April 26, 2012

Travel Junkies

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Now that I have come off my huge kitchen project, well just the beginning parts at least, I've taken a step back from house stuff.  Not a lot of projects have been happening around here!  I've been busy being a wife and stepmom over the past few weeks.  Dave has been working non-stop, God love him, to get a huge paycheck next week to pay off the rest of our Europe trip.  So, I have been the solo adult around here lately with a teenager half of the week.  We keep busy on those days!

Another reason why Dave has been working his (cute, sorry) butt off is that we have actually decided to attempt taking 2 huge trips this summer.  Europe and then somewhere with Ashley.  We actually gave her the choice, between Disney, the Caribbean, a cruise and Key West, FL.  She decided on Key West!!  We are excited to be going somewhere that none of us have been and can go together, and it's also one of the cheapest choices, and it doesn't involve leaving the country which I kinda like.  We still need to punch out the numbers and make sure we can take two trips and still...oh you know...live life and pay our mortgage and save, etc...all the important stuff;)  But our initial thoughts are to rent a place down there, fly to Miami or somewhere by there, rent a care for the week and drive down to the Keys.  We love the idea of having place to ourselves, with the leisure of a car to come and go and explore. 

Who knows if we can make it happen, but we will try!  We figured if we can't make it work for mid August before school starts up again, then we will go over Thanksgiving.  We love to travel and are excited to venture into the world together and see new things!

Our Europe trip is shaping up nicely.  We got an AMAZING deal on airfare.  No, seriously...you don't even know!!  In my research for tickets from BWI or Washington they were running around $1200 a piece.  I was in agony over paying $2400+ before even arriving in Europe.  Then, I hit the sweet spot.  I just kept switching and plugging in different airports that would be ok for us to fly out of, and fly into, I entered Newark for our departure, which is about 2 hours from us and also happens to be close by my aunt and uncles house in NJ.  Dave is dying to see Germany so I tried all the airports in the country until I hit Dusseldorf...BAM!!  Tickets were $630 per person?!?!  Wait, that has to be wrong...exit the page, reload it, type in the info again....hmmm...that really is the price!  YAY!!  BOOK IT!!!  So for less than the cost of both of our original researched tickets, we are flying to Germany!  I am excited to get such a good deal.  Plus, the cost of getting up to NJ and getting from and back to Germany doesn't even put a dent in how much we saved by setting the trip up that way.  On top of that, we get to see Germany a little bit - which Dave wants to do so we added on.

The bulk of our trip will be split between Paris (of course!  My 3rd time, can you believe it!?!) and Italy.  5 days in each place, with travels days all between and possible stops in and around France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.  We are traveling by train all over, the tickets are pricey but we think it'll be worth it to not have to drive ourselves and it will be such a cool way to see Europe. 

Italy is going to be awesome.  We aren't doing any of the "touristy" parts.  No Rome, no Venice, nothing like that.  We are actually staying in an apartment (found on Homeaway.com) in a little Tuscan town called Lucca.  It's right near Pisa, but its also close to the Italian Riviera, and the hilltop towns of Tuscany, which I am so excited to see.  When I think of Italy I think of rolling hills of poppies and grape vines and olive groves and weathered old couples that have lived on lands that their families have owned for centuries...it's seems divine.  That is the Italy I want to see!  Plus the stacked up high sleepy little Riviera towns with the Mediterranean expanding beneath them, totally majestic.  I can't wait to experience it with Dave!!

Now that we have our locations nailed down, I am busy trying to plan what we are going to do each day we are in Europe.  Mom keeps reminding me to take a day "just to sit and watch the world go by" so there is one day in Paris and in Italy where, hopefully, we will just sit and sip wine and watch people.  Paris is a little easier to plan out because I have been there and know what Dave would like to see, as well as see stuff that I havent yet...there are parts that are completely new to me and I have to see it!  Maybe not all of it, but a good bit of it;)  We are only in Germany for 2 days, but as long as Dave gets to drink German beer at a German bar and eat German food, he will be happy!

As we plan it all more I'll share our itinerary - I'm a dork like that.  I'll have everything planned out and put into a binder with reservations and confirmations and everything we will need to make our trip fun, safe, and easy!  Here are some pics that are getting us pumped:

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Cinque Terre, Italy found here

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Disneyland Paris, found here

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A Paris side street, found here

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Dusseldorf, found here

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Oh my, Tuscany heaven, found here

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Lucca, found here

Don't those inspire you to hop on a plane right now?  I can't contain my excitement!!!! 

Trip planning has been taking up a lot of my time.  This week, as well, was Ashley's 13th birthday and we've been busy with planning and celebrating with her.  She is having a small party here on Saturday - it's her first official party here since we've been in this house, since we've been married actually!  We only allowed her to invite 5, because we are going to be going to the mall (Towson) and we have to be able to fit everyone in one car, plus Dave and I don't know if we can handle more than 5 in our townhouse! 

Anyone else planning a cool vacay?

April 15, 2012

Process this!!!

The kitchen has brightened our lives!  It looks so much bigger and cleaner, I am so happy with it.  There are still a few more things to do - I'll get to that later!

I thought it may be fun to share the process!  Now, I learned quite a bit from the internet.  And my mom.  I had no idea how to do this, but after reading this post from John & Sherry Petersik's blog, and grabbing hints and tips from this site and talking to my mom about certain issues and problems, I really started to understand all the steps and the BEST way to do this kitchen project.  I learned a lot along the way too.  Awesome!  I feel like I could redo everyone's kitchens now!

 Ok so Step 1:  PREP!!  Take off all cabinet doors and drawers...

 and empty everything out!  Take off your switch plates too.

 Step 2: Fill holes in walls (Spackle) and wood (wood putty) and sand everything!  We had to paint our walls (no paint at all on those) so we sanded them and all the cabinet bases, doors and drawers.

Prepare to be messy, and not cute, for a few days.  I showered of course, but then ended up right back in painting clothes and nice hair and makeup were non existent!

Ok Step 3: Tape everything that you don't want paint all over.  Put down some painting plastic too, if needed.

Just know ahead of time that your house will be a mess for a week or two.  We lived off our dining table and our IKEA shelf for a while.  In fact, just yesterday I finished cleaning the whole place so it looks like a house again, pics to come!

Step 4:  Prime everything.  Since we were painting walls and cabs, we bought a primer that would work for both and primed the whole dang room!  For the cabinets we used a super smooth roller and a 2" angled nice brush for those hard to paint areas and the trimming.

Here are all the bases and walls, all primed up and ready for paint!

Step 5: Lightly sand and wipe down everything again.  This helps everything absorb the real colors of the paint absorb and soak into the walls and the cabs.

Wiping is important because you don't want little flicks of sand/wall/wood to show up in your paint, and it will if it is there!  Wipe it down good!

Step 6: Trim walls.  If you are like me and doing the WHOLE project at once, paint the walls first.  Well, at least if your walls are brighter and darker then your cab paint.  I would die if I painted my beautiful whitish creamy cabs first and then got YELLOW all over them!  NO!! Oh and use the angled brush to cut in, and watch those drippies!!

Step 7: Paint walls. Use good quality rollers!  This one was bubbling at first, but after I stirred the paint and broke the roller in more, those disappeared.

Do these steps over again, and even a 3rd time depending on your preference of color and how it applies to your walls.  2 coats did it for us!  Make sure you move your appliances and get behind those.

Step 4 & 8: Degrease cabinet bases (we did this after sanding in step 4) and degrease the doors and drawers.  After sanding things, this helps get all that gritty stuff off the doors and drawers and bases.  Even though we didnt paint inside each cab, we degreased them.  You can't imagine how dirty these were, this degreaser/deglosser really cleaned them so well.  We bought one that didn't make you pass out from fumes, it's safe for kids and cats and what not.  Frodo was happy about that;)

Step 9:  Paint your cabinets!!  I guess I should say bases, that is what I did first.  I bought a cab painting kit, you can see below.  It comes with a great roller and foam rolly things and that nice sized paint pan.  At this point your wall paint should be done, no more sanding or anything.  Paint should be dry too, because you have to tape your walls to paint the cabinets.

It was excited and nerve wracking all at the same time.

Use that angle brush to get the edges of your cabs...

 My cabinets needed 3 coats of paint.  I am not sure why, but they did.  I also kept touching them up as I found little imperfections after the 3 coats.

Step 10:  Little things - I was actually going to buy all new switch plates but then thought better of it.  Why buy something that I can just re use?  I sanded them a little bit, and painted them the same color as the cabs.

Step 10:  Paint the backs of your doors, let each coat dry completely before you put the next coat on.

Again, I put 3 coats on, did backs first so that if any scratches happened when I flipped them, it would be on the back and not the front that everyone sees.

After you are satisfied with the backs, and they have dried COMPLETELY, flip them over and start the fronts.  I still used the smooth roller and the 2" angle brush, but I also used this little brush to get the drippies out of the corners.  I did three coats of this!

Step 11:  Take a whole day to have a break and go wine tasting in Frederick, MD with your husband.  Awesome;)

Step 12: Put on your hardware and hinges.  I don't have many pics of these.  This was the scariest and the most frustrating part of the job.  It wasnt too bad though.  Most of the hardware and hinges went on without any issues.  I did make a few mistakes since I've never done this before - like put handles on in the wrong spot and had to wood putty and paint again, but I got over those humps and everything looks lined up and even and perfect.

I just can't believe it's the same kitchen, the same cabinets that were here before?

Step 13: Figure out the open shelving situation.  I love these.  They add so much character to my kitchen!

Step 14: More little touches.  See those cracks up there between the ceiling and the cabinet?  It looks awful!  Like the cabs were just thrown up there!  Nothing a little chaulk can't fix!!

Voila!!  See?  You can't even see them at all.  Oh the power of chaulk!  They actually look built in now:)

I am still working on the two little cabinet doors for above the fridge.  At first we were thinking about leaving those open and doing something fancy, but then I realized I want those beautiful white cabinets all the way across.  I'll try to get pictures of installing the hardware on those.  I want to be able to share how to do that.  But if not, read that link from Young House Love up there, that's how I learned;)

Once we get our new counter tops this little lip here will come out further.  We are looking for bar stools right now to put on this empty wall (used to have our DVD tower here, but it looked waaaay too junky).

Step 15: Put everything back together.  Fill up your cabinets again.  Get rid of stuff you do not use.  Decorate.  Love it to death!  Add flowers, aren't they pretty?

Step 16: CELEBRATE.  Have your parents and/or your friends over for some wine to show off your kitchen;)

It's perfect!

Oh and something else I did, which I am crazy about - are these fancy "custom" cabinet inserts.  I got this at Lowe's for a little less that $100.  I am adding so much more storage with this!

Just look at that!   This is 2 drawers and 1 messy cabinet worth of space saved!  Now it's all tucked away in this pull out contraption.  It's awesome.

A close up....

Actually I am going to buy another sort of contraption for this cabinet.  Right now it's hard to pull out these pots and pans and bakeware...

But after I install this, double drawer cab insert, it should be so much easier!  That will be happening sometime next week.  It is like have a custom kitchen without paying a bazillion dollars for it!

Ok, and then after alllllllllllllllllllllll of that, just sit back and relax and be happy that your house looks a little normal again:

So my to do list still looks like this:

- finish two little cabs for above the fridge
- paint the baseboards in kitchen to match cabinets
- take off the toe kick, or whatever that is, underneath the cab bases and either paint or install new toe kicks
- find artwork for above stove
- figure out what to do with the soffitts (that space of wall up by the ceiling that empty)
- new counter tops
- new sink and faucets
- new appliances
- extended counter top and buy stools to create breakfast bar
- install more custom cabinet inserts
- figure out what to do above microwave

So that is all I can think of now, we will slowly chip away at those things and update as we go.  It's been a crazy few weeks, but it's probably 80% done and that makes me happy!  Thanks for hanging in!

April 10, 2012

Sneak Peek!

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Ok - so besides the fact that I did not have internet last week from Sunday to Friday, unless I went to Panera or my parents house, my laptop has also decided to be a jerk.  I've had it for 2 years and never had a problem with it.  About a month ago I downloaded stupid Internet Explorer 9 and it's hated me ever since.  I even tried deleting that...didnt help.  It's slow as molasses!  I've taken out a ton of programs I dont use, deleted videos I dont want, emptied every piece of trash I can find, and ran software for malware (and then deleted the software) and nothing has helped.  It makes me hate my life in that girly dramatic, everything-is-working-against me way. 

So, with that rant out of the way...all that is to say I can't blog as much as I like because I dont have the means to:(  I dont have the patience to blog from my Iphone, and Dave & I decided against getting an Ipad so that we can save more for Europe.  I would've loved to have blogged every day last week when I was off, but life had other plans for me! LOL.

I am so terribly exhausted tonight - I've been going non stop since this morning.  It was our first day back from break, which is blowing my mind because - where did break go?  Did I have one?  I've promised myself tons of rest and relaxation this weekend because even though I planned to over break, I didn't.  I am terrible at doing nothing!  I think you can totally tell I am tired right now because I am whining, ha!  Sorry about that!!!  I do have happy news too!!

My kitchen is a dream.  It's beautiful.  It's not done though, I have quite a bit more to do - but it's liveable and adorable and I just have to share!!

First...some before pictures:

Here are my colors...

Is that really my kitchen?  Its so...so...EW!!

EW squared...

The brown of these cabinets makes me want to vomit!

Setting up for painting and general life halting house work!

Cleaning these cabinets out was gross!!!

Let's get on to the good stuff shall we?  We started working on the kitchen officially almost 2 weeks ago - I started planning the update out, buying things I needed, and started prepping and cleaning 2 Thursdays ago...12 days later, well...it's not completely done but like I said, it's totally liveable!

Drum roll......

Look at that!!!  LOOK AT IT!!!  OMG!!! 

I designed, built and stained those open shelves...I love them.  I want to stare at them all day!

Close up...I stained them Golden Oak, which goes just beautifully with the yellow and the white and the oil rubbed bronze hardware...and will hopefully match our butcher block counters when we get them.  If they don't, I'll just restain them, but that might make me cry because I love them so much!

These pictures I took earlier tonight, I had to move the coffee machine because that outlet on the right doesn't work.  A few of my outlets don't work now - I turned off all the breakers when I was take the plates off and painting around the outlets, just to be safe, and after I turned the breakers back I had a problem - I have to figure that one out!

Isn't it so lovely?  Ignore the awful counters, and the white appliances, that will all change soon..

Ahhhhh, lovely.  What a difference the hardware makes too.  I was so nervous about adding the handles and knobs...it really wasn't that hard!  Replacing the hinges was super easy too!

See that Italian water fountain hanging there? I bought that baby at Goodwill last summer with mom, for $1.  Score!  It is perfect!  Don't mind the blue background on my menu planner - I am changing that.  But I did paint the frame aubergine purple, it is lovely with the yellow!!  I also spray painted my utensil holder the same color.  Work with what ya got!!  Spray paint is da bomb;)

So pretty!!!  I wish I had my stainless steel stuff now, but I am imagining it there!  I am currently purusing Etsy for some Tuscan artwork to go above the stove...and I have a small white shelf to install about the microwave where I will place my herbs in galvanized planters.

A few from the family room.  Oh and FYI we are getting stools to set at this little ledge here (where the pasta is sitting).  Eventually, when we get our counter tops, that ledge will come out a little further for extra seating; a sweet little breakfast bar!  I want to put something up on the soffits as well, I am thinking letters that spell out CUCINA, Italian for Kitchen.  The little cabinets for above the fridge are still drying:)

A shot of the sink and cabs underneath, don't mind the dirty dishes...at least most of them are done now.  You should have seen this place a few days ago - it was a tornado aftermath!

Let's see my favorite shot again....

I want to make out with those shelves.  And the color yellow.  And the cabinets.  LOL!  I am proud of what we have done...I worked myself to death over the last week, but it was so worth it.  Totally!  Just look at our kitchen!  It looks like a completely new room?!?!  It looks bigger too!

Ok, I have to go to bed!!  Oh, but guess what we did in honor of finishing most of the hard work?  That's right, we bought our airplane tickets to Europe - BAM!  Germany, France, and Italy - here we come!!! Night!!