Thursday, March 7, 2013

1970's Fireplace Makeover

For those of you that know me personally, you know how much I love a good house project! It makes me sad that I started this blog AFTER doing so many projects around our house! The pictures will definitely be lacking, but I will do my best to show you some of the changes we have made over the past 3.5 years. Our house is not big and grand, but I love it. It's perfect for us right now.

On a random Saturday Sam came up with the idea to try our hand at painting our fireplace. I was shocked by this proposition because there is usually much begging and pleading that goes into any of my projects because it typically means a fair amount of work for Sam too. That being said, I immediately jumped on board with this project with only a little hesitation! Sam and I can be very hardheaded and we both work very differently. This is one of the reasons we get along so well, but also one of the reasons we fight from time to time...often during house projects. I am pleased shocked  that no crosswords were exchanged during the completion of this project.

Here's our very dark, dated fireplace before (Sorry for the crooked pic. The only pics I have of this are on my phone!):

We started by finding some easy to follow instructions. We used this Modern Fireplace Makeover from the  Lowes website. We simply followed the instructions below and used the same colors that were used the in instructions.

Step 1: Before applying paint, make sure the brick is clean and free of dust, soot or dirt. We used our shop vac to make sure we got all the dirty and cobwebs taken care of.

Sam gettin' his clean on (don't kill me for this pic babe! Xo):

Step 2: Apply a base coat (we used Valspar Desert Fortress) using both a paint roller and brush. The paint takes to the bricks very easily with a roller, but the morter requries the use of a brush. Buying high quaility paint for this step can save you a lot of time. We only did one coat of the base color. Let dry thoroughly.

First coat of Desert Fortress:

Progress (Ignore my painting outfit and Lady's photo bomb....#Ilooklikebigbird):

Desert Fortress coat complete:

Step 3: Cut a sponge so it is the same size as your bricks. Dampen the sponge in water, then wring it out so it is full and flexible but not drippy. I will re-emphasize DAMPEN....

Step 4: Pour a small amount of accent paint (we used Valspar Smoked Oyster) into a paint tray. It's important to use a small, even amount of paint on the sponge. To do this, brush paint up onto the ribbed surface of the paint tray. Set the sponge on to the paint to absorb a small amount. Blot the sponge on the cardboard to make sure you have the right amount of paint. Lightly press the sponge against the brick. You'll soon get a feel for the right amount of paint to use.
Sponging done on top half:

Finished Product:

How it looks today:

I actually really like how the fireplace looked painted with the Desert Fortress and no sponging, but it looked so harsh in the room. Ultimately I think the sponging made the look a little softer and added some depth. I can always change my mind down the road......this happens....frequently...I would love to change the styling of the mantle. I am currently in search of a new picture to jazz things up. Any mantle decorating tips or ideas? Please share!!!!!!



Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Keep Calm and Get Fit

Since working out is part of my near daily (usually morning) routine I will probably have some posts about what I'm doing in the gym. I am not in perfect shape and my body is definitely at work in progress, but I feel so much better/happier when I am working out on a consistent basis.

It's no secret that I packed on some serious extra pounds in college, and getting them off has been a challenge. When I first met Sam he was so dedicated to working out, and I was at the highest weight I've ever been. I was active in the past, but it was definitely not a priority at that point in my life. We made the commitment to start working out together leading up to our wedding and THANK GOD we did! I refused to look like a total whale while in Mexico getting married and hanging out at the beach with our family and friends.

I feel so fortunate to have a husband that has been so supportive of this journey for me. He definitely turned me on to getting fit(er). I am scared to know what I would look and feel like without having a gym routine as part of my life. Without Sam's daily encouragement, support, and help there is no way I would be up at 4:45 am to head to the gym nearly every day.

I will start out by saying that I make no claims to be an expert. I do have some basic knowledge, but I do not make any claims to be doing everything right nor am I suggesting that you should follow my plan. I am currently using a routine that I have compiled from several different resources that I enjoy doing. When I'm no longer making progress or enjoying it, I'll switch it up again. I'm doing what I feel like works for me right now. This is also my disclaimer that my body and health are a constant work in progress.....

So what am I doing? Here's a sample of what a typical week looks like for me. I am usually in the gym approximately 6x's/week.

Day 1: Biceps/Back, 20-30 minutes jogging (run 1 mile, run/walk intervals for remainder), 10 minutes core (various exercises)

Day 2: 40-55 minutes Stair Mill, 10-15 minutes core

Day 3: Chest/Triceps, 20-30 minutes jogging, 10 minutes core

Day 4: 40-55 minutes Stair mill, 10-15 minutes core

Day 5: Legs/Shoulders, 20 minutes walking at max. incline, 10-15 minutes core

Day 6: Rest

Day 7: 40-55 minutes Stair Mill or Elliptical

I'm really hoping to add some outdoor walking, jogging, and hiking as the weather warms up! And hopefully with the pups in tow!

In future posts I will share what I'm doing on each of my weight training days.

I would love to hear what has been working for you!


Vacation Planning Tips

One of the things I love most in life is traveling/vacationing. I love being in new surroundings, exploring, re-charging, and making memories. I am a much happier human when I take some time to rest and recharge.

I make no secret about the fact that I am currently on a personal mission to move to South Carolina. There's a good chance that it will likely not happen until I'm a retired lady, and I'm okay with that (I think)....A girl can dream, right?! Gotta start somewhere.

We look pretty happy on the beach though...


One of the questions I get the most from friends, family, co-workers is how can we afford to travel so often. Sam (husband) and I try to take a week long vacation 2x's per year with a few weekend trips scattered throughout.

My first two suggestions are to plan out a tentative vacation schedule at the beginning of the year and set your budget. I work in Employee Benefits Insurance which tends to be very cyclical in nature so there are times of the year that are more conducive to taking time off than others. By planning ahead you always have something to work towards/look forward to, and you aren't scrambling to find a 'good' time to get a way.

I do not make any claims to be a financial expert, but I know what has worked for us. We are very savvy shoppers when it comes to travel. We also spend time considering we hope to get out of each trip we take whether it be sightseeing, R&R, pampering, activities, etc. Currently we have $80/week transferred from our checking account to our "vacation fund". This takes so much stress out of the planning process. The money is readily available for us to spend solely for the purpose of vacationing. Very little thought is required in terms of budgeting in this scenario. I am a very firm believer that getting away, escaping reality, and taking time to reconnect is a MUST in life. This is a non-negotiable for me as long as we can reasonably afford it. This doesn't  set us up with a gigantic travel budget each year, but we know that if we take 2 cheaper trips one year, we can take a more expensive trip the next. We have gone to some pretty neat places, but have found that we perfectly content to spend time disconnected from the demands of work/home at the beach.

I have found one of the best ways to find awesome accommodations at very reasonable prices is to use rental sites like This is a site where vacation home owners and rental companies post their rental properties. We have now used it 4x's with zero problems. I do consider us lucky, but it isn't difficult to do your homework and schedule an awesome, affordable vacation.

Here are my tips when vacation planning using a site like VRBO or HomeAway:

1. Pick your destination and set your budget. I urge you to consider what you hope to get out of the trip. We frequently visit Isle of Palms in South Carolina. I know when we go we will want to stay in a nice, comfortable house, close to the beach, pool access, decent kitchen, spacious living room, and a nice deck/balcony are all a must. I also know that we typically want a fairly large house because we often share this trip with my mom and her husband. On the other hand, when we vacationed to Maui last year we just wanted to a decent place to sleep and cook at a cheap rate as we did not plan to spend much time in our condo on this particular trip.

Here's the first house we rented on IOP. We loved it so much that we've stayed more than once!

2. Contact the owner/rental agency and ask very specific questions. Make sure you find out what is included in the rental. Sometimes you are required to bring your own linens. This is a no, no for me! I do not want to haul my own bedding, sheets, bath towels, etc. when traveling. Most houses include these items, but be sure to check the listing or ask first. Ask about wi-fi if this is a must for you. If you are headed to a beach destination it is a good idea to find out if the rental of the property will include any beach chairs, umbrellas, etc. This was extremely important to us when we went to Hawaii, and was the deciding factor when we chose our condo. We knew we wanted chairs, an umbrella, and bikes but wanted to avoid buying it or renting it separately when we arrived.

3. Make sure all the fees are included in the quoted rate. Sometimes owners/agencies will quote a base rate, but do not initially include taxes and cleaning fees. When I inquire about a home I ask them  to provide a quote for a TOTAL cost inclusive of any/all fees for the requested dates.

4. READ THE REVIEWS!!!!!!!! Reviews are key in my mind. I will not rent a place that does not have atleast 3 positive reviews. I can be pretty picky, and the last thing I want to do is be unhappy on vacation. Luckily for us, we have had AMAZING experiences with owners we have rented from. Many of them have checked in with us via phone and email during our trip to make sure we have everything we needed. Often times the owners are more than happy to tell you the best hidden treasures of the area.

5. Don't be afraid to negotiate. We typically book our trips 5-6 months in advance, and planning ahead can help you save. There is nothing wrong with asking the owner/rental agency if they are willing to provide a discount for early booking. Worse case scenario, they say no. Saving some pennies for a fun activity on your trip is just a bonus!

6. Understand your rental agreement. Just be smart. Understand the rules and you'll be good to go. Check in and check out times can be variable. I always ask if we can check in early if needed. Often times people are willing to be flexible when they can. During peak vacation season it is usually very difficult for them to flex too much with the cleaning and turning of the homes that need to happen.

Here are some of the places we have stayed/are planning to stay...

Isle of Palms- Yellow House

Isle of Palms- Ocean Front House

Isle of Palms- House with Pool

Maui Condo

Obviously none of this is rocket science, but just some little tidbits that I have learned from my personal experience from using these sites. I have found it to be a really nice change of pace from your typical hotel or resort!

If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email! I would love your input on other vacation related topics you would like to hear about...

Counting down the days to our next trip,

Monday, March 4, 2013

Where to start?

So I've finally decided to attempt a start at blogging. Please bear with me as I'm sure there will be many changes along the way. Hopefully one of the first changes will be a new header and signature compliments of my baby brother! 

Just a few disclaimers...I can assure you that my blog will not be perfect. There will be typos. There will be times that I forget to post or don't feel like I have anything worth while to post about.  I will probably change the way this looks more than a few times. Chances are you might not like some of the stuff I post....feel free to ignore it.

Moving on...

I decided the best place to start was with a little about me and my little familia.

For those of you that know me, which at this point is probably most, you know that I love my hubby, my family, my friends, a clean/pretty house, organization, shopping, working out (love/hate), dogs, laughing, traveling, a good deal, house know, all the finer things in life...

I do happen to think that I have been blessed to have some pretty awesome people to share my life with. My hubby being #1.

 Here we are the night before our wedding in Mexico

We said, "I Do", on 5.14.10

He's an amazing person, and I am blessed beyond measure to call him mine. I will be the first to admit that I can be a lot to deal with....

We have two furbabies.

Chase is our 7 year old Pomeranian Chihuahua. Aka "King of the House"

Lady is our sweet, easy-going Golden Retriever

So here we are
We often have furry house guests that come in the form of Golden Retrievers as we are lucky enough to be a foster family for GRRACE Golden Retriever Rescue.
I'm going to try really hard to keep up with this! Wish me luck! I'm sure the topics will prove to be pretty random. Please spread the word about my little blog and follow me on twitter @LivinwithLinds.
Leave me comments!