The trials and successes in remodelling and decorating my house.
Complete with frustrations, how tos, how not tos, and hands on advice to other intrepid homeowners about to remodel, build, or add an addition to their home.
Courtesy of I-Village Home newsletter, here are Top 10 Ways to Get into the Holiday Spirit. Personally, I like #7 the best - a luxury gift, just for me, or #10, the peppermint martinis with the hubby!
Don't let the melancholy sounds of Elvis's "Blue Christmas" put a damper on your holiday spirit. Get hooked on a cheery feeling with these top 10 must-try tips:
1. Bake a batch of cookies with your favorite person.
2. Gather your closest friends for a holiday party3. Deck the halls from top to bottom, take a few pics and add them to our holiday gallery.
4. Brew a cup of gourmet cocoa and snuggle by the fire.
5. Work on a craft project -- and give the finished product to someone who needs a smile.
6. Treat yourself... to one very special ornament.
7. Skip the malls and purchase one or two luxury gifts (for less.
8. Invite the gals over for a gift wrapping party.
9. Make a festive floral arrangement for the table.
10. Just you and the hubby tonight? Crank up the holiday tunes, turn down the lights and shake up Peppermint Stick Martinis for two.
Last year I wrote about the problems I had with ice damming (see picture from last winter). I had insulators out and improved the problem marginally, but after being dumped with snow the past two weeks, the dams are back although it's not as bad as last year. I didn't hang my icicle lights this year, but I don't need to - I have the real thing.
Icicles hanging off your gutter may be picturesque, but it's dangerous for your house. Ice damming occurs when the upper part of the roof is warm enough to warm and melt the snow. As it drips down, it hits the lower part over the eaves. This is generally cold, and the water freezes. After several cycles of freezing and thawing, the ice can back up under the shingles, over the fascia board, into the eaves, and even into your house. Ice and water shields - a plastic membrane that gets applied before the shingles - is your first line of defense. I have ice and water shields installed, but last year I still got some water in the eaves. The key is to keep your roof cold.
Generally, you will see this problem on older homes with poorly insulated attics. Heat from within the house rises and warms the roof. However, as new homes go to multiple heating/cooling zones, a furnace is often installed in the attic and the heating ducts runs across the attic floor. Couple that with a trend in modern architecture for interesting roof lines, dormers, and vaulted ceilings, and you have put lots of heat into the attic. This is the problem I am fighting. From the outside, you want to see no snow melting off the roof or for it to do so evenly from top to bottom. See the example of how unevenly the snow melts off of my roof.
I'm taking a multi-faceted attack to this problem. I'm adding insulation to the semi-finished attic floor where currently there is none (just above). Then I'll add more insulation (blown in) to the unfinished attic portion. Then I'll either build a smaller room around the furnace or add the old fashioned attic vents to the peak of the outer walls to get more cold air into the unfinished attic. I can't leave the semi-finished attic space completely cold because of the humidifier unit to the furnace which has a water line that cannot be allowed to freeze. Stay tuned as this develops.
Christmas came early this year at the Lohmeiers. Last night we had our gift exchange with my husband's family since this year was my parent's turn to have us for Christmas Eve. The bad news was I had less time to get ready. The good news is that next week's preparation for the actual holiday should be much easier. I'm 99.7% done with my shopping and have a full week to wrap gifts. Maybe I can try to decorate them this year instead of just wrapping them. (Las Vegas says it's a long shot!)
Nothing quite fits the bill as a roaring fire on a cold winter night or a blazing yule log during the holidays. However, it's important to keep in mind some key safety tips in mind. Of course, keep flammable items away from the fire and the chimney (tree branches, bird nests) as well as always use a fireplace screen - metal mesh - when buring a fire. But the #1 safety tip is to have your fireplace inspected and cleaned EVERY year. Be sure to check for cracked mortar or fire bricks and have them tuck pointed and repaired as needed. Also, have a new fireplace inspected BEFORE you ever use it. When we did our house, I looked before starting a fire only to discover that some of the mortar and cracked and loosened due to shrinkage between the fire brick and facing brick. Even more alarming were two large gaps between the fire and facing brick on the inside front (hard to see mind you, but dangerous, none the less). Since the mason never returned my calls to fix these problems, I had a chimney sweep and repair company take care of it. Lesson learned: don't assume a new fireplace is ready for a fire until it's inspected first!
Here are some more safety tips by the Duraflame, makers of artificial logs. The article provides some good advice, although it makes some sales pitches for the desirability of their product. I prefer real wood myself.
Don't wrap - decorate - your Christmas gifts.
Wrapping elaborate Christmas gifts has been a long tradition in my family. Fancy bows, extra ribbons, and more. My brother receives the credit and the blame: Credit when we admire each other's handiwork; blame when it's 3 am on 12/23. He began the tradition as a child, turning the present itself into something else entirely. As he grew up and moved to more elegant wrapping methods, his wrapping styles passed on to me.
Impress friends and family with your creativity and holiday obession. Here are just some of the ideas we've done through the years.
Let your imagination run wild. These days I add extra bows and ribbon to adult gifts, but kids just receive a wrapped box with a bow. Maybe my own children are getting old enough to appreciate something more. But just how late do I want to stay up?
If you like your sleep, or if the holidays have sapped your creative juices, check out these ideas for elegant and artistic "decorated" gifts.
Here are two inexpensive and easy to use items that will give your holiday decorating plenty of color and sizzle.
1) Ribbon. Go to a craft or fabric store and buy a bolt of wire edged ribbon. The wire helps you shape the ribbon and gives it body. Use it as garland (vertical or the traditional horizontal style) on your tree, on a mantle, on wreaths, on stairs. I got a whole bolt, 50% off, for the whopping price of $4 and have used it all over the house.
2) Large silk flowers. While you're at the craft store, pick up some large silk poinsettias. Cut off the long stems and place artfully on your tree or elsewhere. On the tree, they provide big, bold color, serve as ornaments, look beautiful but are inexpensive. Combine the ribbon and the flowers and your tree is decorated in no time. You can also use small flower picks to add holiday accents throughout your house - on wreaths, atop mirrors, on mantles, and more.
If you’re looking to buy a kitchen sink, then you must consider
every detail and feature. The Kitchen sink is probably the most
used aperture in the whole household, even if you’re using a
dishwasher, most of the cleaning is still done in your ordinary
kitchen sink, all the more reason why you should find the best
Choosing a kitchen sink apart from being a question of quality
is also a question of need. Most of the standard sinks that you
will find in the market roughly consist of two 22 by 30 inch
sized bowls both 8 inches in depth, however, if you use large
pots, you might want bigger sizes or you might want to have
them specially made. Nine and Ten inch deep bowls are also
available commercially. Added features like bowls for peeled
fruits in the center can be very handy.
Whistles and Bells
If you want your sink to have all the whistles and bells
available, then you might want more pre-drilled holes on it.
Most sinks have four holes on it, one for the hot knob, one for
the cold knob, one for the faucet and another one for the shower
feature. Some sinks however have extra spouts, for soap
dispensers, an air gap for the dishwasher drain, a liquid soap
dispenser, a TV, well just kidding about the TV. But if some
sinks have extra features that you might not want to use, you
can always ask the supplier for ready made plugs to cover the
unused holes, conversely, if the sink you choose doesn’t have
enough holes, you can easily drill a hole in your sink, or
maybe have it drilled by a professional.
Apart from choosing a design and a type, you should also be
aware of your sink’s location, will your chosen sink fit in the
desired location etc. You can choose from a self rimming sink or
an undermount. A self rimming sink is easier to install and
would just rest on top of your counter, however, the underside
where the sink meets the countertop can be a breeding ground
for bacteria and may be hard to clean. An undermount however,
is harder to install because it has to be attached from under
the counter. This type however, is easier to clean.
Type of Sink
Now we proceed to choosing which type of sink to choose. To
make the choice easier, a few pros and cons are listed together
with a brief description of each type of sink.
This is probably the most common kitchen sink around and is
available in all prices ranges. However, you don’t expect to
buy the best quality sink for a cheap price. Usually a cheap
stainless steel sink is made of thin metal which flexes and
vibrates. This is especially bad because of the racket it makes
when the water drums on it or when the garbage disposal
vibrates. A good quality sink doesn’t get scratched easily and
should be easy to clean. A sign of a good quality sink is also
its ability to maintain a brand new appearance even if you just
A general rule for buying stainless steel sink is not to buy
mirror type ones, sure they’ll look great when brand new, but
overtime scratching will mar its surface and give it a foggy
dirty look. Another good tip is to check the insulation under
the bowl, insulation deadens the water drumming. Foam
insulations are always better than those that are just sprayed
Enameled Cast Iron
The best thing about enamel cast iron sinks is its elegant
finish which is available in many colors. It has a very hard
finish and will rarely chip. Another good thing about this is
its resistance to water drumming. It keeps hot water hot
longer, and if you’re excited about that, you’ll be happy to
know that clean up is a breeze, a good wipe over should be
enough for this baby to get back its original shine.
Warning: There are Enameled Steel sinks, but these aren’t the
same quality as cast iron sinks.
These are sinks made from a mixture of two different substances
to make a very sturdy material. Generally, Acrylic and
fiberglass aren’t a very good combination because they tend to
easily absorb stains and as time passes, lose the glossy
A Quartz composite sink might be the best choice for this range
of sinks. These are known for their durability.
Composite sinks however, are susceptible to scratching. You
should avoid rubbing sand or dirt on them or using abrasive
cleaners. The water drumming is still present but probably not
as loud as stainless steel sinks.
Tip: To make sure that you have a sturdy sink, press down on
the bowl, if it flexes, there are chances of a noisy garbage
Integral solid surface
You can buy a sink that is already integrated with a
countertop, mostly in the same color or a complementary design.
These types are easily scratched but are easily repaired as
well. The bad side is if you’re tired of the sink, you’ll have
to remove the whole countertop.
About The Author: For more great kitchen sink information and
resources check out: http://www.bestsinks.info
Between this weekend and last, I've finally got the house decorated for the holidays. I did give up on trying to do the icicle lights this year. Between the cold temperatures and the 6+ inches of snow that hit us in the past two days, getting garland and lights on the porch rails will have to do. This year we have a kid's tree and "the mother's tree". The kids enjoyed making construction paper link garland and putting up all of the ornaments they have made throughout the years. I enjoyed decorating my tree just how I wanted. We also had two birthday parties for our middle child this weekend. Next up, cookie baking. Oh, when do I buy gifts? Hmmm. The Internet, what a beautiful thing - stores are even open after midnight!
2. Wood species. Today cabinet makers offer plenty of choices regarding the wood used in your cabinets. Couple the wood choice with the number of stains and finishes, and the combinations are almost mind-boggling.
Oak – A long-time favorite that has recently slipped in popularity. This wood offers a large and prominent grain that makes Oak so distinctive. Medium hued stained are typically used.
Cherry – Very popular recently although more expensive than most other species. It has small even grain. If you see a section of very light wood, replace the piece as this is the sap wood. Cherry can be stained naturally (clear), but traditionally it has been stained dark with deep red tones to play up the natural red color of the wood. Cherry is also unique as it will darken as it ages.
Maple – With an even grain, Maple is known for its light color, one of the lightest of all wood species. As a result, most people use Maple with a natural stain or a very light stain.
Birch – Given its light color and even grain, many people mistake Birch for Maple. It too is usually stained natural or light.
Ash – Often used for painted trim due to its color variations, people are now using Ash to turn its varied color into interesting cabinets with natural to medium stains.
Painted – More expensive and custom painted cabinets will use a high quality hard enamel paint. Mass produced and even semi-custom cabinets frequently use a thermofoil laminate over the wood substrate, especially for white and almond cabinets. This finish can range from very high gloss to a very small “pebbly” look. With custom painted cabinets, you can also have two color tones or rub offs where a second color shows through (almost like highlights) in areas that have literally had the top coat of paint rubbed off.
3. Doors. Cabinet doors should always be solid wood for the best quality. (Thermofoil painted doors can be applied to a particle board or MDF – synthetic wood – substrates.) Styles abound with different profiles, accents, plain, and fluted. Cathedral style doors (with an arch at the top) are usually onky used on upper cabinets. When you are looking at cabinets, make sure that no gaps exist between the joints or mitered (45 degree angle) cuts. Check that the doors are plumb (lay flat) and square (90 degree angled corners). Also look for any cracks in the wood. Any defects like these should be sent back and replaced.
4. Drawers. Many lesser quality cabinets can look great once they are hung as most doors are usually pretty good and solid. But open the drawer to get a true idea of the cabinet’s quality and craftsmanship. The best cabinet drawers have dove-tail joints. These are like teeth that fit together and give added strength to the corners. They also should be glued and even nailed with wire brads (small nails with practically no head). Cheaper cabinets will just put two perpendicular pieces together and nail them. Over a few years the opening and shutting (or banging, if you have kids) of the drawers will loosen the nails, and the joint will begin to open, and the drawer begin to fail.
In addition, the best cabinets use metal drawer guides. These can be on the sides or bottom of the drawer. Metal withstands greater pressure and bear to break or bend unlike plastic will becomes brittle with age and wear.
With custom cabinets, you can also choose drawers that slide all the way out unlike standard drawers which stop about 3/4 to 7/8 of the way.
5. Frames. Very few makers use sold wood frames. Why? It’s extra money for parts that aren’t seen. Particle board, MDF, or plywood is typically used in all except the front frame which should be solid wood to match your door. Sometimes the front of the frame will be veneer (a think slice of finish wood laminated to a plywood substrate). If an end is butting up to another cabinet, it is frequently left unfinished – like the back – except in out of the box cases. Sides are usually finished with a veneer. However, I have also seen cabinet sides finished with a wood-look vinyl laminate on really cheap cabinets. For a truly finished look in custom or semi-custom cabinets, order a wood panel like a door front that will be added to an exposed side.
6. Refrigerator or dishwasher panels. With custom cabinets, you can also order fronts for your appliances. Be sure to check that your make and model allows for cabinetry and provide the model and specifications to your cabinet maker.
Choosing cabinets involves many decisions. It helps to be prepared and knowledgeable before you start the purchasing process. However, your cabinets are truly one of the most elements of your kitchen design and look so take care to make the best decision.