Saturday, April 22, 2017

Kitchen Update

From drab
To fab!
I am in love with our Fantasy Brown leathered granite. It has a matte finish with texture that is perfect for our 1900 house.
The old sink had 2 small bowls that were extremely difficult to work with!
Now we have 1 huge sink that is amazing!
The faucet is fantastic. I am loving the 1 piece that switches from single to spray stream and has the pull down sprayer.  We have more counter space now too!
The granite back splash was applied right against the brick facade. I was a little concerned with how this may look and 100% satisfied with it!

We still have details to address like the outlet that Jim will change to a GFCI as it should be. We will be buying decorative oil rubbed bronze covers for this and the switch. 

Another detail to address is the space right underneath the granite.
The old counter curled over the cabinets so I was not able to stain all the way to the top. For whatever reason I did not foresee an issue! 

Jim had the brilliant idea of applying a decorative corner molding over that portion. That will make everything even richer.

When we browsed the home improvement store we found many options so now we have to decide. Surprisingly there is even vinyl corner molding that is already the espresso color of the cabinets. No one would know that it is not even wood! 

However I am thinking of a really decorative one that can be spray painted with the same paint used on the hardware. Since it is metallic, there would be a pop of prettiness under the counter. We'll see.

The new dishwasher is not hooked up yet either. We need 1 more tube and a longer electrical cord. 

We also decided to purchase a new ceiling fan instead of upcycling the one we have. Another thing to add to the shopping list.

Time to start shopping for tile too!

Thank you for stopping by! ~Val





Saturday, April 15, 2017

Spring Has Sprung!

Spring is certainly revealing itself in our yard. 

I am very excited to report that the young magnolia tree our neighbor gave us which we transplanted in the Fall is starting to bloom!
Almost open! 

If anyone know which  variety this one is, please let me know. I tried identifying it online but that was difficult since there are so many. Its petals are quite floppy. We are in Massachusetts so it is hardy to the area. Maybe its leaves will tell me more when they start to show.
The daffodils are trying to get there.
The holly has berries starting (at least I think that is what that growth is!).
The sedum is growing very healthily.
We will have some tulips.
Lots of blooms will show on the giant rhododendrons.
We also have this little rhododendron which I believe is the PJM variety. It did not bloom last year since it was squished between 2 ancient burning bushes with a fence against its back side. Since we removed the old fence and routed the new one differently, this shrub is so happy and covered in soon to be flowers!
I think our roses survived too and will come back beautifully.
I hope you have enjoyed our yard's start to the season. Hopefully you are seeing all sorts of prettiness where you are too!

Thank you for stopping by! ~Val







Saturday, April 8, 2017

Kitchen Update

We chose our granite for the counter! 
This piece is called Fantasy Brown Leathered.  The photo does not do it justice. It is full of waves and other gorgeousness. It is on the lighter side which will be a perfect contrast to the dark cabinets.

We got extremely lucky and did not even have to go to the granite warehouse (which I was worried about since the choices are overwhelming and I seem to like everything stone). The fabricators had this slab on site and we immediately fell in love with it!

Leathered is a newer finish on granite that we were unaware of. It has some leather like texture rather than the polished smooth. It is beyond stunning. What I love even more about this finish is that it is matte, not shiny. I always thought granite would be shiny which I am not too keen on. This will be perfect in our 1900 house!

The big day for installation is April 19! The plumbing will be updated too.

Yes the staining is done.
We will put the bottom doors back on after installation. I finished touching up the brick in that back corner too so it looks much better than the photo. 

The sink will be an under mount one that is huge but actually has a smaller footprint than the current one giving us a little more counter space.

The dishwasher will be replaced with a black one.

We may have to remove some of the brick but we will find out Monday when someone comes out to draw up the template. There will be a 4 inch granite back splash.

After this we can start looking at flooring to complement the rest! We decided against a build out at this time. A future owner of the house may prefer to put a large kitchen table in here instead like the prior owner did. An island can be easily added. 

Thank you for stopping by. I hope your spring is starting off beautifully. Our season seems to be right on point with tons of April rain so far. ~Val


Saturday, March 25, 2017

House Update

Here is an update on the kitchen cabinet staining project!
I am working on those last 2 upper doors, then will move onto the lower cabinets.

I thought I would share a couple of tips I have learned through the process in case anyone out there is looking to do the same.

We are using Minwax PolyShades which is the stain and polyurethane in one. It can go over poly surfaces, however only if going darker. If one was to go lighter, the cabinets would need to be stripped.
First I clean the door with mineral spirits. Then I sand it with 220 grit sandpaper which helps smooth out any areas needing it but also aids in better adhesion.

Between coats I am using 330 grit for a very light sanding to remove any dust, lint etc. 

Airborne particles are the enemy here since they do settle on wet stain. The only way to not have it be an issue would be to work in a sanitary room that has nothing in it and work naked...not going to happen.  So this is a constant battle.


Another great thing about this stain job is the inside of the doors really doesn't need to be done so we kept them as is. That way any future owner can see the wood grain. Since wood is forever, I am sure someone will decide to strip them years from now!

When staining the door, a bit will find its way on the back side.  However I found that simply running a paper towel underneath along the edges when a side is done will do the trick!

Being winter, I have been waiting 48 hours between coats just in case. The coats need to be fully cured before adding another. So a tip I learned online to save the messy work of cleaning the brush everyday - put it in the freezer!

So I wrap it well in foil, then in a freezer bag. This must be air tight! 

It does not freeze although there is some ice build up when opening it. I use that piece of foil to wipe it off so I don't need to worry about dust particles getting on the brush. Then I use a new piece of foil at the end of that session.

I give the brush a good cleaning though once a week to prevent too much build up.

In addressing the handles which we chose to keep and paint, they needed a scouring first. They were full of gunk! I realized that the buildup must have been the initial coats of paint and poly from years ago since it was way more than dirt.
Well mineral spirits were not cutting it for me! So then I started washing with with dish soap to dissolve any grease and dirt. Then found sanding with 220 grit paper was the way to go! This took all the nastiness off so I could reach the brass base.
To the painting station they go with a trusty can of Rustoleum. We also spray the hinges and screws that show. The handle gets 2 coats and the other components only 1 since they barely show up and do not get handled.

Once I am done staining, I will move onto that dated ceiling fan. Since it works great, it is worth trying to salvage. We can purchase a light kit for $40 that will change out that old glass piece and compliment our other light fixtures.

I will attempt to paint the metal components oil rubbed bronze and the paddles espresso to compliment the cabinets. I think it will work!

Thank you for stopping by! If you are attempting such a project and have any questions, please let me know. ~Val



Saturday, March 4, 2017

Write Words by Rosa Linda

I received this darling, frameable friendship card from Write Words by RosaLinda

This piece includes her original quote "Most friendships, like gardens, need time to flower and grow. But our special friendship has blossomed from the start".
We have been interacting on social media for years now and I have always found her sentimental work to be very beautiful. 

Perfect for when you want to say something to someone in a special way.

Here is a keepsake thank you card.
So touching is this encouragement card for a cancer survivor or someone with a serious illness.
For the fire fighter putting his/her life on the line each day.
 For the person who inspires you.
Another beautiful gift idea, a graduation poem.
If you are ever in need of a sending sentiments, stop by RosaLinda's shop.

Thank you for visiting. Have a wonderful week ahead! ~Val

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Progress with Kitchen Renovation

So we were all over the place with what we wanted to do with the kitchen cabinets. We settled on dark espresso stain. Basically the total opposite of my initial intentions of painting them white.

A main reason for this choice is the time involved. Going with a darker stain, there are products on the market now that simply go over the current finish. So no stripping required! I knew espresso would be very elegant and classy so it was a no-brainer when it came down to it.

Progress is slow. Since I am the one who is home, I get the honors of staining! This was the before of our pantry (or whatever it should be called) cabinet space.
I started with the casing.
Then worked on 1 door at a time. Since it is winter, it takes quite some time for a coat to become solid for the next coat so I juggled 2 doors at a time rotating each day. As you can see I am doing so right in the kitchen. The odor dissipates quickly so it was not an issue.
3 coats a door. The poly is included in the stain so that final step is not needed. When a door was ready, Jim would hang it when he got home from work.

We used the same hardware but cleaned them up and painted them oil rubbed bronze. I LOVE the dark on dark look of it! Our $10 light fixture really pops now too.

What a difference as you can see the old finish next to the new finish.
Woohoo! That part is done! As you can see, I have started priming the brick facade.

We decided to work with it since it is in mint condition. We could remove it, repair the wall and install a new back splash but that would be a waste of time and money. 

The brick will be a creamy color to match the upper part of our kitchen walls. This will have much more character than the products on the market today too. I also think the creamy is going to be stunning against the espresso cabinets.

So once the brick is done, then I will be moving onto the rest of the cabinets. My goal is to complete all that by April 1! 

Then it will be time to call the contractors and move forward with the floor and granite counters. So exciting and rewarding doing a chunk of the work ourselves! 

Thank you for stopping by! Have a great week. ~Val





Saturday, February 18, 2017

Eggplant Parmesan Modification

Eggplant parmesan is a beloved dish in our house. However we traditionally made it by slicing the eggplant very thin and frying each breaded piece which makes it not the healthiest dish!

Over time, Jim has become creative and ultimately came up with perfection. Less oil and red sauce is what he was going for since eggplant parmesan brings on acid reflux in me.
He removes the skin first, then slices the eggplant lengthwise in thick slices.  Then he dips the pieces in egg, then breadcrumbs for frying. 

After frying, each piece is laid out on a baking sheet and sprinkled with tomato sauce, cheese and fresh tomato. Then baked at 350F until cheese is beautifully browned. Then reduced balsamic is drizzled on top to taste.

What a difference! We find this to be much more delicious because you can really taste the eggplant. It is healthier and one piece is quite filling. My tummy is happier eating this versus the indulgent way we used to make it. A perfect meal with a side salad. Bonus, the leftovers heat up wonderfully in the microwave.

Thank you for stopping by! ~Val

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Little Snow

I took these photos back in December after a little snow. One benefit to not cutting back plants in the Fall is that it makes for whimsical yard decor.






Happy Winter! I am really looking forward to Spring, flowers, etc. but until then will try to enjoy the few benefits of winter.

It had been a very easy winter up until this past week. Now winter is in full gear here! 

Thank you for stopping by! ~Val

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Coop Rotisserie

The Coop Rotisserie is a new eatery in downtown Amesbury, MA (where Main Street and Friend Street intersect).  This is the first time Jim and I have known owners opening a restaurant so it is a treat to check it out!
I know what you are thinking, Val is reviewing a chicken joint? 
Well it turns out there are many vegetarians in this area and this restaurant worked out a delicious menu to cater to those of us veggie types.

This is the cook Elvis and I. Being Latino, he has incorporated his spicy ethnicity into the menu.
We ate vegetarian of course but from what I have seen on Yelp and Facebook, patrons are loving the rotisserie chicken too.

This is the vegetarian version of the empanada. It is full of veggie goodness. The vibrant sauce it a roasted carrot chipotle. Yum! Also made with either chicken or beef picadillo.
A scrumptious black bean veggie burrito. Perfect for satisfying Latino craving. Also made with chicken or braised beef.
We tried this traditional vegetarian sandwich of portabello and roasted red pepper. It is loaded with greens and tomatoes along with tasty seasoning of pesto de albahacca. So much deliciousness.
Those are not french fries on the side, but yucca fries. They are perfect! Served with the roasted carrot chipotle, I was in love. 

Elvis was saying that these are ordered much more often than the french fries. Considering this, he is now thinking of adding other yucca items to the menu. Great idea! This is not something we see on menus often.

The restaurant is small and quaint.
Elvis makes it a point to come out from behind the open kitchen to talk with the patrons. That is the best way to learn about how to tweak a menu that the customers will love and keep coming back for! 

They have been very busy since they opened their doors a few months back and I know these guys will experience continued success.

Next time we will try the quesadillas, tacos, rellanas and salads and leave very satisfied again! 

If you live locally, I hope you will check out The Coop Rotisserie open Tuesday thru Saturday from 11:30am until 9:30pm.

Thank you for stopping by! ~Val