12.20.2014

Let's Get Moody (aka Goals Met)

I did it.  I got five batches of cookies made.  I got two dimmer switches in.  I got the master bedroom closet light in.  Also walked Finn in the park, carefully avoiding off leash dogs yet again.  Laundry running.  A few other minor things and it's only 3:15 pm.  Whooooo-ie.  On a roll!  Ugh my back....

Ok, but here's the thing.  Dimmer switches are awesome.  Everybody should have dimmer switches.  Even renters can have dimmer switches; just ask your landlord or switch them out and put back the originals before you move.

Sure, some are crazily priced but there are also more affordable ones if you do a little seeking.  But seriously, dimmers are the schniz.  Look at me all hip n' stuff.

Dimmer switch at Menards for $7.00
Dimmer switches give you control over your lighting, rather than off/on or changing the bulbs for different wattages.

Right, I know, many compact fluorescents are not dimmable or if there are, they don't always work well.  There are LED dimmables on the market but I have yet to find one that doesn't flicker or put out terribly unattractive light.  Maybe I don't lavish enough money on them, who knows.

So yeah, hate to say it, as much as I try to be green and save energy, incandescents are my go-to for dimming.  As such though, I will qualify by saying I generally only put them in fixtures we don't use all that often.

But back to dimmer switches.  They let you decide the amount of light for the room, creating a warm moody dimness, an atmosphere.  Lighting shapes a room.  Options people, we like options.  Options gooooood.

On the plus side too with these things, they are easy to install with some basic wiring knowledge.  I can't stress enough though, if this intimidates you, if you find a mess o' wires that's beyond confusing in the electrical box, it's best to call a professional.  Do not mess with electricity as it can kill you and/or burn your house down, mmk?

My first switch of the day was for that foyer fixture I'm still not sure about.  After switching out the bulbs to incandescent 40w, I knocked off the power at the breaker box then popped off the switch cover plate.


All righty, this was a tad confusing.  The black wire was ganged with the switch next to it, the stair lights, and stripped in the middle.  Palm to forehead.  No worries, I snipped the black wire into two since my dimmer switch had a place for both to happily coexist.


This option keeps the circuit connected.

Cram that sucker into the electrical box (or at least I had to, you may not need so), screw it on, replace the foam insulation bits....



....reattach the cover, flip on the breaker and bam, suh-weet, dimmed light.


It's better.  I can't say I'm suddenly all in love with the fixture.  But it's better with the striped wall and such.  Granted, the carpet on the stairs still needs to go and that door....well that door.  Black.  Thinking I'm gonna paint it black.

(We've reached that point in the post where Mike is questioning his wedding vows again....black paint.)

Next was a switch in the kitchen for a set of four recessed cans we have between the kitchen and the living room.

Bright lights!
I want to do the living room lights as well but I wasn't up for doling out $20 on two 3 pole dimmer switches.  We need those versus the single pole as we have two switches for those lights in two different places.  I shoulda just gotten them....Ah well, pfft, another day.

Anyway, this was a rat's nest upon removing the switch cover plate.  Two switches plus this also feeds wires to the switch in my office on the other side of the wall.

Holy....rat's nest.
And then this was mighty confusing, to be honest with you.

I hate this flipper.
Uhhh.  Three wires.  All the same color.  Um.  The green ground screw on the top right, other side empty.  One screw head painted black, the lower right.  Huh.  Confounding.  This, ok, yes, I took a chance on.  Do not do as I do.  Please.  I am begging you. (FYI, I did discover hours later that this is a two switch/two location group. We never use these lights or that second switch. Will be fixed pronto.)

I placed the two left wires in the same side of the dimmer switch and the bottom right wire on the opposite side.

Ka-pow, dimmed lights, wooo hoooo!
Whooie, lucky me, so far.....It worked.  Can't say I'm not a little nervous about that.  'Cuz I am.

But, moving on!

Yay, the master bedroom closet light!  I'd show you more of the closet but hey, I'm a real person and my closet is kind of a mess.  Sorry.


Right, so I got this fixture on eBay* a while back in all it's mylar-y goodness and I kept dragging my feet getting it installed.  After killing the power to the ever-so-lovely crassly named light, aka Contractor Special, off it came rapidly (it's only plus, ease of removal and disposal).  I turned to the new light.

Pardon the uh, dead plants in that planter on the balcony there.  Ahem.
Aaaawwwwww crap, really?!  Another one of those ball lights!

Ok, but ya know, I learned a lesson here and discovered with a slightly clearer head than the other day how it's supposed to be installed.


Screw in the bracket with the extra enclosed screws using the other darn holes/cut outs/slits, whatever.   No need to remove the darn screws pointing down.  Yeah, darn it, palm to forehead again.

Whatever.  I got it.  Sigh.  Heh.  Feel like a bozo.  I did have to loosen the screws going up a bit as I was having trouble threading the down screws into the fixture base far enough for those darn balls to grab on.

So here's the light!  Yay!!


I like it quite well.  It doesn't throw off a huge amount of light, but again, moody, atmospheric.  I like darkness.


A compact fluorescent is not a good choice of bulb for this though.  It's hard to see in the photo, but when lit, you see the curly unattractiveness clear as day.  Sooooo, back to Menards for another bulb!

If I don't catch you before the holiday next week, I hope you all have a wonderful time filled with all sorts of happiness, goodness, and joy.  Happy rest of Chanukah to you all too!  xo

*The eBay light fixture link is an affiliate link.  Mwah, thanks!

12.18.2014

Variety Pack of Stuff + Cookie Recipes

Yeah wow, sorry I haven't been around much!  There's so much to do to prepare for the holidays, especially when we're the ones hosting this year!  Goodness me.  And especially when it's your first time hosting a major holiday with a large group too.  Goodness me, again.

I did manage to squeeze in our holiday cards though.  Every year I like to do something a smidge handmade since I find many store bought cards lacking in personality and aesthetic.


Making your own holiday cards, or cards in general, doesn't have to be a daunting task.

The burlap cards themselves were pre-made and I picked those up at Joann Fabrics.  I already had the gold stars from a previous year's round of cards and simply cut felt tree triangles.  After blops of hot glue, the cards were ready to be signed with cheery wishes and sent.

In the process, I came across a few of last year's cards which were an idea I snitched from something I saw on Pinterest.


Paint color cards cut in tree shapes, yep!  Again, the blank card kit was from Joann.  Glued the trees on with a glue stick then I drew the stars with a silver paint pen.  Cute, yeah?  Easy peasy.

In the mean time though I'm having a rough go of it lately, feeling out of joint, missing Hailey in The.Worst.Way.

Hailey in my parent's day lilies several years ago.
Yesterday Mike asked if I'd mix up pancake batter for breakfast.  You wouldn't think that would be such a.) an unreasonable request nor b.) such a big deal.  They're pancakes.

But I had just sat down to eat some pancakes for breakfast, took one bite on that most horrible of mornings when my world imploded, the unthinkable happened and we lost our girl.  I haven't had pancakes since.  I was a crying mess through breakfast yesterday and bent out of shape all day.  I felt bad for Mike because he felt so bad just asking for pancakes.

Too, having guests over will be a painful in-my-face reminder that Hailey is not with us.

So I'm finding the holiday season to be tough right about now.

Well.  Anyway.

Today was the start of cookie baking, which makes lots of people I know mighty excited.

This year I'm making the ever-popular, always-requested Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies, a given.  Today I started these Mexican Tea Cookies I haven't made before, only to discover they need to be refrigerated so I kept moving down my list.  Also this year are Cinnamon Peanut Butter Cookies, a recipe I have in this great cookbook my folks gave me for Christmas one year, Woman's Day Desserts,* but I found the recipe online for you too.  Then lastly, another new-to-me will be these Iced Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies, likely without the icing as it seems to me the maple will muddle the flavors of the cookie.

I did discover a bonus attribute of the wine glass rack I installed, by the way -- a couple a' magnets and it's a recipe holder.  Sweet!


But of course this plops me into one of my fave rooms:  our kitchen.  I'm grateful to have a kitchen mind you, but this one is so inefficient and frustrating especially when I'm in cuckoo cookie-baking-mode.  I found myself searching for replacement cabinet doors online today between cookie batches just to at least tweak the way the room looks if anything, if I can't rework the entire room yet or don't get the chance to do so.

See, the flipper, he combined traditional aspects with sorta modern-ish elements but not in a deft way -- nothing here works together for me.  And anyway, traditional ain't my thang.  To each their own, right?

Originally I was thinking of painting the cabinets but I don't think these doors are even made of actual real wood and when Finn gets going, he's pouncing on toys in there, inevitably scratching his nails across them all.

I doubt even oil based paint would hold up to gigantic riled up puppy nails on "wood."  Though, I will say, these doors don't seem to show riled up puppy nail scratches so they do have one sole plus.


I could paint the cabinet boxes then replace the doors in a hopefully-budget-friendly way, like an unfussy, clean, modern slab door.  But maybe that's too contrasty and too retro-y in the wrong way.

I've had some interesting, clever ideas (if I do say so myself, I know, thank you) but they would have to be thoroughly presented to Mike first as of course me, they're atypical and unusual.  But cool though, and I haven't seen anything like my ideas before.

Soooo.....Heh.  I can hear Mike panicking all the way from work as he reads this.

Sorry I don't have more for you today.  My goal for by the end of Saturday is to get some dimmer switches in and replace the bulbs in the new foyer fixture I'm still not sure about.  I also intend to install that master bedroom closet light fixture.  In case you've been wondering, here* is the fixture I purchased on eBay.  I spent more than I had desired but I couldn't stop stalking this fixture either.

So much to clean, prep, organize, do, shop for before the holiday next week, it's cramping my house to-do list progress!  ;)

One last thing:  best wishes to my brother in law Bob, Heidi, and the girls.  Oreo will be sorely missed.  We'll be tearily thinking of you all, our hearts heavy and sad.

*The Woman's Day Desserts is an Amazon affiliate link and the eBay light fixture is an eBay affiliate link.  Mwah, thanks!

12.13.2014

Light me up! v. 2: The Fight

Ya know, sometimes, just sometimes, being a solo DIY'er home re-do-er is a pain in the ass.  Pardon my French.

Sometimes something so easy that should not take long ends up taking you oh, say nearly three hours and then you're grumpy and cranky, sweaty and cursing a manufacturer.

Like say...oh for instance, the light fixture I got for the hall bedroom upstairs.  I had been stalking it for a while at the store, not interested in paying I can't remember, about $90 or so, for it.  Then it went on clearance one day.  Plus there was a mail in rebate.  Bingo!  I was at Menards within days.

It's the Costa 1 Light Pendant.  It even came with the fancy schmancy old timey vintage bulb.  All right!

So it's been a tripping hazard in my office for a while now and all week I had intended to install it, along with the fixture I purchased for our master closet.  Today, this is it, today is the day, I woke up thinking.

I had painted the room earlier in the year, only to discover the paint mixer person mixed the incorrect color.  Ah well, accidents happen, but it explains why I'm not a huge fan of the color.  I've got plans for this room now though, just you wait.

Anywhooo.  The light.  It fits in perfectly with these plans.

The original fixture was that boring contractor super cheapy nondescript thing, better known by a crass name.  You know the one.  And it's not Dr. Everything Will Be All Right.  (Nice with the Prince reference, eh?)

First let me apologize in advance for all the bad photos.  This was a tiring event, it's a cloudy day here in Chicago and this room is one of the darkest in the house.


There it is, in all it's um, glory, the uh, you know the name people call it.


I unpack the new fixture and see what kind of assembly I'm looking at.  No directions.  Ok, no problem, that just means it'll be clear as day, right?  And it was.  It was the installation that was not.  I mean, it was, but the thing was not going to go in as designed.

Ok.  So, time to power off the room.  I get downstairs and gasp, the hall bedroom is not labeled on the breaker box.  Nooooo!!  There was a day Mike and I tried to figure out as many as we could but rats, we missed a few.

Heh, so you know what this meant as a solo DIY'er?  Yep.  Up and down two flights of stairs for each breaker switch.  Finn was going nuts -- please Mommy, stop it!  Stop going up and down, stop it, you're making me insane!  Needless to say, he has been napping.

It took me nine tries.  Yep.  Nine.  It wasn't on an unlabeled one.

Feel free to do the math.  My brain won't let me.  Who needs a gym when you can have your own unlabeled breaker box in a two story house?!

So at this point I'm pooped, all sweaty and jello-legged.  Last thing I want to do is climb a ladder and put in a light, but I started so may as well finish.

The new fixture, as you can see above, came with four extension rods.  Three were the same length and one was about half size.  I grabbed a tape measure and extended it down from the ceiling to figure out how low I wanted the fixture to hang.


A wee bit o' easier math and it was one long rod plus the short one, 32" total.

Ok, so looking at the ceiling bracket, the ceiling cover piece, the fixture and the existing electrical box in the ceiling, I realized nobody was going to be friends here.  The box is inset into the ceiling more than is typical.  The intended installation method was to drop the screws from above, through the box, through the bracket, through the cover, then be attached by these little screw on balls.

The screw on ball next to the hole it's meant to cover.
Uh huh.  Right.  Not gonna happen.

The screws were not long enough to do all that.  The box was not deep enough to use a longer screw.  Plus the attachment points inside the electrical box did not line up with the holes in the cover.  Well, then, how am I supposed to tighten these little balls onto a screw that is not fixed inside if I can't go through the box screw holes?  Plus, seriously?

Aw boy.  Yeah.  I had to take a pet-Finn break as this was complicated.  Plus going solo here, I was oh so worried about breaking the glass shade.  I did have one flash of brilliance -- I taped the foam packaging back over it.


Right, so I went through so many scenarios in my head that I think I thought enough thoughts for the entire next week ahead.  Then, finally, I thought I had figured it out:  attach the ceiling bracket, wire it up, then just use screws going up into the bracket to attach the fixture, screw the screw balls.

So I'm all wired up and good to go when I realize oh my goodness, duh, there's nothing to screw the screws into from below.  Too, those small single holes don't line up.  Clearly I ended up combining a couple of different scenarios on accident, thereby getting lost.

Aw jeez louise.  So I let the fixture dangle a minute and went to pet Finn again.


That's when I realized I had no choice but to put the screws in from above then attach the little balls from below.  I figured I'd tape the heads of the screws down to the bracket using electrical tape so they wouldn't move.

Well.  First the screws I had were too long.  Panic.

Down to the basement to the large collection of attachment devices again.  Somehow I found two that were shorter.  But not short enough.

Back upstairs.  The tape came loose while I was trying to get those darn balls on and the screws were twisting all around.  Uuuggghhhh.  Why me??!

Somehow I managed to get the balls attached, the fixture cleaned up, and all done.

No one can touch it though.  I hope to all get out it doesn't fall, especially on my in-laws.


Trust me, I'm getting shorter screws.

But it's up.  It took far too long and a whole day's worth of energy, but it's up.

Once I turned the power back on and came upstairs, was it all worth it?!

Walking in the room seeing it all lit up, the suffering ebbed a smidge.  I really like it.  It's perfect.


Whew.  But so much for getting the master closet light in today though.  Whoooie.  Ah well, another day!



Heh, Finn is still totally napping.  I wish I could join him!

Have a great weekend everyone!

12.12.2014

Darn Near Free, 10 Minute Holiday Centerpiece: a DIY!

Whaaaaaaaaat?, you're asking.  Are you crazy?  A centerpiece that's darn near free AND takes less than ten minutes to make?!  Get outta town!

No wait, it's true!


I made this centerpiece for our dining room table for less than $3.00, along with items I already had about the house.


I've never been much for holiday decorating, any holiday.  Not sure why.  Can't explain it.  Maybe I'm  a weirdo, I dunno.

This year though, Mike's family is coming by for Christmas for the first time.  Hailey wasn't people friendly so we never really had people over.  She had a few human friends that she loved dearly, but not that many.  So, with circumstances as they are now, well, without tearing up here, people can get in the door these days.


SooOOooo, if folks are coming by, the house should probably be a little holiday-ish, yeah?  Mike asked me if I'd do it up a bit.  Of course me, I'm always about budget-friendly too.

Right, here's what I used and how this came about:
  • Christmas tree trunk trimmings, free
  • tree branch trimmings, free
  • white floofy snowy-ish fabric remnant, $2.50
  • mini ornaments, previously owned
  • tea light candle holders, previously owned
We were at Home Depot (gasp!  I know, I cheated on Menards!) to shop for our Christmas tree when I spotted a large bin of tree branch trimmings, ya know, the bottom branches people don't want, and a couple of buckets with tree trunk pieces in them.

Huh.

I asked the friendly associate wielding a chain saw if the stuff was free for the taking.  He nodded and said, a-yup.  The gears started turning in me wee head so I opted to grab some branches and trunk cut offs, not having any idea what to do with them.


Mike, ever leery when he sees me digging into stuff, asked what I was going to do with what I was stacking in my arms.  I blurted out, "make a centerpiece!," surprising myself.  Well, all righty, a centerpiece I would make then!

At Joann Fabrics, I snagged a remnant of white snowy-like floofy fabric that I was planning to use for something else when I realized, oh, duh, if I cut a sliver off then there's something to go under the trunk trimmings to protect the table.


And then I realized, oh, duh, if I cut it all curvy, it'll be reminiscent of snow!

So that's what I did.

I freehand cut the fabric all curvy, arranged the wood chucks all nice, trimmed up pieces of the pine branches and placed them about, dotted the whole thing with itty bitty mini ornaments, then capped off the whole thing with tea light candles.  Here and there I smooshed some of the fabric trimmings in bunches between the wood to fill in and give it a more snowy piled feeling.


Voila!


Sure, the tree trunk cut offs are a smidge uneven and they tilt but that doesn't bother me.  If it bugs you, I'm sure they can be carefully trimmed to even.  Carefully.  I won't light the candles on the super tilty ones and burn my house down, don't worry; I'll move them to less tilty pieces.


But, yeah!  Practically free, painfully easy, created in a flash, and absolutely perfect for holiday decorating procrastinators!


12.08.2014

How-to: Turn a Recessed Can Light into Pendant Light.

One evening this past summer Mike and I were hanging about the house, chit chatting.  He said, "ya know, it'd be great if we had some kind of nice pendant-like fixture over in that foyer area-ish."  I said, "yeah babe, I totally agree."

Still deciding on a paint color for the stairway.  Still.  Still......
In my head I was mildly panicking, trying to figure out how I would make that happen.  I had never removed a can light fixture before, wasn't sure how to make it all work, oh boy oh dear.  It seemed like a lot.  And then ugh, finding a fixture!  heh

But, Mike's idea was five-star and I wasn't about to let it vanish into the ether.

So I did a little research.  And guess what I found:  Westinghouse Recessed Can Converter Kit*


Suh-weeeet!  It was inexpensive enough-ish so I ordered it up and this past weekend I finally got the project done.   And generally speaking, it was pretty easy to put in and took less than a half hour.  I wasn't timing it though, sorry.

Again, not big with reading directions but I figured I should, especially after the lessons I learned while installing the thermostat.

So I went step by step.  My brain either doesn't work well in the Directions Reading Department and therefore it seemed a tad confusing (thankfully they had images too) or the directions were indeed a smidge confusing.  Either way, they left some things out which, guess what?  I will share with you!  Yay!

First and foremost, shut off that electricity at the ol' breaker box.  And put your protective eyewear on.

Next up, screw in the socket piece.  Easy peasy, twisty twisty.


Third, install the first bracket into the recessed can, the one on the left below.


First thing they left off the instructions:  remove the trim cover piece.  I suppose that's a big "duh" but when you fully surrender to the directions and it's not on there, yeah.  Anyway, I felt less than bright.  Ah ha, a silly pun!


I made an error here but discovered it further into the project, only because it wasn't explained in the directions.  That's right, that's what I did, I blamed the directions.

That bar with the holes where the screw is in the center?  Yeah, didn't know that bar slides and you need to put that screw in the center hole.  Ok wait, so slide the middle holey bar so it's centered then attach the screw.

Fourth, make sure your helper assistant is close at hand to catch all the screws you're dropping.

"If I had opposable thumbs, I'd be even more helper! Got the door covered though, Mommy."
Next up was to screw that first bracket into the recessed can with their self-drilling screws, those flange parts you see on either end.  This took the longest, was the most frustrating, and drained my screw gun battery.  They unfortunately didn't want to self-drill themselves in.  I tried to pilot some holes with drill bits and it helped.  I think.  Maybe?  I didn't quite have the right bits.  Either way, the screws finally went in, nearly draining battery two.  I have crappy batteries.

Time to attach the second bracket part and where I discovered that the bar in the middle with the holes has to be centered.


Hopefully now you can see why the middle sliding bar needs to be centered.


Figure 6 here is telling me to attach the green ground wire to the side of the recessed can.  Not really the best illustration as it's kinda showing attach it in two different places?, or it's just not clear?, so I attached it to the metal tab inside the can.


The next part is where you whip out your schmancy new pendant fixture.

Of course, me, I shopped forever and forever and forever, finally choosing one on eBay*.  I emailed several fixtures to Mike for him to select from.  I wasn't sold on any of them really but the one he chose did fit all of the criteria I was searching for:  tighter to the ceiling, spread out horizontally, circular in design.  I'll show you the fixture here in a moment.  

Find the ceiling bracket in the packaging of your new pendant and attach it to the last bracket you installed.


I ran into trouble here as the screws that came with the fixture were lengthy and there was this other little green ground screw in the second bracket that the fixture screw ran into.  I tried to loosen the green screw but it wouldn't budge so I used a shorter screw.  No real clear idea what that screw and exposed wire is for; there was no mention and I had just attached a ground wire.

No idea how I managed this photo while atop a ladder but it shows exactly what the issue was.
The directions said to slide on the metal disk that's included but looking at my fixture I didn't see what the need was, especially since I wasn't using the kit's white plastic medallion.  Which I was glad about as it wasn't the right aesthetic for me anyway.  It'd be great if they had different design options here but it's darn near impossible to make everyone happy I'm sure.  If you have a smaller based pendant, the new pendant base holds the plastic medallion on.

Anyway, I had gotten the disk on but it gave me fits trying to get it off and I sliced my finger.  Yeowchie.  Bandage and Swearing Time Out.

Mean finger slicing metal disk.  Be careful!  :)
In hindsight, it probably would have been fine, albeit of seemingly little use, if I had left it on.

So ok!  The recessed can kit is in!  Generally pretty easy, right?

Time to install pendant light fixture.  Of course your experience will vary here.

Attach the base of the fixture to the fixture bracket.


Then attach your fixture.


The fixture itself I can't say is my favorite-to-die-for-gotta-have-it but it was one of those things where I thought ok, it meets my criteria and maybe possibly could-be it will look better and appropriate once it's up.


Mike saw it and said, "OOHh!"

Hm.

So I asked, do you like it?  And he said, "do you?"  When he asks that immediately in return I know he's not reaaalllyy digging it and he's trying not to hurt my design feelings.

Part of it, I think, is that we're not used to a larger fixture here.  Part of it is that it makes me dislike the front door even more, if that was possible.  Two completely different incongruous styles.  Part of it could be that the foyer area stands out as more incomplete now.  And lastly, part of it could be that it's just not the right fixture.  I bet it's a combo of all four, heavier on the latter.

Maybe circular was the wrong way to go.  It's ok to make mistakes and admit them.  It's actually very important to make mistakes.  So maybe the search continues.  Maybe more sparkly.  Now the gears are turning and I make my own DIY foyer light fixture.  Ahhhh, here we go, down the rabbit hole....!  Poor Mike.

We'll see.  Mike suggested a dimmer which is a great idea.  I could only find 60w fluorescent bulbs in the house and they're way too much.

So yeah, we shall see.  But that kit?  Very clever and a mighty good idea.  Glad I found it and glad I could share it with you.

What's on tap for the week around here?  Not quite sure yet, but stay tuned!

*The recessed can converter kit link is an Amazon affiliate link.  The eBay light is an eBay affiliate link.  Mwah, thanks!