Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What a Lucky Mungkee

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hills Pet Nutrition for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Today's post is dedicated to our quietest and gentlest family member. You have seen him waddling about our house but I don't think we've talked much about the mystery that is Mungkee. The kind folks over at Hill's Pet Nutrition haven't forgotten our little man and they even took the time to make him feel like a star when they sent him a baggy full of surprises recently. They were awesome to send him some new food, a pile of toys and a little sony Bloggie video camera for me to help document more of our family time with him (talk about generous!! I've been attached at the wrist to this thing)

Mungkee joined our little family back in 2006 when he was about 3 and a half years old. Sadly, his owner had passed away and he and his 3 fellow pekingese siblings all went back to their breeder to find new homes. I have always loved and adored pekingese dogs (don't they just have the squishiest faces??) and being the awesome husband that he is, Sean set out on a secret mission to find me one when he came across Mungkee. In his 3 short years Mungkee had travelled across the country competing in dog shows, eventually becoming a bona fide best-in-show dog. I don't know whether is it because of all the travel and hours of grooming or if he was just born this way, but Mungkee is the single most docile and patient dog I've ever come across. Everyone who meets him instantly falls in love with his sweet personality, and it was no brainer that he would be the perfect addition to our family.

As he's gotten older he really hasn't gotten more or less perky, but recently we gave him a bit of a makeover with a major hair cut and adding some new food to his routine now that he is considered a "mature" dog. I was a little worried about changing his food, but after just a couple weeks he has a little extra spunk in his walk. He has never been one to play with dog toys, but during the last few weeks of our renos we've taken up residence at my parent's house and he has been a very popular boy with my Mom's dog, Dede, who LOVES all the goodies.

Here are just a few mini-movies of our playful boy and his shorter summer 'do (please promise me you won't laugh at our annoying/embarassing background conversations LOL)

Untitled from Holly Baker on Vimeo.

Untitled from Holly Baker on Vimeo.

I want to send a GIANT thank you to our friends over at Hill's for all their generosity, specially because they are going to be giving one lucky reader a $1000 gift card to PetSmart!!

To enter simply leave a comment on this blog post telling us about your favorite moment with your dog. You can earn 1 extra entry by tweeting a message linking back to this blog post as well as using the hash tag #HillsPet . Click here for full contest rules.

And if you are interested in getting more info on switching your dog's food be sure to check out Hill's Pet Nutrition on Facebook or register online for their Hill's Healthy Mobility Coupon while also entering to win 1 years free pet food!

Visit Sponsor's Site

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Kitchen Chronicles: Budget Blowout

I am one of those not-so-rare birds that hate to admit defeat. Even worse? Admitting I was wrong. And when it comes to our projected budget of $15,000 for this kitchen I was DEAD wrong. I thought I knew what we were getting ourselves into ( I did know enough to expect to go over budget!), but I really didn't anticipate blogging with my tail between my legs telling you that we are twice the original budget.

If there is one thing I love about blogland it is that you can live vacariously through reading other people's blogs, get great feedback and ideas on your own blog, and learn some things in the process, hopefully avoiding the same pitfalls. So not only did I intend to bore you with every decicion, purchase and obsticle when I started blogging about this kitchen, but I also wanted to share where every penny went. I guess magazine worthy, drooled over kitchens do cost more than a little blood, sweat and tears. Plus, I am always nosy like that when I am reading someone else's blog.

This was our intended spending plan when we went into the project. We did our research, planned on doing everything ourselves and aimed to keep it looking like a million bucks while only spending $15,000.

Embarassingly enough, a bachelor's degree in business didn't help me too much when it came to remembering all the components of a kitchen. Hello, where are countertops and sink on that budget???? Right there I under budgetted $6,000. Whew, I'd rather be over budget thanks to a math error than a judgement error.

We were sorely under estimating cabinet costs due to a few factors:

1. When we had our cabinet quotes done by various local suppliers we did not yet decide on adding the peninsula (an additional 9 feet of cabinets that also require a pretty, finished backside=$$$$). We went from 32 feet at $150/ft to 54 feet at $194/ft

2. When you see the listed price per foot of cabinets that basically means you get 2 doors. Obviously we wanted some drawers as well! Any extras only add to that price.

The other contributing factor to our over spending was our decision to call in some help. After talking with several people who have been through kitchen renos we thought it was well worth the expense to have the cabinets installed professionally. And after having them piled up in our garage for a week now I can understand why! It is the biggest, most annoying looking puzzle ever made. We also made the decision to hire an electrician to move all the necessary outlets and lighting. This is something that Sean could have done, but we thought we should at least get a quote for the work and once we did it was a no brainer. We would have spent half the cost just on supplies at Home Depot so it made sense to just pay a few hundred dollars and have the work done fast and right. As for plumbing, it is still in-progress. But we would definitely be doing it ourselves if Sean didn't have a commercial contact that was willing to take us on the side for a fraction of the price because the other quotes we've gotten are through the roof over $3000!

Here is what we're really spending to pull this kitchen together. All the grey items are things we still need to pay for so they may be slightly more or less.

We've surprisingly spent less on counters than I thought we would. And the windows also came in under budget thanks to a credit they issued us for all the delays. YAyyyy!!

At the end of the day we are still happy with that number because we honestly feel like we are getting the kitchen of our dreams. Some of that money was also spent in the family room (like the ceiling, lighting and electrical) so we are kind of getting 2 rooms for that price, at least thats what I tell myself. Once it came down to actually making our dream come true we figured we should LOVE everything. Spending an extra thousand dollars or so on adding nicer baseboards, trim and doors to our cabinets seem money well spent in the long run.

We aren't at the finish line just yet so stay tuned on how the final tally adds up!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Diva Dog

Remember when you were a teenager and would spend hours playing with make up, drawing on inanimate objects (occassionally even body parts) and playing in front of the mirror assembling various outfits from the same 10 items of clothing? It probably had a lot to do with just being a teenager, but I think it also had to do with being bored. And we have been all kinds of bored the last few weeks.

Don't get me wrong, things are busy! But they are kind of boring too. Mainly because Wren and I have 2 choices when we wake up each day: 1. go outside or 2. hang out upstairs. And when you are confined to the same 2 or 3 rooms they start to feel awfully small and my bag of tricks runs dry by about noon most days.

It's been said that 2 year olds are much like teenagers (or maybe it's the other way around), and I couldn't agree more. Each day Wren plays dress up with her favorite 3 or 4 dresses, does her 'make up' (her routine consists of lip chap and combing her eyebrows with an old mascara wand I've cleaned for her, and once when I wasn't looking a nice eye liner drawing of a heart on her forehead) but by 1 o'clock she is usually looking for a few more thrills.

Which is where our angel of a dog, Mungkee, has been very helpful. He submits to hair combings, wardrobe changes and make up applications like the old pro he is. And while he was a good sport for an hour or so...

Like most boys he decided he'd had enough and headed for cover... no matter how hard she pulled that tail. And after being paraded around in a tutu for one afternoon he has made it clear it was a one time only event.

It's true, our former tomboy-turned-girly girl has taken our diva-show dog and turned him into a regular old pooch!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Kitchen Chronicles: I'll counter that.

Well, it took a little crying, a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but after our window installers cancelled AGAIN today I got through to the head honcho over there and he sent over 3 poor souls who agreed to work late, miss the football game and get it done tonight. I swear getting this thing installed has been more painful than child birth. They are only 30 or 40% done but it already looks bright and airy down there. I guess it should considering we have a hole in our wall the size of a small car.

Besides displaying my powers of persuasion all afternoon on the phone (which may or may not have been closer to threats of violence) Wren and I also wrapped up our hunt for the perfect counter tops! We have gotten quotes from a handful of fabricators on everything from quartz to Cimstone to Silstone to marble to granite. We thought long and hard about how dedicated we are to getting the 'look' we're after and what we are willing to do to care for these counters and in the end our hearts told us to go with our original instinct and go with marble. Surprisingly many local fabricators told us they would not be willing to install marble in a kitchen. But once we settled on a fabricator to work with we had to decide the type/color of marble and finish and this is where the real debate began.

I found both carrera and gioia slabs that I really liked the coloring of but in the end we went with a carrera and at the last minute decided on doing a honed finish. For those of you who are like me circa 2 months ago and have no idea what that means, it is just the finish of the stone. Honed stones are not glossy in appearance.

Here are a couple of kitchens with glossy carrera and you can see why I like the sleek, chic look of it.

But in the end I feel that the traditional look of honed stone will add a nice contrast in texture to the stainless steel appliances and shiny chrome faucet and door hardware. Plus it seems to have softer lines/veins and the colors feel more muted. As for the edge profile, we went with the traditional look of the square edge like both the kitchens below with honed counters in a 3cm thick slab for added chunkiness.

Thankfully our awesome project coordinator at the fabricators office assured me that since we are going into this with our eyes wide open she doubts we will have any complaints or issues with marble. It sounds like if we keep up on sealing it and don't just let messes sit around they should look as good as new for years to come!

And I promise that once it all comes together I will share all our source info and pricing for anyone interested~

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Kitchen Chronicles: A tale of 2 (or 3 or 4) lights.

Ding Dong. Oh hi there! Long time, no see. Why don't cha come in and have a cup of tea!

Oh, do be careful not to trip on the dozens of blankets and plastic sheets covering our floors.

Hope you don't mind sitting on a tarped up couch? You do? We can go relax on my bed then. It's really the only plastic-free seating we can lounge on while drinking our tea.

Speaking of which, it's just going to take me a few minutes to locate it in our 'pantry'. Yes, you're right 20 minutes is a long time to spend looking. Maybe we'll just go heat up some water with lemon.

Oh drats. I completely forgot that I don't have the ability to heat up water. Why don't we just go grab a drink from the hose outside and laugh at how neglected my yard has become and what a great neighbor I am then.

The good news is that we are at ground zero and it is only down hill from here. Most people would look at this mess and think "golly, they have a lot of work ahead of them". And those people would be correct, but they would be wrong if they think we have more work yet to come than we've already done. You see, our lovely old tile floor was not only hideous well installed (therefore impossible to remove) but it lay silently for years upon a second plank of subfloor that also needed to be removed. And they didn't want that floor going anywhere fast so they not only stapled it down, but screwed and glued it. It took a will power unlike any we've had to conquer before to keep plugging away at it, but once it was up the cabinets, electrical and plumbing were relatively painless work to remove. So the true test of our skills are about to be tested: our patience.

I've already had to lay the law down with our window installers after more than a week of delays (the new windows are going in tomorrow!) and I'm just hoping that the cabinets and counters fall into line nicely.

And while a few delays have only given me a little time to focus on the finishing touches and some retail therapy they have also given me too much time to second guess my lighting choices.

Originally I'd planned to do all recessed lighting, with the exception of over the peninsula/breakfast bar. I wanted to create some interest and do a series of hanging pendants. So I ordered 3 of these cute little mercury glass fixtures.

Then I decided that they were a little too dainty for our cape cod/commercial kitchen. So I picked up 2 of these slightly larger cottage-y pendants from Ikea. Plus the $50 price made them a fabulous upgrade.

But then I decided that perhaps they might be a little too predictable. Lovely? Absolutely, but maybe too expected. Plus it occurred to me that with a metal shade it would give only downward lighting and it might feel too much like a pool hall in the evenings.

So in the end I still have them all on hand to make the final call when I see the cabinets in place, but I also ordered this factory-like fixture from Restoration Hardware. It is not even close to being the deal that the Ikea lights are, but I love the unique shape and style, it's flexibility to extend or retract, and the touch of darker metal. I feel that we should have just a handful of darker touches to mimic the floor color and tone down the white cabinets and counters.

But like most girls with a credit card that is poised to be swiped, I was swayed to add to my order by finally getting a fixture for the front door. We have accommodated the hideous brass fixture there for long enough and I decided it was hightime to kick it to the curb.

I'd been eyeing the giant lantern like fixtures for quite some time. But some little inner voice told me "don't do it!". And it took every ounce of strength convince myself that I need to stay focused on the kitchen. I can worry about the front door later.

No more than 30 minutes later I sent up a prayer of thanks to the Karma gods that told me to turn down that light because low and behold a nearly identical one was staring me dead in the eye at homesense. On clearance for only $80 no less!!!!!! So while I splurged ever so slightly by switching up the kitchen light, I saved over $800 in the end by not buying the front door light. Plus I'll have a fabulous new fixture greeting everyone as I show off the new kitchen, just like in my dreams.

And that part that really makes me smile is that I actually prefer the finish of mine, in a polished chrome that matches my table lamp at the front door, over the oil rubbed bronze of RH's version.

The electrician will be here on Monday (along with our cabinets!) so I am crossing my fingers it will be up then and I can share "the best find of my life"-glory I will be experiencing.
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