Tutorial- How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets- From Orange Oak to White


electric mouse sander
a few sheets of sandpaper
cloths (old t-shirts work well)
plastic or canvas drop cloth(s)
painter’s pyramids
foam brushes
mini roller

1) SAND-
Remove all doors and hardware. Sand the fronts and backs of all the doors with an electric sander, we used a mouse sander. Ideally this would be done outside (wearing a mask of course). Hand sand with a sheet of sandpaper to get into all of the grooves and crevices. Use the electric sander on the cabinet frame. If you’re able, partition off your kitchen with masking tape and plastic drop cloths so that the dust is contained to one room. Also make sure to remove any items that you don’t want to get dusty. It’s also a good idea to use a shop vac and have it running alongside the sander and open the windows.

Wipe down all of the doors and frame with a clean damp cloth. Lay down a drop cloth and set the doors up on painter’s pyramids. Use a foam brush and mini roller and to apply the primer. The frame goes fairly quickly with the mini roller. I used Behr’s Enamel Undercoat and Primer since I was using Behr latex paint over it, if you’re using a different paint (ie oil based) you would need a different primer. Make sure and apply the primer evenly, bad brush strokes and mistakes will show through even after you paint (unfortunately this happened on a few doors that I let my husband help me with ). Apply 2-3 coats front and back letting them dry completely in between.

Apply 2-3 coats of paint with a foam brush and mini roller. I used Behr Premium Paint in Ultra Pure White (semi-gloss finish). Again, use painter’s pyramids and letting everything dry completely in between coats. When everything is completely dry, carefully rehang the doors and install hardware.

Wipe down cabinets with a damp cloth. Do NOT use a magic sponge (I learned this the hard way unfortunately). Save a small tub of paint for touch ups. It’s been over 3 years since I painted my cabinets and I haven’t had any bleed-through, chips or stains.



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20 Homeowner/DIYer Must Haves


Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net









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.


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.

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 a 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- Always handy to have around.

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 is a must. Baseboards and bathroom tubs/sinks often need caulk touch ups every so often.

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.

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 buckets 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 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:

Air compressor

Miter saw, circular and/or table saw and jigsaw

Mouse and belt sanders

Oscillating multi-tool


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How to Dye Your Hair with Henna

(Image courtesy of James Barker / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)









What is henna and why should I use it on my hair?

Henna is a plant and the red/orange dye comes from it’s crushed leaves.

Henna’s a great option for people who are looking for something natural to dye their hair. I love henna because it gets rid of dandruff (I have super scaly skin) and leaves my hair soft and shinny. If you get pure henna you should not have any problems/interaction with conventional hair dyes. The first time I henna-ed my hair it was over my bleached hair. Compound or mixed hennas though can have unpredictable and possibly very bad outcomes.

Indigo is another natural dye. Indigo can be mixed with henna to achieve a brown color or done over henna-ed hair for black. Cassia, yet another plant dye, gives off a yellow tint on grey or light blonde hair. It can be mixed with henna to make a lighter and more washed out red. Cassia can not lighten hair, it’s used on darker hair as a conditioning treatment.

Where to purchase henna.

I prefer to order body art quality henna from http://www.mehandi.com/. I should start off by saying that I’m not affiliated with the site in any way, I just like their henna and have learned most of what I know about henna from exploring the site and forums. There are some very knowledgeable people on the forums so if you have any questions this is the place to ask them:  http://forums.hennapage.com/forum/2.

Why should you care if your henna is body art quality? Body art quality has a higher dye content and is less gritty. Here is a more in depth answer to that question: http://www.bodyartquality.com/index.html.  Another reason I prefer to order from mehandi is because their henna is 3rd party laboratory tested, more information on that here: http://www.mehandi.com/shop/labtest/index.html.

One negative thing I have to say about henna for hair/mehandi is that their website can be difficult to navigate and find what you’re looking for, that’s why I have provided extensive links to pages on their site.

Patch and Strand Test

Of course it’s always a good idea to mix up a small amount of henna and do a patch test on your skin and a strand test on your hair (collected from your hairbrush). It’s rare for somebody to be allergic to henna, more on that here: http://www.hennaforhair.com/allergies/index.html.

I did a strand test the first time I tried henna, you can order sample sizes here: http://www.mehandi.com/shop/hairsamples/. Samples allow you to experiment with different types of henna and different  acidic liquids, you can also work out your dye release timing.

Ready to start?

1) Mixing your henna paste.

brewing strong black tea for making henna paste






Henna needs to be mixed with an acidic liquid in order to achieve dye release. This a very helpful table of liquids, pH and approximate dye release times: http://forums.hennapage.com/node/4146 . I usually prefer strongly brewed black tea (3-4 tea bags per cup). I have dry brittle hair so I think lemon or lime would be a little too harsh for me and vinegar is out due to smell.  Plus I always have tea on hand.

Mix henna in a non-metallic bowl (plastic, ceramic, glass) with a wooden or plastic spoon or fork. Your bowl and/or mixing utensil might get stained so keep that in mind. I’m lazy and since I always freeze my henna I mix it in the ziplock bag that I’m going to freeze it in. Add liquid until you achieve a peanut-butter like consistency.


***If you’re not fond of the smell of henna you can add some ground cloves or pumpkin pie spice to the mixture.***

2) Waiting for dye release.

The acidic liquid you use determines how long you will wait to get dye release (see linked chart above). Make sure the henna is covered and simply let it sit at room temperature. Start checking at the low end of the dye release time by putting a dollop on the palm of your hand, after a few minutes rinse it off. If it left behind an orange stain you have dye release. Here is what it should look like:

henna dye release on palm









Normally I make a large batch of henna and divided it up in bags and freeze them. After brewing my tea, letting it cool to room temperature, mixing the paste and waiting for dye release I usually don’t have time to apply the henna and leave it on for a few hours (I like to leave it on for a large chuck of time, 4-6 hours). Even if you’re freezing your henna for later you still need to wait for dye release before freezing it (you also need to be careful to not wait too long either as it will demise).

3) Applying the henna paste (ideally to freshly shampooed but not conditioned hair). Towel dry hair and apply henna to damp hair. 

***If you’re using frozen henna make sure the bag is still tightly sealed and put it in a bowl of room temperature water to let it defrost. Once it’s fully defrosted follow the directions below.***

Helpful things to have on hand before starting:

– damp rags or paper towels (for cleaning up drips)

– gloves

– old towels (to cover neck/shoulders and floor if needed)

– shower cap or saran wrap

– beanie (to go over plastic wrap to help hold in heat)

– hair clips

– trash can or bag (to dispose of gloves, left over henna, etc)

This is the fun and messy part! Applying henna paste is akin to smearing peanut butter or mud all over your hair. Gloves are a must unless you want orange hands and nails that look like you’ve been eating Cheetos for days. Wear old clothing that can get stained (I wear painting clothes). I make sure to put on a shirt that has a big neck so I can take it off easily when it comes time rinse off in the shower.

To start, transfer henna to a plastic ziplock or piping bag. Cut a small opening in the corner and twist up the top (it will look like a carrot). Squeeze henna out of the hole in the bag and onto your hair, smooth the henna paste out with your fingers or a brush to coat strands. I start with the under section of my hair at the root and work my way down. It’s helpful to have some hair clips and divide up you hair into sections.  Once hair is coated root to tip pull it back and secure it with a clip. Cover hair with a shower cap (I use disposable caps as they will get very messy) or saran wrap. After the cap put on a beanie (or some sort of hat that will keep your head warm) or wrap a towel. In my experience a beanie works best, it fits snugly and keeps your hair warm.

This is what the henna paste looked like applied to my hair:

henna paste applied to hair

henna paste applied to hair







4) Waiting.

Now you wait. Henna for Hair recommends 2 hours minimum. I usually keep mine on for 4 hours. It gives me an opportunity to catch up on things around the house :-)! Some people even sleep with henna on their hair…

5) Rinsing

The “mermaid soak” is my preferred method of getting the henna out of my hair. You fill either your tub or a bucket with water, dunk your hair in and lightly swish it around. This doesn’t remove all of the henna but it does get the majority of it out. You definitely need to follow it up with a shower, shampoo and conditioner if you want.

6) Enjoy!

Henna may oxidize and darken, and after washing it will start to fade. The henna smell will likely stick around for a few washes. If you’re not happy with the results you can use chemical hair dye over it (as long as you used PURE henna and not compound henna). You can only dye it darker though.

***Please note that these instructions are just from my own personal experience and other people may have different advice or different ways of doing it. There are no guarantees as to how your hair will turn out, that’s part of the henna adventure! You have to be willing to try something different than a normal box dye and it may be a little bit messy and unpredictable :-). Type of henna, acidic liquid used, application, timing, etc. can all play a part in the final outcome. ***

My Before and After- Henna on my bleached hair (my natural color is dark brown).

henna before






Before (bleached hair)

henna after









After (henna over bleach)


My hair is back to it’s natural dark brown color so now when I use henna it just gives it a dark reddish/auburn tint.



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Cruelty-Free Drugstore Brands

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.


Burt’s Bees


Hard Candy



Physician’s Formula


Yes to Carrots

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More Fair Trade Gift Ideas

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!

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The Animal Rescue Site- Fair Trade Gifts










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!***

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Skincare From Your Kitchen: HONEY

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).


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