After buying our receiver and speakers, it was time to install the Canton speakers and set up our home theater for the full surround sound experience. We decided to go the DIY route for setup rather than purchase from a home theater store and have them set it up for us.
Mounting and wiring the speakers turned out to be a little more difficult than I expected. We took off the face plates to expose the ends of the surround sound wires that had been pre-wired. Under the plates, we discovered that the wires were held up to the stud of the wall with staples. Normally this would not have been a problem, but some of the staples went through the wire insulation, damaging the wire. This meant pulling out enough wire to get past the damaged part before I could strip off the end of the wire. One of the speaker wires was damaged far enough down that I was worried about not having enough slack, but thankfully I did. After I used a wire stripper to prep the wires, it was time to mount the speaker brackets into the walls. I secured the wires into each speaker and fixed them to the bracket.
Next, I had to wire up the receiver to the surround sound hookups. We had purchased a nice spool of Monster speaker cables for the task. I could have purchased some RCA connectors that may have made the job a little easier, but at the time I decided against it. I cut the cable with enough extra length so that I could place the receiver just outside of the cabinet to hook up the cables.
Then it was time for the automated calibration of the receiver and speakers. The Denon receiver walked me through step by step from selecting the speaker arrangement and the number of sample points to use during calibration to moving the microphone around the room through each point. Once I had hooked up the microphone and selected the speaker configuration and number of sample points, I was instructed to set the microphone up at the main listening location in the room. When the calibration started, tones played from each speaker. Apparently this was not very amusing to the dogs, because they started barking loudly. It wasn’t too long before the Denon receiver decided that there was too much background noise to continue. At this point, I had to call Meredith at work and drop off the dogs with her so I could continue.
After I made my first loop, I ended up getting a somewhat cryptic error. The receiver simply said that one of my channels had the wrong polarity. After a little bit of research online, I discovered that I needed to switch my wires to the speaker that it was complaining about. Once I fixed this problem and ran the calibration process again, everything ran smoothly.
Here’s one of the rear speakers mounted above an entertainment cabinet:
And here is the center channel, which we mounted between the fireplace mantle and the TV:
We’re very happy with our home theater setup. This is the first time we’ve ever had surround sound, and we have to admit it’s pretty awesome. We’re still surprised sometimes when we hear sounds behind us, which we can hear even with some TV shows. And it’s neat to be able to play music such as NIN’s Downward Spiral in surround sound. And rewatch our concert films.
As a bonus, our Denon receiver supports Apple Airplay, allowing us to listen to iTunes music, Spotify, and podcasts with a couple of clicks.
Do you have a home theater? Or do you hook up your phone to a small speaker, as we do in every other room in the house? Or do you have some other nifty setup? Let us know in the comments.
An audio/video receiver is a key component in any home theater setup. It is also a major investment that will last for many years, so it is important to take some time and research what you want. It is the centerpiece that routes the audio and video from your DVD player, game console, and any other components you may have to your speakers and TV.
So our first step was to look at a few retailers, from big box stores like Best Buy to more specialized home theater shops. This was to give us an idea of what options were out there. We started looking a long time ago when we were still in North Carolina but just could not justify the large expense at the time; however, this time did help us narrow down on brands we liked.
My parents and my brother like the Onkyo brand, and my favorite among the brands I tested at the home theater stores was Denon. Both brands were pretty comparable, and which one you go with really depends on your preference and where you put your emphasis on features.
It was important for us to get a receiver that would support some of our “legacy” type devices; however we wanted to have room to continue expanding our technology. Because we were going to be using whatever receiver we purchased for some time, we wanted to get support for as much as we possibly could.
We were looking at the Onkyo TX-NR1009 and the Denon AVR-4810. The Denon had some nice features, like the Denon Link which would allow us to chain multiple Denon products together without using one of the universal connections. It also had more support for the legacy devices. We had decided on the Denon, but we needed to save up our money to get the one we wanted. When the time came to buy, Denon had come out with a new model, AVR-4311CI. The new model had everything we wanted from the 4810, plus support for Apple Air Play. To our surprise, it was also less expensive. We ended up purchasing the Denon AVR-4311CI.
On a side note, there is one more thing that we learned from our experience. The entertainment cabinets that we had purchased were not deep enough or wide enough to hold the receiver. I was surprised to find that the vast majority of enclosed cabinets made for entertainment electronics did not have enough room to hold it. It’s not as much of a problem if you don’t want to have doors on the front of your cabinets. We wanted doors to protect the equipment from pet hair and prevent our cats from lying on top of the receiver. Even more expensive cabinets that we found did not have enough depth to them and we ended up having to cut a large hole in the back of a cabinet in order to make room for the cables. So for anyone out there who is looking for a receiver this may be something that you should also be considering.
Do you have any audio/video equipment that you love? Feel free to share your favorites in the comments.
Meredith and I love to play in the kitchen. Cooking is a hobby of ours, and we are fans of Asian food. This type of cooking requires a lot of chopping and prep time, and that requires a good set of knives. This post is about me drooling over a set of knives until we finally bit the bullet and picked them up.
So first I want to give you an idea of how we got to this point and the driving force behind this purchase. Our first set of knives came from Target, which we got just after we got married. These were a nightmare to work with. Every knife in the set had a serrated edge, which made it very difficult to cut fruit and vegetables.
Our next step was a HUGE step up from that, but still had a few issues. This set was a Farberware stainless steel set that we ended up using for over 5 years. They started out nice and sharp, and at the start were a dream come true compared with what we had. Over the years the blades started to dull, and we were just not able to get them to keep a sharp edge for very long. We had to continuously sharpen them when working, which prolonged our prep time.
After we moved to Virginia, we went to the Williams-Sonoma at the mall. I love going into these stores to browse around. That’s when I first saw the Wusthof Ikon Blackwood knives in their cabinet. They had nice dark wooden handles and a walnut block. The next time I saw them, an employee at the store took a few of them out of the case for me to look and a few from some other brands. The Wusthof knives had a slightly different weight that I really liked, and I found out that the wooden handle was Blackwood, which is supposed to last for a longer period of time than other woods.
I visited these knives for the next while like a kid going to the candy store pressing their face and hands against the window to look in. I really wanted these knives to just make playing in the kitchen that much more enjoyable. I did my research and read the reviews and nearly all were wonderful. These blades were carbon steel, which I found out was a great cross between carbon knives which sharpen well but tarnish easily, and stainless steel which stay nice and shiny but have a hard time keeping a nice sharp edge. This type of blade is more expensive than the others, but is supposed to be worth the cost.
Since we brought these knives home a couple of weeks ago, I have used almost every single one. I must say they cut through everything like a hot knife through butter. I can definitely see a vast difference in the quality and the amount of time it saves me while prepping food in the kitchen. So far we have portioned beef tenderloin, dice some onions, finely chopped some fresh herbs, and sliced a fair amount of fruit and tomatoes. Everything came out looking nice and clean and we were very happy with our selection.
What is your favorite cooking essential? Let us know in the comments!
My parents have always sealed their garage floors to protect them from oil stains and other wear and tear. When we purchased our first house in Raleigh this was something that I just never did. By the time we were ready to move out of the house, there were cracks and chunks of concrete that fell out and a few stains. This is something that I never noticed on my parents’ garage floors.
When we bought our new home, we decided to put down some sealer on the garage floors to help protect them. The builder had finished off the walls of the garage which will help keep it a little more bearable for Meredith and me to work on all our little projects.
The first step was deciding on what product and color we wanted to use and purchase the supplies. My father had used Quikrete and it was easily available from Lowes, so we decided to purchase the same brand. We took home the Quikrete 2-Part Epoxy Garage Floor Coating in Tan. Meredith chose tan because she thought it would complement the driveway and vinyl siding nicely. The 2-Part epoxy is supposed to be stronger and last longer than the 1-Part.
We watched the instructional DVD to learn more about the epoxy application process and gather the supplies that we needed. This video is also available at the Quikrete website. The supplies we used were:
The next step and probably the most humbling task was to empty out the garage and sweeping the floors to get every inch prepared for the etching process. If you’re anything like me, the garage becomes a basic storage area for any of the stuff that doesn’t have a specific place after you’ve moved. We still had a couple of unpacked boxes, miscellaneous tools and tool boxes, ladders, and all kinds of other things that had to be put somewhere else.
Then I started etching, the process of applying an acid solution (the Bond-Lok from the Quikrete kit) to clean and rough up the surface of the floor, which helps the epoxy bind to the floor. The stiff broom was used to apply the solution. I knew this would take some time to do it right. It ended up taking about 3 hours to do the whole garage including suiting up with rubber gloves, rubber boots, and a face mask. Part of me thinks the rubber boots was a little extreme, but I guess it is better safe than sorry.
After etching, I had to let the garage sit at least 24 hours for the floors to dry. Of course it had to rain the next day, and the day after that. When we finally got back out there, Meredith and I swept up all the dust from the etching process and the dirt that had blown back in over the past couple of days. Then we started painting on the epoxy coating and laying down the color flecks. Meredith was in charge of color flecks to so that I could just focus on putting down the paint. She joked that she was making the garage floor into a Jackson Pollock. Not quite. We painted the floors in small sections so that the color flecks could be distributed across the floor as we painted.
Here we are halfway done:
And here’s the finished product:
The painting took close to three and a half hours to finish, but I think the end result is worth it. Afterward, we could not walk on the floors for 24 hours to allow time for drying. The instructions say to wait 72 hours before parking on coated floors, but we decided to be extra careful and wait an entire week due to the high humidity. Now we have a great space to work on some of our small outdoor DIY projects, and we can park in the garage without worrying about staining or chipping the floors.
Have you done any garage projects lately? We’d love to hear about them!
Getting ready for a move is never easy. There are always so many things to juggle—getting people together that are able to help, making sure you have all the things you need when you move in, and gathering all the supplies ready to move.
Purchasing our refrigerator from Lowe’s was less expensive than purchasing it from the developer. The downside to doing it this way was that we had to have it delivered separately. I did NOT grow up in the South, and moving in the middle of summer was going to be rough. I wanted to make sure that we had a refrigerator at the new house so no matter what I could get a cool drink at either end. This wasn’t very complicated with Meredith’s work schedule.
On the actual moving day, I had recruited my parents and brother to help. As usual for us, it was a mad rush trying to get everything in boxes in preparation. And true to form, we didn’t have quite everything boxed up.
The actual moving went pretty smoothly. After a very long day, we had almost everything moved into the new house. A few boxes from the office remained at the old house.
There were a couple of essentials that we had to buy right away. First, we needed blinds for the master bedroom. We thought about getting white or off-white faux wood blinds, but with so many moving plans to make, we did not end up ordering them in advance from a discount retailer liked we had intended. So we ended up buying our old standby off-white Levolor aluminum blinds, which have served us well in the past. We would still like to order some fancier blinds for the bedroom at some point in the future.
Also essential was a toilet paper holder for the half bathroom, since we have a pedestal sink there with no cabinet for storage. We also wanted a more elegant solution for this down the road, but this worked for the time being.
And this completes our story of the buying, building, and moving process for our dream home. At this point, we will shift the focus of our blog to how we’re making it our own—one project, purchase, and inspiration at a time.