Easy Wins

Have you ever had a simple, 5-minute project that just – for one reason or another – never seemed to happen?

Do you want a kitchen sneak peak?

If the answer to either of those questions is, “yes,” then this post is for you.

The kitchen is, for all intents and purposes, is {mostly} done. There are dishes in the cabinets and food in the pantry. We cook meals and host holidays. It is glorious and functional and beautiful.

But the sink cabinet needs touch-up paint. The back and pantry doors need hardware. A couple small section of trim need repair. The paint on the heating pipes discolored for some reason I have yet to figure out. One of the sockets in my DIY chandelier has a loose wire and needs to be fixed. The faucet leaks. We desperately need child locks.

It’s done*.

*sort of

For the past 9 months(ish) (without a blog you loose track – maybe longer? maybe not?), the main section of under cabinet lighting was out.


Due mostly to gravity and connectors that didn’t fully lock in place, the connection from one end of the LED light strip was faulty.

See, with the under cabinet lights, power comes in from the left and travels right – from the recessed nook, across the main wall of kitchen, and under the little 15″ cabinet by the fridge.

At first, it was just a flicker.
Then it turned into a flash.
Then it would stay lit if you pushed the connector back into place.
Then we needed to screw in a little metal bracket to keep pressure on the connection.
Then it failed completely.

Charred bits of plastic and metal meant the connection just had to be replaced.


For those of you who have never worked with LED strip lighting before, it’s pretty easy, gives off great light, and uses very little power. I’m a fan.


Fixing this is relatively straight forward and one of the reasons I just about had a hissy fit last week. What should have taken all of 5 minutes let me onto a wild goose chase that ended in venting my frustration on the internet. Solid plan.

All that’s required to fix this is cutting the strip back to a new connection (which are the copper bits every 2″) and grabbing a new connector.


The new connectors were MIA. By Tuesday, I gave up searching for them and just bought new ones. And – in case you’re wondering – why, YES, the old ones did in fact show up hours after I’d finished fixing this.

To repair, slice through the old heat shrink tubing (that black casing you see on the white wire) and take off the old connector. Put new heat shrink tubing over the wires of the new connector.


Wire it back together.


Test. Make sure you did it right. Positive to positive. Neutral to neutral. It matters. Then cover your connection with the heat shrink tubing and heat it up gently.


When you’re doing this – be sure to keep the heat moving and as indirectly aimed as possible to any painted surface. Which is a fun challenge when you’re aiming it directly at a painted cabinet but we survived. Tube is shrunk and the cabinet isn’t bubbly.

I coiled the wire up and used some clear packing table to hold it in place. I’m sure there’s something more professional out there but it was free, clear, and I really didn’t want gravity to affect this new connector either.


ALL DONE!! And it’s so great having that light back. We have can lights but there’s something really special about having this light back. The can lights are behind or above you when you’re at the counter. This under cabinet light is right in front of you, so it’s a nice wash across whatever you’re doing.


TA-DA!!! Our awesome, cluttered kitchen. With fixed under cabinet lighting.

Posted in 1st floor, kitchen | 5 Comments

On Life

So, remember that guy I was watching a lot of soccer with last time we caught up? Well, we make a pretty great team. Have for a long time time. I should have talked about him more. Cause he’s awesome.


And we did a thing.


A baby thing. Meet one of the reasons I fell off the face of the earth for 1.5 years –

Steele monthly

Steele pics

I’m a mom! To this awesome little Nugget! And this is his awesome dad!


(We haven’t talked about whether or not we’re going to use his real name on the internet yet, so we’ll just stick with Nugget for now.)

Nugget was born Christmas Day 2014. I tried so hard not to have him on Christmas but that’s another story for another day. He’s 15 months now and the years are flying by.

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He is the best thing in life. I can’t imagine our story without him. I guess that’s what all parents say though.


He certainly keeps us busy. The first year went by in a blur. It is only recently that I feel like the fog is lifting. Before now, everything else could wait. The mess. The piles. The boxes. Laying the foundation of our family was more important than any of that.

Which is how we find ourselves here; in a house bursting at the seams with stuffffffffffffffffffffff. And that’s what we’re going to talk about. So never fear, my home-dec/reno buddies – this isn’t about to turn into a mommy blog. We have projects to discuss.

(Full disclosure – I may sneak in a some babywearing posts because I’ve gotten super into that.)

Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments


Hello, friends! How have you been?

A lot has happened since August 2014. So much, in fact.

I’m not sure why today feels right but, for a number of reasons, I needed to come back. Back to this space that saw me through ups and downs. It was safe, my online home. A place to document and catalog every little detail of this crazy renovation. I learned more about myself in that process than any other time. The self-reflection. Putting the story out there, on paper for all to see. It helped me process, analyze, examine, finish. It held me accountable.

For the past while, I have been feeling like I’m treading water. Staying afloat but not really going anywhere. Laundry gets done but not put away. The dishwasher gets run but not emptied. I make piles and tuck things behind doors or in drawers.

Tonight, I went to fix the LED under cabinet lights that have been out for almost 9 months. I bought replacement connectors off of Amazon and they were sitting on the island until Easter. Then Easter came and they got tucked away so the place could look a little presentable. And now I can’t find them. They’re somewhere safe. So safe I cannot find them. Tearing through every cabinet, drawer, closet, bag, nook, and cushion I can think of. More mess. Still no connectors.

So frustrated I could scream. I almost lost it. On the edge of my very own temper tantrum.

A deep breath. In through my nose. Lips closed. Out through my nose. Ujjayi breath to calm my blood pressure. Recenter.

Something needs to change. I need accountability and a reason to dig out. Clearly doing it for myself and my family hasn’t been working.

So, “Hello!” I’ve missed you. I wonder if you missed me. I hope you’re well. I’m well. It’s been a long time. Perhaps we could catch up?

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

Kitchen: Painting!!!!


Ohhhhhhhh it’s feeling good!

The seemingly never-ending spackling and sanding routine is done, DONE.

Paint brushes and rollers have been broken out

I’ve said it before and I will say it again –

If you can paint, you are almost done.

Just getting to a point where the paintbrushes are dipping their little brush heads in primer means things are in the home-freakin-stretch.

The spackle has been sanding. Usually about 8 billion times.

Or 3.

But it feels like 8 billion. And you’re pretty sure it took the equivalent hours & minutes of 8 billion times.

All of the associated dust and debris has been vacuumed and mopped up – lest it interfere and screw up the perfect paint job and your now perfect surface.

Two weeks ago, things were looking pretty sorry.


A motley crew of bare wood, spackle, primer, and top coated surfaces.

Last week, I put on my big girl pants and talked myself into priming the main wall.


So many corners. Up & down the ladder. In & out of cabinets. It honestly felt completely overwhelming at the start. To get myself started, I negotiated the project in bite sized chunks.

“Just prime the inside of the cabinet above the fridge, then you can be done.”

“Since the brush is already out and filled with primer, just do the little skinny cubby.”

“The ladder is right here, just quick do the fancy moulding at the top.”

And so on and so forth until the entire thing was done – 2+ hours later.

This past Sunday, a ground swell of productivity took place. What was supposed to be a weekend of beach camping got rained out and rescheduled. Suddenly my man & I were faced with the prospect of making the house look less like we were merely squatters in a construction zone and more like an actual home fit for human beings.

He also agreed to man the roller while I cut in.


We got one coat of paint on the entire wall in about an hour. It was miraculous.


For your gif-y pleasure, THE PROGRESS (thus far).

There is still another coat of paint to go but the light at the end of the tunnel is nearing. It’s looking more like the sun and less like another train intent on running me over.

The large doors on the 36″ cabinet are painted and hung.


Same with the 24″ nook cabinet.


The nook’s cover panels have 1 coat of paint on them already. Just awaiting a second & final coat before being installed.


Perhaps even more exciting – is the fact that every single remaining door & piece of trim has been primed. Front AND back!




Every single remaining door & trim piece also needs 2 coats of paint. Front AND back. But, it’s a start!

The painting zone is set up and (relatively) dog hair free.

The other day I was talking with a coworker about how the kitchen was coming and I mentioned how excited I was to finally be able to paint. To which she replied, “You’re painting the new cabinets you just bought????” Yes. Yes, I am.


So there you go. PAINT!


In progress. But – PAINT!!!!

Exciting times. Exciting times.

Posted in kitchen | 20 Comments

Kitchen: One Coat at at Time


Last week’s post has been motivating me to get to it already with the spackling & the painting.

The main wall is still a spackle work-in-progress. The pipe dream is to sand down tonight and get another coat on so I can do a final sand tomorrow and prime. Maybe????


Probably not. But maybe.


In the meantime, the 24″ upper cabinet in the nook between the dining room & kitchen got painted. Well, the side cover panels just got primed.


But the top little cover panel got primer & 2 coats! (OooooOOOOOOooo!)


The doors – for both the 24″ nook upper & the 36″ upper – are primed and halfway painted. The fronts need 2 coats but the backs are done.


The 36″ upper cabinet is primed & has 2 coats of paint, so that’s done. (Something’s done!!)


It wasn’t until I ordered the pulls for the all the doors & drawers that I realized how much more cabinetry there is in this kitchen (as opposed to the old configuration).

And with it – how much there was to paint.


That’s the number.

This kitchen has 37 doors & drawers that need pulls. THIRTY.SEVEN.

The “before” kitchen?



Which is I guess what happens with only 4 upper cabinets and exactly zero lower cabinets.

I did the math last night.

Of those 37 doors & drawers –

  • 31 will be painted
  • 6 fronts are stainless steel (best choice ever)
  • 15 fronts are on base cabinets (and therefore already painted)
  • 16 are on upper cabinets
  • 4 of which I’m painting now
  • Leaving 12 doors for me to still paint. Plus the entire main wall of actual cabinetry.

Part of me feels like I should just break out the sprayer already.
Part of me doesn’t want to deal with the setup/tenting or waste that much paint (mostly cause then I’ll have to buy more).

I also kind of like the brush strokes look. It feels more hand-done. Honest. True to the character of the house.

I should probably get over that.

Posted in kitchen | 8 Comments

Kitchen: Sort of Lazy Days of Summer


Oh Summer. You wild & crazy beast.

The plan was to have the kitchen D.O.N.E. DONE by the end of June.

It is solidly the middle of July and the last 10% seems to be dragging on. And I mean DRAGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGING on.

Summers have tended to be a little slower at work. Not this summer. This summer we are still without a director and with a coworker on maternity leave. New administration on campus, new initiatives, lots of new-new-new, do-do-do. Which is good. Truthfully. We needed a shaking up and boy did we get it. But gone are my slacker days of summer.

While I would like to blame the delays on work or things outside my control, that’s not completely the truth. Partially, maybe. But not totally. I’m enjoying the summer.

I’ve been watching a lot of soccer with this guy.

(who also happens to be the only reason I’ve lasted this long without a kitchen)


Enjoying summer storms at the shore and soaking in girl time with this lady while she was back home for a week.


That rad safari fabric covered canvas graced the lobby of the psychic we went to. Have you ever been to a psychic?? It was a first for me. Good times.


Making friends at the dog park (pittie smiles!!) and enjoying Saturday morning snuggles on the couch.


Picnics in the park with friends to listen to the New York Philharmonic and watch fireworks.


Turns out, picnic foods can absolutely be assembled without a kitchen. The brownies were baked by my mother and leftover from a family get together. See the part about my cousin being home for a week. The only challenge was attempting a balsamic reduction for the peach & burrata crostini without a stove.

I don’t think it counts as a reduction simply by distributing it across the inside of the microwave.

Other than having to clean the inside of the still-new-microwave, life is good. Really good.

The past month has even seen some progress on the kitchen.

When the range hood went in, I expected cutting down and installing the cover to be a quick & easy task. I should know by now that anytime I expect something to be quick &/or easy, it most certainly will not be either.

Turns out the hole I cut in the soffit cab cover panel – that I expected to be well behind the duct cover – was definitely not well behind the duct cover.


Add that to the spackle, sand, repeat list.


The cover panels for the very first upper cabinet I installed finally went up.


Cutting & sanding them took a bit of finesse. I wanted the right side to be pretty tight to the wall. Turns out the wall bows a bit. Caulk.

The bottom of the left side needed significant sanding down on the inside to accommodate the swing of the microwave door without binding. I don’t think you can really tell it’s not 3/4″ thick for the lowest 11″ unless you really look close. Win.


Now I have to take it all down to prime & paint it. I want wood to be finished & sealed between the panels & the microwave.


I made a pretty cool metal grate cover for this spot. Excited to see how it looks all painted & assembled.

I also started filling in the cavernous void behind the reinstalled picture rail.


It took a lot of effort to find the motivation to do this. You cannot see this eyesore from anywhere other than the top of a 6′ ladder. Out of sight, out of mind. Knowing I still had to do it delayed my ability to begin priming. Why break out the paint brushes if this wasn’t done?


A pastry bag of joint compound made the job less painful than I anticipated. I could/should have used real plaster but why? It’s a completely hidden void and the bucket of spackle was right.there.

It will need at least another coat. Massive globs of joint compound crack as they dry and this area is no different.

The biggest accomplishment of the month has been building out and installing the far left door of the soffit cabs.


This was the cabinet I custom-built super wide. It’s about 51″ long. In doing that (making it longer to make full use of the blind space), there was no ready-made place to mount the left door.

What you see below is the build-out to mount the door to. The hinges are just peeking out on the left. The photo was taken from the right interior wall of the cabinet facing the front/door opening. You can see me and the far dining room window through the opening.


I can take exactly 0% of any credit for making this happen. Dad, The Incredible did it all.

Well I did take these pictures, so that’s something. Ha.

One thing Dad, The Incredible does not do is the spackle, sand, repeat drill.

Or anything to do with a paintbrush.

I guess that’s 2 things. Or 17, if you count each layer, step & coat.

I did coerce him into helping strip the portico last year but usually building is as far as he goes. He will obsess over that last 1/32″ but has little to no patience for the tedium that comes with the finish work. I respect the man for drawing the line somewhere.

I’m very blessed for being able to work side-by-side and soak in his knowledge and experience. When we get to this point though, it’s all – you got this girl.

Unfortunately, the apple does not fall far from the tree. I loathe the spackle, sand, repeat drill and painting isn’t far behind. Spending Saturday morning snuggling my little land shark is much more appealing than lugging out the sander & shop vac.

Except, that’s what stands between me and a finished, functioning, stop-freaking-living-in-a-construction-zone kitchen. Maybe telling the Internet will light the fire under my tuchas to get ‘er done already.

Hold me to it, ok, friends?

Posted in kitchen | 7 Comments

Kitchen: Baby Steps


Nearly every day someone asks, “How’s the kitchen??”

“It’s getting there,” is my stock reply.

Because it is.

Sometimes in fits and spurts. Sometimes at a snails pace. But it is getting there.

The past 2 weeks have been full of planning and projects and doing for things other than the kitchen. Renovations to repair the damage caused by the fire have yet to commence but are on the immediate horizon. The perfect skylight seems to be the current speed bump. A blessing and a curse. It would be lovely to have everything done already but I also don’t hate the delay.

When the skylight is resolved, the roof and getting the home’s envelope watertight will be top priority. Repairs will then move inside. With that will likely come the overwhelming process of packing out the entire house and moving everything into storage.

The floors need to be refinished and they right through every room of the house (minus the 2 bathrooms). The only way to refinish the foyer, hallways, and stairs is to refinish the E.N.T.I.R.E. house. The thought of it makes me want to curl under the covers and take a nap.

This past weekend we packed up all sorts of stuff to take to a neighborhood yard sale. Not my neighborhood. A cute suburban neighborhood where there are driveways and grass. Yard sales aren’t usually my thing. Hosting & selling, that is. Buying is fun. But I didn’t have to plan or do much of anything to coordinate this. 4 truckloads of furniture and junk were unloaded in said unsuspecting driveway. $167 was made before hauling what didn’t sell off to the thrift store.

I’m still not sure it’s worth the effort. I might have paid someone $167 to come cart all of this stuff out of the house and away. But there were friends and food and general merriment. A 70lb pig was roasted, beverages were drank, and soccer games were watched.

While I mercifully avoided the drama it took to get the pig actually on the fire, we did get roped into building the pit. Which is how I found myself at 9:50pm with this guy buying 3 dozen cinder blocks from Big Orange.


I can take no credit for doing anything other than hauling 936lbs of molded concrete around multiple times but the pig was pretty delicious.


All this to say – my Friday night and all of Saturday were completely shot. $167 was made! But 0% of that had anything to do with the kitchen.

And then came Sunday. Father’s Day. A day of rest for weary father’s everywhere.

Except mine.

Who came to my house and hooked up the range hood.


That is love, folks.

2 weeks ago, you saw that it had been hung on the wall.


It had to come back down to actually install the duct work though. Which Dad did. Single-handily. While Mom & I were upstairs talking about how much shit I have that will need to get sorted and moved if this whole “packing out” thing becomes a reality.

I did help hold it in place while he screwed it back into the wall.

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And then I took pictures. Like I did something. HA.


Electric is even hooked up!


I could use it! If the stove was installed. Which it’s not.


The duct cover needs to be cut down a bit. It’s a bit taller than will fit, height-wise, here. But other than that, the hood is in!


THANKS, DAD!! It really is getting there. Happy Father’s Day!

So Sarah’s like basically done, right? What are you guys up to? Making progress???

Posted in kitchen | 6 Comments