Kitchen Refresh – A Little Elbow Grease for My Dream White Kitchen

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted a white kitchen. As cliche as it is, I love anything light and bright! Our home was built in 2000 (or somewhere around there) and from what I can tell, it still has the original kitchen. There was nothing wrong with it. The flow is great, there are lots of cabinets, it is just… brown. I don’t have anything against a natural wood kitchen. Our hardwoods run into the kitchen, so we had one giant brown room. Plus, if I am just being honest, it isn’t my style. We get a lot of light in our house, but it still seemed dark in here! Being a stay at home mom, I spend 90% of my day in the kitchen. To pay someone to refinish the cabinets would have been expensive. And while we are in the process of updating our home, it wasn’t in the cards for last summer. I am not one to sit back and wait, so…. I did it. I refinished the cabinets myself. So before I show you the finished product, here are a few before pictures for context!

Before

I was able to find these pictures from the original listing of our home of the kitchen in all if its woodgrain glory (because you know me by now and I forget to take decent before pictures):

(Previous owner/renter’s furniture)

So see what I mean? Lots of brown. Wood. Boring. Great layout, lots of space. But lots of room for improvement! So I did what I’ll call phase one of the kitchen renovation. While we have no plans of doing a new kitchen in this house, there are other things I have planned for it to make it even more special! Alright then… who is ready for some after pictures?!

After

And here is a before and after because it is just that good!

Let’s Talk About It

So, let’s talk about it for a minute. Or I will wait until you pick your jaw up off the floor… dramatic transformation, right?! So if you’ve followed along on my instagram, you know I refinished the cabinets back in July. Or maybe it was August. Either way, it was a very long time ago! I knew I wanted to do it correctly from the start, so it took an incredible amount of time. And I wanted to live in it for a while to give you a good review of how we liked it and how they wore. And also because sometimes these things take forever to plan ahead… But I digress.

Finishing the cabinets was a huge undertaking. Basically it was the only thing I did for three solid weeks. Thank you, warm weather and outside play for the kids!

Here are a few tutorials that I used. I read a million, but these methods were closest to what I did:

Young House Love 

Home Talk

If I were to go back in time, I would rent a paint sprayer. And use my power sander. For some reason I forgot they existed and I hand sanded each cabinet, front and back and between layers, AND I OWN A POWER SANDER. I’ll blame it on the mom brain thing… If I had used both those machines, this whole project would have been so much faster! Take my advice and don’t do it by hand. The finish will be nicer and it will take way less time.

Am I happy I did it? You bet!  I haven’t regretted it one bit. Even Marcus is glad I did it. While he doesn’t always understand my ideas and projects, he understood this one 100% after it was done. So, thank you honey for trusting me and letting me do crazy things!

Cost & Materials

The total cost for the project was around $200. That includes a gallon of primer, two gallons of paint, and about a half gallon for the island. Such a big impact and hardly any cost compared to installing a new kitchen!

Here’s what I used for the project. Don’t skimp on materials! You’ll save your hands and time. Promise.

Brush

Mini Roller

Foam Roller

Paint tray

Handy Paint Cup (oh my goodness buy these!!)

Paint Key

Behr Alkyd Enamel Paint (Link is for semi-gloss, I got Swiss Coffee in satin)

Zinsser Oil Based Primer 

Hand Sander 

Sanding Paper

I also changed out the knobs on the drawers for pulls. I feel like it is more substantial and looks nicer on a drawer!

So how has it worn? Well. I am not a professional, and neither was the process refinishing. And I have three kids four and under. The kitchen takes a beating! Little nicks are easy to touch up with some paint and a little brush. It is quick and worth it to me! How well does a white kitchen stay clean? I would say that white cabinets are no dirtier than any other color, you can just see the mess/dirt a little more. I don’t even mind it because I would rather clean something than have dirt hide! (I’m looking at you, carpet!).

Also, as a side note, I will admit that decor-wise, it is super pared down right now. But that is also the time of year, post Christmas decoration overload, and post January get-all-the-things-out-of-the-house.

Future Plans:

If you are interested, here are my future plans for my glorious and beautiful white kitchen:

Paint walls

Install new backsplash

Remove cabinets to the left of the sink and add open shelving

Remove cabinets to the right of the refrigerator and add open shelving

Add pendant lights above island

Replace pendant above sink & over eat-in table

Replace blinds with fun pattern?

Built cabinets up to the ceiling

New appliances

(and ultimately) Refinish floors

Add chunkier baseboard & crown molding

A girl can dream, right?


Outfit details here:


Also, if you were wondering if I feelcomfortable in front of the camera and rationalize by being awkward and doing weird things, here’s your confirmation:

Do you have any questions about refinishing your cabinets? Any reservations? Please ask below! I would love to help you out and give you the confidence you need to do it.

Also a special thank you to Ashleigh of Ashleigh Laureen Photography for these amazing pictures! Check out her site and say hi (tell her I sent you!). She is beyond talented! She is also so nice and super sweet. We chatted for nearly 45 minutes before we even got to shooting!

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Last Minute Gift Ideas for Hubby, Kids, or Mama in Time for Christmas!

Are you still searching for last minute gifts for Christmas? I’ve rounded up a bunch of items for your hubby, kids, or even for your wife or girl in your life that are guaranteed to make it to your doorstep before Christmas! But quick, don’t wait any longer! You’ll need a few minutes to wrap 😉 Nearly everything on this list is under $50, and most under $20! I am actually really excited about these gift roundups. Most of these we either have or I bought this year (or I am saving the idea for my next excuse to buy a present!). Scroll down to see my picks. I have included links for easy shopping!

Hubby/Dad

 

popcorn maker / shoe horn / magnetic wristband / bluetooth headphones / ice ball maker / coffee mug / grill accessories / toiletry case / firepit

We are a big popcorn family. This popcorn maker would take the stress out of watching over your pot!

This was an actual request from my husband- a shoe horn. Save his back and get him one of these! And they are so inexpensive.

This magnetic wristband is BRILLIANT for any dude that is handy. He will love this! And how unique!

Almost every guy I know uses headphones for one use or another. Get your guy this  bluetooth pair and eliminate annoying tangling strings in his life!

Is your guy into making his own drinks at home? Even if he doesn’t drink alcohol, these ice ball makers are a fun addition to any glass!

Are you with a coffee drinker? Up his coffee mug game! This one is so nice looking and can be taken on the go.

Is your man the master of the grill? Check out this  grill accessories set! It is sure to please.

My husband uses his toiletry case every day. Since he travels a lot for work, it is easy to just store his things in it so he can grab and go! This  toiletry case is a great option.

What guy doesn’t like a fire? This portable firepit would be a perfect addition under your tree! And that fact that it is portable makes it zero commitment!

Kids

stable / cosmetic set / superhero book / tool set / bouncy horse / bath crayons / doodle pad / magformers / busy book (tons of different themes available!)

My oldest daughter is OBSESSED with horses (no surprise there!). This is such a cute little stable that she asked for, even though she already has one. This stable is so cute and also includes four horses. It is a great alternative to a dollhouse and a really good price!

The only way I can get ready in the morning is having my girls “get ready” with me. This cosmetic set is so perfect because they feel like they are actually doing their makeup, just without the mess!

What child doesn’t love superheros? This superhero book looks absolutely adorable. I love books or toys that encourage creative thinking and building up confidence!

This tool set is perfect for boys or girls. Screw stereotypes, all my kids play with our tool set! They love to build things and will pretend play with this foreverrrr.

My kids saw this bouncy horse at the mall one trip and they could NOT stop playing with it! They are very durable and bonus for parents, encourage active play (and tired babies!).

Do your kids love bathtime? Whether or not they do, these bath crayons are a great invention. It lets them make a controlled mess that is easily cleaned up! If your kids aren’t a fan of the bath, these will encourage some fun playtime during it!

My friend introduced me to these doodle pads and her children love them! And so did mine… they tried to steal theirs they loved them so much! Going on a car trip or airplane? These will keep them occupied forever!

These Magformers are a gift that they won’t get bored of. Let your child’s imagination run wild and build all sorts of cool things! These have amazing reviews too.

These busy books were actually something we bought for a friend on a whim for her birthday years ago and they were such a hit! Plus, they come in all sorts of themes for any show or character you could think of.

Mom/Wife

earrings / jewelry cleaner / touch screen gloves / beanie / tumbler / jewelry organizer / tile mate / candle / echo dot

What mom wouldn’t love a pair of classic earrings? This price is amazing for Kate Spade too!

This jewelry cleaner is one of those gifts she wouldn’t think to buy herself, but will love it! It is so useful and can be used to clean more than just jewelry too.

Even though I live in New England, I don’t have a great pair of gloves. These touch screen gloves would be a great gift and bonus, you can still use your devices with them on!

It is no surprise that I am a huge hat wearer (I’m looking at you, 5 day hair and 10 degrees outside!). This beanie is adorable and is fleece lined!

I don’t have a tumbler that I really love. This tumbler would be perfect for me! It works for hot or cold.

This jewelry organizer is another item that will blow her mind! It is so pretty but so functional.

This tile mate is more of a gift for anyone in your life in general. Do you know someone who loses their keys a lot? Or even their phone? This tile mate is a little device you attach to whatever item you lose and it helps you find it! Lose your phone and it’s on silent? It will make your phone ring for you so you can find it fast!

My absolute favorite candle scent is macintosh apple. It is just so fresh! Shopping for someone difficult? A candle is a safe gift you know she will love!

My love for Amazon runs deep. I have three of these Echo products in our house! These dots are so great to place all over your house so you are always connected to your music and lists or whatever you need! Need to set a timer for a time out? Speak to your dot and she will do it for you!


 

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The Hunt for the Perfect Christmas Tree

One of our favorite traditions as a family is to go cut down our Christmas tree every year. This past weekend we set out the day after we got back from Pennsylvania, ready to go chop down our tree. This is our first Christmas since our move to New Hampshire! We got all packed up, headed on the road to the most recommended cut-your-own tree farm in the area, and decided halfway through to just stop at an pre-cut tree farm. The wind was quite blustery and chilly and we were tired from our Thanksgiving trip, so it felt right. We were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed it since we had been cutting it down ourselves for so many years! The kids had a blast running up and down the aisles of beautiful trees and selecting the perfect one.

We had planned to put a normal size tree in our living room, but we became fascinated with the giant ones because our new home can actually handle it! We ultimately decided to bite the bullet and got a 12 foot one for our foyer. It was a beast to decorate, but so worth it and the kids loved it. Check out the pictures of our day! You can shop our outfits in the widget at the bottom of the post.

You’ll notice Levi isn’t in as many pictures as the girls. It isn’t because I love him any less, it’s because most of his pictures look like this… #onegiantblur

Here she is in all of her glory! I need to fix that garland on the railing, I know. We started decorating with so much gusto and then I lost steam…

Did you get your Christmas Tree yet? Are you team real tree or team fake tree?! I’ll admit I may invest in a fake tree for the foyer and maybe do a smaller real tree in our living room… that thing is FAT!

Shop my outfit:

Leggings (size down) / Hunter Boots (size down) / Pullover (size up) / Button Up (size up)

Shop the kids’ outfits:

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Gift Guide: What’s On My Christmas List – Home

Now that we are heading into our ninth (!!!) year of marriage and our second home together (sixth if you count every apartment too!), our home stash is getting a bit worn. Especially during our move this year, I had quite a few bowls break and other items not make it to the new house. I’ve been eyeing a couple other things to add to my collection too! Read on to see my picks for my Christmas list.

Lanterns These would be adorable on our front porch or sunroom! Or even the foyer. I will find a place!

Dutch Oven This has been on my list for a looong time. This one is much more affordable than the name brand option!

Candle Holders These are perfect! These would be great to add to a centerpiece on your dining table or on your mantle. Or to give as a hostess gift!

Robe I an an unashamed robe wearer all winter long. Its that perfect extra layer while the house warms up in the morning when I drink my coffee! My current robe is very tired, and this one looks so luxurious!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  I have been on a mission to organize and simplify my life. A lot of it has to do with parting with clutter and things that I don’t really enjoy. This book has such high reviews! I would love to read it to help me on my minimalist mission.

Crock Pot My crock pot was one of the first things we got as a married couple, but it has seen better days! This one is programmable and everything. It makes mine look ancient.

Cutting Board Can one have too many cutting boards? The answer is no.

Popcorn Maker I love homemade popcorn. Not the stuff in the little packet, the kernels you pop on the stove. This method can be tricky unless you are really watching it like a hawk and shaking the pot the entire time. And then kernels still get burnt. So I am thinking this would be a good investment!

Gold Bowls So many things got broken in our move, and my favorite white mixing bowls were one of them. Yet another original wedding present. I may have had a little funeral for it. These bowls are so classy and would make a suitable replacement!

What do you think? Which is your favorite item? What are you getting for your lady friend? Share below!

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The Woods – The Great Backyard Renovation

We live in New Hampshire which is notoriously rocky. Our town in particular has some hills. And when I say hills, I mean HILLS. Our whole neighborhood is basically built on a mountain (or so it seems). While the developer did the best they could to plop as many homes down as possible, it also meant they didn’t put too much attention into creating usable, level yards. We have quite a bit of land, but not much was usable. Our backyard had a nice, small grassy area then a huge dropoff to another level. The lower level was moderately cleared but was not at all level, very rocky, and had 13 not-so-healthy fruit trees. 

Go back in time to September 16 (or somewhere around there). Our last home had a playset with swings and a slide and we used that thing every. single. day. We really wanted to get the kids one for Christmas, we just couldn’t figure out where to put it. We have 4 acres, but not a lot of it was cleared. And the cleared portion in the backyard was pretty much entirely septic underneath, so we didn’t have much area to work with. So Marcus goes to our side yard this September day and starts clearing an area to put the anticipated playplace. But he didn’t stop there.

I love a good before and after, so here’s what we were working with before. You can see the grassy area (which we will eventually fence in because, hills) and then a drop off to a wooded area. I know these pictures aren’t the best quality, but unfortunately this is the best I could find. I need to get better about taking pictures before we start a project, but in my defense, this is a project I didn’t realize was going to happen!

Picture Marcus’ initial clearing to the right of this picture. And where you stop seeing grass is a big dropoff, so we will essentially have two levels in the backyard. 

Before

You see the tops of the Japanese Maple and Evergreen trees? Keep scrolling to see where we moved them! The fruit trees were just beyond those decorative trees. 

This is where the future path is going to be. I will describe that more in a bit…

Exterior pictures are so difficult because you don’t really see the magnitude of the progress! Anyways, here is where we are at now:

This is pretty much the same view as the previous picture. You almost don’t even recognize it! (And do those trees look familiar?). 

After

Picture a fence where the grass and rocks meet. Please Lord let there be a fence #momofsmallchildren.


Do you see the two Japanese Maples?  We transplanted them to the edge of the cleared area and are crossing our fingers they stay alive! They were leaning towards the sun where they were previously, so we will have to stake them and hopefully help them straighten up. By some miracle they survived the crazy wind storm we had the night we planted them!

This is a view standing at the furthest cleared portion. 

More brush to burn!

Pretty spectacular, right?!

Do you see where that wood pile is? That is about where we will put the playplace. 

The stake on the right is the marker of our neighbor’s land.

Turning back around at the stake

You can see where we tore the trees up. I think the previous owners put these trees in to block the less than beautiful lower portion of the yard. (It was very rocky and not level at all and we had MAJOR groundhog and chipmunk issues. The ground was literally caving in some spots.) 

Here is a better picture of the trees we transplanted. Say a little prayer they survive! They are so big and beautiful. 

The plan is to create a path down at the bottom of those rocks along the treeline leading up to a playplace just through the trees you see (and that wood pile if you have good eyes!). I would love to line the path with flowers and bushes and have a sweet little retreat for the kids! 

The view standing at the back shed. It kind of messes with your mind, but where the grass ends is that steep dropoff. Hence the necessary fence. 

Looking to the right a bit. We have a small fire pit here, but we are planning on relocating it to the lower portion.

So here is what we have done:

  • Clear a million trees (I seriously wish Marcus kept track. Sooo many trees!)
  • Ground a few stumps
  • Used an excavator to dig huge holes to bury said million stumps and the plethora of rocks that were unearthed (did I mention New Hampshire is rocky?). 
  • Remove and bury the stone wall that went into the lower portion of the property (we kept the back wall.)
  • Level the lower portion as much as possible. There will be a slight slope still, but it will at least be smooth!
  • Burn said million trees and unkempt forest brush
  • Moved decorative trees to perimeter of cleared property

And here is what we still need to do:

  • Fence the top portion of the backyard
  • Build a path down to the future playplace
  • Install flowers and shrubs on path
  • Fill in current fire pit and build a new one at the corner of the lower level
  • Install zipline (!) that I got Marcus for Father’s Day
  • Possibly add a vegetable garden on the top portion 
  • Add dirt and grass to lower level
  • Add staircase from top deck to the right (we have one on the left, but this would make easier access to where the playplace will be).
  • Pool?!?! A girl can dream!

I am sure there is a lot more we have done, and a lot more we will add to our to-do list! I will do a better job of recording things next time, promise. And in full disclosure, we are doing this ourselves. And by ourselves I mean Marcus, my dad, and brother. My husband works for a company that lent him the machine, so our costs have been pretty low. But if we were to estimate the work that has been done, it would be somewhere near $40,000-$50,000. 

If you are thinking of doing some yard work yourself or hiring it out, just consider the factors. It took us (him) nearly two months to do the amount of work that was done. That is most weekends and most evenings, and the occasional helping hand from family and friends. But, the cost savings was significant. So if you have the time and the willpower, go for it! If we can do it, you can do it.  And I did help! I moved some branches and corralled kids…

Here are some of the items that were so helpful during the process:

Chainsaw

Gloves

Safety Glasses

Shovel

Having a large tractor and an excavator was extremely helpful too! Even if you rent one and do the work yourself, it would be worth the investment. We couldn’t have done the amount of work we did without them!

So, what do you think? Is there anything else we should add? I am so excited at the progress and I can’t wait to see it complete. But in the meantime, I will continue to give daily baths from the kids playing in the dirt.

 

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