DIY, House & Home, Tutorials

Our Deck Transformation (For Less Than $70): Part I

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As we approach the 5th anniversary of homeownership, my husband and I decided to celebrate by sealing the deck. It’s a project that we’ve been intending to do for the last couple of years but finally got around to actually completing it last week. Sealing your deck is an easy (albeit time consuming) task that really helps to improve the look and prolong the life of your deck. I will warn you that it is somewhat of a labor of love but it’s totally worth it in the end.

How To Stain Your Deck 

For this project, you’ll need:

  • Deck Stain (We purchased Thompson’s Water Seal Waterproofing Stain from Home Depot for just under $30)

Deck Seal

  • Wood Cleaner (We purchased two of the Behr Wood Cleaners for about $20 for the pair)
  • Protective gloves
  • A broom and scrub brush
  • A bucket or tub
  • A Power Washer
  • Roller and paint brushes (We also purchased this set from Shur-Line at Home Depot for just under $5 to help with the hard to reach places)

 Deck Seal

Since I apparently fail at remembering to take “before” pictures of major household projects, this (below) is the best photo I’ve got of our five year old deck pre-treatment. As you can see, it needed a little (okay, a lot) of help.

Deck

As novice deck sealers, we weren’t entirely sure where to begin so we set out on the internet (much like I assume you’re doing if you stumbled across my post by chance) to see what the best course of action would be to prepare for the seal. Many of the resources we came across advocated power washing a pre-treatment for staining or sealing a deck. Thankfully, one of our neighbors has a power washer that we were able to borrow. Power washing was a relatively simple task and did make a difference in the look of the wood.

Deck Stain

After power washing the deck, we ventured out to our local Home Depot to purchase supplies and while we were there, We began to question whether or not the power wash was sufficient enough in preparing our deck for this project. We took a few minutes to look at the various products in the stain/seal aisle (near the paint) and came across this:

Behr All In One Wood Cleaner

Behr Premium All-In-One Wood Cleaner. At the end of the day, we wanted to make sure that the seal on our deck is going to last and we want to make sure that we’ve done all that to protect our home. With the promise of cleaning off mold and mildew stains from the deck, we decided that the Behr Wood Cleaner was worth the small investment we would be paying to make sure that the deck was clean before sealing it. I should mention that it’s really important to make sure your deck is as clean as it can be before you seal it otherwise you risk trapping in bacteria, mold, and dirt into your wood and you increase the chance of having problems later on down the road.

Deck Protection

The wood cleaner requires a 1:1 ratio (which is what we did) of product to water. Knowing that we would be using the entire bottle, we just dumped the bottle out into an old container, filled it up with water, and mixed it all together. We soaked our deck before treating it (per the suggestions) and then applied it using a stiff thistle broom and a small scrubbing brush (for the spindles and railing). The deck has to remain wet the entire time you’re doing this project so I would suggest having a partner help you while you clean.

Deck Cleaning

The transformation after using the wood cleaner was pretty amazing. I had absolutely no idea how much nasty dirt we had accumulated over the years.

Deck Clean

We wanted to make sure that we washed off as much of the cleaner as we could so we spent a good half hour spraying it down after we were done (I’m fairly certain my neighbors think I’m a crazy person for watering my deck for so long).

Sealing A Patio

It worked so well that we decided to go over the deck with one more cleaning before applying the stain. This part of the process (power washing, cleaning the deck, and going over it a second time) took about two and a half hours but was well worth the time to make sure our deck was properly prepped for staining. Had we not opted to purchase the wood cleaner, we would never have known how completely disgusting our deck really was. Power washing it alone would never have been sufficient and I’m really glad we made the choice to buy it.

Sealing A Deck

Next time, I’ll share the rest of this process with you including the incredible transformation that makes all of this time and effort so worthwhile. Stay tuned…

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Tutorials

I Refreshed My Curb Appeal For Less Than $10 (And You Can, Too!)

Front Door Wreath

Hi there, friends! Remember that time I showed you how to make a fun wreath for your door in three easy steps?! In case you don’t (it’s okay, I’m not mad), I would encourage you to check out the Autumn Wreath Tutorial (because I’m not going to repost the steps, sorry).

Make Your Own Fall Wreath

I loved that wreath for several months (far longer than was probably acceptable to keep an Autumn wreath on the door) and around Valentine’s Day eventually took some of the harvest decorations (like the pumpkins) off of the wreath and left the burlap with the intention of revamping the colors to make it more seasonally appropriate. Last week, I finally got around to doing just that.

I went into my local Hobby Lobby (where they consistently have great sales on craft items and seasonal decor) the other day looking for red, white, and blue burlap to completely redo the wreath hanging on my door. Then I came to the realization that if I do that, I’m going to have to change it out again in a few months or risk irritating my neighbors. So instead, I opted for something that would stand the test of time and it turned out much better than I expected. I repurposed the yellow and tan burlap ribbon that I already had from my original project and purchased some white and tan striped burlap (on sale for under $6) and some artificial flowers (in my favorite colors, also on sale) for less than $2/bunch. I spent about $10 total to completely refresh the wreath. Take a look:

DIY Wreath

DIY Wreath

DIY Wreath

DIY Front Door Wreath

DIY Wreath

Enhancing the curb appeal of your house is pretty easy. Whether you need a fresh coat of paint on the railing of your steps, a wreath for the front door, or potted planters to add some color, I definitely recommend doing little things to brighten your space up. Who knows, maybe it’ll encourage your neighbors to follow suit.

DIY, House & Home, Tutorials, Uncategorized

We Said Goodbye To Carpet: A Living Room Renovation

Updated Living Room

In December 2012, in anticipation of our basement remodel, we purchased new living room furniture and we have absolutely loved our living room set since. One thing we haven’t loved, however, has been the wear and tear on our carpet in the five years since we purchased our house.

I really don’t like carpet for a multitude of reasons but primarily because it’s a hot bed for germs when it gets a lot of traffic (which ours sure did) and, over time, it gets kind of ugly. There are a lot of options when it comes to replacing flooring and we wanted to make sure whatever we did with our house offered the best possible return on our investment. Since the purchase price of our home five years ago is almost $10,000 more than what comparable homes in the area are listed at right now, we wanted to be careful not to end up spending money that wouldn’t be “worth it” to us in the end.

Sunset Acacia Laminate Flooring

When we were working on finishing the basement, I found this beautiful laminate flooring by Harmonics that is exclusively sold at Costco. What I love about this flooring is that it comes with the underlayment already attached so, as someone who has never put down flooring before, it was very user friendly. When I purchased for downstairs, the flooring was on sale for about $28 a box (which was awesome) and, since we did all of the work ourselves, it saved us a TON of money. I knew when we were ready to replace the main floor carpeting, we would likely go with the same flooring we used in the basement. Even at the full price of around $35 a box (including tax), using this laminate flooring was significantly less expensive than it would have been had we decided to go with a real or engineered hardwood.

Old CarpetAfter all of the furniture was removed and we were preparing to tear up the carpet, I realized how much obvious wear the carpet had sustained throughout the years. Even though it wasn’t the worst carpet in the history of mankind, I was a little embarrassed that we’d hosted friends and family with it looking that bad. Whoops. I had actually already listed the carpet on Freecycle (a sustainability group that I’m involved with) and had someone coming by to pick it up later that day. I’m sure with a little hard work and a great carpet cleaner, this made a decent rug for the new owners (hopefully).

Goodbye Carpet

Carpet RemovalAfter the carpet was completely gone from the living room and hallway we were ready for the new flooring to go down. One thing that I learned when planning out new flooring is that you should always account for potential cutting errors. I purchased a little over 10% more than the measurements for this space just in case we needed it and ended up with one extra box of flooring. Since the laminate needed 24+ hours to acclimate to its new environment (to account for humidity and temperature in the space), I really didn’t want to run the risk of needing to buy a brand new box last minute.

New Floors

New Flooring

Laminate Flooring

We left the carpeting on the stairs (awkward, I know, but we’re lazy and stairs are hard) and in each of the bedrooms in the house so we ended up purchasing all of our transition strips (along with the shoe molding that went between the floor and trim) from Home Depot mid-way through the project.

Upstairs RedoSince the shoe molding was white and the existing trim was a different shade of wood, we decided to go ahead and paint all of the trim and door frames white (this part is still a work in progress). I really think that the new color adds a little character and elegance to the new flooring and I’m happy we made that decision.

Upstairs redo 1

Even though the space is not 100% finished, I’ll go ahead and share pictures of what the living room looks like today:

New Flooring Pictures

New Living Room

I should mention that all of the accessories, including the new rug, were purchased on clearance at Hobby Lobby & Target for less than $150 total. I’m so happy with how it looks that it might just be my favorite room in the house!

The upstairs of our house looks so vastly different with the changes that we made and the transformation is so easy I definitely recommend this type of project to anyone looking at projects around the house. The biggest advice that I can give is to make sure whatever you’re doing with your house is worth the time and investment you’re putting into it. The laminate flooring we went with has the look of hardwood flooring but is a much better option for our current home.

Next on the docket: An updated office and guest bathroom. Stay tuned! 

DIY, House & Home, Pictures, Tutorials

Fall In Love With Autumn: A DIY Wreath Tutorial

Crisp air and falling leaves…don’t you just love Autumn?!

Autumn Wreath DIY

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to stop by the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri’s annual fundraiser Holiday Mart with a good friend of mine (hi, D!). We had a blast walking around enjoying the Christmas music, sampling the incredible treats, and shopping with some of the wonderful vendors that Holiday Mart brings in each year. I had one mission over the weekend: find the perfect Autumn wreath. I’m embarrassed to admit that I failed.  I searched high and low to find my ideal wreath and, even though I found some cute ones along the way, I couldn’t seem to find “the one”. And then that little lightbulb went off in my head: why not make one?! Challenge accepted! Creating your own seasonal wreath is the perfect opportunity to leave your mark on the season, design something that is uniquely your own, and save a little bit of money in the process. Curious to see how I did it?! Take a look:

Holiday Wreath Supply List

Thanks to my local Hobby Lobby, I was able to score some great deals on all of the items I needed to design my new wreath. If you’re looking to replicate my idea, you’ll need to purchase about 45 feet of burlap ribbon (about three packages worth), a wire circle for making wreaths (located in the floral department), and seasonal decorations (I used pumpkins, flowers, and berries). This project takes about 45 minutes from start to finish and is a whole lot of fun so grab a glass of wine, put on some Jack Johnson, and have a little fun.

DIY Autumn Wreath Tutorial

DIY Wreath

This project can be done in three easy steps (yes, I’m serious). To get started, you’ll want to weave the burlap ribbon loosely through the wire circle. Stop periodically to gently puff up the ribbon that you’ve done so far, making sure that it doesn’t flatten (which will happen if you pull too hard). When you start to run out of burlap ribbon, don’t panic. Simply tuck the end into the back of your wreath and start again. Keep going until the entire wreath has been covered.

Make Your Own Wreath

Design Your Own Wreath

The second step to your new custom wreath is adding in personalized decorations. Similar to decorating, try to group decorations in odd numbers (3, 5, 7). I found some great mini pumpkins, berries, and some yellow colored burlap that I used on both of my wreaths and am very happy with the results.

DIY Fall Wreath

Cute Fall Crafts at Hobby Lobby

Inexpensive Holiday Decorations

If you have a Hobby Lobby nearby, be sure to look out for their sale items. I was able to score most of my items for either 40% or 50% off of retail price.

Small Wreath Decorations

When you’re done, the third and final step is to find a spot to hang your new wreath!

Autumn Wreath

Make Your Own Fall Wreath

For my second wreath, I used a pre-existing plain “twig” wreath that was on sale at Hobby Lobby for $4.99 (I used a 40% off mobile coupon which brought the price down to just over $2.00) I simply added a few decorations and hung it up. I still can’t believe how easy it is to do yourself- I wonder why I ever purchased pre-made wreaths to begin with…take a look:

Indoor Wreath DIY

Make It Yourself Wreath

Cheap Fall Wreaths

Fall Wreath

I spent just under $50 to complete both projects, have some extra burlap ribbon to spare, and am already plotting my Christmas wreath. Be on the lookout for more Autumn projects headed your way in the next couple of weeks!

Baking, Daily Life, Food, Pictures, Tutorials

Succulent Sundays: Fried Zucchini (Recipe & Mouth Watering Pictures Included)

Yummm! It’s Sunday! A few weeks ago, at my local Farmer’s Market, I picked up (for the first time) green tomatoes. And I fried them because, let’s be honest, nothing says “let me enjoy these nice, healthy vegetables” like dipping them in batter, frying them in oil, and eating them with some ranch dressing. So naturally, I wondered what other would-be healthy items would taste good fried. It still counts as a vegetable, right?! So today, I want to share my recipe for fried zucchini. In case you’ve missed some of my previous Succulent Sunday posts, you can find them here:

Homemade Stuffed Peppers

Pulled BBQ Chicken Bake 

Homemade Lasagna (Don’t tell my mother I shared that one!)

Homemade Zucchini

For this recipe you’ll need: 

  • 1-2 Medium Size Zucchini Squash
  • 2 Eggs (Lightly beaten)
  • Milk (Aprox. 1 Cup)
  • Wheat Flour
  • Italian Style Breadcrumbs
  • Oil (Preferably one with a high smoke point)
  • Paper towels on a plate

Homemade Zucchini Recipe

Zucchini

 

Nothing beats fresh, locally grown produce. I was excited to find some great, seasonal, vegetables. I think the farmer who sold me the zucchini thought I was a little weird. Of course, my vague sexual references surrounding the size and shape of the produce probably didn’t help. Kidding (but seriously). Once you’re done thoroughly washing your produce, slice it into “chips” (see the picture below for reference).

homemade fried zucchini

Begin heating your oil (with just enough to cover the bottom of the frying pan) on medium to medium-high heat. You’ll want to remember to reduce the heat to medium (even medium-low if you need to) depending on whether or not your zucchini slices are frying too quickly.  I recommend leaving your zucchini in the breadcrumbs until you have enough for the entire pan. Speaking from experience, trying to place them into the pan one at a time, turn them as needed, while trying to be mindful not to burn them can be a daunting task for one person. If you have all of them ready at one time, it makes it just a little (okay, a lot) bit easier to fry them.

By now, I hope you’ve figured out that your milk, beaten eggs, flour, and breadcrumbs need to be in different bowls (/plates) set up in a station for easy access.

Step One:

Homemade Fried Zucchini

 

Dip zucchini into milk

Step Two:

Fried Zucchini Recipe

Coat zucchini with flour (I used wheat flour…you know, to make it healthy)

Step Three:

Homemade Fried Zucchini Recipe

Dip zucchini in beaten eggs

Step Four:

Fried Zucchini Recipe

Coat zucchini in seasoned breadcrumbs 

Step Five:

Fried Zucchini Recipe

Fry it up! It takes a few minutes on each side (or until brown)

Once you’re done frying the zucchini, place them on a plate of paper towels to ‘dry’ them off (get rid of that extra grease). Then repeat, repeat, repeat until you’ve fried up your desired amount of zucchini. Serve with ranch, or marinara, and enjoy!

Homemade Fried Zucchini

Succulent Sundays

 

Daily Life, DIY, Parenting, Travel, Tutorials

Treat Bags for Traveling With Toddlers

Travel Map

 

2 Adults | 1 Toddler | 486 Miles | 7 Hours | 1 Road Trip 

We recently spent an extended weekend in historic Corydon, Indiana and I’m proud to say that we made it through the road trip with our two year old unscathed! I will admit that my husband and I were both a little nervous about the prospect of spending nearly 8 hours on the road each way with a two year old passenger in the car. Toddlers, by nature, can be unpredictable in their mood and we weren’t quite sure how our daughter would react to our long weekend. All that said, she was an incredible travel companion. So much so, in fact, that we’re planning another long trip this Autumn with her (wish us luck!). I’d like to think that my impeccable planning skills played some small role in our recent road trip success and so I thought I’d take a couple of minutes to share what I did with all of you.

The week before we left, I hit up my local Target in search of some great deals in their ‘cheap toy / items you’re probably going to end up tossing’ section (the one that’s generally at the front of the store as you come in). I went in without any real expectations for what I would find but I was on the hunt for some small toys, books, or games to keep my daughter busy in the car. My plan was to pair a couple of the items with a small snack and drink in a special bag that we would present to her at various stages throughout the trip. A half hour and about $10 later, I had what I needed to get started.

If you’re like me (a planner) who will be traveling with small children, I highly suggest taking the time to prepare these bags ahead of time. I found that they really helped make our trip so smooth. Each bag contained:

  • A fresh diaper
  • A small baggie of wipes
  • A small snack
  • A drink
  • A small book
  • A small toy
  • A glow stick

We presented a bag at each of our semi-planned (within a desired time frame) pit stops and found that it was a great way to introduce something new to capture her attention for long enough that she wasn’t bored in the car. I don’t know about you but I call that a win. Here’s what the bags looked like:

Treat Bags for Kids

Travel Treat Bag

Treat Bag 1

Pit Stop Treat Bags

With a little planning and preparation you, too, can enjoy (yes, I said enjoy) a road trip with your toddler. Happy Travels!

Daily Life, DIY, House & Home, Pictures, Tutorials

How I Remodeled A Guest Room For Under $15

Guest Room

My husband and I were elated to purchase our first home in 2009 but as new, first time, homeowners it took us a while before we furnished all three bedrooms. In 2010 we used part of the federal stimulus package we received (for first time buyers) to purchase a King size bed set for our master bedroom. We moved the Queen bed, which we had been sleeping in for three years, into our guest room. I feel that I should mention that our guest room is the smallest room in our house (second to the closets, of course) and having such a large bed rendered the space useless for much of the time. Overnight guests stay so infrequently that the wasted space has become more and more noticeable over the last year or so and I started to realize how our misuse of the space might impact potential resale value in the future (who wants to have to worry about a bedroom re-do when you’re trying to prepare for a move?!) so I finally decided to do something about it.

My good friend Mindy (hi!) is coming in over the weekend to stay with us and I knew I eventually wanted to get that guest space remodeled but I wasn’t sure I’d have the time before her trip. So I asked her, “Theoretically speaking, would you be more comfortable in a room that had a larger bed but no room to move around or a smaller futon bed but room for suitcases and space?” Her answer gave me the green light (and inspiration) to go ahead and move forward. Here’s what the space looked like earlier today:

It's Always Good To Be Back In A Queen

In case you’re wondering…yes, that is the entire room. Even though Tobias Funke would say, “It’s always good to be back in a Queen”, when the bed is the only item you can fit into a room, it’s probably not worth keeping. So we listed it on a local classifieds group. All together (bed, mattress, box spring, and the complete bedding set) we were asking $200 and were fortunate to find a buyer who was interested in picking it up this week.

When we listed the bed, I started perusing Craigslist for either a daybed with a trundle or a futon bed. I went back and forth on which one would be a better bang for my buck but ultimately found a great futon that could either be used as a little couch or a twin size bed. The previous owners took great care of it and were asking $75. I offered $60 and we picked it up Memorial Day weekend. While my husband was waiting for our buyer to pick up our old bed this evening, I ran to Target to grab everything I needed for our guest room fix. I gave myself a budget. Ultimately I knew I wanted to come as close to breaking even as I could and I’m pretty happy with how close I came. Take a look (details below):

Guest Room Makeover

I am a sucker for Target clearance, can you tell!?

053

048

056

My Target Purchase Included:

  • Twin Sham $9.99
  • Twin Comforter $19.99
  • Sheets $10.48
  • Towels (2 Bath) $9.98
  • Towels (2 Wash) $5.98
  • Orange Vase $7.48
  • Accent Rug $24.99
  • Wall Mirror Set $17.48
  • Table Lamp $17.79
  • Yellow Picture Frame $3.48
  • Bookcase $21.99
  • Candle $5.99

Total $155.62 (plus $60 for the futon) I used a coupon yesterday for $10 back when you spent a certain amount in the baby department so I applied that towards today’s purchase bringing the total down to $145.62 plus tax. Making my grand total (before tax) $205.62. Less than $15 over budget!

Small Guest Room

I brought in some old goodies for the white bookcase and knew I wanted to make it into something a little bit more unique than just a twenty dollar shelf. So I took an old Arabic alphabet poster my husband was asking me to get rid of and nailed that to the back of the bookshelf. Then I added some great books, pictures, and various other accessories to the shelf to give it some character. We moved a small television into the room so that the space will double as a den when we don’t have guests.

Bookshelf with character

Bookshelf for Guest Room

Bookshelf

Functional Guest Space

What I love most about this space is the function it now serves for our family. You don’t need a lot of room to have a great space and by incorporating those personalized details, you can transform an otherwise boring piece of furniture into something more interesting and beautiful. I couldn’t be more pleased with how the room turned out. If you’ve been considering a room re-vamp but didn’t think it was in the budget, I hope this helps inspire you to complete that project you’ve had on your mind.

Bookshelf

Guest Room