Oak is A. O.K.

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It’s no secret that oak has gotten a bad reputation, largely due to an excessive use of the product from doors to trim to cabinets, everything OAK. OAK. OAK. And to make matters worse it was Golden Oak…..everywhere.

On almost a daily basis I have clients who walk through the door and say, “I’m getting ready to do a remodel, you know, because – well it’s Oak. And I don’t blame them one little bit, Golden Oak isn’t always the most desirable finish, especially when you look around and oak basically slaps you in the face!

But in all honestly, it’s a pretty great wood.

It’s got a very consistent grain pattern and coloration which allows it to take stain very evenly. This is a great trait to have for people who are looking for something to be consistent and who may be frustrated when there is slight color variation from one piece to the next. Maple, another very common wood species, is known to be finicky in taking stain and can have wider than acceptable range of color from one board (or even throughout the same board) due to mineral streaking in the wood itself and the type of stain you’re trying to use.

Then you throw in your Hickory which has an EXTREME amount of color variation, kind of a love it or hate level of color variation. Cherry has a beautiful marbling effect in the grain pattern but can also have heavy variation from one piece to the next, not to mention the fact that it will darken over time, which can come with a whole other host of issues – imagine an area rug on a natural cherry floor, imagine said area rug leaving that rectangle on your floor…..

Oak is also a hardwood that holds up well in terms of dents and dings. You won’t have the same issues like you would with Alder, while not a common wood for flooring due to the softness; it is extremely common in cabinets. And while admittedly your cabinets should not be taking that kind of a beating, it is a much softer wood that can get dinged up pretty easily.

The fact is; your Oak should hold up pretty well.

It is also very dimensionally stable which means, particularly in our dry Colorado climate, you don’t have as much movement as other wood species, which means that gapping and cupping should be less of an issue over time = win!

This is probably a good time to note that wood is wood. It is a natural product. No one piece is going to be exactly like the next and that is something that you will definitely need to come to grips with if you decide you’d like to use wood in your home. It will expand and contract depending on the time of the year and the level of humidity. It is not perfect, and that should be something you like about it if you decide to use it. It will dent, it will scratch. Again, you’ll need to embrace this fact.

Okay so back to Oak. Lately we’ve been using a lot more oak, but the key here is the stain being used. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who just walks in saying “I love Golden Oak; I have to have Golden Oak!”

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Some of the stains coming out on oak range from more of a cranberry red to contemporary gray and black tones, also into more of the rustic looking white-washed finishes that have become especially popular as of late. We’ve seen oak done in very contemporary applications, in particular on cabinets when used on a very clean door/slab or shaker door style it can look really sharp. The subtle grain pattern can be a nice contrast to give a relatively stark room some nice textural appeal.

In the world of cabinets, we’ve also seen more manufacturers offering paint on Oak. Typically Maple is the most commonly painted thanks to the fact that there is little to no grain pattern and it takes the paint very evenly. However; if you’re looking for a painted finish but still want a bit more character and texture a painted oak might be a great solution!

Painted finishes also come with their own issues such as face checking (very small cracks in the surface of the paint), this is due to the movement of the wood itself when it goes through that expansion and contraction we spoke about earlier. This is perfectly normal and not a defect in the finish, on a painted finish, Oak’s graining may actually help hide small “flaws” when it comes to the face checking.

So while reading through this, thinking about and looking at some of the different types of wood available, and trying to figure out what wood might be the best for you and your particular application – I urge you to keep an open mind.

As difficult as it may be to get that “oak is yucky, ew, ew, ew” thought out of your mind, you might be surprised!

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Three Words: Gooey. Butter. Cake.

My husband is from St. Louis and before I met him I didn’t even know this stuff existed.

For almost 30 years I was truly missing something amazing!

Don’t get me wrong, this stuff is terrible for you. Like really, really bad….

When you see the sheer amount of powdered sugar needed for this recipe your teeth may already start hurting…

But, it is AMAZING!

Every time we go back to visit we pick some up at a local grocery store or bakery. And we drive it all the way back home, sort of…..

I’d love to tell you that we are able to control ourselves and not break into it on the drive home but that would be a lie. To be honest, it usually doesn’t even make it into the car in one piece!

I was looking to make this at home and ended up finding an amazingly simple and easy recipe for St. Louis Style Gooey Butter Cake so that we could have it anytime we wanted. Let me tell you, having the ability to make it anytime is also dangerous. When I was on maternity leave we may have gone on a little bit of a Gooey Butter Cake bender….

Anywho, this stuff is amazing, with the incredible condensed cake base and delicious sugary topping the only flavor I could compare it to would be like donuts.

Like if donuts decided to jump into the form of a lemon bar, minus the lemon of course! Haha

I definitely recommend you checking out the recipe here if you haven’t clicked the other link already! Especially if you’ve ever had any in St. Louis. This recipe is fantastic and tastes better than some of the ones I’ve tried even back in Missouri and it couldn’t be any more simple!

This was a special Father’s Day treat, you’ve got to restrict yourself to special occasions otherwise you’ll be hurting but I think every once and a while is okay.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Father’s Day and enjoys this stuff as much as my husband and I do!

DIY Garden Labels

I’ve talked about our garden before – well no truly successful garden would be complete without labels right?!?

Of course I had to make that it’s own special project because I get these ideas in my head….

I had a TON of left over wood slices from our wedding that I used as a creative guest book, each guest signed a piece and I eventually made wall hangings for our new home with them…. Getting them actually up on the wall is the hard part but that’s a task for another day!

Anywho, I decided this would be the perfect way to use a few of the slices I had left floating around! I started by penciling in the names and adding a small drawing on each one.

I was probably a bit overly ambitious when I decided I was going to use my wood burner for all of these. I’ve had that thing for-ev-er and the only person who has ever used it was my husband so I figured it couldn’t be too hard. Boy was I wrong!

I tried the first one, took me probably a half hour and I didn’t even get halfway through! As I looked at our list of plants I knew that I had been way overly ambitious….

So I switched to plan B.

SHARPIES!!!!

Woohoo!!!! The answer to everything of course, and it allowed me to add some color to each of the labels ☺

This method was so much faster, I even decided I would go a step further and put the names on the back in Spanish, I thought this would be a fun way to brush up on my skills and teach our daughter some new words. Living out here in Colorado, Spanish is definitely a fantastic asset!


After I finished up I erased the remaining pencil marks and called it a night!

I cannot wait to put these cute labels outside!!!

Adventures in Starting the Garden; Seed Style 

Last year my husband and I built a raised garden bed on the side of our house…and in the exact same breathe we began to outfit it with all of the plants we thought we used most. Immediately following, we decided to tackle the house remodel before our daughter started walking. And while we managed to get the remodel done before the kiddo was in full cruising mode, we lost complete and utter focus on our garden and literally watched it eat itself. 

You know those little tags that say how far apart to plant everything?

Squash said 8 feet apart. I distinctly remember looking at my husband and we both smiled and I remember thinking I’m sure it’s just a warning, we’ll keep an eye on it. Our whole garden bed is approximately 8′ x 4′ so spacing them THAT far just wasn’t happening!

We planted three different varieties of squash; yellow squash, zucchini and spaghetti squash. All of which managed to eat the rest of the garden bed (including but not limited to tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, onions, corn, brussel sprouts). 

Granted we did grow some pretty massive (albeit tasteless) zucchinis 🙂 but that’s beside the point…

We managed to learn 3 important lessons last summer: 

  1. Focus on one project at a time; remodeling our home, raising a baby, and starting a new garden was clearly beyond our multi-tasking abilities (in our defense, I think this would have applied to most sane people)!
  2.  If a tag says space the plants at a certain distance, you should probably heed their advice. Chances are the person who wrote that had slightly more experience than you!
  3. Don’t waste your money on starters if you’ve got a large garden bed… especially if you are going to both plant things too close that have the potential to eat your garden and neglect to care for it properly – isn’t the whole point to grow for your own produce which is not only safer, more satisfying, but also cheaper? Yeah, not so much if you kill the whole thing and waste your money!

So, this year we decided we were going to do things differently.

We bought all of our seeds while they were on sale – buy 2 get 1 free – SCORE! And then we did everything possible to ensure that our seeds would thrive. We purchased a Jiffy Greenhouse Starter Kit. Next we picked up a heating pad to go underneath the Starter Kit. We then hung a growing light above the kit set up on a timer.

Note: We did not get ANY squash. 

Bada-Bing, Bada-Boom, we were all set to go.

And the plants did great; we watched them meticulously (more accurately, my husband watched them like a hawk and I provided emotional support), and we got to the stage where you bring them inside and outside to be ready to plant.

But alas. This is Colorado we live in.

The wind blew, the rain came down, and the plants got caught in a breeze and landed in our yard. To add insult to injury, our new puppy had a field day playing with all of the pods. Thanks Pooch! And all in one fell swoop, weeks and weeks of planning, caring for and monitoring the seeds went down the tubes!

One of my old teachers in college used to always tell us not to panic if the computer shuts down or if we have to redo something, spending almost 75% of your time on a computer working on floorplans, renderings, and other things of the like, crashes happened….ALL THE TIME! But the best piece of advice I was ever given was “things are always easier the 2nd time.”

I think of this every time my programs crash at work while I’m neck deep in a whole house cabinet plan…

Stay calm, it’s always easier the 2nd time. 

Well Professor, truer words have never been spoken. We hit the drawing board, and while we had to start over, we had plenty of seeds to do so. We did have to get a new starter kit but it was a small price to pay compared to the shenanigans of last year…

There is a well known planting schedule here in Colorado…not sure if it applies elsewhere but it’s something that’s virtually burned into your psyche here.

NO PLANTING BEFORE MOTHER’S DAY!

Which basically means, everybody and their brother plants on Mother’s Day.

While being behind schedule is a big bummer, it may have been our biggest blessing in disguise…. Mere days after Mother’s Day, which was less than two weeks ago, we got a snow storm.

An extremely late, wet snow storm that is very out of character for late May. Trees and plants were demolished by the weight of the snow and the cold certainly didn’t help anything.

And while our trees got pummeled, our newly sprouted seedlings lay perfectly sandwiched between their warm light and cozy heating pad. 

Moral of this story: 

  1. Seeds are awesome, they are inexpensive and come with lots so if you mess up you’ve got a built in round two.
  2. Sometimes things happen for a reason. Starting over may have been the best thing that could have happened to us.
  3. Don’t sweat the small stuff, we’ll be eating delicious veggies in no time. 

And maybe most importantly…

     4. Giant squash tastes awful and kills everything.

Just don’t do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Save Yourself from a High School Life Lesson I Learned too Late

I live within blocks of a local high school. And every single morning I see the same group of girls, walking with one lone boy, outside of school boundaries.  A quick glance around the area leads to the realization that there are multiple groups of students scattered off campus huddled in groups of two to five. All doing the same thing.

Smoking.

I remember high school like it was yesterday, the anxiety about trying to be cool and fit in, the constant concern of what others thought of you and the altogether dramatic existence that we took part in for four years. In some ways it was an amazing experience I wouldn’t trade for the world, in others, I wish I could have a redo or forget of half of the bologna I either took part in or remember from back in those days. 

One of the biggest regrets I have from this time period was when I started smoking. I remember the first time I smoked, I was with my best friend and I was 15. I remember coughing and feeling kind of dizzy and just thought we were the coolest thing since sliced bread. Looking back I realize I was literally a baby, this fact is only further cemented by seeing the incredibly young students walking in and out of the high school every day.

And we thought we were so mature and knew everything. Yeah, no….

After those first puffs I was more of an occasional smoker, I would smoke with my friends during off periods or at lunch sometimes, in my car on the way to school. (I can say these things now since I’m in my 30s and my parents can’t ground me anymore haha!!! Sorry Mom!) We’d smoke when we were out and about but I wouldn’t call it a true habit (although that’s debatable).

I remember running out during an art class and smoking with a fellow classmate, we came back in and CLEARLY smelled like cigarettes, (that smell doesn’t lie). Our teacher stopped me and said “You know, that’s not actually a cool thing to do and you should quit now.” I laughed it off and thought, what do you know about being cool?!? In retrospect, I wish I would have taken her advice right then and there.

The straw that broke the camels back or pushed an occasional act into a full blow habit was the death of a good friend at 17. I thought – I’m stressed, I should smoke! Because that’s always the answer…. It was all over after that; I was smoking in the morning, I was smoking on my breaks, I was smoking after work, I was smoking at night. And then I’d wake up and do it all over again. At this point everyone knew I was smoker so I had a free pass to do so as I pleased.

Fast forward to my 20s, while the urge to be cool and fit in had subsided, the urge to smoke definitely had not. Add in alcohol and just multiply the smoking by two. While I obviously knew it was bad for me and wanted to quit, I didn’t really try all that hard.

It wasn’t until my husband and I decided to have a baby that I really stepped back and looked at my habit. I’d tried using Chantix a couple of times before to no avail, but this time I was motivated. I wanted to be healthy before getting pregnant, I wanted to make sure that my body was clean and ready to protect a little human and that I wouldn’t cause any undue harm. Seems like there are enough things that could go wrong that I didn’t need add something that was completely under my control.

And I was successful, I used Chantix again, actually had a couple of old packs I was able to use up and my insurance covered virtually the whole cost. Regardless, I highly recommend this to anyone who is looking to quit, worked great for me and after smoking for so many years – I wasn’t sure anything would work.

But back to my main point.

Everyday that I drive past that high school. And see those kids.

I just want to pull over and say “hey kid, maybe you shouldn’t do that. I know you think it’s cool, so did I. I thought I was so mature and grown up every time I held that smoke in my hand.”

But you know what…. it’s not cool, it’s gross. And despite how strong you think you are, you’re not. And you will get addicted without even realizing it. And it’ll be fun for a while, and then it won’t be. You’ll smell bad, you’ll hack and cough, and you’ll get sick all the time (I can’t even count the amount of times I had bronchitis). And then you’ll finally decide you want to quit. And you’ll fail, over and over and over.

Until you don’t.

And then you’ll look back at this exact moment and think “man, I should have listened back when I was in high school.” 

A New Bike! & Rediscovering a Lost Love

I had a bike. A really, really, really old bike. Like embarrassingly old! Like junior high old….

In my defense it was a pretty sweet Schwinn, they even gave me a whole $25 for it as a trade in. The same amount as an old, old, old Burley bike trailer that we got for free at a garage sale and was falling apart, actually, EPICALLY falling apart.

(Okay so I may be a bit bitter about the low valuation but I wasn’t expecting them to give me anything so I’ll take it regardless! HA!)

My husband loves to ride his bike and my old mountain bike was just not cutting it so it was time to upgrade. He has an awesome road bike and hauls around town so my only demand was that new bike allow me to keep up but also that he slow down, I want to relax and enjoy the ride, not race one another!!!

I knew I wanted something fun that I would be excited to ride, a little bit vintage and functional. On sale is always a plus too!!! This beautiful little bike fit the bill perfectly. It’s fun, functional, quick and comfortable.

I know people always say “it’s like riding a bike” you never forget, but man was I nervous! All those people watching me (or so I thought…) but it was the exact opposite, I hopped on and was on my way.

With my husband and daughter – dealing with intense separation anxiety, sorry kiddo! – watching me ride off into the sunset, or rather the blazing hot sun in the store parking lot. I absolutely fell in love!!! I used to ride my bike everywhere, I was the last to get my license of all my friends and took full advantage of the freedom I was allowed at the time. But I never thought I’d be excited to ride again and yet, it happened!

When we got home I could not wait to ride around again, we put the tot down for a nap, my husband adjusted my seat and I was off for a test ride. 15 minutes later I returned haha!

I’m so happy to report that I’m still excited about my new bike and now that we’ve officially replaced the old tattered Burley with a new spangled Burley Bee, I can’t wait for all the adventures to come.

The tot loves her new ride, I’m in love with mine.

But most importantly, my husband is excited we can all enjoy his hobby together.

So long story short…if you were like me and you’ve thought for years and years about getting a new bike – just do it! And don’t worry about looking silly in your helmet, they’ve come a long way since I was in junior high….

This Nutcase Helmet is pretty sweet right?!?! The perfect combination of safe, stylin’ and a little bit dorky, just like me 😉

Hope to see you in the bike lane friends!!!

Cheap Entertainment for a Toddler; BEANS!!!

In my constant search for entertainment for the toddler I’ve tried EVERYTHING! And I am in complete and utter shock of the things that stick and are the most fun to the kiddo.

For instance junk mail, I hate it but she thinks it’s soooo much fun. Shoes; not only the cutest thing to hear her say but endless entertainment! Tupperware, such a blast!!! In particular the two blue pieces that look like they should go together but don’t, that would annoy the beegeezus out of me but she loves it – who knew?!?

Anywho, this one was a doozy!

I picked up a couple of bags of pinto beans a cheap set of measuring spoons and cups and tossed them in a big tupperware tub. Done and done! Well, almost. I had tried this previously with rice and let’s just say that was less than ideal…. I’m still finding loose pieces floating around!

So I looked around and found one last integral part, a box. One big enough to put the tupperware AND the tot in! Which means… contained chaos!!!! Yay!!!!! Baby in a Box with Beans!!! HA

This was such great entertainment!!! Better than I had ever expected which was an absolute godsend when I worked from home! But you just have to keep an eye out for spoonfuls in the mouth, no bueno. The kiddo has just mastered using a spoon with her meals so she was super excited to “eat” with her spoons. Caught her a couple times which wasn’t as terrible as I imagined it could have been.

What I didn’t anticipate though was the dog! To her it was an over-sized dog dish with lots of fun things to chomp on – also no bueno….

But overall I’d still consider this a success! Less than $10 spent and probably at least an hour to focus on something else = win, win win!!!!

Beans, beans the magical….toddler entertainment! Have fun friends! 😊

10 Tips for a Toddler Easter Basket

First off, I must admit, I am no expert as this is the first Easter I’ve put together a basket for my daughter….last year I decided my daughter was too little to get into it – we’d just go to my parent’s house and enjoy dinner and the day together!

Yay!!! Sounded great!

…..Until I got to my parents and sure enough -my mom had assembled a basket for her darling granddaughter…. Honestly, it was so sweet but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad about it. I had convinced myself the Easter basket was unnecessary and decided to wait until she was older, probably a totally rational thought but one I ended up regretting.

A little background on me…. I LOVE EASTER!!!!

It has always been my favorite holiday!

I’m not necessarily a religious person. The big draw has always been the beautiful spring setting, the more low-key family vibe without the hustle and bustle of Christmas and Thanksgiving, and duh, Easter Baskets! As I got older the family joke became the underwear my mom always put in our plastic Easter eggs, you knew you could count on stocking up for the year!

Anywho, did I mention I love Easter?

And I was bound and determined to design the best Easter basket I could come up with for my daughter!

However, I’m also an extremely frugal (let me clarify, I like coupons… but not so frugal I can’t go overboard – HAHA!) and functional so of course I had to pragmatically develop my game plan and here’s what I came up with….

1. NO CANDY;

Not because I’m that insanely concerned about the tot having candy, but I am concerned about her scarfing down a few m&ms too fast and choking or getting too hyped up and skipping naps. First rule of motherhood, avoid anything possible that could interfere with nap time/bed time! 

2. NO EASTER GRASS;

We’ve all seen that stuff – the plastic, stringy, colorful filler. Well all I see is a mess. Enough said haha!

3. INCLUDE SOMETHING SENTIMENTAL;

When I was little there wasn’t another Charlie Brown Movie that I loved more than the Easter Beagle. I cannot wait to watch this with my daughter, to hear her giggle and (hopefully) love it as much as I did, priceless!

4. KEEP THE ITEMS NEUTRAL;

Having a bunch of specifically Easter items puts a shelf life on items – ie: Pick out items that have a rabbit or eggs, etc. instead of Happy Easter plastered all over them. This ensures you’ll get better use of the items in the long run, yay! Gotta suck as much life as you can out of every item for your kiddos, goodness knows they outgrow things fast enough on their own! Which brings me to my next topic….

5. CLOTHES;

Kiddos need clothes. Kiddos wear clothes for like two weeks before jumping sizes. So adding clothes is like killing two birds with one stone! Win, win!!!

6. LEARNING TOYS;

Again something that you could feel good about giving your precious little toddler. In my case an egg puzzle that teaches colors in both English and Spanish!

7. LOCALLY SOURCED ITEMS;

This would help your basket be a bit more unique. I ended up finding that adorable little puzzle and realizing it was made locally, so not only did I find an awesome toy, I can feel good knowing I supported a neighbor by picking it up.

8. LARGER PLASTIC EGGS;

My daughter puts everything, and when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING in her mouth! Rocks are a favorite delicacy much to my chagrin. GRRRR! So…

The bigger the eggs the better haha!

SIDE NOTE: I will watch my daughter with the necklaces! Although she hasn’t shown as much interest in putting those in her mouth as her beloved rocks thankfully!

9. FUN PACKAGING;

I specifically used clear cellophane not only because I had it already but it is noisy and fun to play with, almost another gift in itself! I also tied the clothes up to give her more things to open and play with.

10. A REUSABLE BASKET;

A coworker and I were talking about this…the baskets you pick up, use once and toss. So wasteful and honestly I’m not a huge fan of baskets that look like the rainbow threw up on them. Instead I picked up a chicken wire basket (with a 40% off coupon of course) that I could use as a decorative item in my home after the holiday is over. And then as an Easter basket next year, and the next year, and the next year, etc.

Hope the tot likes it as much as I do 😁

…..I also threw in the Hedgehog with Bunny Ears because honestly, who wouldn’t want a Hedgehog with Bunny Ears?!?! No one, that’s who. Haha!!!

SIDE NOTE: I was also a bit worried about the bunny on a stick but figure as soon as she gets to the cellophane she’ll forget all about the skewer…Plus it was so cute I couldn’t resist and (OCD side speaking here) tied all of my colors together of course!

While I spent WAY too much time planning and shopping and assembling with just this cute little basket to show for it, I hope all of that effort will help you design an awesome basket in just a fraction of the time!

Wishing you and yours the very best this weekend and HAPPY EASTER!!!

How to Protect Other Laundry from…DARK JEANS!!! (THE HORROR!!!)

Okay so this may be a refresher for some people out there but I NEVER knew these existed until recently, however; I have to share my latest miracle product….

(……..Drum roll please…….!)

Shout Color Catchers!!!!

Alright so this may possibly be the dorkiest post I’ve ever made (although that’s debatable…haha). BUT these things are truly a lifesaver for my poor, innocent other clothing that was just along for the ride with my pesky dark jeans!

In particular, brand new, dark jeans. YIKES!

I can’t bring myself to wash a load of laundry without the darn thing filled to the brim!

1. Because I’m busy and need to the maximum amount of laundry in the least amount of time.

2. Because I always have WAY too much laundry to do.

3. Because I like wrinkly clothes, who doesn’t, right?!? (JK, but laziness does come at a cost…sorry dress pants!)

Anywho, if you haven’t used these things before I strongly recommend you to pick some up. Your clothes will thank you!

Gone are the days of pink tinted shirts, or the green hat/boots that worked great for my daughter on St. Patty’s but used to be a lovely white, and no more dark stains on lighter sweaters!

Look at how much dye these little sheets picked up, did I mention they start out white?!?

I still don’t have the cojones to mix my light and dark clothing but I’m grateful to know I don’t have to worry about separating my clothing any further – WOOHOO!!!!

Sounds like a win to me!