Renovating a kitchen is often one of the most expensive home improvement projects but it doesn’t have to be! Paint made such a huge difference in our kitchen (see above photo for proof!) and it was also one of the least expensive changes we made (I’m not going to lie here though and tell you it was all roses and butterflies though). Prepping and painting cabinets is serious business because it’s very time consuming and physically a bit exhausting. It does not however involve a large amount of skill, just determination! No measuring or cutting, it’s pretty straight forward. New counter tops were a must for us, especially after we painted the cabinets, we had white on white (the counters were actually stained pretty badly and not so white, so more like white on yellow) for quite a while. We went with Ikea Lagan Butcher Block and it ended up being less expensive than the cheapest laminate. Installing counters is very technically challenging in my opinion but it can be done! I was lucky enough to get some much needed help from my step dad. Another big change was new appliances. We bought this house as a foreclosure so we didn’t have a refrigerator, microwave or washer/dryer. We waited for sales and bought floor displays to save money. Hopefully I will update this soon with tutorials and an actual cost breakdown for each of the projects!
1) All in one tool- We have 2 of these Husky 14-in-1 Painter’s Tools. Best $12 (for 2) we have spent, we use these ALL the time and they haven’t broken with 2 years of heavy use. The small edge is great for cutting caulk and it also works well combined with a hammer to chisel (I even used it to chisel dry thin-set away from concrete).
2) Cordless drill- Ours is a cheap Ryobi one which gets the job done. Just make sure to have at least two battery packs so there’s always an extra one charged. I would say 85% of our projects involve using a drill at some point.
3) Hammer- Just another one of those tools that you always need. I don’t think it matters how much you spend, just go to a brick and mortar store to pick one out that feels comfortable to hold.
4) Rubber mallet- We have both small and large mallets, they’re essential for laying floating floor but have also come in handy for lightly tapping other things into place.
5) Clamps- Clamps are always good to have around (at least 4), it’s like having an extra set of hands. I prefer the ones that have rubber on the ends so they don’t damage the surface of whatever you’re clamping and glue will also wipe off easily. We have these:
6) Allen wrenches- Make sure to have a good variety of sizes.
7) Crowbar- We’ve used our crowbar for everything from ripping up the carpet to ripping off door and window frames. Crowbars are great if you’re demoing anything!
8) Duct tape- The band-aid for DIYers haha! In my experience duct tape can hold things together for years!
9) Tarps/plastic- Great for laying down to make clean up easier when sanding, cutting, painting, gluing, etc.
10) Liquid nails- This is my go to glue for everything. I used to buy little things of super glue until I realized how pointless that was when you can just buy a big tube of liquid nails.
11) Caulk gun/caulk- If you put up any trim or molding, caulk will be your best friend and make everything look nice (i.e. it will look like a pro did it not you).
12) Painters tape- Some people have the magic ability to paint without taping off, I am not one of those people. My painting is a hot mess even with the tape so… I have yet to find a tape that works perfectly with absolutely no bleed. Painters tape isn’t just for painting, I also use it for caulking to give a clean straight edge. It works great for holding things together while glue dries if you’re unable to clamp it.
13) Level- Twist each end in opposite directions and see if it bends. You want one that won’t bend so that it remains level and doesn’t throw you off later (which unfortunately I have had experience with).
14) Rafter/speed square- I have yet to actually use this for it’s intended purpose (angles) but I always use it to draw a straight line across whatever piece of wood I’m cutting.
15) Buckets/lids- We have at minimum 10 homer bucket in the garage. They get used for everything. My favorite use so far is putting paint in it instead of using a tray, when I want to take a break or quit for the day all I do is drop the roller grate in and stick the lid on (no mess trying to get paint back in the can). We also have a very handy bucket tool organizer:
16) Heavy duty gloves- From tiling to anything involving wood and possible splinters thick gloves are a must.
17) Knee pads- Many projects involve contorting your body into uncomfortable positions for long periods of time, with knees often taking the brunt of the it.
18) Utility knives- I recommend getting a pack of replacement blades too, they always seem to dull very quickly around here
19) Sanding block/sponge- These are usually sold for sanding drywall but work for any small sanding job (you can always wrap sandpaper around the block if you need a different grit).
20) Wet/dry vacuum- You don’t want to use your nice household vacuum for drywall dust and sawdust. We have rigid one that has a washable filter.
A few other things that are nice to have around:
Miter saw, circular and/or table saw and jigsaw
Mouse and belt sanders
Most drugstores do in fact carry cruelty-free items! Listed below are some that I often see. I order the majority of my make-up items online (better selection and prices from companies like Alima, Everyday Minerals, Silk Naturals, etc.) but there are times when I’m traveling or need something and don’t want to wait for shipping.
Yes to Carrots
My main source for fair trade gifts is http://www.theanimalrescuesite.com/store as I wrote about in the previous post, but there are many other options as well.
Overstock.com has a section called Worldstock Fair Trade http://www.overstock.com/Worldstock-Fair-Trade/6/store.html. They seem to have a very extensive inventory of items. In general the prices are a bit more than the Animal Rescue Site but the nice thing about Overtsock is that you are able to read reviews of items and you can get a better idea of what they will be like. Overstock, like Animal Rescue, has very reasonable shipping (right now it’s free and I believe is normally a flat $3 or $4). Overstock has excellent customer service in my experience, I recently ordered a wedding band from them that was stolen out of the mail and they promptly sent me a replacement at no charge.
If you don’t want to order anything online my suggestion is to go to your local health food store or grocery store! Who doesn’t like edible gifts right! My go to gifts are fair trade/organic coffee, tea, hot chocolate and chocolate bars, which you can usually even pick up at places like Target. I’m personally not a coffee drinker but most of the people on my shopping list are. My fiancée loves the Green Mountain organic fair trade coffee, but there are about a bazillion great choices out there! I’m a big tea drinker and have several favorite brands but the majority of my tea collection is Traditional Medicinal, my favorite is the Spearmint. While my favorite hot chocolate has to be Ibarra Mexican hot chocolate, Dagoba makes an excellent fair trade one! Now onto one of my favorite things in the whole wide world, chocolate! Green and Blacks organic chocolate has turned me into a chocolate snob! I pay anywhere from $2.50 to $3.50 a bar which sounds expensive for a bar of chocolate but in my humble opinion it is worth every cent! I recently had a Hershey’s bar and while I still ate it (I mean it’s still chocolate), it definitely didn’t even come close to comparing! Whole Foods has their own brand of organic fair trade chocolate that really good too a little less expensive. When I give any of the above items as gifts I usually try and make a little gifts baskets and stick a few other things in there. Maybe include a hand made ceramic mug with the coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Some organic wine with the chocolate bars (I have yet find any organic fair trade wine anywhere) and/or some local organic fruit.
You might even be surprised and find a local shop that sells fair trade items. I was recently visiting Harper’s Ferry, WV and came across a store called Tenfold Fair Trade Collection http://tenfoldfairtrade.com/ . They had some really neat items! I bought some turmeric soap (which I’ve been looking for forever), some chocolate of course, and my Mom bought 2 beautiful gold bangle bracelets.
There are many online stores that sell fair trade items, I just did a Google search and a whole bunch popped up! I’d love to hear if anybody else has any experience with other stores, online or brick and mortar!
Hopefully everybody has already finished their Christmas shopping, but if you’re still looking for some ideas here’s one. Instead of getting up at some horrifically early hour to go Black Friday shopping and get the latest tech gadget (that will be outdated in a few months), consider buying a fair trade gift. Fair trade simply means that the workers who made the product were treated and paid fairly. When you click on a fair trade product on The Animal Rescue Site scroll to the bottom and they usually give you some information about where, how and by whom the item was created. I’m about to purchase this beautiful glass necklace (for $3!) https://www.thehungersite.com/store/item.do?siteId=220&itemId=42361 and at the bottom it gives me information about the Tara Projects in India where it was made.
The animal rescue site (https://www.theanimalrescuesite.com/store/site.do?siteId=220) has a great selection of fair trade items that are also very reasonably priced. You can do all of your holiday (or Birthday) shopping from the comfort of your home. They have everything from household decorative items to clothing and jewelry and much much more! They often have sales going on and shipping is a flat rate of $5, or it’s even free when you give a monetary donation of $10 or more to one of the many charities (under the “Gifts that Give More” tab on the left). Gifts that Give More are also tax-deductible and they send you a receipt.
Your purchase also donates to whichever cause’s store you shop at. There are 6 separate “stores”– Hunger, Breast Cancer, Child Health, Literacy, Rainforest and Animal Rescue. For example, at the Animal Rescue store everything you purchase funds x amount of bowls of food for shelter animals at no cost to you.
They also have super cute E-cards that you can send out for the holidays or birthdays, and did I mention that they are free! http://www.theanimalrescuesite.com/clickToGive/sendecard.faces?siteId=3
Also, don’t forget to click everyday at http://www.theanimalrescuesite.com/clickToGive/. It only takes a few seconds, all you have to do is click and a donation is made! Don’t forget to click on all of the tabs on top and click for each cause! You can even sign up to get an email reminder to click everyday.
***I should mention that I am in no way affiliated with The Animal Rescue Site, I have never received free products or any of that jazz! I’m simply a happy repeat customer!***
There’s nothing more fun than using items you have in your kitchen to do double duty as skincare products! Not only is it way more cost effective but also about as natural as you can get!
This is probably my favorite kitchen to skincare item. In my opinion raw organic honey is the best because it isn’t as processed and retains more nutrients (good if you’re going to eat it as well). Raw manuka honey is said to have the most healing and antibacterial/antiseptic properties (many studies suggest it can even help MRSA) . Manuka honey is from New Zealand and I’ve found that it’s definitely worth the hype–just the taste alone warrants the somewhat hefty price tag. Manuka honey is rated using a UMF (acronym for unique manuka factor) number. The higher the UMF number, the more expensive it will be (due to it containing higher levels of healing properties) . If you want more info about UMF ratings check out this link: http://manukahoney.com/resources/umf.html.
Raw organic manuka honey can be found at most health food stores or online. I order mine online from Luckyvitamin.com as it is a bit cheaper.
Cleanser- I use a mini spatula (the kind they have at makeup counters for testers–I buy a huge pack at Sally’s Beauty Supply) and scoop a big dollop of honey onto my hands and slather it all over my face, massage gently into my skin with my finger tips for a few minutes, then rinse with warm water. I half expected my face to feel a bit sticky after using this the first time, but the honey actually rinses off completely clean with just water.
Mask- Honey makes for a very soothing mask (albeit slightly messy). Add oatmeal for even more skin pampering. Leave on for at least 15 minutes and make sure you’re wearing an outfit that you don’t mind getting honey on because your body heat will make it a little drippy!
Spot treatment- the antibacterial properties inherent in honey are said to help heal acne and cuts/wounds. I mix a teaspoon of honey with 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon for an acne spot treatment and leave it on for a couple of hours. If you want to leave it on over night you will probably want to cover it with a band aide (otherwise you will undoubtedly wake up to a very sticky mess). I also love putting this on stubborn and irritating blemishes that I have an urge to poke/prod (basically spread germs ) because when it’s covered in sticky honey I simply can’t touch it!
Body scrub- I just use a small recycled jam jar, fill it up about 2/3 of the way with honey and the rest with brown sugar, shake it up and/or stir it. It makes for a very luxurious body scrub, great to remove any dry patches on your skin (the honey moisturizes while the sugar exfoliates). Sometimes I use this on my face too, but it’s probably a bit harsh for most.
Lip Scrub- same recipe above but on a much smaller scale obviously. I just use my fingers and gently scrub all of the flakies off my lips. This is great to do before applying lipstick, it leaves you with a nice smooth canvas to paint your lips!
Eat- Yes, the most obvious use for honey is to eat it and enjoy the delightful sweetness as it melts in your mouth, yum! I use honey in place of sugar to sweeten baked goods, in my morning oatmeal, in tea, on toast (honey and banana sandwiches are delicious by the way), etc. It’s also great for soothing and temporarily coating sore throats, mix it with a bit of cinnamon if it to sweet to eat straight. I’ve also been told that eating local honey can help with seasonal allergies (the theory is that you will be ingesting small doses of local pollen, therefore building up an immunity to them–sort of like a vaccine).