Taking a Kitchen into the 21st Century (on a Budget!)

About 18 months in, I realized that I never gave a final update on our Ikea kitchen! I wrote a little about why we chose Ikea in a couple of previous posts. Overall, it came down to a balance of value and quality. I’m glad to say that after living with the kitchen for a while now, I absolutely love it! I would use Ikea again in a heartbeat on another kitchen – even if I had a bigger budget. I feel that the quality is much better than stuff we’ve seen at big box stores and the value is incomparable. Now, for the good stuff!

Here’s our kitchen when we purchased the house back in August of 2013. Holy paneling.


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IS-4rj5r0v4upnhBesides the obvious aesthetic problems, it was very dark and the storage was not functional at all. You also can’t see the water damage from a washing machine that must have been there a looong time ago. It was, however, a pretty good size.

Here we are on day 1: notice my dad’s gleeful look! He couldn’t wait to get started with that sledgehammer. The day we bought this house is a day he lives to regret. Sorry, Daddy!


After LOTS of demolition and many trips to the dump, we had an empty shell to work with. We also cut a pass through into our living room to allow more natural light into the kitchen. Good move!


Many layers of linoleum flooring scraped and gross water damage in the left corner!


fresh new subfloor installed by yours truly, Clint, my dad, and a family friend. Also, the paneling is gone! 

This whole thing took place over the course of about six months, with many changes and decisions along the way. The old adage about home improvement is true – you’ll spend twice as much time and money as you thought. After drywall and flooring were installed, we picked up our Ikea kitchen, assembled the many box cabinets, and installed them.

kitchen-assemblyWe also installed a butcher block countertop and bar – also from Ikea. Here’s what my kitchen looks like today, after all those months of blood, sweat, and tears!









We ended up adding a ton of storage with those corner cabinets on top and bottom. In fact, I still have a few empty cabinets! I love the classic white shaker style doors and black hardware. We also chose black appliances to maintain that look. I know stainless is all the rage, but I fear it may be the “harvest gold” of the future! The kitchen still feels custom to me, even though a carpenter or cabinet maker didn’t touch it. Being able to choose every detail is what made the whole process worth it!

If you’re looking for a kitchen re-do and aren’t afraid to get down and dirty and DIY – go for it!

Splurging in Seattle for the Weekend

We were so excited to come to the Pacific Northwest on this trip – 2 states that neither of us hadn’t visited! After a few days in the woods, we were also pretty hyped to check into a nice hotel for a couple of days. We snagged a deal on the W Seattle on Hotwire (of course) for about 50% off. Not too shabby! We were able to cruise right into town without much traffic and find a parking garage adjacent to the hotel. Hotel parking was $61 per night! Ouch! We saved a lot by parking the car ourselves, but any big city means parking can cost a pretty penny.

All of my parking woes dissipated once we checked into our swanky room.

mmmm... plush beds!

mmmm… plush beds!

I made haste with the extra Bliss bath products and jumped into a bubble bath. Priorities, right? We ran to Target – 3 stories, by the way – for a few restock essentials. A quick Yelp search yielded tons of restaurant options, but we were in the mood for a good pizza and headed a few blocks to Serious Pie. And serious it was! I wish I would have gotten a picture! After a restful night in that cozy plush bed with some HGTV, we got up the next morning with one thing in mind – food!

We are self-proclaimed foodies, and Seattle’s Pike Place Market is the place to sample. We created our own “food tour,” if you will, starting with the city’s best macaroons at Belle Epicurean.

come to mama

come to mama

IMG_4349After that nutritious breakfast, we headed straight to the market. I was overwhelmed with how many booths there were! And the fresh flowers were amazing. I told Clint that it would be perfect for a wedding – show up and pick out what looks nice for $5 or $10 per bouquet! I wish we could have gotten some.

had to sample some roasted nuts

had to sample some roasted nuts



didn't sample the octopus

didn’t sample the octopus



We continued the food walk at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. I’m kind of a cheeseaholic, so this place was right up my alley. We ordered the Flagship grilled cheese sandwich and the “Worlds Best” Mac and Cheese. I have to say, it was pretty darn good! I know a good mac and cheese…


perfect balance of flavors - jack cheese, fresh basil and tomato

perfect balance of flavors – jack cheese, fresh basil and tomato

soooo creamy

We had a few other snacks, but finished up at Le Panier, who also claimed to have some of the city’s best macaroons. We ordered croissants, and they were perfect!

i bought one of these cute prints from le panier to hang in my office!

i bought one of these cute prints from le panier to hang in my office!

I finished out the day shopping at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale right down the street from our hotel. We had the best day being tourists in Seattle. This is a city that I can’t wait to visit again. Next up – a mini family reunion in Yellowstone!

Magic in the Rain Forest

Olympic National Park in northwestern Washington is truly a magical place. It’s pretty remote and boasts some pretty unique ecosystems – the coast, dense rain forests, and several 7,000 foot glacial peaks. It is also huge – encompassing nearly one million acres! During our visit, our priority was visiting the Hoh Rain Forest for a hike. There are several trails, including one that weaves 18 miles into the forest to the base of Mount Olympus. We chose to take a more leisurely route ;)

The rain forest was like no other- moss and ferns covered nearly every surface. We couldn’t believe how green and lush everything was. Here’s my personal photo tour of the trail: 

Next up- Seattle!

Cruising Coastal Oregon on the 101

Enough with the Oregon love affair, right? When we planned this trip, one of our ideas was to drive the Pacific Coast Highway up the California coast. We didn’t take into account that every other person on earth (it seemed) would be doing the same thing! We knew that we wanted to get back to the coast when we left Bend, and that we did! The Pacific Coast Highway is the perfect way to see the Oregon coastline while stopping into all of the tiny beach towns and public beaches along the way. We stopped at this particular viewpoint for an amazing shot of the ocean!

beautiful oregon coastline

beautiful oregon coastline


A short drive later, we happened upon a great public beach access. We actually drove the Malibu onto the beach to park! Even though it was too cool to go for a swim, the views were rewarding and that ocean breeze was refreshing.





doggie paw prints in the sand

We stayed in a couple of state parks in Oregon, both of which were beachside. It was kind of difficult to get a spot at the last minute, but we managed to snag one night at each place we camped. We made our way to Astoria, a small town with a history that dates all the way back to the Lewis and Clark expedition! The explorers first saw the Pacific near Astoria. We shopped around and decided to eat at the Fort George Brewery and Pub. We are pub food people – casual, fried, and big portions!

After dinner, I convinced Clint to take the short drive up to Mikey’s House – from the Goonies! I have loved this movie since I was a kid, so I was STOKED to see the house. It is in a residential neighborhood and someone lives in the house. Thankfully, they welcome visitors who come to gawk and do the Truffle Shuffle.

goonies never say die

goonies never say die

first you gotta do the truffle shuffle.

first you gotta do the truffle shuffle.

This was our last stop in Oregon, and it was the best way to end a great stretch!

Beautiful Bend, Oregon

If I had to make a list of my all time favorite small cities, Bend would certainly make the top ten. It is full of personality, great views, and fun outdoor activities at your doorstep. When we asked about life in Bend, the locals said you can pretty much do “ing” activities- hiking, skiing, kayaking, biking and in our case- floating!

I heard that floating the Deschutes River is a summer must-do, so we made it a priority during our brief stopover in Bend. We grabbed some tubes at Dick’s and went to one of the gorgeous river front parks to start our float. You can also rent tubes, kayaks, and stand-up paddle boards from several outfitters on the river. We floated for a couple of hours before hopping out and grabbing a cab back to our car. This was a perfect way to spend a hot afternoon. What’s cooler than relaxing in that chilly water with views of the snow capped mountains in the distance! 

We had brunch at the famed McKay Cottage. It lived up to all the breakfast hype! Clint ordered the biscuits with sausage gravy and I opted for the croissant french toast. Both were perfection! I can’t wait to stop in Bend on our next western adventure. One more post on Oregon coming, and it features a famous film locale of the 1980s 😉

Oregon: Lucky State Number 11!

We pretty much rolled into Oregon on two wheels – ready to explore a brand new state! The Pacific Northwest has been on my go-to list since I was a teenager, but this is the first time we got around to visiting. It looks like my sister will be migrating this way in the fall, so I’m sure this won’t be our last rodeo in the PNW.


After crossing into the state near Mount Shasta (in a lovely town called “Weed”), we headed straight for Crater Lake National Park. It was July 4th AND a Saturday afternoon, so the crowds were pretty intense. Crater Lake is a smaller park and it is pretty remote, but that didn’t stop tons of folks from filling up the campground. We were lucky enough to snag a prime spot to set up the tent. The campground was very dog friendly, and we met several furry friends that just made us miss our babies at home!

site a2 at Mazama Campground

site a2 at Mazama Campground

Just because we are camping, that doesn’t mean my beloed meal plan has gone by the wayside. Y’all know that I am fully committed to the meal plan. We’ve been planning a few real meals and lots of sandwiches and snacks. This night, I made a one-pot pasta. Totally convenient since I only have one burner on my camp stove ;)

outdoor cooking

outdoor cooking

After relaxing at the campground for a while, we headed to the Rim Village to explore the lakeside. There is a trail that meanders around the rim of the huge lake. It was a little crowded for our taste, but we still had some time for photo ops.

I didn’t grasp the magnitude of the lake until I saw a boat puttering along out in the middle – a tiny white speck on that deep blue water! The lake’s surface elevation is around 6,000 feet, and it has spots that are almost 2,000 feet deep! And as my mom asked, it really is that blue.






We had an awesome campfire and some hard cider with music to top of a great day! Much more from Oregon to come!

A Day in San Diego

First things first, this is one of those “reality of travel” kinds of posts. I wish I could say that San Diego was all we cracked it up to be, but it wasn’t for us. Traffic, parking, crowds, expense – it was all too much. We did spend the day in the city, wandering around Balboa Park and exploring the tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument – both of which were pleasant. We visited the San Diego Natural History Museum (also known as “The Nat”) and purchased extra tickets for the Maya Exhibition. The Nat is highly rated on TripAdvisor, so I was sure that it would blow our socks off. I don’t feel that we got our money’s worth – $56 for two tickets. We couldn’t help compare it to the Smithsonian in DC or NYC’s incredible American Museum of Natural History.


the shores at cabrillo national monument




skulls exhibit at the NAT


our birthdays, according to the mayan calendar

After a ho-hum day, we were ready to head out of the crowds and back to the road. Several more frustrating days, including a nerve-wracking car break in,  led us to abandon our initial plan to drive the California coast to Big Sur and beyond. We were high-tailing it to Oregon and couldn’t be happier!