I LOVE St. George

My cousin was recently married in the St. George so me, Jeff and the family went up to St. George for a weekend getaway. It was such a lovely break and so awesome to spend time with the family.
The sealing was so beautifully done and the happy couple couldn't keep their ear to ear grins from off their face. I was struck by how young and Innocent they seemed, even though they are both definitely of age to be married. I can't believe I was ever this young, so incredibly in love, and so pure. It was so obvious with them, which made it even the more beautiful.

The next morning we woke up early and prepared a little brunch for my aunt/old roomie. We were meeting up with her at a Spa in St. George where we were all getting some kind of treatment as a belated bridal shower party. In order to make the day a little more special my sisters and I decided to prepare a little surprise brunch for after the spa.

We were staying at my Uncle and Aunts second home in St. George which made for a beautiful little backdrop. The post-bride has always been a big fan of rainbows- in love with them ever since I can remember- so I thought it would be fun to have everything in a rainbow theme.

This picture below didn't turn out too well, but my favorite was the fruit rainbow. (I was trying to hurry and take a few pictures after setting it all up before the whole crowd arrived just a few minutes after me from the spa). The "table cloth" was just crepe paper streamers that I laid across the table in rainbow order. I even had a bucket of chocolate gold pieces near one of the table legs. All the decorations were from the dollar store and came in under $20. Perfect for a little last minute celebration!

Everyone ate (chicken salad, rolls, fruit, chips, pickles, olives, cupcakes, and lemonade/sprite mix), and stayed and talked for a couple of hours. It was such a nice visit and everyone was so relaxed from the spa.
Us sisters spent the rest of the day shopping after everyone else went home. Seriously! I told you this was a wonderful weekend. Weddings, spas, shopping, eating yummy food. Honestly, I needed this so much.

The next day us sisters got up late, watched old AMC movies, ate a big breakfast, then went out that afternoon for a hike. We went to Red Cliffs and we luckily hit it just right. There was plenty of water, which made the hike all the more fun on a hot-ish spring day. The hike was just as much fun as I remembered it being from the good ol' college days. This time though I had my nice camera that I was terrified of getting wet, so we had to do some hiking around and shifting to keep it nice and safe.

Some of the parts were a little more challenging then I remember too. Luckily thier were some nice men who didn't mind giving us girls a hand. So shameful to have to ask for help, but everyone in Utah is just so nice. (At least they were on this hike, that day.)

Not only was it just a fun relaxing weekend in St. George, but I also noticed that everyone really did seem to be so nice. There were also so many people out walking, running and playing around town all the time. It really does seem like such a nice little town and I am so glad I get to go up and visit family as often as I do. It almost makes me forget my trepidation about living in Utah, I think maybe I could handle it, but I'm sure if I lived there it would be a different story.

For now I'll take my weekends going to the temple, visiting with friends and family, shopping, and hiking. Lovely, lovely weekend!!


The Cement Is Getting To Me

As I mentioned before, our first floor recently flooded from a broken water heater. We came home one night to find a squishy floor with water seeping out wherever we stepped. It was not fun. It turned this floor . . .

into this ...

Luckily our insurance will cover the damage. The hardest part is living in the mess until we get around to laying new floors and figuring our what to install for the future. Unfortunately, it feels like our insurance company is giving us peanuts for the floor replacement, about 60% of what it originally costs us. However, the lower price does definitely limit our possibilities when shopping, so at least our selection pool is smaller. I am choosing to look at this as a good thing, otherwise all the choices may overwhelm me.

Our first shopping experience left us pining for a bamboo floor. Particularly one we found at Costco. So of course I went off to research bamboo floors. Here are the basics of what I found. Bamboo definitely runs the gamut of low and high quality. Peoples reviews were everything from 'it didn't even last a year before it needed replacement' to 'strongest and best floor I've ever had.'

(Picture found here.)

Bamboo's durability, just like any other floor, depends on it's construction. The basics: Naturally colored bamboo floors are the strongest. Once a manufacture starts to stain or carbonize bamboo to change the color, bamboo starts to get weaker. Another big factor in bamboo floors is the grain. Is the plank laid horizontally, vertically, or is it strand woven? Strand woven is typically the strongest and horizontal the least. I am not an expert, but this is what most people came to a consensus on with a basic search.

Lastly, and probably the biggest factor in bamboo's durability, is how old the bamboo is. The longer the bamboo had time to grow and harden, the stronger it will be. I never found one certain way to figure out how old the bamboo was, some people said to try and scratch and dent it with a coin, while others said you can only be sure how old it is if the manufacture tells you.

Our bamboo, the only floating version we could find in our price range, was carbonized and laid horizontally. Although I knew we would have to get carbonized or stained bamboo, because I do not like the natural color of bamboo, I was not willing to negotiate on the bamboo's grain. Red flags were waived and I started to ponder other options. I'd love a bamboo floor, but I think we would need a bigger budget to get the quality we want/need. We would also need a bigger budget to get my dream floors.

(Pic Found here.)

Seriously! How gorgeous is that floor? It makes me drool. Even a plain Jane wood floor in general is far above our reach. We come against the same issue we had with bamboo, although we could afford the cheapest hard wood floor in the shop, it would not be of the greatest quality and may need to be replaced sooner that we'd like.

Tile and Ceramic floors are another option popular in the desert, but we already have a tiled kitchen. #1) I'm not crazy about the color. They were chosen by price (we got a steal on craigslist), not by aesthetics. #2) I have to clean them EVERYDAY. It drives me nuts. I will save installing tile for my kitchens and bathrooms but I don't think I'll ever have them in my living area.

This leaves us with the ever growing popular choice of Laminate. I loved our old laminate floors before a deep soak in water had it's way with them. I was never crazy about the color (this time they'll be less red/orange), but they were easy to maintain and let me fool myself every once in a while into thinking I had real wood floors.

Last time we laid down our flooring, when we first moved in, we picked this floor because our brother-in-law had a bunch left over from a previous house. He had enough to cover about 1/3 of our space, which saved us a bunch of $$. This time around we are starting from scratch, and yes it is still a little overwhelming, even with a smaller selection pool.

Here are the basics of what to know when picking a laminate floor:

The texture, or top layer of the laminate, can differ. Embossed is generally stronger and cleaner than a gloss finish. A gloss finish will also show more smudge marks and scratches. An engraved top layer is ridged, or wavy. Some say this makes it look more like real wood, but I am not ascetically a fan of engraved laminate, no matter how strong it is (the strongest type of texture), so I keep my distance. When shopping you can usually tell the finish by just looking at the laminates finish.

You also want to check the box for more information. The AC rating (Abrasion Class rating) is another big factor in laminates durability. AC1 is the weakest and AC5 is the strongest. Manufactures suggest using the lower AC ratings in low traffic areas, like a bedroom, but I decided I didn't want to go under anything less than an AC3 rating. AC3's can be used in high traffic rooms or even for commercial use (although most commercial use is a AC4 or better).

Other factors to consider are if it was made under high pressure or direct pressure, high pressure being more durable. Also was a water resistant coating used to protect the cores durability? Does it have a NALFA cert seal showing it has passed the standard durability testing? Was high VOC or hazards glues used to bind the layers?

(Pic found here.)

There was much more to consider than I thought there would be. My biggest concerns were initially about how it looked, but the more I started to research the more concerned I grew to find a durable floor. As are most homes in Las Vegas, our house is under water, (no not literally under water, we do not live near the Mississippi River) but we owe more than our house is worth. We even bought our foreclosed on home in December 2008, when the market really crashed, but Las Vegas is defying all odds and the value of our home is still ever decreasing.

Since we still have an insanely low mortgage though, we have no immediate plans to try and sell and will most likely be the home with little kids and maybe (if Jeff lets me) a puppy. In the future however, we may need to use the house as a rental and I want the floors to be able to hold up to whatever the homes future may entail.

At first I was so naive in thinking we would have a new floor within a week or two, but by now I really should know myself and realize I am going to take my time and figure out what is best for us and best for the house. Hopefully we can get it all figures out this summer!