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    We're two avid DIY-ers raising two rambunctious boys while tackling large and small projects, living to share our tale. All with the hope to inspire and encourage others.

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    It's gutter day! Fun to watch the process of seamless gutters being made. Went kitchen countertop shopping and came home with 6 remnants of soap stone. 3 of which are perfectly usable for the kitchen areas. Agreed to take it all for $100. Twist my arm why dontcha. This sky is on fire. This sky is on fiiirrreee. I'm walking on fire! Love this kind of wake up call.

Green = Green: Winterizing

Making our homes as energy-efficient as possible has always been a priority of ours.  In our last house, Ben replaced every window, added a layer of rigid insulation under the siding, and 22 bags of cellulose insulation to the attic.  Paired with a geothermal system, the average monthly heating/cooling bill came in around $30.  The guy that serviced the geothermal system couldn’t believe the bills were that low, even with the high-efficiency unit. Front of House

When we moved in this house, we knew we wanted to do the same.   It’s taken longer, but we have replaced every window with energy-efficient triple pane vinyl windows.


After each window install, we seal cracks with Great Stuff expanding foam.


This compressed foam fills in cracks around windows, going right around shims.


Before replacing the basement windows, we had box elders crawling all over.  It was really gross.  When removing the old windows, we saw the problem.  Absolutely zero insulation around the windows.  Not even fiberglass batting chunks.


Since sealing the gaps, we’ve had maybe 5% of bugs in the basement.  That’s a win-win situation; prevent drafts and keep creepy crawlies out.

Our first fall here, Ben crawled around the attic, blowing in 100 or so bags of cellulose.  For the house wrapping, we were able to get a good deal on used rigid foam panels on Craigslist.


Unlike fiberglass batting, rigid foam doesn’t lose R value over time.  By getting used panels, we saved at least a thousand dollars and some space in the landfill.  With the windows and siding in poor condition, we knew we needed to replace everything.  It made the most sense to super insulate while we were in the process.  Wrapping the house with 4 inches of rigid insulation took some time, but we’re already reaping the benefits.

Though we’re just beginning these cold months, we’ve already noticed the house holds heat longer.  Last year, we had a fire burning constantly.  If we didn’t, the furnace ran almost constantly.  Now, without a fire, the furnace kicks on several times a day.  With a fire, it comes on maybe three times.  Even the extremities of the house feel warmer.  To the extent that I refuse to put our thick winter comforter on for fear we’ll roast to death.

I know insulation and house guts like plumbing and electrical are some of the least exciting projects, but they are very necessary.

Kitchen Cabinets, Part 1

During our last kitchen renovation, I shared how we built our cabinets.  Over the weekend, Ben built every drawer, 9 total, for the island.  We’ve made a few changes while building our new cabinets, so I’m giving the scoop now.  To get as much detail as possible, I’m sharing how he built the boxes and drawers now.  Once we finish the fronts, I’ll discuss the materials and process for those.

As he finished each drawer, I sanded the tops and sides smooth for clear coat.  Four days later, here’s our island, ready for install.


The right stack are for either side of the stove.  On the left are the shorter cabinets the cook top will rest on.  Originally, we planned to put the trash under the sink again, but started discussing and agreed it is better under the stove.  With a half width drawer under, if someone is cooking, it’s easy enough to scoot to the side to throw something away.  At the sink, you have to step all the way over, stopping what you are doing.  So, that’s why there’s only one drawer in the lower box.

Our bathroom vanity was a trial run of sorts for the kitchen cabinet process.  All boxes are constructed with 3/4 inch thick, double-sided melamine coated particle board.  Melamine is ideal for wet or potentially wet areas such as kitchens.  Box assembly is otherwise the same as before.

One big change we made is the drawer material.  Last time we used 3/4 inch plywood.  It’s sturdy, but everything we can get now is a lower grade.  Low grade plywood warps easier, which can skew the drawer.  We also didn’t want to fill ugly edges.  This time around, we went with 3/4 inch thick poplar for the sides and 1/2 inch double-sided melamine for drawer bottoms.  Using a dado bit in the table saw, Ben cut a 1/2 inch wide by 3/8 inch deep groove a half-inch from the bottom.

Kitchen-Drawer-Assembly-GroovesHe repeated this process for both sides and the front.  The backs are an inch shorter and are glued directly to the drawer base.  A bead of glue inside the groove holds the base in place.  Each side slips in over, nailing the corners for added strength.


After the three sides are in place, Ben runs a line of glue on the base and side corners before sliding the back in.  A few more nails and the drawer is assembled.  That’s when I get to start working.  I used 220 grit paper to sand the top edges and sides smooths, paying extra attention to the joints.  Before sealing, I quickly vacuum off dust.  To keep the melamine base clean, I taped off the edges before applying two coats of clear water based poly.


One really great advantage of building our own cabinets is tailoring them to our needs.  For instance, the drawer heights are perfect for us.  We always prefer three drawers over a shorter stack of four.

Before we start building drawers, I measure a bunch of items to decide the minimum height for each drawer.  I tell Ben what I need the usable space to be.  To accommodate tall pots, leaving a little breathing room, our bottom drawer inside space is 11 inches tall.  Our top drawer can be no shorter than 4 1/2 inches inside to store our spice drawers.  Middle drawers are always the remaining space.  Knowing my measurements and that the bottom and glides take up 1 inch, Ben knows where to attach the glides.


Another big difference this go around are the drawer glides.  Last time, we didn’t want to sacrifice drawer height, so we used side mount glides.  With a bigger kitchen, we are less concerned about that and chose Blum soft close, under mount glides.

Comparatively, these puppies are not cheap.  About $17 per pair versus $6 for the same size.  We made our island deeper than standard, 31 inches, to leave space between the cooktop and bar.  Longer pairs cost $45 each.  That’s 405 dollars in drawer glides for just the island!  Even with the price tag, after using these in the bathroom, neither of us would go back to the old style.  These are the cats pajamas.  Seriously, full extension, 100 pound heavy-duty rating, quiet, and smooth.


With the slide installed, he secures clips to the under side of each drawer.  That’s the orange thing you see in the above photo.


These clips are the only thing physically holding the drawer to the glide.


Did I mention these glides are tucked completely underneath, hidden out of sight.


That’s all we can do on cabinets until we get everything set in the kitchen.  Then we add the face frames, drawer fronts, and hardware.  We’re nailing down those details soon.

We also made unexpected progress on the countertops over the weekend.  Hoping to get pricing and see our options, we popped in a local marble and granite supplier.  I said I preferred a dark, matte to satin finish stone.  The owner showed us really beautiful leathered granite and a gorgeous soap stone remnant pile.  After talking it over with him, he made us an offer we couldn’t refuse: 100 bucks for six soap stone pieces.  Three are more than enough for our kitchen, so we loaded it up that day.  Because soap stone is on the soft side, it’s easy to cut and polish at home.  Ben’s no stranger to working with stone counters, so we’re thrilled.  Right now, the slabs are stacked together, with the backs facing out.  But, I can’t wait to share more!

Our rule is to have everything on site and ready for install before anything gets ripped out.  Slowly, things are coming in.  Flooring, a new door, and the sink should arrive soon.  It can’t get here soon enough.  Almost daily, Ben threatens to tear things out.

Dependant Pendants

We’re making progress with the kitchen.  All cabinet boxes are built, except the sink which we’re waiting to build until we have a sink in hand.  As of now, half of the basement is cabinet shells, stacked tetris style.


For appliances, we’re only missing our sink.  The current dishwasher and refrigerator are staying.  A gorgeous 48 inch cook top, stainless vent hood insert, and stacked double ovens are hanging out, waiting for a permanent home.

What we expected to be easy, has become a search: finding the perfect sink. Knowing we loved the last custom-made sink (as well as our bathroom shower pan and counter by the same fabricator), we started there.  Unfortunately, their rates have almost tripled to complete our design.  Much like Duran Duran, we’re on the hunt.  And hungry like the wolf.

In the interim, Ben is starting drawer assembly and we’re waiting for our new sliding door to arrive.  Nitty gritty details are being discussed and planned regularly.  Lighting is the most recent debate.  After several discussions, I think we’ve settled it.  The smaller white dots represent recessed cans and the black show pendants.


I quite like these small pendants at Home Depot.  Directing the lighting down should make the bar area feel cozier, and won’t blind people in other rooms.

Sleek glass pendants are my back up, if we feel the black attract too much attention.  

Then I start second guessing whether I want pendants or not.  We need a vent hood, and the wider cook top needs a larger fan.  But, with the cook top in the island, that vent hood takes up a fair amount of space.  Visually and literally.  The plan is to box around it as simply and minimally as possible.  Perhaps similar to this, but in the middle of the room.

This white with wood band is really stunning, too.

I’m not sure if I’ll like the look of the big hood and smaller pendant combo.  Especially when the lights are less than two feet from the boxing.  I’ve searched for inspiration, but most island set ups have either pendants or a vent hood.  Not both.  Few that do, have pendants to the sides, not over a bar, like this:

Any ideas, suggestions, or pictures you have to help decide?

White (Paper) Christmas

This year, I took a cue from the traditional first wedding anniversary and went with a paper theme.  Using plain white paper and cardstock, I crafted several fun ornaments and decorations.  Even better, I didn’t spend a cent this year.  Here’s our finished tree:


We already had clear and silver glass balls, so I used some as filler.  The green orbs are actually foam vase filler.  I just stuck a metal hook in.  After Christmas, I can pull the hangers off without damage.


Back to the paper.  Origami critters didn’t take long to make, and the boys had fun choosing animals from my book.  Reindeer, of course:


Flying owls:


And goldfish are my favorites.


The pheasant looks more like a T rex.  We also went old school and made paper snowflakes.


To give a little movement, I also used 3 inch wide strips to make a garland.  This couldn’t be easier.  Just cut zig zags, leaving a 1/4 inch or so left.


A bokeh tree, just because.


Over in the family room, we hung our stockings and added a small winter scene.


More paper snowflakes, bottle brush trees, and paper houses.  I had all the trees, though more would have looked great.


As a kid, I loved my aunt’s ceramic village.  Seriously, anything miniature gets my undivided attention.  Sticking with the paper theme, I decided to craft a few small buildings.  Using this cute design as inspiration, I made my own taller version with more windows.


Three nestled in snug with the trees looks cute.


To help fill in around the stockings, I filled small votives with pine tree clippings.  They look like mini potted trees.


Our rail road spikes turned stocking hangers are back, too.


With the other projects we’re planning and prepping, kitchen!, these are the only areas I’ve decorated.  Keeping it super simple this year to help balance out the crazy that happens.  Are you finished yet?  What areas do you decorate?

Leather Gift Crafts

Ben has a crazy pile of leather from his pillow crafting days, which has inspired me to fiddle with leather lately.  First, I made a leather bin.  Then leather tab top curtains.  Now, two quick and cute items that are perfectly giftable.  Bonus points if you have leather scraps.  First up, this leather catch-all tray.


To make, start with a square or rectangle that is the size of your base plus side height.  Pinch one corner and mark where you want to secure together.  Using a leather punch, cut a hole.  Pinch again to make a second matching hole.


To speed the process, I flipped my punched holes over, marked each dot, then punched again.


After all four corners, you’re ready to assemble.  I used screw rivets (because I had them on hand from my curtains) but you can use normal rivets or even snaps.  If you’re shipping these, snaps are perfect for flat packaging.


Just align the pinched corners:


And insert the rivet.


That’s it.  A simple tray that is perfect in an entry for keys or in the laundry room for pocket items.  Mine corrals jewelry, chapstick, hair ties, and the cutest, most useless mini pocket knife.  One must have miniatures, if only to make you smile and wonder when/how it could ever be useful.


With even smaller scraps, you can make a chic key chain.  Just cut a 1 inch wide by 7 inch long strip.  Tip, use a utility knife for the cleanest, straightest cut.  Fold in half over a key ring (from the hardware store for about 70 cents each).  Pop in a screw rivet, leaving 1/4 inch between it and the ring.  Get all fancy and make a design on the end.  Go nuts by stamping names or initials to further personalize it.


These are ideal as smaller gifts, especially if you have a large group.  Depending on the color, they work for anyone – men and women.


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