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Back in Action!

Hi folks,

Sorry for being MIA for the past couple of weeks. I flew to Toronto with my toddler and the hubster joined us a week later. It’s been two weeks of family, friends, and eating. It was fun, and tiring, and I’m still working on cleaning up the two suitcases that basically exploded in my house (haha). I’ll have a post up soon on how it was traveling with our 1.5 year old (it wasn’t easy, but then again, nothing is easy with a toddler) and a few souvenirs I picked up on the trip. But first I have to dig the camera out wherever it is. So bear with me, ok? I appreciate your patience =).



What’s Up This Week

This week we were working on a bunch of projects but didn’t get a chance to finish anything, so I’ll post finished pics next week. I was also struggling with fatigue from 3 nights of insomnia (gah!). But I’ll share a few updates on our progress this week.

diy table

Our DIY dining table is almost done! It’s been basically constructed and now needs to be finished off with stain and poly, and then assembled in the dining room.

baby using tools

This little girl helped put the table together.

staining table

Yesterday we put on a couple coats of stain (Minwax Special Walnut, my favorite) and we’re going to put on a couple coats of polyurethane today.

dining chairs goodwill

I often feel like we never find anything good at Goodwill anymore, but then something like this happens! My latest find — four mid-century-esque dining chairs. Solid oak, cushion stuffing in really good condition. Oh and did I mention the table came with (I’m saving it for the “craft room” in the loft when we get around to it). All for 40 bones?! I have a feeling these chairs are more 80’s than truly mid-century but I think they’ll be great once I recover the seats and refinish the wood (hopefully in a less honey finish, if I can sand off all of the current finish).

And finally:

trader joes cards

I switched in some new “art” in the small 5×7 frames on the left of this gallery wall in the breakfast nook. They are actually cards from Trader Joe’s for 99 cents each!

(Please ignore the disintegrating trim on the right there. It will all be fixed. Someday. Also, paint on the walls. It will happen, I promise.)

trader joes art

Trader Joe’s has the cutest cards, and they are printed on really nice textured matte cardstock that looks just like watercolor paper. I love that they have a lot of non-subject specific cards so they don’t look strange framed. Go get some! For a buck you can get really cute art at Trader Joe’s to switch things up around the house!

Elsewhere on the Internet, a few more of my articles are up at

Is Your Apple Dangerous? How to Eat Fewer Pesticides (While Saving Money) – buying organic is one way, but there are several strategies you can use to reduce your pesticide exposure in food.

5 Ways to Say “No” to Friends and Family – We all could use some more balance in our lives…saying “no” once in a while is a good start.

How to Save 10-20% on Online Purchases Every Day – My not-so-secret method for saving every time you buy something online.

Have a great weekend everyone!

New Outdoor Pillow Covers

sewing outdoor pillows title

As I’ve mentioned before, this summer I’ve been focusing on fixing up our outdoor living area (for example how I spray painted our patio table). We spend so much time outdoors (God bless that beautiful Southern California sunshine) that I want our outdoor space to feel like an extension of the house. And what better way to bring color and comfort to the outdoors than with a set of outdoor cushions?

Chris almost always rolls his eyes when I mention making new cushions (what is it with husbands and their universal disdain of accent pillows?). But even he was happy with how well these outdoor pillows turned out. Especially since I reused the old outdoor cushions for the stuffing — Chris is always happy with a recycle/reuse project.

chevron pillow

Joann’s had a sale on outdoor fabrics (everything 50% off) so I picked up some beautiful fabrics in shades of blue, aqua, and green. The trellis and chevron patterns are by Waverly Sun ‘n’ Shade and the floral is PKL Outdoor “Rosette”. Our old outdoor cushions were about 18″ square, so I made the new covers to fit. I made these outdoor pillow covers the easiest way possible — using envelope closures.

ikea outdoor couch

You’ll need outdoor fabric, a sewing machine, an iron, scissors, a yardstick (or cutting mat) for measuring, and Outdoor Thread. This last one is very important! Outdoor thread is made of heavy-duty polyester and is designed to withstand rain and UV rays. Don’t use regular cotton thread unless you don’t mind your hard work falling apart after a season of use. (Read more about how to sew using outdoor thread at the Coats and Clark blog. I followed their instructions to a T except that I used a size 16 needle instead of 18 and it worked fine.)

One yard of fabric is just enough to make two 18-inch cushion covers because they usually cut it a little bigger than 36″, but make sure you measure out exactly how much you need…you don’t want to be short an inch or two. For one pillow, cut a 19″ x 46″ rectangle (this length gives you extra fabric for the overlap and hemming of the envelope closures as well as the top and bottom seam allowance).

sewing pillow

Fold over each short end twice (right side out) and iron down flat. Outdoor fabric doesn’t iron down too easily, and you want to avoid using too much heat as it can melt the polyester. So after you’ve made a crease, pin the folds to hold them down. Hem them on your sewing machine, backstitching at each end. Sew slowly, as the thick outdoor thread isn’t as flexible as normal thread.

(The hardest part of this whole project might be threading your sewing machine with the outdoor thread…I always have to look at the manual to make sure I’m getting each step right! Be sure to increase the stitch length a little bit to allow for the thicker thread.)

measuring outdoor pillow

With the wrong side out, fold the rectangle so that the hemmed ends overlap. Use a yardstick to measure 18″, and adjust the overlap so that you’ve got an 18″ x 19″ rectangle. Pin in place.

Sew the raw top and bottoms closed using a 1/3″ to 1/2″ seam allowance, making sure to catch the hemmed ends of the envelope. If you like, you can backstitch over the envelope opening to give it some extra strength.

Turn it right-side out and stuff your pillow form inside! I used an old outdoor pillow (that I washed and bleached to make sure any dirt/mold was gone), but you can also order a pillow form online, like this 18″ Polyester Pillow Form on Amazon.

sewing outdoor pillows

You can use this super easy method to make any envelope pillow cover, not just for sewing outdoor cushions! Just use regular fabric and thread.

My total cost for this project was about $22. The chevron fabric was a half-yard remnant that I got for $2.22 and the other fabrics were 50% off. MUCH cheaper than buying new outdoor pillows (average $12 each for the cheapest ones).

outdoor couches

I am really diggin’ my new outdoor cushions! They dress up the IKEA outdoor sectional soooo nicely and they give that free-by-the-side-of-the-road patio set a new lease on life! I’ll have to take better pics later when the sun isn’t as bright, but this gives you an idea. I love sitting out there with a cold drink!

Sharing at SavvySouthernStyle, TheShabbyCreekCottage, RemodelaholicShabbyNest, NotJustAHousewife, ThriftyDecorChick and IvyandElephants!

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Painting Grout Lines

We only have one operational bathroom in our house, so it is used for our needs as well as guests. The other bathroom is gutted down to the studs right now so this bathroom is it, for two adults and one baby. I mean, first world problems, right…three people sharing ONE bathroom, oh my! I really can’t complain.

Our current bathroom isn’t in terrible shape… It’s definitely livable. It was updated at some point, probably during the 90s, so there’s nothing major that is in dire need of an overhaul right now. However, the grout lines between the tiles were nothing short of icky.

dirty grout

I don’t think they had ever been sealed to begin with, so every bit of dirt just stuck onto the grout like white on rice. And I don’t think the grout had ever been cleaned either. In the photo below, it looks like the grout lines are brown/gray, but they’re actually supposed to be WHITE! It’s so dirty it just looks like they’re dark.

dingy grout floor

After living with it for a year, the grime just started to get to me. It made the whole bathroom feel dirty. Even after I tried covering it up with bath mats, it just made the whole space dingier and it just wasn’t a happy place to be. So finally, we headed to the Home Depot and picked up some supplies to remedy the situation.

We grabbed a bottle of Polyblend Grout Renew in Delorean Gray, which is a nice steel-gray color. I chose a darker color to ensure that it would cover up any dirt that still remained.

First, we cleaned with TileLab Sulfamic Acid Cleaner, a strong cleanser recommended on the grout paint bottle. You mix it with water (8oz to a gallon) and apply it with a toothbrush.



It worked pretty well. You could really see the difference after using the grout cleaner.

grout contrast

It wasn’t quite good enough though. There was still quite a bit of dirt embedded in there. A good reminder to SEAL, SEAL, SEAL your grout if you don’t want to end up with a similar mess!

That’s when we broke out the Polyblend grout paint. The instructions said to use a toothbrush but we used an old craft paintbrush with pretty stiff bristles for better control.


You apply the paint to the grout, working it back and forth with the brush so it really gets into the porous grout.

applying grout paint

It’s best to work in small sections at a time (for me, one section of one line at a time). Wipe off any excess paint on the glazed tile immediately, or it will start to dry and you’ll have a harder time cleaning it up.

It might be a good idea to start behind the toilet in case you mess up a bit at first.

NOTE: I wouldn’t recommend this product for use with unglazed tile or natural stone. It might stick on the tile and never come off.

remove excess grout paint

I used a piece of tissue, wrapped it around my finger, and ran my finger in a continuous line along the side of each grout line to remove the excess grout paint. This was the hardest part, and to be honest, it took me a while to get the hang of it so I wasn’t smearing paint everywhere.

You’ll probably still have some smears of paint on the tile here or there. Don’t worry. Just wait until the grout paint has a chance to set  for about 30 minutes. Then use a damp rag and buff the extra paint off the glazed tile, being careful not to scrub the paint off the actual grout.

The whole process took me about 2 hours, for a pretty tiny bathroom. It wasn’t quite as easy as I expected, but the results are pretty nice.

painted grout

The grout paint dried a tiny bit darker than when it was wet. It definitely covered up any dirt that was left after the grout cleaning, and it looks like grout, not like paint. In fact, our bathroom looks like it has been newly tiled!

how to paint grout

The faux marble porcelain tile wasn’t my favorite tile to begin with but the grout paint makes it look 100 times better. I like that the gray of the grout picks up the gray in the “marble” so it feels like it belongs (unlike the yellowish off-white grout before). And I LOVE that my bathroom doesn’t feel dirty and grimy anymore! The Polyblend grout paint is a paint and sealer in one, so I’m hoping the results will last for quite a while. And since we still have plenty of grout paint left, we can always do touch-ups later.

Again, here’s the before:

dingy grout floor

And the after:

how to paint grout

A subtle, but significant, difference.

Are you thinking of refreshing some old dingy grout in your home? If so, I’d definitely recommend using grout paint! Although it takes a bit of elbow grease, the results are awesome.

8 Month Update: The grout paint is holding up great by the way! See more pictures of the bathroom here!

Sharing at HopeStudios!

Super Easy DIY: Baby Block Photo Holder

baby block photo holder

My little sister recently had a beautiful baby girl and I threw her a shower while I was back in Canada a few months ago. My other sister and I made these cute baby block photo holders as a party favors for the shower guests and I really like how they turned out!

You’ll need:

Wooden baby blocks
Wooden clothespins
Acrylic craft paint + paintbrush
Hot glue gun

Paint the clothespins with the craft paint in the color of your choice (I chose yellow). Let it dry (I pinned mine on a piece of cardboard to paint and dry, so I didn’t have to be holding onto it anywhere).

block back

Decide which side of the block you want facing outwards, and hot glue the clothespin to the back of the block.

It’s as simple as that!

The guests had a lot of fun looking for the letters of their choice. We also used them during the shower to hold baby pictures of the future mom and dad! They were a fun and budget-friendly party favor (less than $1 a block when you buy a set of blocks).

block with pic

I think a fun twist on this idea would be to use washi tape to decorate the clothespin instead of (or perhaps in addition to) the paint. If you wanted to make it fit your color scheme you could also paint all the blocks a uniform color. Can you think of other variations?

Sharing over at See Vanessa Craft!

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