…again with the dangerous word, finale! I realized I never included pictures to conclude our $500 Kitchen Redo II post…so here we go…


Painted cabinets, relocated dishwasher, subway tile backsplash, and homemade light!


Vintage island spray-painted red and we added castors for height and mobility…most used piece of furniture in house!


I would be remiss to not mention these smart under-cabinet LED lights that Jim installed. The lights came from IKEA but when you’re looking into the kitchen you don’t see these flat little housings at all but you see their nice light cascade onto the tile. Jim routed the cords behind the subway tile and here’s the kicker–the switch for them is INSIDE THE UTENSIL CABINET! All of the ugly wiring and electrical is totally and blissfully hidden. The nice thing about starting from scratch is that you can hack the hell out of something and you don’t mind ripping out new dry wall or new anything for that matter. Excellent job as always, Jim, in jiggering and making a dollar out of ninety-nine cents.

Are there a million more things we’d like to do? Sure. A new stove? Yeah, that would be nice. Preferably one with a built-in microwave and exhaust fan…I’m sick of having to open the windows when I really want to crisp up my perogies…but since that wall the stove sits against goes to the back mudroom / stairs to basement it’s a bit tricky to get that exhaust installed. I’d love a farmhouse sink and a soapstone counter…but for a debt-free, weekend warrior effort we are damn proud of the result!


First let me start off by saying YES, it was good. It really was! Some of the few (only) emails that don’t find themselves immediately obliterated to the “delete” folder belong to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Each week they deliver old-school homemaking tips in a new-school fashion and between star-gazing tidbits and ways to make WEEDS delicious, I have to say I am pretty impressed. The full recipe for Dandelion Pesto can be found on the Old Farmer’s Almanac site.

Why dandelions when basil is the time-tested choice for pesto? Dandelions are chock full of nutrients and contain more beta-carotene than carrots. Sun-Warrior’s blog has nearly a dozen reasons why dandelions are good for you. Personally, I don’t always make the smartest choices when it comes to eating healthy so combining dandelions with a dish that I love seemed like a no brainer!

What You Need: 

  • Two cups of dandelion (We purchased organic but any unsprayed versions will do)
  • 10-12 Basil Leaves
  • 1 cup lightly toasted pine nuts (Why are pine nuts so expensive?)
  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • Shaved Parm cheese (we used just over 1/2 cup)


  • Pulse together the green leaves until a paste is formed
  • Add pine nuts, EVOO, and cheese and while motor is spinning
  • Spoon warm goodness over your pasta of choice–I recommend a cheese-filled ravioli as the soft cheese cuts the bitterness of the dandelion

April Fool’s Day in Chicago is no joke–today it’s a sprightly 55 degrees and sunny…perfect day to visit the local garden center! We hit up the Sale table and found adorable fairy houses ($1.50!), a solar-powered fairy herself ($4.00!) and assorted fairy knick-knacks to outfit her Under the Tree Abode. I’m not sure who is more excited to build this imaginary playscape–the girls or the mother!

With our bright sunshine, today is the perfect day to start our micro green project! Our seedlings are planted and covered tightly with a towel to germinate. Let’s see what three weeks’ of germination brings!

Spicy and Mild Seedlings

What you Need: 

  1. Packages of organic micro green seedlings. Ours were from Johnny’s.
  2. Small bag of organic seed starting soil. Purchased from our local gardening center.
  3. Small plastic take-out containers, washed. We used strawberry containers!
  4. Spray bottle.
  5. Something to place your containers in for drainage. We sets ours on top of rocks purchased at the garden center. Parchment paper was used to prevent our holding dish from being scratched by the rocks.


  1. Thoroughly wash and dry your plastic planting containers.
  2. Drill drainage holes in the bottom of your containers. If the plastic starts to strip, painter’s tape will help hold it together and give you some texture to drill into.
  3. Add your organic soil about halfway up the container. Water it thoroughly.
  4. Liberally sprinkle your seeds across the top of the soil. Don’t push the seeds down, just sprinkle them out to cover the dirt.
  5. Gently spray the sown seeds to ensure the seeds make contact with the soil.
  6. Cover. We used a towel.
  7. Set in a warm, sunny location…and cross your fingers!


I love fragrant body lotions–give me a “$3 Off Ulta Coupon” and twenty minutes of free time and I’ll come back 40 minutes later and 40 dollars broker purchasing my next “Perfect Body Lotion.” Typically the lotion smells really great in its bottle but the chemicals and subsequent skin irritation leave me with buyer’s remorse.

Coconut oil (the regular solid oil typically used for cooking) is forging a trend in homeopathic remedies with uses ranging from eye-make up remover to body lotion. Its greasy, solid texture out of the jar can be a bit much  and I never knew how to incorporate its goodness into lotion. The Blissful Bee, a great blog of homemade lifestyle and beauty tips,  led me to create a non-irritating, lightly fragrant, and seriously softening body lotion. Bliss!

In addition to leaving my skin unbelievably soft, this lotion is customizable depending on your mood using essential oils. Lavender helps me relax while geranium is comforting and flowery. With spring on the way and persistent grey weather, today I chose Aura Cacia’s Geranium and Doterra’s Balance Grounding Blend oils.

Using essential oils lightly fragrances the lotion and since I am using all natural ingredients the lotion doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin! Beautiful!


Photo Courtesy of our budding 9 year old photographer!

What you Need: 

  • 2 cups of Unscented body lotion as your base (Target’s Up & Up lotion works great!)
  • 1 cup of melted organic coconut oil (Any generic brand at the grocery store)
  • 1 tsp of each essential oil (I used 1 tsp of Geranium and 1/2 tsp of Balance)
  • Hand Mixer
  • Unique vessel for your lotion (former candle holder jars work great too!)


  • Melt your 1/2 cup of coconut oil for 30 seconds
  • While it’s melted, add it to your 2 cups of lotion in a large glass bowl
  • Whip using a hand-mixer until smooth
  • Add your essential oils and whip again with your hand mixer
  • Add to your pretty vessel and enjoy!

Driving in the car our 9 year old spontaneously quips, “Momma I hope that you don’t turn into a meditation teacher.” What?!  Having no idea why she would ask me this in the first place, she told me that I would constantly be asking her “if and why” she was mad. Really? At 9, she’s pretty good about vocalizing her radically shifting emotions just fine on her own…honed meditative powers aren’t really necessary to decipher her ups and downs.

She is onto something, however. I am halfway through a 15-week meditation class at the local community center. My intention is Connecting with my Inner Joy. And that Joy is a bit hard to find. I feel it, lurking in my solar plexus, and at times it radiates a bit paler yellow than I’d like to admit…but it’s there. This class is taught by a Shaman named Melissa who is a patient and gentle soul healer. My therapist told me she may be the best thing to have happened to me. There are times I shake my head, sadly wondering why I require so many pillars…my meditation Shaman, my therapist, but then I look at the life they are supporting me to create and figure I’ll keep forging my path.

Through meditation class I met a homemade herbalist who invited a handful of women to learn the art of tinctures and concocting homeopathic medicines from weeds, herbs, and plants. How energizing to learn how to heal our bodies and offer natural, holistic remedies for anxiety, ointments for cuts, or simply crunchy toppings for salads…So today starts my path toward micro greens. I logged onto Johnny’s Seeds and sprung for 4 ounces of two varieties of micro salad greens: mild and spicy. Spicy micro greens? I’m sold!  Addy recently sprouted a six inch Oak tree from a silent, unassuming acorn.  Our future homegrown botanist with her daily water spritzes and overseeing eyes will introduce us  to our very own square foot of organic farming. We’ll see where these next weeks of germination takes us.

In an old home, it’s a dare to use the word, Finale. But as the concrete trucks’ lumbering whirl of cement is a far distant memory, “finale” is the absolute right word for this Project Driveway,

The home inspector’s car door slammed shut and he drove down Pine a few hours ago leaving behind a Yellow Sticker of Approval: our garage and driveway signed and (not quite yet) sealed. We are both thrilled to not have to shovel the gravel this next winter!

Whirly twirly cement trucks have fascinated me since I was a kid so I’m not sure who was more excited to see the big series of trucks come rolling down the gravel: me or the girls!



We had about three cement trucks roll on in…

….At the last minute we made a judgement call to add a curvy path to take us from the garage right to the back door. The old step was the root of many of our basement water seepage issues so we had that replaced with two new steps leading to the new curvy path.


…Last weekend we had 8 cubic feet of DIRT and 4 cubic fee of MULCH delivered so that Jim could properly grade and fill in all the edges so that we’d pass our failed inspection. WE PASSED! It’s been a huge, enormous project and we’re so glad that it’s done!



I’m so excited; we are starting Phase II of our $500 Kitchen Re-Do Challenge today. Now, don’t be confused–the avid 1 or 2 followers of this blog might think, Sharon, didn’t you already do a $500 Kitchen RedoII? Yes, we did back in 2004. It just shows we liked what we did the first time and simply have to do it again! Someday, perhaps, we’ll have a “real” bonafide kitchen with granite surfaces like Adults. Maybe.

Phase I: Paint Kitchen Grey (completed)

Phase II: New counters, etc.:

  • How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets was our inspiration for painting our cabinets
  • Replacing the white two-pieced-together kitchen counter with an off-the-shelf Menard’s counter (if you turn your head, close one eye, and squint it looks like quartz, honestly)
  • Painting our upper cabinets grey
  • We purchased awesome cabinet hardware from IKEA
  •  Replacing our lower cabinets with off-the-shelf econo models from Menards & painting our new cabinets
  • Relocating the dishwasher to the opposite side of the sink

The kids are at Jim’s folks house, my dad is here, and I’m on “clean up and make sandwiches duty.”

14 years ago we went to a demolition derby, met friends, and drank beer to celebrate the completion of a hard day’s work. Today we woke up at 6, took an 8 year old and 3 year old to Jim’s folks for the day, and will cram 2 days of work into the few hours we are free. If I can finagle it, I think we’ll order sushi tonight to celebrate. It’s not quite the free life we had 14 years ago, but it’s sure a full one.

IMG_5685Here’s my dad sipping his coffee in 2016….and here’s my dad drinking his coffee in 2004…

The walls have changed, the address numbers have shuffled around, but by the grace of God we are all together just like we were in 2004.