Archive | September, 2010

Whenever You Need a Livvy Fix…

September 30, 2010

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Go HERE. It’s my photo page at Flickr. It’s a set of Livvy photos I’ve taken throughout the two years we have had her. So Marg, now you can always see the newest photos of Livvy (as I add more), as well as her “historic” photos.

Every once in a while, I go through the photos. Ooooooo! She was SUCH an adorable baby!!! I never get tired of going through them.

Livvy and Daddy1

Livvy Under Desk 2

Warm Fuzzies

Livvy 4

She’s so photogenic, isn’t she? You could print up a great big poster of her, and hang it in your living room, don’t you think? šŸ˜€

OK OK, enough gushing…

So Marg, when you need to see photos of Livvy, there you are. šŸ˜€ She’s irresistible, I know!

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New Kitchen: The Delta ToucH20 Faucet

September 30, 2010

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Delta Faucet company graciously gave me a Delta Pilar Pull-down Faucet with ToucH20 Technology. We absolutely love this faucet! I am a Delta fan, anyway– when we moved to this house, the bathrooms had Delta faucets (old Delta faucets, because the bathrooms had been remodeled in the 1970s and 80s). They work marvelously, after all these years– not a leak and they still look great after decades of washing and use. I was pretty impressed. So when Delta asked me if I wanted to test out their new kitchen faucet, I jumped at the chance.

It also looks stunning in the new kitchen:

DeltaH20_5
DeltaH20_1

We installed the faucet ourselves (as we have everything here). The installation was very easy. It’s always helpful to install the faucet before placing the sink onto the countertop. But the Delta faucet is structured to be easy to install for new installations, or for old– it requires NO basin wrench! Hurray!

deltafaucet connect

Delta Faucet connections

Delta Faucet almost installed

deltafaucetgoingin

The faucet has a few very unique features:

  • It’s got a very high and wide faucet spigot, which makes it great for filling large pots.
  • The “touch” technology is just that– you do not need to push the lever to turn on the water. All you do is touch the faucet or the lever to turn on the water. It’s great when your hands are dirty or sticky.
  • The spigot has a removable sprayer, which is very nice. The end of the spigot has a button that you can switch from stream or spray. The sprayer reattaches to the spigot with a magnet (Delta’s “MagnaTite technology”).
  • The faucet comes with a terrific soap dispenser that you can fill from the TOP of the sink! I love that. No more handsoap sitting messily on the counter.

DeltaH20_3

DeltaH20_2

The Touch feature is battery operated (takes “C” batteries). The electrical component in installed under the sink, in the cabinet. I have had the batteries running for three weeks now, and haven’t had to change them yet. So it’s nice to know the faucet is not a battery-consuming monster. Moreover, if you prefer not to use the touch technology, just shut it off and use the lever as you would any other sink faucet. It’s great that there’s a choice.

DeltaH20_4

The Hubs said the instructions for installing the sink are superb. He didn’t have any problems understanding them at all. He does have one tip when reading the instructions: make sure you read the ENTIRE section before you begin doing anything. A section may have a “Note” at the end, which may be important. So read through the instructions entirely before beginning, and then read each section through as you install the faucet.

We installed the faucet in a matter of minutes. I was PRETTY impressed. Delta has made this faucet a real easy “do it yourself” project. Even the wiring for the touch feature was easy– you just plug in a few plastic receptacles and pop in the batteries, easy as cake. I think Delta did a great job in putting this together for the DIYer.

When we first got the faucet installed and activated the Touch technology, we wondered if the cat would activate it, or if the faucet would be overly sensitive. So far, it’s been great. Sometimes I have to really rap on the spigot to turn the faucet on, but the lever is more sensitive (so I tap the lever instead of the faucet). One time, a metal pot in the dish drainer shifted, and touched the lever. The water turned on. It was weird seeing the water turn on automatically! But Delta has an automatic shutoff for the faucet– the faucet will turn off after four minutes, in case the faucet is accidentally turned on (say, by a cat or a wayward pot!).

Delta has an entire webpage dedicated to the faucet at deltafaucet.com. You will find helpful installation videos. I give HUGE kudos to Delta for creating such a nice faucet, but also DOUBLE HUGE kudos for making it so easy to install, and for providing installation videos. They really did an excellent job.

After having it installed for over two weeks, here are my thoughts:

PROS:
ToucH20 Technology
Nice big, round spigot
The nice hand dispenser
Very attractive
Can use the battery-powered ToucH technology, or turn it off to use manually as you would a regular faucet
Automatic shut-off after 4 minutes
Easy to install/great instructions in ENGLISH written by people with ENGLISH as their FIRST language- yay!
Is made by Delta

CONS:
Sprayer doesn’t have super-powerful water pressure; it’s more like a shower. Don’t expect to blast greasy dishes clean.
Uses batteries
Is a little costly
The stainless steel finish is “OK.” I’m not a big fan of steel. The faucet does come in a bronze finish, too.

One other note– you may become very spoiled after installing this faucet. So spoiled that if you use another faucet elsewhere in the house, or go to a friend’s house, you will be tapping the faucets and wondering why they don’t turn on. This is a great faucet and I give it a big Thumbs Up.

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New Kitchen: The Island Workhorse

September 29, 2010

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Chuck from SecondaryRds.com noticed my island in the new kitchen. So I thought I’d mention it. šŸ˜€

Island

The island is a big one, on great big casters. I cut a portion of the butcher block countertop slab to fit on it. Originally, I was going to use a simple table or maybe construct a table of my own, using the butcher block as a tabletop. But as the renovation dragged on, and my list of Things To Do grew larger and larger, I decided to shell out the bucks and get one. I bought this island at my local Bargain Outlet (a chain of discount materials here in the Northeast). It cost a heck of a lot of money: $240. For that amount, I expected the materials to be first-rate and the instructions to be a breeze.

NOT.

The instructions were TERRIBLE. We had to take it apart three times due to poor or missing instructions. And the material is “OK.” But one of the stiles had been obviously cracked during manufacture, and had been glued together at the factory (in China).

TheKitchen2

We love the island– the concept of an island– and we made new parts of sturdier wood to make this work. So I don’t intend to complain about the island, per se. I just expected a lot more for my money. I wouldn’t recommend this particular island (it’s “Sunnywood”), but I do recommend the style: a big box of shelf boards with cabinet doors, and a sturdy wood countertop. We love our kitchen island for this. šŸ™‚ It also helps to direct traffic and keep passers by out of the work area. AND it makes a terrific barrier with which to play hide and seek with Livvy. šŸ˜€

TheKitchen1

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New Kitchen: The Jewel of the Room

September 29, 2010

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When designing a room, every room must have a “focal point.” This is where the eye is usually drawn, and from where the other design elements in the room are based. I wanted the focal point in my new kitchen to be the gloriously oversized window. The previous kitchen had one small aluminum window that I could never open (it was warped shut). The glass had large cracks in it, and the kitchen was dismally dark and cramped. It was miserable and demoralizing to cook in that kitchen. Thus, my new kitchen would be BIG, bigger in every way! I chose the window to be the spring board from which everything else revolved.

Window2

The window is 60 inches by 48 inches. I retained the Greek Revival triangular pediments and fluted trim from the rest of the house, but while the rest of the trim work in the kitchen (and elsewhere) is painted white, I decided to stain the woodwork around the window a red chestnut color. This really makes the window look very majestic. A pendant light and a natural-color cellular blind exudes incredible warmth and ambiance. It is actually pleasant to be at the kitchen sink, now. The room is so warm and cozy with the browns and reds and wood materials!

Window1

I used basic stock pieces for the window trim. The pediment is basic pine, with red oak corner bead at the top. The pediments are, generally, not difficult to make, but this was a very wide piece of pine. I had to measure very, very carefully because I would have but ONE chance to get it right. The fluted trim is pine wood (I installed MDF fluted trim elsewhere), and the rosettes are simple stock pieces I picked up at the Big Box store. The window sill was most difficult of all. I had never made a sill before, and the wall is very uneven here– one side is 1/2-inch wider than the other! I bought a long piece of yellow pine, bull-nose stair tread, and measure very carefully again. You’d never know that one side of the sill juts out 1/2-inch further than the other. When you live in an old home, there is no such thing as “square.” You must rely on optical illusions for a lot of stuff. šŸ˜€

Windowrosette

The inner boards (jambs) for the window are poplar. So I have three varieties of wood for this window. Yeah, it’s a little unconventional, but EVERYTHING is unconventional here. A little quarter round moulding hides the waviness of the framing and the gaps of the walls. So while I am definitely NO carpenter, I managed to patch together a bunch of wood of different types and measurements to produce a window that looks rather pretty.

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Open Spaces: Playing Ball with Livvy

September 28, 2010

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When I had installed the flooring for both the kitchen and the dining room (but before we moved the rugs and furniture back in to the room), it created a very long, smooth surface. We had a lot of fun soaring across the back end of the house– 40 feet long!– in our stocking feet! Livvy liked the long space, too. It made the perfect place to play ball. We uncovered two of our missing superballs while moving boxes around. The kids and Livvy had a “ball”!

PlayLivvy1

Because I tried to refrain from the flash of the camera, the shutter speed slowed down. Any motion was blurred. But I love the dramatic colors and slightly blurred edges.

Here’s Livvy, stalking down one of the superballs.

PlayLivvy2

We tried scooting her “baby” (a small stuffed rabbit toy) down the hallway. She didn’t like that.

PlayLivvy3

Waiting for the ball. Waiting… waiting… […]

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New Kitchen: The Beverage Center

September 28, 2010

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While designing the kitchen, I had complete creative freedom. Of course, I did have some limits: the door here, the drains there, etc. But overall, I had an open space 12 x 23 feet to tinker with. Oddly enough, the floor plan I eventually ended up with strongly resembles the floor plan I originally sketched shortly after we moved here, over 10 years ago.

One new feature, however, is our “Beverage Center.” The kids are tea and coffee drinkers (as are their parents šŸ™‚ ), and the old kitchen was so cramped with all six of us trying to cook, clean, and make tea/coffee. I wanted to avoid the traffic jams. I therefore decided to eliminate a small, dark, and cramped pantry closet under the stairs. I closed it up and built a small alcove with cabinets. The cabinets store our teas, coffees, mugs, and etc. It’s also a place where the kids make their own snacks and lunches. I inserted a small refrigerator under the counter for the storage of coffee creamers, lunch and snack foods, and cat foods.

BeveragArea

The base cabinet drawers hold the dinner silverware, which is a dream come true. The kids usually set the table for dinner; the silverware and other dinner serving dishes are now conveniently located in the walkway between the kitchen and dining room. No more elbowing each other to get to the silverware and dishes!

BeverageArea

To the left in this photo is our new (and unfinished) pantry shelf. I have yet to craft wood cabinet doors for the pantry… I cannot find any doors for it, and will have to make my own. But because my time is so filled up with more important projects (we still have no clothes dryer and still have no heaters installed), the pantry will have to wait.

BevAreaCounter

I also opted for butcher block countertops for this area of the kitchen, too. I was initially hesitant to do so, knowing that the kids may be forgetful or in a hurry. Standing water and food stains are the enemies of wood countertops. But I was very pleased with the results of Waterlox on the counters. And the kids have been wonderfully careful about keeping their area neat.

I’ll be blogging more about the little details in the kitchen in posts to come. šŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!

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Dave Ramsey’s Tips For Renovators

September 28, 2010

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It’s nice to know that all the back-cracking work we’ve been doing on the house provides manifold benefits.

The housing market slump this year really slowed down new construction. As an owner of an old home in the midst of vicious suburban sprawl, I was actually happy to see the new construction slow down. Something similar happened in the late 70s (the economic downturn) after a period of profligate sprawl (in the 50s and 60s), which led to an increased awareness of restoring and renovating existing homes (in the 80s). TV shows like This Old House and Home Again sprouted up from the ashes of a recession. So recessions and slumps are not always bad news. I think it is better to work with what you have rather than create immense waste in building new. Why knock down a perfectly healthy old home, fill up landfills, clogging up rural spaces, and spend millions building new?? The lost art of renovation may be making a comeback.

#1 A New Addition
According to Dave Ramsey (here daveramsey.com/newsletters/online/edition/real-estate-newsletter-september2010?ectid=elprenl_0910_final_online), one of the best returns on your renovation investment is a new addition, such as a bedroom or family room. Such a renovation could give you an 83% return on your cost! I was stunned to read this. For one, I had thought that most homeowners were going “smaller” with their homes, not necessarily adding more square footage (and more maintenance and expenses) to the house.

#2 A New Kitchen
Additionally, the kitchen has always been the prime return investment winner in renovations. I was surprised to see it fall to #2 in Dave’s list (he said that a kitchen re-do can give you about 72% back). I suppose one of the reasons for the lower grade is because kitchens are one of the most expensive areas of the home to renovate. Yes, I would agree. Although, because we did our own work 100% of the time, our return will be much more than 72%. We spent approximately $13,000 to gut and restore the kitchen, dining room, and laundry room… we also insulated these rooms, which make them more energy efficient, and we also redid the entire electrical system and water supply system for the house. Not a bad deal.

#3 The Bathroom
I am not one to splurge on a bathroom. I like it to be a “get in, do your business, get out” kind of room. Dave says that renovators can easily allow the bathroom remodel to “get out of hand.” Appliances and fixtures ARE very expensive, and I guess people are tempted to install things like saunas, whirlpools, towel warmers, etc. I don’t like such luxury, so when we remodel our bathrooms, I don’t expect these to be a problem. But renovating the bathroom came in at #3, which homeowners recouping about 70% of their investment. That’s really still a terrific percentage!

One very important thing to remember when renovating is KNOW YOUR COMMUNITY. If you live in a wealthy area of McMansions, go ahead and build that vaulted wine cellar. But if you live in “middle America” or a small town, you will never recoup your investments in the luxurious hot tubs, custom-made concrete countertops, and silk draperies. I tried to stay as basic as I could with our home. It is so easy to go overboard, especially when the “experts” and magazines are all enticing you to spendspendspend on their expensive products. I tried to keep a balance of getting products I really liked, products we really needed, and staying within the middle-income class of my region. Even so, I do think I splurged a little too much. :-p

And I am gratified to see that all our blood, sweat, and tears actually has value in the community and economy. I knew that our renovations would not only bring us more comforts and energy savings, but that it would boost our home’s value and possible return investment should we ever sell. It’s nice to see this confirmed. šŸ˜€

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Diaper Duty is Back

September 27, 2010

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OOOOKKKKK… I thought those diaper days were OVER. Nope, not a new baby. New DOGS. lol. My daughter wanted some Yorkie pups in the worst way, and The Hubs promised her she could adopt some once the kitchen renovation was over. Well, the kitchen renovation is not *completely* over– and won’t be for a few months.. and then there’s the upstairs to do yet (!), but we are moved back into the kitchen now. So most of the really intense work is completed. Therefore, may I present to you…

MOZART and CRICKET!

Mozart

Cricket

They are a Maltese and Yorkie mix, appropriately called “Morkies.” Haha!

Who knew that Morkies could bark so much >.<

So we’re packing up on the pet supplies once again. And one of the requisites for little doggies is “doggy diapers.” Because if these dogs dare pee on our new rugs, my husband will FLIP!!! lol. The dogs are kept upstairs most of the time, but we hope to train them to be good house dogs. I’d never in all my born days heard of diapers for dogs before. I think now I have heard everything. Since when did they make diapers for dogs?! And what on earth took them so long?!?! What a great invention!

OMG look at these! Heh heh heh.

HAH!!! I would find satisfaction in dressing the dogs like hot dogs, LOLOL! The hot dog costume is only $10!

Now, in case you are wondering, Livvy the Tabby-Point Siamese does not like the dogs. Not surprising, huh? She was actually very curious at first, as if she would have made friends, but their constant barking pretty much ended that! >.< So Livvy is a Living Room and Mom’s Room cat. They’ll all get used to each other, and we’ll be one big happy family soon– the dogs, the cat, and the pee-laden area rugs…

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Dining Room is Finally Done!

September 25, 2010

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We’re in!

DiningRoomDone2

In one final blitz of a day, we finished painting, finished installing the baseboard trim, cleaned up the furniture, and moved things back in. As soon as we got the entertainment center in, the boys set up their Playstation console.

DiningRoom Done1

Glory to God, it is MAGNIFICENT having a dining room back again. I got sick and tired of eating in the garage with the bats and bugs!

We’ve spent the weekend working on the living room– giving it a new coat of fresh paint, FINALLY installing the trim and baseboards after 3 years… cleaning out all the plaster dust that just wouldn’t go away with *normal* cleaning… and rearranging the furniture. I have been without a real, organized desk for about four months now, and it was starting to wear on me. Because I work from home, a messy desk is a hardship for my work. So while I don’t need a super-quiet room, it must be organized and neat. Otherwise, I’m fussing with things, trying to clean it up and not doing my writing jobs!

The end of this renovation is near. Thank God!

And I PROMISE I’ll have more photos of Livvy. We’re back with the camera, and I took some real cute ones. Thanks for cheering us on during this tough time. You guys are the BEST. šŸ™‚

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Time For a Vacation?

September 25, 2010

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It’s rather funny. After spending untold $$ and hours (and blood and sweat and tears) renovating our home… the first thing we all want to do to relax now that it is *almost* over is.. GO TO SOMEONE ELSE’S PLACE ON A VACATION! lol. Well, as much as I absolutely love my home’s new look, a vacation would be sooo nice, especially if it was to an Outer Banks rental. I have been through North Carolina, but never to the coast and Outer Banks. And the kids have never been out of the state, except once when they were babies. They are the ones who really need a nice vacation after all this intensive work.

I have always wondered what exactly was “Outer Banks,” so I looked it up. It’s a very long chain of islands along the North Carolina coast, covering almost half the coastline of the state. Did you know that the Outer Banks was where Wilbur and Orville Wright took off on their first flight, on December 17, 1903? And did you know that the first (recorded) English baby was born on the Outer Banks– Virginia Dare of Roanoke Island, on August 18, 1587. The Roanoke Colony disappeared shortly after her birth. The story is sad but fascinating. This is from Wikipedia:

[John] White [Virginia’s grandfather and leader of the original settlement, who had left several years before] landed [on Roanoke Island] on August 18, 1590, on his granddaughter’s third birthday, but found the settlement deserted. His men could not find any trace of the ninety men, seventeen women, and eleven children, nor was there any sign of a struggle or battle. The only clue was the word “Croatoan” carved into a post of the fort and “Cro” carved into a nearby tree. All the houses and fortifications had been dismantled, which meant their departure had not been hurried. Before he had left the colony, White had instructed them that if anything happened to them, they should carve a Maltese cross on a tree nearby, indicating that their disappearance had been forced. As there was no cross, White took this to mean they had moved to Croatoan Island, but he was unable to conduct a search. A massive storm was brewing and his men refused to go any farther. The next day, they left.

The place is brimming with history. AND beauty. Oh, I do so love the Atlantic Coast. I could spend forever there.

Today, the lovely Outer Banks is a big tourist site, with beautiful rental homes. And no wonder. Just look at the rental homes, aren’t they lovely?! This is the Beachcraft, one of the best (I think) because it is so beautiful, and so close to the ocean. *sigh* It’s lovely.

WOW.

It would be wonderful to *finally* relax, soak in some sun, waddle my feet in the Atlantic Ocean, and watch the kids relax and find seashells. *sigh*

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