The UpSkill Project Community Workshop

Three weekends ago, I had the privilege of attending and documenting The UpSkill Project Community Workshop which was held at the Warren, Michigan Lowe’s on a stormy Saturday. It was my 30th birthday weekend and I could think of no better way to celebrate than to be doing what I love…DIYing of course!

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The workshop was set up to be a hands on learning experience for homeowners wishing to pick up basic home improvement skills and I can’t express enough what an amazing opportunity this was. I love that Lowe’s is inspiring and educating homeowners through this platform! I learned so much from the Lowe’s experts that day and I’m so excited to share some of that with you in this post. Shall we dive right in?

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Drywall

Drywall dings and dents are a common household issue with a very simple solution. Lowe’s has this nifty drywall repair kit that comes complete with spackling, a putty knife, and a sander. All you need to do is gently spread the spackle over the hole until it’s covered. This particular spackle is made to go on pink and turn white when it’s dry so you know when it’s time to sand. For larger holes, you will need to place the self-adhesive mesh patch over the hole before covering with the spackle. Once you’ve sanded the surface until it’s smooth, you can go ahead and paint over the patch up. It’s that easy!

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Painting

Painting is something we’ve done quite a bit of for our home renovation projects but it wasn’t until this workshop that I realized I was doing it all wrong. Prior to this workshop, I would paint the wall with a roller first and then use a brush to finish the corners and edges. I learned from Ray that it should be the other way around: paint your corners and edges first then go over with the roller. Oops. I definitely see this method resulting in a much more professional-looking paint job. It looks like I might have to revisit some of my old paint jobs!

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The other important thing I learned is that the quality of the brush really matters! Ray, who is a passionate paint manufacturer, said he would actually advise sacrificing the quality of paint over the quality of the brush. He went on to show us the difference between the two brush’s bristles and let participants see for themselves as they got to paint a kitchen cabinet.

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Let me tell you, the Purdy brush we got to test out was amazing! All those times I was frustrated with my paint job and I thought it was just me. Now I know it was the cheap brush I was using and I can’t wait to implement these simple tips for my next paint job!

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Tiling

Tiling is another skill we are familiar with as we have renovated our basement, kitchen, and bathroom in the past. Of course, that doesn’t mean we did everything perfectly so I’m sharing some of the useful reminders I learned. One of the cool resources Lowe’s had on display was this cross-section of the wall and tile. Many of the participants didn’t know that you couldn’t just tile over existing tile so Andrew, one of The UpSkill Project teachers, explained what subflooring was and the importance of the cement board under the tile. I learned about something called self-leveling concrete which you can pour to create a smooth, even surface for tiling. I wish I had known about this when we were tiling our basement!

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Participants were able to practice laying tile spacers, backsplash tile, tile adhesive, and grout. 

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The Lowe’s experts recommended a pre-mixed grout for an even finish and stressed the importance of wiping the tiles consistently with a grouting sponge to prevent a hazy film from forming. The pre-mixed grout is something I wish I had used in our bathroom because of the variability in grout color that can result from small changes in water content.

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Plumbing

Plumbing was probably one of the more intimidating skills for participants, me included. I’ve always let my husband handle that part of our renovation projects. After this, however, I think I’m pretty confident I can swap out a vanity and sink. You’ll just have to remember to disconnect the water supply lines prior to starting and to keep a bucket under the sink during the P-trap removal. If you don’t, let’s just say you’ll find yourself in a very messy situation.

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Aside from learning these four skills, Lowe’s had a table set up with lots of useful pamphlets covering everything from tool buying guides to DIY laminate floor installation. You better believe I walked out of that workshop with a stack of pamphlets. I also really enjoyed meeting the other UpSkillers and watching them bond over sharing their DIY projects with each other.

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To be honest, I had been in a creative slump up to this point but after this workshop I was so inspired to find a new DIY project to tackle! What about you guys? If you’re getting ready to take on a new home project, we would love to hear about it in the comments below. If you have specific questions about any of the skills I discussed, you can also leave them in the comments below and we will point you in the right direction. You can always go into your neighborhood Lowe’s and ask a Red Vest associate for help as well. As always, if you loved this post and found it helpful, we would appreciate it if you would like it and share it.

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This post is sponsored by Lowes. The thoughts and opinions are my own.


How to Build a Paved Patio with The Upskill Project

Back in May, I wrote about The UpSkill Project Contest where homeowners could submit a short video describing a DIY project they needed help with. Five local residents would receive $2000 in Lowe’s credit to purchase supplies along with a team of experts to help get the project done in just two days!

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This summer, I got to partner with Lowe’s to document one of the resident’s project transformations. And not just any project…a paved brick patio! You all know how much we love gardening and the outdoors so being able to learn how to do build a patio from the ground up and share it with you was a dream come true.

Meet Hattie and her mother, Dr. Tyra.

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Hattie was actually called to help her aunt record her UpSkill Project Contest entry when her aunt convinced her to submit one herself at the last minute. Knowing that her mother had been wanting a patio for the last two years, but would never justify spending on herself when she could help others, Hattie felt her mother deserved a space to entertain and have friends and family over. You can imagine just how excited her mother was when she found out she was finally going to get that patio. Dr. Tyra LOVES cooking and entertaining; so much so that she cooked the team a dream breakfast on the second morning of the project.

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We all love a good before and after, so here’s what the space looked like prior to the start of any work. Nothing fancy, just an empty patch of grass.

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Leading the team through the patio building was Andrew who is a carpenter by trade and has his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture. How cool is that?! The Red Vests Eric, John, and Zach were from a local Lowe’s in the Gardening and Outdoor Department. Everyone worked so well together and by the end of the project I felt like I was in the company of friends.

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Of course it wasn’t all fun and games so today I’m sharing some of the important things I learned about building a paved patio:

You can’t just wing it!

The first and most important step when it comes to building a patio is design and planning. Settling on a design (how large the area should be, what shape, what kind of pavers, etc.) will dictate how much materials you’ll need which in turn will determine your cost. The materials are quite heavy so you’ll want to have everything calculated in advance to prevent any running back and forth to the store picking up heavy materials.

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Touch things once.

This very valuable advice was given to me by one of the Red Vests, Eric, when he saw that the materials were delivered to the front of the garage instead of to the backyard. To save yourself time and energy, have your patio materials close to your work site so you’re not having to haul things more than you need to. This also includes clean up. It’s important to have your tools for removal and your method of disposal arranged prior to starting your project so the process runs smoothly and you don’t have to move debris twice.

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If you see rain in the forecast, abort the mission.

Or simply wait until the weather clears up. A wet ground can really interfere with the compacting process which is super important for a level and solid patio. The rain on the first day of this  project threw us a serious curveball and delayed the completion of the patio. There is a silver lining to the rain, however, if you’re not in a hurry to finish your project. A wet ground makes it much easier to pull out the grass so if it’s raining you can still begin the sod removal phase of your project. Just be sure to let the ground dry sufficiently before moving on.

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Assemble a team.

There’s nothing overly technical about building a paved patio but you should know that it is very labor intensive. From stripping the sod to pouring and compacting gravel to laying the pavers, each step requires quite a bit of upper body strength. If you want to build a patio in the shortest amount of time without burning out quickly, you’ll definitely want a team of 3-5 members to help spread out the workload.

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Compact, Compact, Compact.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to begin with a sturdy and level foundation. To achieve this, you will need to compact several times at each of the following stages:

  1. After you’ve dug out the grass for your patio
  2. After you’ve poured Paver Base Step 1
  3. After you’ve poured Paver Base Step 2

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Start by building a retaining wall

The first pavers you’ll want to lay are the outside ones along the perimeter. More importantly, you’ll want to secure the wall with glue and recess framing to prevent the bricks from extending outward as you continue to compact the gravel and sand. The retaining wall is two brick pavers high and must take into account sloping to prevent water from collecting in your patio. Once the wall is built, you can begin setting the pavers down working toward the middle of the patio area from one end to the other. 

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Don’t forget the landscape fabric.

This is pretty self explanatory. If you don’t want weeds bursting through your patio then this is a crucial step that you’ll want to do once the earth is level just before you begin to pour paver base step 1.

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Once you begin to install the pavers, it’s pretty much smooth sailing from there. All you have to do is make sure to tap the pavers with a rubber mallet and periodically check to make sure they are all level. You also want to leave a space about 1/4 of an inch wide between the pavers for the polymeric sand to be poured. Once you’ve filled all the cracks with polymeric sand, you’ll mist the patio to harden the sand and join the pavers together. Once it’s dry, you can finally furnish and enjoy your patio!

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Now that doesn’t sound so bad, does it?! If you’re thinking of doing a paved patio yourself, here are the materials and tools you’ll need to get the job done.

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Materials

Paver Base Step 1
Paver Sand Step 2
Paver Set
Brick Paver

Tools

Tamper
Box Beam Level
Knee Pads
Steel Pick Mattock
Kobalt Long Handle Shovel
Smooth Rubber Mallet
Landscape Fabric
Kobalt Tabletop Saw

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If you want to see behind the scene footage from the project Do Days, you can check out our Instagram story in the highlights entitled “DIY Patio.” If you loved reading about how to build a patio then you’ll definitely want to check back for our upcoming post on the UpSkill Workshop where I’ll share lots of helpful home DIY skills that I learned. And if you found this post helpful, we’d appreciate it if you would like it and share.

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This post is sponsored by Lowes. The thoughts and opinions are my own.

 


Digital Mentorship: Screen-Time Strategies for Children

Before we had our first child, we were super determined to delay screen time and technology use for as long as possible, forever even (okay realistically I was aiming for 4-5 years of age). I had seen first hand the negative effects of children having access to phones and tablets at a young age and I wanted nothing to do with it. And while we were mostly successful, we did come to have a change of heart…which is at the heart of this post. This post is not about the positive or negative effects of technology on children because there is plenty of literature already out there that you can read on this subject. Instead, this post wants to inspire dialogue about finding a balance, if there can be such a thing.

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Our son did not watch any TV for the first two years of his life (save the time he was on a nebulizer for an asthmatic cough and the only way he would sit down was with some baby songs chromecasted onto the television). I thought I would wait even longer until I came across the following article in The Atlantic entitled Parents: Reject Technology Shame. I’ve linked the full article for you to read yourself but the main gist is that there are three types of parents: 1) digital limiters, 2) digital enablers, and 3) digital mentors.  What stood out as most alarming in the article was this:

“In a survey that asked parents about where their kids get into trouble online, I found that among school-aged kids, children of limiters who are most likely to engage in problematic behavior: They’re twice as likely as the children of mentors to access porn, or to post rude or hostile comments online; they’re also three times as likely to go online and impersonate a classmate, peer, or adult.”

Reading it I thought, “well of course I want to be a mentor!” I mean, if technology is already a big part of our lives then doesn’t it make more sense to teach children how to use it responsibly rather than just saying no and letting them get into trouble on their own later on? For us it seemed like a no-brainer. Of course that didn’t mean we opened the floodgates on screen time and technology use. Also, while the article was inspiring in opening the conversation on digital mentorship, it didn’t offer much in the way of guidelines. A digital mentor was defined generally as those who  “take an active role in guiding their kids onto the Internet.” But internet is only one side of digital media use. And what does an “active guiding role” look like? I thought long and hard about this question and so I came up with 3 ways we can be a digital mentor to young children when it comes to screen-time.

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  1. Set parameters by being a good role model. Being a digital mentor doesn’t mean there aren’t ANY limits. Reflect on your own values and how technology fits in with them and you’ll likely arrive at the conclusion that technology has its time, place, and benefits. Now define what those are. Think that phones or tablets don’t belong on the dinner table? Make sure they’re not in sight when dinner time rolls around. Do you want screen-time/technology use to be an educational and wholesome experience? Choose programming that reflect those values. We find it helpful to think about how we use our technology in front our children and what they will learn from that.
  2. Be present and engaged. When I think of mentorship, I think of a guiding presence. Often times when parents allow screen time or technology use, it is as a reprieve so that the children can be preoccupied as adults get their stuff done. It doesn’t have to be that way. Try to plan screen time and technology use so that you are physically present and able to reinforce what they are learning and  get them to reflect on what they are experiencing. The research shows that it’s far more effective than just having your child sit and watch/play on their own.
  3. Opt for Ad-Free programming. If there’s anything that digital mentorship is all about, it’s about embracing technology to put yourself in the driver’s seat. If we are going to be totally honest then advertisements and commercials are major obstacles to that control. For that reason, try to stick to applications and programs that are free of advertisements as not only are many of them questionably appropriate but they instill an insatiable consumerist impulse at such a young age which is totally unnecessary.

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Living in a digital age presents many challenges and we are working to be better digital mentors each and every day. There’s no such thing as perfect and how we interact with technology will continue to evolve. These are just three simple ideas for how we approach technology use that we hope you’ll find helpful if you’re apprehensive about introducing technology and screen time to young children. How do you feel about technology and screen-time? If you have any ideas on how to be a good digital mentor, please share in the comments below. And as always, if you found this post helpful please follow us and share

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How We Flipped and Sold a Home in Less than Two Months

We never planned on flipping a home, it kind of just happened. The short story is that we helped a family member buy a home that they ended up realizing was not right for them. We know, that can be quite a costly mistake. Luckily, the home was in excellent condition and the housing market was doing great so we sat down with our realtor who suggested we fix 5 simple things to get the home sold as soon as possible. And it worked! It really worked! Within a month, we had the home listed and shortly after had secured a buyer. So today we are sharing the simple things we did to get the ball rolling and how much it cost us. It’s probably important we note that we are not realtors or contractors, just a couple of avid DIYers with a tad bit of crazy in us 🙂

Here are the pictures of the home from the original listing prior to us doing anything:

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These are the five things that were recommended we change:

  1. Remove carpet and wallpaper
  2. Add a fresh coat of paint
  3. Finish hardwood floors
  4. Landscaping
  5. Professional cleaning

We also went a little above and beyond by adding a few items for styling purposes. These included a kitchen towel and plant in the kitchen, a welcome mat outside the front door, and a towel, soap dispenser, and some decorative items in the bathroom.

We didn’t do much DIYing here because of time constraints with our school so instead we hired people to take care of most of the labor. Below is a breakdown of each job and the cost associated with it:

  • City Inspection: $300 – The city inspection consists of all matters related to city code and regulation. They come in and make sure everything is up to standard and request that you update what is not so you can get a COO (Certificate of Occupancy) which you need if you are selling the house.
  • Painter: $1800 – We requested a handful of quotes and went with the mid-range contractor that had between 5-10 years of experience. Most of the cost was for removing the old wallpaper from the entire main floor. The patching up and painting wasn’t as bad as we initially thought.
  • Flooring Company: $ 1700 – This cost was a deal compared to the other quotes we got. The flooring contractor removed the old carpet and refinished the hardwood floors in approximately a week’s time. Be aware that the cost could be higher if you have flooring problems or need wooden trim and/or shoehorn installed.
  • Electrician: $250 – We needed an electrician to remove and replace all the 3-prong outlets to 2-prong because they were not grounded. Another minor thing he did was make sure that all of our wiring was up to code in the garage and outside the house.
  • Professional Cleaning: $150 – To sell the house and truly bring out the beauty of the space we hired a local cleaning company to polish up the home just before it hit the market for showings.
  • TLC: $100 – After we got all of the above done we decided to caulk to make sure corners, windows and all doors were sealed and correctly adjusted to their frames.
  • Landscaping and Decor: $150 –  You can’t go wrong with mulch, flowers and lava stones to make the landscape pop. We also purchased a nice outdoor welcome mat and indoor mat for potential buyers to feel a sense of home.

TOTAL: $4,450

We really wish we had the time to do these updates ourselves, but it would have been too overwhelming and would have taken us much longer. If we did do some of the things ourselves such as the painting and cleaning then we would have saved quite a bit of money, although we did recoup the costs with the sale of the home. The important thing to note is that it doesn’t take much to get a home move-in ready even if there’s a kitchen or bathroom that could use some updating.  If you have a similar project you’re diving into or are considering becoming a house flipper, now you know what it takes to get a home with good bones flipped and sold in no time at all. Now for the part you’ve all been waiting for…….the reveal:

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Have you ever flipped a home or considered flipping a home? Let us know in the comments below. We can’t wait to share our next exciting project with you so if you don’t want to miss out be sure to follow us here and on instagram for the latest and greatest. signature3


5 Refreshing Ramadan Drinks

The month of Ramadan is officially here and I am so excited to share something that I’ve been working on with my friend Amanda from Amanda’s Plate. We both know all too well how tough it can be to fast during the heat of the summer months so we got together to shoot some of our favorite drinks for an often overlooked aspect of fasting: staying hydrated. The importance of getting in plenty of fluids cannot be overstated but let’s face it, sometimes that’s hard to do. Chugging water can feel like a chore and store-bought drinks filled with artificial flavors, colors and excessive sugars are just not a health-conscious option. To make it fun and easy to stay hydrated, we’ve created five refreshingly delicious and simple to make Ramadan mocktails (obviously non-alcoholic) that are sure to impress your iftar guests and quench your thirst as the days get hotter. Behold, our Rocktails (Ramadan+Mocktails)!

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The wonderful thing about these drinks is that you can customize them to your taste (substitute your favorite fruit and herbs) and dietary preferences (even less sugar). The best part, however, is getting creative with the presentation.

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Watermelon Basil Bliss

  • Difficulty: Easy
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Watermelon Basil Bliss
Serves 6

  • 8 cups cubed seedless watermelon
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup sugar, optional

Using your blender, combine watermelon, basil, lime and sugar (if using). Blend until smooth. You may wish to strain the drink but that is optional. Garnish with fresh basil and lime wedge. Enjoy!

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Recipe via Amanda’s Plate

Sparkling Lavender Lemonade

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Sparkling Lavender Lemonade
Serves 6

  • 1 tablespoon culinary grade dried lavender
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ½ cups fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups cold sparkling water

In a small saucepan, combine granulated sugar with one cup of water and lavender. Bring to a low boil and reduce heat. Stir until sugar has completely dissolved about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain out the lavender and pour the simple syrup into a pitcher. Stir in the fresh lemon juice and sparkling water. Garnish with lavender sprig and lemon wedge. Enjoy!

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Recipe via Amanda’s Plate

Blackberry Honey Lime Spritzer

  • Difficulty: Easy
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Blackberry Honey Lime Spritzer
Serves 1

  • ¼ cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 12oz sparkling lime water

At the bottom of a glass, mash the blackberries and honey with a fork. Layer with ice cubes and pour over the sparkling lime water. Garnish with lime wedges, blackberries, and mint. Enjoy!

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Guava Pina Colada

  • Difficulty: Easy
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Guava Piña Colada
Serves 1

  • ½ cup of frozen pineapple chunks
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • ½ cup guava nectar

Blend pineapple, coconut milk, and guava nectar until smooth and frosty. Garnish with edible flowers and pineapple wedges. Enjoy!

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Tangy Tamarind Mojito

  • Difficulty: Easy
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Tangy Tamarind Mojito
Serves 1

  • 1-2 tablespoons tamarind simple syrup
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed sweet lemon
  • ½ cup sparkling water or plain water

Tamarind Simple syrup

  • ½ cup wet seedless tamarind paste (approximately ½ a block)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 cups water


In a small pot, bring the water, sugar, and tamarind paste to a boil. Mash the mixture with a fork and let simmer until well dissolved (about 10 minutes) then let cool and strain the syrup into a mason jar for storage. To make one serving, combine 1-2 tablespoons of tamarind simple syrup (more if you like it sweeter), sweet lemon, and sparkling water in a sugar-rimmed glass. Serve over ice. Enjoy!

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Let’s see what fun and refreshing concoctions you come up with! If you make any of these drinks or create your own, use the hashtag #ramadanmocktails and tag us @Amandasplate and @Thecozyhomechronicles. We will also be sharing more healthy and nourishing food and drink ideas on our page so be sure to follow along!

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Our DIY Home Journey + The Upskill Project

This probably should have been the first post on our blog but I figured it’s never too late to share our rather interesting DIY home backstory. You see, the idea of renovating our home ourselves never even crossed our mind. I mean don’t get me wrong, we are pretty handy and creative (heck, we DIYed our wedding) but we just assumed that home repairs were way out of our league. So like every clueless new homeowner, we called contractors to help us with the very basics and then some. Things went pretty smoothly until one day the contractor working on our basement announced that he had a family emergency overseas that he needed to attend to. I think he saw the panic in our eyes because he calmly responded, “Look, I first learned this trade by watching others in a very short amount of time. You don’t have to be a genius to do this line of work, anyone can do this.” He then spent the next few days before his departure demonstrating and explaining how to put up studs, mud drywall, and lay tile. He even left us with his tools! Those simple words of encouragement and instruction were enough to spark something within us. Although, it took us some time to finish our basement, the internal transformation happened immediately.

That’s how we got a taste for home DIYing. Every year since, we have tackled a major home project and we even started this blog as a way to share our home journey because we are passionate about DIYing and home life. When we experienced the joy of confidently working together on our home, we wanted to share that with YOU because we truly believe that ANYONE can do these things. We are living proof. Just take a look at the pictures of our home from our first showing compared to what it is today. Doesn’t it make your DIY senses tingle?

That’s why we are super excited to share that we are partnering with Lowe’s for The Upskill Project contest running in Detroit from May 7th-21st. So if you have a home project that you’ve been wanting to undertake but are reluctant because of the costs or because your skills leave much to be desired, then this contest is for you! Lowe’s is offering up to five lucky people the chance to win a $2,000 Lowe’s gift card for their project along with expert help to guide and teach the skills needed to complete your project. We know from experience just how crucial a little bit of guidance is and that is why this movement resonates with us so much. It’s all about empowering homeowners and giving them the skills, confidence, and inspiration they need to tackle any home project.

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To enter, all you need to do is submit a video answering the following questions:

  1. What is your project?
  2. What skills do you need to complete your project?
  3. What would having those skills mean to you?

Simple enough, right?! We’ll be there to help and document one winner’s project progress along the way.  And if you’re not a lucky winner, you’ll still have the opportunity to learn the skills you need at a free workshop hosted at a local Lowe’s on August 25th. This workshop is an invaluable opportunity to learn important homeowner skills such as painting, tiling, plumbing, and general tool use. Did I mention we will also be there too? So mark your calendars and get ready for a date with your new DIY BFFs.

IMG_6067If you’re not in the Detroit area and want to enter the contest, don’t fret because The UpSkill Project is coming to a number of cities across the country throughout the year. You can click here and scroll down for a full list.

All right, what are you waiting for?! Want to enter this contest? Start brainstorming and share this contest with your friends! We want to see what cool projects you have envisioned for your home! Maybe you want to build a rain garden? Or renovate your peach 1950’s bathroom? Whatever it is, may the odds be ever in your favor.

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Disclaimer: NO PURCH NECESSARY.  Homeowners and renters (with property owner’s permission) in eligible ZIPs only.  Rules/Entry details here: http://bit.ly/2Gvud8k. Ends 5/21/18. 

This post is sponsored by Lowes. The thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

 


Our DIY Ramadan: Ramadan Banner & Tablescape Inspiration

Hello lovely readers! If you are coming here from Mint Candy Designs, hello and welcome to our blog. It’s always wonderful to have new faces around here 🙂 With Ramadan just around the corner, we are excited to share with you some simple ways to decorate your home and make the spirit of Ramadan manifest in your heart and home. Last year, we shared different ways to add festive and colorful touches to the dining table, where you gather to break bread after a long day of fasting. This year, we teamed up with some talented home bloggers to bring you creative DIYs that you can do to welcome this beautiful month into your home.

“There’s hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.”-Rumi

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The feature of this post is a minimalist Ramadan banner and backdrop that I created near the front entrance of our home. I think it’s a beautiful welcoming statement for family and iftar guests and it makes the perfect backdrop for any family photos. It’s also super easy to make!

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For the Ramadan banner, here’s what you’ll need:
galvanized letters
natural cord
scissors
measuring tape

You can actually use any type of materials for the letters. I chose galvanized tin because they were on clearance at Jo-Anns and I wanted something more sustainable and long-lasting. I was tempted to spray paint the letters gold but in the end decided I liked the rustic, industrial look. To make the sign, all you need to do is arrange your letters spelling RAMADAN MUBARAK. Measure equal spaces between each letter (I did 5 inches) and secure each letter to the cord with a double knot. When you’re finished, create a loop at each end of the cord so you can hang the banner easily on a hook.

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To complete the backdrop simply cut out stars from glittered card stock and stick them to the wall using washi tape. You can also tie ribbon or yarn to cover up the command hooks and add a touch of green with any stems of your choice (eucalyptus, myrtle, grevillea, huckleberry).

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I also spruced up the dining area by hanging up garland and faux greenery. On our open shelving I created a simple display with a lantern and a gold foil Ramadan Mubarak print.

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I hung up our Ramadan advent calendar from Handmade Beginnings  where I’ll put something fun for the kiddos throughout the month. For the table I pulled out the turquoise glasses and purple linens I purchased from IKEA on clearance last year. Unfortunately they no longer offer those specific products (or if they do the colors are different) so I’ll link what alternatives they have below. For the napkins, my source link takes you to a conscious minimalist cotton napkin from H&M.

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 The only new things I purchased for this look were the gold placemats, the craft paper for the table-runner, and the glitter card stock to make the stars for the embellishments. I got the idea for the craft paper table runner from a Pinterest tablescape for Thanksgiving. I think it’s a nice screen-free way to keep children occupied with coloring and you can even write down your own reflections throughout the month. For an extra pop of color, never underestimate the power of fresh flowers. If you’re blessed with a beautiful flower garden then make it a family tradition and go flower picking right before iftar. If not, a local market or a Trader Joe’s would be a good option for gorgeous and reasonably-priced florals.

 

 

 

Sources:

Gold Placemat $1.99 | Craft Roll  $4.79 |Glitter Cardstock  $1.99| Ramadan Print $5.00 | Kitchen Towel $8.00 | Cotton Napkins $3.99 | Turquoise Glass $0.99 | Lantern $3.99

You can also find my sources of inspiration for these looks here on our Pinterest boards:

What did you think of the final result? Would you make this Ramadan banner? If you’re looking for more Ramadan decor inspiration then you’ll definitely want to head on over to my friend at Nimistyle and see her DIY Doily Table Runner and Gratitude Wall. Also don’t forget to check out the rest of the lovely DIYs in the Blog Hop linked below!

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Nimi Style | Amna B Interiors | Simply in Control | Mint Candy Designs | Zair Zabr Play

Last but not least, my friend Amanda and I put together our first Ramadan Ebook. It’s an idea that we’ve been sitting on for a while but this year we took a leap and tried to make it a reality. It’s nothing fancy but it’s a helpful resource filled with meal ideas and recipe links, decor tips, a checklist to help get you organized and even a few simple, mindful challenges for you to try. The best part is it’s available for free download right here:

Ramadan Ready Ebook

Amanda's Plate & The Cozy Home Chronicles

As always if you loved this post, please follow us and share. And for those who celebrate,  Ramadan Mubarak!

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DIY Anthropologie-Inspired Fringe Wall Art

Earlier last month, I shared a DIY upcycling project that I created for a four week creative challenge that I participated in back in January. In this post, I’ll be showing you how to make my decor for week two’s challenge “On the Wall.” First let me start by saying that while I love my own creative process, one thing I really enjoy is the challenge of recreating products that already exist for much cheaper. Seriously, if you’ve ever wanted something that was way out of your price range but thought maybe you could make it at home then I’m your person! Like, if there was a career path or job title for Expert Home Decor Replicator, I’d be the first in line but until such a day here I am making copycat Anthropologie wall art for my own home and blog.

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Image via Anthropologie

Do you want to take a guess how much these Solar System Wall Art pieces are going for? Do you even want to know? Try $78-$198. Yep, you read that correctly. How about making one for less than $20? If that’s a yes and you want to know just how, keep on reading for the full scoop. Here’s what you’ll need:

Materials
Gold Floral Hoops or Macrame Rings
Natural cord
Wooden or stone beads
Premier Jazz Yarn

 

 

Note: For this specific design, I used 2 floral hoops: a 6in and an 8in. I also used the jazzy yarn in the color “mushroom.” You can use any color or even a variety of colors to create a custom piece for your space. 

Directions

  1. Hold the two gold rings parallel so they’re touching (small ring inside the large) and tie them together using the natural cord. Wind the cord around the rings until the rings are secure and then double knot the cord leaving at least 7 inches for the beads and loop. For extra security, you can add a dab of hot glue to the knot.
  2. String the wood beads on the cord, secure with a knot, and create a small loop for hanging.
  3. Cut out 6-10 strands of the premier jazz yarn, keeping in mind that you want each strand to be twice as long as the final fringe since you’ll be folding it over. I wanted a staggered look so I cut out different sizes ranging from 20-35 inches (actually between 10-17inches).
  4. On the bottom end of the larger ring, secure the yarn by folding the strands in half and pulling the strands of the yarn over the ring and through the loop (see images below).
  5. Pull to tighten and trim the strands to your liking. Now hang and enjoy the view 🙂

 

 

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This was such a simple DIY wall decor and it really added a nice touch to our eclectic space. Would you make something like this for your home? Let us know in the comments below and as always, if you found this inspiring we would love it if you shared.

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15 Tips for Stress-free Traveling with Little Children

If you’ve been following along on our blog, you’ll know that we just went on vacation in January and that it wasn’t our first time traveling with kids. In our two and a half years as parents, we have been on plenty of family excursions (Traverse City, Mackinac Island, Hocking Hills, Seattle, Vancouver, Kansas City, Washington D.C, and Florida/Bahamas) and while we are no travel experts, we have learned so much along the way (some of it the hard way). This post initially began as an overview of our Disney cruise trip but as we began hashing things out and as some of our new parent friends began asking us for travel advice, we realized it would be a good idea to write a separate post on general traveling advice.  Don’t worry, we are still working on our Disney Cruise post but until then, here are some general tips for traveling with little ones.

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 1. Plan, Plan, Plan. No advice we give will replace good old research and common sense. Basic things like weather, flight time, length of stay, etc… should be accounted for when packing and preparing. Whether it’s how much weight you can check in or whether you have to purchase a seat for your child, make sure you’re up to date on all the rules and regulations. We also recommend you write a general itinerary so you’re not guessing where to eat or go when you arrive. Once upon a time it was exciting to travel without any plans but as a parent there is nothing worse than listening to your child cry as you scroll through Yelp trying to decide whether to brave sitting in a restaurant or get takeout and scarf down your food in the car. Nothing.

2. Be mindful of your little one’s routine. Whether your travel destination involves flying, road tripping, theme parks or swimming at the beach, make sure your itinerary accommodates nap times and offers plenty of opportunities to be active. “Fussy, restless kids are real charmers,” said no one ever. Here are just some examples of how we choose to work around our children’s routines: 1) We plan departures early in the morning when they are well rested and happy 2) We don’t plan major activities during their nap time, 3) If we are driving, we make sure to stop and let them run around, 4) We are aware of their bathroom routines and make sure they have a comfortable place to go.

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3. Be completely packed early the day before and get a good night’s rest. Unfortunately coffee cannot fix everything. A good night’s sleep is gold for you and your little one(s) and can mean the difference between you losing your cool or not. We like to have all of our outfits picked out and laying on the dresser the night before so that getting ready in the morning is a breeze. We also find that having our carry-ons packed with our passports, cards, chargers, snacks, etc… the night before means no scrambling and guesswork in the morning. The morning of your trip should run as smoothly as possible because let’s be real: leaving is the easiest part.

4. Take your car seat and rear view mirror with you. There’s really no need to buy any fancy gear for traveling. Simply grab your car seat and base after you’ve arrived at the airport and check it in with your luggage. Not only does it save you money but you also get the peace of mind knowing that your child is sitting in something clean and safe, considering that you don’t know where car seats from rentals have been or how outdated they are.

5. Take your stroller and don’t check it in until you get to the gate. The last kind of stress you need while you’re traveling is having to chase after your little one(s) while checking in or going through security. Keep your kid(s) and any small items contained in a stroller all the way until you get to the gate. I repeat: Do not check your stroller in with your luggage (unless you don’t mind your arms falling off). One major bonus to hanging onto the stroller is that parents with small children and strollers are among the first priority when the plane gets boarded so take advantage while you can.

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6. Take backpacks for carry-ons. One backpack for each parent. This is pretty self-explanatory but you want to be as hands-free as possible and as unrestricted as possible. You need to be as swift as a ninja should the need arise and you certainly won’t be able to do that if you’re wheeling your stuff along or if you have a bag hanging off your shoulder.

7. Dress comfortably. Yeah we know every parent wants to be that cool mom and dad. But you know what’s not cool? Chasing after toddlers when you’re not dressed for the part. We like to keep it casual on the road with sneakers, jogger pants, and a light hoodie/cardigan. Don’t be a hero. If you nurse, wear something comfortable for nursing. If you want your experience with security to be as smooth as possible just skip the pants and belt and anything metallic for that matter.

8. Pack spare clothes for your little ones AND YOU. Out of the four flights we’ve been on, we’ve had 2 episodes of diaper blowout and one puke fest. The puke fest happened on us and guess who didn’t have a change of clothes? Us. Even if it’s just an extra top, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Trust us on this one.

9. Milk them during takeoff. If you’re flying and your little one(s) still nurses or takes formula then let them feast as the plane is taking off. Not only is it the perfect comfort and distraction but you may get an hour or more sleep time out of them. I’m speaking here as someone who successfully nursed my children to sleep during takeoff and found how much more bearable the flight was when they were asleep for half of it.

10. Prepare many forms of entertainment. Think like a bag of tricks or a busy box with age-appropriate distractions. In the past we’ve taken play dough, coloring and sticker books, stories, and new and favorite toys (nothing too noisy). More recently, and now that our son is over 2 years of age, we have made screen-time exceptions for him because, quite frankly, a miserable flight is not worth ruining our trip over. If you have a Netflix account, the majority of content available can be downloaded on a device for offline viewing (it expires after 48 hours but you can renew as long as you have wifi access).  We made sure to get our son the perfect sized headphones and we downloaded plenty of Curious George to get us through the 2.5 hour flight to Florida.

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11. Take lots of snacks. There’s no such thing as too many snacks. It’s worth mentioning that young children under 3 are the exceptions to the TSA liquid restrictions so pouches, pumped breast milk, formula, baby food…all those things you can take with you and you should. For us, food is one of those things that gets our kids to quiet down especially when they know they’re about to try something new so we suggest you pack a variety of snacks and pack something they haven’t tried. We guarantee that it will get you some good fuss-free mileage. Here are some of the non-perishable snacks we’ve been taking on our latest trips: Mango pouches, dried fruit or fruit leather, crackers, lara bars, apple sauce, and rice cakes. Be sure that if you’re traveling with perishable food that you pack it appropriately.

12. Pack an empty sippy cup and/or baby bottles. Staying hydrated is important and we find that it’s much easier to do that on the go when we travel with the right supplies. When we fly, we pack an empty sippy cup (we also take a canteen for ourselves) in our carry on and once we pass through security we fill it up at a water fountain. It’s an easy way for us to make sure we are drinking water while being environmentally friendly. The same goes for milk or formula. Pack an empty bottle in your carry-on and you can fill it up when the need arises.

13. Pack some baby-proofing essentials. Apparently baby-proofed hotel rooms are like unicorns. They don’t exist. From sharp-cornered furniture to unsecured TV stands to heavy lamps and messy cords ( I can go on), every hotel we’ve been in has been the stuff of parent nightmares. If you want some extra peace of mind, we suggest taking just a few baby proofing essentials: outlet covers, cabinet locks, and some cut up pool noodles for edge guards.IMG_9060

14. Rent an SUV or Mini-Van. There are plenty of ways to cut costs while traveling but this is one area we don’t recommend cutting. You want a vehicle that’s comfortable for your carseat(s), has plenty of room for all your luggage and stroller(s), and gives you the ability to hop in the back and soothe your baby during a meltdown should the need arise. A sedan or smaller vehicle will not give your family that comfort. Plus, you can get a taste for how things will be a few years down the line when you’re the uncool minivan parents (kidding).

15. Be kind to yourself. Repeat after me: “I am not the first to travel with kids and I  won’t be the last. And I am certainly not the first or last to travel with noisy or crying kids. I will not feel guilty over things that are beyond my control. I will be kind to myself. Enemies of fairness and equality, hear my parent-ly roar (optional).” Look, no matter how much you plan and prepare, you will inevitably find yourself  in uncharted territory (we got stuck in the airport for 10 hours on our way back from Florida with two toddlers and it sucked big time). None of us have this all figured out and that’s okay; we learn as we go. If you’re traveling with your spouse and you sense him or her stressing out, try sharing words of encouragement or give them a compliment on something they’re doing well. At the end of the day, all this preparation you’re doing is so that YOU can also enjoy the trip so don’t let it get to you if things don’t go your way.

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That’s all folks. We initially had in mind to share 10 tips but as we started recalling what we wish we knew before our first trip, we couldn’t stop. We could have probably written much more too but we decided to keep it general and share more specific travel tips in separate posts. We also realize these are much more applicable if you’re flying rather than driving to a destination but we hope you’ll find it helpful either way. One day, we will get to publishing the Disney post and maybe one day we’ll write about Seattle and Vancouver and Washington D.C and Kansas City. One day. In the meantime, if you liked this post and found it helpful we would love if it you would like it and share it. For more related content, you can find us on Instagram where we share more of our day-to-day and Pinterest where we share our ideas and inspiration. If you have any thoughts or suggestions about this DIY project, feel free to leave a comment below. And as always…

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Soy Chorizo Vegan Chili

We are so behind on our post schedule it’s not even funny but I figured as long as I’m not posting this recipe in June, we’re cool (your standards change when you’re a parent of two). So March is less than a week away but that means NOTHING here in Michigan because our weather is a wild card of unpredictability (sigh). I’m not totally complaining though because for those really chilly spring days, we have just the recipe to warm up our bones and souls. If you’re in graduate school like us or lead generally busy lives, this is another easy and delicious recipe to add to your meal plan during those really hectic weeks.

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As I’m sure I mentioned before on here, we are always looking for ways to cut down on our meat consumption and a few years ago I stumbled across this pretty stellar soy chorizo at Trader Joe’s for just $1.99. I know, right?! At first we used it in our egg scrambles but one day it hit me that it would make a great meat substitute base for a vegan chili. Spoiler alert: It does! Not only does it have that perfect ground beef texture but it’s so spicy you may find you don’t even need to season your chili at all. You can also cut the preparation time for this recipe by opting for canned beans instead of dried beans but either way, your watch, wallet, and tummy will be satisfied with this hearty bowl of goodness.

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Soy Chorizo Vegan Chili

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 cup of finely chopped carrots
1 cup black beans, cooked
1 cup kidney beans, cooked
1 12 oz. package of Soy Chorizo, casing removed and crumbled
1 15 oz. can  of tomato sauce
4 cups water or vegetable stock
2 garlic cloves, minced
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Note: *If you prefer your chili to be less thick, you can add more liquid to water it down. *You can also tweak this recipe to your liking and include more vegetables such as bell peppers, tomatoes, and corn. *I find the soy chorizo makes the chili spicy and flavorful enough for our taste, especially with the kids in mind, but if you find the flavor isn’t cutting it for you, you can add the following: 1 teaspoon ground sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional).

Directions
1. In a deep pot, drizzle a bit of olive oil and sauté your onion, and garlic on medium heat until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
2. Next add in the carrots and soy chorizo. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until the ingredients are well incorporated.
3. Finally, add in the water/stock, beans, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil then let simmer on low until reduced and thickened, about 20-30 minutes.
4. Taste the chili and season to your liking or adjust the thickness.
5. Ladle your chili into bowls and serve with vegan cheese, non-dairy sour cream, and crispy tortilla chips.

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If you liked this recipe and tried it, we would love it if you would share or leave a comment below. For more related content, you can find us on Instagram where we share more of our day-to-day and Pinterest where we share our ideas and inspiration. And as  always…

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