Vanity Makeover Using Gel Stain

Hey everyone! Sorry for the lack of posts lately. It’s been a whirlwind. A few months ago we made the decision to rid our house of golden honey oak. Well, not exactly rid it, refinish it. I have nothing against honey oak, but in our house it was like everything else when we bought the house: tired, dirty, scratched, broken, stained, and in need of some serious love. When we moved in we had to refinish almost everything, with the exception of the woodwork. I thought it wood work, pun intended. After all the fixed walls, fresh paint, new flooring, new light fixtures, new hardware, new major appliances, new roof, etc. I thought this one major thing we could make work. After living here for over a year, I just couldn’t live with it anymore.

This is a project I have tried to put off and just live with and love the oak for what it is, but in this case it was just the final thing untouched and with everything else in the house new and updated, it just seemed silly not to do it. Especially in the kitchen. The cabinets were awful when we moved in, but my aunt scrubbed them and if there is one person in the world who can get anything, and I mean ANYTHING clean, it is my aunt. So you can imagine the joy I felt when she offered to take on this massive task. But, towards the end she started to say that some of it just wouldn’t come off. It looked a million times better so I thought it would be fine. Over time, they just looked so old and tired so of course, let the pinteresting/research begin.

Now as with most major projects you can’t just dive in and get it done. Major thought/planning is involved. Did we just want to do the kitchen? No way. If we were to do the kitchen, the color change would look ridiculous with the huge honey oak 6 panel doors and all the trim. So we would be doing those too. Well, the kitchen cabinets are a big deal and definitely not something we will be able to afford to replace any time soon. Bottom line, I cannot screw this up.

We decided to start with our bathroom vanity, because, well it’s less expensive than the kitchen cabinets so worst case scenario I absolutely destroy it, less of a big deal. No one sees it except for us, so that was a major bonus too. We decided to use Java Gel Stain, because I love espresso cabinets. Being in real estate I see A LOT of kitchens and I am always drawn towards the beautiful luster of a rich dark finish. Gel Stain seemed easy to work with and it wasn’t a huge deal if you didn’t sand all the way down to bare wood.

Here’s the bathroom vanity when we first looked at the house:

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You definitely notice the dirt first, but there’s the vanity. It doesn’t look that bad next to everything else.

I will soon be writing a very detailed post on how we did this. Everyone does it a little different, and I’m sure there are a lot of “right” ways. We were very happy with our results and felt that the vanity turned turned out great. We were a little more thorough than some, but more on that later.

Here’s a before pic of what we were working with: V's iPhone Feb 2015-April 2016 012V's iPhone Feb 2015-April 2016 013

Here’s what it looked like after the first coat. I’ll admit, I kind of panicked. It looked super light and uneven and I had to run to the computer and make sure we hadn’t ruined our vanity, but if it looks like this, you’re doing it RIGHT! 3 coats were definitely needed, and it WILL even out perfectly.

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And here is the finished product! We also added cabinet hardware, which I think makes a HUGE difference in finishing it off. The pictures make it look pretty dark, but it’s a beautiful espresso and when the light shines on it it’s almost cherry. It’s beautiful.

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We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out! It really transforms this bathroom. Can’t wait to show you the kitchen!



When Life Gets Crazy

It’s been a whirlwind around here. We celebrated my grandpa’s 85th birthday with family in town from North Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. My dad is in the middle of moving, which of course is more complex because I’m his realtor and we’re storing all of his stuff in our basement and garage for the couple of weeks before closing and the days he’ll be in between houses. We have a family wedding this weekend, and our daughter is the flower girl! And in the midst of all of this, I also made the decision to rid our house of honey oak. What is wrong with me?

I think I’m learning a few things through the crazy. When it rains it pours. I get really overwhelmed when we have large family gatherings because my mom used to be the one who made it all happen. Now that she’s gone I think there is a lot of expectation that I will just take over all of it. Except I have a toddler who requires a great deal of time and energy in addition to all of my side jobs. It’s a lot of pressure and some of it comes from other family members, but I think the majority of it comes from myself. I need to constantly remind myself that I’m not super human, even though I try to be. Sometimes, I just need to ask for help and say no.

My mom’s birthday would have been this week. Not having her here never gets easier. Through the whirlwind, her being gone is really hard to process. I think a part of me still feels like this is a bad dream that I’ll wake up from. But I know it’s not.

I’m learning that when things get really overwhelming and crazy I have a tendency to throw myself into things that distract me. Hence the massive trim and door and vanity and kitchen honey oak overhaul. It’s something I’ve wanted to do and thought about doing for a long time, but I was always afraid to start because I know how massive of a job it will be and I also know how much I hate to have things partway done. Once I start, my life will be consumed with honey oak painting/staining until it’s all done which will likely be many, many months. Luckily winter is coming and what better time than when I’m holed up anyway. And in the couple of rooms that I’ve started on, I LOVE the way it looks. It’s going to be so, so worth it.

So for now, I’ll do what I’m best at. Powering through and working my tail off. And someday, in the not so distant future, everything will be a field of daisies, right? 😉

Getting Settled

Time has flown by. I can’t believe we’re almost a year away from closing on this house. It took us three months of nonstop hard work before we were at a place where we could move in. Thankfully we had such a good living arrangement with my dad we were able to be as comfortable as we could have hoped while in the transition phase. Every moment my dad, husband and I weren’t at work we were working on the house. Two of us were there almost constantly those three months, a lot of times past midnight. The third was either working or taking care of our toddler. It was almost impossible to have her there during the reno process because it was just too dangerous/unsanitary.

I’m happy to say that after almost 9 months here we’re really settling in and are so in love with this house. It was such a long journey and I think we all had moments of “will this ever be finished and actually feel like home”. I’m so happy to say it was all SO worth it and it feels more like home than we could have ever hoped or dreamed. We still have a lot of work to do, but it’s all things that can be done in time. Landscaping, the basement, refinishing the wood floor in our entryway, and the garage could use some serious work. But we’re not stressing about it. We love our neighborhood and have such amazing neighbors who have been so supportive and positive towards us. It has just been such a blessing to be where we are now.

Looking back, I’m SO glad it’s all behind us and I am so happy that it’s not this time last year. It’s fun to look back though. It doesn’t even look like the same house. Soon I’m going to (finally) take before and after pictures to share with you all and then I’ll catch you up step by step on all the work we did. I’m excited to get back to this blog now that we have so much more time and are so comfortably settled into our family’s forever home. It feels so good. We still have a lot of projects in the works. I am now on a mission to RID my house of honey oak…and it’s EVERYWHERE. I’ll post progress for that as I go! And we’re finishing up landscaping projects as quickly as can be before the snow starts to fly again. More on that later, too.

Just for fun, here’s a few of pictures of our home being just that: our home.

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Counter Top Makeover

Our wonderful surprise water heater, furnace and ac unit expenses killed my dream of getting new counter tops. The counter tops were, as you probably already guessed, disgusting. There seems to be a theme with this house. They were stained, and chipped, and it would appear that someone forgot what pot holders are for. There were big burn marks from pots and pans in several spots. This most certainly would not do. Buying new counter tops was out of the question. See, even though they were beautiful and called out to me begging me to buy them, I kind of want my family to be able to eat for the foreseeable future so we had to find a different solution. Preferably one that would cost us less than $100. Let the google/pinterest hunt begin.

I found a lot of ideas for painting counter tops, but didn’t like the speckled spray paint look or the Rustoleum counter top makeover kit look. There had to be another way! Then I found it. This blog post:

I definitely had less than desirable counter tops, I definitely couldn’t make them any worse, so I thought what the heck. Let’s do it. I forgot to think about the fact that I am not an artist…at all. There is just no getting around it, I’m artistically challenged. Mine did not turn out like hers. They will do the job though. Here are some before and after pictures. I’m also realizing with this blog that I am not a very good photographer and my photos consist of crappy iPhone quality pictures with poor lighting 🙂 just bear with me, you can kind of get the idea!

Here’s what I was working with:

Note that those pictures were taken after I scrubbed them and sanded them. You can still see the stains in the first picture. I wish I had an original of these before I scrubbed them! Maybe it’s good that I don’t though, considering how gross they were and I would rather forget considering I will be cooking things we eat on them.

And here’s what they look like now. They’re pretty shiny from the spar varnish, which I kind of love about them, but some of the pictures have kind of weird reflections because of it.

A few things. I got a little crazy with the sponge. I went kind of overboard. Some parts looked like old school rag rolling. I also made it way too patterned. I’m kind of type A and I do things systematically, and it showed. I was way too precise and natural granite is not precise or patterned. Put your precise side on hold until the top coats and tap into your artistic side. Try not to get in too much of a rhythm. It looks unnatural. Another thing to note, the spar varnish is the consistency of honey, but it is also the COLOR of honey. I read in some of the comments that it turned yellow. It will definitely have a yellow tint. It worked with my colors, but there are a lot of colors it would ruin. I wasn’t too concerned about yellowing because I knew my colors were dark enough and warm enough that it wouldn’t hurt it. In my case I think it made it look better. If you do this, though, know that it IS yellow and it WILL turn lighter colors yellow.

I like how they turned out and they seem pretty durable. I had a tough time getting the spar varnish smooth and parts of my pad painter seemed to stick into the top coat which was frustrating. This was a huge job and took me a LONG time. Would I do it again? Never. Am I happy I did it? Absolutely. I kind of love them. It was pretty rewarding and for less than $100 my counter tops went from awful to awesome.

Painted Linoleum Floors

Remember when I said I had some big plans for those gross linoleum bathroom floors? Well here’s what I did with them:

Master bathroom before:

The linoleum was in good shape other than all the staining. We wanted a quick makeover that wouldn’t take too much time or effort and wouldn’t break the bank. I was inspired by a couple of blogs from people who have painted their linoleum floors, so we decided to give it a shot.

Here’s the blog post that inspired this:

And here’s the other blog post:

Here’s how the master bathroom floor looked during stenciling and now that it’s finished:

And here it is post move in:

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It took a long time. It wasn’t terrible though. The thing with painting linoleum floors is that the old pattern will show through once it’s painted. That’s why I decided to do this stencil design. I though it would work well with what was there before and it was easy for me to line the stencil up with the pattern that was on the floor before. I like how it turned out. It’s a little crazy, but I think the navy rugs balance it out and I like it!

Our second bathroom upstairs had a grid patterned linoleum so we decided to go with stripes for that bathroom. I was worried about getting them straight, but it was actually pretty easy to lay the frog tape using the pattern as a guide. Here’s what the “kid’s bathroom” linoleum looked like before:

It was mainly just really disgusting. Once it was cleaned up it still had some staining, like the other bathroom. The sanding didn’t remove any of the staining on this floor in this bathroom, but the fresh paint makes it look like a whole new floor! We decided to go with a striped pattern for this one, because it was so easy to do with the grid patterned linoleum. I just had my phone so the photo quality is not that great, but here it is! We have to get the final top coat on both and then we’ll be able to remove the tape. It’s still a bit of a work in progress.

And here it is after we moved in:

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That’s all for now! I hear a little girl who has woken up from her nap. Hopefully I’ll find time later to show you what we did with our awful kitchen counter tops!


How does one become a Stay at Home Mom? I think it looks different for everyone. I think there are women out there who are just AWESOME at being moms. It’s like it’s in their DNA. They’re nurturing, they love babies and small children, they are so patient and kind. They’re creative and organized and they’re actually good at gluing macaroni to paper. They were put on this planet to be MOTHERS. Unfortunately, that’s not me.

Chris and I always knew that when we had kids, ideally, I would stay home with them. We both had our mom’s home when we were little and we think we benefited from it. That’s not the case for everyone, and I don’t think there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to raise kids. That’s just what we were used to, and it’s what we felt would be best for our family.

That all being said, we are part of a generation who graduated from college amidst a massive recession, and finding jobs that pay enough money to LIVE off of was, and still is, challenging. We both started out very low on the totem pole when we entered the working world after college. We understood that we weren’t graduating at a time where you got your dream job, you took whatever crappy job you could get and if it was actually at a place where you could imagine a future, you were ahead of the curve.

We both started at a call center until I couldn’t handle that anymore and quit to take the first job I could land, as an Office Assistant at a packaging company. Pretty flashy for someone with a 4 year degree in Business and Communication! Not really. I made the most of it though, and eventually moved up to be THE marketing person and office coordinator for the company. Yes, those are two jobs with a lot of responsibility…TWO jobs with a lot of responsibility…and that was just it. I was getting close to where I wanted to be, but as I moved up there, they never hired anyone for my old jobs, I was just given my new job on top of my old one which isn’t really humanly possible unless they had somehow found a way to clone me along the way. So I left for a temp position at a big company that was the opposite work environment. I was finally getting my footing and in a place I liked and I planned to pursue a career there. Everything was finally falling into place. Then we got a big surprise.

I was PREGNANT! Wait what? That was our response. Our daughter was a total surprise. The best surprise in the entire world, of course, we had just both been working so hard to get to a place financially where we would feel ready to have kids. We were definitely on our way, we just needed a few more years  to feel like we could survive on one income instead of two. But not to fear, my mom, 30 year 1st grade teacher, mother of 3, now part time nanny was here to save the day. Cancer in remission, she was doing great and was over the moon excited to be a grandmother. She would watch our daughter so I could go back to work. Of course ideally I would have been home with her, but this was the next best thing. Until, she passed away 2 weeks before our daughter was born.

As you can imagine, I was dealing with a lot then. Losing my mom rocked my world and now having to scramble around and try to find daycare? Having to hand my precious little girl, who was so tiny still over to someone I hardly knew so that THAT person could watch my daughter grow up was something I just couldn’t handle. I knew I would be so resentful and I was still so fragile, it just wasn’t going to happen. My husband had just gotten a small promotion so we felt like even though it was not even close to making up for what we’d be losing, we figured with what we’d be spending on daycare it made sense to cut out any extra expenses and luxuries to have me be home.  It was a huge leap of faith, but we trusted God with our future and have never looked back.

I love being home with my daughter, but it will always be hands down the most difficult job I will ever have. We also have to live very frugally so life is not without it’s challenges! There are good days and there are not so good days. I think the hardest part for me was something I hadn’t anticipated at all. It was the reaction I got from so many other women. The “oh you’re JUST a stay at home mom?” and the “so what do you do all day?” and my favorite of all the eyeroll followed by “must be nice to be able to do that”. I have never felt more alone or isolated or misunderstood in my entire life. And that is something I’m still working through. Because I chose to be home doesn’t make me any less educated or capable of great things, on the contrary I feel like I AM accomplishing the best of things. I’m watching my daughter grow up and I have the ability to be here with her every day to help shape her future and love her in ways that no one else on this earth can. And THAT is why I’m a stay at home mom.

I’m still working through some identity issues and I think that’s the biggest adjustment of all. Being home has made me question my worth and abilities and I hate that it is that way. That’s something I will touch on a lot more in future posts. For now, I think that was enough to get through and if you’ve made it this far! You’re amazing. 🙂


Our Family

If you read my novel of an About Me section, you probably have some idea of who I am and what my family dynamic is like. I thought I’d take a moment here to give you some background information so you know what you’re diving into!

I was born in Iowa, but grew up in a suburb of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. I have two brothers, the older is married and just turned me into a proud auntie. I also have a younger brother who also has an amazing lady in his life. And yes, that makes me a middle child!

I started college at MSU in Mankato, MN and finished up at Bethany, a small private college in the same city because they had a better communications program. While at Bethany, I ended up meeting the most amazing guy ever! It is the most random thing ever that we even met because neither one of us had the intention of going to college at Bethany! After we graduated, Chris proposed on Christmas Eve and we got married the following June. We moved back up to the twin cities and started our life here!

My older brother and his family live in North Dakota, so unfortunately we don’t get to see them as often as we would like. My younger brother lives just 5 minutes away and my dad lives just 10 minutes away! With losing my mom, I couldn’t be happier to live so close to my dad and brother. They are such a huge part of our lives and having them close by as we all adjust to the new normal has been great for all of us.

I also have an amazing aunt and uncle that live just down the street from us. She’s my mom’s only sister and it’s such a blessing having her so close by. We’ve really gotten to know each other since losing my mom and she has become such a special part of our lives. I don’t know what I’d do without her!

Chris’s family lives in a suburb of Milwaukee and he is one of six kids so I have a ton of in-laws! They definitely keep things interesting.

That’s it in a nutshell, but I’m sure you will be learning a lot more about all of us as time goes by!

Srub a Dubbin’ and Kitchen Floors

We had the AC tuned up, the furnace tuned up and cleaned, the air ducts cleaned, the dryer vent cleaned and the fireplace serviced. The fireplace is in great condition. The furnace is estimated to probably not make it through the winter. The AC unit doesn’t work at all. Oh and the water heater is about to blow. Fabulous! All I could hear was CA-CHING!

Other than that I spent another three hours scrubbing the master bathroom and I am kind of getting close to it being somewhat livable. One about half done, three to go. Making progress! The wallpaper stripping is going ok. The bathroom flooring in the upstairs bathrooms is pretty stained, but there is no other damage to it so I have big plans…more on that later!

In other news…drum roll please…we have a kitchen floor!!

Ah, the kitchen floor. Something we usually don’t pay much attention to, unless it’s disgusting. Ours was of course disgusting, but it was also begging us to be replaced. So we granted it it’s wish. If you don’t remember, our kitchen floor looked like this:

After many hours, help from an awesome guy Jim, Jim’s many tools including a table saw, jig saw, chop saw, and other miscellaneous items that we could not have done this without, our kitchen floor now looks like this:

Who knew that husband of mine could do such an awesome job laying our kitchen floor?  Way to go Chris 🙂 And dad of course, and Jim. We couldn’t have done it without you guys. I LOVE how it turned out. Things are starting to come together 🙂

Our “Needs Some Love” House

My husband and I bought a house that was….a challenge. I think it’s safe to say it was less than desirable. We outgrew our town home when our daughter was born and with our decision to have me stay home with our daughter, our house budget was not quite as cushy as we would have liked. Basically, we could buy a decent house in a really crappy area or we could buy a really crappy house in a decent area. We chose the latter. When I first saw it I couldn’t believe a house in the neighborhood it was in could possibly be the price it was. My brain and gut both told me something had to be horribly wrong with it. I couldn’t NOT look at it, so I booked a showing and the adventure began.

It was a short sale. If you’ve ever been through that process you know it’s not very fun. We walked in, it was horribly run down and just disgusting, and I had never been quite so overjoyed. Despite the filth I knew it was going to be perfect for our family. I loved the neighborhood, I loved the school district, I loved the potential for curb appeal, I loved the floor plan and I loved the price. My husband agreed. 9 months  and many obstacles later, we had the keys to our new home. And then we all began to have separate moments of “what have we done”.

I have a way of seeing things not for what they are, but for what they can be. I am surprisingly realistic about it too. I knew this house could be awesome. I also knew it would be a ton of work and it was not going to be fun. I was right. So let me take you back in time with a journal entry I wrote just over a year ago:

All I can say is wow. Wow it’s disgusting. Wow it’s overwhelming. Wow we’re exhausted. Wow that weekend went fast. Wow it’s hard to get anything done with a toddler. Just…wow.

I can also say wow about some good things. Wow we have some awesome people helping us. Wow we have some great babysitters. Wow we’ve had some amazing meals courtesy of my “now neighbor” aunt. Wow my brother did an awesome job unclogging a giant…poop…out of the upstairs toilet that had been there for many months stinking up the place. Wow my dad is amazing at home repairs and landscaping. Wow my husband is a good painter. Wow my aunt is amazing for scrubbing the DISGUSTING kitchen cabinets. Bless them all.

It’s been quite the week. First of all, I’m going to add some pictures of what we’re dealing with here. It’s gross. You have to have a vision. We do. That’s what’s keeping us going. And here’s our new house!

It’s a little difficult to tell the amount of filth from the pictures, but just believe me. And the smell is awful. I haven’t taken before pics of the basement yet, but it is by far the worst part of the house. So far we’ve been scrubbing like crazy and have started some painting. It is unbelievable the change painting can make. I’ll keep you posted on progress!

Oh and just to prove I’m not lying about the filth factor, can you see where I stopped scrubbing this wall?

You can probably see the appeal of the backyard. A major selling point for us. Right now that’s what’s going for it. Let the transformation begin!

Who am I?

Who am I? Hey great question. I’m still figuring that out. So for now, I’ll tell you what I know and what I don’t know.

I thought I had it all figured out a few years back, but on January 21, 2013 my world crumbled. My mom died from Multiple Myeloma, bone cancer. I was 25. I’m really just diving right in and you may be wondering, why start there? Because when your world falls apart, you have to put it back together. That doesn’t happen overnight, that’s a process.

Before that day, I had a pretty great life. I had an amazing husband (and still do), I had a job I liked, I was pregnant with our first child, a little girl, I was fit and healthy, and for the most part I was very happy.

My mom was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2010. It was terrible. It was a complete shock and none of us saw it coming. My mom was the most amazing woman on the planet and she was the rock in our family. She was kind, loving, and extraordinary at anticipating everyone’s needs and what made them happy. We spent a lot of time together and although we didn’t always get along great while I was growing up because of our all too similar personalities, we had become best friends when I entered into adulthood. She was amazing. She fought like a champ, spent 3 months in the hospital undergoing a brutal stem cell transplant, and kicked cancers ass. Or so we thought. Needless to say, it came back with a vengeance and within a month she was dead. I lost her two weeks before my daughter was born. She never got to meet her much anticipated first grandchild. And at that moment my heart broke and my world fell apart.

It’s hard to describe this time period, but it has played a huge part in who I am today. I experienced the most amazing, most wonderful life change, while simultaneously experiencing the most horrible. How do you deal with these polar opposites? Trial by fire and for me it definitely wasn’t perfect or pretty.

Almost everything in my life changed when my mom died. That may sound dramatic, but for me it was actually true. I lost my mother and best friend, I became a mother, I left a corporate career to be a stay at home mom (my mom was going to do daycare for us, but with that option off the table I decided to stay home), with that decision we cut our income in half, and we outgrew our town home and decided we needed to move. We knew where we wanted to live and in order to afford it we bought a completely trashed fixer upper and did the entire reno ourselves. It took 3 months before we could even move in and in that time we lived in my dad’s basement with our dog, 18 month old and all of our belongings.

When your world falls apart, you can either give up or get up. I decided to get up. I’m a major perfectionist, but there was just no room for that with everything that was going on and I’ve fallen flat on my face far more times than I care to admit. I’ve had to learn to adjust my expectations. I’ve had to choose happiness, which is definitely something you have to pursue. I’ve learned enough lessons to last me a lifetime, and I still have pretty much nothing figured out. When everything falls apart, you have to truly ask yourself what makes you happy and what fills you up and then DO those things. You have to limit things that drain you and just survive for awhile. That’s what I’ve done.

This blog will be about the me I am now. Silencing my inner perfectionist and just LIVING. Saying goodbye to who I was and embracing who I am. A little less carefree, a lot less put together, a little more somber, a lot more vulnerable. I have a major love for making ugly things pretty, you’ll see that in our house. My heart belongs to my ridiculously dopey Goldendoodle and my gorgeous little red headed daughter. My dad is my inspiration and biggest hero. My husband… well there just aren’t even words to describe how amazing he is. He has been my anchor amidst all the crashing waves the past few years. Our life is pretty simple and far from extravagant. We are extremely frugal because we have to be and we have learned that happiness is in the simple things in life. I’m reminded of that almost every day. I’m a full steam ahead type, learning to stop and smell the flowers every now and then. My family is on a journey and I finally feel like we’ve weathered a major storm and the sun is about to shine for real. It’s about time.

Now that you know everything you could have ever possibly wanted to know about me, I’ll tell you what you have to look forward to if you choose to read my blog. Real moments from motherhood. A glimpse into life after loss. A boatload of ridiculous DIY projects, and there are many. Oh so many. And hopefully a whole lot more!

If you’re still reading at this point, I commend you! That was A LOT at once. I promise my future posts will be more focused.

Yours truly,


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