home renovation, life

Kitchen Renovation – Sweat Equity

Last week we kicked off our kitchen renovation. Cabinets were removed and given away, old panelling removed and plaster walls knocked down, and wiring and electrical fixtures were updated. I’ve never been more exhausted! But coffee and knowing how awesome our kitchen will be keeps me running and motivated!









I’m fortunate enough to have this renovation be my full-time job. We couldn’t keep a four week timeline and DIY the bulk of the work otherwise. Who has that kind of energy?

What I’ve learned thus far is: much can be done on a small budget, swinging a hammer to bust apart walls or remove a countertop is therapeutic and gratifying and if able, getting some input from professionals helps ensure the work you’re doing is good quality.


As I’m writing this my drywaller is working miracles installing new drywall where the old couldn’t be saved and taping/mudding ALL the many joints together.  The progress is so exciting!


We are officially operating with a pseudo kitchen setup. All sinks in the house are up for grabs until we’ve got a functional kitchen sink, which should be by October 6th! Controlled chaos will reign for the next three weeks. My goal is to manage this project and the tight timeline as best I can. I’ve never been a super organized person but I end each day with a list of all the things I need to accomplish the next day. So far I’ve been able to cross off my daily tasks and drawing a line through the completed item is so gratifying!

I’ve got lots of shopping to do in anticipation of the next steps. We’re using IKEA cabinets, I’ve decided to use vinyl for the floor and need to find a tile I like (I’ll be grouting it), drywall sealer and paint color choices are yet to be determined. Granite countertops in Himalayan white will be measured for fabrication next week! I’m also in the market for a new electric range-so I’m doing some research for something that will work in our budget. But if a girl could dream, it would be this:


This 5K range is about half my renovation budget, it’s so not happening! Dreaming is free, thank heavens!

Oh, in addition, thanks to prowling Craigslist I found a sweet metal cabinet that I plan to make into our coffee bar! So rough plans are needed to build a wood base with casters. Just add that to the list!

More renovation details to come, stay tuned!

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home renovation

Kitchen Renovation


It’s time to move our renovating efforts to the kitchen area. Our 1970’s kitchen has post Hurricane Agnes (1972) panelled walls and drop ceiling chic.


The original plan was just to update the cabinets/counters/floors. Painting a fresh white over the buttery white semi-gloss paneling. But the ugly drop ceiling kept nagging at me. So, without a proper plan I began pushing up some of the ceiling tiles to see what’s underneath. I found unfinished sheetrock cobbled together like a patchwork quilt. From there I couldn’t help myself, I needed to see what was behind that paneling. And just like watching a horror movie where you yell “STOP! Don’t go in there!” I went there.


With pry bar in hand, the moulding was removed, along with some of the paneling. YUCK! More old, unfinished sheetrock with some sizeable gaps between the pieces. But it didn’t stop with just one or two panels. All the ceiling tiles were removed as well as, several pieces of paneling.


Enough self-inflicted renovation damage was done in the process that now a new plan was required. A call was made to a drywall contractor. He showed up and you could tell he wanted nothing to do with patching up this mess! He recommended a general contractor come in and make recommendations for the most economical course of action. Hmm.

dsc04526At this point there was nowhere to go but forward. SOME action needs to be taken, it’s just a matter of time and money. Will it be :  A) a full gutting of the kitchen, B) a cost saving more modern drop ceiling with beadboard walls to replace the removed paneling or C) really?! – there is no C!

Decisions, decisions!

In honesty, I wasted the whole day fretting what to do. But by late afternoon I realized choosing to take it down to the studs was the way to go.


Why you ask? In truth we’d like to sell our old home in the near future and a newer kitchen would help that along. There really isn’t enough of a inexpensive phase 1 renovation that would be a worthwhile investment. New cabinets/countertops/flooring would look nice but what the room really needs is a better “foundation” to really shine.


Now it’s down to organizing a work timeline and getting specifics on countertops and flooring. Let the games begin!

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DIY art, home renovation

Updating an Autumn Wreath


It’s officially fall in my book. School’s back in session, Labor Day has come and gone, hazy, hot and humid days are behind us and pumpkin spiced everything is back!


To welcome the change of season, I’ve pulled out my autumn front door wreath. It’s several years old and is losing some of it’s berries. I love the orange against my navy painted door and decided that rather than trade it out for a new wreath, why not update it!


Purple and orange look great together, so I went shopping for silk flowers to change things up and found these.


A few snips to separate the flower stems and it was easy to tuck them into the grapevine that makes up the base of the wreath. A bit of floral tape holds the heavier faux heather in place.


Give the floral wires a little bend to position and you’ve got an nicely updated autumn wreath!


If you use coupons on your mobile phone while shopping you can always save at least 25% off at places like Michael’s or Joann Fabrics. Adding a bit of ribbon, some faux flowers or metallic painted fruit can give just that extra something to tired door decor.



Here’s the before and after:

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I’m a fan of this “new” fall wreath! For the record, being crafty isn’t usually my thing, so if I’m able to rework an old wreath, anyone can!

What’s on your door this autumn? Something old or something new?

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home renovation

Making Digital Renovation Plans


When you’re planning a room renovation or simply changing the layout, where to you begin with your design?

I’ve been an unabashed pen and paper kind of gal. Even in 2016 with an overload of digital tools, it was always just easier to sketch out a quick design. But while online shopping for a super small bathroom sink, I came across IKEA’s home planner tool and made my first 3D digital plan! I’m hooked on playing around with this planner. You may have read my post of the plans to remodel the bathroom, here. At the time, this was the extent of my digital design:


Here’s a shot of my bathroom in 3D using the digital planner:

bathroom ins

It’s so much fun to redesign a room and is very user friendly! With this tool, you can rotate your plan, zoom in/out and change views from the side to top. Even if you’re not planning on using IKEA products it’s great for visualizing general room layout and flow and it’s free to use!

Here’s my kitchen plan:




I’m still noodling around with my preferred kitchen design and whether or not I’m going to replace the cabinets and countertops. If we go that full kitchen reno route, it’ll be with these birch wood cabinets.

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Planning out a design change with a digital planner is not only a great way to easily change up a room but is helpful when you’re trying to convey your ideas to your significant other, who may need to see it, to get it.

What’s your go to way of planning out a design project? I’d love to hear about your user friendly design technology.

If you’re still a pen and paper fan, I urge you to give digital a try.

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Easy Closet Organization

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Closet Organization

Who hasn’t thumbed through a magazine and paused to marvel at closets like these:




They’re all gorgeous! I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t love this kind of closet! How organized we could be!

These walk-in closets have a place for everything and are so large they could double as another bedroom! You’d only have to walk across the room to pull out winter clothes. All your shoes, purses and jewelry on shelves or in velvet lined drawers! If you’re feeling generous, this space could be his and hers.

Sadly, these dream closets are not in the budget for most of us. In older homes, like mine, closets are a fraction of the size. Here’s a peek at mine (unorganized).


You’re probably thinking how small it is and you’d be right!  At 2.5′ x 10′, it’s a tight squeeze! If there was a larger opening with bi-fold or sliding doors, the accessibility and functionality would be improved. There is no extra room for storing winter clothes in here, for sure!


I have a very old Closet Maid wire system for organizing things. No velvet lined drawers here!

So, why am I sharing my tiny closet space? Well, one, I recently was compelled to do some clothing purging, hence the emptying out of the closet contents. Two, to discuss a few simple ideas to better organize your clothing closet regardless of the size or layout – no $$$ needed!

My Easy Closet Organization

  • Use it or lose it – for everyday work/play clothes, if your don’t wear it or it doesn’t look/feel good on you, time to say goodbye.


  • Special Occasion clothes – keep if it’s a sentimental favorite (store it), otherwise, let go of those items that you KNOW you’ll never wear again. Just because fashion comes in cycles doesn’t mean you should wear it again. I’m talking to you circa 1980’s Dynasty shoulder padded anything! *Good rule of thumb: if you wore it as a teenager, it may not be your most attractive adult look.


  • Organize by color – I like all my pants to be hung in groups so all the jeans, all dark dress slacks, all khakis are together, etc. Same for tops with the exception of long and short sleeve.


  •         All hangers facing the same direction and all clothing facing either right or left – easier to find                 what you need and no wrangling with tangled hangers!


  • Keep seasonal items within easy reach – all my sandals are in plain sight, boots are tucked in back until fall. Same with jackets/purses/scarves. Keep the items front and center season appropriate.


  • Don’t keep anything hung in your closet that doesn’t fit or needs repair – use this logic:  if you needed your husband to rush home and pull out a pair of pants and a top for an emergency change of clothes, you don’t want him showing up with the one pair of pants that you haven’t fit into for seven years or the blouse that’s missing a strategically placed button!

 Here’s my tiny closet now:DSC04450

Still tiny, but I removed lots of clothes that I was keeping but not wearing. These were donated.

As you can see from the photos below, I moved pants and dresses to the the right and short and long sleeve tops to the left. Sweaters and sweatshirts are on lower shelves to keep the piles tidy when I remove one. Things that I didn’t need in my closet like a bolt of fabric or a bin of miscellaneous keepsakes, found new homes, leaving room for my purses in their dust bags.

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I realize that even after organizing my closet, no one will look at it with envy but, if it helps me to see what I have and brings a bit of order to the chaos of life then, mission accomplished!

Love to organize? What’re your favorite tips? Share in the comments.

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Beyond the Basics – College Must Haves


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If you’re a parent who’s counting down the days until the car is packed and your freshman is headed off to college, you’ve probably already hit the stores with a long list of Must Haves for the college.dorm-feature1

My dining room is quickly filling up with boxes bound for college, so I thought I’d pick the brain of my favorite college sophomore for her recommended Must Haves, beyond the bedding, laptop and office supplies.


After they’ve lofted their beds, it’s time to get down to some serious unpacking, organizing and decorating!  The following items can help make their freshman dorm-life experience more comfortable. As a parent when your kid’s life is good, so is yours!

Beyond the Basics – Must Haves


After you loft your bed, use storage bins to stash towels and toiletries or clothes for cooler weather. Dorm storage is limited, so make the most of the space you’ve got!


A few inches of memory foam can improve the comfort of the typical dorm mattress.


A small fan for less than $25, keeps a dorm cool and doesn’t require much space. In the northeast part of the country it can feel like summer up til October!



 TJMaxx and Homegoods carry area rugs to make your room cozy and add bit of color. A rug will protect your bare feet from the cold tile flooring!



Don’t risk damaging walls, use Command Strips to hang everything from posters & bulletin boards to fairy lights.



Headphones are a must in shared dorm space!



Prevent back and neck strain by using a laptop stand.

A mini fridge and a place to store snacks for when the dining hall is closed!

  The goal for parents and students is to make the transition as stress-free as possible! Good luck Class of 2020! Don’t forget to bring some Kleenex.

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blogging, DIY art

Oldies & Newbies Blogging Network

Blogging, whatever your niche, is so much more than charting a journey or creating interesting content. In two decades the blogging universe has become well established.  Most readers have a higher expectation of not only content but the overall quality of a website. Our visual communication standards are that of magazine worthy photos. That means, honing some serious photography skills, not to mention taking on the whole technical side of running a blog.

Many blogging superstars have built a business around their blog. Whether through good timing and luck or hard work and crazy talent, they’ve moved the bar of achievability from sharing with a large audience to creating a brand and a company.

Still, there are even more blogs and bloggers you’ve never heard about or stumbled upon. This is my group. New(ish) and relatively unknown.

In an attempt to run a better blog and improve my social media reach, I’ve signed up for a group called Oldies and Newbie Blogging Network. It’s a mentorship/partnership/networking opportunity. A chance to learn about blogging from someone who’s established.

I’m pairing up with a seasoned blogger, Robin from Redo It Yourself Inspiration. I had liked and followed Robin on IG even before I joined the O & N group because her work is eyecatching!

As you can tell by her blog title, Robin is a DIY blogger. Redo It Yourself Inspiration is filled with so much eye candy!  She has a modern/farmhouse aesthetic and a true appreciation for wood furniture. Here are a few examples of her amazing talent.

before and after carriage bench

before and after wicker rattan chair collage

70s table before and after collage

secretary desk repair and makeover by redoit

before and after new

Before and After Country Bench RD

Robin’s been blogging for three years. She comes from a family of makers and crafters, so it’s no surprise that she’s talented and has tackled projects most people would pass on. In addition, she’s a Mom and a new Grandma – Congratulations! A rescuer of dogs and birds. Check out the dog sofa she made for her Husky, Danny, here. One lucky rescue pup!

Robin has already given me several suggestions for improving my blog, as well as a lovely compliment on my content! I appreciate both!

There is so much to learn when blogging, be it coding, SEO, social media, monetizing. I’ve just begun scratching the surface. My hope is to get to know Robin and work with her to fine tune things, continue building content and growing my social media. I’d love to give making DIY videos a try.

I am so looking forward to this opportunity and all that can be learned!

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DIY art, Thrifting

Teak Bowls for the College Girl


Last month I participated in the Thrift Store Challenge with an awesome group of DIY bloggers. You can read more about the challenge here.

I received a box of thrifted items to use for the makeover challenge. Of the four items, I used three during the challenge: the pear, tiles and napkin rings.

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My daughter who will be headed back to college in two weeks was eyeballing a trinket bowl I bought from Wayfair. She thought that I made it for Jeff and wanted one for her room. She’s so sweet to overestimate my skills!


Well, Wayfair doesn’t stock these anymore but I did have some teak bowls just waiting to be used!


We decided to add to black and white paint to the outside to match her minimalist decor.

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To add another layer of interest without adding color, I used the bubble technique for a fun way to add white over the black paint.

Mix a teaspoon of dish soap with some water and paint. Using a straw, blow bubbles like kids do when they drink chocolate milk, until it overflows the cup. I held the bowl up to the bubbles turning it while the bubbles made a pattern on the side.


Prepare for paint to splatter your face/glasses, or use a longer straw! You can apply more white to change the pattern or even layer on colors. But my instructions were black and white only, please!

I did used the same technique with the white, but snuck some grey in with the black.

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They’re a nice contrast of teak wood and glossy paint!

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They’ll be such a cute catch-all for her dorm!


I love making things that are functional! Even better when you can make something for those you love! #madewithlove


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home renovation

Planning for a Bathroom Renovation

Almost a year ago we started tearing the carpet off the stairs kickstarting our first floor renovation.

We gutted our dining and living room to the studs. Much of the dirty work was done by professionals and you can read about the transformation here, here and here.

The result of months of tweaking is a fresh blend of modern and vintage.

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Living in an old house, there is no shortage of improvements to be made. So, far we’ve finished the attic making it our daughter’s bedroom, updated the powder room, replaced the worn wooden deck with composite decking, in addition to the dining and living rooms.

Our house only has one full bath and it’s in need of some serious updating. Previous owners decided a bit of popcorn would look great on the ceiling AND walls! You can still see the wall tile peeking through the thin spots. Ours is a tiny full bath at 8′ x 5′. To make the bathroom really awesome would require increasing the floor plan. Doing so just wasn’t part of the budget.


Instead of expanding the footprint we’re improving upon the small space by giving it a much needed welcome to the new millennium. The goal is to bring the same mix of modern and vintage appeal to the dated space. Clean lines and white tiles. My mood board is heavy on white but that just allows for any color to work for us and future owners (fingers crossed).


Tiny white bathroom
We hired a contractor to do the bulk of the work because of time management and only having one shower. If all goes well this should take no more than ten days to turn around to be ready for baseboard and painting.
We have a few weeks until our renovation start date, so in the meantime, I’ll be working on a mini update for our kitchen. Phew!
Now, it’s time to do a little tile and hardware shopping!
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Furniture makeover

Paintbrush Upkeep-Protecting Your Investment


If you’re into refurbishing furniture, you almost always need to invest in some paintbrushes. When you’re dropping down around $12 for a brush, you need to take good care of it to make it last.


My personal collection includes some well used brushes. Well used but until this weekend, not well loved.


These guys have all seen tons of painting. I am guilty of using the plastic bag in the fridge trick and forgetting about them until they dry out. Or sometimes it’s just the old soak in soapy water for too long mistake.

Finally, I decided to try my hand at getting them back to as paint free as possible.

Here’s what I did to better protect my investment.

  • Soap and water are good for clean up immediately after painting. An old toothbrush or plastic bristled paint cleaning brush/comb is helpful to remove stuck on paint and unstick the bristles. Unless you have one and don’t use it, like me!
  • For dried on paint-Placing brushes in an old container, pour boiled white vinegar in just enough to cover the bristles. After 30 minutes take out and brush/comb off dried paint and wash with soap and water.
  • When the above doesn’t touch the dried on paint, it’s time to go for the paint stripper. Yep, the same stuff used to remove it from your furniture. The same precaution needs to be taken to protect your eyes and skin. But a good coating over the paint caked bristles will break down the paint so it can be carefully brushed off.

For my brushes vinegar got most of the old paint off all but the two most neglected brushes.


After using the paint stripper…

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So much cleaner!

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You can see that even the worst offenders came away pretty free of paint. Well, maybe not the handles!

Let your take away be:  A good job of cleaning up after each use goes a long way in preserving the life of your brushes! Do it right the first time!


I’ve learned my lesson! With proper care, these brushes will be around for many future project.

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