There's only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self.

I’ve written honestly in the past about some of the things I struggle with. I’m overweight. I battle depression. I’m far from perfect. These things have been on my mind more lately as my weight loss efforts stalled over the holidays and my depression seems to have returned with a vengeance. After a very embarrassing crying-in-public incident recently I saw my doctor and got back on an antidepressant that’s worked well for me in the past. These things take a few weeks to start working but just taking action is helpful. I’m also, deep breath here, thinking about seeing a therapist. This is tough because I AM a therapist. What could anyone possibly tell me that I don’t already know? But the idea that someday Jack will be a grown man who could be sitting in a therapist’s chair discussing the ways in which his mother’s issues affected him is motivation enough to swallow my pride. Anybody local have an awesome therapist to recommend? No way am I going to anybody I already know!

I gained a few pounds over the holidays but am back on track now and a half pound lighter than I was at Thanksgiving. I’ve said it before and I want to be clear: this weight loss thing is about my health and well-being, not body image. I need to get healthy and strong for many reasons, but the greatest is that eventually Nick and I would love to have another child. My pregnancy with Jack was very difficult. It gave me so much respect for people who deal with chronic pain. I saw a new OB recently who gave me some great advice on preparing for my next pregnancy, including getting healthy and doing PT to fix whatever’s wrong with my back that caused me so much pain last time. So let me add “finding a babysitter so I can go to PT” to my to-do list.

So that’s what’s going on with me. Forgive me for just putting it all out there like that. This blog is my creative outlet and I actually started it as part of my effort to pull myself out of a previous bout with depression. I feel such a sense of community with the folks who read, whether you comment or not, and I love you dearly. Whatever you’re struggling with please know you’re not alone.

How to Develop DIY Skills

Nick and I are far from handy. I have a bit of an advantage in that I come from a long line of DIYers on both sides of my family, but the fact that I am not at all detail oriented holds me back. And I am not even exaggerating a tiny bit when I tell you that Nick could. not. hammer. a. nail. when we bought our house. I’m serious. I had to hammer all the nails. But the idea of home improvement is very appealing to me and so obviously as soon as we moved in I started planning projects. Nick is not so interested in this sort of thing but he goes along with it for my sake. And since we’re both cheap (Nick more so than me) and money doesn’t grow on trees the only way we’re ever completing any of these projects is to do them ourselves. So how did we gain the skills to get ‘er done?

033 (380x570)

Google. Lots and lots of google. The internet is full of quacks but it can also be a wealth of knowledge. Before I start any project I research extensively, reading as many blog posts and other resources as I can from other folks who have tackled similar projects. I take notes and make a list of the supplies required and the steps I’ll need to take. And since Nick is not at all interested in spending his free time reading about home improvement I then take what I’ve learned and coach him on what I need him to do. I’m really lucky that he usually just goes along with whatever plan I’ve got as long as I’m not busting our budget. We were driving to Lowe’s the other day to pick up supplies for our beadboard backsplash and we were almost there by the time he turned to me and asked as if it’d just occurred to him, “What’s beadboard?” I couldn’t help but laugh.

2013-05-27 10.09.39 (428x570)

Here are some of my favorite resources for researching home improvement projects:

  • Good ol’ Google. Can’t beat that with a stick.
  • Ana White has lots of tutorials on woodworking, furniture building, and even home construction.
  • YouTube is an excellent resource for researching small and complex projects. I used it recently to learn how to fix a broken pane in a french door (though that particular project is still on the to do list!)
  • That Home Site/GardenWeb are great for researching purchases, renovations, outdoor projects, and, of course, gardening. Use the search feature to find forum threads related to your topic.
  • Pinterest is great for finding pictures to help you decide the look you’re going for. The search box is your friend!

Take notes, make lists, and have confidence. We’re not going to be tearing down walls anytime soon, but for less complex projects like creating a garden where there once was grass or even replacing a backsplash you can absolutely gain the skills you need with internet access and a bit of determination. I believe in you!

My kitchen walls are still very much unfinished but I’m already thinking ahead to the next step.

047 (570x380)

I plan on hanging open shelves on either side of the range to add interest and create storage. But I’m torn on what materials to use. Should I create some contrast with stained wood shelves mounted on dark brackets, like in these two inspiration photos?

apartment therapy

Apartment Therapy



Or should I stick with classic and monochromatic white shelves with white brackets?

jones design company

Jones Design Company

Victoria Pearson

Victoria Pearson

Or I could strike a compromise with white shelves mounted on dark brackets.

Lauren Leiss

Lauren Liess

So, which way do you think I should go? Cast your vote in the survey below and elaborate in the comments if you feel so inclined!


Y’all, I am so excited. This is probably the most intense DIY project Nick and I have ever taken on and it’s going so well! We are not naturally handy, detail oriented, or at all skilled in this sort of thing, but with some determination and a lot of googling we’re getting it done. Friday afternoon Nick brought a truck home from work and we went to Lowe’s to pick up two panels of beadboard ($40), a jigsaw ($40), some brads for the brad gun that someone gave me secondhand a few years ago ($5), and an L-shaped straight edge thingie to help with measuring and marking ($4). Our total after tax was just under a hundred dollars. That night after Jack was in bed we dragged the panels into the living room and I marked out where to cut all the pieces with a sharpie. I’d already measured everything and drawn it on a piece of graph paper to help me make the most efficient use of the two panels so I just referred to my diagram to transfer the cut lines. Then I resumed my normal Friday night activity of wine and television. The lighting is all kinds of terrible in every single one of these photos so please forgive me. I guess I was too excited for photography!

008 (570x380)

Jack is well past the age of playing happily on a blanket while we go about our business and we don’t have any family here in town to keep him, so we were limited to working during his 2-3 hour afternoon nap. On Saturday we brought the panels out to our back deck and set them up on our makeshift sawhorses (a pair of ice chests) and got to cutting. I’d brought the clamps out thinking I would need them to clamp down a straight edge, but Nick said it was actually not too hard to cut a straight line with the jigsaw. This man could not even hammer a nail when I met him and I was so impressed to see how quickly he got in the groove of this project (especially since I’d initially assured him that I would do it all myself!). Let this serve as an example that if we can do it, you can do it.

009 (570x380)

With the pieces all cut out we brought them in and checked to see how they fit. We had to make lots of tweaks and little corrections and this was definitely the most time-consuming part of the project. In fact, this is as far as we got on day one.

023 (570x380)

The minute Jack was down on Sunday we started cutting out all the holes for outlets. We did this by putting a rolled up piece of painter’s tape on the outlet, pressing the beadboard into place, then pulling it away to reveal where the tape stuck on the back. We would mark the spot and then Nick would cut a small rectangle (drilling into the corners first to create a space for the jigsaw blade), then line up the plate cover with the (now visible) outlet, trace it, and cut just inside the perimeter. This post does a much better job of explaining it, but I didn’t have any lipstick and wasn’t confident enough to cut a big hole without being able to visually confirm that we were in the right spot so we modified her technique a bit. Even with our careful cutting there are still a few spots where the hole will be visible after the face plate is replaced. I’m hoping that I can fill them in with some scraps and caulk.

I should note that my original plan was to cut all the outlet holes at the same time after marking them based on my diagram, but I’m glad that we took the time to mark them in place. Nothing fits perfectly in my 90 year old house and we probably would have had lots of mismatched holes. I also was going to paint them all before installing but, yeah, that didn’t happen.

029 (570x380)

We worked one piece at a time double checking the fit, cutting the outlet holes, and then nailing it to the wall. Most tutorials I read mentioned using adhesive in addition to nails, but honestly it seemed unnecessary to me and I imagine that someday beadboard will be sooooo ten years ago and the future owner will be able to remove it much more easily if it’s secured only with nails. We used 3/4″ brads along all the edges of each piece and trust me, they aren’t going anywhere unless they’re pried off intentionally.

033 (380x570)

We replaced the outlet covers temporarily for safety but we still need to install spacers to bring the outlets themselves forward to be flush with the beadboard in addition to installing trim, filling random gaps, caulking all the edges and, finally, painting!

038 (570x380)

Big time gaps happening over here. Nothing some scrap pieces and caulk can’t fix. The old backsplash only went up a few inches but I decided to bring it all the way up to the height of the pantry over here. I’m going to hang some shelves on either side of the range as my next project, so just imagine them floating in front of the beadboard.

047 (570x380)

The tiny little gap under the pass-through is what held me back from doing this project for a long time, but once I started reading tutorials and learned that I would need to use trim along all the edges I realized that I could just use a thick trim that would cover the entire space. That’s Phase 2!

055 (570x380)

It’s still very much unfinished but I can see it coming together! I’ve got my fingers crossed that I can get all the trim installed this week, but I don’t move nearly as quickly working on my own as I do when Nick is helping and, of course, I’ve got other responsibilities. If I don’t get ‘er done by next weekend at least I’ll be able to take advantage of Nick’s reluctant assistance, haha.