How to Hardwire a Light Fixture

How to Safely Hardwire a Light- a great skill to learn!The simplest act of switching out a light fixture can dramatically change the atmosphere of a room. But if you don't know how to hardwire a light, it's not such a simple act, is it? I've spent all of my adult life calling my dad whenever I've wanted a light fixture changed. It's gotten to the point that I could never move away, or I would be doomed to live with ugly lights for the rest of my days. Or else call an electrician, I guess. But why would I do that when I'm perfectly capable of learning how to hardwire a light myself?

I had three lights that needed changed during our recent renovations, and instead of calling Dad to hardwire them for me, I asked him if he could walk me through the process. You guys, it's so easy— I don't know why I thought it was so scary! It's a good skill to keep in your mental tool box (aka brain), so read on to find out how simple it is to hardwire a light without calling an electrician.

How to Safely Hardwire a Light- a great skill to learn!When we first moved into our house, I thought I'd probably replace our kitchen light right away with the light from our old bedroom at my brother's house, but I never got around to it. Pretty soon, the kitchen light became invisible to me. I never really noticed it until we began renovating our kitchen, when it suddenly stood out against all of the changes we were making. So as things were wrapping up with our renovation, we swapped out the light that came with the house for the light from my old bedroom.

How to Safely Hardwire a Light- a great skill to learn!Supplies:
-wire stripper
-wire nuts*
-optional: voltage detector
-screw driver (You may need both a flat head and a Phillips head depending on the hardware for your light.)

*Wire Nuts

Wire nuts are for finishing the connection of wires from the light to the wires coming out of the electrical box in the ceiling. You can select the type of nut for your project by looking at the box of nuts and seeing what wire groupings they're rated for. These yellow nuts are rated for 1-3 12 gauge wires, or 600 volts maximum. You are probably only going to be joining two 12 gauge or two 14 gauge wires with the nuts.

Wire Gauges & Safety Warning

If you're working with a 15 amp circuit, the wiring will probably be 14 gauge, though a thicker 12 gauge wire is acceptable as well. If you're working on a 20 amp circuit, you need to be sure the wires are 12 gauge, which is thicker than 14 gauge wire. If you're not sure about the amps on the circuit, just check your breaker box— the number should be right next to the switch. Don't assume you're working with 12 gauge wire just because they're on a 20 amp circuit. Use scrap pieces of partially stripped wire to compare and verify what gauge wire you're working with.

Older homes often use 20 amp circuits, which may be wired with 14 gauge wires. This is a fire hazard and will not pass inspection. Rather than upgrading all of the wiring on that circuit to 12 gauge, you can just downgrade the circuit to 15 amps to meet code standards.

How to Safely Hardwire a Light- a great skill to learn!Step One: Turn off the breaker for the circuit housing your light. To make sure you have the right circuit, turn on the light. Flip the switch on the breaker box, and if the light turns off, you're good to go. This would be a good time to label the breaker if you haven't yet so you don't have to guess in the future.

Step Two: Remove the existing light from the ceiling by twisting bolts and pulling it away. Remove the old wire nuts and untwist the wires. Loosen the grounding bolt and remove the grounding wire. My house doesn't have a grounding wire coming from the electrical box, so I only had to remove the grounding wire from the light. Finally, remove the screws that are securing the metal plate and remove both the screws and the plate.

Step Three: Determine which of the two wires is the hot wire. This is the one that will shock you if it's live. Usually black wires are hot wires while white ones are neutral, but my house just had red wires. We flipped the breaker back on and used a voltage detector to determine which wire was hot (it lights up red around the hot wire), then flipped off the breaker before continuing.

How to Safely Hardwire a Light- a great skill to learn!Step Four: Decide how much slack you want in your hanging chord if it's a pendant light. This can be adjusted later. To set our chord length, we used a strain relief that was tightened by screws. Some lights just use a plastic piece that looks like an s-hook.

Step Five: Mount the light fixture's metal plate to the electrical box with the mounting screws. This is what keeps the light securely in place. Make sure the wires from the electrical box are coming out from one side of the metal plate.

How to Safely Hardwire a Light- a great skill to learn!Step Six: This can be done at any point in the process. You'll need to strip away the plastic sleeve of the wires to expose enough wire to twist together. Wire strippers have a series of holes in them for various gauges of wire which prevents the cutters from touching the copper part— you only want to cut away the plastic.

Step Seven: Twist together the neutral wire from the electrical box and the neutral wire from the lamp's chord. Do the same with the hot wire. Like I mentioned in step three, usually neutral wires are white and hot wires are black, but that's not always the case, so it's a good idea to verify the hot wire with a voltage detector.

If you have a grounding wire in your electrical box, connect it along with the lamp's grounding wire to the grounding bolt as shown in image two.

How to Safely Hardwire a Light- a great skill to learn!Step Eight: Twist wire nuts onto the wire connection. Then shove the wires and excess lamp chord back into the electrical box.

Step Nine: Twist the light fixture into the metal plate using whatever connectors are provided with your light fixture. Mine just twisted into place at the base of the chord.

How to Safely Hardwire a Light- a great skill to learn!Wiring a light is a great skill for any DIYer to have, but if you're uncomfortable doing this yourself, you should invite someone skilled to observe you the first time. I've had college level training on electrical wiring and building plans, but I was still too nervous to try it myself until recently.

How to Safely Hardwire a Light- a great skill to learn!Working with electricity is a little intimidating if you're inexperienced, but if you follow my safety tips and have a second set of eyes on your work, it's not something to be afraid of. -Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella of the Signature Collection.

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Breakfast Root Cake

Root cake   (click for more info) It's been a few years now, but I used to work at a little neighborhood market in Nashville. Before then, I had never tried (or even considered) eating beets and never even heard of celery root. The produce guy talked me into trying them out, and ever since then, I've loved eating and incorporating them into different dishes. I feel like I missed out on so much by not trying things! I don't even consider myself a picky eater. I just thought I didn't like certain things for some weird reason. I only found out a couple years ago that I like peanut butter...what was I doing with my life? :/

Since then I have tried to try everything and anything that I might initially think wouldn't be very good. By branching out, I'm able to discover that I like most everything and that there are some amazing flavors out there! Like peanut butter.

One of my favorite dishes that's become a staple around our house is called root cake. It was a dish that I messed with when I first discovered celery root and fell in love with beets. It's a great hearty weekend morning breakfast (or brunch) dish.

Root cake (click for more info) Root Cake, serves 3-4

1 medium celery root
1 medium beet
2-3 smaller carrots
2-3 smallish red potatoes (or 1 sweet potato)
1 red onion
1 bunch of cilantro
2-3 fresh garlic cloves
about 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
5-6 eggs
feta for the top (feta's betta)
salt, pepper, cayenne, and cumin to taste

Root cake - chopping (click for more info) Alright, so this dish is super easy, and (I think) fun to make. I love chopping veggies. At the studio, we have the heaviest cast iron skillet. I think it weighs close to 50 lbs (maybe a little more.) It works, but I'd prefer a lighter weight medium to large nonstick pan. (No offense, Emma!) I started out by getting the skillet heated with a bit of butter (you can also use olive or coconut oil). Then it was chopping time, starting with the denser veggies like the beet, celery root, potatoes, and carrots. They were chopped into smaller than bite size pieces.  I probably cut about a cup to a cup and half's worth of each. I threw the veggies in as I cut them. The pan was about medium to high heat at this point. After stirring the veggies in with the butter and letting them fry for a few minutes, I started on the rest of the veggies (cilantro and onion and sunflower seeds). I save the garlic for very last. 

Root cake (click for more info)    Stir fry the veggies on medium to high heat till they are almost cooked through. Then turn the heat way down. I don't want them overcooking while the eggs cook, and with the lower heat, it can take close to 10-15 minutes. When the celery starts warming up, it emits a very unique savory smell. So good!

Root cake - pouring eggs (click for more info) As soon as the veggies are ready, I flatten them out in the pan. Then pour the (not overly) whipped eggs over top.  I don't mix the eggs in with the veggies. I just want them to cook, and everything will come together at the end. 

Root cake - cover solution (click for more info) Since the skillet doesn't have a lid, I improvised and stuck a cookie sheet on top while the eggs firmed up. I try to keep everything covered as long as possible without peeking – it helps to have a glass lid. :)

When the eggs look about done, I flip the entire thing, which was impossible with the 90 (or more) pound skillet. So I just kept everything covered, and the eggs eventually cooked through. I season everything when it is about 5 minutes from being done. I even throw the minced garlic in at this stage. Garlic that is just warm enough that you can smell it, is one of the best smells in the universe! 

Root cake (click for more info)       When everything is cooked just right, cut it into slices and serve with a bit of fresh cilantro, some feta (or salsa or both), and some sliced tomato. This hearty, nutty, rooty dish will get you and 2-3 people nice and full and ready for the day. 

Have any of you guys ever cooked with celery root before? What did you use it for? -Josh

Root cake (click for more info)

Credits // Author: Joshua Rhodes. Photography: Sarah Rhodes. Photos edited with Piper from the Signature Collection.

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Crochet Basics: Slip Knot & Foundation Chain

Holly Neufeld Crochet BasicsHolly Neufeld Crochet BasicsHave you been wanting to learn how to crochet? It's such a great hobby, especially for the fall and winter months. We introduced this series with a post on getting started and reading patterns, and in this post, I will demonstrate two fundamental steps: a slip knot and a foundation chain (or chain stitch).  These steps are needed to begin all crochet projects. A slip knot is how to secure the yarn on your hook to begin any stitch. 

To begin, take your yarn and wrap it around your index and middle fingers twice, crossing it over to make an "X". Take the first loop, lift it up and grab the second loop, and pull it through the first one. Pull gently to make the knot, leaving a loop. Insert your hook into the loop and pull on the shorter strand of yarn to secure it on your hook. You've made a slip knot!

Holly Neufeld Crochet BasicsTo make a chain stitch, hook your yarn over your left-hand ring finger, and with your right-hand middle finger and thumb holding the loop on the hook, wrap the yarn over the hook end (yarn over/yo) and pull it through the loop of yarn on the hook.  That's your first chain stitch (ch st). Yarn over again and pull it through the loop of yarn on the hook. That's 2 ch st. If a pattern says to "ch 12", you would do this 12 times. You can count each stitch in the chain easily. Now you've made a foundation chain! 

Holly Neufeld Crochet BasicsHere's a fun tip: use a jar to hold your ball of yarn in place while you're crocheting! I like to wind my skeins of yarn into balls before I start a project, and the jar keeps it from rolling away. You can also use bowls and other dishes that are specifically made for this purpose. Just choose something bigger than your ball of yarn and it will be able to roll around freely as you work.

Use a jar to keep ball of yarn in place while crocheting!Use a jar to keep ball of yarn in place while crocheting!Keep practicing these simple steps, and then you'll be ready to learn some stitches! - Holly

Credits // Author: Holly Neufeld, Photography: Sarah Rhodes, Video and Music: Jeremy Larson.

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Print Your Instagram Photos With Us!

A Beautiful Mess photo challenge! (click through to join!)Today, with our good friends at Canon USA, we're excited to issue you a challenge!

It's something we've all been meaning to do but have put off for way too long. We're printing our Instagram photos and making albums. 

Everyone here at ABM is joining in as well!

We challenge you to print your Instagram photos. (Start small or print them all. It's up to you!) Then make a photo album and share it with us on Instagram using #mybeautifulmess. We'll be commenting on your photos and sharing a few of our favorites on the ABM instagram account.

We're excited to see what you create! 

To kick off our challenge, we got together, brought snacks, and made our first albums together. We each printed about 20 photos and filled 4x4 inch mini albums with them. At the office here, we used our Canon PIXMA MG7120 to print our photos on their semi-gloss photo paper. We added a few titles with stickers and handwritten notes, but for the most, part we kept it pretty simple. We were all able to complete our albums within an hour (and that includes time for chatting and snacking!). High fives! 

The best part, we all finished our albums motivated and inspired to make more. 

A Beautiful Mess photo challenge! (click through to join!) A Beautiful Mess photo challenge! (click through to join!)  A Beautiful Mess photo challenge! (click through to join!)  A Beautiful Mess photo challenge! (click through to join!)  A Beautiful Mess photo challenge! (click through to join!)      A Beautiful Mess photo challenge! (click through to join!)      A Beautiful Mess photo challenge! (click through to join!)      (( Go Trey! ))

A Beautiful Mess photo challenge! (click through to join!)      Our finished albums are the happiest sight to see. 

A Beautiful Mess photo challenge! (click through to join!)      Supplies needed: Canon PIXMA MG7120, 4x4 mini albums (they come in Gray, Mint, Coral and Gold), and extra 4x4 pages (We all used one extra pack, but two extra packs would totally fit.)

Can't wait to see your albums popping up on Instagram! xo. Elsie + the team 

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson, Photography: Sarah Rhodes, Videography and Music: Jeremy Larson. Photos edited with Jean and Piper from The Signature Collection.


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Portobello Beer Burgers

Portobello beer burger (click through for recipe)It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I began to appreciate beer. I was always a mixed drink or cocktail kind of gal. But these days, I'm as likely to order a beer as I am a cocktail.  And this year I am determined to have a successful at-home-brewing experience. About a year and a half ago I had an EPIC fail. And I've been nervous to try again ever since. But I'm thinking this autumn might be the time to try again.

Portobello beer burger (click through for recipe)  But this post isn't about home brewed beer. It's about burgers. Portobello mushroom burgers that get soaked in beer before cooking. If you enjoy making burgers at home, you're gonna love this recipe because it really could not be easier. Also, it's a good excuse to stock up on your current favorite brew... if you need an excuse, that is.

Beer soaked mushroom burgersPortobello Beer Burgers, serves 2-3.

2-3 portobello mushrooms
1 bottle of your favorite beer (darker beers do well in this recipe, but use any kind you like)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2-3 slices of cheese (optional)
burger buns
onion rings or potato chips

First, remove the stems from the mushrooms and give them a good rinse/scrub. Often times mushroom will have just a little dirt or soil on them. So be sure to wash them well before using.

In a bowl, combine the beer, Worcestershire sauce, and red pepper flakes. Soak the mushrooms in the liquid for 20-30 minutes.

How to make portobello burgersBefore cooking the mushrooms, I'll use my hot pan to toast the burger buns. This is not essential but an easy step to take to elevate your burger experience. :)

In a large skillet or cast iron pan over medium heat, cook the mushrooms for 6-8 minutes. Flipping once in the middle of cooking. If you find your mushrooms are sticking to the pan, add a teaspoon or two of olive oil.

As the mushrooms cook, they will release liquid. This is mostly water from the mushrooms. Use a spoon to remove excess liquid from the pan as these cook.

Best vegetarian burger recipeIf you are using cheese, place a slice on top of the mushroom during the last minute or two of cooking. When you remove the mushroom from the pan, first place them on a plate lined with paper towels. This will help to soak up any additional moisture released during cooking. I've heard people say they don't enjoy mushrooms because they are too slimy, and one of the reasons mushrooms sometimes feel slimy is because care wasn't taken to remove excess moisture released during cooking.

So, I guess it's really on you if these turn out slimy or not. No pressure.

Portobello beer burger (click through for recipe) Place the cooked portobello on top of the burger bun. Then top it with lettuce, tomato, any favorite sauces, and either onion rings or potato chips. The onion rings (or potato chips if you're lazy) really help to add a delicious crunch to this burger, so don't skip them. Serve alongside your favorite beer. Enjoy! xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

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