Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer Bucket List 2015

  1. Watch a sunset
  2. Pick berries
  3. Listen to live music
  4. Run up and down a sand dune
  5. Have a party
  6. Grill something new
  7. Go on a boat
  8. Catch a firefly
  9. Go a day without technology
  10. Invite someone new over for dinner
  11. Swim in Lake Michigan
  12. Bike as a family
  13. Go to Mackinac Island
  14. Play baseball in the backyard
  15. Feed the ducks

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The 80s were fun for growing up, but not fun in my kitchen; how I got a new kitchen for under $400

How did I live with this for 4 1/2 years?!
When we bought our house in 2009, I loved everything but the kitchen.  It is small and filled with “good quality” oak cabinets.  I’ve spent 4 years trying to get the energy to paint them.  I finally decided this was the year to do it.  I priced out getting them professionally done ($1800), but instead decided I’d try this on my own.  I talked to my “sister from another mista”, Jill (my sister-in-law’s sister), who is an avid DIY-er and she convinced me I could do it using chalk paint.  Chalk Paint was invented about 20 years ago by a woman named Annie Sloan.  Although there is a limited color palette and the cans are pricey, I still thought it would be less expensive than hiring the $1800 lady.  I did a little research on Pinterest and found a blog from a woman who made her own.  She gave wonderful detail on all her research and her list of do’s and don’ts. During the painting process, I posted pictures on Facebook and ended up with a little following of people cheering me on.  I promised a blog post to explain how I turned my 80s “gag me with a spoon” kitchen into a 2014 beauty.
 "Gray Matters" from Sherwin-Williams

The color I chose was “Gray Matters” from Sherwin-Williams (flat finish), though I had it color matched in Behr paint at Home Depot. The “recipe” for Chalk Paint is 1:3 ratio of Plaster of Paris to flat paint.  Buy a plastic container or use something from around the house.  The first night I mixed too much and by the next night, the plaster started to harden.  I learned to make small batches with only the paint I needed for that night.  This paint goes far, so a small amount will cover quite a bit.  I used an angled 1” brush for the edges and grooves and a 2 1/2” brush for the flat surfaces.  Quality brushes really do matter.  I spent $14 on the large brush… well worth it!

80s Splendor!
Since I work full time, I had to work in the evenings and weekend.  I started on a Monday, removing door fronts, pulls and hinges and giving them all a thorough cleaning with Murphy’s Oil Soap. I numbered them with post it notes and created a map of the kitchen.  

My husband helped by washing the cabinet frames.  He said, “I’m trying to be as helpful as possible without actually painting”.  I’m the perfectionist when it comes to painting, so I was ok with that statement! I got the first coat on a few doors the first night while my husband and a friend installed a new range hood. 

Night 2: I got the first coat on the cabinet frames and the rest of the doors done. It felt so good to get rid of the oak!!

Night 3: The cabinet frames got a second coat and about 1/3 of the cabinet fronts had a 2nd coat.

My house was taken over by cabinets
I used Red Solo Cups to prop up my doors!

I should mention that I did this all during the 2nd  "Polar Vortex” of 2014.  I painted in my living room/dining room because I had nowhere else to go.  My husband was ice fishing during most of the work and my kids ate mainly from the fats/grains portion of the food pyramid.  Without a table, they got to eat their beige meals in front of the TV on the coffee table.  They left me alone and had a blast  breaking all the rules!  We were also dog sitting a Yellow Lab along with our 100 lb. black furball.  I had a little extra work to keep the “Furricane” from ruining my paint job, but it was worth it! 

Night 4: I was getting a little weary, but my Facebook friends cheered me on.  I had enough done on a set of drawers that I could install the pulls.  That inspired me.  I knew I was going to LOVE this transformation.  I managed to get a 2nd coat on most of the cabinets as well.  I have to give a big thanks to my friend Kim Wilson who has an amazing website,  She is an amazing DIY-er and offered wonderful advice.

Night 5: I visited my cute neighborhood hardware store, Ada Godwin Hardware and talked to the paint man about what kind of sealer to use.  He was very helpful and recommended a product by Minwax called “Polycrylic” in the satin finish.  Score one for the local hardware store.  It turned out to be the perfect sealer.

Days 6 and 7: I didn’t plan it this way, but I was quite thankful to be doing the final coats and sealer during the daylight.  I saw flaws that weren’t visible by the light of my dining room.  The sealer was easy to use and I really liked the satin finish.  I used foam brushes and worked very carefully so that there weren’t any drips or bubbles. 

I really love my new range hood.  It's a silly thing, but the halogen lights cast a really nice glow in the kitchen. I'm an interior designer, so I'm all about the right lighting!
By the end of Night 7, I had about 2/3 of the doors with 2 coats of sealer, so I reattached hardware and the new pulls and started the re-installation.  It was starting to look so good… worth all the work, for sure!  I wasn’t sure what to do about the hinges, since they were an 80s brushed brass.  I was going to get an oil rubbed bronze spray paint for them, but with the bad weather and the fact I’d have to spray paint in my 10 degree garage, I decided to embrace the hinges.  They actually look OK.

We're going to need a new refrigerator soon. I was thinking about stainless, but I really love the contrast of the black stove against the grey cabinets.  I think we'll go with black!

Night 8: Almost done!  I had 11 door fronts to seal

Day 9: DONE!  I still need to add sealer to the insides of the cabinets, but for all intents and purposes, it's complete.  I love it.  It was worth every second.  I tried to go slow and be very careful with my painting & sealing.  They're not perfect, but then, neither am I.  Am I'm OK with that.


Breakdown of expenses:

Pulls - from - Amerock 3" oil-rubbed bronze - $97.90 for 35 pulls
Range hood (approx. $200), gallon of paint, Plaster of Paris and $14 brush - $258
Sealer - $20 pint of Minwax "Polycrylic" and 4 foam brushes ($2.40)
Grand total: $378.10

Not bad for a kitchen renovation!  I won a $400 award at work last month which gave me the incentive to get this project going.  I came in under budget! I'll spend the rest on accessories... I'm thinking yellow!

Next up... paint the oak trim.  Maybe during the next Polar Vortex.

January 2017 update: The cabinets have held up really well.  There are a few little dings on the drawers we open the most.  I just mix up a little touch up paint once in a while.

We also got a new black stove & dishwasher which look great next to the grey cabinets.

I've painted both bathrooms in chalk paint, too . I LOVE it!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

4. Cook with and Learn to Love a New Vegetable

Cutting up the Squash
 As a child, I had an intense hatred of all things "SQUASH".  My mom would make Acorn Squash and I would sit at the table gagging it down.  So, as a 40 yr old, I still consider myself a hater of squash.  However, I've had butternut squash bisque and liked it.  Hmm... maybe all squashes are not created equally.  Then, I bravely tried acorn squash with maple syrup mixed in.  SHOCKING!  I actually liked it and had seconds.  As part of my goals for 2012, I decided it was time to be a big girl and try some new vegetables and incorporate them into my diet.  So, I'm starting with Butternut Squash.  I found a recipe in the Jan/Feb issue of Cooking Light magazine and decided to give it a whirl.  I went shopping for the squash and couldn't find them.  Finally, I reached the squash department.  Luckily, they come with stickers for people like me who have never purchased such vegetable, and therefore have no idea what they look like.  I made the recipe, Moroccan Chicken and Butternut Squash soup (recipe posted on my food blog: The Swedish Chef and Friends), and I must say... it's delicious.  Next on my journey with my new friend Butternut Squash... mac & cheese!

The finished product (lovely photo courtesy of Cooking Light)

Bring on 2012

I'm a list maker.  Something about writing it down, and more importantly, crossing it off the list makes me feel like I've really accomplished something.  I was inspired to not just create a resolution for 2012, but to make a list of things to do from a book I just read.  I finished The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolenski on New Year's Eve.  It's about a woman who was in a car accident and her passenger was killed.  The passenger had created a list of things she wanted to accomplish before she turned 25.  The driver felt like she should finish it to honor her memory.  Thus, my list of things to accomplish in 2012 was born.  I tried not to make my goals too lofty so that I can actually cross them off the list.  Today I tried 4.) Cook with and learn to love a new vegetable.  After I try the soup I made, I'll report back on my success.  I found a friend to walk a 5K with me in May and I'm 5/5 on praying every day and reading Jesus Calling.  Here's to crossing everything off the list by December 31, 2012.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Bucket List 2011 #1 - check

This year, I made a bucket list.  Basically, it's stuff I want to do this summer so I don't get to Labor Day and think, "I wish we had...".  List item #1 was to watch our friend Rob & the guys from our church play softball.  Rob and his family vacation "way up north" with us in the UP every year and Rob is always sporting his latest team championship t-shirt.  The joke is that Rob ONLY packs shirts that say "Softball Team Champs" 2008, 2009, 2010... etc.  I wanted to see him win the 2011 t-shirt in person.

I decided (as part of my rigorous exercise regime) that I would bike the more-or-less 2 miles to the park with my daughter in the bike seat while my hubby & son met us there via the Ford Freestyle.  The game started at 8 and we were pushing the bedtime meltdown time, but willing to tempt tantrum fate. I started putting Lena in the bike seat, but only to her protests:  "No, mommy.  I no ride on yo bike.  I ride with daddy".  Then Sam, my newly empowered biking-without-training wheels 6 yr old say, "I'll ride with you!!".  I love my kids, but I know what to expect from this kind of proclamation... "I'm tired".  "This hill is too big".  "Can we go home?".  "I can't do this".  So, with a sigh and a bit of dread, I said in my super-encouraging mom voice, "OK, bud... let's go!!" while giving my husband a look and grabbing my cell phone just in case.

What a joy it was to ride with Sam as he biked over and across the hills of Ada.  He didn't complain, he trucked along and did just great.  I try to remind myself that a) summer is fleeting and b) my childrens' childhood is even faster fleeting so... c) savor the moment.  I took a deep breath and smelled the summer air and really seered the memory of bike riding on a beautiful, not too hot summer evening with my best boy.  It was lovely!

The game was fun, even though the TECC boys lost on a "mercy score" of being 10 points under the other team.  It was a beautiful evening with a full moon coming on and a special time with my little family of 4.

Sam biked back home without complaints and got to pet a lost baby raccoon as a fellow biker (the serious type that wears bike shorts) tried to get the little fella back into the woods.

Bucket list item 1 - done. check. Plus I got some really special time with the boy I love the most.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Summer 2011, here we come

The summer of 1992 was the best summer of my life.  I signed up to be a camp counselor in Scotts Valley, CA (near Santa Cruz).  I hopped on a plane and took off for quite the adventure.  I met some amazing people, served God and led a few kids to accept Jesus.  The reason that summer was so great (besides not having a mortgage) was that we spent the summer PLAYING!  We sang silly songs, went swimming, rode horses, went to the beach every weekend, made s'mores, slept in sleeping bags outisde on a big field and created the world's largest slip and slide.  I can't truly recreate that feeling of freedom, but I can do my best to recreate the magic for my kids.

For that reason, I've created a summer bucket list of things to do.  I used to tease my mom for doing the same, but you know we all evenutally become our mothers. Stay tuned for photos & updates as we attempt to fully embrace summer in Michigan and all its splendor.  We spend the other 9 months inside with colds & flaky skin, so you better believe in June, July & August we CARPE DIEM!

First on the agenda is to set up our slip & slide.  It may not be the world's largest (it came from a box from Target), but my kids will love it just the same.

Summer, we're glad you're here.  Welcome to Michigan.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lake Michigan how I love you. Let me count the ways.

Today, I spent the day at Lake Michigan with my kids. Seeing my son Sam jump in the waves and let the water crash over him filled my heart with joy. He loves my lake as much as me. I grew up a bike ride distance from the most beautiful beaches in the world, as far as I'm concerned. I grew up in Muskegon, Michigan, on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, not realizing how lucky I was to have such a beautiful place to call home.

Summers during my childhood were filled with weekly (or more) visits to the beach. We sometimes ate breakfast there. Other times, we had bonfires at night. But mostly, we spent the day there, jumping in the waves until we could barely stand up. I knew how strong and dangerous (but fun) the undertow could be. I remember how hot that sand could be on my tender feet. I knew my mom would always remind us to "brush off the sand before getting back in the car". I'm the 3rd generation to spend my summers at Lake Michigan. My grandpa was a lifeguard in the 30's and met my grandma there when they were teenagers. My mom & aunts love recalling stories about summers at the Lake and my parents were engaged there. It's as much of my family history as eating lutefisk and potatiskorv at Christmas.

After moving away from the "big lake" as an adult, I realized how much it was in my blood. I like living in Grand Rapids, but we're land locked here. When I'm driving to the beach and see the first glimpse of the vast blue water and the swaying beach grass, I think, "I'm home". I feel a certain unexplainable peace. There's just something about the sounds - the crashing waves, the sound of the seagulls, the roar of a jet ski's motor and the sound of children laughing that makes me want to bottle it up to take out in January when we're waist high in snow.

It gives me such joy to see my children share this love for a big lake. I know it will never leave them. If they grow up and move away, they'll always have wonderful memories of jumping over the waves and building sand castles.