Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A green paint and varnish stripper that doesn't suck

I've got a few pieces out in the garage that I'm working on refinishing. Two will go up for sale, the other one might go up for sale. Scott is pretty attached to it so it would take a hefty price tag to separate him from it. Here's a photo of that one (*cough* makeanoffer *cough*). It's an antique Hunt trestle table and benches. Sturdy, rustic, timeless. Scott's really in love (but we have nowhere to put it!). The top is a little bigger than 2'x3' and it is normal table height. It would be a great game table or breakfast table for two average sized people or four smaller people (or average sized people who don't mind sitting close together).



I haven't quite decided how I'm going to refinish it, so if you have ideas leave a comment! Keep in mind that it may end up outside.

And then there are these two other pieces -- they will  definitely be up for sale. Here are before shots of them:



Typical 80's-early 90's honey oak, right? So, as I started to give them a light sanding to get ready to paint, I noticed that some of the sealer was flaking off of the end table. I decided to try a little oxidizing solution to see how I liked it. Usually oak turns black with the vinegar and steel wool solution, but I figured it was worth a shot.

And it was perfect.

So I grabbed a few bottles of stripper and went to work. Here is what they look like after getting stripped.



Better already, right?

If only oak could keep that light, sandy tone after being sealed. But it doesn't. It turns orange. I think if I dilute the oxidizing solution enough, I'll be able to get exactly the grey that I want, and then I'll probably wax it. I'm afraid of going with my usual PolyWhey because I'm pretty sure it will turn the grey to orange. I promise to keep you posted!

In the meantime, let me tell you a bit about the stripper that I used.


I've tried a few different green strippers. The one I've used the most is a citrus one. I've also used Peel-Away. I've not been happy with either one. But this one? Mötsenböcker's Lift Off? It actually works. And, it doesn't make you feel sick nor does it eat through your skin. Bonus, right?

Can I get a hallelujah? Because this is kind of exciting...for me.

Mötsenböcker's Lift Off went on really thickly -- it is a gel. It stayed wet plenty long to release the finish and it didn't leave too much gummy residue. Yes, some residue, but not as much as other strippers I've worked with. I was planning to use these mineral spirits to clean it up, but I only had this paint thinner around, so I used it and it worked well. Möstenböcker's Lift Off is supposed to clean up easily with soap and water but I wasn't ready to try it that way yet. I didn't want to raise the grain of the wood and I haven't had good luck with other strippers that are supposed to clean up with soap and water. Basically, other water-based strippers have traumatized me and I was being lazy for fear of creating more work for myself. Next time I've got a piece to strip, I'll try the soap and water clean up and report back.

For now, I just wanted to share with you that there is a green paint stripper out there that actually works! I picked up mine at Lowe's -- I hope you can find some, too.

This is not a sponsored post. Möstenböcker's has no idea who I am and did not pay me to say nice things about their product.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Staircase Makeover

When I started our basement renovation about a year and a half ago, I knew that part of it would include ripping the carpet off the stairs and...then what? That part I didn't know. It depended on what was under the stairs and also on how I was feeling the day I decided to work on them. Er, the night I decided to work on them. Because of course I do my best work in the middle of the night. Case in point:


And, really, that carpet was great for catching the dust and debris that I dragged out of the basement every time I walked upstairs during the renovation, so I left it on until the bitter end. By the time I was ready to remove the carpet, I had plenty of inspiration pinned on Pinterest to help me decide what to do, but the one below was definitely my favorite.

via pinterest
Unfortunately my treads were not solid wood, so I couldn't stain them like I'd hoped. I've also been loving the fun striped runners that are hot right now, so I thought I might find one I loved even though the grain sack took my breath away. When I saw the Söften rug at Ikea, that sealed the deal. The charcoal grey color was great with my new grey walls and my soon-to-be gray and white curtains. Edited to add: here's a link to the bold striped curtain tutorial!


At just under five feet long, one Söften rug wasn't long enough to cover all the stairs, and so I bought three of them, hoping that the three would be enough to cover my whole staircase (true to form, I didn't actually measure the staircase before buying or installing the runners). The bummer was that when I got the rugs home, they were about half an inch too wide for my staircase (did I just mention something about how I didn't measure?). Undaunted, I trimmed off the hems on the short sides and pressed the long sides under and sewed new hems along the edges.

Using two Ikea Stopp anti-slip rug underlays (a total bargain at $3.99/each and just the right width) and my pneumatic staple gun, I made my way down the stairs stapling the rug to the top of the riser, the intersection between the riser and the tread, and then under the tread nose.

If you are contemplating installing a similar runner, I would definitely recommend using a pneumatic stapler (as in, a stapler that is attached to an air compressor). My electric stapler would not have been able to do this project. If you don't have an air compressor and pneumatic stapler, you need to beg, borrow, or steal one before you attempt this.

When I got to spots where I needed to join the end of one rug with the beginning of another, I simply turned under the end of the new rug and stapled it up under the nose of the most recently covered tread, right over the rug that was ending. Very simple and not fussy at all. Somehow I managed to have each rug end right in the middle of a riser, not a tread, so I didn't even have to cut them down...except the last one. I ended up with about 18" of rug left at the end. I assume this is due to my very careful planning and measuring.

One place I made a mistake was in keeping the rug centered on the staircase. It would help to use painter's tape to mark the edges of where the rug should go before you start stapling. Or at least step back and take a look every once in a while. But, since it isn't horribly lopsided, I'm not worried about it.

Frankly, the cat uses this staircase more than anyone else in this family (to get to her litter box in the utility room) and I don't think she cares if the runner is perfectly straight. Or maybe she does? She is a cat, after all.



Oh, and you might have noticed in the before and after that I did some board and batten down there, too. I think the white walls really help lighten up an otherwise dark hallway. I haven't done a board and batten tutorial because there are about ten million of them out there in blogland, but you might like to know that I chose not to use MDF for my board and batten. That was an intentional departure from the blogger norm -- I prefer not to use MDF because of the chemicals it off-gasses and because of the toxins in the sawdust, which I would inhale every time I cut a board. If you want to know more, I'll gladly do a post on why I don't use MDF. Just ask!

And, lastly, the louvered door in that photo above? Yeah, I added that sometime between the "before" and the "after," too. You can see my pocket door tutorial here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A better looking return air grille

Psst...I've done it again! Check out another DIY return air grille solution here.



Do you have a baseboard return air grille that looks like this?


Not especially attractive, right? I'm pretty sure ours was original to the house and I see it every time I walk in and out through the garage. When we started re-painting the inside of the house a few weeks ago, I took the grille off to paint behind it and decided that there was no way it was going back on.

I grabbed some sheet metal from Lowe's. The metal already had this cool pattern (which is called Union Jack) cut out of it.


I figured out how big to cut the metal (very scientific, as you can see above). I held the metal up to the intake and used my best judgement to cut the sheet using the tin snips pictured below. I cut two long narrow strips to cover the space.


Once I had the metal the right size, I took it out to the garage to prime and paint it the same color as our baseboards.

(FYI, I use Restoration Hardware's The Right White color matched in Sherwin-Williams ProClassic Semi-Gloss paint. I'd love to switch to a no-VOC trim paint, but that would mean re-painting all the trim in the house to guarantee that the sheen stays the same everywhere.)


To paint the metal, I used a 6" foam roller and laid the metal directly on the construction paper on the floor. If you're thinking about doing this, I'd highly recommend picking up the metal immediately after you paint it and then transfer it to some scrap wood to dry. If you let it dry on the paper, you might end up picking little bits of paper off the back of your metal. Don't ask how I know that. Let's just say I've got a feeling about it.

Once the metal was dry, I set it up against the intakes and then framed it in 1x2 pine. Our wall is pretty round, so framing the metal was not easy and required a good bit of caulk and drywall compound to get a seamless look.


Once it was sanded, caulked, and painted I gave it a coat of our white trim paint and then (finally) moved the furniture back. It's obviously not removable now so each time we re-paint we'll have to paint around it. (Pssst...there are tons of great ideas for how to make it removable down in the comments! Check it out if this is a concern for you.) I'll also have to be good about vacuuming it each time I vacuum the floor, to be sure I remove as much dust and pet hair as possible since I'm no longer able to remove it to vacuum behind it. I did that...um...once. The extra vacuuming is totally worth the charming grille, though, don't you think?

Do you have an ugly return air grille in a spot where you have to see it regularly? Is this a project you would consider for your home?

Monday, October 22, 2012

The best way to get a project done without doing it all yourself

Do you remember the famous passage from Tom Sawyer when Tom gets Ben Rogers (and eventually Billy Fisher and Johnny Miller) to whitewash a fence for him?

Yeah...my girls and I totally pulled that off this weekend. Actually, it was one of my girls who made it happen.

See this deck? Or should I say see this sorry-excuse-for-a-deck. It looks more like a raft to me.


We're tearing it out! We're paying someone else to lay a patio and do some other work in the backyard (I know! Paying someone to work on our yard!) but it is my job to get the deck demo'd since we're going to re-use some of the wood for a pergola.


On Friday while the girls were out of school for the day, I somehow swindled them into working on the deck demo with me. Brynn, my 9 year old, was enthusiastic from the get-go. It took her enthusiasm to drag my 7 year old, Callie, out of the house to work with us. It helped that I told Callie she could "document" the whole deck de-construction with my camera! So most of the photos you see here were taken by her. Hooray for point-and-shoots.

Callie brought along her new American Girl catalog -- for break time, I guess.
While I pulled the boards off of the deck, the girls pounded nails down and then flipped over the boards and pulled the nails out. When our next door neighbor called to see if the girls were around, Brynn said, "Come on over! And bring a hammer!" And so she did, and went right to work along side Brynn and Callie.

Stacking up the re-usable wood in the side yard.
Then another friend called and Brynn said, "Come on over! And bring a hammer!" This friend laughed at Brynn and told her (several times) that she was crazy. But the friend showed up anyway and, instead of a hammer, dragged along her little sister.


So that makes 5 elementary school girls, three hammers, two drills, and one crowbar. Oh, and me. I would say that the five of them together did about one and a half adults worth of work, which may seem like an inefficient use of energy but, really? Elementary age kids have an endless supply and they were very entertaining to work with.



One of them accidentally used the claw end of her hammer several times when she should have been using the pounding end. One of my girls dropped a long (like 14-foot) board on the other one's foot. When there weren't enough tools to go around, two of the girls sang and danced to keep our spirits high while we worked.

The sixth girl did significantly less work than the rest of them.
This was toward the end of our work day. Do you look this happy (or fashionable)
when you've done that much work?
This was my first time witnessing the Tom Sawyer method of persuasion in action, and I think I'll be using it again. Have you ever used the Tom Sawyer method?

Friday, October 19, 2012

To go stainless or not?


This is a Restoration Hardware kitchen island that I'm planning to build. Two of them, actually. But to make them more durable (and maybe marketable) I'm considering adding a stainless steel top instead of wood. Going with stainless will raise the price by at least $100. Probably closer to $150. That will take the selling price of this piece from the $250 or $300 range into the $400 to $450 range.

What do you think? Would you pay that much? Would you prefer stainless or wood on top of an island like this? Come join the discussion on Facebook -- I'd love to hear your feedback!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New paint (x2) reveal

Okay, I'm ready to admit it. We had to paint part of the house twice because I made a bad color choice. And it wasn't the first time this has happened. Eventually I'll learn, though. And someday Scott will probably forgive me for making him paint the same part of the house twice in one week. (For the record, I could have done it myself, but he wouldn't let me because he says I'm a bad roller.)

At this point I'd say I'm mostly happy with our two new paint colors. We started out going 100% Restoration Hardware Stone from RH's "Slate" collection, which is a warm gray (although not nearly as warm as it looks on the RH webpage). Their cool gray "Flint" collection was too blue for me, although it looks great with my quartz countertops. Stone turned out to be too warm for our kitchen and for the wall with the media center (both are on the same wall and get southern light), so we went back over it with RH Graphite which is much darker than I wanted to go, but at this point it was too late to completely change grays, so I just did the best I could. If I were to do it over again, I'd probably choose a gray with more yellow, but at certain times of the day it would probably look muddy and I'd be frustrated with that, too.

Kitchen before -- RH Sycamore Green on the walls.
Kitchen after -- RH Graphite on the walls. Yes, the cabinets will have to go white!
I'm happy enough with our combination of Stone and Graphite. Happy enough to leave it alone for a few years until I get tired of gray and want to move on.

Another change we made was putting a few coats of white on our two walls of cedar siding. When we moved in (about eight years ago) they were stained brown. My mom immediately told me they needed to be painted white and I didn't believe her. I might have actually looked at her like she was nuts. I might have been trying to preserve the "integrity" of the house, which was insane because it's just a 70's split level with zero character (we bought for the neighborhood and the lot, not for the house). We left the walls the original stained brown for less than a year before we painted them with the same colors as the walls they were adjacent to.

This is what the bigger of the two cedar walls looked like when we move in.
The wall of cedar after we painted it the first time.
Almost done! Just needs one more coat of RH The Right White
and some new curtains, which were the original inspiration for
this whole paint project to begin with.
But my mom was right. She usually is when it comes to color. I may not be 100% happy with the tone of gray I chose for the walls, but I absolutely love the white on the cedar. The cedar around the fireplace still needs another coat of white (this will be number 3 or 4, I'm losing track) but even unfinished it gives me the light and airy look I wanted and doesn't compete with the bright colors I've started bringing in on furniture and art.

The loft when we bought the house.

The loft with RH Flax paint.
Loft with RH The Right White and RH Stone. And a whole lotta kids' artwork.
I'm pretty happy with the color on the walls that face north (pictured below). They seem to stay the most consistent throughout the day. For those walls, the RH Stone is a great cool, calm color. It's really a lovely backdrop for colorful artwork and for a tranquil feeling in the house. As I get older, I seem to crave colors that inspire calm and quiet.
Before -- looking out from the kitchen. RH Sycamore Green and RH Flax.
After -- looking out from the kitchen. RH Stone. Sorry this photo got
blown out on the right! It looks white, but it's not. It's the same Stone gray.
I've seen a few Pinterest posts with the "perfect" gray, but I'm wondering whether such a thing really exists? What do you think? Do you have one that you love?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Six tips for picking the WRONG paint color

I looove my RH paint deck, but even with it, sometimes things go awry.

No, not tips for picking the "right" paint color.

I'm not an expert at that. Besides, there are probably loads of tutorials on picking the right color for the inside of your house.

I'm pretty good at picking the wrong color.

Let me give you some tips:

1. Pick a color you like without confirmation that it works with what you have. In other words, pick up a Restoration Hardware fan deck and decide that you really like color "A" even though when you put it next to your off-white kitchen cabinets, it makes them look too yellow. (This makes you kind of happy since you've wanted to paint your off-white cabinets true white ever since they were installed.) And when you put your paint sample next to your quartz countertops, it makes them look unusually blue. But you really like the paint color by itself, so pick it anyway.

2. Pick a color you like on the paint chip even though when you put a sample on your wall, the sample sometimes looks pink. That strange color cast must be because the sample is a little tiny island of color in a sea of a sage green wall, and so with the green around it, the sample color looks more pink than it really is. It must be something about the contrasting color bringing out the warm tones in your sample. (Hint: it's not a trick. It really is more pink than you thought it would be.)

3. Only paint color samples at eye level. Don't worry about the up highs and down lows. I'm sure they'll come out fine. Besides, getting out the big ladder is way too much work just to get some samples up high on the wall.

4. Buy five gallons of the wrong color because, after all, it is 40% off THIS WEEKEND ONLY and even though you won't have time to paint until next weekend, you should definitely get it all now without testing a gallon first. Remember that it is a custom-mixed color, so it's non-refundable. Besides, what could possibly go wrong?

5. Paint one small section of your house first -- preferably the only part of your house that gets no natural light so that the color will look consistently good all day and all night. This is a great way to trick your mind into believing you've found the perfect paint color. This will come in handy when you start painting the rest of your house and think your eyes are tricking you. Because the color looked so perfect all week long in that hallway downstairs!

6. Do not, under any circumstances, trust that voice in your head that is saying you might be looking at the wrong color. After all, you are not a color consultant nor are you an interior designer. What do you know, anyway? Besides, you're in kind of a hurry and need to get it done, like, yesterday.

**********

It's possible that I have quite a bit of experience in picking the wrong paint color. And since about half of the interior of my house is visible from the three main rooms (the kitchen/dining, family room, and loft are all one voluminous open space) and because the walls in the main part of the house peak at 22 feet tall, when I make a mistake here, I make a BIG mistake.

Not only are paint mistakes here BIG mistakes, but it's a tough space to get the color right to begin with. Light comes into the main part of our house from all angles -- we literally have light coming from the north, south, east, and west plus light coming from above through two skylights. Wall colors change dramatically at different times of day. While I love the openness of our house, it does prove difficult to find paint colors that are either (a) consistent or (b) pleasing as they shift from morning to afternoon to evening light.

I've included a few before photos to whet your appetite for some good before and afters later this week. We are just about done painting (it takes longer when you have to do some of it twice). I'm hoping to get some photographic evidence of this color-shifting so that you can see for yourself what we're dealing with!

Before. Restoration Hardware Sycamore Green.

Before. Restoration Hardware Sycamore Green + The Right White on the brick fireplace.

Restoration Hardware Sycamore Green + Restoration Hardware Flax

Restoration Hardware Flax





Thursday, October 11, 2012

Last-minute cole slaw dinner

After my post about how my family and I went plant-strong, I got several questions from friends asking what I eat and what recipes I use. I don't use many recipes and when I do, I treat them like inspiration (much to the chagrin of friends and family who need plant-strong ideas). But, I thought I could give you a little window into what my dinner-making process looked like tonight. Here we go.


It's 5:30pm. Like most nights, tonight I don't have a plan for dinner. I look in the fridge to figure out what I'm going to make.

I've got kohlrabi. I have kale. There are carrots and apples and green onions. I've got sliced almonds in the pantry.

Decent beer is, of course, a necessary ingredient for any dinner-making adventure.
Sounds like a big cole slaw to me.

Here's how it came together.

Dressing (all measurements VERY approximate, so use your best judgement):
1 T toasted sesame oil
1 T seasoned rice vinegar
2 T soy sauce
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled
1 medium apple, cored and roughly cubed
2 T peanut butter
(One whole peeled orange or a lime would be good, but I didn't have one. I forgot to add garlic, but you probably should. It would also be good with some red pepper flakes, but Callie is way spice-averse.)

Blend all ingredients until smooth. (I used a Vitamix high speed blender.) Taste and adjust if needed. Refrigerate.

Cole Slaw
4 small apples, cored
2 medium kohlrabi, tough peel removed
6 medium carrots
1 bell pepper, seeded (I used green because I had it on hand. Yellow, red, or orange would be better.)

Shred ingredients listed above. I used my food processor with the shredding attachment.

Add: 
1 bunch of kale, finely chopped
3 green onions, sliced
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

Pour on dressing and toss.

Add:
1 C of sliced almonds

Toss one last time and serve.

I just used what I had on hand to make this, but you could add ingredients like broccoli, purple cabbage, edamame, or bean sprouts. If you're looking for more substance, this would be good with rice noodles or mung beans or even lentils.

I ate two big bowls and felt full. Scott also had two servings. Brynn had one big bowl. Callie ate one medium bowl and then she had a couple of dried dates for dessert. For us, this was enough. If we were going straight from a chicken-and-ribs lifestyle to a plant-strong lifestyle, this dinner would obviously raise some eyebrows at the table. But, since we eased into it, a meal like this is expected and satisfying for us.

I hope this helps!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The end of a lifelong struggle

I've struggled with my weight and my body image my entire life. I've never been obese, but I've always been overweight. Even in high school when I was at morning and afternoon swim practices, probably swimming as many as 8000 yards a day, things were never quite right. I played sports year round and was always an athlete, but always carried extra weight. I didn't eat candy, I didn't drink soda, I didn't eat typical junk food or much processed food. My mom said I was fine and my doctors said I was fine, so I didn't worry too much about it. I just never felt great about myself and I always figured someday I'd shed the extra pounds.

But, I was never willing to do anything difficult to get there. I'm still not, actually. I am not and never will be a runner. I despise running. I love food and am not willing to feel hungry. I can't make myself throw up (although I did try, probably like most teenage girls who are unhappy with their weight). Once in fourth grade, the meanest boy I know called me a "110 pound whopper." I don't think I weighed that much and I know I wasn't huge, but I still torment myself with that comment.

My struggle is over. Do you hear that? I'm done. Not because I no longer care. Not because I've decided to restrict my calories. Not because I'm exercising myself to death. I haven't done anything extreme. I've just tweaked my diet a little bit. That's all it took.

My diet has changed from the majority of calories coming from animal products, grains, and oils to the majority of calories coming from plants. I use significantly less olive oil than I used to and recently I completely removed chocolate from my house (that was hard, actually). I did not get rid of cocoa powder, mind you, but chocolate.

For the past four or five years, Scott and I have only been eating meat as a main course three or four times a week, and it was always from local ranches and farms -- never from the grocery store. But we never cut out cheese or milk or completely eliminated meat. And, actually, we still haven't gotten rid of them completely, but we did cut way, way back.

When I say the "majority" of my calories are coming from plants, I don't mean 55%. I mean like 85-90%. I mean the vast majority. Scott and I started by going 100% vegan for six weeks. We didn't rely on bread, pasta, and other grains to fill us up. We filled up on salads and veggies and beans. We significantly reduced our olive oil use. We mixed nuts into our salads and we started to juice veggies. We were not hungry. We did not count nor restrict our calories. In the first three weeks, pounds of fat literally disappeared from my body. I lost about 14 pounds in the first three weeks. Things slowed down after that and I've slowly continued to lose weight since then even though I'm no longer trying. I'm down about 25 pounds now and today, for the first time ever, the weight listed on my driver's license is accurate.

Not that I meant to cheat when I got my Colorado driver's license eight years ago. I think I was close and was headed toward that weight. But then I had Callie and never made a conscious effort to get back to my pre-baby weight. After going plant-strong, I'm now below my pre-baby weight and in the healthy BMI range for the first time in my life.

This was in June. I'm down another 8-10lbs since then!
I will never be a tiny person. I will never be skinny. That's just not who I am. I am 5'8" and built like a tank. A feminine tank, but still, I'm the cliché "big-boned" person that every fat person thinks they are. In high school my friend Gretchen and I used to talk about how our hips were built for twins. I never had twins, but the doctor who delivered Brynn said I have "the Cadillac of uteruses." Brynn was born 9lbs 14oz. We are not small people.

Will I always kind of wish I were that little person? Yes. Do I realize that my build is not related to my health? Yes. And I am so thankful to have found a healthy lifestyle.

If you're interested in learning more about a plant-strong lifestyle, I'd suggest that you start by reading Dr. Fuhrman's book Eat to Live. That is where we started and it turned our ideas of health upside-down. The book has several testimonies from Dr. Fuhrman's obese and really sick patients (ie: diabetes, heart attacks, super high blood pressure) who used his plan to get healthy. We didn't relate so much to those stories, but the rest of the book was packed with information that is useful for anyone. I also read (and purchased, which is big for me) Fuhrman's book Disease Proof Your Child. It is a great guide to getting micronutrient-dense plant foods into your kids and setting them up for a lifetime of health. It's not so much about weight-management as it is about preventing diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. I've paged through The Engine 2 Diet and think it is totally on-target. I own the new Forks Over Knives cookbook -- it is vegan, plant-strong, and super accessible. No weird ingredients. The Forks Over Knives and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead documentaries are really motivating and available for instant watching on Netflix.

Have you changed your health lately? Or dropped weight without struggling? I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I'm diving in


I'm finally doing it. I'm diving into social networking. I've been using Facebook for a while, just for my own personal entertainment and time-sucking, but I'm adding The Friendly Home to FB now too. And Twitter, which I've resisted for sooooo long.

But here's the thing. There are so many interesting stories out there and Twitter and FB seem like great vehicles for discovering and sharing and discussing those stories. Like today, I read a post from the Environmental Working Group about why some companies that make household cleaners (ie: Method) are unhappy with their EWG rating. It's not a post that is worthy of my commentary on the blog, but it's something I'm interested in and you might be interested, too. So I retweeted/shared it on Twitter and Facebook.

I also find that sometimes I'm doing things around the house that don't deserve a whole post (like making a super-antioxidant dinner to offset inhaling VOCs all day). Those are things that I'd like to share with you. But not here.

So here I go, diving into the world of social networking with my little blog...hoping that together you and I can discover new cleaner ways of living, entertaining, learning, eating, raising our kids, and improving our homes. I've posted FB and Twitter buttons over there in the right sidebar -- click on them so we can hang out together!