Don’t be a knock-off

I’m a big fan of originality. So many people nowadays simply jump on the bandwagon without thinking whether or not something’s right for them. While there are so few hobbies that can be deemed original now, what you choose as your hobby is what makes you original. Not everyone knits, scrapbooks, geocaches and juggles, but if that’s something you love enough to have as your hobbies, then it’s the sum of your choices that makes you unique.

The concept of originality has been plaguing my mind ever since I learned that my sister’s old friend claims she’s a foodie and a traveler, but neither enjoys food nor travels.


Then I realized that she’s all that because that’s how most people are nowadays. Heck, even I describe myself that way. So even if her reality doesn’t match the self-identity, she stands firm in the belief that she is a foodie and a traveler.

That’s why it makes me sad when I go on Facebook and see people being copycats to everyone else.  You have to find out what makes you tick. What calls out to you? What moves you?


From Drab to Delightful: Updating the Kitchen

I love to cook and bake, which means our kitchen really sees major action on a daily basis.

But we haven’t done much to the kitchen itself ever since we moved here in 2003. I painted the walls last year from white to green. Through the years, we replaced our white appliances to stainless steel. In 2007, hubby changed the floor from vinyl to laminate.

Here’s the before picture of our kitchen. If you’re wondering about the missing door and drawer, I took it off and tried degreasing it.

Our kitchen had a laminate countertop with builder-grade cabinets that had brass handles. The cabinets now have dents, dings and scratches. The edge of the cabinet in the picture below is a souvenir from our little dog’s puppy days. Yep, he used that edge when he was teething! Even if we bought him teething toys, he still went back to that part.

Our sink and faucet also needed help. The laminate countertop was stained from years of use. We’re not the slovenly sort, but time really does takes its toll on a house.

This year, it was time to refresh our kitchen. We got quotes from Home Depot and Lowe’s, but who knew countertop installation takes forever? Thank goodness we were referred to a handyman who installed our new laminate countertop within two days after we met him. He also changed the sink and faucet.

As for the cabinets, I planned to paint them myself with the tools I bought (see post here). With 12 cabinet doors and 7 drawers, plus the degreasing, sanding, priming and painting, I estimated a week or two to get it done. The handyman said he’ll do all that in two days. We said yes. He was true to his word.

As a final touch, we added backsplash. Peel and stick backsplash, that is. Worth a pretty penny. I kept reading about Smart Tiles online. When I showed it to hubby, he liked how it looked. I considered this and this, only to realize that with green walls, something greenish in the tile would look consistent. Muretto Eco fit the bill. Even better, it was on sale for $3.55 per sheet!

Hubby installing the Smart Tiles. It was really an awesome find.

Here’s how our kitchen looks like now – the after picture.

There you have it! We rejuvenated the vibe of our kitchen. What used to be blah boring now looks modernized.

From this. . .

 . . . to this!

I love it!

I love how changes like paint, a new countertop, sink, faucet coupled with peel and stick tiles made such a gorgeous difference.

What do you think of this home update?

From Drab to Delightful: Spray-painting the Door Hinges

We have these brass door hinges all over the house.

Originally, we thought of buying new ones. Then we realized that we need about 30. Instead of spending money on hinges, we decided to replace only the rusty ones. For the ones that look salvageable, we got this:

We couldn’t find brushed nickel, so we hoped satin nickel would do. Tonight, hubby spray-painted the first batch of hinges.

It looks pretty good, doesn’t it? Yay for spray-painting!

From Drab to Delightful: Replacing the Ol’ Carpet

It wasn’t in our plan to replace our carpets.

We already got a very reasonable steam cleaning estimate from a carpet cleaning company. But they pointed out that given the age of our carpet (since 1991) and the normal wear-and-tear, he can only do so much. It didn’t sound promising.

Of course, I’d wanted to rip out the carpet for the longest time. I wanted hardwood or bamboo floors. But what would I do after ripping it out? Our neighbors pretty much warned us against doing that. “You don’t know what’s under the carpet. What if it’s not wood?” One of them got their stairs completely done from scratch, which cost them so much money (upwards of US$10k). For a while, we’d rent Rug Doctor then eventually just shrugged it off. Even sprinkling baking soda and diligently vacuuming wasn’t really doing much. It was futile.

We did the rounds of big box home improvement stores and local flooring stores for quotes. Even if we loved hardwood floors, that was way over our budget. But the carpet quotes were still staggering. At some point, I went to the nearby ReStore and saw boxes of hardwood flooring. Maybe we could install it ourselves? Hubby installed our kitchen floor before.

Then we factored in the actual costs, including the time, effort, materials and equipment rental. It was crazy. Getting frustrated, I vented to our next-door neighbor who told us Empire installed their hardwood floors. Maybe we could get a good deal. One email and an appointment for free estimate was set two days later. They price-matched the quote we got from Lowe’s, then made it better by offering a lower price.

We chose Pendleton’s Almond Stick. It’s the second one from the bottom right.

On the day of carpet install, I forgot to take pictures before they started ripping out the old carpets in the dining room. This is the old carpet pad.

They quickly rolled up and taped the old carpet, then threw it out our window. It landed in our driveway.

Now here’s how the carpet in the living room looked like when they started ripping it out. Then you’ll see the picture of the carpet pad.
This is the in-between picture. It’s so shudder-worthy. Good riddance, old carpet!

And the stairs? It’s made of wood. We could’ve sanded and stained it ourselves, but who knew? It’s actually in pretty good condition. But we signed up for new carpets and the installers were around already. We wouldn’t even have known that it was wood, if not for them.

Here’s a before and after shot of the stairs.

On the left, UGH. Just look at it. Our neighbor told us that it’s caused by the furnace. Guess they have the same thing too.

On the right, gorgeous.

Here’s the living room.

This one’s inside our walk-in closet.

Our bedroom

Our guest bedroom

The little hallway going to the stairs

It took them two days to complete the installation. They were pretty efficient, kept the mess to a minimum.

Much as we wanted hardwood or bamboo floors, we couldn’t afford them at this point. Thank goodness for Empire’s price-matching, we ended up with a pretty solid carpet. It was actually of better quality than what we were considering from Lowe’s, so it’s really a great deal. No regrets with this update. We let professionals do their job and they did it excellently. Two thumbs up!

From Drab to Delightful: Changing the Bathroom Cabinets (part 3)

Now this post is all about the master bath cabinet.

Strangely, it’s smaller than the half-bath cabinet. What’s more, unlike the half-bath cabinet where you only see the front, you can actually see the sides of the master bath cabinet.

Which was made of laminate.
Which means I had to paint it too.
Which sucks because painting laminate is quite tricky.


Anyway, here’s the cabinet without the drawers and doors.

While I sanded it till my right shoulder was sore, the stain just looked streaky and yucky.

Left side of the master bath cabinet


Right side of the master bath cabinet

I was afraid that I didn’t sand it enough to make the stain stick. I was ready to just buy a can of paint to cover it up. But I decided to stick with it, no matter how annoying it got. I tried a foam brush, a roller and even a sock. It still looked lousy. The roller soaked up most of the gel stain. Same thing with the sock. So I went back to my trusty foam brush. I hoped the second coat would improve things.

It did! The white reflection is actually the toilet, so that’s not bad.

Left side of the master bath cabinet after third coat


Right side of the master bath cabinet after third coat

Of course I had to slather on a thick amount of stain, more so than usual, but thank goodness it improved!

While it looks black in the picture, it’s really a dark shade of brown.

Nearly forgot to share this picture! This isn’t the current state of the cabinets and drawers since I’m already at the topcoat phase. I took this picture while drying them – some are on their third coat of gel stain; others, second coat. There are still two drawers up for sanding when I took this picture.

Back to the master bath cabinet…now we’re thinking of replacing the current countertop and sink with this vanity top: Glacier BayNewport 37 in. AB Engineered Composite Vanity Top with Basin in White (US$109.00).

We’ll see how it goes.

From Drab to Delightful: Changing the Bathroom Cabinets (part 2)

Here’s the continuation of my previous post about our bathroom cabinets. I’m actually painting two cabinets of different widths. This post is about the half-bath cabinet. I’ll post about the master bath cabinet separately. Anyway…

Here’s how the half-bath cabinet looked like before this paint project started.

Then how it looked like with the first coat.

Icky, right? Fret not, here’s the cabinet with the second coat.

I was planning to apply three coats, but after consulting with hubby, he kept saying the cabinet looked so good already. So instead of doing a third coat, I just touched up the little streaks with the gel stain.

Today, I applied the first layer of the topcoat. According to the General Finishes website, here’s the dry time of the High Performance Polyurethane Water Based Topcoat I’m using:

Dry Time to Touch: 30 min. 
Dry Time to Re-coat: 2 hrs.
Dry Time Before Light Use: 7-10 days 
Dry Time Until Cured: 21 days 

At the rate I’m going, I figure I’ll be done with this project by Monday. I allot 12-24 hours in between coating to make sure it’s pretty dry. For the cabinet doors, one side gets 12 hours drying time so both sides get 24 hours. At least the drawers dry pretty quickly.

I’m so excited to see how this cabinet will end up looking with the new handles!

I gave in

So I gave in. I got myself a handy little sander and spray painter, which should arrive this Saturday. Yay!

While I find cleaning, sanding and painting the two bathroom cabinets quite a Zen experience, my right shoulder has been acting up. Do I save money or save my shoulder? My shoulder, of course!

I considered renting these handy tools, but when I inquired, they only had commercial equipment available.

Here’s the paint sprayer I chose: HomeRight C800766 Finish Max Fine Finish Sprayer

Photo from Amazon website.

And here’s the orbit sander: Black & Decker BDERO100 Random Orbit Sander, 5-Inch

Photo from Amazon website.

I can’t wait to use them! I’m even thinking of sanding and spray-painting most of the doors here at home. We have about 10!

OK, maybe that’s a crazy idea. Hope they’ll work excellently! *crosses fingers*