Not-So-Mini Bathroom Makeovers

If you could see our house you’d think we just moved in, and we did…9 months ago. The house is in varying degrees of disarray depending on what projects we’re working on, how busy we are, or if I’m traveling, etc. You can’t tell at the moment but Taylor and me are actually very tidy, neat, and organized people. Do you know what happens when people are forced to live in an unorganized home? Taylor and I were suffering from clutterphobia (yeah I made it up) and the side-effects are not pretty. So, we knew getting one space organized would stop our clutter nightmares. We figured out that the 3 most used rooms in our home are: the kitchen, living room and our individual bathrooms. (Sorry folks but it’s the truth.) We knew that the kitchen and living room were uphill battles but the bathrooms were relatively simple and affordable to update.

We’ll start with my bathroom since I’m telling the story. J First let me tell you that I’ve decided upon a “theme” for my bathroom.  This is always the hardest part for me because I have to commit to one style and not put everything I like into one room.  BUT I’ll give myself a pat on the back because I’m in love with the possibilities. Before I reveal the theme I’ll let you know how I got to the decision. I had some criteria that helped guide me:

  • Feminine (Not French country and fat cherub feminine)
  • Light and bright
  • Relaxing
  • Organized
  • Welcoming
  • Flow with the bedroom’s décor (since my bath is attached to the master bedroom)

I went to my old friend Pinterest for some inspiration. However, can I just say? Who has bathrooms that big!? Geeze. Anyway I found these photos and I knew what I wanted to do.

I know what you’re thinking, “a sea themed bathroom how original” but gimme a chance to explain my vision. Wow, how artsy-fartsy was that statement? Ok envision this:

  • Purple, grey, white and turquoise color palette
  • Small framed prints of coral
  • White sea pebbles
  • Floating white shelves
  • A few nice shells that I’ve found
  • Framed whale’s tooth (This is really cool. I found one on the beach recently)
  • A purple geode for texture
  • Small print of the image above
  • Accents of clear glass

That doesn’t sound too bad right? Actually it sounds quite beautiful doesn’t it? Trust me. Its gunna be quite the tiny retreat when I’m done. We’ve taken a few strides already and it’s on its way to being fabulous. So far we’ve:

  • Replaced the standard mirror with a framed one
    • We followed the same process as Taylor’s mirror update with a slight color difference. The mirror came from an old dresser that we had and it happened to be the perfect size.  We spray painted it white, strung some new wire on the back, and hung it up in place of the old standard mirror.
  • Removed the closet door and added a curtain
    • I decided to remove the closet door because when both doors were open the knobs would get locked together…causing me to go a little crazy. Plus, a curtain is much prettier than a boring door. So, I simply removed the door and it’s hardware. Bought a spring loaded curtain rod from Target. Then fed the curtain on and fastened the rod into place.
  • Adding drawer organization
    • I’ve got about 6 drawers and one cabinet under my sink. The lower drawers and cabinet were taken care of. But the top 2 drawers, that I use the most, were total chaos.  On one side I keep my daily necessities and the other houses my make-up. So, T and I went to the container store and found some nice acrylic drawer organizers.
  • Began hording cute accessories
    • I guess “we” haven’t been hoarding accessories, it’s just me. Either way with my “modern, undersea elegance” theme picked out I discovered that I actually have a lot of accessories that I can already use. I guess all those years of shell collecting finally paid off!  Check out the cute stuff I’ve found already!

    All these updates have been inexpensive and quick to accomplish. Now, my little bathroom is stress-free, more organized and well on its way to becoming a mini-retreat. This brings us to T’s bathroom makeover. The last time we saw his bathroom we had just finished updating his mirror but we recently completed a bunch more updates.  So far, we’ve:

    • Painted the sink cabinet black
      • Painting the sink cabinet made an immediate impact in this room. He wanted the bathroom to look modern and crisp and I wanted to make sure the bathroom contrasted with my bathroom while still complementing it.  So, we decided to go with a high-gloss black for the cabinet. It really pulled the room together. The grays, whites and blacks play so nicely together.  It’s also an easy color palette to add pops of color too because it’s neutral. Currently, he has green as an accent which is masculine and flows well.
    •  Replaced hardware
    • Following the gray theme we knew we wanted silver toned knobs. We found some really nice rectangle knobs at Lowes that had a brushed nickel finish. They really pop against the black cabinet.
    • Organized under the sink 
      • T mentioned that he could never find anything which made getting ready frusterating. So we were able to find some tubs, bins and acrylic trays that fit in the drawers and under the sink cabinets. A little organization makes a day-to-day use so much more enjoyable.
    • Added a glass shelf over the toilet
      • We found a small glass shelf that we loved AND it matched the hardware, Bonus! It looks great and adds a display area. T’s able to display some accessories that help give this room personality.
    • Replaced Light fixture in the bathroom
      • This is the one addition we are most proud of. We’re mostly proud that we didn’t electrocute ourselves. But we’re also proud that we did it on our own. It was really simple to replace.
      • Cut the power to the room (Thank goodness it was in the directions. Or we probably wouldn’t have thought about it.)
      • Unscrewed the old fixture and we found some HOT wallpaper hiding underneath.
      • Unhooked the wires from the old fixture
      • Attached the new fixture to the wires. The wires were color coded so it was really simple to figure out which wires went where
      • Mounted the new fixture over the existing mount
      • Little putty, sanding, paint and BAM. Done. (See how excited he is!?)

    All of our hard work has paid off! We’ve only got a few little tweaks until we can stamp this room as DONE. We’d like to move the shower curtain up, add a light above the shower, paint the trim around the sink and add some accessories. The small updates have made such a huge difference in this room. It’s nice to know that a little truly does go a long way.

Vegetable Coconut Red Curry Soup

If you’ve met us you know that we LOVE sushi. So it was imperative to find a restaurant near our new home. Well, folks we found one. They don’t stop at just sushi…they have Thai, Chinese, Japanese … pretty much anything you’d ever want. We stopped by one day and I was feeling a little under the weather and the waitress suggested this soup rather than my normal sushi. I followed her lead and my life hasn’t been the same since. It was TO.DIE.FOR. It’s creamy, spicy, sweet, comforting, warm, and totally satisfying. I had to recreate this masterpiece at home. I found this recipe and used it as a starting point. Today, I give you my recipe for red curry soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs. canola oil
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • ¼  cup red curry paste
  • 1 tbs. brown sugar
  • 2 cans light coconut milk
  • 2 ½  cups organic vegetable broth
  • ¼  cup fresh lime or lemon juice
  • ¼  cup thinly sliced peeled fresh ginger (or 1 tbs. powdered ginger)
  • 2 tbs. soy sauce
  • ½ can of cream of mushroom
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 entire onion
  • 1 small package of mushrooms
  • Thai basil (If you’ve never had it go to the store and get some immediately)
  • NOTE: if you want to spice it up add 2 tbs. of red pepper flakes
  • NOTE: You can also add protein to this party by adding chicken, tofu, or seafood. Just make sure you cook the meat appropriately.

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat
  2. Add garlic to pan and sauté for 30 seconds or until lightly browned
  3. Add curry paste and sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly
  4. Add brown sugar and cook 1 minute
  5. Stir in coconut milk, broth, juice, ginger, basil, cream of mushroom, red pepper flakes (optional) and soy sauce. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 1 hour (NOTE: you only really have to simmer for 30 min. but the longer you simmer the more robust the taste will become.)
  6. Add onions and green peppers and cook for 6 minutes
  7. Add mushrooms to pan and cook 4 minutes

Photo Credit

Mini Bathroom Makeover

Before we moved out of our townhome I half-jokingly mentioned that I’d love to have “his and hers” bathrooms. Well friends that dream has become a reality…and it’s AWESOME! He doesn’t have to deal with “all my potions” and I don’t have to deal with his sink whiskers.  It’s quite possibly the smartest thing we’ve done for our marriage 😉

We live in a home that was built in the 80’s so the “master bath” isn’t huge. It’s basically the same size as the other bath upstairs. The only major difference is the master bath has a small towel closet in it. Anywho, I took the master bath and the Mr. took the hall bath. Let me mention that the hall bath is literally right next to the master bath, so don’t feel too bad.

Well since the previous owners obviously shared the master bath that one had a few upgrades while the hall bath was overlooked, sad face! Well it was time to give poor T some upgrades, and we did!

We took a mirror that I bought from Goodwill and spray painted it black. We wanted to replace the boring standard mirror that came with the house. It was actually a really simple process:

Look, that little stinker photo-bombed by picture! 🙂

  1. Wiped down the mirror with a light soapy water
  2. Sanded it a bit to smooth out any imperfections
  3. Masked off the mirror with tape and newspaper
  4. Applied 2 coats of matte black spray paint (Rustoleum)
  5. Let the paint dry. Then removed the tape and paper

And here’s another angle! It feels good to be able to redo an old piece and put it to good use.

You may have noticed those strange holes right under the mirror. Those are the previous mirror’s hardware. So, we’ll have to putty and paint them to totally complete this project. However, we’re going to wait until we paint a mirror for my bathroom. We’re sure we’ll have the same issue in there and we only want to putty/paint once (luckily both bathrooms are the same color). We still have a lot of things in mind for this little bathroom, but we’re making progress!

Veggie Tales

After college I moved into a townhome and lived there for about 5 years. I loved the low maintenance and convenience of it; however, I missed having a yard. Some of my fondest childhood memories are helping my dad spread pine straw or helping with an outdoor project. So, when we were thinking about moving we knew a nice yard was a must. Since my last post, our yard has burst into a rainbow of colors and fragrances…it’s truly stunning. The previous owners did a great job of choosing some really beautiful plants. What do we have? Well, now that stuff is actually flowering I’ve been able to figure out what some of those mystery plants were! We’ve got Hostas, Lilac, Peony, Spiderwort, Japanese Maples, Cherry trees, Azaleas (the large and small variety), Lilies, Iris’, Rroses, and various flowering ground cover to name a few.

We’ve also loved watching the landscaping come to life in the natural areas around the house. I’ve included some photos below. The top photo is one of the most beautiful aspects of the yard, the trellis between our property and the neighbor. Recently, delicate yellow roses have completely covered the trellis…it’s quite a sight. The bottom four photos are landscaped areas across the yard. The two photos on the left were taken in the main natural area along the side of our home.  The photos on the right are the natural areas beside the front porch. We’re absolutely in love with the red Japanese maple. We recently also added some additional plants including:  some hanging flowers, a hydrangea, iris’ (because people are just giving them away) and Lilly of the Valley (because they are my absolute favorite).

Now on to the edibles! We both really wanted a vegetable garden but we couldn’t get much to grow at the townhouse. So, we knew we wanted to try again since we have a little more room to grow. I don’t even want to admit how many hours it took me to decide what and where to plan, but I will. Prepare yourselves because you’re about to get a glimpse of the crazy.

Step 1: Where to plant?

  • We live in a rather shady neighborhood, literally shady not sketchy, which I love! But it makes things a bit difficult when I need at least 6 hours of sunlight for vegetables to grow.

Step 2: Chart the sun/shade in your yard

  • My dad suggested that I sketch the shaded areas of the yard at 9, 12, 2, and 4 o’clock. Once I was done I layered the sheets on top of each other to find the sunniest spots. Kinda brilliant?! This technique actually worked! It was really easy to see where the sunniest parts of the yard were.

Step 3: Step outside your comfort zone.

  • After referring to my sketches I discovered that the largest sunny spot was on the outside of the fence. GASP! A garden that people can see from the road!? I know, blasphemy. I had to get over myself and the thought that vegetable gardens were meant to be hidden away in the back yard. While working on our garden we’ve actually gotten a lot of complements on it. I’m proud to say that we’re officially working outside the box on this one.

Step 4: Create the garden bed

  • If you live in the South you know about our clay situation. If not, let me break it down. We’ve got about an inch of dirt and meters of red clay. So, we had to create a raised bed to accommodate the veggies. We enlisted the help of my dad (he had all the tools and know-how for this sort of project). We decided to use half-round garden timbers because they were inexpensive and durable. It was a rather simple project if you have the tools to do it.
    • Level out the ground so that the wood sits flat
    • Cut the ends of the boards at a 45 degree angle so they fit flush in the corners
    • Nail the corners together
    • Drill holes every few feet and hammer in ¾ in. x 2 ft. rebar into them (to keep the boards from moving around)
    • NOTE: Don’t smash your finger with the hammer. My dad was the victim of a vicious hammer attack that led to a broken thumb. So, be careful and go slow.

Step 5: Fill garden with dirt

  • We decided to use a combo of equal parts top soil and manure. To get a good mix we alternated bags in the planter then cut and mixed them together. This was the simplest task to accomplish.

Step 6: Decide what to plant

  • This was the most stressful part of the process for me because I couldn’t find a single source for gardening. I looked at books, websites, blogs, and took advice from friends to get the answers to my questions. Why can’t there be just one place that all this stuff is held?! Sigh. It took me days to figure out the combination for our garden…and I’m not even convinced I did it right. But one day while I was buried in a chapter on “planting combinations” it hit me. I realized that this is my first try and I’m not got to get it perfect so why stress about it. So, that’s what I did.
  • A lot of plans included veggies that were cool but we’d never really eat and I wanted to make sure we’d eat what we planted. We went with tomatoes, peppers, squash, okra, spinach, lettuce, carrots, egg plant, oregano, basil, chives, fennel, and Swiss chard.

  • We also planted a few other herbs in pots around the house including: rosemary, orange mint, Thai basil, parsley, and cilantro. These were put in pots around the house because we’ll be using them a lot or they tend to take over vegetable beds.

Step 7: Water regularly

We’ve decided to water in the mornings for a few reasons.

  1. As it gets increasingly hotter during the day they will need that moisture for as long as possible.
  2. It’s cooler and more comfortable for us to water in the morning rather than in the afternoon
  3. Reduces the prevalence of slugs. Apparently, if you water at night (when they are active) they are drawn towards the water. And at that point you’re basically inviting them in to your garden. NOTE: I found one of these guys hanging out under a potted plant. He’s so pretty I let him stay — with the agreement that he’d leave the garden alone. 🙂

We’ve put countless hours into our yard and we couldn’t be happier with how it’s coming along. We’ve enjoyed watching the yard burst into life and can’t wait to see what summer brings.

Spring has Sprung All Over the Place

When the third “Dutch Bulb Catalog” arrived at the house we knew that spring would be interesting. The previous tenants were garden enthusiasts to the max and they apparently have great taste in flora.  We closed on the house during the fall so we never really got to see the yard “in it’s heyday.” So far, the spring has brought us a whole lot of new growth. It’s a beautiful mystery because we’ll have to wait till the buds bloom before we can tell what’s growing out there. So, if any of you can identify these little guys…I’d love to know! I’m in the process of writing a super long garden/yard planning post. So be on the lookout for more on the great outdoors soon!

Wanted a Moat but Settled for a Fence

I’ll admit that I Googled “moat diggers NC” before deciding on a fence for our property. My inner child was convinced that a moat would be a fantastic idea. However, the Mr. told me that the piranhas wouldn’t make it through the winter…and no moat of mine will be piranha free. So, a fence seemed like a logical second option.

The fence project was actually accelerated because of, Reese’s BFF, Mika. She’s coming to stay with us for a few days while my parents are out of town and her majesty demands a fence.  We were planning on building a fence for Reese so it really wasn’t a big deal. Like our sofa, we had mandatory and “would be nice” qualities.

Mandatory:

  • Safe and secure
  • Good quality product (i.e. treated lumber and/or chain link)
  • 4 foot fence
  • Fit within our budget

Would be nice:

  • Wood fencing
  • Multiple entrances

So, we collected a few quotes from local fence contractors and we were totally overwhelmed by the prices. I started feeling down because I saw all our interior updates flittering away until summer to make room in the budget for this fence project. I mentioned my frustration to a friend at work who told me a great tale of a local fence guy that was affordable and created a great product. I gave him a call and he became our knight in shining teeth (seriously, he had gold caps on his teeth).

We ended up getting a combo of wood and chain link fencing for a couple of reasons:

  • It was more affordable
  • The wood was more attractive for the front yard
  • The chain link section lets more light in on the north side of our yard where we want to put a garden eventually
  • The chain link can’t be seen from the roads…so why waste wood? (hehe)

I drew a diagram for you visual people:

And here’s a photo that I took standing on the deck looking out towards the street. Pretty snazzy huh? Look at those toppers and those solid gates!

Once the fence was in place we only had to complete 2 tasks to finish the project:

  1. Waterproof the fence:
    We’re still in the process of spraying the fence. It seems like it has rained every weekend since we’ve put the fence up. And the wood has to be 100% dry before you apply the sealant. So, the Mr. has finished about half of it and is waiting for sunny weekend to finish. The process is actually quite painless if you know this tip. We thought we’d have to buy the expensive paint sprayers to apply the sealant to the fence. However, we bought a $10 garden sprayer and it worked perfectly. So, don’t waste your money on those expensive paint sprayers for this kind of job.  (NOTE: make sure you run water through the nozzle after you’re done using it so it won’t get clogged with dry sealant).
  2. Add lattice under deck:
    The way our side yard is organized  the fence had to go up against the corner of the deck. This left about 15ft. under the deck that needed some lattice so the dogs can’t get out. We decided save some money and do it ourselves. So, we went to Lowes and bought 2 sheets of plastic lattice. (NOTE: We went with plastic lattice because it was pre-stained to match our deck and wouldn’t splinter when you cut it.)  Here are the steps we took to add the lattice work:
  3. Nailed a 2×4 to the bottom of the deck to give ourselves a surface to nail the lattice all the way around.
  4. Cut the lattice into 3 sections so the lattice overlapped each vertical stud about halfway.
  5. Placed a nail at each diamond to ensure that the dogs couldn’t push their way out.
  6. Hint: When cutting the lattice we found it much easier to cut on the ground than on a bench or the back of a truck. So, put a 2×4 on the ground, lay the lattice over top, then cut.

The builders did such a great job with the wooden fence because it looks really sturdy and classy. They added a few extra details that I wasn’t expecting including: finials on top of the door posts and a wooden topper that keeps all the boards from bending/twisting and warping as it ages. It looks like it just belongs there…like it’s been there forever. I think it’s a useful and attractive addition to our home.

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili

Who doesn’t like a nice warm bowl of chili in the winter? Better yet, slow cooker chili. To me that means little effort and big flavor. I may be one of the few who isn’t fond of beef chili swimming in red sauce. I was looking for a “Different” Chili to make and this recipe caught my attention because it has sweet potato in it. Wha?  I began to read the rest of the ingredients and it’s a pretty solid chili. It has all the standard chili mandatory adjectives including: spicy, meaty, beanie and cheesy. Can I get an Amen!? The best part, in my opinion, was the addition of sweet potato and chicken thighs. The sweet potato holds its shape in the chili. However, becomes butter when you bite into it….drool. Finally, the chicken thighs add A LOT of flavor, way more than breasts. I’ve gotta find a chili cook-off because this baby could bring home the gold.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken thighs
  • 3 tbs. chili powder, plus 2 tsp.
  • 1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz) can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (28 oz) cans diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 medium sweet potato (about 10 oz), peeled and shredded
  • 1 (15 oz) can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce with seeds, chopped
  • 2 tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tbs. kosher salt
  • 1 tbs. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • ½ to ¾ cup lager-style beer, optional
  • Toppings: shredded cheddar, chopped scallions, and chopped jalapenos

Directions

  1. Put the chicken into the slow cooker.
  2. Add 3 tablespoons of the chili powder and all the rest of the ingredients, except the beer.
  3. Stir everything together, cover, and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours.
  4. Just before serving, stir in the remaining 2 teaspoons of chili powder, the beer.
  5. Divide the chili among warm bowls. Serve with the topping of your choice.

(NOTE: This makes A LOT of chili…we have a large slow cooker and it was filled to the brim. Feel free to half this recipe if it seems it wont fit in your slow cooker.)

Mango Chicken Curry

We have successfully created and completely consumed our second Indian dish! Yes, we may have eaten it all…in one sitting. Whoops! Well, that means you know this recipe is gunna be good right?! We love our Chicken Tikka Masala recipe. However, we wanted to create an Indian dish that’ sweeter and little less spicy. We found this recipe and absolutely love it. We tweaked it a bit for our tastes but we know you’ll love it too. Like most Indian food, it’s a warm comforting dish. Though the sauce is warm to the touch, it’s actually quite a cool taste. The Mango-Coconut sauce is such a contrast to the spices on the chicken it just makes you want to smile. Then add the cool crunch of a cucumber on top …it’s just got so many great things going on.

Ingredients:

  • 2  medium mangoes, peeled and sliced (NOTE: you can also use pineapple or papaya)
  • 1 (10 oz) can coconut milk
  • 4 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 tsp. spicy curry paste (NOTE: You can add more kick if you’d like)
  • 3 boneless chicken breast halves – cut into cubes
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • ½ green pepper
  • 1 large cucumber, seeded and sliced

Directions:

  1. Place half of the mango slices into the bowl of a blender with the coconut milk. Blend until smooth and set aside until later.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  3. Stir in the curry paste, and cook until fragrant. (NOTE: about 1 minute)
  4. Add the chicken, onion and green peppers; cook until the chicken is done and the onions have softened. (NOTE: about 5 minutes)
  5. Pour in the mango puree and cook until heated through.
  6. Stir in the remaining mango slices and cucumber
  7. Serve over rice with Naan on the side.

Light my Fire…place

Finally, a home project that we can share. We’ve actually been doing a few home updates but they are all in various stages of progress.  But, today I am so happy to tell you that we’ve finished painting our fireplace. As soon as we toured the house I knew that a simple coat of paint would really freshen up the room. Since the fireplace is in the center of a long wall your eye is naturally drawn towards it.  This could be a good thing if the fireplace was a custom piece; however, our standard brick-red fireplace is rather plain. Don’t get me wrong I love our fireplace…I just want it to become less of a statement in the room. So, I thought a coat of white paint would make the fireplace feel fresh, modern, and let other pieces shine.

Before I started I read “How to paint a brick fireplace” on the Younghouselove blog. These two are notorious for painting their fireplaces so I knew I was in good hands. The whole process is pretty straight forward but you know the Mr. and I had some fun along the way.

  • Step 1: Clean your fireplace with light soap and water. Yes, clean. I thought cleaning a fireplace was ridiculous too… but it was FILTHY!
  • Step 2: Gather/buy supplies: painters tape, plastic sheeting, 2 hand brushes, roller, paint tray, oil primer, paint-thinner and semi-gloss paint. (NOTE: if your fireplace doesn’t have soot on it you can skip the oil primer and use regular primer.)
  • Step 3: Tape around the fire place and mantle. The good news for us is that everything on our mantle is white so we really couldn’t mess up too badly.
  • Step 4: Apply 1-2 coats of oil based primer onto the fireplace and allow to dry. (NOTE: painting in the winter with the windows open is quite a thrill.)
  • Step 5: Apply 1-2 coats of semi-gloss paint.

Seems simple enough right?! In all honesty it really was easy. We only had 2 hang-ups. First, we forgot to buy paint-thinner for the first coat of oil paint, Doh! Yeah, that ruins your brushes for sure. Oh you think water’s gunna help? Silly noob, that just makes it worse. So, we bought brushes (again) and paint-thinner for the second coat. Lastly, it took us forever to paint the fireplace and our living room looked like a Dexter episode for a few weeks. Why? Well we had to move furniture out of the old townhouse (because it sold ,YAY!) during one weekend and the rest of the time we we were just too darn lazy.

But would you look at the end result! Isn’t it nice!? The end result is worth the plastic sheeting and painted hands. Speaking of that:

  • TIP: Use nail polish remover to get oil paint off your skin. It’s way better for your skin than paint remover.

We couldn’t be happier with our newly painted fireplace. I think it actually makes the room look bigger. And maybe it’s just me but don’t the floors look darker? Bonus! We can’t wait to see how the rest of this room comes together!