A Modern Look for an Ikea Hemnes Dresser

Our bedroom dresser is finally finished! And can you believe it’s Ikea!?

It took me a long time to find a style of dresser that felt right for the room, and then I came across this one and fell in love . . . with everything except the price tag.

I decided to try to recreate this look using a much less expensive Ikea Hemnes dresser. Last week I shared how I sanded off the old gray stain and re-stained it in black (read all about that process here). Although the Hemnes does come in a brown-black stain, my Ikea didn’t have it in stock. This ended up being a blessing because it would’ve been too hard to try to fill the drawer pull holes and stain those as an exact match to the original black stain so my only choice would have been paint (and I am so glad I still have a stained wood look!)

I searched and searched for leather pulls to attach to the top of the drawer fronts and stumbled upon these beauties on Etsy. I chose brass nails and cognac leather.

When the pulls arrived, I realized that there wasn’t quite enough space for them to sit on top of the drawer front without catching the dresser frame so I asked Justin if he could cut small notches at the top of each drawer front to create space. This ended up being a slow, laborious process and we’ve spent our evenings working on through it. We set up shop in our basement, turned on the TV, and tackled each drawer pull one by one.

First, I measured exactly where I wanted each drawer pull to be (it ended up being just shy of 5 5/8″ from the end of each drawer front). Once I had the pull in place, I marked it on each side with a pencil.

Then Justin clamped down a straight edge to create a guide marking the bottom depth of where he wanted the notch to be. He took a hand saw and sawed over the lines I had marked until his saw hit the depth of the straight edge.

He then took a chisel and started chipping away in between the two saw lines.

By far, the chiseling took the longest! He had to try to be as precise as possible so that he wouldn’t chip away too much that the drawer pull wouldn’t cover it.

Once the notches were finished, I took over the rest of the process.

The notches often had the tiniest of chips on the edges, but I took a black permanent marker and colored them in and they became invisible! This would have actually been easier with a fine-tip marker, but I worked with what I had.

Once the edges were colored in, I set the drawer pull inside and hammered it in using the brass nails that came with the pulls.

Repeat twelve times and you have yourself a fully functional dresser! I am really happy with how these drawer pulls turned out. It looks like they were always meant to be inset like that!

I knew I loved it before, but once everything was in place in our bedroom, I couldn’t even contain my excitement. It is PERFECT for the space and I love that we spent the extra time and effort to really make it shine.

I still plan to create a large gallery wall above the dresser and I’ve been slowly gathering things to include – I think that will be the perfect finishing touch to this part of our bedroom!

Dresser Budget Breakdown

Ikea Hemnes Dresser: $298.53

Black Stain: $13.32

Polyurethane: $17.09

Synthetic Bristle Brush: $7.60

Leather Drawer Pulls: $101.61

Total Cost: $438.15 – much much better than my inspiration dresser’s $1800!!

Top 12 Tools for DIY Projects

Just over a year ago, I wrote a blog post about the Top 10 Staples I always have on hand for DIY Projects (check out that post here). Looking back over that list, those ten items are still the ones I always keep in stock at our house so I’m ready to jump into a project whenever I want. Today I thought it would be fun to have a follow-up post that focused on the specific tools that we have that we use the most for our projects. Yes, we have more specialized equipment in our workshop, but the twelve items I’m going to share are what we use to complete 95% of our projects. Some are big, some are small, some are investment pieces, some are inexpensive, but these twelve things are the top items that we find ourselves reaching for again and again to successfully accomplish DIY projects at home. And I promise you, even if some of these tools feel intimidating, you can learn to use them!

A small disclaimer before we start: I believe everybody should have a quality hammer and two screwdrivers: one Phillips head (the tip looks like an x) and one flathead (the tip is, well, flat!) These three tools are the most basic items that I think should absolutely be in your home/garage/toolbox and aren’t included on my list, but if you don’t have them already, definitely start there!

Compound Miter Saw

By far, this is our #1 workhorse. A good miter saw is an investment for sure, but it is completely worth it. We use ours for nearly every single DIY project we do! Our miter saw has helped us build everything from small shelves to play kitchens from scratch, update window trim and baseboards, shiplap our office, create a geometric accent wall, even built our basement dining table! It doesn’t have a huge footprint and is easy to set up on sawhorses in a garage, yard, or directly in your workspace. We highly recommend it!

Orbital Sander

We have both a cordless and a corded orbital sander and they each have their pros and cons (battery means more flexibility, but might die midway through on a large project while a cord can be limiting for location, but it lasts as long as you need it to). Regardless of which one is your preference, I highly recommend a sander. We use ours from everything to sanding off old stain to smoothing edges and surfaces on a finished DIY. Having a variety of sandpaper grits available (Justin usually stay stocked with at least 80, 120, 220, and 400) allows you to be ready for any project.

Quality Tape Measure

This one seems so simple, but there really is a difference between a solid, quality tape measure and a cheap and flimsy one. It is definitely worth spending a couple dollars more on a high quality one (or three!) that will give you accurate measurements and last a long time.

Level

We actually have three levels: nine inch, 24 inch, and 48 inch and choose whatever size we need based on the size of the project. From the most basic of DIYs, like hanging a picture frame or shelf on the wall, to more advanced projects like building a play kitchen or custom built-ins from scratch, a level is super helpful for ensuring precision. In the picture below, Justin is using a level to make sure the window trim is perfectly vertical while he attaches it with . . .

Nail Gun

I will admit, a nail gun seemed like an intimidating tool at first but now I actually love using it! It makes installing projects like window trim and shiplap so much quicker and easier, and I just think it personally feels empowering to use. Anytime we are installing trim or baseboards or are building anything with wood, we’re pulling out our nail gun. Ours attaches to an air compressor but there are battery-operated options available too. We keep 1 inch, 1.5 inch, and 2 inch nails on hand so we’re ready for different depths based on the scope of the project.

Stud Finder

Another small but mighty item, a stud finder is incredibly helpful in the install stage of DIY. If you’re nailing, screwing, or installing an anchor in a wall, you want to know if you will hit a stud or not ahead of time. While you can gently knock across the wall to listen for a difference in hollowness, a stud finder is a more precise way of finding exactly where the stud is. We use ours for everything from hanging a picture to putting up trim – any time we’re attaching something to a wall.

Circular Saw

In the picture above, Justin has created a guide using scrap wood and clamps and is cutting a large piece of plywood using a circular saw. We do have a table saw as well, but we’ve found that we often use a circular saw in place of a table saw for various projects (plus it’s much cheaper and more versatile!) Justin uses this saw whenever we need to cut down a larger piece of wood, like an extra wide plank that is too big for a miter saw to handle or a sheet of plywood.

Power Drill

When I shared the Top 10 Staples I use over and over, an electric screwdriver was one of them. I use ours all the time for small projects around the house and while it is incredibly versatile and handy, a power drill just brings a lot more power (obviously) to a project. It’s great for drilling holes and installing screws quickly and easily. We also feel like it works really well when we’re using larger screws or heavier-duty materials.

Kreg Jig

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With our power drill, a kreg jig has come in handy for many projects where we need to screw pieces together securely, particularly when two pieces are coming together at a right angle. We’ve especially used it for projects like shelving, whether it’s a small shelf for books or our large built-in, and attaching table legs.

Clamps

We use clamps over and over (and over) again. Justin frequently uses them to keep wood in place when he needs to make a precise cut, and whenever we use wood glue to attach two pieces together, we use a clamp to keep them tightly bound while the glue dries. I recommend several clamps of different sizes so you’re able to easily clamp in place whatever you need to!

Sawhorses

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We have two sets of sawhorses and they get a ton of use during projects. They do everything from holding Justin’s miter saw on projects outside of our home to providing a level surface for a long piece of wood being cut to holding my trim pieces in place while I paint them. Ours are light and collapsible and very easy to cart around the house depending on where our project is.

Right Angle

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When I asked Justin what tool he thought should round out the list, he was quick to say a right angle. He has four different sizes of right angles and finds himself reaching for them again and again. It’s always helpful to know when you’re bringing together two pieces squarely, or to test whether the corner of a wall comes together square (spoiler alert: walls rarely do haha!) He is very precision minded and this tool is incredibly helpful in making sure each project is precise and corners are accurate.

And that’s our list! If for some reason something would happen to our workshop and we needed to start over from scratch, these are the twelve items we would start out again with. These are the tools we have to thank for most of the transformations we’ve been able to make in our house and they’re the ones we know we’ll be reaching for again and again in the future. In fact, as I think about the next big project I’m considering tackling, I already know I’ll be using almost this entire list of tools. Time to start planning!

My Go-To Places for Finding Artwork

Big news around here today – the hardware for the dresser arrived early! Once it’s installed I’ll share it on the blog, but in the meantime you can see the hardware I chose, as well as a little problem I’m encountering with it, on my Instagram stories today. Since the dresser is so close to being finished, I’m ready to shift my focus to planning the wall around it. We already have a full length mirror in the room and we never used the mirror over our last dresser, so instead of a mirror I’m going to pull together a gallery wall above the dresser.

A portion of our playroom gallery wall blends family photos with original artwork (peach & pineapple) from JBeck Studio

When it comes to buying artwork for our home, I refrain from buying everything at places like Target, TJ Maxx, and Hobby Lobby. There’s nothing wrong with art from those stores (and I definitely have some pieces from them!) but it’s mass-produced and can feel like everyone has the same things. I prefer to create a more collected look by mixing in framed family photos with artwork that feels a little more unique and personal to me. I’m going to spend the next few days gathering all the prints and images I want to use for our bedroom, so today I thought it’d be fun to round up my go-to places for finding artwork for our home.

Butterfly print from BFF Print Shop paired with an original piece bought from a street artist in Florence, Italy

Juniper Print Shop

Juniper Print Shop’s Dab paired with a postcard I received from a friend

Whenever I need a print for my house, this is the first place I typically look. I love their curated collection of unique prints and it is really easy to mix and match them throughout the house. You can purchase a physical print and they’ll print it on high quality paper and ship it or you can purchase the digital download and have it printed yourself. I’ve always purchased the digital download and have never been disappointed! Their resolution is fantastic and many of the prints look like they have texture even though they do not. I’ve been eyeing this cute one for years now and I think the bedroom gallery wall will be the perfect place for it! I’ll mostly likely also incorporate a landscape print, like maybe this one or this one.

BFF Print Shop

I downloaded and printed this vintage Cracked Flower from BFF Print Shop

I think I’ve purchased four prints (again via digital download) from this store so far and I’ve been really happy with them all. The collection is huge so it’s a little harder to sift through and find just what you’re looking for, but the positive side is there are a lot of options so you’re more likely to find something that fits your vision. Their vintage collection is especially good and I love pairing a good vintage print with a thrift store frame for an elevated look at a low price. I also like their nature prints and modern line drawings for creating more eclectic pairings. I like the idea of finding some travel photography this time around to add to the bedroom gallery wall – maybe something like this or this?

Etsy

Modern, Bright Entryway Makeover

Etsy is a bit of a mixed bag and there are soooooo many options to sift through, but it’s always rewarding when I can find the right thing! The landscape above is one of my favorite prints in our home and I’ve had guests over who can’t believe it’s a print. I also got the prints in LJ’s room from Etsy, so I’ve had some success there, but it does help to search for something specific. As the gallery wall comes together, if there’s a certain type of piece I feel like I need, Etsy will be a great option to search!

JBeck Studio

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I have several pieces from Jenni (who just so happens to be my very talented sister) and they bring such a unique touch to whatever space they’re in! I also love supporting small businesses and having original art in my home, so this feels like a triple win.

Turn Mementos into Art

Art is so subjective and it should be meaningful to you, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box – it’s the easiest way to make your house feel uniquely yours! I have framed postcards from travels, recipes written by our grandmothers, handwritten lyrics of a hymn found tucked away in a family bible, and even an old wallpaper label found buried beneath layers of plaster in my grandparents’ farmhouse. I’ve framed a graphic print of the map of city that’s important to us. I’ve picked up original art from both a street vendor in Italy and my local farmers’ market. One year at the Christmas party for Justin’s work, they hired someone to do caricatures and ours is now framed in a gallery wall. Things like this always give such fun, unique touch to any wall so I’m constantly on the lookout for interesting finds to add to a wall.

Since this gallery wall will be in our bedroom, I’m going to add a few personal touches from our relationship. Several years ago I had a lettering artist create artwork out of our vows and that is already in our bedroom, but I think I’m also going to dig through a box I keep of other mementos and maybe frame a handwritten card or ticket stub or other small item that signifies something special about our marriage.

I’m so excited to dive in to this project and curate a gallery wall that feels just right for our bedroom!

Friday Features {08.06.21}

Happy Friday! I’m currently hanging out with Justin and two of our close friends at a lake house for the weekend and we’re loving some unplugged time reconnecting. I thought it’d be fun to just share another round of “Friday Features” – just some imperfect pictures of little moments that have been making up our life lately.

LJ’s Glasses

The big news around here lately has been LJ’s new glasses! Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect with convincing a three year old to wear glasses all day, and while we’ve had our challenging moments, overall it’s gone really well. I think he recognizes that they do help his vision so he’s overall pretty cooperative. I might be biased, but I think he’s also pretty dang cute in them!

New Chair for our Bedroom

I’ve talked before about how our primary bedroom is an awkward shape and too large, which has created some challenges with layout. There was one corner that was really giving me a run for my money, and after a friend suggested putting a reading chair there I started looking around to see if I could find the right fit. When I saw this rust-covered beauty in a local small business’s front window, everything snapped into place immediately in my mind! I still want to finish off the corner with a plug-in sconce of some kind and a little side table and throw blanket, but I’m already so much happier just having the chair there!

Lazy Pond Days

We have spent so much time swimming in our pond lately. The weather has been gorgeous and my kids are both obsessed with swimming. There was even a day where Justin offered to take them outside and swim so I could get work done . . . but then I decided work could wait because it looked too fun by the pond and I had to join. It’s so fun to watch my kids enjoy this childhood! I’m also glad that they’re both at the point where they’re happily content playing in the shallow end so I can occasionally just enjoy the warm sunshine and watch from the deck. Everyone wins πŸ™‚

Inclusive Playgrounds

On our road trip home from visiting family in Virginia, we stopped to play at a playground and I was thrilled to see communication boards installed around the edges! I taught special education for six years and simple additions like this make such a huge difference for children with communication needs – I’d love to see these pop up in playgrounds everywhere!

Our New Favorite Chicken Nuggets

Okay, I’ve posted some very random things here before but this might top the list of most random ever. I don’t even care though because these chicken nuggets are JUST THAT GOOD! We buy them at Costco and they taste just like Chik-fil-a; we also bought Chik-fil-a sauce to go with them and it was game over. They are a new family favorite and I’m now even more excited for chicken nugget dinners than my kids are.

That’s a little glimpse of life around here lately. Glasses, chairs, lots of outdoor time, and some chicken nuggets haha. I hope you have a great weekend!

Staining an Ikea Hemnes Dresser Black!

When I was searching for dresser ideas for my primary bedroom renovation, I came across this dresser and it stopped me in my tracks:

I loved so much about this dresser: the clean lines, the black stain, the subtle wood grain, the leather drawer pulls. Really the only thing about it I didn’t like was the price. Yikes! At first I considered building my own dresser to mimic this one, but thankfully I was talked out of that. Instead, I decided to take a basic Ikea Hemnes dresser and recreate this look for a tiny fraction of the cost.

The Hemnes does come in a black-brown stain but it was out of stock so I bought it in a gray stain. At first, I covered it with a coat of paint in Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black, but I did not like the way it turned out at all. It looked like, well, a cheap dresser that was painted. Luckily, the latex paint sanded off very easily and I was able to start over with a different plan. Here’s what I did:

Materials

-Ikea Hemnes Dresser

-Orbital Sander + 80 grit and 120 grit sandpaper

-Plastic Wood

latex gloves

Black Stain

-Foam Brushes

-Clean, dry cloth

Painters Tape

Brown Stain

Polycrylic

Synthetic Bristle Brush

Tack Cloth

-220 or 400-grit sandpaper

The first thing I needed to do was sand off the old gray stain. By far, this was the step that took the longest! I used an orbital sander and 80-grit sandpaper to get most of the stain off, then I went over the whole thing again with 120-grit sandpaper to smooth the coarse surface.

Before sanding down the drawer fronts, I filled in each of the drawer pull holes with plastic wood. This product only takes about 15 minutes to dry and then you can sand and stain it just like the rest of the wood.

You can see that there are still some traces of gray stain left on the dresser above. I decided to save myself the time and effort of removing every tiny bit because I knew that the black would cover it up without anyone being able to tell it was there.

After everything was sanded with both grits of sandpaper, I wiped down every surface with a tack cloth to collect all the dust. I also used painter’s tape to tape off the bottom of the legs (making the top of the tape line even with the bottom of the dresser body) because I wanted to stain that part a different color. More on that later!

I tested out a few black stains and settled on this water-based solid color stain. I used a foam brush to apply the stain in long strokes, making sure to follow the direction of the wood grain. I like to wear latex gloves when staining to protect my hands.

This stain is thick and absorbs pretty quickly so I worked in small sections and wiped the excess stain off with a clean, dry scrap cloth.

You can see above what the wood looked like after one coat of coverage. I wanted to see less of the wood grain, so after letting the surfaces dry for about 2 hours, I reapplied a second thin coat of stain on top using the same process as before, except working in smaller sections so I could wipe the stain off a little quicker (thus, keeping it from penetrating too much and getting too dark). Here’s a good comparison of what one coat vs. two looked like:

After all the black stain dried, it was time for the bottom of the legs. I tore off the painter’s tape at the bottom of the legs and put new tape that lined up with the bottom of the black stain (note: for the bottom of the legs, I made sure to sand away all of the previous gray stain). I had a bunch of random stains leftover from previous projects and after testing them out, I settled on this provincial.

I set the legs on top of scrap wood so I could get all the way to the bottom without ruining the floor. I didn’t want the stain to be too dark so I applied a light coat of stain with a foam brush and wiped it off almost immediately. Then I removed the tape – I love a nice, crisp line!

After the provincial stain dried, the dresser was ready for topcoat. I chose this Polycrylic Protective Finish in a clear matte finish. After carefully stirring, I used a new synthetic bristle brush to apply a thick layer in long strokes, again following the direction of the wood grain.

Polycrylic looks white and bubbly when first applied. It dries clear, but the bubbles do leave a slight amount of a textured feel. After letting the first coat dry, I used a 400-grit sandpaper to very lightly (seriously, hardly any pressure is needed!) sand the surface smooth again.

After sanding the dresser and drawer fronts, I wiped everything down with a clean tack cloth and then repeated another round of Polycrylic + light sand + tack cloth. Once everything completely dried, I could pop the drawer back in and admire the (almost) finished result!

Even though I’m still waiting on the new drawer pulls to come in, I am so so thrilled with how this dresser is turning out. The picture truly doesn’t do it justice. It looks so chic! It has the same clean lines look and subtle wood grain that my inspiration dresser had and I love the added character from the stained legs. It definitely looks like a higher-end product and I’m so glad I went with my gut on re-staining this one!

July 2021 Book Reviews

Hellooooooo August! I can’t believe how fast summer is flying by, but I have to admit that I’m pretty excited for August. We have a few fun trips planned, one very special girl’s second birthday, and I have a big old stack of fun books to read. But before I do any of that, let’s recap my July reading!

In July I read seven books, including a rom com, a memoir, a trilogy, and some unique fiction. It was a great month of reading and I enjoyed every single book which feels like a huge win! Let’s dive in!

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

In between life and death, there is a library. One that is filled with an endless number of books, each one a life that you could have lived if you made a different choice along the way. Nora Seed has lived a life full of regrets so when she finds herself in the midnight library, she is convinced that she can find the perfect life that she should be living by changing the decisions she made: undoing a breakup, taking a different job, becoming elite in her field, saying yes instead of no, etc. As she tries out different lives in her search to find the one where she’ll be happy, she is faced with the challenge of determining what truly makes a life fulfilling. [trigger warning: this book does touch on suicide]

I absolutely loved this book. I thought the premise was so unique and relatable – who hasn’t wished for the change to undo a mistake or fix a regret? I often catch myself thinking back over my life and wishing I had made a different choice along the way. But the truth is, we never know where that one choice would have actually taken us. We may end up with an even bigger regret had we followed another path! I loved all the directions Nora’s various books took her and kept wanting to read more and more. The whole concept of the midnight library was just fascinating and I felt like the author did a fantastic job of surprising us with the outcomes of her lives. My book club is going to be discussing this book at our next meeting and I’m so excited to hear everyone’s thoughts. Highly highly recommend this one!

The Simple Wild, Wild at Heart, and Forever Wild by K.A. Tucker

When Calla Fletcher gets a call that her estranged father has advanced health problems and might not have long to live, she decides to venture to her birthplace of Alaska for the first time since she was two years old to reconnect with him in whatever way she can. Leaving the hustle and bustle of Toronto for the quiet, isolated life of rural Alaska brings about several challenges for Calla, but nothing is more challenging than her dad’s bristly, frustrating, and annoyingly attractive yeti of a bush pilot, Jonah. But underneath all the gruff and scruff, Jonah proves to be a surprise to Calla, as does her father and the people who have become like family to him over the years. As Calla gets to know more and more about her dad and the people in his life, she falls more and more in love with Alaska and all it has to offer.

I read through this trilogy in about a week and it was a nice choice for a vacation binge. I don’t want to spoil too much but the books follow Calla and her journey to find herself and fall in love (in more ways than one). The best way I can describe it is it’s like a sexy Hallmark movie set in Alaska. Small town vibes in a captivating setting, charming and quirky side characters, a little predictable but easy-to-root-for romance, a bit of conflict, you get the idea. I will say book two was my least favorite, as it just felt incredibly repetitive, slow-moving, and long. I felt like certain things were really overdone and I kept waiting for the plot to move on. Then book three was probably my favorite and it was only a novella – it felt like an absolute whirlwind in comparison to book two and was way too short! There were a lot of underdeveloped storylines and I wish the author would’ve focused more on those and less on Calla’s life and relationship. I just think there were some really interesting directions that could have been taken with various side characters to add to the story and it left me wanting more. I did see that the author is writing another book that will focus predominantly on one of the other characters so I’m hopeful that maybe some of the other plots will be developed there. Overall, this was a fun series to binge and I do recommend it!

Live in Love by Lauren Akins

I grew up listening to country music and remember when Thomas Rhett first came onto the scene. I also remember when Die A Happy Man came out and we all found out his wife Lauren was the woman featured in the video, which turned her into a bit of a celebrity on her own. I’ve followed them both on social media for a while and really admire and respect the way they have navigated fame with their family, all while sharing their adoption story, their parenthood journey, their faith, and their philanthropic efforts so I was excited to read this memoir by Lauren.

The book was very long, but I found myself interested the whole time. Lauren just seems so inherently likeable. She’s down-to-earth, honest, vulnerable, and comes across with a level of humility that is admirable considering the levels of fame both she and her husband have reached. It was really interesting to read about her childhood and the closeness of the families she grew up with, including Thomas Rhett’s. The book has some snippets from his perspective of moments throughout their lives and that was a sweet addition. I also found myself relating to Lauren’s feelings when Thomas Rhett started to succeed in country music and saw there were many parallels to my own marriage. Justin’s career is very demanding and has needed to take our focus at many points throughout our marriage which often led me to thoughts of “I’m so happy for you and I support you 100%, but what about my dreams?” I found Lauren’s honestly about the harder parts of navigating marriage to be so refreshing and relatable. I do think I enjoyed this book more because I like country music and already had background information and some interest in Lauren’s life, but I think anyone looking for a wholesome celebrity memoir about family, faith, adoption, and finding your purpose would enjoy this one.

The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth

Hardcover The Secrets of Midwives Book

Neva Bradley is a midwife, like her mother Grace and her grandmother Floss were before her. She is also pregnant, and is adamant that the baby has no father. This revelation is shocking and frustrating to Grace, who pushes to find out the truth about his identity and is triggering for Floss, whose long-kept secrets now threaten to come to the surface. In alternating perspectives from all three women, a tale is woven about life, love, loss, and what it really means to be a family.

This book came out several years ago and has been on my TBR list for a long time. I finally checked it out and I have to say, while I did enjoy it, I can see that Sally Hepworth has come into her own as an author in more recent years. I did enjoy this one though! I love an alternating perspective novel, especially with intertwined stories. The mysteries and secrets kept me intrigued and I felt invested in finding answers. I have to say that there were some aspects of each woman’s storylines that I didn’t love, but also aspects that I very much loved. I enjoyed reading about the dynamics between the women and seeing the love that they had for one another despite their own flaws and frustrations. Overall it was a solid read and I would recommend it.

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

The Boyfriend Project by [Farrah Rochon]

Samiah is horrified to learn that the guy she has been casually dating has actually catfished not just her, but also two other women, and to make matters worse, the explosive revelation has gone viral online. It leads to one blessing though: she becomes good friends with both the other women. They decide to swear off boyfriends and focus on themselves and their own happiness for a while, which sounds great . . . until Samiah meets her newest co-worker Daniel. Smart, charismatic, and incredibly good-looking, Daniel is the one guy who might tempt her away from this dating hiatus. That is, if he really is who he says he is.

This book is a rom com, but it actually felt like the romance came secondary to the broader theme of Samiah as a person. Samiah is a strong, smart, independent black woman in the tech industry, and a lot of the plot focuses on how she handles herself and her life: how she approaches work, how she wants to give back to the community, how she wants to mentor and help other young black girls know they too can have a future in tech. I did love Daniel and I was rooting for their relationship, but it felt like the focus was more on Samiah’s character. It was an enjoyable read though and gave a good insight into some of the struggles a woman, and specifically a woman of color, has working and thriving in the tech industry. Overall, I enjoyed it!

Whew! Seven out of seven wins for the month – I don’t know if August can top that, but I’ll sure try. πŸ˜‰ As always, if you have any great recommendations, please send them my way!

21 for 2021 Mid-Year Update

After 2020 felt like it was 17 years long, it’s hard to believe but we’re now over halfway through 2021 (does anyone else feel like this year is going SO fast!?) I thought it would be a great time to check in with my 2021 goals to see how they’re going (or not going). This list is a mix of home goals, personal goals, family goals, and a few random others tossed in. I remind myself every year, it’s not about perfection but about progress! Here’s how everything is faring so far:

1– Get involved with our church’s foster care ministry. I’ve at least taken the first step here and have reached out to the person in charge of this ministry to let them know I want to be involved. Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts haven’t allowed me to help out yet but I’m hoping to be able to help out very soon.

2- Sort through 2013 pictures and create 2013 family album. I haven’t even touched this goal yet ha! I honestly don’t know if it will happen or not, but I’m still going to try to make time for it.

3- Register for Be The Match registry. Done! This process was super simple. Be The Match sends you everything you need and it’s a very straightforward process to swab and send your samples back in. This is something I have wanted to do for a while now and I’m so glad to officially be in the registry now.

4- Take LJ to swimming lessons. I feel like I should give myself some bonus points because not only is LJ currently taking swim lessons but so is Vi and they both love it! I was really hoping to get them into ISR but both instructors in our area are currently booked, so they’re taking lessons at a local swim school while we’re on the ISR waitlist.

5- Invest in footwear with a purpose. I haven’t done this yet, but I have my eyes on a couple pairs that I think I might be ready to pull the trigger on!

6- Continue to β€œlevel up” small areas of our house. This is an ongoing goal and so far we’ve upgraded the playroom light fixture, the mattress in our guest room, the curtains in LJ’s bedroom, and a few of the pillow covers in our living room. We’ve also replaced the window trim in the playroom with a chunkier trim (we’re slowly doing this throughout every room in the house). Just some small changes here and there that have made a big difference in the way our house feels!

7- Exercise at least 3 times a week. I have been exercising a bit more frequently, but still not 3x a week. I’m re-committing to making this a top priority for the second half of the year!

8- Give our bedroom some TLC. YES – although I’m not done yet! I’ve spent the past two months working on updating our bedroom and while I still have some projects on my list, I’m so happy with the progress I’ve made so far.

9- Commit to less screen time. I have not done a good job with this. I think it might be time to start actually using a timer to limit the amount of screen time, particularly on social media, that I have each day.

10- Learn how to use at least two new tools. I have not used any new-to-me tools yet but I have become a lot more confident with the tools I previously used. I especially feel much more confident with the miter saw and nail gun after replacing all the primary bedroom window trim myself! I’m counting that as a great first step for this goal.

11- Paint the main floor of our house. I would say this goal is about 75% done. I’ve painted the kitchen, dining room, and bottom half of our two-story foyer and still need to address our living room and the top half of the foyer and staircase. We’re slowly getting there!

12-Invest in a good night cream and eye cream. I still need to find a good eye cream but I have switched up my night cream and so far I’m liking the new one, although I’ll wait to truly review it until the end of the year.

13- Explore three new-to-us places in our surrounding area. Justin and I had a day date exploring a small town about 20 minutes outside our city and it was so fun to spend the day doing whatever we wanted: shopping, enjoying a bourbon and wine bar, dinner out, and splurging at a candy store haha. We’re hoping to find two other new-to-us places to visit, and ideally we’d like for at least one of those places to be somewhere we enjoy with the kids!

14- Build planter boxes for our patio. Well, we’re already halfway through summer and haven’t even started this project so I’m not sure it’s going to happen this year. Who knows though, maybe we’ll get inspired for enjoying planter boxes in the second half of the summer?

15- Create/enjoy a new family tradition. Last year we poured some hot chocolate and drove around to look at lights – I can definitely see that becoming a yearly tradition! This year, LJ was in soccer and we started having a weekly ice cream treat afterwards. Justin and I also recently had a day date where he took LJ to golf and I took Vi to the zoo; it was so fun to have special one-on-one time to bond! We plan to try to do this once a month, switching who takes who each time. I love small things like this that continue to build a strong foundation for our family.

16- Organize our utility room. I have taken one batch of things from this room to the local ReStore, but honestly, I need to commit a full Saturday to completely clearing this room out and re-organizing. It needs some serious attention!

17- Replace the boob lights in our house. Playroom, check! Dining room, check! I only have three more to go (two in our laundry room, one in our guest room).

18- Wake up before kids to have quiet time to start the day. I haven’t been as consistent with this as I’d like, but every morning that I do this, my day seems to go (or at least start) much more smoothly! I’m continuing to try to make this a regular habit.

19-Swap out our living room throw pillow cases. Thanks to a spontaneous decision at Ikea, I’ve swapped out half of the pillow cases so far. To be honest, I’m not sure the new ones will be staying super long term but the old pillow cases were in such rough shape (they’ve had large holes in them since Macie was a puppy seven. years. ago.) that I snagged a couple cheap cases at Ikea and they make the couch look so much better!

20- Support small businesses as much as possible. On our day date to a local small town I purchased a maple cutting board, linen napkins, and books for the kids from different small businesses. For our bedroom upgrade, I bought two gorgeous sconces from a small business in Texas called Illuminate Vintage. I’ve bought greeting cards from a vendor at our farmer’s market, small decor from a fair-trade business in my parent’s hometown, birthday gifts from our local children’s boutique…this is an ongoing goal that I’m going to continue to prioritize as I make future purchases.

21-Set aside one date night each week.Β We have been pretty good with this, although sometimes “date” is very loosely defined haha. Sometimes we play a board game, other times we go out to dinner, other times we watch a show together (we love This is Us and we’ve also really gotten into an older show called The Killing). Wednesday nights have become our night to set aside for time together and we’ve been able to stick to it almost every week so far.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with all the progress I’ve made so far this year and I’m looking forward to the second half of the year!

No-Sew Method for Hemming Curtains

For as much as I love DIY, sewing is one skill I haven’t grown to love that much. I do love the look of curtains though, and they rarely come in the correct length for what I need. When I bought the 96″ curtains for our primary bedroom, I knew I would need to hem them. I like a slight pool of fabric at the bottom, but these curtains were still a couple inches too long for my taste. Today I thought I’d share a little tutorial for my method for hemming curtains – no needle and thread in sight.

This no-hem method is a low-cost, quick, and simple project that is perfect for beginner DIYs!

Materials

HeatnBond hem tape

-Iron

-Paper clips (or pin of your choice)

-Scissors

-Ironing Board (or other heat-safe surface)

Ideally you would use an ironing board but I didn’t have one so I improvised with two folding chairs and an old table protector pad. Before beginning, I recommend cutting off the curtain tag at the bottom (if there is one). I found that the hem tape did not adhere as well to the tag. Once the tags were removed, I folded the bottom of the curtain to create the new desired length.

For me, this was easy because the width of the existing hem was the amount that I wanted taken off overall length, so I could just fold the curtain over on the existing hem. I chose to secure them with paper clips because they’re easy for me to slip on and off and safer than sharp pins if I accidentally dropped or lost one and a child or pet found it.

Once I had secured the entire bottom of the curtain, I ran the iron lightly over of the new folded seam to create a nice crisp seam on the bottom.

Next came the hem tape. At first I accidentally bought super weight (it’s supposed to be for heavier fabrics) but it worked fine for my cotton curtains. I did run out and have to buy a second roll so I bought regular weight that time and honestly didn’t notice a difference in how they worked for my fabric.

I chose to work in smaller sections and ripped off roughly 8-10 inches of hem tape at a time. I placed it underneath the folded fabric and ran the iron across to activate the adhesive. (Note: the curtain edge is peeled back in the picture below to show you where I placed the tape, but make sure it is lying completely flat when you run the iron across)

I found that it worked best to hold the iron over each section for a good five seconds before moving it down the line, and I overlapped the iron each time for additional heat. If I spent less time on each section, the adhesive didn’t get hot enough to work. My iron was on the cotton heat setting since the curtains were cotton.

When I came to the end of the curtain, in addition to the hem tape running parallel to the old hem, I ran a small piece of hem tape along the outside edge to keep the fold secure.

To finish the seam, I flipped the curtain over and ran the iron once more over the hem tape from the other side, spending about 1-2 seconds on each small section.

That’s it! Once the fabric cools down, the glue dries and creates a nice new hem. This project cost less than $8 and took roughly 10 minutes per curtain. Quick, easy, and inexpensive! The perfect little DIY πŸ™‚

Sources

Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Foggy Day

Curtain Rods

Curtains (out of stock – similar here)

Basket

Vanity + Chair are vintage

One Year Later: How has the Basement Kitchen held up?

My Google Photos sends me a lot of “one year ago” flashbacks and lately, all the pictures have been flashbacks to our basement kitchen renovation. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since this transformation!

This project was a great example of the power of paint, as paint was the biggest tool I used to transform the space. Painted walls, painted counters, painted cabinets, painted floors . . . lots and lots and lots of paint went into this renovation! I thought it would be fun today to take a look at the kitchen one year later and see how everything has held up so far. There’s also a few small changes since the initial reveal – see if you can spot them!

Cabinets

I’m still in love with the cabinet color (Rock Bottom by HGTV by Sherwin Williams). I chose this paint brand and I have to say I’m very impressed with how it has held up. This kitchen doesn’t get normal everyday use, but now that our kids play in the basement so much we use it for snacks frequently and the kids even play in the kitchen sometimes. We also use it as a hosting kitchen whenever we’re entertaining, which we’ve finally started to do more of now. There is not one scratch in the paint on the cabinets and it doesn’t need a single touch up!

Countertops

I also am really glad I chose to paint the countertops instead of replace them. You can read all about that process here. Even though it’s not perfect (there are about 3 places where I didn’t get the epoxy quite thick enough so there’s a small hole in the top layer), it was a super cost-effective way to get a new look. When guests come over, no one can believe it’s paint!

I will say, the counters do show some very slight scratching from use, but it’s hard to see unless the lighting is just right. It’s so minor that I think it’s one of those things that no one else notices except for me because I know to be aware of it. Would I recommend painted counters as an update? YES! I think this is a perfect way to inexpensively elevate a kitchen and it’s a fairly easy DIY. I do think that it’s probably a better “short-term” fix (like 5-10 years) and not necessarily a good permanent solution for counters you plan to use for 25 years, particularly in a kitchen that gets heavy everyday use. I just think it would likely show more wear and not hold up quite as well for that long. But it’s a great solution for counters that you hate but can’t afford or don’t want to replace yet!

And speaking of counters, the butcherblock is also holding up very well. This gets the most use: it’s where my kids eat snacks, where we prepare food for guests, where we set out food when we’re entertaining, and where we first drop things off when they come into the kitchen. The butcherblock is easy to clean and still looks great after a year of use!

Floors

The only painted surface that I am not very thrilled with one year later is the floor. The picture below is a realistic glimpse at how it often looks after a light sweep of the floors.

Painting the tile was again, an inexpensive way to transform the look of the floors. And the paint kit I chose (you can read the whole process here) was a great decision, as the actual paint itself has held up well. The floor gets heavy use from kids playing and guests walking in and out; I’ve had to scrape food off the floor and even when I have to use my nail, no paint scratches off. The quality of paint is great! I just wish I had chosen a different color.

White on floors is a horrible decision in a kitchen. I wish I had chosen a darker base color or a different pattern (or at least much larger triangles) so not as much white was showing. It’s just so hard to keep them looking clean! They show so much dirt and almost always look like they could use a good scrubbing. I’m someone who doesn’t actually scrub the floors super often – I want them looking clean with a light sweep and then an occasional deep clean. I typically don’t see dirt on the gray triangles, just on the white, but there is a lot of white!

We had to buy a new fridge when the old one died a few months ago, and the new one a little smaller so some of the old tile now shows at the bottom. I’m seriously debating whether I should continue the pattern under the new fridge or use this as an opportunity to re-paint the entire floor in a darker color. . . hmmm.

Overall, I’m still really happy with this space and I’m so glad I decided to invest a lot of time and effort into making it shine without breaking the bank (this whole reno was under $1500!) This is a space I know we will be enjoying for years to come!

For all sources, you can check out the bottom of this post.

June 2021 Book Reviews: Part Two

On Wednesday of this week, I reviewed the seven physical books I read in June and today, I’m reviewing the ones I read on my Kindle!

I don’t use my Kindle all that often in everyday life, but it is so nice to take on vacation so I don’t have 8 books packed in my luggage. I loved having it handy at the pool and on our plane rides!

The Trouble with Hating You by Sajni Patel

The Trouble with Hating You by [Sajni Patel]

Liya’s reputation has made it hard for her parents to find a man willing to marry her. When she realizes that the most recent “dinner” her parents invite her to is actually a set up with a new potential suitor and his mother, she quickly bolts. Unfortunately for her, the man in question, Jay, also shows up at her workplace as the new lawyer trying to save her failing company. Now Liya is forced to see Jay often and after a while, she realizes that maybe he’s different from all the others in her past.

The premise of this novel sounded like a great beach read but the overall story kind of had me feeling . . . meh. The writing isn’t that great and the story felt a bit forced. I don’t know how to exactly describe it other than to say it didn’t make me feel very invested in Liya or Jay or their relationship. I did enjoy reading a romance within Hindu culture and seeing the dynamics at play in Liya and Jay’s community, mandir (temple), and families, but the actual story was just an okay read. I buzzed through this quickly on the plane ride and it was a nice distraction but nothing groundbreaking for sure. I’d consider this a mid-range rom com at best.

The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton

It’s 1935 in the Florida Keys and three women’s lives are about to change. First there’s Helen, nine months pregnant, struggling to make ends meet, and dreaming of escaping her abusive marriage. Then there’s Mirta, newly married to a man she barely knows (but suspects has nefarious business dealings) and on her way to New York from her home in Cuba. Lastly there’s Elizabeth, on a desperate search of the veteran work camps to find her last remining hope for a different future than the one she bargained for. As a powerful hurricane barrels towards the unsuspecting Keys, all three women’s stories start to intertwine and nothing will be the same after a fateful Labor Day weekend.

We vacationed with another couple in June and my friend suggested we read the same book, this one, while we were there. I loved the idea and it was so fun to get to discuss what was going on and where we thought things were headed in real time with one another. I really enjoyed all the vivacious female characters, and the book had a great supporting cast. I also love reading historical fiction novels about places/people/events I hadn’t previously heard of and this was no exception. There really was a 1935 Labor Day hurricane that devastated the Keys and there really were veteran work camps there at the time. I would say this was more of a character-driven novel but there’s some drama, some mystery, and some surprises along the way. I was interested in all three women’s different storylines and enjoyed seeing their lives intertwine. There were some connections that I predicted, but others I was totally surprised by. This was an enjoyable read that I definitely recommend!

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Leave the World Behind: A Novel by [Rumaan Alam]

I suggested this book for book club after seeing Kate Baer give a review on Instagram where she said this was the perfect book to read and them emergency text your friend to read it too so you could discuss. She also suggested going in blind so that’s what I did . . . and it was 100% the right call! So I’m doing the same now. Ha! I’m not going to talk about this other than to say, I’ve never said “whaaaaat” more often while reading a book. This book makes an excellent choice to buddy read or choose for a book club. My friend and I were texting back and forth while reading at the same time – it’s one you’ll definitely want to discuss with someone!

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

If I Never Met You: A Novel by [Mhairi McFarlane]

After 18 years together, a shared home, and future dreams of having children soon, Laurie feels confident in her relationship with Dan. That is, until he dumps her and moves on in the blink of an eye. To make matters worse, Laurie and Dan work at the same law firm so there’s no escaping him, or all the gossip about his new life. Enter Jamie, a fellow lawyer whose ladies’ man reputation is holding him back from his dreams of making partner. In a fateful elevator ride, Laurie and Jamie share their woes and realize a perfect solution for their dilemmas is to form a fake relationship. Except, you guessed it, pretty soon fake dating starts to feel pretty real.

This book is very British, which means there’s quite a bit of sarcasm and cheekier humor, but I found it to be enjoyable and decently cute. I liked Jamie and Laurie and their dynamic, I liked watching their relationship unfold, I liked the British setting, I liked how funny and charming the supporting characters were. I do feel like too much time was spent on Laurie and her reaction to the breakup; it took so long to even get to the part where Jamie really came into play. I guess that makes it more of a slow burn? And as far as steaminess goes, I’d say it’s around PG-13 and there isn’t anything graphic, which can be hard to find in a modern rom com so if that’s your preference you may enjoy this one. It was a solid vacation read – not a slam dunk rom com but cute and fun and I enjoyed it!

Whew – that concludes the eleven books I read this month! I do have another trip planned in July, but my kids will be along for that one so I’m not sure I’ll have quite sure I’ll have as much time to relax and read. πŸ˜‰ I’m still looking forward to diving into a few good ones!