Outdoor light makeover

imageI decided to give these ugly outdoor lights on our house a makeover. Although the style is not what I would choose were I buying new ones, the price of two cans of spray paint was much better than new lights.imageimageI bought two cans of oil rubbed bronze spray paint and went to work. I knew I didn’t want to go to the trouble of taking the lights off the side of the house, but more importantly, I couldn’t get them down without a struggle because the screws were pretty reluctant to come out. Instead, I created a cocoon of newspaper around the lights, taping it off around the base of the light.  (Note: if you’re going to do this same technique, be sure the fold the newspaper up and tape it at the bottom to create a trough to catch drips)

After! The improvement of how the lights look is so huge. I don’t even mind them at all anymore, and I love how they blend in with the house and create a layer of colors on the house.imageIf there are any small projects that you want replaced like lights, spending the few dollars on spray paint is a great way to make it look better and buy some more time before upgrading.


Quiet Weekend Bachelorette

My little sister is getting married next weekend…hence the absence of posts from my end here. Things have been very busy with work and wedding things, but last weekend my sisters Leigh and Lauren took Lesly up to the lake for a quiet weekend bachelorette getaway. image

Roses for the bride of course. Lesly is not into the whole crazy bachelorette thing, so a getaway to one of NE Indiana’s quiet lakes was just the ticket. The lovely little Cape Cod style cottage belonging to my sister Leigh’s in-laws was a perfect choice!image

We had a Bloody Mary bar that was fantastic. Don’t worry, I’ll share what we did and how you can create your own.image

Another shot of those roses!image

This is perhaps the best Bloody Mary mix I have ever tasted! It certainly proved to be as good as anything I have had out in a restaurant. Leigh and I found the American Spoon while exploring Traverse City, Michigan earlier in July, and the best part is that they ship. I highly recommend purchasing some of this mix, and heck, while you’re ordering check out their jams and preserves as well. I can recommend the Strawberry Rhubarb jam especially.image

Just the Bride enjoying her drink. We ate Shrimp rolls, floated in the lake, took and evening boat ride, drank wine and talked, and had a great time savoring the last experiences before the youngest, and our last unmarried sister ties the knot.

Since two of our sisters, Lindy and Libby, live out of town, we are planning to take her out for an evening of revelry the week before the wedding, but I’m glad we took this chance to get away and spend some time even so.

A DIY Bench – Guest Post

Whew! So much for blogging Fridays the last few weeks. Things have been very busy with me this month. work has piled up, family members have moved (which translates to weekend hours spent helping), and I have been working on some massive (as in size…or scope too I suppose) projects around the house. That has left me with very little time to compose some blog posts. Don’t worry, I have some things in the works however so fun things to come hopefully soon.

That being said, this post was written by my older sister Libby, who is living in Oklahoma City, OK. She’s an amazing little gal (I am not demeaning her at all. She’s tiny in stature, though mighty in personality) who can turn her hand at anything sewing/engineering, calling it “soft engineering.” Libby does not have a blog so I offered to post her bench makeover here. The exact Ikea bench/table that she used is a mystery, but don’t worry, any similar table structure would work for this tutorial. Everything following is in her own words.


My husband is in the Navy and, because of that, we’ve moved three times in the last three years. Before the first move, we decided to leave our nice TV console in Fort Wayne at our condo for sister Lesly to use while she lived there. Now that we are in a semi-permanent location (as semi-permanent as you can be in the military) we finally moved the cabinet to our current location, big thanks to dad for driving it out to us.

Now that we have our original cabinet back, we had an extra console, some table that I had purchased at Ikea to use in the interim. I don’t remember what the style name of the table is, but it is about 18” tall by 17” deep and 46” wide. Perfect for an upholstered bench, I thought. So I bought some fabric, foam, batting and got to work.

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I started by taking the bench apart and gluing all the joints together to help with stability. While that was drying I took my fabric outside and sprayed it with Scotchgaurd. You could skip this step, but the fabric that I chose to use is fairly light with a white background and since I have an almost 2 year old, I anticipate some spills, or snotty noses being rubbed on it. While the bench and the fabric dried I cut my foam to size. I was able to find a 3” thick piece of foam on Amazon that was 17” deep and 60” long, so I laid it on top of the bench top and marked the appropriate length. Then I drew the line all the around the foam, using my right triangle and rotary cutting ruler to make sure it was all nice and square.

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An electric carving knife is recommended for cutting foam at home, but I don’t have one of those so I just used my serrated bread knife and it worked quite well. Since I drew my line all the way around the foam, I as able to make sure that each slice of the knife lined up with the mark on both sides of the foam, so I ended up with a pretty square cut.

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Once I had the foam cut to size I took that and the bench top outside, sprayed both the top and one side of the foam with spray adhesive and secured the foam to the top of the bench.

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Next step was to cover the foam with batting. You could also nix the batting but it helps with the final appearance, making the upholstery nice and smooth and soft looking. I folded my batting in half lengthwise and it was the perfect length and width so I didn’t have to cut off any extra waste. Then I just tucked the batting in along the sides and at the corners I made one cut and folded the excess under, kind of like tucking a flat sheet when you make a bed. Ready for fabric!

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Once I cut my rectangle of fabric, I used a zig zag stitch and sewed twill tape along all the raw edges. You certainly wouldn’t have to do this, but I used cotton duck, which has a tendency to fray easily. The last thing I wanted was for the edges of my fabric to fray and pull away from the upholstery tacks.

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Then I laid my fabric on the floor, flipped the bench top over so it was foam side down and centered it on the fabric.

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For the next step I used upholstery tacks and my hammer. I’ve read a lot of other tutorials on upholstering benches and most of them use a staple gun and staples to secure the fabric. I don’t own a staple gun and after pricing them, I decided to save the $10-15 it would have cost me to buy a staple gun and just buy upholstery tacks and use the hammer I already owned. It was a little more difficult than using a staple gun, but I was able to push the tack into the wood to hold it long enough to grab my hammer and tap it all the way in. I started by placing two tacks at the center of each long side and one tack in the center of each short side.

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Then I simply moved down each side, pulling the fabric taught, placing a tack and tapping it in.

When I got to the corner, I brought the corner of the fabric in so it was at a 90 degree angle to the corner of the top and tacked that. Then I tuck the extra fabric in and folded up side and finished tacking the side. I place a couple extra tacks at the corners to keep the fabric laying flat.

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Here is the top with the fabric secured and ready to be reattached to the base.

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Once I had finished tacking the fabric to the top, I applied glue to the base and placed the top back on the bottom of the bench and retightened the cams that keep the bench together.

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Voila! A new, upholstered bench. Sometime in the near future I want to buy some baskets for the open shelves for storage.

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Thank you, Libby for a great step-by-step post! I have a table of my own that I am considering turning into a bench so seeing this is really helpful.

Summer Pasta with Steak and Tomatoes

I know this could sound weird…steak in pasta? It seems strange. Sure we make pasta with chicken or seafood all the time, not to mention spaghetti chalked full of savory ground beef. But steak? Here’s the problem with steak. It is super delicious and doesn’t really have any problems other than it should be eaten the same day because day saving it transforms that succulent and juicy piece of meat into something you’re not even sure you want to eat.

I made steak the other day and as happens on days when Zach works at the hospital, he wasn’t very hungry for dinner and so I had an entire T-bone that I was forced to save (I will do many things in the name of preserving food at its best, but eating two large T-bone steaks in one sitting is not one of them). The next day however, warmed over beef wasn’t calling my name so I decided to transform it into something else. Pasta!

Makes about 4 servings.

1 T-Bone Steak, grilled (Or raw and grill it just for this recipe!)

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

Fresh heirloom tomatoes, about 2 cups when chopped (but you can always add more if you want)

1/4 cup red wine (I used Merlot)

1 small bunch of fresh chives

1 small bunch of fresh basil

1 small bunch of fresh oregano

8 oz. dried pasta. I used spaghetti, but penne would work really well too.

Salt and Pepper to tast

Parmesan Cheese



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Cook the pasta according to directions. Sauté the onion until in EVOO until it’s starting to become transparent, and then add in the minced garlic. Cook until fully transparent.
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Add in the chopping tomatoes, and cook until the are just beginning to break down. Add the chopped steak to the pan and pour the red wine over it; cook a few more minutes.FullSizeRender 13

As soon as the tomatoes are slightly broken down (but not completely because you don’t want mush) and the steak is warmed through add the cooked pasta. There is no need to drain the pasta as a little bit of the water will help create a light sauce, but allow most of the water to run off before adding it because you don’t want it too watery.FullSizeRender 2

Drizzle with some more olive oil, and top with the chopped fresh herbs. Word of caution, I would not skip the herbs in this dish because it really makes it, but even more the oregano is the star of this show so at least try to include it.FullSizeRender 3

Toss the pasta to evenly distribute the toppings, top with parmesan cheese and a little fresh black pepper and serve.

This turned out good really good. Zach and I agreed that normally one wouldn’t cook up a steak to simply make something else out of it, “But you could!” Zach decided, after trying it. I know what I will be doing with any leftover steak in the future!

Kitchen Renovation – Baby steps edition

It’s Friday! Word of warning, this is a wordy post (Pun intended!). So remember this room? Yeah, I know it looks pretty awful here, but this the original Kitchen when we moved in.

Granted, in this picture Zach was using it as command central for his great gardening experiment of 2014, and for pretty much every other project around the house before we lived there. But you get the picture. Our kitchen is small and needs some updating badly.

FullSizeRenderMy main beef with the kitchen comes down to two things; the actual room that houses the kitchen and dining room is a spacious and the length of half of the house, yet the kitchen is a tiny little U-shap on one side, leaving the bulk of the room for the dining area. Second beef is the upper cabinets pictured above.

FullSizeRender 2You can see in this picture that although the counter they are resting on is large enough to provide a good prep space in the kitchen, the upper cabinets are sitting too low and in the middle of the lower countertop. This wiped out the largest section of free counter in the kitchen and rendered it basically useless, merely a resting place for food as I transported it from the refrigerator to the small corner wedged between the sink and the stove.

FullSizeRender 17All of my cooking has been done on this little section of counter top. Proximity to the stove plays into this, but also this is the only semi-large spot where I can actually have an unobstructed view of what I am doing in our kitchen.

As soon as we bought the house I knew I was going to redo the kitchen. Zach and I did some preliminary pricing at Lowe’s to get an idea of what we were looking at as far as cost. As I perused through the myriad of wood cabinet options I was so conscious of price that I was very conservative in my choices. I prefer kitchens that are painted and the only non stain-ed option they had was black or white, and the different door options were all very basic and nothing really stood out to me. Zach told me to choose exactly what I liked so we could at least get a starting figure and then go from there, but the problem was I didn’t really like anything they had to choose from.

When everything was selected and designed I had a kitchen of which the cabinets I didn’t really love, the layout was scrabbled together, and the price tag was over $15,000. The kitchen designer assured us that the price was only for face value and did not include the different sales and promotions that were going on at any given time. I was not ok with that price considering I didn’t even really LOVE the plans we took away. Perhaps dropping that much would have been viable had it been my dream kitchen.

I turned to Ikea and redesigned a couple of kitchen options to see what their price difference was. The total hovered right around $8000, which considering that the end result would have been something a I liked style-wise much more than the Lowe’s option, was much more reasonable. But still, too much for us at the moment.

I talked to my Aunt who is a design ninja and she urged me to at least paint the existing kitchen so that I could be happier with it in the mean time, and I could play around with things in a way that I wouldn’t do with a new one. I perused through kitchen images that stood out to me I realized that not only was she right, but that more than a new kitchen I wanted to make my existing one work for a couple of reasons. The first reason was if I were to buy a new kitchen I would play it safe and choose something that maybe I didn’t LOVE but that would be beautiful and guaranteed to be timeless and provide good resale for the house. I don’t want to be safe with this kitchen, I want to be daring; the only way I will be daring is if I am working with what I already have, because ultimately if I hate it, I am only back at where I was in the beginning with the option of a whole new one.

The second reason was that the more money devoted to the renovation the longer it would take for us to actually get around to completing it. I enjoy the challenge of creating a beautiful space on a tiny budget (don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a larger budget if I could). With having a small budget I think outside the box more and am far more creative than I would be otherwise. Having only a tiny investment in something gives one the courage to be daring because if it fails (which it seems for me rarely to happen. I frequently love the results) I am not out much other than my time.

All that to say I have decided to work with what I have, and the first step was getting rid of that upper section of cabinets. It proved as simple as removing three screws and one odd nail from the wall, four screws from the base, and the help of my sister-in-law to lift it down and carry it to the basement. The results are dramatic.


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FullSizeRender 3It has totally changed the space. I am so happy with the results, that if it weren’t for the problem of needing a space for a dishwasher, I would almost just leave the kitchen as it is now. It opens up the room so much to light and gives me a huge section of functional counter-space now. Since taking it down, I have been able to add decor touches to the room (including the gallery wall on the far end) and I simply love spending time here.

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My plants are happy about having more light.IMG_7453As for the future, I have worked out a floor plan and I can’t wait to get started on the project, although it likely wont be for several months.

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Gallery Wall

I love Sunday mornings. The dogs are early risers and normally are up and ready to go outside at 6:00. I am an early riser by nature so I rarely go back to bed after I let them out, and with mass not until 10:30 I normally have four hours that to do with what I wish. I find these mornings a really productive time for me. I love finding a small project that will impact the house and can be done leisurely while I nurse a cup of coffee and simultaneously whip up some breakfast. Today I decided to work on hanging some of the pictures that I have been putting together over the summer.

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When plotting the layout of my gallery wall I decided to give the newspaper method a try. I first saw it on Pinterest but I haven’t had a chance to give it a try yet. Sometimes things on Pinterest are not as easy as they seem, but I have to give it to them this time; the newspaper method, although a little involved in the beginning of the process worked well and was very simple.

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First I laid out each frame and either cut out sections the same size from the paper, or in the case of the large frame I taped together a couple of pieces to simulate the size of the frame. At first I began to think it wasn’t worth the time to cut out each piece but when I could quickly play with the layout I realized it was worth it even in just that aspect. I used a level to make sure that each newspaper section was hung level on the wall so I could get a feel for how it would look and simply mark where the nails should go. Measuring the nail spot on the frame and translating it to the newspaper was simple, and then I simply nailed right through the newspaper into the wall. You can see above how I replaced each piece of paper with the appropriate frame, and simply tore the paper down gently behind the frame when it was hung level.


You might remember this frame that I picked up at a garage sale in town a couple of weeks ago. It had a smarmy print in it but the frame was solid and it had matting also. I painted it white, freshened up the matting with a coat of paint (Yes, you can paint picture matting!) and got a print of a photo that my mom took while she and I visited the Maroon Bells together in Colorado back in 2011.

IMG_7680Here is where I left off when I had to leave for mass. I loved where it was at, but it wasn’t finished yet.

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I love how the final product turned out. I had originally thought I would wait to hang the canvas and the storm landscape in the top square frame, mainly because I wanted to construct a frame for the canvas and get a different print for the square frame. I can easily make those changes after the fact, and I love that the wall feels complete now.FullSizeRender 8

The little shelf was originally supposed to go in the master bathroom, but ended up in a closet instead. I love how the shelf stands out on the wall and gives the eye something a little different to focus on.FullSizeRender 9


The antler Zach gave to me after we got engage, which he found out on the Kansas prairie during a hunting trip. I love antlers and would like to learn to shed hunt someday. Our wedding candle found the perfect home on the shelf too (the candle stick is a thrifting steal, found at Goodwill for $1.00,). It had been on our dresser in our room, but the shelf seemed like a better place for it. And of course the shelf wouldn’t be complete without a succulent!

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I am so elated with how it looks. The dining room finally feels less like its in transition. After having completed it a few pieces of advice before tackling your own gallery wall are:

1. Don’t skip prep work – It might seem tedious to really lay out the wall carefully first, but it will make hanging the photos a breeze.

2. Do hang frames even if you are eventually going to change the picture inside. Waiting to hang the frame would have only kept this project half done. This way I finished what I started (always a good thing) and can easily change out the print later on.

3. Throw in an unexpected element – I think the floating shelf really makes the wall in the end. Adding in the different texture from the plant and the antler, and just breaking up the monotony of all frames gives the wall more visual interest.



I have had most of the pictures sitting around just waiting to be hung for a month or more, and I am so glad that I decided to take the time to hang them today. It really makes a world of difference in the feel of the house.

One woman and a reciprocating saw

The weather has been wonderfully cool in the morning this past week. Its pretty abnormal for June but it makes the perfect time to get big projects done outside. I decided to tackle all the overgrown bushes in the front of our house and with the help of a reciprocating saw, two days later the house is refreshingly sans bushes.

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Here is a before of the house. The bushes had probably been growing as long as the house has been here, which means over 30 years if not 40. As you can imagine we weren’t sure how to get them out at first. With the root base being so large and established pulling them out with a truck didn’t seem likely, plus with the well lines going out from the house in the area of a couple of them, digging them out with a backhoe might damage those lines.FullSizeRender 22

Zach has been working 70+ hours a week at the hospital because they are short staffed so he’s been too wiped out to help me do manual labor around the house when he is off. His Brother Brady cam and helped me pull out one side of the first bush to open it up so I could reach the center to cut them out. We had thought there would be a chance the root base might be shallow and the truck pull them out but that thought was squashed in about two seconds.

The bushes were so overgrown that I had to climb under them to get near enough to the larger branches to cut them out. The space was too tight for a chainsaw, so Zach rigged me up with his reciprocating saw one evening and the next morning I went to town on these giant green meatballs that were taking over the front of the house.FullSizeRender 20

I successfully removed two the first day in about two and half hours in the morning since I had some things to do the rest of the day. The feeling of cutting out those bushes was so satisfying that I went out later that evening and cut off the bases of the three bushes that ran along the north end of the front of the house, leaving them lay right where I cut them until the next morning. I hauled away two loads of cut up bushes that evening also and the next morning I attacked the rest.

In all, the hours it took me was just a little over one day and Its incredible the difference it makes on the house.

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The front of the house is actually visible now that the bushes are gone and I am so empowered by the fact that I did this alone. Its amazing what a person can do with some motivation, a saw, a trailer, and some know-how. Now that I have taken these out I feel confident that almost anything I want to complete in the yard is fair game!