15 Feb / 2014
4 slices bacon
2 large ham hocks, meaty
2 lbs split peas (dry) rinsed and drained
2 medium yellow onions, minced
6 bulbs garlic, minced
4 stalks celery w/leaves, chopped into ½” cubes.
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped into ½” cubes
1 large box chicken broth [or more]
Water as needed
½ tsp thyme (French)
2 bay leaves
¼ cup parsley, chopped fine and added with peas
Sea salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
3 cups leeks chopped (1/3 white, 1/3 lt. green 1/3 green) substitute for yellow onions
½ cup Swiss chard stems, chopped and added in lieu of onions
1-2 cups leafy greens [Swiss chard, collards, kale, arugula, parsley, celery leaves, etc.] stems removed chopped fine and added with peas
½ tsp rosemary or oregano added with peas
Cut up bacon into ½” squares. Sauté bacon in a large stock pot over medium heat until crisp and brown. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. When cool, crumble and set aside. Do not discard fat.
Add onions, garlic, celery, carrots (and/or options) to bacon fat. Sauté until vegetables begins to soften-about 6-12 minutes.
Add chicken broth, split peas, ham hock, thyme, bay leaves, and options (if desired) and enough water to cover all ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until peas start to break down- between 45 and 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. More water may need to be added.
Remove lid and simmer for approximately 20-30 minutes, uncovered, until desired consistency is reached. Remove ham hock and bay leaves, chop-up ham and return to soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour soup into individual bowls. Garnish with with toppings of your choice: crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, green onions, croutons, etc.
01 Feb / 2014
The idea that we should do our best to preserve our limited natural resources has really take hold in the U.S. Homeowners are now motivated to achieve a sustainable lifestyle. Still they are often unaware of several of the approaches they can take. For example, consider one of the areas where the typical American family generates the most trash: the kitchen.
On a regular basis, after you are finished cooking, you may be faced with numerous empty metal cans, glass jars, cardboard boxes, styrofoam containers, and plastic bottles. You may also have a mound of left over fruit and vegetable trimmings, egg shells and coffee grounds. Perhaps you have been wondering what is the most convenient and responsible way to dispose of all these items.
15 Jan / 2014
The Pantone Color Institute, a global color authority, announced that Radiant Orchid, a captivating, magical, enigmatic purple, as the Color of the Year for 2014. “While the 2013 color of the year, Emerald, served as a symbol of growth, renewal and prosperity, Radiant Orchid reaches across the color wheel to intrigue the eye and spark the imagination,” said Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute®.
Since 2000, the Pantone Color Institute has been designating a Color of the Year to express in color what is taking place in the global zeitgeist. A color that will resonate around the world, the Color of the Year is a reflection of what people are looking for and what they feel they need that color can help to answer.
The New Hue on the Block
California Home & Design (CAHD) a favorite for design trends, inspiration, house tours, and product finds, cleverly introduced the new color: “Meet Radiant Orchid, the new hue on the block.” According to CAHD, you’ll start seeing the energizing, romantic color everywhere – in fashion, beauty, and interiors. “Infused with edgy undertones of majestic purples and sassy pinks, this shade is putting us all under its spell.” Their recommendation is to pair Radiant Orchid with Neutrals, Greens and even Reds. Eiseman suggested using Radiant Orchid to complement olive and deep hunter-greens. “It’s gorgeous when paired with turquoise and teal.”
The Color Marketing Group forecasts what colors will be “in” so manufacturers of everything from fabrics to futons, carpet to cars, and dresses to dishes, can gear up. Mark Woodman, its President advises “Pair it with care.” This year’s violet can change completely, depending on the combination. “With gray, it would be regal”, with an acid green or yellow, it would be completely energized. With an earthy brown and deeper green, it would feel organic”.
Woodman’s advice is to mix it in – “you don’t need too much. The slightest touch of a top-trend color can quickly update a room. This year’s purple is a phenomenal accent color”. Take a tired piece of furniture and add the trend color with a throw blanket, pillows, candle or even flowers.
If you need a little help getting started on how to integrate Radiant Orchid into your home, see the resources section at in the left hand column.
01 Jan / 2014
Style for today’s residential interiors is all about contrasts and mixing it up, instead of matching everything perfectly. Old is mixed with new, modern with primitive, industrial with rustic, rough with smooth, round with square, soft with hard, blocky with leggy. The old adage about “opposites attract” is more obvious than ever.
As a helpful guideline when you remodel, first review the following basic style categories. Choose your favorite style as a backdrop for the spaces in your home, and then spice things up with some contrasts that express your own personal style. Pay careful attention to detail, giving consideration to how the colors, shapes, and patterns interplay with one another.
Traditional is refined and elegant, associated primarily with furniture from the 17th-18th centuries in England, and often referred to as “classical.” It usually incorporates both curved and straight lines, intricate details, inlays, and decorative trim in symmetrical and balanced proportions. Dark stained cherry wood is often used for Traditional kitchen cabinetry, but the cabinets may also be painted.
Contemporary has its roots in 20th Century Europe and the Modern architectural movement.
This movement sought to meld form and function, utilizing straight lines and simplified shapes. Evolving from the Modern style, Contemporary includes curved edges and spherical forms. A blend of natural materials, including soft leather and sleek metal, glass and stone, lends the Contemporary style a subtle elegance.
Transitional is a seamless blend of Traditional and Contemporary styles, combining straight lines along with gentle curves.
It takes a fresh approach, mixing furniture pieces, finishes, materials and fabrics from both styles. A soothing, neutral color palette and soft shapes helps create a comfortable balance. Adding gold, silver and mirror finishes brings elegance to the room.
Shaker originated with a religious sect known as the “Shakers” that arrived in America from England in the 18th century. Their unadorned, spare furniture designs reflected their beliefs in efficiency, usefulness, and honesty. Cabinet doors were either stile-and-rail recessed panels with a plain inset, or flat panel. Shakers primarily used maple and cherry, with items either painted, waxed or oiled.
Arts and Crafts was a movement in late 19th Century Victorian England that reacted against the mass-production of home furnishings. The style emphasized the beauty of natural materials and featured artisan-made accessories of ceramics, textiles, metal and glass. In America, Gustav Stickley designed oak furniture that was often called craftsman or mission style. His furniture was solid and rectilinear, with minimal decoration and flat panels.
Cottage is a sub-category of Country style. Typically it carries a timeless old barn or farmhouse vibe, with exposed wood beams and wood floors. Distressed wood and heavy copper or iron are frequently used. Worn country antiques may be used as décor, along with natural materials from the outside that add texture. The color palette is warm and soft, with light-colored cabinetry. The look is lived-in and cozy.
15 Dec / 2013
Whether you have a traditional home yearning for classic impressionism, a contemporary home with a large wall needing a dramatic focal point, or a minimalist home seeking “the one perfect piece,” art can be the finishing touch that transforms your home into a reflection of your personal style.
While some may consider selecting art an exciting adventure, for others it is confusing and overwhelming. Adding art can be easy and manageable and it will add interest and warmth to a room. Here are a few suggestions that will get you started in the right direction.
- Explore your tastes by checking out museums, local galleries, and art in the public spaces such as banks, restaurants, and libraries.
- Select art by size to fit a particular space. Measure the area and make sure to leave enough “white space” so that the art will not feel crowded. Conversely, art that is too small will be lost and look like it’s floating.
- Select by color, choosing one or two of the boldest colors in your room and look for art that incorporates those colors. You’re not looking for an exact match – picking up one or two of the same colors will send a message that the painting belongs in the space.
- Consider a gallery wall or cluster of wall decor taking up a large space. A gallery wall can be so many things, genuinely representing your lifestyle, travels, pursuits, passion, nostalgia – you get the picture.
Give the Gift of Art
This time of year, finding a unique and personal gift can be a challenge. We came across Greenbox Art, a company that helps make the process of finding art for others as gifts or for your own home, less stressful and loads of fun.
Here is the process they suggest:
- Make a list. Describe the recipient in a few words. Funny? Serious? Stylish? Traditional? When you look at a piece of art, determine whether this same list can be used to describe the piece of art. If so, you’re on the right track.
- Visualize. What does this person’s home look like? Lots of reds, or tons of antiques, or Danish modern furniture? How would a particular piece of art fit into that decor?
- Size it up. There are many options for canvas size. At Greenbox Art, pieces are available in a variety of sizes and shapes that will make it easy to customer the art to your recipient’s space.
- Search the website starting with color, subject matter, or price range. Or, find an artist whose work reminds you of the recipient and discover the variety of pieces he or she has created.
01 Dec / 2013
Your bathroom is a wet environment, where moisture is constantly pumped into the air. This is made evident by the condensation covering mirrors and windows after someone takes a shower. Less obvious is the additional moisture infused every time a toilet is flushed or a faucet is turned on. If this moisture is not completely removed from the air, it can result in mold and mildew growth on bathroom walls and ceiling. Your bathroom may have an unpleasant, musty smell, even though you use air fresheners. This can be a signal that your bathroom is not properly ventilated.
One of the best ways to ventilate your bathroom is to install a high quality fan. The Home Ventilation Institute (HVI) provides helpful suggestions for choosing the right fan for your particular bathroom. HVI guidelines take into account 1) the square footage of your bathroom, 2) the number of moisture-producing fixtures in the room, and 3) the cubic foot per minute (cfm) airflow rating of the fan. A large bathroom may require more than one fan-perhaps one next to the shower and one in the toilet area. You could also consider a fan system that utilizes a remote-mount motor that connects to multiple ceiling grills installed throughout your bathroom.
If you hesitate to install a noisy fan, then pay attention to the fan’s sone rating. This is the measurement of the way the human ear senses the loudness of the fan. An inexpensive fan may have a sone rating of 4, which is similar to human speech. A high-quality fan with a sone rating of 1.0 or less is barely audible. Of course, the sound of a remote-mount motor will be muffled by the distance.
To ensure that excess moisture is removed from your bathroom, let the fan run at least 20 minutes after you finish using the room. If you are concerned that you will forget to turn the fan off, one easy solution is to install a timer. Another option is to purchase a humidity-sensing fan that switches on whenever it detects an increase in humidity, and then turns off again automatically. There are also multi-speed models that operate continuously at lower cfm levels to provide whole-house ventilation, but when a motion detector senses someone entering the room, the fan switches to higher cfm levels. The benefit of a whole-house ventilation system is that it works constantly to remove contaminants-such as dust, pet dander and various chemicals-that may be lodged inside your home.
You can select from a wide variety of fan styles to fit your taste and bathroom décor. Some fans have heating features, while others include supplemental lighting. There are fan/lights that also function as decorative light fixtures, featuring glass globes and a variety of finishes. Other fan/lights look just like standard recessed light fixtures. When choosing your fan, look for a model that is Energy Star qualified, which means it excels at energy savings, quiet operation and level of performance.
15 Nov / 2013
Universal Design (UD) is an architectural movement that seeks to create living environments that function well for everyone, regardless of age or ability. In Europe it is called “Design for All”. A growing trend in this country is to use the term “Better Living Design” so people do not confuse UD with accessible design.
UD accommodates a broader spectrum of people than accessible design, which follows guidelines set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and is specifically for those who are aging or those with a physical disability. The purpose of UD is to benefit a wide population that may include the elderly along with small children, pregnant women, parents with baby strollers, and homeowners carrying shopping bags into their homes. UD is particularly on target to meet the needs of the rising number of multi-generational households in the United States.
The wonderful appeal of UD includes the fact that it is transparent: accommodations are felt rather than seen. Homes designed according to UD principles feel pleasant and inviting, rather than cold and institutional.
When your home is designed using UD principles it provides a beautiful, safe, convenient, and easy-to-use environment for you and your family, as well as for anyone else who comes to visit.
Here are twenty examples of Universal Design principles that you can utilize in your next kitchen remodeling project. Most people will not realize anything is different from the norm; nevertheless, your kitchen will be comfortable for a more diverse range of people.
- Materials that are non-allergenic and free of VOCs
- 5′ diameter open space for maneuverability
- Non-slip flooring that is water resistant and easy to maintain
- No throw rugs or mats, unless recessed into the floor
- Rocker-style light switches and lever-style door handles
- Three layers of light: task, ambient and accent; light for way-finding
- Natural light from windows, skylights or solar tubes
- Medium to light colored, non-glare surfaces
- Full extension pull-out drawers in base cabinets, rather than shelves
- Higher toe-kick on base cabinets
- Upper cabinets installed 15″ above the countertop, instead of the standard 18″
- Glass doors in wall cabinets for good visibility of the contents
- Easy-to-grasp cabinet door handles
- Raised dishwasher with adjacent landing space
- Knee space under the cook-top and sink
- Multiple-height countertops
- Single lever, high arc faucets with pull-out or pull-down sprays; hands-free technology
- Whole-house anti-scald valve set at 120 degrees
- Induction cook-top for safety and energy savings
- Interior cabinet lighting should be a cool temperature (LED) to protect contents
01 Nov / 2013
In anticipation of holiday visitors and guests, have fun sprucing up your home to make their visit more enjoyable with things that you’ll enjoy throughout the year. Whether you have a dedicated guest room or need to convert an office into a bedroom for holiday guests, here are a few ideas to get you started.
Begin with your home’s exterior
Refresh Your Entry
Your home’s entrance makes an important first impression. Refresh your entry with a new coat of paint on the front door. And if the trim is starting to look weathered, scrape and repaint those areas as well.
Deck Out Your Planters
While you have the paint can open, paint planters and window boxes in the same color as your trim or door. Then, add some seasonal color by filling the window boxes with annuals such as Cyclamen, primroses, stock and decorative kale.
Another idea is to use real or artificial holly, pomegranates, birch sticks and greenery to create a holiday planters. Top them off with a string of tiny white lights to brighten the front entrance.
Clear the Clutter and Light the Way
Remove any clutter from your front entrance and pick-up leaves and other debris by the front door. Test bulbs in your exterior light fixtures to ensure they safely illuminate pathways and steps. Add a new doormat that extends a warm welcome to your visitors.
Then move into the interior
Wondering how you are going to turn your home office into a B&B for your house guests? Consider a versatile Wall Bed/Murphy Bed. Wall beds open to a normal resting height and accommodate any standard mattress. They are space savers, safe and easy opening and no comfort is lost ! For more ideas and wall bed options, check out our trusted friends at Valet Custom Cabinets and Closets.
An easy example she gives is to keep sets of guest towels together, bound with twill tape or ribbon. When visitors arrive, just transfer a stack from linen closet to guest bedroom.
Click here for a checklist that will help you impress your guest.
15 Oct / 2013
You may need a home office for keeping up with family finances, or for telecommuting, or for a small business with regular clients. Whichever it may be, we recommend these three essentials for creating a perfect home office.
1. Allow for Privacy
In years past, a home office often consisted of a desk tucked into a corner of the kitchen. The intention was to help a busy homeowner multi-task: prepare meals, watch kids, and pay bills all at the same time. This concept is no longer so popular, since the kitchen has increasingly become the place in the home where everyone congregates. Homeowners need a quieter location to concentrate on family business without constant interruptions and distractions. Today the home office is usually located in a separate room adjacent to the kitchen. Keeping the office door open provides a sight-line to the kids, but closing the door allows privacy when necessary. If this arrangement is not feasible in your home, another option is to install tall bookcases in the kitchen (or family room) to divide the office area from the rest of room.
2. Include Daylighting
Home offices are sometimes set up quickly with little forethought. They are squeezed into whatever space is easily available, such as a large hall closet or under a staircase. If ample lighting is not provided, these spaces can be disappointingly dark and gloomy. Ideally, a home office should have windows or skylights that allow natural daylight into the area. Some of the benefits of natural daylight include helping energize your body and uplift your mood by increasing serotonin levels. It can also help your immune system by boosting the body’s production of Vitamin D. Plentiful general and task lighting should be installed in addition, utilizing daylight-replicating light sources. It is important, however, to avoid creating a glare on your computer screen from the overhead lights.
3. Select the Right Furnishings & Equipment
Homeowners will often purchase a standard office desk, filing cabinet and bookcase when they outfit a home office. As time goes by, they may discover that this arrangement does not function well for their particular business needs. It is best to plan ahead: make a list of all your various business activities, and start thinking outside the box. Do you need a large, flat surface on which to work? Perhaps a table would suit your needs better than a desk. Would a number of small cubbies serve your purposes better than open bookshelves? Consider ergonomics as you are selecting your office furnishings and deciding where to store equipment and supplies. Heavier items that you may need to lift should be located at waist height to avoid back strain. Invest in the fastest, most reliable office equipment you can afford, from your cell phone to your printer. This will pay you back with time dividends in the final analysis.
01 Oct / 2013
By Shane Hammond
CEO, Ideal Sound
Wireless communication is the transfer of information between two or more points that are not connected by an electrical conductor. With most technologies going the wireless route, people sometimes forget that wiring makes a wireless system possible. Here are a few tips on how to plan for a solid and complete wired and wireless system for your home.
Pre-wiring is the installation of “structured wiring” inside your home’s walls and floors that passes low-voltage electronic signals to devices such as TVs, audio systems, and security/home monitoring systems. Until recently, each of these device types required their own specific kinds of wire, like coaxial cables, HDMI cables, and twisted pair copper for telephones. While some applications still do require specific wiring, the latest structured wiring solutions are capable of running many of these signal types over Ethernet – a digital cable technology that’s fast, easy, and economical to install – especially if you are building a new home or remodeling.
It makes the most financial and technical sense to pre-wire your home when the walls are open. The specific types of cable to use will depend on the home systems you want to include and their locations. As a general rule, plan for more than you think you’ll need. The best pre-wiring plans will leave plenty of flexibility to make changes or additions in the future.
Why Not Use Only Wireless Technology?
At the present time, wireless signal transmission is not as robust or reliable as hard-wired connections. In the case of data-intensive signals like HDTV, most wireless systems are barely up to the task, even in a small space. In larger homes, they will disappoint – especially if your home has plaster walls, stone interior facades, or other common residential obstructions. If you are committed to whole-house technology, it makes sense to install the structured wiring to assure the best results.
Performance Issues People often wonder why they don’t get the internet speeds they were promised by the provider, why their TV cuts in and out, or why their modem needs to be reset so often. What they may not realize is that their system relies on multiple parts all working together to deliver the signals. The system will only be as strong as that weakest link. If one part of the system isn’t working correctly; it can impact the performance of the whole system.
Having a wiring system that has been installed and tested from the point service is key; one mis-wire can affect the performance of all components. Additionally, a good firewall, installed as a separate unit, will be the commander and chief of your network. And, make sure that you install surge protectors that recognize when your modem needs to be reset that turn the modem off… and then on again.
If you need help in designing a system for your home, it’s wise to use the services of an A/V integrator that specializes in residential technology. Ideal Sound specializes in the design, layout, and installation of home technology systems including lifestyle home theater, home automation, structured and network wiring, and hearing-impaired assistance technology. Professional and experienced, the Ideal Sound staff focuses on meeting the needs of each individual customer. Contact Ideal Sound via email, website, or the phone number below: