Kitchen / Before + Progress by Brooke Courtney

brookecourtneykitchen

There is something just so magical about before and after photos, on any subject really - food, houses, weight loss, organization. If you're anything like me though, you know that nothing is ever really done. And I don't mean that I don't finish things, I do!, just that... my house is always evolving to be more like who I am, who we are as a family, and what our current needs are. I swap artwork and pillows and decor around all the time. Which is why I'm calling this post "Kitchen: Before + Progress". So, here is the one before photo I snapped - unfortunately after the wall between the two rooms already came down! But what a difference already, right!?!? (I promise to get better at taking before photos for all future house projects!)

From the very day we moved into our house (October 2009), we always knew we wanted the wall to come down between the dining room and our tiny kitchen. But until we could make that happen, our dining room was painted white to brighten up the space, and our kitchen was painted to look more like the 1950s, with the powder blue cabinets and sunny pop of yellow above. When we first moved in the kitchen was shades of tan with forrest green trim straight out of the 1990s. It was bad. I have photos of this somewhere, but can't seem to find them currently.

Anyway, fast forward to fall of 2015 and we asked Josh Strayer, of Home Improvement Services, to do a few projects on our house for us - the biggest one of which was our kitchen remodel.

Here's a rough breakdown of what did:

  • Removed the wall between the dining room and living room.
  • Custom "island" counter with storage below and bar top seating on the other side.
  • A dishwasher installed under new countertop!!!!!!!! (Suck it, sink!)
  • Replaced the small existing counter tops around sink area to match new counters.
  • New oven (it just so happened to crap-out the week we were buying the dishwasher!)
  • White subway tile backsplash was installed floor to ceiling on the wall with the oven.
  • Painted lower cabinets Space Black by Benjamin Moore.
  • Painted upper cabinets and walls Bright White - straight off the shelves at Home Depot (Behr).
  • Added a small cupboard for storage in the "dead space" above the refrigerator.
  • Added additional outlets and a dimmer.
  • Had an outlet installed high in the wall, knowing we wanted to plug in our cord lights that we wrapped around the pipe/fixture we made.
  • Changed out all hardware to be brass. (Planning to change out sink faucet soon, too!)
  • Replaced the boob-light in the kitchen to match the existing dining room light (from Ikea.)

Happy to report that with all those changes, this is what our kitchen looks like on an average day.

We honestly can't say enough times how much we love it. It literally changed our entire house. Removing the wall brought so much light, and life, to the kitchen. I can now cook and prep food and not feel like I'm all alone, shut in behind the wall. We've already had more people over for dinner in 2016 than we ever did.... like, ever before. Haha!

Adding the dishwasher was equally life changing. Dishwashers are amazing. They like.. wash your dishes while you sleep. And then you get up and BAM! they're clean. #magic

Adding the new white countertops was one of my favorite choices we made. It's so bright and allows for lots of Instagramming and food photography to happen easily. So worth it. I also love that adding the new countertops raised our existing sink. It now feels like more of a feature of our kitchen, where before it got a little lost over there in the corner. Our house has a lot of that 1929 charm, which is why we bought it in the first place, so keeping the original sink and cabinetry was always part of the plan.

I'm really looking forward to continuing to host dinners, add a little artwork here and there and eventually decorate the new kitchen for Christmas. I'll be sure to share more "progress" photos when I do.

Feel free to comment, or contact me, with any questions you might have about our little kitchen update! And for one last whoa ... here they are side by side. 

Rattan Children's Chair for June! by Brooke Courtney

You better believe I just about leapt over all the things in my way when I spotted this amazing children's sized rattan chair in the back corner of a thrift store a few weeks ago. I hadn't been having much luck all day and then bam!, there it was in all it's glory. And only $15 for that matter! I'm certain I would have paid twice as much, but obviously am thrilled that I didn't have to.

I love to thrift all sorts of things, but what I would call "secondary" furniture is always some of my favorite find! Things like end tables, chairs, shelves, plant stands, etc. (That's not to say that you can't thrift something like your couch or bed, but I simply haven't found those worth purchasing.)

I also love that thrifting items allows me to try out new styles and decades for our home. More than once I have thrifted an item that I wasn't totally sure about, ended up loving it, and then we upgraded to something very similar from a newer store - like Ikea, or West Elm or something!

Our front porch is pretty empty right now, minus the house plants I have moved outdoors for the summer, and June's new little chair. Furniture for the entire front porch is currently on my "things to thrift list" and the hunt is going well! Just need to find a few more items and then I'll be able to call it done! (At least for this season.😉 )

Chair - Vintage / June's Headband - Iris & Lark / Plant Stands - Vintage / Garden Boots - Target / Pacifier Clip - Ryan & Rose

3 Ways to Devil Your Eggs by Brooke Courtney

I didn't always like deviled eggs. But at some point last year I gave them a try, under the reasoning that "Hey. If I can birth a child, I should be able to eat a hardboiled egg." The "if I can birth a child" path of reasoning has actually gotten me to try a lot of things in the last year - and not just food! So, way to go June!

I am not a picky eater by any means. But something about the assumed texture of a deviled egg always weirded me out. Anyway, fast forward to today and I make deviled eggs at least once a month. Every week I get a fresh dozen of eggs from my Mom's chickens and devil-em-up! 

EGG PEELING TIP: Use OLD eggs. I never use eggs that are less than a week old. They'll be impossible to peel if you just got them. So plan ahead with your purchases and give them a week or two in the fridge before you boil them. You'll thank yourself!

Today I'm sharing three different deviled recipes with you - the classic way my Grandma made them, the way I make them with a little hot sauce, and a healthier option with avocados.. and bacon. So, scratch that healthier idea.

I hope you'll give one, if not all, of these a try!

CLASSIC EGGS: Like my Grandma made them.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 Hard boiled eggs
  • 1/4 c. mayo
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Cracked pepper to taste
  • Paprika for garnish
  • Flowers for garnish ( *Do not eat the flowers unless you know they're edible!)

PICNIC EGGS: Like I make them, with little hot sauce.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 Hard boiled eggs
  • 1/4 c. mayo
  • 1-2 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash of hot sauce (Texas Pete's if you got it!)
  • Salt + Pepper to taste


AVOCADO EGGS: With bacon. because, why not?

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 Hard boiled eggs
  • Half of a ripe avocado
  • 1/2 tsp Chili powder (or more, if you want!)
  • Salt + Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS: Hard boil your eggs. If you have a tried and true method - great! Use it! Otherwise, here is how I do mine. Place all eggs single layer on the bottom of a large pot. Fill pot with cool water one inch above your eggs. I always use my middle knuckle as a guide when filling my pot. This way, if I feel they're over or under cooked, I always know I've started with the same amount of water every time and can adjust elsewhere to make them better next time! // Also, note June being super cute... reading her books at the counter while I work - which lasted about 4 minutes.

Place pot onto the stove and bring to a rolling boil. Once your water is boiling, turn off the burner, cover with lid and set timer for 12 minutes. (If in the future you feel they were too soft or overcooked, adjust your timer by a minute or so until you get it just right!)

Just before you timer sounds, fill a large bowl with really cold water and ice. You'll place your eggs into the ice bath to stop the cooking process.

Remove your fully cooked eggs from the hot water and place them into the ice bath. Once you have all of them in the water, reach back in and, one at a time, crack them a little bit. Place back in ice water. The cold water will seep into the cracks and make your eggs even easier to peel! If the warm eggs melt all your ice, no worries. Just continue to run cold water into the bowl for a few minutes.

Peel your eggs. (Save the eggshells for your compost pile!) Carefully, with one smooth and slow motion, slice your eggs in half. Dump the yolks into a separate bowl. Now you're ready for the fun part!

You won't necessarily be making three batches like I did. Instead, choose your recipe from above and make one large batch! Smash and mix and smash and mix! Now you're ready to fill them. I normally just use a spoon, but if you'd like to transfer your filling to a ziplock back (and cut off the corner), or into a piping bag - go ahead!

Top with appropriate garnish and eat up! If you won't be eating them right away, place into a container lined with folded paper towels and refrigerate. It's common for deviled eggs to "sweat" in the fridge, which can make them kinda soggy in a day or two. The paper towels will absorb the extra moisture and keep them fresh much longer! Change the paper towels every other day if you haven't already devoured them by then. Enjoy!

10 TIPS TO THRIFT by Brooke Courtney

I get a lot of comments, mostly on Instagram, about how, and where, and when and how often I thrift. So I figured I would write a post with my Top 10 tips to thrift by! So, here goes, in no particular order.

1. KNOW YOUR STYLE. OR FIND IT.

This is something that took me awhile to figure out. It took me while to realize what decades I am drawn to most, what colors and finishes work best in my house and that I often buy things simply because I find them funny. Several weeks ago I bought a planter that is a white pig wearing red suspenders. I actually laughed out loud when I saw it. I had no reason to buy it, but I did. And now it’s sitting on a shelf in my Dad’s recording studio… and it looks awesome. Before I really knew my style I would have hesitated to buy something so silly.

My style is modern-vintage with a dash of whimsy and mid-century. Brass and anything animal shaped catches my eye. Lately I gravitate towards items from the 70′s, for their use of natural colors and textures, and items from the 60′s due to the patterns and clean lines in the furniture. I love anything that’s heavily typography based. I have a thing for thin gold frames and Fire King coffee mugs. And like I said above, before I learned these things about myself from shopping at thrift stores for a few months, I would go into every store and feel like it was all junk. I couldn’t see past the ugly items and certainly didn’t know what I was looking for. But it was worth the time to figure out my style!! Keep track of all of the things you buy at first. Be selective with your first handful of purchases. Then, when you get home, Google them. Read about them. Analyze why you bought what you bought. Learn what you like – so when you see that amazing, vintage, in perfect condition chair of your dreams for a high price, you’re not afraid to pull the trigger.

2. LOOK AT SHAPE, NOT COLOR.

Many of the awesome things I find while thrifting are usually a terrible color when I buy them. Lamps, frames, animal figurines, side tables… anything! If it’s a decent price, but ugly color, consider spray painting it. Probably gold. (Lamp above was a terrible shade of mauve and grass green - clearly I spray painted it white and left the gold and wood sections as they were.)

3. WALK THROUGH THE STORE MORE THAN ONCE.

It never fails I find lots of great items my second or third lap around store. It takes my brain awhile to really see everything on the shelves. Especially in the stores that aren’t organized or clean.

4. HAVE A RUNNING LIST OF TOP THINGS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR.

While every thrifting trip ends with a few odd-ball items that I just couldn’t leave on the shelves, most of my purchases were “planned.” My current list consists of outdoor furniture, children's books, larger frames, monochromatic linens, and plant stands. Knowing what’s on my “I actually need this for something” list helps me decide whether to buy an entire vintage wooden ship collection or the handful of frames and linens I could actually use.

5. SHOP AT THE SAME PLACE AGAIN AND AGAIN.

(Unless it really sucks the first time you go.) One of my favorite places to shop is the little thrift place right down the street from me. I have shopped there probably 50 times in the last few years. I know when they get new things. I know their price ranges. I know their sales. It’s just nice to know several of your favorite stores really well. It helps me compare one store to the next.

6. ALWAYS FIND MORE PLACES TO SHOP.

While it’s best to visit the same shops more than once, it’s also great to constantly be on the look out for new ones. I have found quite a few new stores by asking the person at the register “Are there any other thrift stores in this area?” More than once they’ve told me about one that my iPhone doesn’t know about!

7. SHOP OFTEN!

This is kind of common sense. The more you shop, the more you’ll find. DUH!

8. DON’T GIVE UP.

While I haven’t been doing as much thrifting lately, the little bit I have found lately has been preeeeettty lame. But that just happens sometimes. People aren’t donating. Others beat me to the purchase. I’m not taking enough time to actually dig around and find the best items. But, never give up! Try and try again. You will find that brass unicorn you’ve been searching for.

9. IF YOU LOVE IT, BUT HAVE NO USE FOR IT, BUY IT AND GIVE IT AWAY.

Thrifting has allowed me to give my loved ones small but thoughtful gifts. I found a cooking utensil for $2.00 that was exactly like the one my Mom had, but lost awhile back. She never stopped talking about “that brownie fork”. So when I found it, I bought it. I mean, it was only $2.00! There are things I’ve snagged for friends and family like books and plates and records. I love giving them items that mean a lot and bring back memories. And better yet when I can find them for only dollars!!

10. RESEARCH AND COMPARE PRICES ONLINE.

And this is where my iPhone saves the day again. More than once I’ve been in the back corner of a semi-creepy thrift store, with what I think is an overpriced yet amazing item in hand, and I’ll look it up online. Usually I realize that the price is actually not that bad, and that if I was to order it online and pay for shipping and handling, it would be the same price. Or, I realize that it’s over priced and not that “one of a kind” after all, seeing that dozens and dozens of listings are popping up.

Hope those tips are helpful and that you enjoyed the random photos of my house. Happy Thrifting!

xox

Our Garden / Before Photos by Brooke Courtney

I have always wanted a garden. Like, for yearssss. But every Spring, I forget to plant the things I want, or if I do remember to plant a few things, I've completely forgotten about them come mid-summer and they're all scraggly and literally laying down on the ground like we can't even. To give myself some credit though, I have transplanted quite a few ferns, hostas and other shade-loving perennials from my parent's house to our yard, and those do awesome every year! But our actual food garden has always been lacking one thing - my time. Seriously, if you want to learn a few lessons on patience and "good things come to those who wait", plant a garden. Have you ever seen how tiny carrot seeds are!?!?! They're practically invisible! So you just gotta dump out the package into the dirt and hope that in 3 months time they've turned into beautiful, Martha-Stewart-cover-worthy rainbow carrots. Things I planted in April are only now starting to show up. Geeesh!

Months ago, when we were having an unusually warm spring day, I was in the backyard with my friend/neighbor Kim, when she pointed to the (what I would call terribly embarrassing) overgrown area at the back of our yard and said "Oh, is that your garden?" 😂 Obviously that's why I keep someone like Kim around, because she believes that even the worst sections of my yard will somehow bloom into something amazing and edible, which is excellent for my self esteem, but alas, I had to laugh and say "No! Ha ha! That's our 'parking area'". However, it got me thinking. We NEVER park back there. Like, ever. So why not make it into a garden area? That would allow us to keep more of our grass/yard and give us space to plant stuff! Win, win! When we first moved into our house, the previous owners had installed six square garden beds right in the middle of the whole yard, which was not very functional. We tore those out almost immediately and the grass has grown back in quite nicely giving us a cute little spot of grass for June to play in.

Here is what that back area looked like before T.J. got started clearing an area for the garden beds. As you can see, our backyard backs up against the local lumber yard, which was really convenient when we needed to get stuff for our garden boxes!

It took us only a few hours to dig up the front portion of the parking area and prep it for the beds to be installed. And T.J. was looking pretty, pretty, cool in a tank top -- just saying.

About a week after we prepped the beds, we built the super easy garden boxes and filled them with dirt from our compost pile! Unfortunately I forget to take pictures of the actual boxes being built and filled. Oh well! But now that a few things are starting to pop up you can see the garden bed layout! We took some of the extra gravel from the parking area and moved it up in between the boxes to help control the weeds and mud.

Some of the plants I started myself from seeds months ago, and others I purchased at our local greenhouse just before planting.

In just the few weeks that have passed, you can see that the GIANT tree in the backyard has leaves now, and many of the other things around our yard are loving all the rain. In the words of Phyllis (Lapin) Vance, "The plants are gonna love this."

Just this past Friday, I planted a handful of flowers and herbs in the box closest to our back deck. I am really looking forward to having fresh herbs right beside our grill, and colorful flowers to look at while we sit out back and enjoy our summer watermelon and iced coffees. C'moooonnn summer!

I apologize for the glommy photos, it was literally raining while I planted these and took the pictures.

I am so excited to watch everything grow over the next few months and continue to clean up our yard and outdoor living areas so we can enjoy them more of the year. I really, really believe that living in a home you're proud of, in a home that brings you joy deep in your being, is so valuable to our lives and families - and your yard is a beautiful, living extension of that. I hope you'll take a little bit of time to plant a few things for yourself, too! If you have any questions you think I could answer, please leave a comment! I'd love to know what you're planting or hoping to grow!

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.
— Luther Burbank