Stuffed Peppers

This is the year I finally got bell peppers to grow in the garden! They may be small compared to what you buy at the store, but they are full of flavor. Here’s a look at the final menu:

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I found a recipe on Allrecipes.com, but tweaked it with what I had at hand. The peppers are stuffed with white rice, turkey burger, and Mexican corn.

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To 1/2 cup white rice, add 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmering and allow the rice to cook for ~20 min (or until done). During this time, brown 1 lb of turkey burger using a skillet.

Slice the tops of the peppers off and remove the seeds and insides. Because the bottoms of the peppers were not flat, I also sliced the bottoms so that they would stand upright.

Once the turkey burger was cooked, I added the boiled rice, 1 can of tomato sauce, 1 can of Mexican corn, 1 Tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, garlic and onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir well to mix and add the mixture inside the peppers. I had way too much mixture because I did not have enough bell peppers, so we ended up eating the mixture inside tortilla shells as well. I had some leftover cherry tomatoes and I sliced up the tops from the peppers and added that to the mixture for the tortillas.

I covered the dish with foil and baked at 350F for 30-45 min or until the peppers were soft and cooked through. The recipe says an hour, but I think by covering with foil this speeds up the cooking time.

I topped with some shredded cheddar cheese. As another pepper dish, I made stuffed Jalepeno poppers (see my previous post here: Jalapeno Poppers). I apologize for the missing photos in that post, I did some spring cleaning on my computer and need to re-add the photos when I have some time.

Simply delicious!

Online Recipe

Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Shut The Front Door!

Choosing a front door color is a tricky business. It’s one of the first things that a guest will see when they come to visit and can have huge curb appeal. I have been wanting to paint our front door for a while now. Our front door was, you guessed it, white. Boring! I had actually picked out the paint that I wanted to change it to a long time ago, it’s probably been several months now. It’s called “La Fonda Antique Red.”

Here are the obligatory before photos (inside, and two outside shots):

A dark red color called to me. With a light gray siding, black shutters, and brick for the outdoor decor of the house – red seemed to be a good choice. I really do like red accents – and the La Fonda Antique Red seemed just perfect.

Painting the front door was a relatively easy process, but it did take a full day to do. First, I removed all the hardware off of the door – door handle, door bolt and chain, and the knocker.

Once I removed the hardware, I took the door down. No easy feat for one person to do. The front door is heavy! I moved it downstairs on top of a drop cloth so that I could clean and sand it. Because I decided to remove the door knocker, I had to fill in the holes with wood filler and sand that down too. I gently sanded the door and wiped the entire door clean prior to painting.

I decided to paint both the inside and outside of the front door. This seems to be a pretty unorthodox decision – most recommend keeping the inside of the door a neutral color matching the trim. Since our home has a lot of red accents (think blankets on sofas, rugs, kitchen dish towels, placemats, etc.) I actually think that having red on the inside will bring the decor together.

I needed to tape off the windows at the top of the doorway, and then I started painting. The type of paint is an exterior paint made by Valspar – exterior paint is a must for front doors. I must admit that it was a big change with the first set of brush strokes!

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Here are the first and second coats on the inside of the door (photos below). In the photos the paint is still wet, but once dried the paint turned darker and evened out.

I needed to enlist help from Nate’s youngest brother, Mike, to put the door back on its hinges. With Nate being out of commission until his knee is better, Mike has been a huge help with lifting heavy objects.

I am in love with the finished product! I think the red on the interior goes well with the rest of the house.

Another DIY project is successfully in the books!

Front Door Websites:

Paint Colors for Front Doors

Suggested Paint Colors

 

 

Kitchen Renovation

Well we did it. It may have taken several months, but our kitchen has been remodeled! We used a company called Builder’s of Hope, so we can’t take credit for the actual remodel but I’d like to think we had the vision for the project.

If you’ve ever been in an older home that was built in the late 60s/early 70s you will see what we had. Small kitchen, awkward space, little storage. I took tons of before photos so that you would get the full effect of the after photos! While we didn’t have anything moved around – that would have been a nightmare involving plumbing, what did have done completely transformed this level of the house.

To start, the photos below show what our house looked like before the renovation. When you walk through the front door you would see the bottom left photo. Up a few stairs there is a tiny doorway into the kitchen and the green wall is a false wall (bottom right photo) that effectively blocks the person from seeing straight into the kitchen when the go through the front door.

And don’t even get me started on the faux parquet linoleum flooring. Can we say outdated? It made the house feel even older than it actually is.

Then, when you go into the kitchen, the island was too close to the refrigerator so that when you opened the door, no one could get by you. There was also an outdated wine rack hanging in the middle of the ceiling and awkward shelves down the side of the wall. It’s hard to explain now because the renovation makes the kitchen look and feel so much bigger.

The first day, our contractor shortened the island by about 18 inches, removed the wine rack and shelves. You can see in the photos below where the 18 inches of the island were removed. This had to be patched before the new flooring could be put down. He also removed the linoleum flooring. Already we could see a huge improvement!

We had a little bit of a hiccup at this point where the flooring we wanted had not come in yet, so we had to live with the base floors for a while. Probably about a month or so. It wasn’t ideal, but livable.

Once the flooring was on its way, the doorways were opened up and the false wall removed. Below you will see the before photos of the false wall (top three photos) and the after photos with the wall removed (bottom two photos). My very own pantry is going to where the false wall was located!!!

Next up, opening the doorways. This probably made the next biggest impact to the flow of the room, right after removing the outdated wine rack/shelves and shortening the island. The drywall was removed first to determine that the studs were located in good areas as well as to allow the contractor to reinforce the overhead load bearing wall. The photos below show how far out the doorways ended up being.

The next series of photos show the doorways being opened up, drywall repair and spackling, as well as the initial impact of the opened up doorways.

We also had the parquet linoleum in the foyer area removed. Guess what was underneath? HARDWOOD FLOORS! Why in the world anyone would want to cover up hardwood floors is beyond me. We still need to work on refinishing them a little bit, but the removal of the linoleum was a huge change.

Repair to the floor where the doorway was opened up also had to be done. The right hand doorway had the most repair done. The contractor did a really nice job matching the hardwood and staining as best he could. If you don’t know that it’s been patched you would be hard pressed to find it just looking around. The repair section was similar to the left hand photo below (I must have forgotten to take that picture). The top right hand photo is the first coat of stain and the bottom right hand photo is several coats later.

The new vinyl flooring was a perfect fit to bring the kitchen together.

Have I mentioned yet about the lack of storage space in our kitchen? One of the best things about this renovation was that I got my pantry! The one I’ve wanted for years. Literally. Best addition to the house ever! And so pretty.

So now, instead of having the false wall that “hides” the kitchen from the front door, we now have a pantry! I purposely put the lowest shelf relatively high in the bottom cabinet to allow for storage of my pots and pans. I found a really nice storage rack specifically designed to hold pots, pans, and lids at Lowe’s. I had to finagle it a little bit to fit all of my pots and pans, but this was a great investment. When you have little storage space, you learn what works to increase the storage you have to work with.

Nate’s Dad, being the handy woodworker that he is, made shelves that fit the newly shortened island.

We are totally in love with our new kitchen. The extended doorways, shortened island with additional shelving, new pantry, and new floor makes this floor very appealing.

The photos below show the left hand side of the floor as you walk into the house (top left and right photos), and then as you go into the kitchen (bottom two photos).

The photos below show the other side of the floor looking in (left photo) and a view from the kitchen side (right photo).

Before, During, and After:

Happy times in the kitchen!

Bread and Butter Pickles

Not only did I make the best bread and butter pickles known to man, but I also successfully canned for the first time ever!

These pickles are also really pretty when canned. Spoiler alert – I plan to give these out as Christmas gifts. One of the great things about canning is that when properly prepared, the pickles, sauces, fruits, etc. are good for years!

I have to give credit where credit is due. This recipe came from a work colleague’s girlfriend, Ann. Thanks for sharing the recipe! I bought the jars with lids, pickling lime, pickling spice, and canning utensils (funnel, jar holder, etc.) from Walmart.

I think these pickles turned out so well because the cucumbers came fresh from the garden. Five pounds may seem like a lot, but my cucumber plant (and I only have the one!) has been producing like crazy. Seriously. I think I have cucumbers coming out of my ears over here! I used six cucumbers to make 9 jars worth of pickles.

I scrubbed the cucumbers to remove the spines prior to cutting them. After slicing the cucumbers to the shape/size of pickle that I wanted, I placed them into a gallon-size Ziploc bag. To the sliced cucumbers, I added 1/2 cup of pickling lime and coated the cucumber slices by flipping the bag over several times.

Once coated with pickling lime, the cucumbers were placed in a large bowl and covered with cold water. To keep the cucumbers from floating, I placed a lid on top of the cucumbers. This sits overnight. The pickling lime makes the cucumbers crispy to give the pickles a nice crunch.

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The next morning, I prepared the jars for canning and made the pickling syrup. To sterilize jars, heat the oven to 225F and place the jars, lids, and screw tops on a cookie sheet (or two if needed). Make sure to spread everything out so that the heat can get around each of the items. Heat the jars, etc. for at least 10 min.

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Rinse the cucumbers in cold water several times to remove excess pickling lime. During the 10 min heating time, I prepared the pickle syrup. Add 7 cups of granulated sugar to 5 cups of apple cider vinegar in a large pot. Add 1 oz (about half of the spice container) of pickling spice and stir. Heat and add the sliced cucumbers. Cook cucumbers until they turn clear.

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Then, using the funnel scoop cooked cucumbers into each of the sterilized jars. At this point, try not get to too much of the syrup in with the cucumbers. I highly recommend the funnel – this ensures you do not scald yourself with hot cucumbers or hot syrup.

Boil the pickle syrup for 5 min. Remove from heat and add syrup to the jars containing the pickles. I filled the jars to the first line where the top screws. Be careful! The syrup is very hot. I ended up leaving the spices in with the pickles – I think it makes the jars look really pretty. But, you could remove the spices by using a strainer. Just be careful if you do this – the syrup is really hot. I cannot emphasize this enough!

Once filled, use the jar holder to keep the jar still while you place the lid and screw the top onto each jar. While the jars are dropping to room temperature, you will hear the jars popping as they seal. The pops were music to my ears. As long as the lids cannot be pressed down, you have successfully sealed the jars. And, voila! You are finished! Just wait until the jars reach room temperature before trying out the pickles. Delish.

 

Sunflowers – A Summertime Flower

I love sunflowers. They are so bright and cheery and remind me so much of summertime. We had them in the wedding bouquets. Luckily, (or maybe I planned it?) sunflowers are still in season in September, which is when we got married.

Wedding Dress with Bouquet

My mom decided to try her hand at starting miniature sunflowers from seed. The package that she received calls the flowers “Dwarf” and they are expected to get to 1-2 feet in height.

She followed the directions on the back of the package and was expecting the seeds to germinate within 7-10 days. However, the first batch of seeds did not germinate so she ordered another batch. Sure enough, the first set germinated late (~ 21 days) as soon as she got the second batch in the soil to germinate 🙂

Since they had so many seedlings when my Dad came through to visit he dropped off a bunch for me!

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I planted each sprout into a pot or container with new pot soil. For some of them, I planted several together which was probably not the best idea since they need about six inches of space between. The closest ones for me are probably in the 4 inch range.

I then generously watered them and put the pots around the deck and one in the front yard. And then the waiting game started! Every so often I would go check on their growth to see if they were close to blooming. Mom did the same at her house in NJ.

As the name implies, sunflowers grow best in full sun. They are hardy flowers and can do well in most soils as long as it has good drainage. The seed, stem, and leaf emit inhibitory growth substances and should not be planted with other garden plants such as beans or potatoes.

If you’ve ever had a bird feeder and filled it with seeds that include sunflower seeds, the hulls that pile up below will eventually kill the grass underneath due to the toxins in the hulls. The toxin is harmless to animals or people and eventually biodegrades in the soil.

Now that the sunflowers were planted, I anxiously awaited the arrival of the flowers!

Mine started blooming a couple of weeks ago and they are gorgeous! I love that they are small so they do not require any sort of tie to keep them growing upwards.

So beautiful! And here are some photos of Mom’s sunflowers.

The ones in NJ look taller and definitely have bigger flowers, probably because hers are spaced appropriately so the plant is getting plenty of nutrients!

The bag for this particular type of sunflower does not indicate that it will produce sunflower seeds for eating, but maybe they will?! The blooms will be beautiful in any bouquet if I decide to cut them for that purpose.

Happy planting!

Sunflowers 

Sage-Infused Recipes

It has been a long time since my last blog post. For one, I’ve been really busy with house projects and traveling so I haven’t had the time. But, the good news is now that I’m back I have plenty to blog about!

I recently (probably a month or so ago now) replanted our herb gardens that hang on the deck and decided to add sage to my plant list this year. I do not know a whole lot about sage other than you usually use it in pork sausage, but I figured that I would be able to find some recipes online.

There are several types of sage and you can find plenty of information about each online. Some websites that I browsed through are included at the end of the post. The variety that I have is doing incredibly well in the hanging herb garden. So well in fact that it’s taking over!

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When I searched for sage recipes there were several with butternut squash and with pork. I thought to myself, why not try out both?!

I have never cooked with butternut squash before so this was a new experience for me. I found several recipes online and decided on a couple from allrecipes.com. Because the butternut squash takes a while to cook, I started baking the squash and preparing the pork chops in between the baking and squash smashing step.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

Preparing and baking the squash ended up being a lot easier than I had originally thought it would.  First, I peeled the skin from the squash and cut it lengthwise. Then, I scooped out the seeds and innards from the inside of the squash. Next, place 1 Tablespoon of butter to each hollowed out portion. Sprinkle both halves with salt and pepper.Place each half cut-side up in a pan and cover with foil. Bake for one hour at 450F.

Once softened (should be easily pierced with a fork), scoop out cooked squash and mash in a bowl.

In a separate small bowl mix together 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese. Add this spice mixture to the mashed squash and mix well.

Now onto the fun part! Preparing the raviolis! To make clean-up easier, I laid out who to  wrappers on a sheet of parchment paper. Side note: wonton wrappers can be found at any grocery store near the produce section where the pre-made salads are stored in the refrigerated area. Brush each side with egg white. I added about a tablespoon worth of the squash mixture to the center of the wrapper. Lay another wrapper on top and fold down to make the ravioli. The egg white helps to keep the wrappers sticking together.

Add prepared raviolis to boiling water and boil for 5-8 min depending upon how many you add at a time. I did two batches and had to cook for closer to 8 min. While the raviolis were boiling, I prepared the butter-sage sauce. I used my handy-dandy spice scissors and cut ~ 1/4 cup worth of fresh sage and added that to 1/4 cup butter and browned for a few minutes.

Once finished, I added the butter-sage sauce and some extra Parmesan cheese to the tops of the raviolis. Yum!

Sage Pork Chops

As I mentioned earlier in the post, I also prepared pork chops with the ravioli. Since the butternut squash takes about an hour to bake, I prepared the pork chops during that time and let it simmer for ~ 45 min in the broth.

First, you rub seasoning onto both sides of the pork chops. Mix together 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 teaspoon fresh sage in a small bowl. I don’t have dry sage and the fresh sage is much tastier. Rub generously on both sides of the pork chops.

Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a saucepan (I have a cast iron skillet that I like to use for cooking meat) and brown each side for about 5 min. Once browned, add 1 cup of beef bouillon (I did 1 cup + 2 packs of bouillon for extra flavor) and cover the pan. Simmer for ~45 min. You can see in the photos that I had two thick chops. If you were to have thinner pork chops, you do not need to simmer for as long or else the meat will be really dry.

This part of the meal was really easy to prepare, whereas making the raviolis took more time. Both were absolutely delicious!

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Websites:

Four Types of Sage

Varieties of Sage

Six Types of Sage

Sage Pork Chops Recipe

Butternut Squash Recipe

Easy Crockpot Barbeque Chicken

Since I am waiting for the gardens to start producing (and they are growing fast!), I have been trying out new recipes. Particularly, recipes with chicken. I have yet to find a crockpot recipe with chicken as the main dish, that isn’t soup, that I like. I did not have high hopes, but I found a barbeque chicken recipe on allrecipes.com that I decided to try.

The recipe is simple enough. Add chicken to the crockpot, mix together the barbeque sauce, pour on top and cook for a few hours. See the original recipe at the end of the blogpost. Of course, as with all recipes, I modified the ingredients list.

 

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Most of the ingredients I used are in the photo above. To modify, I added garlic powder, minced onions, liquid smoke, and JGM’s mix – none of which is included in the recipe.

I added 2 packages of chicken tenderloins, which ended up being a little less than 2 pounds total chicken. To make the barbeque sauce add together 12 oz barbeque sauce, 1/2 cup Italian dressing, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 Tablespoon liquid smoke, 1 teaspoon minced onions, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/2 Tablespoon JGM mix. The amounts of the last items (liquid smoke onward) are estimates since I do not remember exactly how much got added. Mix all the ingredients together and add on top of the chicken. Coat well and cover the crockpot. Cook for 3 hours on high.

 

 

After cooking for three hours on high, I removed the chicken from the sauce and shredded the chicken. After shredding, I placed the chicken back into the sauce and mixed well. We made barbeque chicken sandwiches for dinner and I must say they were a hit!

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I think that there are two key points to mention that made this recipe a success. The first is adding liquid smoke – it gives just the right amount of flavor to the chicken. Secondly, when cooking the chicken in a crockpot I recommend cooking on the lower end of the time (3 hours on high instead of 4). This ensures that the chicken does not dry out. Enjoy!

Online Recipe:  Crockpot Barbeque Chicken

 

 

It’s Spring Time!

And we all know that spring time means garden time! The weather has been wonderful lately with the forecast being sunny and mid-upper 70s. I cannot believe how quickly Spring is coming. I hope that I haven’t jinxed it by announcing this to the world.

For the past couple of weekends I spent a few hours amending the soil in our backyard gardens. To do this, I raked up all the pine needles, leaves, etc. from the top of the soil. I actually think that this coverage helped keep the soil in pretty decent condition. After raking off the top coat, I added more peat moss, black kow, and garden soil to each of the beds. Soil tends to compact over the growing season so additional soil had to be added to each of the beds. Since we also had the compost barrel working its magic all winter, I was able to add some really nice compost to the beds as well! The compost looked really nice and I was able to add enough compost to all of the gardens in the back yard.

The photos above show what the gardens looked like before (left) and after (right) once the extra soil and compost (middle) had been added.

 

Since I got the gardens ready pretty early in the season I decided to start cool-weather crops from seed. I planted potatoes, onions, carrots, spinach, lettuce, beans and peas, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. We had some leftover red potatoes that were kept in the fridge and I decided to see if we could get those to grow in the garden. I dug two rows about 12-16 inches apart and buried three potatoes in each row. Excess soil was kept on both sides to cover the potatoes in raised rows (https://greenthumbilina.wordpress.com/2014/11/30/growing-potatoes/). The potatoes might be a stretch, but we will see how they grow!

All of the other veggies were sown with seeds as described on their packages.

You can see in the photos above that after planting the seeds they were labeled with a plastic stake so that I know where each vegetable is located once they sprout. I also laid down the watering hoses around the seeds so that when the rain is lacking I can set the watering on a timer. For the most part, I sowed multiple seeds per hole to ensure at least one or two would sprout.

My little helper (below) was pretty exhausted after this morning of gardening!

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After about 8-10 days, several of the seeds had started sprouting! By the time I wrote this blog post it had been almost three weeks since the first seed was planted and I have to say that the garden is doing quite well!

Above, you can see the peas, beans, and spinach plants have sprouted. Additional ones that look really good include the Brussels sprouts, carrots, and onions. Crossing my fingers (and toes) that the spinach will make it this year (https://greenthumbilina.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/a-fall-garden-the-greens/)!

Spring can be a deceiving season. The weather in the beginning of March, when I planted everything, was sunny and warm with temperatures hovering in the mid 70s. This past weekend, however, the weather has been damp and gray and in the 50s. I worry about the temperature dropping low (around or below freezing) so I decided to set up the garden hoops so that a cover can be placed on top if need be. Additionally, the peas need trellis support already so I set up a few stakes for those plants (above; https://greenthumbilina.wordpress.com/2014/08/24/peas-and-harmony-on-a-trellis/).

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And I’ll leave you with one more photograph of my little helper, Deacon. We are hopeful that our early Spring garden will do well this year.

Closet? You’ll Love It!

If you watch Modern Family, you’ll get the title reference. While not my favorite episode, one of the characters, Jay, who heads up a closet company is coming up with a new slogan for his company. The commerical ends with “Closet? You’ll love it!” And it makes no sense to anyone.

This blog post is about…you guessed it! Closets! The one real downside to having an older home is the lack of storage. Our closets were a great example of how not to maximize your space. But not anymore!

Originally, there was one closet rod placed exactly in the middle of the closet. The problem with this is that you can only hang as many clothes as will fit on the one rod. In fact, I was using two of our closets – one in the master bedroom and one in the guestroom. Nate had been using an entire room as his closet, which we now call his “mancave” and will be the topic of another blog post!

I only have a before photo of Nate’s closet, pictured below.

 

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As you can see, he had been using a temporary closet to hold his suits. What a mess, right? First, we had to remove everything out of the closet and remove the closet bar and shelf to make space for our new closet units. When removing the boards, we discovered a few patches and the area behind the boards needed to be painted. So, you can see that we repaired the patches and painted the interior of the closet a flat white.

After waiting for the paint to dry, we started setting up the new closet. While at Lowe’s, we discovered the Rubbermaid Homefree Series that is a kit to design a completely new closet. They come in different sizes (3-6ft, 4-8ft, etc.) depending on the length of the closet. We bought the 3-6ft size for Nate’s closet and the 4-8ft size for mine. The kit comes with great directions and be sure to follow them exactly. In order to put the closet together, you will need a measuring tape, level, stud finder, a few drill bit sizes, power drill, and a pencil. Everything else is included! You can see in the photographs below the various steps of building Nate’s closet. The upper bar is installed first at a certain height (screwed into studs) and uprights installed at the proper widths. The upper rod and shelves were installed first and then the middle rod and shelves.

As you can see in the photographs above, we were able to put two rows of rods and that effectively doubled the hanging space! Remember the mess that was the closet before? See below for the before and after. Huge transformation! And now, we are able to finally complete his mancave. See a future blog post for that one!

For my closet, I had a lot more space to work with once the original rod and shelving had been removed. I was able to use the 4-8ft kit extending almost the entire 8 ft. I used about 6 ft of hanging space and used the remaining to install additional shelves and baskets. Amazing! See below for the final photos (again, I apologize for not taking a before photo – just imagine a lot of clothes smashed together on one rod).

I changed my mind a lot while trying to design my new closet, but with this kit it is so incredibly easy to switch things around to best suit your needs. I definitely needed more hanging space, but having 12 feet of hanging space was more than enough to hang all of my clothes. On the lefthand side of the closet, we installed two baskets that now hold my scarves, gloves, and hats in one and hold my sandals and clutches in the other. Above the baskets, I was able to install two additional shelves that now hold additional items!

Update: I have long skirts and dresses that do not fit with the double rod closet organization. With the closet kit I was able to shorten the bottom rod so that the far right of my closet has enough vertical space to hang the dresses. I also maximized the space by adding an additional rod on the far right of the closet. This allowed me to hang all of my dresses and extend the hanging space by an additional 3 feet.

 

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By this point we had removed the sliding closet doors, which I didn’t care for anyway. I then installed a shower rod that stay up with tension and put on two tan and red patterned curtains. I have to say that adding this touch really finishes the closet. I can close the curtains or keep them open, but either way the closet looks complete!

Closet? You’ll love it 🙂

A Bathroom Makeover

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this year I have decided as part of my New Year’s resolutions to learn how to do DIY home projects. So here we go with my first real big project – our downstairs bathroom. I forgot to take an official before picture – I had actually began the makeover prior to deciding to write a post about it. I am so excited about how the bathroom turned out that I will give you all a sneak peek of the finished product!

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The project took me about 6 weeks to complete, but that is because I definitely took my time and also ran into some unforseen road blocks (such as holes located where they should not be…). As I mentioned, I do not have an official before picture, but you will have to just imagine having this wallpaper covering the walls.

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Pretty, right? Especially if you’re into pink bathrooms with flowers, which I’m not. Hence, the need to change the decor. Luckily, this is the only room in the entire house that has wallpaper.

I won’t sugar coat it, removing wallpaper is a pain in the butt! Although, according to Dear Mother I should have bought some DIF and it wouldn’t have taken so long. I followed the website (www.familyhandyman.com) to remove the wallpaper. Before I started anything, I placed plastic drop cloths over everything. Removing wallpaper is a messy business. I then removed the top layer of paper off the wall – this was really easy and only took a couple hours. The paste was left on the wall. So, I scored the paste with a scorer to allow the hot water into the paste to help soften it up. Wearing gloves, I used a sponge to cover a section of paste with hot water. Using a scraper I scraped the paste off after the hot water softened the paste. I actually ended up doing this over the course of a week or so. I spent an hour or two every evening after work so that I wouldn’t get too frustrated trying to get it all done at once.

The above photos show the paste on the walls after the paper has been removed. And, surprise! Two holes were discovered. One was behind the medicine cabinet and one was right above the backsplash of the countertop. A previous owner had covered the smaller hole with tape and then put the wallpaper on top to cover it up – not cool. Since I am painting the walls, I had to patch the smaller hole with drywall mesh and putty. This took many layers of putty, with a 24 hour drying period between each application. If you want the patch to look smooth, take the time to put enough putty on the wall and sand between each application. There was also a section in the top corner of one of the walls that needed repair. It is definitely better to take the time to fix all of these issues rather than try to cover them up or a do a half-ass job (pardon my language). Rich helped fix the larger hole by teaching me how to add a piece of sheet rock.

Once I had the paste completely removed and the holes patched up, I taped the edges of the walls and countertop using frog tape prior to painting. Below, you can see how I began painting the walls by edging the sides first with a paintbrush. I then filled in with a roller. I painted a light yellow on the walls. It’s just enough color to be a color and brighten up the walls. I absolutely love this color. I think it is called sheepskin in eggshell Valspar brand. It is the same one that I painted in the living room, foyer, and hallway walls and I think it’s just such a great color to brighten up any room. If the bathroom were to have a shower or get wet/humid on a regular basis I would have painted it in a semi-gloss or satin finish.

I also replaced the air vent with a new one and it makes a huge difference (see right photo above). If I can figure out a way to remove the toilet paper roll holder (either the screws are stripped or they are too loose to be pulled out) I would like to replace the holder with a brushed nickel one to match the fixtures.

I should also mention that I had to fix the door. Deacon got stuck in there one day early last year (yes, it’s been a year before I got around to fixing the door) and tore up the bottom of the door trying to get out. It was actually kind of creepy to use the bathroom because when the door is closed it looked like a demon or something was trying to claw its way out. Yikes. I fixed the door by layering wood putty and giving the door a new coat of fresh paint. Voila! Good as new. And much cheaper than replacing the door.

And now onto the really BIG project. I updated the old laminated countertop with a faux painted granite one! Oh my gosh. HUGE project, tons of work, but I AM SO HAPPY with the final look. I was terrified to take on such a task, but honestly so worth the work. Here’s a before and after just to give you a taste of the final product before I go into the details. Seriously in love with the new countertop.

I have some better after pictures with the sink placed back into the counter, but I really wanted to show a good comparison of before and after. I apologize for the reflection, that was the best I could do with my phone camera.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering how in the world did she do that?! Well, believe me when I say I did a lot of research, reading, and practice before attempting to transform the bathroom countertop. The best video that I found is by Marzipan (see the link below for “Painting Laminate Countertop – Video”). I also used a website with multiple articles and tips to make the project my own (see “Painting Laminate Countertop – Articles”).

To start, remove the sink. Nate did this with Rich’s help. I highly recommend removing the sink because this ensures that the epoxy will settle properly. If you try to tape off the sink and then add the epoxy I don’t think it will settle quite as nicely. I then taped off the countertop with tape and newspaper. The newspaper is necessary for when you add the epoxy. The epoxy will drop so layer enough newspaper anywhere you think the product might land. Paint the laminate countertop with Rust-oleum countertop paint – I had it tinted gray mist, which is a medium gray color. I used foam brushes for this, but if I were to do it again I would use a foam roller for better application. Since you are going to be sponging acrylic paint on top of this, don’t worry about the layers being completely level. This paint is also super thick, so it was difficult to spread with brushes. I saw later that a different primer would have been better for this project, so I would look into that if you are interested in painting the countertop.

Next, using craft sponges I sponged various acrylic paints on top of the newly primed countertop. I did this over the course of a week or two until I liked the look of the sponged paint. I started off by adding some dark blue and black accents then sponging on a lighter color. Then, I sponged a lot of different shades of gray. I also made my own shades by mixing a gray with black (darker gray) or gray with a lighter cream color (lighter gray). Halfway through the sponge layers, I sprinked a little bit of small glitter flecks. To me this looks more like granite. It’s not a lot of glitter, just enough to catch the light. Also, the more layers the better – when I see real granite, it looks like lots of colors coming through underneath.

The photos above show the different layers of sponged colors. I kept going until I got the look that I liked (bottom left photo above). The nice thing about the method is that if you don’t like the way the colors are turning out you can just keep adding more layers. I took my time with this step because you want to make sure it looks like you want it to before coating with epoxy.

The next step is to add th epoxy layer. This was definitely the part of the project that I was the most nervous about. I used a product called Envirotex Lite hat I bought off of Amazon. I tried buying some at Michael’s but the hardner was a yellow color which means it had gone bad. I’ve been very happy with the products received from Amazon. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS! I cannot emphasize this enough. The directions are very specific and you need to follow them exactly or the epoxy will not set properly. I combined 32 oz total of the product into a pitcher that I bought from the dollar store. Mix well with a paint stick for two minutes. Pour the mixture into a second pitcher and stir for an additional minute. Immediately after mixing pour onto the countertop to flood with the epoxy. I used a plastic spatula/putty tool to spread the liquid over the entire countertop. I used a foam brush to push the liquid up the backsplash. If I were to do this again, I would have spent more time brushing the epoxy on the backsplash.

Once the epoxy had been spread out, I popped bubbles with a lighter. The epoxy is not flammable. Bubbles continue to form for about thirty minutes or so. I stood watch that entire time popping bubbles and wiping the drips from the edges with a foam brush. The Envirotex Lite is self-leveling so it will continue to drip of the sides for the next three hours or so. I used toothpicks to pick out dust or hair (Somehow there is Deacon hair everywhere in this house!). As long as the product is still liquid picking dust out does not impact the leveling. After the first 45 min I felt comfortable enough to close the door and just check for drips every 30 minutes or so.

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After three hours, the epoxy set enough that no more drips were forming and I could remove the tape and newspaper. And then you let the epoxy set and cure for at least three days. I did this part on a Sunday so we waited a week before putting the sink back in.

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With the countertop finished, Nate replaced the sink and I worked on fixing the hole where the medicine cabinet used to be and placing a mirror over the sink. We also replaced the light fixture with one made this century…sorry it is hard to see in the photos because of the light. The bottom right photo is one of Nate helping me install the mirror. It is amazing how easy manufacturer’s have made installation instructions!

Best bathroom makeover ever! I used to not care for this bathroom at all, but I love it now.

 

Online Resources

Removing Wallpaper

Painting Laminate Countertop – Video

Painting Laminate Countertop – Articles