Monday, May 27, 2013

So I'm Basically an Electrician.

Or not.

But I try.

I've dropped off the map for the last couple of months while law school picked up and I finished my 2L finals. Then I did a little cross country drive to Raleigh, North Carolina where I'll be spending my summer. But now I'm back and have so many projects to share I can hardly contain my excitement!

As I've mentioned before my mom purchased her retirement home last spring and over the last year my family (but mostly my sister, who currently lives there) have been working to fix it up. Originally it wasn't even livable, but as you might remember from here there's been a lot of progress made. Now that I'm here for the summer I'm pumped to keep working. 

I'm not sure I've ever shared a picture of the exterior, but isn't it adorable? I love the rose bushes, so happy and cheerful.

So..on to the point of this post. The house came entirely outfitted with beige/dirty off-white outlets and light switches. Something I probably never would have noticed or cared about but irritated my mom from the get-go. So last summer all of the covers came off while we painted and were never put back on, for the purpose of replacing them with crisp white outlets. But there were so many projects to do that the poor little outlets got overlooked for months. Until I moved in. And my OCD dictated that now that the downstairs is completely painted and all the major renovations are done (for now), it's time to change those old sad outlets out for new shiny ones. So here is what we started with. Sad and ugly right?

First, and most importantly, turn off the electricity. Nobody likes getting electrocuted. 

Next, even though you've shut off the electricity, double check with one of these little gadgets. I have no idea what it's called. 

If the yellow lights light up electricity is still running to that outlet. So better check your breaker box. This is one situation where no lights is good news. Once you're sure there's no electricity coming your way, yank that outlet out of the wall and see what you're working with.

This particular guy had two wires on one side, two on the other, plus a ground. (I'm sure there are names for all of these things, but clearly I'm not actually an electrician). 

Next line up the new outlet next to the old to make sure you connect each wire to the appropriate spot. I'm sure somebody who actually knows what they're doing wouldn't need to do it in such a baby step way, but I had no clue what I was doing and my mom walked me through slowly, which was helpful. One by one I used needle nose pliers to disconnect the wires from the old outlet and reconnect them to the new one, twisting to make sure that when the wire wrapped around it was either completely, or nearly touching the other side of the wire, to ensure a good connection.

See what I mean?

Then I did the other side. This particular outlet had a ground, which is the blue screw, but according to my mom and sister not all of the outlets they've encountered have a ground. 

When you're all done, shove the wires back in and screw the face plate back on. Definitely not the flashiest of projects, but I was still pretty darn proud of myself. Next on my list? Replacing a 3 way light switch. 

So this is what I started with. I basically followed my same pattern, pulled that puppy out of the wall and slowly went wire by wire.

Eventually I got it all done and was so proud of myself. I flipped the switch. Nothing. I was expecting an angel chorus to appear and herald my accomplishment as the bulb turned on. But nothing. No angels. No chorus. No light turning on. So I climbed the stairs to see if the switch at the top of the stairs would turn the light on, just to check that we had actually switched the right breaker when we turned on the electricity. Boom. Light. So I clearly did something wrong, got the wires mixed up. I unscrewed everything, pulled the switch out and investigated.

Something you might notice in the above picture (that I did not) is that there is a red wire and a black wire. And a black screw and a gold screw. I attached the red wire to the black screw and the black wire to the gold screw. Wrong. Black wire goes to black screw. Surprise! And once I made that switch--voila! light. Still no angels. But I'll take what I can get.

While it's definitely a tiny tweak, I definitely get why the beige outlets drove my mom crazy. Having a whole house of crisp, clean white outlets and switches makes the whole house feel brighter and more put together. (And definitely more put together than a bunch of outlets without covers!)

During the process my mom looked over and said "Doesn't it feel good that you can do this on your own? Imagine how much it would cost to have an electrician come do something so simple?" And you know what? She was right. Even thought it took me half an hour to do what an electrician could do in 5 minutes, I didn't have to call one. There's some serious sense of accomplishment from being able to do these little projects without help. 

So what have you all been up to? Any great projects? Or even just a little something that pays dividends in your confidence?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

So, about that Birchbox....

I swear I've not discontinued my Birchbox subscription. But I have failed at keeping my friends updated on all the good things I've been getting in the mail each month. So now, the Birchbox post of all Birchbox posts. Three months of samples at one time. Hold onto your hats, folks.


January's box was all about the 2012's top selling products. First is Amika Color pHerfection Shamoo. Which I've honestly just started using because I recently dyed my hair darker shade of brown. (I'm getting crazy!) It smells great. But so far I don't know if it's doing any good.

Then Embryolisse, supposedly  a "favorite of models and makeup artists" and a "cult French moisturizer". I've not tried it yet, I'm hesitant to try new lotions.

The fragrance sample that month was Viva La Juicy. I've gotten it before. To me it's good, but not my favorite.

This box also included an eyelid primer from The Balm Cosmetics. I've been reading about eyelid primers and my sister swears by the one from Urban Decay so I'll definitely give this a try.

The last treat in January's box was a sample of a 3 step skin line from Juice Beauty. But as I've said before, my skin is super sensitive and temperamental so I'm always a little scared to try new things.


I love nail polish samples! And I love deep, bright red nail polish. So this one made me very happy.

Then my Birchbox friends added Ghiradelli chocolate. I love them.

Jouer Matte Moisture Tint must be a favorite of Birchbox because I've gotten it before. It's really not my favorite. I'm not a fan of the color and it's kind of shimmery, not actually matte.

Then there are two packages of Kerastase Chroma Riche masks for color treated hair. It's amazing. Seriously, it smells amazing and my hair has never been softer. This stuff is phenomenal. Too bad it's $61 for a full sized bottle. BUT Sally's Beauty Supply sells pretty similar products that are almost as good. For abut $2.

Last is Vasanti Face Rejuvenator. It's an exfoliating cleanser that I am tempted to try. Last time Birchbox suggested an exfoliant it changed my life, I swear. So..I'm thinking about this guy.


March's box is so fun and springy! It makes me so happy, especially since this is the coldest Spring Break I can remember since I've been in school. We're talking temperatures hovering around freezing.

First is Caldrea Body Lotion. I love new lotions and these smell amazing.

Then there is Incoco Nail Polish Strips. I've never tried nail polish strips before. They're pretty interesting. I'm impressed with how easy they are to apply  and how long they've stayed on without chipping. I'm not crazy about this particular pattern but I'd definitely give this product another try.

Serge Normant Dry Shampoo. I've been looking for a good dry shampoo for a long time. My skin is very oily and I cannot go a day without washing my hair. Which is hard on my color treated tresses. But I've not been able to find the product that could help make it happen. This isn't it. It makes my hair feel much greasier and the texture is by far the worst of any dry shampoo I've tried. The search continues.

After that is Whish Shave Crave Shaving cream. Am I likely to spend $20 on shave gel? Nope, but nothing wrong with enjoying the sample!

Last and not least is the prettiest floral emery board. I have nail files in almost every room of my apartment and this one is the cutest yet!

There you have it folks, three months of Birch Box love. And I promise to try to stay on top of the monthly updates. Interested in your own Birchbox? Here ya go!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Empty Space No More

So as I've discussed before my apartment is a funny shape with lots of wall space in weird places. One of these spaces is above one of the bookshelves from my recent faux wallpaper bookshelf project. I'd cropped it out of that post but here's what it looks like.

See? Empty wall space just begging for some love. (But doesn't that bookshelf look cute?)

So I set out to do something about it. When I was buying fabric for the bookshelf project I couldn't decide on my favorites. I knew I only needed two but I ended up buying three. I knew I'd come up with a project for whatever one didn't end up as the back of a bookshelf. Now was time for the remaining fabric to make an appearance.

Remember when I did the post about the Young House Love book projects I was dying to do? One of the simplest was hanging fabric as art.

Couldn't be easier. And I just happened to have some canvases leftover from the last apartment. So I whipped up easy peasy fabric canvas art.

I just laid the canvas face down on the fabric and folded it like a present and stapled with my handy dandy staple gun.

The last tenants must have also had art there because there was already a little hook up, Lucky me! And this is what I had--

Cute chevron right? But it was just not quite right. So I made a quick adjustment--

But I still wasn't impressed. It was just too small for the space. Luckily I had another canvas of the same size so I decided to dress it up in the same chevron fabric and see if giving the lonely hanging canvas a twin might help.

Definitely better, right? But honestly, I'm not sure I love it. I thought the muted teal and beige would be a nice addition. This sits just opposite the giant blue green painting from this summer--

so I didn't want anything too crazy or busy. Between the bookshelves, the painting, the pillows on the couch, there is just a lot going on in this room. But the muted chevron may be just a little too muted. However, it's definitely better than empty wall space so it'll stay until I change my mind or come up with a better idea.

Have you guys ever been excited about a project that ended up a little disappointing? Whipped up any quick and easy art recently?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Final February Project

Last week I almost died. I know this sounds dramatic (what? me? dramatic?) but I'm serious. I was ready to send out Facebook invites to my funeral. I was convinced it was the flu. Turned out to be the sinus infection from hell. Either way after I slept and slept and got 3 days ahead in my readings and watched season 5 of West Wing, I finally did a quick little project. It left me so exhausted I took another nap.

But first--a few weeks ago I downloaded the Walgreens app on my iphone. Turns out you can send pictures directly from your phone to be printed at your local store. How amazing is that?! I still had a ton of Europe pictures on my phone and now I finally had a simple way to print them. Since I had no idea how'd they would turn out I just picked a few of my favorites and hit "send". They actually turned out pretty great considering they're phone pictures.

Years ago, I'm talking high school, my mom gave me this cool picture display thing. I don't know how else to describe it. It's this cute wire curly thing with loops where you slip in pictures. Make sense? Just let me show you.

See? Cute, right? This little guy has made an appearance in my dorm rooms and at various places in all my college apartments. It had just been hanging out waiting for the perfect opportunity in my current apartment. Armed with my Walgreens pics I had just the project. I went to my craft box and pulled out old scrap book paper. I figured mounting the pictures on the paper would help them stand out from my blah, boring, tan rental walls.

Turns out the Birch Box lid was just the right size for a mat. So I simply traced the lid of the Birch Box on my pretty leftover paper.

Then I just moved the pictures around until I thought the pictures and paper complemented each other.

These really are some of my favorite pictures from my whole trip. They may not be the greatest quality but they captured some of my favorite moments.

The left is Rodin's "The Thinker" from the Rodin Gardens and Museums. It wasn't even on my list of "must do's" for Paris. But it was in walking distance and I had a free afternoon. It ended up being a great idea. It was an absolutely beautiful day and the sculptures were unbelievable.  The picture on the right is me posing with moules a frites--mussels with fries! My food writer sister in law knows I'm a picky eater, but made me promise to be adventurous when in Europe. I was on the coast in the south of I tried fresh mussels. Turns out they're amazing.

The left picture is Casa Batllo--the famous Gaudi building in Barcelona. It was just down the street from our hostel. The right picture, well. You know what that is. And it was beautiful.

Then I just put two nails in the wall, just outside my bedroom door on the tiny little sliver of wall between my bedroom and the laundry closet. I hung the picture holder collage thingers and slipped the photos in. Adjusting here and there until I liked it.

I intentionally made them all a little crooked. I thought it gave it a whimsical, fun feel. My OCD brain has since changed its mind. I also know it needs two more pictures at the bottom. But I had no idea how the pictures would turn out so I didn't want to spend a ton of money printing out all the pictures on my phone if they'd be horrible quality. So I need to print off a couple more now that I know it works.

Here is the view from the hallway, to give som perspective of where this is. It's kind of nice to come out of my bedroom in the morning, cranky about how early it is, how much I have to do, and see the pictures from my only trip abroad. (And yes, I still need curtains).

Here's the view from my bedroom door. The bathroom is to the left. That's my law school bookshelf, above it is my Paris collage. Clearly that big empty wall needs some love.

So there you have it folks, a quick and easy little project. Coming up I'll have updates on my last few Birch Boxes, so don't worry, I haven't forgotten about those. I'm also off for a little mini vacation in Chicago this weekend so I'll have lots of pictures from what we did, where we ate, where we stayed and all that jazz. Have a great weekend, friends!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bookshelf Beautification

Hello Friends! I hope you all had an amazing Valentine's Day!

So I could apologize for being so absent and swear I'll be back more often. But we all know that I've not done well with these things. Law school takes up so much of my life. So I'm just going to jump to my most recent project.

As you might remember, I fell in love with YHL's book and all of its projects. Remember this one?

Faux wallpapering a bookshelf, a great way to add some happiness and color to a boring functional piece of furniture.

Here are my sad, plain Target bookshelves in my living room.

(forgive the yellow cord, it was plugged into my bluray player so I could watch my 800th episode of West Wing on Netflix)

(I had already started emptying before I realized I hadn't taken a picture)

So, a few weeks ago I went off to my local craft store and picked up some on sale fabric and some foam board.  Along with a measuring tape, some scissors, and a stapler, that's all you need for this project.

Seriously--that's it. Couldn't be simpler. And as I realized half way thru, this is basically the exact same process as my jewelry board tutorials. Except this one has an extra step--you have to measure the inside of the bookshelf and cut the foam board accordingly. That's it. So, after you've cut the foam board to size, you just wrap the board in fabric and staple.

Then you just pop the boards in the back of the shelf. Repeat six times. And I ended up with these puppies-

They're not quite as pretty as the YHL bookshelves. Unfortunately, I'm in my 5th year of higher education and live in an 800 square foot apartment, so my bookshelves have to practical, not just decorative. But I think they're pretty cute and happy and it was a quick little project.

So, what have you all been up to? Any fun and simple projects keeping you busy?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Emily And Sherry (and John? and Clara? and Burger?)

Hey Friends!

So, a few months ago Young House Love released their book. If you're one of the 5 people on the planet who haven't heard of YHL, check them out. They're pretty much the most adorable family in the whole world sharing all of their DIY adventures. Honestly, YHL is what got me into home blogs, led to the other ones I read, and even inspired me to start my own. It's cheesy, but I remember the moment I learned about YHL. Not quite 2 years ago, I was at Dairy Queen, just waiting for my oreo blizzard, and picked up a Des Moines Register to kill time. The Register had done an interview with John and Sherry and from that moment I was hooked. We've been together ever since. (And no, I swear I don't stalk them).

So I was beyond thrilled when I learned they were releasing a book. Sadly, it arrived just before the finals rush so I didn't get to spend much time with it. But I've decided I wanted to a pull a "Julie and Julia" with it, and do as many projects as possible/applicable in the time that I have left in this apartment. (About one more year). So, I thought it might be helpful to show you around the book a bit and take a peek at a few of the projects I have planned.

So, here's Finn chilling on the couch with the lovely look. Let's take a look inside, shall we?

Number one on my agenda is to tackle the bookshelves in my apartment. This is about faux wallpapering the back of a bookcase, which I plan on doing very soon.

This page is about how to deal with bookcase clutter. This is definitely a problem I have, especially with all the (excuse me) crap, I bring home from law school. So it will definitely be included in my bookshelf post.

This entry is about painting the back of a bookcase. Which I'm totally game for, but my bookcases are all super duper cheapo Target finds with cardboard backs, so it's probably going to be easier to "faux wallpaper" them.

Next on my list is simple/quick curtains. I definitely think my bedroom could be improved with curtains. I was hoping to do it during break but never got around to it (surprise).

This one is about painting paper lantern. It's adorable! I'm honestly not sure where I'd put it, so it may never actually get done, but I love it.

Next up is making etched glass containers for the kitchen. I think this a great, functional idea, that's also super cheap.

This tutorial is about upholstering a headboard. In my last apartment I fretted constantly about a headboard. And ultimately ended up upholstering cardboard (seriously!) and it looked great, if I do say so myself.  My current apartment could definitely use a headboard, but for some reason, I like the lack of one for right now. So we'll see.

There is also a tutorial about making a gorgeous weathered wood headboard. I absolutely LOVE this, but it's honestly a little more expensive, time intensive, and heavy than what's practical for me. So I was delighted when I got to my mom's/sister's and saw she had recently done a similar project..remember this?

(So sorry about the angle, I should have gotten a better picture!)

Next is about dealing with piles of shoes. A problem I've definitely had/have! My current wire shoe racks are failing and the piles seem to keep growing (where do those shoes come from!?!). So I'm definitely going to be tackling this.

This is one of my favorite ideas--hanging fabric as art. SO simple! It's a quick and easy way to fill up a big space. I have a couple spots that could use this.

Making faux antlers! I'm obsessed with this idea, even tho it doesn't really fall into my traditional decor category. I hope to have time to do this project.

"Commissioning" kid art is a great idea. I can't wait until Jo is just a little bit older so I can start proudly hanging her masterpieces.

I'm honestly really not sure which project this picture relates to, I wasn't really paying attention. The minute I saw that painting I fell in love. It has to happen. Absolutely positively has to happen and find a home in my apartment.

This is maybe one of the most clever projects in the book. A simple mirror surrounded by a bunch of painted washers. I think this would look great in my bathroom or above a bookshelf.

Last of the selected projects is painting a gradient. I love this dresser--its classy 1960's style and its ombre paint job. If I end up finding a dresser I love, I'm definitely doing this.

There you have it, folks, a stroll thru the Young House Love book. Has anybody else seen the book? Love Young House Love? Or any other blogs? I'd love to hear from you!