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Monday, April 13, 2015

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

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!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


The orange paint is gone and has been replaced with Benjamin Moore's "Revere Pewter"! It's amazing how a different paint color can completely change the look and feel of a room. It's mostly a mess right now, but it's getting there. Sorry if the pic is a little blurry...

In other news, the bottom cabinets are done! It took me about a month to just paint these cabinets (in stages), as there was SO MUCH SANDING involved. Degrease, sand, prime, sand, prime, sand, first coat, sand, then 2nd and final coat. Imagine doing that twice for each door and drawer front and we have 10 lower doors with 7 drawer fronts! I'm exhausted just thinking about it, but the end result is gorgeous.

As you can see, the drywall is off and we are waiting for the electrician to come and re-install the electrical junction box (center) for the range hood and my under cabinet lights! I'm so excited.

After that, it's rehang new drywall, install the new backsplash (pics coming soon), install the range hood ducting, and then build up and paint the upper cabinets. A lot of work, but it will be worth every minute of it when we're done.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Preserved Meyor Lemons

Every winter/spring, a huge variety of citrus makes a glorious reappearance in the grocery stores. Honeybells, satsumas, tangerines, you name it. I do find this bittersweet, as not too long ago I could literally walk out my back door and pick my own Meyer Lemons. And if I wanted anything else, I would just go visit my friend Mary and "shop" at her orchard! Those were good days!

I do get to exchange some local produce goodies for citrus up here in Virginia, and it's worth it, but I still miss my Meyer Lemon tree and I still make these pickles every spring.

Now, these aren't the type of pickles you eat out of the jar, they are only brined with salt and lemon juice. You tuck these babies away in your refrigerator to macerate and then be used as such:

Tips from: The Kitchn

1. Grain Salads: This is my favorite. There's something about tender little nubs of preserved lemon in a bite of farro salad or barley pilaf that makes me hum with happiness. Any time you'd normally add some lemon zest or a squeeze of juice, you can swap in some preserved lemon with confidence in the result.
2. Salad Dressings and Sauces: Chopped pieces of preserved lemon make a fantastic addition to a salad, but I really like to whizz them into my salad dressing. You can also experiment with blending preserved lemons into pesto or into a sauce for grilled fish or meats. (Bonus tip: preserved lemons and fish are total best friends forever.)
3. Salsas and Dips: Want something new to spice up your salsas and dips this summer? Yup, preserved lemons will serve you very well. Just chop them up into little pieces and add them to your normal recipes. Guacamole, hummus, spicy salsas — it's all fair game. And all delicious.
4. Pasta Dishes: A really simple pasta dish with good olive oil, some garlic, and slices of preserved lemons is a beautiful thing. Top it with seared chicken breast or fish for a full meal.
5. Tagines and Other Stews: Chicken tagine with preserved lemons is certainly the most well-known dish for these lemons, but there's a great big world of tagines out there. I love preserved lemon in chickpea stews and anything with lamb. Even if your tagine or stew doesn't call for preserved lemons specifically, I fully support a little recipe tweaking.
See? Doesn't that all sound divine? 
Here's how you do it:
Take about 5-7 small Meyer Lemons and cut them into quarters. Put about a tablespoon of Kosher salt in the bottom of a pint jar and stuff in 3-4 lemon quarters. Top with more salt. Keep doing this until the jar is almost full. While doing this, push down on the lemons in the jar to extract their juice. 

Once full, take whatever lemons you have left over and squeeze their juice to cover the jarred lemons in juice.

Put a lid on the jar and stick in the refrigerator to brine. Once in the refrigerator, give the jar a shake every now and again to distribute the salt. After 3-4 weeks, the lemons are ready to be sliced or minced into whatever dish you'd like, but be careful, a little goes a long way! 

See, wasn't that easy?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

DIY Tap Dancing

Well, as DIY projects go, I’ve run into a barrier for my range hood. Turns out there is a ceiling joist that is blocking the duct pipe from being able to be run straight up into the ceiling. And, upon inspection of the space where a duct pipe could go between the ceiling and 2nd story floor, there is wiring going across the joists that would block the pipe from being thread from the outside to where it would make a 90-degree turn down to the range.

We even tried to go straight back through the wall and into a closet that is on the other side of the kitchen, but there is a stud in the way. Grrrrr! I was SOOOOOO bummed! The install guys tried everything they could, but I'd rather them walk away than cutting a bunch of holes in my walls and ceiling.

So, it looks like I am going to be doing some fancy tap dancing.

I am going to do what Remodelando la Casa did on her cabinets to fill in the empty space above them.  I had planned to do something similar to her approach, but just not go all the way to the ceiling, but now it looks like I am going to have to. Isn't it gorgeous?

Gorgeous cabinets from Remodelando la Casa!

I am going to use her approach and nice trim-work to do something similar to this, with the range hood ducting running behind the cabinet build out:

Great work around! (source unknown)

The range chimney won't go all the way to the ceiling with this, but I will tile all the way up to the bottom of the cabinet build out. Ugh, I was hoping to be done with trim-work!


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