January Highlights

Well, I don’t know about you… but I’m pretty sure that I just blinked and January was already over. HOLY COW this month flew by! Yes, my work weeks have averaged 60+ hours. Yes, it has been bitterly cold. And yes, I probably only earned a B+ in my Apartment Therapy January Cure attempt. BUT, on the bright side – I’ve managed to make some awesome projects to brighten my home through the winter (and somehow photograph them even though I feel like I am never home during daylight).

Here are some of my favorites from this past month, in case you haven’t visited in a while (or want a reminder of these super easy projects that YOU can do too)!

JanuaryHighlights

Here’s the rundown:

Top Row (left to right): 1) January started off with the creation of our Happy Jar, a place to keep track of special moments & happy things throughout 2014. 2) I made a pair of friendly dinosaur key chains for my bestie & me. 3) Quick tips for arranging grocery store flowers for your next dinner party!

Middle Row: 1) Whip out the mason jars & fill them with feathers, pictures & moss for a rustic, wintry vignette. 2) See how I made this giant burlap covered canvas arrow art! (Psst…it was SO easy!) 3) A little piece of monogram art made from a birch slice & wooden letter.

Bottom Row: 1) As part of that aforementioned January Cure w/ Apartment Therapy, I tackled this bathtub caulk issue (update on the bathroom refresh coming soon!) 2) Bringing some more love-related decorations into the home for Valentine’s Day (and general winter cheer), I made an easy heart shaped twig & berries wreath. 3) Probably my favorite project of the month, this rustic photo display was a cinch to make, and is an awesome way to display beautiful prints in a unique manner!

What awesome things did you accomplish this month?  I’m excited for February – there’s Valentine’s Day, plus good old President’s Day (and a day off from school!), and it will bring us just that much closer to warmer weather and longer, sunnier days!

Have a great Friday & a wonderful weekend!

Kitchen Update

Our kitchen renovation is moving right along! While I flirted with the idea of doing some parts of this project on my own, I think my limited construction skills would have been a huge hindrance to the fast pace our contractor-neighbor is keeping for us. And with the start of school & crazy schedules just around the corner, I know I’ll be glad to have a finished kitchen in just about a week now – rather than by… well… Christmas 2015? 🙂

photo 1

So the cabinets are in, the appliances replaced – and now we’re just waiting for our new granite counter top! They made a template last week, and expect it to be ready by Wednesday or Thursday … yay!!

In the meantime, hubs & I have been using our new stove & microwave – and LOVING them, but eating with paper & plastic as the dishwasher is not yet operational, and we have no sink.

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My husband is most excited to have a dishwasher – as he is usually the washer (and I the cooker) around here. But I am most excited about having a beautiful, fresh, WHITE space to fill with color & accessories. It will be like a blank canvas – and I can tweak & change & update my decor to my little heart’s desire!

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Oh, and Emma is happy about all the new nooks & crannies she gets to explore this week before we fill up those new cabinets! 🙂

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What exciting things are going on in your life these days? Renovations or big summer projects? Share!!

Appliance Talk

Making large purchases has always caused me a great deal of anxiety. I blame my father – who never buys a thing without researching, consulting consumer reports, and debating for months on end. (Did we ever get that new computer, Dad?)

When it came to selecting new kitchen appliances, the hubs and I debated over a few different options:

Stainless Steel vs. White

We fluctuated back and forth between these two options for a week or so. While I’m not happy with the way some of our old white appliances have yellowed, I’m also not convinced that Stainless Steel is a “must have” in a kitchen, as I’ve seen some lovely white kitchens with white appliances that look nice and open, like this one:

BXP53662Image Source

In the end, we settled on Stainless Steel, primarily because we discovered the Gallery Collection from Frigidaire, which boasts a nice smudge-proof finish. The hubs is quite the perfectionist, and I knew that he would have some issues with constantly cleaning fingerprints and marks off of shiny stainless steel appliances.

I like the way the SS appliances look in this white kitchen:

YR-Gloss-White-Foil-Oven-View-SmallImage Source

So we bit the bullet and went for a new fridge, stove, microwave and dishwasher from Frigidaire. We’ve already moved the new refrigerator up into the kitchen, and it is lovely. Plus, we’re really going to appreciate the energy-efficiency of all these new appliances!!

Hood vs. Over-the-Range Microwave

Another tricky decision – I love the look of a pretty stainless steel hood, but I knew that could benefit from the space-saving aspect of an over-the-range microwave. Right now our microwave is hogging precious counter space, so I think we will really appreciate having it built up out of the way.

FGMV174KF_V1_HRFrigidaire Gallery Over-the-Range Microwave

Stove vs. Wall Oven/Cooktop Combo

This one wasn’t a very difficult decision, once we realized it would cost us about $1,000 more to replace both our old wall oven & our gas cooktop, rather than switching to a single stove. I kind of enjoy the vintage look and convenient access of the wall oven, but I know I will really enjoy the extra cabinet and few feet of counter space that we will gain!

byeoven

So that is the tale of our new appliances – which (with the exception of the fridge) are currently hanging out in our garage just waiting to be installed! In the meantime, I’m busying pinning & collecting all the new recipes I’ll be trying once I have an oven that bakes evenly, and a range that lights on the first try! Woo!! 🙂

Kitchen Possible – Getting Started!

I am SO excited to share that we are getting ready to move forward with our little kitchen renovation project. I’ve been dreaming about updating our small kitchen for years now. I even made this little mood board up back in February, when the hubs & I started discussing our wish list and counting our pennies:

KitchenMoodBoardThese days, our kitchen looks like this:

Kitchen1

The big problems with our kitchen are:

1. Extremely limited counter space (we’ve added some Ikea island/kitchen carts to add both surface & shelf space) – everything is very cluttered! (Also, snapped these photos during a particularly hectic time…)

Kitchen5

2. Extremely limited storage. The original upper cabinets were removed years ago (why?????) – so I keep many appliances, large platters and cookware, etc. in storage areas outside the kitchen due to the lack of space.

3. No dishwasher. (More so than even the work of washing dishes, I’m getting tired of chipping & breaking dishes during the washing/dish rack process!)

Kitchen2

4. Old fashioned, stained Formica countertop

5. Outdated and “yellowed” white appliances (and an unreliable oven).

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6. Old cabinets (that have several layers of paint & no practical features like a lazy susan, sliding drawers, etc.

Most of these problems are easily dealt with. Our kitchen renovation will be completed with the help of our neighbor, a contractor, and will be rather budget-friendly. We did splurge a bit on new appliances (our new refrigerator is already here and in place, while the rest of our Frigidare Gallery set sits in the garage).

So here’s the to-do list for the project, with most jobs falling in the neighbor/contractor category, while others we will tackle ourselves:

1. Installation of new white base & upper cabinets in a full L-shape. (The refrigerator used to live in that cabinet-less corner on the right, but we’ve moved it to the other wall to allow space for the dishwasher and extended counter surface).

2. Open shelving to the right of the window.

3. Installation of new gas stove and over-the-range microwave to replace the current wall oven/cooktop combo –> we will gain cabinet & counter space with this change!

4. Installation of dishwasher.

5. New counter top and under-mount SS sink.

6. White subway tile back splash.

7. Fresh paint job (grey?)

8. Caulk cleaning/coloring? for ceramic floor tiles.

9. Designing & building a pub-style table for next to the refrigerator.

10. New lighting fixtures –> pendant above sink (like this one), and either curved track lighting or a new, non-boob-light flush mount fixture in the center.

11. New molding around window, new pantry door & new door molding.

12. Eating area – perhaps a custom built bar, or a fun retro pub table?

These three kitchens are my major sources of inspiration:

1. This GORGEOUS white kitchen remodel over at Our House.

2. This beautiful and cheery bright, white kitchen from House Beautiful.

3. This small kitchen featuring open shelving from Southern Living.

I just cannot wait for this project to start – I can only imagine how much better all of my food & baked goods will taste when they come out of our new kitchen! 🙂

Entryway Makeover

Continuing on my home-decorating kick, I’ve now turned my attention to our second-level apartment stairway and entryway.  When I moved in with FH, the top of our staircase was home to a lovely curio cabinet, displaying family photos. After much discussion, we decided we could really be making better use of the space. Our apartment is small, and storage space is a hot commodity. We have a nice sized coat closet in the living room, which effectively holds all of our coats & was recently improved with the addition of a little cubby-shelf (moved from back hall) when my crafting habit/Michael’s addition grew to the point that I required designated craft storage space. (Post & pictures on this to come).

Despite the coat closet, FH & I still tend to throw our jackets over the backs of the chairs at our dining-area, and our keys live on the dining table.

So, full of DIY ambition & armed with my AMEX,  (don’t worry, folks- just using the Green Card for some lovely points, as I’m working my way through the half of my tax-rebate I designated to home improvement (other half went into the WEDDING FUND!) I acquired this little entryway bench from good ol’ Target.

Assembled in under 30 minutes.

For the time being, our stairway is covered in some neutral-ish wallpaper. I have full plans to take down the wallpaper & repaint the entire entryway, but this may be a project for spring break/summer/post-wedding. Once I repaint, I may paint this little bench white. I am definitely going to cover the bench pad in some fun fabric.

Right now, however, my bench will stay its original ‘espresso’ shade. I also do not want to cover the bench cushion in fabric until the wallpaper is gone, as the bright & cheery pattern I have in mind will not work with the current walls.

So, this weekend FH is in charge of removing the curio cabinet (I desperately wish I could keep it/use it in my living room- but we just do not have the space). It will probably go to FH’s brother & sister in law. Once we clear the hall of cabinet and paint cans & a ladder that never made it back to the garage, I plan to install the bench, relocate our coat hooks, create a photo wall, & add a DIY-ed key holder.

Current state of the stairway (pictures already removed from cabinet).

 

View from our apartment door. Ladder & paint cans have lived here since last summer. Oops.

Stay tuned for in-progress photos!

And, in other news- happy St. Patrick’s Day to all you Irish & Irish-for-the-Day peeps! FH & I hope to celebrate with a nice pint of Guiness later tonight. Until then, how do you like my shamrock-green nails?

Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure Nail Polish in Grass Slipper.

Temporary Solutions

Kitchen renovations are expensive. Especially considering FH (future hubby) and I have very little combined ability when it comes to serious DIY home improvement. FH is semi-handy; meaning he can change out a light fixture & use a drill gun. I am not completely helpless- one summer my college roommates & I made some major changes to our kitchen (we rented a house and had a landlord who totally loved having a group of college kids who kept their house CLEAN- no thanks to me, really- and made home improvements that left the house better then it was when we moved in). We painted, laid down new flooring, & relocated some appliances. When I say we, I really mean that Eric (my bestie) did most of the work. I vividly remember releasing a great deal of pent-up emotion and anger while tearing up the old floor, thanks to the bitter ending of a rather intensely dysfunctional relationship. Turns out, minor demolition is more effective, and cheaper, than therapy.

So fast forward to my current state of non-dysfunctional, pre-marital bliss. Between FH & I, I am probably more ambitious when it comes to home improvement projects. I think back to how seemingly easy it was to make those kitchen improvements in my college house, and dream of grand ideas of DIY penny tile/floor/cabinet installations. Not to mention you do not have to look far for inspiration- the great home improvement blogs I follow make it seem that people all over the world are actively DIYing their own home projects…and then sharing it online complete with lovely pictures & witty commentary.

Maybe that could be me some day. It seems more likely that my blog would quickly become designated to DIY home improvement failures… but who knows. Stranger things have happened.

For the time being, however, FH and I find great enjoyment in dreaming and scheming of our beautiful kitchen renovation- with one of the nicest aspects of the dream being that nice chuck of moolah we save so that other people can do the hard work. The actual dream is that we leave our home for a weekend, and return to a glorious stainless steel & penny tile kitchen heaven. Either that or my plan of skulking around home improvement stores on the weekends looking for the DIY Network camera crews will finally pay off. CRASH MY HOME, PLEASE!

So. As the title of this post implies- this weekend FH & I decided it was time to look for a ‘temporary solution’ to our kitchen woes. (Major problems include: no counter space, no dishwasher, no storage).

The dishwasher will have to wait until we can do our complete renovation. Until then, I will keep cooking delicious dinners every night- as FH in turn does all of the dishes. Isn’t that an awesome plan? So far, I’m pretty sure he is not on to me. Heaven help me if he gets wise & starts offering to cook more often. I simply hate dry-dish-washing-hand syndrome.

The most pressing issue is COUNTER SPACE. We have a little L-shaped section in between the stovetop & the sink in the corner of our small kitchen. This precious space is home to a spice rack (I’m working on a simple solution there) and small appliances. Thanks to my new healthy eating habits, where there used to be a Keurig (we didn’t give up coffee, it just broke) and a toaster (which now lives in a cabinet as we use it infrequently) there is now a Juicer (oh yeah baby) & a blender. I am using both several times a week, if not every day, so I need them to be easily accessible.

So much clutter...so little cooking space.

As our kitchen cabinets/appliances only take up 2 of the 3.5 walls, we’ve been using a small rolling cart as extra storage and a microwave stand (in dream kitchen: microwave is installed above stove top!), and a little dish rack shelving unit to store our plates. FH had both of these items before I moved into the apartment. I love the plate rack for it’s part practicality & part decor advantages. The cart, however, is not one of my favorite things. It has wheels but is nearly impossible to actually wheel, the microwave takes up the entire surface so it provides no additional working space, and inside the doors you will find a tight little storage with a center rack of questionable stability. Due to our severe lack of cabinet storage, our everyday dishes live here, as well as my mixing bowls & casserole dishes.

Equally cluttered...and yes, that chalkboard calendar does say January. Oops- where did the winter go?

FH and I decided a nice, quick temporary solution to our problem would be a new piece of kitchen furniture that could accommodate more storage & hopefully free up an alternate space for the microwave- therefore leaving us with more, usable, counter space.

At 9AM on Sunday morning we embarked on our mission. First we stopped at our favorite diner & fueled up on our Sunday-Splurge breakfast: waffles w/ strawberries for FH & multi-grain french toast for me. And crispy bacon, obviously. Our journey included a trip to Target, where we quickly realized we were becoming distracted, and made a quick escape. The Target gods must surely have been startled watching me leave their fortress of temptation without spending a dime.

We made several more stops. In Home Decorators, I nearly purchased a baker’s rack for the kitchen. I got cold feet at the register- it was a bit pricey and may not have really answered our kitchen prayers. The salesman probably thought I was having a nervous breakdown as I debated the pros & cons in a rapid-fire, mainly one-sided conversation with FH, then turned and with a “nevermind, thanks anyway” whipped my credit card off of the counter & left the store. Sometimes I randomly become socially awkward.

Frustrated & cranky (I am impatient. This is a fact.), FH and I decided to call it quits and head for home. As we passed IKEA- I suddenly remembered my incredible knack for reading picture based instructions (manuals full of words bore me. I don’t read them). We stopped- we walked the showroom, we wrote down aisle & bin numbers, we almost stole a big yellow bag. And then, we walked out of IKEA with two new additions for our kitchen, and two projects to fill the rest of my day.

Dying to see the results of our temporarily-improve-the-kitchen-mission? Come back tomorrow for pictures and my secret IKEA furniture-building methods, which include having a helpful dog, rewarding yourself with food, and throwing things.

HGTV Blues

The future Mister & I have been watching a lot of HGTV over this long President’s Day weekend. If I was already fighting home-improvement urges/wishing-for-a-new-home-altogether (and I was), I am now in full-blown I-want-to-change-everything-about-our-house mode. Like…everything.

House Hunters is a fun show, especially the International version where wonderfully lucky people are off looking for their second home in Ireland, Bali or Italy. We watched a few episodes of House Hunters today, and watching other people go through the process brought us once again to our favorite conversation topic as of late.

“How long would it take us, if we really worked at it, to save X amount of dollars for a downpayment?” (Post-wedding, naturally).

“How much could we afford to pay per month on a mortgage?”

“Why don’t we move to Pennsylvania, or Colorado, or some other state where $350,000 gets you more than a teeny-tiny lot in an overcrowded area, and where the taxes are not practically as high as having a second mortgage?”

Anyway, if buying a home is out of the question for the time being- I am so desperate to make changes to our current apartment. And on HGTV, lucky people get their yards, kitchens, and bathrooms crashed by interior designers and turned into magical, homey places.

Another problem- we are not really a pair of Do-it-Yourself-ers. I like to do simple crafts and try to decorate things, but you won’t catch me refinishing a piece of furniture any time soon. And Tim is handy with power tools when it comes to building sets & stage design, but is not too crazy about tackling floor tile or any DIY renovations on his own. If someone was here to tell us what to do, we’d be great helpers, though.

So, my plan is to start spending my weekends driving around to all of the area Home Depot and Lowe’s home improvement stores, and hoping for the hosts of the DIY Network Kitchen Crashers or Bath Crashers to find me wandering the aisles looking at cabinetry or faucets.

I’m sure that will work. New kitchen, here I come.