

Reminder, the wall in our apartment:

Yes I did paint around bookshelves, hence the giant white space
Start by painting the walls the color you want the lines between the blocks to be. In the case of our apartment we wanted white so we skipped this step. In our bedroom we went with a tealish-blue color (it's almost Tiffany blue for the ladies to get a better idea since pictures and computer screens sometimes distort colors).

Next is to tape off the pattern. This is where you let your creativity shine (or where you call in your artsy mother to help because being an engineer you don't do random super well). Start putting tape up in squares and rectangles of all different sizes. We tried to avoid having a line that connected more than three boxes. This helped to keep the look less predictable. For the apartment I started by taping horizontal and vertical lines using a lot of measuring and a hand level (to make kind of a plaid) and then removed and added tape to make it random. In our bedroom I invested in a laser level that showed both vertical and horizontal level and skipped the plaid step. The entire bedroom took far less time to do than the single wall in our apartment, so I would highly advise the laser level.

Final step is to paint! Just like stripes, don't use too much paint on your brush and start with the brush on the tape and pull onto the wall rather than the opposite way. This will help prevent bleeding under the tape. If you are going with more than one color, I suggest opening all the colors and use your finger dipped in the paint to mark which block will be which color before painting the entire wall. This will help avoid the inevitable multiple blocks of the same color next to each other.

Then just pull the tape off the wall and touch up any bleeding there may be!

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Little Curb Appeal

I know, I know. I clearly am not so good with this posting on a regular basis thing. Life has, well, gotten the best of us lately. There has been so much to do with the weather being nice, the blog took a bit of a backseat. But here I am again.

Anyway, with the string of nice (but a tad hot) weather, we decided to work a bit on the outside of the house. Seems silly to be doing indoor projects when it's nice and warm out when those can be saved for the cold winter months. We started with the front of the house. It's a bit smaller of an area to work with than the back and also gives that first impression to the house when people walk up.

First up was installing a fence. Since we live just down the block from a school, there are a good number of kids that walk by our house to school every day (well when school is in session). It's pretty common on our block to have a fence in the front of your house. Not because there have been any problems with damage, but just to keep the teenagers off the lawn if they're is a big group walking by. Actually, we had more of an issue with people walking dogs than the kids. But nonetheless, we installed a fence. It also helped with uniformity of the block since we were one of the only houses without one.

We decided to go with a product called WamBam Fencing. It goes in by pounding an anchor rod into the ground and then securing the post and panels on top. No need to dig post holes or pour concrete. Which would allow us to install it by ourselves. Sounds great. Sometimes things are just too good to be true though. While there were no problems with the product, it was our yard that was the problem. About 6 inches into the pounding we hit all sorts of fun stuff: roots, concrete, stone, etc. Basically all sorts of things we couldn't just pound our way through. So much for installing the fence ourselves.

So we brought in our handy dandy contractor. He and his trusty sidekick drilled through the concrete and whatever else so we could slip in the anchors and then build the fence. It took about six hours and six people, but the fence finally went up. Now to just get the backyard fence done...

But that's a story for another day. The following weekend we decided the yard was looking a bit drab. So a plan was hatched on how to give it a bit of a facelift. And off to Home Depot we went. We came home with about 1200lbs of retaining wall block and 900lbs of dirt. And that was just day one. Day two involved another approximately 600lbs of dirt and lots of flowers. Two days worth of work resulted in a new raised garden bed!

Combine that with a new porch platform step, some fresh stain, and a new mailbox, and we think the house now makes a great first impression.

Since the picture above, the new grass has started to come in, the flowers have filled in, we stained the planter box white and planted some rose bushes in it. I would insert a picture, except apparently I never took one and it is currently raining (I really don't like being out in the rain and I don't think my camera or phone would either). Maybe I can remember to take one eventually...

Monday, May 28, 2012

A True Wash Room

During the major house renovations, we redid the upstairs bathroom and added a second. But we neglected the downstairs bath. Until now.

The previous house owners were elderly and had troubles making it up stairs. So they were using an addition off the back of the house as a bedroom and created a handicap bathroom. The bathroom included a huge toilet (I'm pretty sure this thing could have competed in cavernous-ness with the grand canyon), a really old vanity, an equally old medicine cabinet, and a handicap shower.

Seeing as we have 2 full baths on the 2nd floor and no bedrooms on the first, we had no need for a shower on the first floor. I've also been complaining about having to take clothes from the 2nd floor down to the basement to do laundry (I got spoiled with having laundry in my apartments). Thus the idea was born to turn the handicap bathroom into a half bath/laundry room.

We decided to leave the layout pretty much the same as it was and just exchange the shower for a washer/dryer to save money (less pipes to move). The old giant toilet and vanity made it awfully tight, so we opted for a smaller toilet (standard size) and a narrower vanity. We went with a 'euro vanity' which allowed for a full depth sink, but a narrower cabinet. This made the room appear bigger without making the vanity/sink seem undersized. To keep the house cohesive, we used the same tile as both upstairs bathrooms for the floor (plus we just love the tile).

While opening up the walls for a bit of plumbing and to change out the door (we were going to use an old door in the basement to replace the plain front door to match the rest of the house), we ran into a bit of a snafu. The load bearing wall lacked a proper header. Since everything had to get ripped out to fix, we decided to increase the opening a bit more and install double doors for better access to both sides of the room.

My favorite part of the room: the washer/dryer. We got an all in one machine. This allows us to put in a load, set the wash cycle, set the dry cycle, and forget about it for a while. It also has a delay start feature of up to 19 hours and a cool down cycle of up to 4 hours after finishing drying. I've actually put in a load of laundry at night, set the wash to start in the afternoon of the next day, and come home to washed and dried clothes. And it even sings to you when it's done.

With a towel hook, toilet paper holder, and some shelves for laundry detergent and storage, the washroom was done.  It looks so much better than before (at least in our opinions). And it's great to not have to go down to the basement for laundry anymore. Take a look!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Making A Comeback!

Yup, I'm still here. Life has been a little hectic lately and unfortunately the blog got a bit neglected. Ok a lot neglected since its been almost 3 months since the last post. But I'm back and have a lot to tell you all about. Here's a quick preview of some of the things we've been working on lately.

A finished bathroom/laundry room!

Our own personal workout area!

Living room "finishing" touches!

Bedroom painting!

Our home office!

Curb appeal and a porch facelift!

And a backyard set for summer!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Practical Picturesque Pipe Pot Rack

Some of you may have noticed our pot rack in pictures from previous posts. So here is our post telling you all about it!

Being an older home, there is a large window in the middle of the kitchen. Meaning there is not a whole lot of cabinet space (luckily there is a decently big pantry for food storage). And pots just seem to take up so much room in cabinets. If we had put them in the few cabinets we have, there would be no room for much else. In an old apartment we had a pot rack (just one of those small oval ones) and loved the way displaying our pots looked. Especially now that we have more appealing stainless steel pots. So thus the idea of a pot rack was born.

Traditionally people put pot racks over islands. Well we don't have an island in our kitchen so that idea was out. There are also wall mounted ones, except we don't have any open walls in our kitchen to hang one. Scratch that idea too. I've also seen over the stove. Well we have our microwave there. That idea wont work. In our apartment we had it hanging over the bar area. Well we just knocked out that wall to open up the room and hanging something would close it off again and cut up the kitchen. Nope not a good idea. Then came the idea of hanging a rack from the ceiling in front of the window. The window is essentially wasted space in a kitchen where storage space is in high demand.

So now the trick was trying to find/figure out a pot rack that would work in front of the window. Most of the commercially made ones were too small and/or too wide. Since the window is so large (about 5 feet wide) a small pot rack would just look off in front of it. Not to mention it wouldn't be able to hold all of our pots and pans. We also didn't want a oval/rectangular one since it would stick out from the cabinets and just look awkward in our opinions. So I came up with this idea of hanging a curtain rod from the ceiling. It would be able to be hung out from the window so any swinging pots wouldn't break the glass, be able to extend then entire width of the window, and not stick out from the front edge of the cabinets.

This post is starting to get a little wordy, so I'll cut to the chase. Hanging a curtain rod from the ceiling is a lot harder than one would think. So to Home Depot we went to figure out a plan B (or C or D... not sure where we were at this point). We ended up in the section with all the conduit. And came up with the idea of half inch conduit (seemed to be large enough to hold the weight spanning 5 feet but not too large to look bulky). A couple of elbows and floor flanges would attach all the pipes together into a U and to the ceiling.

We bought some large S-hooks for the pots to hang from. This ended up being a bit more work than expected since the opening was too small to get the hooks onto the pipe. After a bit of prying, we got them all open enough and onto the pipe.

Last step was hanging the pots.

We think it looks great in the room. Give some purpose to the space of the window and a bit of sculptural art. It also adds a bit of industrial to the kitchen/house.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A New Look For The New Year

I apologize to everyone who has been waiting ever so patiently (and those of you that haven't been so patient by yelling at me for a new post) that I haven't posted in a while. The holidays, a few parties, and just trying to get the house put together took a bit of a toll on us. And unfortunately the blog posting didn't happen. But since we've gotten a lot done around the house, this post is going to be a "where is it now" post. A tour of the house so far. And some of the things you see that I haven't specifically posted about I will try to write a post about at a later date.

(Note: please forgive any dust in the pictures. There was drywall work going on and that dust just gets everywhere)


Eating area in the kitchen

Under construction: Downstairs half bath/laundry room

Entry way

Living room

Dining room (thanks for all the housewarming wine!)

Upstairs second bathroom

Back room upstairs (it's amazing what a bit of orange glow and a putty knife can do to fix a floor)

Master bedroom

Master bathroom

Our brand new garage roof and fascia (thanks to everyone who contributed to it!)