‘diy’ Category

Recipe of the Month | Easter Cake

With spring upon us and the Easter Bunny right on our tails, the time has come for coloring eggs, digging out the Easter baskets and planning our holiday menus. Granite Transformations® offers a fun dessert idea to share with you that is sure to bring smiles to your table.

Easter Lamb Cake Recipe from Granite Transformations


Check out this fun Easter dessert recipe that your kids will love!

The easiest way to make this adorable lamb cake is to bake it in a two-piece aluminum mold and use your favorite pound cake recipe or one right out of the box!

This cute Easter Lamb Cake recipe is a fun dessert to prepare for the coming Easter Holiday—feel free to share this recipe with your friends!

Prep Time:30 minutes
Cook time:45 minutes
Yield: 1 cake

Easter Lamb Cake Recipe Ingredients:
- 2-piece aluminum lamb mold
- Your favorite pound cake recipe or one box of white or yellow flavored cake mix (follow directions on box)
- Your favorite buttercream frosting recipe or one can of your favorite white frosting
- 1 12oz bag of sweetened flaked coconut
- 1 bag of jelly beans
- 1 bag of colored Easter eggs
- Non-stick cooking spray
- Toothpick

Cooking and Prepration Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Separate the two-piece lamb mold and generously spray the inside of both pieces with non-stick baking spray. *Note: There will be a vent hole in one side of the lamb mold, be sure to fill the opposite side with batter.
3. Pour batter into one side of the lamb mold that does have the vent hole.
4. Place the opposite side of the mold on top of the batter, make sure it is secure.
5. Carefully place the lamb mold in preheated oven with vent hole facing up.
6. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into vent hole comes out clean.
7. Let the cake cool in the pan at least 15 minutes before removing the top. It is best to wait until the cake is completely cooled before carefully removing from the pan— take extra care with the head and ears.
8. Transfer cooled lamb cake to a platter and carefully frost your cake, taking extra care around the head and ears. Cover entire cake with flaked coconut and use jelly beans to make two eyes, a nose and mouth.
9. Surround your lamb with colored Easter grass and decorate with colored Easter eggs, jelly beans or any fun colored candy.

Enjoy! Happy Easter from Granite Transformations!

DIY Don’ts: The Cons of Doing Home Improvement Projects Yourself

Granite Transformations is the best alternative to DIY

Hiring professionals for major renovations is the smart decision in order to avoid expensive mishaps.

 

When it comes to DIY home improvement projects involving your kitchen or bathroom, cutting corners by doing projects yourself may come back to haunt you with even bigger costs. Improvement projects in these areas of the home are tricky and require highly skilled professionals to execute properly. At Granite Transformations, we provide you with an expertly completed install with beautiful products at a guaranteed estimate.

A popular reason why homeowners try to attempt home improvement projects themselves is because they believe this lowers the cost of the job. This is not always the case due to unforeseen costs involving the renting or purchasing of the expensive, specialized equipment you need to complete these installations. Additionally, you should consider how much your time is worth since these projects take a lot of time to research and execute for non-professionals. Plus, in the event that a project goes awry, you may end up paying more than you would have in the first place.

Granite Transformations is the perfect alternative to do-it-yourself projects. During your in-home consultation, we provide you with design advice as you choose your desired products and colors to meet your remodeling needs.  We can accommodate all your remodeling needs with our large selection of gorgeous granite countertops, recycled glass surfaces, mosaic tile and cabinet refacing.  At the end of the in-home consultation, we give you an honest, all inclusive estimate which encompasses the cost of materials and installation. After the materials have been made to fit your needs, a team of our expertly trained installers will install the products in as little as one day!

This means that you get the expertise of a professional designer, contractor, installer and more, all for one cost. Plus, because our estimate is guaranteed, there will be no added or surprise costs like with other remodeling services. You also get the added benefit of a lifetime warranty with Granite Transformations products.

To learn more about how Granite Transformations can accommodate your home remodeling needs, schedule an in-home consultation with your nearby location now.

 

 

Dollars and Cents: Reconsidering Green Energy Home Improvement Projects

The utility companies are raising my rates again.  Not just the gas company and electric companies, but even the water company this time.  I’ve been all around the house looking for ways to conserve energy.  I want to save on my energy costs every month, but I also want to just be a good steward to planet Earth.  Tough to believe I’m a die-hard conservative eh?  Some people would make it seem that people like me want “dirty air and dirty water.”  Not true.  For example, at first I was opposed to the recent energy legislation restricting the sales and phasing out the manufacturing of incandescent light bulbs.  I thought at first, “well there’s another tax increase.”  But after looking into it further, I realized that in the long run, energy efficient light bulbs and other energy efficient home improvement projects actually are cheaper in the long run.  So let’s look at a few of the options from my conservative viewpoint.  Let’s look at some of the dollars and cents impacts of efficiency home improvement projects, primarily three areas, heating, lighting, and water.

Water Conservation in and Around the Home

Water costs continually increase over the years.  I can’t remember a year that my water costs actually decreased.  My family is growing, the value of my dollar is shrinking, and demand for water is growing in my community.  To say that water is expensive in my neighborhood would be an understatement.  I’ve successfully decreased the amount of money I spend on water over the course of a year by doing two things (the third item would be extra credit):

First thing I did was decrease the water pressure in my house.  This was very easy to do.  In the basement of my home (and most homes for that matter) there is a pressure valve with a flat head screw protruding out.  It’s typically near the main water shut off valve inside the home.  This valve controls the water pressure of the entire home.  In my case it controls the water pressure for my entire property, since I’m using domestic/potable water for the sprinklers! I turned that screw about a half turn counter clockwise.  Counter clockwise will reduce the pressure.  Clockwise will increase the pressure.  This alone amounted to a noticeable savings in the amount of water I use.

bronze valve

Second thing I did was add a soil treatment in my yard so that I could drastically cut back on the water needed to keep the lawn green and the HOA happy.  Just go to Home Depot and ask someone in the lawn and garden department about various soil treatments designed to use less water.  I chose the Scott’s brand treatment and again saw a noticeable decrease in my summer water bill.

Extra-credit.  I’m currently evaluating the financial sense in installing a tankless water heater.  I hear you can save on your energy costs by not storing hot water in a tank.  However, these systems can cost tons of money, and my experience has shown the best ways to save on water costs are to just use less water.

Gas/Electric Home Improvement Projects

What has two thumbs, votes republican, and wants to install solar panels and geothermal heating?  This guy! (imagine me pointing to myself with two thumbs)  Yes, I’d love to install solar panels and a complete geothermal heating system on my home.  My beef with these technologies is that the payoff takes so long.  Geothermal systems can cost up to $35,000 and solar panel systems can add another $12,000 to $20,000 on top of that cost.  And I might only save $50 to $100 per month on my utility costs (gas and electric).  So at best, it could take me more than 30 years to have paid for my investment in green energy improvements.  My opinion is that if our Nation ever wants to see serious improvements in the amount of energy we use, we need to find ways of scaling these technologies so they are more accessible to folks like me.  I did find a way to reduce energy costs quite a bit in my home though and it was as simple as changing a light bulb.  Well, 63 of them actually.

Saving Energy on Home Lighting

home lighting

Home lighting is probably the most overlooked area of energy use in a house.  I think we have this impression that to save energy we have to have solar panels on the roof.  But after doing some simple math, I realized that I could spend around $2,000 and have every single bulb in my home swapped out for energy efficient LED lights.  At the time I was using a combination of CFL (Compact Fluorescent) and Incandescent bulbs.  I despised the look of those twisty shaped CFL’s, and even more-so despised the fact I had to wait for them to warm up just to provide enough light.  I noticed some interesting changes in our home after upgrading the bulbs.  For one, the granite countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms looked much more appealing.  It’s as though there are color strands in the granite that stand out more and the stuff looks substantially more luxurious.  The home is brighter.  In the summer time I’ve noticed a reduction in our air conditioning costs as well.  Mainly because the LED bulbs don’t put off much heat, if any at all, a stark contrast to the old recessed 100 watt incandescent bulbs we had in the kitchen.  You used to feel the heat projecting from those lamps just standing under them.  So yes, I’m happy with the lighting choice.  And what’s better news is that the bulbs have a three year warranty, but with the energy savings I’m achieving, the investment will have paid for itself in about 18 months.  Plus, my wife was excited to have all the light fixtures cleaned.  That was a byproduct of removing all of the fixtures to access the bulbs.

If you’re in the market for some green home improvements, I’d say start with the lights.  Doing so will affect the amount of money you need to spend on solar panels as well if you choose to do that in the future.  LED lights use substantially less wattage than other types of lamps.

Post contributed by Curtis Noble at BonLight.com.

Spruce Up Your Home with Upcycled Décor

Spruce Up Your Home with Upcycled Décor

It’s the greenest thing since buying a Prius and creating a backyard compost heap: using upcycled home décor. Along the same lines as recycling, the idea behind this trend is to take an old object and use it for a new purpose. Rather than simply recycling, the goal with upcycling is to transform the old goods into something hip, funky and a step above the original. Have old mason jars lying around? Textbooks you never read? Good news: you’ve got options.

Suitcases to Chairs

If you have an old hard-cover suitcase lying around in a closet, you can get some use out of it without lugging it to the airport. Hard suitcases and old trunks make great chairs, whether closed and used as a stool or open with cushions inside. Check out any thrift or vintage store to find funky suitcases if you don’t own one, and don’t hesitate to spruce up an existing one with paint or fabric.

picture 1

Books to Shelves

What better place to stack a pile of books than on top of another book? If you couldn’t sell back that old calculus textbook and you’re certain you won’t be dying to read it anytime soon, you can use it for a unique shelving option. A simple Internet search will teach you how to complete this project, and you’ll be left with an awesome conversation piece. Try using several at different levels on the same wall to mix things up.

picture2

Mason Jars to Chandeliers

The possibilities with this project are endless – so no matter what your personal decorating style, you can create something that fits. Hang the jars upside down, right-side up, sideways – whatever you want! You can mix it up by painting the jars or adding other ornamental gems to your masterpiece. For safety purposes, be sure to do your research on proper electrical wiring with this one!

picture3

Vinyl Records to Bowls

If you just can’t bring yourself to part with that old Simon & Garfunkel album, you can find a new way to cherish it without letting it collect dust on the shelf. Toss that record in an oven on low heat (about 200 degrees) and wait until it melts just enough to be flexible. Remove it with tongs and an oven mitt, immediately sandwich it between two bowls to create the right shape and give it a few minutes to cool – and like magic, you’ve got yourself a new bowl. Record bowls make ideal planters because of the built-in hole in the bottom, and are also a great place to toss your keys and other small knick-knacks on the entryway table.

picture4

Scrabble Tiles to Magnets

Have a passion for word games? Let it show in your home décor! Keep an eye out for old Scrabble sets at your local thrift stores or ask around for friends looking to ditch theirs. Pick up a strip of magnet backing at a craft store, heat up a hot glue gun and get to work. The end result will not only leave your refrigerator looking hip and fresh, but you’ll have endless entertainment while you’re waiting on those vinyl records you put in the oven.

picture5

Author Byline: Katie Hawkes is a freelance blogger for Heritage Crown and Millworks, an Arizona company that offers professional installation of crown moulding in Phoenix.

How to Apply Concrete Floor Coating

concrete floor

Whether you own an auto repair shop, detail cars as a hobby or simply want your garage to be an easier place to clean, I’ve found that applying a concrete floor coating can do wonders to the overall look of any garage. Once you have all the tools, the entire process is relatively simple.

Epoxy floor coating has a lot of advantages in a garage environment, especially as it resists oil stains and wipes clean very easily, similar to a kitchen counter. It can be especially handy in the winter months with the antiskid additives, which help when water has beaded up.

Just make sure that you choose a coating color that is appropriate for a garage—as this Toronto newspaper article points out, white will leave all kinds of scuff marks if you don’t plan on cleaning regularly. If you want to update your garage floor, here are the steps you will have to take:

Prepare your floor – In order to bond properly, your floor needs to be completely clean and porous. If you have potholes, you will need to patch them, and if your concrete is sealed, you will have to use a chemical stripper.

Etch the floor – When you purchase all your supplies (usually found in a kit), you will have some etching solution. Wet your garage area and use a bristle broom to etch the floor in small sections. After you are done (etching in both directions), use the hose again to rinse the garage clear again.

Mix the epoxy paint and begin painting – You will mix the hardener and the paint until they are completely blended, and then wait thirty minutes for the chemicals to react. After that, you have two hours to completely paint your garage. Be sure to use a roller for speed, but touch up the corners and seams with a brush.

Apply color flakes – Color flakes help hide any discoloration in your garage. When the paint is still wet, sprinkle the flakes over the top at the same time as you are painting. You might want to have someone help you with this.

Prepare and paint the top coat – Once you mix the top coat, you will again have to wait thirty minutes for the chemicals. Like the first concrete floor coating, you will have two hours to evenly distribute the top coat.

Once you have completed all these steps, you simply have to wait for everything to dry completely. Don’t drive a car on your new coating until you have waited 72 hours, but then enjoy the ease of a hard concrete floor coating in your garage space.

by Don Brown

6 Child Safety points around the house

child safety

Have you ever considered how many areas around your home might be dangerous to your children?  As a parent, child safety is likely one of your top concerns.  Check around your home for the following safety points, so you can make sure that your child is safe and secure:

1.  Sharp corners on furniture

Coffee tables, chair corners and even the arm rests on your sofa can all have sharp points that could cause serious injury in the event of a fall.  If you only have one or two pieces of furniture like this, you could simply replace these with more child-friendly pieces.  Otherwise, you can child-proof them with “bumpers” that are available at most stores that sell child-proofing equipment.

2.  Toilets

Children are endlessly curious about the toilet, especially those who are beginning to toilet train.  Where does that water go, anyway?  You can protect your child — and help keep the bathroom more sanitary — by installing a toilet lock.

3.  Electrical outlets

Electrical outlets are full of possibilities, as far as children are concerned.  So many small items can fit in there.  Protect your child from shocks or worse by using plastic plugs to cover up outlets that aren’t currently in use.

4.  Pools and hot tubs

An outdoor pool or hot tub can go from summertime fun to tragedy in just the blink of an eye.  One of the most important child safety measures you can take is to install a barrier around the pool, like a mesh pool fence.  Never leave your child unsupervised around water.

5.  Burners on the stove

When you are cooking, keep children out of the kitchen.  If they want to help with meal prep, set them up with small jobs at the kitchen table so the stove is out of reach.  Always be careful to turn off the stove when you aren’t using it, and turn pot handles in so you can’t accidentally bump them and knock them over.

6. Flat screen TVs

These tend to be top heavy, and it’s easy for a child to pull one down.  This could potentially kill a small child, and reports of these types of incidents are increasing.  Install child safety straps on your TV to keep it attached to the TV stand, or, better yet, install it on the wall where it is safely out of reach.

Ways to Save Energy and Money at Home

green earth

Saving energy is not only an excellent way to help the environment, but it’s also a great way to save money on monthly household bills. The following are a few handy tips on how to save energy, while reducing your monthly costs:

Appliances:
To keep utility bills low and save on energy, shop for Energy Star appliances. Clean the dryer’s lint filter on a regular basis. If you have any unused electrical equipment unplug it when not in use. When washing clothes, switch to cold water to save money and energy since 90% of the energy is wasted on heating the water. When using your computer, switch to a laptop over a desktop computer for additional savings.

Furnace:
Keep your furnace clean and properly maintained annually. Change the filter every 1-2 months as a dirty filter will reduce the airflow forcing the furnace to run longer and will run up your monthly gas bill. If you’re in need of a new furnace, consider purchasing an Energy Star as they can save a home an average of over $500 annually in natural gas and electrical costs.

Natural Gas and Electric Payment Options:
Talk to your gas and electric companies and sign up for special monthly payment options. This doles out your heating and electrical bills into equal payments each month to avoid exorbitant costs during the peak months.

Thermostat Control:
Install a programmable thermostat to control your heating and cooling temperatures when you’re not home or asleep. By setting your thermostat down a degree or two allows the homeowner to save over $60.00 a year.

Sealing and Insulation:
Inspect leaks or cracks that lead outside of the home such as windows, fixtures, doors, baseboards and plumbing and seal with caulk or weather stripping. To ensure your home is protected from any heat that may escape, make sure you have an excellent insulation base. During the winter months, close the blinds and draperies around the window area to keep the heat in. Take advantage of homes with a sunny exposure and open window coverings to allow the sun to heat your house for no cost. Use room ceiling fans to help distribute air circulation throughout your home.

Conserve Water:
Conserve water at home by changing up your showerheads and faucets that promote a lower flowing motion of water. When bathing save energy by taking a quick shower instead of wasting water by filling up the bathtub with hot water for a bath. Make sure the dishwasher and washing machine are full before running them. Inspect faucets, toilets and showerheads for any leaks and repair if necessary.

Lighting:
Another good way to conserve is to use less energy to light up your home. Replace ordinary light bulbs with energy saving ones. When you or your family are not in a certain room or area of the house, learn to turn off lights or use dimmer switches to keep the lighting low. Use timers or dimmers to keep lighting low. Change any outdoor lighting around the house and garage with motion sensory lighting instead.

Jon Clark is a blogger, coffee lover and home enthusiast. He writes for www.CaliforniaApartmentsBlog.com which provides home and apartment renting and living tips as well as reviews for apartments such as these lofts for rent in Long Beach and Redondo Beach Apartments.

Facebook Isn’t the Only Social Media Platform for Businesses

pinterest

There is no denying the impact of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter on the world today. Businesses now put their Facebook pages on commercials, celebrities Tweet their every move, and TV announcers have their Twitter handle displayed with their names. However, the overarching forms of social media aren’t the only successful sites these days.

Understanding that no site can truly compete with giants like Facebook and Twitter, many companies have begun developing niche social networking sites. In 2011 alone, we saw the growing popularity of Quora and Path; however, perhaps one of the best social niche networking sites that gained an impressive following by many individuals, but few businesses, is Pinterest.

Unlike other sites that are focused on sharing pieces of your life with other individuals, Pinterest is more focused on discovery learning through other site users. In essence, it is a way for users to further discover popular topics through pinning pictures to your boards.

There are numerous categories ranging from art to fashion by your favorite designer, and by clicking on one of these categories, you can access dozens of photos and how to tips to a countless number of things. If you find something inspiring, you can then pin it to one of your Boards for later ideas or projects.

For those looking to find new and exciting ideas in which to modernize or update their home, there has never been a better site. Pinterest is full of ideas for those who would like to spruce up their home, from do it yourself projects to those that require the help of a contractor. So whether you are looking to turn your den into a sophisticated library or simply want a new light fixture for your dining room, you will be able to find a plethora of ideas on Pinterest.

Even better, is that you can have it in an easy-to-share format through your pinboards. This way, if you need to show a specific design to others living in your home, painters, or a contractor, it is readily available.

Getting started on Pinterest is easy. First, set up your account. Next, you will be prompted to create your boards, here you have a list of topics that interest you, and all you need to do is title you boards with things that draw your interest. It is best to start small, don’t worry about having 15 to 20 boards, start with two or three and keep adding.

Once you have your boards, download the Pin It button and start saving items in a flash. To get the button, go to the “About” tab and follow the instructions to upload the button.

Pinterest is also good on the go, it now has apps for both iPhone and Android operating systems. This is great for those on the go or for home design professionals that may run into the perfect home and would like to document it for future design ideas. Just snap a few photos, upload them to your Pinterest app and you’re good to go!

This is a highly underrated form of social media. Consumers and businesses alike can benefit from the pictures posted. If a customer runs into a picture of the perfect kitchen combination, they can easily pin the photo and show it to a home designer, benefitting both parties. However, I do warn you, Pinterest can be quite addicting and you may lose a few hours of sleep over searching through all the amazing photos.

Maya Szydlowsky is a community manager for Veterans United Home Loans, the nation’s leading dedicated provider of VA home loans as well as news and information on veterans’ benefits.

Pet-Friending Your Home

If you think it is time for a new pet, consider whether your home is up for the challenge. After all, pets cause damage; especially if you don’t prepare beforehand.

Thankfully, making your home pet-friendly doesn’t have to mean sacrificing style for practicality. There are several ways to protect your home from the potential perils of pet ownership while maintaining an impressive aesthetic. Here are a few home improvement projects that will allow you to exercise your creativity and do-it-yourself enthusiasm.

Pet-Friendly Flooring
Paws get muddy. Then those paws track mud into your home. Not only do those paws have mud, but they have claws that can create unattractive scratches.

The woes of paws are a fact of life, but there are many measures you can take to prevent damage. Instead of pebbled paving on your sidewalk and patio, consider using slate. This groove-free alternative will help keep mud at bay, so when your pet walks over them mud won’t stick to their paws.

When it comes to interior flooring, opt for tile or urethane-coated hardwood. Pets on carpet present all kinds of problems, not least of which are hair and stains. If you have the space, consider creating a mud room for pets to wipe off dirty paws before they run through the house. A laundry room could work for this or even a section of your garage or basement.

dog mud room

Gates and Pet Doors
Don’t want your dog around while the neighbors are visiting? Have a house guest who is allergic to cats? Interior pet gates are a great way to keep your pets in one place—at least temporarily. It also helps keep them away from where you store hazardous materials, such as cleaners and medications.

You can install and build them yourself according to the dimensions of a given entrance. Alternatively, you could make or purchase several portable pet gates to move around your home. Just make sure that gates at the top of a landing are secure to avoid pets leaning up against them and falling down the stairs.

Pet doors between the outside and mud room are also an option if you need to combat scratching on doors. To make it easier for your pet to get around, consider installing additional pet doors between other rooms, too.

Simple and Streamlined

minimalist home decor

In addition to being easy to clean, a minimalist look will help you protect furniture and valuables from damage. Keep fewer items in your rooms in general, and place decorations up high so that they are out of reach from curious pets. This helps eliminate climbing and scratching opportunities.

One great way to get rid of pet-related clutter is to create a feeding area beneath a floor cabinet in your kitchen. This will keep food and water bowls off the floor—a solution that not only means less mess, but also fewer opportunities to trip over the food bowl.

dog bowl shelf

Soundproofing
Soundproofing certain rooms can be attractive and utilitarian. If you are keeping pets in an adjoining room or just want to keep them quieter while entertaining, something as simple as putting a large piece of furniture—say, a bookcase—against the wall can cut down on the noise.

You might even consider acoustic-weave wall tiles. There are any number of patterns and colors available to match the decor of your room, and installing them is an easy DIY project.

Adria Saracino is a blogger, freelancer, and marketer. She often writes for Embrace pet insurance, which offers everything from insurance for cats to dog insurance.

Photo Credit: 1, 2, 3

Home Improvements That Pay You Back

scrooge mcduck swimming in money

Some home improvements may seem like a great idea initially, until you find out that they are not all that practical. There are primarily two types of home improvements that can be considered, those that save you money while you continue to live in the home and those that help you sell your home faster.

Home Improvement that Save Money

Windows and doors
When you are searching for cost-effective methods of home improvement, windows and doors are always a good place to start. Whether you plan to stay in your home or you plan to sell your home, windows and doors are always a great option. Not only can you save hundreds of dollars a year in home heating and cooling costs, but upgrading your doors and windows make a great selling feature.

Energy audits help
Do it yourself energy audits can help you identify low-cost methods for improving your home. Simple things like upgrading your heating system, changing light bulbs and adding insulation to your home can save hundreds of dollars a year. In addition, taking the time to conduct an energy audit can help identify problem areas that could be improved if you plan to sell your home.

Kitchen upgrades
There are several minor kitchen upgrades that will pay for themselves in a relatively short period of time. For example, upgrading counter tops, adding additional storage space or a simple coat of paint are all cost effective kitchen upgrades that make your kitchen more practical and serve as a great selling feature.

Outdoor features
Changing the outside of your home can have a great impact on the value of the home. Whether you are planning to stay in your home or planning to sell your home, siding is an option that may be considered. Not only is siding practical from an energy savings standpoint, but if you are planning to sell your home it can help add curb appeal.

When you are considering upgrades to your home, it is best to avoid things like upgrading a home office, over-sizing of master bedrooms and other upgrades that won’t pay for themselves. Home upgrades can be disruptive and they can be costly if they are not well planned. Whether you are searching for effective home improvements to save money when you plan to stay in your home or you are searching for ways to make your home more marketable you’ll need a plan. It is never a good idea to upgrade just for the sake of upgrading, you want improvements that are practical, cost effective and will pay you back over time. Upgrades that are a waste of money do little to help salability or livability.

About the Author: Jon Clark is a blogger, coffee lover and home décor enthusiast. He writes for www.CaliforniaApartmentsBlog.com which provides apartment renting and living tips as well as reviews for apartments such as these Los Angeles apartments and apartments in Sacramento.