How I Painted My Boring Oak Kitchen Cabinets White.

August 22, 2017

How to paint oak cabinets white.

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate  


I recently painted the slightly dated, builder-grade oak cabinets in our kitchen white. This was by far the largest DIY project I’ve ever taken on and it was a ton of work but it was worth every single bit of effort.

Overall, the project took me around 50 hours. In my kitchen, I have 10 double-door cabinet “sets”, a singleton, and an island. (See? I’m so green – I don’t even know what those cabinet “sets” are called! If I can do this, you totally can.) 

This is not really a full set of DIY instructions for this project. There are SO many great posts at there that already provide detailed instructions for this project. Instead, I’ve just provided a brief overview of my process, my supplies, and some tips I garnered along the way. At the end, I’ve provided a list of posts that were invaluable to me and provide great tips and tutorials. 

If I did this project again and applied some of the lessons I learned along the way, I could definitely shave off 30% of the time.

Here are a couple of things you should know about my process and end result:

  • I did not remove my cabinet doors to paint, but painted everything in place.
  • I did not paint the inside of the cabinets. I did, however, paint the inside of the doors and drawer lips. 
  • I did not cover the inside of the cabinet doors with the same care that I painted the outside. I just wanted to make sure that when someone opened a cabinet, the color wasn’t dramatically different. If you look carefully, you can see some spots I could have covered more thoroughly. 
  • I did not sand everything by a long shot, but I did “spot sand”. If there was a particularly difficult piece of grime, wood that was splintering, or varnish that looked less worn (and thus less absorbent) than other spots, I would give it a quick sand. I did not sand thoroughly between coats but I did sand a bit more in between coats, especially if I had drip marks. 
  • Although I did not remove the doors, I did pull out drawers as I painted.  I just set the drawers on the counter (on painting paper). This made both the inside and outside of the drawers and the frame of the cabinet much easier to paint.
  • For corners and edges that were really difficult to reach with my large paintbrush (you’d be surprised how many of these I found in a pretty straightforward, vanilla kitchen!), I just used a tiny crafting sponge to press some paint into place. A tiny paintbrush would have worked equally well (better, probably!), in retrospect.
  • The representative at the Benjamin Moore store and all of the tutorials that I read emphasized “thin” coats. While this is true, I think I took this too literally. The paint I used was supposed to cover in 2 coats and it definitely took at least 3 for me (with a bit of patching afterwards). If my coats had been just slightly thicker, I think the end result would have been a bit smoother and I would have achieved it much faster. This is probably especially important to keep in mind for that curved decorative area on the front of the doors, where I really struggled with consistent coverage.
  • Since I didn’t paint everything all at once and because of the process I used to paint each door, I lost track a couple of times of which cabinet doors were in what stage. If I did this again, I would use sticky notes (maybe color-coded?) or a more methodical system.
  • I still have two false drawer fronts disconnected – the ridiculous snaps holding them into place both broke at the very beginning of the project. They are a HEWUUUUGE pain to reinstall and totally not worth the effort because THEY ARE FALSE DRAWER FRONTS. So I need to get some really fine screws and some caulk and patch it all up still. Can you find the picture that shows the holes in the cabinet?;-)
How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate
Halfway through – SUCH A DISASTER! But I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate
Real Life! The kitchen was SUCH a disaster during this project. Also, word to the wise: do NOT climb on top of the refrigerator without another adult around.

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate

How I chose my paint

I used a “bonding” primer (just Behr from Home Depot that I had in the garage) which is supposed to help with surfaces that are already finished and, most importantly, surfaces that haven’t been thoroughly sanded. I highly recommend using this rather than a regular primer if you don’t plan to sand completely. 

I used Benjamin Moore Advance paint which is specifically designed for cabinets. Regular wall paint in high-gloss would probably work, but I knew my painting project was going to be time-consuming and I wanted it to last. Forever, ideally. The paint was a pleasure to use – it was thick and applied easily and little ridges and bumps disappeared as the paint dried. It was also fast-drying. 

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate
The original “before” – closing day!
How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate
Oooooohhhh the oak!

How I chose the shade of white for my cabinets

I chose Benjamin Moore’s Cotton Balls white paint for my cabinets. Deciding on a white took me FOREVER. Maria Killam and Laurel Bern will never know it, but their posts were so so helpful. I scoured everything they had on choosing a color and white and light and learned all sorts of interesting things about colors and paint. 

I also plugged my paint color into Google images to see shots of rooms that used the paint. For instance, I typed in “Kitchen cabinets Cotton balls Benjamin Moore” and then just scrolled until I found a few images that showed me examples. 

Cotton Balls is, for me and this kitchen, the perfect perfect white. I’m so happy with it. The oh-so-popular Simply White was too cold for our house and our kitchen faces north so I felt like it was going to look green on me. And I wanted to avoid anything that looked even slightly beige-y. My house is already so beige/warm cream and I wanted to cool it down. Cotton Balls feels JUST WHITE, not grey or cream, but it seems like every-so-slightly warmer than some of the other whites I considered. Not yellow-er, just deeper. Or something.

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate
That top row is just primed. That’s what the in-between coats looked like!

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate
I spy missing false drawer fronts!


As I said, I didn’t paint everything at once. I started on the island, because I had no idea what I was doing. I figured that if I screwed up completely, the island could look different than the rest of the kitchen and it wouldn’t be a disaster. As time and paint that needed to be used up in my tray corresponded, I moved to the other sections. 

I’d suggest that you determine your painting sequence at the beginning and start at the smallest section. That way, you won’t get completely overwhelmed at the beginning. 

Cleaning – First, I cleaned every surface that was going to be painted thoroughly. These cabinets are 16 years old and, after cleaning them, I very much doubt they have ever really been scrubbed. Regardless, the kitchen is a pretty filthy place and cabinets don’t often get cleaned as frequently as they should. This step is the one on I was most diligent. You can re-sand and repaint, but none of the paint will adhere properly if the surface isn’t clean.

To clean, first I scrubbed with a bit of dish soap and warm water and a cloth and dried (avoid letting the moisture really soak in. Then I went back over the surface with a mixture of 1 part vinegar, 1 part water that I heated. (Simply microwave 1 cup water and 1 cup vinegar for 3 minutes.) I scrubbed with this mixture with the steel wool side of my sponge. This accomplished two things: 

  • The hot vinegar mixture REALLY tackled grime, dust build-up, gross sticky residue, and helped wear away a bit more of the varnish (thus providing a little bit of sanding effect).
  • The steel wool provided a bit more texturing of the surface. If I did it again, I would have used the steel wool for the soap cleaning step as well.

Ultimately, I painted with 1 coat of primer and 3 coats of cabinet paint. As I mentioned before, had my primer coat and my first two cabinet coats been more thorough, I think I could have saved myself an entire coat. PRIME THOROUGHLY. I allowed each coat to dry for at least 24 hours in between (although some coats sat there for much longer because of what my schedule allowed).

After a great deal of trial and error, here’s the basic painting sequence that I found most efficient for each coat of paint.

  1. I painted all of the edges that were hard to reach once the doors are open, especially paying attention to the outside side edges of the door on the hinge-side. (These becomes extremely hard to reach once the doors are open.)
  2. While those edges dried, I opened the doors and painted all of the frame. Most of these edges wouldn’t be reached well with a roller. This included flat edges on the hinge-side of each door, around the top and bottom corners, and normally the top lip as well. 
  3. Then I painted the inside, first covering the large flat areas with a roller and then edging whatever didn’t get full coverage with the brush.
  4. The outside of my cabinets has a little trough area – many builder-grade cabinets do. This is what I tackled next, with a brush. This area proved particularly difficult to cover thoroughly, fyi. Pay special attention to the thickness of your coverage here as well as drip marks.
  5. Then I painted the flat edges and the main panel of the outside of each door. 
  6. Of course, I didn’t forget to tackle the trip, the crown molding, the side panels, the bottom panels of the cabinets, and any remaining random edges.
  7. I allowed each complete coat to dry for 18-24 hours before adding another coat. I let cupboards and drawers sit open for 10-12 hours before shutting them.

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate


I switched back and forth between rollers and paintbrushes. I still can’t decide which was more effective. The roller coverage was much faster but it definitely left some weird little air pockets and the final texture wasn’t as smooth as the paintbrush coverage, but the drip marks were fewer. Play around with both and see which you like. In the end, here’s what I used:

  • Behr Bonding Primer from Home Depot
  • Benjamin Moore Advance Cabinet Paint in Cotton Ball White
  • Wooster paintbrushes (I was told that Wooster is actually preferable in some cases to Purdy and they are MUCH less expensive. I loved them.)
  • Dynamic roller brushes – I tried different kinds and naps. I ended up using one for the primer and first coats and a different one for the later coats. Try them out on the inside of the cabinet doors until you figure out what you like. 
  • Paint trays
  • Butcher block paper – I used paper drop cloths from Home Depot but this would work too.
  • I didn’t cover anything in plastic, but in the end, I sort of regretted not properly prepping. I still have little spray marks I’m scraping off from my counters and floors. Covering the counters and floors with this in advance would have been easy and saved me a lot of time (and would be totally necessary if you have dark floors or counters and don’t want a disaster). 
  • A little craft sponge.
  • Hardware – I found mine from Home Depot but I loved the selection on Wayfair as well.
  • A paint spout. 
  • Rags
  • Rubber gloves –  wore gloves for every step of the process. It will totally save your hands during the cleaning process and keep you from constantly having paint marks on your hands during the painting process.

How to paint oak cabinets white | The Orange Slate

Other posts about painting cabinets white

  • I think this post by Dear Lillie was the one that really turned the tables for me. I thought “I can do this!”. She goes into great detail about two different approaches and how she repainted the cabinets in two different houses. (Also, I could just stare at her room re-dos all day anyway).
  • This post from Remodelaholic was one of three that basically sealed the deal for me. She does not remove the doors for painting and provided lots of specific instructions and tips. It’s worth noting that she used Benjamin Moore Advance paint that is specifically designed for cabinets, which is exactly what I used. 
  • Kate from HouseMixBlog provides the details about painting her bathroom cabinets here and her kitchen cabinets here. She does not remove the doors either, but does more a “cheat” paint job like I did. Her kitchen went from blah to sparkling white!
  • This post is also so helpful and her transformation is breathtaking. She uses the Benjamin Moore Advance paint as well. 
  • Made in a Day hired painters, but the transformation from oak to bright white is lovely. 
  • Jeanne Oliver writes about transforming her kitchen by painting her cabinets using Annie Sloan – I personally have so much peace of mind with the cabinet paint I chose. I feel like it will age well and I love knowing that, aside from cleaning, there is basically no maintenance. But if you’re into chalk paint, you’re into chalk paint. Regardless, her kitchen’s transformation is beautiful and there are some great tips.


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DIY Baby Food – Butternut Squash

March 25, 2015

Blog Title DIY Butternut Squash

DIY Baby Food 2

Food is a serious pursuit in this house. I do most of the cooking right now, but Mark can hold his own over the stove. Much of our dating happened in the kitchen. We approach food from different perspectives. I’m sort of an ALL THE CARBS ALL THE TIME girl. When I first met Mark, he was a recovering vegan and subsisted on (what seemed to me like) a diet of salmon, kale, beans, and sweet potatoes.

This was completely baffling to me, especially because I didn’t even really know that kale was an actual option for humans to eat, except that one of my roommates at the time also lived on (what seemed like) only kale and sweet potatoes with some olive oil (budget-friendly, but still baffling to me).

So, surrounded, I began to be a little more daring and started to try foods like kale, sweet potatoes, and quinoa while, subjected to one too many lectures about how fat is good for brain cells, Mark agreed to expand his diet to include things like cinnamon rolls and all of the cheese.

DIY Baby Food 1

This is not a post about how Whole30 changed our life (it didn’t because we haven’t tried it) or how we don’t eat bread and pasta (we eat lots) or how I can make a wedding cake, frosting and all, without using gluten (I can’t and I wouldn’t want to anyway). We take our milk and our Greek yogurt with all of the fat and our grains with all of the butter.

This IS a post about eating intentionally and passing that on to little ones. We don’t eat legalistically, but we do try to eat mindfully. We don’t make rules about what not to eat, but we have some guidelines about where to start eating. We don’t label foods as “bad,” or “poison,” or guilt-trip ourselves, but we do try to focus the majority of our appetites and efforts on food that nourishes us most efficiently.

And so we try use lots of vegetables and fruits in our meals, lots of fresh foods, very little that is pre-packaged or prepared before it gets to our house.

This grand theory of eating doesn’t always work. I basically quit cooking altogether for three months after Miles was born and we ate tacos every other day, trying out every single taco chain in College Station (there are quite a few). But now that we are back into a normal rhythm, I am cooking a lot more and really savoring my time in the kitchen again.

Next to holding Miles for the first time, one of the most exciting things as a mother has been introducing Miles to food. Introducing Miles to those cute tiny containers of baby food was like Christmas. Applesauce! Sweet potatoes! Blueberries! It didn’t take long for me to get a little bored of the containers though and try to branch out into actual vegetables.

I want Miles to love not only good food, but the process of good food too. The labor of planting and growing and harvesting and making and serving is something that should be savored and appreciated, even if we aren’t always the ones doing the planting and growing and harvesting.

And so last weekend, as an early step to help Miles eat well and intentionally, I made my first batch of baby food from fresh vegetables.

It was weirdly thrilling. And weirdly easy. And when Miles downed a bowl of the food that I had made with my own hands with no packaging, my heart hit the ceiling.

Ok. So. This is silly easy and you don’t need directions. But in case you want a little guidance, here are the steps I used to make this first batch of butternut squash:

Purchase a medium-size butternut squash. Wash well. Slice down the middle lengthwise (top to bottom).

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Roast the squash face down for about 50 minutes or until a knife slides in and out easily and the inside is soft.

Scoop into the food processor in tablespoon-size chunks. (Avoid including any of the skin.) Puree until very smooth.

Drop spoonfuls of pureed mixture into muffin tins and freeze immediately.

To store, once the squash puree has frozen, remove the squash from the tins by running hot water over the back of the pan. Store the squash “cups” in Pyrex containers. Defrost individuals “cups” as needed.

What baby food have you made from scratch? Did you enjoy it? Was it a pain? Share with me!

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CREATE2015: The February Edition (A Sensory Activity Board)

February 11, 2015


Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

For 2015, my word of the year is CREATE. As part of this, I’m challenging myself to create or complete a project each month.

February’s project was born one morning as I was searching around for creative ways to engage Miles. I stumbled upon this homemade sensory activity board and was instantly captivated.

A sensory board is a great idea from about 6 months (whenever a baby can sit) up through the pre-school years. The toys, textures, and objects can be selected and replaced to suit a baby’s individual needs as he or she grows and learns and a big board can keep a baby captivated for hours.

I knew that I wanted to make the sensory board for my February project. I modified the basic design, grabbed some cork board tiles that I had on hand, wandered around in Hobby Lobby collecting fun items, and completed the project in just a couple of hours.

This project was definitely a success. It was easy and inexpensive to complete and Miles loved it. Also, since we are in a tiny apartment, it’s wonderful to have an activity center for Miles that doesn’t take up more floor space.


  • 4 cork tiles
  • Nails
  • Felt letters and numbers
  • Embroidery hoops and various felt pieces
  • A mirror
  • Metal teaspoons
  • A bell
  • A mini straw hat
  • A large wooden “M”
  • A rubber heat-proof kitchen mat

I nailed the four cork tiles to a convenient spot (the short wall below our kitchen bar-top). I secured the materials and objects, some with nails (like the embroidery hoops of fabric), some with command-strip tape (like the wooden letter and the mirror).

The felt letters and numbers are sticky, so I simply stuck them on.

What did I learn? I secured some of the items (like the bell) with ribbon, but the ribbon didn’t hold after a little bit of pulling by Miles. I need to re-secure movable objects like the bell with something stronger like yarn. The felt letters don’t stick to the cork-board as well as I would like, so some of them are going to need to be replaced.

When we are somewhere more permanent, I’d like to make another version of this with a wooden backdrop, which I think would work a little more effectively. But for now, I love the cork-board (bonus: the cork gives Miles an extra layer of texture to touch and explore).

I plan to extend the board with two more cork-tiles and will replace some of the objects as he gets older.

Have you ever made a sensory board for your baby or toddler? I would love to hear more ideas for fun objects to attach!

Read about my January CREATE2015 project here.

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A Wedding Tale ~ Part VII: Finding The One (And Some Dress Shopping Tips)

November 18, 2013


Every girl dreams of that moment during her wedding planning when she finds The One. The dress, that is. A wedding dress is a woman’s moment to be a princess, a fashion icon, a Sabrina, an Audrey Hepburn, the graceful enchanting center of attention. That moment when you walk down in the aisle in your gown is your moment to show everyone your sense of style. Are you classic? Vintage? Cutting-edge? A perfect princess? Rustic duchess?

The only problem with this is that the average cost of a wedding dress is about $1,200. That’s no fairy tale. $12oo was a sizeable portion of my wedding budget; there was no way I was going to spend that much on just my dress.


Additionally, for those of us who haven’t known since we were 12 years old what kind of dream dress would mesh perfectly with the rest of our Dream Wedding, the prospect of finding a dress that will utterly define us, our sense of fashion, and our wedding can be a bit overwhelming.

There’s so many options – Ball-gown? Trumpet? A-line? Sleeves? Straps? No sleeves? Lace? Silk?


But pick a wedding gown every anticipatory bride must, and so I dove in. I visited a few local boutiques to narrow down the styles and then tried to match the styles at the typical budget avenues – David’s Bridal was of course my first stop, but I’m impatient and a little nervous about commitment and the idea of waiting 6 weeks to put on my custom-fitted dress for the first time made my already palpitating heart want to pack up and go to South Africa.


I began to scour other possible source. For all of you brides-to-be out there, Ann Taylor, JCrew, Macy’s, and Bloomingdale’s all have fabulous wedding dresses. If you’re shopping on a budget, check out the clearance sections. The dresses are generally 100% refundable and returnable so there’s very little risk involved and when you finally find one you like – there’s no wait!

I finally found a dress that I liked and that fit my wedding budget among the Ann Taylor collections. I ordered it and tried it on with my mom and sister looking on. It was lovely, it was white, and it essentially fit, which was pretty much all that I cared about at that point. (I’m a terrible shopper.)


But something was off. I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that the dress just didn’t look that great on me. The feeling was confirmed when I tried the dress on over Christmas a second time with my mom and sister looking on. It looked terrible on me. It might just have been a difference of hair or lighting but the dress I had bought did not work. At. All.

Back to Square One. To boot, now it was December. The wedding was in June. In the calendars of wedding planners, my wedding dress shopping was already about 12 months behind schedule.


I began to panic. I started scouring wedding dress blogs for solutions. Sites like Off Beat Bride literally saved my sanity by assuring me that my range of options was a lot greater than I was allowing. It didn’t matter what the dress looked like on paper. It mattered if I liked it.


I was pretty sure at this point that I needed an off-white dress. My skin is pretty fair and Mark was going to be in his white uniform so a bit of contrast was needed. I started to search through formal dress departments.

Almost immediately, I found a gorgeous dress in Macy’s online formal dress selection. It was an off-white champagne color. It was exactly the fit and style that I had been searching for and fell well within my budget. I ordered it immediately. When it arrived, a whole three days later, the dress fit perfectly. I didn’t want to let go of it. The dress literally was a dream come true.


Tips for The Wedding Dress Search:

  1. Commit to a dress budget. There is an endless abundance of dresses and shops and accessories. Using your budget as a guideline will seriously keep you from going crazy with all of the options.
  2. Try a lot of styles on at first and go with your instincts. If certain dresses consistently just don’t look good on you, stop wasting your time on them.
  3. Don’t be afraid to try something that is different than your imaginary ideal dress. Sometimes we think certain things will look good on us that definitely don’t in reality, and vice versa.
  4. But let your taste be the starting point. If you have a style that you absolutely love, start there.
  5. Be willing to be a little uncoventional. For me, this mean that I bought a technically non-wedding dress that wasn’t white. For you, it might mean wearing a short dress or including a colored accent. Be willing to experiment and be willing to search for your dress in unexpected places. Remember, it’s YOUR wedding. The dress should be something you love. It doesn’t matter what it is called, who made it, or where it came from.
  6. Be careful how many opinions you solicit. I limited the number of people who knew about my dress ahead of time to my mom and sister, one bridesmaid, and my roommates. I knew I could trust their opinions; I knew they’d be honest with me; and I knew that all of them would respect my final decision even if they didn’t love the dress.
  7. You should feel beautiful in your dress. This is a non-negotiable. If you don’t like the way the fabric feels or falls on you, keep looking. It doesn’t matter what the dress costs; it matters that you love it and love the way you look in it.

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Holiday Thriving Series: A Hostess Gift Basket

November 12, 2013


We’ve all had that moment of panic right before we walk out the door. Uh . . . the hostess gift. About that. Candles? Ran out last week. A bottle of wine? There are none that are unopened. At holiday parties I’ve been known to either A) show up without a hostess gift and just hope that so many other people brought bottles of wine that my negligence will go unnoticed B)or after much frantic searching through my drawers and cupboards, find something to regift in the nick of time.


Either of these options can be the source of a lot of guilt and stress. It’s a lot more fun (and a lot more polite!) to show up to a holiday party with a nicely wrapped hostess gift that you found without panic.

Enter: The Hostess Gift Basket.

The goal of this basket is to help you be prepared – always – for all of those little random moments during this season when you need a quick, cute, tasteful gift.

The beauty of preparing the basket ahead of time is that you can buy the items in bulk for a more reasonable price. A little forethought in this area can you save money and be more prepared!


For instance, yesterday I found some scented pillar candles on sale at Michael’s. I bought several to put into my holiday hostess gift basket. Around this time of year, Costco sells large packages of holiday goodies. These could be purchased, opened, and separated out into smaller gifts.



  • A small, tasteful basket (large enough to hold a bottle of wine, but small enough to be kept somewhere easily accessible).
  • A variety of holiday gift items (about 15). These could be:
    • Decorative scented pillar candles
    • Several tapers tied together with twine or ribbon
    • Bags of candied nuts
    • Assorted chocolates
    • Bottles of wine
    • Christmas ornaments (Stores like World Market have beautiful ornaments on sale this time of year)
  • Gift tags.
  • Ribbons or twine.




  1. Remove any unattractive packaging or price tags from the gifts.
  2. Write your name on the gift tag labels, leaving space to include the name of the receiver later.
  3. Tie each gift with a piece of ribbon or twine.
  4. Attach a gift tag to each gift.
  5. Arrange the gifts in the basket.
  6. Store the basket somewhere accessible.

Do you have any special hostess gift tricks or particular gift items that you rely on during the holiday season? I’d love to hear about them, so please share in the comments!

Other Posts in the Series: 1.Holiday Thriving Series: A Thank-You Note Basket.//


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Holiday Thriving Series: A Thank-You Note Basket

November 11, 2013

11-11-13 title

The holidays should be a time of joy and celebration. They should be filled with fun parties, reunions, hours of memory-making, scrumptious dessert nights, and more -than-usual evenings of getting to play dress up. All too often though, the mere thought of Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s and everything in between is enough to cause even the most laid-back woman to break out into a panicked sweat.

Sometimes, amidst the pressures of an extra-busy schedule and seeing friends and family that one doesn’t see often, it’s easy to lose sight of the joy and fun of the season and simply wallow in stressed-out, frazzled, rushed, guilty misery.

But this year, the holidays won’t catch you unprepared, guilty, or frazzled. I’m about to teach you how to make 5 baskets that will rescue the joy of your holiday season and allow you to focus your energies on the things that are important.

Ready? Here we go with Basket #1.

(Before we begin, go subscribe by entering your email into that little box on the upper right and then clicking confirm in the confirmation email so that you don’t miss any of the installments of this series.)

First, we’re going to make a thank-you note basket. Thank-you notes are so easy to write. But really? Are they? When was the last time you actually wrote a thank-you note after two dinners/parties/dessert nights/cookie exchanges in a row? Exactly. I always have the best of intentions after a dinner or party and then time soars away from me, leaving unproductive guilt in its place. No thank you notes get written; I wallow and feel really legitimately terrible for a little while; then life moves on.

Thank-you notes are such a lovely, warm gesture at any time, but they are especially meaningful around the holidays when everyone is running around like crazy and no one has extra time.


Supplies: (see below for sources)

  • A small basket or box (Make sure it’s small and pretty enough to keep somewhere out in the open – like your hall table – where you can easily access it.)
  • 15 8.5″ x 11″ sheets of colored or white cardstock (plain cardstock stores easily and is easier to buy in large quantities than note-cards).
  • A paper cutter
  • 15 8.5″ x 11″ envelopes
  • A book of stamps
  • 3 or 4 good black ink pens (I assume I’m not the only person who has neglected to write a thank-you note because I lost my pen a few moments before).


  1. Cut the sheets of card-stock in half using the paper cutter.
  2. Write your return address on the envelopes.
  3. Stamp the envelopes.
  4. Arrange the card-stock, envelopes, stamps, and pens in the basket.
  5. Place the basket somewhere very accessible where it can remain for the entirety of the holiday season.


The goal here is low maintenance. Effective people minimize the barriers between themselves and the accomplishment of a specific action item. By collecting all of your supplies and partially preparing the envelopes for mailing, you are minimizing the time it will take you to write a thank-you note.

Now that your Thank-You Note Basket is created, all you need to do after your next dinner/party/dessert thingy/cookie exchange is jot a few lines on a piece of card-stock, drop it into an envelope, and address the note.

Acknowledging gratefulness is good for the soul and there is something so delightful about receiving a hand-written note. Your thank-you note basket will help you send thank-you notes out promptly and frequently and will make your holiday more joyous and less guilt-ridden.


Sources: Cardstock. // Envelopes. // Paper cutter.//

Other Posts in the Series: 2.Holiday Thriving Series: A Hostess Gift Basket.//

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DIY: Small Inspirational Signs

October 10, 2013



I have a lot of blank walls to cover still. As in, there’s only three pictures up in the entire house. We had so much fun stenciling decorations for the wedding that I thought I would try a fun DIY project and solve some of my blank-wall-woes at the same time.


Supply List:

  • Small Round sponge
  • Small letter stencils (Mine are 1″ I think?)
  • Two colors of acrylic paint
  • Wooden pieces

1. Find some small wooden pieces that are not too heavy to hang. The wooden pieces I used for this project are 1″ x 8″ in length and height. I found some long pieces at Home Depot that were the perfect weight (thickness?) for hanging and convinced a very nice employee to cut them down to 8″ for me.

2. Paint the front and sides of each piece in white acrylic and let them dry. Mine needed two coats, but I think a thicker first coat would have prevented this.


4. Stencil words that inspire you on to the pieces using the stencils, second acrylic paint color, and the sponge. I am NOT the world’s best stenciler and I think I need to practice because my stencils moved around a little. I have an adhesive spray that I probably would use if I did this again to prevent the stencils from wiggling.



5. Let the stencils dry.



Voila! Easy peasy project. Now I just need to hang them somewhere. Try it! If this girl can do this, you definitely can.

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7 Tips for Selecting the Perfect Wedding Venue // 6.

September 24, 2013


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Only a few weeks into our 7-month engagement, Mark and I had settled on a Michigan wedding. We both love the outdoors and knew we wanted to have an outdoor wedding if at all possible. June in Michigan is temperate in a good year, chilly in a luckless one.

My family home, nestled on land in the middle of National Forest 90 minutes away from a major airport provided us with the perfect backdrop for the simple yet elegant wedding we wanted to create. A tiny church nearby and the ample space inside the house and barn provided us with backup in case of inclement weather.

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The wedding site ended up being more perfect than I had even hoped. The rehearsal dinner took place on the front patio of the house; we organized the reception and ceremony in the back of the house.

We had a brief brush with inclement weather – a few raindrops started to fall right as the bridesmaids were beginning to walk out of the house and down the deck stairs towards the waiting guests. But the drops had stopped by the time the piano had played the last notes of Canon in D. The clouds blew away and the reception was held under a partially sunny sky.

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It was so special to get ready for the wedding in my family home, to eat lunch with the wedding party in our family kitchen, to chat for a few minutes with my bridesmaids and sisters in the rooms where we have all spent so many hours together through the years.


Although not everyone is able to organize a reception or ceremony in their home, no one needs to settle for a venue that is simply functional and effective.

When searching for a venue, frantic brides often feel a little trapped and often settle for spending substantially more money or a less inspiring location than they originally hoped for.

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The venue selection will affect almost all other aspects of a wedding. Venues often have rules about catering, drinks, and guest numbers that will limit your ability to make your day your own.

Peace of mind on your wedding day is priceless. If you sense that your choice of venue is causing substantial stress, creating financial strain, or is severely limiting your ability to make your wedding your own, consider being more flexible about your choice of venue.

Here are seven guidelines to keep in mind when you are seeking out a venue for your wedding.

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1. If you plan to be married outside, have an indoor backup ready nearby. 

Our indoor backup for the reception was on-site; if it rained, we were prepared to move all of the food and guests into my parent’s home. The church a mile away was our ceremony back-up and the woman who has the key to the building was one of our dear friends who helped extensively with the wedding, so there was no chance of suddenly losing access to the building.

2. Consider unusual venues rather than the traditional hotel or country club locations.

An art gallery, museum, or historical home all make lovely indoor venues. If you plan to be married outside, consider a local barn, public garden, city park, or state park. Even if the area is technically open to the public, the flexibility of a non-traditional option often provides you with more flexibility to make the wedding your own.

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3. Don’t underestimate the value of using the home or property of a family member or friend. 

The peace of mind that can come with a venue where the rules are more relaxed is often worth a little extra clean-up. Beautiful homes and yards often offer a backdrop and atmosphere that money can’t purchase, especially for a small wedding.

4. Consider having your ceremony and reception in the same place. 

Even if this means that you sacrifice some backdrop or atmosphere, your guests will appreciate the convenience and ease. The reception will be more comfortable and enjoyable for everyone if it doesn’t require the bride, groom, and guests to fight traffic or spend a long time rebooting after the ceremony.

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5. Keep the lighting in mind. 

Remember that lighting changes the look of an event and your photos. A garden might be lovely during the day but if you have an evening wedding and the area is not appropriately lit, your event could be dampered by darkness. Be sure to check out the venue during the time of day for which your ceremony is scheduled.

6. Using a venue that is already decorated will save you money on flowers and other decorations.

Mark and I were married against a backdrop of green fields and trees. During the reception, we were surrounded by open space, deer, green fields, and wildflowers. Because we selected a lovely place for our wedding, we were able to stress and spend less on the decorations. For instance, we didn’t have any kind of backdrop (an arch or table) behind us during our ceremony. We simply didn’t need the added elaboration.

7. Don’t fight your location.

Your location will, in many senses, determine the style of your wedding. If you are having a ceremony or reception in a modern art gallery or a new building with a lot of stone and clean lines, then try to incorporate those into your decorations and wedding-day style, rather than trying to battle against the look that is already present. Our wedding was outside so we tried to incorporate a lot of natural hues and textures.


A bonus tip: Relax and prioritize. 

Remember that the blessing of being surrounded by family and friends and the memories of a relaxed, special day are far more important than the decorations or the backdrop. Frankly, few will even remember your venue in a few years, but everyone will remember whether the day was stressful and frantic or relaxed and gracious.

The meaning of a wedding ceremony and the love you share with your guests on your wedding day trump. Focus on finding a venue that allows everyone to focus on what is actually important on your big day.

Need more inspiration? This book provided me with so many wonderful ideas during our planning process.

Want some more wedding insight? Check out the entire series below!

Part 1 – an overview of our day.

Part 2 – our DIY invitations.

Part 3 – outfit inspiration from our groomsmen and bridesmaids.

Part 4 – our magical barbecue rehearsal dinner.

Part 5 – how to re-create our DIY burlap flag banners.

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9 Do’s and 1 Don’t for Painting a Room

September 20, 2013

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We just finished our first we-are-newlyweds DIY home improvement project. The project started as most enormous ugly down-and-dirty home improvement projects start out – small. We need to replace a fan. One fan. The scouting mission returned from Home Depot with not one, but five fans. A week later, I was sharing my daily working office (my living room) with a construction crew attempting to replace our popcorn ceilings with new bright fresh drywall. (Because why would you put new fans on old ceilings?)


Then one sunny Sunday afternoon, we were a little bored, and so we decided to just go to Home Depot and check out some paint colors. That night, and the next night, and almost every spare waking moment for the next two weeks involved paint. If it didn’t involve paint, it involved scraping.

I’ll be honest – our little painting project turned out to be a ton of work. I’m not sure either one of us had any idea what we were getting into.

The trim, doors, and windows on our main floor were originally painted in a deep brown . . . striking, but extraordinarily difficult to cover with white paint.

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To make matters worse, our main floor has two sets of beautiful antique French doors. We’re pretty sure they are original to the house and they’re a  lovely tribute to history but a NIGHTMARE to paint. They had been painted before in the same deep brown and brown splatters covered large portions of the glass. Antique wood also has all sorts of cracks, crevices, and misfitting corners that make painting and scraping a tedious task.

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Covering the dark paint on the French doors and scraping every inch of the antique glass was a task that took up easily half of our total painting time.

There were disastrous moments – like when Mark took hours to painstakingly tape every inch of our living room ceiling only to pull the tape off and find that the tape was bringing large chunks of the newly painted ceiling and patches of the fresh blue wall with it.

And there moments of sweet relief, such as at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night when we collapsed, totally exhausted, on our couch and gazed at our bright snazzy new paint job.

I love the new look of our main floor. It’s so bright and crisp that just walking upstairs to make my coffee in the morning is exciting. We learned a lot of lessons during our painting excursion and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I would definitely do it again. I also think that, with the lessons we’ve garnered, we could probably do the same project again in half the time. Live and learn.

So, in the hopes of saving someone else some of the agony that we endured, here are 10 lessons from a painting newbie:

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1. Do test the colors with real paint.

Don’t just use swatches. We tested a number of colors that we thought we liked on the walls, only to realize that they didn’t look the same on the wall. When we found the color we liked, it looked good on the swatch and both walls that we tried it on.

2. Do pick a color you absolutely love.

Painting involves a lot of work and time even if it is an fairly inexpensive home update. Don’t settle on something that someone else likes or a color that is simply safe. Look at lots of samples and pictures until you fall in love with the right color. We went through an absurd number of blue, gray, and blue-gray swatches and samples (as well as some yellow, green, and cream) before we found the right color.

3. Do test the color in different kinds of lighting.

Even if you are only painting one room, test the color in the morning, afternoon, evening, and in different shades of lighting if possible. Colors change with weather and time of day and some colors that look great in the morning look drab in the evening.

4. Do cover everything.

There were several nights during which Mark or I just grabbed a scraper or a paintbrush to work for “just a few minutes”. Not the best thing for our floors or furniture. I am still scraping paint off of our floor (fortunately latex paint comes up without too much fuss!). We could have saved ourselves hours if we had only taken a few minutes at the beginning to cover everything diligently with a disposable material like plastic.

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5. Don’t tape.

Every time we used tape, we were disappointed. We taped the floors and our line was less than straight. We taped the ceiling and damaged the ceiling paint, causing hours of extra work. We spent some really painstaking hours taping the French doors and then realized that a paint scraper took paint off of the glass with less effort than the taping took. Unless you have perfect lines to work with (our old house has very few perfect lines and lots of funky edges), taping is going to require a lot of time and the result will be less than satisfactory.

6.Instead of taping, do edge the trim and ceilings using a plastic spatula edge and a paintbrush.

Mark rolled the walls, leaving about a 1″ border around all of the edges. I was able to quickly edge our ceiling in all three rooms in only a few hours by using a plastic smoothing tool for a straightedge and a small paintbrush. I used a wet rag to quickly clean up any mistakes along the edges and in less time than it would have taken to tape, I completed all of the ceiling edging. The floor trim, doors, and windows were equally easy.

7. Do get a glass scraper and a box-cutter and learn to use them.

If you have French doors, these two tools will be priceless. Our glass panes took a while because our doors are very old, but these two items still got the job done. Newer doors would be much easier to scrape because the wood lines would be cleaner. This tutorial from Centsational Girl saved us hours and hours and hours of painful (and probably frustrated) labor.

8. Do turn the music up. 

There’s no reason to paint and swear in silence. Find some lively music and turn the volume up. It will preserve your sanity.

9. Do leave your equipment out and accessible.

We didn’t clean up our painting tools for the entire two weeks. Yes, it was a pain to be constantly stepping over paint cans and scraper tools. But it was much easier to motivate ourselves to paint in the evening because our tools were right in front of us on the living room floor, ready to use. It saved us hours of clean-up and set-up time. Yes, your house will feel like a construction zone for a week or two. But it will look that much better when the job is done and the tools are put away.

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10. Do give yourself some grace while you’re painting.

Painting is like life. It’s not a perfect art. It’s especially not a perfect art if you live in an old house. Nobody sees the corner and lines and edges like the painter does. Aim for 95%, not 100%. Probably no one will notice that 1/4″ spot behind the door on the left that you just couldn’t patch perfectly. Don’t agonize too much over the tiny details.



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How We Decorated with Breathtaking Burlap Flag Banners // 5.

September 10, 2013



Many of our decorations and wedding pieces were DIY projects. But, next to the invitations, my favorite DIY wedding project was the burlap flag banners that we created.


I wanted to tie some quotes and words into the reception.




My sisters and mom and I tackled this project when I went home for Mother’s Day, a few weeks before the wedding. We had such a lovely time crafting together and having a large bulk of the wedding decorations completed gave us a lot of peace of mind later!


For those of you who want to try this, we started with a large roll of burlap fabric. We cut out dozens of flags that were all the same size, about 10″ across at the top. We used one as a prototype and then cut all of the others using the sample flag. A piece of paper cut to the right size would also work as a prototype.


Next, we mapped out the quotes and words we wanted to use. My mom, a genius seamstress, then folded the top edge of flags around a piece of twin to create banners that were the right length. (For instance, for the banner that said “Amour”, she attached five flag pieces together.


After the banners were sewn together, it was time to paint the letters onto the flags. First, each one of us lightly sprayed a bit of adhesive onto whatever flag we were working on before setting the stencil onto the flag. This helped ensure that the stencil didn’t slide around.


Then we used acrylic paint and a paintbrush to fill in the stencil, peeling off the stencil as soon as the letter was filled in. We tried both white and black acrylic paint. We definitely liked the way the white letters looked better although it occasionally didn’t stand out from the dark burlap enough and was a little difficult to read in some of the lighting.

The bolder, thicker stencils definitely were more readable than the elaborate, curly fonts.




Some of the banners contained strings of words. To separate the words, we included a flag of wedding-color-coordinating fabric in place of burlap. This added a unique touch to the banners and helped make the phrases and and words more readable.

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We left the flags to dry for a few hours before folding them carefully and storing them with the rest of the wedding supplies.

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The burlap flag banners were a beautiful touch at the wedding reception. Some formed a fun backdrop for pictures, some helped direct people, and some were strung high across the yard helped create a sense of height in the reception area.

Need more inspiration? This book provided me with so many wonderful ideas during our planning process.

Want some more wedding insight? Check out the entire series below!

Part 1 – an overview of our day.

Part 2 – our DIY invitations.

Part 3 – outfit inspiration from our groomsmen and bridesmaids.

Part 4 – our magical barbecue rehearsal dinner.

Part 6 – some tips on venues.

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