Saturday, June 17, 2017

What is the Best Counter Material for Your Kitchen?

One of the huge pluses when we bought this house was that the kitchen had been completely redone and upgraded just a few years prior. Now, if you know me, you know that the kitchen is probably the most important room in the house. I spend a lot of time in there, and it has to be usable. Some of the other houses we looked at had kitchens that were just barely usable and would have had to be upgraded and redone as soon as possible. In one way that would have been nice because I could have had exactly the kitchen I wanted - in the end - but I certainly wasn't looking forward to the actual remodel.

Even though I didn't get to actually design my current kitchen or choose any of the colors or materials, I'm happy with it overall. And there are some really great features like the spice cabinets on either side of the cooktop. The one thing I think I would have chosen differently is the countertop. It's a nice color, and it looks nice, but I just don't like that it's glossy. When I wipe the counter, I always have to dry it too in order to keep it from looking streaky. Maybe I'm just picky...

The point of this story is that, if you are remodeling or upgrading your kitchen, be sure to research the types of counter materials that are available so that you pick the one that is best for you. Because you will be living with that countertop for a long time, and you want to love it. Don't just get a granite countertop because you think that's the thing to do.

Choosing from the wide variety of counter materials can make the decision difficult. They all can have both positive and negative features. You'll want to do more research and actually look at and touch and feel the different options, but here is a bit of information and a few of the more popular countertop materials:
  • Soapstone - The non-porous nature of soapstone makes it a desired counter product, but it is a surface that can be easily scratched. Natural soapstone is lighter in color, but the surface can be oiled, providing a slightly darker coloration. This product is impervious to staining, but has to be sanded or oiled again to maintain a like-new look. Soapstone is the perfect choice for bathroom renovations.
  • Marble - The variety of color mix with marble offers an almost guaranteed unique look to every kitchen and bathroom. The formed designs within the stone are different with every piece that is milled. Marble is considered very soft and should only be used in areas without a lot of traffic. This may not be the perfect choice if you have a number of heavy appliances on the counters.
  • Granite - Granite is one of the hardest substances used for counters. It has to be coated with a protective seal to prevent staining, since it is porous. The colors of available granite are many and there is one that will fit any decorative style you wish to create, or match.
  • Engineered Stone - Many types of engineered stone are made with crushed quartz embedded into resin. It creates a non-porous surface that is easy to clean and keep clean. There does need to be extra care taken to keep hot pots and pans off the direct surface. Use of pot holders is essential.
  • Ceramic Tile - Tiles made with ceramic are durable, come in many colors and are popular for use in bathrooms, kitchens, and for backsplash. This product is not easy to scratch and doesn't easily stain, but individual tiles can be broken when hit with enough force. The grout can be the most difficult part to keep clean.
When you're ready, you'll want to contact kitchen and bath experts San Diego or the experts in your area to get started on your kitchen remodel.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Have Patio, WILL Use It

We had out of town visitors a couple weekends ago, and we ended up spending a long lazy day just hanging out on the patio. It was so nice and has me wondering why we don't use the patio more often than we do. We've lived here almost 4 years, and we've only used the patio a handful of times. I'm thinking we definitely need to change that!

When we built our house in Wisconsin, we didn't put in a patio or deck right away. A lot of the houses in the neighborhood had concrete patios that were usually put in when the driveway was poured, but we just had some rock brought in. It wasn't the most beautiful thing, but it was usable, and we wanted to wait until we had the money to put in a paver patio. We really liked the way the patio would look, and we liked the idea that there weren't very many paver patios in the neighborhood. And yes, we know that there are many different patio designs and patio pavers, so even if every other house in the neighborhood had a patio, the odds of them all being the same were really low. Still, in a neighborhood where every house was built by the same contractor, every little bit of individuality is important.

In the end, Jeffrey and Cory built a deck and pergola on the back of the house. I can't remember the exact reason we decided on the deck instead of the patio - perhaps that it was something they could do more easily than put in the patio - but we really loved that deck! Once it was built, we ate dinner out there often. It was also a great place to enjoy my morning coffee and read. It was a wonderful addition to our living space.   And it was a great Father/Son project I doubt either one of them will forget.

Building a Rail

Here we have a nice brick patio with a brick wall all the way around and beautiful hand-made tin light fixtures on the wall. It's showing its age a bit, quite a few of the bricks are coming apart, and weeds keep trying to take over. We mixed up some salt, vinegar, and Dawn and sprayed the weeds a couple years ago, which killed them pretty well, but they're weeds and they keep coming back. One of these days we are going to have to tear out the whole patio - not because of the weeds, but because of all the bricks that keep deteriorating - and put something else in. Maybe this will be our chance for that paver patio, hopefully with a nice stone fireplace or firepit area. We may just go with the poured concrete patio so many of our old neighbors had, but have you seen what they can do with concrete these days? It can look just like a fancy paver patio. Either way, we'll probably have to have someone come in and build the patio for us. We can probably do the demolition, but I'm not so sure about the leveling and installation that comes after. It's important to get the drainage right so that we won't have water standing on the patio when it rains - and it can certainly rain around here! - or water running back to the house and sun room.

In the meantime, our patio is still very usable and very pleasant. It's nicely shaded throughout the day and the best place to enjoy our backyard. Even if I can't figure out exactly why we haven't been using it, that doesn't mean we can't do a better job of using it from now on. Jeffrey does need to use his new grill. Often.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


This was just posted by one of my favorite librarians, and I had to share.

Reading really is like magic. We look at these printed marks on a flat, white surface, and whole worlds come alive. We make lifelong friends, fall in love, and have our hearts broken time and time again. And then we dive right back in for more!

Oh - I really need to make more time to read. Why is it that real life always seems to get in the way of all stories just waiting to suck me in?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Does Your Air Conditioner Work?

Our air conditioner stopped working last summer. Right when we needed it, of course. We all expect to be able to flip a switch when the weather heats up and have our air conditioner cool the house down, but what if it doesn't? How do you decide who to call? The former owners of our house left a lot of information about the companies and contractors they had used while they lived here, so we called the HVAC company they used - the same one who installed a new furnace just a few years ago.

But, if you don't have a file full of recommended contractors, here's a list of things to consider when searching for a good HVAC Company.
  1.  Experience - The ideal HVAC company should have at least 2-3 years of experience in things like heating, cooling and plumbing. If their website was just created last month, that's a sign that they're new to the business and without the kind of background that you need in your repairmen. Hold outLook for people with more longevity.
  2. Courtesy - Some companies offer things like an "all due respect" guarantee where they promise that their employees won't curse, smoke or drink while in your home. This is especially helpful if you have small children running around while repairs are taking place.
  3. Payment Plans - While you should always consider a company's prices before hiring their services, don't write them off just because their costs are a little outside of your usual budget. A good HVAC company will offer payment plans that can be spread over weeks or months for their penny-pinching customers.
  4. Staff Qualifications - Look at the company's website. What do they say about their staff? How were they trained? Where did they go to school? Do they have any certifications or memberships to industry organizations? If you can't find anything on the Internet, don't be afraid to ask about their qualifications when you call. They should be happy to tell you.
  5. Location -Last but certainly not least, a good repair company will be located within your community. For example, if you live in Williamsburg, they'll be one of the many HVAC companies Williamsburg VA. This will ensure that they're familiar with all of your area's weather patterns and general heating and cooling needs as well as be readily available should you need any follow-up or future service.
These are just a few signs that your chosen HVAC company is the right one for the job. It's a decision that should be made carefully, so take your time. Don't rush into anything. Your heating and cooling units aren't going anywhere, and you should make sure that you hire good people to handle them.

Unless, of course, the weather forecasters are calling for a week of temperatures in the 90s with high humidity, and you need that air conditioner to work now.  Then, your number one priority is probably finding a company that can come out and look at your air conditioner and get it fixed. Thankfully, the company we called was available, the part was ordered, and it was fixed within a day or two. Because, for once, the weather forecast was right, and it did get hot.

Monday, June 12, 2017

It's Definitely Not the Venue

We attended another concert last month. After our disappointing Soul2Soul tour experience in April, I was a little worried. I knew it was Tim & Faith's sound guy/crew that was the problem, but still...

We had tickets for Neil Diamond's 50 Year Anniversary Tour, because we've been listening to Neil diamond for not quite 50 years - and how could we miss seeing him when he was going to be so close?

Once again we had seats up on the balcony level - this time on the side. (We're still trying to figure out where the best seats in the house would be - besides perhaps front row on the floor.) And there was no problem whatsoever with the sound at this concert. We could hear every word that was spoken, every word that was sung, and every instrument in the band. It was great. Neil Diamond has a sound guy who knows what he is doing. It makes all the difference in the world.

Also, Neil didn't bother with an opening act. Why should he? He's celebrating a 50-year career, and he's got plenty of songs to fill up an entire concert - and then some! Here's the complete setlist from the Indy concert. I've looked at the lists for some of the other concerts, and he varies it a bit each night - probably because he does have so many songs to choose from.

It was an amazing concert, and we loved every minute of it!