Sunday, May 8, 2016

My New Tablet: Galaxy Tab S2

So, based on the last time I switched tablets, it seems like a 2 year span is about the life expectancy of a good tablet for me. I enjoyed my Nexus 7 over the past 2 years but over the past few weeks I started feeling the particular there was an issue where the screen would become unresponsive and need to be reset to function properly. I decided that I would begin to look at what options were available- apparently 7 inch tablets have become a rarity in the last 2 years. I suppose it's not surprising with the phablets. I mean, who would carry a 6 inch phone then a 7 inch tablet?

I did a lot of research and had ruled out the Galaxy Tab S2 very early in the process. Verizon offered a 9.7 inch version that was entirely too large for me to consider. There was a 8.0 version but it was wifi only. But then, just as I was mapping out a wifi-only strategy (which included considering a mobile hotspot), I stumbled on an unlocked version of the S2 8.0 that could, according to reviews, work on AT&T. That could still work because even though I'm on Verizon (I switched for the Droid Pro and original Galaxy Tab back in 2010) Dean is still on AT&T with a USPS discount to boot. In fact, I had already clicked the button for the wifi-only version when I saw the Unlocked international version under my recommendations. By the time I did all the research on the unlocked version the wifi version had already shipped (it arrived this morning and it's heading back tomorrow). 

The Tab was meant to arrive on Saturday so of course on Friday I went to Best Buy to get my hands on the wifi version to see what it felt like in hand.! I ended up buying an amazing case in Champagne (I know!! I totally didn't go with Black!) and a screen protector. 

Super-thin Galaxy Tab S2 8.0

We had planned to go to get the AT&T store yesterday evening to get the sim card I needed. We got there, got the sim, got the bars but not the mobile data connection...maddeningly the lady at the store had no idea what APN settings even were so not much help on that front. One of the top reviews on Amazon directed me to change my APN settings but even trying that didn't help. This morning I finally gave in a called AT&T tech support (here's a tip- the tech support on the phone is *always* more robust that in-store. Save yourself a trip). For those who have the same issue, let me share the wealth:

Instead of nxgenphone, use broadband. That's it. Seriously. So annoying the amount of time I wasted not knowing that. 

So, my initial impressions of the Tab S2 are very favorable. It's snappy, snazzy and very low profile. Even the case was thoughtfully designed- snapping onto the back to keep the thickness at a minimum. So far I think the Tab is going to be a very nice successor to my Nexus 7!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Project: Courtyard Creation (a.k.a Delightful Driveway)

One of the best features of our home is the large side-driveway that can hold up to 9 cars (we know because during parties we've done it!). When we first saw the home I imagined a 'courtyard' area.

It was love at first sight! 

Once we moved in and started doing projects it didn't take long for me to remember the grand plans I had for the garage area. The first thing Dean did was to stain the fence a lovely shade of red. My next plan was to paint the garage door- the white doors were blindingly so and made it almost uncomfortable to sit next to in the daylight. I initially planned on painting them black but after doing a cut-and-paste rendering, I decided against it:

A bit too dark, even with my budget rendering skills...

Last night Dean and I went to Lowe's and found a lovely shade of tan that struck the perfect balance. I spent 4 hours painting this morning, then ended with some finishing touches- magnetic carriage gate hardware and some planters. The end result:

Voila! Even with our cars parked in the driveway we still have a decent sized courtyard!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Project: Living Room Dress-Up

Let me start by saying there wasn't anything 'wrong' with our living room per se, it was just....meh:

Functional but very basic
I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do except that I latched on to a 'travel' theme (see the trunk, and the world map?) and that was it. After we finished out kitchen I just knew that I wanted to do more. So, here's what I came up with:

1. I ordered 2 wingback chairs from World Market and replaced the bench I had there. 
2. I went nuts with my plants. I mean, I just went to town!
3. I bought pillows from Pier 1 and Tuesday morning and struck a delicate balance between design and functionality on the couch. It definitely needed some color but I don't think the boys would enjoy having to relocate a bunch of throw pillows to be able to sit down. 
4. I got some more wall decor to spruce up the higher levels of the windows. The only piece I had on the wall in the living room was really getting dwarfed by all the unused space. 
5. This is, in my opinion, the big one- window dressing. We removed the blinds and suddenly had 21 feet of wall/window combination that really needed attention. So, I bought 6 panels of curtains from Pier 1 and a friend helped me sew 3 apiece into 2 super-long panels. 

So, the results?

Here is the window wall by day...
And here is how it looks at night. 

Overall, I'm thrilled to bits by how it all came out! 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Project: Kitchen Do-Over

So, it all started with the Corian....and before you say it, I am aware that there are some gorgeous Corian designs out there- we just didn't happen to have one. From afar our countertops looked like a dirty white and up close they were speckled to look like a doctor's office reception area. Now, if you asked Dean, he would tell you that the electric stove was his breaking point. As the main chef in our home he was really missing cooking with gas, especially as we already had the hookup under our kitchen island. 
Regardless of what got the project started, we finally talked ourselves into renovating our kitchen for the new year. Here's what we started with:

Spacious but plain
You can't see the dreaded Corian pattern in these pics's there!

Our breakfast nook
The first time I saw our kitchen I was blown away by the size!

We had already done a kitchen renovation project at our last house and the biggest lesson I learned was to keep it light and bright. We went with Ubatooba black granite, and brick backsplash and the finished kitchen was beautiful but very dark and moody:

We had to add under cabinet lighting because it was so dark!

The first thing we decided on was the granite counters. We chose the Cotton Linen white:

But when we went to the granite yard in Dallas we were disappointed to find that the large slabs were covered with huge brown splotches that we really didn't like. Instead we found the Exodus white slabs that were much cleaner looking and had bits of sparkly silver that we loved:

Hard to see in the sunlight but it was gorgeous and sparkly

Our next item to agree on was the backsplash. I fell in love with the arabesque dove gray tile from Home Depot and decided that it worked well with the granite we had selected:

It took Dean a moment to love the backsplash as much as I first he thought it looked very busy. Then (I think) he thought it looked too feminine. But after taking a sample home and looking at it in our kitchen it started to grow on him. 

The next big decision was what to do with our cabinets. At first we were going to just leave them the same, but with all the work we were doing it felt like a waste. So, Dean decided to go with a gray stain. And unfortunately, the stain did not give us our desired all:

Just a hint of gray after about 3 coats!
We decided painting would be the best and Dean went to the Sherwin Williams store and mixed a dreamy shade of gray that coordinated with everything. And then he got to work painting. And he painted. And for 40 doors and 26 drawers and all the cabinet fronts, that man painted:

 And once it was all said and done....the final outcome has been gorgeous:

We picked out a nice gas stovetop and now Dean is a happy camper!

Undermount sink in cashmere color. Always go with zero-reveal for the mount me!

I got the valances on Amazon, RLF Home Royal Damask M Shaped Valance

Brought our dining room table into the breakfast nook. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Project: Stair Baluster Replacement

One of the smaller projects Dean has talked about doing since we moved in was to replace the balusters with something fancier. We are very fortunate to have a lovely layout but not a million balusters to replace- 50 to be exact:

There were a few unexpected hiccups during this project:

1. The hole left by the old balusters was larger than the new shoes. Dean had to drill the holes, then sand and paint the entire base to make it look right. These extra steps took a while longer but the finished product looks great.
2. The top part showed some of the lighter wood when the old baluster was removed. Dean painted the areas so that there is no flash of wood showing.
3. Cutting the new balusters stinks. Literally. Even though he did it in the garage, the burning smell was acrid.

The end result looks stunning- at first I worried that the new balusters were too thin, but now that they're in the size seems appropriate. It took several hours to get them all done- probably best for a long, dedicated weekend. I recommend you take the first piece apart so that you can see the scope of your project.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Project Completed: Backyard Oasis

Remember last February when I shared all about our new backyard? At the time I was predicting that we'd have the cover on our patio section by June...the reality ended up being slightly different! The good news is that we have the cover and, come summer, we will be enjoying the space:

The not-so-great part was that it took literally until the middle of October for this to get installed. We ordered it in February, they came out and measured then told us they would ship from Japan once they had enough orders to fill the container. Apparently, with the record snow we had in March, their ordering slowed down so that by May they had delayed our anticipated install date to early July. Well, that date came and went and at the time I was disappointed not to have it in by my birthday party which was the last weekend of July- the earliest they could manage was the Monday after. 

Come that Monday we had a very unpleasant surprise- once they opened the box they realized that the wrong parts had been received- we needed to have another order shipped from Japan and installation was now anticipated for the end of September. I could have cried! In fairness to the company that installed it, I have to say they promptly offered us a $500 discount if we could wait it out. With the total project now dropped to under $3000, we figured we would wait it out. 

After some other rain-related delays, they finally installed it in October and I could not be happier with the finished product and how it makes my 'lanai' complete:


The poly material is sort of transparent so that it really allows a lot of light through it but it blocks the sun:

It also allows us to sit out in a gentle rain (hard rain makes the gutters splash so it does get a bit wet). I am so glad we didn't go with a wood cover- it would definitely change the lighting inside the house.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Our Next Project

We are excitedly planning our next project and have agreed on this color palette! Any guesses on what's coming up next??

Holiday PSA

This holiday we put our tree up on November 8th...this is my story:

I woke up this morning with a vague sense of uneasiness that only got worse when I walked into the living room. Standing before me was the source of my discomfort- my Christmas tree was making me ill. I had come down with a bad case of Christmas fatigue. You see, the average person can cope with a Christmas tree for about 4 weeks... 5 for the extremely hardy...but after having our tree up for 7 full weeks, I just couldn't take it anymore. Friends tried to warn us- Bunmi posted an ominous "What's today's date again?" when he saw the tree going up on November 8th. Even Christmas-loving Kris wrote "Omg! Extra early!" But we didn't take notice of these clues. We thought we were being smart.
As I spent hours this morning frantically flinging ornaments off the tree and putting away our Christmas decorations, I am forced to make a stunning admission: I kicked off Christmas way too early this year. I realize that no matter how excited I get in November, I cannot extend Christmas for 7 weeks without repercussions.
Please. Talk to your friends and family about decorating too early. Signs include references to Christmas during Halloween, a general unwillingness to acknowledge Thanksgiving as a holiday, and humming carols in late September. We went through this but no one else should have to. Ask your doctor if decorating in November is right for you. I wish I had.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2016!

Last year was filled with so much joy and happiness that I am excited to see what this year brings! Quick recap of 2015:

1. Completed our first full year in our new home (we bought it Oct 2014)
2. Bought my first (and second, lol)  Lexus!
3. Had my mum for a visit in the summer.
4. Went to Boston between Christmas and New Years for a pop-up visit with my aunts and cousin.
5. Completed my first full year at my wonderful job (started June 2014).
6. Did home renovations out the Ying Yang (replastered pool, grew garden, change stair ballusters)
7. Threw an amazing birthday party
8. Got the art of throwing parties down to a science after having several during the year!
9. Became friends with most of my amazing neighbors (joined Bunco group!)
10. Started a bit of a fitness regimen walking twice a week with some of my friends.

For 2016 we plan to:

1. Renovate kitchen (paint cabinets, have granite counter tops, new backsplash)
2. Trip to Prague (hopefully my bff can join us there)
3. Have family game night once a week.
4. Have more fitness and health!

Bring on 2016!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

My New (New) Car (Lexus GX 460)

So, remember in April when I got my Lexus NX 200? Well, after 5 months I could no longer ignore the irritations that were slowly driving me crazy:

1. Size- it was too cramped for me inside
2. Nav screen- instead of a touchscreen it had a weird touchpad that made using the screen a royal pain.
3. No digital clock- small, but still annoying
4. Lack of space for odds and ends (phone, etc).

While I realize that some of these were small, when your monthly payments are what they are, you need to be skipping all the way to the bank. And I just wasn't. So last week I went back the dealership and got my dream car (see item #10 on the old list- see, I already was dissatisfied!). It's Silver Lining exterior, with Ecru interior. The nav screen is touchscreen, and the overall size is nice and big so I have excellent viewing angles while driving.

There's no changing my mind now- especially after the depreciation penalty I had to pay! But no worries- I LOVE my GX!!