THE MEN WHO RESTORED THE KITCHEN FLOOR OF OUR 200 YEARS OLD HOUSE

 

We are on mission of rescuing the house we’ve moved in. The kitchen is our focus.

When we first arrived Don opened the fridge to have a peek. He immediately closed the door and exclaimed: It is so filthy, we do not use this fridge for our food. I was horrified as if there was a monster inside. After months of eating outside I was sick of it. I was a very good cook so I missed home cook meals. The fridge and the range are the only appliances. I got down with my elbow grease, stripped them clean. They are not pretty but functioning. That is good for now. We had good food to eat.

To begin remodeling we needed to address the floor, it was sagging. The house is 150 years old after all. I went through a lot of magazines and learned to value the old things. We decided to refinish the floor instead of putting new one. Please meet the men who contribute to the restoration process:

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Don Joseph, aka, my husband, was on his knees for more than a week to strip off three layers of vinyl, wood sub floor and sticky papper. Over the course of those long years people had different taste on fashion. As a result the kitchen pine floor bears 3 layers of different vinyl with all the sub floor, nails and glue.

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Eric Mathews, an exceptional carpenter, got right to raise it up. He was like a soldier, carrying the task with no complaining. After he finished we loved what we saw. The floor is now a lot better. Of course it cannot be as flat as a stadium. Eric came back to raise it up the second time after a month of letting the wood get used to with its new position.

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The floor has two portions joining in the middle where the old sink room and pantry walls were that we (Don) removed to make one spacious kitchen. That was when Robert Croisser and his man Kevin came in. They cut away the rough edges and replace the piece, taken from a place where the base cabinet will cover (my idea). The board sits snugly to show their workmanship. We were happy.

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Now is the deciding part: refinishing. We got some planks up and we liked the red body of wood and decided to bring back its glory. We called some sanding guys. We talked to expensive and cheap ones. Some even refused the job and suggested new floor. Finally we went with Shaw Shipperd, his Irish hard working attitude is just fit for the job. After many days of sanding and polyurethane we were thrilled how our floor looks. We were not able to come back the kitchen after a week but it was worth it. We had a big decision to make after Shawn and his helper finished was to stain the floor or keep it original. We wanted it perfect so we thought the stain would do it. Thanks to Shawn’s experience he suggested keep it the way it is. It shows some flaws here and there but it looks gorgeous that we overlook the defects.

Don and I love the floor but what people might think. Don’s sister Joyce came by one day. She liked the floor. We feel we accomplished something. We feel we did justice for this period house one thing at a time.

We were able to move forward with building custom cabinets. The excitements are still ahead.

We strongly recommend these men for your projects.

 

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Restoring a 200 year old floor

3 layers of different vinyl

3 layers of different vinyl

Shawn-Floor man and his helper

Shawn-Floor man and his helper

1 pine plank with dirt cover

1 pine plank with dirt cover

 

the real red wood underneath the dirt surface (please do not mind the paper with burger image)

the real red wood underneath the dirt surface (please do not mind the paper with burger image)

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What do you do when you move into a more than 100 year old house after living in a new built house with all modern and new amenities? Everything is at a lower standard; that is what we feel. So we started our mission: renovating the house. Lucky, this is a phase two. We had the house fixed phase one when we bought the house. Now it is just a matter make it beautiful and functional, the way we want it.

The floor of the house is southern pine and beautiful except in the kitchen. Over the course of those long years, people had different taste on fashion. As a result, the kitchen floor bears 3 layers of different vinyl with all the sub floor, nails and glue. My husband on his hands and knees removed those five layers. Now is restoring time. We got some planks up and we liked the reddish tone of the wood and decided to bring back its glory. We called some sanding guys. We talked to expensive and cheap ones. Some even refused the job and suggested new floor. Finally we went with Shawn Shipperd; his Irish hard working attitude was just a perfect fit for the job. After many days of sanding and polyurethane we were thrilled how our floor looks. We were not able to use the kitchen for a week, but it was worth the wait. We had a big decision to make after Shawn and his helper finished was to stain the floor or keep it original. We wanted it perfect so we thought the stain would do it. Thanks to Shawn’s experience he suggested keep it the way it is. It shows some flaws here and there but it looks so gorgeous that we can easily overlook the defects.
My husband’s sister Joyce came the other day and loved the floor. We feel we did justice for this old house built in 1872.
Here is Shawn’s contact: Family flooring, 413 855 5936 for your reference.
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HOME MADE YOGURT: THE OVEN / LAM YA UA BANG LO NUONG

home made yogurt

home made yogurt

Remember I once posted a home made yogurt recipe before, using a cooler. One possible inconvenience is that you may not own a cooler. The cooler is very helpful in many ways, but please don’t rush out to buy one just for making. I have a solution for you: use the oven that is in almost every house in America.
My oven is an old gas model and has a pilot light on all the time. So I just put my yogurt mix in there for a night. The oven temperature is warm without turning it on. You feel it warm when you open it. If you have a newer model oven, turn on the light, close the oven, then it will be at your service.
In this recipe I use a little condensed milk for sweetness. That is the Vietnamese way. We do not eat sour yogurt. Try it if you have not tried it before. You will like it.
I use whole milk for creamy and thick yogurt. I refuse to use skimmed milk. The good benefits can cover the “bad” fattiness.
Remember to read the label: you need “Live active cultures” when buying starter yogurt. You need to buy only one time. Before you finish eating the first homemade batch, leave the same amount of your yogurt to use as starter yogurt for the next batch. You may learn the habit of making it continuously so that you always have yogurt on hands.
I was once treated with a very fancy-looking yogurt glass when I went out eating with my friends last time visiting Vietnam. I am inspired to create many mixes in my yogurt, but I am also happy just to eat a plain one or iced yogurt. If your husband does not like yogurt (like mine) and your son lives far away (like mine), offer some yogurt to your neighbors after you make dipping sauce (instead of using mayonnaise), Zazitki, cakes, tandoori chicken, cream asparagus soup, yogurt pops and so on.
By the way, why should we eat yogurt? Here are few reasons:
- Nutritious food, it helps build calcium the same way milk does, good for the young and old alike.
- Digestion and boost immune system thanks to helpful probiotics cultures (good bacteria).
- Enhances brightness good-looking skin (listen, beauty, do not need to use chemical skin products any more).
- Keeping shape and weight loss (free and easy weight loss program).
Recipe:
Ingredients:
4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons condensed milk
4 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons Greek plain yogurt as starter
Bring a pot with water over medium high heat to a boil. Stir in condensed milk and add whole milk. Bring the content pot to reach a low boil point. You might lower the heat to avoid the milk boil over. Turn off the heat and let sit to cool off. When the mix is warm by testing a drop on your hand skin it is ready to mix the starter in. You can get the feel after doing it a few times. You do not need a thermometer. Make sure the mix is not too hot, it can kill the cultures that turn milk into yogurt and is not too cool, the cultures do not work (I guess they sleep).
It is helpful if you mix a little milk into the starter first to make it more liquid and easy to mix in the milk. When the starter is thoroughly mixed in the milk, pour it to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in a foil pan with warm water to half way up the bowl. Leave the bowl and the foil pan in the oven overnight. The next morning you have yogurt.
It is so easy. How do you know you are successful? The mix now is not liquid any more but a mass and just looks like yogurt. You can test further by eating some. It is sweet and sour at a same time. The more it sits the sour it becomes.  I do not bother to divide into small containers. After I finish I can scoop out as much as I need. I find it easy to store in the fridge and less things to clean.
I hope you feel inspired enough to make it. Let me know how it goes.
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HOW TO GROW YELLOW SQUASH – CACH TRONG BI VANG TAI NHA

HOW TO GROW YELLOW SQUASH – CACH TRONG BI VANG TAI NHA
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They are really close cousins. I am talking about zucchini and yellow squash. The green of zucchini always compliments the yellow of the squash. They are picture perfect on the grill or any dish you cook all summer long. That was why when I planted zucchini this season, I also planted some yellow squash.
Look at the picture of the first yellow squash we harvested. It is so yellow and fresh and totally organic. My husband and I were filled with joy. We just ate it raw to feel all the goodness because there was not so “big” a harvest to bother to cook any dish.
I planted yellow squash the same way I did with our zucchini. Please check out the post “how to grow zucchini”.
For those of you who do not want to seed or face the limitation of time it is better off you should go to garden center to buy young plants. When I say about time limitation I mean that it takes at least 2 months for them to mature on time to harvest and enjoy the fruit of your labor. You don’t want to seed them now, at the beginning of July, as the cold weather of the beginning of September won’t do any good for your crop. Zucchini and yellow squash do need 7-14 days to germinate, 45-80 days to harvest. They love warm weather. Do your math correctly.
Experts say they are heavy feeders. I find ours do just fine. We haven’t given them any food yet. That is why I can call ours organic. I guess it is true when I found out that the native Americans planted squash as one of their three main crops: maize, squash, and beans.
This kind of crop is new to me, but I relate them to pumpkins that my father grew them in Vietnam. If I can be successful, so can you. Next time when planting something think of yellow squash and zucchini and grow them in your garden. You won’t be disappointed.
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HOW TO GROW ZUCCHINI (COURGETTE) – CACH TRONG BI NGOI TAI NHA

HOW TO GROW ZUCCHINI (COURGETTE) – CACH TRONG BI NGOI TAI NHA

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First you need to know what it is. The American name is “zucchini” while the English tend to call them courgette. The shape is some-what long like a cucumber (not as long as English cucumber).  Their ends tend to be round and bigger than the tops. The color is light or dark green. The yellow ones are the same family but they are called yellow squash or summer squash. Come back for my post about yellow squash. I hope my explanation is not too confusing for you to understand.

 

If you often watch food TV you might see that they make fried stuffed zucchini squash flowers that look so good that you want to make them, too. Unfortunately, you cannot find zucchini flowers anywhere in suburban areas to buy. I myself tried to search them at a few farmers markets but I had no luck. I had to grow them. That was exactly what I did.

 

I found my young plants were not good at transplanting from inside out to the garden. I did everything the experts advised. I turned our gallery room into a nursery. I bought starting mix and seeded many things. They popped up like they should do. They died outside in our garden boxes. This year I seeded them directly in the garden.

 

My first batch was gone after a hungry squirrel’s visit. My husband even witnessed his crime out our back window. He said: “the squirrel dug, ate, and moved from one spot to another along your bed, so fast that I did not have time to save your work.”

 

I planted seeds the second time. This time I used large plastic sheet to cover with the stone weight on top. The wind could not blow it, the squirrel could not move under. The plastic acted like a blanket to cozy my seeds. After a week or so I saw my seedlings made their presence. I waited a little longer for them to have more strength before they manage to survive by themselves. Of course, we could not leave them without assistance. My husband and I watered them every day, sometimes twice if it is too sunny. We weeded so they had all nutrients in the soil.

 

To improve our Virginia clay soil we bury my kitchen waste into the soil. My husband complains every time I ask him to help with the bury. The waste smells so bad whenever I kept them long in our waste bucket.  But our labor paid off. We harvested zucchini for our food, our organic home grown food. My health-conscious husband could not be happier.

 

Please check out my recipes for zucchini frittata and zucchini soup, and blanc- promage stuffed zucchini flowers. It does not end here. I intend to make zucchini gratin and many more recipes with the growing crops. Most of all, we will enjoy fried stuffed zucchini blossoms.

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ZUCCHINI SQUASH FRITATA – TRUNG DUC BI NGOI

ZUCCHINI SQUASH FRITATA – TRUNG DUC BI NGOI
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Hello people.
Do you have a vegetarian husband like I do? Or are you in the mood to switch to a light meal for a change? I know I am. After the whole winter without controlling my eating, I face the ”reality check”. Now it is warm and is not cold to be naked to step on the scale. I could not believe my eyes. I am 100lb. I was normally 93lb for few years now. I need to lose some weight.
If you want to lose some pounds eat this food.
Ingredients: Serves 2
2 zucchini, washed and half- split, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ white or yellow onion, diced
3 green onion stalks, white parts separated, sliced
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Instructions:
Heat a 6-inch non-stick skillet (I like to use this size as it adds the thickness for the frittata and looks pretty this way) over medium high heat.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil and wait until hot. Add garlic, white parts of green onion and stir until fragrant, about 30”. Add onion and cook for 4’. Remove to a plate to cool.
Return the skillet back to the heat.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil and wait until hot, add zucchini slices in single layer and fry both sides for few minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Season the eggs with salt and pepper. Add cooled onion mixture.
Clean the skillet well to make sure the frittata come out easily. Return to the medium heat.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil and wait until hot. Add the egg mixture and arrange zucchini slices decoratively on top. Cook until the egg is cooked, making sure the egg is not burnt.
Alternately, place the skillet in the 350 F oven for 5’.
Wedge the frittata and serve hot with a salad.
I hope you can see the thickness of the wedge on the second picture. Tell me your result when you make this dish.
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PAD THAI

PAD THAI

pad Thai with shrimp and pork

Our Italian neighbor Dorothy teaches cooking at a local high school. In the past, I made Dorothy and her family Pad Thai and they loved it. The other day, she asked me to come to teach her class in her international cooking segment next week. This is the recipe I wrote for them.

Although the name is Pad Thai, it is a stir-fry noodles dish. It is not just a Thai dish. It is called seared noodles in Vietnam. Sometimes the name is very confusing, like Thai bird chili or Thai basil. We have those same chili and basil and they are called by Vietnamese names without anything associated with Thailand.

So when you get past the confusing name, the next thing you should know is stir-frying technique. You gather and prep all ingredients and components, and cook them fast on high heat. This is great when you can prepare in advance for your next party. You can make a display to show off your cooking skills to your guests.

It is equally convenient for your busy life style. You made everything ready and stored it in the fridge. When you get home from work, you are ready to have dinner for you and your family in no time. No fuss, no stress. The dish is satisfying and healthy at the same time. What can beat that?

 

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Ingredients: 6 servings

Technique: stir-fry

Prep time: 30’

Cooking time: 10-15’

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For the sauce:

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  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoon fish sauce
  • ¼ cup tamarind paste
  • ½ cup stock or water
  • 3 tablespoon palm sugar      (or white (brown) sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon creamy peanut      butter
  • 1 teaspoon Asian chili      paste, such as Sirracha

For the dish:

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  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 shallots, peeled and      mincd
  • 1 bunch green onion, white      and green parts separated, chopped
  • 1 white or yellow onion,      peeled and chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper,      julienned
  • 1 red bell pepper,      julienned
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 4 oz Mung bean sprouts
  • 4oz pork fillet, thinly      sliced
  • 12 medium to large shrimp,      peeled and deveined
  • 1/2lb medium-wide rice      noodles, soaked in warm water until softened and drained (1/2 package)

 

For garnish:

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  • Lime wedges
  • Fresh cilantro leaves
  • Chopped peanuts

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Directions:

In a small pan, heat the stock or water to warm. Add tamarind paste, palm (brown or white) sugar, peanut butter, whisk to loose consistency. Strain off the solid. Reserve the liquid in a bowl.

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Add the remaining ingredients for the sauce, whisk together until smooth. Set aside.

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Heat a large wok over medium-high heat, and add canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the eggs and cook until just set. Remove to a plate and set aside.

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Return the wok to the heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add 1/3 of the garlic and ginger and let cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1/3 of the white parts of green onion, shallots and onion and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes.

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Add the vegetables and stir-fry for few minutes, keeping the crispiness. Drizzle the sauce to taste. Remove to a platter and set aside.

Return the wok to the heat and add the oil.  When the oil is hot, add 1/3 of the garlic and ginger and let cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1/3 of the white parts of green onion, shallots and onion and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes.

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Add the pork and cook for few minutes, add shrimps and cook so that they are cooked at the same time. Drizzle the sauce to taste.

Return the wok to the heat and add the oil.  When the oil is hot, add 1/3 of the garlic and ginger and let cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1/3 of the white parts of green onion, shallots and onion and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes.

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Add noodles and the sauce. Toss to coat the noodles with sauce.

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When the noodles are cooked to liking add egg, pork and shrimp and vegetables. Toss to evenly distribute for about 1-2 minutes.

Add bean sprouts, green onion and peanuts and remove from heat. Remove to a large platter, garnish with cilantro and green onion and serve.

 

 

 

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No- knead OVEN DRIED TOMATOES WITH ROSEMARY BREAD– BANH MI CA CHUA HUONG ROSEMARY

Hello people, this is ultimate healthy bread. As you know by now my husband is serious about healthy eating. Finally I can drop all purpose flour and use all wheat flour instead. The result is he has very nutty brown bread, powered with flavorful dried tomato and rosemary.
.Ingredients:
Ingredients:
3 cup wheat flour
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
3½ cup warm water of 100oF
4 Roma tomatoes (about 1lb), halved
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
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Instructions:
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Place tomato halves on a sheet pan. Sprinkle rosemary, garlic powder and olive oil. Bake in the oven of 300oF for 1½ hours. Remove and let cool. Can make ahead of time and store in the fridge for 3 days. Alternately, place tomatoes halves on rack of “Super Wave Oven” like in the picture, bake at 300oF for 40′, if you have one like I do.
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Heat 1 cup of water with honey to 100oF, sprinkle the yeast over and stir. It will be foamy in about 5’.
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In a large bowl, mix all flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture, stir to combine, adding more 2½ cup lukewarm water (100oF). The consistency is loose. Cover with plastic wrap, let rise to double in size for 12-18 hours. I always do this the day before.
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Turn the dough out on a floured Silpat, mixed the dried tomatoes, fold in the dough, incorporating more flour as needed to be easy to work with, to make a ball. There was time when my dough is too wet, I needed 2 more cups of flour to work in.
Put the ball seams side down on the floured Silpat for the second rise for 1-2 hours.
Alternately, you can mix tomatoes when mixing the dough. You won’t see much the big pieces of tomatoes as they dissolved when fermentation.
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Preheat a Dutch oven with lid in the oven of 450oF. Drop the dough into the Dutch oven. The Silpat helps to lift and drop the dough easier. Cover and bake for 20’. Uncover and bake for 20’ more until brown crispy and crusty.
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slice tomatoes in halves

slice tomatoes in halves

olive oil

olive oil

prinkle with rosemary and garlic powder

prinkle with rosemary and garlic powder

dry tomatoes halves in the oven

dry tomatoes halves in the oven

oven-dried tomatoes

oven-dried tomatoes

 

start the yeast mixture for tomato bread

start the yeast mixture for tomato bread

mix flour, yeast mixture, salt with oven-dried tomatoes

mix flour, yeast mixture, salt with oven-dried tomatoes

prepare flour surface on a Silpat

prepare flour surface on a Silpat

 

the dough after 12-18 hours proofing

the dough after 12-18 hours proofing

shape the dough for 2nd rise

shape the dough for 2nd rise

shape the dough to go in the oven

shape the dough to go in the oven

bread is baking in the Dutch oven

bread is baking in the Dutch oven

 

 

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WE BUILT OUR HOME ENTERTAINMENT CENTER

entertainment center overall
We moved into a brand new house after my husband retired. The house is beautiful and spacious, but it is still builder’s grade.  So we started to improve the house one space at a time.
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Our family room is great with a 20-feet ceiling. We have many windows on one side to let the light in. We needed something on the focal wall, where we put the TV. So I designed a home entertainment center and my husband built it. The result; we have a beautiful 8-foot wide and 7-foot high entertainment center to hold our 55-inch TV, home sound entertainment system, and many spaces for decorative things. My blue china is finally out of the cupboard and shows off in the entertainment center.
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We did it. So can you. Believe me. My husband was sitting in a government chair for more than 35 years. His hands were softer than mine. I am self-taught designer. We must say we got big help from Lowes for cutting the boards that we bought from their lumber department.
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The entertainment center has a base that we divided into 6 compartments, which holds DirectTV box and Sony Home Sound system and decorative nick-nacks.
The upper part is thinner than the base by 4 inches and consists of 3 bookcases connected together. The 2 side bookcases have 4 compartments and hold our blue china. The wide center bookcase has a large bottom part for our Sony big screen TV and a top part for again holding our blue china.
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The factor that makes our entertainment center beautiful is all the trim we bought. We trimmed all the edges and attached dental crown mouldings on top. We used two tones: fluted white trim for vertical lines and red maple trim for horizontal lines.
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You can see the below pictures. If you like to have exact measurements please let me know.
Thank you for looking.
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