Kitchen Renovation Before and After

Kitchen Renovation Before and After

It’s taken me a long time to write this post and I think it’s because our kitchen renovation was more traumatic than I realized. It wasn’t planned and we learned a lot about dealing with a water leak but I’m really hoping I never have to deal with it again. Thankfully, I could not be happier with the end result but man, it was rough getting to this point.

The kitchen was always on our list to get to but it was fine for now. Perfectly functional even if it was outdated but there were other projects we needed to tackle and we were planning on spending some time and money on our backyard. We had already done the dining room, the windows, laundry room, and stair railing and knew that the outside was next since we spent so much time there.

Our house had other plans.

This post contains some affiliate links – meaning if you click through the links and buy anything, the retailer will pay me a small commission at no additional cost to you!

Kitchen Before Renovation

The layout of the kitchen was great but could have used a few tweaks. The white tile counters were the bain of my existence, so hard to keep clean and as a blogger who loves to share recipes, it didn’t photograph well.

Before and After Kitchen Renovation with ideas and costs. See our farmhouse sink, herringbone backsplash with white subway tile and our DIY open shelving without changing our layout. Two-tone cabinets in woodgrain and blue. Including tips to get the most out of your budget. #kitcheremodel

Keep in mind that I took these “before” pictures when we discovered the leak in the wall behind the sink, on Christmas Day. Things were in a bit of disarray but I knew this wasn’t going to be good and I attempted to document the old kitchen quickly.

During the Renovation

Since we had a water leak, we needed to get a mold remediation company involved. They worked with our insurance and came in and took out the affected area, removed the damage, dried everything out and left us with a blank space. This took weeks and was loud and felt like we were living in an episode of Breaking Bad.

We had a great experience with our company, Flood Solutions, but I’ve heard horror stories of people using shady companies for this part of the process. Do your research and make sure they have a good reputation.

How to Manage a Kitchen Renovation

  • Shop around for a contractor and get multiple estimates.
  • See if your contractor can get you into suppliers. We used Pro Source of San Diego and they were WONDERFUL to work with.
  • If you are using insurance, make sure you tell them if your initial settlement isn’t covering enough.
  • Develop your style – practical, modern, traditional. This will guide the rest of your decisions.
  • Set your budget and prioritize your needs vs wants.
  • Use Rakuten to get cashback on your purchases. We got over $350 dollars back from our appliances, lighting and kitchen accessories.
  • Plan if you can! It takes a long time for your cabinets to come in so we were stuck cooking in our garage for MONTHS while we waited for everything to come in.

Our New Kitchen

To say I love it is an understatement. We added white quartz countertops with a waterfall edge on the peninsula, new cabinets in two different tones and a farm sink with an apron front.

Before and After Kitchen Renovation with ideas and costs. See our farmhouse sink, herringbone backsplash with white subway tile and our DIY open shelving without changing our layout. Two-tone cabinets in woodgrain and blue. Including tips to get the most out of your budget. #kitcheremodel

We didn’t change the footprint of the kitchen during the remodel but we did move some things around to create more function and openness to the space. The microwave moved from above the stove to below the countertop in the peninsula. We also moved the stove to the left so we could add a small countertop to the right of it with a pull out spice drawer.

Before and After Kitchen Renovation with ideas and costs. See our farmhouse sink, herringbone backsplash with white subway tile and our DIY open shelving without changing our layout. Two-tone cabinets in woodgrain and blue. Including tips to get the most out of your budget. #kitcheremodel
Before and After Kitchen Renovation with ideas and costs. See our farmhouse sink, herringbone backsplash with white subway tile and our DIY open shelving without changing our layout. Two-tone cabinets in woodgrain and blue. Including tips to get the most out of your budget. #kitcheremodel

In keeping with the openness of the kitchen, we decided to add open shelving to the corner that was once bare. I made these shelves with some L brackets that my contractor installed in the tile and 1×12 boards from Home Depot, similar to the shelves I built in our laundry room. The new window treatments are from Lowes.

Before and After Kitchen Renovation with ideas and costs. See our farmhouse sink, herringbone backsplash with white subway tile and our DIY open shelving without changing our layout. Two-tone cabinets in woodgrain and blue. Including tips to get the most out of your budget. #kitcheremodel

The kitchen cabinets are two tones – maritime blue for the bottom cabinets and woodgrain for the uppers and pantry wall. Black hardware for the woodgrain cabinets and gold library pulls for the lower blue cabinets. We kept our old refrigerator and this is exactly how it looks on a daily basis.

Before and After Kitchen Renovation with ideas and costs. See our farmhouse sink, herringbone backsplash with white subway tile and our DIY open shelving without changing our layout. Two-tone cabinets in woodgrain and blue. Including tips to get the most out of your budget. #kitcheremodel

The new pantry wall features glass front doors over the coffee counter, we extended the cabinets above the refrigerator for added storage and have pull out shelves in the pantry to increase functionality.

Before and After Kitchen Renovation with ideas and costs. See our farmhouse sink, herringbone backsplash with white subway tile and our DIY open shelving without changing our layout. Two-tone cabinets in woodgrain and blue. Including tips to get the most out of your budget. #kitcheremodel

This is my favorite spot in the kitchen though. I love this sink. I love the faucet. Most of all, I love this view. This is where I can watch my girls play in their playhouse, explore the hill and get as dirty as their little heart’s desire in the yet to be redone backyard.

Before and After Kitchen Renovation with ideas and costs. See our farmhouse sink, herringbone backsplash with white subway tile and our DIY open shelving without changing our layout. Two-tone cabinets in woodgrain and blue. Including tips to get the most out of your budget. #kitcheremodel
Before and After Kitchen Renovation with ideas and costs. See our farmhouse sink, herringbone backsplash with white subway tile and our DIY open shelving without changing our layout. Two-tone cabinets in woodgrain and blue. Including tips to get the most out of your budget. #kitcheremodel

How to make the most of LEGOLAND Brick or Treat Party Nights

How to make the most of LEGOLAND Brick or Treat Party Nights

We’ve had annual passes to LEGOLAND California for years. It’s one of our favorite destinations in San Diego County, along with the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Not only is LEGOLAND California a great place for kids, especially the under 10 crew, but it gets extra bonus points for being VERY close to our house. We were SUPER excited when LEGOLAND invited us to Brick or Treat Pary Nights 2019. When I was home with the girls full time, LEGOLAND was a regular destination for us during the week but we never made it to their annual Brick or Treat event, until this year.

LEGOLAND California Brick or Treat is a must see for the whole family. Our complete guide on how to make the most of your time at the park. #LEGOLAND #carlsbad #halloween

The Details

It’s important to note that Brick or Treat tickets are not included with regular admission to the park (or your annual pass) and need to be purchased separately. The event only takes place on Saturday nights during October and goes from 5 pm to 9 pm. Parking is not included with your ticket and is $18 unless you have a Merlin Pass.

LEGOLAND California Brick or Treat is a must see for the whole family. Our complete guide on how to make the most of your time at the park. #LEGOLAND #carlsbad #halloween

7 Can’t Miss Things at Brick or Treat Party Nights

  • Costume Contest – enter one of a few different categories like group, heroes and villains or LEGO characters, to win great prizes.
  • Special Entertainment – various new shows throughout the park that give you a chance to get off your feet! We really enjoyed the “Frankenbrick” show in the 4D theater.
  • Seasonal Treats – a wide variety of seasonal goodies are available throughout the park. These adorable marshmallow treats are in Fun Town’s Urban Kitchen.
  • Treat stations with more than a million pieces of candy. Lines can get long but they tend to move quite fast.
  • Crafts – take advantage of new craft stations called “Family Building Stations” where your kids can make LEGO pumpkins or color their own Halloween LEGO character hat.
  • RIDES – nearly everything is open so make sure to budget some time to get on your favorite ride or two.
  • Decorations – plenty of photo ops around the park to get that perfect Halloween picture.
LEGOLAND California Brick or Treat is a must see for the whole family. Our complete guide on how to make the most of your time at the park. #LEGOLAND #carlsbad #halloween

Is Brick or Treat worth the extra cost?

The bottom line is yes but as long as you have a full idea of what you are getting for the money and can manage your time appropriately. Parking is extra and the lines can get long. I’ve been spoiled with being able to enjoy LEGOLAND California during the week when the crowds are light so when I go on the weekends and during special events, I’m reminded what a popular destination it is. That’s because LEGOLAND does Halloween right. The decorations are great, not too scary for the young kids. The talent of the LEGO artist always amazes me. The staff at the park and the costumed characters are engaging and accessible.

LEGOLAND California Brick or Treat is a must see for the whole family. Our complete guide on how to make the most of your time at the park. #LEGOLAND #carlsbad #halloween

Kids (and adults) are encouraged to wear costumes. My girls LOVED dressing up! However, I always recommend that people bring a change of clothes to LEGOLAND because of the number of water rides at the park. This is especially important if your child’s costume isn’t easy to get around in or they want to wear it again.

LEGOLAND California Brick or Treat is a must see for the whole family. Our complete guide on how to make the most of your time at the park. #LEGOLAND #carlsbad #halloween

There is a variety of things to do so you have to make sure you prioritize what you want to get done in a limited amount of time. Since it’s a later event, little ones might not make it the whole time (our two year old started to meltdown around 7).

We tried to get in some of our favorite rides, some of the treat stations, dinner and a show. That seemed to be all we could pack into the few hours we had at the event but we made some amazing memories and can’t wait to go back next year.

Mammograms Aren’t Scary.

Mammograms Aren’t Scary.

I had my first mammogram. It didn’t hurt. It was fast. It was negative. It was necessary.

I’ve known that I was due for a mammogram. I was actually overdue but since I had my second child at 40 and was breastfeeding for a year, I never scheduled it. Fast forward another year and I finally got around to making that appointment.

I had a lot of mixed emotions about it. I told myself it was no big deal. That it’s routine and needed for early detection – especially given that I don’t know 100% of my family medical history since I was adopted.

All of those things are rational thoughts. The part of me that was avoiding it was that little voice in my head that usually triggers my anxiety or a panic attack around my own mortality. My brain starts to run through all the bad things that could happen. At one point on the day before my mammogram, that voice made me remember a moment cause this could be the last “normal” day I had with my girls. The what-if’s started to creep in and I had to work really hard to push those thoughts out of my brain. Those are the thoughts that I was trying to avoid by avoiding a mammogram when really I just need to face them head-on and rationally tell that voice that my health is important.

Mammograms can be scary but they don’t have to be. Everything you need to know about your first mammogram, what to expect, when you get results, what the images, machine and diagnostic is like. My tech was amazing and walked me through everything that would happen.

I’ve witnessed so many people deal with breast cancer on various levels. People who are currently fighting it, people who have won their battle and some who have lost, and people who have taken steps to prevent it when their risk levels were high. You can read about my friend Christy’s double mastectomy – it’s brave and it’s eye-opening for people with a family history of breast cancer.

The bottom line is that I just needed to put my big girl panties on and make the damn appointment.

3 Things to know before you go

  1. Contact your insurance first. Know what they cover and don’t cover as well as where you are able to get your mammogram done.
  2. Plan to schedule it in advance. When I called to make my appointment, the earliest available was 3 months out. Three months for me to overthink about all the what-if’s but I took the appointment and didn’t think about it until a week prior.
  3. Don’t wear deodorant or antiperspirant.
Mammograms can be scary but they don’t have to be. Everything you need to know about your first mammogram, what to expect, when you get results, what the images, machine and diagnostic is like. My tech was amazing and walked me through everything that would happen.

What the mammogram is like

I got to my appointment early and ended up waiting for quite some time in the waiting room – which wasn’t exactly great for my anxiety. They finally called me back and had me disrobe just my shirt and bra. Thankful that I didn’t wear a dress and could keep my pants on.

The radiologist who performed my exam was very open and explained the entire process to me. The machine that was used in my mammography was a 3D imaging machine. She positioned my breast in the machine and told me to hold still and to hold my breath while the machine rotated 180 degrees to make the images.

That was it.

Mammograms can be scary but they don’t have to be. Everything you need to know about your first mammogram, what to expect, when you get results, what the images, machine and diagnostic is like. My tech was amazing and walked me through everything that would happen.

The hardest part of the exam was holding my breath.

And waiting. The radiologist told me that my Dr would review the images and message me. I would also receive a printed copy of my results. Thankfully, I received the all-clear from my OB/GYN the next morning.

This once a year appointment can save my life and I’ve pledged to myself, and my daughters, that I’m never going to put it off again.

Mammograms can be scary but they don’t have to be. Everything you need to know about your first mammogram, what to expect, when you get results, what the images, machine and diagnostic is like. My tech was amazing and walked me through everything that would happen.

Kindergarten Summer Activities Guide

Kindergarten Summer Activities Guide

These kindergarten summer activities are a good way to connect and have fun while they – hopefully – learn something.

Why Kindergarten Summer Activities?

Now that camps are over, vacations are done and school is right around the corner, I am slowly starting to get Big Nugget into specific academic kindergarten summer activities. Nothing outrageous and still very play/game orientated but I’m wanting to get her brain dusted off after a fun summer. She’s not reading enough on her own just yet to do most of these independently so it’s a fun way to spend some time together and “do challenges” as she likes to call them.

One thing I did learn with these kindergarten summer activities is that sometimes she has a hard time listening and learning from me. When she starts to get frustrated and shuts down, we move on. I don’t push it because I’m not a homeschool teacher and this is just meant to be fun. She’s going to learn all the things at school – I’m not stressing myself or my daughter out making sure she’s acing these games. There are plenty of other things for me to be stressed about like what we’re going to pack for lunches and how are we going to deal with both kids transitioning into full-time school at the same time.

This post contains some affiliate links – meaning if you click through the links and buy anything, the retailer will pay me a small commission at no additional cost to you! I was also gifted a few of these products to provide my honest review to you.

Highlights Summer Big Fun Workbook

Highlights can seriously do no wrong in my book. We are huge fans of their Hidden Pictures books, it’s a favorite activity the girls do with their Grandma, and we are subscribers. This Big Fun Workbook though gives your child a variety of activities to do from reading to math in a fun, challenging way. The illustrations are colorful and fun, just like you expect from your regular Highlights magazines. There is a progress chart that includes stickers for each chapter that your child completes and a fun hidden pictures bonus game.

Big Nugget wanted to skip over pages that she wasn’t interested in, mostly the tracing of letters, but the chapter completion stickers really motivated her. Such a great learning experience FOR ME as her Mom to see what she is motivated by and now I’m researching sticker charts for other activities (like chores)!

Kindergarten summer activities that make learning fun for kids and parents. Ideas and products that help teach children sight words, science experiments, math, and art projects. #kindgergarten #learning #sightwords

They are available for each lower grade level so it can become a summer tradition for you to work through one of these workbooks each year.

The pages in this book – bridging preschool and kindergarten – include what Highlights calls Fun With A Purpose activities. Hidden Pictures puzzles, mazes, jokes and all are teacher-approved. They are designed to help with language arts, like sight words, and rhyming, math activities like counting, sorting, and simple addition and subtraction.

There are other sections that encourage you to go outside and others that give you step by step instructions to make a craft, usually at the end of the chapter. I would highly recommend this workbook for your rising kindergartener as a fun summer activity.

hand2mind Learn to Read Set

This set from hand2mind combines some great Bob Books with Versatiles. I had never seen them before but my 5 year old LOVES them. She has asked to play this “game” every night before bed. It’s quickly become one of her favorite kindergarten summer activities and made earning some phonics fun for her. The tiles were a little confusing at first but once I read the directions a few times, we figured it out.

Pro tips with the tiles: open the tile case and lie it flat on the workbook page. Make sure the tiles are arranged in order in the top two rows. Lift one tile and follow the page instructions on how to match it to the bottom.

We have loved Bob Books in our house for quite some time. They are simple but so effective in teaching the early layers of learning to read. The illustrations and the sentence structures are simple so that it’s easier to comprehend (and teach).

Kindergarten summer activities that make learning fun for kids and parents. Ideas and products that help teach children sight words, science experiments, math, and art projects. #kindgergarten #learning #sightwords

Melissa & Doug Smarty Pants – Kindergarten

We’ve had this Smarty Pants trivia game since the spring and has been great for travel! Big Nugget also loves to do a handful of these each night before bed. They are a mixture of trivia, questions, math, matching, and logic. My only critique is that the type on the cards can be hard to see in the low light of a bedroom. #oldeyes

Other Kindergarten Summer Activities

  • FREE TIME! They are going to be so scheduled once school starts, give them the freedom that is what makes summer amazing.
  • Games like Guess Who
  • Have your child help you make a bucket list for the last few weeks of summer.
  • Other workbooks like this one and question cards like this one
  • Learning apps – we love the Endless Apps for reading and counting
  • Include them in your back to school shopping
Kindergarten summer activities that make learning fun for kids and parents. Ideas and products that help teach children sight words, science experiments, math, and art projects. #kindgergarten #learning #sightwords

How to Install Roman Shades in 5 Easy Steps

How to Install Roman Shades in 5 Easy Steps

A byproduct of our kitchen renovation was a little bit of a facelift to our adjoining living room. We painted the walls white and I decided to switch out the window treatments to match the roman shade we put in the kitchen window. I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to measure, purchase and install roman shades.

Here is the before picture, we have these standard white blinds on every window of the house. Slowly, I’ll start replacing them all with cordless window treatments. This was a perfect spot to start.

How to install roman shades in 5 easy steps. These affordable window coverings are cordless and an easy DIY update to any space. We added our roman shades to our living room and kitchen for a completely updated look. #romanshades #DIY #howto

I bought these roman shades at Lowes, they are custom cut at the store and very affordable, at least for a window covering. This entire installation took me under 10 minutes to complete and I did it by myself with a drill, pen and measuring tape. Super simple!

Install Roman Shades – Step 1

Remove your old window covering and made sure to give the window a good wipe down.

Remove your old blinds and make sure to wipe the space down before you start drilling.

Step 2

Measure and mark where you are going to drill the holes to install the brackets.

Measure out and mark where to drill your holes.

Step 3

Drill your holes and install the top brackets. Yes this looks a little crooked but the design of the roman shades are very forgiving.

The bracket to hold the shades before installing the roman shades.

Step 4

Lift the roman shade into place to make sure the screws align.

How to install roman shades in 5 easy steps. These affordable window coverings are cordless and an easy DIY update to any space. We added our roman shades to our living room and kitchen for a completely updated look. #romanshades #DIY #howto

Step 5

Tighten the butterfly nut on the post and you’re done!

How to install roman shades in 5 easy steps. These affordable window coverings are cordless and an easy DIY update to any space. We added our roman shades to our living room and kitchen for a completely updated look. #romanshades #DIY #howto

This installation was so easy and made such a difference in the space. I love bringing in the natural fibers in the window against the white walls of the living room. These shades are easy to adjust as well so when we want to watch a movie and darken the room a bit, they pull right down.

We love how they turned out, such a quick and affordable DIY update to the space.

How to install roman shades in 5 easy steps. These affordable window coverings are cordless and an easy DIY update to any space. We added our roman shades to our living room and kitchen for a completely updated look. #romanshades #DIY #howto

Install Roman Shades in Ceramic Tile

We followed these exact steps to install roman shades in our kitchen. The inside of the window sill was tiled to match the walls so we needed a special drill bit to drill through the ceramic tile. We also kept the bit and the tile wet with a spray bottle while we drilled slowly to prevent cracking.

How to install roman shades in 5 easy steps. These affordable window coverings are cordless and an easy DIY update to any space. We added our roman shades to our living room and kitchen for a completely updated look. #romanshades #DIY #howto

End of Year Teacher Gift Ideas

End of Year Teacher Gift Ideas

I always struggle to come up with a great end of year teacher gift for our wonderful teachers. There is only so much room in one’s life for custom frames and coffee mugs. I want to give them gifts that are useful and meaningful and that show how deeply they are appreciated for what they do all year, not just during teacher appreciation week.

This end of the school year is a particularly special one since my oldest is graduating from this special preschool we’ve called home for the last three years. I wanted to do something a little different than our teacher appreciation week gift last year so I sourced some ideas from readers and ya’ll don’t disappoint.

This post contains some affiliate links – meaning if you click through the links and buy anything, the retailer will pay me a small commission at no additional cost to you! 

End of Year Teacher Gift Ideas

  1. Handwritten notes about why you loved them – such a great idea and so deeply personal. Get a stationary set about something the teacher loves and have your child write a note on one and give the rest to them to use. How cute is this camping set or one for the Disney fan? My oldest loves to write her own thank you notes. I just write the text on a piece of paper for her and she copies it on her own.
  2. Book Store Gift Card – Teachers can never get enough books right? I also love giving them a gift subscription to Audible. That way, they will be motivated to use it for themselves and not the classroom.
  3. Wine – No brainer. These wines from Verse + Wine pair poetry with great wines.
  4. Survival Kit – a great end of year teacher gif idea from one of my readers! She used a 4×6 photo storage box and made this adorable DIY gift loaded with goodies from Target and the Dollar Store.
  5. Cookie Jar – The theme for our graduation party, yes we are doing a preschool graduation party, is One Smart Cookie. This cookie jar paired with a cookie mix, an oven mitt, and a spatchula will be perfect!
  6. Trinket Box – Something that is teacher related but not so literal – this Kate Spade Apple Box.

Do you have any ideas to add to this list? Share in the comments!

End of year teacher gifts from students. Show your teacher appreciation from preschool to high school, these DIY and inexpensive gifts are meaningful and unique. #teacher #giftidea #school