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It’s Electric (Boogie, Woogie, Woogie)

Yes, that’s an electric slide reference. And I’d bet money that it’s cracking my mom up while my brother is rolling his eyes and vowing never to read this blog again.

After last week’s post about our four new outdoor sconces, we mentioned we had some other electrical work done inside at the same time, so here’s the rundown on everything we added, where it went, and how much it all cost. Let’s start with the prettiest result so far – the new light in our bedroom.

We had the electricians add ceiling fixtures to all four of the upstairs bedrooms, since we like the look and convenience of overhead lighting, but all the bedrooms were without it. Thankfully there was no drywall-disrupting work necessary other than the hole in the ceiling for the fixture box because they could takeover the existing switches, which used to just operate various wall outlets in each room. So not only did we not have to add additional light switches, we no longer accidentally turn off random things like the cable box or the sound machine as we leave those rooms.

We don’t have fixtures for the kids rooms or the guest room picked out yet, so we’ll just add white metal covers to minimize the whole blue-circle-with-wires-in-it look until we find some. But we did have the master bedroom light ready and waiting. It’s this Large Lotus Pendant that we ordered from World Market waaaaay back when we bought our hallway lights. It was going out of stock and we got the same 25% off deal on it as the other three lights, so it was $112 instead of $149 with free shipping.

Our only gripe upon receiving it was that it didn’t include a light kit (we somehow missed that bullet on their website). Then we noticed that World Market’s light kits only come in black or silver, so we hunted down these two bronze options from Home Depot and Lowe’s. They’re the kind they make so you can pair them with their decorative glass shades (like the ones they show on the packaging) but we thought they could work for this application too (fingers crossed). We liked that they had a few finish options and came with all the other hanging hardware (and a ceiling canopy) that we’d need.

The “aged” finish of the Portfolio brand pendant from Lowe’s (it was $18) was a better match to the fixture, which was lucky because it was the only one that ended up fitting. The ring on the capiz fixture was slightly too small to screw it on normally, so instead it rests on the flared part of the light kit like so:

Once we realized that nesting the cord and shade that way would work, the installation process was pretty straight forward. In fact it might be the quickest light install we’ve done here so far, clocking in at under fifteen minutes yesterday morning. Bingo. Bango. And not once did John poke himself in the face with a metal flower petal. I was not so lucky.

It takes one 60-watt bulb so it’s nice bonus lighting on top of the two bedside lamps that we’ve been surviving with so far in this room (since we’ve lived with only those for over a year, we knew anything on the ceiling was just icing on the wattage cake for us). But can I just tell you how incredibly novel it feels to walk into a bedroom and flip the light on from the doorway. Seriously, it’s almost akin to living without a dishwasher forever and then getting one. Suddenly you feel like royalty.

But let’s switch gears to a quick overview of the whole electrical job. Here’s everything that was accomplished in the three mornings they were here (it was too hot to be in the attic or crawl space later in the day, so they spread out their work across the cooler morning hours):

Update: You guys are asking for more office floor outlet details, so here they are: it was a really simple addition since they could come up from the crawl space. Didn’t take them too long at all. They just wired it up from below and drilled a small hole in the floor from above and popped the outlet cover on. You can see the finished result below:

We got the bill this weekend, which totaled around $1,500. The breakdown was $270 for materials and the rest was labor/time. It was definitely one of the larger electrician bills we’ve received, but we paid around $900 for the lighting in our first kitchen, so getting nine fixtures across six rooms and three new outlets was a lot more work/time, and we were pleasantly surprised to realize that it calculates out to an average of about $100 per item, not including all of the switches they converted or the intercom they terminated. If we had electricians come out to tackle these rooms individually instead of bulking them all, it would likely have been a few hundred bucks per room each time (they’d be in and out of the attic a bunch of times instead of being able to do everything all at once). So efficiency = saved money, especially when you’re paying by the hour.

Besides passing along the try-to-combine-lots-of-jobs-if-you-can tip, this was also a good reminder that it helps to be available if at all possible when this type of work is being done. In this case, it saved us from lots of unnecessary holes in our office ceiling. Thanks to being there, we were able to put our heads together to come up with an alternate wire route than the first one they proposed, which ended up causing a lot less drywall destruction:

Instead of going through multiple joists and making tons of ceiling holes, we realized if the wires were run parallel to the fixture box joist, it could be snaked down that wall, and fed over to the wall switch via the crawl space instead of the ceiling (they’d be down there anyway adding that floor outlet). That option only required one small hole in the ceiling (near the tip of the blue arrow above) instead of nearly ten holes had we gone with the first method. It also meant there would be a few down the wall, but those would have been made near the light switch if we went with the other method anyway, and patching walls holes feels much less perilous to us than ceiling ones anyway (ceilings just tend to catch the light more and show every last imperfection, whereas wall ones are more forgiving).

Another little bonus that we came up with after putting our heads together was gaining this outlet right under the surface of John’s desk:

When the electrician told us a hole would end up around that area as he snaked the wire down, I asked if we could place that hole below the desk line and put an outlet there to fill the hole (instead of having to patch yet another area). He said no problem, and now John can keep his cords out of sight better (the original outlet he was using was behind one of the shelves that we anchored to the wall, so a big power strip had been resting on the floor beneath the desk).

We did the same thing on the wall under the light switch where he was going to have to make a hole anyway. That extra hole-filling outlet meant we could plug in our printer and that lamp without the cords having to snake out to the outlet under the window. So being home and talking through options might add up to more functional outlet/switch placement and less spackling & sanding.

Oh, and that’s a painting of a monster that Clara brought home from art camp last week. I think it’s our new favorite creation of hers, so it might just get a permanent home there eventually. One that doesn’t involve masking tape.

So obviously you’ll be getting some light fixture updates for the office and the rest of those upstairs bedrooms sometime in near (ish?) future as we find fixtures for those spaces. Now if only we could punch our ceilings up a foot or two to give us more options. #8ftceilingproblems

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How You Like Me Now?

You guys have been curious about everything from how our concrete counters are wearing and how our refinished foyer grout is holding up to how our new blogging schedule is working for us. And since we’re not always great at updating you guys (blogging tends to follow an “on to the next thing!” pattern), here’s a big ol’ rundown, which marks the third one in this series (here’s our first one and our second one so you can check out if we covered other topics you’ve wondered about there).

Our Ardex-concrete counters: These guys have largely been awesome, and our sealer choice has made them even more durable than we expected. For example, we thought we’d end up with scratches/divots/marks, but after nearly two and a half months of use, there’s not a one! Not sure if it’s because we haven’t been chef-y enough (we tend to make pretty basic meals, and we hardly wield Top-Chef-sharp knives at all times) or just thanks to the two large wooden cutting boards that we keep on the counter (they’re where we place hot pots and slice things for the most part). We do hear that using the dark stain with the Ardex might show more scratches (we went au-naturale with ours) so that tip might help those considering that option.

As for staining, nearly everything we’ve spilled just sits on the surface and can be wiped away without issue (like how water beads up on sealed wood) so we have only noticed a few splatters (perhaps citrus?) that sat long enough on the counter to soak in and make subtle dark spots on the concrete that can’t be wiped off (below left). They don’t really bother us since the counter has that industrial vibe going on anyway. I did place piping hot tea on the counter and a very very very very vague ring of haze appeared (it’s nearly impossible to see unless you’re a inch away looking at the exact right angle), so we’re sure to use those cutting boards for hot things, and so far there haven’t been any others (below right).

The grout stain in the foyer: Still looks identical to when I applied this stuff back in early January. Even with semi-frequent moppings, muddy shoes/paws, and a whole lot of foot traffic, the grout is holding its own. And it was awesome to hear from folks who used this in spaces like showers many years ago who say theirs is doing just as well.

The appliance paint we used on our fridge:  Our bisque-turned-white fridge pretty much looks the same these days, other than having a lot more magnets on it thanks to Clara. The good news is that the magnets don’t seem to scratch or peel the paint off at all, but we did notice a bit of a scraped area along the right side of the door. We think we were carrying something large like lumber and it must have brushed against that edge and scraped it. D’oh. So in summary: everyday use doesn’t seem to hurt it at all (even on the handles where we touch it all the time – or the doors where Clara drags magnets around). Just don’t scrape heavy stuff along the corners and hopefully yours will be in good shape.

Our new washer & dryer: LOVE it! We have been using these guys HARDCORE with a newborn in the mix, and we couldn’t be happier. You can read more about how/why we picked them here, but so far the washer gets things super clean and spins them dry a bunch so they’re only damp when they go into the dryer (bonus: less dryer time, and more encouragement to sun-dry things since they’re not emerging soaking wet). We also really like crouching less thanks to the washer being a top-loader, which is surprisingly handy with a baby in your arms.

Our pantry re-org: This food-storage upgrade has been holding its own. It’s not as perfectly organized as it was back in the day, but it’s such a huge step up from the old dark shelves and no-system-at-all issues it had before. We really like having the microwave tucked in there, and the door organizer and the hanging bread baskets are the MVPs of this makeover. We gained a lot more narrow storage (read: nothing can fall to the back and get lost) and that has been invaluable.

The game closet: This is what our little “toy library” currently looks like after a newborn came into the mix. No, Teddy hasn’t been playing with that stuff, but with a baby in my arms (or on my chest) most of the time, I don’t spend as much time helping Clara put things back in an über organized fashion like I used to (well, most of the time). But although it’s completely messy, all that mess is tucked behind that door – and for that I’m eternally grateful. Clara miraculously still follows the one-thing-out-at-a-time rule, which explains why this chaos isn’t spread out all over our office or living room instead of being contained to this closet. So ultimately: this closet has been a lifesaver. Even if it’s kind of a pit these days. And yes, that’s my Kahleesi wig on the floor. Clara is obsessed. It’s all sorts of hilarious.

Our fiddle leaf figs: There have been a lot of questions about these guys, so the answers are: they were $58 from Home Depot on sale, the red pot is from Lowe’s, and the little wheeled cart that it’s on is also from Lowe’s. I just water them once a week (deeply, usually around 20 ounces or so) and they seem to like indirect sunlight. The one in the corner of the office seems happy for the most part (below left). The other one seemed pretty happy in that other office corner, but when we got the shelves for along that wall I moved him into the dining room. BAD IDEA. Turns out he hated me for it. Not sure why (there still seemed to be indirect light in there, and I kept watering him the same way I always did). So yesterday I moved him into the corner of the kitchen (below right). It’s like a fiddle leaf fig hail-mary. I hope it works.

Our organic mattress: This mattress is half a decade old, and we have been really happy with it. We heard from others who had issues with dents from where their bodies are, but ours doesn’t feel pitted or dented after all this use, and it’s still nice and firm (we like a firm mattress, so we “built” this mattress to that specification).

Our Target hooks: You guys have been asking if we’ve used any of our hooks besides this picture hanger in our house. I put a mismatched group of white ones to use in the closet to hold all of the necklaces that were formerly tangled and crammed into a drawer in my night table. Now I actually wear necklaces! Also: necklaces hypnotize Teddy.

Our white & stained kitchen cabinets: The white painted upper cabinets and wood stained lower cabs are still doing well. It has only been about half a year, but so far, so good. The white isn’t too hard to keep clean (I occasionally wipe down a drip if I see one, or dust the ledges a few times a month when I remember) and the stained lowers have been good too (they hide more dirt and splatters, but I can’t figure out if I like that or if that’s a con, since at least with the white uppers I know they’re clean and a big glob of syrup isn’t blending in). Nothing has chipped off or bubbled or anything, which is nice. We definitely recommend good prep work (sanding, deglosser, etc) and good primer/paint if you’re going the painted route (it can scrape right off without those steps).

Our homemade terrarium: A moment of silence please. This guy is dead as a doornail. Womp-womp. Regardless of keeping it in the sun and using that supposedly helpful “activated charcoal” somehow this one went wrong. So let’s file this under Black Thumb Petersik.

Our Expedit changing table: So far this has been great. We have a big basket of diapers and the wipes are kept on top to the right of the pad. We both have been using it a lot (we even walk upstairs to change him there sometimes since it’s more comfortable than using the ottoman downstairs, where we set up a little station). We haven’t switched to cloth dipes yet (tried them but they’re still a little loose and I live in fear of blowouts these days) but I’m looking forward to seeing how the changing table works for those as well. We’ll probably store the cloth diapers in the same basket where we keep our disposables, and line the white trash pail with a wet-bag and possibly move that into the bathroom so we don’t have to bring diapers that we spray back into the room. Will keep you posted.

Our upstairs hardwoods laid with Elastilon: The hardwoods we chose and the underlayment choice of Elastilon have been awesome for the most part. Our wood floors themselves haven’t felt too soft or scratched/dented, even with a dog and a preschooler beating on them. As for how the flooring is laid, it hasn’t appeared to flex or have any gaps or anything after over a year of use (through extreme heat and extreme cold). The seams look just as good as they did when we laid them, and everywhere that had nice level underlayment feels super solid and nailed down. In other words, you would never know it was a floating hardwood floor instead of a traditional nailed-down version in our hallway, our bedroom, Clara’s room, or Teddy’s room. BUT… (here comes the but)…

… there’s one spot in the guest room where we think the underlayment wasn’t level and we WISH we had known that so we could have fixed it because now that area feels a wee bit bouncy. It doesn’t look janky at all, and guests have said they don’t even notice it when I confess how much that spot bugs us, but it doesn’t have that nailed-down super solid feeling like the rest of the floors do. Boo. But for the most part we love Elastilon, and our hardwoods. Just a warning to anyone using it: unlevel subfloors might make things feel a little flex-y and less solid.

Our scaled back blogging schedule: We’ve been really happy with our decision to slow down. As some of you have wondered, fewer posts have correlated to lower traffic and less income just as we expected, but the change has felt really good to us. I’ve never been a more hands on mom than I’ve been for the last two months, and I’m so grateful that I didn’t miss out on those moments in the name of one more project or one more post.

Do you have anything that you’ve tried and ended up loving or loathing? Feel free to share the gushiness (or the warnings)!

Psst- In the “oops that was a bad call” arena, you can check out this post, this post, & this post. Sometimes the best choice is elusive, but there’s something comforting about the whole if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed-try-try-again thing.

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