Tuesday, September 6, 2016

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things...

Hi everyone!  Today I'm going to be joining in one of my favorite linkups to show and tell you about some of my favorite things.  The theme for today is "Three Things I Couldn't Live Without", and I took that to mean the three things I would reach for first if there was a fire (after, of course, making sure that Dan and Selma were ok!)

After sharing my favorite / most meaningful possessions, I thought it would also be fun to share my three favorite decorative pieces.  Things that definitely aren't necessary, but make me smile every time I see them!  I would consider these to be my favorite purchases, and thought it would be fun to share!  So- first the sappy, then the fun stuff.  Let's go!

Most Meaningful Things

Notebooks and Postcards

Dan and I both like to travel a lot, but we never get souvenirs during our trips.  Instead, I bring a travel journal to every country we visit and keep track of everything we do.  I started doing this on my first trip out of the country right after I graduated from college.  I was traveling with my roommate and her brother, and both of them kept journals.  I bought one right away at a little store in Grenada, and it's traveled around with me ever since!  

I also pick up post cards in each new city we visit, and those mean so much to me!  I love flipping through them and remembering past trips.


My wedding ring and engagement ring both mean a lot to me, so that would definitely be one of my favorite possessions!  Hopefully they will both be on my finger in case of a fire, so I don't have to worry about grabbing them before running out :)

Before Dan proposed, we never really talked about getting married or what style of ring I liked.  It always seemed inevitable to both of us that we would eventually get married, so I never pressured him to propose or thought of a timeline.  One day out of the blue, he showed me a few pictures of rings on his computer just to see what styles that I liked, and out of the ten he showed me I was immediately drawn to one particular style.  Little did I know, he bought that exact ring the day before, and just wanted to make sure I would like it!  A few months later he proposed (you can read that story here).

I love the ring so much, not only because I think it's beautiful, but also because every time I look at it or feel it, I think of Dan and our amazing wedding!


I started playing the violin in second grade, and switched to the saxophone in high school.  Music has always been a huge part of my life, and in college it changed my life.  I joined the Blue Band at Penn State, and made life-long friends, learned important leadership skills, went on amazing trips for football games, and met Dan!  I still have the same saxophone that my parents got me as a Christmas present back in high school and love to play it.  Any time that I'm having a bad day or just need to relax, I always go back to the sax and play some music.  It was the best gift that I've ever received and is still one of my most prized possessions!  

Decorative Faves

Fish Vase

Fun fact: I love animal decorations.  So, when I saw a vase that was shaped like a fish, I knew I had to get it.  I found this a few years ago on Hautelook for super cheap, and I've had it in all of my apartments ever since!  I just add fake flowers to it, and seeing it always makes me happy.

Skogsta Bench

I only bought this bench a few weeks ago, but I absolutely love it!  The style is so simple, but it's such a great basic piece to have.  There are so many uses for the bench, so for our little house it's a great thing to have around!  We can use it as extra seats for dinner, or as a table when we're sitting on the couch.  It's great quality from Ikea and I highly recommend it!

Brass Owl

I told you I liked animal decorations (p.s. did you notice my ring holder?  It's an elephant...love it!)!  I don't even remember where I picked this guy up (I think it was at Marshall's or Home Goods) but I love it!  I've had it for a while now, and it always seems to fit right in no matter where I have it.

What are some of your most meaningful possessions?
What piece makes you smile in your home?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Kitchen Update : Little Changes

Sometimes, making a small change can make a big impact.  As most people know, kitchens are usually considered the most expensive renovation in a house!  Adding up the cost of appliances, counters, cabinets, flooring, lighting...it can really add up quickly.

Since a kitchen renovation isn't really in our budget right now, I've been making small changes that are making a big difference.  While these haven't been free upgrades, I've spent around $125 and about an afternoon making these improvements!  I think that they've made a big difference in our kitchen, and make it feel more like it's our style.

Clean - $0 - 2 hour

This might not be as fun as going shopping and making visual changes, but cleaning can make a huge impact on a space!  When we moved in, the cabinets were pretty grimy and dingy, the white floors (btw- NEVER get white floors in a kitchen!) were dirty, and the appliances looked used.  I spent a few hours cleaning everything and it made such a big change!

On the cabinets, I used a basic cleaning spray, and thoroughly cleaned the inside and outside.  I also took out all of the shelves (this is easiest when you first move in and don't put anything inside yet) and used a shopvac to get out any crumbs.

I love using CLR to clean appliances.  I used some to clean the inside of the dishwasher, as well as all of the stainless steel.  It made everything look so shiny and almost new when I was done!

When I got my first apartment, one of my first purchases was a basic Swiffer.  I use both dry and wet cloths all the time and love how simple they are to use.  I don't think the fancy models are necessary- basic works just fine for me!

Changing cabinet hardware - $56 - 1 hour

While I didn't hate the knobs that came with the kitchen, there were some big problems with them.  Not only were some knobs missing, but others were loose and would occasionally fall off when I would open a drawer.  Not the look I'm going for!

The house came with these basic silver knobs.  

I feel like this changes the look completely!  I love the modern black knobs!

This was another easy fix to make.  I found knobs that I liked at Target in a multi-pack, and spent an hour removing the old knobs and replacing them with the new ones.  This was really easy, and all you need is a screw driver!  When I had all of the knobs off, I spent time to clean the cabinets again (to get that space under the knob, which was pretty gross!).

I couldn't believe how much this changed the look of the kitchen!  I absolutely love the look of the new knobs, and didn't have to use any power tools or put in much work at all.

Accessorize - $70 - 15 minutes

Finally, an easy way to change up the look of a kitchen is to add in some accessories and inject your own style.  Since I spend a lot of time cooking (and then washing dishes), I wanted a comfortable rug to stand on.  I found this one at Target, and loved the flowery design that matched perfectly with the white walls.  

I didn't go too crazy with decorating, since I don't have a lot of counter space, and wanted space to actually prep food!  I bought canister jars at Marshalls to hold some dry ingredients (I use it for flour, sugar, rice and salt).  These were really cheap, and came in less than $15 total!  You can find similar ones on Amazon, but I would recommend checking out Marshalls or Homegoods first. 

Behind the jars, I layered a marble slab that I use for serving food.  I picked this one up at Target a while ago, and loved that I'm able to display it now!  I re-used a few other decorations that I had lying around, like a bud vase and fake flowers to brighten up the room a bit.

Beside that, you can see the spice racks that I got from Ikea.  This was a DIY project to match them with the rest of my decor, and now I love how they look.  I'm thinking about eventually mounting these to the wall, but for now they work fine resting on the counter.

Here's a before and after of the kitchen.  It still looks pretty similar, but I think these small changes made it look a lot better.  What do you think?

There are a few other projects that I want to do to the kitchen, but for now I love how it's looking! It's easy to make a few small changes that make a big impact on the room.  Here is my progress from my original kitchen plans post!

- Install under-cabinet lights : This is something that Dan requested, so I'll be adding these ASAP!

- Replace cabinet knobs

- Replace faucet : This is another quick and easy way to change up the look of a kitchen!

- Add back splash :  Right now there's no back splash in the kitchen, so I would love to add some.  I'm still deciding on the style and type that I want, so this won't happen right away!

- Organize

- Add some greenery : I have plans on adding in some more, and I can't wait to see how this turns out!

- Change lighting : This isn't something that was originally on my list, but I really want to replace the lights in the kitchen.  I liked them at first, but now that I'm making upgrades I'm not feeling them. 

post contains affiliate links linking up with Amanda

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Recent Ikea Finds

Hi everyone!  This weekend, I went to one of my favorite places- Ikea.  Some people hate it, but I absolutely love it.  Looking through model rooms, getting design inspiration, and browsing row upon row of Swedish furniture- what could be better?!

Life pro tip- go on Sunday a few minutes before they open.  The parking lot was empty, and there were only a few people waiting to go in!  While you're waiting, you can grab something from the cafe, or get an Ikea Family card, which gives you deals and specials on random products, as well as free food!

I came equipped with a list of things that I wanted to buy, and miraculously stuck to it.  Here's what I picked up, along with some "Ikea Hacks" for some of the items.

Skogsta Bench  $69

The main item that I wanted to get was this bench.  If you remember from my living room tour, there's a wall near the front door that's pretty small and awkward.  I wanted something that would fit the width of the wall, and clear the vent. 

Luckily, this bench was the perfect size!  The wood feels really solid, and I love the color variation.  I'm thinking of adding a cushion to the bench to make it more comfortable, but for now I just added some pillows.  (I got these pillows a few years ago from Ikea as well, and they've held up really well!)

Bekvam Spice Rack  $3.99

One of my kitchen projects was to add a spice rack.  I like how simple (and cheap) this one is from Ikea, and I was inspired to "hack" it.  If you search online for spice rack hacks, you'll find everything from a book shelf to a clothing rack.  It's kind of making me want to buy a few more!  

For my own hack, I painted the sides and rail white, then used marble contact paper on the bottom.  It's still pretty simple, but I think this simple change made it look more finished.  I'm thinking about anchoring this to the wall eventually (maybe after I apply back-splash), but for now they fit perfectly on the counter!  To go along with the rack, I got these simple spice jars at the same time.

Fintorp Rail x Hook x Utensil Holder x Condiment Stand  $3.99 - $16.99

I can't wait to get these hung up start my herb garden!  I'm planning on it looking like the picture above, and I'll definitely share how it looks once I'm done.  I was pleasantly surprised by how high-quality the rail and buckets are, with some drainage in the bottom of the containers.  I also like the fact that the containers match my cabinets perfectly!

What is your favorite Ikea find?
Ikea lover or hater?
What's your favorite place to shop for home goods?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Progress Report : Coffee Bar

Hi everyone!  I'm excited to share some progress that I made in my house now that all of my room tours are over.

Back when I shared my eat-in kitchen plans, one of the projects I was most excited about was making a coffee bar.  I love drinking coffee, and since the kitchen area isn't very big I wanted a dedicated spot for my coffee mugs and coffee maker.  This is what I ended up with:

I decided to put the coffee bar in the eat-in area of the kitchen, in the corner near the living room.  It was the perfect space to fit an Ikea kitchen cart that I already owned, so I was happy to up-cycle some furniture instead of having to buy or build a new one!

This is what the cart looks like when you buy it from Ikea.  Great blank canvas!

The cart is actually a hand-me-down from my college roommate, and it comes in Ikea's standard unfinished birch wood.  At my first apartment, I painted the entire unit white with a greyscale pop-art mural on the top, and used it as a storage cart in my closet.  At my second apartment, the painting was still lasting really well, and I used it in the kitchen as a microwave stand and storage.

The original "coffee bar" that I set up when we moved!  Did the job, but not share-worthy

The first thing that I did to give the cart a new life was sand off the mural and cover it in marble contact paper.  The paper went down surprisingly smoothly, and I was able to smooth out any air bubbles or wrinkles with no issues.  I also sanded the sides so it had a nice, smooth edge.

"Marble" top!  It actually fools most people that come and see it in person!

Next, I added some shelves above the cart.  I got lucky and found wall-mounted shelves at Lowe's that were the exact width of the cart, and was able to easily hang them overhead.  I love how simple the shelves are, without any brackets or decorations, so the attention is really on the "marble" top! I use these to hold my mug collection, coffee, and some straws.

coffee bar with open shelving

I decided to splurge on a Nespresso machine to finish off the bar (you can't really have a coffee bar without the coffee, right?).  I picked the up Evoluo during a sale at Sur La Table, and I'm SO in love with it.  It makes incredible coffee, and I love the sleek, modern design.  The bundle I got also came with the Aeroccino, which heats and froths milk.  Other accessories that I picked up are mugs, espresso set, and capsule column

DIY coffee cart

I love how small but functional the coffee bar is.  It doesn't take up much space, but thanks to the storage in the cart and the shelves that I added, I don't need any more space!  Every time I see this corner of the kitchen, which is the first space that feels "finished", it makes me smile.  With the bright colors of the flowers, the mugs that are from places that I travel, and CAFFEINE- what's not to love?

Ikea BEKVÄM Kitchen cart coffee bar hack

And since everyone loves a before and after picture, let's see how far we'e come:

Source List:

Coffee or tea?
What are some of your favorite Ikea Hacks?
What was the first "room" you completed in your house?
post contains affiliate links.  this is not sponsored at all (in my dreams!)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Quick and Easy Chalkboard Sign

Hi everyone!  Today I'm excited to share my first DIY project.  We're starting out really easy with a simple chalkboard sign.  This was the finishing touch on my coffee bar, which I'm going to be sharing shortly!  This project came together in less than five minutes, and I absolutely love it.

To get started, here are the supplies you'll need:

  • Chalk contact paper (I used this one)
  • Photo frame of any size and shape (I used this cheap one from Ikea)
  • Liquid chalk markers (I used these)

Once you've gathered up the supplies, here's how you make it:

1.  Take out the glass in the frame, clean it with an alcohol wipe to remove any oils or dirt, and line it up on the back of the contact paper.  Mine has a grid on the back, which made it easy to measure.  If yours is blank, just trace around the frame, and cut it out.

2.  Starting at one corner, peel off the back of the contact paper and line it up with the corner of the glass.  Working your way to the opposite corner, continue to peel off the contact paper and sticking it on the glass.

3.  If there are bubbles, use a plastic putty knife to smooth the paper.

4.  Trim any excess paper around the edges.  This is going to be covered by the frame, so you don't have to be too neat!

5.  Add the glass back to the frame, and you're done!

My frame came with a white border, so you can add that as well.  This didn't give me enough area to write on, so I ditched it.

7.  Decorate your chalkboard!  These chalk markers were really vivid and wrote easily, so I would highly recommend them.  This was a really small area to work on, so I think a larger frame would work out better!

Here is what the chalkboard looks like on my coffee bar.  I'll be sharing the entire bar in my next post, so stay tuned for that!

post contains affiliate links.  thank you for your support!

linking up with Amanda

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Home Plans : Bathroom

We finally made it to the final room in the house!  If you haven't seen the other home tours, you can find them all here, or look at the living room, kitchen (and eating area), office, and basement.  Today we're going to be talking about the bathroom!

To be honest, there's not much that I want to do with this space.  It's a really small bathroom, and everything is in good shape!  I want to make some cosmetic changes, but for the most part I'm fine with how this looks.  As usual, I'll be sharing "before" pictures, projects I want to do, and some inspo!


As you can tell, this is a tiny bathroom.  It was really hard to get pictures of everything, so just imagine a big white tub/shower on the other side of the toilet and sink.

Project number one was replacing the burnt out lightbulb!

Thankfully, there's a huge closet in the bathroom!  Even though it's a tiny space, there's plenty of room for toiletries and other bathroom supplies.  This is beside the tub.


- Paint.  I'm not really a fan of the brown color (plus we already did some work and messed up the paint on one wall, so this is a necessity!).

- Add a medicine cabinet.  Right now there's just a mirror with a shelf, so I would love to add a medicine cabinet to increase our storage.

- Accessorize.  I want to add some open shelves above the toilet, and decorate the bathroom a bit!  It's looking really brown and boring right now, so this should make it look a bit better.

- Organize the closet.  It's such a mess right now, so I need to figure out a storage system!  Hello, Container Store!


Doesn't this look like a spa?  I love how simple but effective the storage is.


Such a simple, clean design.  I think this could work!

Who else has a tiny bathroom?  Any suggestions?
Which inspiration pic do you like better...1 or 2?

linking up with Amanda and What's New With You! (go check out my other blog!)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Home Plans : Basement

After a bit of a blogging hiatus and lots of house work, we're back to the "before" home tour!  We're almost out of rooms, but today we have a really exciting one...the BASEMENT.

One thing that I really wanted when we were looking at houses was a finished basement.  When we were touring this house, I liked all of the rooms and the location.  Then, our realtor took us down to the basement...and I was completely sold.  Half-finished, separate (unfinished) area with all of the utilities, and an attached garage?  SOLD!

Today I'll be sharing some plans I have for this space, along with pictures and inspiration!


 This door leads to the unfinished area (and all of our utilities/washer/dryer!)

 Hey- another fireplace!  This one is just decorative though.

Note the weird cubby on the left..we'll be talking about this below!


- Add a (half) bath.  The house currently only has one bathroom, so I think even adding a small half bathroom in the basement would be a huge improvement.  I'm hoping to also add a standing shower if we're able!  I do want to make it a little room where our utilities are, and definitely do NOT just want a Pittsburgh toilet.

Add a bar area.  We have a decorative fireplace that takes up one corner of the room, and Dan came up with the idea of building a bar in that area.  I have an image in my mind of what I want this to look like, so I'm hoping that I can really make it happen because it's going to be AWESOME.

Make a workout corner.  There's a weird corner of the room that would be perfect to add some shelves and organization for all of my workout gear (the cubby pictured above!).  Right now, I have everything thrown in that corner, so I need to do something to make it look neater and keep everything organized!

- Add some COLOR!  As you can tell from the picture, this is a very brown room.  Brown carpet, brown walls, brown fireplace.  I want to add some color so it doesn't look so dead and monotone!


I think this would look perfect for our workout area!  I love the bright cabinets and open shelving, so I can store some items and display others. 

I like the layout of this bar, and think this could work with what we have.  I would change up how the bar looks, but I love the stone mixed with wood!

Thanks for stopping by!  One more room to come, then we can start getting into projects and more fun!