Tuesday, May 19, 2015

DIY Kitchen Makeover on a Budget

We are in the process of updating a very old house. I absolutely love the character and layout of this wonderfully old home, but so much of it was outdated- especially the kitchen.
When we bought this house, we had to move fast. Homes in our area sell quickly- in less than 24 hours often. Our incredible neighbors put their home up for sale and sold it in about 12 hours (to one of my oldest friends, but whatever...). When we were looking at houses, it wasn't uncommon for us to find out that the home was already pending offers by the time we arrived for our showing. It was crazy!
So when we saw this house go up on the market we moved quickly, we were on our way to visit John's family out of state and stopped here first, spending a total of 15 minutes in the house before asking our buyer's agent to make an offer for us. And even then, we almost lost it in a short bidding war.
Anyway- by the time we actually closed 2 months later,  I couldn't even remember what the house looked like! And after we got those keys and jetted over to see it, I was totally floored by the kitchen.
And not in a good way.
The kitchen and the main floor bathroom were just so outdated, dark and seemingly unfinished. I can't explain it, but everything came off as mismatched. In the kitchen (we'll talk about the bathroom another day), it seemed like someone had just slammed down random pieces of cabinetry here and there and nothing was cohesive. It was extremely disjointed. And some of the counter was warped and falling in.
I was so flustered that I didn't even take before pictures. These are from our walk through, and I don't even have a picture of the stove side, sadly.
The kitchen is an important room in any home, but especially for us. We spend a lot of time cooking and creating there and I wanted it to be a place that was beautiful and where I *enjoyed* spending time. This wasn't it.
Immediately, we painted the cabinets before even moving in. My friend Natalie stayed with me and put about 12 hours into them! Three coats of Valspar reserve (which I maintain is THE BEST paint ever) and they were bright white and gorgeous. We also updated the hardware.
I saw this as a temporary fix originally and we didn't sand or prime because I figured if it didn't work I would replace them and it wasn't worth sinking a ton of time into. They turned out beautifully in spite of that and what was originally a temporary fix made me decide to do a budget DIY kitchen instead.
So let's get started!
The kitchen isn't 100% done, but it could be another year or so before all the details are in order, so we will just update then. The lions share is ready! I also want to mention that the entire project cost less than $600. That's including paint, counter tops and all furniture.
A big part of the problem was the lack of cohesion. There were giant expanses of space next to sparse cabinetry that needed to be filled in AND put to use. The lack of cabinets meant a lack of storage and  we don't like a bunch of junk on our counters. For the first open area, I painted an old IKEA wire shelf in a bright metallic silver and used it for bigger appliances that we use often and some pretty decor from our old kitchen.

Another problem area was filled in by creating a breakfast nook. A little table and a couple of chairs provide easy in-kitchen eating and wonderful Saturday morning respites. We use this area to eat about 5 times as often as our actual dining room table. It was a fantastic addition, and worth all the square footage. A friend of mine found that awesome movie poster for me and it really helps keep the kitchen from looking too country- something I was really scared would happen when we choose butcher block counters.
The last large expanse was filled with a kitchen cart. This actually can be rolled out and used as an island, but spends most of it's time against the wall here. More food prep area and storage is always welcomed! We really use our kitchen, making three full meals per day during the weekend and dinner every night. So that space is used!
 This door was a MAJOR eyesore in the now increasingly bright kitchen. A couple coats of paint knocked the brown out.
I also painted the knobs using my standby Rust-Oleum ultra cover. New black knobs were $30 at the store... um, no thanks. This $3.99 can has lasted me forever and made appearances in so many other posts! (like my CHANDELIER and SCONCES). The knobs have held up really well.
Next we installed new counter tops on the old (painted) cabinets. This was a huge project and my cousin came in and did it for us in about a day. I used butcher block from IKEA and thought it was a pretty big mistake. It chips/dents easily and when it was being cut, there was a defect in it that caused the saw to jump and split a massive section. Thankfully my cousin was once a custom cabinet builder and was able to save the counter top by using that ruined portion where the sink is and transplanting a piece of counter from another section to cover the rest. Thanks, Gabe :) If we had a do-over, I would invest in more expensive counters, but generally we have great experiences with IKEA and I didn't think this would be any different. I should also mention that we reached out to several people at the company and only *one* was helpful. Most of them brushed us off. Again- we usually have great customer service experiences but this time it was lacking.
When we took the old counters off, I hadn't realized what a mess they would leave on the wall behind their lipped back splash. Isn't that nasty? So I had to cover it with tile- because we were having a BRIDAL SHOWER at our home that weekend!
But I'd never tiled before...
 It ended up being really easy! The wonderfully helpful associate at Home Depot recommended a product called SimpleMat that sticks on to the wall, and then tile goes directly on to it. I was unconvinced that it would be strong enough to hold the tile up, but it really is. It made the entire project a lot easier and quicker.
 I also bought a tile cutter for about $20 that was very easy to use. Still, that was the hardest part of the project and you'll need to plan on breaking/ruining at least a few tiles when you're purchasing supplies.
Once your tile is up, just grout and let it dry for a few hours.
After that you'll need to remove your haze, caulk the edge and then you're done! I tiled the kitchen in less than a day. Maybe 6 hours? I haven't found the bull nose that's perfect yet, and I want to add some more above the stove- so technically it isn't finished. I'll update when it is.
A few other notes: I updated many of the light switch covers using some from my grandparents' house. I always think that makes a big difference. There is still a lot I want to do- more tile work, a spice ledge above the stove, new floors, more artwork and a new ceiling fan-- but that's how homes are! Is it every really finished?
I wouldn't call this my dream kitchen, but for $600 it has been greatly improved and I enjoy hanging out in the space. I also think it helped our resale value and has made the home more appealing in general.
We seem to be working on the rooms in a round robin, so I have no idea which one will be ready next. If you have any great kitchen DIY tips to share, feel free to add them in the comments below!
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

DIY Bridal Shower

My oldest friend is getting married soon to her perfect match. I have lots of acquaintances but very few real friends, and Sarah is one of the best a girl could ask for. She was in my wedding and has been part of so many huge milestones aside from our marriage that it's hard to list them all. We met when we went to Germany together for the very first time in our young teens and have been friends ever since. Recently we moved into the same city (and actually- she just bought the house next door!) and I wanted to do something to really show her how much I have appreciated her 15 years of friendship. A shower seemed appropriate, right?
At my family shower 6 years ago, Sarah made the 2 hour trek to all of my showers! 
But the truth is- parties aren't my thing.
Like at all.
I know a lot of people in my life who are wonderful event planners, but I struggle. I've thrown a bridal shower once before and it didn't go very well, so this time I tried to pay attention. And DIY it. And here we are!
running our first 5k!
As always, things didn't go 100% the way I wanted them too. I had lots of beautiful hanging decorations to go above the main food table (pictured above), but the morning of we couldn't hang them! My co-host and I were too short and we don't own a ladder. I hadn't taken into account how tall our ceilings are.
My cousin (who is an interior designer and AMAZING event planner) had already warned me that not everything would be perfect, but this was a very annoying blow. I had visions of that table being a show stopping focal point since it would be the first thing guests saw as they entered. BUT, it is what it is. So if you have something that you feel is non-negotiable, make sure it's ready the night before, that way you have time to trouble shoot.
Two other things I want to mention...
1. Games
Right out of the gate, let me make something clear. We didn't play games. I realize they are a huge staple of every shower, but in our case we just felt it wasn't necessary. My co-host and I couldn't find anything new that we loved, and when we asked the bride she confessed that she doesn't even *like* shower games. I announced at the beginning that there wouldn't be any games and the entire group erupted in clapping and shouts of joy.
Maybe it's time to end the games.
I will say that the majority of the group knew each other. I was the odd man out, but the rest were friends. Far from being boring without games- our scheduled 11a- 1p party went til after 3!
In lieu of games I made a prize table. If a guest found a gold star on one of her items (plates, cups, etc.) then she could go pick something off the table. Also, I didn't wrap anything because it's more fun to choose your prize, right? Instead everything got a coordinated bow.
2. Scent
The other thing I'd like to mention before diving in is that we don't use candles. What? Crazy, right? But we have a little bird and apparently candles (except 100% pure beeswax) are deadly to her. Instead I fill a little pot with water and add some drops of cinnamon essential oil, then boil it on the stove for a few hours. I swear, it smells amazing. Most of the guests commented on it upon entering and I heard one say to another that she was obsessed with it! I had more questions about the scent of our house than anything else, so if you'd like to save some cash on expensive candles, that's my recommendation!
Now some DIY's!
I saw these little "love is brewing" cups on Pinterest  and snapped them up for our party. They were exceptionally easy to make, and since there was only a picture and no tutorial, allow me to provide a short one.
I just whipped up these little circles on my computer (practically any program will do, including powerpoint!), first creating one, grouping the elements, and then copy/pasting until we had enough. They're printed on standard paper, and standard hot beverage party cups were used. You can make any shape you want, obviously, and completely customize these for any special event. I think they're fun all around.
Cut your tags out and attach them with 3M spray. I used this craft bond because I was out of 3M and really regretted it. They came out translucent and the pink cup showed through, which is something that never happens with 3M. The spray is more even and it applies better. Allow them to dry for at least 24 hours before stacking. Sorry for the photo quality. I made these at like midnight the weekend before.
We decided to make full use of our coffee bar rather than tear it down for the event, since so many of Sarah's friends love coffee.
I added a little runner in the color theme and a few extras. The white pieces (2 small creamers and large gravy boat) were from World Market. I think they were $2-4 each and easily marked with a gold sharpie (which washes off in the dishwasher). Our milk frother would take forever and hold up the line, so I just kept hot milk going on the stove and refilled the gravy boat for lattes. Whipped cream, syrups, a selection of teas and a carafe of hot water rounded it out. We also used both of our french presses (filled ahead of time) for coffee and put our pour over out. It was enough to service about 15, but any more than that and we would have needed a standard coffee maker.
 As I said- parties aren't my thing, so even though food prep is something I enjoy, we decided to eschew it and only use pre-made items in order to make the morning of go more smoothly. IKEA's princess cakes are perfect for a shower (vanilla cake, marzipan, raspberry and almond paste) and can be frozen until the event. They're relatively inexpensive per serving and look lovely. We also picked up a Costco cheesecake and embellished it with chocolate chips and caramel syrup to differentiate it even more from the fruity dessert option.
 I didn't have time to pick up cheese markers- something I love, but don't own due to a dairy allergy and lack of cheese in our lives. Impromptu markers were made using thick scrapbook paper and toothpicks! Cheese varieties were written out in gold sharpie and coordinating duct tape (not silver!) was used to attach the toothpicks. If I had more time, I would have sandwiched the tooth picks in between two hearts cut in identical sizes with glue.
Table tents were printed off the computer on cardstock, cut and folded. The more ornate tents were made from the same thick cardstock as the cheese markers. I used 3M to bond on coordinating scrapbook paper and the menu item name. Again, any program will do.
For the salad, I used a Costco base salad and added more lettuce, bacon, and hard boiled eggs to beef it up for 15 servings.
This kale and quinoa salad was AMAZING and also came from Costco. I have no words- just go buy it. Sarah requested lighter fare at the shower and this perfectly fit the bill. It's delicious and light, but very filling.
Sarah's friend, Kaity, was deemed the official photographer for the shower and took some lovely photos. Originally, we made a piece of art from our lipstick kisses for Sarah as a keepsake from the shower.
It was horrible.
Definitely a pinterest fail.
Instead,  I think it's perfectly wonderful to create a photo album for the bride. I used SHUTTERFLY to create two wedding albums for ourselves as well as one for each set of parents and thought it was easy to use, affordable and brilliant quality. If I could do it again, I'd forget the lipstick art and make Sarah a sweet album of either just this shower or a collaboration of all three.
Here some of the remaining guests at the very end. Definitely cropped myself out- but to be fair, the angle was so bizarre that my own husband didn't recognize me in it! When it was posted to facebook, John couldn't find me in the picture. So don't judge. Sorry Sarah :)
It was so fun to celebrate Sarah and for the first time ever, throwing a party (though still daunting) was super fun! If you have any great bridal shower tips, feel free to share them in the comments below!
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

DIY Canker Sore Relieving Cream

I know this is often said- but this may be my easiest DIY of all time. So easy in fact- there's only one picture.
If you've ever gotten a canker sore then you'll understand how annoying and painful the tiny little beasts can be. Generally I only get them when my immune system is super stressed out. In our tiny office, one co-worker has bronchitis and another has pneumonia. And of course- we constantly have ill patients coming to see us. I'm guessing that's why I woke up with not one, but two canker sores on Saturday. (also I was hosting a bridal shower that morning... but more on that in another post!)
Anyway, they stink and I wanted fast results so I googled natural remedies. I saw this article from EVERYDAY ROOTS  (which looked awesome and you should also read). I didn't really have enough on hand to make one of the recommendations that looked best, but I thought maybe I could combine two ingredients from two different remedies and see how it went.
It went very well! If you've ever used one of store bought pain relieving gels then you will love this. I always appreciate their ability to numb the pain, but the film they leave on top of the sore is nasty, plus I'm leery of what goes into them. This little cream will immediately numb the pain without that gross film! AND it makes your breath fresher in the process :)
All you need is some coconut oil and high grade peppermint oil. Make sure your peppermint essential oil is safe for consumption, such as the one I used from Young Living.
Let your coconut oil warm up so that it's more liquid than solid. Mix one teaspoon of coconut oil with 7-8 drops of essential oil (you can add more if this isn't strong enough). Once it's very well mixed, pour it into your container of choice. I save makeup sample containers for things like this. Lastly put it in the fridge to harden back up. You'll want it to be mostly solid.
Use a clean cotton swab to apply a small amount directly to the sore. It will immediately melt, but don't worry- it's still effective!
In my experience, the relief lasts for a few hours but as you continue to apply the cream you will need it less and less. I applied it every few hours on Sunday, but only needed it twice on Monday. And today- though one sore is still in full swing (the other is gone!), it isn't really painful at all anymore. I'll probably apply it before my next meal. This is miraculous as mine routinely last for 1-2 weeks.
So next time you have a canker sore- give this a try and let me know what you think!
We finally (finnalllyyy) finished our kitchen and I can't wait to show you! The total DIY cost was $600 including furniture, and when you see how the kitchen looks now compared to what it was when we moved in ... yikes! SO look for that soon!
Thanks for reading

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Does it Come in Pink? (Spring beauty worth spending money on)

We are finally (finalllyyyy) moving toward Spring which means evaluating my wardrobe, our home decor and the general palate surrounding me.  Of course, instantly seas of pink in shades of blush and ballet slipper come to mind, but also happier smells and bright cheery colors and flavors and joy abounding! Spring is a promise of renewal and refreshment, and I am so glad it is here.    
 (I really hate winter) 
SO in honor of these sentiments, and because sharing is caring, here are some products worth buying to brighten up your world and help you get into the step of Spring and out of the glum of winter. 
I brought the Mia 2 on sale from Macy's due to outdated packaging (thanks, Christmas!). People had been recommending it for years and the deal was too good to pass up. I'm not sure if it does everything it promised to do- and really am not certain if it's worth spending that much money vs. something cheaper from Target (such as the Olay version), but it's awesome. I've seen a noticeable decrease in my brow wrinkle and it feels like an amazing little massage at the end of the day. If nothing else- that minute of spa greatness in the comfort of my own bathroom is a gift in and of itself. But I really do think it works. My skin feels clean and it allows me to get away from using makeup removing pads which are bad for the environment and the pocketbook. And it's pink.
I was warned by several people that my skin would breakout for the first few weeks of usage, but that wasn't the case at all. Not a single blemish the entire time, so clearly that isn't true for everyone and shouldn't deter you. There are many comprehensive reviews out there about the Clarisonic, and if you're interested in the product, you should google them (specific to your skin) and give it a real look. I don't regret mine at all.
These three shades are my go-to for lips ranging from subtle to serious. The Burt's Bees tinted lip balms will go down in history as my favorite beauty item of all time. They require no mirror and really do feel as light (and not as waxy) as lip balm. I have Red Dahlia, Rose, Sweet Violet and Petunia. At once. Always. And I've gone through SEVERAL tubes of each. Their lip shimmer is also incredible but not as low maintenance. It still feels light, but goes on heavier and more noticeably than the balm. It's much more lipstick like, but doesn't require a mirror. Lastly, these Tarte lipsticks (literally) have major staying power and very vibrant colors. I have Fiery and Lively- and they most definitely live up to their names! Lively is such a powerful hot pink punch- and perfect for Spring! They claim to be moisturizing which has never been the case for me, but they do last and last. Worth the buy- especially if you do any performing (Fiery was purchased for ballet purposes) or have a special event coming up. Lively photographed beautifully in our outdoor wedding session.

Ok, so it isn't super Spring- but this Face N' Earth moisturizer is AMAZINNGGG. I haven't been able to successfully use a moisturizer without breaking out in like 15 years.  Or maybe ever. My skin is extremely sensitive and most of the organic and natural choices contain a slew of ingredients that leave my skin supple but not NOT smooth. However, this glides on like velvet and while it FEELS luxurious- it doesn't make me breakout at all. Not even a little bit. And it makes my skin so happy during drying Michigan winters. If you have dry or combination skin that's picky- this is worth giving a shot. There are no words for how fantastic the texture of this product is. Every time I use it, it's impossible to imagine this could be oil free. But it is- and even if you don't have finicky skin, I'd still recommend it as a wonderfully effective moisturizer and natural product.
While the company is called Avalon Organics, the product isn't completely organic (or even natural, IMO)- but it is much better than most items you'll find on a typical store shelf. And the smell of this face wash is SO orange and citrus-y, it will make waking up a refreshing experience. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be a good idea (clearly), but it smells good enough to eat. This is the wash I use with my Clarisonic and it works well to lather and remove all of my makeup without staining the brush. And again, it smells like an orange grove.
ALEXplusMAE is a new line of jewelry from designer and creator Jessica, named after her adorable twins, that is quickly sweeping Pinterest, Etsy and style bloggers nationwide. People- she is talented. I received two pieces from her in the mail this week (full disclosure- I won one bracelet in a contest and purchased the other) and they are gorgeous, well constructed and made from high quality materials. She recommended the three stone bracelet for me after winning the contest and I LOVE it. Her entire collection is delicate, simple and classic. I have a pair of rose gold druzy earrings on backorder from her and already have another post lined up based on a collaboration she's doing with a wonderful charity. If beautiful, minimalistic jewelry is your thing- Jessica is your designer. Another plus? If you're a woman with an unusual wrist size, Jessica is happy to size based on your measurements. My wrists are small and finding appropriately sized (read: won't slide off) jewelry is basically impossible in store. But Jessica made these perfectly to fit! She also carries an array of earrings and necklaces.
I like food.
While these silicone pancake molds have NOTHING to do with beauty, they totally deserve an honorable mention for practicality and all around quality of life improvement. That praise is too strong, but hear me out. I grew up with a dad who made pancakes every Sunday morning.  Mouth watering, fluffy, perfectly shaped pancakes.
In every way I am his child.
But definitely not that way.
I cannot... can NOT make pancakes. They are thin. They are flavorless. They are boring.
Enter the pancake mold. These were hanging by the cereal in an aisle at Meijer for $1.99 (the linked version is more expensive, but Meijer isn't a nationwide chain) and we snapped them up. I don't even know how it's possible but they changed everything about my standard pancakes and made them not only LOOK uniform and tall, but taste a million times better. We use these every week. Butter the pan, set the mold(s) in, fill 3/4th's full with batter and let them cook for 3 minutes. Remove the mold and flip for another 2.  Done. Delectable. Delicious. You are now a pancake hero.
Ok so now we're ready for Spring! I hope your winter starts to take a turn soon. There are rumors of snow returning in Michigan, but I refuse to believe them. We lived in a sub-zero state for weeks and I will enjoy this forecast of 40's blissfully until said snow returns. Or doesn't.
And I'm hoping for doesn't.