Friday, June 28, 2013

RIP Google Reader

On March 13, 2013, I clicked on my Google Reader tab in Chrome, like I do many times every day, and was shocked to see this announcement.

Google Reader was being discontinued.

Ensue devastation.

I have used Google Reader since November 2008, when I first started being active on message boards, and following other bloggers. Since then, I have compiled a list of over 200 blogs that I follow, which range anywhere from DIY, weddings, and food, to parenting.

Having one place where I can get updates to all my favorite blogs and RSS feeds is very important to me, so once the announcement was made, I started looking for alternative readers.  I came across Feedly, which I found in a simple Google search, and downloaded it to my Chrome browser to try out.  Feedly automatically imported my blogs from Google Reader, and not only kept them organized in the categories that I had created, but also brought over all of the articles that I starred and saved!  They also have a few different views that you can choose, too, so I have selected the magazine view, which allows me to preview the beginning of the post along with a thumbnail picture of an image included.

Screenshot of my Feedly Account

Feedly also has a mobile app, so I downloaded that to my Android phone, and to my iPad.  The iPad app is great too, since it appears more like a magazine. I can swipe through the different pages and then click the "article" that I want to read from that category's page.

A lot of bloggers have made the move to BlogLovin', which is another RSS reader. I have also imported my blogs to that so I can learn how to use it, but I'm not as visually pleased with the layout as I am with Feedly.  BlogLovin' has more of a never-ending page layout where you will literally scroll and scroll until you reach the end of time, or the end of all the blogs you have subscribed to.  The magazine layout of Feedly is much more appealing to me, but to each their own.

For those of you who are looking for a new RSS reader, I hope that you are able to find one that appeals to you.  And, to keep my followers happy, and to hopefully gain some new ones, you can just click the link of the reader that you will be using below, and you will automatically be subscribed to Rhody Life!  If you aren't going to use Feedly or BlogLovin', just click the little RSS icon I have at the top of the right column to get the RSS feed URL for Rhody Life!

follow us in feedly Follow on Bloglovin

Please Note: I was not compensated for writing this post. Feedly and BlogLovin' only know I exist because I signed up for accounts with each.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

DIY: Chiseled Wood Letters

Since we moved in, I have had plans to make a plaque for the outside of our house that has our house number and street name on it.  Our house is on the corner of two streets, but both the front door and driveway are on the street that isn't our address, so it gets very confusing for people when they are trying to visit and even confusing for the USPS, FedEx, and UPS.  

I originally wanted to use metal letters and numbers mounted on a piece of wood, but all of the metal letters that I found were too whimsical or fancy, let alone really expensive!  I searched high and low for some modern and simple looking wooden letters but was unable to find any that were the size I was looking for and weren't out of this world in price - and then I went to Hobby Lobby!

I found some wooden letters, and while they weren't exactly what I was looking for, they were the perfect size, and the wood was soft enough that I could chisel away what I didn't want to make them look exactly the way I wanted them to look. 

With four letters per package, and only $1 per package (and I got them for $0.64 each on sale!), I was able to save a lot of money, and for an additional $5 (or $3 with a 40% off coupon!), I grabbed the chiseling tool set that I found in the wood-crafts aisle.  I started by removing all of the little bubbles at the ends of the letters.  Using the chisel tool, all I had to do was press straight down into the letter and it would make a crease in the wood.  A little elbow-grease and the piece of wood would just separate.  This made it so much easier. 

After removing the little bubbles at the ends of the letters, I made some eye-measurements to determine the shape of each letter, penciled it onto the wood, and just used the chisel to remove the extra wood on each letter.  

It took me about two hours to do all of the letters, making sure that they were all just about the same size and each "pencil line" was the same width.  

Once you have all of the letters chiseled out in the shape that you want, use some medium-grit sandpaper just to soften the edges and remove any splintered pieces.  

Next, you can feel free to keep the wood raw, or you can stain or paint it.  Since I already have purchased black numbers for the board, I wanted to paint the letters black too.  I prepped the letters by wiping off the dust from the sandpaper, then I spread them out on my go-to spray painting surface - a lawn bag.  

Starting with the can of spray paint about 12" away from the letters, begin spraying, moving back and forth over the surface area so that you get an even coat.  

Make sure to move the spray paint can around to different angles, that way you can guarantee that you are getting paint on the sides of the letters.  

Once that coat of paint is dry, move your letters to a new spot on your painting surface and add another coat.  

Let the second coat of paint dry and evaluate whether or not you need to add a third coat. My letters looked perfect with just two coats of paint.  Depending on what you will be using the letters for, you may want to spray the backside as well.  Since my letters will be mounted to a board, I didn't feel it was necessary to paint the backs. 

Since the letters I am using are wood and will be exposed to the elements, I wanted them to be protected.  I decided to pick up a can of spray-polyurethane to go over the coats of paint.

I once again spread my letters out on the yard waste bag (I used the other side this time) and got to work putting on the polyurethane, just like I had the spray paint.  

Once I had all of the letters sprayed, I moved them slightly on the bag just to make sure that when they dried, they didn't dry stuck to the paper bag.  Depending on the surface you are using to spray on, you may not need to do this. I just didn't want any pieces of paper stuck to my letters.  

Let the polyurethane dry according to the can directions - mine said it was ready for a second coat after one hour.  Add another coat as you feel necessary - I did a total of three coats since that was what was recommended for exposure to elements and harsh environments.  Also, don't forget to spray the backside if you also painted that side.  

And that's that!  Now, you will have to wait a bit to see the letters on the board along with the house numbers.  I am currently in the process of stealing borrowing my grandfather's table saw since he is 87 and will not should not be using it anymore.  I can't wait to finish up this project!

What have you used wooden letters for? Have you ever chiseled your own to fit your style?

Please Note: For the privacy of my family, I will be showing all of the letters arranged in alphabetical order instead of using my actual street name.

Monday, June 24, 2013

DIY: Drilling Through Glass

When I mentioned the Family Room Design Plan with you a few months ago, I also mentioned that we would be DIY-ing our own large scale wall clock.  In order to accomplish that task in a few months, some practicing needed to be done first.  

The main face of the clock is going to be a mirror.  I would ideally like to use a 12" diameter mirror, and it will probably only need to be one of the small craft ones that aren't the best quality, but are the best price.  The problem with using a mirror is that there is no hole in the middle for the clock mechanism to go through.  

I spent some time searching clock websites, craft websites, and even the motherland that is Etsy.  I was able to find one artist who was willing to make me a custom 12" diameter mirror clock face, but due to the custom aspect of the order and the fact that it would need to be international shipping, the price skyrocketed to $60!  Therefore, in an attempt to save some money, I have decided to try to completely DIY this project.  

The practice part of this project is figuring out how to drill a hole through the mirror for the clock mechanism.  With a bunch of extra wine bottles left over from my failed wedding centerpiece idea, I took out a couple and decided to use them for practice.  

Like most projects start lately, I took a trip to the hardware store to pick up some supplies.  I picked up these two different sized glass and tile bits.  I'm pretty sure that when I make the clock that I will only need to use the 1/4" bit, but the 1/2" bit was too tempting to pass up.

I gathered up my supplies and got to work.  For this, you will need your glass or tile item of choice, a drill, the bit you likely just bought from the store, a small amount of water, and not pictured below are duck tape and a piece of scotch tape.

Start by deciding where on your item you would like the hole drilled.  Place a piece of scotch tape over the center of the spot where you would like the hole.  The scotch tape is only for traction between the glass and the drill bit.  

Surround that spot with duck tape to protect the rest of the glass from shattering.  Make sure that you leave enough of the scotch tape showing so that the drill bit won't go through any of the duck tape.  You can make sure of this by placing the widest part of the drill bit between the pieces of the duck tape before pressing it into place.  

For me, I placed my wine bottle on an old shirt that I use for projects, just so it had some cushioning when I was pressing down on it.  With working with something that rolls, like a wine bottle, you will want to brace it somehow.  I decided just to use my legs, but you may decide to use a work table with a set of adjustable clamps.

Place the tip of the drill bit in the center of your scotch taped area.  Holding your drill straight up and down, begin the drilling process going at a slow-medium speed, applying very little pressure.  Run the drill for about ten or fifteen seconds, or just enough time for the drill to make a mark in the glass or tile.  

After the drill has made a mark in the glass or tile, you will need to start applying water to the spot you will be drilling.  You should be able to see a small amount of white powder at the point of drilling. This is actually the glass being turned back into sand.  Adding water will help drill through the glass by adding a lubricant so that the glass doesn't chip or crack.  

Gradually add pressure to the drill and increase the drill to a medium or medium-high speed, but make sure to keep it in an upright position.  Moving the drill to the sides, even slightly, can risk in cracking or chipping the glass.  Continue to add water to the drilling spot when it looks as though it is getting dry.  You can tell for sure how dry the drilling spot is by how much white power is produced.  

When you finally make way through the glass, you will need to add more water than you were before because it will drip through the hole instead of sitting on the top of it.  You should also reduce your speed slightly so that you don't risk breaking the glass.  

After about 20 minutes total, you should be through the glass completely.  Be very careful taking the bit back through the hole, as you don't want to risk chipping the other side of the hole.  

If your hole is really rough around the edges, you can use some sandpaper to sand it down smoothly.  Keep in mind that if you sand more than just the edges of the hole, the glass will show the scratch marks from the grains of sand on the sandpaper.  

Remove the scotch tape and the duck tape from the bottle, both of which should come off cleanly.  If you notice some of the adhesive starting to stick to your glass or tile, wet the tape and it should come off cleanly.  You can use goo-gone or a razor blade to also help you remove the adhesive.  

With a finished hole in the glass or tile, you are free to do with it what you want! In this case, since this was just practice for my future in clock-making, I haven't quite decided what I will do with this bottle.  But, if you are looking to drill a hole in a bottle and are looking for ideas, there are so many that I found on Pinterest! 

Has this post inspired you to save up some of those wine bottles and put them to good use?  I am so looking forward to working on the clock - I can't wait to show it to you!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New Home Survival List

When we first decided to buy a house, we know that when setting our budget, that we would have to allocate funds for things that we have never had to buy before. In living in an apartment and with family, there are items that you don't typically think about needing.  After you move into your new house, you'll then realize how many things you actually do need!

I've gotten a lot of questions about what types of tools and things you need that you wouldn't normally think about until you move in, so I have compiled this survival list of items you will need when you finally close on that new house!

I hope that you find this list helpful in your new home-owning adventures! If you notice that anything is missing, please let me know in the comments below and I will add the items to this list!  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge

This weekend, to celebrate Father's Day, we did a lot of family things and not a lot of house things. One of the things that we did was to go for a hike in Middletown, RI at the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge.  Even though most people think that all of the beaches on Aquidneck Island are actually in Newport, there are two that are in Middletown.  The Wildlife Refuge is actually in Middletown, between Second and Third Beach.  

Sachuest Point is very much so off the beaten path, as you can see from the Google Maps shot below - it's literally at the end of a road on the tip of the island.  The good thing about that is that since it's so far away from the main strip of shops in Newport and it's just away from the most popular beaches, it really isn't that busy.  We maybe saw about 20 people while we were there, and since it is a walk-at-you-own-pace type of place, there are very little interactions with the other walkers, runners, and fishers.  

Screenshot via Google Maps

The refuge has about three miles of walking trails that border the coast, so with the exception of the start and the end, the rest of the trails are right along the shoreline, and the views are spectacular.  There are walkways that lead down to the rocks and the water, and you can actually spend time fishing off of these spots.  

We spent our afternoon just walking along the trails, taking some time to enjoy the view and the wildlife - deer, birds, and we even saw a few moles!

The walk was so peaceful and beautiful, and really made me happy that D and I decided to move back to Rhode Island a few years ago.  Knowing that the gorgeous waters are only a short drive away is so reassuring, in a way that I think only native Rhode Islanders can appreciate.  

I can definitely see D and I going back to Sachuest Point at some point because it is such a beautiful spot and a hidden gem.  In fact, the beauty of the trails may even encourage me to start running again. I mean, who wouldn't want to try running if you had that kind of view along the trails?!

*I am not being compensated for this blog entry.  Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge did not ask me to write about their location.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Living/Dining Room Design Plan

When we finally get around to buying furniture and decor for the first floor of the house, one of the rooms I am most excited about is the large living room in the front of the house.  Since the room is so large and we don't really need a formal living space, this room will have two purposes - a smaller living area and a dining area.

The house has no formal dining space, although the family room could be used for that purpose, but for D and I, it works better as a living space since it is right off the kitchen and the space is so open.  Having the dining space will be nice for when we host holidays, but won't be necessary on a daily or even weekly basis, therefore having a smaller living area in the space as well will help us spend more time in there, especially when we will be using the fireplace in the Fall and Winter.

Coming up with the decor and design for this room has been a lot of fun, but frustrating at the same time.  The first thing that was decided was the colors.  When going through the paint planning for the first floor, this is the room that I struggled with and saved for last.  I fell in love with a color palette from Design Seeds, but after putting the colors on the floor plan, the coral really stood out as not matching with the purple and the orange tones that I had selected for some of the other rooms.

Image via Design Seeds

So instead of trying to come up with a completely different color palette, I decided to make this room a combination of some of the other colors I will be using in the house. For the walls, I will take the Reflecting Pool from the bathroom, and pair it with the Commodore blue color from the Guest Bedroom, and then lighten up the yellow from the family room for just a pop of color.  White will be included in there as well, because you can never go wrong with adding that color into a space.

With the potential of hosting both of our families for holidays, we will need a large table that can seat at least seven, but more like ten or twelve people.  Tables of that size run very expensive, especially the one that I found and love from Crate & Barrel.   I have hopes of actually making our dining room table (!) following a set of plans by Ana White based on the Crate & Barrel table.  Hopefully this will be successful, which will help us save some money and also be a great accomplishment.

One of the most time consuming parts of coming up with the decor for this room is the area rug. I know that I want a rug underneath the table, but finding one that will be large enough, not too modern or traditional, and not extremely expensive has proved to be very difficult.  I have decided on a dark blue rug, but want a really neat pattern that will stand out in the room.  I have fallen in love with many different rugs, and have had a really hard time choosing which one I want, but my top three are below.  All three are not available in the size that I need right now, so this is actually helping me in making my decision - and don't worry, I'm keeping an eye out for these on RugsUSA and Overstock!

In terms of other decor in the room, I know that there will be pops of yellow and white, a seating area in front of the fireplace, and probably some nice digital art prints on the mantle, but I haven't yet planned that part of the room out yet.  So, I'm looking for suggestions.  I will have about 8-10 feet to spare for the area in front of the fireplace, so it will be tight, but I'm hoping for cozy. Would you do a small couch or a couple of chairs? Would you anchor that part of the room with a smaller area rug?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cleaning Calendar

A few years ago, I came across a post on Apartment Therapy called How to Clean Your House in 20 Minutes a Day for 30 Days.  Longest title in the world, but I was still intrigued.  After reading through their suggestions, I decided to try it out.

The first thing that you do is make a list of everything that needs doing in your house.  In the post, Apartment Therapy gave a list of some things that will help you start, like vacuum living room, clean bathrooms, and dust, but you can add anything else that you need to to keep your house or apartment clean.  If you are stuck for things that need to be done, walking from room to room and opening all doors, cupboards, and closets will definitely help in giving you some ideas of what needs cleaning or organizing.

The next step is one that I took on my own, which is to assign a few of those tasks to every day using a calendar.  I created a calendar in Microsoft Word and you can actually download the template here.  Choose a few tasks and add them to different days on the calendar, but make sure that with the exception of one day per week, the total time it woud take to complete those tasks won't exceed 20-30 minutes a day.  Having your daily cleaning tasks done quickly means that you have a higher likelihood of completing them, since you know that they won't take up hours of your time.  Also, feel free to give yourself a day or two off a week, so you have time to do some other things.

You can tell from the example that I put above that things tend to repeat themselves over a two week period, but that there are some other things that end up being monthly instead of weekly or bi-weekly. Other tasks are done on specific days intentionally, like cleaning out the fridge for example. Since my trash day is on Mondays, cleaning out the fridge on a Sunday makes sure that week-old food gets into the garbage before it goes out that week.

Once you have your calendar set, you can print it out and hang it up, or you can just reference it from your computer, tablet, or even smartphone and save some paper.  Once you start paying attention to it everyday, it will start to become routine, and you won't even need to reference your calendars because you'll know what you have assigned to each day.

Do you use a cleaning calendar? How has it changed your home's appearance? Do you keep things neater now? Are your Saturday's or Sunday's finally free from a day's worth of cleaning?

Monday, June 10, 2013

DIY: Converting to Digital (Programmable) Thermostats

When we first moved into our house, one of the first things that we did was replace the air conditioning units.  The house has two outdoor units, and they weren't working properly according to the disclosures form on the house, and again when we were going through the home inspection.  Instead of spending money to figure out how to fix them, we decided that we would just replace them for more energy efficient units since the existing ones were original to the install of central air in the house, which we are thinking happened around 1999.

With the temperature finally getting to be somewhat uncomfortable, we decided to turn on the units, but when they stopped blowing cool air after a few hours of use, we called our HVAC guys, who said that the first thing we needed to do was convert our thermostats from the old-school mercury ones to digital ones.  He said that since the mercury readers are original to the installation, they are likely not calibrated correctly anymore and are reading the temperatures of the house and the units incorrectly.  Replacing them will give us a better understanding of the temperature that we are asking the air conditioners to cool to.

He suggested a retailer, and we stopped by to pick up some new thermostats.  The way that our house is setup is that there are four different heat zones and two air conditioning zones.  Following the recommendation by the retailer, we decided to get two digital 7-day programmable thermostats and two regular digital thermostats.

Installation was so easy, which is the real reason I am writing this post.  If you have digital thermostats that need to be installed, do it yourself. Save yourself the extra money that hiring a contractor or electrician would cost.  Just follow the simple steps below and you'll be golden!

The first step is to turn off the electricity to the thermostats. If your electrical panel isn't labeled specifically for the thermostats, turn off all the power to that room or floor just to be safe.  The last thing I want is for you to follow these directions and then get shocked by the electrical!

Next, remove the existing thermostats.  I have one heat and one air conditioning thermostat, which will be combined into one new programmable one.  These are what mine looked like:

They are old, gold, and ugly. Please also ignore the absolutely terrible paint job that was done previously in my house. Seriously, I hope that this was just a DIY gone wrong because this entire house's paint is absolutely awful, and if it was actually done by a professional, it's pathetic. Aside from the drips and the fact that they didn't remove any light switches or anything to paint, I keep finding blue painter's tape everywhere, and as you can see, even here, in between the two units!

Anyways, to remove these units from the wall, remove the cover plate to expose the screws that attach it to the base plate.  

Remove all of the slotted screws. My units had three screws each.  These should be the ones that are set in the plastic casing a little further and not the ones that look like they touch wires.  In the picture below, you will see the slotted screw slightly underneath the square peg one.  Remove the slotted one and the other two that will be closer to the bottom of the unit.  

Once you have the screws out, gently pull on the unit to detach it from the base plate.  Be very careful with the unit, as you don't want the glass  bubble to break and the mercury to release.  Mercury is very dangerous, so be careful and place the removed thermostat in a space that is safe from being knocked or pushed around.  

Using a smaller phillips head screwdriver, gently undo the screws that are holding the wiring in place.  For your heating system, you will likely only have a red and a white wire, and for the cooling system, you will probably have a green, red, and yellow wire.  If any of the wires in your cooling system are white, look for any G, R, or Y labels on the old thermostats.  If the systems are really old, sometimes white wires are actually supposed to be colored, so the old thermostat will help you determine what white cable is supposed to be either green, red, or yellow.

Once your wires are undone, remove the rest of the screws that mount the back plates to the walls.

If you have more than one system that you are going to be adding to the new thermostat, you will need to pull a little extra slack out from the wall to make sure that your wires will meet in the middle, where the new thermostat will be mounted to the wall.  

Hold the back plate of your new thermostat up against the wall and figure out where you want it to be placed. Make sure that the wires will reach through the center space with enough slack for you to attach them to the electrical component of the thermostat.  Make placement marks in the screw spots of the back plate.  

Using a drill, drill in your pilot holes according to the size of the mounting screws that came with your thermostat.  I used a 3/16" bit.  Hammer in your plastic anchors when the pilot holes are made.

After running your wires through the center space, attach your back plate to the wall. Make sure it is level before tightening the screws completely.  

The next step is to attach your wires to the back plate of the thermostat.  

Match the color of the wire up with the letter underneath the clamp.  Holding the wire in place and down into the hole as far as possible, gently tighten the screw on the outside to clamp the wire into place.  

Once you have all the wires in their correct spots, make sure that none of the metal parts are touching, then push the extra length into the cutout that you fed the wires through.  If some of the wire parts are touching, you may need to shorten the length of the wire so that the covering is closer to the clamp.

Once you have the wires in place, insert the backup batteries into the back side of the faceplate of the thermostat.  Flip the switch at the bottom to tell the system what kind of heat source you use - either gas/oil or electric/heat pump.

Clip the faceplate onto the back plate of the thermostat.  Turn the power back on and then follow the directions that came with the thermostat to program it specifically for your home's heating and air conditioning systems.  Also, don't forget to set your 7-day programs.  

And just like that, your work is finished!  If you are hesitating on whether or not to install the digital thermostats, don't.  If they are your electric or gas provider, National Grid offers a rebate for each digital programmable thermostat that you purchase, so you will immediately see your money's worth with the upgrade.  Plus, I'm sure that the older units on your walls aren't very attractive anymore, so this can also be a cosmetic upgrade too!

Now that I have replaced all of the units, I can't wait to paint!  Hopefully this will put me in gear and I can get some painting done soon!  Just do your future homeowners happy and when painting, remove all the light switches AND thermostats before painting!
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