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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!
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    Yet another reason to love spring: flowering trees. So pretty I had to snap a pic while taking out the trash. People thought we were crazy to replace one of master bath sinks with a tub. I have to say, I've never regretted it. Especially now with this ear infection crap putting a damper on my showers. I'm sick with a cold and ear infection, so maybe remembering a pretty sunrise from last week will help? No. Oh well, still pretty. #montanamoment

Nuts for Walnut

In the master bath, the room looked cold before adding the dark walnut vanity.  After, the room came to life, and contrasted against the darker elements.

Seeing the result, and the combo with the slate tile, we knew we wanted a similar look in the kitchen.  Essentially, several elements from the bathroom were a trial run for the kitchen remodel; slate floors, tongue and groove planks, and walnut cabinetry.  The slate has held up beautifully, and we love the subtle texture the tongue and groove adds.  Just recently, we added the walnut to the kitchen scene.  It’s so amazing how different wood looks unfinished versus unfinished.


Bland, gray-ish sanded wood transforms to bold and beautiful.  Not to be confused with The Bold and the Beautiful soap opera.  The change isn’t nearly as dramatic.  Nothing dead coming back to life twenty years later.

One drawer stack oiled, the other waiting to get attention:


The left side below the cooktop is actually two fronts attached to the single trash drawer.  Super sneaky ninja move right there.


Getting all the drawer fronts attached and oiled made a world of difference, but the lack of toe kick needed attention.  I pestered Ben a few times, trying to get out of the 90-95% finished rut.


Voila, the magic of the internet.  Toe kicks instantly appear.


To skip the awkward leaning on the floor, applying oil while avoiding getting it on the floor, shoulder cramps that’ll surely follow routine, I applied water based poly before install.   That way it’s a one and done deal.  The rest is sealed with teak oil.

So far, I’ve got three coats on everything.  Lightly sanding between coats makes the finish ultra smooth, leaving a subtle sheen.


We chose teak oil because it’s easy to reapply as necessary.  Either as a rejuvenating/refresher coat or if there’s a damaged area in need of sanding.  On this side of the kitchen, we have to finish the last 5% by closing off the sink cabinet.


And grout the tile behind the cooktop.


Sometimes, as we work on things, plans change.  In our original plan, the walnut also covered the back of the bar area.  For a few reasons, we had to change gears and go in a different direction.  Nine foot, clear (no knot holes completely through) boards are seemingly impossible to get right now.  We also couldn’t secure the boards without visible nails or screws marring the faces.  Which kind of defeated the purpose of attaching a pretty wood to the back.  A line of nails would bug the crap out of me.  Plywood only comes in 8 foot lengths, leaving a seam somewhere along the back.  Again, it would drive me nuts.


Ben suggested tiling the back to match the backsplash, but I thought it’d look too busy.  Instead, we attached 1/2 inch MDF, with casement covering the seam and divided the back into four areas.  Once we get four stools, each will have a designated area.  Not our first plan, but the white looks fresh against the maple.

Now I have to finish the wall smoothing and we’ll be able to build the cabinet across from the breakfast nook.  I’m really pushing to become a 100% finisher.  Any lingering projects you’re finishing up?

Produce Cart

In addition to the new knife block, I’ve been working on organizing the rest of the kitchen.  It’s a great way to keep busy, while indulging my crazy.  Initially, I planned to have an under shelf mounted basket in the pantry, to store potatoes and extra fruit.  Because, well, Costco quantities.  Something similar to the baskets in the pantry below.

The problem with that is two-fold.  Finding the right mounting system is tricky.  Secondly, a secured basket would block the inside corner, making it useless.  Due to stubbornness, I didn’t let the issue go and searched for a better solution.  One night, as I couldn’t fall asleep, the perfect idea came to me.  Lightbulb-a wooden crate on casters!  I dug around our scrap bin, but didn’t see enough of any one thing.  Michael’s carries wooden crates, and the measurements were perfect.  Even easier than building a custom box.  For easier moving, I bought four fixed casters at Home Depot to attach to the base.

The base material is about 3/8 inch thick, so I used a combo of screws.  On the outer edge, along the 3/4 inch front piece, I used 1 inch screws.  Along the inside, shorter 1/2 inch screws to avoid going through the base.  Adding a quarter-inch thick block would also fix the problem, but I didn’t want to add height.


Swivel casters could work just as well, but fixed wheels made it easier to pull out and push in without hitting the sides.  Instead, the box smoothly slides straight in and out.


Inside, we store potatoes, oranges, and other room temperature produce.  Having gaps between strips allows adequate ventilation, keeping the contents fresh longer.


This system would work well for other heavy items, keeping contained, but easily accessible.  Not only in a pantry, but think of closets for shoes, toys, or sports gear.  Endless options, but super easy to get done.

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.


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