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Kitchen Update: Before and After

Hey ya’ll!

Long time no see. 😉 I’ve been waiting to write another post until I could update ya’ll on our kitchen progress.

Initially, we weren’t planning on changing the kitchen, seeing as how we bought the house brand new at the end of 2013. After living in it for a year or so, I caved and painted the island as you may remember in my Kitchen Island Problem post and my solution here.

The island ended up looking a lot lighter and there wasn’t enough contrast between it and the rest of the cabinets. After a few months, I got fed up and sold it on Craigslist. While I looked for a replacement this little old console thingy sat there covering the wires coming out of the floor so my child couldn’t get to them.

baby island

baby island

It took months and months for us to decide what to do. I knew that ultimately I really wanted to replace the granite. The builder grade granite with that ogee edge just made me sad every time I looked at it. No snooty-ness intended, my job is granite so I know what I like in that department.

I finally convinced Mr. Middle Sister to agree to get new granite and a new backsplash. The ONLY reason we were able to afford this was because all we had to buy was the material. I reckon thats one of the perks of being a granite/marble/quartz/natural stone fabricator. Soooo…..I went with Crema Delicatus Granite, I really-really wanted (and still do someday) Carrara Marble, but our cabinets and walls are cream and Carrarra is white and gray. I knew it just wouldn’t work for this house.

Crema Delicatus Granite

Crema Delicatus Granite

I was debating on sink colors with those two little squares in the front. I ended up choosing a totally different one when I went to go pick up the sink. I ended up with a Blanco Precis Single Bowl in Cinder and I absolutely love it.

Wuv my new sink: Blanco Precis Super Single in Cinder

Wuv my new sink: Blanco Precis Super Single in Cinder

Our old sink was a 60/40 Stainless Steel and it was fine, but now that I have this baby, I’m never going back. Super Single bowl is the way to go. I can fit all my big pans and my kids dishes and more in there and keep my counter free of clutter. It is Aaaaamazing!

We did splurge on a restaurant style faucet. The brand is Danze. It was kind of an impulse buy, which we should be avoiding, but I feel like I’ve fallen off the wagon with our frugal living. I need an intervention! lol, j/k. We will soon be forced to get back on said wagon so we can beef up our savings. I love our new faucet and am glad we didn’t keep the old one. I love the single hole in the granite. Our old faucet was two holes and I feel like that would’ve take away from the overall look.

Fabulous Faucet

Fabulous Faucet

At first, I wasn’t sure about it being stainless when our cabinet pulls are oil rubbed bronze. But once it was installed, I got over that real quick. Our appliances are stainless steel so I feel like that ties it all together.

It’s so exciting! Oh one more thing…we ended up having an island made and I stained it myself. I love how it turned out and I am now toying with the idea of putting in a planked wall above the fireplace in the living room stained in the same color. Whatcha think???

Feast your eyes!

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I just love it so much!DSC_0210

Every morning when I walk into our kitchen, my heart jumps for joy!

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Did I mention our new gray subway tile?DSC_0224

I love it as well.

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A friend of mine does tile and she came and helped me with the backsplash. She did a lot of it, but she did teach me how to do it. I plan on retiling the fireplace soon with the same gray subway tiles. I alway have a project to work on. 🙂 I’m toying with the ideas of adding some variations of cabinet pulls and I’d really love to pull the microwave out and put in a range hood made of wood stained in the same color as the island. But, I may be getting ahead of myself here…as usual.

One more pic to show Before and After:

Before and After

Before and After

‘Til next time then. Thanks for stopping by!

What do you think, would you trade out your granite for something else? If so for what?

Checklist Progress

Hey ya’ll!  So just to update you, Mr. Middle Sister is finally home and I did get our bedroom and bathroom painted before he got here. Yay!

Photo on the left with Maverick on the bed is before. Photo on the right is new paint color. I’m thinking I still need something above the bed.

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The tray in the bedroom looks a lot bluer than it should, something about the lighting…our house turns everything blue. I have a sneaking suspicion it is the tan ceilings. (Not a fan-but there’s no way I’m painting 12 ft ceilings either…)

Here is a photo of the blue tray (unfinished). I really drug that project out way too long…

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Bathroom with new paint. Again this is Gray paint but the ceiling in here is tan for some ridiculous reason and I wonder if that’s why the walls look blue-ish. There’s my cutie pie in the bedroom trying to photo bomb.

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If you remember from my Productivity Slump Post, the bathroom was tan before I painted it. Next weekend, a friend of mine is going to come over and help me change the tile around the tub. I’m thinking subway tile because we are changing the granite on the vanity when the shop isn’t too busy to do it. That, and I’m a bit obsessed with subway tile. 🙂

I also got wild and decided to paint the tan ceiling in the separate potty area in the master bath. I went with the same blue that I painted the tray with in the master bedroom. I am ok with painting ceilings in small spaces, I may go ahead and paint the ceiling in the laundry room too. I’m thinking planked walls in there. Yum!

Here is that potty room’s pretty new ceiling, I mentioned to Mr. Middle Sister about putting a prettier light in there and he laughed. Men, they have no vision. 😉

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I am so excited to get the tub surround done and new counters in. I’m thinking of putting subway tile up the wall behind the vanity too. Thoughts? Yay or nay? Anyone have that in their home?

Thanks for stopping by ya’ll!

Productivity Slump? Plan ahead instead!

Hey ya’ll.

So, I’m feeling a little bummed lately. So far I have not made 2015 as productive as I should have. I’m struggling with a couple of things. Last night, I was looking at my goals for this year and so far, I have accomplished NOTHING. Granted, most of our/my goals are more of the long term variety, but I’m worried. Why have I hit this slump?

The only thing I can think of is that I have put life on hold. Mr. Middlesisterproject will be home next month. If you are a milspouse who has gone through a deployment you know what this is like. The ability to deal with this should have been passed down genetically (even though I have no clue if my mammo had to endure a deployment.)

Here is my granddad in his WWII pilot gear. So handsome!

granddad in AF WWII pilot gear

The excitement of having your spouse back home after a year away, mixed with the anxiety of learning to be a “couple” again is an unsettling combo. I have spent the last year being a single mom; I’ve been independent and self sufficient, but now I’m thinking I have to just switch into doting wife mode. In theory, this shouldn’t be difficult, I love my husband and am so proud of him for serving our country for the 18 years that he already has. We milspouses are forced to be tough and resilient, but I fear it has made me disconnected and cold. I digress…

A lot of the goals I/we have for 2015 require a joint effort. There is one wall in our bathroom with a splotch of gray paint on it, and I have started cutting in in our bedroom too with a pretty cream color. But, now things are at a stand still. I know I won’t be able to go any further on either of those projects until my man gets home. I can’t exactly paint with a wild toddler running around (Lord knows everything in the house, including Puppy Brother, will end up covered in paint). I feel stuck; at least I only have a month left of the “I can’t do that till he gets home” mentality.

I’ve also been thinking of adding a goal to my list: Entering a Figure Contest! It is something I have wanted to do ever since I really got into working out several years ago. My body is nowhere near ready to stuff into a tiny booty bearing bikini and strutting around on stage (and I doubt if it ever will be). But, I would love to take a year to train like I’m going to enter a contest. The only thing stopping me is that doing this would require a coach, which would set us back around $200/month. Considering that we are trying to get rid of debt, I just don’t think I can commit to paying $200/month for a coach. Maybe, I can add this goal to 2016  instead?

I think the best way to get out of this funk is to focus on the projects I need to tackle before we can put our house up for sale.

I also have big plans for the laundry room. I plan on DIY’ing a light fixture for in there to replace the current boob light. I was liking schoolhouse pendant DIY from http://www.bitsofblissblog.com

schoolhouse light

I want to add some color, storage, organization to the laundry room as well. And since I have connections, I was thinking of having the guys cut me a granite piece to sit on top the washer and dryer like a counter.

Like this:

CarraraLaundry

 source

I will probably just spend the next month planning all my projects and start tackling them the day after husband gets home. That would be semi-productive. It will give me the opportunity to make lists, and I do love lists!

I’ll keep ya’ll updated on the DIY projects I will be conquering soon. Do ya’ll have any suggestions for the laundry room that will help our house sell? It is currently plain, blah-tan contractor’s choice paint on the walls, pretty small, and has a cabinet above the washer and dryer.

TTFN ya’ll!

Why New Years Resolutions Don’t Work

why new years resolutions don't work

Hey ya’ll!

As the holiday season is coming to a close, I find myself looking forward to the new year ahead of us and reflecting on 2014. This year has been one of the hardest years of my life but also one of the best!

2014 saw my husband gone for the military and me here alone with our new baby (my first child). I have to admit it has been tough being a new mommy alone, working, and trying to do my best without my husband here; but, it would have been a whole lot harder without my family close enough to us to help me when I needed it.

I am amazed at how much things can change in a year. At the beginning of 2014, I was working full time at a job I didn’t much like but that paid decently, now I work for my dad’s business part time doing something that I love. The change in income has forced me to learn to better manage our finances, but it has also showed me what is important in my life. I am more happy now with a lot less than I was before. The biggest change has been the ability to spend more time with my family, a change that has made my life so much more full.

We have achieved one big goal this past year and that was paying off one of our vehicles. I have been assessing our situation and looking forward at 2015 and deciding on goals we want to set for our family for the upcoming year. I don’t make new years resolutions anymore, I’ve tried and failed miserably with resolutions in the past. I’ve learned that setting measurable goals is more effective.

A resolution is more like a wish, or at least it has been for me. I might say I want to lose 10 pounds this year. But unless I make that a goal for myself and list the smaller steps that are going to get me there, while making sure to revisit the overall goal and asses my progress along the way, that resolution will end up in the pile with past failed resolutions.

2015 Goals

So, I have outlined our goals for 2015 and then discussed them with my husband and checked to see if he had anything to add. We have come up with categories for our goals, they are:

HOME– these goals include projects we plan to do around the house

HEALTH– goals that help us improve our health or top personal bests in the gym

FINANCES– any money or budget related of course

PROFESSIONAL– this I added to remind me to think about what I want to do with the blog, when hubs gets home I should have more time to work on it and maybe even grow it

LONG-TERM– we can add to this throughout the year; I’d like to set a debt-free date here

OTHER– Anything that doesn’t fall into the other categories

I have created a 2015 Goals Sheet that is available here. This past year I started keeping a “family binder”; currently I mostly use it to track bills, but I plan on doing more with it next year. I’ve put my 2015 Goals sheet at the front of the binder to remind me of what we are working for in 2015.

Just a few of our plans are below- I won’t bore you with the details 🙂

Home– sell our house, we want some land (I have a list of things I have to do before we list it; there will be paint flying everywhere)

Health– Run at least 2 5k’s (both me and husband), increase my bent over row weight to 50lb dumbbells (Currently I do 40lbs)

Finances– Pay extra $500 to car note/month, 8k in savings by end of year, purchase land (this one I haven’t quite outlined in detail yet)

Professional– Blog regularly, make more items for our Etsy shop

Long-Term– Payoff my car by December 2016, Homestead? (I’m not sure if homesteading is something we could even do, but it intrigues me)

Other– De-clutter and organize everything (I need baskets!)

Feel free to hop on over to our Etsy shop if you’d like to purchase the printable I made for the Goal Sheet. If you purchase it, I will customize it for you with your name and categories you’d like.

What are ya’lls New Years “Goals”, I’d love for you to share!

The Homemade Movement: Fresh Bread

Hey ya’ll!

So, I have been making a real effort to create for myself more things that I use everyday. I prefer to know what is in my food and products that I put on my body and are absorbed into my skin. Plus making these things myself saves money. Two birds! So far I have tackled lotion, dry shampoo, dishwasher soap, laundry soap, my son’s graham crackers and my latest venture, BREAD.

Making the bread came out of necessity, for 3 weeks in a row the commissary didn’t have the Eziekiel bread I normally buy. We finally ran out of my stash of bread in the freezer on Saturday, so Sunday I made bread for the week.

I made fresh yummy honey wheat bread. My 1 year old loves toast with a little organic butter-I’m sure he doesn’t care if it’s organic but I do, there’s bad for you chemicals in everything these days and we don’t even know it! It turned out really well, I can taste the hint of honey in each bite. Delish!

Feast your eyes!

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I’m thinking of getting a slice as we speak…

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So tasty and healthy.

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I promise this was easy and I had everything on hand. I used a recipe from The Comfort of Cooking but tweaked it a bit.

I used the Kitchen Aid stand mixer that used to be my Mammo’s, I was lucky enough to end up with it after she passed away. Every time I use it I think of her and me as a kid standing on the little wooden step stool (I ended up with that one too) in her kitchen helping her bake. She’d let me wear her apron and stir whatever was in the bowl. Gosh I miss her and my Granddad.

Here it is working it’s kneading magic. They don’t even make beaters for it anymore, it’s practically an antique.

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I’d love to hear what ya’ll are doing to create home made foods and goods!

Without further adieu here is the recipe I ended up creating.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup water

1 cup milk

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

2 TB and an extra skoash honey (I used local natural raw honey-better for allergies and super delicious)

2 cups whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur)

1 cups almond flour (I used Bob’s mill)*

1 1/2 cups organic all purpose four

1 cup oat bran*

4 TB unsalted butter melted and cooled a smidge (I used Challenge Organic)

1 scant TB salt

*If you don’t have almond flour use whole wheat or all purpose or whatever tickles your fancy

*If you don’t have oat bran use rolled oats

HOW TO:

Pour water and milk in bowl and microwave for 30-45 seconds until warm. (The original recipe said it needed to be 115 degrees F, but I didn’t check the temp and my bread turned out great). Pour watery milk into bowl of stand mixer. Add yeast and honey. Let sit 10 minutes (at this point it is supposed to turn foamy—I never saw foam).

Throw in the rest of the stuff—Flour through salt. Slap your dough hook attachment on your mixer and put it on medium and let it do the kneading for you for about 6 minutes. Dough is supposed to be smooth, elastic and only slightly sticky at this point—too many descriptives for me, I just turned my kitchen timer on and let it count down for me. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, make sure it’s clean and that it doesn’t have dog drool or baby spit up on it like mine often do (I promise I found a clean one for this bread creation session). Let it rise for an hour in a warm-is place until it doubles in size.

Next, punch the dough down and throw it on a floured surface. Smush it into a 8×8-ish sized square and roll that into a Lincoln log. Toss that into a “greased” loaf pan (I use spray coconut oil, you could butter it, or whatever floats your boat). Make sure the seam side is on the bottom. Cover that ensemble with tea towel and let it rise 30-40 minutes.

I baked my creation in a preheated 375 degree F oven. I sprinkled some more oat bran on top-but I shouldn’t have bothered since they all fell off after I took the loaf out of the pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes—rotate halfway through baking.  Loaf is ready when top is deep brown. Put it on a cooling rack if that’s your thing.

Make sure you take a nibble before its completely cooled, because warm bread is super tasty.

See you next time. Please share your homemade creations, I’d love an easy recipe for homemade hair conditioner!

Christmas on a budget: free calendar & gift budget tracker

Hey ya’ll!

This year Christmas is a bit different for us. It is our first Christmas with my husband deployed. It is my first Christmas that I’ve been on a budget.  EEK!

A few months ago I left my full time job so I could spend more time with our baby and maybe actually do something I enjoyed. I am working part time for my dad’s Granite and Marble company (and loving it), but my income is almost half of what it was before, since I went from full time to part time. I made the decision to leave my old job knowing that my income would be less, it is a trade off that I am ok with because more time with my son outweighs the rest.

So this Christmas, I am not buying gifts. Well, not exactly anyway. I am creating homemade gifts for the gifts I am giving-for the most part. I will have to buy a few things; we are buying a few things for our toddler, mainly because I don’t know how to make a tractor scooter thingy. My husband and I aren’t purchasing gifts for each other, him coming home in a few months is our gift to each other…that and paying his Camaro off this week (woohoo!). I love how it feels to pay off a debt; it means we are one step closer to our goal of being fully debt free. 

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Cutting way back on the gifts this year is something I am totally fine with. It is allowing us to focus on what truly matters to us this Christmas: each other. I am beyond content with the trade off of having to budget and really cut back on our expenses to not have to miss family time. When I worked full time I always missed out on getting together with my sisters and mom to bake something or to plan who is making what over a cup of coffee (or three). I missed visiting with my brother and his family when they were in for the holidays because I was at work. I am tickled that I get to spend the most important thing this year: time with family! It’s really tough that my husband won’t be here this year to enjoy it with us, but I am so thankful that he will be home soon.

Over the past year my priorities have shifted majorly. Right before we had our son, I bought a brand new vehicle, we moved into a newer, bigger, more expensive house. I was very concerned about having “things”. Keeping up with the Joneses, so to speak. Over the past few months, I found myself wishing we were still in that small, more affordable house and that I still had the car I had 4 or 5 cars ago—the one that I didn’t pay an arm and a leg for. I’ve realized what is important, to me anyway. My family and my time with my family, becoming debt free, minimizing stuff and clutter, and living the healthiest & happiest life I possibly can-and providing that kind of life for my family to the best of my ability.

So this holiday season, I get to focus on those things and not worry about what I still have to buy for whoever, what appearances I have to keep up for whatever reason. It is such a freeing feeling, why didn’t I do this sooner?

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Freebies anyone?

I made a calendar for December (yeah I know it’s already the 2nd) and gift budget tracker to help keep me on track with holiday spending.  I plan to keep the expenses to a minimum and maximize family time. Christmas isn’t about buying “stuff”. I honestly don’t remember what gifts I got for Christmas over the years, but I do remember the memories I made with the people I spent the holidays with. Experiences are worth so much more than stuff. So if you’d like to use the Christmas Budget Tracker and/or the December calendar, click on the links to download them.

Click here for the calendar.

Click here for the gift budget tracker.

Credit for elements used on the freebies:

Wreath border garland from Puresweetjoy.com. http://www.puresweetjoy.com/circle-garland-borders-free-download/

Laurel from Designs by Miss Mandee: http://www.designsbymissmandee.com/2014/08/free-laurel-wreath-graphics/

“Christmas on Crack” font-  Parallax, are (c)1999-2001 David C. Lovelace

Budgeting baby steps

Hey ya’ll!

I am adjusting to the career change and am loving actually enjoying my work. If you missed what I’m doing now, check out our website-which I got to create: marbellainc.com. It helps that I get to take my son to the office every once in a while. It actually works out. A couple of weeks ago we had clients bring their son in who is close in age to mine and they played together while we discussed material and edging selections for their counters. So much fun!

Anyway, I got sidetracked. Back to the topic at hand. I am adding a category to my blog where I can share what works for us with “budgeting”. I have always managed the finances for our family, but up until I quit my “real” job managing our finances consisted of making sure the bills were paid on time.

Now that I’ve quit my “real job” and have taken a pretty substantial pay cut. I have been forced to re-evaluate our finances. Honestly, I need to get us on a budget. The problem is that I can’t stand budgets. Every attempt I have made at getting on a budget in the past has failed miserably. So, I am taking a different approach. I am trying different methods and seeing what works for us. I wouldn’t call it a budget at this point, lets just say that I’m moving us toward a financial plan.

Anyway, the first step that I have taken is to try the “half payment method”. Where you take half of each bill out of each paycheck and set it aside so that you don’t get hit with say your car payment of $300 out of one $600 paycheck. But, I get paid every week, so I changed it to the “fourth payment method”. So out of each paycheck I set aside one fourth of my monthly bills.

Here is a visual:

Paycheck 1: $500

One fourth of car payment: $100

Left over from Paycheck 1: $400

This is just an example, in reality you would of course do one fourth of all your bills. But, as you can see, you have $400 left after after paycheck 1, whereas if you paid your entire car payment out of paycheck 1, you would have $100 left for the week.

Let me explain how I make this work for us. I created an extra checking account and named it “bills”. Every week when I get paid I deposit my check into my main account. I then immediately transfer a fourth of my monthly bills payment into my “bills” account. That leaves me enough for gas and groceries. I factor in the automatic transfers to my Roth IRA and my son’s college fund as bills so it is covered and I don’t come up short. *Make savings automatic/treat it like a bill*. Right now I move the money for a bill back to my main account to pay it because most everything is auto-pay and I don’t want to have to mess with changing which account it comes from. But, one day when I’m feeling especially productive, I will change all the payments so they come out of the “bills” account. Currently, since the hubs is overseas, he does things his way. Which is less than ideal, because I married a spender. But when he gets home, I will get him on board with the half-fourth payment method.

Just FYI.  We bank with USAA, and they make it super easy to add new accounts in your online profile and to move funds around among your accounts.

So far this modified half payment method is working really well for me. I have a week every month where the bulk of my bills come out, so now that week isn’t as much of a stressor as it used to be. I also no longer spend money that should have gone to a bill because it has already been taken out of my account. Having to “budget” the funds has been a big change and really tough; it has also made me regret buying that brand new Q5 last year. But, it has been worth it to have a flexible schedule and spend more time with my kid.

My husband’s PCS (permanent change of station) overseas has also allowed us to save up enough to pay off his Camaro at the end of December, but that’s a post for another day.

What budgeting methods have worked for your family?