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    Hey there! I'm Amanda and I'll be your co-pilot today. Along with my handy husband, Ben, we're remodeling our second house. We're avid DIY-ers, tackling large and small projects while raising two rambunctious boys. Thanks for following along on this wild journey!
    Photo by Jana Graham Photography

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    Rain storm line at the edge of town. Such strange weather today. One step closer to an organized kitchen. And one less thing cluttering up my counters. Beautifully still spring snow and six deer frolicking. This is the only type of snow I like. Because I know by days end, it'll melt.

New Knife on the Block

One thing I’ve always wanted in an organized kitchen was an in drawer knife block.  We often have several fruit bowls on the counters, but I prefer minimal clutter.  With the drawers finished, I got in a mood to organize, including a knife block.  Target carries an option, but I didn’t need as many small knife slots.  Instead, I put my thinking cap on to create a contained block, with a compartment for loose steak knives.  I started with a left over maple section from the countertops.  Before cutting, I measured our countertop knife block spacing.  Each slot is 1/8 inch wide and 3/4 of an inch apart, so I marked it on the top.


When I decided I liked the size and spacing, I used a square to transfer the marks to the leading edge.  At 2 inches thick, the board has enough depth to house knives.  Ben set the blade of the table saw blade to 1 1/2 inches and ran the board through each line.  I followed up with 120 grit, sanding every surface smooth and rounding the front and back edges.


To make a contained compartment, we used 1/4 inch MDF scraps to build a frame.  Supporting the knife handles is important in keeping the blades safely stowed.


Attaching a strip 3 1/2 inches from the block edge holds the handles.



For easier removal, I left 3 inches between the support and the steak knife divider.


With the knives stored out of sight, I’m planning dividers for the rest of the drawer contents.


For such a simple project, I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to get it done.  One less thing to clean around and look at.

Doors and Knobs

Almost exactly three months ago, we started tearing out kitchen cabinets and knocking down walls.  Since then, we fully gutted the room and are slowly building a new room.  Each step is stupidly exciting, as we get new function or a more complete kitchen.  You know what’s really great about cabinets?  The storage they offer.


What’s better than storage?  Hidden storage.  Such a novel idea.


Because these doors are simple and quick to build, we decided to make an interim set for the dish cabinet.


Eventually, we can build glass frames.  That didn’t stop me from arranging the interior as though it is open.  A fake succulent fills an open area.


Soft close hinges are the coolest thing since sliced bread.  The smarties at Blum sure know what they’re doing.  To prevent the doors from hitting the cabinetry, they make tiny metal pieces that clip into the hinge, limiting the opening to 86 degrees.  Hiding junk above the fridge, like the food dehydrator, is fantastic.


It’s amazing how much bigger, brighter, and more finished the kitchen feels with that addition.  Also, sneak peek of the walnut island drawer fronts.


After holding up the silver handles, and not liking the look, I began a search for simple pulls.  Nothing that draws too much attention.  Then I remembered I had these glass bubble knobs.  Totally perfect.  Basic, functional, but almost blend in with the cabinets.


Fewer and fewer items are on the to do list, most minor.  Some trim.  Finish the cabinet under the sink.  Install a vent hood.  Strengthen my forearm muscles while smoothing out the uneven old pantry wall.


Once I finish skim coating, we can straighten out the cabinet configuration.  Then, we just might have a finished kitchen.  Light at the end of the tunnel.  And just in time to start summer work on the exterior of the house.

Ladder Rack

With recent fluctuating temps, light layers are the key to staying comfortable.  Outdoors and well as in.  To neatly store extra blankets, I built a leaning ladder for our bedroom.


To get started, I used two 3/4 by 2 3/4 inch by six-foot long poplar boards and two 4 foot long 1 inch dowels.  Before cutting, I measured and marked the boards for four rungs.  Mine are spaced 15 inches apart, starting from the bottom.


Using a Forstner bit, drilling the holes was quick and easy.



After drilling all holes and cutting the dowels, I used 220 grit paper to sand each piece before assembly.


Honestly, sanding almost took more time than all the other steps combined.  Attaching everything was simple.  Working on the garage floor, I squeezed a liberal amount of Gorilla wood glue in the four holes of one board as well as the dowel ends.


That was easy, but inserting the second side was a bit trickier.  Another set of hands would have been really helpful, to line the glued dowels up with the other board.  To keep everything tight while the glue dried, I placed a clamp at each rung.


Twenty-four hours later, I pulled the clamps off and lightly sanded the extra glue off.


The two foot wide rungs are perfect for king sized blankets.


I might make a second for the basement to store guest bedding.  Much easier and cuter way to store blankets than a stack on a chair.

Office Space

While focusing on the kitchen, my office nook didn’t get as much attention.  For a while it had only floors, looking blank and sad.


Then Ben set the drawer boxes and it stalled again.


Once the kitchen was fully functional, we were able to focus on the office.  A matching maple desk top is warm against the white cabinets and drawers.



After spending several days priming and painting, the office is nearly complete.  By complete, I mean useable.


These drawers are already getting loaded up.



We have to add trim under the window before the office is back at 100% capacity.  Though torn sheet rock and foam is beautiful.


I’ll also need to apply a last coat or two of poly on the maple.  Before settling on water based poly, I tested six other options: mineral oil, cutting board oil, Danish oil, butcher block oil, wax, and teak oil.



Based on color, sheen, and water repelling abilities, I loved the paste finishing wax.  It looked natural, but still brought out the depth of the wood.


It looked and felt wonderful – so smooth with a subtle gloss.  To test durability, and stray marker/pen situations, I wiped the desk with a damp cloth.  As expected, the water wiped the wax right off, raising the grain.  I knew right then and there the wax wasn’t for me.  So far, the three coats of Polycrylic with light sanding between is perfect.

In addition to useful office supplies, I celebrated a new office with greenery.


A lemon button fern and succulent.


Just a few small steps left in here.  I’m itching to get everything out of the closet and from under the bed.  To work at a desk instead of a tiny dresser.  Any favorite office file organization systems?

Jute Herringbone

Right around this time last year, I switched rugs around.  Originally, this grid rug was in the family room, but we moved it to the dining room.


A large-scale floral rug took its place, but felt off.  Especially after I added a large stump coffee table to our family room.


At some point, I’d had enough of it and pulled it out, exposing the bare wood floors.  I searched for a replacement, spending more time than necessary internally debating before settling on a replacement.


Preferable something neutral, but with a pattern for interest.  West Elm’s Jute Herringbone rug has long been a favorite and their current rug sale pushed me off the fence.

After a short delay in Texas, the new rug safely arrived on Monday.  As soon as the UPS guy left, I moved the furniture out-of-the-way, vacuumed the wood, and unrolled the carpet.


Mark this as the first step toward real, grown up furniture.


Pairing the jute with chenille feels soft underfoot, and reduces shedding.


After deciding on this rug, I deliberated colors.  Natural and ivory or natural and platinum.


Getting the rug flat under the heavy coffee table took two people.  While Ben lifted, I tugged the rug straight.


With spring right around the corner, I plan to add more green to the room.  One can never have too much green.


If I were brave enough, and didn’t have more house to remodel, I’d love to have a colorful velvet sofa.  The Paidge has clean lines and their Moss velvet is beautiful.


That’s a grown up purchase for another time, leaving me plenty of time to debate and change my mind.


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