Making My Life A Masterpiece

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I truly believe my life is a masterpiece in the works. I love trying new things, learning, growing and sharing what I learn along the way. Here’s a quick list of some of my personal favorites so far:

FamilyThoughts on MotherhoodCalisthenics of the Heart
Project Home: Counter Magic, Goodbye 70’s Scroll,  Brown Paper Floor
GardeningMy Yard
Cooking: Fresh Roasted SalsaEnglish ToffeeGingerbread Success

Fresh Mex Fire Roasted Salsa Finished shine

Finished shine

This is a sticky post  :)

Cruis’n Our Camp Kick Off

I’ve been called as the camp director for our ward this year. The theme is nautical, and our ward was assigned the group of Latter Day Pioneers in conjunction with our overall theme of “Anchor Your Soul in Christ”.  So we’re going on a cruise via “Pioneer Cruise Lines”.

Can I just say how grateful I am for new and better software? I’m sorely missing my old photo/image editing and creating software that just got too outdated to work within the new operating systems for computers now. But what a happy thing to be able to do much of the same things with my Mac and its word processing software. Apple rocks! Plus it only took a matter of minutes to generate an anchor logo and a cruise ship image with our name.

Logo   cruiselogo

This week we had our camp kick off with the girls to introduce the theme, share and gather basic information. While I forgot to get any pictures from the event, I do have some of what we did to share.

I got captain hats for myself and my assistant director and a little sailor scarf and cap for my junior assistant leader. They were super cheap and really added a little punch to the event. I had our junior assistant help me make candy lei’s to welcome our guests and she handed them out as people arrived. These turned out great but I wish I’d started them earlier. They take quite a bit of time to assemble and we ran out of time to do more than 20 which was just enough for the girls. I’d loved to have enough for the parents and leaders that came too. For reference, it took us about 2-3 hours to assemble 20 leis. I put curling ribbon between each piece of candy (you could do less to reduce time and supplies), and 3 bags (aprox 100 pieces each) of lifesavers and jolly ranchers did 13 leis. If you’ve never done these before, it’s simply candy rolled in long sections of saran wrap and tied off with ribbon.

Candy leis and nautical costumes take it up a notch
Candy leis and nautical costumes take it up a notch

My assistant director took care of the snacks and craft and did an awesome job. We had blue 7-up, red velvet cupcakes, cookie bars, licorice knots, sweedish fish, gold fish and a fun veggie tray with a decorative crab made from a red bell pepper. We tiered stacks of hymn books under our plastic table cloth to add variety to the presentation of the food and that worked great! So if you’re ever in a pinch and want to make things look cool without packing around extra items like cupcake holders, etc. I strongly suggest using hymn books under the table cloth! I wish I’d captured some pictures because the display was really cute.

My contribution to the evening was decoration elements and printed materials. I don’t like spending any money on things like decorations because they usually just end up in the trash. So I recycled some shipping materials that were just going to be thrown away – basic cardboard boxes and those new bubble cells they use in place of peanuts now. My goal was cheap, light and weather resistant. Mission accomplished! I cut out anchors from the cardboard and wrapped them in foil. This brought on a really fun idea when I saw one box with the anchor cut out. I could instantly see a photo prop as well as visual for our theme. I ordered the large poster of Christ from the distribution center (very inexpensive!) and the box in came in was perfect to create the visual! I taped a white poster board over the front, and two additional pieces on the side to stretch it out as a large table top display. Then I taped the picture of the savior on the inside of one of the side panels. When I was introducing our theme I picked up the display and flipped the side panel in to reveal how Christ should be our anchor. It worked great! We’ll take it to camp and use it as a photo prop too. I took the bubble strands and taped them together to form circles, then wrapped white garbage bags around them, and taped the red pull string around the outside with blue painters tape. Voila! Because they’re light and weather resistant we’ll be able to reuse these at our camp too.

Shipping supplies turned nautical!
Shipping supplies turned nautical!
Card board cut out, could be table display as well as photo prop
Card board cut out, could be table display as well as photo prop
Fun visual for Christ being our anchor
Fun visual for Christ being our anchor

I created and printed some boarding passes as invitations. These turned out so cute! Then I generated a simple questionnaire to get information like T-Shirt sizes and learn a little bit about our girls. I did a “Would you rather” section of questions with things like: Take a walk or Take a nap, Paint fingernails or Braid hair, etc. I also included a medical release form. I wanted to put the information together in a packet so I folded some 8×14 paper, punched holes in the sides and used jute cord to tie them together. I had my junior assistant help me decorate the fronts with stickers.

Details inside the info packet
Details inside the info packet

We spent the first half hour explaining the theme and sharing camp information. We had the girls fill out their questionnaires and release forms, got signatures and then invited parents to stay or leave at their discretion. We spent the rest of the activity working on anchor bracelets/anklets with anchor charms and cording. The girls loved these. It’s always fun to see personalities shine through with stuff like this.

It was a fun evening and we received lots of happy comments about it. Just eight more weeks and we’ll be camping.

Hugs From The Other Side

I got a hug this past weekend, and it was straight from heaven. It wasn’t planned or expected, in fact it caught me completely off guard. It came through the arms of my sweet uncle, and I knew my daddy was behind it. I knew because not only did it begin with the most tender and familiar phrase of, “There’s my girl” but it was delivered with that same love and reaching down for me that I used to get when I was small enough for my dad to reach down to me.

Dad with his sisters, Janet and Beckie and brother Howard

This picture was taken last year on my dad’s 70th birthday. It was the last birthday in this life we’d be able to celebrate with him. It was this uncle, Howard, with his arms around his sisters that gave me that hug. I was gladly supporting him at his wedding and expected to be the one administering congratulations hugs, when he surprised me with that familiar greeting and hug that my dad used to give. He’ll never know how much that simple gesture meant.

I was going through pictures and found this one of the last time we celebrated a birthday with my dad when we lived in AZ. He’d come to visit us for the weather and my kids loved showering him with homemade cards and gifts.

Dad with Taylor and Cidnie

This year, when I celebrate my miracle baby’s first birthday it will mark one year from the last week of his life. It’s a bitter-sweet timing. I know he’d have loved to give her a big birthday hug and I know he’ll be giving her one from the other side.

Counter Magic

I was happy with my 70’s kitchen cabinet makeover, but the countertop…well, let’s just say any happy description is an understatement! I’ve had multiple responses from people who couldn’t believe it was just craft paint and varnish, all thought is was granite or other stone material. Color me happy!

Before and after countertop refinishing.
Before and after countertop refinishing.

PHOTO GALLERY

BASIC INFORMATION

Project

Painting and coating an old laminate counter with acrylic craft paint and pour on, high gloss.

What supplies do I need? 

  • Acrylic, craft paint (any variety of colors you choose)
  • Sponges
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Pour on, high gloss epoxy
  • Plastic drop cloth & painter’s tape
  • Plastic spatula
  • Mixing containers and sticks
  • Blow torch or straw for blowing air

TIPS & SUGGESTIONS

  • Don’t be afraid to try! I learned quickly that undoing the paint job and starting over was as easy as removing nail polish.
  • Try multiple tools and techniques to see what gives you the look you want.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter when mixing the epoxy.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

I’d have tackled this project sooner but for the following unknowns: 1) I didn’t know for sure if I could get the look I wanted with painting techniques, 2) I was intimidated by the pour on varnish, 3) I didn’t know how much it would cost. Now that it’s done I’m kicking myself for waiting!

If these are holding you back too, I’m here to tell you go for it! It was much less scary than I’d anticipated and the results exceeded all my expectations. So if you’re like me and wished you could find some answers to these questions, I’m here to share my learning curve.

1) I knew I wanted a stone look, but wasn’t sure I could achieve the desired look with painting techniques. I found a picture of a stone counter sample I liked. I used the colors I saw in that sample to pick out paint colors. This was critical because I’d have never picked up the orange on my own and it adds the depth of color needed. I bought my paints at a local craft store – even hit their 99 cent sale, making the cost all of about $5.00 for paint.

I filled any nicks and imperfections in the old counter with wood filler, then started painting. In trepidation, I started in one corner. I didn’t worry about painting on a base coat because I wanted the yellow to show through. The first result showed  I could indeed simulate a stone look with enough effort, but I knew immediately I’d made a mistake on colors. The yellow was completely covered so everything looked too grey. Also, because I’d started in one smaller section, I couldn’t match without seeing a seam (insert sad face). I knew I needed the additional paint color and that I needed to do the entire surface at one time. So, I scraped off what I’d done, wiped the space with a little acetone and voila! The space was back to it’s original state and ready to try again.

Endless possibilities to start over and get it just the way you want.
Endless possibilities to start over and get it just the way you want.

Lesson of the dayyou can always start over until you get it right. I so wish I’d known this before I started! It really took the fear out of trying. In the end, I already knew I’d probably like anything better than what was already there, but such a simple and endless “redo” option, well that was magic!

So when I started the second time I took photos of each step so I could duplicate on the rest of the counters later. Mine ended up being a 7 step process to get the look I wanted. And yes, following these photos gave me a matched look when I tackled the rest of the counters a few weeks later.

7 step process of sponging craft paint onto old laminate.
7 step process of sponging craft paint onto old laminate.

I used two tools – sponge and plastic bags. The plastic bags made all the difference in getting the look I wanted. I highly recommend using them. If you’re really scared to start right on the counter, try it out on some card stock or paper to see what the different tools do. I’ve also used paper towels on craft projects with success. Acrylic craft paint is so versatile and forgiving, plus it dries fast. Give it a whirl – who knows what will work best for you? When you’re done, your finished work will be 100% authentic and unique. Isn’t that cool?!

The next things holding me back were connected – cost and intimidation of the product. As you can see from my pictures, I have a large peninsula, sink and corner counter as well as a separate section on another wall. For me, this space was approximately 60 square feet. I purchased the pour on glaze product in kits of 32 ounces to the tune of about $30.00 per kit. It took 48 oz to cover the side counter (approximately 12 sq feet) and 192 oz to cover the rest (approximately 48 sq feet). That’s a grand total of about $225.00 for 240 oz of pour on gloss. I’d love to say this was as cheap as the paint, but it is what it is. The finish is totally worth the cost in my opinion, and I’ve worked with enough polyurethane to know comparisons. One critical note about this product – follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter. Don’t skimp on the amount, measure, and mix according to the directions. I had no problems, I read several who did and all tried to cut corners on these steps.

Pour on, high gloss glaze process.
Pour on, high gloss glaze process.

Starting on the side counter gave me a taste for the project to see if it was as intimidating as I’d feared. It wasn’t. I did watch several you tube videos of people pouring this stuff, it’s not an exact science just know the better you pour evenly the less smoothing and relocating of the product you’ll have to do later. Oh, and there is PLENTY of time to spread the mixture with the plastic spatula without panicking. From what I’d read and heard, I thought it would start curing fast so I was pretty worried about covering large spaces. No worries, the mixture takes 8 hours to cure to a dust free stage. As long as you’ve measured and mixed the product as directed, there’s no need to worry . . . like I did . . . all night. It worked as beautifully as they said it would, a high gloss, level, finish cured to a hard finish.   I used the same spatula to run the product that spills over the side along the edge, and then over the next couple of hours I’d run it along the bottom of the edge to remove drips.

The blow torch was also less scary than imagined, in fact it was kinda fun! We bought a kitchen torch (now we can have creme brûlée – bonus!). Just as the manufacturer’s instructions stated, the bubbles from the chemical process start to form about 15 minutes after application. You simply run that torch over those spots in quick movements and those little bubbles pop like magic. In my experience, you’ll never get every bubble, and given the large surface area I’m not sure it’s realistic to expect. As the product continues to cure and harden, removing bubbles became problematic as they didn’t fill back in smoothly. This was the point (about 1 1/2 hours) that I stopped babysitting and let the product finish hardening. Depending on your lighting, you may always see little imperfections, but honestly I have to be looking for and studying mine to find them. I’m extremely happy with it.

One thing I would mention, the glaze darkens the finished look. I like it, but I wasn’t expecting it. So if you’re going for something really light you may want to compensate for that by doing more light than you’d planned.

The paint job finish is lighter than the final result after the glaze.
The paint job finish is lighter than the final result after the glaze.
Stone look, glossy shine
Stone look, glossy shine

I think the finish gives a real look of depth:

The finished product looks like stone
The finished product looks like stone

Check out my other fabulous facelift projects! Brown Paper Floor, Goodbye 70’s Scroll

Goodbye 70’s Scroll

It’s been on the “to do” list for a long,  L O N G, time: Give this old kitchen a facelift!

Breathing new life into an outdated kitchen.
Breathing new life into an outdated kitchen.

That 70s scroll has been updated to a new, bright, trimmed, bead board finish. And I couldn’t be happier.

PHOTO GALLERY

BASIC INFORMATION

Project

This is a resurfacing kitchen cabinets project. I used bead board wallpaper and vinyl trim to give the old doors a new look.

What supplies do I need?

  • Cleaning supplies for hardware and grease – ammonia, dish soap, brush
  • Work bench/station
  • Plastic drop cloths
  • Wood filler
  • Plastic spatulas (small for wood filler, larger for smoothing wall paper)
  • Sanding supplies
  • Protective masks for sanding
  • Scraper
  • Oil based primer
  • Mineral spirits for cleaning primer brush
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes (one for oil, one for latex)
  • Bead board wallpaper
  • Scissors
  • Wallpaper adhesive
  • Pasting brush
  • Vinyl trim
  • Saw to cut trim
  • Professional strength glue (these use a caulking gun)
  • Clamps
  • Window/door caulk
  • Hardware (new pulls and handles)
  • Hardware placement guide (optional)
  • Power drill with drill bit (for making holes for new hardware), phillips/flat head screwdriver bits for removing and installing hardware

How do you do it?

The process is a matter of preparing the old doors for refinishing, adding new materials to the front of the cabinets and painting. Preparation includes removing hardware, cleaning, filling any scroll work or old hardware holes, and sanding. Applying new materials will require the trim and wallpaper as well as the tools to fit and glue them onto the cabinet face. Painting is a two step process of priming (oil based will both seal and maximize adhesion of paint) and painting.

TIPS & SUGGESTIONS

  • Working with old cabinets brings unique challenges, and in my opinion working with what you have is a must for this kind of project. Narrow doors like mine mean cutting corners, like using wider trim to hide old scroll work, could result in unsatisfactory results. These things will impact what you choose to do and what it takes to get it done right.
  • Other considerations include mixing new and old materials and how they’ll look when finished. I opted to find a way to reface all the front surface so the paint would be uniform over new materials, a GREAT call.
  • Further, adding thickness or weight to doors can cause problems – hence the wallpaper bead board and light vinyl trim. Taking time to really consider the existing custom work of your kitchen will help form a style option that works for you and your existing cabinets. This is critical for super custom sections like corner cabinets, etc.
  • I do as much online as possible. I love having things shipped to me, and living in a rural area can limit your choices. So I always start my searches for materials on Amazon and reserve the hardware and home improvement stores for a few items that just need done locally.
  • I asked local paint specialists for suggestions and tips and took the time to look around the home improvement store for trim options that resulted in finding the perfect solution for me.
  • Keep in mind that some things you may have to reuse (like original hinges to make things fit right).
  • DIY doesn’t mean free. Avoid the intersection of cheap and easy. Be realistic, if it was going to cost you $5,000.00 to replace cabinets, then spending $500.00 isn’t going to be unreasonable for a DIY resurface. Remember, little items add up. Like new handles and pulls – $3 – $4 ea adds up when you realize you need on the order of 36 and that’s $100-150 by itself. Paint will run you anywhere from $30-60 a gallon. So before you even start looking at things like wallpaper and trim you’re already easily at the $200 mark. Plan on investing a reasonable amount of time and money into a project like this.
  • Don’t rush it. Paint can only dry so fast and haste makes waste.
  • I kept a container of Lysol disinfectant wipes handy…they are perfect for cleaning quick painting messes and wiping off glue.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

I spent a great deal of time researching options, paint, etc. There’s so much out there! Here’s how I decided on things and my considerations.

I started by asking a paint specialist for recommendations and suggestions for painting my 70’s, dark stain, cabinets white. His suggestions were invaluable. He suggest proper preparation of cleaning and sanding, sealing with an oils based primer as woods will leak sap and oils, and finishing with a high quality latex paint. He also told me pure white paints don’t cover as well (even showed me the manufacturer’s note of exclusion on this) so advised me to pick out a white tint I liked. Sure wish I’d known this before I used a plain white base paint to do all my ceilings and trim a few years ago! This piece of advice was absolutely true.

I knew I couldn’t tackle this project at one time. It was just too big and I have an 8 month old now. This has definitely been a broken down task but it’s worked out well. I’ve had time to learn what works and what doesn’t, how to do things right and not rush. Here’s a sneak peak at what I mean when I say broken down. I mean really broken down like top section, bottom, repeat in another area kind of broken down.

Taking the project as time allows, piece by piece.

The best advice I have to offer on this is simply to give yourself permission to do things as you can; don’t let time expectations stunt your productivity. Any progress is still progress, even if it’s not all at once. You can’t rush things like paint drying time, so I figured I’d embrace it and shuffle between tasks as time allowed.

I’d also advise anyone ready to tackle this project to be ready for a few surprises. My first one included seeing how the cabinet had pulled away from the ceiling from years of weighted content. The middle section had actually bowed by nearly 1/2 inch. If you’re equally unfortunate, you’ll be happy to know a few cabinet screws can restore and lift everything back to it’s proper placement. Your doors will hang right and thank you! Speaking of hanging right, I also learned that even buying the same style of hinges didn’t work. They are ever so slightly different in measurements than the originals and the doors wouldn’t hang right. So I ended up reusing the original hinges and buying new hardware to match.

Prep work included scraping off all the old toad stool contact paper used as shelf liner, light sanding around the front of the wood, priming and painting.

By the way, I wouldn’t be without one of these scrapers for most any project, but I used it several times during this one!

I know a lot of people don’t worry about painting the inside of their cabinets, but I’d have been super unhappy if I’d left them. Especially with white fronts. Besides, now I know everything is clean! I only used brushes, one for the primer and one for the latex. They are the only two brushes I used for everything. Both were recommended by the paint specialist and I’m glad I followed his advice, including storing the cleaned brushes back in their original containers to maintain their shape. These are worth the investment and truly the only tools I used to paint everything. I got one in each brand to ease in keeping them separate, but found both equal in quality.

      

I used a Kilz oil based primer recommended by the paint specialist. I can tell you, this is a little like glue when applying and I can see why it’s recommended for this purpose. It made the next coat of latex paint a one step process. Don’t skip the primer!

Total pain, but using a base of oil based primer is key to success.
Total pain, but using a base of oil based primer is key to success.
First (and only) needed coat of white latex paint over the primed surface.

First (and only) needed coat of white latex paint over the primed surface.

 I chose a white tint I liked and purchased a gallon of satin Valspar from my local Ace Hardware store. I shuffled between painting the inside cabinets and working on the doors, making use of drying time to alternate between the two. The first step with the doors was removing all the hardware. Then I filled all the decorative scroll and old hardware holes in the middle of the doors.

Filling in the scroll detail and hardware holes.
Filling in the scroll detail and hardware holes.

After drying, I sanded the surface of the doors – front, back and sides. An electric sander works great and takes only minutes. My advice is definitely do this outdoors as the dust is a mess, protective masks are also a good idea.

This little sander has been awesome:

Then it was on to gluing the wall paper on the fronts. I didn’t worry about exact measurements because I knew I was putting 1 1/2 inch trim around the edges. Although this paper is pre-pasted, I used an all purpose adheasive and only sprayed enough water on the paper to activate the glue. I used one of the large plastic spatulas to smooth the paper down and remove air bubbles.

       

Gluing bead board wallpaper over top.

Next came adding the trim. I didn’t use a measuring tape (gasp! I know). I’ve found over time, that few things in a home line up, are at perfect angles or fit on a square. So, I placed the trim over the length of the door, marked it and cut that length. Then I checked it to make sure it fit the length of the door and used it to mark the second one for the other side. Then I’d lay those two pieces in place and mark the inside sections. Then I glued the pieces in place and clamped them for security and accuracy during drying. I found the key in the process was making sure edges lined satisfactorily and to recheck all the areas after clamping and the slightest shift can happen during this process and result in a piece drying just off where you wanted. When the trim was dry I sealed any gaps along the edges with caulk.

Measuring vinyl lattice trim.
Measuring vinyl lattice trim.
Gluing trim on the cabinet edges.
Gluing trim on the cabinet edges.

 I used this glue:

I painted the back of the doors with the primer and one coat of the latex paint. The fronts got two coats of the latex paint.

Painting over the new cabinet surface.
Painting over the new cabinet surface.

One final note on working with custom bases… I had to figure out  how to work the custom design on a corner cabinet and some drawers. Originally, the scroll on these drawers were done to make it look like the bottom three drawers were one design. I went back and forth on trying to decide if I should frame in all the sides or follow the custom design of connecting the bottom three. In the end I went that route and I think it was the right call. Working as much as possible with the original can pay off.

Fantastic facelifts from 70's scroll cabinets.
Fantastic facelifts from 70’s scroll cabinets.

 And now I have a kitchen that has gone from dated 70’s scroll to sleek and bright white. I know, I know, how could I part with that old stove? Sorry, some things just deserve retirement.

Out with the old, in with the new.
Out with the old, in with the new.
A little paint, trim and wallpaper go a long way!
A little paint, trim and wallpaper go a long way!

For more DIY ideas, check out my post about Brown Paper Floors. IMG_4788

Best Toffee Ever!

The best, easiest homemade toffee recipe!
The best, easiest homemade toffee recipe!

Several years ago I ventured into learning how to make the one thing I really love – toffee. I did a search and one of the first recipes to come up was called “Awesome Homemade Toffee“. I looked at the ingredient list:

1 pound butter
1/2 cup water
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
16 ounces milk chocolate chips

My first thought? It can’t possibly be THAT simple. But indeed it was. The first batch and every batch since have turned out great.

The hardest thing about this recipe is stirring. As you cook the first four ingredients together, you have to stir it constantly as it starts boiling – and it needs to boil for 10-13 minutes to achieve the right candy temperature of 300 degrees. Still, 10 minutes of stirring versus an hour or more for baking is an easy decision for me, plus I love the stuff! I found using a wooden spoon and a large, teflon coated pot work best for this process. The first time I made it, I used the candy thermometer. After that I could tell by the color and time when it was reaching the browned appearance of toffee. It’s almost always hit the 10 minute mark for me. My pot has silver handles that get hot so I use a silicone glove to hold the pot and keep my hand cool during the process.

I pour mine into a large cookie sheet. It covers about 3/4 of the pan. I don’t worry about the poured edge as it rounds out nicely on it’s own. I just make sure the mixture is spread evenly.

Finishing steps
Finishing steps

Simply pour the chocolate chips over the top and let them sit for a few seconds to start melting, then smooth the chocolate out with a spatula. If you like nuts on your toffee, you can add those too.

After the toffee is cooled (you can speed the process by using your fridge), I use my kitchen mallet and a butter knife to break the toffee up into the desired size pieces. Put them in a fun jar to dress up the appearance and the perfect gift is ready to go. One batch makes a lot of toffee!

The entire process can be finished easily in an hour and the results are OH SO satisfying!

She Gets Me

Every time. It’s those eyes:

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Those cheeks:

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That smile:

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This little bundle keeps us so happy. She is so peaceful and such a happy little soul. When I consider how long we went without her I can’t imagine how we made it so long. She is truly treasured by all of us.

Christmas was wonderful, Jaimee really brought back that magic that children embody with the holidays. It was was as much fun watching her play with paper and bows as it was to imagine her next year buzzing around the room on her own. We had our traditional fondue dinner Christmas Eve and had grandma over to enjoy it with us. Then we were all spoiled with sleeping in until 8:30 on Christmas morning! The kids enjoyed a throw back style Christmas to simple gifts of games and toys and the magic grew when the snow arrived. And boy do we mean snow! I haven’t seen so much snow in such a short time since I was just little. It was enough to cancel church on Sunday so I had a super birthday getting to keep everyone at home with me.

So another year is wrapped up and new one has begun. Can’t wait to see what’s in store.

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