Kitchen Floor – The Reveal

* Check out this post to find out why we chose Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT)

So the question remains, which tile did we choose to replace our old green and white checked linoleum floor?

LinoleumIf you guessed Iron Blue, then you’re correct!

New FloorAs for how we eliminated tile choices, we started with the two lightest tiles – they didn’t “pop” against the white appliances. The darkest tile, graphite, was definitely one of Jeremy’s favorite, but it was difficult to envision the entire floor that same dark color. Although there is variation among the tiles, graphite had the least color variation of all the samples. I was a big fan of the taupe-gray, but we worried that it was too traditional. So, in the end Iron Blue won – there is great color variation, it looks great with the white appliances and it is a little bold.

Now, although LVT claims to be more DIY friendly than ceramic to install (no wet saw, tiles are more forgiving, etc), we did have our floor installed by professionals. The main reason? That cursed linoleum. When installing the cork floor in the downstairs bathroom Jeremy tried to remove the existing linoleum, but it was extremely glued to the cement floor. Instead he just laid the cork on top of the linoleum. For the LVT, we needed to remove the linoleum for a proper install. That gave Jeremy some nightmares. So, we left that to the professionals. Plus, they haul all the waste away, so we didn’t have to deal with that headache either.

No More LinoleumYard LinoleumWhat I found interesting is that the installers did not try to peel up the old linoleum, they just cut the floor out. As you can see from the pile in our yard, the linoleum is still glued to the plywood. In the picture above of the kitchen you can see we now have a bare subfloor. Yea, I never would have thought of just cutting out the linoleum. The installers laid new plywood and then applied the adhesive:

AdhesiveThe adhesive is super smelly, and takes at least half an hour to “set” before the tile can be laid. Sadly, I don’t have any photos of the installers laying the tile – I tried to stay out of their way.

New LVT FloorIn addition to laying the LVT, they installed new white shoe molding (quarter-round) to the baseboards, and wooden kick-boards to the cabinets. We previously had brown rubber kick-boards. look closely:

Old Kitchen So much better without the linoleum and rubber kick-boards!

Empy Corner

New TileI really love the texture of this tile! They also feel great underfoot – softer and warmer than even the linoleum. The tiles are 16 inch squares and are laid on a diagonal. Both large tiles and the diagonal supposedly make a room look larger, and I think the room does feel larger!

We were considering refinishing the cabinets in a lighter stain, but we are starting to think that the cabinet color goes nicely with the floor. There are some sandy/tan colors in the tiles that tie into the caramelized bamboo and the cabinets. We’re still not fans of the faux-marble green counters, but the floors are really the focal point now. So, I don’t notice the counters as much…

Are you a fan of the new floor? Did we make the right choice with the Iron Blue? Which would you have chosen?

Kitchen Floor – The Decision

Ah, the kitchen. Although I love cooking and food and brewing, the kitchen has always been my least favorite room in our house.

KitchenWith its caramel-pecan cabinets, marble-green laminate counters and linoleum floor, I always cringe when guests would end up hanging out in the kitchen.The kitchen is large and functional, but not the most beautiful room n our home.

This summer we are finally ready to do a small-scale kitchen remodel. Sources (magazines, the Internet) say that kitchen remodels are the most expensive home-improvement and offer the greatest return on resale. So, it’s going to be expensive, but it is worth doing right. Our first goal is to replace the kitchen floor. The linoleum is stained, ripped, scratched and downright ugly. Keeping it clean has also been a pain, since it is textured.

Floor ChoicesThe first thing we had to decide was floor type. We needed something durable, water-resistant, stylish, easy to maintain, and comfortable. We also wanted it to coordinate well with the bamboo flooring, and offer some sound dampening. Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) offered us everything on our list.

Pictured above are five LVT samples we brought home from the local flooring store. All five samples are from Armstrong Flooring’s Alterna line. Hopefully these samples make you a believer: LVT can look just as nice and realistic as ceramic tile. I won’t lie, I really wanted ceramic tile in the kitchen. In the end, LVT is (practically) superior to ceramic. Oh, let me count the ways:

1. Can be installed with or without grout – so it can mimic ceramic tile. Even when grouted, LVT can be walked on within the first 24 hours, unlike ceramic. Also, no cement board needed.

2. Although the LVT is thick (thicker than linoleum or sticky-tiles), it is flexible enough to be laid on uneven floors, and not crack.

3. LVT is warmer underfoot, and softer. These tiles won’t crack when you drop something on them. Also, that something should be unbroken as well.

4. Luxury vinyl tiles are easier to replace, if needed.

The downfall? It doesn’t have the reputation of ceramic. Despite it’s name, it doesn’t sound very luxurious when you say “vinyl tile”. Anyways, on to the fashion show!

Taupe Grey


Multistone (White)
Gray Dust

Iron BlueIn order of appearance: taupe-grey, charcoal, multistone white, gray dust and iron blue. After we decided on LVT, we had to narrow down the wide selection of brands, styles, colors and textures. LVT is pretty limitless – you can choose planks or tiles; wood grains, solid colors or stone. The local floor store recommended the Alterna line, citing several happy customers. After we narrowed our focus to a product, we knew we wanted tiles that coordinated with the bamboo flooring, our cabinets and the existing countertops. We are considering refinishing the cabinets and eventually replacing the counters, but we wanted something that would not only work for the future, but also mesh well with what we already had (who knows how long it will be until we “kill” those green counters?). We thought all the samples we brought home looked great with the bamboo. So, which looks best with the cabinets but also with our future vision?

For the answer to that question and a peek into the installation process, come back late this week for the big reveal!

Why Raised Bed Gardening

A few months ago we started our raised bed garden in our side yard. As promised, I’m back (finally) to share some perks of raised beds and tips for planting.

Raised Beds

Zucchini, Snow peas, Snap peas, Carrots, Leaf Lettuce, Banana Peppers

Advantages of Raised Beds:

  • Fill beds with soil of your choice. As mentioned before, our yard is primarily a mix of clay and sand. We knew that raised beds would be our best chance of making a garden work.
  • Less weeds and easier weeding. Since the beds are lined with burlap/newspaper/landscaping fabric there is less opportunity for weeds to grow up through the beds. Even if weeds do make it to sunlight, they will be less strenuous to remove. The beds are higher, so you won’t have to kneel and bend over as much as with traditional gardening.
  • Keep the burrowing animals out. In addition to lining the beds to prevent weeds, you can also line the beds with wire mesh to keep out animals.
  • Soil stays loose, making it easier for roots to spread. In traditional gardening, you plant the crops in rows and you walk between the rows. Walking pacts down the soil. In raised beds you stay off the soil, avoiding compacting.
  • Able to plant crops closer together. This ties into the previous bullet – since you don’t need room to walk between the crops, you can space the rows closer together.

Heirloom tomatoes, Blue beans, Zucchini, Sugar Pumpkins, Jalapenos

Heirloom tomatoes, Blue beans, Zucchini, Beets, Sugar Pumpkins, Jalapenos

Tips for Planting Raised Beds:

  • Mix the harvest times. Within each bed, plant crops that vary by harvest times. This will prevent competition, and as one crop matures and dies off, the other crops can utilize its nutrients.
  • Plant onions along the borders of the beds. My aunt tells me that onions along the borders will serve to ward off pests – both bugs and animals.
  • Certain combinations of vegetables are mutually beneficial for each other. These are just a few combinations: spinach and peppers; lettuce and tomatoes; peas and cucumbers.
  • Plant sprawling vegetables along the edges of the beds so that they can lay on the ground. So, along the borders of our beds we planted the zucchini, pumpkins and squash. I should also get my act together and plant the cantaloupes.

Squash, Cucumbers, Beets, Carrots, Lettuce, Bell Peppers

Squash, Cucumbers, Beets, Carrots, Lettuce, Bell Peppers

I hope you find those two lists helpful. If you have any important tips that I should include, please share! I am certainly no expert on gardening, but I’m working on it.

I am ashamed to report that not everything is growing as we had hoped. Our beets were the first to break ground, but now it seems that they haven’t grown any more (of course, it is difficult to tell with root vegetables). For the carrots and leaf lettuce, we planted two rows each, and split the seeds among different beds. It’s interesting that between the different beds the crops are growing differently. In one bed the carrot tops are several inches tall, but in the other bed the tops are only 1/2 an inch.

What’s even worse are all the sprouts we started indoors. Almost all of them didn’t survive the transplant, a lot of them perished before they could be planted outside. A few of the different pepper plants might make it (fingers crossed). We ended up buying some heirloom tomato plants from the farmer’s market (they seem to be doing well).

HarvestDespite some of those issues, we are having some success – namely our snap peas, snow peas and raspberries! The raspberries are really starting to go crazy, and its a competition to harvest the berries before the ants do. Like last year I’m spraying the berries with my Octagon soap repellant. It did its job of keeping the ants off while not killing the berries. I sprayed some on the peas as well. Of course, with all the rain we’ve been getting, they’re going to need daily spraying.

Anyone else having garden troubles? Success? What are you harvesting?

Pallet Shelf and Nautical Wall

I’ll just cut to chase:

Nautical WallAfter updating the bench with a new cushion cover and relocating it, I wanted a way to make the bench blend in more with the media room. Jeremy received the octopus/squid art for Christmas and we had not yet found a place for it. The art is printed on plywood, so it compliments the wooden bench. I also have my ship art (that I made here) so I decided to seek out other elements for a nautical themed wall.

BarometerThe barometer and weathered pulley are from an antiques shop in Annapolis. The barometer is British made. It’s difficult to tell if it is working properly or not, but the hands have moved (on their own) over the past few days as the weather has changed (it reported that today was windy and cool). There was a larger, way cooler barometer at the shop, but it was $235 while this one was $35. The man at the shop estimated that the more expensive barometer was WWII era. There were several pulleys at the shop but I like this one best because it is wooden and metal. Most of the others were completely metal, and more rusted. This one is weathered, but not damaged.

While selecting pulleys Jeremy and I brainstormed how to display the pulley. Hang it by the hook? Lace rope through the pulley and hang the rope from the ceiling? Then we decided we could display it on a shelf. Then Jeremy got the crazy idea to make a shelf from a pallet.

PalletYou might remember last week I mentioned that a pallet was one of the many things crowding our garage. Now that the garage was organized, Jeremy decided to put the workspace to use. He started by lightly sanding the rough pallet with his orbital sander.

Sanded PalletJeremy sanded the boards just enough to smooth them out, but not enough to remove the great texture that’s pictured. I liked that you could see the blade marks from when the boards were first sliced. After some sanding, Jeremy just chopped off a section of the pallet to form a shelf.

Pallet ShelfHere is the sanded pallet shelf, ready to be treated. In this photo, the top left corner of the shelf has already been treated with Behandla polish from IKEA. We purchased this sealant for my table in the craft room. It seals and protects the wood without needing to be sanded like varnish. It is also less toxic.

One Coat Two CoatsJeremy gave the shelf (top, bottom and sides) a coat of the sealant. As you can see, it brought back the rich colors that were “lost” with the sanding.

Hanging the shelfTo hang the self, Jeremy inserted a small 2×4 block into the shelf. He pre-drilled three screw holes into the block for mounting. Then Jeremy attached the block with three of the original pallet nails through the top of the shelf. I held the shelf in place while Jeremy screwed the block into the wall. The center screw is in a stud and the other two are in drywall.

Finished ShelfTo hide the mounting mechanism, Jeremy wedged in another piece of wood from the pallet.

Pulley on the ShelfThe pallet shelf is rugged and weathered like the pulley. I love that the shelf is imperfect. A shelf like this would be great for an entryway. Below the overhang you could mount some hooks for jackets or keys. Jeremy likes the shelf because it cost zero dollars.

Nautical CornerWe’re really happy with how everything turned out. There are so many interesting things happening in that corner of the room. All the different wood tones bring a warm element to the cool greys, blues and greens in the room. The nautical theme continues a little onto the mantel, where the ship art still resides with our vases of stones from the beach. Definitely still keeping my eyes open for an anchor or small ship’s wheel to add to the wall. A wheel would look awesome over the mantel.

What do you think or this nautical arrangement? Totally love Jeremy’s pallet shelf?

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”TheManic Mondays at Serendipity and Spice

Easy Summertime Tops

I have an obsession with the remnants bin at JoAnns. I cannot leave the store without searching through the bin for a good remnant or two. Here are two remnants shirts ready for summer. Both shirts are a sheer polyester. The green shirt is a slight variation on the kimono tee. The sleeves are longer – more of a “flutter” style.

The leopard print top is sort of a halter-tank. I sewed two rectangles together, leaving ten inches for the arm holes and neckline. The neckline is gathered with a ribbon that ties in the back.

The hems on both shirts are done with my rolled hem foot. I love the rolled-hem because it protects the edge of the fabric from fraying. Both shirts are lightweight and perfect for summer (and easy to make).

Skinny Ties

You might not know this, but Jeremy is a fashionable dude. He sent me this blog and asked me to try transforming some of his wide ties into skinny ties.

Jeremy let me practice with this red silk tie. It’s not one of his favorites, but it was one of the widest. We researched online that most skinny ties are at most 2″ wide. So, I found where the tie was 2″ wide, and unstiched the back until that point.

From here, I followed the instructions in the post  – I cut the tie form first, then cut the excess fabric from the silk. Then I folded the fabric back over the tie form and used the iron to form new creases.

Next was the worst part – slip-stitching the new seam closed. For me, it was difficult to keep the stitches hidden under the seam. I also had trouble keeping the silk pressed. The end result is that the fabric is not as taught as it used to be.

Here is Jeremy modeling the revamped tie (and his new tie clip). The 2″ wide tie is a better compliment to his thin frame.

So, after I got really annoyed with the silk tie and slip-stitching. I decided to make a tie out of a fabric that I know how to work with – flannel.

The flannel fabric is from the remains of the flannel shirt used for the hot water bottle cover. For the tie innards, I used 1.5 yards of firm stabilizer (possibly too firm). The tie starts 1.25″ wide and widens to 2″. The flannel starts 4″ wide and widens to 6″. I did have to piece the flannel fabric together.

I used my mitered binding tool to make the 90 degree points at either end of the tie.

At either end of the flannel, I folded the fabric in half, and sewed it closed, right sides together, with a 1/4″ seam. When turned right-side out, a nice point is formed. I trimmed back the fabric at the point, and pressed everything nice and flat.

From here, I can follow the same steps as the red tie. I inserted the tie form into the flannel fabric and pinned it at either end to keep it centered. Then I folded over one side of the flannel and pressed it flat. I cut back any excess fabric that hung over the tie form.

Here is the narrower end of the tie. The second side of the fabric has been folded over the tie, and under itself. Now it is slip-stitchin’ time! Periodically I would iron the seam to keep it crisp (and avoid pinning). This time I had to hand stitch the entire length of the tie (unlike the red tie).

Truly, this flannel tie pulls together the jeans and gun belt buckle. I am really happy with how the flannel pattern turned out in tie form. The flannel was easier to manipulate than the silk, but this tie is a bit more difficult to knot. This is primarily due to the stabilizer that I chose.

What do you think of the flannel tie? I plan to make another (or two) from a flannel shirt my grandfather gave Jeremy. Do you have any tips for working with silk? It seems to be a very unforgiving fabric.

Crocheted Lampshade

Obviously I have been on a crochet kick lately, but I had to try my hand at a wire crochet lampshade.

The shades pictured above are from etsy. I picked up this book which has general tips for crocheting with wire, as well as patterns for jewelry and some small containers. I used the book as a guide to make a spherical shaped lampshade. I used four 24yd spools of 28 gauge wire, a size K hook and 5″ craft rings.

First, I chain stitched around the 5″ metal ring. Then I chained two and began to single crochet into the stitches. I worked the stitches in the round, expanding the circle.

Here’s what 24 yds of wire looks like. It took a few rows to get a good rhythm with the single crochet stitches. Then I began to grow the spheroid in height. At the end of each row, I would chain two stitches and then start the next row. This allowed the spheroid to grow up, instead of out.

This is the bowl after one spool of wire. I used a second spool of wire and continued my rows of single crochets. With the last spool of wire, I began to decrease the stitches to finish the sphere shape.

Here’s the finished shade hanging in our closet. I am sad to report that Jeremy and I are not happy with the finished product. When doing the decreases in stitches, the spheroid became deformed. You can see in the photo it looks a little lumpy. Also, the bottom opening was too large to insert a second metal ring. I ran out of wire before I had decreased enough to fit the second ring. But the main thing I am sad about is that the shade does not make cool shadows.

I am going to try again at the crochet lampshade, with some revisions. First, I am going to use a smaller crochet hook and slightly thicker wire. This should make a better shade overall – hide the ugly bulb and create the shadows. I also plan to make a cylindrical shape. This way I don’t have to worry and increasing or decreasing stitches. The cylindrical shape would also allow me to use metal rings at both openings.

I hope the next shade is more successful. Anyone else have “failed” projects that they want to commiserate about?