Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How to Install a Slate Backsplash

For months now we have been working on finishing up our kitchen. All we had left was installing the backsplash, refinishing the floors, and hanging the new light fixture. For almost two months the kitchen sat untouched, all because the backsplash needed to be installed. Due to my husband's work schedule, he hadn't had time to work on installing it.
The time started to get closer and closer to the floor refinishing date and I knew something had to be done. We didn't want to have our floor refinished and then risk the chance that we could drop mortar or grout on them. If you remember from posts back, the backsplash was just the Hardi Board.

Finally, one weekend my husband had off I asked him to teach me how to install the backsplash so I could work on it when he was working. It was a great lesson to learn and I found out that I might be slightly better at installing a backsplash then he is. (I shouldn't say this bc he will make me do all the tiling from here on out!) He even commented on how nice the backsplash I installed looked. However, I did have the easy walls, he took the tough ones.

We tiled with natural slate, which is a whole different animal in itself. The pieces all are different shapes, thicknesses, and sizes. Slate splinters very easily and that can become quite the headache!

To start a backsplash, you must first make a pattern. We wanted something different, not just normal squares going across the wall. With the help of a tiling store in town (Brodkeys- they were the best!) I drew up a simple pattern for the backsplash:

The next part is to mix up your mortar. The mortar can be purchased at any home improvement store. Mix it with water to the consistency between mayonnaise and peanut butter. Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes to get the air bubbles out.

You need some tools to get to get the job done and while the mortar is setting you can gather them together.
1. Wet saw, you can rent one if don't own one. You need it with slate.
2. Spacers, so you can evenly space out your tile for the grout. (The green things below.)
3. Sandpaper, to finish the edges that are exposed. I used 220 grit.
4. Masking tape, helps with lining up your cuts on the saw. Also, it help prevent corners from splintering when cutting the slate.
5. Cardboard, to make templates.

The cardboard is something we made up. When getting around a power outlet, it's easier to make a template out of cardboard to know how to cut your tile. It saves LOTS of time!
Before you start cutting pick out your tiles. My husband did not do this (which why my walls might look better) and I was very particular about this part. Slate is all different thicknesses, sizes, and colors. I wanted the color to be the most even and the thicknesses not to differ so much. It will help with grouting later on.

Grab your tile and apply a liberal amount of mortar with a trowel and use the rigid edge to scrape off the excess. Be sure to clean any that fall off the sides.

The trowel should make the mortar look like this. The stuff flowing over the edge, make sure you wipe that off!

Find the center of your wall and that is where you begin. I started with the small 4" tiles and lined one up right in the middle on the center line and pushed it right into place. Hold for a few seconds until the tile sticks. Then begin with your next tile and use the spacers in between each tile as your work. Start from the bottom up, so the tiles above have something to rest on.

Use the wet saw to cut around any power outlets you might have on the wall. Obviously wear your eye protection while using this saw.

Like I said above, making a template of your cuts with cardboard first works the best. Just place the cardboard template on the tile, trace a line with a pencil. Next take your masking tape and apply it right on the line. When cutting with the wet saw makes it near next to impossible to see a pencil mark, so the tapes help out. Also, with slate it doesn't seem to splinter as much with the tape on it.
When you get the to edge of the backsplash that is exposed, there will be a flat cut mark from the saw. Because our tile was tumbled on the edges, it made it look strange. I used some 220 grit sandpaper to smooth down the edges and shape them to match all the other tiles.
Once your wall is completely done you will need to wait 24 hours for it all to dry. Make sure to wipe off any excess mortar from the tiles. You want the tiles to be very clean!

The next day, or whenever you are ready, apply sealant to the tiles. Some people apply this after they grout, but I read online that slate will suck up the moisture in the grout and makes it a pain! I purchased this sealer from Lowe's for $26.99. It was very easy to use and dried quickly. I applied two coats.
When applying the sealer, I put some tape down and paper just so I wouldn't get any on the counters. The sealer wipes of easily, but I wanted to make sure not to get any on the counters anyways. The finished results, below, show how it slightly darkens the color of the tiles.

Wait another day, to be safe, and you can apply the grout to the tile. Any home improvement store sells grout. They have several colors to choose from. Bring your tile and find one that matches your tile color the best. Mix the grout according to package directions to a consistency between mayonnaise and peanut butter. Again, let it sit for 5 minutes to get air bubbles out.

Using a grout float, push the grout into all the cracks. Some areas were difficult to fit the float so I used my finger.
Work in a small area at a time. We did about a four foot linear area, but there was two of us grouting and cleaning at the same time. If working alone, I would stick to about two feet at a time.

Wipe the tile clean and free of all grout. On slate this is tricky! I wiped them back splash down six times! I didn't want to apply the final seal with any grout left on the tiles.
I applied a grout sealer and one more coat of sealer to the slate. You need to let the grout dry three days before you apply the sealers. After the sealers, caulk where the backsplash meets the counter tops to create a seal. You don't want any water getting between the counter and the backsplash.

And my two finished sections that I did MYSELF!!!
Now I just need to put all the electrical plates back on and we are finished with this project!
The finished view, done by my husband :)

Up next... refinishing the floors. We are hiring this out, so should be done a pretty timely manor.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Spicy Popcorn

For the past few months I have been super obsessed with spicy popcorn. It's a great snack to munch on, not too unhealthy for you, and has a nice spin on the traditional popcorn. You can tone down the cayenne pepper if you don't want it to be quite as spicy.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ cup popcorn kernels
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon salt

1. Heat oil in a deep pan. Add cumin, cayenne pepper and turmeric. Add popcorn and stir well. Pop corn, shaking pan occasionally.
2. Remove from heat. Add lime juice and toss well, sprinkle with salt and serve immediately. Makes 3 quarts.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Picnic at Wilde Prairie Winery

A few weeks ago Nathan and I decided to go to a local winery in Brandon, South Dakota. We packed up a delicious lunch of egg salad, cheese, crackers, and fruit and headed out to Wilde Prairie Winery. We have always wanted to go to a winery and do some sampling so why not start in South Dakota! We made our way out to Brandon and met this nice husband and wife who run the winery out of the basement of their old barn. It was very quaint!

Some of the vines

The barn we went inside. In the bottom they had all the canisters where they made wine.

They had all different kinds of wine including Dandelion Wine, Apple Raspberry Wine, Rhubarb Strawberry Wine, Strawberry Wine and Pear Wine among many others. It was definitely on the sweet side but they had some nice red wine as well. The strawberry seemed like it would be a great dessert wine!

So after the sampling session we purchased a couple bottles of wine and then headed back outside for a picnic.

Nathan savoring his tofu egg salad sandwich...

Enjoying the beautiful day and the picnic!

We had a great time that day and can't wait to try out the other wineries in South Dakota. There are 8 total and in August we plan on attending The Great Dakota Wine Fest at Valiant Vineyards in Vermillion, SD. This event features grape stomping, food booths, live music and of course South Dakota wine from all the wineries around!

Maybe someday we'll take a trip to Napa Valley and do some wine tasting there. Who knows what the future holds!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Keeping The Kitchen Organized

As we draw closer to the end of this 6 month+ project, I finally have the ability to look at some new kitchen gadgets that will help out with the organization of our kitchen.

In-Cupboard Hanging Pot Rack

The first little addition to the kitchen is going to be a pan rack for our beautiful All-Clad pans. We originally were going to hang the pans above the kitchen sink. The only problem was it would block the view of our back yard. We had to come up with another solution. Browsing around on the internet I came across this in-cupboard hanging pan rack. I LOVE IT! We have a cupboard just left to the cook top that really doesn't get used much, so I think this would be a perfect addition to the kitchen and really aid us in the storage of our pans. Once we figure out the final building of this little contraption, I'll write a "how to" on here.

Double Bin Trash Can Pullout

The trash and recycling pullouts cans are a perfect fit for one of our cupboards and will be a great addition to the kitchen. It will relieve us from having to remove the garbage can from the cupboard and remember to put it back in the cupboard. If we forget, our little Gizmo has been getting in the garbage lately...which is never a good thing! $70.32 @ Amazon

Lid Organizer

This handy dandy little organizer can keep up to eight lids in line. I don't know how many times my lids get spread out all over the cupboard and this lid holder just makes keeping the cupboard organized a little easier.

I can't tell you how many times I have had to dig under my sink to find cleaning supplies. It is SUPER annoying! This little rack, slides out and organizes all of the cleaning products. $19.99 @ Ikea

Organize It Can Rack

I have this dead space above my pantry, I call it dead space because all it stored before were items that we never used! I decided that all those items (2 extra crockpots, ice cream maker, large platters) could all be placed in the storage room in the basement. We NEVER use these items and I would like to keep the kitchen organized by keeping the necessities in order.
I found this little canned food organizer and I thought it would go great up there with the standard canned foods that I like to keep on hand. It automatically feeds cans to the front so they're always readily accessible.

3-Arm Rack

The rack will be great for hanging towels below the sink, on the inside of the cupboards. We always have a tendency to throw the towel over the top of the door, but after years of damp towels it can really mess up the finish on the cupboard. Also, I am going to install this guy on the cupboard next to the stove and use it to hang up potholders.

That's is so far all my finds for organization. If you have any ideas of little organizers that you like, send them to me. I love anything that overall will keep my life less cluttered and less hectic. A clean kitchen is a happy kitchen.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Baked Tilapia with Artichoke Hearts

4 tilapia fillets (We just used the frozen fillets we buy from Sam's club)
2 tablespoons of green onion, chopped
1 tablespoons of parsley, chopped (we just used dried parsley)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
14 oz can of quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Add a dash of olive oil to a skillet and sauté the green onions, parsley and garlic until tender. Add lemon juice, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes until heated thoroughly. Pour sauce over fillets and bake in 325 degree F oven for about 18 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.

Mmm delicious! :) Perfect way to end our hectic Monday!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

I just wanted to write a quick blog and say Happy Father's Day to the best Dad in the world!
More than ever, fathers should be celebrated. Nowadays, many people grow up without a father figure. For women, this can end up having some devastating impacts on their lives. Many studies have shown that fathers help their daughters develop social skills, get better grades, inspire future career goals, lessen the chance of teen pregnancy, and the list goes on and on.

Our Dad did an exceptional job in raising three girls. I think being the only male in the family would be a hard task for most men to handle, but he did a great job and was always there for us. He let us dress him us as a girl (I don't know how many times,) helped us with our school projects, taught us to play basketball, run a paper route, and honestly taught us all "manly" skills that I think some girls lack today. (Hence, my handygirl side.)

I would like to say Thank You to our Dad for being such a good role model for us and being such a good father.
Also, I would like to thank all the other father's out there that play such a positive and important role in their children's life.

Daddy's Hands
lyrics by Holly Dunn

I remember Daddy´s hands, folded silently in prayer.
And reaching out to hold me, when I had a nightmare.
You could read quite a story, in the callouses and lines.
Years of work and worry had left their mark behind.
I remember Daddy´s hands, how they held my Mama tight,
And patted my back, for something done right.
There are things that I´ve forgotten, that I loved about the man,
But I´ll always remember the love in Daddy´s hands.

Daddy's hands were soft and kind when I was cryin´.
Daddy´s hands, were hard as steel when I´d done wrong.
Daddy´s hands, weren´t always gentle
But I´ve come to understand.
There was always love in Daddy´s hands.

I remember Daddy´s hands, working 'til they bled.
Sacrificed unselfishly, just to keep us all fed.
If I could do things over, I´d live my life again.
And never take for granted the love in Daddy´s hands.

Daddy's hands were soft and kind when I was cryin´.
Daddy´s hands, were hard as steel when I´d done wrong.
Daddy´s hands, weren´t always gentle
But I´ve come to understand.
There was always love .....
In Daddy´s hands.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Pregnancy Workout

As many of you know, I have somewhat become sort of a fitness addict over the years. After spending my life up to age 24 basically sedentary, I began really working out to lose some weight for my wedding. I lost the pounds, but I also noticed that working out provided me with so much energy and help relieved stress. I am just addicted to it now!

So naturally, when I found out I was expecting, my first question was, "Does my working out have to change?" Luckily, I am having a pretty easy pregnancy so far. I have been able to do all my normal activities and haven't been sick. (A little tired, but that's normal.) My doctor recommended and really encouraged that I continue my normal workout routine (cardio 4-5 days a week, weight lifting 1-2 days a week.) She actually said, in her experience, women who worked out throughout their pregnancy had an easier time with labor.

As my pregnancy progresses, I keep working out. I don't do the same intense workout that I had before. Sometimes I have to stop and take breaks when I feel cramping, but overall I have kept up a pretty good routine. I lowered my running speed on the treadmill to 6.5 mph, instead of the usual 7.2 mph. I lowered the incline on the elliptical because I found the higher incline caused some cramping and the biking hasn't changed at all. I have turned my Saturday cardio day into yoga, which Gizmo hates because I use to run/walk around the lake that day. Other than that, the regular cardio workout goes on.

One area that did really change is my weight lifting routine. I have listed below my new exercises that I feel work great for my pregnant body. I just want to make it clear though, I am not a doctor. This is not recommended for all pregnant women out there, this is just the routine I follow.

Arm Dips on a Yoga Ball
(Works: Triceps, Core Muscles and Balance)
1. Sit on a stability ball and hold a dumbbell overhead with one arm; keep arms straight and elbows forward.
2. Bend elbows to lower the dumbbell behind your head to the base of neck.
3. Return to the starting position.
4. Switch arms and repeat.

3 sets of these of 12 reps using 8 pound weights.

Clockwork Orange
(Works: Arms, Back, Upper Butt, & Legs)
1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes out slightly, one dumbbell in both hands in front of you, arms straight down.
2. Keeping arms and back straight, slowly squat while moving dumbbell toward the ground. (So the dumbbell should be in the center, towards the ground.)
3. Move arms in a sweeping clockwise motion. Make 12 circles.
4. Return to start and repeat in the opposite direction.

3 sets of these with a 12 pound weight.

Push-up with Gluteal Squeeze
(Works: Chest, Triceps, Shoulders, Abs, Glutes & Hamstrings)
1. Position yourself on your hands and knees with a weight within reach.
2. Pull in abs toward your lower back.
3. Place the dumbbell in the crook in the back of your left knee and squeeze your lower leg to keep the dumbbell in place.

3 sets of these of 12 reps using 5 pound weights.

Side Plank
(Works: Abs, Core Muscles and Balance)1. Get into a side plank position by lying on your side with extend your arm under shoulder and your feet stacked.
2. Raise your hips off of the ground and reach for the ceiling.
3. Hold the position for 60 seconds (or as hold as long as you can without dropping your hips.)
4. Switch sides.

3 sets of these at 60 seconds each side

Abductor/Adductor Machine
(Works: Inner & Outer Thighs and Hip Flexors)

This is one of the machines at my gym. You have to be careful with this machine, because if you lift too much weight it might cause you to bulk in the thighs. Many trainers don't like this machine, but I do. I feel it's really tightened up my muscles in my thighs.

I do 3 sets of these of 12 reps using 115 pound of weights. I know that seems high, but your leg muscles are REALLY strong.

(Works: Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes and Calves)
1. Start in the lunge position and lower and raise the body without pushing back to the starting position.
2. From your ankle to your knee to your inner thigh should make a right angle. You knee SHOULD NOT go past your ankle. It's bad for your knees.
3. Go up and down in a standing still position. (I hold a 10 pound weight in each hand, but it takes some time to workup to that weight.)
4. Alternate legs.

3 sets of these with 12 reps on each leg

Twisting Arms Lift
(Works: Arms, Biceps, Shoulders, Posture, and Balance)
1. Start with a dumbbell loosely gripped in one hand behind your hips, with your palm facing back.
2. As you extend your arm to the ceiling, twist as you start curling up, and end with your palm raised and facing forward.
3. Lower the weight slowly with the reverse motion.

3 sets of these of 12 reps using 8 pound of weights.

(Works: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, & Core)
1. Place hands on floor beneath shoulders and balance on toes, feet hip-width apart.
2. Bend elbows out to sides and lower body almost to floor as shown.
3. Keep abs tight and body in straight line from head to ankles. Try not to raise your hips up...keep it flat! The second pic (B.) shows the movement with knees resting on the floor (which is me after a couple!)

3 sets of these with as many as I can do each time

Ball Chair Dip
(Works: Triceps , Back, & Balance)
Don't you just love this animated gif? I just couldn't resist!
1.Place your heels on a yoga ball and your arms behind you on a chair or weight bench.
The ball should be far enough in front of you that your legs should be nearly fully extended and your torso upright.
2. Using your arms lower your body as far as you can.
3. Raise your body to the start position and repeat.

3 sets of these of 12 reps

Well, that is pretty much my new weight lifting routine. I usually try to switch it up ever so often so it will probably change as time goes on. During this pregnancy, I just keep focusing on keeping my body in the best shape that I can. I think it will help me out through the birthing process as well as getting back to my normal shape after the baby is born.


Sew What? Adventures in Sewing A Skirt: Part 1

So I promised myself I would do a couple things with my mom this summer: sew something I could wear and bake a lemon meringue pie (more on that later). I wanted to sew something I could wear often and enjoy. Besides the fact that I always seem to want things I can't find in the store, I feel like sewing is a lost art. Whenever I needed something whether it was a repair to a ripped shirt or an elaborate recreation of Rose's red and black dress in Titanic (yes, really) my mom could do it for me and she did. Someday when I have children I know that they will need buttons sewn on and costumes created. Who will they turn to? Me of course. So I better get to work and learn some of my mother's fabulous sewing skills.

I've discovered the perfect sewing project. Are you ready for it? Some beautiful full skirts taken from Vogue sewing patterns:

I like the idea that the full skirt is a classic silhouette. I plan to do more towards the length on the skirt to the left. I can wear this to work and church and it always looks clean and my personal favorite, "lady like." I think this looks like a fairly simple beginner project but since all I've ever sewn is a pillow for my nephew I don't really know what I'm talking about. I guess we'll see!

Now that I have an idea in my head of what I'd like to create I just have to find the some fabrics to fall in love with. I'll head to the fabric stores next week (with my mom in tow) and I'll post what I find!


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