Monday, April 15, 2013

House Update

So far we have been living in the house for a month. I love how much light there is! It's a quiet neighborhood (like most neighborhoods in Fairfield, but no dogs barking through the night or loud neighbors). I haven't lived in a two level house for a while, so I'm still training myself to stop being lazy if I need something upstairs/downstairs. :P

Things are still happening at on the home renovation front! Most of what has happened over the past month were small things that needed to be done, but weren't exciting to document. But in the past few days bigger projects are happening. My Dad and Aurelien have put all the dry wall up in our TV room, the beams are up (!!), I helped with mudding the dry wall there, let me say, I'm glad that isn't my day job, it got old quickly. Yesterday, Aurelien and my dad tore out the tiny downstairs bathroom in the TV room area. We are going to make the bathroom as big as we can without extending past the window.

Recently, it seems most of the projects are not things that I could work on, but some things are coming up that I will be doing: painting the kitchen, TV room and front door; pressure washing the aluminum siding on the exterior of our house; starting a garden; and taking apart part of our deck (it's multi-leveled and we are going to make it one level).

Projects are never ending! But here are some photos.

The kitchen is looking pretty messy, but here is the view to the dining room. The window has dry wall leaning against it, hence the black area in the window.

Close up on our granite counters and cabinet drawers. Handles are coming soon!

This is our bedroom. It has a lot of light and a skylight on the celling. I love the high ceilings. I painted the trim white because the wood wasn't in great shape. Decoration plans for this room include: installing a new fan, getting blinds, a headboard and matching bedside tables.

My office! Once again, lots of light!

Here are some photos of the progress happening downstairs. Someday (soon) this will be a TV room, with an extended bathroom and a built in bookcase!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Freshly squeezed juice is almost indescribable. It's nothing like it's relative, the pasteurized juice in a bottle. It is fresh, clean and enlivening. When I drink it, I feel like every cell in my body is being nourished. Juicing also allows the body to ingest a large amounts of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and enzymes quickly, it's like a shot of life straight to the veins. I like to pick seasonal produce to juice. Not only will you save money (hello, $6 1/2 pint of blueberries, I don't think so!) but eating seasonly has so many benefits. For example, the spring is a great time to cleanse the liver and clean out any sluggishness left over from the cold, winter months. Seasonal foods like dandelion roots, asparagus, kale and other leafy greens are growing naturally (at least in Iowa soon) and they naturally flush toxins from the liver. While I wouldn't juice asparagus, my husband and I have been buying bunches of dandelion greens from the grocery store and including them in our morning juice. Dandelion leaves are bitter, but if you add a few apples and a lemon it cuts the bitterness.

When I juice I start by picking vegetables that have a lot of juice (base) and then add some greens, one or two from the sweet category and then throw in some add-in's for the zing. A lemon or lime really tastes great with greens. Keep in mind this list below is what I was drinking this winter, as soon as spring (warmth) and summer come along this list will change. I cannot wait. It's also best not to juice too many sweet fruits (carrots and beets are included in this category as well) because they contain sugar which can spike your blood sugar especially because there is no fiber from the juice. Because of this favor vegetables.

Celery, cucumber (while not a winter produce this adds a lot of juice).

Romaine lettuce, kale, spinach, parsley, cilantro, fennel, and bok choy, and dandelion greens.

Beets, carrots, apples, oranges, grapes, grapefruit (not always sweet) and pears.

Add in's: ginger, lemon, lime, turmeric (whole).

This blog has some great tips and recipes for juicing.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Evolution of a Kitchen

More kitchen photos coming later, but this is what it looked like when we moved in last week. :) We have some more projects in the kitchen to finish (painting walls, adding new shelves, new light fixtures and soffits). 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Floor- Part Three

Final floor post! I don't know about you, but I'm sick of talking about floors. Thankfully all is well. In my last post I left off saying we were going to ignore the upstairs and focus on the ground floor. We decided on using an oil-based polyurethane (we used semi-gloss high traffic Varathane) because we were told that oil-based poly gives the floor an amber glow and it's easier to apply. I had been under the impression that if we didn't put stain down, the floors would be really pale, but the poly made the oak color come out and it looked pretty! See below the contrast between the non-stained floor on the bottom left and the poly everywhere else.

If I had known this, I would of just skipped the stain upstairs and put the poly on and called it a day! The color is actually close to the color I had been looking for with a stain. Oh the irony.

We then decided it wasn't worth it to re-do the upstair floors again, so we just put the poly down upstairs over the stain. I didn't take a picture of the problem areas, but the good news is the shiny poly seems to hide the shiny areas and kind of disguises the chatter. Once again, if only we had known, it would have prevented some stressing. :P

We really like the deep rich stain upstairs, but I'm not sure I would deal with stain again. We will see!

Things we learned:

1. Rent a machine that is balanced (otherwise you get the chatter).
2. If you want less hassle, skip the stain, and go straight to poly.
3. Talk with someone who knows what they are doing and get all the advice you can before you start.
4. Give yourself more days than you are expecting.
5. Don't forget to breathe, they are just floors! I had to tell myself this a few times.

Next up: painting (choosing colors), cabinet insulation, adding in beams, drywall and other fun stuff. :)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Floors- Part Two

I know all of you have been waiting with bated breath for part two, sorry, I just got back from a quick trip to CA. Here is the link to part one if you haven't read it yet. Unfortunately this post does not have a great ending, but rest assured the third part will be much better! I know, because we are done with the floors in the present day. 

A week after our purple floor problem we decided to bite the bullet and rent the machines again. We only had to re-do the upstairs so the task wasn't super daunting, and we were able to skip the grit 16 and 36 and start at 60 and then do 100. Somehow it still took a day and a half, but it was rewarding to see the stain go away.

If you think I did all the work, think again, while I haven't shown any photos of Aurelien working on the floors he had to use the back bending edger, not something I wanted/could deal with. So, just because you are probably think I'm lying and did all the work (while Aurelien stayed home and watched soccer), I will show you proof of his hard labor.

Looks fun right?

As I was using the drum sander I started to notice little horizontal lines across the wood, but didn't think much of them. We found out later that these lines are called chatter, and happen when the machine isn't properly adjusted. More about this later.

After sanding the upstairs we tested stain on the actual floors in the kitchen, where we were going to put the cabinets; we were learning! We decided on the 2nd from the left stain and the next weekend went to work staining the upstairs. If you remember from the last post, there was a picture of me putting the stain down with a pad attached to a handle. We found out later that is not the best way to apply floor stain so this time one of us wiped the stain on with a rag and the other wiped off the excess off after a minute or two.

Here we are applying the stain, it was darker than the sample section, but still looks nice.

After staining the entire upstairs we left for the day happy to be done and excited to finish the whole process off. To finish it you have to put three to four coats of a top coat; either an oil based polyurethane (super smelly and toxic, but easier to put on) or a water based polyurethane (dries quickly,  is friendly to the environment, but is harder to put on and is more expensive). We had already bought a water based product, but started having doubts if we wanted to risk using it since it's harder to put on.

The next day we came back to the house to check out our stain and started to notice some problem areas. Places that Aurelien had spent a lot of time with the edger machine were shinier, so we had circular shiny areas in the master bedroom and in another room and then the chatter, that I mentioned above, became really dark and obvious once the stain was down. We talked with a floor guy and he told us he hates using stain because of these problems. Stain emphasizes every little imperfection. He actually discourages his clients on putting down stain because even though he has been doing this for 20 years he still can't get a perfect stain job.

So, now we were really discouraged. The problems weren't everywhere, but definitely noticeable  At this point I was upset we didn't just hire someone to do the floors in one week (we were approaching week 5). We thought a bit about whether we wanted to re-do the floors one more time (AHHH!) or just put rugs down. At that point we decided to just leave the floors upstairs for a bit and just put the poly on the downstairs floors without the stain. We decided to use the oil based since we had been told it was easier to apply.

Part three is coming up!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Floors - Part One

What can I say about the floors? I'm pretty sure I could write a novel. So I will break this up and make it as short as I can.

When we got the house we decided that we wanted to re-do the floors, they were looking worn and scratched up. To get a professional floor re-sander to do the floors we heard it could be around $5,000 or more to get the entire house done, so we decided to do it ourselves! Hey, how hard could it be? So about 6 weeks ago we rented the sander from a rental place in Ottumwa and set to work. When sanding the floors you need to get the stain and poly finish off the floors and get it down the bare wood. This requires different sand paper levels. We started with level 16 grit, did the whole floors, then went to 36 grit, 60 grit and finally 100 grit. After each round we had to vacuum up the sawdust. I forgot to mention that one person was on the drum sander and one was using an edger, a sander that gets the edges of the room and in tight spots that the drum machine couldn't reach. But there was a hiccup, our machine had a problem and we had to return it and wait a week to get another machine here in Fairfield (the one if Fairfield wasn't available before). So that was no biggie, it just delayed our sanding by a week. Meanwhile, we have said our goodbyes to my Mom and Dad (our handy man leader) as they went off to Hawaii for 5 weeks (I'm not even going to talk about that...).

Phew, finally after about 10 hours we had the floors done. At the end we had to wipe down the walls and the floors to attempt to get every speck of dust off the floors.  Because it wasn't the holidays anymore we couldn't work during the week so we had to wait another weekend to then put down the stain. Now this is where things started to get a little iffy and problematic. We had tested the stain on a piece of wood, but made the mistake of not testing it on our actual floors (let's not talk about this). So we put the stain on upstairs, the entire upstairs, and while we put it on we were excited, but after seeing it over the entire upstairs started to realize it was quite dark and red. So, I wasn't too happy about this, but was not about to re-send the entire upstairs to get a new color, it was something I decided to deal with. So, not the best, but not the worst.

I also made a mistake while putting down the stain. I started a room and then decided to stop for the day thinking for some reason it would be okay to start over the next day in the middle. See the stain overlapped below? At this point we were wondering if we were fine just dealing with it.

But the next weekend our real issues started. Per our friends advice we decided to put sanding sealer on top of the stain. What we didn't think about is the fact that he never uses stain, and he just puts sanding sealer on his bare floors, but regardless, on the can it said it was fine over stain. Here is the other problem, we didn't test a sample, two strikes (how stupid are we). So we put it down, and it went down milky as expected, but never dried clear like it was supposed to. So the result was milky, purpley, horrible looking floors on our upstairs (see the photo below).

Our downstairs hadn't been touched yet thankfully. At this point we decided we needed to completely re-sand the upstairs. Which means we had to rent the sander and spend another 1.5 days resanding.

Part two coming up.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cutting Out Sugar

After talking with my friend last week, I realized there is never a good time to cut out sugar. Something that "requires" sugar is up ahead. For me I was heading to Chicago that weekend, and who wants to go on a mini vacation and not be able to eat dessert? Not me. But then if I wait until Chicago is over, then it's Valentines day. And isn't Valentine's day the perfect day to eat sugar? How could one celebrate it without chocolate covered strawberries or decadent sweets? But after that? Well, then I have a business trip to CA and once again, who wants to go on a trip and not be able to eat exciting delights from a different place?

So we just decided to do it, six days without sugar, ending on Valentine's day. Maybe that isn't enough, but it doesn't matter, it was a start. Because I didn't update my blog quickly enough, I'm already done with my 6 day sugar fast, and it went way better than I expected. Somehow I didn't crave desserts, but I did sometimes crave sweetness, so I had a dates or some fruit. My main problem was I kept on forgetting I was off sugar, so I would be eating lunch and friends would get dessert and I had to remind myself that I couldn't eat it, but once I remembered I was fine. I didn't feel like I was missing anything, and I also noticed that in the afternoons I didn't feel as tired around 3pm.

I ended up eating sugar on Valentine's day, only because I went to a tea shop with a friend in the afternoon and I ended up having sugar in my tea and 1/2 a cupcake (and I was buzzing all evening). Since then, it's been five days and I've had some sugar, but not much. I think I will try cutting it out again and just replace it with healthier options.

For your information, we cut out cane sugar and any other type of processed sugar. We were allowed to eat fruit, some dried fruit and dates, or natural sugars like stevia or xylitol.

If you want to read some articles on why you shouldn't be eating much sugar, check these out here and here .