Our Kitchen Renovation

kitchen renovation - Making Nice in the Midwest

Our home has been covered in tarps with the contents of our kitchen displaced in boxes. It seems I’m always looking for something or other, and usually what I’m looking for and can never find is that elusive thing called time! Oh, but it’s gratifying to be in the midst of a kitchen renovation and see such dramatic changed take place in our home. I’m documenting the process over at A Beautiful Mess, so you should go over and check it out! Here are the kitchen posts I’ve shared so far:

There are already quite a few dramatic before and after photos! I can’t wait to share the grand reveal! (When it’s all finished, that is. Will it ever end?)

kitchen renovation - Making Nice in the Midwest

kitchen renovation - Making Nice in the Midwest

Moxie Jean Kids – Get the Look for Less

Back to School time was so thrilling when I was a kiddo. Every late Summer afternoon, when other normal kids were running through sprinklers or begging their parents for ice cream truck money, I watched excitedly as the mail truck slowly approached from the distance— Would today be the day I get my class list? As I wondered which friends (and which boys) would share a classroom with me that Fall, I would pour over clothing catalogues, wishing Mom would puh-lease buy me all the clothes I wanted, instead of just giving me a set allowance for Back to School clothes. As a sixth grader, I would grab a calculator and crunch the numbers so I could get the most clothes for the money I had to spend, making sure I had a bomb outfit for the first day of school. These were important decisions, you guys! I probably wouldn’t get new clothes again until Christmas, and even then I would be more likely to get tube socks and patterned undies instead of the corduroy flare jeans and the flower-power zip-down shirt that I really wanted.

I wonder if Lucy will one day get as excited about Back to School shopping as I did. She might not be in school just yet (Let’s not rush it!), but I still bought her some new clothes in the spirit of this time of year. Just like my six-grade self, I pulled out my calculator and crunched the numbers so I could get her the most for our money. I ended up buying Lucy all of these name brand clothes for less than $40, and I didn’t even have to leave the house! What’s my trick? Moxie Jean, the upscale resale shop for kids— online!

I pride myself on being pretty thrifty, but my desire to save money usually clashes with my annoyingly specific style requirements. I rarely bother looking for clothes at garage sales, because most of the time the things for sale are nothing at all like the classic, vintage-inspired clothes I like for Lucy’s wardrobe. Typically I find most of her vintage clothes at local thrift stores, but it can be frustrating to spend a long time looking through clothes that are tightly smashed onto racks alongside tacky t-shirts and over-appliquéd dresses. It’s rare that I leave the thrift store with more than one simple white t-shirt for Lucy. I also like to look around at local resale shops, but there’s still a lot to sift through while corralling an active toddler who would rather be playing outside.

I really liked my experience shopping at Moxie Jean. It’s just like any online store where you can view things by a variety of categories, the clothing is neatly displayed on a simple background, and it arrives well packaged and in pristine condition. But instead of the online shop prices, I paid about 75% less than retail for the brand name clothes I found. (Honestly I don’t care too much about brand names— I look for specific styles. Brand names like Boden and Gap just make it easier to skip to clothes I know I’ll like!) I ended up finding lots of dresses, jumpers, shirts, and jeans that I wanted to get for Lucy when browsing Moxie Jean’s 18-24 month girls category, but I narrowed down my purchases to the items below:

Black turtleneck originally from Old Navy

Gingham skort from The Children’s Place

Plaid jumper originally from Old Navy

Orange marled sweater originally from Jacadi

Red gingham pants – Deréon brand

This year, the National Retail Federation estimated that shoppers will spend an average of $231.30 on clothes and $124.46 on shoes. Moxie Jean can give you at least three times as much plunder as you’d get at retail stores, and to prove it, they cut the estimated total of $355.76 in half and they’re giving it away to one lucky winner to buy a new wardrobe.

Enter the giveaway below, and read more about Moxie Jean at their website here!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Moxie Jean. The opinions and text are all mine.


My DIY Glitter Countertop!

DIY glitter countertop

You guys! I think all of the paint fumes around here are starting to get to me. I built a glitter countertop for our dining room. What could make that an even crazier prospect? Well, we are knee deep— no, make that eyeballs deep— in home renovations over here, and I decided it would be fun to build a glitter countertop right at the beginning of all the chaos! Phil and our dads are working on replacing the ant infested eaves of our home and also the gutters, while we’ve simultaneously been working on renovating our entire kitchen! So much good stuff for our house— so much bad stuff for my sanity. Anyway, amidst the planning for the new kitchen, I stumbled across a favorite antiques dealer of mine who was finally selling an old cabinet of his I had been eyeing for years! I had always sighed longingly at it when it was just an overstuffed display fixture at the antique mall, thinking about how perfect it would be to store all of my craft supplies out of sight in our dining room (my workspace). He gave me a deal for $300, so I immediately put it on layaway, then a month later brought it home.

The problem with the cabinet was, well… nothing as far as I was concerned. But I guess the fact that it had part of its front and all of its sides and top missing might have become an issue down the road. So I had to get out my saw and drill and finish the cabinet out with some new wood that completely clashed with the beautiful, old patina of the cabinet. It was a travesty, as you all bemoaned alongside me, but my friend Kyle helped me paint it a fresh coat of white, remove the broken glass knobs, and replace them with new ceramic ones. All it needed was a countertop!

I figured I could buy some lumber to frame out a new countertop similarly to our office countertop, so I headed off to the lumber yard. While I was there, inspiration struck. I thought— Hey, what if I made the countertop like a retro diner table top? Some funky laminate on top and aluminum banding around the edge? That would add the perfect amount of quirkiness to the beautiful antique cabinet! Of course, they didn’t have any laminate that fit the bill, nor any aluminum banding. So my DIY become a wee bit more complicated, but infinitely more fun! Did I tell you there were buckets of glitter involved?

DIY glitter countertopDIY glitter countertop

I built the countertop just as I had done in our office, and painted it a lemony yellow for an undercoat, in case any glitter didn’t cover certain spots, then the yellow would camouflage the mistakes. I’m glad I did that, because when I look closely at it now, I can see spots of that yellow paint showing through. After the countertop was built and painted, I got to work on the glitter. I decided to use an epoxy resin with glitter stirred in to give the countertop a durable finish with a transfixing, dimensional sparkle to it.

DIY glitter countertop

DIY glitter countertop

I used this epoxy resin which was a bit cheaper than others I had seen out there, and it worked great! To make the epoxy resin, you have to mix the resin with the hardener. The proportions must be exact, so I used plastic measuring cups that I could dispose of later. To begin, you mix equal parts of resin and hardener, stirring vigorously and constantly for four minutes. Then you transfer the mixture to a clean container and stir again for 4 minutes. Before stirring again, I quickly dumped the contents of my glitter bottle into the resin, then stirred.

DIY glitter countertop

DIY glitter countertop

After the last four minutes of stirring was complete, I poured the epoxy resin onto the countertop and spread it out with a wide painter’s edging blade. You supposedly have 20 minutes to work, but I found that it began getting tacky sooner than that, so I worked quickly.

DIY glitter countertop

Because I was planning on putting aluminum banding on the edge, I let the epoxy run over the edge. I wish I had covered it with duct tape, though, because I ended up having to sand away the drip marks to get my banding to sit flush with the edge of the counter. Duct tape would have just peeled off after about an hour or so of letting the resin set up, and then I wouldn’t have had any drip marks on the edge.

After spreading the resin, I sprinkled the top with glitter to cover any areas of yellow showing through. This prevented my epoxy resin from creating a shiny, glass-like surface, though, so the next day I decided to do another layer of epoxy resin and glitter. I’m so glad I did! It made all the difference.

Note: Do not pour your epoxy resin outside like I did! I got bugs in mine that I had to cut out with a blade. Most of the divets I made with the blade were filled in after the second coat of epoxy resin I did inside our house. But pouring inside was difficult because I had to make sure the toddler was nowhere to be found and that there was plenty of cardboard on the floor to catch drips.

DIY glitter countertop

Because our house was basically under construction, I left the countertop alone for about three weeks before working with it. It was a good idea to let it cure that long because of the two coats of resin I had done extended the curing time quite a bit. (I would set something onto the counter and have to pull hard to get it off because it was bonding with the resin!) So this week, the aluminum banding I had ordered from Outwater (ALU7777 on this page) came in, and Phil helped cut slits into the edge of the counter so we could attach the banding. We used a skill saw to cut the grooves and I applied construction adhesive to help the banding stay in place.

I love the way it turned out! The cabinet top is significantly higher than standard height (It originally was mounted as an upper cabinet/locker in an old store— hence the no sides or top thing.), so you can’t see the glitter until you are next to the cabinet, but you can see the beautiful aluminum banding, and I think it plays well against the more traditional feel of the cabinet itself.

DIY glitter countertop

It’s a nice surprise, though, when you go over to the cabinet to make a drink, and BAM! There’s a glitter countertop! Talk about a conversation starter!



Oh, and P.S. Maybe you’re not really into the idea of a glitter countertop or tabletop, but check it out! I made this abstract painting last week! It was my first time really attempting anything like this since art school, and even then, I had never done anything in this style. I shared my process over at A Beautiful Mess right here, and you can see how I framed it right here.

DIY Custom FramingI hope you all are doing well! I’m hoping to get back to more regular posting within the next week or so. Thanks for checking in on me! As always, you can see me in between posts here by checking out my updates at A Beautiful Mess!


Lately at A Beautiful Mess

Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Lately I’ve been waking up in the morning, pinching myself, and getting right to work on my projects for A Beautiful Mess. Is this really my life? Pinch again. Back to work. Is this really work, though? Oh yeah, it’s work— but it’s the best kind! I’ve really enjoyed my recent projects, especially this mid century modern side table (above) and quilted wall art (below left).

Right now I’m working on a couple of easy-as-pie projects that I hope you’ll like as much as me, but while I wait for the paint to dry, I thought I’d share my recent projects with you in hopes that you’ll be inspired to make something fun for yourself!

Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Mid Century Modern Table DIY // What a fulfilling project this was! I was surprised at how relatively simple it was to make, but I definitely feel like the process flexed my craftsman muscles and made me a more confident DIYer when I saw the beautiful end result.

DIY Quilted Modern Art // Inspired by the quirky graphic textile art of Ethan Cook, this art uses simple quilting techniques alongside tradition canvas stretching for an unexpected design element in our living room.

DIY Mid Century Inspired Plant Stand // I have some larger houseplants that needed a little boost off the ground, and this was the project was the perfect simple solution! 

Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Make This Metallic Lightning Bolt Mobile // This was a really fun and whimsical project that would be perfect for a nursery or office space.

Vinyl Chair Makeover // People didn’t believe it was as easy as I described, or that it would hold up as well as it has— But I promise this is such a simple way to update an old vinyl chair, and it seems like the finish is going to wear really nicely through the years!Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Wall-Mounted Jewelry Box Display // I love rescuing sad antiques and repurposing them in modern ways. This time was for a quirky little jewelry display in our powder room!

DIY Marquetry-Inspired Wooden Trivets // Got a craft blade and a hot iron? Then you can do this project! It’ll really add some pizazz to your dinner table and dress up the walls in between meals.
Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Turn a Bird Cage into a Mod Floor Lamp // This project definitely upped the cool-factor of our living room. So easy, too! The funnest part was shopping for the bird cage stand. I was surprised as how many are for sale in antique malls and shops!

Try This: Type Tray Nail Polish Display // I always see a wide variety of type trays for sale at antique shops, and finally realized it would be perfect for nail polish display! After I finished this project I discovered my lipstick fits perfectly in the in between spaces too. Victory!Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Simple & Sweet Donut Pillow // Finally— A calorie free way to enjoy doughnuts! This project is really simple, and a good one to make with a child’s assistance.

Try This: White Tablecloth Makeover // Tired of looking for a fun patterned tablecloth that suits your specific tastes? Quit looking and make your own!Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Modern Mirror DIY // I wanted a bold, graphic mirror, and it was really easy to make one myself with some plywood, paint, and a jigsaw!

Make Your Own Faux Marble Drawer Knobs // Are you into the marble trend as much as I am? You might also be sad because marble is $$$, but you can fake the look pretty easily!

Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Build a Mini Horse Bookcase // This folk-art inspired bookshelf adds the perfect amount of whimsy to Lucy’s bedroom. It would also make a nice stand for potted herbs too!

Spotted Curtains DIY // I can’t get enough of spots these days, and this set of curtains I made will look great in Lucy’s next bedroom!

Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

Make Your Own Pop Art Pet Portrait // This Andy Warhol inspired craft project is so incredibly easy to do! You don’t even need photo editing software.

Budget Curtain Rod & Finial DIY // Curtain hardware can be so expensive, but I made my own rod and modern finials for very little money! I was really pleased with how store-bought it looked when I was finished.Mandi Johnson at A Beautiful Mess

How to Create a Weathered Paint Effect // This easy rub-off weathering technique takes very little time and gives a great patina to any of your projects.

DIY Marble Jade Earrings and Pendant Necklace // Another simple jewelry DIY with lovely results! You won’t believe how easy they are to make.

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