Saturday, January 30, 2010

Flashback - Bob's Bday

Bob and I just finished up the fourth and are working our way through the fifth season of Lost on Netflix. Just in time to start DVR’ing the final season starting this week! Coincidentally, it is also almost time for Bob’s Birthday which reminds me of how we celebrated last year. . .

Ahh, early 2009. We were just kids back then. We had also recently finished Lost Season 2 on Netflix and were more than hooked. I had been racking my brain trying to come up with a way to celebrate Bob’s birthday to compare with what I organized they year before. . .

Ahh, early 2008. We were just kids back then (and yes, this is a flashback within a flashback). I came up with the idea of setting up an “indoor campsite” in my apartment as a theme for dinner and his birthday evening. I bought glow-in-the-dark stars for the living room ceiling and planned on pitching my 2-person tent. Sadly and with much frustration, after 45 minutes I realized that my tent was not physically able to be erected without stakes being put in the ground first and I just wasn’t willing to hammer giant holes in the hardwood (I don’t think my landlord would appreciate that either!). Giving up, I moved my feather bed, down comforter and pillows to the living room and left it at that!

Living in a studio apartment with no balcony meant that I had to get creative with how we were going to grill out. I pulled out the George Foreman and my chocolate fondue set and set it up on the coffee table alongside the “campfire” made up of the candles I owned. At the time, the only candles I had were the kind sold in jars so the set up was not quite the look I had in my head! I filled the cooler with beer and set up my camping chair.

After dinner, we watched Catch and Release, a Jennifer Garner movie that was both outdoorsy and filmed in his college town of Boulder, CO.

Bob loved the evening, but I was already trying to figure out how to top myself in 2009. As I mentioned, we were up to season 3 of Lost so I planned  a marathon weekend of getting through the 20-odd episodes. I don’t have any photos from the set up so hang in there as I “re-create!”

My Entertainment Weekly subscription came in handy when it came to decoration, and although I only had about the last 5 months worth in my place at the time, it was amazing how many pictures of the cast I could find! I drew the map Locke found on the blast door in the second season and taped the cast photos all over it. This went up on the living room wall. Then I printed out a dozen or so Dharma Initiative labels to cover the food in the fridge and pantry. It actually looked kind of cool when you opened the cupboard door and found all generic looking canned goods and pasta boxes! (source note: approachinglost.)

Speaking of food, I made salmon for dinner and had lots of fresh fruit on hand for dinner and the next morning's breakfast. I picked up bamboo disposable plates and cutlery for us to eat off of. Dinner for one night was covered, but with a full season of our TV series ahead of us more sustinence would surely be needed. Luckily, a cooler had also "washed on shore" and when Bob opened it he discovered $40 and the delivery menu for our favorite local pizza place (Pat's).

I love my Netflix subscription, but the 3-at-a-time plan I am on was not enough to cover the 6-disc season so I had to pick them all up at Blockbuster. Poor Video Rental Stores, you can find some good deals nowadays and it seems like you can keep your movies forever, but I fear they are going the way of the buffalo.

Along with the DVDs, I bought us both new pajamas from the Gap (hey, I wanted to be comfortable all weekend too!) and wrapped them in tissue paper, hidden in a pile of suitcases I set up in one corner of the apartment. Although the decor gave away the theme when he walked in my place, it wasn’t until he opened the gifts that he realized we were in for a 20 hour LOST-FEST.

If I remember right, we started with 4 episodes after dinner, strolled out of bed the next morning for another 15 or so and then finished them off on Sunday morning. I think we were both a little dizzy and felt like we were isolated on an island ourselves in the end.

So what is in the works for February 2010? Can’t give it away just yet (he does check in on this blog every once in awhile to see what I'm saying about him, after all), but I actually just came up with an idea this week so be sure to come back. . .

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New York State of Mind

My friend Kara and I planned our 3rd Annual trip to New York City with a theme in mind: Food Tour 2009! We put all of our efforts into finding new restaurants, local favorites and trained our stomachs to get ready for way too much food.

We passed back and forth blog postings, New York Times articles and reviews and even set up a shared spreadsheet on Google Docs to plan out our 4-day trip which took place last December.

Right after checking into the hotel on Thursday afternoon, we headed to
Serendipity 3 before our dinner reservations. Yes, we were planning on having our dessert before dinner! You may have heard of Serendipity from the movie. . .Serendipity. While there was no John Cusack sighting and no one cared if I wrote my phone number in a book, we were witness to their famous Frozen Hot Chocolate and some monster sized desserts!

The wait was to be expected, chalk it up to its tourist trap perception and us visiting NYC right before the holidays. It was 6pm on a Thursday and we waited about 30 minutes. Although the bright colors and whimsical decorations grab your attention, the interior was extremely tight as the restaurant resides in a renovated Manhattan townhouse. Leave the strollers at home!

My hot chocolate had so much delish whipped cream that at first I wasn't sure if there was any hot chocolate in my hot chocolate. But soon enough I made it through the frills and got to the good stuff! We also split a beautiful piece of "Creme de la Creme Cream Cheese Cake."

Our dinner reservations were for Casa Lever. A fairly new establishment that I found on a Google search kick, Casa Lever is housed alongside the Lever House on Park Avenue and boasts a Milanese menu. What sold me on this place, besides the actually reasonable dinner prices, was the decor. Love the pop art on the walls, love the open space of the entryway leading into the bar leading into cocktail tables leading into the dining room, love the wine bottle dividers between booths. 
My meal choice was the "Pappardelle" made with homemade pappardelle pasta, wild boar ragout and fresh porcini. It definitely tasted wild and earthy, a little heavy, but new tastes for me that hit the spot. (By the way, in case you can't tell, I'm no food critic - coming up with adjectives is taking a lot out of me, but I'm trying to avoid just saying "it was good!")

We had begun the meal with the "San Daniele" antipasti: prosciutto and mozzarella di bufala. Interestingly enough, we would learn more about our mozzerella di bufala the next morning. . .

After some debating, we decided to sign up for a walking tour. I go back and forth on tours: I do not want to find myself on every trip continuously walkng with a large group of people, obvious tourists. I have had some good tour experiences on my Europe trips though - the salt mines in Poland and the Sound of Music Tour in Switzerland, for example. The right tour can really make your trip special and you can get insider info rather than just wandering around aimlessly. I never knew I could learn so much about salt! So this was how we chose
Scott's Pizza Tours as our tour of choice. This was also a Google search find, and I was extremely impressed with the high ratings he had received on TripAdvisor (even being named a Top 10 Tour) and the positive comments written up on the site. The walking tour was $30 each but included pizza at 3 locations. Scott also offers a longer bus tour on Sundays. The 3 hour walking tour's starting point seemed to be a nondescript bar in Greenwich Village, but as our tour group of 12 assembled and Scott gathered us together we found out it was actually the site of the very first pizzeria. I was already learning, and on vacation no less

We walked to a Mozzarella shop that supplied many of the best pizzerias and tasted some fresh Bufala that had just been served up not 20 minutes earlier. Unlike the salty stuff you get at the store, this mozz had nothing added, unadulterated. So fresh. As a cheese lover - it's not just a stereotype, us Wisconsin girls love their cheese - this place was like heaven.

Scott walked us to three pizzerias, including the current location of the original pizza place which served up a Neopolitan pie in a century old coal-burning oven. 
It was standing room only for the next two locations, including the famous Joe's "by the slice" shop where not more than 10 people should be inside at once but somehow 50 people are.
The walking tour had been a great way to spend the morning and early afternoon. Since we were walking through Little Italy and Greenwich Village we also heard some great stories about some of the noteworthy buildings we were passing. Definitely a recommendation!

After all that pizza, we couldn't handle any more food for awhile. So it worked out that our next 2 hours were to be spent in line at the
TKTS booth in Times Square waiting to buy discount tickets to In the Heights (so worth it!).

The next day took us to Bouchon Bakery and Cafe in the Time Warner Center. Its basically located in an open area, on the mezzanine level of a classy mall. So yes, we will take this opportunity to go to J.Crew and Williams Sonoma while we are here. We got in right as they were opening so luckily there was not a long wait for a table. Any later and we would be toast (pun intended), as we had been when we tried to come the evening before without reservations. Kara had found a lot of great restaurant options on the blog Too bad we couldn't hit all of them. . .in the meantime we would "settle" for grilled cheese and tomato soup for her and the Quiche du Jour for me. (source note: the grilled cheese pic is actually from this blog: I didn't have a pic but had to share the goods!) 
Saturday night dinner was brought to us courtesy of a New York Times article we had found a few months earlier. Going to a famous chef's restaurant without paying a month's rent to do so? We were in. Daniel Boulud's eponymous restaurant is one I've read about for years and would have loved to check out if money was not an option, so we were excited to read about his new venture, DBGB Kitchen & Bar, just down the street from the location of the old punk rock club CBGB. With a full menu of international beers and sausages, we could head in without a reservation and wait it out for a table in the bar area. 
Heavy German beers meant I didn't need more than two. Kara ended up being the adventurous one of our twosome: she ordered the Bone Marrow, which is exactly what it sounds like. (source note: this bone marrow pic is from this blog, not our own picture.) Would she have ordered it again? I believe the answer was "no" but I was proud of her for trying!
Our culinary journey was coming to a close and we realized just how many places we still had to get to (yes, we are on Year 3 and still have not hit up Magnolia Bakery!). I guess we'll just have to keep going back!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mom's Kitchen Makeover - Budget Breakdown and Slideshow

My budget for this kitchen makeover project was $385. Why the odd number? The $85 came from the money earned from a market research study I participated in last fall. I had hoped to fit a couple more in before the holidays to help with the budget, but I was either ineligible or unavailable for the ones I got called about. Darn! Putting your name in for market research studies is a great way to earn extra cash – not to be confused with medical studies. I am not willing to get poked and prodded for a kitchen.

Here’s how the actual costs of all of the items and supplies I have written about ended up breaking down. The list could be an advertisement for The Container Store. I feel like Trish the Yard Sale chick on Clean House! (I did not cite costs for things I will be able to use again like the paint for the distressed frames and the glossy photo paper for the prints)

Painting and Cabinets ($201)
Hardware: $80 (The Home Depot)
Paint: $108 (2 gallons and 2 quarts of BEHR Premium Plus at The Home Depot)
Painters Tape, Sanding Block and Masks: $13 (The Home Depot)

Storage and Organization ($136)
Sliding Silverware Tray: $13 (The Container Store)
Spice Rack: $10 (The Container Store)
3 Tier Expand-a-Shelf: $10 (The Container Store)
Pot Lid Holder: $4 (The Container Store)
Mrs. Meyers Cleaning Supplies: $10 (Target; World Market coupon made one item practically free)
Cleaning Supplies shelf for back of cabinet: $7 (The Home Depot)
Rolling Cart: $17 (
3 Recycling Bins; 2 medium, 1 small: $35 (The Container Store)
3 Storage Bins; 2 small, 1 large: $10 (The Home Depot)
4-Tier Plastic Shelving: $20 (Menards)

Décor ($93)
Clock: $18 (50% off original price at TJ MAXX)
3 8 1/2" x 11" Picture Frames: $15 (IKEA)

Contact Paper: $15 (
Cork Drawer Liner: $8 (The Container Store)
Decorative Pitcher: $18 (20% off clearance item at Sur la Table)

2 Green Dishtowels: $14 (Sur la Table)
2’ x 3’ Rugs for back room: $5 (2 for 1 at Menards)

End result? $430. A bit over budget. Some creative accounting is also applied because my sister pitched in with a few items such as the new step garbage can, Simple Human plastic bag dispenser and a 14-piece Pyrex storage set. All in all, the kitchen was still done for under $500. And for the transformation we got I would say that is a pretty great value

Watch the slideshow below for all of the befores and afters . For more information on any of the areas,
and links to specific products, refer to these posts:
Initial Planning
Painting and Cabinets
Storage and Organization
Phase 2 Plans – Please take note of this post before reviewing the slideshow. I can’t let you think I left that hideous dishwasher in on purpose!

shared on A Soft Place to Land and Between Naps on the Porch

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mom's Kitchen Makeover - Phase 2 Plans

The only bad part about finally finishing the kitchen after a very long 3 days? Realizing we weren't done! My time up north making over my Mom's kitchen with her was coming to a close and we both realized we were not going to be able to tackle all of the projects we had hoped to. Here are some of the areas of the kitchen that are still in reno mode:

The Dishwasher That Just Wouldn't Die.

I do not know what made me think we would just be able to grab the front of the non-functional dishwasher that was taking up precious space in the kitchen and pull it out. Not the case. We found it was still hooked up to the water and the electric. We left this project for another time and painted around it knowing that there would be needed touch ups once it did come out.

The plan? The new lidded garbage can and small rolling cart would fit in this space, with a curtain on a tension rod hiding them from view. I thought this might be left to the next time I was home, so I was surprised to find a picture text message from my mom showing that she and my dad successfully removed the dishwasher last weekend! She said it was a beast - sitting below the level of the tile which meant they had to lift and pull it out. A manual labor job I will admit I was happy to miss out on! Looking forward to sharing pictures of this area soon enough!

Curtains For You.
We did not finish painting the windowsills, instead waiting to see if we will want to paint them a third color to match a shade and valance that my Mom ends up picking out for the window above the sink and also for the picture window in the dining area of the kitchen. 

Being Shelf-ish.
I had big plans for putting up two Container Store shelves that had been up in my old place, but facing the anchor screws and shelf pieces with no instructions or experience using the cordless drill, I smartly decided to wait until I had back up (ie. Bob or my brother-in-law in the house). Once these go up, they'll house bamboo desk accessories I bought for my dad including a mail sorter. I also picked up bamboo key holders that we can attach to the wall next to the shelves for easy access.

Hiding the Bad.
This wall looks pretty empty with nothing against it, but purchasing a buffet table was not in the cards just yet. We did brainstorm how to cover the eyesore of a phone jack that has wires sticking out of it for some odd reason. Plans are to create a shadowbox type message board that can hide this piece in its hollowed back and provide a place for phone messages and more.

Lighten Up.
I love this "after" shot of the full kitchen, but the dark door to the back room more than stands out. We'll be painting the door the wall color for consistency. 

So, there you have the Phase 2 projects for the Kitchen Makeover. All that's left is a Budget Breakdown and Wrap Up! What are your guesses on what we spent??

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

You're the Inspiration

I stayed at the Fountainebleau in Miami last week for work - a gorgeous hotel full of inspiration for this girl. I love clean lines, white bedding and colorful pillows so hotel chic is right up my alley.

Taking a cue from my hotel photo session, I decided to finally organize my inspirations binder when I got home that weekend. Much like my recipes binder before I tackled that project, it consisted of a bunch of loose papers, ripped out magazine pages and printed out articles in categories like fashion, home, hair and life.

I picked up a 3 ring binder and a pack of tabbed dividers. The collection was amassed over the last 5 or 6 years from old Luckys, Dominos, InStyles, etc. I grabbed a stack of printer paper, my scissors and tape and got busy cutting.

Sonny and Fredo were very helpful.

The fashion section has the most to share - a collection of preppy sweaters, skinny suits, mod jackets and more. It's pretty amazing how easy it is to find your style when you collage a bunch of photos together. My brain started rolling at the prospect of a new spring wardrobe. Hey, there is a clothing drive coming up at work - I have to fill the closet back up eventually, right? I'm a master at justifying purchases.

No sooner had I formed these thoughts than I passed my local United Colors of Benetton and discovered the SALE OF THE CENTURY! Their end of season sale meant the whole store save coats and boots was $30 and under. I can cross a few button down shirts and knit vests off my need-to-have list tonight.

The hair section has hairstyles, hair colors and up do ideas. Randomly, several Mandy Moore pictures have been brought to the salon as my inspiration. Her auburn hair with blonde highlights shown below is the latest look I've been rocking. You can also see that I am slowly working up the courage to get a pixie cut. The inspiration keeps getting shorter and shorter. . .

The home section of the inspiration binder came in handy when decorating our new place. Although, I do realize that some things are just pipe dreams at this point. Sadly, I have no third bedroom to turn into a craft room like Pottery Barn advertises below. Love this table!

One of our upcoming projects for the house is a hall table, or as I'm calling it a "not-an-entryway table" since I originally thought we'd have room for one by the front door and was sadly mistaken. While I like the idea of a mirror above this table, the framed Monopoly "Chance" print and the Hollywood triptych in the photos below can't help but inspire creativity.

So what is the "life" section all about? I started printing out articles I would read on MSN lifestyle, entertaining and money sections as well as finding magazine features on healthy living and even an item on packing the perfect picnic basket. A random assortment, but nice to reference!

So there are the highlights of my ever-growing inspiration binder - what's in yours? And when can I start shopping?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mom's Kitchen Makeover - Decor

We decided to keep décor to a minimum at this point. My parents can add to the walls as we go. For example, my mom is still deciding if she wants to continue displaying her antique grater collection on the walls by the sink.
For a burst of color inside of the now creamy white cabinets, we covered the shelves with contact paper called "Water Dance" found on Buying online makes me nervous when it comes to matching colors, but I was happy to discover upon arrival that it was a lighter shade of green and not a bright lime. I wrapped all of the shelves like presents for full coverage, but this also meant I ran out of the roll too quickly. Much like the cork that covered only two drawers, I misjudged how far this roll would stretch! I need to add another roll to my Amazon cart and ship to my mom to finish the job! I guess I could have skimped on how much of the shelf I covered, but I like the full coverage look.

In most cases, the contact paper is hidden behind the closed cupboard doors, but there is one shelf that has the chance to shine. If we had a much larger budget and new cabinets had been in the cards, I would have suggested 1 or 2 glass doors to display contents and make the kitchen a bit more open. We met this goal halfway by leaving one of the doors off of a skinny cabinet right by the microwave and stove. This also meant one less door to paint – added bonus! When painting the cabinets I made sure to fill in the hinge holes so it doesn’t look like a door is missing. The bottom shelf displays a rolling pin propped up in back of a decorative pitcher filled with a wooden spoon collection. The top shelf holds a small yellow vase my mother already owned. We also painted the back and sides of the inside of the cupboard to match the walls. If you are thinking the top shelf sits a bit too high, you would be correct. Unfortunately, one of the pre-drilled holes at the right level is warped and needs re-drilling. That can be part of Phase 2!

For the large wall in the dining area of the kitchen, the main addition I wanted to make was a new clock. I went shopping a couple months ago with my mom and we found this clock at a Garden Center in Green Bay. We thought it was perfect, but the $36 price tag was a little more than I had budgeted. I looked online to find it at a bargain price, no dice. Then, with only a few days to go until Christmas, I couldn’t believe my luck when I was trolling the aisles at TJ Maxx. The same exact clock, in fact the only one on the shelf, for $18. Score!

I first wrote about the plan to distress frames for seed packet prints a couple months ago in this post. My test one was with red and gold, but the final outcome used green instead of red. They are bit yellower than I initially wanted, but all in all look pretty good. I had bought 6 frames at IKEA, but once we started planning out the space we agreed 6 might be overkill. I still printed 6 different prints off of my home computer onto glossy photo paper so my parents can switch them out if they want. The 3 frames were hung on the back of the cabinets, looking into the dining area of the kitchen.

There is still room to grow when it comes to décor – stay tuned for Phase 2 plans to learn more!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Our New Pet Project

Bob and I had talked about getting cats in the new year, but I didn't expect it to happen so quickly! I was playing on the internet during some downtime on a Monday morning a couple weeks ago and clicked on the Anti-Cruelty Society's "adopt a cat" link. When I saw this Glamour Shot staring back at me I knew we couldn't pass up the chance to take these brothers home! Their story matched what we were looking for: 2 cats - not kittens - who wanted to be adopted together and came from a home where the owner could no longer take care of them. We had also been secretly hoping for at least one of them to be charcoal gray. Of all the cats we've had at my parents' house, we've never had a gray one! These guys were perfect for us - if nothing else, I wanted to meet these model cats who could take such a perfect picture together.

I sent the link to Bob and he called the shelter - they were still available! He stopped in after work to check them out and then headed home to get his car in case we could adopt them that night. I walked over after work and we spent a good chunk of the evening going through the adoption process. When the volunteers first took the 7 month old cats out of their cage, I grabbed the one named "Charlie" and Bob took the one named "Buster." Both calmed down immediately and, although a bit shaky and scared in our laps, they nestled in and let us pet them. The volunteer said she had not seen them act so calm before, a good sign I thought! We also immediately christened them with our chosen names, or rather, the names I thought of a couple years ago and Bob supportingly agreed to: Sonny and Fredo. Godfather fans, I had a vision of grabbing Fredo's little cheeks and saying "I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart!"

The kitties had to be neutered yet, so we completed the adoption process and picked them up the next evening. The rest of that night, however, was spent at PetCo! We had plans on getting cats, but at the time did not have anything to bring them home to! Flushable Litter and Extra Large Litter Box, check. Grooming supplies, check. Lots o' Toys, check.

This also prompted me to take down all of the Christmas decorations - I did not want a curious kitty climbing the tree to knock down an ornament or two, or to use my stockings as a climbing post to the mantel!

The next evening, Bob picked them up on his way home from work. The description of the cats said that Charlie (now Sonny) was the more skittish of the two and looked to his brother to lead the way. Boy, was this accurate! Sonny almost immediately took refuge under the couch and would not come out. Fredo, on the other hand, ran around like a crazy cat checking out the entire living room!

The good news was that Sonny, though it seemed like under the couch was going to be his permanent residence, was not scared of us. If we reached under to pet him, he would start purring and roll around. He just wasn't at the point where he wanted to join us. Within a day though, Sonny would peek his head out and get something to eat. The next day he'd come out for longer periods of time, and by the time they made their way to our bedroom, they both enjoyed laying next to each other on the bed and meowing for attention!

Now, Sonny almost seems like the more outgoing of the two: he certainly is a ham, as indicated in this pic:

We adopted Sonny and Fredo from the Anti-Cruelty Society here in Chicago. There are several other options if you are looking to add an adorable ball of fur to your house. Think of no-kill shelters like PAWS and Tree House Humane Society. Click here for a list of more area shelters. If you are not in the Chicago area, a quick google search is all you'll need. Find out how you can help through volunteer opportunities, donations and more.

Lease your car. Rent your apartment. Why not foster an animal? This is not an option we considered, but a worthwhile one to promote. Fostering a shelter cat, dog, or maybe something more exotic, means the shelter has additional resources and the pet becomes more adoptable. Special Needs animals also get a second chance. The only caveat is that you have to give them back!

Kittens are cute, there is no doubt about it, but they grow into cats pretty quickly. Think about adopting older cats from the shelter who may be there because of an owners' need to give up their pet. We sort of went in between and got young cats, but there were so many sweet looking 3-7 year olds peering out of the cages it was hard to pass them up!

Sonny and Fredo still have their claws and I know there are differing opinions on declawing cats. Even though they will be indoor, apartment cats, I would like to avoid the process if it can be helped. However, my mind may change if my couch legs turn into a pile of shreds. We made sure to buy scratching boxes in our marathon PetCo run that first night and it seems to be doing the trick. They know the box is for their scratching and so far have been very nice to our furniture.

2 weeks in, Bob and I very happy with our new friends. (I am doing my best to avoid using words like "kids" and "babies" when referring to them, but it's getting tough to do!) The boys are settling in well, As I'm typing this they are curled up together on one of the guest room beds.

Our biggest challenge? Telling these two little twins apart!

PS. Sonny is a bit darker than Fredo and their faces are slightly different, but even so we keep second guessing ourselves! And seriously, how did the shelter get such a perfect picture of them??

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mom's Kitchen Makeover - Storage and Organization

Painting walls and cabinets was all new territory for me, but organization? Now you are talking my language. Although, if you saw the current state of my storage closet in the guest bedroom you would beg to differ – but that’s a future project.

Let’s start with the drawer space in my parents' kitchen. We did an assessment of all kitchen gadgets and tools to determine if there was anything we could get rid of. There were doubles of some items so we looked at which one was used more/in better condition.

We lined the two silverware drawers with cork bought from The Container Store in the contact paper section. I thought we would have enough for all 6 of the drawers, but there was only enough for two! I should have read the dimensions closer, but it looks like so much material when it is all rolled up. The cork in the drawers made for a wonderfully clean appearance and helped to detract from the paint job: we skimped and only did 1 coat on the insides.

I bought a sliding silverware tray from The Container Store. The top level slides back and forth to provide additional storage but still easy access to the items below. Here is where taking measurements of the kitchen came in handy. This tray is just under 3” tall. If the drawer had been any smaller I would have found myself in the returns line the day after Christmas – not a good place to be.

Part of going home again includes falling into all of the same old routines: you might still have your room the way it was in high school, you are probably sitting on the same furniture you did when you were 10 and you might even feel compelled to keep your same curfew. However, the Tupperware your parents use should not be fodder for nostalgia. Who knows how many times these plastic containers have been microwaved, frozen, washed and filled with leftover meal after leftover meal.

Just say no to plastic and look into getting a glass set from Pyrex as my sister found for the kitchen makeover the day after Thanksgiving, majorly on sale. We purged some of our 20 year old friends and filled one drawer with these. Of course, they are still glass so be careful when handling, especially when they are coming out of the microwave and steaming hot. I learned my lesson when I carried one by the lid across the kitchen and it fell out, shattering on the floor. Glass and taco meat were everywhere – not a pretty combination.

We spent hours cleaning and painting the cabinet doors only to end up screwing holes into the poor little guys a day later. With good reason, however. Give your doors something to do by attaching a shelf or rack. I bought a 3 shelf spice rack from The Container Store for $12 and screwed it onto one of the pantry doors. When I was home for Thanksgiving I inventoried all of my Mom’s spices, convinced there were going to be doubles and triples of things that I could throw out to pare down the collection. I was surprised to find out that she really did have over 30 types of spices, extracts and herbs that needed to stay in the cupboard.

The spice rack could not contain all of them, so I also picked up a 3-tier Expand-A-Shelf for $10 for inside the cabinet. We stacked canned goods on the higher shelves and could line the rest of the spices in the front. This also came in handy for added storage because the attachment of the spice rack to the back of the door meant the inside shelves had to be placed at very specific heights so they didn’t block the door from closing.



In today’s world, plastic bags get a bad rap and I will admit I avoid them at the stores if I can help it. Long live reusable eco bags! However, our plastic friends do have uses like for cleaning the cat litter and lining small trashcans in the bathroom. Some people might think of a plastic bag holder and dispenser as a useless invention – I can’t help but think of a Mr. Show sketch for a product called Bag Hutch – but isn’t our “after” shot a lot more appealing than our “before?” While we have attached the Simple Human bag dispenser to the back of one of the under-the-sink doors, you can find similar items at IKEA, Target and more for a fraction of the cost.

Here's where plastic bags were kept before. Convenient, but not too pretty:

And after:

Along with a two-shelf attachment for the other under-the-sink door, I bought my mom a cleaning supplies package including dish soap, counter cleaner, all purpose cleaner and hand soap from Mrs. Meyers. You can find this brand at Target and World Market, to name a couple sources, and the eco-friendly company has gotten great reviews for their products. My sister also picked up a set of reusable biodegradable towels from Uncommon Goods. They say 1 is the equivalent of 15 rolls of paper towels. I will be checking back in to see how my mom likes them! I realized after I screwed in the holes that I put the shelf too high up on the door, preventing taller bottles from being housed on the top shelf. Was not worth drilling more holes, but I felt a bit silly!

Finally, we tackle the back room. I mentioned in the initial planning post how strange this little area of the house is. Convenient for being adjacent to the kitchen, but the outward swinging door throws you almost directly into an open stairwell leading to the lower garage. The room is also freezing cold because the lower garage is exposed and the room gets pretty drafty. I had 3 main goals with this room: set up a recycling center, add additional shelving and utilize the cabinets along the back wall which, to be honest, I had never even noticed before!

We started by simply laying two small rugs down (2 for $5 at Menards the day after Thanksgiving) to cover a pretty gross floor. The can crusher attached to the wall in this room is a nice feature. The garbage bag attached to a giant board leaning against the wall is not. I picked up two medium sized and one small sized recycling bins from The Container Store. They are stackable when their lids are on so I put one for the cans on top of one for paper and left the lid off so the cans have somewhere to fall after being crushed. The smaller bin will be used for glass bottles and is on the other side of the larger bins. The red circles in the "after" picture show that we still want to paint the wall and move the cookbooks out of the back room and into a display shelf.

The metal shelf in the above ‘before” picture was actually in my bedroom growing up. You can still see remnants of all of my stickers on the sides. Although it is a bit wobbly, we decided to keep it back here for additional storage. For $20 at Menards (also available at Home Depot and other home stores) I picked up a 4-tiered plastic shelving unit. I had one of these in college in my first apartment to hold my microwave and foodstuffs since my cupboard space was so limited. You can’t beat the price and the snap-together functionality makes assembly pretty darn easy. The items on this shelf intermittently used kitchen items like the cake stand, turkey roaster and coffee maker. One shelf holds bins that I picked up at Home Depot (set of 3 for $10). The larger one holds all Christmas items like platters, tins and décor while the smaller two hold extra serving bowls and misc items. I borrowed my sister’s label maker so that my mom can easily remember what is in each one.

The metal shelf was moved against the back wall and also contains rarely used kitchen items like a wok and the electric skillet. A small wire cart next to the shelf is for a future project involving removal of the dishwasher! The upper cabinets could still use some more organization, but came in handy for a few additional items. My mom had the idea of putting up hooks for larger items like the grates for the grill. We found an old board in the garage and painted it with the Sassafrass green accent color sample we bought. After screwing in some old hooks found in those same upper cabinets and attaching to the wall, voila!

Click to enlarge:

With everything back in its place, we were almost done with our marathon makeover. I will cover the Décor aspects next before closing things out with a Budget Breakdown, list of what had to wait until Phase 2 and a final wrap-up.