Thursday, April 23, 2015

How to Make a Succulent Birdcage Wreath

Since Easter was so early (too early) this year and since rabbits and eggs are a sign of Spring I left my bunny wreath up on my front door for a while. Now that April is coming to a close I figured I really should take it down since I don't want to be "that house". You know the one. They leave their Christmas lights and decorations up (and on) until March.

I will admit I am a little guilty of this. I took all our Christmas décor down shortly after Christmas except the faux pine wreaths on the garage lights. They were just too high up for my lazy self to get down without a stepstool.

When I finally went to take them down I accidentally broke one of the light fixtures (I still can't believe I did that!). I was so bummed that I had broke a (possibly) unfixable, and (possibly) irreplaceable fixture that I just wanted to go into the house and forget all about it. Yet I begrudgingly continued on with taking the rest of the wreaths down. I tromped on up the stepstool to the next wreath and was pleasantly surprised to see a hidden robin's nest with a bunch of light blue eggs nestled in it. I guess it's ironic that my house will continue to have Christmas décor on it until after May. That's what I get for being lazy. I captured pictures of this range of "wreath taking down" emotions on my Instagram if you would like to laugh and feel all warm inside at the vision of my ordeal.

Since I now (continue to) have a Christmas wreath and an Easter wreath on the outside of my house and it's almost May, I guess that's my cue to put up a Spring wreath. Since I don't have any Spring or Summer wreaths and we all know I'm not going to buy one, I decided to make my own.

I was of course on Pinterest when inspiration struck. Everyone's been pinning outdoor/garden ideas since it's getting to that time of year when everyone wants to be outside in their yards that they've worked so hard on making perfect. My yard is far from perfect. It's the complete opposite of perfect. But I digress, I'm sure I'll divulge the dirty details on our yard in some other post coming up.

This post is about making a wreath. A succulent wreath. I saw an adorable pin of a succulent birdcage from Craftberry Bush. I loved it so much that I immediately wanted to make one! I've been a little obsessed with succulents lately since Mel and I went to Home Depot and they have the mother load of succulents right now. Seriously, if you can't find a succulent you like there right now, then it doesn't exist. I wanted to buy them all but I settled for a pot with 3 in it and tore out our dead (not so) lucky bamboo that I had by our kitchen window and put my new cute succulents there to gaze at while doing dishes.

Thankfully they still had a huge assortment of succulents when I decided to make my birdcage wreath. I went and picked up 6 succulents and some sphagnum moss to line my birdcage with for a hefty $15. I already had the perfect half birdcage with a flat back that I had picked up at Kohls after Christmas for 50% off for about $13.

 I love birdcages but they are expensive. When I saw this one I almost didn't buy it since it was still kinda pricey and I had no idea where I was going to put it. I placed it on my dresser where it just hung out, empty, collecting dust until now.

When I got home from buying the succulents I went straight to work. Here are the supplies I used:

  • several different succulent plants (I used 6)
  • a birdcage (I used a flat back one so it could hang on my door)
  • sphagnum moss
  • potting soil
  • small pebbles (I used some that I sifted out of Jackson's sandbox)
  • a kabob stick (you can use any kind of stick, I just already had kabob sticks)
 I started by lining my birdcage with sphagnum moss. This moss is used to make those hanging pots that look like moss sitting on wires. It holds a lot of water so it's perfect for watering and for keeping dirt inside the wire birdhouse. I put the moss in a bowl filled with water and then squeezed out as much water as I could and lined the entire birdcage.
 Here's a pic of the birdcage lined with moss.

 After that I put some pebbles on the bottom for drainage and covered that with dirt. I wasn't too worried about drainage since succulents don't require too much water so I will be watering sparingly. Which is perfect for me since I often forget to water the plants (I'm such a bad plant mom).
 I filled the dirt all the way up to the top of the moss.

 Now I started arranging my succulents in the birdcage. I bought some succulents that would look good hanging as well as some that would not be hanging to give it a nice varied look. I took the hanging succulents out of their pots first since I was going to have them on the outside of the birdcage. I knocked off as much dirt as I could get off of the roots since it would be easier to insert the plants without extra baggage. I used the kabob stick to poke a hole in the moss to insert the succulent roots.
 On some of the plants with longer roots I gently pushed them into the hole with the kabob stick.

 I continued knocking off dirt from the roots and using the kabob stick to plant the succulents all along the outside. I planted the non hanging succulents inside of the birdcage. I also knocked as much dirt off of those plants since I already had enough dirt inside the cage. I watered very sparingly when I was finished. Here is a picture of the inside of the birdcage. I was able to poke some of the smaller offshoots from the inner plants through the bars so they can be seen from the outside.
 Here is a pic of the finished birdcage. As the succulents continue to grow I can poke more out and they may even fill in the top area more.

 While I was planting the succulents, leaves naturally fell off of many of the plants. While I was at Home Depot a very nice man who helped me find the sphagnum moss filled me in on how to "propagate" or breed succulents from a cutting. Succulents are apparently super easy to grow!! You simply take the leaves and lay them in a dry area with indirect sunlight for a few days so they can callous over. Then you lay them on some dirt and they will grow roots and eventually a whole new succulent. I'm so psyched to try this! I may never have to buy succulents again and that would be awesome since they can be very expensive.
Here's some pictures of the finished birdcage hanging on my front door. I am in love with this birdcage! I did spend more than I normally would on a project like this but I can keep the birdcage displayed somewhere outside and inside for the entire year. Also if I can regrow succulents from the leaves then it was totally worth the price I paid for them.

I don't know about you but I want to make another one of these succulent birdcages!! I will for sure be on the look out for an ornate cheap birdcage that I can put in the corner of my backyard (filled with succulents that I propagated of course) and bring in to decorate my house in the winter.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

White Glazed Cabinet Transformations: Touch Ups and Maintenance a Year Later

We all have spring fever this week in my neck of the woods. We've been spending all our spare time outdoors soaking in the warmer weather. Temperatures are soaring and the sun is shining after tornados destroyed towns and lives just miles away from us.

Hopefully that is the closest to home that a tornado will get to us in my lifetime, they were practically in our backyard! In fact there was a bunch of tornado shrapnel in our backyard and throughout our whole town, you can see some pics on my Instagram.

We'll probably always have close calls since we live in tornado alley (is that even a thing?!), the town I live in was once badly hit in the 1967 (our familes were in that one, thank God they all survived) and tornados seem to devastate year after year all around us. But I guess we all have some form of Mother Nature where we live that needs to give us a reality check every once in a while to remind us that this isn't our world, we just live in it.

Now that I've given you all the weather report I'll get down to business. A year after painting my kitchen cabinets they still look great! For the most part. They have a couple minor chips all the way down to bare honey oak. Of course I don't want that to show and I've figured out an easy way to fix these chips.

Here is a picture of the island. It gets beat on the most and surprisingly has only one small damaged/chipped corner. I painted the island green at Cory's request. Since I picked out the color for the cabinets and the walls I thought it was only fair that I give him a bit of creative license in our kitchen. You can't really see the difference too much in the picture, but I assure you it's apparent. I knew green was a bold choice and that it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but ultimately if we liked it, that's all that mattered. Plus islands that don't match the cabinets are all the rage right now so hopefully this trend is a lasting one...
To make the green I simply mixed in some green paint that was left over from the walls in with the white paint and it worked perfectly. At first I really didn't know what to think of it, but the green grew on me and now I love it. I actually prefer how the glazing looks on the island better than the cabinets.  We both agree that if the island was white it would be overkill and would have overwhelmed the kitchen.

This bad boy and one small toddler (you would think we had a clumsy elephant that smashes everything in his path living here) named Jackson are the culprit for the nicks and chips.
Jackson circles around the island about 50 times a day on that motorcycle and sometimes his car. So really we have put cabinet transformations to the ultimate test and in my humble opinion a couple small chips as the result of continuously running a motorcycle and other toys onto the painted surface is pretty amazing!

Here's a picture of a small chip on the cabinet door below the kitchen sink. I'll show you all how easy it is to fix this so you can't even tell it was there!
First I grabbed my paintbrush with white paint on it out of the fridge.

Yes that's right, the fridge. 

Many years ago Cory found out that you can wrap your wet paintbrushes in Saran Wrap and store them in the refrigerator and then use it again another day without the paint drying up on the brush. This genius trick has saved us countless hours (and probably paintbrushes) since we don't have to clean the brush every time we're exhausted and done painting for the day.

Since I'm currently working on another painting project with pure white cabinet transformations I already had a wet white brush in the fridge. I found out you can put the wet brushes in ziploc bags and it works just as good as Saran Wrap at keeping the brush nice. I store wet brushes sometimes for weeks at a time. Yes, I know, I'm totally lazy and sometimes the brush does get a little too dried out and caked with paint so I have to wash it before I start painting, but I have yet to ruin a brush by using this technique.

This particular brush could really use a good rinsing since I think it has been in the fridge for a couple weeks (shame on me) but for touching up nicks on cabinet doors I really only need a tiny amount of paint and honestly a "dry" brush works better for this.
Before you do anything with paint you could lightly sand the chipped area with very fine sandpaper. Maybe it's because mine are glazed, but I find that I don't need to.

After I took my brush out of the Ziploc bag I dabbed on a very slight amount of paint, so slight I used the paint that was already on the brush (really lazy of me, buy hey, it worked). What I try to do is only get paint on the gouged out area. I wiped off the paint that got on the already painted surface with my finger and that also helps to push more paint onto the chipped area I want to cover. I want the edge of the painted surface and the gouged out surface to be flush with each other so you cannot tell that it's been repaired.
I let that dry for a couple minutes then I grabbed my foam brush with glaze/stain on it from the fridge (yep, I put that in the fridge too).

I just put a dab of stain right over the fresh white paint and wiped it off almost immediately (just enough time to snap a picture) with cheesecloth.

Here's the finished product, before the protective clear coat of course. You can't even tell it's been repaired or that a chip was even there! It really is such an easy fix (made easier by having my brushes ready to go in the fridge!).

I discovered how to repair any chipped paint on the cabinets when I was initially painting them. Before the clear coat is painted on the surface is extremely delicate. You can scratch the paint off with a fingernail. I had a couple areas that I had to fix because I was apparently reckless and handled the cabinets with wild abandon or well, who knows really, but after that I handled the cabinets with kid gloves until the clear coat was dry.
As for maintenance, honestly it is the same as with unpainted cabinets. I wipe up any spills with a damp sponge. That's it, nothing special. I almost feel like painting these cabinets made them more durable because of how hard the protective clear coat dries. I really think rustoleums cabinet restorations paint has held up remarkably well for the beating they take from one small toddler. I am beyond satisfied, even though I've had to fix a couple spots of chipped paint. I recommend this paint product to anyone who is thinking of painting their cabinets.


Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the products mentioned. All opinions are my own from my own experiences.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

White Glazed Cabinet Transformations: A Review a Year Later

Now that the barrage of holidays is out of the way I can put decoration/wreath making to the back burner (until that next holiday or season comes along and I feel the need to decorate for it) and show you all what we love to do most around here, DIY home improvement projects.

This post is about my kitchen cabinets that I painted a year ago. It's a long one so grab a drink or a snack and sit back and relax for a little bit.

I love painting. Whether it be an actual painting, walls or furniture, I love it all. Paint can transform anything almost instantly. I think it also gives the most bang for your buck.

We do a ton of painting. In fact, I feel like we're always in the middle of painting something. When I was off work last year for twelve weeks after shoulder surgery I painted two rooms with my left arm in a sling. After I was set free of the sling I decided it was time to paint our hideous, mystery stained, construction grade honey oak cabinets. I knew if I didn't do it now while I was off work it would take me forever and a day since the last thing I would want to do after an exhaustive day at work is more work (even though I usually do...tis life) and our kitchen would be torn apart and a bigger hot mess than usual for years. Ok, maybe not years but it would be a long, long time.

I had decided a few years back that I wanted light "glazed" cabinets after seeing how beauteous they could look when Cory painted and glazed the kitchen cabinets at one of the apartments with Rustoleum's Cabinet Transformations in the linen color that we had picked up in the clearance paint section at Lowe's. It truly transformed those cabinets. They were mismatched and some were metal, some laminate and some wood. Afterwards the kitchen looked cohesive and just absolutely stunning compared to how it looked before. After seeing what Cabinet Transformations did to those cabinets we were firm believers and knew we would do our own cabinets someday.
 I happened to find some after shots of the cabinets Cory did. Although it's a typical awkward-thrown in there where ever it fit-Victorian duplex kitchen it now matches and it looks very nice. For some reason the upper cabinets look a different color ( I could be seeing things) but they are definitely all the same color.
When that someday finally came I set to work and took down the smallest and worst stained door just to see how it would turn out. I got super lucky and found two large pure white kits on sale for $45 each  on Home Depot's website. That's about half price (at least it was then)! So I did a little chair dance and went to put them in my cart and realized they were out of stock. I was bummed out for about 2 minutes and then I remembered my trusted old friend, (where I've always got the best deals for years!) eBay. What do you know the same deal was on eBay, actually it was better at $89 for a lot of 2 and I didn't have to pay tax. So I got two kits for the price of one!!

I did the all the steps in the process: degloss (scrub clean), wait, paint a coat, wait, paint another coat, wait, glaze with a foam brush, wipe glaze off with cheesecloth to get desired effect, wait, paint clear coat, wait some more, then (finally) done! I must say I painted two coats (recommended) and if I was leaving them pure white I would have had to paint more coats as it was still see-through. Also the glazing is the most difficult and time consuming part. By the time I was half way through I loathed the glazing. It definitely takes some finesse and patience.
This is a cell phone pic of the first door I painted just to see how it would look since Cory thought pure white was wayyy too light. I thought it looked really good and it worked perfect for the tuscan, old world look I was (subconsciously) going for. I painted the desk area next and was kind of wishy washy on how it looked after that. I think I was being too hard on myself, expecting perfect, professional results, since everyone who saw it raved about how great it looked.

It must have looked alright because immediately after seeing my in-progress kitchen my bestie Mel went out and bought Cabinet Transformations in cabernet and painted her cabinets. Then Cory's sister Erica came over and after she saw our cabinets she also bought the pure white kit and did her kitchen cabinets in white, you can see the post she wrote about her experience On Bliss Street. I guess my little ole kitchen started a cabinet renovation revolution of sorts. My kitchen-the trend setter. 

It made me feel a little better about how my paint/glaze job was turning out after seeing how it inspired people to go out and change their kitchens too!

Below are a couple of in-progress cell phone pictures. I did not take any with my camera since I guess this wasn't a process I wanted to capture for our family photo album. 

In the first picture I was so proud of myself for climbing up on the counter and screwing all those awkward and (some) heavy cabinet doors in by hand (I didn't have the strength to hold the heavy drill) that I snapped a pic and sent it to Cory. On the far right edge you can see the ugly old oak cabinet peeking out.

I did the whole kitchen in sections and used my glass kitchen table and the island as my work space. Any paint that got on the counter or table just scraped right off with a scrub pad. Who knew glass tables made such great work/paint surfaces!
For the most part I worked on the cabinets when Jackson was in bed. I listened to the TV as it cycled through Big Bang Theory and Conan almost every night since I wanted something light, that wouldn't distract me from the task at hand. I would finish up for the night at around midnight (when Cory got home) or shortly after. Every once in a while I glazed a door or painted a coat on or even deglossed a door while Jackson was awake but that was rare. Since I mainly did everything at night it took me about a month to complete this project completely on my own. 

I lied just a little, Cory did help me hang the two huge cabinet doors and he put the lazy susan door back on. But otherwise I did everything all by my lonesome.

Below is a picture of Jackson "helping". That kid really does know how to use a screwdriver, he takes things apart all the time much to my surprise and dismay. A word of advice for those of you planning to paint your cabinets with a lazy susan cabinet: don't remove it. Leave it be and paint it, unless it's already messed up. It took Cory the better part of a day to get that cabinet door right. He said he remembered our contractor spending a lot of time putting the lazy susan door back on too (which always got stuck and rubbed until Cory fixed it).
Here's some before construction pictures the day we closed on our foreclosed property.

I will forever wonder what the mystery stains smeared in the shape of letters were from. It's probably better that I don't know...

Here's a couple pictures from right after we moved in. You can really see the staining on the cabinets (even though I tried to use the light fixtures to camouflage them).

We really had no choice on painting the cabinets. We had to either paint them, reface them or replace them. Since we don't (and probably never will *sigh*) have 20 G's laying around to buy gorgeous new cabinets, we did the next best thing by painting them and saved a boat load of money.
Finally here are some after pictures. Please ignore my finger print magnet fridge. I've become so numbingly used to it I didn't realize there were smudges all over it until I saw these pics!

I am 95% satisfied with our cabinets. Don't get me wrong I am 99% satisfied with rustoleum cabinet transformations, everyone should go out and buy it immediately if they are planning on painting their cabinets or a piece of furniture!! 

I'm going to be completely honest about why I'm not 100% happy. I could lie and say how great my kitchen looks to make it easy and make myself look good but I'm not going to do that, it wouldn't be right. So the 4% is my glaze job. I do love the look, there's just something that I'm not completely satisfied about. Everyone else thinks it looks fabulous. Maybe it's because I did it myself and I'm really hard on myself when it comes to stuff like this. I dunno. It's kind of like a painting that I'm not completely happy about so it gets stashed behind a bunch of other paintings to be "reworked" years later. Except this is out in the open, for me to see. Everyday. Believe me when I say I will be satisfied and 100% happy by the time I'm done with this kitchen. I have some ideas on making it look even better and those may come to fruition very soon...

The remaining 1% is a slight amount of chipping that occurred on one cabinet door and on the bottom corner of the island. I don't blame cabinet restorations. I blame us. I may have missed those spots when I clear coated since it was so hard to see on the light color. I also blame one small child/wrecking ball named Jackson. On my next post I will share with you all how easy it is to fix these chips.

After all is said and done I really must say that I love cabinet restorations. It far exceeded my expectations. The only fault I can find in my cabinets is my own glazing abilities and that (I'm sure) is because I'm an extreme novice cabinet glazer. If I ever did it again I would use a fine tipped paintbrush instead of a foam brush to brush the glaze on the inside part of the cabinets for more precision and to keep the glaze exactly where I want it. Overall I think cabinet restorations is a wonderful product and I highly recommend it. It has worn extremely well, besides the couple of chips. Any food or spills, that most of the time I freak out thinking they are chips and gouges, wipe off easily with a damp rag.

After I was done I still had quite a bit left over, enough to paint all the woodwork and the fireplace white in the living room. So I got two rooms painted for $89! I bought all 34 oil rubbed bronze knobs and pulls off of (where else?) eBay for about $50. So overall, with having so much leftover paint, I'm guessing it cost me a little over $100 to basically have new cabinets!

Cabinet transformations has truly transformed my kitchen and made me love to be in there. I'm also no longer embarrassed about my ugly stained cabinets. However I don't know if I would do it again as it was so labor intensive. 

Actually, yes, who am I kidding, I would totally do it again in a heartbeat. It was A LOT of work but it was well worth it to save so much money to get such a high price look. 

Here's a before-before, before and after shot of my cabinets.

 Thanks all for bearing with me through that long post!


Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the products mentioned. All opinions are my own from my own experiences.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Egg Salad with Bacon and Horseradish

One of my favorite Easter pastimes is coloring eggs, so over these last couple weeks with Easter coming we colored eggs three times. Yep, three times. Once with Grandma with color snaps, once with cousins with color snaps again (they're just so much fun!) and then once the traditional way with Cory's family.

That's a lot of eggs. 45 to be exact.

What were we going to do with all those eggs?! Jackson ate the first dozen for part of his breakfast and snacks. Then we dyed 18 more and then a few days later we had our annual family dye-o-rama party and I only had 15 eggs in the fridge so we dyed what we had.

I guess I could make egg salad with some of the eggs...who am I kidding? Of course I'm going to make egg salad! I make egg salad after dying eggs every year!! It's one of my favorite kinds of sandwiches! I feel like I forget about how delicious egg salad is until we dye eggs and have such a huge excess of hard boiled eggs in the fridge that I have to do something with them all.
I really should make egg salad more, since I love it so. But like I've said before, I'm kinda lazy (or a little forgetful) when it comes to some things.

 I (of course) made up my own tasty version of egg salad. It includes all the normal ingredients and then I added some of my favs: bacon (who doesn't love salty, smoky bacon??) and horseradish. We love tangy, spicy horseradish in our house. I think it's very underutilized in cooking and sandwich making. There are a lot of sauces out there with horseradish in them but in my humble opinion, not enough.

The bacon gives this egg salad just the right amount of smokiness to compliment the sharpness of the onions and the horseradish gives it just the right amount of zip. Mmm-mmm, I think I'll make myself a sandwich and eat it while I write this.

I didn't really have a recipe written down for my egg salad (I just kinda threw all the ingredients in the bowl and added more until it tasted just right) but for the sake of my blog I measured every ingredient out and finally wrote everything down in my recipe book from my Mom. Hopefully writing the recipe down will inspire me to make egg salad more...

Enough chit chat, here's what you've all been waiting for, my egg salad recipe:

Egg Salad with Bacon and Horseradish

  • 9 hard boiled eggs peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 cup red onion chopped
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish
  • 2-3 pieces of crispy bacon crumbled or 2 tablespoons real bacon bits
  • salt and pepper to taste
The directions are pretty self explanatory: Combine all ingredients, but I'll show you all in pictures how I made it.
 Here's all the ingredients laid out. I did use bacon I had already cooked the night before since it tastes better than bacon bits, but I thought it would look weird to have a couple strips of bacon laying on the counter. Real bacon bits do work great in a pinch, but since I already had the bacon, it was going in there!
 Peel all nine eggs, chop and then put into a bowl.

 Next, chop your onion. I always chop the entire onion and put any leftovers into a Ziploc bag to go straight into the freezer for future recipes. It saves so much time!!

 Combine nine chopped eggs and 3/4 cup chopped onion. I like a lot of onions, Cory does not. I usually make him a separate bowl of egg salad but since I needed to measure everything out this time, he didn't get his almost onion free egg salad. He didn't seem to mind though. My plan seems to be working on training him to love onions as much as I do...
 I always stir the egg/onion mixture before putting the wet ingredients in.

 Measure out and stir in 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard and 1 tablespoon of horseradish.

 Lastly, crumble 2-3 pieces of crispy bacon or measure out 2 tablespoons of real bacon bits and stir into egg mixture. Salt and pepper to taste.

Now you can finally make an egg salad sandwich! I love egg salad on rye bread.

The bacon and horseradish give this egg salad such a unique and delicious flavor. But then again bacon makes everything better.



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